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Offline Solvay_1927

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Re: global dimming
« Reply #25 on: 06/12/2005 00:32:46 »
And as for ...
quote:
You ask that we invest heavily in untried and untested solutions ...

No!  I just think that investing a little more (than the current miniscule amount) on researching and building alternative energy resources is unlikely to lead to major problems for the human race, whereas it might, possibly, help us to avert environmental problems in the future.  (Are you suggesting that wind power, for example, is "untried and untested"?)
 

another_someone

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Re: global dimming
« Reply #26 on: 06/12/2005 00:54:55 »
quote:
Originally posted by Solvay_1927

Perhaps you can convince me why actions like reducing our dependence on fossil fuels may prove detrimental in the long run ... ?




Put like that, reducing any dependency, upon anything, can always be said to be purely beneficial.  The trouble is one never just reduces a dependency upon something (except maybe by dying), but rather switches dependency from one thing to another.

I have always believed that diversity in all things is beneficial, and for many reasons beyond that merely of climate change, I would willingly argue in favour of diversifying away from our strong (and in recent years, ever strengthening) dependency upon oil as a raw material.  This is not to say that I believe we should discard the benefits of oil, only that we should encourage greater diversity, and thus reduce both our exposure the loss of supply, and the likely damage we might cause through our use of oil.  If we were to wholly switch from oil to some other technology, with equal sole dependence upon that single technology, I would regard the risks as no less than those we face now with our high dependence upon oil.

The question is what are the alternatives we might use in place of oil.

In part, a reversion to coal, another fossil fuel, would itself help to diversify our risk; and I think it was a mistake to switch so much coal fuelled electricity generating capacity to gas fuelled capacity.  Beyond that, we could also increase the use of coal as a source of carbon for our chemical industry.

There is a resurgent interest in nuclear power, and probably with some merit.

I am very dubious about the use of so called 'renewable' energy sources.  Much has been made of the fact that fossil fuels utilise energy that is not a normal part of our environment (i.e. we have to dig it out of the ground, rather than collect it from our immediate environment).  This is seen by many as a problem, but I would argue it is more probably an asset.  We have already seen what happens when we tried to scale up hydroelectric energy production, the impact upon the environment was at least as great as the equivalent capacity drawn from fossil fuels.  I would argue that any alternative 'renewable' source would be just as risky.  The notion of 'renewable' energy is that we extract that energy from our immediate environment, and thus inherently must divert energy that is being used elsewhere within our environment, as well as having to create very large systems for collecting that energy (e.g. large dams and lakes, or large wind farms, or large cereal farms for biofuel production, or large solar array farms).  None of this is particularly problematic as long as it remains on a small scale, but I would predict it will become very problematic if one were to look towards obtaining 50% of our energy requirements from such sources.  I think there is a role to be played for 'renewable', particularly in small scale local energy production; but I am very wary of scaling it up too far.

Nor do I believe that reducing energy usage is a viable option.  Making more efficient use of energy is certainly desirable, but I will warrant that this will lead not to reduced energy consumption, but rather to increased output with only modest increases in energy usage.

As I said, for many reasons that have nothing to do with climate change, I would favour increased diversity of energy and raw material sources, and each of the above technologies have a valuable role to play; but I do not see CO2 targets as being something we should regard as one of our goals that we should be looking for.  In fact, too great an emphasis on CO2 targets may have the very effect of reducing diversity as we become obsessed about removing CO2 producing technologies rather aiming for a mixed technology base.

The safe option is always to never do too much of any one thing, but to do a little of everything.

Ironically, the NIMBY attitude to environmentalism can often make things a lot worse.  Firstly, one of the major inefficiencies in modern energy usage is energy distribution, in particular, the high cost of moving electricity around the country.  Yet, try convincing people that they should have power generating plants in their own locality and they will be up in arms over local pollution issues.  In particular, one possible source of energy is waste incineration (which will also save on land fill usage), but the NIMBYs wont have it.

Another case in point is zoning and planning permission.  If there was greater ease with which non-residential and residential facilities could be mixed in the same locality, it would reduce some of the transport requirements.  It is true that greater job specialisation has made it inevitable that some people will have to travel further for work, but not all jobs are so specialised that they need to find employees that are willing to commute 100 miles a day, and allowing factories and shops to be built closer to housing could reduce the need for much of the commute.

Again, my arguments for all of this is not because I am concerned about the likely effects upon the planet, but because these improvements in efficiency are beneficial in more direct ways than on a vague and unpredictable planetary basis.

The greater tragedy is that many of these factory have not only moved out of residential areas, but out of the country; thus increasing the amount our goods must travel around the world before reaching us.  This highlights the true hypocrisy of the CO2 targets, since by moving much of our manufacturing capacity overseas, we have made ourselves look like the good boys in environmental terms, while the Chinese and Indian are accused of increasing CO2 production, and we add to that the transportation costs involved.  Are we really buying fewer consumer goods than we did in the past not at all, we simply pay for the Chinese to manufacture them, and generate the CO2 byproduct, and we claim to have reduced CO2 production in this country.  True, if we keep this up long enough, we will run out of money to pay the Chinese, and we will then actually reduce consumption as well but I'm sure that is not in the minds of the politicians and environmentalists as they offshore ever more of our production capacity.

« Last Edit: 06/12/2005 01:38:46 by another_someone »
 

another_someone

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Re: global dimming
« Reply #27 on: 06/12/2005 01:06:09 »
quote:
Originally posted by Solvay_1927
I just think that investing a little more (than the current miniscule amount) on researching and building alternative energy resources is unlikely to lead to major problems for the human race, whereas it might, possibly, help us to avert environmental problems in the future.  (Are you suggesting that wind power, for example, is "untried and untested"?)



Wind power is a well established technology, just as water power is a well established technology.  The problem is that scaling up wind power generation is an untested solution, just as scaling up water power was untested, and hydro power was at one time seen as the new clean source of fuel, until it was realised that that which worked happily on a small scale created problems when scaled up beyond a certain point.

It may even be argued that the backlash against hydro has now also gone too far, and maybe there is still a future role for hydro, but simply recognising that there are clear limits to how far it should be scaled up.

The problem with hydro, as with nuclear, and with oil, is that people have taken an all or nothing approach either it is good, and we should have ever more of it, or it is bad, and we should have none of it.  Neither is a healthy position to take with regard to any technology.
« Last Edit: 06/12/2005 01:42:15 by another_someone »
 

Offline DoctorBeaver

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Re: global dimming
« Reply #28 on: 06/12/2005 02:16:24 »
I agree with Another_someone that we need to diversify more.
If I may be allowed to throw another hat into the ring - the coast of north Norfolk is being eroded at an alarming rate. Hundreds of thousands of pounds has been spent trying to stop, or at least slow down, the damage. In many places the effort has now been stopped mainly for economic reasons. Why the hell wasn't a wave farm built just off the coast? Not only would that have provided electricity for at least the local area, but would have lessened the power of the waves hitting the coast thus slowing erosion dramatically. For some reason, though, it is offshore wind-farms that are being built.
Tides are much more predictable & reliable than winds, plus wind turbines are very intrusive on the landscapes. For maximum efficiency they are commonly built on high ground which makes them visible for miles around. Wave farms, on the other hand, are low & would not intrude on the environment to anywhere near the same extent.
However, I have seen it estimated that providing the UK with renewable energy would necessitate wind or wave farms covering an area the size of Kent. As energy usage is still increasing, that estimate may well be outdated before too long. Having that many wind or wave farms is obviously just not feasible.
AS we are no longer self-sufficient in coal, we are dependent on other countries to provide it; but their reserves won't last much longer either. North Sea oil & gas are running out fast.
With current technology, that leaves only nuclear power. I think I remember reading that 1 nuclear plant can generate the same power as a thousand-acre wind farm - plus the power output is predictable. Even though the disposal of waste from nuclear plants is very problematic, there really doesn't seem to be a viable alternative.
 

Offline DoctorBeaver

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Re: global dimming
« Reply #29 on: 06/12/2005 02:31:58 »
quote:
It may even be argued that the backlash against hydro has now also gone too far, and maybe there is still a future role for hydro, but simply recognising that there are clear limits to how far it should be scaled up.


One of the biggest problems with hydro power is geology. I can't think of many places south of Derbyshire where a viable hydro plant could be built. You, therefore, return to the cost of distribution. Plus, I think you will find that most places where a hydro plant would be viable are in areas where the staff would have trouble getting to work in the winter - the Peak District, Lake District, Wales, or the Scottish mountains. Roads are regularly impassable in those areas when it snows. Short-staffed during the worst weather when demand for power is highest? Not a good plan, methinks.
Waste incineration is an option, but again would not provide more than a very modest contribution to the power demands of a country like the UK. I think the strongest argument in favour of incineration is that of ecology rather than power generation.
 

Offline DoctorBeaver

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Re: global dimming
« Reply #30 on: 06/12/2005 02:32:42 »
Erudite? I thought that was an epoxy resin!
 

another_someone

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Re: global dimming
« Reply #31 on: 06/12/2005 11:44:32 »
quote:
Originally posted by DoctorBeaver
I agree with Another_someone that we need to diversify more.



A problem I see with diversity is psychological.  People like to compete, to prove themselves the best at something.  In order to be the best, you have to have something to measure.  It is (at least in principle, if not always in practice) easy to measure the amount of carbon you consume, and so create a race to reduce carbon consumption, but how do you measure diversity?

The very nature of diversity is that it is not one dimensional, and so you cannot have a single number that shows one person is best, and another is worst.

quote:

If I may be allowed to throw another hat into the ring - the coast of north Norfolk is being eroded at an alarming rate. Hundreds of thousands of pounds has been spent trying to stop, or at least slow down, the damage. In many places the effort has now been stopped mainly for economic reasons. Why the hell wasn't a wave farm built just off the coast? Not only would that have provided electricity for at least the local area, but would have lessened the power of the waves hitting the coast thus slowing erosion dramatically.



In principle, I would agree with you, but to play devils advocate, I would put forward the following issues.

Firstly, the east coast of England, particularly the South-East, is the most heavily populated region of the UK, both on land and at sea (with regard to shipping lanes, etc.).  Any risk associated with any venture there will have the largest human impact, and the most visible political impact.  Sticking something out into the Atlantic is well out of sight of most of the population, so if it works, it can be trumpeted as a great success, and if it has adverse side effects, these can be kept out of the public eye.

For this reason, just getting planning permission to do anything off the coast of Norfolk would be infinitely more problematic than doing the same off the west coast of Scotland.

Again, I suspect it goes back to what I was saying about NIMBY.

quote:

AS we are no longer self-sufficient in coal, we are dependent on other countries to provide it; but their reserves won't last much longer either.



The reason we are no longer self sufficient in coal is not because we ran out of it, far from it, we still have lots left to dig up; it is because UK labour rates were uncompetitive at the prevailing currency exchange rates, making it cheaper to have other people dig up their coal using their cheap labour (or, in some countries, state subsidised labour) than to have our people dig up our coal.

quote:

 North Sea oil & gas are running out fast.



If the high oil prices are maintained for any length of time, I suspect we will find that we have not run out of oil as much as we thought we had.  We had simply run out of that oil which could economically be extracted (in fact, it is the exploration rather than the extraction cost which is the dominant factor) at the prices that were current a few years back.

quote:

With current technology, that leaves only nuclear power. I think I remember reading that 1 nuclear plant can generate the same power as a thousand-acre wind farm - plus the power output is predictable. Even though the disposal of waste from nuclear plants is very problematic, there really doesn't seem to be a viable alternative.



I accept there are challenges associated with waste disposal from nuclear plants, but I also think people can get far too hysterical about waste disposal in general.

Heavy metals, such as lead and cadmium, are substances that we dig out of the ground; and yet people get panicked at the thought of disposing of them by putting them back into the ground.  Uranium is one of the most ubiquitous elements in the environment (albeit, in low concentrations), and yet people get panicked at even the most dilute amounts of uranium being leaked back in to the environment.  I agree that we should not create high concentrations of these substances in one place, but the very nature of lowering concentrations is that they should be spread over a large area.

The case of nuclear power is somewhat unique in that we create elements and isotopes that are rarely if ever found naturally on this planet.  Much of the radiation risk I suspect is overhyped, since long lived isotopes (such a uranium 235/238, or even plutonium 239 assuming they are not involved in a fission chain reaction) by their very nature cannot be very radioactive.  It is the short lived isotopes (such as the cobalt 60 so beloved of the medical profession but people are much less panicked about the use of cobalt 60 in hospitals than they are by uranium in nuclear power plants) that will carry greater radiation risk.

Ofcourse, we must also take into account the chemical risks that these exotic elements produce, but that is no different to the chemical properties of the non-radioactive isotopes of the same elements (although there is ofcourse no such thing as a non-radioactive isotope of plutonium, even though plutonium is not highly radioactive).  Nonetheless, it is the word 'radioactive' that causes so much public alarm, particularly in conjunction with the word 'nuclear' (it always amuses me that people found it politically necessary to relabel 'NMR' to 'MRI' in order to remove the reference to 'nuclear'; and the use of the term 'radiotherapy' rather than 'radiation therapy', because radio is a benign word, and radiation is not).  I have in the past had long debates with people about the long term risks of DU (depleted uranium, as used in munitions), and for the most part, it seems that the risk posed by DU is comparable to, but slightly less than that posed by an equal amount of lead.  Nonetheless, because lead is not radioactive (the fact that DU has a half life of 4.5 billion years scarcely makes it radioactive at all) makes for far more hysteria over that element than the concern over lead in munitions.
« Last Edit: 06/12/2005 11:52:34 by another_someone »
 

another_someone

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Re: global dimming
« Reply #32 on: 06/12/2005 11:49:53 »
quote:
Originally posted by DoctorBeaver

Waste incineration is an option, but again would not provide more than a very modest contribution to the power demands of a country like the UK. I think the strongest argument in favour of incineration is that of ecology rather than power generation.



I agree, it would only be a modest amount of power; but the very nature of diversity is that one would not expect a single source to solve all our needs, and it is a source that is almost begging to be utilised, so why not use it for what we can get (apart from the NIMBY factor).  Furthermore, it is a source, which if managed properly, can be generated close to point the end user demand (since the greatest volume of incineratable  waste will be most likely be in the same geographic locality as the greatest demand for power exists), thus reducing the cost of energy transportation.

Again, while we are wildly digressing from the original point, another case where I think the NIMBY factor is counter-productive is in the rush towards electric powered cars.  I am not talking about hybrid cars, where electricity is used as a temporary power storage mechanism, which I believe is a positive step in power management; but in pure electric cars.  The more I look at the inefficiencies in power transmission, the more I conclude that any system that relies on the creation of electricity in one location, and its use hundreds of miles away, is counter-productive both in resource utilisation and in waste production.  The problem is that electricity consumption is seen as 'clean', while electricity production is seen as 'dirty', so the NIMBYs are quite happy to see lots of local electricity usage, so long as the generating capacity is moved well beyond their horizons.
« Last Edit: 06/12/2005 12:18:24 by another_someone »
 

Offline DoctorBeaver

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Re: global dimming
« Reply #33 on: 06/12/2005 12:46:35 »
quote:
Firstly, the east coast of England, particularly the South-East, is the most heavily populated region of the UK, both on land and at sea (with regard to shipping lanes, etc.)


The north coast of Norfolk is fairly sparsely populated & the shipping in that area round to the Wash is negligible.

 
quote:
A problem I see with diversity is psychological. People like to compete, to prove themselves the best at something. In order to be the best, you have to have something to measure. It is (at least in principle, if not always in practice) easy to measure the amount of carbon you consume, and so create a race to reduce carbon consumption, but how do you measure diversity?


"We're more diverse than you are so ner ner". Crudely put, but it makes my point LOL


 
quote:

The reason we are no longer self sufficient in coal is not because we ran out of it, far from it, we still have lots left to dig up; it is because UK labour rates were uncompetitive at the prevailing currency exchange rates, making it cheaper to have other people dig up their coal using their cheap labour (or, in some countries, state subsidised labour) than to have our people dig up our coal.


Very true. I didn't say otherwise. But would people be prepared to pay a lot more for electricity generated from coal-burning than by nuclear? Somehow I doubt it.



 
quote:

If the high oil prices are maintained for any length of time, I suspect we will find that we have not run out of oil as much as we thought we had. We had simply run out of that oil which could economically be extracted (in fact, it is the exploration rather than the extraction cost which is the dominant factor) at the prices that were current a few years back.


I'm not sure that's entirely true but I don't have any figures to hand so I can't argue the point.

 
quote:
I accept there are challenges associated with waste disposal from nuclear plants, but I also think people can get far too hysterical about waste disposal in general.


 
quote:
Much of the radiation risk I suspect is overhyped, since long lived isotopes (such a uranium 235/238, or even plutonium 239 assuming they are not involved in a fission chain reaction) by their very nature cannot be very radioactive. It is the short lived isotopes (such as the cobalt 60 so beloved of the medical profession but people are much less panicked about the use of cobalt 60 in hospitals than they are by uranium in nuclear power plants) that will carry greater radiation risk.


Agreed 100%
 

Offline Solvay_1927

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Re: global dimming
« Reply #34 on: 06/12/2005 13:34:13 »
Someone - yep, I agree with all you say.  Thanks for the education.

Eth - same to you - you're very learned and araldite too. ;)
 

Offline DoctorBeaver

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Re: global dimming
« Reply #35 on: 06/12/2005 14:12:22 »
"Leaned" rather then "Learned" methinks
 

Offline AlphBravo

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Re: global dimming
« Reply #36 on: 08/12/2005 23:34:28 »
The thing I notice about Global warming+Dimming is that regardless of the cause we are now facing a period of transition, and the fact that as Twain said, over a century ago: "Everyone talks about the weather, but no one does anything about it". It is probably more pertinent than ever today, after all the foodstocks etc are not that resilient to withstand a mega drought, which is what we are lead to believe we are facing drier dries and wetter wets and maybe out of kilter.
 

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Re: global dimming
« Reply #37 on: 09/12/2005 00:36:20 »
quote:
Originally posted by AlphBravo

The thing I notice about Global warming+Dimming is that regardless of the cause we are now facing a period of transition, and the fact that as Twain said, over a century ago: "Everyone talks about the weather, but no one does anything about it". It is probably more pertinent than ever today, after all the foodstocks etc are not that resilient to withstand a mega drought, which is what we are lead to believe we are facing drier dries and wetter wets and maybe out of kilter.



On the contrary, our capacity to grow food today is greater (even taking into account population size) than it has at any time in history, which is why farmers in the wealthier parts of the world are unable to get even half decent prices for their products, and why so many farmers are going out of business (not because they can't grow the food, but because they can't sell it).

There is a problem that the Third World neither has the efficiency of food production that the industrialised world has (and often has internal political problems that compound the technical ones), and cannot afford the prices (even those prices that Western farmers consider uneconomically low) to buy food from the industrialised countries.

The only problem that any reduction in the environmental conditions for growing food may have is because so many farmers have left the business that it will take time to get them back into the food growing business.
 

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Re: global dimming
« Reply #37 on: 09/12/2005 00:36:20 »

 

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