Thursday, December 31, 2009

Pre-Happy New Year Post

I'll post something late tonight or early tomorrow morning about the new year and how badly 2009 sucked dead bunnies. This isn't that.

Instead, this is about the snow storm that interfered with a global warming "scream-in." And not for the first time. The organizer calls it "irony." I call it a sign from the gods that you are an idiot for a) using time, resources and a not-insignificant amount of fossil fuel on some thing as pointless as a "scream-in" and b) repeatedly scheduling global warming protests in the middle of the winter, thus maximizing the likelihood of "irony."

A new study questions whether CO2 levels have actually increased over the last 160 years. Now, this runs counter to numerous studies that shows it has, as well as common sense (which is often a poor guide in these matters). I'm not commenting on the quality of this particular study and I'm sure the global cooling deniers will do their best to destroy Dr. Knorr for heresy. But I want to point out a key phrase:
To assess whether the airborne fraction is indeed increasing, Wolfgang Knorr of the Department of Earth Sciences at the University of Bristol reanalyzed available atmospheric carbon dioxide and emissions data since 1850 and considers the uncertainties in the data.

(Emphasis mine.) All those hockey-stick graphs out there? If you look at them carefully, the y axis is less than a half degree C, far less than the uncertainty in the data, especially when compared to temperature records from 100 years ago that have nearly 2 degrees C uncertainty. In my high school physics class, you failed the lab if you reported results with more "accuracy" than the least-accurate piece of equipment you used in the experiment. Why? Because the teacher considered it a form of lying. He wasn't wrong, and the nonsense in Copenhagen is a perfect example of why.

I've said many times that the only way to "go green" and not live like Neanderthals is to go nuke. There are obvious problems with that, but they result from politics, not the technology, as this article makes very clear. We could have clean, near-limitless, cheap energy if we wanted to. But we would rather play politics. (shrug)

And John Greer over at the Archdruid Report has an Immodest Proposal as we start the New Year. As a person with strong libertarian leanings, talk of "reforming" the federal tax code always strikes me as what Paolo Solari (the architect of Arcosanti) calls a "different kind of wrongness." But I like what Greer is going for here; given that a lumber company is only able to profitably manage a stand of timber because we have, for example, a standing navy that ensures that said timber plot will still be under the lumber company's control in twenty years, then shouldn't the taxes necessary to fund some fraction of that standing navy come from the extraction of that timber, rather than from taxes on the logger's wages? Of course, I can see 1,001 ways that could be distorted into something very ugly, but, as Greer points out, utopia isn't an option. Every system will be exploited by someone to benefit themselves at the expense of the rest of us. As Greer says in his essay:
I’m going to suggest a handful of limited, tightly focused changes that I think have a real chance, if they were to be implemented, of canceling out some of the self-defeating habits of the current system and replacing them with effective incentives toward the sort of habits our society needs to establish.

Which, I think, is at least asking the right question. We can argue about what those changes ought to be or how effective any given change will be in attaining the stated goal, or even which human habits are "self-defeating." But given that the basic assumptions behind current political discourse are so obviously broken, Greer's plan sounds more pleasant that the alternative.

Well, Debbie's home and we have to figure out what to do for dinner.

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