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Why does Anthony Watts drive an electric car?

Posted on 3 June 2010 by Rob Honeycutt

Guest post by Rob Honeycutt

In my last posting on Skeptical Science I cast myself as a spectator in a kung fu match observing the bare knuckle conflict over the famous hockey stick.  Since that time (what, two weeks) I've not managed to complete any courses in physics or climate science.  I've earned no degrees.  I still do not hold a PhD in any field of science.  None-the-less I maintain a strong interest in this issue.  This time around I cast myself as a sort of Stan Laurel to you smarter Oliver Hardy's of the science world.  Maybe, in this position I can help illuminate something new to the world of climate change.  If I get this horribly wrong please feel free to pull my derby hat down around my ears in the comments section.


Fig 1.  One of Laurel and Hardy's famous routines where Stan uses his thumb as a lighter.  Don't try this trick at home kids.

I want to take up an issue that has perplexed me for a while.  Why is it that deniers choose to deny climate change?  The overwhelming evidence is in support of anthropogenic climate change being real.  But the opposition to the science is fierce!  In fact, it seems that the more we understand about climate and it's relationship with CO2, the more fierce the opposition becomes.  Shouldn't this be the opposite?  Shouldn't the science being more and more sure produce more acceptance of the issue?  Apparently not.  I believe this counter intuitive result is embodied in one of the fiercest deniers on the planet.  Anthony Watts.  He claims to drive an electric car because it costs less.  But he also has a 10 kw photovoltaic array on his roof which, at this point, has cost him more for energy that just pulling from the grid.  I mean, Watts up with that?

To begin to try to explore this I've created a diagram of what I believe goes on in science.  Again, from my non-scientific perspective, this is what I understand about the process.  On any given science there is research performed to better understand that topic.  Scientists produce studies, review material, create conclusions.  Slowly a picture emerges.  Old ideas that don't fit are discarded (sometimes begrudgingly) but the reality of the matter slowly becomes more clear.  There are always differing opinions.  Researchers critique each others work (blue arrows).  Some put forth studies that try to reject the general consensus.  But ultimately we accept what the greater body of evidence tells us.  This, I believe, is what works well about science.  This is how we have come to understand a great deal of the world around us.


Fig 2.  The Sphere of Peer Reviewed Science

In this diagram (Fig 2) I'm trying to paint a general picture of the state of climate science as it stands.  This is not a detailed study so I'm not trying to make any definitive statements about the positions of any of the people whose names I've used.  I'm trying to paint a picture that gives a sense of where the science is.  I've spent some time reading a fair number of scientific papers on various aspects of climate change.  What I'm getting out of it is that current warming is real and it is primarily through anthropogenic CO2.  Of course, in science, it's not a black and white question so there are people producing results that show a variety of nuanced answers.  But I believe the predominant peer reviewed science is pointing to the upper right quadrant of more warming and human influence.  There are, of course, contrarians also doing good research that are producing results that suggest less warming and less influence from man-made sources.  But these are far fewer.


Fig 3.  The Realm of Modern Media

If the issue was the evolution of various species of dinosaurs or aspects of continental drift, from the outside world it would be a non-issue.  Scientists might wage a fierce battle over whether birds were once dinosaurs but the general public is largely not going to care much.  It makes for an interesting moment in a Hollywood movie.  But climate change is different.  Because it has an economic factor it also becomes a political issue.  If it's a political issue then people take sides.  The battle lines are drawn.  Now, if you believe AGW is real then you're a liberal.  If you believe it's not real then you're conservative.  It doesn't matter if you are or not.  Those are the lines that have been drawn.

In this diagram (Fig 3) the inner sphere is the world of real science.  The outer sphere is modern media interpreting science.  I use the term "modern media" in a very specific way.  The internet has dramatically changed the way people get information.  Essentially, now, you can take a position and find the news that fits your preconceived notions of what you want to believe.  Media has become less an interpreter of issues and more a bunker from which sides take aim to bombard issues.  Admittedly, from my own biased standpoint, I see one side trying to present the science of climate change, with some extremes that fall outside of the science, but I think they are trying to highlight the findings of science.  The other side, while often trying to point out the contrarian aspects of climate science seem to take a great deal more liberty with the facts.  They act to try to pull the public perception of the issue away from legitimate science.


Fig 4.  Ideological Influencers

This graphic is getting increasingly complex and I hope, as Stanley, not to bang too many of you in the back of the head with my 2 by 4 as I work my way through this logic.  Have a little patience, I think it'll make sense.

Moving on, in Fig 4 I see backing up each of these sides are larger financial and ideological interests.  These are the big guns.  These are the parties that drive or fund the opposing sides on the issue of climate change.  Again, from my likely biased perspective, I see one side trying to push the predominant scientific position and one side going far outside the science.  I do believe that both sides stray from the core science but I believe the conservative side take a great deal more liberties with the scientific facts.  But I believe there is a reason behind these positions.


Fig 5.  The Resulting Dynamic

In Fig 5 I'm showing the resulting dynamics that come from this battle of ideologies.  When you step back from the picture it really doesn't matter how correct the science of climate change is.  The more conclusive the science gets, and the more the left hammers on how conclusive the science is, then the further and further the right will move to counter that position.  I'm not trying to say this is right or wrong.  It just is.

Sometimes I hear people say that it's going to require dramatic climatic events to "prove" to the general population that climate change is real.  I don't think that will even work.  It will only serve to push the side opposing the general scientific consensus further away.  Political divides will greatly widen perhaps with disastrous consequences.  What kind of awful conundrum is this?  By doing more research into climate change and by being more assured of climate change we might be pushing the world toward a worse outcome?

Again, I go back to Anthony Watts.  According to his website he loves his little electric car.  He hates everything about climate science but loves that electric car.  I've had other similar experiences where I (all too often) get into debates online with climate change deniers.  I have a favorite Youtube video that I pass along from Oregon Public Television of a guy who has converted a 1972 Datsun into an electric dragster.  He takes his little Datsun out to the drag strip and knocks the proverbial socks off the muscle cars.  Why?  Electric motors have full torque from zero through ~13,000 rpms.  Electric engines, turns out, kick frickin' butt!

Every time I get a climate change denier to watch the video this odd transformation takes place.  Suddenly, well, all the climate science is still bunk but I've made a buddy.  They start talking about how energy independence is a good idea.  They say they aren't against clean energy.  They like it, in fact.  It's the right thing to do.  They want an electric car that kicks frickin' butt.  They want US jobs.  They want to pay less for energy.  They want everything that is totally in line with all the solutions to climate change.  Ironically, I think Anthony Watts probably does too.

This is where the magic is.  At risk of comic over simplification (watch out, here comes that 2 by 4 again), I think it's basic human nature.  We are monkeys who like stuff and this is the mistake being made.  People have it in their heads that climate change means they're going to lose their stuff.  Want to start a fight?  Tell someone they have to give up their SUV.  Want to win that same fight?  Give them something better.

There is an excellent TED talk given by Bill Gates on climate change where he says, "We need miracles."  He is exactly right.  The science is clear.  Global warming is real and is a serious concern.  But if we want to leave a better world for our grandchildren we need to make the Anthony Watts of the world happy.  We need to give them solutions.  Cheaper, cleaner energy.  Butt-kicking electric cars.  Domestic jobs.  The same thing we all want.

I don't want to suggest that anyone let up on the facts of climate change.  But I would like to suggest that the solution is not only about knowing.  The solution is in the world we create in response.

As Stan would say with a nod of his head, "That's right, Oli."

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Comments 1 to 50 out of 122:

  1. Good post robhon! It is a good model you present and will be sure to stimulate discussion.

    RE# 1 robhon most likely said only CO2 in this statement as it is in the context that the reader would understand that the issue with global warming is about CO2.

    John has links on his site to the relevant topics that discuss what you are speaking about. I suggest commenting about it here CO2 is not the only driver of climate.

    Also, in order for any educational discussion to take place you need to present peer reviewed studies that actually support your skeptical claims. I will remain completely skeptical of your skepticism unless you present evidence.
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  2. The question of "Why do deniers deny ?" is one that puzzles most of us here.

    While the denial of some (eg: mining companies, electricity companies, big oil, and their shareholders) is understandable from an economic point of view, that of apparently rational people is difficult to comprehend.

    New Scientist has an excellent series of articles on this at:

    www.newscientist.com/special/living-in-denial

    My own personal experience is that you can show a denier all the papers and graphs you want, and he won't budge an inch. However, tell him about your personal experience, such as "Geez, I remember when there was 3 m of snow at Perisher when I was young and we skied off the balcony", and you'll get back "Yeah, the snow used to be really great, but these days it's crap". They only seem to respond to direct personal experience.
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  3. If everyone bought an electric car, as did Anthony Watts, the grid would be quickly overwhelmed. We would have to build fossil fuel electrical generating plants to provide additional capacity, as well as transmission facilities to carry the additional load. The increased capacity must be huge. The notion of any resulting net reduction in fossil fuel emissions is dubious at best. These electric cars must therefore rely on continued burning of fossil fuels to support them. Nuclear power generating plants are generally feared and not seemingly acceptable, at least at present.

    The obvious solution is to develop an affordable, 24/7 alternative energy source (non-nuclear) to the trusty fossil fuel. How far along are we in this search for the Holy Grail of alternative energy? The answer: Nowhere. Why? Hasn't the government patiently thrown $100 billion over the past 20 years to identify the problem posed upon the planet by fossil fuel emissions? Hasn’t the government declared that it’s time to act to save the planet from climate calamity?

    As I see it, the government could begin a crash R&D effort to develop the needed alternative, similar to the so-called Manhattan Project to build the atom bomb during WWII. President Obama could declare to be a National goal to find the affordable 24/7 alternative energy that we need to remove our economic and societal dependency on fossil fuels by, say, the year 2020. President Kennedy made such a proclamation in 1961 to put a man on the moon, and he did it. And he only wanted to one-up the Russians… there was no looming crisis. But President Obama has not done this. In truth, the government will not do this, doesn’t want to do this, and doesn’t want you or me or anyone else to do this. The government hasn’t even given us a coherent National energy policy.

    Bolstered by 20 years and $100 billion in climate research, the government has become emboldened, ironically, on perpetuating our dependence on fossil fuels. It has supported the creation of biofuels which can only hope to distill enough alcohol fuel energy to replace the fossil fuel energy that creates it. Of course, the price of corn has gone up in the process. The government has supported construction of windmills and solar panels, but these cannot be installed in sufficient quantity to come close to replacing fossil fuel power, even at high noon on a sunny, windy day. The sun doesn’t always shine and the wind is just as fickle. These technologies still rely on fossil fuels for reliable, 24/7 heavy lifting for power generation. But a lot of money is being made by the large, politically connected corporations that build them.

    The government is desperately trying to pass a Cap and Trade law which will require all users of fossil fuels to pay for the privilege of continuing their use, or somehow force them to switch to an alternative energy source that doesn’t exist. The government knows that we have no alternative to fossil fuels. This carbon derivatives trading scheme has been estimated to be a $10 trillion per year operation. Once it gets going, the Green Industry will become institutionalized and will never go away.

    Despite proclamations of harmful manmade climate change from burning fossil fuels, the government is creating this new Green Industry, an industry which will be Too Big To Fail. Development of a 24/7 alternative energy source will mean no more need for oil, gas, coal, windmills, solar panels and Ethanol. And it will destroy the $10 trillion per year carbon derivatives trading market.

    Development/discovery of the needed alternative energy source will collapse the world economy.

    It matters little whether or not fossil fuels will cause a global climate calamity. The government has created a scenario whereby they tax us in some form for continued use of fossil fuels. In the final analysis, the government’s $100 billion spent on climate research was an investment in a future world where a few get richer while the rest of us get poorer.

    Are you sure you’re still in favor of Cap and Trade becoming law? Are you really sure that manmade fossil fuel emissions are the problem?
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  4. Rhetorical Question: Hasn't the government patiently thrown $100 billion over the past 20 years to identify the problem posed upon the planet by fossil fuel emissions?

    Reality Answer: No.

    Some interesting ideas in that post but overall way too much hyperbole and ideological trimmings.
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  5. Very interesting post robhon , from my experience the man in the street denier is worried about losing thier "stuff" and its easy for the right wingers to play on this and tell them what they want to hear show them some nice graphs and its all "nothing to see here move on " is one of their favorite sayings .
    Rational People would like to use less energy but when they look at the set up costs (solar pV panels electric car ) or even just the extra time it takes to get the bus or train to work instead , a economic rationalism kicks in and they look for reasin to put it off and so in come peopl like Monckton .
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  6. @daisym... Actually, it's my understanding that, if everyone bought electric cars as Anthony Watts did, it could help the grid out quite a bit. Right now part of the problem is that we have such large peak demand during the day. At night many plants operate in a spin state where they could be generating electricity if there was any demand. Electric cars would be charged at night and take advantage of this off peak spin.

    It's not a perfect scenario but better than what we do now. There are some studies that show that current capacity could charge the entire nation of personal vehicles. And in states like California where less of our electricity is produced through coal then it's a win-win scenario.

    But overall I think this misses the point I'm trying to make which is, it's coming up with solutions to our nations' energy problems that are going to erase the gulf between climate deniers and believers.
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  7. An interesting read there, Rob, thanks for that.

    I think you're right, coming up with solutions that are better than the things we have that cause the problem will be how to fix it.

    Daisym does have a point, though - the fossil fuel industries are worth $billions every year in government revenue, and exert enormous political pressure due to providing employment for many people (and political donations, of course). We see that here in Australia, particularly in regard to the coal industry, where enormous sums have been promised to investigate "clean coal" technologies that are decades off, at best, while all but ignoring "ready to build right now" alternatives.
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  8. Rob, I forgot to mention I really enjoyed this article. I've spent a lot of time pondering the taxonomy of this whole affair and your graphical perspectives are great for helping to think about it.

    Any chance of making your diagrams into links to larger versions for us in the 50+ failing optical body parts demographic?
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    Response: Done, the last 4 pics link to larger versions.
  9. Loath as I am to get involved in these sorts of political arguments, I will add my 2 cents here.

    From a political standpoint, (C)AGW is a liberal issue - it argues for bigger government. Thus, liberals tend to support the theory and conservatives tend to oppose it on that grounds. The majority of the politically motivated *on either side* tend not to be too concerned over the state of the science, simply choosing to use it as convenient to further their other goals.

    If AGW supporters wanted to win over the conservative political opposition, all they would have to do would be to show how to effectively combat AGW without markedly increasing the size of government. It might be possible to sell conservatives on the idea of a carbon tax, if it were revenue neutral(all taxes raised would be offset by tax cuts elsewhere). It would definitely be an easier sell. Ironically, I think that if they could do this sort of thing, AGW supporters would end up losing a great deal of the support of their base.

    Further, may I say that if you are really hoping to convince someone that what you say is accurate, you need to be pretty careful what you call them. Calling someone a denier is practically guaranteed to lose you any credibility you may have had with that person, especially if they think that they have a reasonable position.

    Cheers, :)
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  10. Shawnhet, I'll offer that your use of the phrase "AGW supporters" arguably reveals that to you this is all a game or competition of some kind.

    It might be possible to sell conservatives on the idea of a carbon tax, if it were revenue neutral(all taxes raised would be offset by tax cuts elsewhere).

    That's been offered, rejected. As an exercise, try looking it up. Any other ideas?
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  11. shawnhet,

    How about leading us to a well defined definition of AGW that we can test? There were plenty of Relativity 'Deniers' until Edmonton provided proof to a WELL WRITTEN and DEFINED THEORY that could be tested.

    You are not going to convince a scientist, well a classical scientist, that your conclusions have any merit until he/she is able to repeat the methods and results. As for name calling "Sticks & stones". Both sides need to grow up.

    Convection and Evaporation are two major obstacles for AGW. Until you have satisfied the falsification that they counter (negative feedback) the effects of a warming surface, you will not convince anyone of anything. Especially since there is no actual Theory to test.
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  12. As a psychiatrist, I get to see a fair bit of denial. I've also learnt not to typecast people. I know devout born again Christians who have enormous concern for the environment and vote for the Greens, atheists who don't believe in AGW and vote conservatively, physicists who belive fervently in homeopathy, and so the list goes on.
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  13. A few points:

    1) It is true that most (not all) of the peer-reviewed scientific papers (in your top right science quadrant in Figure 2) provide evidence for AGW. If the papers are right, then AGW is a concern, and your discussion makes sense.

    However, most of the 'ideological influencers' in the lower left of Figure 4 don't accept that the general conclusions of the larger body of scientific papers are correct. They generally think the case is far overstated. It's this point of contention that divides and causes most of the problems.

    The 'influencers' in the lower right believe there is a two-way feedback loop between the 'science', and the 'ideologicial influencers' in the top right of Fig 4, which is distorting the data. They don't believe that the scientific community is dispassionately looking at the data. They have a fatailistic perspective of human nature, that implies that it is very easy for the hard 'science' to become distorted, biased and essentially hijacked by political agendas of both the lower left, and top right, of your Fig 4.

    2) Most of your discussion assumes the science is settled and irrefutable, and therfore the skeptical position on AGW is largely irrational. You imply that it is as settled as evolution or continental drift. However neither evolution, nor continental drift, make high certainty forecasts or projections based on variable rates of change, wheares climate scientists do, presumably because, unlike evolution of continental drift, one scenario could cause major problems for humanity.

    Ask any biologist and he will tell you one can't know which way evolution will proceed in the future, neither will a volcanologist/geologist on longer time scales. (EG Some complex subduction zones can reverse in direction, stall, or stop).

    3) You discussion is very opinionated, or what you refer to as 'biased'. You are right.

    For xample, you start talking about cheaper energy and domestic jobs etc when these sort of projections are in themselves highly controversial, even if the science is correct. You dont even bother to mention that these issues are also debatable. Once again, you assume that this issue is 'settled'.

    Many on both sides think that energy will become more expensive, and domestic employment and the general economy weaker, if various AGW policies are implemented.

    Energy cannot be created or destroyed. You can't get any more energy out of something/process than is in it. It is one of the few, rock hard, unchangeable realities of life. Most 'alternative energies' currently produce less reliable, less efficient, lower output, less transportabe, more expensive energy than eg fossil fuels; and because of the rock hard fact given above, for most alternative energies, this may never change, regardless of human ingenuity and new technologies.
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  14. theendisfar. If you're going to keep banging on about Convection & Evaporation as being major obstacles to AGW, then it is beholden upon you to provide the EVIDENCE-preferably in the form of peer-reviewed scientific journals. Scientists have spent the better part of a century proving (a) that there is such a thing as a Greenhouse effect & (b) showing what the various positive & negative feedback mechanisms in this effect are. Yet you seem to believe that you can just come along & say "well its simply not true" & have everyone believe you WITHOUT PROOF?!?! That might work in the Denialist Blogosphere, but it doesn't work here. if your pseudo-scientific claims had an ounce of truth behind them, then you'd be able to use them to explain the following observations: (a) that in spite of having a black-body temperature of -18 degrees C, the planet has been around +8 to +15 degrees C for the better part of 80 million years; (b) in spite of the sun being cooler 500 million to 1 billion years ago, the planet was around 6 to 8 degrees *warmer* than in modern times. The main difference back then there was 5 to 10 times more CO2 in our atmosphere; (c) in spite of 30 years of declining sun-spot activity, the planet has warmed at a rate of 0.16 degrees per decade. Now, if all your claims about Convection & Evaporation were correct, then neither (a), (b) nor (c) could hold true. Until you can explain how it can be otherwise, then I must simply dismiss you as another hardened Denialist.
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  15. Also @ Daisym. Robhon is dead right-most electric vehicles will tend to be charged when demand for grid electricity is at its absolute lowest. This will have the triple bonus of (a) eliminating the direct CO2 emissions from the burning of petrol & diesel to drive our vehicles-by shunting it to electricity (as the gCO2/100km of an electric vehicle is roughly half that of a petrol powered vehicle of a similar size & make-even from a coal-fired power station),(b) significantly reducing the amount of waste CO2 generated by current off-peak overcapacity & (c) eliminating all of the other directly harmful emissions currently associated with the burning of petrol-such as benzene, carbon monoxide & particulate emissions. Most of the solutions to greenhouse gas emissions have similar flow-on benefits to the environment & economy but-as they'll cut into the profits of the fossil fuel industry-these solutions are strongly resisted.
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  16. Thingadonta, regarding your point #1 the challenge for those harboring the belief that theory and observations regarding climate science are ideologically influenced is that of making a scientific case of how that is so. To do that, they need only demonstrate that those theories and observations are incorrect. That has not happened and daily the chances of that eventuality are growing slimmer, essentially nonexistent at this point if for no other reason than it is implausible that so many researchers in different related disciplines should be able to produce a false but mutually consistent and coherent picture.

    Blessthefall, I don't agree that Rob's post is inherently political. At a certain point-- for instance when folks still cannot accept climate science's inevitable conclusions based on physics and observations despite statements of acceptance as fact by such as the American National Academy of Sciences in a report produced at the behest of the President of the United States-- the very fact of that resistance to science itself becomes a phenomenon, open to discussion and analysis. It's a legitimate subject of study.

    Further to shawnhet's points, I believe that when we begin talking of ideological considerations such as the "free market" (no more existent than ever was Communism, by the way) and even more abstract notions such as an imaginary desire to "grow government" as an end in itself, we've quite departed from what we know of the useful relationship between science and human affairs. Quite simply this matter we're discussing is no more ideologically freighted than is the notion of responsible disposal of sewage or any other potentially noxious byproduct of our daily existence.
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  17. @Marcus:

    Anyone who is familiar with the scientific community knows this: every scientist is biased, it's impossible not to be biased and its impossible to have a "bias-free" scientific community and agendas can vary from person to person.

    Regarding your oil company comment: DuPont Energy, Cynergy Energy, among many, many others are paid by organizations like Greenpeace to advance "green energy." Most notably, James Hansen receives money from the Heinz Foundation - owned by none other than Congressman John Kerry's wife. Same thing happens on the other side regarding the "deniers."

    Emotional language such as "robust," "never before seen," and "record heat" or "record" this or that is emotional language and should be eliminated from the scientific literature.

    And if I've revealed (from my previous post) my "political leanings" please enlighten me and everyone else on my political leanings. Lastly, I can careless if you find my comments insulting: considering you're a "scientist" you should welcome constructive criticism.
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  18. Theendisfar: You are not going to convince a scientist, well a classical scientist, that your conclusions have any merit until he/she is able to repeat the methods and results.

    You're simply wrong. Based on my prior experience with other folks making your assertion it's unlikely you're amenable to persuasion, but in any case here's the latest word on what scientists say on our warming climate and man's influence on that climate.

    That's the National Research Council of the United States under the auspices of the United States National Academy of Sciences, reporting back on a request by the U.S. President Bush. You won't find a more reliable source. If you don't understand the weight this report carries I'm afraid there's really no perfectly kind way of saying you're quite out of your league in making judgments about this topic.
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  19. Sorry to butt in, theendisfar, but "robust" has a specific connotation used in scientific speech.

    Meanwhile, as for "never before seen" or "record setting" and the like, what would you suggest? "Unprecedented", or some clumsy multi-word construct meaning the same thing? Are you suggesting that we should cripple our use of the English language so as to tiptoe around squeamishness?

    Don't be silly, please.
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  20. @Daisym,
    I simply disagree with the notion that we don't have solutions now. Watt's very reason for having an electric car and PV panels is so he can say "Even though I don't believe the AGW folks, I am doing as much as anyone and more than most to avoid pollution" (words are mine).

    So you use either solar thermal or a ground source heat pump for your heating and DHW (pays for itself in less time than you pay for the building - less time than commercial power plants take to reach positive ROI). This covers 75% of your building load (see PV below)

    You drive an electric car, and you use a grid tied PV system (10kw will power your car and a house, unless your house also contains an electric forge). You are either feeding the grid, or storing energy in your car.

    Now it isn't perfect. Electric cars have batteries, and batteries don't have a good end game. PV is only a total solution if you use either batteries or grid tied. If everyone is using PV/wind and grid tied then utilities have a storage problem (rumors that only 14% (or any other low number) of energy can come from distributed sources before the grid somehow blows up are completely false - the grid just doesn't care where the electrons come from, and meters at the terminal points). Utilities can solve that storage problem (molten salt, pumping uphill, many other solutions).

    It is simply a convenient untruth that we don't have the technology. Or that it is "too expensive." We have the solutions (or at least the "buy me a cash-flow positive 30 years" solutions while we get to the next level). We don't have the will. How many posters here use any renewable energy? How many can claim over 50% of their personal energy usage (auto, home electric, home heating/cooling) comes from renewable sources?

    Apparently the oft vilified Anthony Watts can step up and say "me!" to the above question - can you?
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  21. There is sicence in the study of the human condition.

    A good precidence of what we have with CC is reflected in the Slavery issue. It took a lot of effort to move on to a civilized position on this.

    And so it will be with GW. Everyone is living a cozy life and the idea that in 90yrs time civilization will have flooded and collapsed is way out of left feild. And you can see why this is so.

    I follow science quite closely and this issue did not appear on the horizon for me till 2005, when I became concernd about sea level rise coz my house is below sealevel.
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  22. Actually thoughtful that's pretty thoughtful, heh! A lot of our choices are purely habit; we just need to remember that we have options.

    It took me about a year or so of fussing online about climate-related problems to pause and consider whether I was doing any walking during all my talking. Before then, ever since it was available we've been paying an extra amount on our utility bill to help fund wind generators being installed by our electric provider but that's not viscerally satisfying in the same way as using some square footage on-scene to capture energy.

    We've gone for DHW and I'm really satisfied with the results here in a location considered challenging because of poor insolation and cheap hydropower. Assuming we can't practically ditch significant air travel for business until general sanity prevails on avoiding pointless meetings, the next major step is the car. I'm attracted to the upcoming Nissan Leaf because it's simple, appealing to somebody like myself who is repelled by complex hybrid transaxles and the like. The Leaf will shortly be a real option in the growing landscape of modernization described by actually thoughtful.

    Point of all this is not to blow my horn, rather to chime in with actually thoughtful's point that we need to identify things we can do about our concerns and then act lest we end up rather hollow.
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  23. These are poor examples, Blessthefall. "Robust", "never before seen" and record heat are not very moving, as far as "emotional language" goes.

    "Robust" has a precise meaning. It describes a result that withstand cross-examination or is reached through several independent analyses. It is a proper adjective for such a result and carries no particular emotional charge. "Record heat" is appropriate if it applies to a temperature that is the highest on one given record. There is no other way to call it, except with convolutions aimed at lessening the possible significance of it. "Never before seen" is appropriate if it is factual, i.e. nobody ever saw such thing before. For these examples, the emotional charge has to be added; in and by themselves they do not indicate if the "robust" result is a good thing or a bad thing. Nor do they inform us whether the thing that was never before seen is a good thing or a bad thing.

    The expert for emotional laguage here is Gallopingcamel, who used to shower us with such words as "horrific", "pestilence" or "terrifying." Unlike yours, these are good examples of emotionally charged language.
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  24. Blessthefall. I can accept *constructive criticism*, but all you give us is a typical anti-intellectual rant about how *bad* scientists are, & how you don't trust them. Yet as someone who works in that area, I can assure you that-in the matter of climate change-the scientists are *far less* biased than the other, truly vested interests in this matter (the fossil fuel industry & its many hangers-on in the mainstream press & political circles). Outside of the Far-Rights weird world of "Scientific Conspiracy Theories", the majority of scientists are people who usually work extremely long hours for very little remuneration. Also, as much as some scientists might have their "pet hypotheses", very few-if any-would be prepared to risk their reputations by clinging to a hypotheses when all the evidence points elsewhere-or be caught deliberately using bad methods to prove their hypothesis correct. Of course, your anti-intellectual views are further highlighted by your opinion that a statement of fact is, in some way, "emotional language". For the record, we are actually experiencing an unprecedented rate of warming-no matter what you might think. What I find laughable is that, though you distrust the motives & results produced by the scientific community, you totally trust the rather pathetic attempts at Green-washing by the oil & coal industries. When they put more money into renewable energy technology than they do into expensive PR campaigns & the payment of anti-AGW lobbyists, then I might believe that they're on the level.
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  25. RE#Blessthefall

    SkepticalScience maintains its strong integrity on the nature of what comments are acceptable.You won't find a site anywhere else that matches SS, for it's patience.

    Take a read through some of the comments on this other website that lets anyone have their $0.02

    "Most of the work done on AGW relies on the data collected and “massaged” by the East Anglia Climate Research Unit."

    "Michael Mann, Phil Jones and your hero have all LIED about their data and should be in prison.

    and my personal favourite:

    What a load of idiocy!!
    Go to the US DOE website and check out the percentages of the “greenhouse gas effect” that are attributable to various gases.
    You will see that 95.000% is from water vapour and that 99.999% of the water vapour is naturally occurring.
    That leaves just 5% for all other gases.
    Anthropogenic CO2, the largest single man-made contribution, accounts for just 0.117% of the greenhouse gas effect. That proves that the whole thing is nothing but a fraud, folks.


    Doesn't it concern you that most of the people who are most against climate science have little to no understanding of it, and offer zero constructive criticism?

    It's easy to say you don't trust the science, much harder to actually contribute to its understanding.
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  26. @23"How many posters here use any renewable energy? How many can claim over 50% of their personal energy usage (auto, home electric, home heating/cooling) comes from renewable sources?" Ummm Me but the set up cost are expensive even with govt subsidies , the average person would have to be quite committed to consider it .
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  27. @David Green
    "Ummm Me but the set up cost are expensive even with govt subsidies , the average person would have to be quite committed to consider it ."

    Cool that you are there, for the record I am as well, but barely as I have the house handled, but not transportation. The bit about quite committed seems a little extreme - It is a 20 year payback (~25/30 without incentives). Solar thermal at least, being made of copper and glass, has a virtually limitless life. So it can be rolled into a mortgage, or financed via any number of schemes.

    I stand by the statement that what is missing is the will. Don't forget that these technologies not only save money and pollution, but they literally pay for themselves.

    So if it costs the same as a new car, or even 2 new cars, but it pays for itself, how can you justify not doing it?

    I am not downplaying the challenges, rather highlighting the rewards (personal and societal) that make it worth overcoming the (relatively minor) challenges.
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  28. For my part, I do a great deal to reduce my CO2 footprint. I only use public transport for commuting (which, btw, actually *saves* me money) & at home I use only the most energy efficient light-globes, hot-water service & electrical appliances I can get. I also source 50% of my total energy from Green sources through my electricity company (i.e. I pay a slight premium in order to get them to source electricity from the Green Grid to meet my electricity needs). I rent my property, so installing a solar panel isn't really an option, but when I move into my own house, I certainly intend to have a solar panel & solar hot water system installed, to reduce my CO2 footprint even further. This isn't simply about reducing CO2 emissions-though-its also about conserving non-renewable resources so that we don't run out of them any time soon!
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  29. So I guess my point above is that everything I do to reduce my CO2 emissions (commuting & energy efficiency) is actually *saving* me money. Given that, I'm surprised at the number of people who'll still quite happily spend more than they need to-all because someone has convinced them that it will cost *more* to reduce CO2 emissions?!?!
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  30. You folks just don't get it. My electric car is so much fun to drive. I just ignore that nonsense about how it might help to reduce "Catastrophic Anthropogenic Global Warming".

    Thank you Obama for paying almost 70% of what it should have cost me!
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  31. Marcus,
    I was using compact fluorescents when the only place you could get them was Amway. I did it to save money, not the planet!
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  32. One item to add to general discussion on improving habits.

    We work at home, exclusively so in my case. This involves the use of a couple of printers and some other network gear w/an idle consumption of a little over 30 watts, excluding a server and a few other pieces needing to be on 24/7. Separating the bits needing to be on and putting the rest on a timer shutting things down during hours we almost never require print services saves about 90kWh/year. Investment required was about $10USD, so simple payback in about 1.5 years at our rate.

    A modicum of electrical savings, but why not take it? Just a matter of remembering.
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  33. GC, unfortunately most people will misinterpret your EV, causing you to be misidentified as a somebody with a holistic viewpoint. You might want to put a bumpersticker on your car stating "Maxwell Yes, Fourier No!" or something with the general effect of communicating that you're not quite playing with a full physics deck.
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  34. Galloping camel has a point.

    We will get much farther on "enlightened self-interest" than altruism. The number of altruists will always be less than the self-interested. We should honour the altruists, but most of us can only aspire to be like them.

    However, even the most selfish will recognise the need for change if the case is presented in the light of what it means to the individual. It has often been said that a visiting alien would be amazed at us ripping up the planet to extract fuel when there is a magnificent energy source at the heart of the solar system.

    It is clear we cannot stop using carbon-based fuels overnight, but a gradual transfer could be made to work.
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  35. @Blessthe fall,

    I checked the figure & James Hansen got $250,000 from the Heinz Foundation. Correction, his institution got it. It was probably spent on labs, travel, post-doc salaries and graduate researchers. In the scheme of running a large science department, it was almost peanuts. All of which expenditure is subject to audit. Are you suggesting that Hansen pocketed the money or blew it in Vegas?

    Contrast that to the $25,000,000 spent by Koch Industries in 5 years on "Libertarian" think tanks writing papers against climate change. Add to that the money spent by Exxon Mobil and other ocmpanies, and you get some idea of where the big bucks are lining up.
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  36. Blessthefall
    your logic utterly fails when you extrapolate the eventual single scientist bias to the whole community. Indeed, the bias is random and the other scientists will be happy to find and point out his errors. Anyone who is familiar with the scientific community knows this.
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  37. A simple explanation to why almost all scientific reports are in the upper right quadrant, is that that's where the money is, and that's where you have to be to get your report published. Those who are not AGW believers become outcasts. Also, many scientists in other fields have testified that it helps you a lot if you put something about AGW and climate in your report (and vice versa), even if it has little or nothing to do with your research.

    A simple explanation to why so many non-scientists are skeptics, is that people tend to side with the underdog. If too many infallible science geeks say exactly the same thing, you tend to listen to those who say the opposite. Especially when there are reasons to get suspicious (embarrassing facts leaking out, grave errors in official reports, etc). I also think that common people have understood that climate science is debatable: it is not like the basic natural sciences - if it is at all possible to set up a global experiment, it takes 100 years before you see the outcome (and you can only set up one experiment at a time).
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  38. While it's valid for Rod Honeycut to address the subject of people's motivation for their climate science views, can I raise the question of whether the Sceptical Science site is the right place for this post?

    It seems to me that it strays too far into the political arena and too far away from the actual science of climate change. The home page of this site asks about sceptics; "Do their arguments have any scientific basis? What does the peer reviewed scientific literature say?" As far as I can see it doesn't ask, "why do people believe what they do?" I suggest that some of the comments that have appeared so far add to my concern.

    I could add more but perhaps it's best just to ask, do others share my unease?
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  39. It's really nothing new. Eisntein had the same problem with relativity...

    “This world is a strange madhouse. Currently, every coachman and every waiter is debating whether relativity theory is correct. Belief in this matter depends on political party affiliation.”

    -- Albert Einstein, 1920, in a letter to Marcel Grossmann.

    http://www.jossgarman.com/?p=584
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  40. Argus wrote : "A simple explanation to why so many non-scientists are skeptics, is that people tend to side with the underdog. If too many infallible science geeks say exactly the same thing, you tend to listen to those who say the opposite."

    Does that mean that you are on the side of the Creationists ? Or the 9/11 troofers ? Or the Flat-Earthers ?
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  41. Question. This one is clearly a political post. Is the No politics thingie of Comments Policy relaxed here?
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  42. 37 @Argus

    "I also think that common people have understood that climate science is debatable: it is not like the basic natural sciences - if it is at all possible to set up a global experiment, it takes 100 years before you see the outcome (and you can only set up one experiment at a time)."

    That is why we must act now. The empirical validation (the eventual result of our experiment on Planet Earth's climate) of climate science will be with us too late, whether in 10 or 100 years, to do anything about it.

    The denialist position is insane because they are so sure that nothing will happen that they don't realise that they will be gambling with everybody's future if they are wrong.

    Oh and BTW Rob Honeycutt, it may be that in the USA it is the liberal "left" wing that is pro AGW and the wingnut right that takes the denialist position but America IS NOT THE WHOLE WORLD. In Europe, the political affiliations vis à vis AGW are much harder to categorise. I would say I have a right wing bias but I'm not stupid and the threat of changes ranging from uncomfortable to catastrophic means that the only prudent course of action is to avoid those scenarios.
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  43. Berényi Péter, the actual 'No politics thingie' states :

    "Rants about politics, ideology or one world governments will be deleted."

    I assume that any ranting will continue to be (quite rightly) deleted.
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  44. While I understand the fear, I don't think it is accurate that the dynamics examined in this article will continue ad infinitum. Unlike the people who dispute evolution, claim the Earth is only a few thousand years old, insist that the ozone hole and/or acid rain don't exist, still believe that asbestos/DDT/tobacco are harmless, or trust that complete deregulation and totally free markets are always good for people and the economy... despite all the incontrovertible proof to the contrary... global warming is something which they will personally witness the impacts of.

    People can delude themselves into believing just about anything... but it gets alot harder when it is impacting them personally. The ski enthusiast who finds that the trails in their area are getting worse and worse... the farmer whose land is slowly drying out and dying... the bird lover whose favorite birds have all migrated further north... eventually the changes they see with their own eyes are going to break through the nonsense for most of them. And once it hits a critical mass the fraudsters in politics and media will back away from denial to preserve their 'credibility'. At which point the whole house of cards WILL collapse, because financial interests can't push the lie on their own.

    That said, I expect we'll see people converting away from fossil fuels BEFORE denialism collapses. Oddly most analyses I've seen compare the current cost of wind and solar power to the current cost of coal and conclude that coal is still cheaper. I say this is odd because it ignores that wind and solar costs are all upfront and thus essentially 'fixed' at the time of construction... while coal costs are ongoing and thus change over time. Sooner or later people are going to start realizing that since the costs of coal and other fossil fuels are increasing (yes, the economic collapse has dropped prices recently, but it won't last) they should really be comparing wind/solar costs to the AVERAGE cost of fossil fuels over the lifetime of the renewable plants... by which standard 'grid parity' has already come and gone. We may have to wait until renewables are cheaper than CURRENT fossil fuels, but even that isn't very far off now.
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  45. "A simple explanation to why almost all scientific reports are in the upper right quadrant, is that that's where the money is, and that's where you have to be to get your report published. Those who are not AGW believers become outcasts."
    Yet another post which shows a total lack of knowledge about how science *actually* works. The real money-& fame-has always actually been in finding something completely new/cutting edge & separating yourself from the crowd-as long as your *new* theory is backed by *evidence*. About 40-50 years ago, it was Anthropogenic Global Warming that was the new theory on the block, & it was one which has had to fight *very* hard to be accepted in the scientific mainstream-in spite of its excellent pedigree (the natural Greenhouse Effect, which had been identified by scientists more than a century earlier). Indeed, AGW theory had to fight a great deal of hostility from both within & without the scientific community. However wheras most theories, once they accumulate sufficient evidence to back them, no longer have to keep fighting quite so hard for acceptance (like Relativity & Evolution) for some reason AGW endures more resistance the more evidence that accumulates in its favor.
    Also, Argus, if you want to know where the *real* money is in science, its in Geology-mostly that associated with mining & oil exploration. Strangely enough, this is also where AGW's most vociferous critics reside too. Coincidence?
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  46. The way I see it there are ultimately only two possibilities: (1) In spite of extensive evidence to the contrary, AGW will prove to be a myth-or won't be as bad as they're saying or (2) The evidence is correct, & AGW is occurring & will be as bad-if not worse-than what they're saying.
    So lets say (1) is true, but we still adopt a precautionary approach: & start implementing much greater efficiency in our economy, & switching to energy sources which are cleaner, renewable & more easily tunable to changes in the demand cycle. What's the outcome? The initial outlays will probably be high, but the mid-to-long term outcome will almost certainly be cleaner air, soil & water; a shift in employment to areas less dependent on fluctuations in commodity prices; reduced dependence on unstable countries for our vital resources & more money in our pockets due to reduced energy & fuel costs. So we benefit even *if* AGW proves to be fantasy. So now lets say (2) is true, but we adopt a "business as usual" approach. Well on top of all the costs associated with adapting to rapidly changing climate, we'll also face increasing levels of more "mundane" pollution from the pursuit & consumption of fossil fuels, as well as ever rising costs as these resources become increasingly depleted-not to mention the increasing dangers from the unstable nations that supply us with these resources. In a world of both climate change & peak oil, the only big question is which resource will we be prepared to kill more people over-fresh water or oil?
    I believe that what I've outlined is a variant of Pascal's Wager-namely "I don't know if God does-or does not-exist; however, I lose nothing from behaving as if I believe in him, even if he doesn't; but stand to lose everything by behaving as if I don't believe in him, only to find out he *does* exist.
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  47. #43 JMurphy at 20:46 PM on 3 June, 2010
    I assume that any ranting will continue to be (quite rightly) deleted

    I thought so. However, trying to define ranting in this context brings us to a slippery slope. It reminds me under communist rule here friendly criticism was always encouraged. It was just the opposite with hostile criticism. Had it been done in public, the punishment was immediate and severe. Sometimes even in private it turned out to be a grave mistake. However, in practice there had to be no difference between the to types of criticism whatsoever to find yourself in either category. Rules were constantly made up and redefined by those in power and there was no way to know them in advance. This ambiguity used to belong to the very nature of the System.

    There are twenty two occurrences of expressions like "denial", "denialism", "denialist", "denier" or "deny" under this post so far. If it is not ranting, I don't know what the current rules are supposed to be.

    Anyway. If one thinks carbon dioxide is dangerous, the rational track to take is to promote nuclear energy. This is the only technology mature enough to supply all the electric power needed by the economy right now.

    So much so, that AGW scare machine must have Big Nuke in the background. With a somewhat hesitant Big Oil on its side, united against Big Coal, of course. One should not forget that hydrocarbons can produce about twice as much energy for the same CO2 output as coal.

    http://green.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/08/03/is-nuclear-power-renewable/
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  48. Re 3;"If everyone bought an electric car, as did Anthony Watts, the grid would be quickly overwhelmed."
    Not true, an elegant solution to turn electric cars into distributed power can be found at 'better place', this company is rolling out demo site's world wide.
    IMHO electric cars may be the just best thing to happen to "smart grids'enabling storage of intemittent renewable inputs,
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  49. @ Marcus 14

    "If you're going to keep banging on about Convection & Evaporation as being major obstacles to AGW, then it is beholden upon you to provide the EVIDENCE-preferably in the form of peer-reviewed scientific journals."

    Forgive me doubting Peer-Review, especially today. We can easily get around Peer-Review with repeatable tests can we not? The common argument here that Peer-Review is necessary only tells me that there are no scientists here to think and answer for themselves. John is a physicist, but cannot answer questions?

    Heck, a well defined AGW Theory would help greatly.

    In any event, I was pointed to http://www.skepticalscience.com/news.php?p=5&t=239&&n=76#15225 in order to carry on the conversation about CO2.

    For your questions;
    (a) that in spite of having a black-body temperature of -18 degrees C, the planet has been around +8 to +15 degrees C for the better part of 80 million years;

    Do you mean in spite of having a BBT of 18 C today? The Earth's average temp is 14 or 15 C, where do you get 18 C? Regardless, when you average all the known temps of a vast thermo-system you end up knowing far less about the behavior of the thermo-system. For example, a body that is uniform in temperature will cool more slowly than one with a varied surface, where convection is available, because convective currents are more efficient over varied surfaces.

    (b) in spite of the sun being cooler 500 million to 1 billion years ago, the planet was around 6 to 8 degrees *warmer* than in modern times. The main difference back then there was 5 to 10 times more CO2 in our atmosphere;

    We know that the Earth saw an increase in cooling once the North and South American plates joined and the Himalaya formation also seems to have adjusted to the jet stream to carry polar air masses deep into the temperate zones. Don't forget that the Moon was also much closer so tidal energies were also higher, days were shorter, many variables were different.

    Also, in spite of the Sun being warmer than 500 million years ago, much of the Earth has been locked in Ice for the better part of the 5 million years with only brief, 25 thousand years or so, periods of interglacial.

    (c) in spite of 30 years of declining sun-spot activity, the planet has warmed at a rate of 0.16 degrees per decade

    Sun Spot numbers, TSI, and amount of Radiation reaching the Earth's surface are all different things, though correlations can be made. The correlations are not well defined and again using terms like 'despite' for single phenomena to explain highly complex systems can only lead to false conclusions.

    Now, if all your claims about Convection & Evaporation were correct, then neither (a), (b) nor (c) could hold true.

    See above.
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  50. "Anyway. If one thinks carbon dioxide is dangerous, the rational track to take is to promote nuclear energy. This is the only technology mature enough to supply all the electric power needed by the economy right now."

    Absolute rubbish Berenyi-given the CO2 intensity of the nuclear energy cycle-not to mention such issues as Waste Disposal, weapons proliferation & uranium being yet another *non-renewable resource*. This last part is most important. Best estimates suggest that uranium reserves will last 100 years *at current levels of use*. We'd need to *triple* total nuclear capacity just to reduce global CO2 emissions by 15%. How long do you *really* think that can be sustained? Meanwhile, far greater reductions in CO2 emissions can be achieved simply in how we *use* electricity & gasoline-even before we get to the question of using renewable fuels.
    Beyond efficiency, bio-sequestration (algae) offers a significantly cheaper alternative to nuclear as a means of significantly reducing the CO2 output of existing fossil-fuel power stations, as well as being an excellent source of oil &/or gas. Additionally, landfill & sewerage gas are extremely useful *distributed* sources of electricity & heat which would also be less costly to tap than nuclear, & without the by-products. Then you have such mature technologies such as PV's; wind power coupled with vanadium flow batteries (to smooth out supply); Solar Thermal Power with long-term heat storage; Geothermal Power, Micro & Mini-Hydro Power; Tidal Power-& rapidly up & coming power sources based on osmotic potential.
    What's particularly amazing is that the bulk of these technologies achieved maturity with only a *fraction* of the funding enjoyed by coal & nuclear power over the last 50 years. So in a nutshell-*no* an acceptance of the danger of CO2 induced global warming does not immediately suggest an automatic support for nuclear power. That sounds more like a product of lazy thinking-designed to enrich just another already wealthy member of the corporate community.
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