Thursday, September 10, 2009

Six Degrees

A long but essential read.


  1. Hi Gail,
    Climate change is not the cause of the tree's destruction. Atmospheric pollution in the form of ozone and PAN is. If we are already at the tipping point with ozone and PAN, it doesn't really matter what happens with the temperature. Even if the temperature stays the same, the trees could be doomed.

    The danger from climate has a lot of ifs and unknowns about the future. Identified pollutants are killing trees right now.

    The current and immediate effects of atmospheric pollution is the far more persuasive reason to free ourselves of fossil fuels. Remember some of the leading proponents of catastrophic climate change are not environmentalists. Joe Romm, for example, gets mad when people call him an environmentalist.

  2. Paul, I think that is a distinction without a difference. It's the same processes creating the same gasses that kill trees and cause climate change. Moreover, dying vegetation releases more CO2, leading to more climate change.

    My concern is that if the core culprit to vegetative damage is from ethanol, then we should stop using it immediately. It would give us more time to switch to clean energy and prevent ozone. And we would continue to be able to grow food, weather permitting.

    Of course, if it's ozone, we won't be able to switch in time.

    And too, climate change is going to get us sooner or later no matter how quickly the trees go extinct (see the link in this post).

    I just blog about the trees because I see them dwindling more and more, every day, and if I didn't do anything at all about it, I would have to go insane.

    I guess I don't understand the objection to being labeled an "environmentalist" unless it has the connotation of one of those ecologist types who believe entire ecosystems can be magically relocated to higher latitudes. Or perhaps there is some sort of scientific hierarchy. Do physicists disdain bioligists (sic)? Is it pure theory vs. dirty fingernails? Ask Joe!

  3. Usually people who get mad at being called an environmentalist don't love trees. You do, which is what attracts me to Wit's End.

    The difference is more than a distinction. What we focus on in the transition to alternative energy will determine the path taken to get there. Focusing on CO2 is the least effective way to do it. In fact, I believe that a CO2 focus actually slows down the process.

  4. Paul is right. The arguments about climate heating, alternative energy sources, and all of the tangential issues (trees, polar bears, green jobs . . .) are not perceived as urgent or immediate. They are diffuse - and easily deflected or avoided. Even if there is a unavoidably perceptible die-off of vegetation (Christmas with Christmas Trees!), there will be credible-sounding work-arounds advanced by all of the usual idiots. Cancer, on the other hand, is something more immediate and personal. Prove, conclusively, that there is a link between fossil fuel emissions and a significantly increased risk of breast cancer and watch how fast Duke Energy goes totally solar and every Toyota is battery powered.

  5. Paul, I would be interested to know why you think a focus on CO2 slows down the process of getting to green energy. Jim Hansen has been very clear that he feels burning coal for electricity is the primary source of climaticide.

  6. Unrealtor, it has already for years been proved that there is a link between fossil fuel emissions and a significantly increased risk of EVERY cancer AND emphysema, and asthma, and stroke.

    I haven't noticed too many people turning off the lights and walking instead of driving because of it. Playing Russian Roulette works for most people who don't understand and don't want to understand risk assessment.

    I don't know what WILL convince the average teevee addict (especially the FOX channel addict - okay, never mind, nothing) that pollution and climate change are a more serious threat to them than Muslin terrorists and a black President.

    But it's going to be a lot more than the statistical change they'll contract a debilitating disease to get them off their teevees.

  7. Litigation. The Courts are one-third of the government. Cancer survivors - or the families of cancer victims - need to start suing. Just like the victims of the tobacco companies did. They'll lose at first. But as the science becomes more sharply focused on connecting the dots between the well head and the mine shaft and the molecular changes that trigger metastasis, the tide will change and the fossil industry will fold like a cheap suit (no pun intended). You can't expect elected politicians - or paid bureaucrats - to bite the hand that feeds them. The Courts are the only branch of government with sharp teeth and an insatiable appetite for justice. Sue the f*ckers. All of them.

  8. Um, unrealtor, are you unhinged? Weren't you elsewhere advocating limits in litigation?

    Okay, I get it. You don't think I'm crazy enough, you think I should be crazier.

    This might do it.

    Go back to the MidEast, please.

  9. Hi Gail,
    CO2 is only one result of burning fossil fuel. It's effect is less immediate and more uncertain than many other fossil fuel burning byproducts. Attempting to control this one component is treating the sympton and not the desease.

    Focusing on CO2 slows the process because it depends on political action by politicians representing too many varied interests. Cap and trade has been voted down in Australia and won't even be considered by our Senate until next year when it will likely be defeated.

    Focusing on CO2 does not address the number one impediment to rapid transition to alternatives. That is the high initial cost versus the time it takes to break even. Raising the cost of fossil does not reduce the cost of alternatives. It only makes both unaffordable.

    The focus of everyone who wants to rapidly replace fossil fuel should be on reducing the cost of alternatives.

  10. I only advocated adoption of the British tort system. That won't limit litigation. It will simply change some of the rules under which it arises (not the least of which is that the prevailing party can recover fees and costs from the non-prevailing party - and the attorneys are personally liable for these costs). Rules like that tend to sharpen the focus of the proceedings. I doubt that this would have any direct bearing on your state of mind, or anyone else's for that matter, even in the Mideast.


    ha ha, slogging through this is making me lose respect for scientists who blather on and on about climate change and tipping points. Perhaps it is true that it should all be reduced to: stop polluting!

  12. Make fossil fuels illegal as an energy source - phase them out over a set (say, 10 years) period of time. Problem solved.



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