With today’s post, I’m beginning a new tradition at 667 per cm, posting a potpourri of short observations collected during the week, not necessarily having dense citations to work which inspired them. (Although if interested, please do ask and I’ll do my best to dig up links.) I’m calling these Codium fragile.
Also feel free to discuss anything loosely pertaining to the blog’s topics, considering, of course, the commenting guidelines.
Claire and I went to see Neil’s show at the Wilbur Theatre in Boston, for Claire’s birthday. We were able to meet him ahead of the show. It was a fabulously great time. Neil used Science as a platform to trace the place of humanity through history and how it got where it was, drawing intriguing conclusions regarding outlooks, culture, and how important visions of ourselves are for inspiring people to look at problems. It was an optimistic and uplifting trip. I especially really like the way Dr Tyson puts himself out there, taking a chance.
I’m also inspired to do more and urge more citizen science, taking advantage of the increasingly open source publications, data, and scientific computer codes.
Podcast of Claire Being Interviewed at WATD FM
My beautiful, smart, passionate and knowledgeable wife, Claire, was interviewed by Nicole Perry at WATD FM in Marshfield, MA, for their 3rd November 2014 show, which is available in a podcast, below:
Claire is Director of the South Shore Recycling Cooperative.
Dichotomies in Environmental Discussion
I think a lot of discussion regarding the environment is excessively dichotomous, primarily because of the David-versus-Goliath attitude of many environmentalists. I get it. The energy industry is a Goliath. But another one is people’s comfort with the successes of the world as they are and, being people, we’re not going to get far asking them to give those up. Moreover, there are ways in-between which environmentalists shun, and I don’t think they should.
Nuclear power and breeder reactors is a technology which, I’ve often claimed, is something to be embraced if someone believes, as I do, that there is a climate emergency. But there are others.
Did you know, for instance, that there already is technology which can make fuels for cars and trucks from carbon dioxide and methane captured from the air? If this were burned, it would be carbon neutral, in the sense that it would not add any additional greenhouse gases to the air. The only thing preventing that from being developed is that it is too expensive compared to digging fossil fuels out of the ground and transporting them by pipeline, train, truck, or ship long distances. That’s why we need a hefty Carbon Tax to change the economics of these. With that we also should do away with all subsidies for fossil fuels, wind, and solar. Wind and solar won’t need them on that kind of a playing field.
And we should liberalize our energy grid, allowing for microgrids and let the market figure it out, not protect big players through public utilities commissions.
Wally Broecker’s Recent Ideas
I re-read some of Professor Wally Broecker’s ideas (*) which could be called climate realism. I’m increasingly coming to agree with him, although I continue to oppose building additional fossil fuel infrastructure and pushing for efficiencies in energy use and production. And I think the technology espoused by Professor Klaus Lackner is promising, but I’m not sure the world is ready for the sticker shock of its price. Until it is, like it or not, mitigation is cheaper and more sensible.
That Argument about Carbon Dioxide and Climate Change
Some people have strong opinions regarding carbon dioxide’s role as an instrument of climate change. This blog’s introduction talks about a key part of that argument. Some people deny the link, and their arguments go in many ways. Some deny the connection with blackbody radiation or, I guess, argue it is small compared to other forcings. Some claim that it is carbon dioxide but it is carbon dioxide from sources other than fossil fuels. Some claim there is no unusual climate change at all, and that, “stuff happens”. (Sorry if I want to know why stuff happens, in great detail.) Some claim there is no climate change.
For the set of people who deny carbon dioxide as an instrument of climate change, I assume they accept climate change. Thus, I ask, if carbon dioxide is not the agent, I don’t want to dismiss their argument. Instead I ask whatever else you think is, can you show, say, that carbon dioxide is responsible for, say, strictly less than 7/8 of the change? I would love to hear the argument. And, assuming for the moment they can, can they go on to show that it is responsible for less than half of the change? And, assuming for the moment they can, can they go on to show that it is responsible for less than 1/4 of the change? Say they cannot.
Then, I suggest, if climate change is happening and causing damage or will cause damage, I grant, hypothetically, that whatever fraction we cannot control, we can’t, and need to accept that. But for whatever fraction is being caused by carbon dioxide — and we can show that that fraction is predominantly due to fossil fuel combustion — does not it make sense to try to reduce that portion of the problem? Does not it make sense to spend some monies doing that? I don’t mean big government programs. I mean doing the fiscally conservative thing. Get rid of all government subsidies for energy in all forms. Do fossil fuels first, since they are bigger and established. Charge fossil fuel companies heftily for drilling and developing government lands for energy. And get rid of subsidies for wind and solar. At the same time impose a Carbon Tax, and divert the funds to loans for developing new energy sources and for mitigating the effects of climate change we can no longer stop. Start at $20/tonne of CO2 emitted in the production of any product imported, or any fossil fuel extracted (for export or otherwise), and escalate the Tax to $100/tonne over 15 years. And thereby take care of that last fraction of climate change we can control.