Wednesday, August 07, 2013

Gosh, the world's climate is heating up? Who knew?

Not the folks at FOX News, apparently. The Republicans have developed a position on global climate change that says: It's not happening. And if it is happening, people don't have anything to do with it! And if people do have something to do with it, there's nothing we can do to remedy the problem!!

Meanwhile, in the real existing atmosphere:

In May 2013, the average daily level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere passed 400 parts per million, an increase of more than 40 percent since the beginning of the industrial revolution and the highest level on Earth in several million years.1 That same month, scientists reported that Arctic sea ice, one of the most visible and important indicators of global climate change, was melting faster than most climate models have predicted, raising the possibility that the summer Arctic will be nearly ice-free by as early as 2020 (Overland and Wang, 2013). Around the world, air pollution in mega-cities routinely exceeds international air quality standards set to protect human health. Globally, the use of oil for transportation grows unabated, exposing the world economy to price and supply volatility, and exacerbating political and environmental problems in countries where oil is produced and consumed. [my emphasis]
That's from Mark Delucchi and Mark Jacobson, Meeting the world’s energy needs entirely with wind, water, and solar power Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists 69:4 (July/Aug 2013).

But some people make lots of money off oil. Because the product itself doesn't bear all the real costs of using it:

In the search for alternatives to fossil fuels, scientists and policy makers have focused their attention on three replacements that are widely believed to have lower emissions of greenhouse gases, the air pollutants responsible for climate change, than do fossil fuels: nuclear power; energy from biomass; and a combination of wind, water, and solar power. The third option—which includes wind turbines, photovoltaic power plants and rooftop systems, concentrated solar thermal power plants, small-scale hydroelectric plants, geothermal plants, tidal turbines, and wave energy converters—has several advantages over nuclear energy and bioenergy, including lower (near zero) emissions of greenhouse gases and air pollutants, no problems of long-term waste disposal, and no risks of catastrophic accidents. Despite the natural variability of wind, water, and solar power, they can deliver energy as reliably as, and more economically than, the current fossil-fuel-based system when all costs to society are considered. Indeed, energy systems worldwide can be run entirely on wind, water, and solar power, making it unnecessary to pursue the less desirable alternatives of nuclear power and bioenergy. [my emphasis]
They point out that, despite the claims of nuclear power's boosters, it has serious problems: security and safety issues, production of greenhouse gases and massive amounts of nuclear waste that has to be securely stored for thousands of years.

Even fusion power would have known problems: "fusion still would produce short-lived waste that must be removed from the reactor core to avoid interference with operations, and in any case fusion is unlikely to be commercially available for at least another 50 years."

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