Re: I believe this counts as good news

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This is certainly very good news, but you (and the article) are very wrong that these are the "first ever" regulations limiting greenhouse gases. California has not only passed but is about to implement a full cap and trade program for greenhouse gases, with little help from the feds, and other states are in the process of implementing similar regulations. But the EPA regulations under the Clean Air Act are a very good thing.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 06-26-12 12:10 PM
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but you (and the article)

I didn't make any such assertion.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 06-26-12 1:03 PM
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Oh wait, I guess I did. That should have been in quotation marks; it's just the first sentence of the NYT article. I didn't mean to make any such assertion.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 06-26-12 1:04 PM
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plagerist.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 06-26-12 1:04 PM
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That's good news, but the climate is still totally fucked. Check out the nice graph I found yesterday about levels of atmospheric methane, a greenhouse gas far more potent than carbon.

I suspect the bulk of atmospheric methane increases come from natural sources - such as melting permafrost - but I do wonder to what extent the bump over the past 5 years or so is related to methane released by expanded natural-gas fracking within that time period.


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 06-26-12 1:05 PM
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(I thought twice before making that comment since it seems like a potentially impolite accusation to make of an academic, even in jest.)


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 06-26-12 1:06 PM
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At least you spelled it incorrectly.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 06-26-12 1:09 PM
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Also, this graph of the carbon situation is somewhat pants-shittingly worrysome.


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 06-26-12 1:12 PM
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7: To avoid plagiarizing anyone.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 06-26-12 1:20 PM
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Nation-States Will Destroy the World ...in five years

Embedded video:David Roberts of Grist explains Global Warming, beautifully, with slides and graphs, in 15 minutes. A response to challenge. IIRC, if we don't radically (huge amounts) reverse greenhouse gasses in 5-10 years, we are up 6 degrees centigrade by the end of the century in an irreversible and accelerating spike. End of life on earth.

5-10 years and it is all over for your children.

So vote for incremental change and public-private partnerships and Pigou taxes and at all costs avoid social unrest and disorder and the dread 'R" word.

And kill the earth.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 06-26-12 1:21 PM
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How many divisons hath Sierra Club, bob?


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 06-26-12 1:25 PM
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Don't we need global warming to cancel out the nuclear winter?


Posted by: Tasseled Loafered Leech | Link to this comment | 06-26-12 1:27 PM
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I suspect the bulk of atmospheric methane increases come from natural sources - such as melting permafrost - but I do wonder to what extent the bump over the past 5 years or so is related to methane released by expanded natural-gas fracking within that time period.

I doubt fracking has made much difference, but the melting permafrost has accelerated immensely due to the increased temperatures and the potential feedback loop that we're on the cusp of could be pretty dire.

So yeah, this ruling is good news, but we're almost certainly well past the point where serious mitigation of climate change was possible. The name of the game now is adaptation. Several coastal villages in Alaska have already decided they need to relocate, and one has already started moving.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 06-26-12 1:29 PM
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Global warming is the given in that equation. Our only hope is some form of megadeath.


Posted by: Cyptyic ned | Link to this comment | 06-26-12 1:29 PM
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I was arguing recently with some liberal friends about how long ago it global warming was common knowledge. I asserted that it was common knowledge back in the 80s, because I remember clipping out current events about global warming, circa '86, from the local paper, and bringing them to school.

(I think things were different in Texas back then, and they grew up in small Texas towns.) Anyway, when did global warming become common knowledge? When would a decently informed newswatcher know about it?


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 06-26-12 1:33 PM
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When I was in 5th grade (late 60's!) we would joke that the world would eventually be destroyed by farting cows. Because of the methane.


Posted by: Tasseled Loafered Leech | Link to this comment | 06-26-12 1:36 PM
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Thanks! (on behalf of folks at the Sierra Club in possession of new Ansel Adams prints)


Posted by: Craig | Link to this comment | 06-26-12 1:36 PM
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When I was in 7th grade I wrote a paper about the possibly of the wold slipping into another ice age. That was the 80s, so I think its fair to say there was still a bit of confusion at that point.

But I think by the mid-90s it was pretty well known. Al Gore's book was published in 1992, which was the same year as the first Rio summit, which set up the 1997 Kyoto protocol.


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 06-26-12 1:41 PM
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When I was in 7th grade I wrote a paper about the possibly of the wold slipping into another ice age.

Aye, the sheep would freeze, laddie. The yorkshire pudding would come on a stick, aye.


Posted by: Beefo Meaty | Link to this comment | 06-26-12 1:42 PM
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IIRC, if we don't radically (huge amounts) reverse greenhouse gasses in 5-10 years, we are up 6 degrees centigrade by the end of the century in an irreversible and accelerating spike. End of life on earth.

Life on earth will find a way to adapt. Human life will have a bit more trouble.

Its not really the Earth that needs saving, its the human habitat that the Earth supports.


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 06-26-12 1:45 PM
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Human are pretty adaptable too. The same is not true of all human institutions, of course.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 06-26-12 1:49 PM
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the human habitat that the Earth supports.

Stop thinking small! Space colonization is the only way to ensure species survival! All volunteers must send pictures first. No fatties.


Posted by: OPINIONATED NASA ENGINEER | Link to this comment | 06-26-12 1:53 PM
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Human are pretty adaptable too.

The survivors will envy the dead!


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 06-26-12 1:54 PM
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15: We've talked about this a bit before. This hyper-linked timeline is pretty good and indicated that about the late '70s it started becoming a common theme. But there were certainly also concerns about an Ice Age through the early to mid '70s. The idea that warming was the real issue was pretty settled by the 1980s and a very hot year in the US in 1988 really brought the issue more public focus. A lot more detail from the same folks here.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 06-26-12 1:57 PM
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5, 8: Methane has a shorter residence time in the atmosphere than CO2, which to some extent moderates that issue. I think the leading-order problem is still CO2, and the other greenhouse gases are corrections.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 06-26-12 2:04 PM
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As far as I can tell there was never any serious belief in a coming ice age among experts. Arrhenius got global warming right more than a century ago, most people kind of forgot for a while, and then in the 70s it started getting serious attention again. But even Lyndon Johnson was briefed on it during his presidential administration.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 06-26-12 2:09 PM
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The idea of global warming probably took longer to gain credibility than it would have otherwise because in the 1970s, some scientists got the idea that we were sort of maybe kind of due for an ice age, and the mainstream media turned that into front-page news about imminent catastrophe. Pernicious, stupid, incompetent journalism: not limited to politics, and it wasn't invented by Fox News!


Posted by: Cyrus | Link to this comment | 06-26-12 2:10 PM
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Pinatubo's eruption in '91 also reduced temperatures for a while, which made things seem less urgent.


Posted by: Beefo Meaty | Link to this comment | 06-26-12 2:12 PM
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24: The CO2 increase was pretty well nailed several decades earlier and some models did link it to warming. There would seem to be every reason for producing as much carbon dioxide as we can manage," one popularization had concluded back in 1957. "It is helping us towards a warmer and drier world." But a reliable long-term worldwide temperature record had not been established. And did not help that the US (and I think most of Northern Hemisphere had a relatively cool '50s and '60s*).

*One illustration of that and the subsequent trend is the ratio of record highs and lows in the US by decade.
50s - 1.09
60s - 0.77
70s - 0.78
80s - 1.14
90s - 1.36
00s - 2.04


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 06-26-12 2:13 PM
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nGram seems to support 24. Mentions of both "global warming" and "climate change" take off in the 1980s. I remember learning about it in elementary school under the guise of "the greenhouse effect".

What about global warming activism? I don't remember it becoming an issue of tribal politics in the US (or much activism) until Bush rejected the Kyoto Protocol, but that can't be right?


Posted by: Criminally Bulgur | Link to this comment | 06-26-12 2:17 PM
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Hansen's congressional testimony was in 1988. The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change was in 1992.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 06-26-12 2:20 PM
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I think the leading-order problem is still CO2, and the other greenhouse gases are corrections.

Part of my concern is that we could theoretically, if humanity got its act together - which it won't - control the amount of CO2 going into the atmosphere. But methane, being from natural sources, has the potential to run away all by itself in a massive feedback loop that humanity will be powerless to stop.

Also, I'm concerned that having grown a lot, seemed to be leveling off in the late 1990s. But it is now no longer leveling off and is growing again.


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 06-26-12 2:21 PM
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Bush rejected the Kyoto Protocol

It wasn't just Bush. The Kyoto Protocol was unanimously rejected by the Senate.


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 06-26-12 2:24 PM
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Part of my concern is that we could theoretically, if humanity got its act together - which it won't - control the amount of CO2 going into the atmosphere. But methane, being from natural sources, has the potential to run away all by itself in a massive feedback loop that humanity will be powerless to stop.

Yeah, carbon's been the main issue so far, but if we hit some sort of tipping point with methane things could get much worse really fast, and there are some worrying signs that we're getting close to that point already. Which is why limiting carbon emissions is still worth doing even though it's too late to prevent a lot of the impacts from past emissions.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 06-26-12 2:26 PM
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26: I think actually rather more complicated than that.

But yes, Arrhenius had it fairly correct, although he was also sanguine:

... we may hope to enjoy ages with more equable and better climates, especially as regards the colder regions of the Earth, ages when the Earth will bring forth much more abundant crops than at present, for the benefit of rapidly propagating mankind.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 06-26-12 2:26 PM
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Certainly by no later than the Rio summit of 1992 the problem was well known and everything should have been in motion for massive international regulation of greenhouse gases. Whoops.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 06-26-12 2:37 PM
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One of the moments of low humor in the whole climate thing is the out-sized role the anomalously warm year of 1998 has had on the debate. BBC noting it here in 2009, for instance. I thought my head was going to explode with the whole year of "it was warmer 10 years ago" crap from Fox et al during 2008 into 2009. Charts to see how 1998 sits within the overall trends here.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 06-26-12 2:39 PM
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A little more detail with regard to 35.1 on the effect of aerosols and uncertainty on cooling versus warming in the '70s.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 06-26-12 2:45 PM
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The ozone hole business must have had some impact on public perception of atmospheric issues, but it wouldn't surprise me if the net effect was "hey, that was overstated/easily fixed, no problem".


Posted by: Nathan Williams | Link to this comment | 06-26-12 2:48 PM
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I've given up hope on humanity surviving. I just want to see everyone at Fox News admit through bitter tears that they were wrong while a great conflagration envelopes humanity.

Is that petty of me?


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 06-26-12 2:56 PM
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And not so for the experts, but the nuclear winter stuff was aslo a distraction.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 06-26-12 2:58 PM
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40: no, but misspelled.


Posted by: Beefo Meaty | Link to this comment | 06-26-12 2:58 PM
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26: I am not sure if what has been touted as LBJ being briefed on "global warming" was that per se--but CO2 increase, certainly. I suspect it is referring to the very influential "Science Advisory Committee Report on Pollution of Air, Soil, and Waters" from 1965. I do not have the report itself but the highlights included which notes the Co rise but does not mention climate:

Carbon dioxide is being added to the earth's atmosphere by the burning of coal, oil, and natural gas at the rate of 6 billion tons a year. By the year 2000 there will be about 25 percent more carbon dioxide in our atmosphere than at present. Exhausts and other releases from automobiles contribute a major share to the generation of smog.
Ah, apparently a sub-report contained the following:
"by the year 2000 there will be about 25% more CO2 in the atmosphere than at present [and] this will modify the heat balance of the atmosphere to such an extent that marked changes in climate, not controllable through local or even national efforts, could occur."
But once again it seems it was the mid-70s before everyone got completely behind that warming was absolutely the concern.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 06-26-12 3:13 PM
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39 - I spent some time last week trying to find a column that I read arguing that the successful efforts to mitigate the ozone depletion issue meant that it had been hyped and was never really a problem. I know I've read someone making that argument with a straight face.

(Isn't the anomalous thing about the CFC phaseout that Dupont was on board thanks to its ability to market replacements? Whereas no oil or coal extractor is willing to see itself legislated out of existence for the good of the human race.)


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 06-26-12 3:15 PM
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Isn't the anomalous thing about the CFC phaseout that Dupont was on board thanks to its ability to market replacements

Yes.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 06-26-12 3:16 PM
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We've smoked all our lives and we ain't died yet.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 06-26-12 3:18 PM
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good news

Put me in the "way too little, way too late" column. I've long since given up on coordinated efforts to slow human carbon consumption. I mean, they'd still be great, if we could do them on a scale that would make a difference, but we won't. In this regard, the Fox News pundits are right: regulation of our own carbon emissions won't be enough to make a difference in its own right, and the world is not going to coordinate in time to effectively meanginfully reduce emissions. Twenty years ago there may have been a chance. Now, it seems silly even to waste our breath on it. Radical anti-warming technological breakthroughs are our only hope. That, and hoping that a warmer earth won't be as bad as we fear.


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 06-26-12 3:43 PM
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43 26: I am not sure if what has been touted as LBJ being briefed on "global warming" was that per se

He was explicitly presented the idea of geoengineering by altering ocean albedo, at least according to the Royal Society report on geoengineering from 2009. They cite an article by David Keith for that. I'm too lazy to follow the reference or provide links.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 06-26-12 4:30 PM
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I think actually rather more complicated than that.

Everything is always already complicated. Doesn't mean the first-order approximation can't be pretty good.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 06-26-12 4:32 PM
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I spent some time last week trying to find a column that I read arguing that the successful efforts to mitigate the ozone depletion issue meant that it had been hyped and was never really a problem.

Much like you hear the Y2K bug was never a problem, but it only wasn't a problem because a lot of effort was made to fix it.


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 06-26-12 4:54 PM
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Here I was hoping for some high quality bob trolling, but all I got was 10. So disappointed.


Posted by: Turgid Jacobian | Link to this comment | 06-26-12 5:36 PM
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50

Much like you hear the Y2K bug was never a problem, but it only wasn't a problem because a lot of effort was made to fix it.

Rumor has it, it wasn't much of a problem even in places where no great effort was made to fix it.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 06-26-12 5:38 PM
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51: I'm sure he'll be back.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 06-26-12 5:39 PM
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Funny and relevant.


Posted by: Merganser | Link to this comment | 06-26-12 5:48 PM
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54: love the graph


Posted by: TJ | Link to this comment | 06-26-12 5:54 PM
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NMM2 Nora Ephron.


Posted by: knecht ruprecht | Link to this comment | 06-26-12 6:32 PM
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As much as I agree that we're doomed, the existence of positive feedback and the necessity of technological miracles for any hope don't argue against working on CO2 reduction right now.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 06-26-12 7:17 PM
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Whenever I think about this stuff, the happiest of my bleak thoughts are (1) I'll be dead within 50 years or so and (2) I don't have any children.


Posted by: Bave | Link to this comment | 06-26-12 7:54 PM
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necessity of technological miracles

I am not aware this is actually true. See here.

The EPA thing is real progress.


Posted by: Alex | Link to this comment | 06-27-12 1:29 AM
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58. Is my position as well.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 06-27-12 2:19 AM
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59

I am not aware this is actually true ...

Your link doesn't address the real issue which is cost. As long as fossil fuels are much cheaper than the alternatives they are likely to be used until they are exhausted.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 06-27-12 5:09 AM
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[T]hey are likely to be used until they are exhausted exceed replacement cost.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 06-27-12 6:18 AM
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61: Right. The things that would help now are either (1) anti-warming technology of some sort (geoengineering, etc.), or (2) breakthroughs in clean energy technology that make it not only cheaper than fossil fuels, but sufficiently cheaper so as to induce very rapid global adoption of the new technology.

If there were any hope of something like meaningful global carbon pricing in the near-term, that would go a very long way towards (2). But there is genuinely no hope of that. Even if we could get meangingful action in the United States, which we can't and won't, at least not soon (the cap-and-trade plan, which didn't pass, wouldn't have been nearly ambitious enough to make a real difference), marginally cutting back our own emissions unilaterally won't really help the big picture.

So, we're left with technological breakthroughs (either dramatically lowering the cost of clean energy, or mitigating the harmful effects of fossil fuels, etc.) as the only realistic option. I'm more hopeful about that for two reasons. One, it's something where unilateral action actually can make a difference. If someone makes a breakthrough, that can easily be spread globally. Two, our political system is much better at subsidizing private industries than it is at taxing them. So subsidize potential solutions. We do this some, but not nearly enough. We need a race-to-the-moon or Manhattan Project-level effort.

I wish the president and the Joint Chiefs of Staff would just decide this is a military need, and stuff $300 billion a year of new spending on clean-tech research into the pentagon's budget.


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 06-27-12 6:19 AM
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The nuclear-powered tank might be nice.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 06-27-12 6:22 AM
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63

I wish the president and the Joint Chiefs of Staff would just decide this is a military need, and stuff $300 billion a year of new spending on clean-tech research into the pentagon's budget.

This is silly. We have no idea how to beat fossil fuels on cost so any such investment would be largely wasted. Like suddenly spending $300 billion a year on anti-gravity research.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 06-27-12 6:31 PM
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65.last: Yes, just like that.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 06-27-12 6:40 PM
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We have no idea how to beat fossil fuels on cost

James, are you aware that in 1939 we didn't really know how to make an atomic bomb? And in 1960 we didn't really know how to get a person to plant an American flag on the moon? The point of spending the money is to learn things we don't already know. If we already knew how to beat fossil fuels on cost, that would seem wasteful.

(I actually agree much of the money would end up being wasted, especially if routed through the Pentagon, which was a semi-tongue-in-cheek suggestion. But some of it might do real good!)


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 06-27-12 7:33 PM
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James, are you aware that in 1939 we didn't really know how to make an atomic bomb?

I initially misread this as 1993 and I was like, damn, high standards.


Posted by: Beefo Meaty | Link to this comment | 06-27-12 7:35 PM
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Kind of like people who don't count Blondie's "Rapture" as the first song with rap to top the charts because the lyrics were just so fucking stupid.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 06-27-12 7:57 PM
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67

James, are you aware that in 1939 we didn't really know how to make an atomic bomb? And in 1960 we didn't really know how to get a person to plant an American flag on the moon? ...

We did know how to get to the moon in 1960, there were just a few minor details to work out. The atomic bomb was more of a gamble in that I don't think it was certain in 1939 that the size would be small enough to be practical but the basic idea was known.

In both cases there was little prior work so it was reasonable to hope that an infusion of funds would produce rapid progress. In the energy case there has already been a lot of research on alternatives to fossil fuels. This has not produced largescale alternatives which are even close to being competitive on cost or even plausible paths towards such alternatives that don't depend on scientific breakthroughs that may not exist and which are unlikely to be produced just by throwing money at the problem.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 06-27-12 8:20 PM
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Cost of building an atom bomb $25 billion*.
Cost of going to the moon $100 billion*.
Irrevocably altering the earth's atmosphere, priceless!

*Estimated in current dollars.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 06-27-12 8:29 PM
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To be fair, the atomic bomb really got cheaper after the first few.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 06-27-12 8:33 PM
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We did know how to get to the moon in 1960, there were just a few minor details to work out.

In the context of supposedly not knowing how to make cheaper renewable energy, this is pretty hilarious. In 1960, no human had ever even done suborbital flight, let alone gone to space for any length of time and (crucially) come back. Luna 2 had only just smashed into the moon. We had no idea whatosever how to land people safely, let alone bring them back.


Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Link to this comment | 06-28-12 7:01 AM
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70: James, here's the thing. I'm not actually wildly optimistic that we'll develop some breakthrough technology. The money might well just be wasted. But it's our only hope. If we spent the moeny and it doesn't produce any useful results at all, we're no more doomed than we would be if we didn't spend any money on mitigating research. So, a big gamble seems called for, in my mind. What exactly is your suggestion for what we should do? Nothing?


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 06-28-12 7:05 AM
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73

In the context of supposedly not knowing how to make cheaper renewable energy, this is pretty hilarious. In 1960, no human had ever even done suborbital flight, let alone gone to space for any length of time and (crucially) come back. Luna 2 had only just smashed into the moon. We had no idea whatosever how to land people safely, let alone bring them back.

These were just engineering details. It was clearly possible. And there was no cost constraint.

There are lots of alternative energy sources. It isn't a question of getting them to work, it is a question of getting them to work cheaply. And we have no reasonable prospects at this point at beating fossil fuels on cost.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 06-28-12 3:31 PM
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74

... But it's our only hope. ...

It isn't our only hope.

... What exactly is your suggestion for what we should do? Nothing?

Institute a carbon tax. Spend money researching adaptation and active mitigation possibilities.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 06-28-12 3:34 PM
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