1732: "Earth Temperature Timeline"

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Re: 1732: "Earth Temperature Timeline"

Postby squall_line » Wed Sep 14, 2016 3:39 pm UTC

cdfrick wrote:The eccentricity graph looks neat, but the peaks are offset from temperature spikes by several thousand years (for instance, the three most recent temperature peaks occurred at ~125 Kyr, 240 Kyr, and 325 Kyr before present, while the maximum eccentricity peaks occurred at ~110 Kyr [0.04 eccentricity], 210 Kyr [0.05], and 305 Kyr [0.04] before present).


As a human, I am predisposed to seeing patterns where they may or may not exist and to coming up with my own simplified explanations to things to make them relatable.

I have decided for myself without reading anything on the subject that the temperature/eccentricity offset can be explained by extending the following relationships out to wider and wider ranges of cause/effect:

Side of earth facing the sun / hour of maximum-minimum temperature (i.e., maximum/minimum temp during the day is offset by approximately 4-6 hours compared to noon/midnight)

Tilt of earth in relation to sun / day of maximum-minimum temperature (i.e., hottest/coldest day of the year is offset by 1-1.5 months compared to summer/winter solstice)

To me, an extension of those two easily observable/relatable phenomena meshes neatly with the idea that eccentricity and temperature spikes would be offset by millennia.

Your Mileage May Vary (YMMV), take it with a grain of salt from former Aral Sea or Salton Sea (one of which was recently dried up by irrigation diversion, the other of which was recently created by a mishap during irrigation diversion, ironically enough).

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Re: 1732: "Earth Temperature Timeline"

Postby SDK » Wed Sep 14, 2016 3:48 pm UTC

h4rm0ny wrote:What sort of intervals does that give? I.e. an average over a thousand years, a hundred, a decade? The smaller the better. If it's a hundred or less, I'd be tempted to revise my skeptic position.

Prepare for a revision, I guess, because individual ice cores can be tested basically year-by-year. You can see this in this image where they correlated CO2 measured from the core to actual atmospheric data to prove it's accurate (there are lots of points in every decade). Here's another image going further back, where you've got several CO2 measurements every 1000 years (I imagine they probably could have done many more measurements, but called this good enough). Deuterium is used as a temperature proxy there, and oxygen isotopes in this image. I assume they either took a whole pile of measurements or perhaps a full scan (I'm not sure on the specifics of the measurement techniques), but it's clearly very frequent (less than a decade between each point, probably) to get that much noise in the data. Long story short, the data's pretty well refined.

That's only for an individual ice core, though. The average temperature of the Earth at a particular time can then be estimated by taking the data from multiple sources, which is certainly less of an exact science, but should work out pretty well when you've got good data from multiple points.
Last edited by SDK on Wed Sep 14, 2016 5:51 pm UTC, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: 1732: "Earth Temperature Timeline"

Postby DaBigCheez » Wed Sep 14, 2016 4:38 pm UTC

I am...a little bemused at the arguments that "if we can't return to pre-1900 emissions levels, we might as well not try at all". It's not a binary, on/off, "we cause this event or we don't"; even if (as I believe is the case) we've long since passed the point where we could conceivably return the climate to preindustrial levels, we can still try to slow or stop the rate of it getting even *worse*.

Even if we take it as a given that "we can't stop warming from happening, it's going to happen anyway", 1 degree of warming seems rather preferable to 5 or 10 (numbers pulled firmly from my ass). Then it's a question of the cost-benefit analysis, which almost certainly has multiple points of diminishing returns along the way - a couple easy things, then some less easy things, then some rather harder things, then some really harder things...which probably will never get done anyway because we'll spend the next two decades arguing about whether the easy things are "perfect" or just "really good" and then not do them anyway, while most people ignore it and keep building coal plants, I suppose. And the wheel of the tragedy of the commons turns.
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Re: 1732: "Earth Temperature Timeline"

Postby cellocgw » Wed Sep 14, 2016 4:46 pm UTC

DaBigCheez wrote:I am...a little bemused at the arguments that "if we can't return to pre-1900 emissions levels, we might as well not try at all". It's not a binary, on/off, "we cause this event or we don't"; even if (as I believe is the case) we've long since passed the point where we could conceivably return the climate to preindustrial levels, we can still try to slow or stop the rate of it getting even *worse*.


That's not a mathematically sound argument. It's quite possible, and in fact probable, that there's a real temperature (mean over the earth, for years, yada yada) threshold above which the climate will go into thermal runaway. Now, cutting down on CO2 emissions may reduce the acceleration of the runaway, i.e. slow the progression for a while, but once past the threshold there's no way to reverse the behavior.

Other than waiting for plants & bluegreen algae to flourish & create the next OxygenExplosion, that is. Or tell Neo to go ahead and permanently cover the skies with clouds.
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Re: 1732: "Earth Temperature Timeline"

Postby trpmb6 » Wed Sep 14, 2016 4:59 pm UTC

cellocgw wrote: Or tell Neo to go ahead and permanently cover the skies with clouds.


Neo didn't torch the sky. The first residents of Zion did. If we're going to have a sensible discussion on climate change the least we can do is quote The Matrix properly.

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Re: 1732: "Earth Temperature Timeline"

Postby Soupspoon » Wed Sep 14, 2016 5:08 pm UTC

trpmb6 wrote:
cellocgw wrote:The first residents of the first Zion did.
FTFY. (If we even trust the anti-Oracle/Architect, that is, regarding the Beta 2 Matrix ejectees.)

edit: Brainfart. It was before even them.
Last edited by Soupspoon on Wed Sep 14, 2016 5:15 pm UTC, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: 1732: "Earth Temperature Timeline"

Postby DaBigCheez » Wed Sep 14, 2016 5:10 pm UTC

cellocgw wrote:
DaBigCheez wrote:I am...a little bemused at the arguments that "if we can't return to pre-1900 emissions levels, we might as well not try at all". It's not a binary, on/off, "we cause this event or we don't"; even if (as I believe is the case) we've long since passed the point where we could conceivably return the climate to preindustrial levels, we can still try to slow or stop the rate of it getting even *worse*.


That's not a mathematically sound argument. It's quite possible, and in fact probable, that there's a real temperature (mean over the earth, for years, yada yada) threshold above which the climate will go into thermal runaway. Now, cutting down on CO2 emissions may reduce the acceleration of the runaway, i.e. slow the progression for a while, but once past the threshold there's no way to reverse the behavior.

Yeah, that's fair enough. I didn't think the models predicted hitting a true runaway effect in the next couple centuries, but didn't go check my research for that post, and ice cap meltage might put a hard time limit on it even if accumulating "gentler" effects over time; slowing it would still be beneficial (by giving us longer before we reach that point), but as scientists have been warning for decades, the longer we wait before applying the brakes the harder we have to slam on them, and at some point you're going to skid through the intersection brakes or no brakes.
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Re: 1732: "Earth Temperature Timeline"

Postby Pfhorrest » Wed Sep 14, 2016 5:52 pm UTC

Soupspoon wrote:
trpmb6 wrote:
cellocgw wrote:The first residents of the first Zion did.
FTFY. (If we even trust the anti-Oracle/Architect, that is, regarding the Beta 2 Matrix ejectees.)

edit: Brainfart. It was before even them.

Yeah, the sky was scorched by the original pre-Matrix human population during their war with the machines. It was only after that war that the Matrix was created, and only after the first "release" version of the Matrix (after the two "beta" versions that preceded it) that there even was a Zion at all.
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Re: 1732: "Earth Temperature Timeline"

Postby DanD » Wed Sep 14, 2016 5:57 pm UTC

Soupspoon wrote:I half remember residual (non-crackpot but also, by that time, non-scientist too) fears of Global Cooling, before that.

And then my childhood memories of winter snowfalls good enough to sledge in progress into winters with hardly enoughnto be worth getting the fancy new sledge with steering handles out of the loft. Although that's reversed again in (some of) the last few years or so. At the risk of having a selective memory, there's definitely Global Weirding goin on. Or cycles longer than 11 years.

In the absence of better personal records (my Cub Scout weather station only lasted as long as it needed to get my Science Badge, I'm certain) , I'm gonna trusted-list the scientists on the specific trends...


There were basically a couple of papers published that suggested global cooling. It was picked up by the media, and got some serious play. However, if you actually search the scientific literature for the articles on the subject, you find orders of magnitude more on warming than cooling, even at that time.

As far as memories, they can be tricky things. I know my childhood memories overestimate the amount of snow, because I can look at Christmas photos for the entire childhood, and I remember snow on Christmas far more often than it actually occurred. A combination of social imagery and blurring of years together, I suspect.

Also relevant is that weather is trickier than climate. Buffalo, NY gets more snow if the winter is warmer, to a point at least. If it's cold enough that the great lakes freeze over, it gets almost none. If the lake surface stays above freezing, it's buried. So personal anecdotes are of limited value.

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Re: 1732: "Earth Temperature Timeline"

Postby DanD » Wed Sep 14, 2016 5:59 pm UTC

cellocgw wrote:
DaBigCheez wrote:I am...a little bemused at the arguments that "if we can't return to pre-1900 emissions levels, we might as well not try at all". It's not a binary, on/off, "we cause this event or we don't"; even if (as I believe is the case) we've long since passed the point where we could conceivably return the climate to preindustrial levels, we can still try to slow or stop the rate of it getting even *worse*.


That's not a mathematically sound argument. It's quite possible, and in fact probable, that there's a real temperature (mean over the earth, for years, yada yada) threshold above which the climate will go into thermal runaway. Now, cutting down on CO2 emissions may reduce the acceleration of the runaway, i.e. slow the progression for a while, but once past the threshold there's no way to reverse the behavior.

Other than waiting for plants & bluegreen algae to flourish & create the next OxygenExplosion, that is. Or tell Neo to go ahead and permanently cover the skies with clouds.


But a runaway isn't a high probability.

If you're in a car that's about to hit a tree, do you not hit the brakes because you won't be able to stop in time? We don't know exactly what the planet can reabsorb. But we do know, the closer we are to it, the longer we have to figure out another solution.

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Re: 1732: "Earth Temperature Timeline"

Postby DanD » Wed Sep 14, 2016 6:00 pm UTC

SDK wrote:
h4rm0ny wrote:What sort of intervals does that give? I.e. an average over a thousand years, a hundred, a decade? The smaller the better. If it's a hundred or less, I'd be tempted to revise my skeptic position.

Prepare for a revision, I guess, because individual ice cores can be tested basically year-by-year. You can see this in this image where they correlated CO2 measured from the core to actual atmospheric data to prove it's accurate (there are lots of points in every decade). Here's another image going further back, where you've got several CO2 measurements every 1000 years (I imagine they probably could have done many more measurements, but called this good enough). Deuterium is used as a temperature proxy there, and oxygen isotopes in this image. I assume they either took a whole pile of measurements or perhaps a full scan (I'm not sure on the specifics of the measurement techniques), but it's clearly very frequent (less than a decade between each point, probably) to get that much noise in the data. Long story short, the data's pretty well refined.

That's only for an individual ice core, though. The average temperature of the Earth at a particular time can then be estimated by taking the data from multiple sources, which is certainly less of an exact science, but should work out pretty well when you've got good data from multiple points.



Tree ring data is also good for a close to annual estimate, although less useful for accurate CO2 measurements. But combining it with ice core or ocean sediment CO2 allows a wider global picture.

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Re: 1732: "Earth Temperature Timeline"

Postby Keyman » Wed Sep 14, 2016 6:20 pm UTC

somitomi wrote:
Keyman wrote:HURRY UP!!

I made a small bet with myself when I saw the comic yesterday, that the tread would get to at least page 6 before the next comic was up. We can do it! :mrgreen:

Apparently we have until Thursday, unless you've extended the bet in proportion. :mrgreen:

I'm sure I made the bet "before the next comic is up". But now I'm arguing with myself on the spirit vs the letter, etc.
To keep peace, I may just call it a draw.
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Re: 1732: "Earth Temperature Timeline"

Postby niauropsaka » Wed Sep 14, 2016 8:55 pm UTC

Well, you won on a technicality.

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Re: 1732: "Earth Temperature Timeline"

Postby Crissa » Wed Sep 14, 2016 9:10 pm UTC

For those ignorant about the Climate Escalator, Image

Secondly, you can literally test the greenhouse properties of CO2 and other greenhouse gasses by filling a glass box with them, putting them under a heat lamp, and measuring the change over time. This is a large enough effect to be visible with tools someone might have in their basement, so large it was first measured over two hundred years ago.

Anyone who disputes CO2's greenhouse impact is someone who wants to say that there is some sort of magic afoot and that science doesn't work

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Soteria wrote:=Allow me to explain. Many of us do not think climate change is a myth, but we disagree with the conclusions that it can be prevented and that it will be an apocalypse. So when you propose spending trillions of tax-payer dollars and ask us to make significant changes to our lifestyles for what we see as dubious gain, we have something to say about that.

What fallacy is it when prior arguments are knocked down, and so a new... Oh, right, no true scotsman.

Also... Is it not possible to get to 1900 levels? Well, think about this: At some point a couple decades ago, the per-capita use of electricity in California stopped going up. Even though we use more computers, TVs, etc than ever. Even while California still produced huge amounts of electronics locally. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/won ... yone-else/ And this is just with what a state can do - no deficit spending, no draconian laws or bans. Before solar, wind power even scratched the surface.

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Re: 1732: "Earth Temperature Timeline"

Postby Mikeski » Wed Sep 14, 2016 9:53 pm UTC

DaBigCheez wrote:I am...a little bemused at the arguments that "if we can't return to pre-1900 emissions levels, we might as well not try at all".

Subtly different from my actual argument. "If we can't return to pre-1900 (or pre-1950, or whatever number makes the models work) emissions levels, we should find something else that will work, since continued trying won't help."

If you have Parkinson's disease, and you doctor prescribes leeches to suck out the evil humours, and the leeches don't work when you try them, the solution is probably not "let's try the leeches again. But more of them."

We tried cutting CO2. Kyoto Protocol, started in 1997, 2012 ended phase one. 5.2% reduction target. Some nations hit it, some missed wildly. Worldwide results are all that matter, though. The actual results of the Kyoto years?

Code: Select all

                                                          Cement       Gas         Per
Year     Total         Gas      Liquids      Solids     Production   Flaring     Capita
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
1997      6589        1195        2699        2445         209          40        1.12 
1998      6571        1225        2758        2343         209          36        1.10 
1999      6559        1258        2740        2309         217          35        1.08 
2000      6727        1285        2843        2327         226          46        1.10 
2001      6886        1312        2845        2445         237          47        1.11 
2002      6946        1345        2831        2468         252          49        1.11 
2003      7367        1390        2959        2694         276          48        1.16 
2004      7735        1435        3044        2904         298          54        1.20 
2005      8025        1477        3069        3098         320          60        1.23 
2006      8307        1530        3092        3267         356          62        1.26 
2007      8488        1561        3098        3382         382          66        1.27 
2008      8738        1626        3125        3530         388          69        1.29 
2009      8641        1580        3065        3517         415          64        1.26 
2010      9137        1700        3129        3795         448          66        1.32 
2011      9508        1762        3158        4027         496          64        1.36 
2012      9671        1787        3214        4086         520          65        1.36


That'd be about plus 47 percent. But hey, Phase Two of Kyoto has more-stringent targets to be met by 2020!

And the wheel of the tragedy of the commons turns.

There's the problem. Do you know what they call a law with no enforcement mechanism? A suggestion.

Ah, so we'll have "carbon credits!" Enforcement!

Except that:
1) Making people give money to other people doesn't do a damn thing to actually reduce carbon. It just keeps politicians employed.

B) Increasing the wealth of non-carbon-producers is going to make them into carbon-producers... they gotta spend that scratch on something. Case in point: China, who's now the biggest CO2 producing country, matching the USA, the entire EU, and India, combined.

iii) The USA ran up its national debt by about 11 trillion over the last 10 years. Telling them "you'll have to pay a trillion dollars to keep pumping out carbon!" won't change anything. When you can print all the money you want, fines don't matter (when the people you pay the fines to will probably be spending the money on stuff you create, they matter even less.) Do you know what they call a law with an enforcement mechanism that doesn't matter? A suggestion.

But even if we had a real enforcement mechanism, how much could we reduce things? The USA is the big boogieman for this, but if we immediately cut our emissions per capita to European Union levels, we'd get the world back to late-1990s emissions levels, about where Kyoto was adopted. That's still a crisis! Nuke us from orbit (the only way to be sure!) and the world would fall back to mid-1970s levels. (Never mind the global unrest that would cause...) Still pretty crisis-like! And you've murdered 320 million people to get there...

So attack the supply side, rather than the demand side?

Gonna put OPEC out of business? If you thought Europe had a "refugee crisis" now...

China can move all those factory workers back to the farms, and stop mining coal.

Russia's a big oil exporter. Putin's a nice guy; he wouldn't have any problems stopping. Right?

I may be cynical, but I don't think asking those folks nicely is gonna work. Maybe if we had a superpower that really did want to take over the world...

Anyway, cutting emissions is a non-starter. Aim for 5% lower, give yourselves 15 years to do it, and wind up 47% higher. Winning! Wanna try it again? There's this definition of "insanity"...

The real issue is that the usual things people mean when they say "cut emissions" will slow down economic and technological advancement, and technological advancement is the only way to fix this problem. (Wanna talk nuke plants? I'm on board with that, since they might actually give us a bit more time. Wanna talk wind farms? Those blow.) We need a way to affect the climate that doesn't involve the whole world making less carbon. Reducing solar heat input, or sequestering carbon some way, or something even smarter than that.

Talk about reducing carbon? That's your tragedy of the commons, right there. It's shorthand for "if we push this off a few more years, I'll probably be dead before the shit really hits the fan! Let the next guys in line worry about it!" I would rather we start working towards a real solution sooner than later.

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Re: 1732: "Earth Temperature Timeline"

Postby teelo » Wed Sep 14, 2016 10:02 pm UTC

pogrmman wrote:
teelo wrote:What were these changes in orbits referred to in the comic, and what caused them?


These changes in earths orbit effected primarily the eccentricity of the orbit. Additionally, the axial tilt of the planet changes.

They're due to the natural orbital perturbations that come with any orbit in a n-body system (especially one as complicated as the solar system).

Is it eventually going to revert?

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Re: 1732: "Earth Temperature Timeline"

Postby SDK » Wed Sep 14, 2016 10:14 pm UTC

Mikeski wrote:Talk about reducing carbon? That's your tragedy of the commons, right there. It's shorthand for "if we push this off a few more years, I'll probably be dead before the shit really hits the fan! Let the next guys in line worry about it!" I would rather we start working towards a real solution sooner than later.

Cutting emissions by using renewables for electricity generation, even all the way down to zero, is possible. High temperature fuel cells can run very efficiently on hydrogen (produced through electrolysis of water) and can be scaled to produce huge amounts of energy when required. That's just one of the solid contenders for our energy storage problem that could actually do the job of maintaining a constant flow of electricity when our wind and solar and tidal aren't producing. We're moving slowly, but the technology has already progressed to the point where we can make this a reality. It'll just take several decades to implement, which is time we don't really have.

Certainly it's not a waste of time to pursue this, though, even over that timeframe. The scale of what you're advocating is already immense, and is going to have unforeseen consequences. You may be right that it's inevitable, but we've never tried blocking out the sun before, and the less we have to do so, the better. (You also mentioned carbon sequestration, but that's pretty much a dead end already).
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Re: 1732: "Earth Temperature Timeline"

Postby Soupspoon » Wed Sep 14, 2016 10:20 pm UTC

Mikeski wrote:1) Making people give money to other people doesn't do a damn thing to actually reduce carbon. It just keeps politicians employed.
If it keeps the employed as politicians, better than forcing us to watch them retraining to become Reality TV stars* or celebrity dancers.

* Unfortunately, that's a two-way street.

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Re: 1732: "Earth Temperature Timeline"

Postby Soteria » Wed Sep 14, 2016 10:24 pm UTC

jc wrote:The real problem is that implementing such controls isn't a technical engineering problem; it requires involving the political and economic system. And not just of one country, but the entire world. That problem can't be solved by engineering techniques; it requires persuading the political and corporate systems to behave rationally on a global basis. There is little precedent for this.

...

But this doesn't work with the climate change problem. To see why not, just read this and other "discussions" of the problem. And read up on the political responses to climate-change stories. There's apparently no prospect for all the world's governments and the biggest energy corporations doing anything at all to change their practices and allow their scientists and engineers to work together to implement solutions. The fact that we have the technology is irrelevant, because our political and economic leaders are responding to the information as a threat to their power and income, and showing no signs at all of engaging in cooperation to fix the problems.


Exactly. Even if we technically have the ability to reduce emissions and prevent further warming, politically it appears to be impossible. Even if it were politically possible to do in the US (and it's not) that wouldn't solve the problem. I don't even think it's clear that it would significantly mitigate the problem, short of a dramatic reduction in per capita energy usage.

Crissa wrote:
Soteria wrote:Allow me to explain. Many of us do not think climate change is a myth, but we disagree with the conclusions that it can be prevented and that it will be an apocalypse. So when you propose spending trillions of tax-payer dollars and ask us to make significant changes to our lifestyles for what we see as dubious gain, we have something to say about that.


What fallacy is it when prior arguments are knocked down, and so a new... Oh, right, no true scotsman.


People who don't understand how logical fallacies work shouldn't accuse people of them.

The person I replied to said he doesn't understand why people don't "get out of the way" of those who wish to prevent climate change. I provided an explanation of why I and many others do not. Nowhere did I change the argument. Nowhere did I change some standard or definition. And no, you don't get to pretend that I'm a stand-in for some other person you've had an argument with on this subject before who made different arguments. Also, have you considered the possibility that you might be committing the fallacy fallacy?

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Re: 1732: "Earth Temperature Timeline"

Postby wayne » Wed Sep 14, 2016 10:28 pm UTC

A couple of quick unrelated observations:

One, CO2's absorption spectrum overlaps water's by quite a large amount. Considering that there is far more water in the atmosphere than CO2, even a minor fluctuation in overall humidity will have a greater effect than a huge fluctuation in CO2. Note that arid regions tend to have extreme temperature fluctuations in a single day, where there is not much water to trap and re-radiate the heat.
As a side note, increased CO2 encourages plant growth, so it has a feedback cycle that makes it self-limiting, or at least self-slowing. Plants store solar energy as they use carbon to make sugars and other complex molecules. Voila. Less heat is re-radiated.

Two, people are people, and as such, aren't going to care very much for anything that doesn't impact them immediately. Only relatively wealthy people with a lot of time on their hands worry much about "Dire Things" in the future. People who have to work are more concerned with making a living to be angry that they only have pizza for dinner - it's the elites who wring their hands that the poor don't get to enjoy caviar.
I am not a tree-humping hippie, but I do like nature, and want to be a good steward of it. I take care to preserve what I can because I don't want to trash my recreation areas. (Not because I am worried about the spotted crested titmouse.)
On the other hand, I like my amusements - and having light and heat and a good internet connection are among those amusements.
I have replaced all of our lights with LED bulbs, not because I worry about global warming, climate change, or whatever the current phrase is, but 1) because the porch lights I leave on 24/7 cost less than $20 a year to run, and 2) because they last a lot longer than incandescent bulbs before burning out, so I don't have to pay and work to replace them nearly as often. They are maybe 3 - 4 times as expensive, but I save more than that in money and aggravation.
So there is the point.
If you want people to use less energy, make it cost-effective.
Technology advanced and industry (those big, bad corporations!) found a way to make a profit (nasty, nasty profit!) so I benefit, and you think you benefit (Maybe you do, maybe not - the jury's still out, as far as I am concerned) and the stockholders in those companies that make the bulbs benefit, so everybody wins!

For these reasons, I think that people who twist themselves into knots worrying about things like this, and try to evangelize other people to belief in their faith, are a great source of amusement. Rather like circus clowns.

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Re: 1732: "Earth Temperature Timeline"

Postby commodorejohn » Wed Sep 14, 2016 11:03 pm UTC

The long and short of it is that humanity as a whole will never do what climate-change activists want them to do as long as it's going to cost them in money (probable) and luxury (definite.) If it's that or go extinct, we'll go extinct. Once you've come to terms with that, it's actually kind of liberating.
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Re: 1732: "Earth Temperature Timeline"

Postby gmalivuk » Wed Sep 14, 2016 11:13 pm UTC

wayne wrote:One, CO2's absorption spectrum overlaps water's by quite a large amount. Considering that there is far more water in the atmosphere than CO2, even a minor fluctuation in overall humidity will have a greater effect than a huge fluctuation in CO2.
Except that water also has a convenient habit of forming clouds, which in case you hadn't noticed tend to have rather high albedo and reflect a great deal of solar radiation back into space before it ever reaches the surface.

As a side note, increased CO2 encourages plant growth, so it has a feedback cycle that makes it self-limiting, or at least self-slowing.
Unless, of course, some idiot were to dig up carbon from plants that lived millions of years and start burning it...
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Re: 1732: "Earth Temperature Timeline"

Postby Mikeski » Wed Sep 14, 2016 11:22 pm UTC

SDK wrote:
Mikeski wrote:Talk about reducing carbon? That's your tragedy of the commons, right there. It's shorthand for "if we push this off a few more years, I'll probably be dead before the shit really hits the fan! Let the next guys in line worry about it!" I would rather we start working towards a real solution sooner than later.

Cutting emissions by using renewables for electricity generation, even all the way down to zero, is possible. High temperature fuel cells can run very efficiently on hydrogen (produced through electrolysis of water) and can be scaled to produce huge amounts of energy when required. That's just one of the solid contenders for our energy storage problem that could actually do the job of maintaining a constant flow of electricity when our wind and solar and tidal aren't producing. We're moving slowly, but the technology has already progressed to the point where we can make this a reality.

We are in violent agreement. If we can do real-world zero-(net)-emissions power generation, that helps.

Of course, we still need a way to fix damage done, and ongoing, since "reducing emissions from electricity generation to zero" only cuts about 30% of carbon output (in the USA, anyway). If we could get zero-emissions transportation as well, with all rechargable- or fuel-cell cars (and boats, trains, planes!, etc), we'd save another 25%.

And, if implemented tomorrow, those two impossibly-massive changes to the US economy will get the global total back to the emissions we had in... 2001. Global totals for electricity (25%) and transportation (14%) are lower than for the USA, so if we could somehow patch up the whole planet this way, we'd get back to about... 1988. :?

It'll just take several decades to implement, which is time we don't really have.

So we'll get back to emissions levels we had 20 years prior, after ~30 years of work? I found the problem!! :mrgreen:

Which is why "stalling for time" at the cost of "having people and computational power and tech to come up with better ideas" seems like a bad tradeoff, to me. (Of course, I'm an engineer and not a politician, so I have to think that, regardless of the math.)
Certainly it's not a waste of time to pursue this, though, even over that timeframe. The scale of what you're advocating is already immense, and is going to have unforeseen consequences. You may be right that it's inevitable, but we've never tried blocking out the sun before, and the less we have to do so, the better. (You also mentioned carbon sequestration, but that's pretty much a dead end already).

I design microchips, not planets. I'm sure there are people posting here who are much better at this sort of brainstorming than I am :mrgreen:, and people doing it in real life who are much better than they are.
Last edited by Mikeski on Wed Sep 14, 2016 11:24 pm UTC, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: 1732: "Earth Temperature Timeline"

Postby x7eggert » Wed Sep 14, 2016 11:23 pm UTC

wayne wrote:A couple of quick unrelated observations:

One, CO2's absorption spectrum overlaps water's by quite a large amount. Considering that there is far more water in the atmosphere than CO2, even a minor fluctuation in overall humidity will have a greater effect than a huge fluctuation in CO2. Note that arid regions tend to have extreme temperature fluctuations in a single day, where there is not much water to trap and re-radiate the heat.


I think water vapor is not that significant because if you just create water vapor, it rains. But if you are right, how do you create water vapor? By heating water, by using energy. If you stop spending excessive amounts of money on your energy bill, you'll be reducing both CO₂ and water.

(Also I think that e.g. deforesting and building cities - heat islands - is a considerable contributions. Some cities started urban gardening and horizontal gardening as a way to mitigate the local effect.)

wayne wrote:As a side note, increased CO2 encourages plant growth, so it has a feedback cycle that makes it self-limiting, or at least self-slowing. Plants store solar energy as they use carbon to make sugars and other complex molecules. Voila. Less heat is re-radiated.


More plants means more animals eating them, and these animals will burn the collected energy.

wayne wrote:… I have replaced all of our lights with LED bulbs, not because I worry about global warming, climate change, or whatever the current phrase is, but 1) because the porch lights I leave on 24/7 cost less than $20 a year to run, and 2) because they last a lot longer than incandescent bulbs before burning out, so I don't have to pay and work to replace them nearly as often. They are maybe 3 - 4 times as expensive, but I save more than that in money and aggravation.
So there is the point.


I agree, but you felt that you need to point out that the long run costs of LED bulbs are lower. People should be smart enough to know that, but they are like "Meh, uses only half the power, can't be good!"

You can't bribe people to be smart.

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Re: 1732: "Earth Temperature Timeline"

Postby x7eggert » Wed Sep 14, 2016 11:36 pm UTC

h4rm0ny wrote:Also, the graph is disingenuous. It claims that the brief period of the last twenty thousand years is what people mean when they say "the temperature has changed before". I don't think that's true and it's certainly not a sufficient time scale to make the sort of point this comic attempts to be making.


If these people mean extinction-grade events or pre-dinosaur times, they obviously don't want an earth for you and your children to live in. Maybe you think mankind deserves to be extinct and a world where only other animals survived would be better, but if you do, it's because of them.

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Re: 1732: "Earth Temperature Timeline"

Postby pogrmman » Thu Sep 15, 2016 12:02 am UTC

teelo wrote:
pogrmman wrote:
teelo wrote:What were these changes in orbits referred to in the comic, and what caused them?


These changes in earths orbit effected primarily the eccentricity of the orbit. Additionally, the axial tilt of the planet changes.

They're due to the natural orbital perturbations that come with any orbit in a n-body system (especially one as complicated as the solar system).

Is it eventually going to revert?


Not really revert, but it will continue changing. The solar system is very dynamic -- even with only 9 major bodies, the system is never going to remain constant. It may on a decent time span -- but it will change.

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Re: 1732: "Earth Temperature Timeline"

Postby Mikeski » Thu Sep 15, 2016 12:20 am UTC

x7eggert wrote:I think water vapor is not that significant because if you just create water vapor, it rains. But if you are right, how do you create water vapor? By heating water, by using energy. If you stop spending excessive amounts of money on your energy bill, you'll be reducing both CO₂ and water.

Wikipedia disagrees: "Water vapor accounts for the largest percentage of the greenhouse effect, between 36% and 66% for clear sky conditions and between 66% and 85% when including clouds. Water vapor concentrations fluctuate regionally, but human activity does not significantly affect water vapor concentrations except at local scales, such as near irrigated fields."

So don't skimp on bathing to help global warming, it won't work. And you'll get fewer dates. :mrgreen:

Here's something I borrowed from Georgia Tech:
Image

The "total" line looks similar to the one above for H2O. Which it should, since H2O is around 3% of the atmosphere, and CO2 is about 0.04%. (Plain old nitrogen, N2, is not included even though it's 78% of the atmosphere, since it doesn't absorb anything in the IR regions, and this graph is about greenhouse effects, despite the "UV" and "Visible" bands included on the left.)

Since H2O absorbs most of the same wavelengths as CO2 (CO2 is responsible for the absorption spike around 4.2 microns, and the faster flattening around 13 to 15um), you really can't think of the increase in CO2 (in my lifetime) from ~320ppm to ~390ppm as "a 22% increase in the greenhouse-ish-ness of the atmosphere". You should think of it as being much closer to ~30,320ppm to ~30,390ppm, or a 0.23% increase. And even at that, it's something we can't reverse...

I assume it's in the models, but I don't know how much additional positive feedback we get from greenhousey evaporation on a warmer planet... or how much negative feedback we get from additional cooling from the additional clouds reflecting sunlight.
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Re: 1732: "Earth Temperature Timeline"

Postby Soupspoon » Thu Sep 15, 2016 12:21 am UTC

pogrmman wrote:
teelo wrote:
pogrmman wrote:They're due to the natural orbital perturbations that come with any orbit in a n-body system (especially one as complicated as the solar system).

Is it eventually going to revert?

Not really revert, but it will continue changing. The solar system is very dynamic -- even with only 9 major bodies, the system is never going to remain constant. It may on a decent time span -- but it will change.

There have been a number of studies1, and possibly the more interesting that I know of are the Laskar examples, but unknowns are unknowns and a Bronson Alpha/Beta or Bella/Zyra situation could call all bets off.

1 Famously there's Poincaré, I think... But I might be thinking of another person trying to 'solve' the future of the solar system for a Scandinavian monarch...

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Re: 1732: "Earth Temperature Timeline"

Postby x7eggert » Thu Sep 15, 2016 12:37 am UTC

cdfrick wrote:Co-occurrence does not prove causality. Even if those facts are plainly admitted, it requires that one believe CO2 increases cause temperature increases, which is a subject of some debate. There is some historical evidence that the causal link, if one exists, is the opposite - that temperature increases cause atmospheric CO2 levels to rise as a delayed reaction. Therefore, if the "man-made global warming is happening" argument hinges solely or largely on CO2 stats, there's room for someone to admit to the stated facts but disagree with the conclusion.


Some warming events were caused by volcanoes, It's hard to explain volcanic CO₂ with increased temperatures.

You are right, the communication is fragmented, incomplete, sometimes based on "I know I'm right because I saw the whole picture, so why don't you just agree if I show you Mona Lisa's eye?"

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Re: 1732: "Earth Temperature Timeline"

Postby x7eggert » Thu Sep 15, 2016 1:06 am UTC

Mikeski wrote:
x7eggert wrote:I think water vapor is not that significant because if you just create water vapor, it rains. But if you are right, how do you create water vapor? By heating water, by using energy. If you stop spending excessive amounts of money on your energy bill, you'll be reducing both CO₂ and water.

Wikipedia disagrees: "Water vapor accounts for the largest percentage of the greenhouse effect, between 36% and 66% for clear sky conditions and between 66% and 85% when including clouds. Water vapor concentrations fluctuate regionally, but human activity does not significantly affect water vapor concentrations except at local scales, such as near irrigated fields."

So don't skimp on bathing to help global warming, it won't work. And you'll get fewer dates. :mrgreen:
(…some good facts…)


I don't think Water vapor is unimportant because it did nothing. I think it's unimportant because it's regulated by temperature, and the temperature is regulated by the other gases. Also it's unimportant because the amount of water we vaporize is proportional to the CO₂ we release (then it will just rain down again).

This is guesswork on my side, but I read a lot about this topic, including a paper from somebody who crunched the numbers on the graphs you posted or papers about Mars and Venus. Those who do the maths agree with CO₂ being a major player.

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Re: 1732: "Earth Temperature Timeline"

Postby DanD » Thu Sep 15, 2016 4:32 am UTC

x7eggert wrote:Some warming events were caused by volcanoes, It's hard to explain volcanic CO₂ with increased temperatures.


Citation please? Volcanoes cause cooling in the short term (atmospheric dust) and generally don't have a long term effect. Volcanoes produce very low quantities of durable greenhouse gases like CO2 or Methane, relative to human production.

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Re: 1732: "Earth Temperature Timeline"

Postby Mikeski » Thu Sep 15, 2016 6:15 am UTC

DanD wrote:
x7eggert wrote:Some warming events were caused by volcanoes, It's hard to explain volcanic CO₂ with increased temperatures.

Citation please?

I don't believe that will be forthcoming. That he "reads papers and the people who do the maths agree with him" was the citation I got for water not being an important greenhouse gas (and that it is, in fact, the reverse: that warming causes water vapor, and water vapor cannot hold heat because it rains... or something like that...)

He also believes that animals consuming plants negates their carbon-sequestration. Because only dead plants, and not dead animals, contain carbon? The carbon content of animal dung is also zero, apparently.

Volcanoes cause cooling in the short term (atmospheric dust) and generally don't have a long term effect. Volcanoes produce very low quantities of durable greenhouse gases like CO2 or Methane, relative to human production.

You are correct on all three counts. The Year Without A Summer in 1816 (when it snowed in June in New York) was probably caused by a volcanic eruption. A Year Without A Winter will not likely be caused by such an event.

Isn't the eventual eruption of the Yellowstone Caldera one of the climate-change jokes? That we'll be glad we have all this CO2 to keep us warm when Yellowstone blocks out the sun for a few years? (Well, the rest of you will, I might be buried under too much ash to notice... 1000 cubic kilometers is a lot of stuff.)

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Re: 1732: "Earth Temperature Timeline"

Postby Opus_723 » Thu Sep 15, 2016 7:43 am UTC

Mikeski wrote:I don't believe that will be forthcoming. That he "reads papers and the people who do the maths agree with him" was the citation I got for water not being an important greenhouse gas (and that it is, in fact, the reverse: that warming causes water vapor, and water vapor cannot hold heat because it rains... or something like that.


I don't have a citation handy, but I think I can clarify the "something like that".

Water vapor is a saturated solute in the atmosphere, with evaporation from the ocean and condensation as rain forming an equilibrium. If you try to add more, it precipitates out as a liquid. So the concentration of water vapor in the atmosphere doesn't really change globally. And it's the concentration of the vapor that matters when it comes to IR absorption and scattering, and hence greenhouse warming. Liquid water doesn't matter here.

Carbon dioxide isn't saturated in the atmosphere, since we don't have large bodies of solid or liquid CO2 lying around to evaporate like the water in the oceans, so we can increase the concentration of CO2. Plants and rock weathering take CO2 out of the atmosphere, but at some given rate that we can and have overwhelmed. They don't adjust automatically the way precipitation does.

Water is by far the more potent greenhouse gas, but the atmosphere holds as much as it can at this temperature. For just about any substance though, solubility increases with temperature. As the increased CO2 concentration warms the atmosphere, the equilibrium between evaporation and rain shifts toward evaporation, and the concentration of water vapor in the air increases. The water vapor increase then causes further warming and this feedback loop continues until a new equilibrium is established.

The general idea is freshman-level chemistry, and this is all a very basic part of climate models. Most of the warming we have seen over the last century IS due to water! But that humidity increase was provoked by the slighter warming from the CO2 increase.

It's kind of like an electrical amplifier, where you use variations in a small current to control a large one. The CO2 signal controls the larger heating mechanism, which is the water vapor.

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Re: 1732: "Earth Temperature Timeline"

Postby orthogon » Thu Sep 15, 2016 8:25 am UTC

Mikeski wrote:He also believes that animals consuming plants negates their carbon-sequestration. Because only dead plants, and not dead animals, contain carbon? The carbon content of animal dung is also zero, apparently.

As I understand it, dead animals and dead plants will both decay and release the carbon back into the atmosphere. But living animals are net sources of CO2: they constantly consume plants and convert most of the carbon to CO2 through respiration. Living plants, on the the other hand, can be net sinks of CO2 since they can go on growing bigger and can live for a long time. The plant will eventually die, though, and release its carbon. The only way for the carbon to be sequestered more permanently is for the dead wood to be carried away in rivers and eventually sink to the bottom of the deep oceans. So the next time you see "ecological" arty craft products made from "reclaimed" driftwood, point out that they're actually part of the problem. (I heard all this on a BBC Radio 4 programme, which talked about how crucial the Monsoon is to the Earth's climate, since the rains are responsible for carrying away a huge mass of dead wood).
xtifr wrote:... and orthogon merely sounds undecided.

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Re: 1732: "Earth Temperature Timeline"

Postby Rossegacebes » Thu Sep 15, 2016 12:12 pm UTC

There is a way to significantly decrease CO2 emissions: go full-speed with nuclear power. Invest massively in nuclear power plants, shut down coal- and gas-burning plants, develop the thorium-based option (that allows to reprocess the radioactive waste). In a few years (let's say 10 or 20) all new vehicles could be fully electrically-powered, so in 40-50 years most of the anthropogenic CO2 emissions would have disappeared.

OK, we may not like it, but that is a feasible alternative. Technically doable. And the thorium-based nuclear power is weaponization-free, with much less long-lived waste.

Some info in wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thorium-b ... lear_power

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Re: 1732: "Earth Temperature Timeline"

Postby DanD » Thu Sep 15, 2016 12:13 pm UTC

orthogon wrote:
Mikeski wrote:He also believes that animals consuming plants negates their carbon-sequestration. Because only dead plants, and not dead animals, contain carbon? The carbon content of animal dung is also zero, apparently.

As I understand it, dead animals and dead plants will both decay and release the carbon back into the atmosphere. But living animals are net sources of CO2: they constantly consume plants and convert most of the carbon to CO2 through respiration. Living plants, on the the other hand, can be net sinks of CO2 since they can go on growing bigger and can live for a long time. The plant will eventually die, though, and release its carbon. The only way for the carbon to be sequestered more permanently is for the dead wood to be carried away in rivers and eventually sink to the bottom of the deep oceans. So the next time you see "ecological" arty craft products made from "reclaimed" driftwood, point out that they're actually part of the problem. (I heard all this on a BBC Radio 4 programme, which talked about how crucial the Monsoon is to the Earth's climate, since the rains are responsible for carrying away a huge mass of dead wood).


Well, not exactly only driftwood. Plankton and algae are a huge factor. But so is leaf litter. Not everything on the forest floor decays completely, so you end up with dark rich soil, humus, which is a certain percentage carbon.

The critical issue here is that it is a cycle. Prior to about the late middle ages, you have organic matter being sequestered in the oceans and even some on land. Over millions of years, some of this is compressed and converted, sometimes to coal, sometimes to petroleum, and some of it to natural gas. Some of this resurfaces on the earth (coal seam exposure, oil seeps, etc.). Eventually, all of it is subducted, and gets mixed around in the core, and some of that eventually comes back through volcanic action. Most of it, however, remains buried for millions or billions of years, and there is a relatively stable cycle. Sure it drifts a little bit, now and then, but it does have stabilization mechanisms such as ocean absorption of CO2, or plant growth accelerating as the CO2 levels rise.

During early human development, there isn't much effect on this. Some of the shorter cycles (plant decay, animal dung decay) are accelerated, as wood and dung are burned for fuel, so a little more carbon enters the atmosphere. The harvesting of peat disrupts one of the long term sequestration operations, but the total volume relative to deep ocean sequestration is minimal, but still, just a little more carbon. Not really more than the feedback mechanisms can handle, and it's all in the >100 year cycle range, so it re-equilibrates at a slightly higher level.

Then, around the late middle ages, Europe starts running out of wood. And people realize that those occasional black rocks they burned in a few locations are available in quantity below ground, easier to ship than wood or charcoal, and burn hot enough to cast iron and simplify steel production. Followed a few centuries later by the discovery that liquid hydrocarbons make a great portable fuel. All of a sudden, you have a disruption to the millions or billions of years carbon cycle. Coal and oil that would have remained sequestered until it is subducted is now being dug up and burned at rates of millions of tons per year. And that shifts the world's equilibrium, drastically. Unless we are talking about a runaway greenhouse, there is a new equilibrium, but it's at a much higher atmospheric CO2 percentage, with the resulting increase in temperature.

The water cycle hasn't shifted, much. The volcanic dust and SO2 cycle hasn't shifted, really at all. The orbital cycles are the exactly what they were. But the carbon cycle has been drastically short circuited, and that does make a difference.

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Re: 1732: "Earth Temperature Timeline"

Postby gmalivuk » Thu Sep 15, 2016 12:19 pm UTC

Mikeski wrote:He also believes that animals consuming plants negates their carbon-sequestration. Because only dead plants, and not dead animals, contain carbon? The carbon content of animal dung is also zero, apparently.

The 'skeptics' love to go on about how complex all the modeling is and how we can't make any real predictions as a result, and then they go on to miss things like breathing.

(But yeah, the bigger issue is how we've short-circuited the carbon cycle, of which living and recently-dead organisms form only a small part.)
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Re: 1732: "Earth Temperature Timeline"

Postby doogly » Thu Sep 15, 2016 12:56 pm UTC

Rossegacebes wrote:There is a way to significantly decrease CO2 emissions: go full-speed with nuclear power. Invest massively in nuclear power plants, shut down coal- and gas-burning plants, develop the thorium-based option (that allows to reprocess the radioactive waste). In a few years (let's say 10 or 20) all new vehicles could be fully electrically-powered, so in 40-50 years most of the anthropogenic CO2 emissions would have disappeared.

OK, we may not like it, but that is a feasible alternative. Technically doable. And the thorium-based nuclear power is weaponization-free, with much less long-lived waste.

Some info in wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thorium-b ... lear_power

We should like this. This is good.
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Re: 1732: "Earth Temperature Timeline"

Postby svenman » Thu Sep 15, 2016 1:09 pm UTC

orthogon wrote:So the next time you see "ecological" arty craft products made from "reclaimed" driftwood, point out that they're actually part of the problem.

Okay, so I realize this is probably meant as something of a throwaway joke, but to respond in seriousness anyway: That kind of driftwood is usually collected on river banks or beaches as far as I know, so it seems highly unlikely to eventually have ended up on the bottom of the ocean otherwise. (Does driftwood ever, in fact?) Actually, by being turned into craft products it seems rather more likely to me that the decay of those pieces of wood is being postponed by several decades, therefore keeping their carbon from being released back into the atmosphere much more effectively than by being left to rot.
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Re: 1732: "Earth Temperature Timeline"

Postby SDK » Thu Sep 15, 2016 1:27 pm UTC

Mikeski wrote:Of course, we still need a way to fix damage done, and ongoing, since "reducing emissions from electricity generation to zero" only cuts about 30% of carbon output (in the USA, anyway). If we could get zero-emissions transportation as well, with all rechargable- or fuel-cell cars (and boats, trains, planes!, etc), we'd save another 25%.

And, if implemented tomorrow, those two impossibly-massive changes to the US economy will get the global total back to the emissions we had in... 2001. Global totals for electricity (25%) and transportation (14%) are lower than for the USA, so if we could somehow patch up the whole planet this way, we'd get back to about... 1988. :?

Oh yeah, I made a few assumptions when I said we could get all the way to zero with green electricity. The biggest assumption is that all industries using energy can get that energy from electricity instead of whatever else they're using. You already hit the other big assumption, that we can get zero-emission vehicles, but that's certainly possible once we get this established enough. Even if planes can't run on hydrogen, electrical power can still be used to produce the common fuels we use today (combining the hydrogen from water with the carbon from CO2), making hydrocarbons just another way to store energy. It's not as efficient, but efficiency doesn't matter quite as much once we've got this set.

Rossegacebes wrote:There is a way to significantly decrease CO2 emissions: go full-speed with nuclear power. Invest massively in nuclear power plants, shut down coal- and gas-burning plants, develop the thorium-based option (that allows to reprocess the radioactive waste). In a few years (let's say 10 or 20) all new vehicles could be fully electrically-powered, so in 40-50 years most of the anthropogenic CO2 emissions would have disappeared.

Yep, that's the easy short-term (AKA this century) solution. Go hard on nuclear, and make sure we use some of that power to produce the baseline required for all the real renewables. Done deal.
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