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Sunday, May 29, 2016

More "Real Climate" science

"When you release a slug of new CO2 into the atmosphere, dissolution in the ocean gets rid of about three quarters of it, more or less, depending on how much is released. The rest has to await neutralization by reaction with CaCO3 or igneous rocks on land and in the ocean [2-6]. These rock reactions also restore the pH of the ocean from the CO2 acid spike. My model indicates that about 7% of carbon released today will still be in the atmosphere in 100,000 years [7]. I calculate a mean lifetime, from the sum of all the processes, of about 30,000 years. That’s a deceptive number, because it is so strongly influenced by the immense longevity of that long tail. If one is forced to simplify reality into a single number for popular discussion, several hundred years is a sensible number to choose, because it tells three-quarters of the story, and the part of the story which applies to our own lifetimes."

"My model told me," this is going to take 100,000 years.  2005 was part of what I consider the peak of climate disaster sales.  While there is some debate over how long it will take top get back to "normal" and still some debate on how normal "normal" might be, the catchy "forever and ever" and numbers like 100,000 years stick with people like the Jello jingle.

To get to the 100,000 year number you pick the slowest process you can find and set everything else to "remaining equal".  This way you can "scientifically" come up with some outrageous claim for your product that is "plausible" at least as long as you make "all else remain equal".

This method was also useful for coal fired power plants.  You pick emissions for some era then assume "all else remains equal" and you can get a motivational value to inspire political action.  Back in 2005, 10% of the US coal fired power plants produced 50% of the "harmful" emissions.  Business as usual in the coal biz was building more efficient coal plants to meet Clean Air Act standards and since the dirtiest plants were the oldest plants they would be replaced by the cleanest new plants.  If you replace an old 30% efficient 1950s-60s era plant with a 45% efficient "state of the art" plant, CO2 emissions would be reduced by 50% along with all of the other real pollutants that need to be scrubbed in accordance with the CAA.

By 2015, many had caught on to the sales game so the tactic changed to "fast mitigation".  Fast mitigation is just business as usual with new name and logo.  Because of regulations and threats of regulation, the CAA was replaced with the clean house threats so upgrades were placed on hold while the lawyers made some cash.  Between roughly 2005 and 2015, just about every technical innovation that could improve air quality while maintaining reasonable energy supply and cost, was placed on hold by the study, litigation, study, regulate, litigate, study process.  Peak fossil fuel energy costs hit in the 2011 time frame, just like the "necessarily more expensive" game plan predicted.  The progressive hard line, bolstered by fantasy "science" assuming "all else remains equal" had to give way to returning to normal with new packaging, "fast mitigation."

Business as usual has never been about maintaining the status quo, it is about keeping up with the competition and surpassing them when possible.  Cleaner, more efficient, better value, more bells and whistles is business as usual.  "Fast mitigation" is just a return to business as usual. Now if the "scientific pitchmen" will get out of the way, the future might look bright again.

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