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October 20, 2007

Global warming: "the fire causeth the waters to boil"

In the latest news on climate change, UK scientists have identified that the Atlantic ocean has dramatically reduced its absorption of carbon dioxide (CO2). It's long been hypothesized that climate change will slow ocean absorption of CO2, and now it seems this time is upon us. This is exceedingly bad news for us all. It means that the arguments over whether the shifts in our climate are natural or human-related are now irrelevant. Now it behoves us to consider what the hell we're going to do about it. It's too late to pursue policies and practices that might act as a stop-gap to our own emissions. We now need to invest massively in research and production (note I don't say "development" - prototypes are useless, we now need trial and error) to work our how to save our businesses. And it's also mind-numbingly obtuse to think this isn't going to affect everyone. The scourge of climate change is going to make even more of Australia unliveable. Unless you're happy to let the Australian economy be steadily wiped out (or worse, to be turned into a giant mining desert), we're going to need to do something fast.

Posted by jj at October 20, 2007 6:43 PM

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I think we are caught between peak oil and climate change, and very unfortunately, the best short-term solution to the first problem (liquefaction of coal) apparently spells disaster with respect to the second problem. Unless (remote possibility) carbon capture and sequestration could be made to work, not just at coal-fired power stations, but wherever people were burning oil (e.g. in their cars). This is going to be a real challenge for Australia, because we are the Saudi Arabia of coal.

Renewables are a long-term solution (especially if they could be combined with power storage, to meet baseload requirements even in periods without sun or wind). The best nuclear option seems to be thorium cycle, but it's still in R&D. Meanwhile uranium works and we're bound to see a lot more of it worldwide... One problem is the rapidity with which things seem to be heating up now. It takes years to build new power stations and bring them online. Another specific subproblem is finding a sustainable substitute for liquid fossil fuels in transportation - biofuels are chewing up scarce cultivation capacity, just as grain yields (for example) are under threat from drought. Will it be all electric vehicles and bicycles?

Basically it's an optimization problem with lots of unknown parameters. What is the best combination of energy sources to aim for in the long term, and what is the best distribution of investment and policy now and tomorrow to get there? How, and how fast, do we phase out the unsustainable ones? And so on. I have a little project on the side of trying to represent all this in a standard exogenous growth model (the Solow model), with a separate factor for each energy source... This must have been done many times over already, but it's somewhere to start.

Posted by: mitchell porter at October 20, 2007 10:37 PM

Ok... Im in... That just leaves 65 billion, 999 million, 999 thousand, 999 others

I dont even own a car, and I use en efficient globes, save water, etc... oh but I did plant a few trees in the garden, but I confess they replaced the ones I neglected in the drought that died.

My largest CO2 emissions happen in the crapper... oh right... thats where my life is at the moment...

When you figure the cost of petrol can vary 25% in a single week depending on which day you buy it, I dare say you will get a lot of people willing to dump the car, if you can give them a viable alternative, ie transport that is at their door to take them whereever they want whenever they want to go there... beam me up scotty probably wont be around for a bit. The Gennie is definitely out of the bottle, so is the wine... damn...

Push bikes only appeal to those who are fit... the electric scooters are great, but only if everyone else is on one, they tend to be a death trap otherwise...

If we made e-scooter lanes/carriageways now, like they are doing in china, we may stand a chance of swapping everyone over...

Nah... we definitely need to educate the children, after all, think of the crap we are heaping on them to solve...

Maybe the space station can be renovated, put a couple of hundred million granny flats on it, so we can all look down on the mess we created , and just throw the fridge out the window when it doesnt work any more...

Quite frankly folks, the whole human race are a complete bunch of twits... Thank God Im a coyote.


Posted by: wilecoyote at October 21, 2007 12:26 AM

I have chosen to further comment on this on My Blog

I just want to give a perspective on how we would be if we put our minds to it.

Posted by: wile1one at October 27, 2007 6:02 PM

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