Saturday, June 6, 2009

The Pressing Need For Vast Power.

According to Australia's Chief Scientist, Professor Penny Sackett, the world has just six years to begin reducing its CO2 emissions or climate change catastrophe will ensue down the track:

http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2009/04/20/2547879.htm

There has also been some talk of geoengineering measures which might be taken to alleviate climate change if it does look like getting out of hand:

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/30112396/

I think it's pretty clear that we're not going to reach Professor Sackett's cutoff point for serious reductions. Too much time has been wasted, and we cannot build the necessary infrastructure by the target date. Even if sensible measures to reduce CO2 emissions are commenced tomorrow, we will still overshoot safe atmospheric CO2 levels by a huge margin.

Many years ago in the lost days of my youth, I lived downstairs from a young man who lived for cars... working on them, fixing them, talking about them, and above all, cheating death in them by pushing the limits of high-speed, hard-edged driving past the point which would turn any sane person pale with terror. I did not particularly like him, but we conversed occasionally, and while I regard most of what he had to say as self-justifying blither, he once said something to me which has peculiar relevance to the situation we find ourselves in now. The words were spoken about twenty-four years ago, so my memory of them may be a little off, but the gist is this:

"People think that small cars are safer than big cars, but they're not. You have less protection in a small car than a big car, and you can get yourself into just as much trouble in a small car. A small car has enough power to get you into real trouble, but not enough power to get you out of it. A big car has even more power to get you into trouble, but it has enough power to get you out of it again."

It was the most sensible thing I ever heard him say.

And so true! A small car can indeed get you into strife it does not have the power to avoid which a larger, more powerful car could (in the hands of a skilled driver) avert. Herein lies a metaphor for our AGW woes.

If we follow the advice of 'renewables' and 'conservation/efficiency' advocates, we will deliberately cast away our ability to implement large-scale geoengineering solutions to AGW. For the sake of our own safety, we must make sure a high-power, high-energy power production system is available to meet our needs. For a lot of obvious reasons ably articulated elsewhere (see links on right hand side of blog), nuclear fission must be the heart of such a system. We need to point out to people just what a dangerous path a low-energy future would really be, especially if (as seems likely) we need to address major climate change in a non-passive manner.

36 comments:

DV8 2XL said...

That is a new and interesting take on it Finrod, and very pertinent. It's definitely going into my quiver of pronuclear arguments. Well done!

Barry Brook said...

Good to see you've started blogging again Finrod -- keep it up!

Finrod said...

That is a new and interesting take on it Finrod, and very pertinent. It's definitely going into my quiver of pronuclear arguments. Well done!

One of the things I like about it is that it destroys the false but effective 'new nuclear power plants can't make a difference to climate change because they'll take too long to build' anti-nuke meme.

Good to see you've started blogging again Finrod -- keep it up!

I'll see how I go, Barry. I have an idea or two for future posts...

Brad F said...

Welcome back, Finrod.

DocForesight said...

Where do I start? Is it possible to persuade people as to the superiority of nuclear power without succumbing to the AGW hysteria as the prime rationale for said superiority?

6 years is all we have, according to this "expert"? Please. She sounds worse than Al Gore, and that takes effort!

Our atmosphere is at 385 ppm CO2 now. Greenhouses commonly enhance that to 1,000 ppm CO2 to make plants grow faster. 10,000 ppm can give some sensitive people a slight headache. Let's have some perspective here, OK?

Either nuclear power wins the contest in most situations based on its overall superior energy density or it doesn't. Let's not slide into the gutter of fear-mongering in order to win the debate. BTW, I'm in the solar industry but recognize its limitations.

Finrod said...

Where do I start? Is it possible to persuade people as to the superiority of nuclear power without succumbing to the AGW hysteria as the prime rationale for said superiority?

I would not characterise concerns about AGW as 'hysteria', and from what I've witnessed lately of the arguments and tactics of those who try to dismiss such concerns has turned me from being a fence-sitter on the AGW issue to being substantially troubled about the implications. The arguments I've seen lately from AGW denialists are strongly remeniscent of the arguments used by anti-nuclear activists. It is becoming increasingly clear that the case for AGW is very strong.

6 years is all we have, according to this "expert"? Please. She sounds worse than Al Gore, and that takes effort!

The biography of the current Chief Scientist of Australia can be found here:

http://www.chiefscientist.gov.au/about/biography-penny-sackett.pdf

Our atmosphere is at 385 ppm CO2 now. Greenhouses commonly enhance that to 1,000 ppm CO2 to make plants grow faster. 10,000 ppm can give some sensitive people a slight headache. Let's have some perspective here, OK?

This statement strongly indicates that you are being ingenuous. I'm aware of the use of CO2 in agriculture. The issue with elevated CO2 levels is the greenhouse warming increment it provides to the atmosphere, as everyone, except apparently you, knows full well. What the hell were you trying to accomplish with such a ridiculous statement? I mean... seriously! Are you a complete idiot, or do you just think that the rest of us are?


Either nuclear power wins the contest in most situations based on its overall superior energy density or it doesn't.

It wins hands down in nearly every situation, and not just because of energy density. Its reliability, minimal waste, security of fuel supply, proven safety record and general robustness are legendary.

Let's not slide into the gutter of fear-mongering in order to win the debate. BTW, I'm in the solar industry but recognize its limitations.

Two points here:

1. This is not the only argument I makem in favour of nuclear power. This particular argument is made to address one particularly dishonest argument made by anti-nuclear activists concerning the usefulness of nuclear power in addressing climate change, but my pro-nuclear advocacy does not hinge on just that issue.

2. I am not fear-mongering. The fear is already there, and given the pathetic nature of the denialist arguments (if they had a better case to make, they would surely make it), I have become convinced that the fear is justified.

John said...

I just wanted to leave a big "hurrah" over your "the only product you're really peddling here is death" remark to that goose Stasse over at BNC Science Show thread. Spot on! Sometimes your boots and all approach is a bit OTT, but sometimes some dickhead desperately needs it!

Cheers, john (d morgan)

Finrod said...

Thanks John. It was actually in reply to Ludwig, but for all I know Ludwig and Stasse could be the same person, and even if they are not, it suits them both fairly well.

Anonymous said...

My response to your full of shit comment on Barry Brooks idiot blog:

“Finrod said

16 August 2009 at 18.07
The clouds have a cooling effect on Venus’ surface temperature. If Venus did not have its massive CO2 atmosphere, but still had its current cloud cover, the surface temperature would not be much higher than that of Mars.”

This is someone calling himself Finrod over at Barry Brooks site. But Finrod is full of shit even though its possible he could be literally right. Without the clouds you would not have the same level of overturning. Hence you would have cooling. The clouds block the sun sure. But we need strata for overturning.

Now about the CO2. If you didn’t have the CO2 then you would not have the same air pressure. But if you still had the same air pressure, with the same strata and overturning you would have a hot planet despite Finrod being totally full of shit on this matter.

The whole planet acts like this giant convection pressure cooker. Its the pressure that counts and not the alleged greenhouse effect. The pressure effect of CO2 is important. The colour-of-CO2 is not.

We can see this when we visit somewhere like the Atherton tableland or Chiang Mai. These places are hot and high up. But it cools quickly in the evening? Why would it still do this now with the CO2 levels a lot higher than they were only two or three decades ago?

Why would the Atherton tablelands climate therefore not have somewhat equalised with Cairns? The answer is that its the air pressure that really counts here and on Venus. Air pressure and overturning. The Atherton tablelands/Cairns comparison tells us that the Greenhouse backradiation effect doesn’t amount to much at all. If it did then the heat would be retained into the night. But they use dooners up in the tablelands whereas they use airconditioners down in Cairns.

Finrod said...

I think I'll let Anon's comment remain, as a monument to his intellect.

DV8 2XL said...

"I think I'll let Anon's comment remain, as a monument to his intellect."

And a towering example of the type he is

DV8 2XL said...

Finrod I suggest that you do not engage with this idiot, he has no idea what he is talking about and only wants to use these comments as a soapbox for his ravings

Finrod said...

One monument is all you get, anon. If you wish to keep commenting here, watch your language.

Anonymous said...

I take it then that you won't be coming up with any evidence.

If you weren't a stooge to science fraud coming good with the evidence would be a breeze.

Lets have the evidence for the likelihood of castastrophic warming, and for the idea that a little bit of warming is a BAD thing in a brutal and pulverising ice age.

Finrod said...

"I take it then that you won't be coming up with any evidence."

I've had a look at your blog, Graeme. I know that whatever it is your looking for, it isn't evidence.

Lets pretend for a moment that you're serious about wanting evidence. In that case I suggest you look to the podcast and complementary slideshow Professor Brook has linked to at the top right hand corner of his blog's main page.

DV8 2XL said...

One of the better treatments of the subject can be found in Probabilistic forecast for 21st century climate based on uncertainties in emissions (without policy) and climate parameters

To suggest that climate forcing due to anthropological greenhouse gas production is not happening is naive to the extreme. The issue is not so much runaway heating/cooling (depending on your tastes) but that shifting weather patterns will have a huge impact on agriculture and consequently on geopolitics.

At any rate only the scientific illiterates fail to understand that these are probabilistic long-term forecasts of what might happen should steps not be taken to reduce C02 and other emissions. Their value is to bracket predictions of future environmental conditions so that current decision-makers have some idea what is on the horizon. To demand proof is to not understand the topic or how it is being presented.

Anonymous said...

"To suggest that climate forcing due to anthropological greenhouse gas production is not happening is naive to the extreme. "

Where is the evidence that it is happening? And in any case that wasn't the question.

We wanted evidence for the likelihood of catastrophic warming and evidence that a little bit of man-made warming is a BAD THING during a brutal and pulverising ice age.

TRY AGAIN. Calling something naieve is not the same as coming up with evidence. So far total failure. Not even an attempt to answer the question.

Finrod said...

Just so people know, our anonymous friend is one Mr. Graeme Bird, one time candidate for the Democracy and Liberty party, who styles himself a Libertarian. His blog can be found here:

http://graemebird.wordpress.com/

"Where is the evidence that it is happening? And in any case that wasn't the question."

Have you bothered looking at Prof. Brook's presentations yet?

Anonymous said...

"Have you bothered looking at Prof. Brook's presentations yet?"

So now a question. First a lie that I wasn't interested in evidence. And now a question.

We see here that you scientific illiterates are only interested in a filibuster.

Lets have that evidence.

GO!!!!!

Finrod said...

Bird, if you want to be taken seriously here, go check Barry's presentations out, then tell us why you think they're wrong. Don't flood this thread with repetative accusations and demands for evidence you've already been directed to, either. I won't tolerate it being turned into your little soapbox.

Anonymous said...

I'VE CHECKED BARRY'S PRESENTATIONS OUT.

Now have you got any evidence. Barry doesn't have any. Have you.

NO STOP STALLING. You are out there calling people names. Clearly a true believer. If you believe on scientific grounds lets have your evidence.

GO!!!!

Now stop being a prick. Just come up with the evidence.

Evidence is not a forecast based on the ASSUMPTION of the thing under dispute.

Now lets have that evidence. Barry doesn't have any. Do you?

Finrod said...

"I'VE CHECKED BARRY'S PRESENTATIONS OUT."

Have you just? let's have a little test then.

What is the cause of the discrepency between pre-WWII and post WWII ocean temperatuure data?

Anonymous said...

Ok so you've start wiping all the comments.

Thats not what we were after either. What we were after was some evidence.

If you don't have it lets have that retraction then.

Retraction or evidence. Pretty simple really.

Finrod said...

Not ALL the comments, Bird. I'm leaving enough in for context. But I'm not going to let you make the thread unreadable.

DV8 2XL said...

Obviously this little loudmouth is grandstanding to make some sort of political point. Apparently he has no scientific training or he does and he is playing to the ignorance of those who don't.

ALL climate predication is by its nature probabilistic and based on statistical evidence. The statistical evidence strongly suggests that climate forcing due to anthropological inputs is very high. This science does not and cannot establish hard proof until after the event, and demanding this type of proof is in fact a sign of ignorance (naivety) or outright dissemination. I suspect the latter in your case.

My apologies for not realizing you had no access to this link - my web account is transparent to these subscription issues if my institution is signed up.

Here is a link that should work:

Probabilistic forecast for 21st century climate based on uncertainties in emissions (without policy) and climate parameters

Please tell me if it doesn't.

Consider the folowing:

Over the last 3 million years, the Earth’s climate has undergone at least 60 naturally driven Ice Age cycles, each accompanied by major changes in sea level. As the temperature changes, so does the CO2 level. Over very long time scales, it is apparent that the Earth is gradually cooling, but the amplitude of the cycle changes is of the same order, i.e., the peak warm periods are almost as warm as they were million years ago, before gradually sinking back into the next Ice Age.

Critically, it is vital to understand that the warm peaks of this natural glacial cycle always coincide with a peak CO2 level of not more than 300 ppm. (note: we are pretty much at 390 ppm, now.)

Normally, these changes take place over many tens of thousands of years. Humans, however, have taken CO2 from about 280 ppm pre-Industrial to almost 400 ppm in around 100 years. In geological/climatic terms, this time scale is less than an eye-blink; it is a massive, virtually instantaneous, shock to the system. The last time the Earth’s climate had this much CO2 in it was about 3 million years ago when the climate was 5-6 °C warmer, there was no ice at either pole, and sea level was about 100 m higher than present. The major reason why this has not already happened is that the oceans represent a monstrous thermal mass, and the time lag for them to respond will be in the order of many hundreds of years, but respond they inevitably will.

Note here that this assumes that natural events of this nature have happened in the past, and using this hard evidence and the fact that CO2 levels went up, and a basic understanding of atmospheric physics we are confident that increasing the CO2 burden in the atmosphere will probably have the same impact.

Is this proof? To most scientists yew - to politicians with a background in law, maybe not. This is however as good as it gets in predicting the behavior of big complex systems like the climate.

If you want to take a crap shoot on the possibility that this is wrong that is your affair, however do not use as an excuse that there is no proof. There is proof enough for those that understand it. You ignorance and incapacity to grasp it, does not invalidate it.

Finrod said...

If anyone feels that I've applied unnecessy censorship in this debate, they can contact me at finrod@live.com.au and I'll happily provide the text of all Mr. Bird's deleted messages. I can promise you that what I said about their repetitiveness is correct, and you will learn little from them you did not already know from the comments I've let stand. be warned that Mr. Bird is fond of immoderate language.

As it has now been over an hour and a half since I asked him to demonstrate that he had indeed checked Prof. Brook's presentations as he claims to have done, and has had more than enough time to respond with the correct answer, thus proving his claim, and his right to assert that Prof. Brook provided no evidence, I shall provide the answer:

The discrepency in the ocean temperature data immediately before and after the end of the Second World War results from fact that the earlier data was obtained by British naval vessels which used the bucket-over-the-side technique to gather the water, whereas the later data was gathered by US naval vessels, which drew the water in via the engine room. The result was a sudden apparent drop in the measured temperature after 1945 after it had been rising for some time, followed by a steady rise back up to the level of 1945 by 1990. When the cause of this discrepancy was discovered and accounted for, it was realised that the sea temperature had been showing a general rising trend since about 1910.

This tidbit is in the first of Prof.Brook's presentations, and is sufficiently striking that it should have sparked Bird's memory had he ever actually listened to it and watched the slides.

I therefore tentatively conclude that Bird is a liar who had desperately hoped to impress people through bully-boy bluff-and-bluster. it is clear that he has no knowledge of scientific concepts, or talent for learning them. Given his political background, I conclude he is of the denialist-for-denialist-sake moron brigade.

What is it about the term 'libertarian' which makes it so damn attractive to crypto-fascists?

Now Mr. Bird: I'll give you one more chance. You may post one (1) more comment on this or any other thread on my blog (ONE, get it?), and I'll decide on the merit of that comment whether you should be allowed to post here rather than have your posts deleted on sight. I'll leave it entirely up to you what you wish to say, but if your desire is to retain the right to comment on this blog, think very carefully about what you want to say, and the manner in which you say it. If you do make that post, do not post anything else until I respond, or I'll just delete your comments on sight anyway. I'll leave the comments already present as a record of why this path has been taken.

Anonymous said...

Look I asked you for evidence. Not for you to hide behind anybody.

Will you come up with the evidence or will you admit that you don't have any.

I ASKED YOU FOR EVIDENCE.

So far nothing.

I didn't ask you for anything else.

Just evidence.

GO!!!!!!

Anonymous said...

Look all you have been requested is EVIDENCE.

So lets have that evidence. If you were relying mindlessly on Barry Brook perhaps you could admit that.

EVIDENCE.

Have you got any or will you admit you are wrong?

GO!!!!!

So far you have refused point blank to come up with evidence.

DV8 2XL said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Finrod said...

Well, I warned him.

DV8 2XL said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
DV8 2XL said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Finrod said...

Sorry about that... just got back from the quack, touch of the flu. I've disabled anonymous comments, although Birdbrain might be upset enough to actually register a google ID.

By the way, if anyone reading this wants to understand the case for climate change, please do check out Prof. Brook's presentations. He shows (regardless of Bird's contentions) multiple lines of evidence in support of climate change, as well as elucidating some of the tricks the denialists commonly practice to obscure this matter.

DV8 2XL said...

I removed my replies to the deleted comments as they were no longer in context. They were only reiterations of my last posted response to Bird.

Chris said...

These days, what we really need is a good fast breeder reactor. I live in Canada, where our CANDU technology, although one of the best in the world when they were initially built, are largely aging designs. The Advanced CANDUs are just a stopgap. What we really need is 4th generation reactors that have breeding ratios of 1.3. That way, we can make the most of the U-238 isotopes and hopefully, reduce the waste at the same time.

Another thing we really need to do is to is invest in fusion power. This is the REAL solution, not fission in the long run. I bet you that if we invested say $1 trillion dollars, we'd have fusion. That would be one of the highest returns on investment I'd guess in human history ... in return for something that would solve the worst of our energy problems.

uncle pete said...

Here's proof

The stratosphere is cooling.

Will that convince you ?