August 1, 2006


That's the temperature here. Strange! It's supposed to go down to 33° tonight. It's raining now. Can it snow in August? Meanwhile, look how hot it is in NYC. Oh, my son Chris saw "An Inconvenient Truth." How was it? I ask. "It's hard to judge it as an actual movie, since it's essentially Al Gore giving a speech." What a crazy world, no? They make a movie out of Al Gore giving a speech. And then there's Tom Brokaw horning in on the global warming speechifying action. The reason I know about the Brokaw one is that, twirling the satellite radio dial yesterday, I happened upon Opie and Anthony making fun of it. I'd never listened to Opie and Anthony before, and all they were really doing is making fun of Brokaw's speech impediment and saying they didn't care about global warming -- not that it wasn't true, that they didn't care. But somehow it was really funny.


HD_Wanderer said...

I got snowed on in the Washington State Cascades in August once. Climbed into my tent at night in a beautiful green valley. Woke up the next morning to the sound of my horses walking in about a half inch of snow. I recognized the sound of the snow crunching, but it took a few minutes for the significance to catch up. Very odd experience.

Simon said...

Usually, we don't have a cable package which stretches to the Discovery Channel, but for some unknown CableCo glitch, we had the full range this weekend - and in such circumstances, I get my discovery channel fill, so I saw the Brokaw documentary. And it struck me that it had the exact same problem that mostly every other similar documentary made has: the commingling of different points. What they fail to understand is that there are some people who genuinely dispute that global warming is happening, and so the first task is not to muddy the waters by saying why it's happening, it's to clearly and unambiguously show that whatever the cause, global warming is an empirical fact. That's the threshold question: you will never convince sceptics to do something about what you think to be the causes of global warming until you convince them that it's actually happening in the first place. Once that fact is established, only then can you talk about proximate and underlying causes. What's driving up the temperature? What will be the results? These are things that you can talk about without triggering "environmental whacko" alarm bells; what is pushing up the temperature is a gradual increase in carbon dioxide, and the results can be quite drastic. Again, start from these premises and work from there. Only once you have people on board that far can you turn to the question of what might be causing this, and the moment you start on this leftist anti-corporate anti-globalization bullshit, the very people you need to reach will TURN OFF. The environmental movement doesn't need to convince people who already believe in global warming, they need to pursuade everybody else. It mystifies me why they are so determined to continue preaching to the choir.

These people also have to understand that until they can sell this to red state America, it isn't going to happen. Even those of us who are pursuaded of the case for climate change, I'm not going to vote for the Democratic Party over it. Whatever the solution to global warming, it doesn't include (as I have no doubt Brokaw and Gore want us to believe) selling our souls and voting for that other party. It seems faintly perverse to claim that the way to save the world is to vote for a party so devoted to ensuring that a great number of Americans are never born to enjoy it.

Dale B said...

"Can it snow in August?"

In the high mountain passes it can snow any time. I rode through a small snow storm on the Bear Tooth Pass (NE of Yellowstone) in the middle of July a few years ago.

The weather in the mountains is highly variable and can change fast, like in a matter of minutes.

Henry said...

The open argument, from what I've read, is whether global warming (which is indisputable) is part of a natural process or caused by human behaviour. If caused by humans, we're doomed. If natural, the temperature may just as likely ebb down over the next century as keep going up.

The New York Times ran an editorial the other day by a scientist who complained that his research (showing that parts of Antarctica were cooling) was being misued by global warming skeptics.

Don't these people know, the scientist complained, that new climate models account for my data and still predict global warming.

My thought was, isn't it funny that the climate modelers couldn't predict your data ahead of time. And when you gave them new data, isn't it funny that the climate modelers adjusted their models to predict exactly the same thing they were predicting before.

I think Simon is right that the first order of business for Gore and company is to address their lack of credibility. Despite my personal belief in environmental responsibility I can't take the fearmongers seriously until they embrace nuclear power. That's the kind of inconvenient truth I want to hear.

Icepick said...

Henry, you beat me to it!

Henry wrote: Despite my personal belief in environmental responsibility I can't take the fearmongers seriously until they embrace nuclear power.

Exactly. Of course, some in the environmental movement have changed their stance on nuclear power in recent years, and they should be commended for it.

But the more political types (those who will have to convince the public and then create and implement policy) seem to largley ignore this.

If global warming due to human-related increases in atmospheric CO2 is that dangerous, they should be calling for an immediate emergency nuclear power plant building program. Everything else, solar, wind, etc, are not reliable large scale continuous sources of power generation at this time. Calling for more research is great, but if we are truly facing a crisis, we should go with a solution that we know will work. Until they do that, they do lack credibility.

Also, things like Cronkite and the Kennedy's opposing a windfarm because it will spoil the view from their mansion windows also makes certain elements look like a bunch of jerks. "Environment cleanliness for thee, but not for me!"

(Note that nuclear power would not be a complete panacea, but it would be a huge first step. We would also need to solve the automotive problem, but with enough cheap electricity hydrogen or electric powered cars become a better option. There are further problems because we would still be using petrochemicals for a vast number of purposes, including as lubricants, and the refining process will still generate products like gasoline. But again, with enough energy those problems can probably be solved.)

However, even if the USA were to take immediate steps in this direction to be more like France in terms of use of nuclear energy, it still would only delay the problem. China's growing economic might is also based on a carbon burning economy, and no one will be able to reign that in anytime soon.

Incidentally, I heard Steve Forbes claim some time ago that if we had built all the nuclear plants that were being planned at the time of the Three Mile Island incident, the USA would already have met the Kyoto Protocols. I've never been able to find anything that confimrs this, however. Does anyone know of a good source to back up that claim?

(If true, Forbes claim is astounding. This would transform the politics of the situation completely. I suspect the reason we don't hear claims for more nuclear power might be because certain political elements in the government and media would look more like the problem than the solution.)

dearieme said...

When Gore was VP he was notorious for running late and so would often have a helicopter waiting for him for long stretches, with its engine running.

AJ Lynch said...

I don't care about global warming either- but it seems to be occurring. Humans will figure it out.
But should we all buy light colored cars to best reflect the heat back up into the atmosphere? Isn't that one concern? If the icecaps melt- there will be less reflective land mass? And has Al Gore painted his roof white yet?

verification= fkg ch

garrison said...

I can tell you this much about nuclear. In my own little niche of the planet - the pacific nw, we had originally planned 15 plants, we started out constructing 5 and in the end only have one functioning unit. So Forbes claim meets the sniff test for me. Also keep in mind that 50% of USAs electricity comes from coal fire plants. So each nuke plant takes off line one or two inefficient coal burners (in the utility business the oldest and worst plants are retired)
The plant I worked at served as a model for the people who made "the china syndrome" w/Fonda and Douglas allegedly touring our plant. Our plant produced 1150 megawatts of power and was completed a couple years before Three mile Island and "China Syndrome" for a total cost of $400 million. Identical plants that were still under construction when TMI destroyed nuke power cost well over a billion dollars to complete even though they were at 90% complete. The slew of changes from the NRC were impossible to address without complete redesigns.
Incidentially because of citizen iniatives our plant was unable to fund a steam exchanger replacement ($100 million) and forced to shut down. Last month the sad saga ended with the razing of the cooling tower. The total cost of deregulation and demolishion cost $407 million. Given the 2000 power crunch in California it's even sadder.
On the bright side the Chinese are building modular (somewhat prefab) 400 megawatt units. These are intrinsically safe and are expected to roll off the assembly line every four months or so. In about 5 years guess what else we will be buying from China?

Icepick said...

Garrison, thanks for the info, and congrats on the new job.

I had no idea the Chinese were gearing up for that kind of nuclear production. Given the amount of oil I have heard they will be using and the new hydro-electric dams, this really surprises me. It easy to forget just how big China is, and what that implies....

joeschmo1of3 said...

What I would like to see, is the environmentalists going back to stressing real energy conservation and incorporating alternative energy strategies. I think a lot of the green movement has gotten bogged down in trying to prove human causes for global warming so that humanity has a "moral" incentive to stop using hydrocarbon fuels. But what's wrong with just saving money? With gas prices so high now, it's not that hard to make this point than it was in the mid-90's.

Imagine if every house in California had solar panels incorporated into roofing tiles. How much lower would the electricity or gas bill be if it was your roof adding its electric energy to heating your water. That's real money saved, with demonstrable results, instead of some far in the future, save Mother Gaia crap. We don't need to make huge solar panel farms, just make the suburbs your solar farm, and add any excess electricity to the power grid. This could work especially well for western states in the summer time so we don't have power shortages running all those air conditioners.

Let's have more thinking like this, energy conservation and adding alternative fuels, instead of scrapping oil altogether. The pocketbook is a much better incentive for decreasing carbon dioxide levels than trying to sell some disaster movie.

Tom Grey said...

One that that is really needed is Solar Powered Air Conditioning -- I wish Arnie would offer $10 mil in guaranteed prize money on top of some $50 mil in contracts for re-fitting gov't buildings with the "best" solar panels, each year. With open internet records on how much it costs...

On cars & gas -- higher gas taxes. The chicken greens aren't willing to talk about the real "solution". Keep increasing the price, thru taxes, until people change their behavior. 'Cause voters ain't gonna vote for no city slickers talkin' about higher gas taxes. Why take the fearmongers seriously when they mostly avoid the issue -- how to change behavior?

Finally, most farmers getting federal farm subsidy cash should be required to increase their own tree planting, to absorb more CO2.

JohnF said...

I think Henry makes a good point: first persuade the non-believers (I don't mean to make global warming enthusiasts seem too cultish here) that the earth is getting warmer. But I'd say there is more groundwork than that that needs to be done.

1. What is meant by "the earth"? Air? Land? Water?

2. How do you measure its temperature? Average at some locale(s) over a year? Or just use the same day each year over many years? Where do you measure? How do you measure? Etc.

3. Define "warmer." That is, what is warmer than what? 2006 vs. 2005? 1990-2000 vs. 1890-1900? Where is it "warmer"? Does it have to be warmer throughout the earth for it to "count" as "global" warming?

4. We all know the earth was a lot warmer long ago, as well as colder, at different times. Why? Why is not whatever caused that then the same thing that is causing whatever is happening now?

There may be simple answers to these questions, but I never see them dealt with in the popular media. I would like to see them dealt with (particularly item 4).

I would think it would be hard to convince a skeptic until those four starting points are dealt with.

MadisonMan said...

Long ago, I knew a professor who had some money (I recall ~$10K) and was going to install solar panels to completely heat his house and water.

It turned out to be more cost effective to invest the money in the power company and use the dividends to pay for energy. Don't know if that's still true, but I think of that everytime I consider solar energy.

DookOfURL said...

This makes me all nostalgic for my days as a youth in Breckenridge, CO where the 4th of July ski event pretty much ushered in the August snow season.

Breckenridge was 2 miles high above sea level and when the summer temps (rarely) reached into the 70s, we all thought about getting air conditioning. It's a whole different universe in the Colorado Rockies.

joeschmo1of3 said...

John F:

Visit this page for a lot of information on climate change. Most scientists do agree that global warming is a demonstrable phenomenon, they just argue about how much, what's the cause, which climate model, which data set, which error protocols, you know, all the stuff scientists are supposed to argue about until they have a real general consensus. Climate modeling is still very young, so we should not be surprised that there is much debate on its very principles. But we should also be skeptical on anyone that claims to have the answers right now too. A caveat: the junkscience website is very anti-anthropic on the causes of global warming.

Simon said...

"However, even if the USA were to take immediate steps in this direction to be more like France in terms of use of nuclear energy, it still would only delay the problem. China's growing economic might is also based on a carbon burning economy, and no one will be able to reign that in anytime soon."

I agree with mostly everything else you wrote, but not entirely this. One of the interviewees on Brokaw's program made the point that he thinks there are tremendous opportunities to make money in green technology; he was using this as a rejoinder to the obvious question of whether going green would retard the economy, but it does seem likely that if America can make green economically viable (and if anyone can, American ;)) that other countries, including China, would follow suit. China's imperative is to get competetive, rapidly and cheaply - if they can do that AND be green, I see no reason that they wouldn't do so.

Icepick said...

Simon, if someone could make a fortune 'going green', then they would have already. The problem is that 'going green' typically costs more money than maintaining the status quo, much like having clean air or water.

For example, I could have bought a hybrid car last year when I was in the market for a new one. But I was able to get just as much car for a lot less money by going with the standard gasoline powered engine. It would take years of driving to make up the difference in gasoline savings even with today's inflated prices.

Another knock on all of the alternative energy sources is that none of them have the convenience of oil. Petroleum products come in everything from gas to easily vaporized liquids, to hard to vaporize liquids, to sludge to solids. You can do damn near everything with the stuff that you would want to with an energy source, and cheaply. That's why oil is king.

Another large obstacle that tends to be ignored about using alternative energy is that we will have to create lots of new infrastructure, while letting other infrastructure fail. I still hear people bitching about what a shame it was that the steel industry in the US has largely closed shop. If we force oil and coal out of the marketplace, that will create a massive disruption to our economy. We may come out of it in a better place, but the transitions will be painful.

Tibore said...

48°?? Good Lord! I know Madison's quite a bit north of Bloomington, In., but still... it's not like you're in Duluth, Minnesota, let alone Canada. You're not that close to the Great Lakes either. It's frikkin August, for cryin' out loud! 48 degrees? That's messed up.

"An Inconvenient Truth"... "It's hard to judge it as an actual movie, since it's essentially Al Gore giving a speech."

Jeez, that sounds like a snoozer. Reminds me of a cartoon back in the 80's presidential race between Bush Sr. & Dukakis: Dukakis was giving a speech, the cartoon balloon was a picture of a phone book page, the listener was sobbing uncontrollably...

"The environmental movement doesn't need to convince people who already believe in global warming, they need to pursuade everybody else. It mystifies me why they are so determined to continue preaching to the choir."

Or worse yet, piss off the people they need to convince. Yeah, Simon, it mystifies me too. It's a bit hard being a conservative trying to argue the point about Anthropogenic climate change on conservative blogs out there; sometimes, it feels like being a Code Pink'er on Little Green Footballs (not that Charles has opened comments to anyone outside the core group). It really annoys me that the real true, hard science gets lost in the noise made by those caring more about pushing dim views of humanity than anything else. As I've said elsewhere: Conservatives can NOT afford to be on the wrong side of this issue just because they don't like who's holding the microphone. It's one thing for some misanthrope somewhere to latch onto "Global Warming" so he/she can bitch about humanity (no, I am NOT talking about Gore here, don't anyone make that mistake. I'm talking about misanthropes). It's a whole other thing when respected scientists consider the research and conclude that a real issue exists.

Global Warming the Cause drives me up the wall; if I see one more moron bragging about his Prius when he lives alone in a 20,000 sq. foot house and has no idea what his windows' energy ratings or insulations R-values are... @!@%%**&^#@!...

But (deep breath...) Anthropogenic Climate Change the science I respect, pay attention to, support fully, and trust.

Dave said...

Uhh, Tibore: Ann is in Wyoming, at elevation. 48 degrees in the middle of summer in the wind river range or the tetons is not that surprising.

Tibore said...


Tibore said...

Talk about an inconvenient truth... :)

Well, at least I now know Wisconsin's weather is not all jacked up.

Word verification: iaxejbck. I dunno what the word verif is telling me, but with the words "axe" and "bck" (back) involved, I'm sorta creeped out now.

Dawn said...

JoeSchmoe, thanks for the great link. This will be very handy in the future when I have the following scenario repeat itself:

I had a college kid come to the door last week trying to persuade me to sign some petition to get 'wind power' in Minnesota. He had no concrete facts to back up his proposal, and left muttering when I asked him who would pay for the windmill farms he was proposing

"The energy companies"
"Well, why should they pay for it?" "Because they're rich"
"So you're saying being rich is evil and bad?"
"Uh no, I'm saying they should pay for them"
"Okay, so in the end you'll pay for them, since they'll pass their costs onto the consumer".

That fact got him off the porch.