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Huey Freeman

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Why is there not enough being done in terms of reducing our impacts on climate change?

The issues regarding climate change have been on the rise in the media world (well the non-bias media at least) in the past few months.

1) There is 95% certainty that human activity is the cause of global warming.
2) Carbon dioxide is at an unprecedented level since the last 800,00 years.
3) Sea levels are expected to rise at a faster rate than the last 40 years, and
4) Over the last 2 decades, the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets have been melting at an increasingly high rate, as well as glaciers receding in most parts of the world.

This is not the only thing that catches the eye when it comes to polluting the environment. As we speak, football fields worth of land is being destroyed, in particular the Amazon rain forest, due to the need for expansion of agriculture and fertile land. This not only causes the highest amount of biodiversity loss, but is also one of the biggest contributors to release of GHG (greenhouse gases).

Fortunately there are alternatives. In fact, alternative and renewable technologies world wide are just waiting to be embraced...
Sadly, little action is being implemented by leaders world wide to really curb our fossil fuels consumption.

What in the world is it going to take to wake people up? Or even world leaders for that matter? Should there be more consequences not meeting targets for GHG reductions? Less subsidization in fossil fuels?

Let me know your thoughts!

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    Nov 28 2013: There is the overall tendency for businesses to ignore environmental costs in order to reduce production costs and stay competitive. This suggests that companies are unlikely to be proactive in their management of environmental problems. Given that this is a major representative element of an unstoppable free-market juggernaut (along with a burgeoning population of consumers), I honestly don't think renewables have sufficient wallop of power to keep us in a manner to which we've all become very accustomed.

    I think a multi pronged, phased approach to the problem of MMGW is the only answer - which does include renewables, but also nuclear - which has the potential to be clean and safe, given all that we now know.

    However, the main problem we face right now is the outrageous over-consumption of power that we've become used to. Heating our poorly-insulated houses to tropical temperatures in the winter, keeping street lighting on at night in the interests of "safety", driving gas-guzzling cars, building streetscapes where it is impossible to walk or cycle... the list goes on. These are the major and immediate steps we need to take.

    I take issue on the value of renewables as a stand-alone solution, because of its inherent intermittency of output, necessitating conventional fossil-fuelled power stations to be kept on 'tickover' to cover for renewable downtimes.

    Not sure about the US, but here in the UK a very plausible carbon audit has been done on the embodied carbon involved in the manufacture, transport, infrastructure and siting of wind turbines. It showed that the embodied carbon exceeds the amount of carbon saved during their 25 year lifespan. (I know there is evidence for this, but can't find the link just yet...)

    Solar, tide, wave and hydro all have good potential, however.
  • Nov 25 2013: Standard of living drives energy consumption. Worries about surviving well today trumps worrying about the fate of your children tomorrow; no one wants to pay for carbon sequestration. We have cheap oil and gas in the US now because of fracking. The more outrageous claim of gas fracking is that natural gas is "clean" because it only contributes 1/2 the global warming gas carbon dioxide, completely overlooking the fact that methane is far more potent as a green house gas; there is fugitive gas at every stage of natural gas utilization.

    In American we shut down nuclear power in the 1970's in terms of construction due to Three Mile Island, yet millions have died from coal pollution. Fewer than 100 people have died from nuclear power in the past 50 years. After decades of subsidies solar only provides 0.1% of the US electical supply. In Germany they have an aggressive renewable program but it is only possible because of 100% back up power from the cheap nuclear electricity from France.

    Unless the next generation of nuclear reactors takes up the slack, look for more coal-fired plants in China, India and the developing world.

    The real danger is that global warming will warm peat bogs in the high latitudes; this will free methane that could, potentially, unlike carbon dioxide, cause a rapid increase in global warming.

    Carbon dioxide levels may reach 1000 PPM; this is roughly double the highest levels ever recorded. This could melt the East Antarctic ice sheet again. The result: we would lose the states of Florida and Delaware and a shallow inland sea will partially bisect the continent of North American.
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    Dec 2 2013: Excellent Question Huey,

    I believe it's directly due to the fact, 'our lifestyles are on trial' here. And no one has the balls or integrity to confront that...
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    Dec 2 2013: The main struggle is persuading humans to work together. A good wake up call is more, natural disasters.

    If ice sheets are melting; why not just freeze and add man-made glaziers in to the ocean? Is there a way of filtering the carbon dioxide in our atmosphere into outer space (what might be the side effects of doing this)?
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    Nov 27 2013: I think the point you're missing is that solar and wind power are being rolled out in the areas where they are practical, but unfortunately for at least half the worlds population none of the current renwables are a practical solution to emmissions reduction.
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      Nov 27 2013: Your arguing two different things. Where energy is practical is not the same as a practical solution to emissions reduction. Its related, but not the same. Reducing emissions can range from taxing carbon to implementing renewable's, to carbon capture and storage technologies.
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        Nov 28 2013: Carbon capture and storage is as yet unproven and the whole point of a carbon tax is to encourage the use of low carbon energy sources which, of those that are currently available, only nuclear has the ability to work anywhere and any time.
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    Nov 26 2013: 1) you need to be careful about overstating the actual IPCC findings " There is 95% certainty that human activity is the cause of global warming" The IPPC actually says ther is a 95% probability that human activity is the major contributor. So ther's 95% probability that 50% of the warming is from us. By misrepresenting the IPCC you just give people ammunition in the arguement. To your question, the fact that obesity is the major contributor to health problems in western countries and yet we just keep getting fatter would suggest we will start taking climate change seriously when people we know start dying.
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      Nov 26 2013: Its over half of the observed average global temperature. But it is this percentage of warming that has had the biggest impact on the rising warming trends observed by climate scientists. So there's not much that changes if i had stated the first point differently, because there is still an unprecedented amount of warming due to human activities.
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        Nov 26 2013: Transmitting power from one side of Texas to the other is hardly a long way. Don't believe the hype, if Texas was where I live it would be the second smallest mainland state. It's not even 1000km from one side to the other.
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        Nov 26 2013: Look at a map of Australia. Perth, Alice Springs and Darwin are all a long way from anywhere. Where the distances are small there isn't room for the wind farms and where there is room for the wind farms the distances are too big.
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          Nov 26 2013: Im not going to sit here and try to explain down to the detail of how energy could be implemented exactly in your area, that takes strategic observations of the land, and the best available renewable energy resources to fit certain regions (some places are better for wind, others better for solar, tide, wave etc.).

          But the main point here is that solutions to problems such as energy transportation of wind farms are being implemented and hypotheses are being tested. Knowing the nature of technology, it's only going to continue to improve and become more efficient. Either we embrace it, or continue to fight it.
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    Nov 25 2013: Mr. Freeman,
    You live in a great city, I have visited and have to praise the warm reception in spite of Canadian's justifiable anger of the colonists treatment of the royalists back in the 18th century.

    Why are more people not interested doing something about the climate? Good question, been asked and evidentially unsuccessfully answered.
    So, let me try...
    1. The global climate is in a constant state of flux. It is a cosmological phenomenon with beginnings found in the position of our solar system in the revolution of our galaxy.
    2. It's 95% of a small group of people who were asked and the group was not an unbiased sample.
    3. CO2 is mostly controlled by temperature of the seas, and if the seas are warmer, CO2 goes up and glaciers melt as do ice caps. Seas warm mostly through underwater volcanos....
    4. People do effect their local environments. Large cities create hot spots and weather inversions. Concentrations of industrial activities giving off GHGs doesn't make the local weather better.
    5. New alternatives are not that new and can create more problems then they solve. Wind farms take energy out of the winds and that could have weather effect down wind. Forest being cleared in South America... not so much to grow food for the masses as to grow grains for ethanol. Solar panels can work but only during the day so any saving using sun light is more then lost trying to spread out the power for night use. At best these systems are useful for supplemental power but, the basic source is fossil fuels and in spite of the fear factor... nuclear power.
    6. The people have heard. They hear the shrieking of zealots about the end of times unless we do something... nothing that can really could be done. They have heard politicians ranting about redistribution of wealth to poorer countries so they don't continue to use "fossil fuels" In legalese, extortion. And the people are dismissing all the discussion.
    These are my thoughts.
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      Nov 25 2013: Interesting thing you brought up about wind farms causing weather effects down receding wind paths, mind sending me a link to this info? I would like to understand more on it. Thanks!
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        Nov 25 2013: I read about local weather around wind farms in the magazine Scientific American. Summary was that wind farm turbulence mixes warm and cold air masses and this effect can be measured by temperature differences. There was no consensus on the long term effects.... aka needs more study.
  • Nov 25 2013: I'll start by saying that there is nowhere near 95% certainty that global warming is man made. If you have an interest in a long, winded discussion, reply and I'll discuss away. Otherwise, let me explain why there is a damn good reason we haven't switched over to renewables.

    The gist of it is, renewables are expensive. Very expensive in fact. Twenty times more expensive per unit of electric energy than coal or natural gas, or five times more expensive than nuclear is pretty much a best case scenario--most of the time, its a fair bit poorer.
    It only gets worse when it comes to mobile power production. Biodiesel in addition to being expensive, compromises your food supply (you could be growing edible crops using the same field), and battery technology currently has only a small fraction of the energy density of oil or natural gas, which means a very high parasitic fuel weight (which makes the cars and ships preform poorly, and use in aircraft practically impossible).

    This isn't about greed, its about maintaining standards of living. The cost of energy affects anything and everything, typically because its involved in any product's transport and production. All that money that went into buying more expensive energy, and more expensive everything else, is money that can't be spent on other beneficial things. Everything from healthcare, to education, to infrastructure to defense to private citizen's funds will be adversely affected.

    This is a very high price to pay for something that won't even solve global warming for sure. Even under the (incorrect) assumption that its man made, there is still the prisoner's dilema.
    What if only my country switched over to renewables, but everyone else screwed me over by never going green? There'd still be global warming, except my economy is now unable to compete with the rest of the world because I switched to highly expensive renewable energy.
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      Nov 25 2013: The statements i made above are not my own opinion, they are scientific findings over about a span of little more than a century. There actually is 95% certainty that human activities have been the biggest contributor to the exponential warming trend seen in the last century, its not just some myth...
      http://www.thestar.com/news/world/2013/09/27/ipcc_2013_humans_to_blame_for_global_warming_says_un_report.html

      The oceans along with surface temperature have also had a linear growth since industrialization and burning of fossil fuels, even when solar output declined between 2007-2009, we saw a growth in warming. Oh and just to throw this out there, 97% of climate scientists agree that climate trends during the last century are almost certainly due to human activities.

      And there is no doubt about the fact that renewable energy will be expensive in the short term, but the costs of continuing to use fossil fuels are much more alarming (meaning their impacts on the Earth's climate), especially to the countries most vulnerable to change in climate (sub-sahara, southern continents, coastline bodies).

      As the world heats, so do the oceans, and warm oceans are like fuel for hurricanes/typhoons, we saw this just recently with hurricane hiyan (strongest on land typhoon) in the Philippines. Sea levels will continue to rise as well, they have now doubled since the 19th century.. Tell me how much the costs for repairing an entire country is again? Pretty sure their not as much as shifting to renewable energy infrastructure. In fact only half of the present military budget (Canada and US) would be needed to pay for the redesign of renewable energy infrastructure. Which, might i add, doesn't need repeated extraction, unlike fossil fuels.

      So ill leave it at that for now, i suggest you at least read a few sections of the IPCC climate report before you respond.
      • Nov 25 2013: Heating has certainly not been linear since industrialization. Not even close.
        Back in the 70's, climatologists were actually concerned that we were heading towards a new ice age because of the cooling prevalent at the time.

        Let me also remind you that the jobs and research funds of those climatologists depend on supporting the global warming theory. Their budgets have shot up by more than an order of magnitude in the last twenty years because of it. A squeaky wheel may also find itself greased because of it--or to put it bluntly, you speak out against global warming, you get fired.
        The media doesn't help. A sensationalist story makes them more money. If its not sensationalist enough, they'll make it more exciting. Same for politicians looking to ride the global warming bandwagon.

        Storms also haven't been getting worse, that's a myth perpetuated by Al Gore's propaganda piece. Storms have been doing more damage over the years (measured in USD) because people have been building more and more along the ocean front. If you look at a picture of Miami beach in the 1930's and compare it to today, you'll notice a conspicuous lack of sky scrappers. There's simply more for the storms to wreck.

        As for the energy infrastructure, I don't think you understand just how cripplingly expensive a renewable transition would be. A developed country would go into a long and deep depression that'll take either decades or nuclear fusion to recover from, and a developing country would have its economy stunted for even longer.
        Digging the stuff out of the ground or ocean floor is still much, much cheaper than renewables, and even nuclear. Otherwise, no one would do it.
        The exceptions are geothermal and hydroelectric, but those require striking lucky on geography.

        The truth of it is, renewable power generators are expensive, underpowered, and lack an on/off switch.

        Then there's that prisoner's dilemma I mentioned. Same reason we can't have world peace, and equally unsolvable.
      • Nov 25 2013: As much as I hate to double post, I forgot one crucial thing.

        The seas spit out CO2 when they're heated, and absorb it while they cool. Water can contain less of the stuff dissolved as temperatures rise.

        Therefore, it may well be possible that the close correlation we see between CO2 and temperatures in glacial records may be the opposite relationship than you'd think. Heating causes, CO2, not the other way around.
        It'll certainly explain why CO2 levels have shot straight up since the industrial revolution, but temperatures have been much less consistent.
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          Nov 25 2013: "back in the 70's" - were in 2013, and the report addresses why there was a cooling period during that time. Surface temperatures cooled, but overall global temperature in both sea and land have continued to increase. Even more so in the last 2 decades than any decade since the 1800's.

          For you to dismiss the results of the IPCC as some type of conspiracy or anomaly, and that their trying to get the continuous flow of funds or whatever doesn't dismiss the fact that 97% of other climate scientists still say human activities are the biggest cause of global warming.
          http://climate.nasa.gov/scientific-consensus

          BTW tocloban , main city devastated by the typhoon hiyan, had no major infrastructure in its ports, in fact they had very low land houses and very little tall structures, which completely debunks your "people building more and more" argument. Sure they build more and more, but what's that even got to do with the force of typhoon hiyan, which is independent of costs. Costs play a role after, but warmer oceans still equal stronger and more extreme weather.

          Renewable infrastructure is, once again, not going to be easy to implement and will cause some economic instability in the short term, but the long-term consequences of continuous fossil fuels consumption and climate change greatly outweigh the short-term. It's either we mitigate climate change now, and suffer short-term consequences, or continue our warming of the planet and suffer the much more sever long term consequences. Its our choice.

          And no, its CO2 that increases heat in the atmosphere, its call the GREENHOUSE EFFECT. This is like elementary climate science. " but temperatures have been much less consistent" - um, no they haven't, we've seen a rise in global surface warming at levels never before seen in history (800,000 years). Here's a whole list of other indicators too :
          http://climate.nasa.gov/key_indicators#seaLevel
      • Nov 26 2013: Just because you were taught something in elementary school doesn't mean its correct.
        Do a bit of research in chemistry. A liquid's ability to contain dissolved gasses is temperature dependent, and water with CO2 is no different. Granted, this is high school level science, not elementary.

        As for your link, this isn't exactly a linear rise. There are several decades where the earth was cooling up until the mid 70's or so, yet CO2 levels have been shooting straight up for several decades prior.

        As for the storm damages, what makes you think that we didn't have storms this powerful a hundred years ago?
        People's memory is a short thing, and organized records of things like wind speed, and even storm damages don't go back very far in most of the world. I rather doubt there is anything but relatively recent records in the Philippines, which gives you a very poor picture of the situation.
        The link made by Al Gore that storm strength increases over time relies a false premise. Now, the conclusion may still be valid for different reasons, but poor record keeping means its tough to say for certain.

        Either way, we'll never have a solution because of the whole prisoner's dilema thing.
        Why should I screw over my country's economy by going green while the rest of the world doesn't do the same? I'll hardly put a dent in global warming, and be bankrupt to show for it.

        Even if global warming is man made, better to adapt to it than try to prevent it. You've gotta be realistic about those things.
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          Nov 26 2013: honestly, its clear your determined not to research any evidence i put forward, and you still go back to the cooling in the 70's like it still has any relevance. The cooling was actually caused by the earlier pollution (aerosols), that reflected the most of the suns rays during that time, but this was of course temporary because the heating effects of rising CO2 naturally took over. See if you would have researched any of that you wouldn't make such a weak argument.

          And the GH effect is real my friend, ask any climate scientist, im not even going to bother explaining it because it would just be a waste of typing, go watch a Bill Nye video or something. If you still disagree with it show me some hard evidence claiming the GH effect predictions/theory have been wrong (seriously, if your claiming an entire theory is wrong, show me one piece of scientific literature claiming this is the case). And the overall trend of warming (as the graph in the link shows) is gradually rising in a linear pattern, how you do not see that is beyond me.
      • Nov 26 2013: I can see I may well be talking to a wall.
        You're not actually addressing any of my points, just diverting the issue because you're no real answers.

        Instead of taking a critical look at the evidence, you're just fortifying your existing position without thought.
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        Nov 26 2013: The problem with wind isn't the cost it's the availability. We could easily supply all our energy with wind and Hydro if everyone lived near snow covered mountains and windy places but unfortunately most of the worlds population lives in the tropics and they don't call it the doldrums because its windy.
      • Nov 26 2013: "When you include subsidies".
        There's your problem right there. Do you know how much those subsidies cost?

        Try this for a more wholesome analysis. Even if you live in a very windy or very sunny area, fossil fuels are still twenty times cheaper at the very least (ignoring the environmental and health costs which are practically impossible to measure, though they're quite small for natural gas, albeit not for coal)
        http://www.oecd-nea.org/ndd/reports/2012/system-effects-exec-sum.pdf

        Hydroeletric is great, it really is, but it requires you strike lucky on geography. No river to dam, you're out of luck. Got a river but even after daming it, you still need more power? You need to start looking for supplements. There's a reason growth in the field in the developed world has been very limited in recent years--most rivers worth daming have already been taken advantage of.
        Same for geothermal. Most of us just don't live next to thermal vents.