Tuesday, December 15, 2009

You really think population growth is a bigger problem than global warming?

Overpopulation may indeed become a problem, but in terms of global warming, "overpopulated" nations are not the ones responsible for most pollution and environmental degradation, it's industrialized nations who get the credit for that -- poor nations just can't afford to pollute the way rich Americans can (or even poor Americans, and other industrialized nations besides the U.S. pollute a good bit, too, compared to truly developing nations).

Thomas Malthus got the population thing wrong a long time ago: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_Malthus

It's Good For You -- Incidental Reasons to Support Global Warming Mitigation

I think there are a few points worth amplifying:

1) There is no doubt in the minds of any reputable climate scientist that CO2 in the atmosphere traps heat, and that methane traps about 20 times as much heat as CO2, and other pollutants trap heat up to 1000 times as effectively as CO2. There is doubt about how much the global average temperature will change, and how fast. But those disagreements are insignificant. Most, if not all, reputable climate scientists agree that the planet will warm significantly as an effect of pollutants released by humans.(http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/01/090119210532.htm)

2) Based on historical records (ice sheet core samples, etc.) climate change can occur very suddenly -- too suddenly for humans and other species to adapt. Many estimates are that 50% of species could be extinct by the next century. It's happened before: "in the Earth's history several mass extinctions of 50–90% of species have accompanied global temperature changes of ≈5°C." (http://www.pnas.org/content/103/39/14288.full) Do you really want to stand by and watch as half the planet's plants and animals disappear forever? (Probably to be replaced by new ones...in a few tens of millions of years.)

3) The pollutants that cause climate change are toxic and expensive in many other ways: CO2 makes oceans more acidic, which leads to large-scale die-offs of coral reefs and other organisms; burning coal releases arsenic, mercury, selenium, radioactive isotopes, and a raft of other toxins into the air (http://www.ucsusa.org/clean_energy/coalvswind/c02c.html), and ash piles leach them into groundwater and soil(http://www.earthjustice.org/news/press/007/coal-ash-pollution-contaminates-groundwater-increases-cancer-risks.html). Mining coal destroys vast landscapes and releases the same toxins into groundwater(http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/03/080326201751.htm). Mining uranium for nuclear power destroys landscapes and poisons groundwater, too(http://www.environmentcolorado.org/news-releases/colorado-forest-project/colorado-forest-project--news/senate-passes-bill-to-protect-land-and-water-from-uranium-pollution); and nuclear reactors leave behind difficult and costly to manage toxic waste, waste that is a huge security risk. Oil and gas exploration and drilling destroy landscapes and groundwater, too, and drilling releases methane into the atmosphere, a heat-trapping gas 21 times more severe than CO2.(http://blog.cleanenergy.org/2009/12/10/false-solution-offshore-oil-drilling/) The cost for cleaning up all this pollution and treating the illnesses caused by it are paid by citizens, not the corporations who profit. And we are still left with diminished and declining ecosystems after energy companies move on.

besides, there are lots of cheaper, cleaner, sustainable ways to get energy: http://www.rmi.org/rmi/pid257
read more: http://cyclopsvuethinks.blogspot.com/search/label/Energy

Monday, December 14, 2009

Copenhagen: Comments on NY Times

Here's some comments I left on the NY Times Climate Change Conversations page:

People in the U.S. or other industrialized countries who oppose action to mitigate global warming because it will cost them jobs or money are either dupes or shills for big coal, big oil, or big nukes, and the glad-handing-get-rich-quick-at-the-expense-of-working-people wing of the Republican party, or their European counterparts (yes, there are some). These folks have been had; they've been done to; they've been led down the garden path, and they don't know it. Yet.

The rest of us do know that if we act now we will create good, long-term jobs to replace those lost in industries that are dying anyway, and spend little -- less than 50 cents a day for most Americans (or much less, less than zero, if we're smart). And, we'll prevent billions of tons of unnecessary, toxic pollution from contaminating our land and oceans, killing our children, and decimating multitudes of species. For no good reason. We have cheaper methods now of providing electricity, heating and cooling, and transportation that pollute far less, and leave behind no toxic legacy to our descendants. That's right, CHEAPER; with more, better paid, secure jobs. And cheaper from a national security perspective: no nuclear waste to proliferate, no energy rich dictators to deal with. We just need the courage to get out in front, get educated, and tell the blowhards who say it can't be done to buzz off. Let's, for once, do what's good for working people, the environment and the economy at large, instead of buying into a bunch of phony negativism from corporate profiteers who are interested in nothing but concentrating wealth in their own pockets.

The Rocky Mountain Institute has an extensive, and reputable library of documents to prove we can do this, and save money in the process: http://www.rmi.org/rmi/pid257

and more here: http://cyclopsvuethinks.blogspot.com/search/label/Energy

and the NY Times has an outstanding timeline here: http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2009/12/07/science/20091207_CLIMATE_TIMELINE.html
Cheers Copenhagen!

Friday, December 4, 2009

An Elegant Refutation of Global Warming Deniers

You might give this a read if you have doubts about global warming...it won't convince you, but it might make you feel silly for a bit: "Johann Hari: How I wish that the global warming deniers were right / Are you prepared to take a 50-50 gamble on the habitability of the planet?"

On second thought, don't even bother. Ignorance is bliss: better to be blissed out as you "go gentle into that good night".

Senator Byrd Opposes Mountaintop Removal

Senator Byrd of West Virginia, a long time supporter of the coal industry, released a statement on December 3 opposing mountaintop removal strip mining for coal.

The statement appears in the Appalachian Voices Front Porch Blog.

My comment on that statement is:

I truly admire and respect Senator Byrd. I've always been awed by his foreign policy speeches.

But he's mistaken about one thing. He states:
"Let’s speak a little more truth here. No deliberate effort to do away with the coal industry could ever succeed in Washington because there is no available alternative energy supply that could immediately supplant the use of coal for base load power generation in America. That is a stubborn fact that vexes some in the environmental community, but it is reality."

We really could provide base load power without coal or nuclear using existing, least cost technology.

Here's a short bit from my blog that makes this point: http://cyclopsvuethinks.blogspot.com/2009/02/renewables-intermittency-reliability.html

And here's a whole list of articles from a reputable source, the Rocky Mountain Institute, that make the case for efficiency savings and distributed power (instead of large central plants): http://www.rmi.org/rmi/pid257

The technology exists now, and is cost-effectively implemented in this and other countries. We just need to learn about it and get to work.

Still, I'm encouraged by Senator Byrd's statement.

We need to stop propagating misinformation in the energy debate.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Even To the WTO, Free Trade Is A Tough Sell

An article in the WSJ, "Blame Goes Global at WTO
Officials at Trade Talks Say Fears of Lost Jobs and Political Fallout Block Progress
," by JOHN W. MILLER, DECEMBER 3, 2009, describes foot dragging on free trade at the current WTO meeting in Geneva.
In all countries, "people are afraid" of another trade deal, says U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk. "Trade has provided a way for people to have fresh produce, cheap T-shirts, available electronics, but the pain of trade is very real."

Benefits of free trade in the U.S.?

Low inflation? (Inflation can be controlled without running a huge trade deficit.) Cheap consumer goods? (And dubious quality; and diminished consumer income and job security) Fewer wars? (Not much evidence of that.)

I'd really like to see a convincing defense of free trade as it relates to the U.S. economy. Not just the same old hollow tropes trotted out about an evolving, white-collar-trending economy; and economic leveling that might happen one day, but a real defense based on current evidence of prosperity gained (by everyone, not the rich alone).

I doubt it exists. But economists everywhere seem to have a personal stake in the empty notion of wide-open free trade with no shared standards for worker safety, wages, health care, pensions, or environmental protection.

Until somebody comes up with a convincing argument for selling out our industrial base (and engineering know-how, and labor rights), let's go back to mercantilism. At least the benefits, along with the faults, are clear. (And please, don't bring up speculative assertions centered on Smoot-Halley -- they don't hold up to scrutiny.)

New Nukes Do Nothing To Prevent Catastrophic Climate Change

Here's a note that I sent, via the Nuclear Information and Resource Service (NIRS), to my Senators today:
Nuclear power is not a least-cost, or least-delay, source of energy. For every dollar spent on nuclear energy, we lose $10 worth of energy gained from much cheaper efficiency, or up to $2 gained from rapidly deployed clean, safe renewable sources (E05-15_MightyMice.pdf [page 5]).
And, we loose precious time -- no nuclear plant, if construction started today, would have any meaningful impact on mitigating the climate crisis we face. Nukes are too slow to build to do any good. So, be reasonable. Rule out nukes now, before we waste precious money and time.

Why not make informed, rational decisions on this issue?

read more:
Rocky Mountain Institute Library
my blog -- energy

I hope they read it. I hope anyone reads it. Have a look at the Rocky Mountain Institute link above.

And then visit NIRS, and send a letter of your own.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Brought to you by Massey Energy...

What a waste that someone like Mr. Micklem, who has devoted his life to advancing our knowledge of the verdant natural world humanity inherited, has to risk ending his life combating ignorance of that world, and ambivalence toward it, and reckless destruction of it.

Ignorance, ambivalence, and destruction that are actively encouraged by corporate and government leaders who know better. And it happens for no other reasons but fear and greed.