A Few Things Ill Considered

Geoengineering is getting more and more attention in political discussions as well as research. I am by no means a proponent of any geoengineering scheme I have heard of and the majority of them try to address surface temperature only and therefore do nothing about “the other CO2 problem”, aka ocean acidification.

I must confess that H. E. Taylor’s article a while back went some way in convincing me that like it or not we need to be considering these perilous pathways. He basically makes the compelling argument that we are in fact now, unwittingly or not, geoengineering our global climate so best if we do it with our eyes open.

It comes up in the contrarian arguments frequently as the magic bullet reason there is no need to worry in the first place. I have always marveled at the cognitive dissonance required in that mindset that arises from despising the notion of international cooperation or governance yet sanguinely assuming that humanity can “fix” whatever we want to via geoengineering when the need arises. Somehow in the future, this miraculous cooperation is just a given though today it is impossible.

If you think agreeing to binding emissions reductions is difficult, try getting a global accord on climate manipulation, especially on who should fund and who should control it. Does the US want the UN’s hand on the control knob? Does China want the US’s? Who will host the machinary? And talk about putting our future in the hands of climate models!

And even more intractable a problem, what do we do if the effects are not uniform? After all climate is not just surface temperature. Rainfall patterns and storms are all in the mix as well. There could be winners and losers in such a brave new world.

A new study in Nature magazine by Katharine L. Ricke, M. Granger Morgan and Myles R. Allen has taken a look at just what kind of regional variation we might experience if any of the various solar-reduction geo-experiments were actually implemented. These ideas typically range from injecting SO2 into the stratosphere (as large volcanic eruptions can do) to orbiting sunshades or mirrors, but I don’t know specifically what scenarios they examined in this study or even if particular methods were relevant. They found that temperatures could indeed theoretically be lowered, but the abstract concludes:

Over time, simulated temperature and precipitation in large regions such as China and India vary significantly with different trajectories for solar-radiation management, and they diverge from historical baselines in different directions. Hence, it may not be possible to stabilize the climate in all regions simultaneously using solar-radiation management.

And while the final sentence in the abstract is definately outside of the scope of this study, it is pretty hard argue with its statement of obvious political implications:

Regional diversity in the response to different levels of solar-radiation management could make consensus about the optimal level of geoengineering difficult, if not impossible, to achieve.

I think by far the easier task is to avoid this faustian bargain in the first place and just reduce our greenhouse gas emissions now.

Comments

  1. #1 PaulinMI
    July 22, 2010

    Somehow in the future, this miraculous cooperation is just a given though today it is impossible.

    . . .

    I think by far the easier task is to avoid this faustian bargain in the first place and just reduce our greenhouse gas emissions now.

    Huh ???

  2. #2 crakar24
    July 22, 2010

    Coby,

    I see a few problems with this.

    1, Some countries may like it warmer, i am thinking countries near the Nth pole for example so they may not agree.

    2, Whatever we do it needs to be reversable in a hurry, lets say we know less about the climate than we make out we do and we lace the atmosphere with SO2 etc and the world begins a sudden plunge into ice age like conditions how do we reverse the process?

    3, In regards to oceans acidifying, this plan will only make it worse…yes? If we block out the sun we cool the oceans which suck in more CO2 right?

    4, The latest from Julia Gillard on an ETS/cap and tax policy is wait until 2013, she wants to get a 1000 or so volunteers to go over the evidence and decide what to do. In complete contradiction to this she claims to believe in AGW, just more Rudd ‘er’ Less spin from Labor.

    I see Obumma’s symbolic policy to save the planet has run a’ground on rocks aswell, also the new English gov. has pulled billions from its green agenda. The counties that have embraced this green ideology the most are now paying the price.

    The bottom line is i would not hold my breath waiting for the world to reduce its emissions.

    So where does that leave us?

  3. #3 coby
    July 22, 2010

    Paul,

    I see your point, but I guess I am being confusing by being me in one instance and playing a role in the previous. A frequent excuse for inaction is presenting UN involvement or international agreements on emissions as a horrifying form of “world governance” but these same folks often embrace geoengineering despite that.

    carakar:
    “So where does that leave us?”

    In very deep doodoo.

  4. #4 PaulinMI
    July 23, 2010

    Basically, (we agree then?), that global action in any direction is quite improbable.

    Q – Will this change in the future if the warming goes to new levels ?
    (no answer here from me)

    | “So where does that leave us?”
    | In very deep doodoo.

    Yup.

  5. #5 skip
    July 23, 2010

    But don’t confuse political inertia against action as an *argument* against action. Its another one of these muddled denier fallback points: “Well, whether action on global warming is desirable or not, its politically infeasible anyway so what’s the point?”

    Yeah its politically infeasible as long as people believe horseshit arguments like reducing fossil fuel use kills people.

    I still, Paul, would very much like to see your response to post 197 in the “Its the Sun, Stupid” thread.

    Much obliged.

  6. #6 skip
    July 23, 2010

    The bottom line is i would not hold my breath waiting for the world to reduce its emissions.

    So where does that leave us?–Crakar

    It leaves us needing fusion power bigger than Jesus, or a *Childhood’s End*-type salvation by advanced extraterrestrials. A huge chunk of AGW deniers are banking on the Rapture, but I’ll see you in hell, Crakar.

  7. #7 PaulinMI
    July 23, 2010

    Skip,
    Simple, any reduction in wealth has repercussions.
    Part of that is life expectancy.

    [Please do not confuse individual choices to purchase or not purchase energy for one’s own needs with an artificial reduction in availability.]

  8. #8 PaulinMI
    July 23, 2010

    Skip,

    “Well, whether action on global warming is desirable or not, its politically infeasible anyway so what’s the point?”

    What’s the point to what?

  9. #9 skip
    July 24, 2010

    Paul, you’re just plain confused. You’ve fixed yourself on this idea that acting on climate change is misanthropy and murder, and you’re clinging to it against all logic. I can only surmise why, but my suspicion is when you first heard it you thought it was a really keen point and now you don’t want to face the fact that its just plainly illogical.

    Simple, any reduction in wealth has repercussions.
    Part of that is life expectancy.

    Europeans pay higher taxes on gas than we do–much higher. It is a purely “artificial reduction in availability” as you might say.

    How many people in Europe are dying because of this? What is the mechanism of their reduced-emissions-induced death? (By the way their life expectancies are higher than ours–as are those of *many* less “wealthy” cultures. What keeps people alive is a healthy lifestyle, not driving an Escalade, Paul.)

    And even assuming your argument is correct(and its not), back we go to this question that you still never answer:

    If us using less carbon-based fuel would kill people, what will be the effect on future people who don’t have any fuel left because we used it all now? Oh–that’s right, you *have* answered: We can’t define the property rights of future generations. Incredible.

    “Well, whether action on global warming is desirable or not, its politically infeasible anyway so what’s the point?”

    What’s the point to what?

    Of action on AGW–from the perspective of the denier who opposes such action.

    And Paul, let me ask you another straight up question. Does all this have *nothing* to do with a personal distaste for sacrifice in the face of a public nuisance? Are you really, and I mean *really* concerned about the “lives lost” if our cars average 60 mpg? Or do you just not like the idea of higher gas taxes forcing you to drive such a car because you find that to be an unpleasant imposition on your own “wealth”? Because I frankly suspect this is a lot more about the latter.

    It goes right back to the question, Paul: If we all drove fuel efficient cars, how many people does it kill? The answer of course, is zero (not counting the marginal increase in road fatalities when people in light, fuel efficient cars get flattened by Hummers), and I don’t even know why you don’t just admit it and we can move on.

  10. #10 PaulinMI
    July 24, 2010

    Skip,
    I am sorry, but your rambling nonsensical answers are impossible to respond to.
    Intentional misinterpretations and assumptions abound.

    let’s agree to disagree.

  11. #11 skip
    July 24, 2010

    Intentional misinterpretations and assumptions abound.

    Very well then: Identify *one*.

    Uh huh . . . exactly.

    Paul, you’ve been caught in a series of silly statements in defense of a shoddy argument (conserving fossil fuel kills people). The class thing to do is just admit it and not hide behind a vague defense of “Its beneath my dignity to respond.”

  12. #12 PaulinMI
    July 24, 2010

    As you failed to notice, it’s not an argument against doing anything, it’s part of a discussion about what and how to do it.

    Drop the defensive attitude and participate.

  13. #13 skip
    July 24, 2010

    So does conserving fossil fuel kill people are not?

  14. #14 PaulinMI
    July 24, 2010

    Asked and answered.

  15. #15 skip
    July 24, 2010

    Please remind me.

  16. #16 PaulinMI
    July 24, 2010

    see post 7

  17. #17 skip
    July 24, 2010

    What you wrote:

    reduction in wealth has repercussions.

    It is not clear to me that this includes fossil fuels.

    Does it? Yes or no suffices.

    Hard to answer yes or no isn’t it, Paul?

    Because you’re speaking out of both sides of your mouth on this issue. You’re toggling between vaguely defined “wealth” and the specific issue of fossil fuels.

    And now see post 9 in response, and instead of claiming injury and misunderstanding, answer the questions directly.

    Can’t answer direct questions on this, can you?

    Cognitive psychology has much to say about the refusal to answer questions directly. It often emerges when respondents don’t want to face the implications of having to really think through their position.

    Look, Paul. I know what you’re what you’re going through. I used to try to defend a literal interpretation of the Bible and would constantly dodge direct questions with vague references to the “mysteries of the Almighty” and so forth.

    Trust me when I tell you life is much easier when you don’t need anything to be true.

    Prediction: You will not answer my questions directly.

  18. #18 PaulinMI
    July 24, 2010

    yes
    no

    and you’re wandering off the path again
    focus

  19. #19 skip
    July 24, 2010

    We might be getting slightly closer to a direct answer.

    So, to clarify. Is this your position:

    If we use less *fossil fuel* as part of an effort to combat global warming, people *will die*–who otherwise would not have? There is no way to conserve fossil fuels in a way that does *not* kill people who would otherwise live–and this truism should be “part of the discussion”?

    Is this your position?

    Yes or no?

    And as I predicted, you have, and will continue to ignore, my questions from post 9.

  20. #20 PaulinMI
    July 24, 2010

    Skip,
    Please stop with the “as I predicted” stuff. It is rude and annoying and I’m sure not worthy of someone with your stature.

    “If us using less carbon-based fuel would kill people, what will be the effect on future people who don’t have any fuel left because we used it all now? Oh–that’s right, you *have* answered: We can’t define the property rights of future generations. Incredible.”

    If this is the question from 9, sorry I got lost in the wandering.

    Skip, what happened when England ran out of trees for fuel?

    As to the conserve issue. Logically, because your sentence starts with “no way to conserve”, the logic would imply this is false. But sadly the answer for the near term is NO.

    Why don’t you attempt to answer why that is so?

  21. #21 skip
    July 24, 2010

    Paul, I have no “stature” of concern to you, either way. And I guess we all take offense at different things, but ignoring direct questions is one of them for me.

    And on that note: No you are still not answering the questions from post 9.

    Skip, what happened when England ran out of trees for fuel?

    I don’t know. Probably any number of things.

    Enlighten me, but I don’t think the conversation will go any place you like. I’m willing to be shown otherwise.

    As to the conserve issue. Logically, because your sentence starts with “no way to conserve”, the logic would imply this is false. But sadly the answer for the near term is NO.

    Why don’t you attempt to answer why that is so?

    Unbelievable. Incredible. Besides making two incoherently contradictory statements, you just asked me to defend *your* position as if it were an axiom. Is this a mis-wording?

    Paul, I’m right and you’re wrong. Can you tell me why this is so?

  22. #22 skip
    July 24, 2010

    Peace out, Paul.

    I need to do yard work.

  23. #23 PaulinMI
    July 24, 2010

    Agreed, school’s out for today.
    I’ll try again later.

  24. #24 crakar24
    July 25, 2010

    Skip re post 6,

    If i get there before you i will save you a seat at the bar.

    In regards to the issue you are both debating i am not sure i follow either of you.

    There are third world countries where people die at a younger age due solely to a lack of electricty. If this country had access to power then the life expectancy of its people would greatly improve.

    If the country has access to an abundant amount of fossil fuel then it could provide cheap and reliable power to its people. If they were to be denied access to this abundant, cheap and reliable fuel then one could say policy decisions made by others would lead to a continuation of this lower life expectancy.

    Of course the third world country could build expensive alternatives such as solar and wind but with all that cheap fossil fuel beneath their feet why would they want to?

    In this context i can agree with Paul that CO2 reduction could lead to more deaths. However reduction of CO2 in the first world will only increase the cost of fuel not so much the death rate (unless you cannot afford the electricty bills)so in this context i agree with Skip.

    So to sum up (if i have understood the debate) you are both right.

    Now onto Oz politics.

    I feel sorry for the Australian believer, i really do. First they voted in KRudd on the back of his commitment to introduce an ETS, an ETS which was vetoed twice in the senate by the greens and the liberals. This would have allowed him to call another election but instead he decided to put the ETS off until 2013.

    This upset about 6% of labor voters who went to the greens and KRudds popularity went down like a cold beer on a hot day. Julie then knifed him in the back and labor got that 6% back and had a healthy 10 point lead in the polls.

    Despite Julia (and KRudd) stating less than 6 months ago that delaying is denying Julia herself has continued KRudds policy of an ETS (2013). This means the Liberals are the only party heading to the election with a policy on AGW and guess where the votes went, labor now only hold a 4 point lead same as when KRudd got knifed. How long before Julia Gillard gets it in the neck.

    Labors new slogan “You spin me right round baby right round like a record baby right round right round”.

    Mandas dont know if you have ever been to NZ but if the unthinkable happens aussies are always welcome there.

  25. #25 PaulinMI
    July 25, 2010

    Crakar,
    You are exactly right for the 3rd world.
    In the first world, the increased cost at the margins will take out the lower tiers and reduce advances available with greater wealth.

    Thanks for providing an enlightening example.

    And Skip, for the issue of why the near term presents no opportunity for meaningfully reducing CO2 without impacting lives, is because there is no current solution with a cost benefit structure as fossil fuel.

    That is our challenge. But we’ll need wealth to do it, not by making things more difficult.

  26. #26 mandas
    July 25, 2010

    Been to NZ many times – but the place is full of kiwis. They are unbearable if they beat us at any sport (which admittedly, only seems to hapen in the rugby).

    The unthinkable is going to happen no matter who wins the election. Abbott is a scary fundy and shouldn’t be put in charge of anything and many on the team are worse (think Tuckey and Joyce). If we keep Julia we get more of the same (more backflips than cirque de soleil).

  27. #27 Dappledwater
    July 26, 2010

    “Been to NZ many times – but the place is full of kiwis. They are unbearable if they beat us at any sport (which admittedly, only seems to hapen in the rugby).” – Mandas.

    You mean there are other sports?.

    “Mandas dont know if you have ever been to NZ but if the unthinkable happens aussies are always welcome there.” – Crakar

    Except for your marshmellow front row forwards.

  28. #28 skip
    July 26, 2010

    Paul:

    Please consider this a direct question:

    What “tier” of people is dying in Europe because their fossil fuel–owing to *taxes* (aka “making things more difficult”?) is more expensive than ours?

    Here’s another direct question:

    Who would die in America if gas and goal were taxed at a level that made Hummers, RVs, and 4500 square-foot homes prohibitively expensive for all but the very, very rich?

    Crakar, I will not only save you a seat but a start a tab–in your name of course. I feel you owe me.

    Re: Third world energy and marginal increases in mortality rates. The “causes” of 3rd world mortality are brutally complex. No doubt in some contexts there would be a marginal increase in “lives saved” were extra fossil fuel energy the univariate input.

    The question becomes: What’s keeping life-saving energy out of the third world?

  29. #29 mandas
    July 26, 2010

    DW

    I am loathe to make to much of a comment on your post, except to say that we will see this weekend won’t we? (I would love to make the prediction that we will kick your sorry arses, but I do believe that the blacks are probably the best side in the world at the moment and we will do well to beat you).

  30. #30 PaulinMI
    July 26, 2010

    What “tier” of people is dying in Europe because their fossil fuel–owing to *taxes* (aka “making things more difficult”?) is more expensive than ours?

    A: those who would have benefited by the advances a wealthier economy provides
    ____________________________________________________________
    Who would die in America if gas and goal were taxed at a level that made Hummers, RVs, and 4500 square-foot homes prohibitively expensive for all but the very, very rich?

    A: those who would have benefited by the advances a wealthier economy provides

    New question: What would this action accomplish?

    _______________________________________________

    Third world energy and marginal increases in mortality rates. The “causes” of 3rd world mortality are brutally complex. No doubt in some contexts there would be a marginal increase in “lives saved” were extra fossil fuel energy the univariate input.

    I think we agree, but define better, your use of univariate.

    __________________________________________________

    What’s keeping life-saving energy out of the third world?

    A: I suspect lack of freedom and property rights for the most part. But I am willing to listen . . .

  31. #31 crakar24
    July 26, 2010

    Skip post 28,

    We can argue about who owes who what when we get there, anyway i thought where we were going all the beer was free.

    Mandas post 29,

    Careful, the only time we can beat the all blacks is in the world cup playoffs, well actually thats the only time anyone can beat them as they tend to choke in the big games.

    As to the main topic i was of the understanding that the only reason (well maybe not the *only* reason) why we want/need a tax on carbon dioxide is to make it more expensive. Which in turn makes solar/wind more competitive thus driving the fossil fuel industry out of the market.

    Skip you mentioned earlier that Paul was evading answers based on his “cognitive psychology” (i assume this is another word for narrative), now i am not sure about Paul but you do raise a good point.

    1, Some people may believe the IPCC sensitivity figures are well and truly overcooked and the small warming from increased CO2 will be pleasant not painful.

    2, Some people may generally accept the IPCC view but feel it is easier/cheaper to adapt to AGW rather than dramatically change the worlds energy landscape.

    3, Some people (like yourself) generally accept the IPCC view and believe we must dramatically change the energy landscape and it should be done right now.

    In the past you have also made the valid point that coal etc will not last forever so we have to come up with an alternative at some point.

    The only difference between the 3 people types i have mentioned is the time line they are running on.

    If we have time for an orderly transition from fossil to alternative then the costs would be much lower and the alternatives would have been developed enough to be able to replace the fossils. This could be achieved within our life times long before we need to adapt if need be.

    If we dont have time for an orderly transition then the transition will be difficult to achieve without a lot of pain and heartache. As it stands we dont have enough alternative energy supplies to replace the fossil.

    Some states here in OZ have had grandious plans of achieving 20% green energy by 2020. This plan began in 2000, so far they have achieved 6% of the 20% and 4% of that is from Hydro but we cant build dams in Oz anymore because the very people screaming for green power wont let us build any.

    To sum up Skip, i understand your argument and actually agree with some of it but at present what you want/ask for is impractical. We can discuss why it is impractical if you like but i already know the answer.

    GOVERNMENT

    Q. What’s keeping life-saving energy out of the third world?

    A. A lack of will power by the companies, poor countries cant afford to build them and there is not enough profit (poor people have no money to buy the electricity) for them in it.

    Or in the case of one African country who is being stopped by the tree huggers from building a Hydro-electric dam.

  32. #32 mandas
    July 26, 2010

    crakar

    There are a couple of things you appear to be neglecting from your points re changing to ‘green energy’.

    The first is that we can achieve a lot right now by more efficient use of what we have. I am not talking about energy efficient light globes etc, because I can do all I can in my own house, and if the council leaves the flood lights on at the park for just one night (which they appare to do with monotonous regularity) they will have used far more energy in that one oversight than I could save in a whole year. And you only have to walk through the city at night to see office buildings lit up like christmas trees at 2 in the morning. The amount of energy that is being wasted is staggering, and it wouldn’t take much effort to have substantial savings.

    On the subject of hydro-electric dams, I think you are missing the point about the environment. Climate change is just one problem facing biodiversity and the environment – another is habitat loss, which is arguably a bigger problem for many species. Building bigger and bigger dams just exacerbates this, and we need to be a little smarter.

    You also argue that we don’t have enough ‘renewables’ to replace fossil fuels – and that is generally true. But no-one is arguing that we either can or should completely replace all our coal fired power with green energy straight away. Its going to be a gradual thing. If we stopped building fossil fuel power stations and built clean energy stations, the coal stations will still be around for a long time to come – its just that they would be gradually phased out. And there is no reason why some coal stations couldn’t stay in the energy mix – along with some solar, some wind, some geothermal, some wave/tide, some gas etc. We could achieve 20% easily with a little bit of effort, and there is no reason why we could not exceed it.

    And you can do other things besides taxing carbon if you want to discourage CO2 and encourage greener technologies. An example would be to reduce the tax on hybrid and low fuel mileage cars, and raise the tax on gas guzzlers. Or give tax credits for investment in clean technologies. Provide better public transport in the cities. Make green companies the preferred suppliers for government contracts. Mandate insulation and solar hot water on all new contruction buildings. Invest in carbon capture – not just in power stations but in agriculture (soil and plant sequestration). The list is endless and is only limited by your imagination.

    I am not an economist so my opinion on this issue are probably irrelevant, but I do not accept the economic rationalist argument about an ETS/cap and trade. The market is not the answer – it is the problem – and expecting market regulation to fix climate change is (in my opinion) flawed. Despite what most Americans might think, capitalism is a very flawed system, and we need government regulation and public investment to save us from the worst excesses of the system. But we need to start now. Its like getting fat. The longer you keep eating to excess, the fatter you get, and the more weight you have to lose and the harder it is to lose it. But if you make small steps straight away, there is less pain in the long term.

    Third world countries will NOT suffer if we move towards green technologies, as long as we provide technology transfers and assist them with their needs. In fact, they are more likely to benefit from the change from being oil wells and mines for developed nations, where we take their resources and provide precious little in return.

  33. #33 skip
    July 27, 2010

    those who would have benefited by the advances a wealthier economy provides

    Who are these people, Paul? Is their existence axiomatic to you?

    Direct Question, Paul:

    Do you not see a *key* flaw in your logic–and I mean *key*?

    I suspect lack of freedom and property rights for the most part keep energy from the third world.

    Really?

    Here is one undeniable contributing factor Paul: *We price them out.*

    Direct question, Paul:

    How many people are *dying* right now, around the world, because they don’t have energy that we, the rich, out-competed them for? (And see response to Crakar, below.)

    Similarly: How many people, say a hundred years from now, will die because we used up their fossil fuels? Unless you can say “zero” with a straight face (which would contradict your position anyway, since you’re claiming reduced “wealth”=death as an axiom) you’re being completely hypocritical, refusing to pay a cost that you have no problem passing on to those who follow you–all in the name of saving lives through lower gas mileage.

    (Mind you, this is not to say I an any way except your premise that fuel taxes are murderous; I’m only going to drive your argument to its self-created precipice.)

    Crakar:

    2, Some people may generally accept the IPCC view but feel it is easier/cheaper to adapt to AGW rather than dramatically change the worlds energy landscape.

    The Bjorn Lomborg’s of the world. At some level they are going to be right be default. Some warming will occur; some adaptation will occur. The devil is in the balance of the two.

    3, Some people (like yourself) generally accept the IPCC view and believe we must dramatically change the energy landscape and it should be done right now.

    Not exactly. We should *move toward* those changes. But yes, the sooner the better. I am completely with Mandas on this, i.e.:

    no-one is arguing that we either can or should completely replace all our coal fired power with green energy straight away. Its going to be a gradual thing.

    Although where Mandas and I might differ is the exact manner of “tweaking” versus “overhauling” the market basis of an energy economy. I suspect we might both be talking out similarly ill-informed asses, but even if fossil fuel taxes are not the *optimal* means of transitioning to a cleaner energy economy, they aren’t acts of “murder”, for godsake.

    what you want/ask for is impractical. We can discuss why it is impractical if you like but i already know the answer . . . GOVERNMENT

    No, Crakar. Its because its *not attractive*.

    People like Paul, either because they sincerely believe that fossil fuel taxes kill innocent people, or, alternately, because they just don’t want to pay more for gas and are using the unspecified hypothetical dead as human shields, *resist* these changes. Crakar you are confusing “impractical” with “a pain in the ass, and thus *politically* unpalatable”. The fact is we *can* afford to gradually phase out the majority of fossil fuels. Its just, yes, more expensive than doing nothing. There is no argument there. Where Paul and you obviously disagree with me is whether these costs are tolerable. I’m willing to drive a small car, turn off the air, and buy local in response to a more expensive energy economy. Paul declares the conditions of said economy an act of murder.

    Q. What’s keeping life-saving energy out of the third world?

    A. A lack of will power by the companies, poor countries cant afford to build them and there is not enough profit (poor people have no money to buy the electricity) for them in it.

    Close. They don’t have *enough* money to compete against the *rich*.

    Lets talk hydro, Crakar. When the misses and I hiked up Pacaya in Guatemala our guide showed us a beautiful hydro damn built outside Antigua. A certain amount of the power is of course reserved for the homeland (so that well-fed tourists such as myself could run our lights in our 3-star hotels in Antigua). The rest went to Costa Rica.

    Why? Costa Rica is *richer*. In a free market competition for a finite resource, the rich will out-compete the poor, and mind you, Paul, they aren’t going to give a goddamn how many people this lack of “wealth” supposedly “kills”.

    Paul no doubt will think he sees an opening here so I will let him take the discussion forward. But don’t jump on this before addressing my direct questions at the top of the post, Paul.

  34. #34 crakar24
    July 28, 2010

    Mandas,

    Thanks for your post (32), are you sitting down…………………..because i actually agree with some of what you say (must be a blue moon).

    I would like to keep the AGW aspect out of this for a moment and just concentrate on changing energy sources because i think we all agree at some pointwe will need to do it. So on that basis a few comments in response by paragraph.

    1, Agreed

    2, To me Hydro is the ultimate green energy as it produces zero CO2 and is the only green energy capable of replacing our existing base load coal etc. I acknowledge your point about damaging the environment with Hydro and i think it needs to a major consideration however some may respond by quoting Dr Spock who once said “the needs of the many out way the needs of the few” in other words a few Hydro dams may destroy a small percentage of the environment but will help us save the planet.

    To be honest i am undecided on the issue.

    In fact here is an idea that i have been toying with and i will tell you what it is so i can get your opinion (Skip and Paul jump in here if you want) as long as you dont laugh at me OK.

    We have a great big man made lake (Argyle)in WA which just goes to waste as most of the water goes out to sea. Is it possible to pipe this water down through the central and southern parts to “green the desert”. We could fill the many salt lakes just north of where we live and f it is possible we could build some sort of Hydro generation there. This would have great benefits for increase of water for all sorts of reason especially so for Olympic dam as they are sucking the guts out of the great artesian basin.

    If the Hydro side of things could be done then a lot of coal power plants could be shut down. Any thoughts?

    3, Agree somewhat, i am still stuck on solar and wind being nothing more than pipe dreams as base load. I think we need something else (no not nuke) to replace coal.

    4, Agree again somewhat, the problem is that when ever the Gov start giving credits/rebates to green projects it is merely rorted to buggery by crooks. Look at the green loans and insulation programs, both are a complete shambles now we have the cash for clunkers rubbish. Is it gov or just labor?

    Anyway i think the gov (any gov) needs to take control of the situation we simply say thats too hard let the market sort it out!!!!! That shits me no end…

    I dont have the answers just yet Mandas but with more time we could drill a bit deeper (no pun) and maybe find some.

    5/6, Sounds about right, most poor countries are exploited by the rich we take their resources at bargain basement prices and their corrupt gov/dictators live in the lap of luxury. This situation needs to be changed.

  35. #35 crakar24
    July 28, 2010

    Skip,

    Thanks for the example from Pacaya, thats the kind of thing i was trying to say. I think in general all 4 of us are agreeing violently.

    I think your point of view is this “We need to change energy sources mainly because of AGW (we also need to at some stage anyway)and fuck the expense”, “If this causes pain then so be it”. Correct me if i am wrong.

    Whereas i say well AGW will probably cause some slight warming but not enough to pose any real problems however we should start looking at alternatives as we will run out one day. There is no great rush so lets do it once and do it right. Find/develope a replacement of base load power, built it, switch over to it, shut down the coal and gas, move on.

    I say this because it is only a matter of time before greed drives some idiot into drilling/mining in the Antarctic and before you know it we will have another “Gulf of Toxico” on our hands.

  36. #36 PaulinMI
    July 28, 2010

    Skip,
    Wrong premise, we don’t price people out.
    How would peoples labor be allocated in a world where price does not do it?(Perhaps think of China as you consider this)

    People like Paul, either because they sincerely believe that fossil fuel taxes kill innocent people, or, alternately, because they just don’t want to pay more for gas and are using the unspecified hypothetical dead as human shields, *resist* these changes.

    That is not why I resist these changes, as you would see yourself if you answered the “new question” I posed to you regarding hummers and such. In fact I think they are needed. So let’s see if we can figure out why they are resisted, globally in fact. (In fact, people will die regardless of the path we choose!)

  37. #37 PaulinMI
    July 28, 2010

    Skip,
    Who are these people, Paul? Is their existence axiomatic to you?

    Pick any one disease or affliction which has fatality associated with it and survival rates have improved in your lifetime. Now imagine the possibility of that happening again and the pace of development based on the wealth of the area, nation or world.

    Direct Question, Paul:

    Do you not see a *key* flaw in your logic–and I mean *key*?

    No.

  38. #38 skip
    July 28, 2010

    New question: What would this action accomplish?

    You are correct, Paul. I had neglected to answer this specific version of your question, but I have answered it before in different forms.

    Answer: A gradually imposed tax on fossil fuels will artificially incentivize their reduced use. Its the simplest of economic analyses. We use more of a commodity when its cheap; we use less when its expensive. (Plus we need more revenue in this country, unless about 30 million seniors die tomorrow.)

    A gradually imposed carbon-fuel tax puts consumers and producers on notice that they must adjust to a new energy regime–eventually. This will result in conservation (i.e. my point about Hummers, for example, being prohibitively expensive, ultimately, for all but the very very rich) and an economic incentive to develop and invest in renewable alternatives and maximize their return.

    Somebody, someday, somehow, will *have* to do this *anyway*–*whatever* you think about AGW, as Crakar acknowledges above. There is a not too distant future where no one but the Bill Gateses of the world will be able to afford Hummers. We can keep driving ours and cooling our 4000 square foot homes to 68 degrees on our children’s coal in the name of “prosperity” or “progress”, *or* we can accept the ethical principle that there are such things as trans-generational obligations.

    My wife will have twins sometime in January, Paul, assuming all things continue going well. Don’t think these issues are merely speculative for me.

  39. #39 PaulinMI
    July 28, 2010

    Skip,

    Similarly: How many people, say a hundred years from now, will die because we used up their fossil fuels? Unless you can say “zero” with a straight face (which would contradict your position anyway, since you’re claiming reduced “wealth”=death as an axiom) you’re being completely hypocritical, refusing to pay a cost that you have no problem passing on to those who follow you–all in the name of saving lives through lower gas mileage.

    Bad premise – “their fossil fuels”

    Quick answer – a hundred years from now. ZERO.
    In fact I am provably wrong. LESS THAN ZERO would be more accurate.

    So let’s examine what conservation means, how many years of supply will that buy you, and at what cost.

  40. #40 skip
    July 28, 2010

    Wrong premise, we don’t price people out.

    Then how did we in the US manage a situation where our five percent of the world’s population consumes a fifth of its energy–everyone else’s generosity?

    That [reduced fossil use killing people] is not why I resist these changes

    So now you are *not* saying reduced fossil fuel use kills people–or it still does but you can live with that because its unavoidable? What *are* you saying?

    So let’s see if we can figure out why they are resisted, globally in fact

    Are you willing to pay more for gas/and or make your next car a fuel efficient model–or do you just *have* to have that RV for tailgating at Vikings games? (Its a rhetorical question; for all I know you hate the Vikings.) Are you willing to lower your heat to 65–even in those nasty Minneapolis winters while still paying the same total money for heating oil because the taxes have increased? How you answer these questions will say much that answers your query.

    Quick answer – a hundred years from now. ZERO [people will die because of reduced access to fossil fuels]

    Then why would reducing *your* access now, through taxation, “kill people”?

    Paul, you simply cannot have it both ways. If reduced fossil fuel use is murder, then you’re murdering some number of people in the future who have less then so that *you* can have more now–that is, by *your* logic. There is no way around this. Quit telling me that you don’t want gas taxes because it “reduces economic prosperity” and thus kills people. Paul, you just don’t want to pay taxes. Which is fine, because neither do I, but at least I admit the real reason.

    In fact I am provably wrong. LESS THAN ZERO would be more accurate.

    What on earth does this even *mean*?

    And yes there *is* a crucial flaw in your logic, Paul. You have defined “economic prosperity” as the key ingredient that keeps people alive–which is true at the very low end. But you and I are *well* above that baseline, Paul. If the average American income was reduced in half there would need be no necessary increase in mortality as long as national priorities emphasized the nutrition and health care necessary for life.

    Not that they would by any stretch, but that is beside the point. We *have* the resources to sustain life; driving Hummers does *not* improve this, and *not driving* Hummers does not make it worse.

    Paul you apparently really believe the following muddled argument:

    “If you raise taxes on fossil fuel you will reduce economic prosperity and perforce cause increases in mortality. People will die who otherwise would not have. However, this principle of wealth reduction causing death will not apply in the future.”

  41. #41 PaulinMI
    July 28, 2010

    Skip, thanks for the answer.

    I can not disagree with most of your statements.

    Except, the “more revenue” statement.

    We will actually be less well off on net, by imposing the tax, thus simply shifting (to use your example) the seniors plight to others.

    And “trans-generational obligations”, I’m having trouble finding that one in the constitution. But I can tell you my father left me many things I am thankful for and he drove a car that barely managed 10mpg, oh, and we have more fuel available now than we did then.

    The real issue here is that a tax will simply make things harder to do, without a solution, at a time when we need to develop solutions. And while a tax will be an incentive, since it is a false incentive, the real investment in alternative technology will be minimal.

    Congrats on the twins. You’ll have your hands full.

  42. #42 PaulinMI
    July 28, 2010

    Skip,
    . . . yes there *is* a crucial flaw in your logic, Paul. You have defined “economic prosperity” as the key ingredient that keeps people alive–which is true at the very low end. But you and I are *well* above that baseline, Paul. If the average American income was reduced in half there would need be no necessary increase in mortality as long as national priorities emphasized the nutrition and health care necessary for life.

    That is half the equation,
    The part you leave out is how good can we get.
    How much more can we improve?
    What is the incentive for staying the same?

    Let’s forget about the “national priorities” part.
    (I think “central planned” economies have been passe’ for quite some time now.)
    If the national income was reduced by half, mortality and health care would be the last thing I would be worried about, it would be about survival next week.

    And I do have concern for those at the low end, they need what society provides as much as anyone, but they’re the first to fall when the economy slows.

    Just for laughs, how do you think computers progressed so fast? Put that in the context of your thoughts above on income, conservation and pricing others out of fuel.

  43. #43 PaulinMI
    July 28, 2010

    Skip,
    Paul you apparently really believe the following muddled argument:

    “If you raise taxes on fossil fuel you will reduce economic prosperity and perforce cause increases in mortality. People will die who otherwise would not have. However, this principle of wealth reduction causing death will not apply in the future.”

    No, see here above.

    (In fact, people will die regardless of the path we choose!)

  44. #44 PaulinMI
    July 28, 2010

    Skip,
    By the way, will your children benefit by the existence of computers? How about their children? And on and on.

    Is that “trans-generational obligation” or a result of the freedom enjoyed in this country and elsewhere?

  45. #45 skip
    July 28, 2010

    By the way, will your children benefit by the existence of computers? How about their children? And on and on.

    What did you anticipate I would say, Paul–“Wow, I never thought of that”? Of course they will “benefit” from them in the *general* sense, but they won’t *die* without them. Or more to the point, they won’t *die* if they have to pay 30 bucks more for a laptop because the price of transporting components is higher under a gas tax tax regime.

    You’re doing it again, Paul. You’re talking about both sides of your mouth. When I say, “fuel taxes don’t kill” you’re responding with “but prosperity is good, prosperity helps people live, taxes cut into prosperity, and therefore taxes kill.” Its incoherent, Paul, and the only question for me at the moment is if you honestly can’t see it or if you’re just being obstinate on the matter.

    Is that “trans-generational obligation” or a result of the freedom enjoyed in this country and elsewhere?

    Deciphering sentences like this is taxing, Paul. I’m sorry. If you can edit this I’ll take a stab at an answer. Much obliged.

  46. #46 PaulinMI
    July 28, 2010

    You’re doing it again, Paul. You’re talking about both sides of your mouth. When I say, “fuel taxes don’t kill” you’re responding with “but prosperity is good, prosperity helps people live, taxes cut into prosperity, and therefore taxes kill.” Its incoherent, Paul, and the only question for me at the moment is if you honestly can’t see it or if you’re just being obstinate on the matter.

    If that is incoherent, we’ll have to continue to disagree.
    But I appreciate your response.

  47. #47 skip
    July 28, 2010

    This is, again, the key thing you’re not seeing, Paul.

    Your logic *is* fallacious.

    *Some* degree of “prosperity” *is* required to sustain life. On this I believe we are agreed.

    But it does *not* –repeat, does *not*–logically follow that *any* reduction in “prosperity” is therefore lethal.

    People living in a village in a desert need water to live. But any surplus beyond the requirements of life are just that–surplus. There may be any number of inconveniences associated with losing their surplus water, but its not going to *kill* them.

    But if someone comes along and says, “Look, we need you to give up 1,000 gallons for Purpose X,” By your logic they can cry, “Foul. Water is necessary for life. If you take any of our water, some of us will die.”

    This, Paul, is the exact logical structure of your argument. This is what I am trying to impress on you. You’re trying to conflate “inconvenience” with “murder”. Again I have my suspicions why. Its a whole lot easier to argue against acting on cliamte change if you can convince yourself you’re saving lives by your inaction–not just ignoring a serious problem.

  48. #48 PaulinMI
    July 28, 2010

    Skip,
    I am making the case that prosperity and life are on a continuum and if you reduce the former you reduce the latter. And certainly not meaning to confuse it with murder.

    Also, if you improve the former, the latter will improve by some amount.

    As you take this to the limit, at the margin of imperceptible change, then it is still true.

    Also, not to confuse an individual choice of vehicles, for example, with a mandate for all to do the same thing.

    And I’ll be clear, because you are not reading my rather obtuse references to it –
    I am not arguing against action (recall “many will die either way”), but against action by a few.
    The real problem is that all, globally, need to act to reduce emissions to zero, and frankly, with that not happening, what is the point of being a hero (fool maybe??) by falling on your own sword?

  49. #49 skip
    July 28, 2010

    prosperity and life are on a continuum and if you reduce the former you reduce the latter.

    And to the extent that you conflate “being able to afford enough gas to drive a Hummer” with “prosperity”, you’re just utterly wrong.

    Paul, you are still talking out both sides of your mouth. You’re trying to sneak what most people would call “luxury” and grant it the imprimatur of “necessity of life” and thus afforded some sacrosanct status like insulin or protein. Why? Because you don’t want to give them up! In other words you don’t want to end up falling on your own sword.

    I think we are in fact getting closer to the real issue here.

    So far you’ve told is (a) You believe in the need for action in the abstract, but that there is no point in acting individually, since nobody else is playing ball, right? But (b) a proposal like mine–tax fossil fuels–to *make* everyone play ball–and in the process speed up an adjustment that *has* to eventually be made anyway–is no good, because it cuts into “prosperity” and thus kills people. And after all, nothing in *your* Constitution obligates you to subsequent generations in any event, so off the hook you are.

    What this looks a lot like is that you never intended to do anything about AGW. You’re never *going* to do anything about AGW. You will vote against anything that forces collective action against AGW on the grounds that it restricts wealth and thus kills. (At least that will be your story and you’ll stick to it.) There is no prospective course of action that you haven’t already headed off at the dogmatic pass with some rationalization like this.

    I mean, God, Paul. In previous posts you’ve indicated that using up fossil fuel as rapidly as possible is really doing future generations a *favor*, as it will force them to adapt to the problems of alternatives *and* the CO2 problem. Make a time capsule explaining this logic for those who come after us; I want them to know whom to thank.

    What do you really want here, Paul? Some sort of absolution–atonement for adopting a posture of inaction–and somehow achieving this by arguing that (somehow) not doing anything about the problem is really the most “moral” course of action?

  50. #50 mandas
    July 28, 2010

    carakar

    A few things about Lake Argyle. Firstly, it is already used to generate hydro for the Kimberley region, so the water is not just wasted by allowing it to flow out to sea. Secondly, getting the water to central SA would be a massive undertaking, and it could not just flow via gravity – there would have to be some pumping along the way and I am not sure whether the energy recouped would exceed the energy required to pump it. Thirdly, most of the salt lakes in central SA are at or below sea level (Lake Eyre is -50ft), so water stored in them could not be used to generate hydro (it can’t flow out). Lastly, the outflows into the sea are not just wasted. The brackish estuaries in the Kimberlies require a regular flow of freshwater or they will become more saline, and many species (such as mangroves)are adapted to the existing conditions and fish use the estuaries for breeding.

    But my main concern with any of these issues relates to the effects on the ecosystem. Too often we take an anthropomorphic view of the environment, and think that things like bringing water to the desert is a good thing. It may well be for us, but for the plant and animal species which are adapted to the dry environment it is an ecological disaster. The environment is a complex thing, and manipulating or changing one part of it sends cascading effects throughout the whole ecosystem (think wolves in Yellowstone NP as a small example). And I won’t even go into the consequences of other poorly thought through hydro schemes like Lake Pedder or the Franklin River.

    We have to think very hard about these issues and stop doing things like that – it is how we got into this mess in the first place.

  51. #51 mandas
    July 28, 2010

    crakar,

    Oh – you are obviously not a trekkie (I am), so I will forgive your misquote about ‘Dr’ Spock. Dr Spock was a sixties pediatrician who wrote a famous book on how to raise children. ‘Mr’ Spock is a Vulcan from Star Trek who said the quote “the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few” (in the movie the Wrath of Khan).

  52. #52 mandas
    July 28, 2010

    crakar

    Oh, and you are obviously not a trekkie (I am) so I will forgive your misquote about ‘Dr’ Spock. Dr Spock was a sixties pediatrician who wrote a famous book about raising children. ‘Mr’ Spock is a Vulcan from Star Trek who said the famous quote “the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few” (from the Wrath of Khan).

  53. #53 mandas
    July 28, 2010

    Sorry to hog the thread, but just a final word for now on the issue of solar energy.

    It is a fallacy that solar is unable to deliver baseload power. That may well be true of photo voltaic power generation, but it is not the case for solar thermal power, which use mirrors to concentrate sunlight which is then used to heat a fluid which is then stored and used to generate power on demand. Here is a link to some information from a University of Sydney pilot project:

    http://sydney.edu.au/warrencentre/bulletin/NO51/ed51art6.htm

  54. #54 crakar24
    July 28, 2010

    Mandas,

    I do enjoy the odd startrek movie, i would not consider myself a trekkie but i do appologies for getting the Dr and Mr wrong. I am more of a BSG fan (have the complete series if interested).

    Once again let me stress i acknowledge your points re dams/environmental damage and i realise this is your area of expertise so far be it from me to disagree. However having spent a considerable time near these salt lakes the only animal life i have seen is the odd Emu and Kangaroo they are only there because the water pipes from Woomera to the range leak.

    There is a town near Lake Eyre called William Creek have you been there? The north side of the main road is private? land the south is Womera rocket range if travelling from Roxby to William creek you pass what is know as the bubbler.

    The bubbler is where the great artesian basin water pushes out to the surface, my old boss told me when he first saw it the water would gush out 12 feet high then it was only about 6 feet. I went back there not long ago and it was lucky to be 2 feet this is due to Olympic Dam sucking out all the water so they can mine uranium etc.

    Anyway my point is that around this bubbler ther is life for about 20 meters then beyond that it goes back to a dry dusty lifeless desert (yes i know some little creatures live in the desert).

    Look at Lake Eyre when it is dry, very little life exists on it but now it is wet life is plentiful.

    Now once again i am not disagreeing with you but…..if you did fill some of these lakes with water would this increase the biodiversity of the region? I would have thought overall this would be a good thing for both man and beast.

  55. #55 crakar24
    July 28, 2010

    Mandas re 53,

    Dont worry about hogging the thread i do it all the time and have yet to be told off by Coby.

    I looked at the link (thanks) and i have seen this on top gear well something James May was in anyway and they were trying to make petrol using this system.

    This highlights what i have said in the past and i think? it touches on what Paul is saying (correct if wrong Paul).

    You see there are plenty of new technologies out there, granted some are in their infancy and others maybe on the cusp of worthy large scale applications but apparently the only answer to reducing CO2 is to tax the crap out of it.

    This is where we/us differ i feel. 20 years ago they had a theory that CO2 may be a problem down the track so Ok throw a bit of money at it and in 5 years decide if it has merit but what do you do then?

    Well you have two options, one is to spend the next 15 years pissing money up against the wall by having meetings in exotic localities staying in 5 star resorts and gorging yourselves at the cracked crab buffets. Wasting money hand over fist on “research” studying CO2 effects of the reproduction systems of the common house fly, the effects on migratory locusts and now Frankenstien theories of geo engineering and all the other gravy train bullshit research in between.

    The option not taken was to say well CO2 might be a problem in a few years and this fact coupled with our knowledge that fossil fuel will run out (peak oil etc) why dont we (as in the UN) create a body that can organise and manage a world wide effort into creating a new energy source we could call this body the International Petro Chemical Commission or IPCC for short.

    Can you imagine if for the last 15 years instead of dicking about trying to prove the unprovable we poured the countless billions into replacing coal etc, what wonders would have been discovered.

    Instead after all this time the best we can come up with is a TAX a TAX that will not achieve a bloody thing except make certain prophets of doom rich. The bottom line is we have no realistic, viable alternative to coal and gas and it is a blight on humanity that we dont.

  56. #56 mandas
    July 28, 2010

    crakar

    It is a common misconception about life in the arid lands of Australia that it somehow only bursts into life when it is wet – or around springs or bubblers such as you have described. Remember what I said about an anthropomorphic view of these things. Whilst it is true that the place greens and birds etc flock to the place and we humans gasp in awe at the transformation, a lot of life already exists there – it is just not the sort of thing we usually associate with because we humans don’t live in the same ecosystem.

    Places such as Lake Eyre (for example) are important for a whole range of reasons. There are a lot of reptiles and amphibians which are adapted to the conditions as they are now – not as they would be if it was permanently wet there. Many tend to ‘hibernate’ under the surface during the dry, and when it rains (as it does most years for a limited time) they emerge from underground and go through a very brief life cycle before ‘hibernating’ again. The lakes also support a variety of migratory birdlife which nests on the small ‘islands’ on the dry lake beds and feed on the emerging reptiles etc. If the lakes were permanently flooded, this whole life system would be irrevocably altered. Some people may look at that and say it was great that more life had come to the region, but it would be a different life to what had evolved there – it would, in fact, be life that existed solely because man had altered the ecosystem, and the species which were endemic to the region would probably be unable to survive.

    And where man alters the ecosystem, man’s problems also follow. Invasive faunal species (and floral species) such as cats, foxes, carp and cane toads would probably find their way there, with devastating consequences for those species which did manage to hang on.

    We have only just rediscovered a species of lizard (Tiliqua adelaidensis – pygmy blue tongue) that was thought to be extinct, and we don’t know enough about the region to start making substantial changes to the ecosystem. It may just be because of my background, but I am dead against any proposal such as flooding the lakes to benefit humans at the cost of the possible extinction of the indigenous species – as unimportant as some people think they may be.

  57. #57 adelady
    July 28, 2010

    You need to remember crakar. Some people did make a start, Jimmy Carter’s solar panels on the roof of the White House, for instance.

    What happened? Ronald Reagan had them dismantled and removed. If we hop into our tardis and go back to then, how much difference would it have made in the USA if people had been using the White House as an example of the sensible use of solar power for 30+ years?

  58. #58 skip
    July 29, 2010

    Crakar I have no problem with an aggressive international approach to securing alternatives but a gradually increased tax on fossils is an *honest* approach. It forces our generation to face the real cost of their use and not just defer it to the future. We will hand our children not only renewable power (or at least a path to it), but a cleaner environment *and* less swollen national deficits.

    Its a simple matter of accepting *cost* now–although I’m close to giving up on convincing Paul that it isn’t lethal. Groan.

    Re: Mandas:

    Living in the desert I confess some speciesism. Sorry. Call me a traitor/prick/hypocrite but just this morning mt. biking in the foothills of Northern Nevada, I couldn’t help but look around and wonder just *how* crucial all the sage and red rock really is. I mean, whats a couple of jack rabbits more or less? But I understand your point at a rational/ethical level.

  59. #59 mandas
    July 29, 2010

    skip

    “….I couldn’t help but look around and wonder just *how* crucial all the sage and red rock really is….

    Crucial to who? To us? And crucial to what? To the ecosystem? To the planet? And how crucial are polar bears? Pandas? Spiders? Blue Whales? Honey Bees? Humans?

    In the end, nothing is crucial, and everything is. While this may sound philosophical, the concept of a ‘web of life’ and the ecosystem is fundamental to everything we do and what is going to happen to us in the long run. Do we wipe out everything that we do not see an immediate use for, or do we try and save things for their own sakes? Do we try and change the world to fit our own anthropomorphic idealised picture of what we would like the world to look like? Deserts and/or icecaps – who needs them? Wouldn’t it be better if the whole world was green? Cockroaches! Bloody pests. Exterminate them all! Jackrabbits! They don’t contribute anything to the world – who cares if we destroy their habitat?

    Sorry if I am going off on a rant here, but I am strongly of the view that we should try and prevent gross ecosystem changes because we simply don’t know enough to comprehend the consequences of our actions. You can take a very simple case of the wolves in Yellowstone NP that crakar raised a little while ago (and one of my favourite discussion points by the way). We now know that this action had major consequences for the riparian vegetation, and consequently the health of the river system. And I am certain there are other cascading consequences that we aren’t aware of (such as downstream soil fertility) because they haven’t been studied in any great detail.

    I few less sage bushes and jackrabbits may seem unimportant. But how would that effect the species which live in those sage bushes? What about the species which prey on the jackrabbits (I bet dhogoza might have something to say about the effects on raptors)? I could go on and on about this, but I hope you are getting the picture. You can’t just make a change to one small part of an ecosystem without it having consequences elsewhere. And the whole concept of ‘geo-engineering’ and ecosystem manipulation scares the crap out of me. The changes we are making to the environment have consequences not just for other species – they have consequences for us as well.

    It’s about time we started to understand that a hell of a lot better than we do.

  60. #60 Chris S.
    July 29, 2010

    A metaphor from the book Silent Summer: Imagine taking a jumbo jet apart and laying all the pieces on the ground. Then select the smallest pieces and throw them away. Then put the plane together again and invite your friends to fly in it.

    Which of those small parts are ‘crucial’ and which aren’t.

    More importantly perhaps; where do we draw the line? And who gets to decide?

  61. #61 crakar24
    July 29, 2010

    Skip,

    What would the tax be used for? Who gets to control the money? Would the tax go towards ridding ourselves of antiquated power generation or would it simply line ones pocket?

    If you want a tax then it needs to have a purpose apart from making electricity so exspensive that people use less.

    Scenario.

    Lets put a tax on CO2. Result is it costs more for energy companies to make a Kilowatt of power so in order to maintain profits they raise the cost of electricty. This raises the cost of just about every product you buy because producers are having to increase prices to cover the increase in electricity costs. So now you have a double whammy effect on the consumer.

    What are they going to do next? Well thats easy they will use less electricity because it is too expensive next thing you know the energy companies are selling less electricity and their profits are dropping they will in turn raise the cost of electricity to maintain profits and on it goes.

    What choice does the consumer have? Well we can buy “green energy” if we want which is just as if not more expensive than the other.

    The whole point of a tax is to raise the cost of a product, a tax will not stop us from producing CO2.

    We need to think a bit bigger here Skip we need to have vision we need to think on a grand scale. Simply applying a tax does not cut the mustard this time.

  62. #62 crakar24
    July 29, 2010

    Mandas,

    I hear what you are saying and i agree. The problem you face here is that man has been influencing the environment since time immortal, every civilisation has influenced it in one way or another. The Aborigines started changing the environment the moment they set foot in Australia with their scorched earth policy.

    If man had not done this we would still be swinging in the trees or at best huddled together in a cave. I am not saying this is a good thing but these are just the facts.

    I suppose we have to draw a line in the sand one day and promise ourselves not to cross it. Unfortunately that is a promise we will not be able to keep as greed and profits tend to dictate these things.

  63. #63 mandas
    July 29, 2010

    crakar

    Absolutely correct – we have been changing the ecosystem for millenia and will continue to do so. And yes, the Aboriginal people completely reshaped the ecosystem and caused the extinction of many species and introduced species which are now considered native (but which did not originate here eg dingoes). When Europeans arrived in this country they changed what the Aboriginals had been doing, and once again the ecosystem changed. For example, the Sclerophyll vegetation which is such a feature of the Australian landscape was only a minor component vegetation type prior to the arrival of the Aboriginals, and did not exist in its current form prior to the arrival of Europeans (the woody understory is a result of the cessation of Aboriginal firestick practices). The semi-arid centre of NSW was quite fertile 200 years ago, and only changed because of grazing by hard hoofed animals (macropods have very little impact on the soil).

    There are always consequences to any action to change the environment. This is not about drawing a line in the sand and saying ‘no more changes’, because that will never happen. What it is about is thinking a lot more deeply about proposed changes, developing a far better understanding about what we do, and adopting an adaptive management approach to sustainable development.

    It is unlikely that we will ever truly understand the consequences of the things we do – the environment is just too complex. But that’s why we study it – so we can look at what we have done in the past and make reasonable extrapolations on what the consequences of future actions might be.

    We know that if you introduce an exotic species you can have devastating consequences (think rabbit, cane toad, carp, lantana, willow, cat, fox, goat, etc), and we know that if you remove a species you can have similar consequences. When you change one aspect of an ecosystem you fundamentally change the whole thing, because effects cascade and things happen that are very difficult to predict. That’s why geo-engineering scares me and why I am dead against major changes to any ecosystem based solely on some sort of perceived human need. When these things are done on a small scale, the effects generally tend to be localised and we can adapt. Other species may not be able to, and they often go extinct, which can have unintended consequences for us as well. But when we make nationwide or even planetwide changes the ability to adapt is somewhat limited.

Current ye@r *