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Permafrost - n. Ground that is permanently frozen.
August 11, 2005 2:33 PM   Subscribe

Siberia's permafrost is melting. New Scientist reports that 250 million acres of permafrost are thawing, exposing the world's largest peat bog. This is likely to release billions of tons of methane gas. This would likely cause a positive feedback loop, massively accelerating global warming.
posted by mosch (87 comments total)

 
wearesoscrewed

Seriously though I think it's beyond repair for the most part and not from a physical perspective but from a political one.

Why is there any debate? Why is there not action? The interests in power don't have a 10 year planning horizon much less a 50, 100 or 1000 year one.
posted by aaronscool at 2:56 PM on August 11, 2005


Man, everytime I read one of these stories I feel like we are at war with the earth.
posted by Navek Rednam at 2:59 PM on August 11, 2005


Intresting.

There's a theory that says if you're in a 'stable' condition, even a little change can cascade and put you into another stable condition.

That said:
ratio of methane in the air 0.0000017
atmospheric pressure        14.7 PSI
surface area of earth       5.1E+14 M
inches per meter            39.3700787
inches on surface of earth  2.00787E+16
pounds of atmosphere        2.95157E+17
pounds of methane in air    5.01768E+11
tons of methane in the air  250,883,858
So there are only 250 million tons of methane out there right now, according to my calculations.
posted by delmoi at 3:00 PM on August 11, 2005


God damn it. Why did we create all that peat?
posted by rush at 3:06 PM on August 11, 2005


Oh and I forgot to put in there "Venus is nice this time of year..."
posted by aaronscool at 3:13 PM on August 11, 2005


There is a simple reason why things like this don't matter, because kids are stupid and apolitical. The people this is going to affect the most are the least likely to care, so their parents are free to rob their kids' future for their convenience today. This is also the reason behind huge, unsustainable deficits.
posted by [expletive deleted] at 3:14 PM on August 11, 2005


... exposing the world's largest peat bog.

I, for one, welcome the creation of a burgeoning Siberian whisky industry. It'll give the Brits something to keep themselves warm with as the gulf stream peters out and they're buried under Scandanavian-style winters.

Cheers!
posted by rkent at 3:16 PM on August 11, 2005


Methane breaks down quickly, os this would only be a spike in greenhouse effects rather than a permanent change. Of course such a spike could set off whatever the next climate disaster happens to be...

Oh, and if the bogs dry out the methane will break down and be released as good old CO2. Nice.
posted by Artw at 3:18 PM on August 11, 2005


I'm just confused why "conservative" people are against erring on the side of caution.

GE seems to have the right idea, putting significant efforts into wind power, which is likely to pan out very well for them in a warmed up future.
posted by mosch at 3:20 PM on August 11, 2005


Link's busted.

But this is bad, bad news. Can't we all just turn our air conditioners on to high and open the doors and windows and cool off the world that way?

No? Damn, well I'm all out of ideas.
posted by fenriq at 3:21 PM on August 11, 2005


Navek Rednam: Maybe you haven't heard. We ARE at war.
posted by Laen at 3:23 PM on August 11, 2005


There are a few developers out here in California that are selling Zero Emission Homes, which use a lot of technologies to drastically cut electrical usage.

My understanding is that the price premium is already quite reasonable (something like $40k, and an expected breakeven point of 12 years). My hope is that these technologies will get wider deployment, and further refinement, as the costs continue to decrease.

Maybe, if we're lucky, our great grand-kids won't punch is in the nads for our current behaviours.
posted by mosch at 3:27 PM on August 11, 2005


Counterpoint (sort of).

Maybe we have hope.
posted by taursir at 3:29 PM on August 11, 2005


fucking sweet. i'm having a bad day and the world can't end soon enough.
posted by keswick at 3:36 PM on August 11, 2005


Artw, unfortunately, although methane is in the atmosphere for a much shorter time than CO2, it's final form is to be oxidized to CO2. So all that short lived methane eventually will become long lived CO2. Not pretty.
posted by humbe at 3:38 PM on August 11, 2005


Carbon sequestration methods.
posted by Rothko at 3:42 PM on August 11, 2005


If it already wasn't posted somewhere NPR's Open Source has been on a bit of a Climate Change kick recently. Last week's show was pretty scathing and it's nice to see some folks kicking it up a notch.
posted by aaronscool at 3:53 PM on August 11, 2005


Can I just choose not to believe this, like everyone else?

One second...ahhhhh..much better. (Just released some methane gas of my own :p)
posted by nickerbocker at 4:00 PM on August 11, 2005


kids are stupid and apolitical. Hmm...I resent that.

I wonder if there is there any way to harness this energy. I mean, we might as well make something of it so that we can make our other resources last longer.
posted by state fxn at 4:12 PM on August 11, 2005


humbe - nice... double-trouble!
posted by Artw at 4:14 PM on August 11, 2005


rkent proved that I wasn't the only one to see this and immediately think some variant of "peat? lots of peat?! mmmm, scotch".
posted by flaterik at 4:15 PM on August 11, 2005


mosch, got a website about those homes? I'm going to be building in the next few years and would like to consider one of those.

Did anyone else think about frat brothers lighting farts on fire when they read this? Oh, I see, the adults thought about scotch and I thought about farts. Nice!
posted by fenriq at 4:19 PM on August 11, 2005


Scotch makes me gassy, so I thought about both.
posted by maxsparber at 4:30 PM on August 11, 2005


I have seen the future!
posted by indifferent at 4:30 PM on August 11, 2005


I'm just confused why "conservative" people are against erring on the side of caution.


Eggs-freakin'-zackly!

Why is it a right-wing trait?!! Ever since Bjorn Lomborg became known, in seems all the right wing blogs treat him as some sort of God. His words are written in stone. As the rider used to say for colouring-in competitions when I was a kiddie, "The judges' decision is final and no further correspondence will be entered into."

I mean, fair enough. Let's have an alternate theory, that's a good thing. But to hang your hat on it? Sheesh, I dunno.
posted by uncanny hengeman at 4:32 PM on August 11, 2005


Uh... oh.
posted by blacklite at 4:40 PM on August 11, 2005


Glaznost thaws the very earth!
posted by longsleeves at 4:45 PM on August 11, 2005


В советской России, болото таяет ТЕБЯ!
posted by taursir at 5:05 PM on August 11, 2005


Why is there any debate? Why is there not action? The interests in power don't have a 10 year planning horizon much less a 50, 100 or 1000 year one.

Mostly because the interests in power are only interested in themselves and their own wallets. Curbing greenhouse gases is expensive. Committing to anything that would cause industries to spend money on anything other than CEO bonuses means that those in power will get less corporate lobby $$. Therefore, screw the future, those with multibillion dollar fortunes deserve every penny they can squeeze out of the economy.

While I'm fully convinced that the earth is warming, and that it's mostly due to human effects, I really don't think that it's going to be quite as apocalyptic as it's made out to be. Humans are remarkably adaptive creatures, and I don't think that a few feet in ocean levels are going to wipe us out. Make some people move away from Florida, maybe, but drive us to extinction, hell no. The planet has gone through many, many warming and cooling phases, even since the dawn of man. And there's plenty of historical evidence that suggests that humanity prospers better in warm phases. *shrug* Not saying we shouldn't do everything we can to stop it, but just that it's not going to be the end of the world.
posted by salad spork at 5:18 PM on August 11, 2005


While I generally agree with you, salad spork, there is some perspective needed here. This is not a minor heating trend. This is a climatological change which, while not unprecedented in the history of the earth, will be a first for the two million year story of us hominids. We are very much Pleistocene animals, creatures of the ice age. We're among the most adaptable animals evolution has ever produced, so I join you in being generally comfortable with the prospects of the species.

Civilization, however, is a creation of the "Holocene"--our current interglacial (the "last ice age" never ended; in terms of heat and duration, this has, so far, been a rather typical interglacial period). The vast majority of our food (over 90%) comes from a small selection of closely related, very tempermental crops, like wheat (none of which humans are particularly well-adapted to eating, anyway). Humans are very hardy and adaptable. I expect the last human to eat the last cockroach one day, millennia from now. It's civilization that's frail and delicate, and unlikely to survive any such drastic change.
posted by jefgodesky at 5:30 PM on August 11, 2005


Not saying we shouldn't do everything we can to stop it, but just that it's not going to be the end of the world.

You are most correct global warming may not be the end of the world or life on it or most likely not even human life on it. After that however we may have a few problems...

Last time the earth was at or over our current temperatures the oceans were meters, not feet, higher. This alone would be fairly cataclysmic for modern industrialized society as the majority of our industry and wealth resides in the 0-5 meter range above sea level.

Not just this but changes in water supply have a long history of causing regional conflict and wars. And when you are talking climate change, rising ocean levels and such then globally the one thing I'd say is certain is rapid changes in nearly every regions water behavior. This has an extreme potential to cause global political and armed conflicts.

In the end I don't think climate change itself will cause the end of mankind. Our reaction to it...that's a different story.
posted by aaronscool at 5:32 PM on August 11, 2005


mosch, got a website about those homes?

I know that Clarum is one of the developers that makes enviro-friendly housing in California.
posted by mosch at 6:29 PM on August 11, 2005


One tonne of methane is equivalent to 21 tonnes of carbon dioxide.

Unit for quantity of methane is cubic metres.

Convert this quantity to kilograms by multiplying by 0.672.

Multiply the result by 21 to derive CO2 equivalent emissions

--> paraphrased from the Australian site greenhouse.gov.au
posted by hank at 6:35 PM on August 11, 2005


I'm just confused why "conservative" people are against erring on the side of caution.
---------------------------------------------
I don't think it's a case of right or wrong, I think it's a case of 'us' and 'them'. Those on the right see themselves as 'us' and everyone who doesn't agree with their issues as 'them', no matter if they are conservatives who have seen some amount of moral vacuity in a cause they previously championed.

A case in point: scientists, the public, etc. come to a consensus that global warming is real and a threat to our future, conservatives see it as nothing more than an opportunity to conduct a public relations war, rally their PR troops, assemble their talking points, fund their think tanks and issue their position papers. I really don't think they even consider what they are doing is harmful to themselves and their 'constituents' or stockholders down the road, that it's just more 'busywork' to keep themselves occupied fielding their PR teams, churning out more position papers from their think tanks, etc.

I think that's all it really is, just mindless, thoughtless busywork.
posted by mk1gti at 6:47 PM on August 11, 2005


A really good read on the political response
(claimer: I know and respect the author):

from here

Brief excerpt, see link for more:

QUOTE
Too Much of Nothing
By Tom Athanasiou

"Oh, when there's too much of nothing,
No one has control."
Bob Dylan

It's getting harder to hide the climate crisis.

February, for example, saw a landmark conference (see www.stabilisation2005.com) in which leading scientists, one after the other, stepped forward to draw a clear, unambiguous line. No more "uncertainty" for these guys. As John Schellnhuber, director of Cambridge's Tyndall Centre for Climate Change, put it: "We now know that if we go beyond two degrees we will raise hell."

Note to Americans: he means 2 degree Centigrade. Which, since the warming already clocks in at 0.7C, gives us about 1.3C to go, with an additional half degree, or more, already "locked in." And beyond 2C degrees, which is, alas, exactly where we're headed, the projections pass from grim to terrifying.....
...
Be clear here. There's absolutely no chance that we can avoid a climate catastrophe without a massive energy technology revolution, and without financing and tech-transfer regimes that rapidly spread the best new low-carbon energy technologies around the world. The question is if ... "clean coal" technologies and ... nuclear, is the proper infrastructure .... if Wolfowitz's World Bank is soon going to announce a link .... And, ultimately, the question is if China and India - both countries with huge coal reserves - are going to throw their lot in with the United States.
....
... the Bush people, and indeed the whole fossil-fuel / development-as-usual cartel, are going to find it easy to sow discord and division.

The bottom line: there's nothing much here, but it's a dangerous nothing.

-- Tom Athanasiou , July 31, 2005.

END QUOTE
posted by hank at 6:55 PM on August 11, 2005


So it's still suggested that you should hold in/bottle your farts for later use, right?
posted by Balisong at 7:17 PM on August 11, 2005


"Oh, so Mother Nature needs a favor? Well, maybe she should have thought of that when she was besetting us with droughts and floods and poison monkeys. Nature started the fight for survival and now she wants to quit because she's losing? Well, I say 'Hard cheese!'"
-Mr. Burns, the Simpsons, 4F17.

end quote
posted by arruns at 8:08 PM on August 11, 2005


arruns
Well said. 'Hard Cheese' indeed!
posted by mk1gti at 8:11 PM on August 11, 2005


Cold fusion. That is all. Oh, and my anti-grav flying car, I want that, too.

Today, please. Tomorrow at the latest.
posted by zardoz at 8:54 PM on August 11, 2005


Earlier this year, the "New Yorker" magazine published a superb three-part series on global warming, by Elizabeth Kolbert. Parts One, Two and Three are here, along with an interview with Kolbert.
posted by New Frontier at 9:02 PM on August 11, 2005


Why did we create all that peat?

It's been thoughtfully placed there so that we can dig it up and burn it.
posted by sfenders at 9:14 PM on August 11, 2005


I agree that too many so-called conservatives have their head in the sand on this issue. Dangerously so. But let's not get all touchy feely just yet. There are far, far too many liberals with their heads in the sand as to the most realistic at present solution. Yes, at some point in the future we may have a better option, but right now the clear and obvious solution is a massive and immediate switch to pebble bed nuclear reactors.

That's right, the obvious solution is nuclear energy. If your knee jerk reaction is a scream of horror, you aren't any different from the conservatives. You've just got your head in the sand in a different fashion.

When major liberal and environmental organizations start lobbying for the construction of a ton of new nuclear plants then I will know they've gotten serious about this issue. Until then, they are playing political football same as the conservatives.
posted by Justinian at 9:26 PM on August 11, 2005


This is only a few days after it was published that another part of Russia is doing surprisingly well, all things considered: Chernobyl's ecosystems are healthy! (healthier than expected, at least).
posted by easternblot at 9:59 PM on August 11, 2005


Hot Sky by Robert Silverberg.

It's not going to be pretty, folks.
posted by PurplePorpoise at 11:18 PM on August 11, 2005


Peat moss is dropping like a rock on the Chicago Mercantile.. what am I going to do with my option on 50,000 tons?
posted by rolypolyman at 11:37 PM on August 11, 2005


This is only a few days after it was published that another part of Russia is doing surprisingly well, all things considered: Chernobyl's ecosystems are healthy! (healthier than expected, at least).

"...But this doesn't mean that people can live there. Some 40 different radioactive elements, including strontium-90 and decay products of uranium and plutonium, were released into the exclusion zone, and it will be many hundreds of millennia before humans could move safely back, Dolin says."
posted by Rothko at 11:40 PM on August 11, 2005


Civilization, however, is a creation of the "Holocene"--our current interglacial (the "last ice age" never ended; in terms of heat and duration, this has, so far, been a rather typical interglacial period). The vast majority of our food (over 90%) comes from a small selection of closely related, very tempermental crops, like wheat (none of which humans are particularly well-adapted to eating, anyway). Humans are very hardy and adaptable. I expect the last human to eat the last cockroach one day, millennia from now. It's civilization that's frail and delicate, and unlikely to survive any such drastic change.

That's it, right there, nicely summed up and eloquently put.

I usually just fall back on 'We are so fucked'.
posted by jokeefe at 11:41 PM on August 11, 2005



Man, everytime I read one of these stories I feel like we are at war with the earth.

And we're winning.. Ha! Take that Earth!

...oh, hang on...
posted by pompomtom at 11:46 PM on August 11, 2005


It's not a war against the Earth, it's a struggle against extreme global temperature stability.
posted by Sinner at 11:59 PM on August 11, 2005


There's nothing quite like the smell of fear-mongering in the morning.
posted by nightchrome at 12:07 AM on August 12, 2005


Does it smell like Peat moss?


(sorry...)
posted by Steve_at_Linnwood at 12:16 AM on August 12, 2005


jefgodesky, bread is commonly called the "staff of life". What is it about it that we are not adapted to eat?
posted by emf at 12:17 AM on August 12, 2005


bread is commonly called the "staff of life". What is it about it that we are not adapted to eat?

Gluten/wheat intolerance (celiac disease) affects a non-insignificant portion of the world's population.

"Recent studies conducted by using more appropriate experimental designs and powerful screening tools demonstrated that CD in the United States is as frequent as in Europe in both risks groups and the general population. Similar results were obtained in Africa, South America, and Asia continents where CD was considered a rare disorder.

"Combined together, these studies revealed that CD is one of the most frequent genetically-based diseases of humankind occurring in 1 out of every 100 to 300 individuals in the general population worldwide."

— Celiac Disease: The Past, the Present, the Future
posted by Rothko at 12:35 AM on August 12, 2005


Are you folks mentioning Chernobyl under the impression that such an event is even physically possible with modern reactor designs? Constantly bringing up Chernobyl is like how anti-Global Warming folks keep bringing up previous heat waves as evidence we shouldn't worry.
posted by Justinian at 12:49 AM on August 12, 2005


Are you folks mentioning Chernobyl under the impression that such an event is even physically possible with modern reactor designs? Constantly bringing up Chernobyl is like how anti-Global Warming folks keep bringing up previous heat waves as evidence we shouldn't worry.

If you're talking about modern reactor designs, you're probably talking about pebble-bed reactors, which is the buzzword in the pro-nuke community.

Unfortunately, the pebble-bed design is full of flammable graphite, used both as fuel and a neutron regulator.

So says David Lochbaum, a nuclear safety expert at the Union of Concerned Scientists. "[A pebble-bed reactor]", he says, raises "at least a question of a graphite fire, as [happened] at Windscale (Great Britain) in 1957 and at Chernobyl in 1986." [1]

Windscale is the reactor more commonly known today as the disasterous, radioactive waste-leaking mess called Sellafield. We're all familiar with Chernobyl and the uninhabitable land left behind.

Even with these safety risks, we still need to figure out what to do with storage and processing of long-term nuclear waste, a problem still without a good solution, and one that would need to last several tens of thousands of years.

"For a successful technology, reality must take precedence over public relations, for nature cannot be fooled." [2]

[1] The Nuclear Industry's Growing Safety Problem
[2] Richard Feynman, Appendix to the Rogers Commission Report on the Space Shuttle Challenger Accident
posted by Rothko at 1:04 AM on August 12, 2005


В советской России, болото таяет ТЕБЯ!

Я думаю, что вы хотите "тает" вместо.
posted by somethingotherthan at 1:28 AM on August 12, 2005


Even with these safety risks, we still need to figure out what to do with storage and processing of long-term nuclear waste, a problem still without a good solution, and one that would need to last several tens of thousands of years.

I'm generally critical of nuclear energy, and think it's better replaced by wind and solar power.

But while the concerns about nuclear dangers are true, sometimes I can't help wondering if fossil fuels in the countless coal and oil power plants have not killed a much higher number of people than nuclear disasters are ever likely to do. Just that these deaths would be from continuos pollution, and do not stem from one single obvious cause - and as such escape statistics and public conscience.
posted by uncle harold at 2:02 AM on August 12, 2005


I guess my question is why more energy concerns aren't pouring tens of billions or more into fusion R&D each hoping to gain that one critical patent for the next twenty years? It seems obvious that whoever got it would make a fucking mint afterwards, as well as secure the ultimate PR win for basically saving civilization.
posted by Ryvar at 2:12 AM on August 12, 2005


I guess my question is why more energy concerns aren't pouring tens o...

Bike past a gas station recently?
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 3:29 AM on August 12, 2005


Definitely time to start thinking about getting off the planet.
Definitely.

All eggs in one basket and whatnot.
posted by wilberforce at 3:41 AM on August 12, 2005


My beef with nuclear is that instead of paying for your energy, you're living beyond your means by sticking the energy bill on your kid's credit cards - they're the ones stuck with the long-term bills for maintaining the waste and sites, etc.

Stuff like hydro and geothermal are no-brainers the best of current power station technology, but are constrained by geology. Wind is also good, and should be expanded. Solar is looking good too

But no one technology is the cure, and the likely costs of climate change on the kid's credit card is greater than that of us living beyond our means on nuclear, so hell, let's go to town on the kid's credit card, because their final bill will probably be smaller if we splurge out and spend their money now :-)
posted by -harlequin- at 4:09 AM on August 12, 2005


Definitely time to start thinking about getting off the planet.

Even a hell earth or a frozen earth would be more liveable than anywhere else in the solar system. Granted, a collapsed/chaotic social order might make the actual day-to-day reality somewhat... difficult.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 5:20 AM on August 12, 2005


jefgodesky, bread is commonly called the "staff of life". What is it about it that we are not adapted to eat?

It's called the "staff of life" because it's our staple. So many people rely on it almost exclusively. That doesn't make it healthy, that makes it cheap.

This is a fairly good, simple overview of why grains, beans and potatoes--"Neolithic Foods"--are generally maladapted to human digestion. And why not? We've only been eating them for a few millennia, it stands to reason that we wouldn't be as well adapted to them as we are to things we've been eating for millions of years. This is just kind of disturbing.
posted by jefgodesky at 5:28 AM on August 12, 2005


I have to say, my fiancée is always going on about different faddish diets (liver cleansing, blood group, detox, blah blah), and I generally just find them vacuous or at best pseudoscientific. But jefgodesky, your first link made the most sense of anything I've read about health for a very long time. I think I'll do some more reading.

Heywood, agreed. But I'm thinking more along the lines of avoiding the increasing (although still slight in absolute terms) likelihood of the planet becoming unsuitable for human life. Not so much "it'll be better in space/on another planet", just that it'll be harder for the dominoes to get all of us at once.
posted by wilberforce at 5:58 AM on August 12, 2005




Unavailable for comment.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 6:07 AM on August 12, 2005


The paleolithic diet seems to be another fad diet that may be legitimate, but it mostly rests on the laurels of being "natural."

Helpful information about the paleolithic diet here.
posted by landtuna at 7:48 AM on August 12, 2005


This is essentially what sways me in favor of the Paleolithic Diet: no living thing evolved specificially to be food for us. There were foodstuffs we favored for the past two million years, which we have adapted to eating. There are other things we haven't. Rather than following one fad after another as the tide of scientific debate shifts, why not just go with the foods humans were "designed" to eat?
posted by jefgodesky at 7:58 AM on August 12, 2005


Oh, and though I do like the Paleo diet's ideas, my original statement was that humans aren't terribly suited to eating grain. Besides the lectins and other anti-nutrients mentioned in the article I linked to above, a cursory examination of your stool after you eat corn on the cob should give you an idea of how clumsily our digestive tract handles cereal grains. Sure, we can get a few sugars out of them and pass the rest, but compare that to how many things we extract out of, say, fruits, or nuts.
posted by jefgodesky at 8:04 AM on August 12, 2005


Nightchrome: There's nothing quite like the smell of fear of science in the morning.

Do you like modern medicine? Or That fancy-shmancy computer you're using? Products of science. Either the entire scientific endeavor is inherently flawed, and these techno-gadgets we've got are powered by magic, or science is the best method for prediction and analysis, and these climatologists are on to something.

Even if it's a natural cycle, and totally not our fault, we should still plan for it, and do our best to mitigate the effects of a massive climactic change. That's the only reasonable thing to do. To dismiss it's existence is negligent and naive, or to claim that because maybe it's not our fault so we shouldn't do anything about it is just plain stupid.
posted by Freen at 9:27 AM on August 12, 2005


That's right, the obvious solution is nuclear energy. If your knee jerk reaction is a scream of horror, you aren't any different from the conservatives. You've just got your head in the sand in a different fashion.

I consider myself fairly liberal but also pragmatic. As such I agree that in the short term we probably need to increase our Nuclear Energy sources. I don't think this should be considered a permanent solution and I do think that increased Nuclear power today should be coupled with hugely increased spending on other energy options. I do think there are many options available today that we should absolutely push for.

Someone posted about California's "Zero Energy" Homes. Yes these technologies have an upfront cost but that cost gets paid back with interest over the life of the home. Why is it not required that all homes incorporate some or all of these technologies? Phase it in even over the next decade. Mass adoption will not only bring prices down substantially but really not add much to the per month home bill (energy + mortgage).

Biofuels got a little attention in the Energy Bill that just passed. I think that Biodiesel and Ethanol in both blends and pure and a real good chance of bringing Carbon emissions down in the short term. This too also requires some mandates from the government to really have an impact.

Point is we have tons of options sadly few are actually being looked at by the government.
posted by aaronscool at 9:30 AM on August 12, 2005


Do you like modern medicine? Or That fancy-shmancy computer you're using? Products of science. Either the entire scientific endeavor is inherently flawed, and these techno-gadgets we've got are powered by magic, or science is the best method for prediction and analysis, and these climatologists are on to something.

That doesn't necessarily follow. You could also believe that science is a good, but imperfect, means of prediction and analysis, which can often lead to some benefits, and just as often lead to problems. It's not an all-or-nothing proposal.
posted by jefgodesky at 11:55 AM on August 12, 2005


В советской России, болото таяет ТЕБЯ!

Я думаю, что вы хотите "тает" вместо.


спасибо, somethingotherthan, я понял шутка, но я не узнал "таяет." Ну, молотцы, ребята!
posted by acid freaking on the kitty at 2:18 PM on August 12, 2005


Aaronscool mentioned nuclear power, biodiesel and ethanol as useful short-term measures to combat global warming, but I doubt that any of these alternate energy sources would be of any use. Increasing our investment in nuclear reactors would require a massive expenditure of energy over the next several decades - recall that nuclear energy not requires a lot of infrastructure but also costs a lot for security and maintenance - which would come from good old fossil fuel. Ethanol is an energy sink and biodiesel is currently impractical to produce in mass quantities, since it would end up competing with food crops for space.

There are two large problems with the 'tons of options' that we currently have. The first is that the many alternative fuels we have are not as portable, versatile, cheap or energy-dense as petroleum-derived fuels. We're hooked on the stuff, and we're not coming down off that high easily. The second is that, even if we use every clean low-emission energy source available, even if we all make a reasonable effort to conserve, there all still a good six billion of us. Consider that the bulk of pollution emerges from the industrialized fraction of the earth's population, and then factor in the industrializing of India and China, and you begin to see what a bind we're in.
posted by palinode at 2:49 PM on August 12, 2005


"Man, everytime I read one of these stories I feel like we are at war with the earth."

The earth will win. Guarantee it. Lots of other species have been and gone, earth isn't afraid of us either.
posted by zoogleplex at 2:52 PM on August 12, 2005


Couple of notes:

Biodiesel production does not have to come from feedstock lands. Algae production in saltwater ponds appears to yeild a much higher rate of vegetable oil production in a much smaller space and can be located in non arable land such as deserts. There are a few technical issues that would need to be worked out but nothing that looks so scary as to make this impossible to achieve in the next 5-10 years if we had some strong government incentive and help along the way.

New Nuclear plants would be difficult to build I agree. But there are plent of old ones that would require far less work to update and reactivate.
posted by aaronscool at 3:22 PM on August 12, 2005


I don't know why we don't put some energy (no pun intended) behind ethanol. We need carbon sinks, and corn/vegetation is as good a carbon sink as any other we can implement in such a short time span.
posted by Rothko at 7:08 PM on August 12, 2005


Modern farming of corn is petroleum intensive. Some people (agreed, many of us organic farmers) considered the farm subsidies Bush signed early in his first term to be cloaked subsidies to the oil companies. The amount of energy in a unit of ethanol is only slightly greater than the oil used to produce it.
posted by pointilist at 9:08 PM on August 12, 2005


freen, what the hell are you going on about? I said absolutely nothing about science. I am lamenting the prevalence of fear-mongering in environmentalism. I mean, look at the posts in this thread; people are freaking out.
posted by nightchrome at 10:12 PM on August 12, 2005


I should also point out, though this thread is likely over by now, that this is not a with-us-or-against-us situation. I can be concerned about fear-mongering and understand the concepts of global warming just fine. Fear-mongering is not about stating facts, it's about stating facts and drawing wild doomsday conclusions for the sake of winding people up.
posted by nightchrome at 10:16 PM on August 12, 2005


Fear-mongering is not about stating facts, it's about stating facts and drawing wild doomsday conclusions for the sake of winding people up.

Ok...so if the facts are true should we not freak out? I'm sorry but comments like these are really from folks who don't really seem to want to know anything about the problem at all.

Go talk to any climate scientist. Ask them how bad it will get. Then come back here and tell us it's all ok.

Fact: The temperature of the atmosphere is rising.

Fact: This is due in large part to greenhouse gas emissions produced by humans over the last 150 years.

Fact: If we don't curb our greenhouse gas emissions over the next 100 years the average temperature will rise anywhere from 2.5 to 10 degrees F.

Fact: The last time the earth was this warm the ocean levels were 9-15 feet higher. Mainly due to smaller polar ice caps and warmer water in the ocean (things expand when warmer).

So in my opinion these things are bad. I'm sorry if you think this is fear-mongering but I don't really know how else to put it but that these are not debatable issues anymore. Yes there are a handful of scientists (about 3 or 4 left) funded by oil and coal industries who might paint a rosier picture but the remainder of the 2000+ Climate Scientists won't be so kind.
posted by aaronscool at 11:15 PM on August 12, 2005


My problem is with the fact that instead of discussing reasonable ways of doing something about the situation, you and countless others like you focus on how much this is going to mean the end-of-the-world and you can't go five seconds without mentioning oil-backed liars in your rant as well. How is that helping?
Is the environment changing? Sure. Will it cause extreme changes in the way we live? Sure, most likely. Will it be difficult to deal with, and likely harmful for many people? Probably, if we don't work on minimizing those problems as well.
Is it the end of the world? No, it most definitely is not.
posted by nightchrome at 2:10 AM on August 13, 2005


Well I have posted several
solutions.

You'll have to forgive my cynicism as it comes from watching for 15 years as we have done nothing but argue about the details of what is happening. And in that time I have yet to see a single skeptics study actually prove to be true.

I'm sorry if you think I'm giving an end of the world speech (the world btw will go on just fine it's the world as we know it that will not) but after watching nothing happen I believe we will not act in time to prevent catastrophe. Global warming is not a switch that we can "turn off". It takes time for the emissions we put out today to have their full effect. So even if we were to completely stop all greenhouse gas emissions today we'd still see some increased effects of climate change.
posted by aaronscool at 11:41 AM on August 13, 2005


bummer
2 questions:
a) are they going to find some more cool bog-mummies in there?

b) methane is potential enrgy - any engineering types willing to propose a way to harness the gas?

cheers
posted by celerystick at 6:55 PM on August 13, 2005



Definitely time to start thinking about getting off the planet.
Definitely.

All eggs in one basket and whatnot.
posted by wilberforce at 3:41 AM PST on August 12 [!]


I agree.
I say we spend at least half of what we are spending fighting over the last billion barells of oul and get our poluting industries off the planet. Could we beam energy from a series of space stations back to the ground?

This would advance the planet any country far beyond any regional war.
posted by Balisong at 8:07 PM on August 14, 2005


er oil..
and planet or any country...
posted by Balisong at 8:08 PM on August 14, 2005


It's unfortunate that politicians are unwilling to invest a few hundred billion dollars into developing real alternative sources of energy... ones that would create jobs, and wealth for America.

Instead they choose to spend that money on a war which will create wealth only for a very, very few.
posted by mosch at 9:49 PM on August 16, 2005


Ooooooooooooohhhhhhhhhhhhhh shit!

I just wanted to get that down at some point before the planet crushes me.

Thanks. I had a good time.
posted by mrgrimm at 10:09 PM on August 16, 2005


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