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  1. #1
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    Global Warming and Hot Air [Wash. Post Article]

    It's not often that I fully agree with Robert Samuelson but in this one I think his take on the present situation is dead-on. How depressing.

    More and more my thoughts turn away from how can we prevent global warming towards how can I best cope in the new world we are making.


    Quote Originally Posted by Washington Post
    Global Warming and Hot Air
    By Robert J. Samuelson
    Wednesday, February 7, 2007; Page A17


    You could be excused for thinking that we'll soon do something serious about global warming. Last Friday, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) -- an international group of scientists -- concluded that, to a 90 percent probability, human activity is warming the Earth. Earlier, Democratic congressional leaders made global warming legislation a top priority; and 10 big U.S. companies (including General Electric and DuPont) endorsed federal regulation. Strong action seems at hand.

    Don't be fooled. The dirty secret about global warming is this: We have no solution. About 80 percent of the world's energy comes from fossil fuels (coal, oil, natural gas), the main sources of man-made greenhouse gases. Energy use sustains economic growth, which -- in all modern societies -- buttresses political and social stability. Until we can replace fossil fuels or find practical ways to capture their emissions, governments will not sanction the deep energy cuts that would truly affect global warming.

    Global Warming and Hot Air

  2. #2
    Micro Gameboyist
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    people will be lazy any way they can. the only way the world will become better is if it's easier to be helpful than it is to be harmful.

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    Senior Member AlanK's Avatar
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    It seems to me the article is dead on: How do you solve the problems of civilization, when the problem is civilization itself?

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    bragi bragi's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Slow Train
    It's not often that I fully agree with Robert Samuelson but in this one I think his take on the present situation is dead-on. How depressing.

    More and more my thoughts turn away from how can we prevent global warming towards how can I best cope in the new world we are making.
    I'm not quite so pessimistic. This problem is a very, very serious one, to be sure, and if we do nothing, we're all f****d, which is why we'll manage to deal with it. No matter how costly the solution, the cost of doing nothing is much, much higher, and everyone, including rapacious global corporations, knows it. (And, in the West at least, if large corporations become sufficiently concerned about their profits, things begin to happen.)
    If you're not part of the solution, you're part of the precipitate.

  5. #5
    In the right lane gerv's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Washington Post article
    Meanwhile, we could temper our energy appetite. I've argued before for a high oil tax to prod Americans to buy more fuel-efficient vehicles. The main aim would be to limit insecure oil imports, but it would also check CO2emissions. Similarly, we might be better off shifting some of the tax burden from wages and profits to a broader tax on energy or carbon. That would favor more fuel-efficient light bulbs, appliances and industrial processes.
    There is a strange confluence of events happening in this time. Just as we deal with this GHG issue, there is also the issue that is called "Peak Oil" where fossil fuel supplies run out. A side effect of Peak Oil is the political machinations that keep the oil flowing, particularly with regard to the Middle East. I've just read Robert Baer's "Sleeping with the Devil" where he describes how Saudi Arabia has nurtured Islamic jihadism and allowed it to prosper. The impact of this is far-reaching, extending well beyond Iraq and Afghanistan.

    I don't think you need be as depressed about future events, but there will almost certainly be some major events that will serve to change the way we do things in the West.

    I guess it would be a good idea to ride your bike and maybe think about how feasible it would be to do things like grow a garden in the back yard. These events might not come to pass really soon, but if the flow of oil is stopped, it will have a far-reaching impact on all our lives.

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    Senior Member acroy's Avatar
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    Not sure why it's serious - didn't all that CO used to be in the atmosphere at one time?
    Far as I can tell, we're just putting it back.
    The more CO, the better plant life does.
    beer-bottle target

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    Senior Member donrhummy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Slow Train
    Until we can replace fossil fuels or find practical ways to capture their emissions

    It's sad to say but the second option there, capturing the emissions (which is MUCH harder to find a solution for), is likely the only one. The problem with alternative fuels is its success would mean the elimination of an entire industry and numerous very profitable businesses. That's not likely to occur.

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    Sophomoric Member Roody's Avatar
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    Technology exists to capture carbon. It could be implemented in power plants that burn coal. The captured carbon is stored in deep wells, such as depleted oil wells. The electricity generated could be used to power cars directly, or it could be usd to manufacture hydrogen for fuel cells in cars. An article in Science magazine suggested that this process would be economically feasible if governments put a $30 per ton to $ 100 per ton tax on carbon emissions.

    I'm not sure this is the best way to go, but it might be the quickest and easiest.


    "Think Outside the Cage"

  9. #9
    Dog is my copilot. GGDub's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Roody
    Technology exists to capture carbon. It could be implemented in power plants that burn coal. The captured carbon is stored in deep wells, such as depleted oil wells. The electricity generated could be used to power cars directly, or it could be usd to manufacture hydrogen for fuel cells in cars. An article in Science magazine suggested that this process would be economically feasible if governments put a $30 per ton to $ 100 per ton tax on carbon emissions.

    I'm not sure this is the best way to go, but it might be the quickest and easiest.
    They are doing this right now in an older oil field out here. With natural gas reserves quickly declining on this continent, there will be a lot of underground storage reservoirs available to put it in. The trick is economics. Fuel cells in cars are pretty cool too, but we just have to make sure we capture the water vapour, or we will run into the same sorts of problems.
    Last edited by GGDub; 02-09-07 at 06:43 PM.
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    Senior Citizen lyeinyoureye's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by GGDub
    Fuel cells in cars is pretty cool too, but we just have to make sure we capture the water vapour, or we will run into the same sorts of problems.
    Are you being serious?

  11. #11
    Dog is my copilot. GGDub's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by lyeinyoureye
    Are you being serious?

    Yup.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greenho...of_water_vapor


    Its the most significant greenhouse gas. Ever wonder why cloudy winter nights are warmer than clear ones?

    edit: The source for the hydrogen for a fuel cell economy is still unknown. Right now thoughts are to either get it from water in the first place or get it from hydrocarbons. Either way the potential exists there to add more water to the natural water cycle or change the balance of gaseous water and liquid water, which could lead to increased concentrations of H2O in the atmosphere, which might cause more global warming.
    Last edited by GGDub; 02-09-07 at 06:57 PM.
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  12. #12
    Fat Guy in Bike Shorts! manual_overide's Avatar
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    Einstein solved this problem a few years ago:

    E=mc^2

    Convert as much as we can to electric and power the grid with solar and nuclear plants. yes i said nuclear. it is safe, clean, and abundant. really, it is! modern reactor technology like pebble bed reactors are basically melt-down proof. ok, then what will we do with all the waste? that's easy too. reactor cores last a while, so there won't be a huge "trade tons of air pollution for tons of radioactive waste" problem. we can get rid of it, and just burying it in a mountain is not the answer. space elevators are coming. probably within my lifetime. elevate the waste to a space location and then just throw it at the sun.

  13. #13
    Senior Citizen lyeinyoureye's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by GGDub
    Yup.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greenho...of_water_vapor


    Its the most significant greenhouse gas. Ever wonder why cloudy winter nights are warmer than clear ones?

    edit: The source for the hydrogen for a fuel cell economy is still unknown. Right now thoughts are to either get it from water in the first place or get it from hydrocarbons. Either way the potential exists there to add more water to the natural water cycle or change the balance of gaseous water and liquid water, which could lead to increased concentrations of H2O in the atmosphere, which might cause more global warming.
    Well....
    Quote Originally Posted by Wikipedia
    Water vapor concentrations fluctuate regionally, but human activity does not directly affect water vapor concentrations except at very local scales.
    This is a pretty good read on the subject.
    Water vapour is a "reactive" GHG with a short atmospheric lifetime of about 1 week. If you pump out a whole load of extra water vapour it won't stay in the atmosphere; it would condense as rain/snow and we'd be back to where we started. If you sucked the atmosphere dry of moisture, more would evaporate from the oceans. The balance is dynamic of course: humidity of the air varies by place and time, but its a stable balance.
    So, while water vapor is a GHG because it absorbs IR radiation, the amount of it in the atmosphere, and amount of heat it retains, depends on how much energy/heat is in the atmosphere. More heat means more water vapor, etc... But, since it's reactive, it won't stay in the atmosphere long enough to significantly increase the amount of heat trapped, so we can't have a runaway greenhouse effect from water vapor alone. Otoh, CO2 stays up there for decades, if not centuries, and the additional heat trapped will result in more vaporization of water, but simply vaporizing water will not lead to more heat and more vaporized water, etc... The amount of gaseous water depends on the balance between condensation and evaporation, and this depends on temperature and pressure. Any water vapor in the atmosphere will simply return to liquid if the conditions are suitable.

    I don't say this to be an a$$hole, it's just that imo, too many interests propagate the water vapor is a GHG line to downplay the significant threat posed carbon dioxide to our climate. As of now, the Hydrogen economy would be completely dependent on fossil fuels to produce the Hydrogen, so yeah, in that context it's just robbing Paul to pay Peter, still plenty of C)2 production. EV technology is suitable, but not very appealing to big business because you can easily generate electricity at your own home. Hydrogen otoh, can be made in bulk from any kind of power generation, fission, wind, etc... And would be cheaper for the large company to make, insuring there is a product to sell.

  14. #14
    Dog is my copilot. GGDub's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by lyeinyoureye
    Well....

    This is a pretty good read on the subject.

    So, while water vapor is a GHG because it absorbs IR radiation, the amount of it in the atmosphere, and amount of heat it retains, depends on how much energy/heat is in the atmosphere. More heat means more water vapor, etc... But, since it's reactive, it won't stay in the atmosphere long enough to significantly increase the amount of heat trapped, so we can't have a runaway greenhouse effect from water vapor alone. Otoh, CO2 stays up there for decades, if not centuries, and the additional heat trapped will result in more vaporization of water, but simply vaporizing water will not lead to more heat and more vaporized water, etc... The amount of gaseous water depends on the balance between condensation and evaporation, and this depends on temperature and pressure. Any water vapor in the atmosphere will simply return to liquid if the conditions are suitable.

    I don't say this to be an a$$hole, it's just that imo, too many interests propagate the water vapor is a GHG line to downplay the significant threat posed carbon dioxide to our climate. As of now, the Hydrogen economy would be completely dependent on fossil fuels to produce the Hydrogen, so yeah, in that context it's just robbing Paul to pay Peter, still plenty of C)2 production. EV technology is suitable, but not very appealing to big business because you can easily generate electricity at your own home. Hydrogen otoh, can be made in bulk from any kind of power generation, fission, wind, etc... And would be cheaper for the large company to make, insuring there is a product to sell.
    Hey, I'm always open to learn new things and the residence time of water in the atmosphere is one of those things, so thanks for posting it. I wasn't trying to use it to downplay CO2 at all, but just to illustrate that even the most benign substance can be a pollutant, if you release so much that nature can't deal with it. After all, we exhale CO2 every time we breath.

    One question though, even if water doesn't stay in its vapour state for long enough to significantly contribute to global warming, what do you do with all the extra liquid water? Couldn't that lead to an increase in sea level? One of the potential dangers of global warming. Or conversly, to pose the question, could more precipitation lead to a growth of both polar and alpine glaciers?
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  15. #15
    Senior Citizen lyeinyoureye's Avatar
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    Oh no, I didn't think you were, it's just that viewing water vapor as a GHG in a certain context can lend itself to that obnoxious argument. We do exhale CO2 every time we breathe, but it's being cycled, as opposed to releasing what's been trapped underground for a long time in a short period. In this case, the current carbon sinks just can't handle it, and the atmospheric concentration increase. As for what dictates the amount of glacial cover we have, so far as I know, it's just average temperature. There's always a seasonal flux, some of the glacier melts away in summer, and is rebuilt in winter, but recently, the poles have really heated up, about twice the average rate iirc, the sea level has, and probably will increase as land locked water melts and runs off into it. Since most of this is freshwater, the oceanic conveyor's range is decreasing. While it used to dump more heat at higher latitudes, it's slowing/shrinking and we have more heat concentrated near the equator, but higher latitudes aren't getting as much overall. So we'll see colder colds and warmer warms iirc, different forms of climate change depending on where we live.

  16. #16
    Conservative Hippie
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    Quote Originally Posted by manual_overide
    ........space elevators are coming. probably within my lifetime. elevate the waste to a space location and then just throw it at the sun.
    Why waste it when it can be recycled?

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    Fat Guy in Bike Shorts! manual_overide's Avatar
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    I'm all for that idea too. Breeder reactors and the ilk would help the nuclear waste problem. I haven't really thought about ways to recycle decayed uranium mostly because I don't know of anything that can use it. Other than blasting it with neutrons to enrich it back to fuel grade, that is.

    Disposing of it at an "off-site facility" is the safest way to deal with something that is dangerous for thousands of years. And the sun is the best off-site place I can think of. No people to worry about, and the waste would be completely destroyed as well.

    A clean hydrogen fusion reactor - a mini sun - would be ideal, but the tech for that is elusive. I would hope that in 50 years we could create such a thing, but I'm not holding my breath.

  18. #18
    Sophomoric Member Roody's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by GGDub
    They are doing this right now in an older oil field out here. With natural gas reserves quickly declining on this continent, there will be a lot of underground storage reservoirs available to put it in. The trick is economics. Fuel cells in cars are pretty cool too, but we just have to make sure we capture the water vapour, or we will run into the same sorts of problems.
    Ironically, Big Energy will probably want to use the captured CO2 to help them get more petroleum out of depleting fields. They'd pump the CO2 into the wells under pressure, using it to force out the last squeezings of oil or gas.


    "Think Outside the Cage"

  19. #19
    Pedaled too far. Artkansas's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by CommuterRun
    Why waste it when it can be recycled?
    How do you recycle radioactive waste?

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    Senior Citizen lyeinyoureye's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Artkansas
    How do you recycle radioactive waste?
    Transmutation.
    Quote Originally Posted by Wikipedia
    Isotopes of plutonium and other actinides tend to be long-lived with half-lives of many thousands of years, whereas radioactive fission products tend to be shorter-lived (most with half-lives of 30 years or less). From a waste management viewpoint, transmutation of actinides eliminates a very long-term radioactive hazard and replaces it with a much shorter-term one.
    Successful processing and transmutation would lead to a carbon dioxide free energy with the potential to power a reasonable amalgam of our current civilization for millions of years.

  21. #21
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    Nuclear energy! Safe and efficient. I visited the Tokamak Fusion Reactor in Princeton in 1986. They announced a "breakthrough that summer and stated that (with "Proper funding") they couold have a producing fusion reactor online in ten years. That would have been in 1996.

    How close are we to a fusion reactor, considering all the new technology available since 1986? i suppose I could do a search to find out. Fusion and electricity! Alternative sources only to fill inthe gap.

  22. #22
    In the right lane gerv's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by pgh1nc
    Nuclear energy! Safe and efficient. I visited the Tokamak Fusion Reactor in Princeton in 1986. They announced a "breakthrough that summer and stated that (with "Proper funding") they couold have a producing fusion reactor online in ten years. That would have been in 1996.

    How close are we to a fusion reactor, considering all the new technology available since 1986? i suppose I could do a search to find out. Fusion and electricity! Alternative sources only to fill inthe gap.
    Seems like you might have to wait a while...

    Fusion has been proposed as a long-term electrical power source with dramatically reduced ecological side effects compared to most sources of power in use today. To date, no fusion reactor has come close to producing net output power, but the latest designs are starting to approach this point.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fusion_power
    Some of the peak oil group, especially James Howard Kunstler, feel that nuclear systems would be the only backup possible for coal or oil generated electricity. Several countries, especially France, has invested heavily in nuclear. In the US, nuclear is unpopular for a number of reasons...mostly around 3 Mile Island. It's remarkable though that the US seems to have very little in the way of planning for any incident that might reduce or disrupt oil supply lines.

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