Causes and implications of the pause

That is the title of a paper attempting to explain (away) the 17-year nothing that happened while CAGW models were predicting warming driven by increasing CO2. CO2 increased. Measured GAT did not.

Here’s the money quote: “The most recent climate model simulations used in the AR5 indicate that the warming stagnation since 1998 is no longer consistent with model projections even at the 2% confidence level.”

That is an establishment climatologist’s cautious scientist-speak for “The IPCC’s anthropogenic-global-warming models are fatally broken. Kaput. Busted.”

I told you so. I told you so. I told you so!

I even predicted it would happen this year, yesterday on my Ask Me Anything on Slashdot. This wasn’t actually brave of me: the Economist noticed that the GAT trend was about to fall to worse than 5% fit to the IPCC models six months ago.

Here is my next prediction – and remember, I have been consistently right about these. The next phase of the comedy will feature increasingly frantic attempts to bolt epicycles onto the models. These epicycles will have names like “ENSO”, “standing wave” and “Atlantic Oscillation”.

All these attempts will fail, both predictively and retrodictively. It’s junk science all the way down.

138 thoughts on “Causes and implications of the pause

  1. Here is a nice bit of recent climate skepticism. The TL;DR version: while increased CO2 is linked to warming, the IPCC models include all sorts of positive feedback effects that increase climate sensitivity, yet the evidence is that the climate is not dominated by strong positive feedbacks.

  2. This certainly isn’t the first time that a scientific model has failed to predict the observations. I wouldn’t get too excited about this, especially if you’re trying to model the planet’s climate…”it’s complicated” is a really severe understatement of the problem.

    That doesn’t mean, however, that the climate isn’t warming up, though. That’s something quite independent of any scientist’s theory about it. You still have to contend with the melting permafrost in the arctic regions; there’s lots of that stuff up there, more frozen water than all the mountain glaciers, Greenland glaciers, oceanic pack ice and so forth. It’s melting. Every gram of it that melts absorbs 40 calories of heat. It very well may be that it will keep global temperature from rising for some time.

    The ice in Antarctica has been making a comeback lately, trapping that ship, etc. That may not last. It would be wise to wait and see if maybe the recent ice spurt may be only temporary. I think that some people are too quick to laugh about this.

    I’m not going to predict global warming, cooling, stay-the-same, or anything, but we still should stop pouring CO2 into the atmosphere. I base this on things that are NOT scientific theories, but heuristics for living that I think are better that the usual blathers that I’ve read on previous threads on this subject here on this blog:

    1. Too many objectors to the work of the scientists are not scientists in the field themselves, yet they are are utterly convinced that THEY know better. This is not wise. Even if the scientists are wrong, that doesn’t make you right.

    2. It would be inconvenient and expensive for too many people to change their lives to reduce carbon emissions, and it would involve thinking and a much more realistic appraisal of the risks of energy production with things like nuclear power.

    3. Don’t shit where you eat.

    4. Leave the campsite in better condition than when you arrived.

  3. Links are waiting in moderation. But you can find them yourself:
    Nature (15 January 2014): Climate change: The case of the missing heat
    NBC (February 9 2014): Global Warming Pause? The Answer Is Blowin’ Into the Ocean

  4. This certainly isn’t the first time that a scientific model has failed to predict the observations. I wouldn’t get too excited about this, especially if you’re trying to model the planet’s climate…”it’s complicated” is a really severe understatement of the problem.

    And therein lies my biggest problem with the whole climate change thing. The thing IS complicated and many people are trying to sell a “carbon bad… reduce carbon == stop global warming” message because that is simple enough for the poli-critters and the other muggles to understand.

  5. Went to /. to read the AMA, I should have known better, there is nothing worthwhile there anymore.

  6. What no one has been able to tell me: What is the “correct” temperature of the world? Why?

    Of course, no one really knows the temperature of the world at any particular time, anyway.

  7. Every time this topic comes up, I note that the ice core records are clear on one point: Temperatures go up and down, FOLLOWED by CO2 movements ~800y later. CO2 levels reach their highest level in ~100Ky centuries AFTER temperatures reach their peak, and their lowest level centuries AFTER temps reach their minimum. That fact alone tells me that something else is driving the bus.

    Note that I’m not claiming that CO2 does not have any greenhouse properties at all, only that it is not the dominant player the warmists claim it is.

    They claim there are positive feedbacks such as increased water vapor acting as a greenhouse gas, but there are also negative feedbacks. Thunderstorms are very good at moving heat from the lower atmosphere to great altitudes, bypassing a lot of Greenhouse.

    And of course we all know that the warmists cook the data to throw out anything that shows a cooling trend. It’s already been proven that you can feed pure random noise into the algorithm that produced the Hockey Stick and it will… produce a hockey stick.

    Anyone who questions their data is a “denier”. And probably a stooge of the Koch Brothers.

  8. > LS
    > 2. It would be inconvenient and expensive for too many people to change their lives to reduce carbon emissions, and it would involve thinking and a much more realistic appraisal of the risks of energy production with things like nuclear power.

    This is the core issue. It’s also why people like ESR assume that people who argue for global warming have some nefarious agenda – because they tend to be the same people who are against nuclear power (because they’re idiots), and because he can’t tell incompetence from malice.

    (People less intelligent than ESR – on both sides of the aisle, which on the left is where you get the creepy negative population growth people – tend to assert that it is _impossible_ for people to change their lives to [sufficiently] reduce carbon emissions.)

  9. “but we still should stop pouring CO2 into the atmosphere. I base this on things that are NOT scientific theories, but heuristics for living that I think are better that the usual blathers that I’ve read on previous threads on this subject here on this blog:”

    That’s your reason for turning back from the industrial and technical ages – really?

    CO2 levels have been dramatically higher throughout the earth’s long history and the climates at those times were both significantly colder and hotter. So CO2 has little to nothing to do with climate. We can and should continue to pump CO2 into the atmosphere as long as we need to so that we ensure that all of the worlds people develop, get educated, live longer, happier and are more productiveand creative than ever. Thank you CO2. Without you, we would all be back in the stone age.

  10. LS, are you familiar with the Little Ice Age? There was a global decrease in temperature through around the mid-19th century. During that cold period, ice extended all over the world. It has been steadily retreating since then. You would probably be interested to read more about it; it’s climate change in real life.

    Also, have you reviewed the actual activities of Michael Mann or Phil Jones? They are not “scientists in the field”. They are professors spending most of their time writing code in their offices. They don’t even do *that* especially well; they have been outted for poor practices such as refusing to share their data for external replication.

  11. > That is the title of a paper

    Looks like the title of an invited talk, not a peer-reviewed paper. Not that there seems to be anything wrong with the credibility of the speaker.

  12. The AGW hoax was never about climate; that was just the veneer scare tactic. It has always been about leveraging politics in order to institute a broad-based energy tax.

    Sooner or later, the bill will come due on the cancerous growth of governments around the world, and an incrementally-increasing energy tax is the most benign method of increasing tax revenue. Politicians can seek cover by blaming the oil companies for causing the global crisis and themselves as white knights for “solving” the problem via taxation.

    Yes, it’s a minor victory when the scientific community recovers some dignity and reveals the technical lapses. But the root issue is that memetic subversion is ongoing, and when AGW becomes obsolete, another bogus crisis will take its place.

  13. @LS said:

    You still have to contend with the melting permafrost in the arctic regions; there’s lots of that stuff up there, more frozen water than all the mountain glaciers, Greenland glaciers, oceanic pack ice and so forth. It’s melting. Every gram of it that melts absorbs 40 calories of heat.

    The ice in Antarctica has been making a comeback lately, trapping that ship, etc. That may not last. It would be wise to wait and see if maybe the recent ice spurt may be only temporary.

    There is a very simple law of thermodynamics that the “ice will melt again” argument ignores: if melting a gram of ice into water absorbs 40 calories of heat, then freezing that same gram of water back into ice will release 40 calories. That’s the first law of thermodynamics for you: the calories required to reverse a reaction is (at least) those produced by that reaction.

    Let’s accept for a moment the idea that anthropogenic warming “paused” for 15 years because the heat (calories) was absorbed by polar ice, rather than appearing in the atmosphere. This then means when the ice has reformed, the “sunk” calories must have transferred elsewhere: i.e. appear as increased atmospheric or oceanic temperatures.

    Naturally, they aren’t appearing in atmospheric measurements (as that’s the “pause” we’re talking about). Winter’s link (to cooling in the Pacific doesn’t answer this question either: lower ocean temperatures implies additional calories have been released there. (Alternatively, it could mean the calories were “lost” bringing two temperature systems closer to equilibrium. However, this explanation means the calories cannot, thanks to the Second Law of Thermodynamics, reappear as a sudden temperature spike.)

    In short: it seems the politically popular climatology model of “amplified feedback” of anthropogenic change is teetering on the edge of failure, and so far no model has been able to reconcile the “pause” with that premise —and the longer the pause lasts, the harder that task becomes. I shudder to image how the ‘environmentalist’ movement would respond should temperature measurements start to fall….

  14. I even predicted it would happen this year, yesterday on my Ask Me Anything on Slashdot. This wasn’t actually brave of me…

    Actually, that was brave of you. The Slashdot horde of commenters is nothing if not fully intellect-ego-invested in CAGW.

  15. I’m not going to predict global warming, cooling, stay-the-same, or anything, but we still should stop pouring CO2 into the atmosphere. I base this on things that are NOT scientific theories, but heuristics for living that I think are better that the usual blathers that I’ve read on previous threads on this subject here on this blog:

    CO2 is a gas that is part of the normal life-cycle of earth, and it’s been much much higher in the past any only resulted in more plant growth (not a bad thing if we’re trying to feed a growing population).

    If you want to pick an emissions boogeyman to cut down on, you couldn’t do worse than CO2, because CO2 is plant food. There’s nothing wrong with putting a tiny bit more CO2 into the atmosphere. IF the environmentalists really cared about people’s lives, they would be calling for paper filters to be put over exhaust pipes to reduce soot output of cars.

  16. @Maximo Macaroni on 2014-03-06 at 06:49:57
    “What no one has been able to tell me: What is the “correct” temperature of the world? Why?”

    As chance would have it, Mencius Moldbug, he of Dark Enlightenment notoriety, has an excellent piece discussing just this (among many other things). To avoid moderation hassles, I won’t give the link, but if you google the title (Climategate: history’s message) it’s the first link that comes up. I would take exception only to his characterization of “victory”. The things he cites, gratifying though they would be, are merely the fruits of victory. Victory will be when, by popular demand, the 10,000 or so most influential advocates of political restrictions on carbon dioxide emissions are stood and shot for attempted genocide. Actually, Moldbug himself seems to implicitly acknowledge this:

    . . .
    For instance, if anti-carbonism can be defeated now – a task of implausible difficulty – what ensures that it will stay defeated? Nothing at all. Once it prevails, however, it will create a structure of interests which is absolutely unassailable. Indeed perhaps as it already has, but nothing as compared to the world in which the US adopts anti-carbon measures like “80 by 50.”
    . . .

    RTWT.

  17. I have a slightly different guess about the future direction of the research. They will factor in epicycles, yes…and eventually they’ll factor in enough of them to make the model adequately fit the observed data and adequately predict the future. At which point they will discover that the “anthropogenic carbon” hypothesis has become superfluous.

    Whether this happens shortly before, or long after, the disappearance of references to “global warming” from the mainstream media remains an unknown.

  18. I even predicted it would happen this year, yesterday on my Ask Me Anything on Slashdot. This wasn’t actually brave of me…

    No, it wasn’t. Judith Curry has been on the skeptic side for quite some time. This does not represent a climate change believer changing sides, despite your implication. Also, she is not trying to explain anything away: she’s saying the IPCC is wrong. This is someone on your side of the argument agreeing with you.

  19. No, it wasn’t. Judith Curry has been on the skeptic side for quite some time. This does not represent a climate change believer changing sides, despite your implication. Also, she is not trying to explain anything away: she’s saying the IPCC is wrong. This is someone on your side of the argument agreeing with you.

    Judith Curry actually never “switched sides” on this issue. She has always been very skeptical of what many people who reject CAGW have said. She simply decided to start treating anything the warmists said with a huge grain of salt. She has been attacked for this, but she never “switched sides”. Judith simply decided, on her own, to treat all claims with skepticism like a real scientist should. The quote from her paper isn’t something a warmist would publish, but neither is it something a skeptic would. Far from claiming she is neutral, I am claiming that Judith is behaving like a real scientist should.

  20. Hey, it’s excellent that you’re making predictions? I’m not sure if it’s specific enough to make it into Predictionbook, but you’re making it, and that’s the important part.

    Here’s something I’m curious about, though–you’ve done some arguing from consequences at some points in the past here, which seems to imply that the issue is being pushed or fabricated or whatnot is because it requires big-government, top-down solutions of the sort that rub your principles the wrong way.

    In the counterfactual world in which the use of fossil fuels was both necessary for the running of the global economy and very likely to cause civilization-endangering problems down the road, would we have no choice in your opinion but to sacrifice our liberty to save our civilization? What would your response and your proposed policies be in that world?

  21. >Judith simply decided, on her own, to treat all claims with skepticism like a real scientist should.

    Yes. We could use a lot more of this.

    I will say that it surprises me less coming from her than it would from most other establishment climatologists. She once blogged a serious and thoughtful response to one of my posts on the error-cascade phenomenon. Not agreeing with my conclusion, but at least engaging the argument.

  22. >Hey, it’s excellent that you’re making predictions?

    This is not new. When insolation crashed in 2008 I predicted that GAT would track the insolation trend rather than the CO2 trend.

    I’m not sure I blogged this. Where it came up originally was on the General Technics mailing list, where I offered an open bet with testable end conditions to any of the AGW believers there (yes, I was thinking of the Simon–Ehrlich wager). None of them took me up on it.

    This was wise of them. I was correct, which gives me a better predictive record than the IPCC.

    >What would your response and your proposed policies be in that world?

    You might as well ask what my policy would be if unicorns existed. Any answer I gave would be no more relevant.

  23. >This does not represent a climate change believer changing sides, despite your implication.

    That wasn’t my prediction. My prediction was that the GAT trend would fall out of the IPCC’s 95% confidence band this year. Dr. Curry’s news is that this has already happened. (Her statistical terminology is different, which is why the connection may not be obvious.)

  24. I would say “shadenfreude!” but what we’re witnessing isn’t really ‘misfortune’ as much as it is a predictable slo-mo head-on collision trainwreck full of drunk Irishmen boldly predicting that the other train will swerve first.

  25. Well, folks, that’s what happens when you make a committee requiring all of its members to sign off that they are already sold on man-made global warming from the outset. Where it gets crazy (yes I’m looking at you looking at me) is that it happens in the Creation vs. Evolution environment. The latter do it more often than the former, but creationists are notorious, even among creationists, for getting incredibly, incredibly stupid sometimes (and Kent Hovind, in the extremely unlikely event you are reading this from that prison in New Hampshire, I’m looking at you.) Ironically, while Kepler the scientist saved us from the tyranny of epicycles in orbital mechanics, Kepler the spacecraft has not done the equivalent today: many of its freshly discovered planets do not fit into a long-age uniformitarian model, and it’s me pointing this out to AiG and ICR, not the other way around.

  26. esr: You might as well ask what my policy would be if unicorns existed. Any answer I gave would be no more relevant.

    You’re certainly not obliged, but does this mean that you’re saying that certain types of problems do require giant statist interventions that you’d find reprehensible, and so you can’t believe that they’re real? That doesn’t sound like you. (“I don’t want to bother with this nonsense” is also understandable, but I’m really not trying to troll you; I’m honestly curious.)

  27. Will everyone please take a look at the CO2 level graphs over the last 400,000 years – they are all over the web. Here’s one:

    http://www.geo.cornell.edu/eas/energy/the_challenges/global_climate_change.html

    You’ll notice that CO2 levels have been oscillating between limits for hundreds of thousands of years. The system is underdamped, but stable – until now. Suddenly things take a swoop upward. It looks like the natural restoring forces have lost control, and isotopic analysis of the CO2 trapped in the recent ice cores shows that we put it there. CO2 may be a nice plant food, but the plants have been overwhelmed, the level shows no indication of reaching a peak, but will continue to climb. This is bound to have an effect on the system – and it would be foolish to expect that effect to be either benign or helpful. We’ve had warming periods and little ice ages before, (big ice ages, too), but they all happened during those stable oscillations. Push the system beyond the capability of its restoring forces, and you don’t know what you will get – I doubt that it will be good.

  28. >You’re certainly not obliged, but does this mean that you’re saying that certain types of problems do require giant statist interventions that you’d find reprehensible, and so you can’t believe that they’re real? That doesn’t sound like you.

    No, I mean something subtler than that. “Hard cases make bad law.” I could lay out a whole plan of market-centered fixes, but I consider the premise so unicorn-unlikely that it’s not worth spending the time to make the argument.

    Part of the reason I’m not interested is that on previous occasions that I have chased such unicorns, the people requesting (or more often, rudely demanding) that I do so have simply retreated to an even more strained and unlikely scenario when I answered them.

  29. @ Grendelkhan

    All parasites favor strong government intervention in society; this is their survival safety blanket. The productive rationally oppose excessive government intrusion because they will become the host for exploitation when resources become scare. You’re getting lost in the details and not seeing the fundamentals.

  30. > CO2 may be a nice plant food, but the plants have been overwhelmed

    I think that’s more likely to be related to deforestation than CO2 production. It’s not a too-much-CO2 problem, but a not-enough-plants problem.

  31. @PapayaSF: Plant growth increases due to rise in carbon dioxide levels. Sure does, but not enough. Please take a look at the CO2 growth curve. Doesn’t look like the plants are growing enough, does it? And we are losing rain forest acreage, as well as farmland due to desertification every day. Don’t look to the plants to save us; we are causing the problem and we need to solve it.

  32. The cycle/trend based models, Akasofu’s for instance, work better than the “physics” based models. Akasofu was considered an eminent atmospheric scientist until he was outed as something of a skeptic. Making correct predictions is no help to one’s reputation when incorrect predictions are wanted.

  33. It’s amusing how Winter’s Nature article quotes Susan Solomon, “a climate scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge”: “if you are interested in global climate change, your main focus ought to be on timescales of 50 to 100 years.” She’s been in the business for quite some time; if she honestly believed that, she’d be able to repeat her consistent dictum (from e.g. 2003AD when alarmist triumphalism over overfitting was high) instead of squirting cheesy fortunetelling squidink now. Bringing in the big grant bucks at MIT doesn’t make it science, it merely reflects poorly on the supposedly-scientific institutions involved.

    It’s doubly amusing that the same article also snidely contrasts skeptics with “scientists”. Unintentional irony much in your cheap rhetorical flourishes in pursuit of your agenda?

    (But hey, at least they seem to have backed off from “denier” as in http://www.nature.com/nclimate/journal/v2/n8/full/nclimate1532.html .)

    grendelkhan asked ESR “In the counterfactual world in which the use of fossil fuels was both necessary for the running of the global economy and very likely to cause civilization-endangering problems down the road, would we have no choice in your opinion but to sacrifice our liberty to save our civilization? What would your response and your proposed policies be in that world?”

    I think you would need to try harder to come up with a scenario that is truly severe and plausible enough to convince people to change their policy preferences. Sure, people who already want a much smaller role for rule of law, negative rights, markets, individual objective merit, and so forth are naturally gung ho for how the catastrophic danger of AGW requires their preferred policies to be put into effect. (This applies importantly to people who prefer those things on principle, but in practice I think the even bigger effect is how people who now hold or anticipate holding the levers of power want those levers to control as much of society as possible. It’s like, on a smaller scale, the observed correlations in individual enthusiasm for deficit spending depending on how much power his faction holds at the moment.) So supposed believers are thick on the ground when you judge by how many people use CAGW to justify their faction’s goals. But riddle me this: how many of the supposed believers in CAGW who previously opposed nuclear power and genetically engineered crops now support those technologies? Nukes and genes are obviously promising technologies — I would say extremely promising, especially over the 50+-year well-after-I-retire Winter/_Nature_/”scientist”/shaman time frame — for flourishing despite any reasonably foreseeable climate catastrophe (even a natural Ice Age). When even the people who claim to believe passionately in a theory (to the point of vicious and ridiculous demonization of nonbelievers) reveal by their actions that their belief is merely a convenient fiction for their faction, not an actual problem that would cause them to reevaluate other factional policies, you should wonder whether the theory is indeed well-constructed enough to be convincing to people outside the faction which selectively invokes it to support their policies.

  34. @ Grendelkhan:
    Part of the lack of desired response to your question is due in-part to the world-building you’ve done.
    I’ll engage on the premise that you are well-meaning and interested in learning.
    First, a summary of your proposed universe: fossil fuels required as well as civilization-endangering problems down the road.
    If you were actually interested in what Eric would propose as actions, both on the individual as well as state level if the AGW theory turned out to be accurate, you’d be better off asking that directly. That has a factual world behind it and has been discussed as a part of a previous post in some detail.
    Second, the world that you are putting forth is fantasy in the sense that it defies how actual societies and economics work. For example, there is no way to have fossil fuels be “required”. If you need energy, there are many ways to get it, among the most straight-forward are nuclear power plants. If you need feedstock for eg. plastics manufacturing, there are ways to do that, too. Sure, it costs more than using, say, natural gas. However, that’s not a requirement, simply a preference. If the cost goes up too much we could convert to alternatives. Eg. bulk paper-wrapped frozen food instead of individual wrapped plastic bits. We can also make plastic out of corn, too.
    Also, what kind of harm and on what kind of timescale are we talking about? The usual proposition is the sea level rising by ~10m or so. Yup. That would cover up a pile of pacific islands. At the same time, there is lots of land elsewhere available for these people. They would have to move. Distressing, though hardly civilization-ending. Those on the coasts of the US would see large amounts of lost of property value. However, you’d deal with that like any other depreciating asset, with the value dropping over time until it eventually reached 0. Unless it was a large, unknown asteroid which hit the planet, most people could get out alive. Hurricane Sandy provided only a few days notice and there were few deaths.

    If you wish to give another shot at world-building, you might be able to get an answer to the question you are attempting to frame.

  35. >If you wish to give another shot at world-building, you might be able to get an answer to the question you are attempting to frame.

    Garret’s objections are well founded and similar to my own thinking.

    To understand better why I am not interested in exploring grendelkhan’s hypothetical, consider the following hypothetical:

    “If there were a sufficiently severe worldwide food shortage, would you endorse cannibalism on a large scale as a policy response?”

    It may help if you bear in mind that I don’t consider coercive state intervention to be much different in its moral significance or consequences from cannibalism, but it is not necessary that you agree with me. Most of the other reasons these questions are parallel are reasons to consider them both absurd.

  36. “This is bound to have an effect on the system – and it would be foolish to expect that effect to be either benign or helpful.”

    Even given that, you haven’t remotely made the case that efforts to combat it are worthwhile. Because you have to compare the effect of not stopping the addition of C02 to the atmosphere to the costs of stopping it, to know if it’s worth stopping. Energy use is the fundamental root of prosperity; before you start messing with that in a world where billions die prematurely due to poverty, you need something better than even “this will probably have negative consequences”. Because we know poverty has massively negative ones.

  37. “Energy use is the fundamental root of prosperity; before you start messing with that in a world where billions die prematurely due to poverty, you need something better than even “this will probably have negative consequences”. Because we know poverty has massively negative ones.”

    Yup. Poverty sucks…hence the need for nuclear plants, worldwide.

  38. @ LS – “Poverty sucks”

    Here in the US, our poor are dying prematurely of obesity-related diseases. Government-sponsored welfare largess is killing them in slow motion and this program can only be perpetuated if additional tax revenue is confiscated via the AGW energy tax scam.

    If you want to be strictly moral about it, feeding the beast equals killing off the poor at a faster rate.

  39. I am always amused at those who insist that CAGW skepticism must be motivated by selfish interests. None of them ever seem to notice the enormous selfish interests connected to CAGW advocacy.

    “Anti”-CAGW measures have already cost on the order of a trillion dollars (a WAG).

    Subsidies for windpower, for instance. The Sicilian Mafia was running a windpower fraud scheme; when it was busted, Italian authorities seized over a billion euros of loot. That’s what they recovered – presumably only a fraction of the total loot, which would be a fraction of the total revenue of the scheme, which would be a small fraction of the subsidies paid out all over the world,

    Solar power subsidies: more billions piled onto electricity charges. Germans pay double price for electricity, so that a small percentage can be generated by solar.

    Subsidies for “green industry”: the infamous U.S.-guaranteed loans to Solyndra, which cost $500M; and many other loans and subsidies and grants to solar-power, wind-power, and electric-car companies. (The California Air Quality Board fraudulently classified Tesla Motor cars as “quick recharge”, so Tesla could receive “carbon offset” chits resellable for $185M.)

    Biodiesel and gasohol, which have diverted millions of tons of food to inefficient fuel production.

    CFLs: a multi-billion-$ industry whose competition is being banned; very nice for megacorporations that make CFLs (GE), not so nice for consumers who must pay $2-$3 for a CFL instead of 25 cents for an incandescent bulb.

    These costs (and private benefits) are all around for anyone to see, and they make a mockery of the charges of “special interest” against CAGW skeptics.

  40. Frankly, I started looking at the “Global Warming’ religion as just that about.. 2004? You know, when they couldn’t provide the raw data to back up their claims, and nobody could reproduce their work with an open data set?

    Further claims of having misplaced the original, ‘non-massaged’ data didn’t help.

    When you add into it the number of times the GW crowd has been caught flat-out lying, it becomes impossible (at least for me) to trust anything they say.

    If you want to change the behavior of the entire world, “the dog ate my homework” is not an acceptable excuse for not showing your work.

  41. “which seems to imply that the issue is being pushed or fabricated or whatnot is because it requires big-government, top-down solutions of the sort that rub your principles the wrong way”

    I’ve been accused of not believing in CAGW because it poses some sort of problem for libertarians.

    It does not. The solution to nearly every problem is to get richer. (For example, natural disasters have a greater effect on people in poor places because they are not wealthy enough to move out of the way, rebuild, import resources from elsewhere, &c.) The consequences of libertarianism are to make people richer.

  42. I’m a gearhead, a true ‘hardware’ nerd, in the sense that my toys run on petrochemicals instead of electrons.

    Biodiesel’s not bad stuff, but production doesn’t scale. It’s impossible to get enough raw feedstock to produce the amount of Biodiesel we use. Add to it that cooking biodiesel is a batch process, and doesn’t lend well to automation, and it’s even more of a toy. Fun, but not practical. Also, it tends to dissolve older rubber seals and fuel lines, which can be exciting, and expensive.

    Ethanol laced gas… I -hate- ethanol laced gas. I fucking hate that shit with a firey purple passion. The fucking morons who came up with this shit should be required to drink it. Yes, All Of It.

    ‘original formula’ gas had a shelf life that could be measured in years, if not decades. Before ethanol gas, you could pull a car out of a pasture that had been sitting for ten years, slap a charge on it, give it a squirt of ether, and it would start -and run- on that ten year old gas. Ethanol gasoline has a shelf life measured in days. As in 30-60 days. Once it goes bad, you have to pump it out, flush the fuel system, and do something with the stale gasahol.

    If you mix it with original formula gasoline? yeah, it makes this slime that clogs up everything, and you have to rebuild the carb, or replace all the fuel injectors ( at a minimum cost of 50$ per injector).

    Ethanol will dissolve plastics, etch metal (particularly aluminium, heavily used in motorcycle engines. ) and lift deposits in large chunks, wreaking havoc with your fuel system.

    Phase Separation is fun. It’s where the ethanol in gasahol binds with water, sinks to the bottom of the tank, and fucks up your entire engine as it tries to run on that shit. Fun, yes?

    Not to mention loss of performance, -and milage-. Internal combustion engines are a fairly mature technology, and specifically tuned for gasoline. Gasoline has very specific charactaristics when burned. Gasahol has less energy in it, requiring that you burn more, to get the same energy output. It also does not have the same performance characteristics as gasoline, which you may have noticed when you use it to power your lawnmower. Don’t run quite the same anymore, does it?
    Sure, more modern cars (post 2000) have less problems with it, but would anyone care to guess at the pollution footprint of replacing all the pre-2000 cars still on the road?

    All of this has real world costs in terms of ‘carbon footprint’ and pollution. When you’re trying to reduce emissions, indirect emissions are a factor.

    Just to add another turd to the punchbowl, it takes roughly 1.3-1.5 gallons of oil to produce a gallon of ethanol. This is not factored into the ‘efficiency’ of ethanol gasoline.

    So, when the dust settles, ethanol gasoline is actually much worse for the environment than straight gas.

    So we have a fuel that’s less efficient, tears up engines, and arguably produces more emissions than straight gas. For a real eye opener, take your car, make sure you’ve got straight gas in the tank, and go get an emissions test. Then, fill up on ethanol gas (assuming your car can handle it, consult your manufacturer, please ) and get a second test. You’ll find the results enlightening.

  43. All AGW / climate change proponents ignore the elephants in the room:

    – Their data is crap. Manipulated crap. All one needs to do is read the “HarryReadMe.txt” file to get slapped in the face by the reality wet fish. Ice core CO2 concentration reconstruction are every bit as accurate as tree ring temperature reconstruction: not at all. Why anyone would posit tree rings as an accurate predictor of temperature is beyond me. How anyone could believe that crap data extrapolated out to gridcells hundreds or thousands of miles in area are accurate is beyond me. How anyone could believe such crap data would yield a global average temperature change accurate to a tenth or thousandth of a degree is beyond credibility.

    – Their physics is crap. The global heat engine is controlled by the sun and the laws of thermodynamics; we don’t understand the details and chaotic systems make prediction impossible for any future greater than several days. Climate is essentially a human construct purporting to indicate probability trends based on arbitrary start and end points. Anyone can effect climate change merely my changing those start and end points. Why anyone would think that the contents of a period of chaotic behaviors is any sort of accurate predictor based on crap data is beyond me. Take some basic stats and cry.

    – Our understanding of global carbon cycling is pitiful. We have only the sketchiest understanding of magnitudes and processes and absolutely no accurate data at all on any of the actual mass balance details EXCEPT perhaps how much CO2 we generate by fossil fuel combustion. The rest is completely guesswork.

    So what we have here is essentially a few blind amputees stumbling around in the dark, bumping into walls, holding their wet fingers up in the air and prognosticating the weather decades or centuries in the future. Good luck with that.

  44. I am unconvinced that nuclear power generation is a good fit to human needs and tendencies. Human technical societies have effect time scales of perhaps hundreds of years at best while nuclear fission byproducts have effect timescales of thousands of years guaranteed.

    It is 100% certain that those differences in time will have nasty implications in somebodies future, which is no surprize to anyone who examines the realities of Chernobyl, Fukushima, or any of the nuclear bomb industries superfund sites like Hanford.

  45. @BioBob

    I am unconvinced that nuclear power generation is a good fit to human needs and tendencies. Human technical societies have effect time scales of perhaps hundreds of years at best while nuclear fission byproducts have effect timescales of thousands of years guaranteed.

    It is 100% certain that those differences in time will have nasty implications in somebodies future, which is no surprize to anyone who examines the realities of Chernobyl, Fukushima, or any of the nuclear bomb industries superfund sites like Hanford.

    Someone has never heard of LFTRs
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P9M__yYbsZ4

    Nuclear power is humanity’s future. The current problems of long-term-waste, explosive-pressure-vessel-reactors, and runaway-reactions are all problems that already have proven solutions, but politics stood in the way of engineering, so here we are.

  46. The ethanol fuel debacle in the US has become the model for the CAGW crowd to follow. A little history.

    Farm state senators rely upon campaign contributions from corporate agribusiness. Ethanol-to-fuel legislation guarantees high corn prices (farm profits) via taxpayer financed subsidies. As commented above, virtually every aspect of the ethanol fuel business is negative (bad fuel, harmful to engines, higher/worse pollution, higher fuel and food prices, etc). The whole program is a genius of destructiveness.

    So now let’s export this insanity to the rest of the world so that they can be miserable too!

  47. @ Matt House:

    If you want to change the behavior of the entire world, “the dog ate my homework” is not an acceptable excuse for not showing your work.

    Agreed. It would serve the climatologists well to remember that the history of science is full of “crank scientists” such as Einstein (“Light can’t travel in particles, because Maxwell’s equations describe the effect of waves”), Galileo (“If the earth moves, why is there no parallax shift among stars?”), and Wegner (“No force on earth is strong enough to shift entire continents!”), yet all were later vindicated by the data.

    Of course, history is also littered with actual junk science, such as Blondlot’s “n-rays”, phlogiston, phrenology, the luminiferous ether, alchemy, … even the Ptolemaic solar system all were held in scientific esteem at one point or another in history but overturned by contradicting data. So when your “strongest” (i.e. most loudly and frequently repeated) argument is that “97% agree”, I start to wonder why I am not hearing about the hard data these people have come to agreement over.

    In short: don’t tell me what to believe; tell me why I should believe. If your reasons are well-grounded in observations and unlikely to be overturned in the near future, I’ll be glad to agree.

  48. Jeremy on 2014-03-07 at 11:00:54

    You assume … wrongly.

    You assume there is no or little probability that western civilization will fail when human history shows there is 100% probability that civilization WILL fail, since EVERY previous civilization we know of HAS failed.

    You assume that the industry built to concentrate and produce ANY radionuclide suitable for fission will not produce contaminated waste. History demonstrates this assumption is also false.

    You assume reactor thorium and it’s reaction products are harmless and waste products non-existent. This is patently false. You assume we will properly dispose of such waste when history has demonstrated that assumption is false. Not only did the explosions at Fukushima destroy the reactor containment, it blew “spent” fuel rods containing significant plutonium, etc. concentrations hither and yon over hill and dale. Brilliant !!

    You forget that a mere 200 years ago human’s primary method of producing light was a candle. There is a non-zero probability that 200 years from now, human’s primary method of producing light will again be candles. In that case, not only will those humans who forget history be doomed to repeat it, but they could be killed by it in the same old ways.

    As I said, the “kung-fu” of human nature and fission power are weak. The jury is still out on fusion power…

  49. So supposed believers are thick on the ground when you judge by how many people use CAGW to justify their faction’s goals. But riddle me this: how many of the supposed believers in CAGW who previously opposed nuclear power and genetically engineered crops now support those technologies?

    Have you solved the problem of where to put the highly toxic nuclear waste? No? Then shut up.

    Even assuming a perfect solution to the disposal problem — that uranium has to be mined, transported, processed, used, and disposed of. Each step in the process (except for the consumption in the reactor) is a big energy sink and currently there’s no way to displace all the fossil fuels used in those processes with other energy sources. And if you did, nuclear still wouldn’t have the EROEI that fossil fuels have.

  50. The only good thing ethanol fuels have given us is the hilarious image of Homer Simpson sucking on the gas pump…

  51. Have you solved the problem of where to put the highly toxic nuclear waste?

    Yes. The technical problem is solved, just not the political problem.

  52. esr: It may help if you bear in mind that I don’t consider coercive state intervention to be much different in its moral significance or consequences from cannibalism, but it is not necessary that you agree with me. Most of the other reasons these questions are parallel are reasons to consider them both absurd.

    I think you’re at least being hyperbolic here. That, or you’d greet the news that armed gangs of cannibals were roaming the countryside with equanimity, and develop a friendly rapport with your local chief cannibal.

    Rob Fisher: I’ve been accused of not believing in CAGW because it poses some sort of problem for libertarians. It does not. The solution to nearly every problem is to get richer. [...] The consequences of libertarianism are to make people richer.

    This isn’t any more convincing to me than “magic beans! magic beans!”. If greater wealth–in this hypothetical world–causes the disaster to become more severe, won’t you eventually wind up in a feedback loop where you can’t possibly mine enough resources to outrun the consequences of mining said resources? It reads like you’ve looked at the premise, written in the bottom line (libertarianism is good!), and filled in the middle portions with some very thin handwaving.

    Seriously, what if it’s not the convenient world where people can buy themselves out of this sort of tragedy, and simply letting the nature of the market take its course–to extract resources with maximum efficiency and externalize the costs–doesn’t end up with the best results?

    I get that esr, at least, thinks that this is as unlikely as unicorns, and that making decisions based on Unicorn World is bad policy (we were subjected to at least a solid decade of idiocy on that front, ticking time bombs and such, and he wasn’t uniformly on the right side of that).

    I just find it surprisingly convenient that a hypothesis about the effect of atmospheric carbon dioxide on the earth’s climate has such specific and dastardly political consequences that even considering it as a hypothetical will bend or break one’s principles. What kind of devilish Gramscian operatives could ever have come up with something so seemingly politically-neutral which would act as a bullet to the heart of one’s libertarian dreams?

  53. @PapayaSF “Yes. The technical problem is solved, just not the political problem.”

    You have a strange way of saying “No”.

  54. @grendelkhan:
    “This isn’t any more convincing to me than magic beans! magic beans!”

    If we look at the cost of airfare, inflation adjusted, it’s dropped roughly 40% since 1980:

    http://mjperry.blogspot.com/2011/10/even-with-fees-miracle-of-flight-is.html

    Whereas real GDP has more than doubled in that amount of time:

    http://www.multpl.com/us-gdp-inflation-adjusted/

    In effect, we can buy ~3x as many flights in that amount of time. Getting richer makes it easier for everybody to be able to afford to move if they have to. This is what getting richer means. It’s a a natural by-product of at least a semi-free economy in which in the aggregate people produce more value than they consume. Whether this can continue indefinitely is still unknown.

    “filled in the middle portions with some very thin handwaving”
    It seems to me more that you want Eric to agree that large-scale state action is a good thing and worked backwards to find a scenario which you believe must have that result. I’ve provided some examples as to why your premise as-presented isn’t nearly the straight-jacket you might think it is.

    “Seriously, what if it’s not the convenient world where people can buy themselves out of this sort of tragedy, and simply letting the nature of the market take its course–to extract resources with maximum efficiency and externalize the costs–doesn’t end up with the best results?”

    I regret to inform you that this sentence has more assumptions and term-loading into it than I think I’ve ever seen.
    First, if there is something which people can’t buy themselves out of, then the government isn’t of any help, either. The only thing the government really does is take money and spend money. If a private individual can’t spend money to escape the issue, then the government can’t do so, either.
    Second, your original question talked about the destruction of civilization. Even if a large-scale Apollo-program-like required government action, like the Apollo program, it would only take a few people to safety. A few people does not make a civilization. In order to save civilization you need to save people thousands at a time. If you’re able to do that at all, groups of people can pool their resources without the government to pay for the project.

    Third, not all wealth is in the form of extracted resources. In fact, most of what makes up our GDP is based on knowledge capital and services rather than physical capital. Yes, a few oil companies are at the top of the Fortune 500 list. But so is J.P. Morgan Chase, a company which deals in financial services – no open-pit mercury mine anywhere to be found.

    Fourth: Cost externalization occurs in all endeavors. Every action you take impacts everybody else, to varying different degrees. This is one of the few areas where I might support some form of government action through the implementation of straight-forward Pigovian taxes (others prefer cap-and-trade). However, this requires the ability to actually quantify the harm so that the taxation may be appropriately priced.

    Fifth: What constitutes best results? Who are you (or anybody else, actually) to determine what is the “best” result? How do we address a case where we disagree even how to score comparative results so as to be able to make that determination.

  55. >I just find it surprisingly convenient that a hypothesis about the effect of atmospheric carbon dioxide on the earth’s climate has such specific and dastardly political consequences that even considering it as a hypothetical will bend or break one’s principles.

    I can turn that right around, you know. I find CAGW surprisingly convenient for statists. It’s almost as though the whole theory was fraudulently designed to support a power grab.

    (Reminder: I was a climate skeptic before I was a libertarian.)

  56. > So, when the dust settles, ethanol gasoline is actually much worse for the environment than straight gas.

    Ethanol’s carbon comes from the air rather than the ground, so (so the argument goes) it doesn’t matter if there’s more of it.

  57. @ Random832 –

    “Ethanol’s carbon comes from the air rather than the ground, so (so the argument goes) it doesn’t matter if there’s more of it.”

    It’s not the burn that’s the problem. The 1.3-1.5 gallons of petroluem required to make that ethanol? That came out of the ground.

    Plus all the cost of :

    Gathering the raw materials for replacement parts.

    Shipping them.

    Making the parts.

    Shipping them to the end user.

    Installing the parts, and all the ‘incidental’ chemicals involved.

    Disposal of the ethanol ruined parts.

    All that? that’s not covered by your ‘air carbon’. And some of those parts have some really -nasty- chemicals involved in the manufacturing process.

    The argument of “Ethanol Gas lowers pollution” is pure bunk, all the way through.

  58. Garrett, I think we may be talking past each other. It’s totally sweet that we can buy more plane rides now than we could, but the idea I’m talking about is one where that sort of thing doesn’t help. Americans never met a problem they couldn’t fix by buying and consuming more stuff. But what if there existed a problem which couldn’t be fixed by buying and consuming?

    Garrett: What constitutes best results? Who are you (or anybody else, actually) to determine what is the “best” result? How do we address a case where we disagree even how to score comparative results so as to be able to make that determination.

    If I get to handwave here, a result where catastrophic cimate events annihilate civilization as we know it probably scores pretty poorly. I don’t think it’s necessary to get into weird corner cases; neither of us (I assume) are deep-environmentalist types who think that a world where humanity is extinct or reduced to a few scattered tribes would be an improvement.

    I’m not actually trying to get Eric to agree that large-scale state action is required here; if I were doing that, I’d just set the Imperium of Warhammer 40K as my example. No, I’ve noticed that he’s been arguing from consequences here, and I’m a bit staggered at the idea that a relatively straightforward theory in planetary science is enough to set up a situation which requires him to compromise his morals. I don’t think I’d necessarily agree with him, but I’d expected to see something more convincing than “that would never happen, shut up” or “adding wealth fixes every problem”.

  59. esr: I can turn that right around, you know. I find CAGW surprisingly convenient for statists. It’s almost as though the whole theory was fraudulently designed to support a power grab.

    See, I’d just assumed that this was people seeing a problem, then deciding to do whatever they were going to do anyway. In favor of centralized regulation? This problem can be fixed with centralized regulation! In favor of markets? This problem can be fixed with markets! (Actually, I think there are proposals to do that, aren’t there?) But you’re telling me that if human-caused extraction and burning of stored carbon reserves is a negative long-term externality, then this is such a devilish possibility that it must have been birthed specifically to tweak your principles…

    I have a hard time believing that. “Burning this type of fuel is bad” doesn’t seem like that complicated or cunningly-tailored sort of idea, and if your ideology runs screaming in terror from that broad a class of potential problems, then I question how durable it really is.

  60. Garrett, one more thing–it’s entirely possible that there is no solution to this sort of problem. “We’re all doomed, doomed, doomed” is a valid answer. It’s not a cheery one, but I’m not making any statements here about what I think the viable solutions to this (still hypothetical) problem are.

    It sounds like a horrible hairy problem to me, and I doubt there’s much in the way of good solutions. There’s money essentially sitting on the table waiting for people to grab it. If it’s like… we’re all around that big gold Indiana Jones idol, and we keep shaving bits of gold off it, then we individually suffer from missing out on the gold, and unless everyone stops messing with the idol, the spike machine will kill us all. That’s how I see the problem statement, anyway. Maybe it’s a Kobayashi Maru sort of thing.

  61. One aspect of the ethanol debacle I hadn’t considered until just now is CAFE standards. The original claim for ethanol, of course, was that it somehow burned “cleaner” than gasoline, and the effect was primarily generated by feeding the same volume of gasohol to carbureted engines, which had a bit less power but didn’t overwhelmingly notice the difference.

    Modern computerized engines, however, will dynamically adjust the amount of fuel delivered to match what’s required for the requested power output–meaning that all of the original justification for ethanol is wiped out (the computer just puts in more gasohol), but that overall fuel economy is reduced with increasing ethanol blend.

    Far be it from me to suspect collusion against the public by government bureaucrats in pursuit of their pet agendas, but it seems to me that someone wanting to mandate changes in vehicle and engine design might think of twiddling the fuel so as to produce the illusion of worse fuel economy than would be seen in the absence of equivocation.

  62. I long ago came up with an acid test to separate people who are sincerely concerned about AGW (but who don’t have a political agenda) from those who have such an agenda. You simply ask them for their position on the “greenfinger”climate engineering technologies that could potentially be used to adjust world climate as needed without reducing CO2 emissions.

    If they haven’t heard of these technologies, they’re poorly informed on the whole AGW debate.

    If they have heard of them and think that more research is needed, but support doing such research, they are sensible people.

    If they run screaming and insist that the One True Way to fight AGW is to reduce carbon emissions (which may or may not include supporting carbon offsets and carbon sequestration) and no other approach can even be considered, they are idiots who see AGW as a political religion that brooks no dissent. Calling this “science” is nonsense; it’s just politics.

    Cathy

  63. “Have you solved the problem of where to put the highly toxic nuclear waste?”

    Yes. Build the Yucca Mountain facility.

  64. grendelkhan said,

    but does this mean that you’re saying that certain types of problems do require giant statist interventions that you’d find reprehensible, and so you can’t believe that they’re real?

    Vast amounts of environmental destruction have been caused by statist interventions implemented in response to global warming fears.

    These policies have likely increased carbon emissions above what would have occurred in a “do nothing” scenario.

    The most environmentally friendly policy is to flatly oppose additional statist interventions promoted as needed to fight global warming.


    Palm oil: the biofuel of the future driving an ecological disaster now

    But the European Union’s aim of cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 20% by 2020, partly by demanding that 10% of vehicles be fuelled by biofuels, will see a fresh surge in palm oil demand that could doom the rainforests.

    That is likely to kill off the “flagship species” of wildlife such as the Asian elephant, the Sumatran tiger and the orang-utan of Borneo which are already under enormous pressure from habitat loss. Plantation owners regard the orang-utan as pests because it eats the young palm oil plants and hunt them down ruthlessly.

    Researchers from the Dutch pressure group Wetlands International found that as much as half the space created for new palm oil plantations was cleared by draining and burning peat-land, sending huge amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

  65. > Yes. Build the Yucca Mountain facility.

    No. Reprocess it. (Yes, that turns out to be a security nightmare unless you have a much better power grid so you can centralize it. Build that.)

  66. @ESR:
    > I was correct, which gives me a better predictive record than the IPCC.

    I can run faster than 3 year old. Doesn’t make me a fast runner.

  67. Biobob:
    > I am unconvinced that nuclear power generation is a good fit to human needs and
    > tendencies. Human technical societies have effect time scales of perhaps hundreds
    > of years at best while nuclear fission byproducts have effect timescales of thousands
    > of years guaranteed.

    I am UTTERLY convinced that coal power generation is disastrous to humans in the medium term. Mercury in the water, radioactive waste (yes, from coal), other heavy metals etc.

    @BioBob

    > You assume there is no or little probability that western civilization will fail when
    > human history shows there is 100% probability that civilization WILL fail, since
    > EVERY previous civilization we know of HAS failed.

    They “civilization” may have fallen, but that doesn’t always or even usually come with a “fall” in technology or even standards of living. The dark ages saw an increase in the caloric intake of almost all of Europe and an increase in literacy and technology. It was only dark for the church and the academics.

    @Cathy:
    > Yes. Build the Yucca Mountain facility.

    No. Build the REPROCESSING FACILITY that Yucca mountain was supposed to be a holding facility FOR. Then reprocess all the waste into new fuel and a small amount of less toxic waste.

    This solves Biobob’s problem as well.

    Then encase that crap in a ceramic shell wrapped in concrete covered in steel and drop it in a subduction zone. By the time it comes back up it’ll be no worries mate.

  68. Larry Niven has a point: if we make what is now nuclear waste inaccessible, our children will hate us for taking away a valuable resource.

  69. We can solve the nuclear waste problem quite simply. Give me a time machine so I can go back twenty-one years and assassinate John Kerry.

    Why? Because that stops him from pushing through the legislation that defunds the Integral Fast Reactor.

    Getting rid of long-lived nuclear waste by converting it into electricity, with the final end-product waste decaying to be less radioactive than the original ore in less than 200 years, is solved as a basic engineering problem. All it needs is some more development to become commercially viable. But twenty years ago John Kerry personally killed the development project.

    No, I don’t know how solve the political problem of destructive idiots like John Kerry getting entrusted with power. But it’s fairly obvious the first thing you do when trying to solve any real problem is ignore the kind of people who would give John Kerry power.

  70. What was the last time the USA had so many polar vortexes hitting them? Maybe because all that heat trapped in the oceans is messing up the gulfstream, and the weather patterns that depend on it?

    This is what I call the “two signs of total ignorance about AGW”.

    Sign 1: “We ‘ll enjoy warmer summers and better winters” (you will enjoy more extreme weather in the summer and during the winter, an increasing global temperature doesn’t mean better weather)

    Sign 2: “The global surface temperature is not rising that much” (you can’t measure the temperature of a system by measuring the temperature of it’s surface, because you know, water tends to absorb temperature)

  71. >What was the last time the USA had so many polar vortexes hitting them? Maybe because all that heat trapped in the oceans is messing up the gulfstream, and the weather patterns that depend on it?

    Maybe. But if so, it’s entertaining that AR4 predicted a “decline in the frequency of cold air outbreaks” and Dr. David Viner of the East Anglia CRU predicted that children there would never see snow again.

    As usual, alarmist predictions change 180 degrees whenever convenient, and falsified predictions are thrown down the memory hole.

  72. “Maybe. But if so, it’s entertaining that AR4 predicted a “decline in the frequency of cold air outbreaks” and Dr. David Viner of the East Anglia CRU predicted that children there would never see snow again.”

    This is what you don’t understand. AGW is a real phenomenon, because it’s a scientific fact that greenhouse gases cause global warming, and humans produce greenhouse gases. The greenhouse effect is scientifically valid and has been observed at planets like Venus.

    What we don’t know is what the effects of global warming are on our planet. The “predictions” people try to make are not scientifically valid, because nobody understands the climate phenomena of our planet 100%, so, yes, the predictions about the effects are “junk science”.

    What you essentially claim is that since we don’t know the effects of global warming on our planet, we should let global warming happen and hope that the effects will not be harmful.

    Problem is it’s the same thing people used to say about CFCs before their effects became known (“we don’t know what their effects will be on the atmosphere right now, let’s us CFCs and hope the effects aren’t harmful”), or about asbestos (“we don’t know what the effects of asbestos fibers will be in human health right now, let’s hope they aren’t harmful”).

    Problem is, decade may pass ’till we understand the effects of AGW on our planet, and if they are harmful, the problem will be irreversible and in a very advanced stage by then.

  73. And before someone says I am contradicting myself, it IS a scientific fact global warming will cause more extreme weather. However, any attempts to make predictions of when it will happen (or moreso, which areas will be affected most) is “junk science”. All we have is hypotheses. There is a significant chance AGW is messing up the gulfstream, but we can’t tell 100%, and of course attempts to quantify how much are “junk science”.

  74. “And before someone says I am contradicting myself, it IS a scientific fact global warming will cause more extreme weather.”

    So if, hypothetically speaking, we see a period of mild weather over the next 3 – 5 years, you would consider that evidence that global warming is not taking place? If you answer “no”, then your “scientific fact” isn’t even falsifiable. (I am not saying that I expect this to happen; as has been discussed elsewhere on this site, it’s quite likely that we are entering a period of more extreme weather whether or not AGW is taking place.

    “However, any attempts to make predictions of when it will happen (or moreso, which areas will be affected most) is ‘junk science’. All we have is hypotheses.”

    Any attempt to make a hypothesis predicting an outcome is junk science? Again, sounds you are creating an unfalsifiable theory here. And if you have so little confidence in any of the predictions of the models, what’s the point in taking corrective action since you appear to be claiming that we have no idea what will happen in the future? You don’t what you are trying to correct again, or how much!

    Please tell us what you would consider valid evidence that the “hockey stick” model of runaway AGW is false.

  75. “What was the last time the USA had so many polar vortexes hitting them?”

    I don’t know. I don’t think our reliable data goes back far enough. We know this didn’t happen in the 20th century, but I don’t think records let us determine whether these were more common in, say, the 18th century, much less earlier. I have not researched this so I may be mistaken about the records, at least in Europe (I think we can safely say that written records for 18th century North America are nonexistent across much of the continent).

    How do you tell a trend from random variation? How do you tell AGW from the hypothesis that the 20th century had unusually quiet, mild weather and what we’re seeing is simply a return to normal conditions?

  76. JR,

    Have you solved the problem of where to put the highly toxic nuclear waste? No? Then shut up.

    It’s a combination of what several people have said. Reprocess most of the waste, and what little is left over, vitrify (that is, convert it into glass so that water can’t leach it out), then store it in a salt formation (i.e., a place where water isn’t getting in in the first place), as at Yucca.

    Now where did I learn this? In this classic book from 1976. I’m not going to dig out my copy and read it to you, but you should definitely look it up yourself. That’s also where I learned that two truckloads of nuclear fuel deliver the same energy as about 85,000 railcars of coal…which puts paid to your idea that nuclear can’t compete on “EREOI.”

    The answers have been out there for a long time. But the Greens who deceived you on this subject do not like to admit it. That’s because the Green movement is fundamentally anti-industrial, not pro-economy or pro-environmental.

  77. Problem is it’s the same thing people used to say about CFCs before their effects became known (“we don’t know what their effects will be on the atmosphere right now, let’s us CFCs and hope the effects aren’t harmful”), or about asbestos (“we don’t know what the effects of asbestos fibers will be in human health right now, let’s hope they aren’t harmful”).

    Of all the possible examples you could have chosen, you picked *those*?

    CFCs causing the ozone hole was a bunch of bullhype drummed up because the patent was about to expire on freon (IIRC)

    Asbestos is safe, unless you smoke, “comorbidity” is the term I believe.

  78. @ kurkosdr – “This is what you don’t understand. AGW is a real phenomenon”

    This is what you don’t understand. Memetic infection is a real phenomenon. Otherwise normal people can be brainwashed into passionately believing nonsense. As such, they become a danger to themselves and everyone around them.

  79. @Steven Ehrbar on 2014-03-08 at 01:57:22
    “We can solve the nuclear waste problem quite simply. Give me a time machine so I can go back twenty-one years and assassinate John Kerry.”

    Just for farts and giggles, google: My team succeeded in closing the nuclear loop

    Here’s a short excerpt from what comes up:

    “I started in the American nuclear program all the way back at the time of the Manhattan project, and have been involved in reactor design and nuclear engineering my whole life. There was one answer we all searched for, and it was how to close the nuclear loop.

    When a reactor such as a boiling water reactor uses fuel, the waste products, which are highly radioactive isotopes that have a different fission characteristic than the original fuel, build up in the fuel and change the nature of the nuclear reaction. A reactor such as a boiling water reactor can only use the fuel until it gets contaminated by these isotopes enough to change the nature of the nuclear reactions taking place. The reaction environment inside a boiling water reactor is only one such environment which will work to trigger a chain reaction, and if that spent fuel is put into a reactor made from different materials, those materials can favor the burning of the isotopes which interfere with the chain reactions in the boiling water reactor and use these interfering isotopes as fuel until they are consumed. After this process, which restores the fuel to it’s original state is complete, the fuel can go back into the boiling water reactor and used as new with no reprocessing – the exact same rods can be exchanged between reactors.

    We perfected the second reactor design which used liquid sodium as a coolant and the reactor ran much hotter – 1100 Fahrenheit as opposed to 550 in a boiling water reactor. The liquid sodium circulated inside the reactor instead of water, with the heat of the reaction being removed from the system by a heat exchanger which produced steam outside the reactor for use in producing electricity. The temperature difference and coolant characteristics in the complimentary reactor facilitated the burning of the isotopes, and you got to use both sides of the reaction – the boiling water reactor produced electricity while producing unwanted isotopes, and the sodium cooled reactor produced electricity while burning the unwanted isotopes out. This process could be repeated 20 times, and when it was finished the fuel was DEAD and no longer hazardous because all of it’s radiological potential was used up. It was a clean energy dream come true, and Carter banned it by executive order!”

    He specifically stated that the burn down was so complete that the spent fuel was safe to handle directly with bare hands, and needed no special care or maintenance at all, and after I questioned him about exactly how safe, said you could safely sleep on it. I questioned him several times, saying he must be exaggerating, but he said ALL radiological potential was used, and the fuel was completely inert at the end of the final cycle.

    Many people know about the liquid sodium breeder reactor developed by General Electric in the late 1970’s but few people know the real story about this reactor, which this engineer developed. To back stab the public image of this reactor, it was stated that it’s rods would stick and that liquid sodium was too dangerous to use as a coolant. But this engineer, the man who developed it, stated that this media campaign was a pure psy op which like many things the media and government says had no truth to it at all.

    He then went on to lament about what a waste of money it was to have the technology banned because nuclear fuel is expensive and they were only able to use it to about five percent of its total potential without implementing this technology. He lamented the fact that his life’s greatest accomplishment got banned for no good reason, and it was a tremendous waste of money to not use the technology his team developed. Electricity would have been cheap. So cheap that homes would not have been heated with oil or natural gas, electricity would have been the only sensible choice. Furthermore, with a reduction in the price of electricity by at least 10X, electric cars would have quickly become a standard.

    —- end of excerpt

    Disregard the conspiracy theorizing if it gets your panties in a bunch, but I defy you to explain why this technology has been so thoroughly suppressed (lame “non-proliferation” horseshit will be ignored).

    P.S. Post didn’t go through on first attempt. Please excuse/delete if double-posted.

  80. @Foo:

    > Asbestos is safe, unless you smoke, “comorbidity” is the term I believe.

    This statement has a kernel of truth, but its truth was only made absolute through the magical messaging from asbestos defense lawyers. For a more nuanced view, see, e.g.:

    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/04/130412084227.htm

    Of course, the message could be turned around by tobacco company lawyers. There are newer studies purporting to show that second hand smoke isn’t nearly as dangerous as thought. Maybe that’s true. Maybe smoking, in general, isn’t nearly as dangerous as it used to be, because there isn’t as much asbestos as there used to be. It’s probably safe to assume that, not only were most asbestos workers men, but that most men were exposed to at least some asbestos at some point (ever change your own brake pads?). If we expect that, in general, the exposure for women was nowhere near as much, then with a reduction of environmental asbestos we should expect to see a change in gender-based relative risks of smoking.

    Let’s see — the first article says that asbestos exposure increases the risk of lung cancer among non-smokers by a factor of 5, and the second article says that the smoking vs. non-smoking risk for men used to be 5x that for women, but is now not quite as big for men as it is for women. Hmmm.

    Correlation is not causation. Past performance does not guarantee future results. Your mileage may vary. The data is a lot more nuanced than I described, and I performed zero analysis on it, and the actual expected correlation coefficient between asbestos reduction and gender-based smoking outcomes is almost certainly much less than one.

    Nonetheless, you might seriously consider attempting to limit your exposure to both asbestos and cigarette smoke…

  81. @DFanarch: I Googled your intriguing quote, but the first link for it also included the statement: “Japan earthquake both man made AND faked to a higher magnitude to justify nuclear tsunami” and other conspiracy stuff, so I am skeptical.

    @kurkosdr: Read the link I posted at the very top of this thread.

  82. @kurkosdr: “it’s a scientific fact that greenhouse gases cause global warming, and humans produce greenhouse gases.”

    But *how much* global warming do human-produced greenhouse gases cause? That’s the key question, and the answer is: not enough to worry about, *unless* you assume there are large positive feedbacks in the climate system. Which, according to the evidence, there aren’t.

  83. Cathy: > “You simply ask them for their position on the ‘greenfinger’climate engineering technologies that could potentially be used to adjust world climate as needed without reducing CO2 emissions.”

    Um, what? I can’t figure out what you’re referring to here, can you post a link or at least enough of a search term that DDG/Bing/Google can point me in the right direction? Thanks.

  84. Every so often, you’ll read articles like the one DFanarch quoted from, or others claiming that ‘Thorium reactors will save the world!’, or ‘New reactor design!!!!’, etc…..

    The designs are not new. Sodium IS dangerous. There *are* proliferation dangers. Various early prototypes worked, but were killed for various *valid* reasons. There’s too much hype behind these campaigns. By all means, support research into better reactor designs, but the hot water type reactors are established technology. We have over 50 years of experience with them. We know their weak points and can design around them. They work well enough; we need to build more of them.

  85. “The answers have been out there for a long time. But the Greens who deceived you on this subject do not like to admit it. That’s because the Green movement is fundamentally anti-industrial, not pro-economy or pro-environmental.”

    In the anti-nuclear case, it’s more than the Greens. A whole bunch of people out there pretend to be rational about it. They marshal all sorts of ‘factual objections’ to any nuclear project, but their real objections are:

    “The plant is going to MELT DOWN and EXPLODE!!!…there’s going to be RADIATION!!!…we’re all going to get CANCER and DIE!!!!!”

  86. Jeff Read, what are your reasons for thinking the general approach at Yucca Mountain isn’t good enough? Your feewings? An actual quantitative analysis?

    I’ve never looked at it, but I rather expect it’s good enough to support my watermelons-are-revealing-CAGW-disbelief argument. Indeed, even quite a dumb suboptimal simplistic solution might be better than ZOMGCAGW scenarios or regressing to windmills. (Condemn Death Valley and many miles around, dig the mother of all strip mines, bury 50-year-old fuel rods there with landfill techniques plus a lot of extra dirt.)

    Consider there were atmospheric tests of H-bombs, putting most of their fission products right into the atmosphere in aerosol particles, and the probable effects on human health were worrisome but still unmeasurably small. Doing the equivalent every decade would be far better than ZOMGCAGW and cause less human suffering than green plans ostensibly pragmatic choices to avoid ZOMGCAGW.

    From http://www.world-nuclear.org/info/Country-Profiles/Countries-A-F/France/ France uses around 10k tons of U per year. France has 66M people, some 1% of world population, and gets most of its electricity from nuclear. Naively directly scale that up to the world, and it’s 10,000k tons of U per decade. I’ll pretend they fission that all (though because it sounds like they aren’t doing much breeding, that’s likely at least an order of magnitude too high).

    ZOMG, that’s a lot more U than was fissioned directly into the atmosphere in the early Cold War! However, the plan is not to intentionally blow the fission products into the atmosphere, but to only leak dribs and drabs from our humanly imperfect long-term containment system.

    So after fission, let stuff cool off for a while. Current tech seems adequate from that: the French aren’t dying from leaks at catastrophic levels. At a guess, we can cool it off by a factor of 1e2 compared to the fresh-from-the-fission levels in the H-bomb atmospheric tests.

    How much more protection do we need to make long-term leakage no worse than rerunning early Cold War atmospheric H-bomb testing every decade? 10,000k tons is 1e7 tons. As above, call the Cold War fallout at least 1e-1 ton. As above I estimate 1e2 protection the short-term cooloff, so we need to keep all but 1 part in 1e6 of the waste from getting away — not per year, but ever.

    There is a race between accumulating leakage every decade and accumulated cooling of the waste. I think a reasonable approximation is to say that we only need to worry about a century of uncooled leakage. (Two integrals are roughly equal; I don’t know any concise way to say it without basic calculus.) If so, we need to keep more than 1 part in 1e8 from getting away per year.

    For some small fraction of the decay products — notably radon, a noble gas — stopping escape at this level could actually be nontrivial. (Perhaps it’s hard to keep the radon escape below natural radon from granite, perhaps it’s not.) But for most ordinary materials, stopping escape is not very hard, unless you do something silly like leaving it exposed to flowing water. Note that Nature does it accidentally rather routinely: the reason we don’t find lots of 1e9-year-old mineral formations is not because mineral formations normally shrivel up by randomly leaking even 1e-8 of their contents to the environment per year, but because something comes in from the outside to change them (erosion, subduction, that kind of thing).

    So this is not a proof that it’s feasible, but I think it’s enough to put the burden of proof on those who assert that the problem is intractable. So do let us know what your fundamental technical objections to the approach used at Yucca Mountain are, won’t you? Or shut up, that works too.

  87. @LS: “4. Leave the campsite in better condition than when you arrived.”

    That’s very reasonable guidance which I’ve always used outdoors; if only that were what alarmists were suggesting (keep the the true toxins and smog out of the air/water). To continue the metaphor, instead of leaving no garbage about in the camp, they demand i) no campfire or combustion of any kind, even in wet conditions, ii) no respiration of any kind, iii) no bodily excretions of any kind, and, actually, iv) don’t camp at all because, well, the fundamental issue is that alarmists are misanthropic and it is unavoidable that nasty ol’ human beings disturb the pristine state of nature.

  88. @LS “Various early prototypes worked, but were killed for various *valid* reasons.”

    Those reasons being mainly that nuclear weapons programs at the time required a Uranium based fuel cycle with enrichment and Plutonium production, all of which is incompatible with Thorium fueled cycles.

  89. “And if you did, nuclear still wouldn’t have the EROEI that fossil fuels have.”

    Which is just ridiculously wrong, indicating the grip of some kind of dogma impervious to actual observation.

  90. EROEI! nukes! inconceivable!

    Yes, I expect it is ridiculously wrong if you run the numbers. And even for those of us who can’t begin to guess at some of the actual numbers involved (tons of rock per gram of U, kWh per doubling of U235 concentration per gram…), it should be at least pretty suspicious if you compare our supposed incapacity to use nukes to power the nuke industry given an incentive to do so with the amount of flexibility and ingenuity that we’re supposed to display effortlessly in using uncontrollable unpredictable wind power to replace on-demand electricity sources. One involves ordinary sorts of engineering we’ve seen used in large niches already (electric transport and synfuels, e.g.) , the other involves long-elusive radical improvements in energy storage or a retreat to preindustrial rhythms of life.

    (And by a curious coincidence, the mind that assumes it’s routine to replace conventionally-generated electricity with wind but impossible to replace fossil fuels with nukes is typically the same mind that thinks birds killed by oil spills or whatnot are an intolerable abomination while birds killed by windmills are negligible collateral damage. It’s almost as though the supposed facts and priorities are often insincere rationalizations for some other agenda.)

  91. Cathy: “You simply ask them for their position on the ‘greenfinger’ climate engineering technologies that could potentially be used to adjust world climate as needed without reducing CO2 emissions.”

    Terry: “Um, what? I can’t figure out what you’re referring to here, can you post a link or at least enough of a search term that DDG/Bing/Google can point me in the right direction? Thanks.”

    http://www.rdasia.com/climate-engineering

    http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2009/07/re-engineering-the-earth/307552/

    http://www.academia.edu/1577460/Climate_engineering_through_stratospheric_aerosol_injection_a_review

    http://belfercenter.ksg.harvard.edu/files/bodansky-dp-47-nov-final.pdf

  92. @Biobob: “nuclear fission byproducts have effect timescales of thousands of years guaranteed”.

    No, the unavoidable fission products have timescales of days to tens of years, a hundred at most. The long term radioisotopes come not from fission products but via the cases where U238 captures neutrons instead of undergoing fission and becomes something higher up on the periodic table, commonly called transuranics or actinides. The point? Some nuclear reactor designs don’t produce any significant transuranics.

    Google images for “spent fuel toxicity” for the numbers.

  93. William O. B’Livion: I am UTTERLY convinced that coal power generation is disastrous to humans in the medium term. Mercury…. etc….

    and this has exactly what relevance the match of human lifespans to fission power ???
    zilch — every mechanism of generating electricity has its pluses and minuses…only fission has minuses that last for many lifetimes.

    William O. B’Livion: They “civilization” may have fallen, but that doesn’t always or even usually come with a “fall” in technology

    then again, usually they did lose their tech…in our case, the likelihood of loss of tech is likely to be high considering how much infrastructure is needed for it…

    anyway, your effort to rewrite the history of the dark ages is laughable. Most of the populations in the area formerly comprising the Western Roman Empire slid back into the pit of ignorance and in general, depopulated as was also the case with the Anasazi, Mayans, etc.

    Falstaff, the unavoidable longterm fission products of thorium is thorium itself. Thorium-232, undergoes alpha decay with a half-life of about 14.05 billion years. radon-220, as one of its decay products. Secondary decay products of thorium include radium and actinium. Breathe in the byproducts of thorium for your health. Explain to me exactly what happens to a thorium based reactor when those who tend it no longer tend it….but whose offspring unknowingly live in or near it…

  94. “Falstaff, the unavoidable longterm fission products of thorium is thorium itself. “

    No, Th-232 is not the result of any fission process or any nuclear process other than the supernova that made it. It is the form of the natural occurring element as it exists in the earth’s crust, as are its decay products. Same with uranium. If anyone breaths any of these elements it will not be because of a nuclear reactor.

    Reactor decommissioning is paid for by the industry in the US. Examples include Yankee Rowe, 1961-1992, which now looks a nice place for picnic to me. http://www.yankeerow.com

  95. @LS on 2014-03-08 at 14:00:49
    “. . . There’s too much hype behind these campaigns . . .”

    @PapayaSF on 2014-03-08 at 12:45:55
    ” . . . and other conspiracy stuff, so I am skeptical.”

    The piece I cited is not hype, it is testimony from an engineer who developed the technology, which was criminalized. If that’s not suppression, I don’t know what is. As far as the source is concerned, while I don’t buy his whole package, I consider him far less likely to make shit up out of whole cloth than any lying scumbag politico yammering about “non-proliferation” or ignorantly pontificating on the hazards/merits of breeder reactors. If that makes me a conspiracy theorist, well, I’d rather be paranoid than duped. Or, to paraphrase (what is attributed to, apparently incorrectly) Orwell: “In an age of universal deceit, truth is conspiracy theory”.

    @William Newman on 2014-03-08 at 15:40:28
    “. . . ZOMGCAGW scenarios . . .”

    Oh My God Catastrophic Anthropogenic Global Warming, I presume, but what’s the Z for?

  96. Biobob wrote “Thorium-232, undergoes alpha decay with a half-life of about 14.05 billion years. radon-220, as one of its decay products. Secondary decay products of thorium include radium and actinium. Breathe in the byproducts of thorium for your health.”

    By the time you get to half-lives that long, the radioisotopes aren’t very radiohazardous even in macroscopic amounts. E.g., raw U straight from the refinery or smelter or whatever — not isotopically tweaked, just what Eugène-Melchior Péligot would have considered “uranium” — ordinarily contains about 0.7% U235. U235 is an alpha-emitter with 700M year half life. When you have a bottle of uranium salts on the shelf of the lab, it’s more important in practice to treat it with the same respect as mercury salts or lead salts or other significantly toxic-based-on-big-weird-electron-cloud metallicity than it is to treat it as a radiation hazard. (Compare e.g. radiophosphorous or tritium or most of the other stuff used for radiolabeling experiments in biology: no particular chemical toxicity unless you build them into some particularly toxic molecule, but a macroscopic amount of the radioisotope calls for considerable care because of its radioactivity.)

    It doesn’t seem to be possible to understand the practical implications of this stuff without knowing the numbers, getting your mind around the basics of what numbers mean, and being comfortable doing arithmetic, or at least willing to slog through arithmetic even if you hate it. A half-life of 14e9 years is so long that it strongly tends to defy nonarithmetic intuition. You can work through the ratios yourself or just take it from me that it pushes the rate of decay down to such a low level that all by itself that vanishingly low rate tends to give you the kind of millionfold-or-more protection factor I was looking for in my back of the 8.5×11 envelope calculation earlier.

    “Explain to me exactly what happens to a thorium based reactor when those who tend it no longer tend it… but whose offspring unknowingly live in or near it…”

    Demonstrate a willingness to engage in arithmetic and apply it logically and honestly to the problem, not just big-number-ZOMG-wow. (A willingness to apply your we-should-be-terrified-by-huge-halflives logic consistently would also help: you are probably aware that some decades ago physicists strongly suspected that protons might decay (with a *very* long half-life). They spent big bucks looking for it (KamiokaNDE e.g.), and didn’t find it, but maybe that just means that the protons decay with an *even* *longer* *halflife* *ZOMG*. Are you worried that perhaps those experiments were done insufficiently carefully, so protons are decaying with a superlong half life, *even* *longer* *than* *thorium* *ZOMG*, so we’re all being constantly exposed to intolerable radiation hazards? Or are you perhaps contemptuous of the physicists for looking for this effect when in your worldview it’s obviously prohibited by the anthropic principle?)

  97. DFanarch, I have been using ZOMG as I’ve seen it used in context in other online discussions, which is pretty much as in

    http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=zomg

    though I would tweak urbandictionary’s “humiliating” to read “sarcastic” and/or perhaps “mocking” instead.

    (There is a connection between humiliation and sarcasm, but sarcasm is much more specific, and is not necessarily strongly aligned with humiliation: e.g., it can be an expression of exasperated impatience)

  98. Falstaff & Newman, you must think everyone is stupid. First you must concentrate thorium so that it generates useful amounts of heat via radioactive decay. The decay itself generates alpha particles at minimum and the thorium is dangerous when ingested as a result.

    Second, the decay produces radon gas which generates MORE alpha particles as decay proceeds as well as the other isotopes mentioned. If you want to breathe that in on a continuing basis, feel free, but spare my kids and grand-kids, and great-grand-kids, and my great-great-grand-kids, and ….for a billion years or 4 was it ?

    Third, thorium fuel cycles produce gamma emitting uranium isotopes with long half-lives. You make it sound like it turns into saltwater taffy.

    Lastly, my point that you so blithely ignored is that thorium reactors will continue to produce that crap for the remainder of earth’s lifespan.

    Jeeze, talk about leaving behind our $hit.

  99. Biobob –

    Like uranium, thorium is an element that occurs naturally on this planet in large quantities. Yes it is mildly radioactive with a long half life. It will continue to decay, as it has done for billions of years, whether or not nuclear reactors ever existed. Yes there will be thorium decay even in the lifetime of your great-grand-kids. With all your emotion, not even you have the power to stop this, though all nuclear plants and plans for plants vanish from the earth forever. Radon is also radioactive and naturally occurring, and which may be seeping into your basement (and many others’) at the moment, a phenomenon also unrelated to nuclear reactors.

    A thorium fuel cycle in a molten reactor would indeed produce uranium-233, which fissions, but in a molten reactor *all* the uranium fissions unlike the current solid fuel reactors. As I said before, and this is growing tedious, the only waste products of the thorium fuel cycle are the products of fission. Those are indeed highly radioactive and can be dangerous, but they also have relatively short half-lives.

    So, off the top of my head, you do not know what you are talking about, or care to know. Now run along and slowly poison your self and your grand-kids by burning some more coal.

  100. Biobob, not everyone is stupid. Note I wrote expecting many people would follow my argument about why your point was stupid.

    Heck, you might not be stupid. Stupid arguments are supported even by people who know much better. Indeed, it’s sadly common. To illustrate, consider cases where most readers have no agenda. E.g., Macaulay’s dissection (in his moderately famous and surprisingly entertaining _History of England_) of some particularly stupid James-II-era arguments for absolutest absolutist monarchy and for strictest strict primogeniture. Or Hume’s cruel vivisection (in his famous posthumous _Dialogues_) of the stupidly selective conclusions people consistently chose to draw from the argument from design.

    I see stupid argumentation like yours mostly on the left, but it’s elsewhere, too. E.g., creationist forums like to burble about how evolution violates the second law of thermodynamics. That’s about as stupid as demonizing long half lives. (It doesn’t take deep physics to wonder how if the entropy accounts can’t balance going from 0 rabbits to 100 rabbits in a given environment, they can balance going from 2 rabbits to 102 rabbits; or to wonder why Lord Kelvin himself famously doggedly attacked evolution on first law grounds, yet not on second law grounds.)

    (And um, oops. U238 is radioactive too, not just U235 as I implied. U238 isn’t properly unstable for nuclear chain reactions, and I assumed it’s stable overall, making an ass out of U and me. So 0.7% was not nearly alarmist enough from stupid long-half-life-ZOMG POV. U is 2-4 ppm of Earth’s crust, and it’s all long-half-life radioactive! For comparison, how many ppm of sinisterly pervasive Th contamination might the nightmare nuke industry create? Perhaps you dread Earth covered uniformly with an annoying 0.1mm layer of leaked mostly-Th fly ash. A worthy effort! I don’t know how to estimate mixing with soil, but if there was significant mixing with the oceans, you’d tend to find natural U radioisotopes alone were the same order of magnitude. So sad; maybe try reusing CAGW tweets “missing Th ZOMGness found! deep in the Pacific! deniers vanquished!”)

    Anyway.

    Sometimes stupid arguments resist explanation by stupidity. E.g. on http://www.scottaaronson.com/blog/?p=1148 we find a very smart zealot loudly professing not to know what he doesn’t know. (“If there’s been any consistent pattern so far, it’s that the ‘climate alarmists’ have been way too conservative in their forecasts.” And “rendering the planet uninhabitable 100 years from now”.) To his significant partial credit he did not silently delete Nex’s comment #7 (linking http://www.gfdl.noaa.gov/global-warming-and-hurricanes) and #27 (pointing out absurdly innumerate “uninhabitable 100 years from now”). To his discredit he refused to respond sensibly. (“OK, I agree that ‘render the planet uninhabitable’ was a slight overstatement. If I were forced to guess, my best estimate is that AGW will be “merely” about as bad for humanity as a whole as the Holocaust was for the Jews.” With no cites or other technical backup. And seemingly never addressing how a maybe-11%-per-century supposed intensity trend is supposed to be so obvious it can be picked out of this year’s casual observation, and distinguished from weird stuff like the Dust Bowl and the Little Ice Age, just rehashing later “whether or not severe weather is getting more frequent because of human activities has now become an elephant vs. boar sort of question”.)

    Incidentally, re. Aaronsen’s “consistent pattern” of forecasts vs. outcomes (and ESR’s original post) see

    http://web.archive.org/web/20080708230357/http://www.metoffice.gov.uk/corporate/pressoffice/2007/pr20070810.html

    http://www1.ncdc.noaa.gov/pub/data/cmb/bams-sotc/climate-assessment-2008-lo-rez.pdf

    (from comments in http://www.bishop-hill.net/blog/2014/2/26/communicating-the-pause.html).

  101. @biobob

    Second, the decay produces radon gas for a billion years or 4 was it ?

    I’m not an expert but are you sure you’re thinking of the right gas?

    According to the internet , Radon, at it’s most long lived, has a half-life of about 3.8 days. The Radon that is part of the Thorium decay chain (Radon-220 aka Thoron) has a half-life of 55.6 seconds.

  102. P.S. there was meant to be a <snip> between gas and for in that quote… stupid forgetting these comments render like html.

  103. Yes some isotopes of radon decay quickly which means it is highly radioactive. The relatively high background raidiation of the Colorado plateau stems from radon. The problem is that it is continually produced by the decay of long lasting uranium and thorium, else the planet would have no radon.

  104. This is what you don’t understand. AGW is a real phenomenon, because it’s a scientific fact that greenhouse gases cause global warming, and humans produce greenhouse gases. The greenhouse effect is scientifically valid and has been observed at planets like Venus.

    True as stated.

    But you forget that the important part of AGW is the C in CAGW – catastrophic.

    And the data for the mythical positive-feedback mechanisms that could somehow make AGW into CAGW (which is what the models and the Climate Change Industry are selling) is … sparse, shall we say?

    Nonexistent, more like it.

    This is especially telling when we note that historically (as in “geologically”), as far as we can tell, temperatures worldwide tend to wobble around a mean; but if we had overwhelming positive feedbacks from CO2 levels we’d expect it to get stuck; that’s what positive-feedback systems do.

    Climate as observed looks a lot more like a negative-feedback self-regulating system.

    That’s what I understand, and why I think AGW is a non-issue.

  105. Third, thorium fuel cycles produce gamma emitting uranium isotopes with long half-lives

    I’m just going to pile on here, because I’ve heard this problematic analysis before, and it deserves to be crushed.

    Long half-lives are good.

    It’s the short half-life stuff that’s dangerous, because it’s emitting radiation far more often per mole of material.

    Something with a half-life in the billions of years is essentially the same as not-radioactive for our purposes; depleted uranium might as well not be radioactive, and that’s why it’s used for radiation shielding.

    (That said, you had a point along with the mistake – the thorium cycle produces U-232, with a short half-life of 68.9 years, including some very energetic gamma emissions.

    It also makes U-233, with a longer half-life of 159,200 years, and some energetic decay products.

    None of those problems are unsolvable or all that difficult; I can’t help but detect some radiophobia in your reactions to the very idea.

    Altogether, nuclear power is the cleanest, safest power option we have for the long term for a modern civilization; in the short term natural gas is pretty good.)

  106. @Biobob,

    It’s rare when someone’s response to my comment actually confirms my comment, but it does happen. I repeat, someone has never heard of LFTR’s, and I further add that that someone is likely so terrified of nuclear power they can’t allow themselves to see the safe methods of nuclear power that exist, but politics never allowed to be engineered into production.

  107. Sigivald wrote “Climate as observed looks a lot more like a negative-feedback self-regulating system.”

    I think its behavior is likely more complicated than that. What’s up with ice ages? It seems to be hard to find any large external driver that could be pushing the atmosphere and oceans to their large transitions in and out of their full-blown ice ages. There are some candidates for drivers, but AFAIK they are no more than moderate-sized, and imperfectly correlated with ice ages. An obvious hypothesis to explain the size discrepancy and partial correlation is that there’s some kind of serious instability which can (but doesn’t necessarily) flip over into an ice age when it’s suitably tickled by the external effects. Failing that, well, I’m out of obvious hypotheses, so what’s up with ice ages?

    That said, if there is some such serious internal instability, it would be a surprising coincidence if it had much to do with the behavior that the current nestfeathering backscratching hindcasting overfitting data-massaging selectively-circular-filing methods-concealing hyperventilating inducing-even-Aaronson-to-act-stupid evilclownshow is pushing. Just from the disconnect between their temperature forecasts so far and ground truth, it’s unlikely that they understand the overall temperature in a useful nontrivial way even for small perturbations. (And quite consistently in all sorts of fields large perturbations — like not a fraction of a degree change, but a full-blown ice age — are harder to understand, often *much* harder.) And besides that mismatch in isolation, and setting aside all the other dysfunction (minimizing falsifiability, not addressing reasonable criticism, demonizing opponents, concealment, suspicious loss of data, documented destruction of correspondence, mismatch between private understanding and public reports, not policing professional misconduct, various kinds of sticky-fingeredness, etc.), merely from the embarrassing contrast between the confident pride they took in the quality of their hindcasts and the actual much lower (indeed, possibly negligible) understanding that seems to be demonstrated in their forecasts, it’s hard to believe that they’re grounded in reality. The obvious explanation is that their schtick really is largely based on being as energetic about overfitting as they appeared to be:-| which is a horrendous fundamental problem in a number of ways. (If it’s overfitting with a sizable component of fudging, that’s even more epic fail, but even all by itself energetic overfitting can easily suffice to produce crap.)

  108. “Something with a half-life in the billions of years is essentially the same as not-radioactive for our purposes;”

    Well, it’s true that the short half-life radioisotopes are the dangerous ones if you get too close to them, many of them putting out *penetrating* gamma and beta radiation. The long half-life isotopes (uranium, plutonium, thorium) i) don’t put out nearly as much radiation per more per unit time as you say, and ii) they are alpha emitters and alphas have a tough time getting through tissue paper, much less skin. *However*, should the stuff get inside the body (breathing, swallow) it can deliver a hazardous dose.

    A slug of alpha emitting uranium 238 carried around in the pocket for life is likely safer than similarly carrying a lump of coal, but don’t make a habit of snorting it.

  109. Falstaff,

    “A slug of alpha emitting uranium 238 carried around in the pocket for life is likely safer than similarly carrying a lump of coal, but don’t make a habit of snorting it.”

    Right. Also, as others have pointed out: the half life of arsenic is forever. Anti-nuclear activists always elide the poisonous side effects of mining. Because the power density is huge, you don’t mine much uranium for nuclear fuel, so the mine tailings are orders of magnitude less. Coal mining creates much, much more hazardous waste which must be disposed of. All the rare minerals used in solar panels must be mined. All the iron in windmills must be mined. And if you want to have ultra-capacitors or batteries to store the solar and wind power, their materials must be mined. And because solar and wind are so diffuse, that is one whopping lot of mining. Why don’t anti-nuclear activists go after the much, much larger piles of hazardous waste – most of which *never* gets less hazardous – from all these other energy sources?

    Yours,
    Tom

  110. “All the iron in windmills must be mined.”

    Amazingly, US steel is now more than 75% recycled, but enough of my pedantry.

  111. “Why don’t anti-nuclear activists go after the much, much larger piles of hazardous waste – most of which *never* gets less hazardous – from all these other energy sources?”

    Because when birds die, it is a violation of what is good and dangerous damage to what is important to our proper flourishing, unless it’s like http://libertyunyielding.com/2013/06/29/green-energy-wind-farm-turbine-kills-rare-bird/ or (using a search engine gives various news articles for me, including ungated WSJ) “Wind Farms Gain Protections From Bird Kill Prosecutions Dec 6 2013″ in which case it is Mother Earth’s bitterly agonizing but willing sacrifice of her own holy offspring so that her people can be victorious in their struggle against their vile heathen and heretic rivals. Not the same thing at all.

  112. @kurkosdr: “AGW is a real phenomenon, because it’s a scientific fact that greenhouse gases cause global warming, and humans produce greenhouse gases.”

    As others have said, true, and now is calculated, by itself without feedback, to less than one deg C for a doubling of CO2.

    My problem is these arguments start with valid science, but they don’t stop there. The standard alarmist message is to then move on to what-might-happen fallacies as if they’re still standing on Mt Science when they have in slid well down.

    There are an infinite number of phenomenon X ongoing about the planet, both man made and not, for which there is no scientific basis that X will cause harm Y or good Z. Instead of admitting so, we see the science dragged beyond where it is firm, and slathered with a grease of associative fallacies so that no one looks too close:

    “…it’s the same thing people used to say about CFCs … or about asbestos …”

    You forgot to add racism and sexism, because “people used to say about …”, and of course “greatest threat to humanity, ever” to end the debate.

  113. Falstaff,

    Thanks, and to match your pedantry, it had to be mined before it could be recycled. Except for the tiny fraction that was obtained from meteorites. <- If pedantry was an extreme sport, the judges would love this sentence.

    Yours,
    Tom

  114. Once you get access to the tower of dozens of experimentally accessible orders of magnitude that is mechanics stacked on QM stacked on nuclear forces, and more orders of magnitude that we are nearly forced to infer from and about cosmology and the like, extreme pedantry is the gift that seldom stops giving. (Extreme pedants seldom say never.)

    Consider that just because bismuth is apparently the most recent ever-so-marginally-radioactive material whose halflife has been found to differ from zero, it doesn’t follow that it is the last that will ever be found. And as I understand it iron of all nuclei happens to enjoy the best energetic tradeoff, and thus the natural ultimate endpoint of nuclear decay chains, including any steps which whose halflives are so long we haven’t been able to measure their radioactivity in practice. Yet.

  115. William,

    Given your answer, I want pedantry to be an extreme sport, and I want you to compete, and I want to watch.

    Thanks,
    Tom

  116. “If pedantry was an extreme sport, the judges would love this sentence.”

    s/was/were/ for the subjunctive expressing condition contrary to fact.

    Now THAT’s pedantry.

  117. “And as I understand it iron of all nuclei happens to enjoy the best energetic tradeoff, and thus the natural ultimate endpoint of nuclear decay chains…”

    Yes, the universe is UNSUSTAINABLE. We must immediately start a project to fuse all our iron supplies back up to Uranium or fission them down to Hydrogen in order to restore our universe back to its pristine glory.

  118. FWIW, I think probably I was wrong on the plausibility of *so*-near-to-stable heavier nuclei actually being in the process of steadily (and very very very slowly) transmuting themselves into iron. As nuclear weights get close to iron, the nucleons should continue to prefer to be in an iron nucleus, but they should tend to care about it less and less. For plausible functional forms of the main trend in this change in preference, the tradeoff between making the majority a little happier while making four ejected nucleons considerably unhappier (through the usual whittling-down process, alpha emission giving a new helium nucleus and a correspondingly lighter old nucleus) probably stops making net energetic sense at various stopping points short of iron. So my spirit of pedantry was willing, but my physics-fu seems to have been too weak.

  119. s/was/were/ for the subjunctive expressing condition contrary to fact.

    Now THAT’s pedantry.

    Oooh! A command performance, Tom, but you failed to nail the dismount. Looks like you’ll be taking home silver…

  120. > Yes, the universe is UNSUSTAINABLE. We must immediately start a project to fuse all our iron supplies back up to Uranium or fission them down to Hydrogen in order to restore our universe back to its pristine glory.

    No, that solution is too radically right-wing to possibly work. What’s needed is a single, planet-wide computer, a “multivac,” that has all of humanity under its control. Then it can be put to work on the shorter-term project of merging all of humanity into a single mentality, and on the longer-term project of determing how to reverse the direction of entropy.

  121. “What was the last time the USA had so many polar vortexes hitting them?”

    Dr. Joe Bastardi, a CAGW-skeptical meteorologist (and one who correctly forecast this winter, unlike NOAA), noted recently that “polar vortexes” used to be called “Canadian air masses” back before the global warming crowd needed to make everything sound scary. They’ve always happened during cold winters, it’s just now they have a name that sounds like it came from the writers of “Sharknado”.

  122. Ian,

    One of the signs against CAGW is that so many engineers in the field (meteorologists) are skeptical of it. As Steve McIntyre likes to point out, applied scientists (engineers) have more exacting standards than academic scientists. When engineers screw up people lose money (farmers really depend on meteorologists), get injured or even die (meteorologists save lives: http://wapo.st/1iCqMGs).

    Yours,
    Tom

  123. while increased CO2 is linked to warming, the IPCC models include all sorts of positive feedback effects that increase climate sensitivity

    We speculate that the IPCC models include all sorts of positive feedback effects, but do we actually know this? Or do they, as usual, refuse to comply with the freedom of information acts, the unwritten rules of science, and the written rules of the most prestigious science journals by refusing to tell us what, if anything, is inside the models.

    My own theory is that nothing is inside the models – they get their predictions direct from Gaia through divine inspiration.

  124. We are not climate scientists. Armchair second guessing and regurgitation of third hand articles editorialising on the summated work work of thousands of dedicated experienced scientists should not be in our lexicon.

    So I downloaded the entire 350MB odd report itself to see what it actually said. And yes, the story is not quite as reported here. From the summary on and around pp TS-28:

    I’m thinking the word ‘hiatus’ has a slightly different meaning as used therein. The atmospheric warming trend did NOT stop. It continued but at a reduced rate, about 50% of the model predicitions. What did however continue increasing at predicted rates is sea level. The oceans have about a 50x heat capacity vs the atmosphere, so a dT/dt drop of 50% in the atmospheric component without a corresponding drop in the oceanic is overall a mere 1% deviation from predictions. Significant enough to prompt increased effort in refining the models, but second order not first.

    I think that qualifies as a storm in a teacup. Unlike the impending super-El-Nino we’ll be getting on the West Coast this coming summer.

    Plus one should note a) 15 years is not that statistically significant a duration in climate terms, b) this is not the first such recorded, and c) this period included the complete solar minimum cycle, which has its primary effect on the atmospheric component. So far. Decreasing ice coverage is shifting that.

    The science is not broken, and it is not junk.

    And, as has been said before, “what if it turns out to be a false alarm but we made the world a better place anyway?”

  125. “What did however continue increasing at predicted rates is sea level.”

    IPCC published models predict over 3 mm/year and accelerating. Last ~10 years have been 1.8 mm/year.

  126. “The oceans have about a 50x heat capacity vs the atmosphere, so a dT/dt drop of 50% in the atmospheric component without a corresponding drop in the oceanic is overall a mere 1% deviation from predictions.”

    Your argument implies that there are somehow two separate model paradigms, one for the ocean heat and another one for surface temperature. The models attempt to take into account everything at once. This being the case, the *surface temperature* predictions have now fallen outside the 95% confidence level for the last 20 years. They are grossly in error in that time period.

  127. @David Warman

    What if it turns out to be a false alarm but we made the world a better place anyway?

    That, in a nutshell is the reason to doubt the alarmists. Fundamentally they don’t care if AGW is real. They would advocate for these policies no matter what. AGW is just another stick for the Greens to use to beat the rest of us.

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