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2012 Rise In CO2 Levels Second-Highest In 54 Years
June 18, 2013 8:23 AM   Subscribe

The amount of heat-trapping carbon dioxide in the air jumped dramatically in 2012, making it very unlikely that global warming can be limited to another 2 degrees as many global leaders have hoped.

The average monthly co2 concentration reached 399.89 in May after several daily averages peaked past 400ppm. 10 NASA Climate Scientists commented on this milestone.
posted by j03 (111 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite

 
We are a society that has inadvertently chosen the double-black diamond run without having learned to ski first. It will be a bumpy ride.

Future generations will look back on our scientists' words and, for lack of snow, wonder what it means to ski.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 8:33 AM on June 18, 2013 [51 favorites]


Get out as early as you can,
and don't have any kids yourself.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 8:35 AM on June 18, 2013 [12 favorites]


Only the second-highest annual increase.

Progress?
posted by General Tonic at 8:48 AM on June 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


Interestingly, in spite of the rising CO2, the average global temperature has been fairly constant over the last 10 years and is forecast to stay put for a while longer. Well worth reading, down that page, are the various comments of scientists on this finding. What it comes down to is that the oceans are acting as a heat sink, accumulating the extra energy and moderating the atmospheric temperature. The oceans are also acting as a sink for carbon dioxide, moderating the rise of atmospheric CO2. As a result, oceans are both acidifying and warming — melting polar ice, killing coral reefs, etc.
posted by beagle at 8:52 AM on June 18, 2013


This caught my eye from the article: The measurements are taken from air samples captured away from civilization near a volcano in Mauna Loa, Hawaii.

Surely measuring carbon dioxide rates near an active volcano is a bad idea? I mean, they probably recorded high sulphur levels as well. Why not measure them somewhere remote, unpopulated and geologically stable. Or is this sentence out of place and they've actually measured in multiple locations and this is just the observatory ?
posted by BigCalm at 8:56 AM on June 18, 2013


We can't even keep people from dropping their litter all over the street... I'd be surprised if "global leaders" really even cared.
posted by smidgen at 8:57 AM on June 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


Does this affect mosquito activity or population?
posted by rahnefan at 8:58 AM on June 18, 2013


Ye-e-esss, the oceans are indeed acting like the 5mph bumper on a decent car, crumpling, and absorbing excess energy from a collision.

It is too bad, however, that the car is in the process of smashing head-on into a concrete bridge abutment at 75mph.
posted by seanmpuckett at 8:59 AM on June 18, 2013 [15 favorites]


beagle, that is _precisely_ why our efforts to 'save the planet' are screwed. This is not a problem that one person, one town, one corporation, one country or one government can fix. One person isn't causing climate change; several billion industrialized ones are. Joe Average will not rise up in sufficient numbers to force change in all the places where changes are needed until undeniable major symptoms are smacking him right in the face, and by that point it will be far, far too late.

Wait, did I say 'save the planet'? The planet is fine. The _people_...
posted by delfin at 9:00 AM on June 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


Does this affect mosquito activity or population?

Let's hope not, since they're an integral part of the food chain.
posted by fairmettle at 9:01 AM on June 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yes, surely they must not be taking the volcano into account, being climate scientists and all.
posted by smidgen at 9:02 AM on June 18, 2013 [28 favorites]


Well you know we'll just keep killing each other over petty political squabbles that don't actually matter instead of banding together to deal with the impending climate disaster that could easily kill us all.

tl;dr: Summer is coming.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 9:03 AM on June 18, 2013 [20 favorites]


What it comes down to is that the oceans are acting as a heat sink, accumulating the extra energy and moderating the atmospheric temperature. The oceans are also acting as a sink for carbon dioxide, moderating the rise of atmospheric CO2. As a result, oceans are both acidifying and warming — melting polar ice, killing coral reefs, etc.

Ya......y
posted by shakespeherian at 9:06 AM on June 18, 2013


Wasn't there a big drop off from the 2008 financial disaster? This rise may represent the end of that period.
posted by thelonius at 9:08 AM on June 18, 2013


Summer is coming.

In that universe the noble but foolish Martells get themselves murdered en masse and then the focus shifts to a gang of Starks we neither know nor care about
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 9:09 AM on June 18, 2013 [11 favorites]


Also the Mauna Loa observatory is about 30 miles, several thousand vertical feet, and on the other side of a mountain peak from the present lava flows.
posted by Joey Buttafoucault at 9:13 AM on June 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


.
posted by spitbull at 9:19 AM on June 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


Pft. Volcano monitoring and global warming. Clearly this is all a big liberal conspiracy.
Higher CO2 levels are a good thing. Plants breathe CO2, right? And we get oxygen from plants.
[/HAMBURGER]
posted by Cookiebastard at 9:31 AM on June 18, 2013


I honestly don't know how to be anything other than massively depressed by this. The more I watch, the more I see the bad things happening. The serious level of melting in Greenland. The Arctic ice sheet collapsing. Knowing that we're likely locked in to at least two degrees of warming, and that alone is going to be nasty - and looking more and more like we'll be getting even more.

I don't even know what I can do to start making a difference. I'm trying to become vegetarian, and my partner and I are seriously waffling on whether or not to have a child (both because it's said to be the biggest thing you can do to help reduce emissions, and I don't know if I want to bring a child into this). But those are still practically meaningless on the scale of this problem.

The only thing I can hope for is that technology finds some breakthroughs that will help us here. And even then, I'm not sure that's even possible.
posted by evilangela at 9:35 AM on June 18, 2013


Does this affect mosquito activity or population?
Let's hope not, since they're an integral part of the food chain.
No they're not. Scientists have looked at it and determined they are completely unnecessary (things like bats and spiders have plenty of other bugs to eat)

Also, supposedly Global Warming will supposedly increase Mosquito populations, not hurt them.
posted by delmoi at 9:38 AM on June 18, 2013 [4 favorites]


So... that extra fin on your utility bill to pay for renewable infrastructure: still too much?
posted by No Robots at 9:58 AM on June 18, 2013 [3 favorites]


I was kind of dreaming about an LA with giant green towers full of plants built as giant CO2/pollution sinks. Just massive pillars of green, sucking in all the bad air.

Not sure how feasible that is, but it made a striking image in my mind.
posted by klangklangston at 10:01 AM on June 18, 2013 [7 favorites]


I don't even know what I can do to start making a difference. I'm trying to become vegetarian, and my partner and I are seriously waffling on whether or not to have a child
This is going to be solved by policy, not personal piety. The best thing you can do is advocate for policy changes - we basically need to eliminate CO2 emissions in a few years. In order for that to happen there needs to be major investment in renewable energy, like wind and solar.

So, I would say the best thing to do on an individual level would be to install solar panels on your house if you have one - not only will it reduce your individual CO2 emissions levels, it will help increase demand for panels and ultimately help reduce their cost and so on. There are companies like Elon Musk's Solar City that will install the panels and charge you a monthly fee that's less then what you save on your electricity bills (so basically you pay nothing and start making money right away)

The most effective way to help combat global warming though is political advocacy, since like I said it's the policies that need to change.

There's an argument that no matter what we do in America it won't matter because China. But that's ridiculous. The US is the #2 carbon emitter and we're close to China, they just passed us recently.

And the reality is, it's not a global problem. Only a handful of large countries are responsible for almost all CO2 emissions. China, The US, EU, Japan, and Russia account for about 65% of CO2 emissions.

US carbon emissions have actually been dropping in the past few years. Our 2012 levels were lower then they've been since 1994. They're not dropping fast enough, but they are going down. The EU shouldn't be a problem, and if the US and EU both greatly reduce emissions themselves, it would be a lot easier to pressure China through trade sanctions and the like if they don't want to cut emissions (what's going to hurt their economy more, cutting emissions or giving up exporting to the two major consumer economies in the world?)

What's important to understand is that it is not an intractable problem from a technology standpoint, and it doesn't need to be a major sacrifice either - energy from renewable sources will actually be much cheaper in the long run. It's just a political problem, oil companies spend however many hundreds of millions of dollars on lobbying even running ads talking about how great they are, etc.

In order to actually stop global warming, the political problem needs to be solved.
posted by delmoi at 10:03 AM on June 18, 2013 [32 favorites]


We must redouble our efforts to limit science teaching in schools and return to a theologically based education system, so that these alarming measurements don't happen again in the future.
posted by ceribus peribus at 10:05 AM on June 18, 2013 [23 favorites]


I sure wish Metafilter had a reference librarian on call.
If MeFi wants to fund such a position, I'd gladly contribute toward that.

Opinions abound, everyone has several a day.
Assertions, likewise.

Citations, sources, bases for the opinions and assertions -- well, those are scarce.
You can look this stuff up.

There's little point trying to correct people who are wrong on the Internets, but the odds are good that whatever you know is memory and is out of date these days.

"It's a poor sort of memory that only works backwards."
Reference librarians get us past these natural limitations.
posted by hank at 10:06 AM on June 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


klangklangston: "I was kind of dreaming about an LA with giant green towers full of plants built as giant CO2/pollution sinks. Just massive pillars of green, sucking in all the bad air.

Not sure how feasible that is, but it made a striking image in my mind
"

You talking about something like this?
posted by Red Loop at 10:07 AM on June 18, 2013


I was kind of dreaming about an LA with giant green towers full of plants built as giant CO2/pollution sinks. Just massive pillars of green, sucking in all the bad air.

Not sure how feasible that is, but it made a striking image in my mind.
How do the plants get sunlight if they're in the middle of a tower? You would need artificial light which would require energy. Maybe something like that could be feasible with nuclear energy - using solar would be ... redundant.

Also, if you grow food crops the CO2 would be re-released when people eat them, or if they rot.

CO2 removal technology exists. It's used on things like the space station, submarines and I think you can even get portable ones for diving, so you don't need depletable air tanks. Apparently they used one in the Biosphere 2 thing in the 90s.

I wonder if we might not end up eventually building giant, nuclear powered CO2 scrubbers to remove it from the atmosphere. If we setup a cap and trade system, people could build things like that and then sell credits.
posted by delmoi at 10:13 AM on June 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


You talking about something like this?
That may be pretty, but I doubt it absorbs that much CO2
posted by delmoi at 10:15 AM on June 18, 2013


So long, and thanks for all the fish.
posted by odinsdream at 10:24 AM on June 18, 2013


I have my doubts about the viability of that plan myself, though it's a neat idea. I think one is already under construction but the reality of light, moisture, soil media, and the vagaries of plant growth make me think it's just a pretty idea that will be more work than its worth. It does seem similar to what ol' Klanger was talking about, which is why I linked to it.
posted by Red Loop at 10:32 AM on June 18, 2013


Good thing we can breathe money.

Future generations will look back on our scientists' words and, for lack of snow, wonder what it means to ski.

Nah, future generations will look back and just assume our scientists were doing a hell of a lot of cocaine: "We haven't been this high since the Pliocene!"
posted by Smedleyman at 10:37 AM on June 18, 2013 [3 favorites]


This is going to be solved by policy, not personal piety. The best thing you can do is advocate for policy changes - we basically need to eliminate CO2 emissions in a few years. In order for that to happen there needs to be major investment in renewable energy, like wind and solar.

So, I would say the best thing to do on an individual level would be to install solar panels on your house if you have one


Voluntarily installing solar panels is still personal piety, not policy. And it'll do far less good than choosing not to have a child that you otherwise would have had. At best, switching to solar eliminates the difference in carbon between whatever your electrical utility produces and whatever goes into making the solar panels. Not having a child eliminates an entire lifetime's worth of carbon production, plus the expected value of that child's descendants' carbon production. Not having any children at all is better still.

No, voluntarily choosing not to reproduce is the single best thing one can do for the environment. Advocating (and voting) for policy changes is important, but I suspect that for most individuals their marginal impact on policy is outstripped by the impact of not reproducing.

One could argue that we (as a species or society) need to produce future generations for societal or economic stability. To that I say two things: robots and the free flow of labor.
posted by jedicus at 10:47 AM on June 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


I was kind of dreaming about an LA with giant green towers full of plants built as giant CO2/pollution sinks. Just massive pillars of green, sucking in all the bad air.

Not sure how feasible that is, but it made a striking image in my mind.


Alas, contrary to popular belief, plants don't work that way. Yes, they use photosynthesis during the day to convert CO2 and water into complex carbohydrates such as sugar, and oxygen; but at night, they use respiration to burn those sugars - just like we do - using up oxygen and emitting carbon dioxide. Plants are largely carbon neutral over their lifetime, the only carbon 'store' is the plant itself. So unless we're letting the plants grow to maturity and then burying them in a deep pit and growing new ones, it wouldn't accomplish anything. And of course, we'd likely be burning fossil fuels to transport and bury the plant matter, which would release more carbon than we'd be burying. And concentrating heavy metals etc from airborne pollution in a place where it may leach into ground water probably would also be a risk.

And even if you solve those problems, it's a tiny, tiny effect compared to how much we're creating by building more coal plants and releasing by burning ever more gigatons of CO2 than to try and repair the damage after the fact by inefficient carbon capture methods. The carbon is already nicely captured and stored safely in the ground thanks to millions of years of natural processes. We just need to leave it the hell alone where it is.

We're not on target for a 2 deg rise in temperature by the end of the century, either. Based upon our current trajectory, if we don't make truly radical changes, it's a 6 deg rise. Two degrees is a pipe dream at this point, and we're going to miss it by a catastrophic amount.
posted by ArkhanJG at 10:52 AM on June 18, 2013 [4 favorites]


No, voluntarily choosing not to reproduce is the single best thing one can do for the environment.

Oof Thomas Malthus, how about we focus on actual fixes instead of EXTREME PERSONAL PIETY? Alternatively, the best thing you could do is cut down huge swathes of your fellow humans because that would eliminate generations of carbon production.
posted by yerfatma at 11:01 AM on June 18, 2013 [6 favorites]


MetaFilter: robots and the free flow of labor.
posted by MoonOrb at 11:02 AM on June 18, 2013 [3 favorites]


Jedicus: You're wrong. Population growth and emissions are not strictly correlated. Some of the countries who've seen the biggest increases in their emissions are countries whose populations are in decline.

Maybe you got duped by this fake graphic a Global Warming denialist outfit created that's been making the rounds to sell the idea that emissions and population growth are inextricably linked (it's to play into their political narrative about liberals being baby killers who want to force abortion on everyone, of course). The problem with this graph is they tweaked the scale to get the fit they wanted.

The reality is, we're not emitting CO2 because we need it, we're emitting more because we're wasting it, and there are a lot of people making a lot of money from its sale whether its used efficiently or not. There's no costs to the producers of fossil fuels if their customers are using their products wastefully--in fact, there's nothing but upside on a balance sheet.

The real world not so much, but that's accounting for you...
posted by saulgoodman at 11:02 AM on June 18, 2013 [7 favorites]


In other words - we've increased atmospheric CO2 by almost a third in 50 years, and we're not showing any real signs of slowing down.
posted by ArkhanJG at 11:03 AM on June 18, 2013


On the coal front, this is good news. Some existing plants are being retired. And new EPA rules (if they ever pass) will set CO2 emissions per MWh limits for new plants that are impossible to achieve with a pure coal plant.

Notice that in this article the Sierra Club doesn't mention nuclear. I know it isn't always the best solution, but if your priority is reducing CO2 emissions, it should at least be an option.
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 11:05 AM on June 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


Alternatively, the best thing you could do is cut down huge swathes of your fellow humans because that would eliminate generations of carbon production.

Did you not notice the word "voluntarily" in my comment? Your "modest proposal" is completely inapposite.

You're wrong. Population growth and emissions are not strictly correlated.

No, they aren't strictly correlated on a national level, but it is undeniable on an individual level. So if an individual wants to know what the best thing they can do is, not reproducing is likely it.

Maybe you got duped by this fake graphic a Global Warming denialist outfit created

Never seen it. I'm quite firmly convinced of the reality of anthropogenic climate change. In any case, obviously it would be absurd to talk of forced abortion or any such thing. I am speaking only and strictly of voluntary decisions not to have children in light of the reality of a) the huge carbon footprint a child in a developed country will have and b) the fact that said child will likely face a very unpleasant future in about 30-70 years as a result of our almost certain failure to do anything about climate change.
posted by jedicus at 11:09 AM on June 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


I've thought a lot about climate change, especially given the precarious balance between economic requirements and the Earth's carrying capacity. On one hand, we cannot simply stop burning coal and oil today. On the other hand, burning more coal and oil (emitting CO2) than the planet can absorb, will modify the environment. Tricky problem.

It doesn't help that people generally externalise the problem. They burn too much coal. They being China, America, Republicans, Democrats, Brazilians, Russians, Indians. The They rarely seems to include an individual. And it makes sense, for it's a basic game theory argument. If Person A is going to give up low-cost carbon-based fuels, for example, and Person B doesn't, Person A is paying a cost Person B is not. That is, Person A and Person B are achieving the same result, except paying different prices for it. The reality is that they are both better off if neither uses excess energy, however, if one does, then both will.

And then at the greater level, human population thrived because the Earth's atmosphere has been relatively stable. Weather patterns were regular-ish, and there was always more stuff. More oxygen, more fish, more cows, more copper, more oil. We (very wisely) invested the gains back into the system, producing a system by where we could extract more and more material with the same amount or less effort. Humanity then became the story of more. And not a little bit more. A LOT MORE. And we have all those people using energy and converting oxygen into carbon dioxide. Lungs, machines, animals. We are pumping epic amounts of CO2 out.

And the earth is cool. The earth can handle some of that. Trees love CO2, and so we're getting more trees. Which is good, because we're also chopping a lot more of them down. So we have more trees. But trees do something else. They absorb A LOT more water. All of these things compound so that the atmosphere becomes less predictable. Desirable coastal regions and dry mountain deserts become less desirable. The food production markets that people and global financial systems depend on, start to change. There are droughts.

We have built very permanent encampments in an environment that is starting to rapidly change. That is not a good idea. That will cause a lot of problems. Efficient systems are brittle, and flexible systems are inefficient. We are very efficient today. We have supply chains that sustain billions of people and highly interconnected economies. Trading uncorrelated weather derivatives is a career title. We have gone deeply into the land of abstraction, pinning all of our structures on a foundation assumed to be solid. We know plate tectonics change, and so we have building codes to deal with that. But what about large scale climate change? A situation where the water no longer falls where the water pipes were built? A situation where hurricanes rip through densely-populated metropolises. A situation where largely agrarian economies are relocated into cities.

Meanwhile, the atmosphere is changing. The solution to the human problem of efficiency is to co-locate. Resources are much better utilised in cities. And one can imagine a world of comparatively few large cities, where everyone lives. Very efficient. And very brittle.

As the atmosphere continues to change, we're not damaging the earth itself. The earth is cool. Nuclear plant blows up in Russia, nature flourishes. The earth is cool. It's US we have to worry about. If the climate changes too substantially, we're going to lose a lot of people as the carrying capacity plunges. We're already seeing record weather conditions around the world. Record meaning different. And we need more water and power than ever.

Essentially, it's a race. Either we can use all the dirt we're throwing up to get to a point of stasis. Solar cells. Recycled water. All of that good stuff. Which involves less consumption and more investment. Or we're going to consume, and end up in a situation where the earth no longer gives us a choice as to whether or not we are going to accept its limitations.

It's the same way the plague spread through an urbanising Europe. Those early cities were very efficient. There was a lot of value created there, however, it also meant that it was much easier for pathogens to spread. We learned the hard way, by losing A LOT of people. The new Dan Brown book makes the point that this enabled the Renaissance, and may well have contributed to evolution in some ways. We were much less advanced as a species then, so we couldn't have known.

Now we can know, and we're watching it happen. We're contributing to it knowingly this time. And as the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere rises, we will know it's rising. And we will continue to go to discount shopping centres and buy low-cost goods made in other countries, outsourcing our environmental damage to them. We will complain about them and wonder why they don't do more to contain their environmental impact.

And at some point, people may realise it doesn't matter where the CO2 comes from, it impacts everyone equally. The best thing that can happen for the environment – and by extension us – is if energy prices skyrocketed, so that we were forced to really consider our energy use. And we'll get there. Either we'll vote with our dollars for clean energy. Or the earth will continue to change to a point where life becomes increasingly difficult to maintain.

One way or the other, the amount of atmospheric CO2 will stabilise. I guess the big question for us as individuals and a species is what that experience is going to be like.
posted by nickrussell at 11:13 AM on June 18, 2013 [7 favorites]


Notice that in this article the Sierra Club doesn't mention nuclear. I know it isn't always the best solution, but if your priority is reducing CO2 emissions, it should at least be an option.

Nuclear has a whole set of problems that counter-indicate it as alternative to carbon. See this thread for full discussion.
posted by No Robots at 11:15 AM on June 18, 2013


Alternatively, the best thing you could do is cut down huge swathes of your fellow humans because that would eliminate generations of carbon production.

You're equating choosing not to have children with mass murder? Really?
posted by Thoughtcrime at 11:18 AM on June 18, 2013


Nuclear has a whole set of problems that counter-indicate it as alternative to carbon. See this thread for full discussion.

Rampant safety engineering problems aside, from a purely whole-cycle aspect nuclear is hardly a panacea for our carbon woes, when the carbon costs in mining, refining and delivering what fissile uranium remains to nuclear plants is considered, which themselves produce CO2 in their construction and operation. We're probably going to get better returns (i.e. greater odds at survivability) from efforts directed at land reclamation, carbon sequestration and genetic research to harden surviving food plants to the more chaotic and warmer environment that's coming.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:37 AM on June 18, 2013


Good thing we can breathe money.
Technically we won't start passing out until CO2 levels reach about 8%, or 8,000 PPM.

____

Voluntarily installing solar panels is still personal piety, not policy. ... At best, switching to solar eliminates the difference in carbon between whatever your electrical utility produces and whatever goes into making the solar panels. -- jedicus
Which in your mind is what, exactly? Because the numbers really do matter. There's a common brainless argument against green tech in general where people (often those who oppose policy any policy changes) claim that it doesn't help because it takes energy to create green tech, and therefore it must emit CO2. And of course they completely ignore how much CO2 gets emitted. In reality solar panels can be made using electricity from any source, including hydroelectric, wind, nuclear or already existing solar.

Secondly you're wrong anyway. Even if the 100% of the cost of solar panes was for fossil fuel energy used to create it, it would still pay for itself in a few years.

A coal plant continuously emits CO2 indefinitely to produce energy, while a solar panel only requires a one-time energy cost, and continues to produce energy indefinitely. They're just very large silicon chips with giant components instead of tiny ones, and panels installed in the 1970s are still working.

As far as 'piety' goes, I disagree. I don't think it's piety if it's a purely profitable economic decision, which installing solar panels is. And in some ways individual economic choices can produce a kind of 'policy' via the free market if people are motivated enough. And getting solar panels or buying something like Tesla's electric cars can have follow on effects. It means more money for those companies that they can use to improve efficiency as well as for lobbying for more favorable policies.

The more solar panels that get sold, the better the economies of scale can be, and as the amount of time required to recoup an investment drops more people will buy them.
it'll do far less good than choosing not to have a child that you otherwise would have had. ... voluntarily choosing not to reproduce is the single best thing one can do for the environment. -- jedicus
If proper policies are in place having additional children won't have an impact on future CO2 levels. On the other hand, if proper polices aren't put in place we are completely fucked, although having a kid might slightly increase just how fucked we are, I suppose.

Also, and this is something I don't think people realize, the time horizon for acting in a way that actually keeps us below 2°C is actually very short. It's so short that if you were to have a child today, the problem will basically need to be solved during their childhood, for the most part.

Not all children are going to have the same effect on global warming. Because the problem is largely political, having children and indoctrinating them as a future environmental activist may result in a better overall outcome.

There is the 'exponential' issue, 3 kids means 9 grandkids, 18 great grand kids, etc. But the timeframe for dealing with this problem is too short for that to be a big issue. And the flip side of that, of course, is that it's too late for it to have any positive impact either. Not having a kid is not going to vastly reduce greenhouse gas emissions, which is what needs to happen in the next decade or so.

I also think it's a politically counterproductive argument.
posted by delmoi at 11:55 AM on June 18, 2013 [4 favorites]


Here's what to expect - degree-by-degree - when and if our global temperature rises anywhere from more than 1º, to 6º. It's a gross understatement to say that "this will not be a pretty picture".

For those that want to watch global warming with their popcorn:
Six Degrees til Doom (Part 1)

Six Degrees til Doom (Part 2)
posted by Vibrissae at 11:59 AM on June 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


the best thing to do on an individual level would be to install solar panels on your house if you have one

This is a surprisingly practical choice, too. I am getting a 2700-watt solar array installed on my roof next month, and it's only going to cost $13k up front. I'll get a few thousand of that back as a federal tax credit next year. The solar company has standing arrangements with local banks & credit unions so it is easy to get cheap financing; I'll pay the system off in five years at 4.75%. After that, it's free money - the system is designed to last at least 20 years.

What's 2700 watts worth? That's peak power, obviously, but it's still rather a lot; the solar company estimates it'll cover 60% of our total power needs. I think we can do even better than that; I'm replacing all the lights in the house with LEDs, and we have a brand new energy efficient fridge, so base level consumption should be ~600 watts. We'll spike above that when we use the oven, microwave, or clothes dryer, but those are relatively infrequent, short-duration activities.

If we can pull this off up here in sunny, bright, warm, clear-skied Seattle, I imagine you can probably do it too.

Next step: electric car.
posted by Mars Saxman at 12:00 PM on June 18, 2013 [8 favorites]


The lifetime CO2 output from a nuclear power plant is 1.6% that of a coal plant for the same energy output.

Think about the safety problems we've had with 50 years of nuclear power, and compare to 50 more years increasing CO2. I would think an environmental group's priority would be reducing CO2 emissions however we can.
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 12:00 PM on June 18, 2013 [4 favorites]


Was going to say, that CO2 output is comparable to wind and solar thermal, and less than solar PV.
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 12:06 PM on June 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


No, voluntarily choosing not to reproduce is the single best thing one can do for the environment.

If only.

Not reproducing means that the living space you now occupy-- along with the other critically limited resources you now command-- will go to the descendants of people who have no such scruples, and because of the demographic statistical bias toward large families and the fact that larger families typically pass along a tradition of larger families, those descendants will probably have larger families themselves than the average of their peers.

Therefore, not reproducing, or even reproducing at less than a replacement rate, will make the problem worse than it would have been if you reproduced just enough to replace yourself.
posted by jamjam at 12:06 PM on June 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


You know, I can't blame anyone for not highlighting nuclear as a solution to our problems. Fukushima did in fact show us that even though nuclear is a technology that's safer that coal plants in concept, it's nevertheless a technology that our actual institutions aren't yet smart enough to manage responsibly.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 12:14 PM on June 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


Lamar Smith: Overheated rhetoric on climate change doesn’t make for good policies

Michael Oppenheimer and Kevin Trenberth: Climate science tells us the alarm bells are ringing
posted by homunculus at 12:21 PM on June 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


Maybe you got duped by this fake graphic a Global Warming denialist outfit created that's been making the rounds to sell the idea that emissions and population growth are inextricably linked (it's to play into their political narrative about liberals being baby killers who want to force abortion on everyone, of course). The problem with this graph is they tweaked the scale to get the fit they wanted.
And of course the country with the largest increase in CO2 emissions is China, which actually has the one-child policy.
Notice that in this article the Sierra Club doesn't mention nuclear. I know it isn't always the best solution, but if your priority is reducing CO2 emissions, it should at least be an option. -- Pruitt-Igoe
At this point nukes are actually more expensive then solar, so there isn't really any point in building them at this point when you could take the money and build a solar plant that would pay for itself by the time a nuclear plant even started generating electricity. Maybe once all our daytime energy needs are met by solar it might they might make more economic sense.

Plus, nuke advocates love to bash solar for some reason, which is highly annoying.

(I do think we should be spending money researching magnetic confinement fusion technology, though.)
No, they aren't strictly correlated on a national level, but it is undeniable on an individual level. So if an individual wants to know what the best thing they can do is, not reproducing is likely it. -- jedicus
That's not true at all, if you install solar panels and get an electric car, your personal emissions can approach zero.

And, if you install enough solar panels you net personal, net emissions can actually be negative - you'll be putting more energy onto the grid then you use, possibly reducing total emissions far more then you actually put out.

If you can get your kids to do the same, their overall effect on the greenhouse emissions will be negative as well. And that's not even counting the potential future political impact your kids may have if you pass on environmental values.
posted by delmoi at 12:21 PM on June 18, 2013 [5 favorites]


This year alone, Japan is forecasted to install solar panels with the capacity of five to seven modern nuclear reactors.--"After Fukushima, Japan beginning to see the light in solar energy." In The Guardian, June 18, 2013.
posted by No Robots at 12:25 PM on June 18, 2013


Thanks delmoi - it was a serious question, even if it didn't read like one.
posted by rahnefan at 12:28 PM on June 18, 2013


Honestly, climate change has zero effect on my choices (though I have no kids or pets so I'm probably doing reasonably well, overall), but I'm not wasteful because it saves money to take that approach.

But what do I know? I was checking out some indoor skiing earlier today.
posted by ambient2 at 12:34 PM on June 18, 2013


no, voluntarily choosing not to reproduce is the single best thing one can do for the environment.

I don't actually think this is in any way a realistic avenue to pursue. What are people going to care about an environment without humans, or a planet of humans they don't care about any more than they do already? Already a lot of people don't give a shit about what happens past the end of their own driveways, let alone people they will never meet affected by war, starvation, and disease. At least with a child they might consider what happens to the world after they're gone, because there'll be someone in the world that they hope has a good life without them. It is not hard to find evidence of our selfishness and short-sightedness otherwise.
posted by Hoopo at 12:47 PM on June 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


Hoopo, I don't plan on having children (though admittedly I do have nieces), but I still absolutely care about my species' continued survival and well-being. You statement reminds me of religious fundamentalists who doubt that anyone can be truly good without believing in a god. Childless environmentalist do exist, just like secular humanists exist.
posted by Thoughtcrime at 1:16 PM on June 18, 2013 [3 favorites]


delmoi:
Does this affect mosquito activity or population?
Let's hope not, since they're an integral part of the food chain.
No they're not. Scientists have looked at it and determined they are completely unnecessary (things like bats and spiders have plenty of other bugs to eat)
You're gonna have to back that incredible claim up with a reference. Removing millions of tons of biomass should have an effect on the ecosystem.
posted by IAmBroom at 1:37 PM on June 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


I've thought a lot about climate change, especially given the precarious balance between economic requirements and the Earth's carrying capacity. On one hand, we cannot simply stop burning coal and oil today. -- nickrussell

In the next 24 hours? That would obviously cause problems.

But how soon do you think it would actually take? As far as the US is concerned, a major investment in solar energy to replace coal and natural gas power generation, and a major investment in retrofitting old houses to replace heating by oil or natural gas, and a switch to largely electric cars could solve a huge portion of the problem.

To put that into perspective, If the US is using about 1.027*1020 J energy a year, that comes out to a continuous flow of about 3.25 Terra watts on average.

Solar panels cost less then $1/watt, but because the sun doesn't shine 24/7 you get the equivalent of 2-6 hours of peak output spread out over the day depending on latitude, season, etc. The http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gujarat_Solar_Park had about 856 megawatts of installed in march and averaged over the whole month 175MW (it generated 127 gigawatt hours in a month)

That's the equivalent of operating at peak capacity for 4.9 hours a day.

So, to generate 3.25 Terrawatts of energy, we would need about 15 Terrawatts of solar energy. You can buy solar panels wholesale today for $0.86 cents a watt. At that price it would cost $1.5 trillion a year to replace all of our energy consumption with solar in 10 years.

That's obviously a very rough estimate of the total cost, it ignores on the one hand installation cost and the issue of power at night (wind, hydroelectric, higher energy costs at night means more stuff done during the day, maybe nuclear) but also things that would reduce the cost, including the fact that we would start saving/generating revenue immediately, and economies of scale that would occur with that much production. Overall I think it would actually cost less.

In 2012 we imported 3.8 billion barrels of oil, and the current cost is about $100 a barrel. So that's about $0.4 trillion a year just leaving the country. So the cost to replace all of our energy production with solar energy is the cost of 37 years of oil imports. Looking at this and converting to barrels of oil equivalent it seems we produce 4.3 billion BOE of natural gas, 3.8 GBOE of coal and 2.6 GBOE of 'liquids' which I assume actually does end up in actual barrels.

Now all of those things have different prices, but if we assume natural gas costs $25/million Btu (or $133 BOE) and coal costs, I don't know, $30/ BOE that comes out to $0.8 trillion dollars a year spent on domestically produced energy , plus the $0.4 trillion a year on imports that almost what we would need to pay to build 15 Terrawatts of installed solar production.

So, for example, a 100% tax on fossil fuels would pay for most of it, and as I said you start making money right away.

But obviously you see the political problem. $0.8 Trillion dollars a year stops going to domestic oil producers. And they definitely spend that money lobbying against doing anything about climate change.

But technically, economically, not a problem.
This is a surprisingly practical choice, too. I am getting a 2700-watt solar array installed on my roof next month, and it's only going to cost $13k up front. I'll get a few thousand of that back as a federal tax credit next year. The solar company has standing arrangements with local banks & credit unions so it is easy to get cheap financing; I'll pay the system off in five years at 4.75%. After that, it's free money - the system is designed to last at least 20 years. -- Mars Saxman
Awesome!
Think about the safety problems we've had with 50 years of nuclear power, and compare to 50 more years increasing CO2. I would think an environmental group's priority would be reducing CO2 emissions however we can. -- Pruitt-Igoe
Yet, they are clearly far worse then the problems caused by wind and solar, or hydroelectric, over the past 50 years. Including hydroelectric, we already generate more energy from renewables then nuclear power.

There is a political question here - will including advocacy for nuclear energy increase or decrease support for fixing global warming overall. Since nuclear energy is politically polarizing it may end up turning more people off. If nuclear energy were actually needed as part of the solution mix, that would be one thing. However, it's not needed and it's more expensive then solar. So what's the point? All you accomplish by advocating nuclear as a solution to global warming is turning people off.

If a sensible cap 'n' trade or carbon tax system were put in place, and we end up with a ton of solar the cost of energy will flip from being more expensive during the day to being more expensive at night. If that happens it may be that nuclear energy will become cost effective where solar can't compete (at night).

And like I said, the perpetual bashing of solar energy by nuclear advocates is annoying. They are annoying in general.
posted by delmoi at 1:38 PM on June 18, 2013 [4 favorites]


Childless environmentalist do exist, just like secular humanists exist.

It's possible I didn't get across what I meant to because I haven't slept much in the last 24 hours, but nowhere did I mean to imply that children are the only reason for people to care. They are a good reason to care and to act, though. I mean, sure, if you ask them, 99% of people would say they care about the survival of the human race.

There are plenty of childless environmentalists absolutely, but as we can see there haven't been enough environmentalists period to compensate for all of the people not giving a shit/not doing anything. Having children could help get people to think about the future for their childrens' sake where they might otherwise just crank the A/C or drive when they could walk.
posted by Hoopo at 1:38 PM on June 18, 2013


You're gonna have to back that incredible claim up with a reference. Removing millions of tons of biomass should have an effect on the ecosystem.
My reference is the lack of a reference for the " they're an integral part of the food chain." Claim. Also this article in Nature I found with about 5 seconds of googling
posted by delmoi at 1:41 PM on June 18, 2013


delmoi:
You're gonna have to back that incredible claim up with a reference. Removing millions of tons of biomass should have an effect on the ecosystem.
My reference is the lack of a reference for the " they're an integral part of the food chain." Claim.
I don't think you're clear on how it works. Whether or not "A is B" is properly supported, "A is not B" is still a statement requiring support. If someone says "John Lennon was a member of the Beatles", but doesn't back it up, that doesn't automatically mean "John Lennon wasn't a member of the Beatles" is true.
Also this article in Nature I found with about 5 seconds of googling
Thanks. A quick look at your reference comes up with quotes like
The mosquitofish (Gambusia affinis), for example, is a specialized predator — so effective at killing mosquitoes that it is stocked in rice fields and swimming pools as pest control — that could go extinct. And the loss of these or other fish could have major effects up and down the food chain.
Ergo, some scientists believe the article's premise, while some disagree. Basically, it's a crap shoot, not a fact.
posted by IAmBroom at 1:49 PM on June 18, 2013 [3 favorites]


I would forgive Obama his hedging on civil liberties stuff if he made a Global Warming Manhattan Project
posted by angrycat at 2:05 PM on June 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


Meanwhile, in the real world...

Antarctic sea ice area is near a record high for the date, and up more than 10% since 1979.

Looking at DMI records going back to 1958, one can clearly see that we are currently experiencing the coldest start to the Arctic summer on record.

Tornado and hurricane strikes are down in the US and 2013 is currently the quietest fire season on record.

But why bother with facts when doom and gloom is so much jucier?
posted by GrooveJedi at 2:11 PM on June 18, 2013


That beeping noise is GrooveJedi's cherry picker arriving just in time to quickly disprove an overwhelming consensus built on over a century of scientific inquiry.
posted by [expletive deleted] at 2:19 PM on June 18, 2013 [26 favorites]


One of the things that I think holds back the adoption of renewables is that they introduce new requirements for a power grid which barely fulfills its mandate as it is. We need to fix the power grid.

On the subject of doom and gloom, a reminder: if you haven't visited Glacier National Park, you should stop procrastinating and finalize your plans, because the glaciers may not be there as long as we thought. It won't be the same afterwards.
posted by feloniousmonk at 2:19 PM on June 18, 2013


Also, supposedly Global Warming will supposedly increase Mosquito populations, not hurt them.

When one "supposedly" isn't good enough, try two.

It's a common misperception that a rise in temperatures would result in more mosquitos and thus more diseases such as malaria. Professor Paul Reiter of the Pasteur Institute in Paris is recognized as one of the world's leading experts on malaria. According to Professor Reiter, mosquitos actually thrive in very cold temperatures.

"Mosquitoes are not specifically tropical. Most people will realize that in temperate regions there are mosquitoes. In fact, mosquitoes are extremely abundant in the Arctic. The most devastating epidemic of malaria was in the Soviet Union in the 1920s. There were something like 13 million cases a year, and something like 600,000 deaths. A tremendous catastrophe that reached up to the arctic circle. Archangel had 30,000 cases and about 10,000 deaths. So it's not a tropical disease. Yet these people in the global warming fraternity invent the idea that malaria will move northwards."
posted by GrooveJedi at 2:22 PM on June 18, 2013


the glaciers may not be there as long as we thought. It won't be the same afterwards.

In 1975, scientists were ringing the alarm bells that the glaciers were actually advancing and forcing animals out of the region.

Here's an article from December 29, 1900 which talks about the rapid decline (86%) of Swiss Glaciers with Carbon Dioxide levels well below 300ppm.

In 1922, we were warned that the Arctic was dramatically warming and melting, glaciers disappearing and animals forced to migrate.

This article from 1950 warns that the earth is getting warmer, glaciers are melting and sea levels will rise 150 feet.

This article from September 28, 1910 says that glaciers were melting during some of the coldest years on record. "Except over a small area, it is generally understood, the glaciers of the world are retreating to the mountains" ... Imagine that.

Here's another one from October 14, 1902 - Alpine Glaciers Disappearing!

So you see, glaciers have always been melting, for well over a hundred years.

Of course all of those scientists were wrong. But TODAY'S SCIENTISTS ARE CORRECT, YOU SEE. Because science is more advanced now and we have consensus and technology and stuff.
posted by GrooveJedi at 2:32 PM on June 18, 2013


Because science is more advanced now and we have consensus and technology and stuff.

Yes, science is much more advanced than in 1900, 1902, 1910, and 1950. I can't believe anyone would try to dismiss this on the basis of "some scientists were wrong once I WON'T GET FOOLED AGAIN"
posted by Hoopo at 2:42 PM on June 18, 2013 [13 favorites]


Unfrozen Caveman Commenter?
posted by entropicamericana at 2:47 PM on June 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


I can't read your position, GrooveJedi. Are you saying that we can't know anything and therefore shouldn't change anything we're doing?
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 2:52 PM on June 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


They're wrong everyday, because they're basing most of their predictions on silly computer models instead of doing actual ... you know, science.

The experts in 1969 said the Arctic would be ice free within 2 decades.

This Arctic expert said the Arctic would be ice free by the year 2000.

Al Gore said it would be ice free by 2008.

NASA says it will be ice free by the end of this summer (2013).

This genius says the Arctic will be ice free in 90 days and cause massive disruption to the entire planet.

PIOMAS says it will be ice free by 2014.

But go ahead and keep believing them as they continue to move their goalposts.
posted by GrooveJedi at 2:53 PM on June 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


Never trust anyone whose arguments about science are structured like legal arguments. "I contend that there is no such thing as climate change; in the alternative, it is clear that my client, Mr Humanity, is not responsible for any change; in the alternative, I put it to you that the climate change Mr Humanity is alleged to be causing will not have any adverse impact on the world."
posted by howfar at 2:56 PM on June 18, 2013 [9 favorites]


I can't read your position, GrooveJedi. Are you saying that we can't know anything and therefore shouldn't change anything we're doing?

No. I'm saying we can't actually know anything about the climate because it's quite possibly the youngest science out there and these charlatans have proven to be nothing but incompetent at best, criminal at worst. Every single one of their predictions have failed. They have slipped into the realm of pseudo-science and false consensus.

However, we should, as individuals live our lives in a way that is in harmony with the planet. We should certainly reduce pollution and work to fix real problems like finding clean drinking water for the billions of people without it. Or giving electricity to the third world. But to worry about the climate, at this point is silly and I will gladly wager against an ice free Arctic (possibly one of the stupidest predictions ever) with anyone on here. Any takers?
posted by GrooveJedi at 2:58 PM on June 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


I will gladly wager against an ice free Arctic

Surprised to the trump card played so early in the game.
posted by howfar at 3:00 PM on June 18, 2013


You can track the daily extent of Arctic sea ice here.
posted by Seymour Zamboni at 3:02 PM on June 18, 2013 [4 favorites]


[Folks, we're not doing this whole dance again. Please act like this is not your first day on the internet. GrooveJedi, you've done basically this same thing in a previous thread already, do not rehash it in here, period.]
posted by cortex at 3:06 PM on June 18, 2013 [3 favorites]


Pay no attention to that steady, gradual decline in Arctic ice. Sharply rising CO2 levels have nothing to do with the non-existant shrinkage, either.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 3:07 PM on June 18, 2013 [4 favorites]


[If you want to talk about moderation, reach us at the contact form or post to Metatalk. It's not okay to gripe in-thread about it, and I was already pretty clear about cutting it out in here.]
posted by cortex at 3:18 PM on June 18, 2013


I don't even know what I can do to start making a difference. I'm trying to become vegetarian, and my partner and I are seriously waffling on whether or not to have a child
The best thing you can do is advocate for policy changes - we basically need to eliminate CO2 emissions in a few years. In order for that to happen there needs to be major investment in renewable energy, like wind and solar.

So, I would say the best thing to do on an individual level would be to install solar panels on your house if you have one - not only will it reduce your individual CO2 emissions levels, it will help increase demand for panels and ultimately help reduce their cost and so on.

Humans are social. You can affect policy by writing to legislators, letters to the paper, joining demonstrations, talking to the neighbors. If you get a car, consider a hybrid. Paint the roof white, use the clothesline instead of the dryer, use LED or CFL bulbs, don't live in a huge house, add solar panels, etc. Support energy initiatives where you live and where you work. It takes a groundswell to make change happen, and there are powerful interests committed to the status quo. You, alone, may not see the difference you make, but if enough people get active, it will matter. Most energy-saving efforts save money (and you should be wary of those that don't), so it's a good idea anyway.

Seriously, climate change is real and it's happening. The models are based on very complex interactions of weather, so projections may not be specifically accurate, but it's time to respond. In the incredibly unlikely scenario in which Global climate change is averted by some unforeseen circumstance, the worst that would have happened is a lot less air and pollution, a lot more energy reserves available. A serious effort to reduce carbon output would create employment and innovation. The alternative - continuing the consumerist lifestyle, continuing to use energy reserves carelessly - hasn't made people very happy.
posted by theora55 at 3:26 PM on June 18, 2013


There have been some interesting back of the envelope calculations and analysis in this thread. If you are interested in an objective analysis of our energy consumption and the challenges we face to modify how we produce that energy, then watch the movie Switch.
posted by Seymour Zamboni at 3:30 PM on June 18, 2013


Mars Saxman: "f we can pull this off up here in sunny, bright, warm, clear-skied Seattle, I imagine you can probably do it too."

Yeah, what if I don't have 13k? I'd love to have all-solar here, but the fact is it's not that easy for most people.
posted by Red Loop at 4:34 PM on June 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yeah, what if I don't have 13k? I'd love to have all-solar here, but the fact is it's not that easy for most people.

Just call a solar financing company like solar city. They will install panels for free, and charge you a monthly bill, but that bill will be less then then the reduction in your electricity bill. Total initial cost is $0.

I don't mean to shill for just one company, that one was founded by Elon Musk (guy behind Tesla and Space X) - I'm not familiar with any others off the top of my head.

posted by delmoi at 4:42 PM on June 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


Kolbert: Keystone XL is ‘Just Another Step On The March To Disaster’
posted by homunculus at 4:52 PM on June 18, 2013


Obama says a climate plan is coming next month, so climate hawks delay lawsuit
posted by homunculus at 4:53 PM on June 18, 2013


Meanwhile in Alaska
Talkeetna set an all-time high temperature record of 96°F on Monday, smashing its previous mark of 91°F set a day earlier, and previously set in June of 1969. In fact, it was warmer in Talkeetna, which is about 110 miles north of Anchorage, than it was in Miami, based on data from the National Weather Service (NWS). (As Weather Underground's Christopher Burt notes, there was an unofficial observation of 98°F on Monday, which would rank among the hottest all-time temperature records for the state.)
posted by stbalbach at 5:19 PM on June 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


..these charlatans have proven to be nothing but incompetent at best, criminal at worst. Every single one of their predictions have failed. They have slipped into the realm of pseudo-science.. (GrooveJedi)

Nobody likes personal attacks, or the people who make them. Tired old crank opinions like that ain't doing it anymore, might want to reconsider who you are alienating - the majority:
Americans’ belief in the reality of global warming has increased by 13 percentage points over the past two and a half years, from 57 percent in January 2010 to 70 percent in September 2012. At the same time, the number of Americans who say global warming is not happening has declined nearly by half, from 20 percent in January 2010 to only 12 percent today.1
posted by stbalbach at 5:37 PM on June 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


Red Loop, I don't have $13k either! I am putting zero dollars down on this project. All I had to do was sign on the dotted line and agree to pay the credit union $215/month for the next six years. (I misspoke earlier when I said it was five years.) The net cost will be much lower than that, of course, because my monthly power bill will be reduced.

You're right, of course - not everyone can afford to do this - but I bet there are a lot of people who could afford to go solar and simply don't realize how far the prices have dropped over the last five years. Solar is no longer just a good environmental investment; it can be a good financial investment too.
posted by Mars Saxman at 5:37 PM on June 18, 2013 [3 favorites]


Talkeetna set an all-time high temperature record of 96°F on Monday, smashing its previous mark of 91°F set a day earlier, and previously set in June of 1969. In fact, it was warmer in Talkeetna, which is about 110 miles north of Anchorage, than it was in Miami, based on data from the National Weather Service (NWS). (As Weather Underground's Christopher Burt notes, there was an unofficial observation of 98°F on Monday, which would rank among the hottest all-time temperature records for the state.)

*clears throat* Hello space entities and/or human successors capable of reinventing the internet. Just let it be known that we know that this shit is fucking crazy and we are deeply sorry. And wow, groovy archeological tech you got there. Okay, off to go extinct now.
posted by angrycat at 5:40 PM on June 18, 2013 [2 favorites]



The planet is fine. The _people_...


I like Carlin and I get his point in that bit, but it's a fairly shitty way to put it especially because a lot of people are too stupid to get the deeper meaning of it. People love excuses not to take action to make things better and that's what a dim person could learn from that tirade.
posted by Liquidwolf at 6:16 PM on June 18, 2013 [3 favorites]


Nobody likes personal attacks, or the people who make them. Tired old crank opinions like that ain't doing it anymore, might want to reconsider who you are alienating - the majority:
I disagree. I find personal attacks against climate deniers quite satisfying.
posted by delmoi at 6:25 PM on June 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


I suppose we have our answer to the Fermi paradox now as well.
posted by ob1quixote at 6:49 PM on June 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


klangklangston, there's another way to pack a whole bunch of CO2-capturing plants into a small space. This is an older interview about the pros and cons of using algae bioreactors to capture CO2 and produce biodiesel. Sorry I can't find it, but there was a more recent article that claimed large increases in output by increasing (I think they said doubling...) the CO2 concentration in the reactor. And the output of these processes is basically vegetable oil, some of which you can store indefinitely if you want.

On the solar panel front, our electric utility here in Calgary offers a three-level solar panel installation package. They basically bankroll your panel installation and use the cost savings to pay off the loan, or you can pay for a big chunk of it yourself and take the savings. What's interesting is that they clearly think they're going to make money from this program -- I have no idea what subsidies, if any, they're getting.
posted by sneebler at 7:11 PM on June 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


The Obscure County Election That Could Change the Planet

While individuals can't do much on their own to ameliorate climate change, communities of individuals can. Stopping the infrastructure that encourages the mining, sale and burning of coal would be a good place to start.
posted by Kerasia at 7:24 PM on June 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


Firebrand for Science, and Big Man on Campus: On TV and the Lecture Circuit, Bill Nye Aims to Change the World
posted by homunculus at 12:04 AM on June 19, 2013


At the risk of annoying Cortex, I would like to point out that the canard that "climate scientists used to be predicting an ice age in the 70s, so clearly they're unreliable and poor scientists", while not only poor logic (whether scientists we're wrong nearly half a century ago has no bearing on the truth of their claims today), but starts from an incorrect premise. Whenever this claim comes up, you will notice no link to an actual scientific paper, let alone a major review paper, is ever furnished. At best you will get newspaper articles, or other second or third hand " sources", which on this issue grossly mischaracterized scientific understanding at the time.


Sneebler, I looked into the Enmax programme, and its a complete non starter. They are very confusing about the actual rated capacity, let alone the expected generation of the panels. The cost is very high. Not counting the 3500$ up front cost, you can expect to generate about 20$ of electricity (roughly the lease cost of the panels) only one month of the year. The rest of the time, you will pay more for the panels than the electricity is worth. You never pay back the 3500$ under any reasonable discount rate. The problem of course is how incredibly cheap electricity is here, by global standards (~ 0.08$/kwh), and the lack of any kind of policy support or subsidy (like. a feed in tariff). As it turns out, I decided to spend almost the same amount on replacing some very old a drafty windows in my house. I havent done the calculations yet, but I'm pretty sure this will have a much greater impact on my energy consumption and ghg footprint than panels, while waiting for the terms to get better for solar here.
posted by bumpkin at 3:42 AM on June 19, 2013 [3 favorites]


Red Loop, I don't have $13k either! I am putting zero dollars down on this project. All I had to do was sign on the dotted line and agree to pay the credit union $215/month for the next six years. (I misspoke earlier when I said it was five years.) The net cost will be much lower than that, of course, because my monthly power bill will be reduced.

For 13K you could insulate all of the houses on your (proverbially, optimally dense) block which would produce the highest CO2 reduction/$. But, why would you spend money to insulate your neighbors houses, or restrict your freedom (and theirs) to live with X number of pixels of cellpadding between yourself and your neighbors.

Those are the kinds of policies that are needed. Whereas the idea of buying solar is doubling down on the bet that the best way to change things is if everyone suddenly did what was best for themselves. How has that worked out so far? The whole debate starts with the entirely justified assumption that people aren't actually capable of seeing past the local profit maxima involved in living the way we do...
posted by ennui.bz at 7:20 AM on June 19, 2013


Those are the kinds of policies that are needed. Whereas the idea of buying solar is doubling down on the bet that the best way to change things is if everyone suddenly did what was best for themselves. How has that worked out so far? The whole debate starts with the entirely justified assumption that people aren't actually capable of seeing past the local profit maxima involved in living the way we do...

Come on now, this is just silly. Property law and practical reality make it impossible for a single person to actually invest in something like insulating their whole neighborhood, even if they very much liked that idea.

Large scale municipal solar projects would obviously be cheaper per unit energy, but these are also practically unavailable, and in many parts of the country are actively resisted by both political parties and business interests.

The practical options available to homeowners are necessarily limited to what they can do on their property, and very indirectly who they can vote for during election cycles.
posted by odinsdream at 7:32 AM on June 19, 2013


I find personal attacks against climate deniers quite satisfying.

True (and understand the humor here) .. but it's fuel for the fire. Studies have shown not only doesn't it work, it increases the fanaticism of the deniers, who dig in harder.
posted by stbalbach at 9:21 AM on June 19, 2013


The Drowned/Burning World: Is J.G. Ballard’s dystopian prophecy of mankind’s future coming early?
posted by homunculus at 11:10 AM on June 19, 2013


For 13K you could insulate all of the houses on your (proverbially, optimally dense) block which would produce the highest CO2 reduction/$

For 13K and a handful of magic fairy dust, sure. In real life, I only get to make that kind of change to my own house, so that's what I'm doing. At the same time, everyone in the city is already doing exactly what you suggest, collectively - the City of Seattle has an energy efficiency program offering free upgrades to low-income households and subsidized low-interest loans to everyone else. We are all insulating all of the houses on all of our blocks at once.

Whereas the idea of buying solar is doubling down on the bet that the best way to change things is if everyone suddenly did what was best for themselves.

You bet I'm doing what is best for myself. We have no space elevator and no off-world colonies, so I'm stuck on this planet with the rest of you, and it's going to suck for everyone if we all keep trashing it. Do you want to live on a fucked-up planet? No? Neither do I.

There is no one tool which will solve this whole problem; we need to find as many tools as we can and use all of them. I'm putting solar panels on my house because it helps and it's something I can do. That doesn't mean it's the only thing I'm doing or that it's the only thing I think other people should do! It's one tool. It's a pretty neat tool. It's not going to solve the problem on its own, but I'm going to keep promoting it because it'd be great if more people tried it.

If you can see something that would help more, then do it, and tell me about it so I can do it too. But don't rag on me for doing what I can, what I know how to do, what's in my reach, just because there are other things which might help more which I don't actually have the resources to accomplish.
posted by Mars Saxman at 12:02 PM on June 19, 2013


I'll believe it when I see it, but...

Is Obama About to Get Serious on Climate Change?
President Obama is preparing a major policy push on climate change, including, for the first time, limits on greenhouse gas emissions from new and existing power plants, as well as expanded renewable energy development on public lands and an accelerated effort on energy efficiency in buildings and equipment, senior officials said Wednesday

Heather Zichal, the White House coordinator for energy and climate change [...] suggested in her remarks that a central part of the administration’s approach to dealing with climate change would be to use the authority given to the Environmental Protection Agency to address climate-altering pollutants from power plants under the Clean Air Act. She said none of the initiatives being considered by the administration required legislative action or new financing from Congress.
The EPA can actually do a fair amount if it decides to. And Republicans know it: it's one of the reasons they've held up the nomination of Gina McCarthy to head up the EPA. This announcement is likely to turn up the heat in that battle another notch or two.
posted by zombieflanders at 12:52 PM on June 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


More Pipeline Follies
posted by homunculus at 3:13 PM on June 19, 2013


Earth had third warmest May on record (tie with 1998 and 2005)
posted by homunculus at 10:43 AM on June 20, 2013


Saving the planet remains a very live option
posted by homunculus at 11:15 AM on June 20, 2013


Still Gripped by Violent Protest, Turkey Begins a Massive Push for Solar Power
posted by homunculus at 2:38 PM on June 20, 2013


A Clear View of Alaska—and Maybe Our Future
posted by homunculus at 6:53 PM on June 20, 2013


Back to No Future, Alyssa Battistoni, Jacobin, June 2013
posted by ob1quixote at 2:12 PM on June 21, 2013


China warns it will execute serious polluters
posted by homunculus at 3:26 PM on June 21, 2013


"California Breaks Another Solar Record."
posted by No Robots at 3:28 PM on June 21, 2013


For 13K you could insulate all of the houses on your (proverbially, optimally dense) block ... Whereas the idea of buying solar is doubling down on the bet that the best way to change things is if everyone suddenly did what was best for themselves. How has that worked out so far?
You cannot zero out CO2 emissions with insulation, but you can with solar panels. The 'ideology' is not the issue, all that matters is what's going to work, and what won't.

It also depends on what you're trying to accomplish. Insulation might do a better job then solar to warm a house in the winter, but solar powered air conditioning will probably do a better job of keeping you cool in the summer.
True (and understand the humor here) .. but it's fuel for the fire. Studies have shown not only doesn't it work, it increases the fanaticism of the deniers, who dig in harder.
The deniers are quite fanatical at this point, it reminds me of the arguments from neo-cons in the bush years that we shouldn't do whatever because it would "embolden the terrorists".

Also I was responding to the contention that "no one likes" personal attacks.
posted by delmoi at 4:47 PM on June 22, 2013


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