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22 June 2015


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"...And daddy won't you take me back to Muhlenberg County
Down by the Green River where Paradise lay.
Well, I'm sorry my son, but you're too late in asking
Mr. Peabody's coal train has hauled it away."

...and that's just about the local effects of coal mining. JP had no idea about the global effects when he wrote that.

Charles Dekle

I agree. As a retired engineer, I think that if we (the human race) apply solutions to address air pollution, water pollution, deforestation, inefficient agriculture techniques, and any number of problems created by the overuse of resources then we will improve the quality of life on the planet. As for global warming, I am not sure if those solutions would address that but I like being able to breathe clean air, drink clean water, and eat uncontaminated food.

If global temperatures continue to rise, then we will need technological solutions which will provide efficient shelter and comfort for the human race. I am not sure if we are up to the challenge given the current state of affairs but I certainly hope so. I would rather go down tying to do something rather than just accepting the status quo. It is complicated we have solved many other complicated problems related to our survival before.

cville reader

Re: the Catholic Church and subsidiarity

I think from your question that you are not Catholic, or at least have never dealt with a local parish, or diocese. I prefer not to get into this discussion at the moment. All I will say is that subsidiarity has always been one of the primary tenets of all Catholic social teaching. If you are have more interest, there is plenty of information about this subject available online.

Re: China

Where did the data come from that you based your study on? How do you know it was accurate? What controls were in place to obtain that data? Everyone knows that the best way to lie is with statistics.

I have never had any direct business dealings with the Chinese, (by that I mean people who live in China), but I know people who have. What I have been told is that the Chinese business environment is, shall we say, ethically challenged.

China also has no free press. So where does the accountability you are looking for come from?

Also, are you familiar with China's current usage of coal?

Charles I

You just don't understand a thing. Do you think the atmosphere exists independently from the Oceans?

Read a book called:

Under a Green Sky: Global Warming, the Mass Extinctions of the Past, and What They Can Tell Us About Our Future Paperback – March 25, 2008



"It strikes me that there is a strong religious undertone to these donations which are supposedly going to help SAVE the planet. Reminds me a bit of the abuse of indulgences that happened in the late middle ages"

Valissa, that comparison is a familiar one. I wonder if perhaps you've been dipping a little too deeply into the writings of the late Alexander Cockburn on the subject?


Rationing? Sigh. Not happening. You offer some made up, improbable possibilities. The data would be worth money to power companies, but billions? Don't think so. Would love to see the rationale behind that claim. I trust you know that in many areas of the world, solar is now the cheapest alternative, and as Swanson's law continues to hold, solar is likely cheaper than fossil fuels in the relatively near future. I agree with not having subsidies. As was shown in Colorado, the claims about huge increases in energy costs when switching to alternative energy sources did not pan out. The sector will do just fine without them.

Draconian power plan? Must be a different one than what I read. Cutting down on particulate emissions alone will give us large savings. While you don't want to subsidize cleaner energy, fine with me, I don't especially want to pay of the externalities present with some of the fossil fuels.

Babak Makkinejad

And I submit that you do not understand the complexity of the atmospheric chemistry and the effect of clouds on Earth's radiation budget.


Stephanie, my observation about "indulgences" comes from (AFAIK) a combination of my own studies on the history of religion (esp. regarding the nature of collective beliefs and social change) and David Graeber's book 'Debt: The First 5000 Years' where he had some very interesting things to say about the intersection of religion, societal beliefs, power and money.

Granted, it's possible I've read something by Cockburn on the subject and my conscious mind has simply forgotten that :)

cville reader


I never said the data was worth money to the power companies. What do you think it might be worth to Silicon Valley investors?

Solar may now be the cheapest alternative, but it is still far more expensive that what is being produced today. And right now, it cannot produce large scale amounts of energy. Also, because there are limitations on how it can be stored, a backup supply from another source is always needed. Having two systems in place costs a lot more money.

And you cannot generalize between states about energy costs relative to electricity. Electricity grids are managed at the state level, and each one is sourced differently. Switching to different sources may be much easier for some states than others. Utility companies, in order to survive, have to have the ability to recover the costs of existing infrastructure.

So, for example, if a utility company in Virginia has recently built a coal fired plant on the assumption that it could be recovered over 20 or 30 years, and the EPA suddenly pulls the plug on it after five years, how do you think the utility is going to recover this cost (usually called a stranded cost)? Guess what? They will raise the rate of electricity for all consumers,because the rate is composed of many different things, not just the raw cost of the power.

BTW, which part of the Clean Air Act gives the EPA the authority to regulate power plants in individual states? Many attorneys, including some liberal ones, say that the EPAs actions are grossly unconstitutional.

But things like laws, and basic principles of finance appear to be too mundane for those who are wedded to the fantasy of getting to zero.

different clue

Babak Makkinejad,

The German engineer Rudolf Diesel already did that, many decades ago. He called it the "diesel" engine and he himself designed it to run on various vegetable oils.

I read somewhere that an Englishman named Mr. Lister developed a very simple robust durable reliable version of the diesel engine for use in poor countries where maintainance would be spotty and/or far away.


Tidewater replying to Babak Makkinejad and commenting to All,

I too have been having these conversations, but with the internet. My scientific knowledge is so problematic that I have been trying to reeducate myself. Is gas an element? Why is greenhouse gas so dangerous? How reliable is "ice core paleo-climatology research?" Just how "Abrupt" can climate change be?

I constantly wrongfoot myself. The Shakova-Semiletov geologic field research stipulates the fear of a methane hydrate "burp" of a size not five gigatons but rather fifty gigatonnes.

How? (And how did the methane get there to start with?)

Babak Makkinejad, you pose the question, OK, going forward from this point, what would be the estimated increase over a ten year period of the greenhouse gas methane?

And you also raise the question "Is there any way to deduce or otherwise infer the rate of the methane release from the East Siberian Arctic Ice Shelf a thousand years ago. When earth was in fact warmer than it is today?"

And you bring up the whole idea of cores. My focus at moment being ice cores, but as you recognize there are also cores being taken from the ocean bottom, as for example in the Arabian sea.

Do I think "they" could tell you what the weather was a thousand years ago off Greenland in a certain time-frame? Or Antarctica? And also could scientists determine the methane and oxygen content of that "weather?" I don't know if they could nail it down to a particular weekend, but yes, I do think that. They can tell.


It might be noted in the first instance that the game is not necessarily an All-American game. Ice cores could be taken from the European station on Antarctica to some place in Switzerland. There the cores would be put into the time-frame, I mean how each inch or foot or so matches geologic history.

So how much have they got, timewise? They have an amazing 800,000 to 875,000 years of ice cores. But not much more. And that's not much if you start thinking about extinction events in the sho'nuff wayback times. Such as the Permian extinction. Which did not involve mankind because mankind did not exist then, but it did kill off most of every other life-form.

How do they know that?

Because some of these extinction epochs can be identified, not in a handful of dust, but rather in a thin line of clayey sediment that might just be in a highway cut. (Geology is a carryover sport.) And this dark clay, under a microscope, has weirdly, very, very few of the sea life-forms of that era, say, trilobites. (This might be a desgracia; something that ends in "pod" could be better.) Anyway,almost nothing. That inch or so of clay represents the reality of a million years of life on earth, and it is a near death zone.

But then somehow everything changes, it all comes back, and the very recent 875,000 years are very useful solid evidence of a system correcting itself. A comets strikes, a volcano goes off, everything goes down, it comes back. Self-corrects. Like a rhythm to it. You can see how the Gaia Theory (a metaphor?) created by James Lovelock (Wiki, wiki, tavi!) has a kind of elegance to it.

And when did the climate stop correcting itself? Guess!

Now this is just me talking, but surely it's obvious that there has been no total, comprehensive extinction of mankind in the last six million years. That being the age some experimental prototype (really small-dick) model of mankind likely existed. Two million for sure. Because if there had been, we wouldn't be here.

So the Shakova-Semiletov frontline "hard rock" fieldwork questions raised about methane has to be considered from the Permian angle. What would be the outer limits of methane increase beyond which mankind, if mankind had existed, would be dead? And how do they know it? To put it another way (as they now do with ships, "Suez Max" or "Q-Max"): what about Methane Max?

There seems to be a controversial area of science theory that has come to some conclusions about the methane of the Permian Extinction that actually sets an amount of methane per billion, or CO2 per million, which is considered to be IT. They can get the weather back then in these most immemorial years I assume from ancient fossils, ancient coral, ancient tree rings. All kinds of ancient shit. (Actually, I don't know how.) Except that the conclusions will be, are being bitterly debated. And I might add that the Royal Society did not invite Shakova-Semiletov to their anuual meeting some years back, which I find incredible. And the point needs to be made ,as for example to Oofda's mention of Elizabeth Kolbert, that her work might just be a bit behind the curve these days if compared to some of these blogs. She is the ONE to read, but the science is accelerating so fast--I think it must be getting into real time-- and it takes years to write and publish a book. Frankly, I've only read her in the New Yorker and she's terrific.

To repeat. There now exists a number that's been put out there in re parts per billion which is Methane Max. There are scientists in complete despair. And if it is true that the "hockey stick" analogy is correct, then the methane is just now climbing the hocky stick handle off the flat and the Methane Max is not that far up there above it. All this assuming that they are right in their possibly problematic data sets about the Permian Extinction. Nevertheless, shocking information is coming in, and mathematical models can be made from the data, and the simplest, truest thing to say in the here and now is that there is most likely going to be some horrifying further data to add to what is already there in the next two to three years. Almost certainly the data is going to show a further climb up the hockey stick. Surely there is a point at which the Permian Methane Max glaring down into the face of the climbing thermostat, or maybe the other way around, then consider this: why shouldn't that be considered a trigger to a preemptive global extermination war using biological methods? The 1918 Spanish influenza was considerably worse than the Black Death. Went around twice and killed at least forty million including one of my grandfathers, a physician.

But getting back to that ice core from a thousand years ago (a piece of cake, actually as science goes), what happens to it? Since it must be worth its weight in stacks of Krugerrands, only the tiniest bit is removed and put into a vacuum chamber which has sensors that can evaluate gases, oxygen, methane, and more. And from this bit of a thousand year old weather, they look for the oxygen isotope, one of two, one heavier. There is a ratio between them. From the presence and amount of one of these oxygen isotopes they have almost a horn-book law kind of rule about EXACTLY HOW WARM IT WAS OR WAS NOT WARM. (All ya' gotta do is type it in....)

So the amount of methane in the atmosphere a thousand years ago is easily known. With the interesting caveat, does latitude matter? Little ice age here, but what about little ice age over there? Is it possible to have a little ice age in one part of the globe and still be warming?

My understanding of the methane question is that the amount of methane precisely a thousand years ago was not (as said) a killing amount; in fact, it was probably about where we are now in parts per billion ,with the exception that what is happening now is that the methane seems to be steadily rising up to and soon beyond what they know was the level back then. (These are the Happy Times.) It seems runaway, looking to go right up the hockey stick handle.

And the conversation is going to continue. Because whatever the parts per billion are now, today, there is new hardware up there--new satellites have been built, and worrisome new areas are starting to be spotted. The Laptev Sea. I don't even know my geography. I am just getting comfy with the idea that Wrangel Island exists.

Interesting about Wangel Island. They know the Mastodons didn't just die out all at once. Because there is good evidence that a mini-Mastodon existed long after on Wrangel. I happen to own the vertebra of the spine of a Mastodon. Looks like a coral lump. Takes two hands to hold it and it's heavy. I don't particularly like it. Neighbor who gave it to me made the comment about what it was. It probably came up in a scallop bag. The New Bedford rig has a chain link bottom and a heavy burlap top on the bag. There is a cutting bar. Scallop draggers scour the bottom. (Destroy it.) Some years back a scallop dragger out of Hampton (Virginia) called the Cinmar brought up an entire mastodon. Fifty miles off of the Virginia Capes; two hundred fifty feet of water. Problem was, it was an amazingly small scallop dragger. Amazingly big catch. So they hacksawed off one of the tusks and cut it up, gave a section to each crewmember and dropped the incredible hulk back down. Marked it on a chart. There was something else. This,too, went into the little museum at Gwynn(Gywynn's) Island. A blade that was a knife. It is chipped from rhyolite from South Mountain near Emmitsburg, Maryland. If one assumes the blade got into the chain bag because a guy was cutting up the mastodon fifty miles out on the edge of the savannah/forest that was the Atlantic coastal shelf back then, then radio carbon dating would suggest that Virginia was settled twelve thousand years sooner than they thought, maybe from Europe.

But that's not my point. If the Atlantic coastal plain had thousands of years of "botanical debris" being produced from, is it seven Virginia rivers (?) just like the seven Siberian rivers (?) then that is where the methane originated. After which it was gradually covered over in an interval of twenty thousand years with three hundred feet of water and washed off the edge of the Norfolk Canyon and covered with thousands of feet of silt. Recent oil surveys by the little submarine type called Alvin reveal that the methane is coming up. Interesting that there is a kind of Grand Canyon fifty miles off the Virginia capes.

The coastal shelf off of east arctic Siberia was also a savannah, with roaming animals and also people, I would guess. It runs some two hundred miles out and the water is shallow. When Semiletov got the idea of exploring the state of the methane hydrates beneath this arctic region he was coming to the realization that the potential methane deposits were considerably larger than the methane on shore in the permafrost that Russian scientists were already studying.

This is where I find the whole story simply stunning. About five or six years ago I came across a little mention in a climate blog. It discussed what a scientist named Semiletov had been doing back in say the early 1990's, which was putting out listening devices, hundreds or even thousands of little hydrophones from this interesting type of ship that seemed like the "Academician" class, the Academician Lavrentiev. What he and his team were trying to determine was if it might be possible to HEAR methane bubbling up, which would indicate destabilization of the frozen hydrates. In 1992 you could not see any methane coming up in the Siberian ocean!

Not many years after this, with Shakova by his side, Semiletov returned to the East Siberian Arctic Coast and found "fountains" of methane bubbling up that covered thousands of meters of ocean. One fine day I read it in the Daily Mail. I remembered who he was. He said he was shocked. I knew it. This really was news. It had happened in a period of some fifteen to twenty years. This is the Big Change.

They are both now famous in Russia, by the way.

If the methane coming up soon expands to square miles--and it will-- then how can the research vessel even risk going out there? Methane is explosive. I cannot help thinking about the movie the Poseidon Adventure, which I never saw. A ship falls down to the bottom of the ocean.

Could an ocean environment become so heavily methanated (?) that a ship could not float in it?

So, Dr. B., my effort at answering your questions would be that they easily know the methane content and other profile of the "weather" a thousand years ago, or ten thousand years ago, and more. But as to going forward and what they know or can deduce is actually the central question of our time.

different clue

Babak Makkinejad,

Methane is a gas. Most of the matter in the atmosphere is a mixture of gases. Methane doesn't have to "dissolve" into the atmosphere. All methane gas has to do is to mix into the atmosphere just like most of the other gases that are already mixed together ( not "dissolved") in the atmosphere.


Valissa, no worries. It wasn't original to Cockburn, either. :)

Babak Makkinejad

Thanks; I knew I could count on Germans to have done something in this arena.

So, what is needed is to develop a process for manufacturing these stationary Diesel-Lister Engines that could be done in rural foundry in a country such as Nigeria or Congo.

Excellent news.

For myself, I was thinking of a combined system of solar furnace, Stirling engine, and Winding springs - for a country such as Ghana or Mail - to store energy and then use it to do mechanical work.

Babak Makkinejad

Thank you for your comments.

Regrettably, I do not have the depth to respond to all your points.

On general grounds, one can invoke the Le Chatelier principle - a system in dynamic equilibrium, if disturbed, will alter itself is such a way as to maintain that equilibrium state - and expect the increase of Green-house gases will cause the Earth system to respond in a way to compensate for those changes.

Specifically, a warmer surface temperature will cause more moisture in the atmosphere and cause more clouds to be formed. These clouds, reflect more of the incoming sun light - reduce the albedo of Eath - and thus cause less heart to be received by Earth and more radiated into the space.

I once worked on this problem very very superficially and I believe 25 years agao and the modeling of the effect of the clouds on Earth's radiation budget remains an unresolved research problem - to the best of my knowledge.

But I hope you accept the increased cloud formation as a corrective mechanism.

In regards to the core samples, unfortunately, not enough money has been allocated to these poor geologists and atmospheric scientists to collect large numbers of core samples. This can be remedied if governments allocate funds for more research; alas they prefer to spend money on war gadgets.

But some core samples actually did go back 2 million years - taken in 1990s.

I personally have to trust the results of the techniques applied to the analysis of the core samples; that activity has been taking place since 1940s and I should think that by now there is a very solid agreement among the experts on how to analyze these samples and deduce reliable results.

Please note that these results are themselves corroborated (or not) by results from other considerations - such as the abundance of fossils of this or that marine organism that itself serves as a surrogate for the extent of glaciers (sear levels rise and fall depending on how much water is trapped in ice, salinity changes and species' populations rise and fall with salinity - or temperature for example).

More core samples have been taken since then but I have not looked into the results if their analysis - one has to find a review article or book which I have not come across; mostly because of other tasks.

I was not aware of the richness of the US coast that you have mentioned; certainly it is deserving of study but there will be no funding for it. A graduate student costs roughly about $ 50K a year - do you think the Public in US, EU, Russia, China will support that sort of expenditures?

As for researching methane issue - you can fly over the area - if sear travel is unsafe - and drop small autonomous robots that sink into various depths and collect data. You can then have these robots self-inflate and bubble to the surface and transmit their data. The technology for this exists but not the money. And this is just what I could come up with - there are people with great depth of vision and knowledge in scientific instrumentation that can devise many more clever and more efficient means of collecting data. But they are either not funded or under-funded.

The greatest flaw in the climate debate, in my opinion, is the reliance of 4 or 5 climate computer models that have been concocted. I do not trust those models; their physics and chemistry is incomplete, the effects of clouds are not properly accounted for and lastly there are too many adjustable parameters that can be tweaked to get the results that one wants.

I have seen papers in which a consensus among these climate models has been used as evidence of scientific truth; that is patently nonsensical - the authors were using the results of those models in a way reminiscent of the ancient Greek Oracles.

I am not denying that the Earth is warming but I am not an alarmist nor one who is blaming human beings for being the major cause of warming - 2 million years of very precise global warming periods have been observed.

And we have much better materials, processes and devices and systems to deal with global warming.

I personally also do not believe we need some sort of international agreement or consensus. What would that do for the case of the persistent draught in the Middle East - from Afghanistan all the way to Israel?

If this decades-long draught in the Middle East is caused by Global Warming, what is the UN going to do to help these 500 million people? What could US do? or China? or EU?

Nothing, in my view.


Babak and different clue, you may find these simple agricultural mechanical devices of interest.

Full Belly Project http://www.thefullbellyproject.org/Products.aspx

We look for small effective non-profits like this to donate to, instead of the big NGOs.


Thank you for your reply.
You are right I have had no dealings with the Catholic church at any level but was think, at least in part, about a video of PL explaining Islam, and its lack of central control, compared to the Catholic system. As an outsider it just seemed an odd comment.

Re. CO2 data. I went back to the GapMinder site and checked which database it drew CO2 emissions data from and it uses CDIAC (Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Center which is part of the US DoE)it gives the current values for the US (in meter tons of Carbon/cap) as 4.54 and for China as 1.8 making the 13th & 55th respectively.


YT replies to Tidewater,

RE: Science can be sexy too.

I have been much engrossed with the (geopolitical) content of the posts here, in addition to the Wealth of Knowledge offered by the many Contributors who frequent this site.

Nay, p'raps I have lost faith in the words "march of progress"...

Hence my not reading up the latest on "scientific advances."

Tell me: which Islands in this Sea of Information (i.e. science websites) number amongst your favourites?

The Twisted Genius


Thanks for that link to the Full Belly Project. That's the kind of technology that can allow people throughout the world to move to a subsistence economy, which isn't a bad existence. We can also learn a lot from seeing how some hunter/farming/pastoral cultures have tackled the challenge of living in sometimes marginal environments. No, we're not all going to become nomadic goat herders, but there's no need to force all nomadic goat herders to live in towns and grow cash crops that only benefit Monsanto and the World Bank.

different clue

cville reader,

If the EPA Clean Power Plan would raise electricity rates by 30%, we could either just pay 30% more, or we could use 30% less electricity and pay the same, or we could use 15% less electricity than now and pay 15% more for it. None of these things is an unsurvivable calamity.

different clue


The upcoming mass extinction event could kill off 2 or so million species of life of various sizes. Focusing on an undesirable form of life such as ebola to distract oneself from the bigger problem seems to be a form of "reduction ad ebolum" . . . if I may. I, too. wouldn't have minded seeing ebola specifically go extinct on its own, till I read TTG's comment about science learning to use parts of ebola's outer coat to carry medicines to body cell targets. One never knows what odd little species might become valuable in the crudest and narrowest sense as science learns to do more things with more things.

About mosquitos, they are the principal food source of the purple martin, which is a very popular bird in this country. If the mosquitos all go extinct, will the purple martins follow them?

Here is another example of a species beloved-of-environmentalists turning out to offer some interesting science/technology benefit while still alive. Its about how the study of micro-currents around the bumps on the leading edges of the humpback whale's flippers inspired a way to make wind-turbine blades more efficient.

Save the whales! (Win cash prizes).

different clue


Memory fades over time, but I, too, think I remember concern about a coming "frosty chill" age being voiced during the seventies. I remember some very plausible reasons being advanced for thinking so. I remember a very respected climatologist named Reid Bryson voicing this concern. Here is a Reid Bryson interview in Mother Earth News magazine.

I remember reading some other very reasonable-seeming predictions of a coming frosty chill age. The fact that it didn't happen is used to ridicule climatology and climatologists nowadays today. "Remember when they were predicting an Ice Age? Well, where is their Ice Age? Ha! Ha! Ha! " And, stripped of its ridicule, it is a fair question. Were the frosty chill predicters wrong all along?

I am not so sure. I think their prediction was right at the time and would have stayed right, all other things being equal. But all other things did not stay equal. The chilloff prediction was based on a study of natural sun cycles, earth orbit shape-change cycles, earth axis-angle change and wobble cycles, etc. Neither Reid Bryson nor the other climatologists of his day took account of the considerable man made carbon skydumping under way, or the vast explosion of carbon skydumping yet to come.

So here's what I think happened and is happening. We were going to cool off and would have just as predicted, but the vast heat-retention effect cause by vast output of skycarbon and nitrous oxides and other green house gases overwhelmed and is overwhelming the cooloff with fresh heat. In other words, the frosty future was overtaken by events.


The 'Perfidious Albionans'...?


For industrialized nations like US, perhaps this can reinvigorate the local manufacturing activity.



I know you directed this question to Tidewater, but I'll put my small list here anyway :D


If you are a fan of Open source technology then you will like this:

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