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  1. #1
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    CO2 - Inaction, The Best Policy

    Is Global Warming Unstoppable?

    November 23, 2009

    In a provocative new study, a University of Utah scientist argues that rising carbon dioxide emissions - the major cause of global warming - cannot be stabilized unless the world's economy collapses or society builds the equivalent of one new nuclear power plant each day.

    "It looks unlikely that there will be any substantial near-term departure from recently observed acceleration in carbon dioxide emission rates," says the new paper by Tim Garrett, an associate professor of atmospheric sciences.

    Garrett's study was panned by some economists and rejected by several journals before acceptance by Climatic Change, a journal edited by renowned Stanford University climate scientist Stephen Schneider. The study will be published online this week.

    The study - which is based on the concept that physics can be used to characterize the evolution of civilization - indicates:

    Energy conservation or efficiency doesn't really save energy, but instead spurs economic growth and accelerated energy consumption.

    Throughout history, a simple physical "constant" - an unchanging mathematical value - links global energy use to the world's accumulated economic productivity, adjusted for inflation. So it isn't necessary to consider population growth and standard of living in predicting society's future energy consumption and resulting carbon dioxide emissions.

    "Stabilization of carbon dioxide emissions at current rates will require approximately 300 gigawatts of new non-carbon-dioxide-emitting power production capacity annually - approximately one new nuclear power plant (or equivalent) per day," Garrett says. "Physically, there are no other options without killing the economy."

    Getting Heat for Viewing Civilization as a "Heat Engine."
    Garrett says colleagues generally support his theory, while some economists are critical. One economist, who reviewed the study, wrote: "I am afraid the author will need to study harder before he can contribute."

    "I'm not an economist, and I am approaching the economy as a physics problem," Garrett says. "I end up with a global economic growth model different than they have."

    Garrett treats civilization like a "heat engine" that "consumes energy and does 'work' in the form of economic production, which then spurs it to consume more energy," he says.

    "If society consumed no energy, civilization would be worthless," he adds. "It is only by consuming energy that civilization is able to maintain the activities that give it economic value. This means that if we ever start to run out of energy, then the value of civilization is going to fall and even collapse absent discovery of new energy sources."

    Garrett says his study's key finding "is that accumulated economic production over the course of history has been tied to the rate of energy consumption at a global level through a constant factor."

    That "constant" is 9.7 (plus or minus 0.3) milliwatts per inflation-adjusted 1990 dollar. So if you look at economic and energy production at any specific time in history, "each inflation-adjusted 1990 dollar would be supported by 9.7 milliwatts of primary energy consumption," Garrett says.

    Garrett tested his theory and found this constant relationship between energy use and economic production at any given time by using United Nations statistics for global GDP (gross domestic product), U.S. Department of Energy data on global energy consumption during1970-2005, and previous studies that estimated global economic production as long as 2,000 years ago. Then he investigated the implications for carbon dioxide emissions.

    "Economists think you need population and standard of living to estimate productivity," he says. "In my model, all you need to know is how fast energy consumption is rising. The reason why is because there is this link between the economy and rates of energy consumption, and it's just a constant factor."

    Garrett adds: "By finding this constant factor, the problem of [forecasting] global economic growth is dramatically simpler. There is no need to consider population growth and changes in standard of living because they are marching to the tune of the availability of energy supplies."

    To Garrett, that means the acceleration of carbon dioxide emissions is unlikely to change soon because our energy use today is tied to society's past economic productivity.

    "Viewed from this perspective, civilization evolves in a spontaneous feedback loop maintained only by energy consumption and incorporation of environmental matter," Garrett says. It is like a child that "grows by consuming food, and when the child grows, it is able to consume more food, which enables it to grow more."

    Is Meaningful Energy Conservation Impossible?
    Perhaps the most provocative implication of Garrett's theory is that conserving energy doesn't reduce energy use, but spurs economic growth and more energy use.
    "Making civilization more energy efficient simply allows it to grow faster and consume more energy," says Garrett.
    He says the idea that resource conservation accelerates resource consumption - known as Jevons paradox - was proposed in the 1865 book "The Coal Question" by William Stanley Jevons, who noted that coal prices fell and coal consumption soared after improvements in steam engine efficiency.

    So is Garrett arguing that conserving energy doesn't matter?

    "I'm just saying it's not really possible to conserve energy in a meaningful way because the current rate of energy consumption is determined by the unchangeable past of economic production. If it feels good to conserve energy, that is fine, but there shouldn't be any pretense that it will make a difference."

    Yet, Garrett says his findings contradict his own previously held beliefs about conservation, and he continues to ride a bike or bus to work, line dry family clothing and use a push lawnmower.

    An Inevitable Future for Carbon Dioxide Emissions?
    Garrett says often-discussed strategies for slowing carbon dioxide emissions and global warming include mention increased energy efficiency, reduced population growth and a switch to power sources that don't emit carbon dioxide, including nuclear, wind and solar energy and underground storage of carbon dioxide from fossil fuel burning. Another strategy is rarely mentioned: a decreased standard of living, which would occur if energy supplies ran short and the economy collapsed, he adds.
    "Fundamentally, I believe the system is deterministic," says Garrett. "Changes in population and standard of living are only a function of the current energy efficiency. That leaves only switching to a non-carbon-dioxide-emitting power source as an available option."

    "The problem is that, in order to stabilize emissions, not even reduce them, we have to switch to non-carbonized energy sources at a rate about 2.1 percent per year. That comes out to almost one new nuclear power plant per day."

    "If society invests sufficient resources into alternative and new, non-carbon energy supplies, then perhaps it can continue growing without increasing global warming," Garrett says.

    Does Garrett fear global warming deniers will use his work to justify inaction?

    "No," he says. "Ultimately, it's not clear that policy decisions have the capacity to change the future course of civilization."

    http://www.physorg.com/news178178343.html
    Last edited by phlipper; 11-23-2009 at 03:04 PM.

  2. #2
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    Re: CO2 - Inaction, The Best Policy

    good point if he bases it solely on energy and nothing else.

    There is indeed a tipping point and a point of no return in the global warming theory no matter how you look at it. He is suggesting that it is physically impossible to not hit that.

    He bases it on a study drop. I personally think that it will happen at the drop of a stone.

    How much carbon could you save if ever single car on earth became a hybrid or an even better hybrid?

    You replace you car every 5 years or so. It's not unreasonable to think that if technology was advanced and hybrids became the norm that everyone on earth would switch to one.

    All you need is the next big technology and the industries willingness to use and develop it. The Auto Industry, pre-recession were dragging there feet.

    Than there is the idea of conservation. With Canada, The US, china and I think austrial/New Zeland being some of the worst offenders.

    Already, Canada is putting big incentives on energy savings from insulation, to geothermal heating units, New buildings are being given LEED Ratings on there sustainability. There is a new mall that went up that powered a portion of it's building with some windmills on site.

    Canada is working on reducing and we are bring new Nuclar power plants online over the next couple of years.



    Even if you fail to win the race the war is worth fighting. If you don't there is no reason at all to think that any North American City would not end up like China. People walking around with gas masks.


    There are other factors to increase reduction. From seading the oceans with plankton (one big problem has been that pollution and past Ozone depleation killed huge plankton populations). Laws to govern rainforest deforestation (big carbon reducers there) and and increased eye towards green construction.
    Last edited by Spector567; 11-23-2009 at 01:46 PM.

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    Re: CO2 - Inaction, The Best Policy

    Hard to say much about this until the paper comes out. I just checked, and it's not online yet. The article says it should be available some time this week.



    Judging from the OP, however, he seems to be saying that if we assume that CO2 emissions always grow constantly over time, then nothing we do will stop them from growing constantly over time. I'm sure there must be more to it than that, but honestly, if he's trying to describe all of the history of human civilization with a few parameters, then I don't have think his model is going to have much predictive power.

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    Re: CO2 - Inaction, The Best Policy

    It seems too good to be true that such a few variables can describe real world complexities. His reasoning, the more Green you get, the more it stimulates ecomomic activity, the more CO2 levels go up. Sometimes, things that appear to equate to just a few variables, are actually more complex. Yet, more often than not, Occam's razor does apply.
    Last edited by phlipper; 11-23-2009 at 03:02 PM.

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    Re: CO2 - Inaction, The Best Policy

    Quote Originally Posted by phlipper View Post
    It seems too good to be true that such a few variables can describe real world complexities. His reasoning, the more Green you get, the more it stimulates ecomomic activity, the more CO2 levels go up. Sometimes, things that appear to equate to just a few variables, are actually more complex. Yet, more often than not, Occam's razor does apply.
    So what your saying is that going green can stimulate the economy? By let say introducing new technology, new markets and increased quality.

    Isn't that a good thing?

    Pascals Wager does apply.

  6. #6
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    Re: CO2 - Inaction, The Best Policy

    Quote Originally Posted by Spector567 View Post
    So what your saying is that going green can stimulate the economy? By let say introducing new technology, new markets and increased quality.

    Isn't that a good thing?

    Pascals Wager does apply.
    It depends. My opinion is that we should let the free markets compete, loosen regulations on building nuclear power plants and drilling for oil. If CO2 is the red herring I think it is, we could finally turn attention to real solutions. Doing "feel good" things like changing light bulbs, for a lot of reasons, ain't gonna do it. Wind, Solar, or whatever, bring it on - let it compete. Quit listening to people who say corporations are the bad guys. Just my opinion.

  7. #7
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    Re: CO2 - Inaction, The Best Policy

    I have to add the obvious about Tim Garrett's paper. Apparent high correlation of events, in themselves, do not necessarily validate a theory. :rotz:

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    Re: CO2 - Inaction, The Best Policy

    Quote Originally Posted by phlipper View Post
    It depends. My opinion is that we should let the free markets compete, loosen regulations on building nuclear power plants and drilling for oil. If CO2 is the red herring I think it is, we could finally turn attention to real solutions. Doing "feel good" things like changing light bulbs, for a lot of reasons, ain't gonna do it. Wind, Solar, or whatever, bring it on - let it compete. Quit listening to people who say corporations are the bad guys. Just my opinion.
    I agree with some of what you have said.

    However, I don't think you are aware of a couple of things like how much power the oil companies have. They own a big portion of the automakers and an even greater portion of congress. They want there oil used and for several decades have stoned walled anything that would decrease there use.
    How many presidents have you had from texas? Who were they major backers? I know Bush an oil man himself was backed heavily by the oil company.

    You may remember the electric car. Think about it. If you were a corporation with lots of money.... Wouldn't you buy out the competition?
    It's what Microsoft does to stay competitive.

    As to the feel good things. Whats 6% of 20 billion. Yes light bulbs seem kinda silly to you but they actually do use considerably less electricity and last longer. They also generate less heat that would require cooling. The same goes for better insulation.

    It's the little feel good things that benifit you personally the most as well. When I buy a house I plan to get good appliences so I will pay $200 less a month in electricity over the life of the applience.


    Also, coal plants are outdated and are only used as surplus. It's that extra 6% that pushs us into coal plant territory. Remove that 6% and remove a lot of the problem.

    Oil. Sure go at it. You know it's going to happen anyway. However, it is a finite resourse and you know for certain that it will run out. You also know for certain that it will double in price over the next 5 years. I personally want to be using 50% less oil so I don't have to foot the bill.
    Last edited by Spector567; 11-24-2009 at 01:31 PM.

  9. #9
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    Re: CO2 - Inaction, The Best Policy

    Quote Originally Posted by Spector567 View Post
    You may remember the electric car. Think about it. If you were a corporation with lots of money.... Wouldn't you buy out the competition?
    It's what Microsoft does to stay competitive.
    You have to be kidding. I don't know of any electric car being bought out by any major car company. Each are working on electric and alternative fuel vehicles. Microsoft hasn't bought Apple. Please give me an example of a company that has bought a technology only to bury it. It may have happend but give me a good example.

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    Re: CO2 - Inaction, The Best Policy

    Quote Originally Posted by phlipper View Post
    You have to be kidding. I don't know of any electric car being bought out by any major car company. Each are working on electric and alternative fuel vehicles. Microsoft hasn't bought Apple. Please give me an example of a company that has bought a technology only to bury it. It may have happend but give me a good example.
    I don't have the time right now to do the full search but you are fairly nieve about a couple of things.

    Microsoft regularly and routinely buys out the competition. They just don't make press releases about the smaller companies so how on earth would you know about it.
    http://blogs.zdnet.com/open-source/index.php?p=275 (red hat doesn't exist anymore does it?)
    http://digg.com/software/Microsoft_Buys_Out_Opera
    http://smallbusiness.yahoo.com/r-ans...KI-k-Microsoft

    http://ca.search.yahoo.com/search;_y...r1&sao=1&sao=1

    There is just more publication over it. It's obvious that microsoft can't buy apple. Apple is to big and will not accept a buy out deal.

    Any smaller companies do get bought up and often there products or modifications disappear.

    Why do you think there are only a few industry leaders in a few things?

    GM had the electric car fully made and sent out over 1000 of them. They pulled them all off the market and the company that created the fuel cell was told never to talk to the media.

    The technology has been around for some time. They didn't just pop out with this idea it was drawn up already.

    Also It's the technology that's being bought up not the cars and why on earth do you think you'd hear about it? Unless they made you a press release hardly anyone would ever know.

    It's not a massive conspiracy per say. It's just good business practices.

  11. #11
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    Re: CO2 - Inaction, The Best Policy

    Quote Originally Posted by phlipper View Post
    It depends. My opinion is that we should let the free markets compete, loosen regulations on building nuclear power plants and drilling for oil. If CO2 is the red herring I think it is, we could finally turn attention to real solutions. Doing "feel good" things like changing light bulbs, for a lot of reasons, ain't gonna do it. Wind, Solar, or whatever, bring it on - let it compete. Quit listening to people who say corporations are the bad guys. Just my opinion.
    So why not require corporations to bear responsibility for reclaiming any emissions in to the atmosphere? We already require them to internalize the costs of reclaiming pollutants on land or in water, why not in the atmosphere as well?

    I too think that the free market is the best way to solve the problem. But at the moment, the global population is paying to clean up the mess of a few polluters. The free market only works efficiently when individual entities are not able to socialise costs.

    Requiring organisations to pay $X per ton of CO2 emitted, where $X is the cost of cleaning up that CO2, is not socialism. It's free market capitalism (and the property rights that go along with it) at it's best.

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    Re: CO2 - Inaction, The Best Policy

    Quote Originally Posted by kazza View Post
    So why not require corporations to bear responsibility for reclaiming any emissions in to the atmosphere? We already require them to internalize the costs of reclaiming pollutants on land or in water, why not in the atmosphere as well?

    I too think that the free market is the best way to solve the problem. But at the moment, the global population is paying to clean up the mess of a few polluters. The free market only works efficiently when individual entities are not able to socialise costs.

    Requiring organisations to pay $X per ton of CO2 emitted, where $X is the cost of cleaning up that CO2, is not socialism. It's free market capitalism (and the property rights that go along with it) at it's best.
    Remember, when we ask corporations to pay, the costs are passed on to the consumer. In the end, we need to be careful what we are asking to be fixed or "cleaned up" and to what degree. There are limited monies for unlimited percieved problems. Whether corporations pay or individuals pay, the choices need to be identified and prioritized.

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    Re: CO2 - Inaction, The Best Policy

    Quote Originally Posted by phlipper View Post
    Remember, when we ask corporations to pay, the costs are passed on to the consumer. In the end, we need to be careful what we are asking to be fixed or "cleaned up" and to what degree. There are limited monies for unlimited percieved problems. Whether corporations pay or individuals pay, the choices need to be identified and prioritized.
    Agreed but the costs are already being passed on to the consumer.

    Cancer rates are on the rise, respiratory problems, chemical sensitivity auto-immune disorders.

    Is pollution from these companies the soul cause, I don't know. I do know that they are increasing the instances. It would be extreme and naive to suggest that they pay for everyone that got sick but hardly unreasonable for us to suggest that they reduce the affect on the consumer.

    Getting sick is expensive both in lifestyle, lost opportunity and the pocket book.

    The simple voluntary approach was tried in the past. The richest offenders didn't care and continued. Just look at china corporate greed over the people for the sake of economic progress. Some new approaches need to be tried. The cap'n'trade while currently imperfect is providing new industries and new opportunities and making those industries and companies that reduce more competitive vs. the competition.

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    Re: CO2 - Inaction, The Best Policy

    Wait didn't some scientists figure out you can put two garden hose sized tubes into the upper part of the atmosphere and pump up the same chemicals in a volcanic eruption to cool the planet? I would think it would be cheaper than these alternatives and is reverseable so why not try it?

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    Re: CO2 - Inaction, The Best Policy

    Quote Originally Posted by rubyslippers View Post
    Wait didn't some scientists figure out you can put two garden hose sized tubes into the upper part of the atmosphere and pump up the same chemicals in a volcanic eruption to cool the planet? I would think it would be cheaper than these alternatives and is reverseable so why not try it?
    There are lots of these types of ideas - they're grouped together under a field called geoengineering. They're usually MASSIVELY expensive, and could also have all sorts of unknown consequences. These are the sorts of things that we would do as an absolute last resort.

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    Re: CO2 - Inaction, The Best Policy

    Quote Originally Posted by rubyslippers View Post
    Wait didn't some scientists figure out you can put two garden hose sized tubes into the upper part of the atmosphere and pump up the same chemicals in a volcanic eruption to cool the planet? I would think it would be cheaper than these alternatives and is reverseable so why not try it?
    You know how scientists now say that our little changes to the atmosphere are having consequences. The Tube approach would radically alter weather patterns, on a global scale. Global warmings effects arguably have less to do with warming of the globe compared the weather changes.

    Putting 2 giant tubs in the upper atmopshers supported by god knows what (nothing that we have today) may cool that atmosphere but as far as I know creates a recipe to create supper hurricanes.

    Other forms of geoforming as kazza said are a last resort. It's essentially spending hundreds of billions and than radically altering the natural environment. It would have global consequences. You'd have to be in a pretty dire situation to justify the consequences.

    That doesn't mean that in the future when we understand things more than we might be more knowledgeable of what they are and how to do it properly that it might be possible. However, that still wouldn't fix any of the pollution problems at all.

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