Global warming, man or solar made?

While listening to talk radio of Friday I once again tuned in to Rush Limbaugh. I noted with interest that Rush is no longer trying to claim global warming does not exist. (A couple years ago, every time there was a cold snap he would make fun of the environmentalists.) While Rush no longer tries to prove that global warming is not a problem, he claims he knows for certain what the cause is. It is increased solar activity. What's the matter Rush? Did you get tired of telling obvious lies?

Now I am not a Rush Ditto Head, I am not about to site Rush as an expert on ANYTHING, however he stated there was information available on the internet that would prove global warming was caused by increased solar activity. Since I had, on my own, wondered if this was a possible explanation because I was aware of increased sunspot and solar flare activity, I decided to do a little exploring on my own.

I could provide some links of what I found, but the wealth of information available is so great you are better off doing a google on your own. I googled "global warming solar".

Anyone who wants to consider themselves as informed on the issue should take a look at the theory for themselves. Some of the proponents go to great lengths to avoid being environmentalist bashers. While Rush Limbaugh might be a clown, not all that those that support this theory are.

Personally, I still think we need to do what we can to lessen green house gas emissions. Most experts think this will help. If all these experts are wrong, well then we will have done everything we could, but it was not enough. It is my opinion that we are going to become really displeased with the effects of global climate change. I do not want to wake up one morning and find out, while I am enduring the effects, that there was something we could have done had we only known. The experts say there is hope.

What is wrong with lowering greenhouse gas emissions? Think about it. One of the fringe benefits is that it will lessen our dependence on foreign energy sources. We will end up with cleaner air. Even if it does not solve global warming completely (or at all) it will not be wasted money and effort. There will still be benefits to gain.

As for Rush? Ever notice how his preaching would keep us with the OPEC oil needle stuck in our veins? Rush preaches do nothing. Surely even he must admit we'd be better off if we could break our addiction to crude oil. But what do the Republicans say about Democrats? No solutions, right? What does Rush come up with a solution? I haven't heard one. With as much time as he has behind the "Golden EIB Microphone" you would have thought we would have heard one by now. All I keep hearing from him is "Keep you head buried in the sand and keep shoveling the sand around your neck."


Blogger Michael said...

Good points.

Climate science is complex. However, a general overall rise in world temperature is real and measurable (ever since we had satellites). Furthermore, the greenhouse effect does not mean that the temperature will go up everywhere. For example, the temperature in Europe will probably FALL if the Gulf Stream stops (which is predicted with global warming).

The vast majority of climate scientists agree that global warming is a real effect though there is some disagreement as to how fast it is happening and exactly what we can do about it. In any case, restricting our production of greenhouse gas emissions is still a good thing for exactly the reasons you mentioned. It reduces our dependence on fossil fuels (they are running out and we need viable alternatives) and improves overall air quality.

Michael Tam

12/11/2005 02:18:00 PM  
Blogger Little David said...

I agree with just about everything you say, except (you knew this was coming).

While we are probably going to run out of crude oil the world still possesses vast amounts of coal. Here in America they are working on what they call clean coal technology. Only problem is this technology does not truly address the carbon problem. It only removes the CO2 from the coal ahead of time. The carbon will still be unlocked from the "safe" solid state and be processed into a gas. They still have to figure out what to do with the CO2 afterwards and from what I have heard the best idea they have come up with is to inject the CO2 into the earth. I do not think that is going to work long term.

Anyway, turning our back on the use of coal does involve some sacrifice. West Virginia coal miners would lose their livelihood for example.

Even some of the experts who point to increased solar activity being responsible for global warming also seem to accept greenhouse gasses probably are a contributing factor. We can either do nothing or we can try to do the best we can.

Before I throw my hands up in the air I want to do everything possible. It might not work anyway, but the potential rewards are so great I think it is worth the risk.

12/12/2005 11:29:00 AM  
Blogger Michael said...

There is a lot of coal but there isn't a lot of economically minable coal. That is, the "good stuff" is running out quick, though perhaps not as quickly as crude oil.

Poor quality coal is highly polluting, not energy dense. High quality coal that is incovenient to mine simply means that your "energy return" will be much diminished.

"Clean coal" technologies are realistically decades away from being economically feasible, especially if you're talking about CO2 capture as well. Personally, I have more faith in "safe nuclear" than in "clean coal".

Michael Tam

12/13/2005 02:08:00 AM  
Blogger Little David said...

From what I understand, at least here in America, our reserves of coal are pretty vast.

This is not just reserves of the high sulfur stuff, but fairly healthy amounts of the low sulfur variety. West Virginia has coal as the engine driving their economy. Without coal their economy would implode. The citizens of West Virginia have been able to use the tight Presidential races to extract support for clean coal technology out of anyone who desires to occupy the Oval Office. As a result billions has been spent on clean coal technology research. Coal gasification plants are currently being constructed. These plants will help greatly to lower air pollution but they will do nothing to help with greenhouse gasses. Currently the plants will simply release the CO2 removed from the coal into the environment. They are considering taking the CO2 removed and injecting it into the ground. My understanding is that even poor quality coal can be utilized.

When coal gasification is publicly debated, you will hear the extremes from both sides. "An absolute waste of money" from some environmentalists to "the answer to our prayers" from coal miners. I have a feeling the answer lies somewhere in the middle. A big improvement but still not yet a solution. I think we owe it to our coal miners to continue on with the research.

As for nuclear power, I support limited increases in the use of nuclear power. The reason I say limited is that I have heard in the past that if we attempted to meet even just all our electrical generation needs with nuclear power we would soon exhaust all the nuclear fuel.

My wishes are to go after the problem with a basket full of possibilities. We explore all the options and utilize those that work out best. We should pursue nuclear, solar, hydro, tidal, geothermal, wind, bio fuels, etc etc. Solutions that might be perfect in some parts of the world might not serve well in others.

What worries me is that as new technology becomes economically competitive the "movers and shakers" are not considering investing in bringing greenhouse gas friendly sources of energy online. While quite a number of wind farms are starting to dot the landscape, the people are considering some pretty nasty options. (Increases in wind generation capacity is not being helped by opposition from environmentalists.) Canada is already extracting oil from her vast reserves of tar sands. Here in America, once investors become convinced oil will remain near $60 dollars a barrel they are considering starting up extraction of oil from oil shale since at that price level it can be done profitably. America has staggering reserves of oil shale.

My question is why do we insist on investing all this money into unlocking the carbon? At the current price levels for crude oil and natural gas, it should not be too hard for greenhouse gas friendly energy generation to become economically competitive. Why not just invest in technology that might "save the world" when you can probably do so and still make a profit?

12/13/2005 08:06:00 AM  
Blogger Michael said...

Sooner or later, there will be a "tipping point" where economically available fossil fuels will be substantially in short demand (even ignoring the environmental question).

I for one would prefer there to be a cheap (relatively) and safe (i.e., not nuclear) and preferably CLEAN alternative when this happens. However, the investment into developing fossil fuel alternatives is not really there. Arguably, the investment into further fossil fuel extraction technologies are to some degree misguided. They push the "tipping point" further into the future, but also make us just that extra bit unprepared for when it does come around.

Technologies like carbon sequestration (whether by pumping it underground or into the ocean) are much promoted but they are completely unproven technologies. Indeed, they are not even at the experimental stage. There is no evidence to suggest that these technologies will be feasible, practical or even possible.

Michael Tam

12/23/2005 09:03:00 AM  

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