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Climate change

Discussion in 'Serious' started by Risky, 4 Nov 2014.

  1. Risky

    Risky Well-Known Member

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    I read this piece yesterday by Bjorn Lomborg. And amid all the bluster it's worth thinking about.

    It's always going to be horrible when science, politics and economics collide, but increasingly this area is looking more a more of an expensive and unsatisfactory mess.

    My view is roughly:
    • AGW is a perfectly plausible theory and seems to be supported by the data available but ongoign research should be encouraged
    • Unfotunately the science has been politicised so that anyone dissenting form the majority view is labeled a "Climate change denier" (as in "holocaust denier").
    • Sensible public policy and international agreements to deal with this would be a good thing
    • However much policy has been corrupted by political nesessity, industrial policy, green idiology and short-termism
    • It is never better to "Do something, do anything" than to wait and do the right thing at the right time.
    • It is not the job of scientists to try and move public opinion or get political results. We have lots of politicians for that.

    What I mean by this is that an issue that should need pure unbiased research, considered political reaction and properly thought out policy and public education has got politics-driven research, self-serving political planning, short-term and inefficient policy and hysterical scare stories in the media.

    Now my worry for some time is that we have pretty daft policies. E.g. subsidising solar in a northern latitude country and spending vast amounts on importing inefficient Chinese solor panels and granting a nice income to oweners of large properties that can fit lots of panels. The policitians then claim they have created "Green jobs", which turn out to be blokes on ladders fitting the things.

    What we should be doing is to spend the money on fundamental research and then implement the technology when it is actually efficient to do so. AFAIK the UK currently spends 5.8bn on renewable energy subsidies. Even half of that spent of research into energy efficient technology would have a massive impact. Do that for ten years and you won't need to subsidise the production of the products.

    What we have is a horrible convergence of interest between politicians looking for a reason to get credit for spending money, environmentalists that see it as a cause and business looking to make a no-risk buck from the taxpayer.
     
  2. Ramble

    Ramble Ginger Nut

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    I don't think people are really subsidising solar in the north are they? Here hydroelectric and biomass rule the green kingdom.
     
  3. adidan

    adidan Guesswork is still work

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    And nuclear the rest in Finland, a fair whack actually - very efficient setup there though.
     
  4. Risky

    Risky Well-Known Member

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    In the UK solar is big business as is wind. Which is a ncie subsidy for people with big houses and large landowners.
     
  5. adidan

    adidan Guesswork is still work

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    I think, unfortunately, wind and solar subsidies are removing investment in other possible alternatives.

    Considering we're an island I'm surprised we haven't followed Norway in looking at energy through osmosis more thoroughly.
     
  6. Risky

    Risky Well-Known Member

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    I just think that politicians from all side aren't willing to put real money into research, preferring to subsidise production or installation. But that's supported by the green lobby who are shreaking that "The time to act is now!"
     
  7. adidan

    adidan Guesswork is still work

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    The reality is we really need to learn to adapt than try and stop.

    No matter the influence we have we do live on a ball of rock spinning through space on which the climate will always be changing - whether it's over a small period of time or longer ones when the poles reverse and when we reach the furthest point away from the sun every 400,000 years or so.

    Adpatation is the key.

    If Lockheed Martin can get their fusion reactor up and running in the next three years, as they predict, then that can only be of benefit too. That really is the holy grail of energy.
     
  8. Risky

    Risky Well-Known Member

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    My issue is that, particularly in Europe, we're spending a serious amount of money on the wrong thing.


    There's lots more worng. I remember way before all this and Al Gore and that polar bear winning him a Nobel Prize, you would talk about "Energy Efficiency" and that was a good thing, making stuff more efficient. Good for the economy, good for the environment. Now we talk of 'Zero Carbon' which means pretending that your flight doesn't use fuel because you paid extra for a donation on your ticket or something.

    I just want to see more science and engineering and less politics, ideology and dumbing-down.
     
  9. adidan

    adidan Guesswork is still work

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    Couldn't agree more mate.
     
  10. Porkins' Wingman

    Porkins' Wingman Can't touch this

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    Brian Cox's show on Tuesday night touched on the research at NIF, California. Who knows what his own biases are but it presented an enticing vision of what could be if we weren't pissing resources away on other things.
     
  11. BeauchN

    BeauchN Active Member

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    If you look at the marginal abatement cost curves for carbon emissions we could reduce them massively, at a net saving, using existing technology.

    Energy efficiency is a major factor in that, but the problem for politicians is that it isn't visible or 'sexy' enough to get them votes. Big renewables projects are and give them the green jobs angle as well.

    The real issue though is economic competitiveness. Europe and the US won't take real action because they see it as putting themselves at an economic disadvantage to China and other big 'developing' economies. The 'developing' countries won't act unless the big developed economies do first and we all get into a loop going nowhere.
     
  12. Risky

    Risky Well-Known Member

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    Well investing in technology rather than just putting up costs will improved competiveness. Better dump 1bn in university research departments that on importing current generation tech from China.

    However to the extent that you want to create an incentive to reduce emissions, I would like to see a carbon tax and use the funds raised to reduce business taxation so it was revenue-neutral to business as a whole. If you want to raise tax on business to spend on social or other programmes that is a separate political matter and shouldn't be mixed up in energy and environmental policy.
     
  13. Porkins' Wingman

    Porkins' Wingman Can't touch this

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    Perhaps it's a case of playing Climate Chicken. Whichever countries feel they are going to suffer, economically, first/greatest, will presumably take it on more seriously at some point, but because of the uncertainty of it all I guess it will probably have to wait until the effects are being felt much more strongly than they are now. The odd disaster can be shrugged off pretty easily, so let's wait and see how more frequent and impactful they become.
     
  14. Risky

    Risky Well-Known Member

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    But the problem is most of the "Do Something" proposed isn't very effective or efficient. The environmentalists don't seem care that much as they seem to care more about the cause than the impact.

    Any natural disasters now aren't somethign you can attribute to long-term climate change. Hence the everpresent exchange on the BBC with whichever scientist they have on:

    Reporter: So can we attribute this evern to climate change??
    Climate Change Guy: We can say that this is the sort of event that we can expect more frequently in the future.
    Reporter: So we need more action on Climate Change
    Climate Change Guy: Oh yes!
     
  15. Quavr

    Quavr Member

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    My view is that the UK (and all other countries realistically) need to expand their nuclear output greatly. It is a clean (carbon wise) form of energy that can generate enough to supply our usage, which unfortunately other renewables can't do within reason.

    While fusion is a very good possibility for future energy we cant just keep waiting for it to work, as it is a developing technology it will have issues and it could be a long time before we start to see any commercial fusion reactors appearing and generating significant amounts of power.

    The idea of the government putting funding in for people to build their own solar panels etc, whilst a nice concept, doesn't do enough to solve the problems really. Unfortunately money seems to be the main factor holding back change, as usual.
     
  16. Corky42

    Corky42 Where's walle?

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    It certainly made for thought provoking viewing, what both shocked and amused me was when he said..."Americans spend more on pet grooming than on nuclear fusion research"
     
  17. Risky

    Risky Well-Known Member

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    We're spending more on subsidising renewables production now than our total government spend of science.
     
  18. KayinBlack

    KayinBlack Currently Rebuilding

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    Thorium breeder reactors would replace pretty much any power plant more effectively. But where I live, coal is the backbone of the entire economy. Eliminate it and we lose some 60% of our jobs directly, and damage the rest possibly irreparably. What are you gonna do there? I'm the first in something like four generations to not work in the mines here, and the only reason it's four is missing info-my ancestors were sold into indentured servitude to the mines here in Alabama. It's the cornerstone of our state's modest prosperity.

    Sure, I believe coal should be replaced. But it's not just the power plant employees that will be job hunting. Until you have a solution that won't destroy the economy of entire states, is stopping coal responsible?
     
  19. Corky42

    Corky42 Where's walle?

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    When most of the coal mines got closed in the UK it destroyed a lot of communities, I'm not sure they have ever recovered some three decades later. It's not even like there was no more coal in the ground, we now import around 44.8 million tonnes per year even though we have 2,344 million tonnes under the ground. :grr:
     
  20. boiled_elephant

    boiled_elephant Merom Celeron 4 lyfe

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    +1 to most of the sentiments so far, but especially to nuclear development. There really isn't a very good alternative; renewables are an inefficient and partial solution at best in countries that don't easily allow for steady things like geothermal or wave energy, and we should've been trying to wean off fossil fuels as soon as we figured out the implications of them.

    I was initially enamoured with wind farms in the UK, but after more research they don't look like an adequate or even very well optimized solution (expensive to install and maintain, limited life spans, huge surface area use relative to the energy output, kind of an eyesore in large numbers, tend to screw up our already dwindling avian populations). Wave energy would be nice, but we have shipping and fishing routes on every square inch of our islands, so...

    It seems perverse to me that we're so terrified of nuclear energy whilst somehow complacent with the degree of nuclear armaments the first world already posesses and keeps in an armed and ready status. We eventually got numb to the nuclear scare, but the danger's still sat staring us in the face; one or two nuclear power plants aren't going to make the world a radically more dangerous place than it already is.

    The waste from them is kind of a problem, though. It all has to go somewhere sooner or later; as Randall Munroe says, "one of these days we should probably figure that out."
     

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