Re: Playing God, in perspective.

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Ahem.


Posted by: Kieran | Link to this comment | 06-12-08 8:20 AM
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Well, there ya go.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 06-12-08 8:22 AM
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Now you are really taxing the old neurons but I am certain I read an SF short story once where the happy ending was getting bacteria to eat plastic and pee ethanol.

The sequel, which I never saw or wrote, would have the modified bacteria getting loose and converting all the plastic in the world to ethanol. A wild global party would ensue, followed by one huge massive global hangover.


Posted by: Tripp the Crazed! | Link to this comment | 06-12-08 8:33 AM
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So the ethanol-crapping bacteria do need to eat them some plants. Doesn't seem that optimal, but it is neat.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 06-12-08 8:37 AM
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So basically, this is a really, really efficient way of letting us pump unlimited hydrocarbons into the atmosphere until the world turns into Venus, or am I missing something?


Posted by: OneFatEnglishman | Link to this comment | 06-12-08 8:40 AM
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5: That was my thought.


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 06-12-08 8:42 AM
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Here, let me pimp myself:

My one good publication in a real journal is on topic of genetic enhancement in humans and animals. And the nice folks at the Kennedy institute of ethics has it on line for free.

Basically, I argue that we should be far more worried about the unindented consequences of things like ethanol-crapping e coli than any human enhancement.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 06-12-08 8:44 AM
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5: well, it should in theory be carbon neutral, since all the carbon in the plants in the first place came from the atmosphere.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 06-12-08 8:44 AM
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Haven't folks been injecting themselves with insulin that comes from pigs for quite a while now?


Posted by: marichiweu | Link to this comment | 06-12-08 8:48 AM
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5: Well, it involves a lot of re-uptake of those same carbons by the plants being grown to produce the biofuels. Since a fully organic production of hydrocarbons or higher-level alcohols (butanol and octanol are two molecules that different startups are working on) would be much more energy-efficient than current yeast-based methods that require a lot of refining beforehand, there would be much less net pollution per unit of fuel.


Posted by: Po-Mo Polymath | Link to this comment | 06-12-08 8:52 AM
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9: that is beside the point -- as there was no fear that the pigs with insulin are going to undetectably escape their compound and spread across the world in an unpredictable fashion.


Posted by: peter | Link to this comment | 06-12-08 8:52 AM
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9: They also chew up pigs, swallow them, and use extremely complicated chemical reactions to incorporate the pig flesh into their own bodies.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 06-12-08 8:52 AM
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11: why not? Aren't feral pig populations notoriously difficult to eradicate?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 06-12-08 8:53 AM
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So the ethanol-crapping bacteria do need to eat them some plants.

This suggests that a certain loss of efficiency will be involved with apo's pot-crapping dog.

They also chew up pigs, swallow them, and use extremely complicated chemical reactions to incorporate the pig flesh into their own bodies

Enough with your sci-fi alarmism, you DFH.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 06-12-08 8:54 AM
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12 a great joke, really funny


Posted by: read | Link to this comment | 06-12-08 8:55 AM
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8+10: Huh. So does that mean that biodiesel etc. is also carbon-neutral (though not free of pollution of any kind, of course)?


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 06-12-08 8:56 AM
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9: Since the 20s, I believe. Nordisk was the first company to do so. Porcine insulin was the best of the various non-human sources, but different companies also used insulin from cow and fish pancreases.

Changed in the 80s, when Eli Lilly started on the bioengineered bacteria kick.


Posted by: Po-Mo Polymath | Link to this comment | 06-12-08 8:57 AM
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8 is facetious sophistry.

I propose creating the world's first non-carbon-neutral source of energy. It would involve either blasting the CO2 waste into space; attracting asteroids that would crash into the earth and be harvested for their buckyballs; or some sort of nuclear fission.


Posted by: peter | Link to this comment | 06-12-08 9:00 AM
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16: Yes, if you ignore the energy expended to grow the corn/sugarcane/whatever, and the loss of carbon-sink forests when you clear the land to grow the stuff.


Posted by: zadfrack | Link to this comment | 06-12-08 9:00 AM
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16: Nope. Any energy that's used to process the plants for biofuel production, purify the organic detritus, purify the metabolized goo that's produced, etc. is an input that's going to throw off the carbon neutrality (unless that energy is itself produced in a carbon-neutral way). There are probably other effects from inefficiencies in the engine that processes the fuel, but I can't figure that out for sure at the moment.


Posted by: Po-Mo Polymath | Link to this comment | 06-12-08 9:02 AM
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18: I understand there's this really big carbon-neutral source of energy about 93 million miles out in space. If only there were a way to use that energy.


Posted by: zadfrack | Link to this comment | 06-12-08 9:03 AM
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If we have these bacteria soon enough I am willing for Karl Rove to be made into fuel instead of ham.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 06-12-08 9:03 AM
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18: um, sorry? Fossil fuels aren't carbon neutral because the atmospheric carbon was absorbed hundreds of millions of years ago. Does "facetious sophistry" mean "too complicated for me to understand"?

19: right. Hence the "in theory". It also has other downsides, like using prime agricultural land for things other than food.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 06-12-08 9:04 AM
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19: Well, that's also why cellulostic biofuel is such a big deal. It would use plants that pull far more carbon in from the environment (like some grasses, or ideally fast-growing trees) with less harm to the topsoil, and it would produce far more (like 5-10 times more) energy per volume of plant, which should require less area under cultivation to produce a given quantity of biofuel.


Posted by: Po-Mo Polymath | Link to this comment | 06-12-08 9:06 AM
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9. Natural pig insulin, no genetic engineering needed.

The CO2 problem with fossil fuels is that carbon that had been buried is transferred to the atmosphere. Anything plant- or bug- based tweaks the CO2 budget (by changing acreage planted) rather than adding a new source equivalent to an annual monster volcano via mining/pumping. So, bugs and plants are more nearly carbon neutral than coal or oil, but maybe not exactly-- the CO2 budget is complicated.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 06-12-08 9:08 AM
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I am willing for Karl Rove to be made into fuel instead of ham.

I will not eat that nasty ham. I do not like it, John-I-Am.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 06-12-08 9:09 AM
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The noble pig has the power to purify all nasty things, Apo. I thought you knew that. Rove may be the worst thing they eat, but not by much. I've told you about the Chinese latrine / pigsty, haven't I?


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 06-12-08 9:45 AM
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No.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 06-12-08 9:45 AM
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Well, they had to have a special bar so that the pigs didn't stretch up and bite the ass of the person making a deposit. Pigs are omnivores-plus, but they have that miraculous purifying power. Or so we Christians say.

Carp also have that miraculous power. They are the chief food fish of China, and human feces are among the things that they are fed.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 06-12-08 9:54 AM
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It's not so critical that all future energy sources are carbon-neutral; we just need to get a lot closer. If we could get back to carbon emission levels of 20-30 years ago, we'd be (basically) fine - yet plenty of carbon was being emitted at that time.

IOW, every bit of fossil fuel that's replaced with biofuel* gets us closer to where we need to be. Every bit of fossil fuel that's replaced with solar or wind gets us more closer to where we need to be. But if we could replace all gasoline, diesel, and NatGas with, say, algae-based biofuel, then we'd be fine, even if some amount of fossil fuel were used in the production.

* Biofuels not produced with fossil fuel fertilizers - there are lots of these, just not the corn that our gov't is obsessed with subsidizing. Don't visit the sins of corn-fuel on non-corn fuels. One natural source is phytoremediating crops grown on brownfields - that's three birds with one stone (effectively carbon-neutral, cleans up heavy metals from the soil, and doesn't use viable cropland). There's a limit to it, obvs., but we're nowhere near the limit. It's obvious that our new energy world will be a mosaic, not monolithic; it's not a meaningful critique of a source to say, "it can't replace oil." No one thing can.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 06-12-08 9:55 AM
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Carp also have that miraculous power. They are the chief food fish of China, and human feces are among the things that they are fed.

If I'm reading his blog right, the Supreme Court just voted 5-4 to stop that practice.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 06-12-08 9:56 AM
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I understand there's this really big carbon-neutral source of energy about 93 million miles out in space. If only there were a way to use that energy.

If only solar cells were magical pixies that harvested energy without consuming anything in return, instead of great big chunks of machinery that are supposed to get plopped in the middle of a rapidly-dwindling, increasingly-despoiled wilderness.


Posted by: strasmangelo jones | Link to this comment | 06-12-08 10:08 AM
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There's plenty of non-wilderness space to plop down the solar generators, though.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 06-12-08 10:14 AM
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It's not so critical that all future energy sources are carbon-neutral; we just need to get a lot closer. If we could get back to carbon emission levels of 20-30 years ago, we'd be (basically) fine - yet plenty of carbon was being emitted at that time.

According to whom? James Hansen puts the goal at 350 ppm. Now, it's true that the atmosphere was at 350 ppm a couple decades ago, but that's not the same as saying that we just need to get back to the levels of GHG we were putting out back then - after all, we still have all the GHGs we put into the atmosphere in the meantime. So really, we do need to get down to carbon-neutral, and in a relatively short period of time.


Posted by: strasmangelo jones | Link to this comment | 06-12-08 10:16 AM
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34: according to you, the two people you link to every time, and maybe others. Not necessarily according to everybody but.. hey! Let's have this whole argument again!


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 06-12-08 10:18 AM
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9 - that is beside the point -- as there was no fear that the pigs with insulin are going to undetectably escape their compound and spread across the world in an unpredictable fashion.

I do understand that distinction, but I don't think it renders the pig business beside the point. The above argument is why I don't like GMO foods, for example, because of the potential massive impact on wild plant species if modified genetic material 'escapes.' But the rhetoric in the quote is less about the impact of escaped germplasm than it is about "breaching the sacred barrier between species," and it's exactly that kind of purist hysteria that makes reasonable opposition to GMOs sound silly.


Posted by: marichiweu | Link to this comment | 06-12-08 10:20 AM
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If we could get back to carbon emission levels of 20-30 years ago, we'd be (basically) fine
Is this true? I seem to remember reading that carbon dioxide levels have been increasing for the last ~150 years, in which case (barring some negative feedback mechanism of which I'm ignorant) we'd have to scale back to 19th century levels. Am I completely mistaken?


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 06-12-08 10:24 AM
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These are not GM pigs, IIUC.

Perhaps Rove could be fed to insulin-producing pigs, so that some lucky diabetic could develop a unique special relationship to ex-Karl.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 06-12-08 10:25 AM
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There's plenty of non-wilderness space to plop down the solar generators, though.

Where, exactly? The current plan is to put them in the desert, which isn't exactly empty space - it's a habitat, same as everything else, and when we build there we consume habitat and contribute to mass extinction, same as everywhere else. TNR's environment blog recently complained about environmental opposition to building transmission lines in California, but the fact is you can't chuck habitat preservation out the window for short-term energy needs. The world is facing global warming and mass extinction, and they're related problems - we can't ignore one in an attempt to address the other. The bottom line energywise is that renewables aren't a free lunch - it's not just a matter of swapping out coal and oil for solar and wind and then calling it a day. We actually have to reduce our overall energy consumption, and probably by a significant amount.


Posted by: strasmangelo jones | Link to this comment | 06-12-08 10:26 AM
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If you take the American west, west of central ND and east of the Cascades, subtract the reservations, developed areas, national parks, and other critical natural areas, and took a third of the remainder, you'd have enough space. There's just a lot of space out there. These are dry, sunny areas. You might end up displacing some cattle, but Western cattle have become increasingly unimportant anyway.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 06-12-08 10:31 AM
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Am I completely mistaken?

No, but the tipping point we're rapidly approaching recedes very quickly if we go back to ~1980 emission levels. Long term, we need to get to approximately carbon neutral, but that's simply not possible short term. The good news is that we (probably) don't need to be literally carbon-neutral next year to survive.

One thing to bear in mind, when people talk about 150 years of carbon emissions is that the carbon system is a dynamic equilibrium. Atmospheric carbon right now does not equal atmospheric carbon, ca. 1800 + 200 years of fossil fuel burning. There are a lot of natural carbon sinks, and some have increased in size in the last hundred years (others have not, of course).

Point being, if all humanity were literally carbon neutral starting tomorrow, atmospheric carbon would drop rapidly, and level off at a point way below where we need it to be for climate stability. That would be a fine result, but since the premise is impossible, there's no point in freaking out over it.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 06-12-08 10:35 AM
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40: so your idea is that 7 states, and areas including the rocky mountains, will be 1/3 covered with photovoltaic panels? That this will neither inconvenience anybody or impact any species?

John that is a very strange idea you have. We're not talking about a perfectly flat, perfectly empty plain, here. The desert has lots of, you know, stuff in it. People, too!


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 06-12-08 10:36 AM
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No, but the tipping point we're rapidly approaching recedes very quickly if we go back to ~1980 emission levels. Long term, we need to get to approximately carbon neutral, but that's simply not possible short term.

Right, these points are key.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 06-12-08 10:37 AM
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according to you, the two people you link to every time, and maybe others.

According, as I said, to James Hansen, who's been more right on global warming for longer than just about anybody else. And no one, to my knowledge, has really come up with a rebuttal to his findings other than to complain that 350 ppm is politically unfeasible.

The argument we usually have has to do with whether or not climate change could possibly result in the extinction of the human race, and really, this isn't a terribly controversial idea among environmental circles. It's not just "two guys I link two" who think we're in for deep shit.


Posted by: strasmangelo jones | Link to this comment | 06-12-08 10:38 AM
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These are not GM pigs, IIUC.

Right, but to draw from the original quote again:

The scientists harvest the proteins, and then, breaching the sacred barrier between species yet again, people injected the unnatural molecules into their own bodies.

Exactly what is done with [non-GM] pigs for insulin. In terms of what escaped germplasm could do to the world's gene pool, there's a huge difference. In terms of the "sacred barrier between species," though, it's "breached" whether or not the pig's genes have been modified.

My point is that all of the anti-GMO arguments that rely on this playing-god-sacred-barrier-Frankenstein-unholy yadda yadda are on shaky ground. For one thing, it's the same language another era used to describe miscegenation. For another, it relies on static ideas of speciation and genetic variation that don't make much sense scientifically. For a third, it brings a lot of deist thinking into the argument, which doesn't exactly mobilize the right set of troops, IMHO. And finally, it distracts from the very very real potential hazards if a modified gene spreads to a wild population.


Posted by: marichiweu | Link to this comment | 06-12-08 10:40 AM
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No, I was just saying that the west has lots of space. You wouldn't need the whole third. Everything that Stras wanted to preserve would be on the 3/4 I mentioned.

As far as people goes, there are hardly any in the Dakotas, Wyoming, Montana, and large parts of Utah, Colorado, New Mexico, and Arizona, and what people there are are often concentrated in cities.

Are people suggesting that the entire West be preserved as a wilderness area? Isn't that pretty stupid?


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 06-12-08 10:42 AM
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We're not talking about a perfectly flat, perfectly empty plain, here.

I've crossed the Dakotas and Montana 20 or 30 times, and that's a damn good description of most of it.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 06-12-08 10:44 AM
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40: John, nobody thinks the national parks are enough at this point to really encourage biodiversity. This Brad Plumer post on mass extinction lays out some of the problems with our current system of parks, preserves and the Endangered Species Act (and this Mother Jones piece from last year is worth a read, too).


Posted by: strasmangelo jones | Link to this comment | 06-12-08 10:45 AM
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Are people suggesting that the entire West be preserved as a wilderness area? Isn't that pretty stupid?

Not just the west, and no, it's not a stupid idea at all.


Posted by: strasmangelo jones | Link to this comment | 06-12-08 10:46 AM
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That's why a gave you that 2/3 of the remainder, Stras. I'm not willing to concede that every bit of the west is essential habitat.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 06-12-08 10:47 AM
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Everything that Stras wanted to preserve would be on the 3/4 I mentioned.

It's not like the animals live in a single, contiguous area.

Are people suggesting that the entire West be preserved as a wilderness area? Isn't that pretty stupid?

I find it fairly appealing, but I recognize it's likely impossible.

My point, I think, is that you're vastly underestimating how genuinely available a lot of that land really is. Yes, there probably is enough land in the west that is not being used for anything specific to put a huge amount of PV out there. But on every axis of "possible" -- environmentally, politically, economically, geographically -- the plan starts to fall apart. We should put PV out there -- lots! But it just won't ever come close to filling America's energy needs, and to think it will is both silly and kind of a dead end. Solar is one tiny piece of the puzzle, along with biofuels, wind, conservation, and everything else. Diversity, in energy as in agriculture, biology, and academia, is the healthy way to do this.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 06-12-08 10:47 AM
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47: by freeway, I assume? A flat, empty plain is a pretty damn good description of any freeway. I've been to parts of Montana that sure as shit weren't either flat or empty.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 06-12-08 10:48 AM
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A lot of land covered with windmills and solar panels is the price to save Bangladesh and preserve US air-conditioning lifestyle, until better energy sources come along.

If CO2 levels continue to rise, creating carbon sinks or adjusting the albedo will be preferable to certain disaster. It's almost as if humanity was standing by a switch that could divert a trolley from running over the earth, but only by redirecting it down a track that would erase the pleasure from all future mouse orgasms.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 06-12-08 10:50 AM
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Yeah, definite selection bias there. The flat part is exactly where you choose to put the roads or rails.


Posted by: Nathan Williams | Link to this comment | 06-12-08 10:50 AM
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Stras, I've agreed with you that global warming and the environment are bigger problems than we admit, but what you're saying now is unrelated to that. We could double the protected habitat, or triple it, and still have room for the solar cells, and that might help to reduce the effects of global warming to some degree.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 06-12-08 10:50 AM
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Plumer and Whitty (from the MJ article) link to the Wildlands Project, which wants to create megalinkages of wilderness spaces and areas of sustainable economic activity (read: places where humans can live without fucking up the environment around them). It's a very ambitious plan, and probably politically unfeasible, but so is anything we're going to have to do to stop runaway global warming.


Posted by: strasmangelo jones | Link to this comment | 06-12-08 10:51 AM
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Western Montana is mountainous, and the ski resorts you go to are there. Selection bias.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 06-12-08 10:51 AM
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Map of US


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 06-12-08 10:56 AM
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adjusting the albedo

Geoengineering scares the fuck out of me. I don't like projects where a possible side effect may include sterilization of the ocean.


Posted by: strasmangelo jones | Link to this comment | 06-12-08 11:01 AM
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57: I've never been skiing in Montana.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 06-12-08 11:03 AM
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I am willing to debate the proposition that Montana and the Dakotas are not mostly flat, however. I have some ideas as to which place will be the best venue. Bainville Mont looks perfect, a bit west of Williston. ND.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 06-12-08 11:06 AM
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Yeah, we know what you were doing at the ski resort.

ALrge areas of Montana are flat, flat flat. Large areas are mountainous, too, because Montana is the third biggest state after Alaska and Texas, even though no one lives there.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 06-12-08 11:07 AM
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I've never been to a ski resort in Montana, either.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 06-12-08 11:09 AM
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A bunch of Texas is flat. You would also be freeing the people of Odessa and Midland from their bondage.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 06-12-08 11:09 AM
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62: nah, it's the fourth, after Cali.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 06-12-08 11:09 AM
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A bunch of Texas is flat.

Is it ever. The cheesy `Keep Austin Weird' t-shirts spawned imitators, including `Keep Houston Fat' and `Keep Lubbock Flat'


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 06-12-08 11:11 AM
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The argument we usually have has to do with whether or not climate change could possibly result in the extinction of the human race, and really, this isn't a terribly controversial idea among environmental circles.

Hey, stras, that reminds me, I read Under a Green Sky last weekend. Good book... although you might want to go back and re-read the part at the end where, after discussing his nightmare scenario, Ward explicitly says humans aren't endangered as a species.

(The "OMG Arab and Muslim hordes are going to breed uncontrollably and help destroy the environment" bit was a little weird, though.)


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 06-12-08 11:12 AM
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OK, rent is cheap in Bainville. Get the TV cameras and will go there and debate the flatness of Montana.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 06-12-08 11:12 AM
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OK, a dope commune in Missoula?


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 06-12-08 11:13 AM
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350 PPM is a great number to stick to if you hate modern civilization and global capitalism in the first place, since it's pretty clear that we're not going to hit that number. So if you hold it up as necessary then you have a great justification for lots of sky is falling rhetoric that you probably enjoy anyway.

What's much harder is showing that civilization really can't handle the implications of 450 or 500 PPM.

The key question to me is whether people pushing 350 PPM will make it more or less likely that we will hit an actual achievable goal.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 06-12-08 11:22 AM
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"It's not so critical that all future energy sources are carbon-neutral; we just need to get a lot closer. If we could get back to carbon emission levels of 20-30 years ago, we'd be (basically) fine - yet plenty of carbon was being emitted at that time."

It is my understanding that this is incorrect, what is important (for climate change) is what fraction of the fossil fuels available we burn, the rate doesn't matter too much. A slower rate gives us more time to find substitutes before they run out but doesn't really help regarding climate change if we still burn them all.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 06-12-08 11:24 AM
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Seems to be Mexico would be a good place to generate copious quantities of solar power for export to the US, like Canada does with the hydro power. Mexico has lots of sun.


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 06-12-08 11:29 AM
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phytoremediating crops grown on brownfields - that's three birds with one stone (effectively carbon-neutral, cleans up heavy metals from the soil, and doesn't use viable cropland).

I'm curious as to what happens to the contaminants when you do this remediation.

When you make the biofuel, does it then incorporate the heavy metals, or does that just make a nice toxic sludge in your reaction vessels?


Posted by: TJ | Link to this comment | 06-12-08 11:30 AM
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does that just make a nice toxic sludge in your reaction vessels?

Probably that. On the other hand, toxic sludge someplace where you can figure out how to safely store it is better than toxic sludge in the soil.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 06-12-08 11:31 AM
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You send the toxic sludge into the school lunch program. Recycling!


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 06-12-08 11:32 AM
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A while back I calculated that you could power the whole US just by roofing over the all highways with solar cells. Makes for easy maintenance, and eases wear and tear on the roadway.

This was a BOTE calculation, mind you, so it could be total crap.


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 06-12-08 11:34 AM
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after discussing his nightmare scenario, Ward explicitly says humans aren't endangered as a species.

But that's actually the least convincing part of his entire book. He argues that at that point the atmosphere will no longer be breathable by humans, but humans will survive because...?


Posted by: strasmangelo jones | Link to this comment | 06-12-08 11:56 AM
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77: Mutations, baby.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 06-12-08 11:59 AM
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"We're all gonna die!" is the new sexism at Unfogged. (Or at least it seems to be operating as a strange attractor in the comment threads.)


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 06-12-08 12:00 PM
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toxic sludge someplace where you can figure out how to safely store it

Oh, probably true.


Posted by: TJ | Link to this comment | 06-12-08 12:00 PM
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toxic sludge someplace where you can figure out how to safely store it


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 06-12-08 12:01 PM
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toxic sludge someplace where you can figure out how to safely store it

Or, more likely, where a bunch of Black people live. Of course, that is where the brownfields were in the first place.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 06-12-08 12:03 PM
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But that's actually the least convincing part of his entire book. He argues that at that point the atmosphere will no longer be breathable by humans, but humans will survive because...?

Well, that's impressive. Last time around, when I brought up Ward's unequivocal statement in an earlier book that humans were extinction-proof, you said he'd changed his mind by the time he wrote Under a Green Sky. Now that I've read that and come up with another unequivocal statement from him that argues against your characterization, your argument is that... what? You *really* know what he thinks?

(I agree with you that the end is the least convincing part of the book, incidentally, between the "Arab and Muslim birthrates will continue unchanged for the next 50 years" bit and the parts where by his logic the Netherlands shouldn't exist. But, you know, I wasn't the one who brought up the book in the first place.)


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 06-12-08 12:05 PM
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C'mon, enough with the "there must be a secret nefarious motivation behind trying to keep groundwater from being polluted!"

There's really not actually any place worse to put toxic waste than into the water supply.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 06-12-08 12:06 PM
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84 (& 77): There's really not actually any place worse to put toxic waste than into the water supply.

"Preparing for the Green Sky Years by Controlled Release of Contaminants to Induce Accelerated Population Selection Pressure" - EPA proposal #34522

... oh wait, that's what we are doing anyway.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 06-12-08 12:14 PM
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83: Ward isn't the only one who thinks runaway warming could produce an anoxic event. I pointed to his book because I found it an easy enough read for the average Unfoggeder.


Posted by: strasmangelo jones | Link to this comment | 06-12-08 12:18 PM
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86: Ooh snap!


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 06-12-08 12:20 PM
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You send the toxic sludge into the school lunch program. Recycling!

Somewhat relatedly, I recently found out that it's perfectly legal in Rhode Island to build schools on former dumping sites. There's a bill that's supposed to change this, but it doesn't have enough support to pass yet.


Posted by: strasmangelo jones | Link to this comment | 06-12-08 12:21 PM
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Ward isn't the only one who thinks runaway warming could produce an anoxic event. I pointed to his book because I found it an easy enough read for the average Unfoggeder.

That may be, but when I asked you to name an environmental scientist who thought that global warming would lead to human extinction, you responded with Ward.


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 06-12-08 12:25 PM
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I pointed to his book because I found it an easy enough read for the average Unfoggeder.

Lord knows, it is a dumb crowd.


Posted by: TJ | Link to this comment | 06-12-08 12:28 PM
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And FWIW, I'd happily recommend Under a Green Sky even to people who aren't interested in the current climate change debate. The discussion of how mass extinction events have been viewed and potential explanations for them in the scientific community, which is what *most* of the book is concerned with, is fascinating. (And reminds me that I have this still sitting on my bookshelf.)


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 06-12-08 12:28 PM
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I pointed to his book because I found it an easy enough read for the average Unfoggeder.

So you could find people who agree with you, but we wouldn't understand them?

Aren't there, like, a fair number of scientists, here? Don't people link to peer-reviewed papers, like all the time? You could do that.

I'll let Josh cover the fact that you failed to address his actual point.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 06-12-08 12:28 PM
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Josh, if you like, you can modify my representation of Ward's position to "runaway global warming will produce an environment that can't sustain human life," a position which I think is well supported by Ward's book. There are plenty of other scientists who support that position. That Ward insists, without argument, that humans would survive in an environment that can't support human life, is Ward's own weird business. If you want to take that line, be my guest.


Posted by: strasmangelo jones | Link to this comment | 06-12-08 12:32 PM
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Lord knows, it is a dumb crowd.

Whenever it comes to the environment, yes, it is. The commentariat of this blog can be relied on to know whatever bit of environmentalism has dribbled into the liberal mainstream, and not much else.


Posted by: strasmangelo jones | Link to this comment | 06-12-08 12:34 PM
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"I may have been corrected on the facts, but my larger point still stands": Jonah Goldberg logic in effect at unfogged!


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 06-12-08 12:34 PM
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Upthread I mentioned Julia Whitty's article from last year on mass extinction, and Brad Plumer's recent post on the subject. Whoever wants to read them can read them.


Posted by: strasmangelo jones | Link to this comment | 06-12-08 12:37 PM
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That Ward insists, without argument, that humans would survive in an environment that can't support human life

I guess McMurdo Station doesn't exist in your world.

I'd also note that Ward doesn't actually say that the environment wouldn't support human life. "Toxic" is not a binary state.


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 06-12-08 12:38 PM
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Awesome, Sifu. Which fact has been corrected, incidentally?


Posted by: strasmangelo jones | Link to this comment | 06-12-08 12:38 PM
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I'd also note that Ward doesn't actually say that the environment wouldn't support human life.

He says the atmosphere wouldn't be breathable.


Posted by: strasmangelo jones | Link to this comment | 06-12-08 12:39 PM
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96: one of which refers to the other, which uses as it's primary scientific source... E.O. Wilson!

Stras at this point unless you can point to peer-reviewed papers from scientists other than E.O. Wilson I don't think anybody should pay any attention to you about any of this.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 06-12-08 12:40 PM
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96: "Mass extinction" != "humans will go extinct". There's no question that we're in the middle of a mass extinction event. But just looking at the extinction of North American megafauna should tell you that they're not the same.


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 06-12-08 12:42 PM
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I think the fact that every thread in which strasmangelo expresses an opinion devolves into a discussion of why strasmangelo is being such an asshole may indicate that strasmangelo should consider either

A) stop being so impatient and irritable with everyone who knows less than him

or

B) start over with a new pseudonym so that people aren't predisposed to being annoyed by his comments. (yes, the problem here goes both ways)


Posted by: Auto-banned | Link to this comment | 06-12-08 12:42 PM
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100: Sifu. I doubt you read the entire fucking Mother Jones article in less than three minutes. If you had, you might have realized that more science appears than a single mention of E.O. Wilson.


Posted by: strasmangelo jones | Link to this comment | 06-12-08 12:42 PM
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He says the atmosphere wouldn't be breathable.

Why on earth would you think that at this point I would take your word on that without a direct citation to the text?


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 06-12-08 12:43 PM
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103: I don't really care, stras. Like I said, the fact that you were called on misrepresenting your sources (and don't seem to care) makes me uninterested in trying to track down all these various threads to see if you're doing it again.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 06-12-08 12:45 PM
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102: I'd like to note that I really did try A for a while. B might be worth a shot, but really, who am I kidding? Is this really the best place for me to discuss leftist politics and deep-green ecology? Probably not.


Posted by: strasmangelo jones | Link to this comment | 06-12-08 12:46 PM
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Whenever it comes to the environment, yes, it is.

any non-superficial reading of the archives will show this is bunk. As usual, it's a pretty varied group, and you typically end up with a couple of people who really know something about whatever subject, and a bunch with a passing interest at least.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 06-12-08 12:49 PM
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Oh yeah, and I'd like to point out again that for the most part there's very little room between me and stras on the basic issue of climate change. The only things I can see us disagreeing on so far are 1) whether humans will actually go extinct and 2) whether or not Peter Ward thinks humans will actually go extinct.


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 06-12-08 12:50 PM
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108: yeah same here. I basically agree with him, I just can't talk to him about it.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 06-12-08 12:54 PM
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104, 105: Beautiful, everyone here. Just beautiful.

Hey, know what would really stick it to me, seeing as how I'm such an asshole? Reading the various articles and books I've mentioned just to prove what a fucker I am. That's right, I, the second coming of Jonah Goldberg, invite you to demonstrate to your full and complete satisfaction what a prick I am by reading all of this stuff yourself.

The World Without Us by Alan Weisman
Under A Green Sky by Peter Ward
Six Degrees by Mark Lynas
Deep Economy by Bill McKibben
Gone by Julia Whitty

And you can follow that up by reading Gristmill, Oil Drum and Brad Plumer on a regular basis. That way you can find out, on a day-to-day basis, what a crazy doom-and-gloomer and total dick I've been.

Since the rest of this "how much of an asshole is stras" project can be looked at as a sort of exploratory exercise for the reader, I don't see my own continued presence as being all that necessary, and wish you all the best of luck on your own individual journeys of enlightenment.


Posted by: strasmangelo jones | Link to this comment | 06-12-08 1:01 PM
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Hey, know what would really stick it to me, seeing as how I'm such an asshole? Reading the various articles and books I've mentioned just to prove what a fucker I am. That's right, I, the second coming of Jonah Goldberg, invite you to demonstrate to your full and complete satisfaction what a prick I am by reading all of this stuff yourself.

Christ, I read one of the books on your list ON YOUR EXPLICIT RECOMMENDATION (and then go on to recommend it to other people), and you're whining about it?


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 06-12-08 1:06 PM
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I don't think you're a prick, stras. I think you're really cranky on this topic, and it makes it hard for you to talk about it rationally, and hard to understand when you are or aren't talking about it rationally. I also think you have a hard time figuring out how to make your point in a way that doesn't alienate people who otherwise agree with you. Those things, combined, make it really difficult to have a conversation with you on this topic, and make your contributions to these threads functionally, if not intentionally, equivalent to trolling.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 06-12-08 1:29 PM
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Aw geeze, I missed a doozy here.

So environmentalism has come back and is the new racism meaning the problem that everyone is discovering and everyone is really passionate about and thus it is really difficult to discuss?

Good.

Don't go stras. The huge ball is nudged slowly. I know that is frustrating. Hang in there. The rest of you open your minds.


Posted by: Tripp the Crazed! | Link to this comment | 06-12-08 2:27 PM
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Tripp you dick you don't know what you're talking about. Cheers!


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 06-12-08 2:59 PM
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Fucking hell. The last time this crap came up, I specifically read all of stras's links and found that his "summaries" of them were either overstatements or gross misrepresentations. I don't find it too surprising that he's doing it again. I just don't understand why stras seems to think that one can't be concerned about the environment unless one believes that ZOMG! catastrophe is around the corner!


Posted by: F | Link to this comment | 06-12-08 5:45 PM
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Fuck you, F, you obviously hate the planet.

The only proof anyone needs is that you disagree with stras on the least particular.


Posted by: Non-stras | Link to this comment | 06-12-08 8:03 PM
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Oh, wow, I didn't see this thread at all, but, uh, stras, don't go, hey.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 06-12-08 8:29 PM
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