Sunday, January 19, 2014

Steering the Future: on Earth and in the Heavens

Skype founder Jaan Tallin, in conjunction with the Gruber and Templeton Foundations, is sponsoring an essay contest: "How Should Humanity Steer the Future?"
HOW-SHOULD-HUMANITY-STEER-THE-FUTURE"Dystopic visions of the future are common in literature and film, while optimistic ones are more rare. This contest encourages us to avoid potentially self-fulfilling prophecies of gloom and doom and to think hard about how to make the world better while avoiding potential catastrophes. Our ever-deepening understanding of physics has enabled technologies and ways of thinking about our place in the world that have dramatically transformed humanity over the past several hundred years. Many of these changes have been difficult to predict or control—but not all. In this contest we ask how humanity should attempt to steer its own course in light of the radically different modes of thought and fundamentally new technologies that are becoming relevant in the coming decades."
Ponder it!  But most of all, believe that we can steer the wheel of destiny. Cynics are of no use to anyone.


==Conquering the future==
Future Perfect - Coverweb A look at...The Future of Transportation, by Sci Fi author William Hertling (The Last Firewall).
Fellow author Joe Haldeman (The Forever War) on Why the future of war will be even bloodier.  Ouch. Got… to… make… Star Trek

For a view that progress is possible, see Future Perfect: The Case for Progress in a Networked Age, by Steven Johnson. 

== The libelous distraction that scientists are lemmings  ==
In The Very, Very Thin Wedge of Denial, Phil Plait discusses one stunning disparity between the blog-claims of climate change deniers and the way that actual mode-consensus is achieved by real scientists, who can read data and understand the Navier-Stokes Equations.
EDGE-DENIAL-CLIMATEFox-centered denialists claim that the 97% of atmospheric scientists who agree that humans are altering the climate (less than 1% dissent) are doing so out of lemming-like herd mentality, chasing pathetic Al Gore inspired grants -- never explaining how ditto-agreeing with a standard model will get any researcher even a penny. In fact, the top atmospheric scientists already have stable incomes (thank you) from their fantastically successful day-jobs creating (for example) the miraculous ten-day weather forecasts we now rely upon (much improved from a mere two hours, 20 years ago), or successfully modeling climate on six other planets. I know these guys and gals and lemmings they are not. Rather, top scientists are the smartest and most fearlessly competitive humans our species ever produced.
Plait offers an example of how the openly questioning competitive process works: "In 1998, two teams of researchers found evidence that the expansion of the Universe was not slowing down, as expected, but actually speeding up. This idea is as crazy as holding a ball in your hand, letting go, and having it fall up, accelerating wildly into the sky. Yet those papers got published. They inspired lively discussion (to say the least) and motivated further observations. Careful, meticulous work was done to eliminate errors and confounding factors, until it became very clear that we were seeing an overturning of the previous paradigm. It took years, but now astronomers accept that the Universal expansion is accelerating and that dark energy is the culprit.
"Mind you, dark energy is far, far weirder than anything climate change deniers have come up with, yet it became mainstream science in a decade or so. Deniers have been bloviating for longer than that, yet their claims are rejected overwhelmingly by climate scientists. Why? Because they’re wrong."
twoda-brinAlas, Plait never mentions my own strongest argument against the denialist cult.  That their smug-pat jpegs and Fox-snips are all financed by the industry that will become less outrageously profitable if humanity develops more efficient energy systems. Promoting efficiency falls into the category of TWODA - or Things We Ought to be Doing Anyway.  Even if human generated climate Change were to prove 100% false, we would all be better off for taking reasonable measures toward energy efficiency… and those so vigorously preventing TWODA are enemies of our species, no matter how many twisted ways you rationalize or cut it.
== Science miscellany! ==
Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) researchers are developing an electrodynamic tether designed to generate electricity that will slow down space-based debris.  Such a system features prominently in chapter one of my novel Existence, written when this notion was a glimmer in the eye of brilliant space engineer Joseph Carroll, who almost singlehandedly kept the technological doors open for this approach to solving problems in space.  It's good to see the problem of space debris given serious attention, perhaps inspired by the movie GRAVITY.
In my fiction I have oft portrayed "gill masks" that allow a diver to extract oxygen directly from the surrounding water.  Has this miracle already arrived?  I would bet no.  But how cool if this actually works?
Ultrasound is one of several noninvasive methods that stimulate the brain. Another is transcranial magnetic stimulation, which apparently provokes more activity in the brain with magnets. A third is transcranial direct current stimulation, which uses electrodes to deliver a weak electrical current to the brain through the scalp. The new study suggests that ultrasound may be the best of the bunch.  (Though I still think reading is a more effective way to stimulate thinking. ) Oh what a brave (or interesting) new world.
cosmos-tysonThis spring will also see the premiere of Neil deGrasse Tyson's Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey. According to Deadline, the series will debut on Fox on March 9th at 9PM, with bonus footage coming to the National Geographic Channel a day later at 10PM. Tyson's show is a reboot of Carl Sagan's revered Cosmos: A Personal Voyage, a short series with a broad scientific focus that first aired in 1980. Tyson's Cosmos will explore the discovery of physics, with a promise to present complicated concepts in clear ways and with a proper dose of grandeur.
== Looking outward…to Space! ==
Terrific footage of the new Chinese "Jade Rabbit" lunar lander, at touchdown and then letting the rover roll off, putting new human tacks onto Luna.  Congratulations!
inspiration_mars_headerDennis Tito has a backup for his plan to  take advantage of a once-per-30- years opportunity for a Free Return flyby past Mars -- like Apollo 8 & 13, there would thus be no need to schlepp a landing capsule or return fuel, bringing a human crewed Mars mission forward by perhaps 30 years. (Tito wants to send a "qualified, older married couple" ...and my wife reminded me we both have PhDs in Planetary Science and the kids are almost out of the nest!)
Alas, with less than 5 years to prepare, there seems no way Tito and his Inspiration Mars team can pull this off. Especially now that NASA has begged off Tito's request for $700M and use of the new NASA heavy launch system. Still, all may not be lost.  "There is a backup to the proposed 2018 flyby to Mars mission which envisions a 2021 launch that would feature flybys of both Venus and Mars. That would add 88 days to the just over 500 day mission and would involve more radiation hazards to the two person crew."  Also, since $700M is kind of chump change for such a major undertaking, Tito has begun talking to the Russians and the Chinese.
Including Venus may add some radiation hazard. But Yipe. To be first living humans to TWO planets? And I would get so much writing done, while huddled inside the water tank, hiding from cosmic rays!
nasa-funding-cutsSo…. Has there been a recent "collapse" in funding for planetary exploration? It appears to be so, at least in the United States.  Have a look at a simple chart from The Planetary Society showing how our efforts to explore outward, which had been rebuilding in the first Obama term, suddenly fell to pieces amid the battles over shutdowns and health care.  This merits your attention. (Though always look at such charts to see if the bottom was chopped-off!)
Redefining the Habitable Zone: Here is good discussion of the Sun's "goldilocks" or Continuously Habitable Zone, where water might remain on the surface in liquid form for evolutionary time scales.  And a related article on the search for "life" exoplanets. Yet again we see that Earth might be exceptional in one way… that we skate near the inner edge of our sun's CUZ. Which helps explain why even a little human generated greenhouse gas can make a real difference… and may help to explain the Fermi Paradox.
The European Space Agency plans to re-awaken the Rosetta Probe!  It has been dormant out at more than 4 AU, saving energy till the day its orbit could approach a comet from behind at a great distance (the only way it can be done: you listening Hollywood?)  The hope?  To "land" on the comet before it gets too active and study its physical characteristics.  Then, harpooned to the surface, attempt to ride out the violent passage by the sun that we described in HEART OF THE COMET.  Hoping to learn how much my doctoral dissertation got right!
moon-expressIs Mining on the Moon's Horizon? Moon Express, based in Mountain View, Calif., just unveiled the design for a small robot spacecraft about the size of a coffee table that it says could move about the moon's surface powered only by solar panels and hydrogen peroxide. The company hopes to build the robot and send it to the moon by late 2015, win the $30 million Lunar X Prize from Google for the first privately funded moon rover, and eventually get around to putting on the moon an operation capable of extracting valuable minerals.  
Um what minerals are they talking about?  I know of none to be found in that wasteland that we can at-present use. Sorry, you luna-tics out there, but in the near term, asteroids are vastly the better bet… though I do approve of some continuing lunar activity!  The best possibility?  Let billionaires finance it with tourism junkets.  Call it money-recycling that will have a positive outcome.
Telescopes that unfold light weight plastic optics, these may open up a new era of astronomy or earth science -- or spying -- in space.
Kinda weird.  Using gravitational "microlensing" -- an almost-fey capability that would have given George Ellery Hale the creeps -- a team thinks they have found a candidate for a pair of bodies comprising a free-floating exoplanet-exomoon system.  Wooof!
Most common exoplanets are weird 'mini-Neptunes.' "Mini-Neptunes dominate the inventory of 3000-plus planets discovered by Kepler," says lead scientist and planet-hunter Geoff Marcy.  Worlds up to twice the size of Earth are dense and probably rocky, resembling our own planet. Those between two and four times Earth's width are lighter, so are either wetter or gassy – more like versions of Neptune, which is itself four times Earth's width.  Several observational bias effects make it difficult to make good statistical predictions based on the Kepler discoveries.  But every month we seem to have new "huh!" stuff to ponder!
Folks ask me for examples re my prediction of a looming "Age of Amateurs" in which ever-more expertise will be found in realms outside of the licensed professions… in avocations, retirees and so on. The trends are all around us, but nowhere more vividly than in amateur science.  See this especially vivid example of a passion for astronomy.  And yes, I portray this becoming dramatically important, in some fiction.
And finally. This optical illusion is so so SO worth your time.  I mean it.  You'll thank me.

== Late flash from Mars ==

This very recently from the Curiosity Rover: a mysterious rock appeared on the planet's surface that wasn't there just a few weeks ago.  Strange properties!

79 comments:

Danny Adams said...

There's also the fact that while ExxonMobil, Shell, BP, and other major U.S. and European oil companies are doing their best to deny climate change, they're all, as we speak, funding wildcatters up in the Arctic to look for oil in all the places where the ice has thinned or gone away.

Others with some authority have been up there and seen the changes for themselves, too. Back in 2012, Admiral Robert J. Papp of the U.S. Coast Guard wrote in the magazine of the U.S. Naval Institute: "“The Arctic Ocean, in the northern region of the Arctic Circle, is changing from a solid expanse of inaccessible ice fields into a growing navigable sea, attracting increased human activity and unlocking access to vast economic potential and energy resources. In the 35 years since I first saw Kotzebue, Alaska, on the Chukchi Sea as a junior officer, the sea ice has receded from the coast so much that when I returned last year the coastal area was ice-free. The shipping, oil-and-gas, and tourism industries continue to expand with the promise of opportunity and fortune in previously inaccessible areas. Experts estimate that in another 25 years the Arctic Ocean could be ice-free during the summer months.”

Tony Fisk said...

"...there would thus be no need to schlepp a landing capsule or return fuel, brining a human crewed Mars mission forward by perhaps 30 years."

Minor typo there.
Or was it an eggcorn? Various types of 'resurrection plants' survive indefinitely in dessicated environments; basically by pickling itself. The human crew might be taken out of storage in a similar way by adding water. (OK, maybe not in five years time)

TWODA: with news that solar and wind generated power is approaching grid parity *using currently deployed technology* come two other breaking items:
1. A group at Harvard have demonstrated a type of flow battery that uses a cheap and relatively benign compound found in oil byproducts and... rhubarb
2. A team at UNSW have created a process that allows 'leaky' defects in silicon to be repaired, making it much cheaper to produce high efficiency solar panels.

Stefan Jones said...

It isn't obvious to conservatives that the "things we should be doing anyway" are things we should be doing anyway. Efficiency standards and emission limits get spun into "job killers." If these things are problems, the free market will fix them!

* * *
A Mars fly-by always struck me as a horribly frustrating mission. Imagine spending a half a year in a tiny capsule, with the payoff being seeing Mars drift past over the course of an hour! And then you have another six months to look forward to.

The only real benefit to such a mission would be testing out long-duration life support systems. You could do that with an empty (but heavily instrumented) capture.

* * *
The exoplanet news is both exciting and humbling. I hope a new Kepler style mission gets funded, along with IR telescopes to do follow-ups.

David Brin said...

The devastating response to the "job killers" argument about TWODA is the new CAFE auto mileage standards, which they fought for 25 years because they would "kill Detroit"… and then they TRIED to kill Detroit! They failed, we lent Detroit cash and passed the CAFE standards… and now Detroit paid back 90% of the money and is booming and delivering more efficient vehicles.

No story could possibly more efficiently demonstrate the utter bankruptcy of the GOP's brain bank.

Paul451 said...

Re: Electric tethers.

There's a concept for a cross between an electric tether and a solar sail. Electric sails. Negatively charge a flower-array of tethers (spun out by centripetal force, natural repulsion stops them clumping) and they'll repel the heavy particles in the solar wind. Requires more energy than a passive solar sail, but gets more acceleration per unit area, so can be much smaller (cheaper/simpler/sooner). And the cool thing is that the electric field from the tethers "fills the gaps" between the tethers. So an array of threads or ribbons has the same "surface area" as a continuous sail, but much much less mass.

http://www.centauri-dreams.org/?p=29805

There's a proposal to use it to fly-by Uranus in just 6 years. Which hasn't been visited since Voyager 2 in 1986.

(By the time it overtakes the Voyagers, it'll be going 100 kilometres per second. Compared to the Voyagers' 17 km/s.)

Tech paper: http://arxiv.org/pdf/1312.6554v1.pdf

Re: Gill-mask.

I don't think any of the concepts claimed are actually in the proposed device. It's a concept of a design concept. Ie, it's just what you see, a few bits of plastic, plus a bunch of "wouldn't it be cool" wishful thinking. A what-if exercise from design students, and advert for a design house. As in: "if someone actually had this technology, we would totally love to be hired to sexy-design their products."

When you look at the surface area in a fish's gills, it's a good portion of the fish. For a warm-blooded non-aquatic mammal, a pair of handle-bar grips is not going to cut it. I'd expect the real thing, should it prove possible, to be worn more like a corset or vest, completely surrounding the torso, the action of breathing producing a bellows effect to drive water across the layers of nano-pico-super-membrane. And even then, I'd expect you'd still need supplemental oxygen.

Paul451 said...

Re: Extincting the Guinea Worm.

Clicked on the article because I forget what specific parasite that is. Oh... yeah... that one. Hey worm? Don't let the door...

Re: Inspiration Mars
"my wife reminded me..."

The order; that she reminded you. A keeper. Keep 'er.

Re: Die Mond Die.

There's not much in the way of "minerals" on the moon worth "mining". But I would like to see wheels-on-regolith at those potential polar ice deposits. Is the orbital data accurate? What form is the water? Is it nice layers of actual ice? Or hard to process hydrated minerals [as in 3MgO.4SiO2.H2O or CuTeO3.2H2O]? How deep does it go? How much variation across the region?

Also, I'd like to see someone test basic sintering of unprocessed regolith into luna-crete building blocks. And extract iron filings (from billions of years of metallic asteroid bombardment) from regolith, and sinter/forge that into crude metal forms. Two extremely basic ISRU techniques which are going to be useful whether building bases on the moon or mining asteroids for in-space habitats. And doing it on the moon may be an easier first run, while still being extremely realistic. Plus it'd be kinda cool if a little robot built a little shack on the moon made out of bricks it created out of moon-dust, and a little tower made out of moon-forged meteoric-iron bars and brackets.

[Talc and Tellurite, if anyone was wondering.]

Paul451 said...

Tony,
"Various types of 'resurrection plants' survive indefinitely in dessicated environments; basically by pickling itself. The human crew might be taken out of storage in a similar way by adding water."

A few threads back, I think I mentioned this being proposed in 1918 by Robert Goddard in The Last Migration.

" will it be possible to reduce the protoplasm in the human body to the granular state, so that it can withstand the intense cold of interstellar space? It would probably be necessary to dessicate the body, more or less, before this state could be produced. Awakening may have to be done very slowly. It might be necessary to have people evolve, through a number of generations, for this purpose. "

Adam Crowl (aka crowlspace.com) wondered what we would do upon discovering an alien ship filled apparently with mummified freeze-dried corpses. What would we think? Funerary barge? Cryonics-failure? Would we dissect dozens, hundreds, of their finest minds, distributed in thin slices and slides to a thousand universities, before someone translates enough of their library to discover the truth? Brining with pathos.

--

Stefan Jones,
"Mars fly-by always struck me as a horribly frustrating mission."

You think that's frustrating, imagine being selected for Apollo 7. Eleven days in a moon capsule, stuck in low Earth orbit to test the life-support for someone else's mission. And none of the three astronauts flew again. [Whereas the three backup crew flew Apollo 10 to lunar orbit, and two of them also flew on Apollo 16 and 17 respectively, both visiting the moon twice. The latter also being the very last man on the moon.]

---

And David's somewhat different spin to The Smartest Mob's take on the "age of amateurs" is Fourth Vocation of George Gustaf.

Tom Crowl said...

RE the Optical Illusion:

Yeah... great!

But will it work with turtles?

locumranch said...

Once again, David shows that he is the master of the inherent contradiction.

First, he calls for a 'leader' to 'steer the future' for humanity, forgetting that this is the 'braid, braid road' of totalitarianism as described by F. A. Hayek, a path walked by many other less than laudable 'fuhrers' in recent years, going as far as to beg a final solution in regards to the cynics who 'are of no use to anyone'.

Next, he then suggests that current climate change theory is absolutely 'right' on all counts by paradoxically showing how the scientific consensus on an expanding universe was absolutely 'wrong' as little as 15 years ago but is now considered corrected & infallibly correct by the same consensus of intellects who were most recently mistaken.

These inherent contradictions, these vanities of vanities, are the result of 'expertism', a defective logic that allows one to rationalize success by high-lighting prior failure, as in 'I used to be vain but now I'm perfect'. Too bad reason doesn't work that way.

To wit, (1) consensus is a social rather than scientific construct so it cannot be construed as scientific proof of anything beyond that of consensus and (2) strong leadership is 'oppressive' by definition so it discourages both creativity & competition.


Best.

Alex Tolley said...

When you look at the surface area in a fish's gills, it's a good portion of the fish. For a warm-blooded non-aquatic mammal, a pair of handle-bar grips is not going to cut it. I'd expect the real thing, should it prove possible, to be worn more like a corset or vest, completely surrounding the torso, the action of breathing producing a bellows effect to drive water across the layers of nano-pico-super-membrane.

I tend to agree, as the surface area of human lungs is up to 100 m^2. However, oxygen separation must be a function of how fast the molecules can be pushed through the membrane. Fish both passively and actively force a slow moving stream of water past their gills. A device could push water through much more quickly, perhaps significantly reducing the needed surface area. Of course that means there has to be a pump and it must be powered. This means either batteries or an combustion engine using some of the extracted oxygen.

BTW, you cannot move your rib cage to breathe underwater beyond a very shallow depth, so the gill must supply oxygen with sufficient excess pressure for you to breathe in. That was the principle invention of SCUBA. Maybe a better way might be to deliver the O2 directly to the blood, circumventing the lungs. But that would require body modification.

A Mars fly-by always struck me as a horribly frustrating mission. Imagine spending a half a year in a tiny capsule, with the payoff being seeing Mars drift past over the course of an hour! And then you have another six months to look forward to.

Imagine how much more frustrating the 500 Mars simulator mission was. Well not so much frustration as boredom and detachment. The Mars couple will come home as heroes and will be set for life. And yes, at a minimum they can say they saw Mars close up with their unaided eyes, a unique experience at that moment.
While I agree that the technology development could be done in LEO, that is like saying Lindbergh could just have flown in circles around St. Louis for the length of the trip. No, the trip is important for its actual accomplishment and could stimulate public/private funding for more trips until the "here be dragons" mentality is slain. Now I'm actually very skeptical Tito will be able to deliver. The purely privately funded trip didn't materialize, he fell back wanting Nasa support and funding, that was rejected. I think the Venus + Mars fallback trip will also turn out to be vaporware. My bet is that the Chinese will make the first flyby attempt, possibly a Phobos rendezvous, simply because they have the ability to fund this and the national prestige would be enormous. They need this now that they are becoming more belligerent about their territories.

David Brin said...

Paul451 I portray a charged "sail" in Existence. In fact, tethers are useful in exactly the realm (below GEO that sails are useless and vice versa.
In Existence I portray the gills deploying from Hacker's helmet in great big fronds that surround him like an afro.

Lunar: helium 3 will be of interest… when we have a use for it! Meanwhile at NASA'a NIAC we are funding a guy to develop robots that rappel themselves down into lunar lava-tube caves… the most valuable sites on the moon! Because they might (maybe) be turned into rapid habitats.

Dehydation-reanimation is a core element of Liu Cixin's THREE BODY PROBLEM, soon from Tor. Crowl's speculation is triste.

Locum is again hilariously strawmanning a "brin" by "paraphrasing" "assertions" that I "never" even "said." If there were any actual overlap between things I said and the notions that he claims I say, there might be contradictions worth discussing. As-is, alas, I sometimes worry about the fellow.

Perhaps he should see an expert.

Alex Tolley said...

The devastating response to the "job killers" argument about TWODA is the new CAFE auto mileage standards, which they fought for 25 years because they would "kill Detroit"

Actually that isn't a devastating response at all. The big theme of the late 1980's was that oil prices collapsed and as a result, Detroit shifted to gas guzzling large pickups, vans and then SUVs. These were hugely successful and profitable (light truck designations had different safety rules, and it is well established that heavier vehicles command both higher absolute profits and profitability). This trend culminated in the Ford Expedition and the GM Humvee.
Soccer moms supported the trend for vans, and safety concerns drove an arms race for size based on belief that the larger the vehicle, the safer you were from all those other bad drivers with big vehicles. Even in California, the center of Toyota Prius adoption, it took incentives to buy them, and there was plenty of conservative radio talk about how HOV lanes should be reserved for gas guzzlers and that hybrids had higher overall energy costs than pure ICE vehicles (false claim). Even my wife, who drives a small car, jokes that hybrids have "smug emissions", and I drive a Prius.

As a manufacturer, your duty is to shareholders (see previous thread). Thus the golden age of US automobile manufacturing was the 1960's. Chassis and engine changes were minimal, the focus was on styling. Rapid model changes and even designed obsolescence drove new sales. And foreign competition was minimal. Only the 1973 oil crisis changed this, when small imports started to make inroads and Detroit started to produce low profit compacts. Thus CAFE requires investment in new technology with uncertain outcomes. Maybe the standard cannot be met? Maybe customers won't like the vehicles compared to foreign imports. This reduces the value of manufacturers and is in conflict with the commutarian TWODA meme.

Alex Tolley said...

cont...

As locum says, TWODA is dirigiste and in conflict with market mechanisms. However, sometimes you do want to set policy and push society in a certain direction, but we need to understand that is a societal choice and may lead to undesirable outcomes. In the case of energy efficient cars, they are generally more expensive (esp. the Prius), may not make economic sense for the buyer (gasoline must exceed $X to make economic sense), may be counterproductive (Jeavon's Law) and may even disadvantage the poorest (in which case there is a "let them eat cake" arrogance). OTOH, unfettered capitalism may result in a "tragedy of the commons" when externalities are not priced. TWODA in fossil fuel extraction and burning falls under that category.

But that requires a shared worldview. Why should oil companies not follow their corporate mandates to maximize shareholder wealth by maximizing profits via orchestrated production rates and resisting efforts that might reduce those profits? If we say TWODA re CO2 is for "the common good", that comes into conflict with corporate goals, even if oil execs didn't deny AGW. Suppose renewables can never be economically viable vs fossil fuels. Then do we set policy to tilt the playing field towards renewables (or at least remove the tilt towards fossil fuels)?

In a complex world, with competing worldviews and democracy, technocratic solutions cannot satisfy everyone, perhaps not even a majority. Even where worldviews broadly coincide, there are economic arguments that can be brought to bear on either side of the policy decision over energy production. These can be partially tested by models, but there are so many unknowns and random events have a way of upsetting assumptions.

I tend to be a TWODA advocate (my natural technocratic upbringing) although I try to challenge assumptions. I also lean to more commutarian solutions, because I think in terms of Bentham's utilitarianism. I drive a Prius (but would drive something else if it was more fuel efficient and I liked it better), have the house that has low energy usage. In the short term (local TWODA), with California's drought deepening, we're about to install grey water collection to save water use while retaining a garden (we're letting the lawn die and may well return to the xerophyte garden fad from the last drought).

Keith Halperin said...

Re: Paul 451: A doubly stolen idea- from the late Dr. Forward and Dr. Brin:
Dr. Forward or his associates wrote a paper on using orbital cables to “ground-out” the radiation belts (http://www.tethers.com/hivolt.html), and Dr. Brin wrote a story (http://www.davidbrin.com/tankfarm.htm)about using orbital cables to generate power. My stolen idea is do the same thing (ground out the radiation belts and generate power): at JUPITER. (Folks, please don’t kill me if this is impractical [I’m not an EE or physicist] or unoriginal.)

Keith

David Brin said...

Alex… forget the Ford Expedition. Did you ever see the EXCURSION?

Alex Tolley said...

Did you ever see the EXCURSION

Yikes! I picked the wrong one as the ultimate Ford "insanity".

After the last oil and gasoline price spike Hummer dealerships rapidly closed down, even in wealthy areas. I think Schwarzennegar was partly to blame for their [temporary] success.

Vehicle size can engender selection bias. If we all drove small, Japanese or European cars, the safety factor would not be as much of a concern. But safety concerns about being crushed by heavy vehicles, whether real or not, creates a demand for heavier vehicles. And that doesn't even address the drivers overcompensating for some physical or mental trait.

Robert said...

I've a fantasy book for you that you may very well enjoy, Dr. Brin: Hild by Nicola Griffith, which is being described as a "skeptical fantasy." And seeing your views on the importance of skepticism (and rightly so), I figure a "skeptical fantasy" might be right up your alley. ;)

Rob H.

Tony Fisk said...

Alex? Proceed with grey water and rainwater tanks, but you may find that a bigger reduction to your water use can be had by switching to a water-efficient (eg front loading) washing machine.

Tony Fisk said...

Final thought for that optical illusion: can it work with owls? (thinking possum deterrent)

Duncan Cairncross said...

"Final thought for that optical illusion: can it work with owls? (thinking possum deterrent)"

The problem is getting the damn things to close one eye

May not be an issue - do your possums have binocular vision - I think our's do

"Proceed with grey water and rainwater tanks, but you may find that a bigger reduction to your water use can be had by switching to a water-efficient (eg front loading) washing machine."

I would be amazed if switching washing machines would make as much difference as grey water and rainwater use
Especially as we use a top loader and get ALL our water from rainwater

ppnl said...

Actually the faster expanding universe thing was mainstream pretty much from the start. It was named the top science news story of the year it was published. There were many doubters with reasonable doubts but the observations were very convincing. The doubters mostly disappeared in pretty short order.

And Alex Tolley...

A scientific consensus is by definition a social construct since scientists are social animals. But that does not reduce its value. The medical consensus that laetrile is useless for cancer is also a social construct. That does not mean the opinion of the medical community is worthless.

To say otherwise is to commit postmodernism where everything is a social construct and so equal.

Alex Tolley said...

@ppnl
A scientific consensus is by definition a social construct since scientists are social animals. But that does not reduce its value. The medical consensus that laetrile is useless for cancer is also a social construct. That does not mean the opinion of the medical community is worthless.

To say otherwise is to commit postmodernism where everything is a social construct and so equal.


What in the world did I write that made you think I believe this?

Edit_XYZ said...

David Brin said:
"In The Very, Very Thin Wedge of Denial, Phil Plait discusses one stunning disparity between the blog-claims of climate change deniers and the way that actual mode-consensus is achieved by real scientists, who can read data and understand the Navier-Stokes Equations.

Fox-centered denialists claim that the 97% of atmospheric scientists who agree that humans are altering the climate (less than 1% dissent) are doing so out of lemming-like herd mentality, chasing pathetic Al Gore inspired grants[...]"

You throw stones while living in a house made of glass, DB.
You obviously have no idea about what 2013 IPCC - which defines the scientific consensus on the subject - established.

Here’s a link to the summary for policymakers:
http://www.climatechange2013.org/images/uploads/WGI_AR5_SPM_brochure.pdf

The warming due to CO2 release is determined by the transient climate response, which, in the 2013 IPCC report, is likely
in the range of 1.0 C to 2.5 C (high confidence) and extremely unlikely greater than 3 C.*

Based on this TCR, 4 future warming scenarios were outlined, corresponding to different amounts of CO2 emitted (see pg. 25 of the linked report).
Of these, RCP 8.5 is all but excluded – a huge continuous increase in CO2 emissions for the entire century is required to even get close to it (don’t believe me? see the worldwide CO2 emissions and then calculate what future emissions would be required to reach RCP 8.5).
In other news, London is buried beneath a 2 miles deep layer of horse manure; such malthusian prophecies never came to pass.

The IPCC future warming scenarios each have temperature ranges associated with them (pg. 21 of the report). RCP8.5 is the only scenario that has an increase in temperature larger than 3.1 C.

What will be the consequences of an increase in temperature of 2.5-3 C?
As it turns out, there’s a peer reviewed paper that summarized all the papers on the subject – up to the date it was published, that is:
http://www.econ.yale.edu/~nordhaus/homepage/documents/Tol_impacts_JEP_2009.pdf
As per the paper, climate change is beneficial up to 2.2 C of warming from 2009 (when R. Tol wrote his paper). This means approximately 3˚C from pre-industrial levels, since about 0.8˚C of warming has happened in the last 150 years. The latest estimates of climate sensitivity suggest that such temperatures may not be reached till the end of the century — if at all. IPCC, whose reports define the consensus, is sticking to older TCR assumptions, however, which would mean net benefits till about 2080.

end of P1

Edit_XYZ said...

beginning of P2

What about all the weather disasters caused by climate change? Entirely mythical — so far. The 2013 IPCC report is admirably frank about this, reporting ‘no significant observed trends in global tropical cyclone frequency over the past century … lack of evidence and thus low confidence regarding the sign of trend in the magnitude and/or frequency offloads on a global scale … low confidence in observed trends in small-scale severe weather phenomena such as hail and thunderstorms’.
In fact, the death rate from droughts, floods and storms has dropped by 98 per cent since the 1920s, according to a careful study by the independent scholar Indur Goklany. Not because weather has become less dangerous but because people have gained better protection as they got richer. For another example, experts now agree that malaria will continue its rapid worldwide decline whatever the climate does.

Colour me unimpressed.

And yet, all this doesn’t stop the green movement from advocating measures which will impose extreme poverty upon millions and millions of human beings in order to further their agenda – apparently, the mitigation of the climate change consequences I described above is worth imposing so much misery on the world.
This mysanthropic attitude would be pathetic if it wasn’t so pernicious.

locumranch accused you of 'expertism' for uncritically swallowing whatever politically correct green propaganda is thrown at you.
But that's not it. It's more like 'lemming-like herd mentality' on your part.

*In more recent peer reviewed papers, the TCR is even lower than that.

Alex Tolley said...

@Edit_XYZ

The IPCC reports are very conservative in order to achieve consensus. Partly this was due to uncertainty over lack of data. It isn't that 2C is high or low, the uncertainty is over the impacts. One effect that proved underestimated was Arctic sea ice levels. Currently there is a great deal of uncertainty over sea level rise because of uncertainty over the rate of Greenland ice melt.

I skimmed your Tol paper. Tol is an economist (although we don't need appeals to expertise authority) who has offered the idea that climate change will offer a net positive impact. As you know, the opposite conclusion was reached by the Stern report. Do I buy that economists can assess global economic impact of climate change? Not a chance. Furthermore, there will be winners and losers. The 2nd and 3rd order economic effects of this are likely completely unknown. Of course the GOP roll out Tol to support "business as usual" policies. Bear in mind they also had author Michael Crichton as an expert witness on climate change.

Climate change impacts are very uncertain, far more so than the science behind forecasts. The responses are also varied - e.g. NY is looking to build seawalls, whilst a town on the Georgia[?] seacoast is deliberately doing nothing. California is one of the major food production areas in the US, yet water policy is somewhat fragmented, and options for water use growth for urban areas are running out. Farmers are either at the mercy of the Army Corp of Engineers for irrigation water, or pump water from aquifers which are falling on average 1 foot/yr in the Central Valley. SF even had a ballot to drain their main water supply, Hetch Hetchy, last year (it failed). Where exactly were they going to get their water? [answer - diverting irrigation water from farms]. BTW, there is published research that shows violence increases during drought years in the Middle East and Africa (quelle surprise).

Bottom line is that keeping the climate we have might be a lot better than throwing the dice on a new one.





Alex Tolley said...

Edit_XYZ's comment and associated refs do illustrate that it may be difficult to determine TWODA. In his case, we may agree that AGW is happening, but differing economic analyses suggest very different policy responses.

locumranch said...

The expert believes himself to be 'an authority' because he has become 'authority' by starting as a student supplicant, emulating his instructors, learning the approved texts & thinking the approved thoughts, until he believes himself to be an expert because of an awarded 'sheepskin' which makes him more of a sheep than an authority.

Similarly, all those climate change experts did not become experts by thinking independently. After indoctrination by their bellwethers, they learned to accept ice core-based CO2 suppositions as established fact which forced them, in turn, to conclude that climate change occurs "mostly" in response to atmospheric CO2 fluctuations, despite the fact that the Dutch have dealt with rising sea levels since the Twelfth CO2 Neutral Century.

That said, I am an expert myself, the self-same product of an approved sheepskin factory, trained & conditioned to emulate rather than create, yet I also have a very good memory. I remember when certain medicines & procedures fall in & out of vogue; I remember the research data that is used to justify the frequent shifts in medical consensus; and I remember how often that self-same data is used to arrive at disparate conclusions.

As Edit_XYZ says, a consensus is a social rather than a scientific construct, just as a TWODA prescription is moral rather than empiric.



Best

Alex Tolley said...

The logical problems of policy responses to an "obvious" TWODA was hilariously shown in one the British "Yes, Prime Minister" episodes.

The young minister for health wanted to reduce tobacco smoking. After all, extending life would be a good thing and reducing hospital treatment costs for lung cancer would aid the state budget (NHS is provided by taxes in the UK). However, another minister contered that:
1. Tobacco taxes raise a huge amount of money, that would be reduced by deterring smoking.
2. Hospital stay costs were less on average than the taxes collected on smokers.
3. Early death reduced pension payments, again aiding the state budget.
Therefore, bottom line that reducing smoking was bad for the UK government budget.

The scene was extremely funny. But it illustrates that policy choices depend on your goals and the system you have to operate in. TWODA may not be as simple as following the logic of scientifically established facts.

Alex Tolley said...

....they learned to accept ice core-based CO2 suppositions as established fact which forced them, in turn, to conclude that climate change occurs "mostly" in response to atmospheric CO2 fluctuations, despite the fact that the Dutch have dealt with rising sea levels since the Twelfth CO2 Neutral Century.

Several problems with this statement.
1. CO2 was not neutral in the C12th (even if the Dutch were using windmills) because deforestation for agriculture was impacting CO2 balance, and farming methods, especially cows was generating GH gases.
2. Sea levels were rising locally as the Eurasian continent returned to isostatic balance after the ice sheets retreated. Even today, SE England is tipping down into the English Channel and North Sea.
3. The rate of CO2 increase, as measured by the Keeling data shows that CO2 emissions have not only increased significantly in industrial times, but the rate of increase is much greater than in previous, pre-Holocene epochs.
4. "Mostly" doesn't exclude other known effects, such as solar output. We are well aware that the Maunder Minimum coincided with the "little ice age". That doesn't mean that the sun drives global warming, just that it is a contributing factor. This is all taken into account by climate models.


That said, I am an expert myself, the self-same product of an approved sheepskin factory, trained & conditioned to emulate rather than create, yet I also have a very good memory. I remember when certain medicines & procedures fall in & out of vogue; I remember the research data that is used to justify the frequent shifts in medical consensus; and I remember how often that self-same data is used to arrive at disparate conclusions.


That is a feature of science - it self corrects with more data. Sometimes it needs the old guard to die to change a paradigm. A characteristic of US conservative thinking is that ideology comes first, solutions are then tailored to support that ideology, then no amount of information will change that solution. Krugman has written about that in relation to economic policy. Climate change "skeptics" similarly continue to ignore new findings, continue to present zombie ideas and will not change their minds under any circumstances. This is the stuff of religion and is a major fail for truth finding.

ppnl said...

Alex Tolly,

Sorry dude, got the wrong name. It's my bad so clearly I'm not the most interesting man in the world.

I was responding to something that locumranch said. Specifically he was saying that scientific consensus was a social construct and not a proof of anything.

Sorry for the confusion.

David Brin said...

Ecdit_XYZ your cited armwavings use a very fine ratio of polysyllabic words and incantation phrasings. But your real agenda poured through with this:

"And yet, all this doesn’t stop the green movement from advocating measures which will impose extreme poverty upon millions and millions of human beings in order to further their agenda…"

Which (sorry) is the core rant of the cult. Sorry, friend. Show me one scintilla of any sign, whatsoever that mainstream folks, including nearly all atmospheric scientists, want to force the world to "sit in the dark and shiver" and destroy the economy?
That is the strawman of all straw men. Bearing not even the slightest overlap with reality.

What you've shown is that the agenda is fundamentally politically and economically motivated. Which anyone can see by the nearly absolute, 99% overlap between denialism and an increasingly disciplined and regimented-dogmatic right.

Tell me, have you paid any attention to TWODA? What it means? Had we been increasing investment in efficiency and alternative energy sources (including nuclear) we would have become energy independent, saved trillions and eliminated the grip of carbon barons - including foreign princes - on our politics….

…which is exactly why they have spent like mad, in order to undermine TWODA.

Fact: those proclaiming "we need more research!" have been the ones who cancelled satellites, slashed atoms-science budgets, disbanded science advisory apparatus, rescinded NASA's mandate for "earth sensing" and impeded science at every turn… while railing against science in mass media that is owned by… carbon barons.

Edit_XYZ said...

David Brin said...
"Ecdit_XYZ your cited armwavings use a very fine ratio of polysyllabic words and incantation phrasings"

So - now 2013 IPCC and quite a few other heavily detailed peer-reviewed papers are 'armwavings', 'incantation phrasings', 'rant' and 'cult' when they don't fit your ideology, eh, DB?
To think you actually dare to come here and pretend to a scientific mind-set while preaching de facto religion. Laughable.

"But your real agenda poured through with this:
"And yet, all this doesn’t stop the green movement from advocating measures which will impose extreme poverty upon millions and millions of human beings in order to further their agenda…"
Which (sorry) is the core rant of the cult. Sorry, friend. Show me one scintilla of any sign, whatsoever that mainstream folks, including nearly all atmospheric scientists, want to force the world to "sit in the dark and shiver" and destroy the economy?
That is the strawman of all straw men."

You want an example of the green movement advocating measures that impose misery upon millions and millions?
Here you go:
rationaloptimist.com/blog/gm-crops-don%27t-kill-kids-opposing-them-does.aspx
Feel free to read up the links embedded in the article, as well.
And yes, such actions are the reasons I really dislike the greens.

Edit_XYZ said...

Alex Tolley said...
"Edit_XYZ's comment and associated refs do illustrate that it may be difficult to determine TWODA. In his case, we may agree that AGW is happening, but differing economic analyses suggest very different policy responses."

I see you actually put the Stern paper as having the same scientific credentials as the Tol paper.

I assume you don't know just how thoroughly debunked the STERN PAPER was. Among others:
- he cherry-picked high estimates of harm;
- he used an unusually low discount rate to measure the present value of future loss. Where Richard Tol had estimated costs as ‘likely to be substantially smaller’ than $14 per tonne of carbon dioxide, Stern simply doubled the figure to $29 per tonne. Tol – no sceptic – called the Stern report alarmist, incompetent and preposterous. As for discount rates, Stern used 2.1 per cent for the twenty-first century, 1.9 per cent for the twenty-second, and 1.4 per cent for subsequent centuries. Compared with a typical discount rate of about 6 per cent, this multiplies the apparent cost of harm in the twenty-second century ONE HUNDREDFOLD. In other words, he said that a life saved from coastal flooding in 2200 should have almost the same spending priority now as a life saved from AIDS or malaria today. Hordes of economists, including notable names like William Nordhaus, quickly pointed out how this made no sense. It implies that your impoverished great great great grandfather, whose standard of living was roughly that of a modern Zambian, should have put aside most of his income to pay your bills today. With a higher discount rate, Stern’s argument collapses because, even in the worst case, harm done by climate change in the twenty-second century is far less costly than harm done by climate-mitigation measures today.
etc

I see there's a wiki page on the Stern paper:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stern_Review#Stern_report_misused_climate_change_study
Note how the positive reviews are essentially fluff, while the negative reviews criticised the report based on hard data.
Also note what Stern says in 2013: "Looking back, I underestimated the risks. The planet and the atmosphere seem to be absorbing less carbon than we expected, and emissions are rising pretty strongly"; "on track for something like four degrees".
So - the 2013 IPCC has all alarmist predictions in free fall, but Stern says he 'underestimated the risks'. lol.
And he even slipped in a malthusian 4C prediction - Stern apparently aspires to commit all data-doctoring sins known to mankind.

By contrast the TOL PAPER - which is in reality a synthesis of the peer-reviewed papers published in the field on the subject (see its references) passed peer review with flying colours.
PS - apparently, an updated version is here (behind a paywall):
http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0165188913000092

Alex Tolley said...

@Edit_XYZ you are conflating climate science with the green movement? That's a stretch.
Much as I like Matt Ridley's books (and grew up with his science journalism too), that doesn't mean that his views are correct. Worse, the article you referenced on his site contains this:

Imagine instead an agricultural system that often exhausts the soil, uses extra land, occasionally kills people through contaminated food, uses scrambled and unseen genetic changes caused by gamma rays and licences old-fashioned and toxic sprays. We’d ban it, wouldn’t we?

Well, that’s organic farming. Because it refuses inorganic fertiliser, it exhausts soil fertility unless a farmer is wealthy enough to have the luxury of dung from elsewhere. Because its yields are lower, it uses about twice as much land as inorganic farming to produce the same quantity of food. Because it uses manure, it risks outbreaks of fatal food poisoning such as the one in which organic German bean sprouts killed 53 people in 2011.


Some comments:

1. Organic farms are not the sole cause of E. coli outbreaks CD E Coli outbreaks Implying that they are the only source is disingenuous.
2. My understanding of organic farming here in California's Centralk Valley is that they do everything they can to improve soils, rotate crops, use animal manure, and in some cases can have higher overall annual yields by multi-cropping (which agri-business doesn't do).
3. Ridley doesn't mention the problems of agri-business: soil degradation due to only inorganic fertilizer use; use of highly toxic pesticides and fungicides; inhumane animal husbandry and slaughter (it is now a terrorist offense to film slaughter house operations in some US states); high energy intensity of farming; massive federal subsidies to farmers. etc. etc.
4. GM farming isn't necessarily good or bad, and greens can be somewhat irrational about opposing the technology. However, there are 2 issues that are not irrational IMO (which doesn't apply to golden rice).
Adding completely foreign genes into plants should not be hidden from consumers. Food should be labeled to indicate that. I could imagine vegans being very annoyed at animal genes being inserted into plants.
Secondly, how GMO crops are controlled. The control of seeds by seed companies is a worrying precedent and needs to be reviewed.

So basically he wants to condemn organic farming based on his knowledge of what exactly? Or is he just trying to be polemical?


David Brin said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
David Brin said...

PS… EditXYZ… go find me a flag officer in the US Navy who is a denialist.

Or even one of the geniuses who have transformed the Weather Report from a two hour joke to a magnificent and miraculous TEN DAY forecast we all use and take for granted, nowadays.

You bandy "reports" that you cannot read or understand and proclaim that you know better than the folks who can parse the Naview Stokes Equations into cellular automata gas modeling systems that run on supercomputers and give a fair view TEN DAYS into the future… or accurately model climate on SIX planets.

No locum, that is not "expert worship". It is simply and rationally STARTING the conversation with its center of gravity near the folks who… actually… know… stuff….

David Brin said...

Sorry, my first posting was filled with typos. I'll reprise:

What absolute absurdity! Edit_XYZ reaches into the very darkest, flushable corners of the web to find a sparkling example of leftoid lunacy and implies THAT is what we would all wind up doing as the only conceivable alternative to the present situation of taking virtually NO precautions at all.

Yep, that's the choice. Between a side that screeches "we need more research!" while sabotaging and propagandizing against science…

…versus an equally loony (but many many orders of magnitude smaller) pack of cultists who want us to shiver and starve in the dark.

Notice he railed against my purported insults… but diverted attention from TWODA. (This is the main tactic on today's right.) He knows what TWODA means and what it implies.

After 25 years of obstruction, we finally raised car-maker fleet mileage standards, the market adapted and NONE of the right's doom-forecasts happened. Consumers are getting better efficiency and saving money in better cars… that also just happen to have smaller carbon footprints… just as federal subsidies for LED bulbs helped them to become market ready till now, without subsidies, they are attracting millions of folks to buy millions of LEDS, saving gobs of money and … oh, entirely incidentally reducing their homes' carbon footprints…

… which pretty much defines TWODA.

In fact, there is a vast range between "There's no such thing as Climate change!" and "Let's starve and shiver in the dark!" The only people pushing the notion that it is either-or are shills for the carbon barons. Fools who believe in zero sum games.

That vast middle ground is where adults would negotiate… if negotiation had not been driven out of the american psyche by Rupert Murdoch.

So let me repeat to you the word... TWODA.

And again TWODA.

And so long as you refuse to consider TWODA then don't you dare accuse ME of dishonesty or distraction. TWODA is on the table in front of you.

TWODA. Your refusal to discuss it is the behavior of a cultist.

Alex Tolley said...

@Edit_XYZ - I wasn't supporting the Stern report, merely pointing out that economists differ in their models and my general opinion that economics is not as reliable as the underlying climate science for determining policy.

If you want to read a recent piece about discount rate schedules there is this:
Arrow, Cropper, Collier, Groom, Heal, Newell, Nordhaus, Pindyck, Pizer, Portney, Sterner, Tol & Weitzmann (2013), "Determining Benefits and Costs for Future Generations" Science v341, pp349-350 (behind a paywall)

They conclude that discount rate schedules should be declining due to uncertainty, and not fixed. Since it includes Tol, you shouldn't have an allergic reaction to it. Ken Arrow is obviously a major figure in economics, but we shouldn't be using authority to decide questions.

Note that the piece discusses carbon taxes, but no other policies. No cap and trade, no outright prevention of new fossil fuel discovery and extraction, no subsidies for nuclear or renewables, no energy conservation subsidies or mandates, and so forth.





LarryHart said...


Alex… forget the Ford Expedition. Did you ever see the EXCURSION?


I used to hear this one on Thom Hartmann's radio show. It's to the tune of Lee Greenwood's 9/11 tribute song:


And I'm proud to be an American
Who gets just five MPG.
I live alone, but the car I own
Can seat one hundred three,
And I'll gladly park right next to you
So when you look out, you can't see.
Oh, I'll never trade my Escalade.
God bless, my SUV!

LarryHart said...

Alex Tolley:

Do I buy that economists can assess global economic impact of climate change? Not a chance. Furthermore, there will be winners and losers. The 2nd and 3rd order economic effects of this are likely completely unknown


Back in the 1990s when global warming was just starting to be a thing, my supervisor and I envisoned a sort of Lex-Luthorian scheme to buy up Canadian islands with the intent to sell them to resort developers at inflated prices when those islands became warm-weather paradises due to global warming.

The strategy was dubbed "Buy cold, sell hot."

Duncan Cairncross said...

XYZ Said
"Stern’s argument collapses because, even in the worst case, harm done by climate change in the twenty-second century is far less costly than harm done by climate-mitigation measures today."

WHAT!!!
A possible 20 meter rise in sea level is somehow less costly than a small carbon tax

Even a 0.5 meter rise in sea level (which is the minimum expected) will cost Trillions

O.5 meters would mean most coastal cities would be prone to flooding requiring massive rebuilding and relocation

Calculated depreciation can get to that level - but INMHO that is simply a case of "Reductio ad Absurdun"

To back up Dr Brins comment about the CAFE standard I worked in the automotive diesel field for 25 years,
Every few years the emissions requirements would tighten and the industry would squeal about impossible demands
Then we would buckle down and meet the requirements - every time

Alex Tolley said...

Annual Carbon emissions ~ 10E9 mt. US ~ 5E9 mt.
Therefore, over 2 centuries, undiscounted, the cost of US carbon taxes are:

cost $/mt C Total cost $t
5 5
15 15
50 50
100 100
200 200

By comparison, current US GDP is ~ $17t and total US assets ~ $200t.

Therefore, undiscounted, the value of $200/mt carbon taxes over 200 years would allow the US to replace its entire asset base. OTOH, $5/mt carbon tax is only going to allow, at best, a small fraction of US assets to be replaced. If Florida has to be abandoned or propped up on stilts, or rebuilt, could it be done for $5t?

Lets assume a [high] $100/mt tax. Annually that is $0.5t or ~3% GDP, a little less than the $0.7t military budget. So clearly we could reduce some military expenditure to offset the carbon tax burden. So perhaps a $50/mt carbon tax might be fair?

The tax income could be used to phase out fossil fuel consumption for baseload power, replace with nukes and renewables, increase the NSF budget for energy R&D and employ workers to build seawalls, river surge protection for low lying areas, or any other appropriate, cost effective approach to reduce the effects of climate change and sea level rise.

I'd be looking for ways to build massive ocean going solar/wave/wind power farms with integrated fish ranching/farming to replace fossil fuel use and increase fish production to compensate for overfishing.

David Brin said...

Oh… did I mention…. TWODA?

Paul451 said...

"Between a side that screeches "we need more research!" while sabotaging and propagandizing against science…"

And conservative governments who quite literally destroy science libraries. Hello Canada.

Tim H. said...

Might I mention that CAFE, as implemented helped sell a lot of SUVs & minivans? The light truck exception allowed Detroit to continue to sell to folks who craved large, roomy vehicles, without CAFE, it would have been more economical to build station wagons (Estates) on the same lines that built police cars, and full-size wagons would've been more fuel efficient. The larger part of the story over time, technology catches up, like Verucca Salt, we all want it now, but metal and machine tools take some time. It would've happened about the same without CAFE, in not many more years, with less fuel burned.

Alex Tolley said...

@Tim H. CAFE was an overall fleet mileage target. Yes, that allowed the manufacturers to build big vehicles as long as they sold a lot more fuel efficient ones so that overall mileage rose. Gas prices strongly influence vehicle purchases. It was the low gas prices that helped push big vehicles (plus lots of advertising) but I think it is quite clear that once gas prices rose, big vehicles became relatively unpopular and certainly their resale prices dropped.

Even prior to CAFE, small imports, especially from Japan and Germany, stimulated US manufacturers in the 1970's to build smaller vehicles. In Britain, the main impetus of imports was to stimulate improvements in manufacturing quality (which was abysmal). At about the same time, I recall that Canadians (at least) said FORD was an acronym for "Fix or repair daily" and the "planned obsolescence" business model was being exposed to consumers.

Today, vehicles are safer, more fuel efficient, much quieter, and very much longer lasting than those of a generation ago. There is still plenty of room to improve on this, with more efficient engines, lighter materials, and smart energy control. In addition, trips are being reduced as online stores deliver to the doorstep.

The US town planning model has made bus services problematic, but I could see automated taxis/minibuses solving the public transport requirement in the coming decades.

Tim H. said...

Alex Tolley, I believe my point stands, CAFE allowed Detroit to move most of their gas guzzlers to a different ledger, where they ween't penalized for their existence. FYI, Detroit's response to fuel sipping imports goes back to 1960~62 when Falcons, Valiants, Corvairs, Chevy ][s & Rambler Americans failed to match the best imports but were thriftier than their larger brethren. The Ford Cardinal, originally planned for 1962, before Ford got cold feet, might've been interesting, with front drive and a V4. The thing is CAFE was all about cracking a whip to get to the future quicker, it was already on the way, and even if the GOP achieved it's dream of abolishing the EPA, we wouldn't see a return of carburetors, distributors or leaded gas, because such a car would not be competitive with a computer-controled cars of today, for example, consider the classic 1965 Mustang, the most powerful engine option available then might make 2/3 the power of the least engine option of the current model, and a new Fiesta might outrun a six cylinder 1965 Mustang, as a bonus, the new Fords are a LOT less likely to incinerate their occupants if rear-ended.

David Brin said...

I have my home because of "government regulations." My older home had crappy windows that had to be replaced, thin insulation, (we shiver in the mild california winters, while folks in Michigan are snug, indoors) and exposed wooden eaves that invite termites and fire. Those across the street, built 15 years later, had better everything.

A couple miles east, a development had the latest standards. Stucco'd eaves, no foliage next to the houses, sprinklers… and not one caught fire when the big 2007 blaze came roaring through. That enabled the firefighters to leave that area alone and fight for ours. Thank you building codes!

Mind you, I can easily swivel and talk the other way! For every case of beneficial regulation there's another that badly needs revision or loosening. This is a dynamic for grownups and pragmatists, not simplistic dogma.

For example, I am glad of Houston. Somewhere in North America there should be one major city without zoning. I love experiments!

OTOH, Tim is mistaken to swallow that silly line that CAFE net costs MORE oil because idiots scurry to buy SUVs out of spite.

1) If it were true, it would be one more IQ test for Red America to fail.

2) It's not true. At any level or in any way.

3) The technologies of gas efficiency had stagnated. We did the experiment! LEaving standards stagnant for 25 years accomplished nothing for anyone except the Sa'udis.

Alex Tolley said...

There is a useful wiki entry on CAFE gere

But here is a problem:

Performance in practice
NHTSA data as from 20 June 2007

Since 1980, the traditional Japanese manufacturers have increased their combined fleet average fuel economy by 1.6 miles per gallon according to the March 30, 2009 Summary of Fuel Economy Performance published annually by NHTSA. During this time, they also increased their sales in the United States by 221%. The traditional European manufacturers actually decreased their fleet average fuel economy by 2 miles per gallon while increasing their sales volume by 91%. The traditional U.S. manufacturers, Chrysler, Ford, and General Motors, increased their fleet average fuel economy by 4.1 miles per gallon since 1980 according to the latest government figures. During this time the sales of U.S. manufacturers decreased by 29%.


The improvements appear rather small to me, and supports Tim H's argument that some buyers bought big vehicles that compensated for other buying fuel efficient ones. IIRC BMW payed the fines for not meeting CAFE standards for US sales.








Poor Richard said...

Aside on dark energy:
What if some or all of what we imagine as dark energy (accelerating expansion) were actually a misinterpretation of the red shift and velocity measurements caused by not properly factoring lookback time into that interpretation? If older starlight is redder than more recently emitted light, why can't we interpret that as evidence that expansion is slowing? The current interpretation of red shift vs velocity seems based entirely on the distance in space to the source without any regard to the distance in time between emission and observation.

Alex Tolley said...

The EIA forecasts a decline in OECD countries per capita transportation energy use by 2040. The US echoes that trend. Growth in use is for big freight trucks, not autos. If correct, that would be reasonably good, but not great, news.

http://www.eia.gov/forecasts/ieo/transportation.cfm

Tony Fisk said...

@poor richard:
It's not just a question of older starlight being 'redder'. Emission lines are also observed to shift. In fact, that's how the shift is measired.

Tim H. said...

Dr. Brin, are you suggesting that all those SUVs, with aerodynamics not much better than an outhouse didn't get crummy gas mileage? Or suggesting that the cars got so much better it didn't matter?

Paul451 said...

Poor Richard,
"If older starlight is redder than more recently emitted light,"

This is a common misconception. Older (more distant) starlight from red-shifted galaxies is not actually "red". That's not what red-shift means.

As Tony said, you measure red-shift by matching the known spectral lines of elements. For example using hydrogen lines, by seeing how far to the red end of the spectrum the hydrogen emission lines have moved.

[The cool thing is that you can also measure the hydrogen absorption lines at a different spot in the spectrum, and work out the distances to gas clouds between the target galaxy and us. (In other words, you'll get a bunch of different versions of the hydrogen lines at different red-shifts.)]

But it's not just measuring arbitrary spectrum lines, they can use those lines to determine the spectrum emitted from stars in the target galaxy, matching them to known types. (And occasionally find new types. Very early stars lack heavy elements, because the universe lacked heavy elements. And that changes how they develop and age.) That rules out that early stars were somehow magically "redder" than closer stars. For red shifting not to work, you'd need to fundamentally change how light and fusion and electrons works, in a way that is somehow avoids changing how the stars that emit that spectrum work; parsimony says it's pretty unlikely.

In the case of dark energy, they measured a very specific type of supernova that gives a consistent "signal", regardless of distance. [IIRC, the one they use is when a binary system has a giant star spewing material onto a white dwarf companion. Each time the material on the dwarf reaches a certain mass, boom!] So again, you've got a self-reinforcing array of evidence, not just "the light is redder".

David Brin said...

The huge advance was to recognize that Type 1a supernovas are all virtually identical, and thus can be used as a "standard candle. This we were able to get distances for very very distant galaxies where S1a's appeared. And thus we could correlate red shifts with distance over a very deep range and confirm that the shifts truly did go with distance in a smooth way.

We could then plot distance vs speed pretty well and show that the rate of expansion does seem to have been speeding up.

Tom Crowl said...

Off topic... but curious if any thoughts on this from anybody:

A New Physics Theory of Life
https://www.simonsfoundation.org/quanta/20140122-a-new-physics-theory-of-life/

David Brin said...

The thermodynamics argument for life is not new. But Dr. England has equations and models to back it up.

Alex Tolley said...

New Physics of Life - How would it fit with Kaufman's idea of spontaneous metabolism when using sufficient interacting molecule types?

IOW, is England's dissipation principle more or less important than self-organization, or does it explain self-organization as a model?

Alex Tolley said...

In the Guardian today More global warming will be worse for the economy, says the Copenhagen Consensus Center

@Edit_XYZ - note that Tol is part of the group that issued the report. Bottom line - warming at 1C maximizes economic benefit, aftert that it all down hill. We are already committed to that without further CO2 emissions. By 2070, impacts will be negative. So we're back to having to do something, not twiddle our fingers demanding more research.

Having said all that, I am not a fan of Bjorn Lomberg or his economic group. Thinking purely in economics, especially with unquantifiable environmental services, strikes me as just another factor to consider, but not likely to be accurate.

Tim H. said...

Something interesting, "Clicked-DNA" works in human cells:
pipeline.corante.com/archives/2014/01/23/clickeddna_works_in_human_cells.php
This is going to make the future more interesting.

d said...

"Bottom line - warming at 1C maximizes economic benefit, after that it all down hill"

The problem is even if we could limit to less than 1C it would take a long time for the sea level to stabilize
(Continued melting of ice and continued expansion of the water as the extra heat slowly flows into the deep ocean)

And the level it would stabilize at would be a lot higher than today

How much would a 500mm increase cost?
A 1 meter increase???

Duncan Cairncross said...

Damn

that was me

Edit_XYZ said...

Alex Tolley
A few observations:
-the economic papers I linked to took the climate predictions made by peer reviewed science (IPCC, etc) and actually put some numbers on them, as opposed to the fuzzy alarmism used by the greens. They incorporate climate science just fine.

-about your implication that I'm allergic to anything not written by Tol: the 2009 Tol paper is essentially a summary of ALL peer reviewed papers written on the subject - that were not thoroughly debunked, of course.
I haven't checked whether the 2013 paper incorporates all or only most of the peer reviewed literature - feel free to check this.

-yes, the papers reach the conclusion that the negative consequences of climate warming will outweigh the positive benefits only by ~2080, after a 2-2,5 C warming.
A FAR cry from the green's - and DB's - alarmist preachings.
BY 2080 we will have, at the very least, thorium fission (BTW, the greens are violently opposed to nuclear power, as well) and, rather likely, the ability to set Earth's temperature at a specific value (which will probably be 1-1,5 C hotter than today's).

"Much as I like Matt Ridley's books (and grew up with his science journalism too), that doesn't mean that his views are correct. Worse, the article you referenced on his site contains this: [..his organic farming views, which you then proceeded to attack..]"

You just used a straw-man - Matt Ridley's views on organic farming are utterly irrelevant on the issue I raised - Greenpeace&co's actions in Asia (and Africa) vis-a-vis GM food and their tremendous cost in human suffering and death. These actions are heavily documented - they are not in question (Matt Ridley's article gives a few relevant links; there are many more).

"You are conflating climate science with the green movement? That's a stretch."

I'm 'conflating' - accurately - DB's alarmistic testifying with the green movement's.
By the way, we're not talking here about some fringe green group; the mainstream players - Greenpeace, WWF, etc - proved by their actions in Asia, Africa, etc to be pernicious creeps.





Edit_XYZ said...

David Brin

My post is essentially the 2013 IPCC conclusions and a few other highly detailed and proven peer reviewed papers.

Your post is essentially religious testifying, DB - dictums and rhetoric, spiced with nicely-sounding scientific terms.
No proof for any of it beyond appeals to authority: yours, the priest's (presenting yourself as an objective 'scientist') and the green movement's, holders of sacred truths entrusted to you.
Have you ever read about how a cult leader indoctrinates his followers? I suspect you did - you use the exact same recipe.

Not content to redundantly proving yourself to be as ideologically indoctrinated as the far right you decry, you go on to a really dark place:

"Edit_XYZ reaches into the very darkest, flushable corners of the web to find a sparkling example of leftoid lunacy and implies THAT is what we would all wind up doing as the only conceivable alternative to the present situation of taking virtually NO precautions at all."

So, the suffering and death of millions upon millions of human beings is so unimportant and forgettable, according to you, that I have to go to the very darkest, flushable corners of the web to find it, yes, DB?
That's a despicably low value you put on human life.

"Yep, that's the choice. Between a side that screeches "we need more research!" while sabotaging and propagandizing against science…
…versus an equally loony (but many many orders of magnitude smaller) pack of cultists who want us to shiver and starve in the dark."

Your 'equally loony pack of cultists' turn of phrase would be a lot more reassuring if you did not, in the past, made a badge of honour of giving money to Greenpeace, the main perpetrators of a de facto genocide by their GM lobbying:
http://davidbrin.blogspot.ro/2013/10/pondering-pax-americana-and-government.html
"David Brin said...
Alex of COURSE the Greenpeacers are leftists. They have their uses. I send em money."

Here's a simple deduction, DB:
The suffering and death of millions are either the very 'uses' you give the greens money for, or they're acceptable collateral damage in achieving your 'uses', or you're an ignoramus who parrots the green slogans without ever looking up or caring to look up to whom you are giving money.
Do tell, DB - which one is it?


"Notice he railed against my purported insults… but diverted attention from TWODA."

I railed against your insults because:
-they ARE insults;
-you writing them carries a lot of unintentional irony, seeing how these insults describe your mind-set on the climate issues quite accurately.

'diverted attention from TWODA'? I did no such thing.
My posts - and their references to peer reviewed papers, etc - prove my position to be heavily scientifically supported. As will be obvious to any half-objective person who reads them and follows the references.

Duncan Cairncross said...

XYZ said

"I'm 'conflating' - accurately - DB's alarmistic testifying with the green movement's."

I suppose its "alarmist" to point out that our current level of CO2 has never coexisted with anything like our current amount of ice?

The thing I find worrying is these people who seem to assume that the current atmospheric temperature represents some sort of stable equilibrium when there is a known heat flow into the oceans and when ice is busy melting

The cake is in the oven - we are up to temperature - cooking has started

And that assumes that the temperature is NOT still rising - which it is

Edit_XYZ said...


Duncan Cairncross

READ the 2013 IPCC - which defines the scientific consensus on the issue - and see their climate scenarios and the associated CO2 emissions (and the low confidence about weather disasters being caused by climate change, etc) - before being suckered by cult-like apocalyptic predictions.

I even gave the relevant page 25 from the IPCC summary for policymakers (that is to say, I encourage you to read the whole document).
Here's part of the relevant section of my previous posts:
http://www.climatechange2013.org/images/uploads/WGI_AR5_SPM_brochure.pdf

The warming due to CO2 release is determined by the transient climate response, which, in the 2013 IPCC report, is likely
in the range of 1.0 C to 2.5 C (high confidence) and extremely unlikely greater than 3 C.*

Based on this TCR, 4 future warming scenarios were outlined, corresponding to different amounts of CO2 emitted (see pg. 25 of the linked report).
Of these, RCP 8.5 is all but excluded – a huge continuous increase in CO2 emissions for the entire century is required to even get close to it (don’t believe me? see the worldwide CO2 emissions and then calculate what future emissions would be required to reach RCP 8.5).
In other news, London is buried beneath a 2 miles deep layer of horse manure; such malthusian prophecies never came to pass.

The IPCC future warming scenarios each have temperature ranges associated with them (pg. 21 of the report). RCP8.5 is the only scenario that has an increase in temperature larger than 3.1 C.

What will be the consequences of an increase in temperature of 2.5-3 C?
As it turns out, there’s a peer reviewed paper that summarized all the papers on the subject – up to the date it was published, that is:
http://www.econ.yale.edu/~nordhaus/homepage/documents/Tol_impacts_JEP_2009.pdf
As per the paper, climate change is beneficial up to 2.2 C of warming from 2009 (when R. Tol wrote his paper). This means approximately 3˚C from pre-industrial levels, since about 0.8˚C of warming has happened in the last 150 years. The latest estimates of climate sensitivity suggest that such temperatures may not be reached till the end of the century — if at all. IPCC, whose reports define the consensus, is sticking to older TCR assumptions, however, which would mean net benefits till about 2080.
Etc, etc.

Jumper said...

Is it possible to set up an attractive fund which would pay off nicely if warming turns out to have minimal consequences?

It would be useful if the feds let these people buy up coastal property and lose it rather than me diverting my taxes to flood insurance.

I live in North Carolina. Gravimetrics indicate a bigger rise on the Outer Banks (and indeed much of the U.S. eastern seaboard.)

These reports bend over backwards to be conservative.

On the gill-lung, I wondered what gas ratios can be extracted from seawater by simple vacuum. We see something like 47% N2, 36% O2, 15% CO2. A powerful chiller, or an absorber would be needed to strip out CO2. So we need a membrane and power to flow water past inevitable drag.

Alex Tolley said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Alex Tolley said...

@Edit_XYZ
A few observations:
-the economic papers I linked to took the climate predictions made by peer reviewed science (IPCC, etc) and actually put some numbers on them, as opposed to the fuzzy alarmism used by the greens. They incorporate climate science just fine.


The climate science is fine. It is the economic analysis that is in reality little more than guessing. I don't know if you read economic forecasts, but generally they are so far off the mark, they are useless. Any forecast 50+ years into the future is fiction.

-about your implication that I'm allergic to anything not written by Tol: the 2009 Tol paper is essentially a summary of ALL peer reviewed papers written on the subject - that were not thoroughly debunked, of course.

It was a snark based on my experience that people with strong opinions will not read anything that might oppose their opinions. In this case, since you picked Tol as your acceptable economist, I referenced a report that he contributed to.

BY 2080 we will have, at the very least, thorium fission (BTW, the greens are violently opposed to nuclear power, as well)

We may have [widespread use of] Thorium fission, or we may not. This isn't a technical issue, but a political one. But it will be irrelevant if the world continues to burn fossil carbon as a primary energy source.

You just used a straw-man - Matt Ridley's views on organic farming are utterly irrelevant on the issue I raised - Greenpeace&co's actions in Asia (and Africa) vis-a-vis GM food and their tremendous cost in human suffering and death. These actions are heavily documented - they are not in question (Matt Ridley's article gives a few relevant links; there are many more).

Matt Ridley's views on organic farming are relevant, in so far as organic farming is equated with non GMO's. When he suggests organic farms are the source of E coli outbreaks, implying non-organic farms are not, this is just false. I provided US CDC data to debunk this. GMO crops have most certainly NOT saved millions of people from starvation. The green revolution had no GMO crops. Most GMO crops to date either allow heavier use of herbicides, or reduced use of insecticides. They generally do not increase yields/acre. The GMO crops like "golden rice" are to prevent blindness from vitamin A deficiency, if they work. So claiming that greens are responsible for "tremendous cost in human suffering and death" is just nonsense.

I find it amusing that you can condemn "greens" because you disagree [hate?] their opinions on some issues they deal with. Do you also disagree with their stance on clean air, clean water, opposition to biome destruction, floral and faunal extinction, etc? There are many people who are ostensibly green who oppose some of their positions, e.g. nuclear power, methods of species conservation Binary group identification is not how I see the world. It is just too gray for that, especially when the best solutions to move forward may change with unexpected developments.

David Brin said...

Alex the essential answer to criticism of "greens"… other than to point out (as you did) the grotesque, many orders of magnitude exaggeration of their effective ness and effects…

..is to also point out that Greenpeace and other radical "greens" are not representative of the mainstream of either liberalism or science. And even among them, hardly anyone is recommending, "shivering and starving in the dark."

In fact, many among the Techno Liberals (e.g. Stewart Brand) have been pushing adaptability of attitudes toward experiments with new/improved nuclear systems, an are in which negotiated consensus is NOT being prevented by them… but by the general attitude on the right to reject even the remote possibility of negotiation.

Note in the railings against climate change consensus, or against GMO activists, or against the CAFE Standards (before they absolutely proved their value) that the rhetoric is simply bilious rejection and hate. Never laying upon the table a tentative win-win compromise.

Never the slightest talk of TWODA. (There's that inconvenient word again Edit_XYZ - sorry!)

All of it is to hide one basic fact… there are some excessive polemicals and even some crazies on the far-left. But almost the ENTIRE right is polemically driven, stubbornly opposed to compromise and negotiation, bitterly anti-science and … crazy.

Edit-XYZ you utterly and absolutely evade discussing TWODA. Is it possible for you to step back, look in a mirror and wonder… why?

Jumper said...

To interpret some of what Brin has stated in the past, I think an equivalent is wingnuts/moonbats > 1

Jumper said...

I am curious about the apocryphal "alarmists," who are
"hysterical" sometimes about warming. Who are they; where? In science? Mass media? Are we to just discard crazy headline writers? (clue: yes. But this goes for the other side too)

Alex Tolley said...

@DB the essential answer to criticism of "greens"… [is] to point out [the] many orders of magnitude exaggeration of their effectiveness and effects…

I wouldn't want to include scale as a factor in disagreeing with a position. Is Nazism worse because C19th Germany was so much more effective in executing its policies than relatively isolated and ineffective neo-Nazi groups today? And to turn my own point around, should there be any acceptance of Nazism because they built the autobahns or got the trains to run on time (Fascist Italy under Mussolini).

The balanced view, IMO, is that one has to weigh everything and even change one's views based on the evidence. This last separates the ideologues as being useful participants.

Edit_XYZ appeared to offer a reasoned position on GW. A peer reviewed economic study on the impact of temperature change. However, when presented with evidence that the Copenhagen Consensus came up with much more nuanced and limited benefit assessments (maximum economic benefit with 1C warming), it was ignored. Just for arguments sake, suppose the net benefit of GW was positive, but one cost was that some nations would disappear with sea level rise, or others might become unlivable, or their agriculture lost, would that be OK?

Closer to home, suppose rising temperatures do translate to lower rainfall in California as models predict. Suppose California had to buy all its drinking water from a private company, which would raise US GDP (Koch industries is betting on private water supplies as a major business opportunity). Does this mean we should allow temperatures to rise because GDP is higher? I don't think so. (Although I do think we should be doing desalination, even if it means buying Koch industries' desalination plants if they are the best choice, but at a possible cost of increasing their influence to further increase privatization of water supplies - 2nd order effect).






Alex Tolley said...

@Jumper - the right wing paints James Hansen as an alarmist. Hansen has publicly accused his fellow scientists of being too conservative over their estimates of ocean level rise. He was the first (AFAIK) to predict a much faster pace for Arctic sea ice to disappear in summer months. His assessment was that this would happen decades ahead of mainstream scientific opinion, and it looks like he was more correct. Sea level rise will be highly dependent on the rate of loss of the Greenland glaciers. Scientists proved initially too complacent when it was discovered that sink holes developed that lubricated the glaciers potentially increasing movement and loss.

Then Hansen had the audacity to actually publish a popular book on climate science: Storms of My Grandchildren: The Truth About the Coming Climate Catastrophe and Our Last Chance to Save Humanity. For fun, read the 1 star reviews.

There is a new book out: Censoring Science: Dr. James Hansen and the Truth of Global Warming by Mark Bowen.

Michael Mann has just had some small victory in the courts allowing his defamation suit to go forward. The defendent's law firm removed themselves from the defense.

Ken Fabian said...

I think that too much of the politics of climate is focused on what "greens" or "environmentalists' say, especially highlighting anything "they" (like it's all one voice) say that is questionable. And it's not hard to find people within fringe politics who say things that are questionable. Far more disturbing to me is how many within mainstream politics say things that are questionable - yet rarely face rational criticism.


Climate belongs up front and centre within mainstream politics, as a crucial element of future prosperity and security; the ongoing efforts to frame it as a "green" issue looks to me like abrogation of responsibility based on an ongoing strategy of deliberate distraction away from those in mainstream positions of trust and responsibility. More that than a rational response to the persistent and consistent scientific advice they have at their disposal.

It's never been up to environmental activism to develop an effective and rational response to the climate problem so why do so many people think the failure of mainstream politics to do so is the fault of 'greenies'?

Failure to take seriously the consistent and persistent message by those tasked with understanding how our climate works and responds to changed atmospheric composition may have legitimately been considered cautious and deliberate two decades ago. Now it is just dangerously irresponsible. Especially given that the full consequences, even if they are not fully understood, are delayed, slow building and irreversible by any ordinary means.

Alex Tolley said...

@ken
It's never been up to environmental activism to develop an effective and rational response to the climate problem so why do so many people think the failure of mainstream politics to do so is the fault of 'greenies'?


I agree. However, there are cases where environmental group support of positions has won and it is easy to use these cases to support the contention that "greenies" are the problem. In California, this is often the conflict between farms and the environment for water supply. Farmers in the Central valley are incredibly "anti-green", despite the fact that you would think they would be aligned at least some issues.

The SF referendum to close the Hetch Hetchy reservoir was supported by green groups, although it was [fortunately] defeated. Had it won and SF started "diverting" water to the city, you can bet that green groups would have been the target of a lot of ire.

Don't forget the legislation to protect species on the brink of extinction that will conflict with some development. Remember spotted owls vs lumber companies?

Finally, anyone doing anything that looks green gets painted with the green brush - as in "You're a greenie - because you drive a Prius". The typical slur relates to the false dichotomy between environmental protection and the right of development: "You prefer fish to humans".

David Brin said...

Edit_XYZ… I was brusque and perhaps we have different thresholds for "insult," given that everyone who posts here is warned to have a thick skin. I looked it over and see nothing (1) to apologize for and (2) nothing remotely as harsh as I am subjected to by some members of this community, almost every time they show up.

My response to your pique is to point out that this comments section has never had to be moderated. It is one of the oldest freewheeling and high-intellect argument site on the Web! But if you cannot follow the thick-skin rule, then perhaps you should take your tender sensibilities elsewhere.

As for your refusal to even once look at TWODA… it is ENTIRELY pertinent and relevant. Because it totally undermines the "it's not proved yet!" mantra of the right. As it does your utter strawman that the most-shrill and unreasonable greens represent a "starve in the dark" mentality, that is the ONLY alternative to doing nothing about climate change.

Let me put it to you straight. That assertion -- however it is couched and / or re-phrased -- is a huge and knowing pants-on-fire lie.

Moreover, you know that even discussing TWODA will blow giant chunky holes in your stance and reveal that the entire right has gone insane. THAT is your reason for avoiding even once discussing it.

Be well and thrive.

David Brin said...

onward

Ken Fabian said...

Alex, when it comes to climate change, Environmental advocacy groups are correct to believe it's a serious issue - but it's never been and should never have been an issue owned by them. The rest of politics has been very wrong to believe it is not be serious and is a "Green" fringe issue.

The mainstream chose to frame the problem as Green, and organised Environmentalists have generally been pleased with that association of their brand with the issue. But when it comes to having a dangerously irrational and irresponsible position, the winners, by a big margin, are right in the middle of the "sober and responsible" mainstream who chose to frame the issue as fringe.

I suspect most people have been successfullhy encouraged to think 'Greenies' are the ones being irresponsible and irrational about the issue.

Even the claim that greenies prevent action on climate because they oppose nuclear energy breaks down upon examination; how much does climate science denial by a substantial portion of mainstream politics undermine support for aggressive measures to tackle emissions? By any means, renewables or nuclear?

Climate science denial diverts and mutes the most influential voices that would prefer and feel more secure with a nuclear solution - commerce and industry - by offering the option to do nothing at lower cost. The unfortunate accidents of history that has seen pro-nuclear advocacy aligned with The Right is an alliance with those most strongly opposed to replacing fossil fuels.