What if the tree huggers are wrong? What is the harm?

Estimated peak oil production,
and when the oil runs out:



First, this is not meant to be a thread to hash out whether or not you believe we are wetting our own bed on a global scale and whether or not wetting the bed has an adverse effect on it's health. Most of us believe it does. Some believe it doesn't. Been there, posted that, getting redundant. Due to the lack of a storeroom full of scale-model test planets on which we can directly infuse with CO2 and see what happens, the believers will never be able to prove it to the satisfaction of the deniers. Nor will the deniers convince the believers that the big ass brown cloud of smog over every major city is just a coincidence and isn't hurting anything. 

My question is this: What if we, on a global scale, reduce our trash output and CO2 to a minimum, switching as much as reasonable to recyclables, renewables, and clean energy, and it turns out to have been totally unnecessary? 100 years from now someone invents a giant climate-O-meter and says, "Oops. Turns out all that smog and hypoxic zones and the continent-sized flotsam fields in the oceans weren't hurting a thing." 

How have we hurt ourselves/what have we lost by going green?

Because whether one believes in Anthropogenic Global Warming or not:

- We have a finite supply of what is the bulk of our energy. Not finite as in thousands of years, but in terms of decades. A century or two at best. 

- There is little argument about the human health hazards of living in a major city engulfed in smog, or having a coal plant in your backyard.

- We are putting out trash faster and in greater volumes than it takes the planet to decompose it. I'm not exaggerating about those trash fields being the size of a continent.

Yes, the initial cost to changeover from coal to wind, oil to solar or geothermal, that initial cost is high. It takes time for new tech to start paying for itself. But in the long run it pays for itself. Shell out the money to buy in bulk today ... save over the long term. Simple math. 

Yes, recycling has hardly been streamlined here in the U.S. at least. In some cases it costs more to recycle a widget than it does to chuck it and make a new one. But that too is growing in efficiency. 

So as best as I can tell, if us tree huggers are wrong, the worst that's happened is that the oil mogul's great-grandchildren's trust funds won't be as big. In the short term we spent some extra bucks changing to green energy, but we would have had to do that eventually anyway.

Oh, and Al Gore got rich off some books. That seems to be the number one what-we-have-to-lose that I hear from the anti-AGW crowd. Because it is just such a global disaster for Al Gore to sell books. 

Can anyone else tell me how I am bringing about the demise of our civilization by recycling my plastics and going solar?

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One of the things that bothers me (Official tree-hugger household - a litmus test - there are more compost bins than there are children) is this:

Let's just say we switch the nuclear fission fuels.

Historically Uranium yields have been very high (millions of years ago) but it degrades into lesser radioactive states, so the amount of usable uranium is sharply declined from what it once was.

That's just by way of background, the practical upshot of it though is that a living wage can be made by taking uranium used to power a reactor and sending it through re-processing and there's a bunch of unpleasant consequences to doing that anyway.

My worry is that that my government bewitched by the nuclear lobby is tying us into yet another finite fuel source.

You still have to dig it up out the ground, and yes the energy potential is leagues about what fossil fuels can provide, and you can sort of re-use it - but it's still going to be located in inhospitable environments so we'll trade The Tyrants of Saud for ...Hmm Russia maybe.

And it will still run out!

I find this incredibly perplexing.

I can see an argument for some nuclear; and I was at a lecture the other day that put forward a very powerfu lcase for nuclear fusion which can run on Sea Water (lots of that) and Lithium (the third most common element in the universe after Hydrogen and Helium) and it's self-sustaining, so I'm not philosophically or politically opposed to that.

But I don't hear anyone addressing my concerns about normal nuclear fission in the politcal arena, and that worries me.
The concern expressed is the sustainability of nuclear fuel, specifically uranium-235 - but this isn't quite the concern you think.

Natural uranium (defined as an isotopic mix of 99.29% 238-U and 0.72% 235-U) is present in the earths crust at about 3 parts per million, and is log normal distributed.

The uranium that is presently in "proven reserves" - that is, uranium that the mining industry is 95% certain they can recover at market cost - is enough to run our present consumption for about 60 years. However, our present consumption is only of 235-U.

When burned in a standard US LWR, each gram of fissioned 235-U results in the breeding of 0.6 grams of 239-Pu from the 238-U that is also present. That is additional fuel that we, at present, do not use. We have a banned technology called reprocessing that would take care of that waste issue.

Additionally, in different sorts of fission reactors (IFR, TWR, and LFTR are the designs I am most familiar with), far more abundant breedable atoms (238-U and 232-Th) become the primary fuel source, only needing fissile material such as 235-U and 239-Pu as a means to light the nuclear fire. For these breeder reactors, we have enough fuel to last us, literally, several thousand years - not just at our current consumption of nuclear power, but if we were to expand nuclear power to cover all energy needs.
Financially it makes more sense to be more efficient over a long period of time. That generally means using resources that are readily available and pretty much infinite. I'm not clear why there is still an argument (O.K. that is not entirely true, follow the money and the reason is generally apparent) about making things run better with less waste.
There is so much research and no shortage of strategies, that it would seem other forces are involved in stopping the forward momentum.
Michelle (Mitchell) - Financially it makes more sense to be more efficient over a long period of time. That generally means using resources that are readily available and pretty much infinite. I'm not clear why there is still an argument (O.K. that is not entirely true, follow the money and the reason is generally apparent)

Same here. So far the only solid arguments I've heard against going green:

1) Political. And this seems to be truly #1. The liberal/Democrat/Obama camp could say "We like puppies" and millions of Teabaggers will hit the streets protesting the evil, godless, socialist, fascist, Hitler-esque, fetus-killing, un-American existence of puppies.

2) "It's all a scam to make Al Gore rich." Yes. Every major science organization on the planet started warning us about Anthropogenic Global Warming decades ago because they telepathically knew that Al Gore would become a high-profile political figure and they all said, "Hey, let's make him rich!" See above re; 'Political."

3) "It's too expensive." Correction; "...in the short term." Because I've had yet to hear anyone argue that wind, solar, geothermal and other renewable sources would be far less expensive once they're up and running and abundant. So while this is the closest to a valid argument I've heard, it's just prolonging the inevitable. One day very soon the oil will run dry.

4) "Our fossil fuel sources truly are unlimited and/or what does it matter because I'll be dead of old age before it happens." This is usually from the religious. God will provide/the Rapture will happen tomorrow so who cares. Because you can't see the landfill from your kitchen window, it therefore doesn't exist.
Can't find the link - someone else posted this too:

Howard, you're my hero!
No point repeating what I have said numerous times before - it's all really a variant of Pascal's Wager.

And really, if you follow the logic of GW deniers, then why do we have laws against littering ? I mean c'mon ? Who does it harm ? All those tax dollars SQUANDERED on trash bins and street cleaners...
No point repeating what I have said numerous times before - it's all really a variant of Pascal's Wager.

I've often stopped myself making this argument on that basis. Also because a Pascal's Wager type approach throws the religious a bone by acknowledging the possibility that god is real.

But there is a difference here. In Pascal's Wager, there is quite a bit of harm if I pretend to follow a god I don't believe in. Presumably that god would know I'm faking it anyway. But I'm also helping to perpetuate a lie that is indeed causing harm to the planet and its various species, especially the Alpha species.

As to the throwing of the bone, it's definitely dangerous around AGW deniers. "Ha! So you admit you might be wrong!!!" I've got one person of FB who is guaranteed to latch on to anything I post remotely climate related; an excellent example in how a small minority can shout loud enough to truly blockade the majority.

What gets me here about the Climate debate is the hardcore resistance to legislation that starts to wean us off finite fuel sources and clean up the planet. Even if you don't believe in AGW, there are other reasons why such legislation is still an extremely good idea.

Goes back to my theory that the debate is mostly political.
Let's assume, for the sake of argument, that the treehugger faction is probably 90% wrong on the worst case scenario of a climate disaster. While 9 to 1 are great odds, however, if we win we don't win anything but if we lose we're going to be in class 5 shitstorm.
The upside of the treehuggers course of action will be to stop the explotation of carbon based fuels. That means the extraction industry's degradation of the environment will cease and continuing war stimulated by control of energy resources will not be necessary.
But, as you said, the debate is and will be political - which likely means we're screwed.
Exactly. Everything to lose if we don't stop the uber-pollution and it turns out we should have. Nothing to lose if we do stop the uber-pollution and it turns out to have been unnecessary.

Ok, one big loss: Al Gore will make money. Oh, the horrors - soooo worth risking the life of the planet to prevent that from happening.

*eyeroll*
First - not my cartoon.

1. In Philly 400 new jobs in a down (- employment - almost all sectors) economy because a Spanish company set up shop doing thin film solar in the old Navy Yards.
BTW - these put people to work who have been on the unemployment roles for a very long time - as their rust belt jobs dried up. There were no alternatives in sight.

2a. Dude - coal puts more than CO2 into the air - but that's what we're burning for electricity - at least in the Mid-Atlantic.

2b. Dude - the water around here is also being made filthy from the use of coal.

3. See 1 & 2

4. See 1 & 2

Yes, the cartoon is sad - sad that the idea of powering the world with renewable energy that won't make terrorists rich, run out before the sun does, put one once of gas of any kind into the air, etc. is seen as a 'bad idea.'

Wind power is up 39% in just one year. Any problem with that?
The chart does not say anything about CO2 it says "clean air". Like what spews out of my car's tail pipe gets rid of. It makes smog, and anyone who has gone to L.A. knows about the harm in that.

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