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The Climate Change Thread

"Healthy skepticism" can go too far... and have grave consequences.

http://www.amazon.com/AIDS-Good-News-Doesnt-Cause/dp/0913571059

We can't always wait for airtight evidence before modifying our behaviour. Science doesn't work like that. What we can do is take the body of evidence as a whole and make our own conclusions. Over the last few years, there's been increasing evidence that human activity affects the climate and growing confidence among the scientific community that the phenomenon is real. I don't know diddly squat about climatology so I'll leave it to the experts.
 
I think the problem with your argument is that assumption that measures taken to reduce GHG emissions will be exceedingly detrimental to the economy. A gradually introduced, predictable (and preferably global) carbon tax need not be economically detrimental, and could indeed have fewer negative economic consequences than many existing forms of taxation, such as taxes on income or investment. Given that a reduction in carbon emissions will go hand-in-hand with more sustainable agricultural and forestry practices, lower levels of fossil fuel extraction and combustion and reduced reliance on politically volatile regions, a lot of good could come from the incentive to innovate a carbon tax would create. There will be losers, such as those invested in the Alberta oil patch, but frankly anything that slows that utter raping of northern Alberta is probably a good thing.

There are more than enough arguments out there that suggest that the target reductions are too extreme, with costs ranging into the trillions of dollars. And the target reductions are largely weighted to developed countries, leaving developing countries to build the very infrastructure that at some point will have to be dismantled. Aside from that, you've missed my argument. The IPCC states a low level or very low level of understanding of a majority of climate factors - most of them being natural climate factors. In other words, it admits no clear understanding of the natural climate, but then suggests that an estimated (guesstimated?) increase in temperature of 0.6C over 100 years must then be caused by human activity.

As of yet, there is nothing to replace the scale of hydrocarbons. There is environmental opposition to nuclear power. Small power generation sources do not have the capacity to replace even a considerable fraction of either coal, nuclear or natural gas. So there is a considerable problem with respect to moving away from hydrocarbons presently.

Rather than relying on a worries of GHG's and slight warming trends in northern temperatures, remember that oil and gas are not about to become cheaper or more available. There is already a well-established argument to motivate the pursuit of a replacement for hydrocarbons - the cheap and easy sources have already been largely tapped. Oil and natural gas will only be getting more expensive as ever more developing countries tap into the limited supply. Estimates suggest a fossil fuel consumption will increase by over 60% from today's levels. That could very well have considerable geopolitical ramifications.
 
We can't always wait for airtight evidence before modifying our behaviour. Science doesn't work like that. What we can do is take the body of evidence as a whole and make our own conclusions.

Yes, and we could make uninformed assumptions about what ails a sick person and end up treating them improperly - possibly injuring or killing them.

Overconfidence based on little information has a whole range of possible negative consequences. You might be comfortable with basing extremely expensive policy on nescience; other people are not.
 
There are more than enough arguments out there that suggest that the target reductions are too extreme, with costs ranging into the trillions of dollars. And the target reductions are largely weighted to developed countries, leaving developing countries to build the very infrastructure that at some point will have to be dismantled.

I'm not arguing for us to try to achieve current targets. I'm calling for a global tax on GHG emissions. The price will be stable but the output will be difficult to predict (which is a better outcome than volatile prices with predictable output). Your assertion that there are no foreseeable alternatives to fossil fuel use is a bit mindboggling. Ontario could cut out fossil fuel from its electrical supply through conservation (simply matching California's standards for household or commercial appliances), continuing the deployment of renewables such as wind (of which Ontario has vast resources), and biomass (to replace coal or gas for peak periods). Upcoming improvements such as plug-in hybrids and higher blends of ethanol as cellulose-based ethanol becomes efficient have the potential to displace vast amounts of gasoline. We don't need any draconian measures. Raise the price of carbon emissions gradually and predictably. and let the market sort things out in a reasonably efficient manner.

Aside from that, you've missed my argument. The IPCC states a low level or very low level of understanding of a majority of climate factors - most of them being natural climate factors. In other words, it admits no clear understanding of the natural climate, but then suggests that an estimated (guesstimated?) increase in temperature of 0.6C over 100 years must then be caused by human activity.

Not important. Global warming is not the only reason to hasten the transition to renewable sources of energy. Given the remote chance that humanity does have an effect on global climate through GHG emissions, it seems prudent to stop pushing the system in that direction. Other measures, such as reforestation efforts and a return to sustainable agricultural practices (ie, practices that won't leave our best farmland dead or silted away) are also important. It's all part of a holistic approach to reducing the burden humanity places on the global ecosystem.

There is environmental opposition to nuclear power.

Well, Ontarians just gave an overwhelming majority to a government with a plan to spend tens of billions on nuclear infrastructure, so... yes, but it's happening anyway.

Small power generation sources do not have the capacity to replace even a considerable fraction of either coal, nuclear or natural gas.

Nonsense. This is a chicken or the egg problem. Once there is a demand for replacements (through the market), replacements will be developed. The increase in the price of oil and gas has seen an enormous increase in renewables R&D.
 
I'm not arguing for us to try to achieve current targets. I'm calling for a global tax on GHG emissions. The price will be stable but the output will be difficult to predict (which is a better outcome than volatile prices with predictable output). Your assertion that there are no foreseeable alternatives to fossil fuel use is a bit mindboggling. Ontario could cut out fossil fuel from its electrical supply through conservation (simply matching California's standards for household or commercial appliances), continuing the deployment of renewables such as wind (of which Ontario has vast resources), and biomass (to replace coal or gas for peak periods). Upcoming improvements such as plug-in hybrids and higher blends of ethanol as cellulose-based ethanol becomes efficient have the potential to displace vast amounts of gasoline. We don't need any draconian measures. Raise the price of carbon emissions gradually and predictably. and let the market sort things out in a reasonably efficient manner.

Your mind is boggled. Ontario is not the world. Currently about 85% of the world's energy mix is derived from fossil fuels, and that will increase because there is nothing readily available to replace this in spite of what you think. There are going to be incremental improvements in efficiency as there have been in the past, but not a wholesale vanishing of fossil fuels.

California does not have a winter like ours, by the way.

As I noted earlier, estimates suggest a 60% increase in fossil fuel use over the next twenty years. I'm stating a global number, not an Ontario number.

Not important. Global warming is not the only reason to hasten the transition to renewable sources of energy. Given the remote chance that humanity does have an effect on global climate through GHG emissions, it seems prudent to stop pushing the system in that direction.

Just because you think so? You posted videos with wildly absurd scenarios of doom and gloom, and now there is a "remote" chance that humanity has an effect of global climate through GHG's. It's difficult to take you seriously when your only rationale for arguing a change to the energy mix is your apparent personal desire to have that happen. Not an argument so much as just wishful thinking.

Nonsense. This is a chicken or the egg problem. Once there is a demand for replacements (through the market), replacements will be developed. The increase in the price of oil and gas has seen an enormous increase in renewables R&D.

This is just your opinion, and not much more. Most of that demand will be fixed on developing large-scale secure sources that can provide an efficient, cheap and stable base-load requirement. Wind, solar and biomass will eventually make up a percentage of the energy mix, but will not be a major producer for the foreseeable future - if ever. As for automobiles, there will simply be more of those globally. While plug-in hybrid technology will reduce gasoline demand, the increasing number of automobiles will continue to move consumption of gasoline upward for the foreseeable future. This fuel source simply can't be replaced by ethanol in all parts of the world.
 
Well, I guess we might want to nuke China and India now. If sustainable sources can't address the world's energy needs (as you assert), given the rather impending scarcity of fossil fuels, there is going to be one spectacular war in the not so distant future.

"Just because you think so? You posted videos with wildly absurd scenarios of doom and gloom, and now there is a "remote" chance that humanity has an effect of global climate through GHG's. It's difficult to take you seriously when your only rationale for arguing a change to the energy mix is your apparent personal desire to have that happen. Not an argument so much as just wishful thinking."

I should have said 'Given even the remote chance'. Now, I did not post videos of wildly absurd scenarios. I posted one video, where another person quite distinct from me used hyperbole to make a point. He even said it was hyperbole. You maybe should take it easy if you can't make that distinction.

I personally think that some form of climate change partially caused by human activity is reasonably likely. Therefore, I don't think it's unreasonable to incentivize a reduction of our reliance on fossil fuels. This is a fairly majority view on this planet, so maybe I'm not the crazy one, guy.

"This fuel source simply can't be replaced by ethanol in all parts of the world."

You're making a pretty insane assertion here. You're claiming that it is impossible for ethanol to be produced or available everywhere, regardless of any technological developments or future process improvements? I think it's incredibly unlikely that the economical production of large amounts of ethanol (from biomass) will remain an intractible problem for humanity forever. I mean, they already have prototype cellulose-based ethanol plants.... and there is quite a lot of potential for cellulose production.
 
Well, I guess we might want to nuke China and India now. If sustainable sources can't address the world's energy needs (as you assert), given the rather impending scarcity of fossil fuels, there is going to be one spectacular war in the not so distant future.

This is an irrational response. The "impending scarcity" will take place over a duration of many decades. It's not going to happen tomorrow. The shift from burning oil for power will happen first by moving away from using oil as a means for generating electricity. This is already an established trend.

Now, I did not post videos of wildly absurd scenarios. I posted one video, where another person quite distinct from me used hyperbole to make a point. He even said it was hyperbole. You maybe should take it easy if you can't make that distinction.

I am taking it easy. As for yourself, maybe you ought to think about why you posted a video that made, by your own admission, the use of hyperbole as a means of communication. This so-called debate has been driven to a great degree by fear-mongering and hyperbole. A video like this only contributes to the irrational fears based upon incomplete knowledge as evidenced by the IPCC itself. One can only assume that you posted the video because you were in agreement with what is portrayed in it.

I personally think that some form of climate change partially caused by human activity is reasonably likely. Therefore, I don't think it's unreasonable to incentivize a reduction of our reliance on fossil fuels. This is a fairly majority view on this planet, so maybe I'm not the crazy one, guy.

A "fairly majority view on the planet?" Do you have evidence of this? Have you surveyed everyone?

By your own admission, if climate change is only partially caused by human activity, then the effort to reduce the emissions of GHG's will produce only diminishing returns in terms of desired outcomes. Since the effects of C02 absorption are logarithmic, then you have already seen most of the effects brought about by human emissions. Natural warming trends can't be stopped by people.

You're making a pretty insane assertion here. You're claiming that it is impossible for ethanol to be produced or available everywhere, regardless of any technological developments or future process improvements? I think it's incredibly unlikely that the economical production of large amounts of ethanol (from biomass) will remain an intractible problem for humanity forever. I mean, they already have prototype cellulose-based ethanol plants.... and there is quite a lot of potential for cellulose production.

Concerning insanity, you might want to avoid confusing the measurable present with the imaginary future. You do this very often. As for ethanol, many countries would have to use their limited agricultural lands to start producing large quantities of fuel ethanol. In light of needing to feed their populations, they may not want to do that. Not every country is like Canada.

Then again, you should remember that fossil fuel demands this year (in barrels of oil equivalent) exceeded 30 billion barrels of oil, over 19 billion for natural gas, and over 20 billion for coal. You would have to divert an immense amount of biomass production to cover any considerable fraction of this demand - which continues to grow ever year. For that reason, ethanol will remain a minor constituent in the overall energy mix.
 
"A "fairly majority view on the planet?" Do you have evidence of this? Have you surveyed everyone?"

No I haven't. There has been plenty of polling on the issue though. If you disagree with the principles of statistics, then we should agree to disagree.

"As for ethanol, many countries would have to use their limited agricultural lands to start producing large quantities of fuel ethanol. In light of needing to feed their populations, they may not want to do that. Not every country is like Canada."

You clearly don't understand what cellulose-based ethanol production is. This is a false dichotomy, as cellulose is a readily available byproduct from food production (ie, corn stalks), and paper production (wood chips, waste pulp). Also, the most likely source of large amounts of cellulose is perennial grasses such as switchgrass, which can be grown on marginal soils unsuitable for food production. A byproduct of ethanol distillation from switchgrass is plant protein, which can be used as a substitute for soy in animal feed. Also, switchgrass is more sustainable, as it requires little water, fertilizer, or pesticides and is perennial, so serves to prevent soil erosion and adds to soil fertility. I encourage you to do a little reading on the subject.

"Then again, you should remember that fossil fuel demands this year (in barrels of oil equivalent) exceeded 30 billion barrels of oil, over 19 billion for natural gas, and over 20 billion for coal. You would have to divert an immense amount of biomass production to cover any considerable fraction of this demand - which continues to grow ever year. For that reason, ethanol will remain a minor constituent in the overall energy mix."

Biomass isn't the whole answer, but it can address the US's demand for vehicle fuel is passenger vehicles were required to meet an attainable 50 mpg-equivalent fuel economy.

Your assumption that human civilization is impossible without massive and growing consumption of fossil fuel runs into the problem that we have reserves of most kinds of fuel for no more than another hundred years, on very optimistic assumptions. So, at some point in the next century, we'll need to find a way to meet our energy needs without fossil fuels, or give up on this whole civilization thing (which would also require the death of about 90% of the human population to something more like carrying capacity). Of course, we will never actually run out of these resources, but they will become astronomically expensive. So, we're either going to figure out alternate sources, figure out how to use substantially less energy, or become very, very poor (and eventually very, very dead). I think the former are more likely than the latter (which seems to be your view--which of course you will correct).
 
Yes, and we could make uninformed assumptions about what ails a sick person and end up treating them improperly - possibly injuring or killing them.

Yes, and this happens sometimes due to the limitations in our knowledge. So the best we can do is make the best decision we can based on existing evidence.

Overconfidence based on little information has a whole range of possible negative consequences.

I'm not overconfident. I don't know for sure that human activity contributes to climate change but the scientific community as a whole believes that it does, so for now I accept that. I'm not an expert in the field, so I have to rely on the expert opinion of others. Scientists as a whole believe it and many have commented on government's attempts to silence them. I don't believe the average scientist has a lot to gain from pushing for the idea of global warming. However, politicians and lobbyists potentially have a lot to lose. I have chosen to believe the scientists.

You might be comfortable with basing extremely expensive policy on nescience; other people are not.

I never said anything about implementing expensive policy, that's a whole other issue.
 
One of Two

Decisions, money, politics and science can make for a very interesting brew.

Scientists offered cash to dispute climate study

Ian Sample, science correspondent
The Guardian,
Friday February 2 2007


Scientists and economists have been offered $10,000 each by a lobby group funded by one of the world's largest oil companies to undermine a major climate change report due to be published today.

Letters sent by the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), an ExxonMobil-funded thinktank with close links to the Bush administration, offered the payments for articles that emphasise the shortcomings of a report from the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

Travel expenses and additional payments were also offered.

The UN report was written by international experts and is widely regarded as the most comprehensive review yet of climate change science. It will underpin international negotiations on new emissions targets to succeed the Kyoto agreement, the first phase of which expires in 2012. World governments were given a draft last year and invited to comment.

The AEI has received more than $1.6m from ExxonMobil and more than 20 of its staff have worked as consultants to the Bush administration. Lee Raymond, a former head of ExxonMobil, is the vice-chairman of AEI's board of trustees.

The letters, sent to scientists in Britain, the US and elsewhere, attack the UN's panel as "resistant to reasonable criticism and dissent and prone to summary conclusions that are poorly supported by the analytical work" and ask for essays that "thoughtfully explore the limitations of climate model outputs".

Climate scientists described the move yesterday as an attempt to cast doubt over the "overwhelming scientific evidence" on global warming. "It's a desperate attempt by an organisation who wants to distort science for their own political aims," said David Viner of the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia.

"The IPCC process is probably the most thorough and open review undertaken in any discipline. This undermines the confidence of the public in the scientific community and the ability of governments to take on sound scientific advice," he said.

The letters were sent by Kenneth Green, a visiting scholar at AEI, who confirmed that the organisation had approached scientists, economists and policy analysts to write articles for an independent review that would highlight the strengths and weaknesses of the IPCC report.

"Right now, the whole debate is polarised," he said. "One group says that anyone with any doubts whatsoever are deniers and the other group is saying that anyone who wants to take action is alarmist. We don't think that approach has a lot of utility for intelligent policy."

One American scientist turned down the offer, citing fears that the report could easily be misused for political gain. "You wouldn't know if some of the other authors might say nothing's going to happen, that we should ignore it, or that it's not our fault," said Steve Schroeder, a professor at Texas A&M university.

The contents of the IPCC report have been an open secret since the Bush administration posted its draft copy on the internet in April. It says there is a 90% chance that human activity is warming the planet, and that global average temperatures will rise by another 1.5 to 5.8C this century, depending on emissions.

Lord Rees of Ludlow, the president of the Royal Society, Britain's most prestigious scientific institute, said: "The IPCC is the world's leading authority on climate change and its latest report will provide a comprehensive picture of the latest scientific understanding on the issue. It is expected to stress, more convincingly than ever before, that our planet is already warming due to human actions, and that 'business as usual' would lead to unacceptable risks, underscoring the urgent need for concerted international action to reduce the worst impacts of climate change. However, yet again, there will be a vocal minority with their own agendas who will try to suggest otherwise."

Ben Stewart of Greenpeace said: "The AEI is more than just a thinktank, it functions as the Bush administration's intellectual Cosa Nostra. They are White House surrogates in the last throes of their campaign of climate change denial. They lost on the science; they lost on the moral case for action. All they've got left is a suitcase full of cash."

On Monday, another Exxon-funded organisation based in Canada will launch a review in London which casts doubt on the IPCC report. Among its authors are Tad Murty, a former scientist who believes human activity makes no contribution to global warming. Confirmed VIPs attending include Nigel Lawson and David Bellamy, who believes there is no link between burning fossil fuels and global warming.

SOURCE
 
Two of Two

This comes from another thread by 299 bloor call control but is a more recent example.

United States House of Representatives
Committee on Oversight and Government Reform
December 2007


POLITICAL INTERFERENCE WITH
CLIMATE CHANGE SCIENCE
UNDER THE BUSH ADMINISTRATION


EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

For the past 16 months, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee has been investigating allegations of political interference with government climate change science under the Bush Administration. During the course of this investigation, the Committee obtained over 27,000 pages of documents from the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) and the Commerce Department, held two investigative hearings, and deposed or interviewed key officials. Much of the information made available to the Committee has never been publicly disclosed.

This report presents the findings of the Committee’s investigation. The evidence before the Committee leads to one inescapable conclusion: the Bush Administration has engaged in a systematic effort to manipulate climate change science and mislead policymakers and the public about the dangers of global warming.

In 1998, the American Petroleum Institute developed an internal “Communications Action Plan” that stated: “Victory will be achieved when … average citizens ‘understand’ uncertainties in climate science … [and] recognition of uncertainties becomes part of the ‘conventional wisdom.’” The Bush Administration has acted as if the oil industry’s communications plan were its mission statement. White House officials and political appointees in the agencies censored congressional testimony on the causes and impacts of global warming, controlled media access to government climate scientists, and edited federal scientific reports to inject unwarranted uncertainty into discussions of climate change and to minimize the threat to the environment and the economy.

The White House Censored Climate Change Scientists

The White House exerted unusual control over the public statements of federal scientists on climate change issues. It was standard practice for media requests to speak with federal scientists on climate change matters to be sent to CEQ for White House approval. By controlling which government scientists could respond to media inquiries, the White House suppressed dissemination of scientific views that could conflict with Administration policies. The White House also edited congressional testimony regarding the science of climate change.

Former CEQ Chief of Staff Philip Cooney told the Committee: “Our communications people would render a view as to whether someone should give an interview or not and who it should be.” According to Kent Laborde, a career public affairs officer at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, media requests related to climate change issues were handled differently from other requests because “I would have to route media inquires through CEQ.” This practice was particularly evident after Hurricane Katrina. Mr. Laborde was asked, “Did the White House and the Department of Commerce not want scientists who believed that climate change was increasing hurricane activity talking with the press?” He responded: “There was a consistent approach that might have indicated that.” White House officials and agency political appointees also altered congressional testimony regarding the science of climate change. The changes to the recent climate change testimony of Dr. Julie Gerberding, the Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, have received considerable attention. A year earlier, when Dr. Thomas Karl, the Director of National Climatic Data Center, appeared before the House Oversight Committee, his testimony was also heavily edited by both White House officials and political appointees at the Commerce Department. He was not allowed to say in his written testimony that “modern climate change is dominated by human influences,” that “we are venturing into the unknown territory with changes in climate,” or that “it is very likely (>95 percent probability) that humans are largely responsible for many of the observed changes in climate.” His assertion that global warming “is playing” a role in increased hurricane intensity became “may play.”

The White House Extensively Edited Climate Change Reports

There was a systematic White House effort to minimize the significance of climate change by editing climate change reports. CEQ Chief of Staff Phil Cooney and other CEQ officials made at least 294 edits to the Administration’s Strategic Plan of the Climate Change Science Program to exaggerate or emphasize scientific uncertainties or to deemphasize or diminish the importance of the human role in global warming.

The White House insisted on edits to EPA’s draft Report on the Environment that were so extreme that the EPA Administrator opted to eliminate the climate change section of the report. One such edit was the inclusion of a reference to a discredited, industry-funded paper. In a memo to the Vice President’s office, Mr. Cooney explained: “We plan to begin to refer to this study in Administration communications on the science of global climate change” because it “contradicts a dogmatic view held by many in the climate science community that the past century was the warmest in the past millennium and signals of human induced ‘global warming.’”

In the case of EPA’s Air Trends Report, CEQ went beyond editing and simply vetoed the entire climate change section of the report.

Other White House Actions

The White House played a major role in crafting the August 2003 EPA legal opinion disavowing authority to regulate greenhouse gases. CEQ Chairman James Connaughton personally edited the draft legal opinion. When an EPA draft quoted the National Academy of Science conclusion that “the changes observed over the last several decades are likely mostly due to human activities,” CEQ objected because “the above quotes are unnecessary and extremely harmful to the legal case being made.” The first line of another internal CEQ document transmitting comments on the draft EPA legal opinion reads: “Vulnerability: science.” The final opinion incorporating the White House edits was rejected by the Supreme Court in April 2007 in Massachusetts v. EPA.

The White House also edited a 2002 op-ed by EPA Administrator Christine Todd Whitman to ensure that it followed the White House line on climate change. Despite objections from EPA, CEQ insisted on repeating an unsupported assertion that millions of American jobs would be lost if the Kyoto Protocol were ratified.

SOURCE in Adobe PDF format
 
No I haven't. There has been plenty of polling on the issue though. If you disagree with the principles of statistics, then we should agree to disagree.

It's not an issue of disagreement. You simply have no evidence for this assertion. Period.

You clearly don't understand what cellulose-based ethanol production is. This is a false dichotomy, as cellulose is a readily available byproduct from food production (ie, corn stalks), and paper production (wood chips, waste pulp). Also, the most likely source of large amounts of cellulose is perennial grasses such as switchgrass, which can be grown on marginal soils unsuitable for food production. A byproduct of ethanol distillation from switchgrass is plant protein, which can be used as a substitute for soy in animal feed. Also, switchgrass is more sustainable, as it requires little water, fertilizer, or pesticides and is perennial, so serves to prevent soil erosion and adds to soil fertility. I encourage you to do a little reading on the subject.

Presently, there is no cellulosic ethanol industry, so it's a little dubious to make all kinds of promises about it. There are suggestive studies about its possibilities, but no clear evidence for its imminent success. In your promotion of ethanol you have avoided a few issues. First, ethanol has one third the energy density of gasoline (far less efficient). Second with respect to cellulosic ethanol, to meet the demand of replacing gasoline on a very large scale, lands would eventually have to be dedicated to the production of crops useful in its production. You don't build a necessary and reliable fuel system on throw-away biomaterials. It has to be turned into an energy industry. This could very well entail the clearing of more lands - marginal or otherwise - that would allow for intensive massive-scale agriculture necessary for a secure and stable production of ethanol - because it must be secure, stable and cheap. That being said, an immense amount of material would be required to replace more than 10% of present gasoline demands. In doing so, these dedicated crops and materials could very well become a commodity, resulting in price rises. Either way, ethanol will remain a marginal fuel. But do note afransen, I am not saying that ethanol should not be pursued; I am saying it is not a panacea to the problem of a limited oil supply.

One-dimesional views promoting ethanol as a panacea obscure the fact that such a source is still demands an agricultural advantage - and one best exploited by large scale agricultural producers. Countries with few such resources will be the ones that suffer. In some countries, such a situation could result in crops suitable for ethanol being produced on what otherwise could be suitable agricultural land for food production - all to get into the ethanol fuel business. There is no clear way to predict the revenge of unintended consequences.

Beyond this, there are still pending issues with ethanol emissions related to health. Ethanol is an emitter of GHG's and contributes to the production of smog. At present, there is really nothing to suggest that it will have anything other than a limited or marginal use. But then again, maybe only a marginal demand is required when coupled to improvements in engine efficiency.

Your assumption that human civilization is impossible without massive and growing consumption of fossil fuel runs into the problem that we have reserves of most kinds of fuel for no more than another hundred years, on very optimistic assumptions. So, at some point in the next century, we'll need to find a way to meet our energy needs without fossil fuels, or give up on this whole civilization thing (which would also require the death of about 90% of the human population to something more like carrying capacity). Of course, we will never actually run out of these resources, but they will become astronomically expensive. So, we're either going to figure out alternate sources, figure out how to use substantially less energy, or become very, very poor (and eventually very, very dead). I think the former are more likely than the latter (which seems to be your view--which of course you will correct)

Your presumptions about my assumptions indicate that you don't clearly read what I write here. Civilization as we know it is built upon cheap energy. If oil and natural gas are limited (which they are) there will need to be a replacement to these sources of energy. I have noted that this is an issue many times before on this forum (had you bothered to read it). I have also stated that the the dwindling supply of fossil fuels and the growing demand for them are a good enough reason to start looking for alternates to oil and natural gas. As for oil and natural gas, it is the easy sources that will be exhausted in 100 years. That is not to say that there isn't plenty more oil out there - there is. The United States has immense shale oil reserves, but it is extremely expensive - far more expensive than the Alberta oil sands. Also, more than two thirds of the planet are covered with oceans, and those have yet to be adequately explored for oil. The question is: do we want to go there? Oil derived from such sources would, no doubt, be considerably more expensive. It would also pose more environmental risks with respect to spills, accidents and the like.

So I'll point this out to you. Right now there is no one panacea to the reliance on oil and other fossil fuels. Solutions are not going to be found in any singular solutions like ethanol or windmills. Instead, there are going to many solutions explored or instituted on different scales in different places. Centralized large-scale energy production will still still require stable, efficient and reliable sources such as nuclear power. Smaller localized sources can be used to fill gaps or produce local or off grid demands. Incremental improvements in engine efficiency will improve automobile fuel consumption - possibly lengthening the duration of fossil fuel availability. Better battery technologies and hybrid electric also show considerable promise for reducing demands on oil. There are other possibilities out there, but each one will require careful consideration concerning its use. I have little doubt that such efforts will take place.
 
Yes, and this happens sometimes due to the limitations in our knowledge. So the best we can do is make the best decision we can based on existing evidence.

And you choose to acknowledge what you consider to be the best existing knowledge. But the you admit to not knowing what that would be - if not for the voices you agree with in an unquestioning way.

I'm not overconfident. I don't know for sure that human activity contributes to climate change but the scientific community as a whole believes that it does, so for now I accept that. I'm not an expert in the field, so I have to rely on the expert opinion of others. Scientists as a whole believe it and many have commented on government's attempts to silence them. I don't believe the average scientist has a lot to gain from pushing for the idea of global warming. However, politicians and lobbyists potentially have a lot to lose. I have chosen to believe the scientists.

The above statement is the epitome of overconfidence - if not arrogance. Do you speak for the entire scientific community? Do you know what is on their minds? Invoking the illusion of unanimity is - shall we say - unreasonable to say the least. You've appeared to have traded away your scientific skepticism and hidden yourself in the perceived and advertised consensus - which is squarely in the domain of politics.
 
Presently, there is no cellulosic ethanol industry, so it's a little dubious to make all kinds of promises about it.

Wikipedia article:

"The American company Range Fuels announced in July 2007 that it was awarded a construction permit from the state of Georgia to build the first commercial-scale 100-million-gallon-per-year cellulosic ethanol plant in the United States. Construction began in November, 2007."

No industry, eh? You might also want to note that there are numerous demonstration plants operating around the world to fine tune the process so that large plants, such as the one mentioned above may be developed.

If you have concerns about the viability of producing sufficient biomass to meet a significant portion of the demand, please take a look at studies done on the matter.

"I am saying it is not a panacea to the problem of a limited oil supply."

It seems to be one extreme or the other with you. I didn't say it was a panacea either. I clearly stated that it is part of a solution involving increases in efficiency and changes in human behaviour. You dismissed it as a minor factor in the future energy mix, which I don't think is entirely reasonable given the billions that are being invested in at present.

"Beyond this, there are still pending issues with ethanol emissions related to health. Ethanol is an emitter of GHG's and contributes to the production of smog. At present, there is really nothing to suggest that it will have anything other than a limited or marginal use. But then again, maybe only a marginal demand is required when coupled to improvements in engine efficiency."

Ethanol does burn much more cleanly than gasoline. Ethanol emits GHGs in the way that you do when you exhale, but cellulosic ethanol by existing processes displaces 90% of fossilised CO2 emissions when compared to the equivalent amount of gasoline (according to US Department of Energy). There's no real reason why that net carbon emissions can't be driven to zero, except cost at the moment. Low hanging fruit...

This, though:
"At present, there is really nothing to suggest that it will have anything other than a limited or marginal use. "

That's a pretty strong statement. Ethanol already comprises 4 billion gallons of the 140 billion gallon annual US gasoline consumption. For an industry that has only seen large scale investment in the last few years, that is already a fairly large chunk. Production grew in 2004 by about 20%. The cost of corn based ethanol is essentially in line with wholesale gasoline prices. Your statement doesn't really reflect reality.




I totally agree with your last two paragraphs, though I find it a bit troubling that you usually start with quite an extreme point of view, then finally admit something reasonable and claim that that is what you had been espousing all along.
 
The above statement is the epitome of overconfidence - if not arrogance. Do you speak for the entire scientific community? Do you know what is on their minds? Invoking the illusion of unanimity is - shall we say - unreasonable to say the least. You've appeared to have traded away your scientific skepticism and hidden yourself in the perceived and advertised consensus - which is squarely in the domain of politics.

And what would my motive be for trading away my scientific scepticism? I may not understand climatology but I do understand scientific principles and know how to analyse evidence. And when you ignore the lay press (low level evidence) and look at evidence published in peer-reviewed journals (higher level evidence), yes, it's fair to say there's a consensus for now.

I earlier admit that I'm not an expert in the field, that I'm not 100% convinced that humans cause climate change and that I need to defer to expert opinion. Somehow, you perceive this as arrogant and overconfident. Somehow, you perceive my view as political rather than scientific. Quite frankly, I find this reaction to be bizarre.
 

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