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George Carlin: Save the planet
GlennA   2/17/2012 1:08:04 PM
I'll skip right to the punch line:  the Earth will still be here long after Humans are extinct.

There seem to be two major divisions.  There are the religious zealots that believe that the Earth was given to Man by God to use / consume.  Only God is powerful enough to destroy the Earth.  Since Global Warming is not in the Bible, it cannot be true.  Cellular telephones are not in the Bible, but that is okay because they like the phones.  The other group is like the 3 blind men examining the elephant;  'like a snake', 'like a tree', 'like a rope'.  However, any of the 3 could tell that a bowling ball is not an elephant.  We may not have all of the pieces to the puzzle, but there are enough that we must be concerned about Global Warming.  The arguments that I have heard against Global Warming seem to me like nit-picking, like the classic line about deck chairs on the Titanic.

George Carlin also comments that the Environmentalists only want to have a nice place to live - don't we all want a nice place to live ?

Glenn Tamblyn
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Re: What information is correct?
Glenn Tamblyn   2/17/2012 2:32:17 AM

My views about 'lazy design' are based on a simple premise. The best design always uses the resources required to produce a benefit as efficiently as possible. If I drive a small, fuel efficient car with low manufacturing costs as opposed to driving a gas-guzzling large SUV with high manufacturing costs, isn't my car an example of less lazy engineering. My car solves the engineering problem of how to move me from location A to location B with a lower use of resources, reduced environmental damage etc. The GG SUV does exactly the same thing as my small car - gets me from A to B but with a much greater use of resources - it does the same job less efficiently. How is this not lazy?

Then consider that our engineering answers are often predicated on being able to use the environment around us as an infinite resource. We can extract from it endlessly. We can dump wastes to it endlessly. We can pretend that the costs of this extraction and dumping don't exist. Instead of answers that use fewer resources or generate fewer wastes, we have developed technologies that are stop-gaps, built on being able to sweep things under the carpet.

When you sweep the floor you then need to collect up the sweepings and deal with them. Or you can sweep them under the carpet and pretend they didn't exist. This is a perfectly viable answer for a while, in the short term. But eventually the bulge under the carpet becomes hard to avoid.

"It's been said that Democracy isn't a good form of government, but it's the best. Well, maybe Fossil Fuel isn't a good form of energy, but it's been the best and most productive since the start of the industrial revolution."

I think the quote about Democracy isn't that it is the best, rather that it is better than all the others. To which I would add the rider - So Far.

As for FF and their role in the past. Yes, nothing else was possible back then. We didn't have the technology in the 19th century to make semi-conductors to collect Solar Power, or huge Aerofoils and massive bearing and gearboxes to harness the winds. But today we do. And we can look back at those past technologies and say, yes, they got us through. But they weren't good enough, they were just the best available at the time. And not good enough ultimately means that they had negative consequences that accumulate. Now the negatives to all those old answers are catching up with us - that bump under the carpet. Thankfully better answers are becoming available in time (just) to allow us to replace the old answers with better answers. Not perfect, better. Requiring us to sweep less under the carpet.

For the central 'lazyness' of our technologies up to now is that they have worked on the basis that we can sweep some things under the carper - resource depletion, waste and pollution etc. We basically have had a bit of a free ride from Planet Earth. But Planet Earth can't supply us with that free ride much longer. The lazyness has to end. We need to make our way in the world without using up the planets resources. We need technologies/economies/political systems that don't rely on sweeping things under the carpet.

This isn't a condemnation of all those past Engineers & Scientists who laboured to build the society we have had so far. They worked diligently within complex constraints and produced great results. But those results aren't great enough. They aren't good enough. Who says? Mother Nature.

So how do we produce results in the future that are good enough? This isn't a question for the Engineers & Scientist. They will work within whatever constraints are put upon them to produce the best they can. The problem is about Politics (broadly defined not just political parties which are about as interesting as watching paint dry), Economics, Values, Ethics.

The scientists & engineers will give us the best outcome possible within the constraints. But they don't set the constraints.

Actually Mother Nature does, and most S & E's can recognise this. But everyone else can't. So how do we let the S & E's convey to everyone else the limits Mother Nature imposes and get them to accept those limits.

Glenn Tamblyn
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Re: The Cloud Effect
Glenn Tamblyn   2/17/2012 1:47:10 AM


The key section from Carn & Bluth says this about CO2, all the rest of it is about SO2:

"The chemical composition of eruptive gas has never been measured at Nyamuragira, but sampled gases from nearby Nyiragongo [Gerlach, 1980] suggest that CO2 fluxes from Nyamuragira could be 7 times greater than the SO2 flux. Considering the global volcanic CO2 emission rate estimates of Williams et al. [1992] and our SO2 fluxes from this study, peak Nyamuragira emissions represent ~10-70% of the annual eruptive CO2 flux or ~5-30% of the total annual volcanic CO2 output, and as much as ~10% of an average daily anthropogenic CO2 flux. However, we note that Volcanic CO2 flux estimates [e.g., Williams et al., 1992] are subject to considerable uncertainty and do not include the full contribution of Nyamuragira's emissions."


The key points in this is that they compare peak emissions from Nyamuragira against other measures - total volcanic, daily Anthropogenic etc. So the obvious question one would pose is how much of Nyamuragira's time is spent at peak emission rates. Or rather, what is its average emission rate over time.


This is a problem with trying to extend a study of one location and to draw global conclusions from it. Elsewhere in the paper Nyamuragira is compared to Etna in terms of its average emissions. And this is a relatively small volcano. The most recent major vplcanic eruption was Pinatubo in 1992. That was a BIGGY.


So if we want to look at the possible impact of volcanic CO2 emissions, rather than look at individual volcanoes, lets look instead at overall atmospheric CO2 levels. There are many monitoring stations around the world. But the one with the longest continuous record is Mauna Loa in Hawaii. This is its continuous record since the late 1950's. The red line shows you the annual cycle as the primarily norther hemisphere deciduous plants shed their leaves then reshoot again. But the annual average trend rises steadily.

So if Volcanic activity is a significant contributor to atmospheric CO2, then we would expect to see the major volcanic events showing up as significant changes in CO2 levels in the weeks or years after the eruption. The 3 big eruptions since the CO2 records began in the 1950's were My Agung in 1963, Mt El Chichon in 1982 and Mt Pinatubo in 1992 - lesser eruption like Mt St Helens weren't in this league.

The records from Mauna Loa clearly show the annual cycle, but there is no clear signal at all in the record of the Big 3 eruptions.

The point of this is that in evaluating competing arguments we need to look at the most relevent data in particular that can shed light on the merits of the competing arguments.

So to your comment "This gets back to the beginning of this discussion which simply states that the "opinions" of people with credible backgrounds are being chastised when they disagree with the "opinions" of those on the GW bandwagon."

No. They are being 'chastised' if that is the term you want to apply to it, when people from credible backgrounds put forward arguments thhat fly totally in the face of available evidence. So in this case, any person from a 'credible background' who puts forward the 'its volcanoes' type argument has an obligation, if they are to retain their credibility, to look at all the available evidence and make a case for why the opinion they express is valid if it flies in the face of the evidence.

In this case, if an advocate of the 'Its Volcanoes' school wishes to make a case and justify thier claim to credibility, they need to put forward a reasonable theory that encompasses all the available evidence. Including the CO2 record.  If such an advocate can make a reasonable case for how it is volcanoes, in this example, but no signature of volcanic causes is visible in the record because of proposed mechanism X, let them do so.

However, if a so called 'credible' person puts forward an idea such as this, doesn't put forward credible mechanisms to account for what appear to be major flaws in their idea, and then goes out and promulgates their idea among a lay audience who may not have access to the information needed to even recognise the flaws, what conclusion should we draw about that person?

That perhaps their credibility is unjustified? That they may even be using their store of credibility to influence the lay public towards faulty conclusions.

Credibility is akin to respect. It can take a lifetime to earn. And an instant to lose.

It is obvious from my comments that I think there are a range of 'respected', 'credible' people out there who have lost all of that.

This is a judgement you need to make for yourself. All I would ask is that you don't take the reputation of ANYONE as being a basis for trusting their words. Check what they say against the facts and the data

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Re: What information is correct?
Non-mag   2/16/2012 4:51:44 PM

How can you say that the Fossil Fuel System is lazy design? I'm all for moving to cleaner energy sources, but we're only scratching that surface now. Only recently have enough technology hurdles been cleared to even start considering moving away from Fossil Fuels for the vast majority of energy needs.

I don't see anything "lazy" about the system. The technology in the sector has grow by leaps and bounds - from finding and producing it to using it in a more efficient manner.  Migrating to cleaner and more efficient energy is a good endeavor and should proceed - "but don't badmouth the horse that brung ya".

How many miles on land and in the air has Fossil Fuel taken you? How many days and nights has it warmed you or kept you cool? Virtually every product you use depends on it.

It's been said that Democracy isn't a good form of government, but it's the best. Well, maybe Fossil Fuel isn't a good form of energy, but it's been the best and most productive since the start of the industrial revolution.


Rob Spiegel
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Re: What information is correct?
Rob Spiegel   2/16/2012 3:44:44 PM
Good points about sustainability, Glenn. The discussion about GW can go on and on, but it is still a good idea to move to sustainable sources of energy. 

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Results of much lower tailpipe emissions over 30 years
Non-mag   2/16/2012 1:53:34 PM
I found this paper very interesting:

Auto Emissions History in USA

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Re: What information is correct?
WhEEngineer   2/16/2012 9:02:41 AM
100% solar and wind dependence is preferable, but to do that now would cost more than we have and not be as dependable as what we have now and cost how many times to use?

I am also in my 50's and looking forward to what the next 20 years brings.  Maybe a major breakthrough in energy production, or a major breakdown in global warring.

The one thing that is the least of my worries is the 'global warming' religion.

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Re: The Cloud Effect
Sport   2/16/2012 7:47:54 AM
I rather enjoyed your comments.

This paper demonstrates the uncertainty with regard to volcanic contributions to green house gasses.  http://toms.umbc.edu/Library/carn_bluth_GRL03.pdf

This gets back to the beginning of this discussion which simply states that the "opinions" of people with credible backgrounds are being chastised when they disagree with the "opinions" of those on the GW bandwagon.

"The Science is Irrefutable" is a show stopper for a discussion based in real science.

Glenn Tamblyn
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Re: What information is correct?
Glenn Tamblyn   2/16/2012 2:00:22 AM

Absolutely right. So long as the electricity for EV's is sourced from Fossil Fuel Power Stations. But source them from Wind or Solar and the whole equation changes.

Thats what revolutions in technology look like. Messy during the transition but better in the final result. Solar, Wind and other renewables providing low CO2 power to EV's that don't burn Gasoline.

Its amazing how often people can find arguments for not starting on a journey because the first steps might be a bit hard. But surely the point of starting on a journey is what things will be like at the end of that journey.

Personally, since I am on the departure side of 50, I hope I live long enough to see a world powered by renewable energy sources, delivering good decent lives to people in ways that are efficient and sustainable. As an old Engineer, its hard not to take satisfaction in good design. And good design is always efficient. Our current Fossil Fuel based system isn't good design. Its just lazy design.

The word Sustainability is often derided by some people. But the concept is simple. Economists have a similar idea. 'If something can't go on, It won't'. If something isn't sustainable, if it can't be sustained, it won't be.

So building sustainable systems is good engineering. Building un-sustainable ones is bad engineering. As simple as that.

Glenn Tamblyn
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Re: Global warming
Glenn Tamblyn   2/16/2012 1:39:18 AM
I agree with you StuDent. However, that is already happening. Has always happened. It is called the scientific literature, conferences etc. The scientists have already 'sat down and look at the strengths and limitations of the actual studies. Arguing over conclusions without examining how those conclusions were reached is nonproductive.' This is ongoing and is the full time job of 100's of 1000' of people. They do it intensely and intensively.

Perhaps what you are alluding to is a secondary debate about the science being held outside scientific circles, such as here. So several questions. Why do we arm-chair scientists need to repeat what the full time ones have already done? Are we more competent than they are to carry on such a debate? Are we better informed on all the available data? Do we know what the traps and pitfalls are that any scientist, during the 10-20 years it takes to become really knowledgable, has already avoided with help from their tutors and so on. Are we certain that we aren't falling into the trap of not understanding the Dunning-Kruger Effect?

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