Sunday, June 24, 2007

Refuting Lies About Climate Change

Recently, on the pages of a very high-ranked tech commerce newsletter, I was personally challenged by a former top member of Enron, to answer a series of standard neoconservative mantras concerning global climate change. Talking points that - in my opinion and in the opinion of almost every scientifically-educated person I know - smack of ritualized denial. Illogical and rather frantic catechisms of faith.

ClimateSkepticsWhat follows is less a refutation based upon facts - since there are countless papers, books and sites devoted to compiling, presenting and hurling mountains of evidence - than it is a list of points offered as perspective. Spotlighting some deceitful tricks used by those who want civilization to sit on its hands, despite a looming crisis.

Let’s start with an excerpt from the former Enronista:

...Global temperatures have not risen in concert with atmospheric co2 levels, which have shot up dramatically, while global average temperatures have not really changed very much at all since the late 1970s.
Except... um... that seven of the hottest years of the last 100 have been in the last decade? But no, I said that will not bandy facts. Except in service of logic. And so commenceth my reply.

1) Indeed, global temperatures have not risen as dramatically as CO2 levels have, in recent decades. CO2 levels, in turn, have not risen as much as CO2 EMISSIONS have. Most atmospheric scientists cite the prodigious buffering capacity of the oceans, but this is a double-edged sword. It also means that that buffering capacity may - at ANY moment - abruptly reach a limit, as anyone who has saturated a solution in chem class knows fully well. When that happens, any perturbation may “blurp” stored CO2 -- or even the methanic clathrates which lie in vast quantities beneath arctic seas.


2) Another worrisome aspect of relying on buffering effects is that this same “climate inertia” may make it extremely hard to enact corrective measures, should our children (cursing our names) decide that they do not like the situation that we bequeathed upon them.


3) An obscure factoid. Our sun’s “continuously habitable zone” (CHZ) actually extends beyond Mars. That poor planet was simply too small. If larger, it would have had seas, kept in “gaia stability” by a high equilibrium level of greenhouse carbon dioxide. (Trust me, planetary scientists know all about this. You don’t even need life on a water-world, in order to achieve gaia-balance, just ocean-mediated chemistry.) The CHZ around a G type star is very wide.

What makes Earth apparently weird, galactically, is that we seem to skim the very inner edge of our sun’s CHZ. Earth’s radiation balance depends on an almost utterly transparent atmosphere, swept almost completely clear of greenhouse gases. (Indeed, that inner edge will pass us in just half a billion years, when nothing will prevent the final warming.)

You can fight atmospheric science and climatology, but not astrophysics.


4) So, science itself must become the target.

Hence, neocon court mantricians like Michael Crichton have rushed to denounce the concept of “scientific consensus”... sneering that scientific “facts are not things that can be voted upon. Nor do facts care about majority opinion.”

Hm. Well. Any scientist would concede this point... then add: “So?”

Public policy is based upon anticipation. Ever since our prefrontal lobes acquired their time forward focus, people have tried to plan based upon best-models of a murky tomorrow. Now that we have moved beyond arm-waving prophecy, the pragmatic question has been, how shall we let science affect policy?

The classic American answer, ever since the days of the great (but now ironically named) Vannevar Bush, was to establish eclectic and august bodies of scientific expertise. To continually exposes areas that need infusions of research support. And for policy makers to keep near them the best advisory teams possible. NEVER have these teams claimed perfect foresight! Despite some mistakes, they have done the best they could. Indeed, the record of good advice racked up by groups like the Office of Technology Assessment is admirable.

How has the Neocon movement broken with this tradition? In 1994, the Gingrich revolution instantly disbanded every bit of autonomous advisory staff answerable to Congress. Later, when this movement took control of the White House, it acted against every scientific agency that could not be dissolved, from FDA to Agriculture to NASA itself, by stocking the top administrator slots with partisan hacks, most of them deeply despised by their scientific peers.

Which brings us to the twin hypocrisy of the Crichtonian rationalization.

a) The creed “there’s no such thing as scientific consensus” is just an excuse for scientifically ignorant politicians who have (at-best) a 52% political mandate, to dismiss as irrelevant the worried expert opinions of (at-least) 80% majorities of scientists, in fields like atmospheric science.

It is just another version of the longstanding British tradition that “boffins” should stay in their labs and leave policy to Cambridge English majors.

b) The “we need more research” mantra, repeated endlessly on the right, becomes hypocritical to a truly treasonous degree when the people who chant this phrase then turn around and cut research! e.g. when they divert and slash NASA’s Earthward studies programs.


5) Another Shibboleth: “Harm to the economy.”

I cannot get over how little faith in markets is displayed by purported defenders of markets! Dig it. Society has artificially subsidized or scarcified numerous commodities, over the ages. Grain subsidies go back to Pharaohnic times. If past history is any judge, the chief effect of artificially advancing the imminent era of higher carbon-fuel costs - in gradual increments - will be simply to open new frontiers for innovative businesses.

Sure, some troglodyte SECTORS of the economy may have to adapt if we take action on climate change, but you don’t see Apple or GE or Hitachi crying fear of a general economic downturn.


6) Penultimate point. There is the matter of “burden of proof.” Of course it is standard - in all emotion-laden polemical tiffs - to try dumping this burden on the other side. All partisans do this and I am no exception.

Still, ponder this -- it has already been proved repeatedly, that humanity is capable of affecting ecosystems, atmospheric systems (I grew up in LA) and even (in the case of the ozone hole) planetary systems. Thus, it is simply mind-boggling that a concerned majority of world scientists should have to prove their worries valid, beyond all doubt...

...before humanity decides to take simple precautions THAT MAKE SENSE ANYWAY.


7) And that is the final kibosh. The devastator. The ultimate eviscerator of this horrific mass-cult. Because they never make clear exactly what it is that they are afraid of!

What? Efficiency?


Let me reiterate. That is what it boils down to.
It is what Al Gore, the world’s scientific “consensus” community, the community of nations and all the sensibly worried folks out here are talking about.
Simply putting efficiency at or near the top of our civilization’s urgent agenda.
Investing in research, tweaking some incentives, adjusting some market parameters (that were already meddle-skewed anyway, in wrong directions)...
... all with the goal that we should ...
...get... more... from... less!

And that last part is the real mind-boggler, when you stop to think about it.

Oh, what has happened to conservatism?

Ever heard of “waste-not, want-not?”

Or “a stitch, in time, saves nine?”

Look back at the old puritans like Cotton Mather and remove their trait of nasty intolerance. Now ask - who most resembles the puritans nowadays? Not today’s profligate, indulgence-promoting conservatives...

...but the worried, chiding and sometimes downright grouchy liberals! Wagging their fingers and saying that we ought to save our pennies and frugally learn to live within our means.

Oh, and not befouling our nest! How about a burden of proof for those who say “no worries” about that? Wasn't "cleanliness is next to Godliness" another conservative reflex? Once?

I’ve said it before and I will again, till enough “ostrich conservatives” wake up to how thoroughly their movement has been hijacked by traitors to everything it once stood for.

Hear that whirring sound. That’s the State of Arizona, drawing half its power from the spinning in Barry Goldwater’s grave.

David Brin

Not to toot a horn. My novel EARTH (written in 1988) portrayed many of the climate change effects we now see occurring.

==Continue to Part 2: Perspectives on Climate Change and Denial

Also see: Climate Skeptics vs. Climate Deniers

66 comments:

Joel said...

Well played, sir.

Doug S, said...

I think Ben Stein might be starting to take his head out of the sand.


From his latest New York Times column:

I KNOW that Mr. Bush does not read The Times. But I know a lot of people at the White House do. Please, some of you, reconsider this embarrassment. There is no justice in this refusal to aid the Enron shareholders. There is no political gain from slapping the little guy in the face. There is no money to be made: Wall Street is giving lavishly to Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama already.

The G.O.P. is supposed to be on the side of the small investors, not of those accused of being crooks — or so I used to think. Was I wrong all along? Is the Bush White House just the handmaiden of Wall Street? Please don’t let this be true. I am sure Mr. Paulson is a powerful figure. And I know the hour is late. But the time is always right to do right, and that time is now.

Please ask the solicitor general to reconsider filing the S.E.C.’s brief. The basic building block of capitalism is trust, and it is crumbling.

Sarabeth said...

I think they are scared of being wrong.

This was well written. Thank you for this, Mr. Brin.

Stefan Jones said...

"I think they are scared of being wrong."

Or even worse, admitting that the goddamn hippies and treehuggers and long-hair egg-head poindexters were right:

The Hippies Were Right!

Last year I bought a hundred shares each of four solar / alternative energy stocks. One of them, a Chinese solar cell manufacturer, is kicking ass. They're going to be tapped to put solar cells on the roofs of Wal-Mart stores.

The price hasn't QUITE doubled since I bought it . . .

Enterik said...

Saturation of the Southern Ocean CO2 Sink Due to Recent Climate Change
Corinne Le Quéré et al


Based on observed atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) concentration and an inverse method, we estimate that the Southern Ocean sink of CO2 has weakened between 1981 and 2004 by 0.08 petagrams of carbon per year per decade relative to the trend expected from the large increase in atmospheric CO2. We attribute this weakening to the observed increase in Southern Ocean winds resulting from human activities, which is projected to continue in the future. Consequences include a reduction of the efficiency of the Southern Ocean sink of CO2 in the short term (about 25 years) and possibly a higher level of stabilization of atmospheric CO2 on a multicentury time scale.

Zechariah said...

Regarding Peer Review, I thought I'd post this blurb from the Dilbert Blog, By Scott Adams:

Peer review in science is a good thing, in the sense that it works better than any other process you can think of. But how well does it work? Dilbert Blog reader Jeff points to this link about the limits of peer review.

http://www.jr2.ox.ac.uk/bandolier/band88/b88-4.html

The article fits my preconceived notions quite well. Assuming scientists are human beings, it seems to me that most peer reviewers would fall into one of these categories:

1. Asshole
2. Biased egomaniac
3. Nice person who doesn’t want to make people feel bad
4. Too busy to put any quality thought into it
5. Person with low self-esteem who doesn’t want others to succeed in his or her field
6. Coward who doesn’t want to rock the boat

I suppose some scientists have plenty of free time, no biases, and would be happy to see colleagues succeed beyond their own careers. But seriously, how many of those scientists could there be? I don’t know any non-scientists who could fit that description.

Still, I assume peer review works well enough for killing the worst ideas. I don’t have a better idea for evaluating science. It’s just important to keep things in perspective.

[Update: Here's a link to an even better article on peer review: http://www.independent.org/newsroom/article.asp?id=1963 -- Scott]

[Update 2: Reader Winston points out this article debunking the notion that scientists ever generally thought an ice age was imminent: http://www.wmconnolley.org.uk/sci/iceage/ -- Scott]

scott said...

A very good article about the argument over global warming. With any luck, people will start to come around soon. When that happens there will need to be a solution, and a solution that people will support. Photovoltaics will hopefully be embraced along with wind, hydroelectric, and other renewables but I do not believe that they can provide the baseline power necessary (solar obviously only generates power during the day and hydroelectric depends on the amount water uphill and so on generally depending on natural cycles out of our control).

Short of upgrading the electric grid to be able to transport a large amount of power across the globe or engineering huge, efficient batteries (whether they be gravitational, electromagnetic, chemical, inertial, or something I cannot think of), I see no way to generate the baseline power necessary without many nuclear reactors all over the world.

Building nuclear power plants will involve a number of political challenges such as waste disposal, reprocessing, and safety, but from an engineering standpoint can all be overcome.

Steve said...

As a one-time astrophysicist with an interest in planetary climate and atmospheres (including the work by Hart, which you cite obliquely, and its follow-ups), I was initially convinced of the likely impact of industrial CO2 production (the famous Mauna Kea measurement graph being in my textbooks in the 70s).

As time goes on, and I read more, the more skeptical I become of the comparative magnitude of human as opposed to natural inputs into the system -- the Mediaeval Warm Period and the Maunder Minimum/Little Ice Age show just how variable climates have been in a natural state.

When the data feeding into the models can be as contaminated as this -- http://www.norcalblogs.com/watts/2007/06/how_not_to_measure_temperature_10.html -- and policy makers take the most hair-shirt interpretations of material like the Stern report (very little comment has been made about the A1 series of models because they don't fit the "shivering in the dark" green model), I see every side as being agenda driven.

As for me -- well when I was a kid, I was promised that there would be an Ice Age by the time I retired; and many warming scenarios include fresh water from ice-melt suppressing the North Atlantic Convergence, to bring Europe into line with Canada and Siberia -- so whichever way it goes, I expect to be cold in my dotage.

reason said...

steve...
Are you aware of this interesting hypothesis (tying both conflicting ideas together)
http://www.sciam.com/article.cfm?articleID=000ED75C-D366-1212-8F3983414B7F0000&sc=I100322

By the way Steve, I remember the 70s quite well, and read Sciam consistently and do not remember being aware of any serious alarms about an imminent ice age. I wonder what convinced you?

But I do remember talk about the cooling effect of atmospheric particulate pollution. We have since done something to reduce that (well we had to or LA would have had to be abandoned) but the CO2 which works the other way is still there. So both alarmist predictions may have been correct, we just took countermeasures about one side of the problem.

Steve said...

Did I say I was convinced?

I was, rather, telling of what was being talked about, mainly building upon the idea that (time since last interglacial)/(average length of interglacial) was equal or a little bit over 1, and worries that were fuelled by what turned out to be a short term trend.

So I'm now feeling once bitten, twice shy by climatological Chicken Littles -- especially since there is a lot of high-tax puritanism accumulating itself a good coat of greenwash, above and beyond what a reasoned Pigouvian approach would suggest suffices to cost in the externalities of plausible warming scenarios.

Enterik said...

Zechariah, your experience of the general human population is anecdotal.

Regarding peer review, I've done quite a bit and had it done to me. There are plenty of problems, science is still a human institution after all, but there are also countervaling "safeguards" as well.

1.) Many journals ask the author to submit the names of a few potential reviewers.

2.) Many journals allow the author to exclude reviewers.

3.) Authors are allowed to rebut reviewers comments in private correspondance.

4.) Even unreasonable, peevish reviewers must meet a certain standard of propriety, otherwise editors will drop them out of the loop.

5.) The reviewer may be impolite, but there must be scientific value in their ccommentary or they won't be asked again.

6.) Most papers are reviewed by other scientists researching within the sub-sub-sub-field (for example Microbiology:Ecoli:genetics:transcription:elongation) so there is depth of knowledge in the subject at hand.

However, even with these safeguards, clever scientists can still find ways to be annoying for purely human reasons. Hell, I had a guy sit on my paper for three months, just because he "forgot".

The question for any who is out to pick nits...got a better plan?

Personally, I've toyed with the idea of formatting one of my prior publications for wiki-style commentary and editting to see how it would evolve from its original state based upon participant commentary.

Andrew said...

There's another talking point (and one of the most insulting): Global Warming gets the funding; scientists either find evidence of it because, subconsciously, that's what they're looking for, or straight-out exaggerate their findings to cause a lucrative hysteria.

zorgon the malevolent said...

Not directly related, but in the general ballpark of "catastrophic transformations" -- there's a remarkable article about Detroit in the latest HARPERS magazine.

[Detroit] is a remarkable city now, one in which the clock seems to be running bckward as its buildings disappear and its populationa nd economy decline. (..)
"This continent has not seen a trasnformation like Detroit's since the last days of the Maya. The city, once the fourth largest in the country, is now so depopulated that some stretches resemble the outlying farmland and others are altogether wild.
"Downtown still looks like a downtown, and all of those high-rise buidlings sitll make an impressive skyline, but when you look closely at some of them, you can see trees growing out of the ledges and crevices, an invasive species from China known variously as the ghetto palm and the tree of heaven.
"

There's also a devastating article slamming Leo Strauss for his misreading of Plato and his dire influence on the neocons at salon.
http://www.salon.com/news/feature/2007/06/25/plato_neocons/?source=whitelist

This link probably doesn't work, since salon is fanatical about not allowing people toa ccess their content for free.

Intelligence and education don't seem related to climate denial. Jerry Pournelle is smart and highly educated, with two earned doctorates, yet his Chaos Manor site remains a snakepit of global warming denial. He also still thinks we can "win" in Iraq.

David Brin said...

Zorgon, Jerry Pournelle and his followers are among the worst of all ostriches, because they are supposedly bright enough to reach a point where denial and rationalization must stop... or else be judged a legitimate symptom of genuine insanity.

These are guys who are supposedly for the “old conservatism”... with dollops of libertarianism mixed in. And yet, they are able to find excuses for monsters who have systematically demolished everything that the Chaos Manor guys claim to believe in. From US military readiness to maintaining Pax Americana leadership in the world, from fiscal responsibility to science, from open accountability to ferocious effectiveness at combatting our enemies. In every single category, (and dozens more) the record of Bill Clinton is vastly better than the litany of betrayal committed by the neocons. Yet, these “see-no-evil” rationalization monkeys put fists over ears and screw eyes shut, screeching “Nah! Bush is awful but LIBERALS ARE AWORSE!”

Forget about em. They are pathetic. ANd utterly useless to their nation and civilization at its time of crisis.

Steve, occasional little scare pieces about the “coming ice age” were nothing compared to today’s warm-up consensus. And yet, comparisons miss the point. The precautionary measures being asked of us, in EITHER case, were/are things that we ought to be doing anyway.

You can be a complete global warming skeptic, and still fanatically favor increasing society’s energy efficiency, because it is overwhelmingly beneficial with almost no conceivable downside. If we invest in efficiency and renewables (and cautiously in fission plants) ... and later find that climate change was overblown... then I will welcome “I told you so’s, from skeptics, amid a thriving civilization of cleanliness, wealth and energy independence.

Andrew, your “memic-momentum” model - that scientists can be swayed by peer-pressure - is a valid point. But note that that is not the neocon talking point. Rather, it is a subtle/reasonable version of the outrageous “State of Fear” notion.

In fact, you sparked me to write an insert to the main missive in this posting (above):

6) A related neoconservative “talking point” is the outrageous “State of Fear” notion that all this fuss about of climate change is a put-up job, foisted on a gullible public by venial conspirators who are doing it completely out of selfish greed. Supposedly, the eco/recycling industries - worth a few billions - allied with some PBS/media types, are nefariously imposing a culture-wide condition of unreasoning panic, all in order to line their pockets with massive amounts of ill-gotten lucre. Meanwhile (naturally) the multi-TRILLION dollar carbon fuels industry is but a meek victim, completely innocent of anything of the kind.

Note how psychology and our own cultural values are manipulated in order to achieve this marvel of double think. The American mythos is still deeply driven by Suspicion of Authority (SOA), the basic morality tale found in nearly all of our films and stories. A morality tale that says “watch out for sneaky, dominant elites.” Inherited from revolutionary days - and inherent to the Enlightenment - is the notion that accumulations of undue power merit relentless scrutiny.

What this generation of kleptocrats cannot afford is for this scrutiny to fall upon them This may be the number one reason why “culture war” was fostered, creating a reflex among about one-third of Americans to despise anything associated with the word “liberal” - even when the issue at question ought to be non-partisan, technical and a matter referred to dispassionate, professional, scientific advice.

Culture war is incredible. Simply associate an issue with the despised “L-word,” and you can get Fox News viewers - essentially “Red America” - to envision a nefarious, conspiratorial “elite” that should be reflexively resisted according to our suspicion-of-authority instinct...

... while ignoring elites who are a thousand times as rich, powerful, and conspiratorial, simply because they are on “the right side.”

David Brin said...

ANOTHER "INSERT"

(Keep those suggested references and links coming.)


7) “Why should we listen to scientists, some of whom were talking about a New Ice Age, as recently as the 1970s?”

As Michael Le Page put it: ‘At least, a handful of scientific papers discussed the possibility of a new ice age at some point in the future, leading to some pretty sensational media coverage. One of the sources of this idea may have been a 1971 paper by Stephen Schneider, then a climate researcher at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland, US. Schneider's paper suggested that the cooling effect of dirty air could outweigh the warming effect of carbon dioxide, potentially leading to an ice age if aerosol pollution quadrupled.

“However, Schneider soon realised (and published retractions) avowing that he had overestimated the cooling effect of aerosol pollution and underestimated the effect of CO2, meaning warming was more likely than cooling in the long run.”


The number of “Ice Age” papers involved was small, there was no multi-year consensus among atmospheric scientists, “panic” was almost nil, the proposed policy actions were things on the agenda anyway (reducing aerosol emissions, for health reasons), and -- above all -- the scientists involved engaged in a self-correction process that showed utter maturity and science at its very best. ”The calls for action to prevent further human-induced global warming, by contrast, are based on an enormous body of research by thousands of scientists over more than a century that has been subjected to intense – and sometimes ferocious – scrutiny.”

(For more detail: http://environment.newscientist.com/channel/earth/mg19225822.300)

CJ-in-Weld said...

This Jerry Pournelle business raises a point. I don't want to defend him – he can take care of himself. But I wonder how I as a layman should approach this global warming thing.

I am a reasonably intelligent person, but not trained in the sciences aside from undergraduate biology, physical anthropology, and calculus classes (and I've forgotten most of them). The rest of what I know about science comes from popular articles and science fiction.

So I read the blog entries and comments here, and I read them at Pournelle's site, and I try to catch up every couple days or so. To me, Brin and Pournelle are similarly situated. They are both science fiction writers whose works I have enjoyed. They both are sadly sporadic with new fiction. (Sorry, that was mean.) They both have some technical background, but not in the areas of science most closely associated with the study of global warming or climate change. The people who comment at both sites seem to be a disproportionately intelligent lot, and provide much discussion of global warming.

I find I suffer a "recency effect" – whatever I read most recently makes the most sense, on balance.

I can't figure the answer out for myself – I would have to go back and redo my career and education choices. F'rinstance, I have a one-semester class in statistics, not enough even to approach whether the "hockey stick" study is flawed or replicable. There's a whole lot of chemistry involved that I never did know. Are temperatures really rising on Mars, too? That would be significant, seems to me, but opinions differ whether it's true, and back issues of almanacs don't cover Mars.

What, at the end of the day, is a layperson to do? Go with Brin because I think his books show a sunnier disposition? That doesn't seem right!

Anonymous said...

Nice article, well written, and we've talked before about this subject. I disagree with the staunch anthropogenic warming alarmist rhetoric, but your comment above:

You can be a complete global warming skeptic, and still fanatically favor increasing society’s energy efficiency, because it is overwhelmingly beneficial with almost no conceivable downside. If we invest in efficiency and renewables (and cautiously in fission plants) ... and later find that climate change was overblown... then I will welcome “I told you so’s, from skeptics, amid a thriving civilization of cleanliness, wealth and energy independence.


Describes me to a T.

My primary concern is that a LOT of the "science" behind AGW/Climate change is extremely poor. The sources are not available to validate, the stats use bizarre approaches. Even the source temperature record is not above criticsm. (Temperature measurements still usefull for local weather, are very poor long term records are urbanizaion creeps around the measurement sites. see www.surfacestations.org )

But that really isn't the problem as I see it. What irks me to the core is this misuse of Science to drive political/ideological ends.

We already have problems in the western world with poor science grades, and consequent lack of trust. When this all blows over, as I believe it inevitably will, who will cop the blame, not individual scientists, nor the "green" groups, but Science, in general. Which is very sad, because IMHO, it is the one element of western society that has elevated us beyond all previous civilizations. To lose the scientific method is too descend into barbarity, witch hunts, and religious zealotry.

Anyway, this is pretty depressing, when the same groups that opposed our best "alternative" power for the last three generations (nuclear), are beating us over the head with "global warming".

On a more positive note, PV cells are now cheaper and more efficient than ever before, and the human populace as a whole has never had better health, wealth or longevity.

cheers,
Robert.

David Brin said...

CJ, I sympathize with the position you are in.

I suppose I could point out that my PhD is in physics, while Jerry’s is in some kind of sociology. Or I could point out that his history shows a consistent tendency toward party-based, reflex partisanship, while I poke at absolutely everybody (though I admit I prefer Libertarians and Democrats over what the GOP has become.)

(Actually, my research topic of planetary science does equip me to comprehend the astronomical aspects of climate, which I describe lightly, above.)

None of which is deeply fundamental enough for you, so let me put it plainly.

I do not insist that anthropogenic climate change is proved. What I contend forcefully is that man’s tendency to fumble into fouling his own nest IS proved.

Hence, if I can take simple precautions that make perfect SENSE anyway, why should I not be better safe than sorry?

Look past their bluster and macho spewing distractions and realize that the thing they are objecting to is EFFICIENCY. They are not conservatives, they are feudalists.

Above I listed nine hypocrisies. Any ONE of them should embarrass any intelligent American. e.g. the stunning way that the right demands “more research” and then torpedoes American science and eviscerates research!

CJ, I like some of these guys. Some of them buy my books. Some of them are very very smart.

But they are also quite mad. So driven by hatred of one “side” - in an issue that should not be partisan at all - that they are unable to even remotely grasp that their own “side” is currently being led by monsters.

Robert, while I agree with you that the Left has its share of hypocritical, romantic poo-poo heads... and Stewart Brand is right that nuclear power is a short and medium term answer we should look into seriously... I am hoping like mad that PV tech will rescue us in the nick of time, covering our roofs with shingles that both save the Earth and give every family autonomy.

Alas, when that happens (I pray) BOTH left and right will howl “I told you so!” And I will be nauseated -- and then swallow the bad taste. We modernists cannot afford to spare the time for gloating.

Tacitus2 said...

I have been to Alaska, and am going again soon (salmon!). So I believe global warming is real, and although I think we are seldom as smart as we would like to be, CO2 is probably a significant factor.
I am ok with carbon reduction measures, and all in favor of more efficient, more sustainable energies.
The problem I have with the proposed "cure" is that the developing world (China, India, etc) is guilty of the most inefficient forms of energy generation, and they don't give a fig for the opinions of the US.
So we can't solve this one with legislation from Congress.
Although it would be a good thing in and of itself.
Conservatively yours
Tacitus2

Don Quijote said...

I’ve said it before and I will again, till enough “ostrich conservatives” wake up to how thoroughly their movement has been hijacked by traitors to everything it once stood for.

Dr Brin,

If you keep the following quote in mind, you will understand conservatism and will never be surprised by it.

A modern conservative is engaged in one of man's oldest exercises in moral philosophy; that is, the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness. John Kenneth Galbraith

Name Withheld said...

Don't count out India and China on the efficient, clean energy issue -- both are considering supporting a very large project by the Space Island Group. Dig it: If India (actually one of the state governments of India, not federal because there is no national energy grid in India) signs a purchase agreement for $200B in energy in a 20 year deal with SIG, the World Bank will loan India (who will pay it to SIG) $10B to build the world's first Solar Power Satellite, guaranteeing beamed solar-derived energy at 10 cents a kilowatt for 20 years. China is interested in this also, but wouldn't be eligible for the World Bank loan, but then again they wouldn't need the loan. In Japan Mitsubishi is interested in signing on. In India, the Tata group would be a major player in this, and might sign out without government support. In combination or alone those three nations/companies will sign on, this year. I hear the Governator and Hillary are both briefed and interested, and expect Texas and Florida to get involved. And the naming rights to the space station will be sold to one of the three BIG U.S. media companies currently in talks with SIG about it (Fox, Disney, Turner). Expect a big announcement in the fall. Space is the place to fix the Earth's energy problems.

Stefan Jones said...

Pointing fingers at the Chinese and Indians is rank hypocrisy.

Individual Americans are, per capita, responsible for about FOUR TIMES the CO2 emissions as individual Chinese.

We should be showing LEADERSHIP on this issue.

* * *

"What irks me to the core is this misuse of Science to drive political/ideological ends."

Pot, kettle, black.

reason said...

As regards
What irks me to the core is this misuse of Science to drive political/ideological ends."

I just wonder what exactly he thinks the political ends are? I've been around science a long time, and I have never known so much genuine widespread concern from people who have no particular axe to grind other than a general interest in the truth and a concern for mankind. (Seriously!)

They may be wrong - but they are definitely genuine.

I also know their concerns correspond to my own personal experience (living in Europe as I do - there has been an extraordinary run of extraordinarily mild years, coming AFTER the first warnings were raised - so no ex-post rationalisation.)

People on the other side of the fence also need to consider the possibility that they are wrong and what the consequences might be. How many 30 year olds are buying holiday homes in low lying parts of Florida I wonder?

And of course even if the warming is real but not anthropomorphic we still need to deal with it. In a crowded world that doesn't deal with distributional issues well it could be nasty - REAL nasty.

tacitus2 said...

Come now. "Rank Hipocracy" seems a bit harsh. I express a willingness to take action in the US and wonder if the developing world will follow.
Yes, per capita we burn lots more fossil fuels. But there are a great many more Indians and Chinese than there are Americans. So I think my point has a little validity. And many of us have the sense that, given sufficient prosperity, most humans will strive to duplicate our luxurious, wasteful American lifestyle. Or do you believe in the (Ecologically) Noble Savage?
Anybody got any links to info on environmental issues in China and India? Of course we hear about show projects and the occasional disaster, what's it like day to day in Bombay?
Tacitus2

Rik said...

Et tu, Brin?

If forecasters such as the IPCC are right, then disaster is already unavoidable. That makes science entirely irrelevant. But it still doesn't put people into problem solving mode! Instead we get: BACK OFF! BACK OFF! RETREAT! RETREAT!

We ought to be thundering ahead. I mean, the debate is so idiotic: one side - in your parlance - keeps on ignoring, where the other - my words - prefers to Fight Change. Or worse, in BBC propaganda: We Must Stop Climate Change! To anyone with an ounce of a brain, this is utter madness. The best we can do is using all energy sources of the planet, which means becoming a Type 1 civilization. But for that you do have to trust future solutions. Instead, opinion leaders/makers the globe over prefer the mass moral progress worldview. And that sucks.

Oh, the proponents are right: the debate IS over. But not because they're right, but in reality the science has become irrelevant.

Enterik said...

RI Students Must Watch 'Inconvenient Truth' to Graduate

Notice this article was posted in the Culture section when clearly it should reside in the science section...as if there was one :-/

"With the issue of global warming being such a highly politicized topic, with the scientific community unsure if global warming is man-induced or part of the natural cycle of the earth, do you think that it is intellectually honest to only show the alarmist viewpoint?" -Dana Peloso, RWU College Republicans

This is nearly perfect Luntz-speak with tactics seemingly culled directly from Winning the Global Warming Debate - An Overview(page 7). When asked by Frontline about the memo Luntz, the consummate Orwellian, stands behind his craftsmanship as being a fine piece of work but tries to deny any responsibility for the consequences of his actions, even though, like "climate change" they were clearly predictable.

Eleven years on and the GOP still intends to sing that siren song until the ship of state scuttles upon the craggy shoals of global warming. Is there an Orpheus amongst us?

Enterik said...

rik, maybe you're right, maybe global warming is an unalterable fact already, even so I say, "So what"!? You seem to be living in an oversimplified two-state frame of reference, warming or no warming, with failure already extant. However, the magnitude of the global warming related consequences predicted is literally a matter of degrees. So even if we can't stop global warming in it's tracks we can slow it down and even lower it's peak. In the extreme, we want might to consider the Permian Extinction as a worst case runaway scenario. And again, as many have noted, climate change is just one of many symptoms of a befouled nest.

Jumper said...

I researched the '70s "fear of ice-age" thing myself recently and came up with the following links as well. Nice work, those who posted the above links as well! I think we have a good collection going and enough to choke the deniers who use that old trope, which I heard yet again on radio recently. Also, I read elsewhere that CO2 has lowered the pH of the oceans affecting marine life and due to food-supply considerations (ours) they are not recommended for further carbon sequestration at this time.

http://www.wmconnolley.org.uk/sci/iceage/misc-non-science.html

http://www.warchangesclimate.com/

http://chemjerk.blogs.com/chemjerk/2006/04/george_wills_li.html

Jumper said...

After all the heavy reading, a link to a neat energy presentation with a cool chart.

http://www.llnl.gov/PAO/news/news_releases/2005/SF-05-10-01.html

Stefan Jones said...

Tacitus notes:

"And many of us have the sense that, given sufficient prosperity, most humans will strive to duplicate our luxurious, wasteful American lifestyle."

I'm all for prosperity, security, and quite a bit of luxury. What I'm against is waste and stupidity.

"Or do you believe in the (Ecologically) Noble Savage?"

Fah. Unimaginative dualism.

It's the greenhouse denial spin doctors who want us to think the alternative to guzzling fossil fuels is living in mud huts. Because they're unimaginative chumps.

Once More, with Feeling:

http://www.worldchanging.com

Anonymous said...

Between global warming and international terrorism, I'm hoping to retire to the asteroid belt.

zorgon the malevolent said...

CJ-in-Weld asks whether he should believe Jerry Pournelle or David Brin.
You should believe neither of 'em. This is what peer review is for.
Go to the library and use the Science Citation Index to check the global warming papers published in peer-reviewed scientific journals and see which ones have the largest number of citations. Count up the top 10.
Now go look up the number of citations for anti-global-warming articles published in peer-reviewed scientific journals. Count up the total number of citations for the top 10, if you can even find 10 anti-global-warming articles published in peer-reviewed scientific journals.
Compare the two numbers.
Peer review works. Junk science doesn't get consistently cited by other authors who publish in peer-reviewed journals, and the articles that get cited most often are usually rock solid science. You don't get cited by large number of other authors of peer reviewed journal articles unless your results have been exhaustively confirmed.
(Please don't throw up string "theory" article citations to me, because most current string "theory" papers appear in the arXiv. The arXiv is not peer reviewed. A schnauser can publish in the arXiv.)
Scientists who are non-specialists face the same dilemma as CJ-in-Weld. How do they know that the claims made by a particular paper published in a scientific journal are reliable? That's what peer review is for. When you add together enough peer reviewed journal articles reaching the same conlusion and rank 'em according to the Science Citation Index, you start to get a consensus, and a scientific consensus is something you can pretty well rely on.
The second thing you want to do in judging global warming claims is to do some research and check how many different fields have produced evidence converging on the same conclusion. Paleontological pollen data and fossil tree ring data and CO2 studies done on Antarctic ice cores along with satellite imaging studies and deep ocean temperature studies and geological glaciation studies along with surveys of the change of historical speciation patterns all back up the broad conclusions of climatologists and planetary scientists.
It's not credibel that it's all some kind of liberal conspiracy. That would require such immense collusion among so many scientists in so many different fields that it's just silly. But it's also highly unlikely that the general conclusion (that warming is occurring, it is anthropogenic, and CO2 is implicated) is wrong, because too much evidence from too many different scientific fields converges on the same conclusion. You can dismiss or find problems with one field, or two -- but all of them? Climatological computer models may be flawed...but is it likely the microscopic studies of ancient pollen are also flawed in such a way to reach the same conclusion? Is it likely deep ocean temperature studies are also concidentally mistaken in the same way? Is it probable that satellite imaging studies of global temperature patterns also just happen to be wrong in such a way that by happenstance we get the sme results as from all the other studies?
When many pieces of evidence from many different fields of science all point to the same broad conclusion, we have to start giving that conclusion credibility.

As for Jerry Pournelle, he ran off the rails sometime in the 80s, when he started supporting the Iran-Contra craziness and making bizarre statements in favor of Star Wars (which every credible scientist knew was complete hogwash, just unworkable, even then). Pournelle used to be a sharp credible sensible guy -- I don't know what happened to him. Clearly he can no longer be taken seriously.

But Pournelle is just a has-been science fiction writer. A much more alarming voice against global warming is Freeman Dyson, someone I enormously respect:

The first of my heresies says that all the fluff about global warming is grossly exaggerated. Here I am opposing the holy brotherhood of twilight model experts and the crowd of diluted citizens that believe the numbers predicted by their models. Of course they say I have no degree in meteorology and I am therefore not qualified to speak.

But I have studied their climate models and know what they can do. The models solve the equations of fluid dynamics and do a very good job of describing the fluid motions of the atmosphere and the oceans. They do a very poor job of describing the clouds, the dust, the chemistry and the biology of fields, farms and forests. They do not begin to describe the real world that we live in.

The real world is muddy and messy and full of things that we do not yet understand. It is much easier for a scientist to sit in an air-conditioned building and run computer models than to put on winter clothes and measure what is really happening outside in the swamps and the clouds. That's why the climate model experts end up believing their own models.

There's no doubt that parts of the world are getting warmer, but the warming is not global. The warming happens in places and times where it is cold, in the arctic more than the tropics, in the winter more than the summer, at night more than the daytime.

I'm not saying the warming doesn't cause problems, obviously it does. Obviously we should be trying to understand it. I'm saying that the problems are being grossly exaggerated. They take away money and attention from other problems that are much more urgent and important. Poverty, infectious diseases, public education and public health. Not to mention the preservation of living creatures on land and in the oceans.

http://www.umich.edu/news/index.html?DysonWinCom05

Much as I respect Dyson, notice that he's making the same mistakes as do all the other global warming deniers. He focusses in on criticizing only the global computer models of climate change. That's legitimate. It's also one of the classic fallacies Francis Bacon warned against in Novum Organum in 1610, nitpicking parts of the evidence while ignore the broad sweep of data that all lines up in the same direction. Dyson ignores the vast mass of data from many other fields, including micro-pollen studies, fossil studies, etc. A scientific consensus has not developed about anthropogenic CO2-based global warming solely (or even mainly) because of gimcrack computer models. As mentioned above, vast amounts of evidence converge from many scientific fields on the conlusion that global warming is real, anthropogenic, and CO2-based.
Dyson's arguments about global heating taking place at the poles more than the quator and at night more than during the day are the obvious result of the large thermal inertia involved. Those are not credible arguments, since the trend lines are clear.

The only other major public figure associated with global warming denial is Michael Crichton, and he's not a scientist, so he can't be taken seriously.

Dr. Brin's argument that even if global warming isn't real we ought to work hard to increase the efficiency of our industrial civilization makes sense, but it's not enough. Currently most U.S. oil consumption goes into gasoline for cars. Our electric generation is primarily natural-gas-based, with some nuclear and hydroelectric.
In order to make serious changes in U.S. oil consumption, Americans are going to have to change the way we live. That means that the American car culture is going to have to go away. The idea of taking summer vacations by cruising around for 1000 miles in an SUV is dead. That has to go away. Setting up huge suburbs with no industry, far away from cities, is also going to have go away. Hour-long commutes from peoples' homes to the places where they work are going to have to go away. Shipping most of our produce and finished goods by truck is going to have to go away.
Note that we're doing pretty well on shipping raw materials and people by bulk. Most raw materials are currently shipped by highly efficient diesel trains. This includes coal, iron ore, bauxite, etc. People get shipped long distances in bulk by jet, and those are much more efficient than shipping the same number of people one to a car. The good news is that aerostats and turboprop jets offer even greater efficiency for air travel. I for one would like to see the return of blimps, albeit modern rigid-skinned dirigibles made of nanomaterial composites and filled with vacuum instead of helium.
Americans are going to have to change the layout of their cities. Americans are going to have to change to using light rail rather than the personal automobile. Americans are going to have integrate the places where they work with the places where they live. There is a place in the world where these sorts of changes have alreayd occurred -- it's called "Europe."
Some parts of the United States are densely inhabited in way which are unsustainable, and those areas of the U.S. are going to have to depopulate. Phoenix AZ and Las Vegas NV and Taos NM are unsustainable. They will have to go away.
Americans are gonig to have to change the way they farm. Agribusiness monoculture farming based on nitrate fertilizers and petroleum-driven giant combines and harvesters is not sustainable. This will have to change. American agriculture based on pumping vast amoutns of water across thousands of miles is in the short run unustainable. IN the longer run, energy to pump water many thousands of miles canbe replaced by nuclear sources and supplenented with solar, but the entire process is grossly inefficient and will probably have to change in basic ways.
Abvoe all, Americans are going to have to get over their paranoid fear of nuclear energy. Fast breeder reactors using thorium combined with waste reprocessing will offer us electric power for at least several thousand years. If we haven't solved global awrming by then, we might as well throw in the towel. I have more confidence in our species than that, personally.
=Serious arguments right now center around the exact degree of global warming, not whether it's real. Computer climate models may be inaccurate. Time will tell. In the meantime, wild scare headlines like these continue to proliferate:
http://www.umich.edu/news/index.html?DysonWinCom05

Scenarios like the Olduvai Cliff
dieoff.org/page224.htm
can't be taken seriouusly. In the very worst case, a crash program to build fast thorium breeder reactors would give us plenty of electricity for both industrial and residential use for the foreseeable future. Electric powered light rail can easily take up the slack for commuting near and within large cities.
Long commutes to distant suburbs, trucking of manufactured goods, and the interstate highway system as it currently exists, are probably not sustainable and will have to change. That's far from catastrophic, however.
The two biggest changes required to deal with global warming will be reworking America's gasoline and diesel delivery infrastructure for cars, and changing the way cities are laid out. Both those upheavals will involve vast changes and will take many decades. Vertical density in urban cores will have to be replaced with sprawling single-storey businesses connected by fiberoptics and heated/cooled by solar heat buffers, heat pumps, and clever natural ventilation schemes of the kind used in New Mexico and by Buckminster Fuller in his dymaxion houses. You can build a single-storey home with a double hull that remains warm in the winter and cool in the summer surprisingly easily if you use insulation with high R values, convective cooling through micropores int he outer skin, roof water tanks to store heat in the water supply, and heat pumps.
At present we don't do any of this on a large scale in America. It's grossly inefficient. It will have to change.
Fortunately, the changes are not likely to be catastrophic, and will probably involve returning to a style of living familiar from the pre-1930s in America, with spread-out towns which intermingled businesses with residential areas and did not rely so much on the car.
So efficiency by itself isn't nearly enough. We'll also have to change the way we live. The good news is that it won't be that hard, and will involve mainly disassembling our unsustainable giant cities and equally unsustainable isolated suburbs, and moving away from industry dependent on an interstate highway system to an industrial system more dependent on light rail and public transit and small personal vehicles like electric pedicabs along with a generous helping of fiberoptic information technology.

Steve said...

Just for the record : The idea of efficiency -- and not incidentally weaning ourselves off Saudi oil and Russian gas and the malign side-effects of that dependency -- is one that I do subscribe to; whether or not it is our CO2 emissions or sunspot (or other external) cycles are driving recent trends in temperature.

That way I can hope to be warm should the worst warming scenario effect of Canadian climate coming to Europe come to pass.

Enterik said...

In support of Zorgon's citation-based assessment of literature, I offer the "global warming"-containing recommendations of the Faculty of 1000 who are leaders in their [biologically-oriented] scientific fields that cherry-pick what they deem to be the most significant publications.

John Newman said...

David Brin said: "The precautionary measures being asked of us, in EITHER case, were/are things that we ought to be doing anyway."

I think you are dead on right with this. People keep arguing about global warming as if it were the only thing to worry about environmentally, as if it were some holy grail of politico-environmentalism.

The things humans do to effect global warming cause a multitude of more immediate threats to our health, and our society. Whether global warming is real or not is a secondary issue. We need to curb our polluting habits, regardless of global warming.

It was refreshing for me to read this from you, as I wrote a bit more about this earlier this year.

Enterik said...

The anthropogenic contribution to global warming is a direct consequence of the combustion fossil fuels, and as many have said, it is not the only consequence, there is a more immediate consequence looming on our shores...anoxic dead zones resulting from excess nitrate fertilizer run off. The one off the coast of Louisiana grew from the size of New Jersey to the size of West Virginia in the last six years!

What I want to highlight is the political nature of this problem, which is extant and having devastating consequences. In January 2001 a $5 billion program to reduce fertilizer rich run-off based upon the latest science was unveiled. Then Bush was selected as resident. First, they took two years to decide whether to continue with the program and three years later decided to review the data, recently the preliminary findings of the review of the science reconfirms the initial assertions. Now they assert the fix will take decades. But at the same time, they promote crop based ethanol as an alternative, even though it will dump even more fertilizer into the gulf. At least the GOP doesn't control the congress for this years farm bill, so there might be hope, if they can manage to find a little spare change left over from supplemental appropriations :-/ My point is that even when faced with a very real problem with a very clear solution somehow the government as it is currently (and periodically) constituted fails to take meaningful action. One can only expect the case for adressing the more distributed and indirect global warming to experience even larger hurdles.

CJ-in-Weld said...

Zorgon:

Your latest post is impressive. I do feel some need to say that the question isn't really Brin vs. Pournelle as such; rather, they are surrogates for the collection of the least-screechy voices from both sides of the global warming debate, as perceived in my corner of cyberspace. Maybe Brin vs. Dyson would have been a better set of names. The point is, for most of us, the issue is not how to tell what's really going on ourselves, but which authority to choose to believe. That's an uncomfortable feeling for folks who enjoy the illusion of independence in most areas of life.

Anyway. You inspire me to comment on the politics of this whole thing.

For instance, you say:

The good news is that it won't be that hard, and will involve mainly disassembling our unsustainable giant cities and equally unsustainable isolated suburbs, and moving away from industry dependent on an interstate highway system to an industrial system more dependent on light rail and public transit and small personal vehicles like electric pedicabs along with a generous helping of fiberoptic information technology.

See, I think a lot of Joe Blow citizens can buy Brin's argument that the things we need to do to combat global warming make sense anyway. I think most of the Blow family will accept some additional cost in prices or taxes or whatever. If the increase is incremental, and the economy keeps pace, it'll hardly be noticed, if history is a guide. So, at first blush, the cost-benefit ratio is acceptable. After all, there's that smart guy Brin over there saying there will be collateral benefits anyway! It's all win-win! Hooray!

But when you say "disassembling our unsustainable giant cities and equally unsustainable isolated suburbs" "won't be that hard," that cost-benefit assessment is a little scarier. Disassembling giant cities seems massively hard to normal people.

When you say –

The idea of taking summer vacations by cruising around for 1000 miles in an SUV is dead. That has to go away.

– you lose Joe Blow's vote.

It sucks, I know, to have to convince Joe Blow. He's ignorant and selfish. But there you go – take away his SUV, and you lose, as long as this country is a democratic republic.

Maybe things will go the way you want slowly, and truth to tell, I like the portrait you paint of the future. I love dirigibles; they seem very civilized compared to these new-fangled "aeroplanes." (Although "pre-1930s America" better not be code for "doing without the comforts of Western civilization.")

But slow change to what you envision doesn't square with the urgency I sense from the activist crowd, who seem to say that if we don't get on top of global warming in the next ten years, we are – literally – sunk.

So how do you win this argument? I can dust off my undergraduate research skills and use the Science Citation Index, if I get off my lazy ass and do it. (At least I think I can – when I last used it, it was a collection of massive paper volumes. I'm guessing it's electronic now. Do you need an account or something?) But what about the masses of voters without even my level of exposure to the scientific method, including (sadly) most college graduates?

How do you win?

David Brin said...

rik, you disparage people who do not fit your image of believers in a particular type of progress, starting your remarks with sentence after sentence of strawman dismissals of several types who would be your natural allies, if you weren’t drenched with a need to insult.

Anyone readning me over any length would know that I have real problems with the romantics of the left, who despidse engineers and big engineering almost as much as the radicals of the right hate science and honesty. Both wings represent almost identical psychologies and hatred of ambition, porogress (“hubris”) and the future.

Where your strawmanning comes in is wheen you put forward the notion that lefty flakes rule modern liberalism, ir the modernist movement, or a political party... the way the madmen of the right rule the GOP, most mass media, and almost every lever of power in our poor nation. This is simply not true.

Yes, I have to doubt that consensus moderates in America will be able to overcome lefty resistance to nuclear power. That is the one case where their reflex ant-engineer anomie has genuine potency to keep doing us all harm...

...and it is small potatoes compared to what righty monsters do to us, hourly!

As for being a Type Oner civilization, I know more about that stuff than you can imagine. And I got to tell you that we have no business wielding that type of power befoire we have proved that we know how to use our vaunted human prefrontal lobes and actually ponder the consequences of major actions, before committing to them. It is not too much to ask that efficiency and maturity be part of the headlong rush into the future.

But it is downright silly to count on tomorrow to supply answers that we won’t even try to find ourselves.

---

Oh, but more. There is this, which I left off my litany of right-wing party lines about climate change.

“All right, the climate is changing and humans have done it. It’s already too late to stop it. So let’s party on, dude.”

Seriously, that is one of the party lines (rephrased, I’ll admit, for satiric effect.) Faced with the fact tat the US Navy is hurrying to make plans for an ice-free Arctic, some on the right are offering this “What? Me worry?” stance as if it were actually logic, coming out of the mouths of adults.

In two sentences (all it deserves): Just because you’ve done damage to a system does not make it impossible for you to do MORE damage - e.g. by passing the ocean’s saturation point and triggering the release of vastly MORE greenhouse gases, triggering the “mother of storms.” We do not know enough oabout these things to tell what a “point of no return” would be; that’s what science (which the right has utterly betrayed) is supposed top be for.

----

Zorgon, nice rant! But please use a spell-checker and line space separators!

Also, Z, I must (after dissing him a little) defend my friend Jerry P. While I consider his political reflexes to be troglodytic, he is not stupid. Indeed, I cause many of my scientifically educated friends to scratch their heads in amazement when I say that today’s proposed rocket-based missile defense system probably would work extremely well in a dire emergency, with some small number of (say, North Korean) ICBMs heading toward Seattle. Even having failed every test! (“Hitting a bullet with a bullet.”) I have special reasons for believing this. Because I remember why the ORIGINAL treaty banning ABMs was passed, back in the 1960s, when the technology was far, far cruder. And yet, ABMs were considered credible, then!

All you have to do is re-define the word “bullet.” And that’s all I’ll say about that.

Anonymous said...

But please use a spell-checker and line space separators!

“We do not know enough oabout these things to tell what “

The great thing about dear Dr. Brin is that he will actually laugh at that rather than seeing it as an attack.

Just watch. Betcha a dollar.

Hawker Hurricane said...

It was possible to shoot down a ICBM in the 1960's. Look up the Nike ABM project.

Nike's were large surface to air missiles. They were incredibly fast, very long ranged (for a SAM), and worked very well. With a Nike, you would launch one toward a incoming ICBM, it would get within about a mile, then detonate a kiloton range nuke. It was going to shoot down that ICBM! But...
You'd be setting off a nuke over your own territory to stop a nuke. AND the electromatic pulse of that detonation would blind (at least temporarily) the radars needed to launch more Nikes to defend that area.

Nikes were a brute force solution to the problem of how to stop a bullet with a bullet. I'd like to think that after 40 years we could get a missile a lot closer to the target (and thereby be able to use a smaller warhead). I've seen ship launched Standard SM1s hit (skin to skin, that is a contact hit) at 20 miles. That's a late 70's system. Patriot missiles scored kills on Scud IRBMs during Gulf War I. But for some reason, we can't seem to match that. I fear that the whole ABM thing has become a 'cash cow' for military contractors; if they build a working system they'll stop getting money once it's built, as long as it's in development they'll milk it forever.

Tony Fisk said...

I actually rather liked Putin's recent suggestion to drop Russian objections to ABMs in eastern Europe by having the tracking station in southern Russia (given that my paranoid bits suspect an escalation setup). I don't know the technical practicalities of this, but at least it was a suggestion!

Getting back to the main topic of discussion, this week's New Scientist has a special report covering US citizens' attitude to climate change. Apparently, 85% believe that it has occurred. The question did not actually ask then *why* they thought it had occurred. At least it's a big step on from the Crichton doctrine.

David Brin said...

Anonymous.... har!!!! (and blush)

Hawker, you are VERY close to making the logical leap to why I am very confident that our new ABM system will work, as advertised, in dealing with small numbers of rogue ICBMS, in some dire emergency, despite having "failed" at bullet-smacking in all tests.

For the record, I am applying ONLY logic, here. And memries of SAFEGUARD/SENTINEL. This reflects NO inside knowledge at all.

And I will NOT take this any farther.

H. Hurricane said...

You won't, but I will.

If you want to deter a war, you make yourself look as fierce and nasty as possible. "Look at us! We have nukes, and missiles that will shoot down your nukes! You can't beat us, so don't even try!"
With deterence, it doesn't matter if a weapon works so long as everyone believes it does.

But if you want to WIN a war, sometimes it's better not to look as capable as you are. The project no one knows of, the weapon that no one believes works but really does... that becomes a war winner.

So, is the current ABM project a failed attempt at deterrence, a cash cow for defence contractors, or a secret weapon to win a war?

Andrew said...

Pestered by punctilious pedants?

Firefox 2.0, now with built-in spell checking!

Sam Taylor said...

Robert--

I'm not a scientist. All I can offer you are my own experiences. I live in Dallas, Texas. Not too terribly long ago, we had dust storms in Dallas. We don't have dust storms in Dallas--it's not natural.

And the climate is insane--boiling hot for 5 years, close to record, raining more than it's ever rained the next.

This is not the weather I grew up with, or the weather my parents grew up with. And it's here to stay. It's become the rule, not the exception.

Crazy stuff is happening all over the place. In Alaska, the PERMAFROST is melting. That's PERMAFROST. Permanent Frost. It's not supposed to melt. The eskimos don't remember it melting.

If people just open their eyes and LOOK, rather than believing the talking heads, what's going on is almost impossilbe to miss.

The weather is screaming in pain, jerking around like a tortured animal.

Just LOOK.

rushmc said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
rushmc said...

>>>>What I contend forcefully is that man’s tendency to fumble into fouling his own nest IS proved.

For a lengthy discussion of the evidence demonstrating this tendency, see Jared Diamond's recent book, Collapse.

Enterik said...

What the hell, I'll play the Devil's Advocate for the agreed upon anti-nuclear strawman.

Thorium-based Fast Breeder reactors are the power plants of the future...and they always will be.

1.) More competitive once-through Uranium technology and infrastructure already exists

2.) Enough Uranium ore is available keep it cheaper than developing a thorium-based technology, except in India, which is Uranium-poor and thorium-rich

3.) Thorium enrichment from monazite sands requires placer mining which entails open pit dredging and large quantities of water that is befouled with pollution. Thorium is toxic water soluable.

4.) Despite all the vaunted propaganda about proliferation-resistance, reactor-grade plutonium is still weapons usable.

5.) Reprocessing ensures high grade plutonium will be just lying around.

6.) The entire life-cycle contains significant "externalities" :-/ of embodied energy, water and greenhouse gasses to get to that mythical climate change neutral power plant.

7.) Though less dangerous and shorter lived than the waste produced by current once-through technologies, thorium waste still lasts 500 years or so and still contains transuranic elements. Such waste heaps are only attractiv in comparison with something far worse.

8.) The estimated thorium-232 fuel supply is finite even if 500 times greater than Uranium-235

9.) Concentrated Solar Power facilities are already providing baseline

10.) Transport of mined/formulated ore to reactors and spent fuel for reprocessing or long term storage provides a significant target for extremists and chaos in general.

11.) The cost of energy production appears artificially low due caps on insurance against catastrophic accidents and government subsidies. Nuclear energy, thorium or otherwise, is a non-competitive product.

12.) The scale of any conversion to nuclear from coal/gas, just for projected electricity demand is mind boggling. It still doesn't adress space heating and vehicle energy demand and greenhouse gas production.

13.) Subcritical thorium reactors are an unproven and technically complex notion that hasn't been scaled up. What remains are plutonium and uranium containing configurations.

That should suffice for now. Granted, some of those claims are low hanging fruit, but others will require some effort to pluck from their eirie.

FK said...

Nice article Dr.Brin...

but just a minor quibble: Michael Crichton doesn't deny global warming, nor does he deny that humans play a part. In fact, he is in total favour of bringing about the changes you mention, for the same reasons you mention:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=noec6Xkx73k

He says it at around the six minute mark.

I wonder if you have viewed the debate over the motion "Global warming is not a crisis" With Michael Crichton, Richard S. Lindzen, and Philip Stott arguing for the motion and Brenda Ekwurzel, Gavin Schimdt, and Richard C.J. Somerville arguing against it?
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F6t2D74UcrY

I find it unfortunate that Michael Crichton is often quoted by global warming denialists to bolster their case whereas I don't think he is a global warming denialist at all.

rushmc said...

I wonder how support for global warming mitigating measures can be generated in this country so long as 70% of the population apparently believes that it is not due to human factors?

H. Hurricane said...

Got a link to this website, and feel the need to share...

http://pov-mentarch1.blogspot.com/2007/06/eight-principles-of-incompetence.html

Zeroth Principle: Incompetence is driven by intellectual sloth.
First Principle: Incompetence surrounds itself with incompetence.
Second Principle: Incompetence is ethics-impaired.
Third Principle: Incompetence abhors transparency and accountability.
Fourth Principle: Incompetence does or says anything to defend itself.
Fifth Principle: Incompetence always supports incompetence.
Sixth Principle: Violence is the last refuge of incompetence.
Seventh Principle: Incompetence is nothing but consistent with itself.

Dr. Brin likes to say "They can't be *that* incompetent", and proposes his self admitted bizare conspiracy theory... I say they've only shown competence at one thing (winning election), and yes, they can be *that* incompetent.

David Brin said...

Hawker, I have never said they CAN'T be that incompetent. Indeed, since I am outnumbered several hundred million to one, I must concede that mammoth incompetence combined with insatiable greed and cosmic levels of dogmatic stupidity make up the "standard model".

But for the possibility of subornation to not even be on peoples' radar screens? Not even the professionals whose JOB it is to watch out for classic tricks that have brought down other nations?

Well, that's simply ... incompetent.

Likewise Enterik, your surprise over Bush -co actions implies that you believe that they even marginally want the United States to thrive.

Zorgon, while I agree that suburbs (like the one I live in) are intrinsically absurd, one should concede why we’ve built these crazy places. They are ways to let each family live like a feudal knight or lord, surrounded by a patch of land and menials - in the form of hordes of machines.

Cities are another matter. They are marvelous living machines and can be made more so. Urban dwellers actually use fewer resources and especially land than anyone else. How else to stash billions and convince them they are happy? Billions.

Finally, Stefan offers a heads-up that the SETI/METI imbroglio is in the news at:

http://comment.independent.co.uk/commentators/article2702529.ece

The Independent is a leading British newspaper and David Whitehouse is well-known. I'm hoping this shows that the matter is worth an hour of discussion.

David Brin said...

Hawker, I have never said they CAN'T be that incompetent. Indeed, since I am outnumbered several hundred million to one, I must concede that mammoth incompetence combined with insatiable greed and cosmic levels of dogmatic stupidity make up the "standard model".

But for the possibility of subornation to not even be on peoples' radar screens? Not even the professionals whose JOB it is to watch out for classic tricks that have brought down other nations?

Well, that's simply ... incompetent.

Likewise Enterik, your surprise over Bush -co actions implies that you believe that they even marginally want the United States to thrive.

Zorgon, while I agree that suburbs (like the one I live in) are intrinsically absurd, one should concede why we’ve built these crazy places. They are ways to let each family live like a feudal knight or lord, surrounded by a patch of land and menials - in the form of hordes of machines.

Cities are another matter. They are marvelous living machines and can be made more so. Urban dwellers actually use fewer resources and especially land than anyone else. How else to stash billions and convince them they are happy? Billions.

Finally, Stefan offers a heads-up that the SETI/METI imbroglio is in the news at:

http://comment.independent.co.uk/commentators/article2702529.ece

The Independent is a leading British newspaper and David Whitehouse is well-known. I'm hoping this shows that the matter is worth an hour of discussion.

zorgon the malevolent said...

At the risk of tossing gasoline on the fire, here's someone who's come up with a Manchurian candidate conspiracy theory eerily similar to Dr. Brin's:
http://www.altpr.org/modules.php?op=modload&name=News&file=article&sid=403&mode=thread&order=0&thold=0

Still sounds far-fetched to me. But I've been wrong before.

David Brin said...

Re the article that Zorgon calls the closest thing to another “manchurian” explanation for the neocons.
“George Bush himself may or may not believe that he will be raptured up into Heaven at the time of a preordained Apocalypse. George Bush, however, does not set the policies or designs of his administration. Those who do, most probably do not believe in an apocalyptic end of time. Rather, they see time continuing. Only they see a meaner time that lies ahead, without plentiful, cheap energy to fuel endlessly-expanding capitalism; a feudal, medieval world of harsher climates and hungry, thirsty people, and desperation and disease. And they intend to have, by hook or by crook, what they need to survive those times.”

Alas, this is anything but a true “manchurian” scenario. It is simply another version of the Standard Model that these monsters are vicious, venial, power-hungry, dogmatic, incompetent morons...

...with the emphasis, in this author’s case, on the venial and greedy part, downplaying the incompetent morons part.

What the author in question does not even remotely hint at is the possibility that the downward spiral of Western Civilization that he portrays is deliberately being fostered and promoted by those at the helm. THAT is the true “manchurian scenario of subornation at the very top.

And yes, it sounds paranoid and (again) I do NOT hold this theory officially. But, in my role as a staff contrarian - the best there is - I am forced to call it to everybody’s attention, simply because it ought to be on the table.

It ought to be looked-into by our professional counter-intel folks.

It is logical and historically precedented and far simpler than the Standard Model, which relies on staggering levels of coincidence.

And - even though I do not officially believe it, and indeed pray daily that it is wrong -- I find it utterly appalling that people seem unable to focus their imaginations on it even enough to keep it on a shelf of possibilities, to glace at now and then, with wary, worried eyes.

Enterik said...

David, the difficulty I see for many (current posters excepted) in juggling alternative hypotheses indefinitely is a low tolerance for uncertainty within the bewildered herd. Thus political thinking insidiously devolves towards a single convenient stereotype.

On the issue of climate change, I will add one more detail. Even if increasing anthropogenic CO2 has no effect on greenhouse warming, it still needs to be limited. The acidification of all but the most equatorial of ocean waters over the past 50 years by dissolved carbonate is literally decimating ocean life. Research on liquified CO2 pumped into seawater reveals an even deadlier consequence. So the oceans will never be an artificial sink. So even desperate denialists plan B get out of jail free card is demonstrably disasterous.

dan said...

Polar cities in the far distant future to house remnants of humankind
who survive the apocalypse of devastating global warming? The casual
reader might think I am an alarmist or a mere scare-monger, but I am
neither. I am a visionary.

Polar cities are proposed sustainable polar retreats designed to house
human beings in the future, in the event that global warming causes
the central and middle regions of the Earth to become uninhabitable
for a long period of time. Although they have not been built yet, some
futurists have been giving considerable thought to the concepts
involved.

I know, I know, the very thought of "polar cities" sounds like some
science-fiction movie you don't want to see. But it might be
instructive to think about such sustainable Artic and Antartic
communities for the future of humankind. If worse come to worse, and
things fall apart, perhaps by the year 2500 or the year 3000, we must
might need polar cities. And perhaps the time to start thinking about
them, and designing and planning them (and maybe even building, or
pre-building them), is now.

Here is more food for thought, from an entry in Wikipedia:
"High-population-density cities, to be built in the polar regions,
with sustainable energy and transportation infrastructures, will
require substantial nearby agriculture. Boreal soils are largely poor
in key nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorus, but nitrogen-fixing
plants (such as the various alders in the Artic region) with the
proper symbiotic microbes and mycorrhizal fungi can likely remedy such
poverty without the need for petroleum-derived fertilizers. Regional
probiotic soil improvement should perhaps rank high on any polar
cities priority list. James Lovelock's notion of a widely distributed
almanac of science knowledge and post-industrial survival skills also
appears to have value."

Oh, I know it's fashionable to mock global warming alarmists and doom
and gloom futurists with no credentials except a keyboard and a blog,
but there's a method to the madness of thinking about polar cities.
Maybe, just maybe, if enough people hear about the concept of polar
cities and realize how serious such a possibility is, maybe, just
maybe, they will get off their tuches and start thinking hard and fast
about how we humans are causing climate change by our lifestyles and
inventions and gadgets and need for cars and airplanes and trains and
ships and factories and coal-burning plants across the globe -- and
then maybe it won't be fashionable to mock global warming alarmists
anymore.

The future does not look good. But we can do something now. No, not
building polar cities now. That's for the future to decide. What we
can do now is stop what we are doing now and start planning in a more
sane way for the future of the species. If we even care. I do. We must
stop all human acitivity that is responsible for emitting carbon
dioxide into the Earth's atmosphere. Now. It's getting later earlier
and earlier, I tell you.

June 27, 2007 9:13 PM

Markbnj said...

Anon said:
Between global warming and international terrorism, I'm hoping to retire to the asteroid belt.

Brilliant.

with regard to (Michael Crichton), my answer is simple. I will never buy, or even RE-read one of his books (that I already own) AGAIN. as my personal answer to his lack of understanding the issue of global warming.

I will no longer consider him a viable scientist, despite his also having his medical degree. I am somewhat more hesitant to brand Jerry Pournelle with the same brush, but may have to one day.

My one book purchase will Not do much, but it is a start!

someone said:
...snip...
Americans are going to have to change to using light rail rather than the personal automobile. Americans are going to have integrate the places where they work with the places where they live. There is a place in the world where these sorts of changes have already occurred -- it's called "Europe."

look at the hubbub (on the NE at least over NY mayor Mike Bloomberg's proposal to start charging "congestion pricing" for access by car to the Manhattan business district.
You'd thing WW III had broken out. And the worst offenders are the some of the very people that live in the city.

Congestion pricing would work like the London model, but simpler. If you pay to get into Manhattan (say a $6.00 toll) into the city, then you pay an additional $2.00 BUT if you live in Long Island, or Queens or Brooklyn, and use the FREE bridges into NYC, you pay the full $8.00 per day.. .big deal/

The main people currently benefiting from this are State, City and Federal (Post Office) employees, who have free parking at their jobs in Manhattan, so don't HAVE to pay for bus/trains/transit.

Congestion pricing simply removes the free ride from the free bridges that have been in place for years.

Also: think national rail service and then think Amtrack. think CONRAIL. Conrail does freight,and OWNS the majority of the rail tracks in the nation, and DOES not let Amtrack have the right of way, thus causing many delays.

And I go back (for those who know me, from my NYC days) to Robert Moses bashing, for the days when he designed NY's Road and Highway system to DELIBERATELY be inaccessible to buses and trains (his parkways were designed with underpasses TOO low for buses to pass through, so the poor and the underclass couldn't get out to Jones beach.

Talk about Automobiles as the cause of 95% of this..

Today Detroit may become a empty city, but do the auto companies learn?
NO, they STILL lobbied to reduce the # of miles required for future fuel economy...
SIGH
And detroit hasn't even SEEN the likes of china's future conquest of the US auto market ...

I still want to know when I can get my TESLA mini-compact for 30K

Americans are going to have to change the way they farm. Agribusiness monoculture farming based on nitrate fertilizers and petroleum-driven giant combines and harvesters is not sustainable. This will have to change.

(I say) American agri-business sucks. American Agribusiness and GMO seeds (shame on you monsanto) are also causes of the problem.

I really do seem to think we WILL be at that point, where in the Asimov/??book Nightfall, the civilization DOES collapse, and 90% of the population dies, and rest has to start over

With our luck our genes will be like that movie (idiocracy???) where our gene pool keeps getting driven down and down, and people like Dr Brin (and all of us) will be dead and (hopefully) buried, and some bozo jumps up and down and shoots machine guns...

and...

Andrew said...

Pestered by punctilious pedants?

Firefox 2.0, now with built-in spell checking!

(but I use wordpad for these HUGE data mining and response sessions!)
but firefox does hightlight the errors!

TheRadicalModerate said...

Zorgon--

Very nice screed in your argument on why peer-reviewed climate science works. But you went totally off the rails in asserting that transportation is the main problem. Please refer to this smorgasbord of data from the DOE. Near as I can tell from these data, transportation accounts for about 28% of US energy consumption. I didn't bother to dig into how much of that is personal transport vs. goods and services, but I'll hazard a SWAG that that no more than 20% is being devoted to individual autos.

Yes, I know I'm not biasing consumption by source, and I'm sure that a big chunk of light sweet crude production is going to gasoline/diesel, which indeed is going towards cars and trucks. (This is almost tautological, isn't it?) But surely you can see how it would be--not easy, but straightforward--to bias that 28% of transportation towards using electricity as a transfer medium rather than directly using light hydrocarbons. Once you've converted transport to fungible energy using batteries or (dare I say it?) hydrogen, you can then solve the primary energy source problems however you'd like.

This seems a hell of a lot more likely than rekludging urban and personal transportation habits--which simply isn't going to happen. You can gaze admiringly at Europe all you'd like, but the fact is that the US didn't inherit a road system built to accomodate oxcarts flowing half-duplex. If Europe had the interstate highway system and modern urban road systems, they'd have transportation habits just like the US.

---------------

David, you misstate the "State of Fear" argument somewhat:

A related neoconservative “talking point” is the outrageous “State of Fear” notion that all this fuss about of climate change is a put-up job, foisted on a gullible public by venial conspirators who are doing it completely out of selfish greed. Supposedly, the eco/recycling industries - worth a few billions - allied with some PBS/media types, are nefariously imposing a culture-wide condition of unreasoning panic, all in order to line their pockets with massive amounts of ill-gotten lucre. Meanwhile (naturally) the multi-TRILLION dollar carbon fuels industry is but a meek victim, completely innocent of anything of the kind.

At the risk of being branded a Crichton apologist, his argument was that the media industry stood to gain power and make a lot of money by hyping not just global warming, but any manufactured crisis it could sink its teeth into. Furthermore, politics were being skewed to use this handy new paradigm to manipulate the electorate. Frankly, that argument seems pretty sound to me. (I'm unconvinced by his global warming arguments, but in his afterward he makes it pretty clear that he's no more than a mild AGW skeptic.)

Plus, how can you completely despise a book where Martin Sheen gets eaten by cannibals?

zorgon the malevolent said...

RadicalModerate:

Please check out this article
http://news.com.com/8301-10784_3-6160715-7.html

I've seen the same stats enough places that it's hard to believe they're manufactured by some kind of liberal conspiracy.

The U.S. consumes 21 million barrels of oil a day, far more than No. 2 China (which consumes 6.9 million barrels a day) and No. 3 Japan (at 5.4 million), said Neel Kashkari, senior advisor to Secretary of the Treasury Henry Paulson at the Cleantech Forum taking place in San Francisco.

"The vast majority goes to transportation," he said.

The reliance on oil in transportation, in fact, is particularly lopsided. Ninety-seven percent of the energy in the transportation sector comes from oil. Oil accounts for only 30 percent of the fuel used by industry and oil (in the form of diesel) is only seven percent of the fuel used in the residential sector. Oil accounts for only 3 percent of the energy used by power plants. Before the 1973 oil crisis, the oil budget for the power industry was 18 percent, he said.


If you study the statistics on U.S. oil consumption I believe you'll find that the vast majority of our oil does go into transportation.

Frankly, I'm amazed at how little faith you guys have in the power of the free market. Most of the changes I talked about will occur through Adam Smith's invisible hand. When gas prices skycrocket, Joe Blow will stop taking those 1000-mile trips in an SUV. When transportation costs grow exorbitant, communities will pass bond measures funding public transit. When gasoline costs for the family car exceed the cost of the car payments, people will switch to smaller much more efficient dymaxion-type vehciles and electric pedicabs. As more and more people switch to these kinds of vehicles, communities will change the layout of roads to accomodate 'em.

The market isn't perfect, of course. Can you guess which city has the lowest water cost of any in the U.S.? Phoenix AZ. So the market needs a little nudging.

Zechariah said...

Possible cure for autism?
http://news.yahoo.com/s/afp/20070627/hl_afp/ushealthautism;_ylt=Aqf_zVJC6K10cPDnMsEWIsK9j7AB

Robert said...

rushmc,

Wisdom of crowds.

Sam Taylor,

I am by no means denying that the climate is changing, it does change, it is always changing.

I simply believe that the primary responsibility for this change is not ours. (hint: its that big yellow white thing that the planet orbits, that is currently experience an 8000 year high in activity)

I am also quite convinced that the temperature record of the last half century has to a large extent been compromized by urban growth, and the shutting down of more remote temperature recording stations. (This is one of those cases where the right are shooting themselves in the foot, by underfunding sience they are providing ammunition for their adversaries). Check out www.surfacestations.org for some examples.

Dan,

Polar cities vs Equatorial habitats, I'll go equatorial you go polar. In 10-20 years we'll see who has the better lifestyle. Hint: It's a lot easier to survive the heat than the cold.

BTW: for those that are anti-city, you might want to consider that cities are one of the best things we humans have done as far as improving the environment. By concentrating our activities, our harmful actions can be dealt with in bulk, instead of scattered willy-nilly.


On Freeman Dyson:
If I have to take a choice in the "argument by authority" game, I'm going to pick Freeman Dyson over Michael Mann any day of the week. Here again, though, I've spent a lot of time looking at this issue, including reading the IPCC reports, the original papers, and the criticisms. When one "side" of the issue hides the data, who are you to believe? Check the IPPC comments from reviewers documents at:

http://ipcc-wg1.ucar.edu/wg1/Comments/wg1-commentFrameset.html

to get an idea of how the IPCC report gets framed. Any criticism is quashed - this is not CITOKATE.


Rik/Enterik - I'm with Rik on this, cimate change is inevitable, we can plan for adaption, and pull through whatever nature thows at us. It's also absurdly clear that Earth's climate is a self stabilizing system. The hypotheses of runaway effects are such errant nonsense that they dont help the AGW position, but rather add fuel to the alarmist fire. (the planet has been both hotter, and colder in the past and it didn't runaway in either direction, there are clear mechanisms for stabilization)

I will freely admit to being an optimist (not a pollyanna). This will sort itself out over the next few years, I just don't want us (humanity) to go overboard, and as a result destroy the fundamental systems that have served us so well .

TheRadicalModerate said...

Zorgon--

"Oil" is not equivalent to "the total US energy budget" which includes coal, gas, nukes, hydro, etc. Transportation is 28% of total energy. I believe your citation that 97% of our oil imports go to transport. Oil, after all, has more energy per volume than any other primary energy source, which makes it extremely portable.

Which doesn't mean that improved battery tech or (a long shot) hydrogen infrastructure won't shift transportation's dependence on oil pretty rapidly. (Here, "rapidly" = 15 to 30 years.)

Market forces will not change US demographic patterns. Our cities and transport infrastructure is mode-locked, just as surely as the qwerty keyboard is mode-locked. The economic cost of conversion is so high that the market will find ways to accept the energy penalty, rather than finding ways to change the demographics.

I consider this good news. It puts lots of pressure on alternative energy storage technologies (bateries, ultracapacitors, hydrogen, etc.), which solves the oil problem much more rapdily than demographic shifts would.

Jumper said...

Population growth makes sustainable economies very difficult.

If you have a glass of ice water, and pump heat into it, until the last bit of ice melts you will see no overall temperature rise, just a few warm spots in basically a 32 degrees F. solution. This does not mean the glassfull has not warmed. What worries me is that all the melting ice is masking a very horrendous heat increase. Does all the melting ice worldwide mass enough to mask the effect of global warming? What happens when the ice stops melting? A huge sudden 8 degree increase?

Enterik said...

Zorgon, I'm surprised you put so much faith in the "Groping Arthritic Hand of the Market" good thing it's invisible :-) Seriously, modern day proponents have an extreme conception relative to what Adam Smith articulted in Wealth of Nations, where he basically argued that the outcomes derived via markets were not necessarily bad. In fact, he was a deeply moral man and in that same treatise opined "All for ourselves, and nothing for other people, seems, in every age of the world, to have been the vile maxim of the masters of mankind".

Robert, I will resist my temptation to label you as a pollyanna, if you resist labelling me a Cassandra. I point to the permian extinction and clathrate gun hypothesis, not as some venusian doomsday scenario, but obtainable conditions well within the realm of terran possibilities (probabilities are another issue). Definitely worst case scenarios but nowhere near as bad as Venus, but runaway in the sense of positive feedbacks acclerating what might have otherwise been a less intense cycle.

rainswept said...

* neocon court mantricians
* a snakepit of global warming denial
* He also still thinks we can "win" in Iraq.
* worst of all ostriches
* supposedly bright enough
* “see-no-evil” rationalization monkeys
* Forget about em. They are pathetic. ANd utterly useless to their nation and civilization at its time of crisis.
* generation of kleptocrats
* his history shows a consistent tendency toward party-based, reflex partisanship
* they are also quite mad.... driven by hatred
* consummate Orwellian
greenhouse denial spin doctors
* unimaginative chumps
* Junk science
* ran off the rails sometime in the 80s
* just a has-been science fiction writer
* Clearly he can no longer be taken seriously
* he's not a scientist, so he can't be taken seriously
* which authority to choose to believe
* I consider his political reflexes to be troglodytic
* mammoth incompetence combined with insatiable greed and cosmic levels of dogmatic stupidity
* these monsters are vicious, venial, power-hungry, dogmatic, incompetent morons
* I will never buy, or even RE-read one of his books (that I already own) AGAIN. as my personal answer to his lack of understanding the issue of global warming.
* I will no longer consider him a viable scientist, despite his also having his medical degree.