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Climate Change and Renewable Energy

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Melchior
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#1

Posted 10 February 2014 - 12:01 PM Edited by Melchior, 10 February 2014 - 12:02 PM.

So here's the thing: all scientists who don't work for corporations that have a vested interest in smog-belching energy are saying the world is going to end if we don't do something. I get that not everyone is as radical as me, but really, if the oceans are drying up and California and Australia are burning to the ground, isn't a f*cking carbon tax a bit... moderate? Wouldn't any properly functioning society have knocked over all the smoke stacks and crushed all the cars a long time ago?

 

http://www.youtube.c...h?v=KH_BweaA5oE

 

Skip to 5:40 where they debate global warming. That sceptic on there... that's not a man who has been convinced by evidence that climate change is a hoax, that's a man speaking out of hostility towards scientists and environmentalists. In fact, we had a thread in gen chat a few months ago about members of Green Peace being arrested in Russia, and basically every response consisted of "f*ck those hippies, I hope they rot!" Why the hostility?

 

Honestly, I agree with commentators that say we're in the midst of a "Green Scare." There's real hatred of environmentalists and their "climate scams" with very little discussion of actual evidence. "Eco-terrorists" are often given outrageous sentences, and when depicted in fiction they're shown as outrageously violent towards humans but protective of the earth and animals, to the point of being unhinged. There's a general narrative in our society that environmentalists act of some "love of mother earth" or want to "give back to Gaia" or some other less than agreeable hippy bullsh*t rather than wanting their society to be clean, sustainable, safe and still around in a hundred years.

 

How do we combat this hostility and wilful ignorance?

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#2

Posted 10 February 2014 - 12:14 PM

I can't watch the video because I'm at work, but I agree with your general sentiment Melchoir. We are facing one of the worst ecological diasters in centuries and those of us forward-thinking enough to try and stop it are labelled "terrorists". I think there are two very obvious reasons for this:

 

1) Profit: Governments and corporations rely on making money in order to survive. The profit margin is the foundation of our economic system, without it, it would crash to the ground (not arguing that's a bad thing mind). There is big money to be made from environmentally exploitative practices and as long as that is the case the interests of profit will always outweigh the interests of the planet. Businessmen are only interested in short term profits, they do not concern themselves with whether future generations can live on the planet, not if they can make a few million in the mean time.

 

2) Politics: Those people who the government and media are labelling "terrorists" are using methods outside the ballot box to achieve change. They are using various forms of direct action that do not rely on lobbying politicians or voting for the least despised party once every four years. Governments don't like this because it threatens the very legitimacy of the democratic system. If people can change things themselves, without having to rely on the government, why do we need the government at all? That sort of thought scares those in power, so they have to stamp out dissent as soon as possible.

 

I honestly don't believe that we're going to solve the environment question under the current system. Not while the interests of government and big business are placed above the people and the planet. We need a massive shift in power and thinking before we'll even be in the position to tackle it.


sivispacem
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#3

Posted 10 February 2014 - 01:55 PM

The problem, from my perspective, is the fact that much of the environmental movement is also fundamentally opposed to forms of power that are environmentally comparatively friendly like nuclear, particularly breeder fission and thorium fuel cycle reactors. Many of the different renewables are great on smaller scales but become unfeasible at larger scales, or are very climate dependent. Tidal offers the best hope of generating long-tern power, but can't exactly be used in landlocked countries. Hydroelectric is environmentally very harmful and has huge human impacts. Solar and wind, including offshore, are very dependent on geographical conditions. Geothermal still emits greenhouse gasses.

I agree completely with you in respect of the behaviour of some elements of the scientific and large swathes of the political community, but there's also a lack of rationality and questionable idealism on the part of the environmental lobby. The fact of the matter is that changes in the energy make-up aren't going to happen overnight, and in the meantime we need to be investing in methods of cleaning up fossil fuel generation. They also need to stop irrational blanket opposition to investment in nuclear technologies because the way things currently stand the only form of electricity generation that can meet ongoing requirements for commerical/industrial power generation is nuclear.

And this is another aspect of it which both businesses and citizens are guilty of- failing to adopt technologies which reduce their dependence on energy generation of all kinds. I'm talking about things like implementing ground source heat pumps in residential and business properties as a routine matter of course, which I find utterly baffling given these are proven technologies and are very cost-effective over the course of building life. Yet I see the environmental lobby concentrating heavily on the form of electricity generation and various policies that demand usage reduction on an extreme scale yet seem strangely silent about things like this.
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Melchior
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#4

Posted 11 February 2014 - 01:50 AM

Solar and wind, including offshore, are very dependent on geographical conditions.

The technologies are still in their infancy, but they're expected to increase in efficiency greatly over the next few years, and the cost has been dropping and continues to drop, the cost of solar energy has dropped by half since 2010.

 

EU-PV-LCOE-Projection.png

 

I think it's pretty unfair to say that reliance on solar and wind is infeasible. Yes, if we were to replace all the smoke stacks with windmills, we'd have to cut down on the amount of Ferraris and happy meal toys we produce every year, but that's hardly a reason not to combat a literal apocalypse. In fact, it sounds like a nice bonus. I'd rather not boil alive because we simply can't live without all the useless crap we produce.

 

 

 

I agree completely with you in respect of the behaviour of some elements of the scientific and large swathes of the political community, but there's also a lack of rationality and questionable idealism on the part of the environmental lobby. The fact of the matter is that changes in the energy make-up aren't going to happen overnight, and in the meantime we need to be investing in methods of cleaning up fossil fuel generation.

 

But it could and should happen overnight. It's kind of hard to get on board with gradualism when the only reason we aren't radically altering our means of energy production is to maintain a few peoples' wealth by keeping up with our needlessly high industrial output and putting value on coal and oil.

 

Not to mention, the debate in the public arena is literally going nowhere. The Prime Minister of Australia doesn't believe in global warming and won't even facilitate market solutions. He's trying to repeal our laughably ineffectual carbon tax (one of the smallest on earth).

 

 

 

Yet I see the environmental lobby concentrating heavily on the form of electricity generation and various policies that demand usage reduction on an extreme scale yet seem strangely silent about things like this.

The environmentalist movement is largely made up of socialists with a broader agenda.


sivispacem
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#5

Posted 11 February 2014 - 08:22 AM

All fair points right up until you said it could and should happen overnight. Perfectly valid as an opinion, but I question the technical feasibility. To me, it sounds like you're advocating a complete re-alignment of the entirety of civilised society and using an environmental cause as the justification for it. And I'm sorry but that's never, ever going to happen. You aren't going to stop the Chinese new-rich buying their Bentleys, you aren't going to bring a halt to consumerism by dancing to the tune of doom and gloom. It's just not realistic; in my view there will never be a point at which such an extreme view on the subject will gain enough traction to even have mainstream discussion, let alone any kind of proper contemplation. Something else in your response confuses me as well- you all but admit that renewable energy generation technologies are in their relative infancy and yet seem to think that a transition to them overnight is feasible? And, if we de-industrialise as you suggest, how are we doing to be able to produce the technologies we require in order to refine energy generation? Or for that matter, how are we going to continue mining and processing the incredibly dangerous rare earth and heavy metals needed for energy storage and renewable power generation that already produce huge amounts of environmental pollution when we're rolling back the frontiers of industry?

 

The fact is that a nation with a low-emission-driven, low-risk power generation with a large share of the overall energy market being renewable and the absolute majority of electricity generation being via non-fossil-fuel sources. France. 75% of all electricity produced by nuclear power alone, 40% of all energy nuclear, one of the largest exporters of energy in the world, some of the lowest energy prices in Europe, large amounts of public support and even a reasonably workable waste reprocessing and containment solution. Plus with the advent of breeder technology and the possible development of the Thorium fuel cycle, the issue of nuclear waste is largely mitigated at the source.

 

A ten-year transition to an 80% nuclear, 20% renewable energy economy is both completely workable and relatively cost-effective compared to most of the alternatives. It wouldn't have any tangible negative impact on industry and the high initial investment costs are spread over a very long operating lifetime. It's one of the largest skilled job creating industries per investment. The only problem such a transition faces is the NIMBY attitude that equally plagues the construction of things like wind farms. Got any bright ideas with regard to that?


Melchior
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#6

Posted 11 February 2014 - 04:14 PM Edited by Melchior, 11 February 2014 - 04:51 PM.

I think you're mischaracterising my response. I'm hardly saying that we need world communism or whatever to deal with climate change. I'm saying that a decently run economy would be agile enough to deal with such a massive, glaring externality as the world ending. We should be able to alter our industrial output (I'm not saying shut down the economy, mind) and we should be able to introduce new technologies as they arise and are necessitated. Is it so controversial to say that dealing with climate change should involve an expansion of government involvement in the economy? Involvement which is not comparatively radical if you look at World War I or the Great Depression. The Capitalism of 50 years ago looks more savage than the Capitalism of today, and much, much, much more so if you go back 100 years. I think it's not unrealistic to expect Capitalism in 25-50 years to look much different to the Capitalism of today. I probably should have specified that I hold this view distinct from my Socialism; I obviously don't expect to see us become a properly functioning society any time soon, but changes to the way we run our economy coming about as a result of climate change doesn't seem too unrealistic.

 

Also keep in mind that this is what the left (that is, the mainstream left) and probably some of the more radical centrists were saying ten years ago. The conservative movement generally supported the measures that we're struggling to bring in now, before they went insane and started denying the whole thing's existence and the left had to basically adopt their old position in order to have any chance of beginning to solve the problem. The main reason that people view a renewable powered economy has hopelessly idealistic is because of them and their poisonous rhetoric. A sizable portion of the population being brainwashed into believing that we can keep using fossil fuels forever is a recent phenomenon. 

 

"Overnight" in a political context means a couple of decades. And while I describe it as being in its infancy, really it's only a few years until it's efficiency rivals other alternatives. And waste-free nuclear power isn't exactly right around the corner.

 

 

The only problem such a transition faces is the NIMBY attitude that equally plagues the construction of things like wind farms. Got any bright ideas with regard to that?

First of all, this does nothing at all about pollution from transport. Second of all, the NIMBYism surrounding nuclear power is much more intense than that surrounding wind farms. People think wind farms are an eye soar; people think nuclear power will make them grow a new arm out of their ear or whatever Simpsons gag people picture when they think about nuclear power. Total false equivalence. Thirdly: a switch to nuclear power isn't a much less radical change than what I'm proposing when you consider the money tied up in fossil fuels, and the political clout of the industry. Either way, somebody will take it up the arse and the government will need to new powers in order to f*ck them, or something to that effect.. 


sivispacem
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#7

Posted 11 February 2014 - 08:51 PM

In what sense is "waste-free nuclear power" not around the corner? It already exists, in a fully working, fully operational form. In fact, it has for the best part of 50 years. I don't mean to mis-characterise your response by any stretch of the imagination, and far be it from me to be dismissive in the extreme, but I'm seeing a great deal of rhetoric and protestation and very little in the way of a coherent plan or explanation for your various statements. A good 40% of your response above is simply a diatribe about the environmental ignorance of Conservatism, which whilst fairly accurate doesn't really explain to an observer why the largely renewable-driven energy policy you champion, combined with fundamental changes to the structure of the economy which you've stated quite clearly in your first response but seem to dismiss the importance of in your second, is superior to any of the alternatives. Take your statements about pollution from transportation. In pure energy terms, the efficiency level of modern, small, forced induction petrol engines is higher than that of most methods of renewable energy generation by an enormous margin. When you include the serious environmental costs of production and refinement of the heavy metals required for batteries and high power, low-mass motors which enable alternative transport to actually succeed, there's a fairly logical argument that gasoline, biofuels and compressed natural gas powered internal combustion engines are all-in-all less harmful for the environment than purely electric or electric-hybrid cars. They've also got a longer lifespan, and greater versatility. And the impacts of ground transportation pale in comparison to that of air and sea freight. Short of developing nuclear-powered ships, there's no way of maintain a global transport industry without relying on fossil fuels. 

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#8

Posted 11 February 2014 - 09:26 PM

 

 

How do we combat this hostility and wilful ignorance?

With mocking, derision, attacks on their ability to read and fatuous remarks about how they look.

 

This doesn't sound like a valid solution and it isn't. I don't see any reason as to why a system like the current one would change, it has no reason to. It works for what it is and makes minor concessions for public pressure. I don't think an economic position like this factors in massive system death because it actively ignores things like limit and exists on a rather cause and effect basis. In any case a large destruction of a majority of the population matters little when dealing with resource control.


Melchior
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#9

Posted 12 February 2014 - 03:48 AM Edited by Melchior, 12 February 2014 - 03:54 AM.



 I'm seeing a great deal of rhetoric and protestation and very little in the way of a coherent plan or explanation for your various statements.

I thought I was saying it implicitly, but apparently not. I think we need:

* Much, much, much more incentive for the use of renewables.

* Much, much, much more disincentive for the use of fossil fuels. Like, massive penalties. The current "market solutions" are laughable.

* Limits on the amount of vehicles produced (including hybrids to a lesser extent, I'm aware that the materials used have to come from somewhere), coupled with expansion of public transportation infrastructure. 

* Nationalisation of some forms of industry.

* Massive subsidies to make electric cars more affordable, and drastically increased investment into their production to increase efficiency.

* A counter-propaganda campaign. The automotive industry has used propaganda to insert some down right silly ideas into public consciousness: namely crap like "fossil fuels are manly" (the f*ck is that I mean I don't even... what?!) and "rich women own SUVs 'hey, you're part of the upper middle class, right? Then go buy four SUVs right now lest someone mistake you for a pleb.'" We already do this with things like smoking, drugs and alcohol in a lot of Western countries (ever see a sitcom episode that felt like a PSA?) by literally handing artists money. For instance, have cool, hip protagonists in movies and network television ride the bus and drive hybrids. Yes, people really are that stupid.

* Deprivatisation of power companies.

* Much, much much more investment into the development of electric planes. Right now an electric 747 isn't even on the horizon (they think we'll see electric Cessnas in ten years, though) but if we drastically increase investment, who knows?

 

That should clarify my position as well address some of your points. Is any of that really so extreme? Surely our main means of transport and industry should be more subject to government regulation than cigarettes and restaurant bathrooms. We can afford to fight massive wars (or just bail on the check like the US), so money is no object. And again, none of this is any where near as extreme as the other expansions of government that we've seen over the last century. 

 

Your position (f*ck off the oil companies and build nuclear plants) is also quite extreme. France may have done it, but they don't live under the same Ango-American corporate machine that you and I live under. And as far as I know, they don't have as much oil or coal as the Anglosphere countries, and they don't control energy reserves through neocolonies in the Middle East and Latin America. 


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#10

Posted 12 February 2014 - 09:51 AM

1) agreed
2) agreed
3) disagree. Vehicles are a large part of the problem in urban areas but in terms of actual emissions they represent a surprisingly small proportion- I think it's about 30% for transport overall, with personal vehicles making up about 5% in total.

Whilst I agree with the need to produce more refined and economical vehicles, the big problem is the one that a public transport network doesn't resolve- commercial logistics. Even in a city with a fantastic public transport infrastructure you still have a requirement for heavy goods vehicles. Granted, my personal view on this is probably shaped by the fact I'm a huge petrolhead but by the same token you could argue yours if shaped by the fact you're a huge socialist.
4) disagree, this is a portrayal of your personal political views rather than a realistic assessment of reality. That said I would support a greater national stake in industry and economic direction, as we've seen in places like Germany and Scandinavia. Public transport doesn't seem to work well as a privatised industry, FWIW.
5) agreed. The majority of people in Europe and the US commute very short distances in urban environments and have no real need for petrol vehicles. But it's also with pointing out that in nations with extensively fossil-fuel-driven energy economies electric cars can be more directly polluting than internal combustion ones.
6) agreed
7) whilst it would certainly be interesting to see the development of proper functioning electric aircraft, going from a single engined light aircraft with a short flight time and low capacity to large commercial aircraft with extended ranges and load-lugging capability is much less about technological advancement and much more to do with basic physics. The problem is one of energy density. We've been working on advanced battery technology for decades now, for all sorts of reasons, and have only just reached a point at which electric passenger vehicles are viable for short distances, and they have much lower specific power outputs, smaller ranges and greater masses than equivalent ICE vehicles. Jaguar managed to resolve this by using much smaller batteries and two microturbines in the CX-75 which gave equivalent range and performance to conventional petrol engined vehicles but then you still have fossil fuels and their associated emissions, albeit much reduced.

The issue is one of simple physics. The energy density of fossil fuels is truly enormous compared to batteries and we simply lack the materials or capability to rectify this at the moment. Not "we need to research this more"- although we do- but "we don't have the slightest clue what could be used as a viable alternative". Hydrogen was a possibility but there are innumerate storage and refinement issues with this- not issues that can't be overcome but ones that add mass and complexity to an aircraft, which are the two things you don't want.

I'm all for more research on electric aircraft but right now it seems pie-in-the-sky. We've run nuclear powered aircraft engines in the past, and they've worked, but the side effects weren't exactly great.

I think, personally speaking, suggesting an energy economy that whilst subject to debate actually exists in a functioning form in a modern, democratic and wealthy nation is just slightly less controversial or extreme than suggesting a completely new, entirely hypothetical one.
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#11

Posted 14 February 2014 - 12:02 AM

pardon my German; but how the Helle can we have this discussion without mention China or Brazil or India?

or large swaths of sub-Saharan Africa for that matter.

 

there's no amount of careful economic planning or incentives which can outweigh the fact that several of the largest economies on Earth are experiencing their industrial revolutions with little alternative but to push ahead with vast fossil fuel burning and low environmental protections regulations. I fail to see how the Western world will form any kind of successful argument to Beijing or Brasilia or Delhi about how they need to stop what they're doing - and perhaps completely change their methods - in the midst of their greatest era of productivity and cultural development.

 

it would simply be hypocritical... in a way.

the West largely ignored the environmental impacts of its industrial boom (partly out of ignorance) until long after it had gained the advantage of having options. we did our dirty work (some of which continues to this day) and now we're going to tell others not to do the same? the emergent markets of South America and Asia aren't listening. and that's not even considering the prospect that much of Africa still has a long way to go on this same path.

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#12

Posted 18 February 2014 - 12:46 PM Edited by The Yokel, 18 February 2014 - 12:48 PM.

Since the world is run by greedy anti-climate change psychopaths, we need an alternative source of non-renewable energy that can make these greedy assholes some money until we develop a more efficient technology that uses renewable energy sources. I think advocating the use of thorium based reactors should be the priority for now.


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#13

Posted 23 February 2014 - 06:58 AM

Since the world is run by greedy anti-climate change psychopaths, we need an alternative source of non-renewable energy that can make these greedy assholes some money until we develop a more efficient technology that uses renewable energy sources. I think advocating the use of thorium based reactors should be the priority for now.

I don't see how this addresses the problem. The issue is that they have a huge vested interest in fossil fuels because they control energy reserves. They'd oppose a rapid switch to nuclear power as much as they would a rapid switch to renewable energy, as their oil and coal would become worthless, and they (as well as Western governments) would lose the political clout that comes with the control of energy reserves in the Middle East and Latin America. Ever wonder why France didn't join the war in Iraq? Energy related power games mean nothing to a country that relies mostly on sustainable energy.





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