On 12/27/2011 9:04 AM, John Clark wrote:
On Tue, Dec 27, 2011 at 1:20 AM, meekerdb <meeke...@verizon.net <mailto:meeke...@verizon.net>> wrote:

      "I'm an environmentalist and my solution is (a) efficiency"

I'm all for efficiency, only a fool would not be, but it's not a solution to global warming or the energy shortage; its simple Economics 101, if things become more efficient, if energy becomes cheaper to use then people will use more of it.

Read McKay. If you improve the efficiency of space heating by a factor of five, I don't think people will turn their thermostats up to 110F. Jevon's law doesn't apply to everything.

     "(b) liquid thorium reactors"

Excellent, I wish all environmentalist were like you.

     "(c) renewable energy"

Most "renewable energy" turns out to be moonshine and only exist because of big government subsidies. And when you actually try to build something you soon discover that environmentalist don't like them; wind farms are ugly and noisy and kill little birdies, solar farms take so much land that they endanger rare desert species, geothermal smells bad and causes earthquakes,

Of course there are downsides to everything and the benefits and disadvantages don't accrue to the same people. However coal mines are dirty and ugly and release radium into the air. Oil production is subsidized by invading whoever threatens not to sell it. That wind and solar and tidal energy generation require government subsidy to compete with fossil fuel doesn't make them "moonshine" if there are offsetting benefits.

ethanol production hampers food production (they're right about that one), and hydroelectric and nuclear fission most will refuse even to consider. As I said the preferred solution of most environmentalist is to freeze in the dark.

I don't think you speak for most environmentalist. In fact you don't speak for any that I know and I know quite a few. Do you have a poll or survey to support your assertion, or is it a mere invention to discredit those who would disagree with you?

     "and (d) lower population."

Easier said than done; that decision is not made by government think tanks but by sleepy people in the middle of the night.

       "Do you see any non-environmentalist doing anything except mining coal 
    digging tar sand?"

Yes Nathan Myhrvold, he's a billionaire and the former chief technical officer at Microsoft, he wants to build an artificial volcano.

An interesting proposal and one we may need.

Mt Pinatubo in 1991 became the best studied large volcanic eruption in history, it put more sulfur dioxide into the stratosphere than any volcano since Krakatoa in 1883. There is no longer any dispute that stratospheric sulfur dioxide leads to more diffuse sunlight, a decrease in the ozone layer, and a general cooling of the planet. What was astonishing was how little stratospheric sulfur dioxide was needed. If you injected it in the arctic where it would be about 4 times more effective, about 100,000 tons a year would reverse global warming in the northern hemisphere. That works out to 34 gallons per minute, a bit more than what a standard garden hose could deliver but much less than a fire hose. We already spew out over 200,000,000 tons of sulfur dioxide into the atmosphere each year, but all of that is in the lower troposphere where it has little or no cooling effect, the additional 100,000 tons is a drop in the bucket if you're looking at the tonnage, but it's in the stratosphere where its vastly more effective.

Myhrvold wasn't suggesting anything as ambitious as a space elevator, just a light hose about 2 inches in diameter going up about 18 miles. In one design he burns sulfur to make sulfur dioxide, he then liquefies it and injects it into the stratosphere with a hose supported every 500 to 1000 feet with helium balloons. Myhrvold thinks this design would cost about 150 million dollars to build and about 100 million a year to operate. In another design that would probably be even cheaper he just slips a sleeve over the smokestack of any existing small to midsize coal power plant in the higher latitudes and uses the hot exhaust to fill hot air balloons to support the hose.

If Myhrvold's cost estimate is correct that means it would take 50 million dollars less to cure global warming than it cost Al Gore to just advertise the evils of climate change. But even if Myhrvold's estimate is ten times or a hundred times too low it hardly matters, it's still chump change. In a report to the British government economist Nicholas Stern said that to reduce carbon emissions enough to stabilize global warming by the end of this century we would need to spend 1.5% of global GDP each year, that works out to 1.2 trillion (trillion with a t) dollars EACH YEAR.

One great thing about Myhrvold's idea is that you're not doing anything 

Of course what you're doing is to continue adding CO2 to the atmosphere. That means you can only stop adding SO2 if you can stand the warming from the added CO2. It's not a bad idea, but I we should have demonstration and experimental evaluation before concluding that there's no problem and we can just keep increasing the CO2 level. There are obviously other possible effects such as ocean acidification to be considered.

if for whatever reason you want to stop you just turn a valve on a hose and in about a year all the sulfur dioxide you injected will settle out of the atmosphere. And Myhrvold isn't the only fan of this idea, Paul Crutzen won a Nobel prize for his work on ozone depletion, in 2006 he said efforts to solve the problem by reducing greenhouse gases were doomed to be “grossly unsuccessful” and that an injection of sulfur in the stratosphere “is the only option available to rapidly reduce temperature rises and counteract other climatic effects”. Crutzen acknowledged that it would reduce the ozone layer but the change would be small and the the benefit would be much greater than the harm.

And by the way, diffuse sunlight, another of the allegedly dreadful things associated with sulfur dioxide high up in the atmosphere, well..., plant photosynthesis is more efficient under diffuse light. Plants grow better in air with lots of CO2 in it too, but that's another story.

    "Jim Hanson points out there is uncertainty on the order of 1000ppm 
regarding the
    ancient atmosphere. "

Even if that is true, and remember the uncertainty can go in either direction, how do you explain the late Ordovician period?

Indeed the uncertainty can go either way...which is good to keep in mind when considering estimates of future effects of current fossil fuel consumption.

450 million years ago, there was 4400 ppm of CO2 in the atmosphere verses 380 today, and yet the world was in the grip of a severe ice age.


    "And it's not surprising that nobody who's comfortable wants to take 
seriously a
    problem that might upset their world."

No environmentalist has proposed a solution to global warming where the cure was not worse than the disease.

That depends a lot on how bad the disease may be. Did you read Donald McKay's proposal for the U.K? What proposed solution do you refer to?

Environmentalist like to picture themselves as always occupying the high ground but they have a lot to answer for, their pressure to ban DDT has killed tens of millions of people


and if China had taken their advice and not used so much coal then 600 million people would still be in grinding poverty and not in the middle class.

Where exactly is this advice to not use so much coal written down? Is simply pointing out the consequences advice? If the atmosphere has a limited capacity to absorb CO2 and still provide a habitable climate then isn't burning fossil fuel a paradigmatic tragedy of the commons? Of course it is in the immediate interest of everyone to use as much of that capacity as possible.

Do you equally credit the government disincentives for having more than one child? An instance where China did take the advice of environmentalists.


  John K Clark
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