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May 25, 2004

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Unapologetic

Climate change is indeed an issue that needs serious, intelligent discussion leading to appropriate policies. However, I see a couple of problems getting to that point. First, we tend to look to the government to solve large-scale problems. I suppose I can't quarrel with that--it's part of the function of government to address national concerns. However, climate change is fundamentally a science issue, not a political issue, and among politicians it gets debated at only the most general level and often by people who know little about it, leading to misguided policy. Second, the uncertainties associated with global warming primarily relate to causes: how much of that warming is being caused by human action? To answer this question, I think the politicians are going to have to rely more heavily on objective scientists than ever before to define the problem and find solutions. Lastly, I'd have to disagree with the call for more nuke plants. I don't object to nuke plants in general, but the spent fuel storage issues are staggering. I won't go into detail, but I spent 3 years of my life helping to prepare a huge report for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission regarding spent fuel storage. IMHO, the spent fuel issue is a deal breaker for nuke power. Moreover, the single American company that was pursuing the reactor design described in Bush's national energy policy as our only viable nuke plant for the future has withdrawn from the design and construction work on the prototype plant in South Africa.

chris forest

Comments on "Posted by: Unapologetic" in CAPS
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However, climate change is fundamentally a science issue, not a political issue, and among politicians it gets debated at only the most general level and often by people who know little about it, leading to misguided policy.

I'LL HAVE TO DISAGREE HERE. CLIMATE CHANGE IS VERY MULTI-FACETED. IT CAN BE VIEWED FROM SCIENTIFIC, POLITICAL, SOCIOLOGICAL, RELIGIOUS, AND PROBABLY MANY MORE VIEWPOINTS AND AT MANY DIFFERENT LEVELS (BUT PRIMARILY LOCAL VS GLOBAL). ONE STRIKING ISSUE IS THAT IT CAN BE BOTH BAD AND GOOD DEPENDING ON ONE'S VIEWPOINT. FOR EXAMPLE, IT MIGHT BE GOOD FOR SIBERIA (LONGER GROWING SEASON?), BUT BAD FOR COLORADO (SHORTER SKI SEASON?) I'M THINKING THAT THE BIG WILD CARD IS THE UNCERTAINTY IN PRECIPITATION. TEMPERATURE CHANGES ARE PROBABLY SOMETHING WE KNOW HOW TO HANDLE BUT COPING WITH POTENTIAL DROUGHT CONDITIONS ARE MUCH HARDER.

ALSO, THE POLITICIANS UNDERSTAND IT. AND A FEW UNDERSTAND IT WELL. THEY ALSO KNOW THEY HAVE A CONSTITUENCY TO REPRESENT.

Second, the uncertainties associated with global warming primarily relate to causes: how much of that warming is being caused by human action?

UNCERTAINTIES IN THE RESPONSE OF THE CLIMATE SYSTEM TO SAID CAUSES ARE EQUALLY UNCERTAIN, AND MUCH MORE DIRECTLY LINKED TO POLITICAL ACTION. IT'S THE FUTURE CLIMATE OUR KIDS WILL HAVE TO DEAL WITH.

To answer this question, I think the politicians are going to have to rely more heavily on objective scientists than ever before to define the problem and find solutions.

YES, BUT... MOST SCIENTISTS ARE NOT OBJECTIVE. EXCEPT FOR ME OF COURSE.

Lastly, I'd have to disagree with the call for more nuke plants. I don't object to nuke plants in general, but the spent fuel storage issues are staggering. I won't go into detail, but I spent 3 years of my life helping to prepare a huge report for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission regarding spent fuel storage. IMHO, the spent fuel issue is a deal breaker for nuke power.

I HAVE TO AGREE THAT THE SPENT FUEL, AT THIS TIME, APPEARS TO BE A DEAL BREAKER. 10 OR 20 YEARS FROM NOW, IT MAY NOT BE. WITH 3m OF SEALEVEL RISE, MOST OF FLORIDA WOULD BE GONE. WOULD THAT RISK BE ENOUGH TO BRING BACK NUKES?

Moreover, the single American company that was pursuing the reactor design described in Bush's national energy policy as our only viable nuke plant for the future has withdrawn from the design and construction work on the prototype plant in South Africa.

THAT'S NOT AN ARGUMENT AGAINST THE DESIGN, UNLESS THERE'S SOMETHING YOU'RE NOT SHARING...

Posted by: Unapologetic

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After these responses, I'm just going to add a few brief points on what's expected to happen with climate change by 2050. One generally accepted point is that the planet has warmed in the past century by 0.6-0.7K. A fairly accepted point is that given scientific uncertainties, about two thirds of that has resulted from human causes. Given the current concentrations of greenhouse gases and the inertia of the climate system, the climate system will probably warm by another 0.9K (0.4-2.0 K) by 2050, even if we decide to start acting now to reduce such concentrations. In addition, sealevel will probably rise by about 10-30cm from thermal expansion and melting glaciers without considering the melting of Greenland or Antarctic ice sheets. One thing to consider with these numbers is that even if we were to miraculously stop all emissions and halt the rise of GHG concentrations, the earth would continue to warm and sea-level would continue to rise for another 500-1000 years. After that time, sealevel rise would be about 1-3m and global average temperatures would be 2-5K warmer than today.

That's the simple picture and probably the best understood.

For a more complex view, see: http://web.mit.edu/globalchange/www/abstracts.html#a95
OR
http://dx.doi.org/10.1023/B:CLIM.0000004564.09961.9f

Is something like "The Day After Tomorrow" going to happen? Most likely, not. Will the weather and climate be different? Probably, yes. Are we leaving the world as we found it? Most definitely, not.

Skippy

Hey, it's just a movie! Independence Day was just a movie about aliens attacking. Chill out (haha)

jackie

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