Democrats & Liberals Archives

Overshooting Global Warming Into An Ice Age?

In 2004 I wrote an article Environmental collapse - sooner not later. In that article, I discussed the Pentagon’s scenario (as discussed by David Stipp) that we could find ourselves in the middle of a rapid onset ice age. I have a feeling that we may be moving in that direction.

In 1997, Wallace Broecker warned that the Oceans' circulation could collapse. Further, that within a ten year period, the winter temperatures could plummet by 20 degrees. The article notes:

Each time the Conveyor has shifted gears, it has caused significant global temperature changes within decades, as well as large-scale wind shifts, dramatic fluctuations in atmospheric dust levels, glacial advances or retreats and other changes over many regions of the Earth, he said.
Deep Ocean Currents Surface Ocean Currents
Images courtesy of  Steven Dutch, University of Wisconsin - Green Bay How the Earth Works

Anyone who has watched An Inconvenient Truth, has graphically seen the CO2 readings and the dramatic temperature changes that are occurring at the poles. The warming is happening much quicker there, and the rate of melt is accelerating. This does not just impact those creatures and humans in Arctic and Antarctic regions, but the climate of the entire planet.

The changes are happening "faster than expected," and the consequences of the warming are dire (Borenstein, 3/10/07). The upcoming IPCC report is also grim. However, it too is working on the assumption that dramatic warming will continue.

But the ice is melting much faster than expected. Gigantic pieces of glaciers are breaking off into the oceans - north and south. Predicted rises in sea level are going up exponentially - from millimeter - to 10 meters or more. However, that very rate (and nature) of melt should be throwing alarms, and I believe it is. Perhaps the evidence coming in is what has prompted a "2 year study of polar changes costing $350 million, and involving scientists from 60 nations.

The ice melting at the poles is not just melting on the surface. It is melting into the glaciers themselves forming sub ice rivers and lakes. This collected water speeds the movement of the glaciers towards the sea, but is also creating lakes beneath the ice Four such lakes have been newly discovered in the Antarctic in Queen Maud Land in the north eastern portion of Antarctica.

Now these growing rivers and lakes under the ice trouble me. If, or maybe I should say when, they break through to the oceans, massive amounts of cold fresh water will pour through. This will not only dramatically drop the temperature of water at the poles, it will also decrease the salinity of that water. Since both temperature and salinity are important in terms of ocean current circulation, those current could dramatically slow or stop - which is just what Wallace Broecker was warning about. But friends, we are decades ahead of any prediction.

The scientists all say that everything is happening faster than expected. Perhaps that is because we are already well into global warming. Perhaps we have so rapidly changed the climate that our ability to measure the real changes just haven't kept up. Perhaps many of the changes (like the great rivers being born as the poles melt) were not understood. Perhaps our understanding of climate and the interrelationship of land, ocean, permafrost, land, are just starting to become clear. In other words, as the nay sayers finally admit that global warming is "real" and that humans are driving the change we may be in the end throes of global warming.

Given the speed at which we have created global warming gases and undermined the planet's ability to respond to those changes (massive deforestation, destruction of tundra for resource extraction, destruction of ocean environments through pollution and industrial fishing) we have greased a slope and accelerated down it at ever increasing speed. Rather than looking at decades of accelerating warming and the destruction that will cause, we may shoot into an accelerated cooling as well.

Oceans rising by 10 meters or more very possible and displacing likely 1/2 of the human population. Stagnating weather - persistent drought and torrential rains with "wild climate" changes? Very likely and already predicted.

Current "ambitious" projects are calling for a 50 percent decrease in CO2 emissions by 2020, others by 2050. Yet two years ago we were informed that we needed to immediately cut emissions by 80 percent to have any significant effect on climate. Not only are the most ambitious plans too little too late, but emissions are continuing to increase in both the United States and China.

We are in unknown territory. However, my guess is that in the back hallways where environmental scientists gather, that they may be having whispered conversations raising the same concerns I am.

Posted by Rowan Wolf at March 16, 2007 8:01 AM
Comment #212258

Posted by: kctim at March 16, 2007 11:21 AM
Comment #212259
We are in unknown territory.

But one thing we do know is that it would only cost us one tenth of one percent (0.001) of our GDP to stop it.

Posted by: American Pundit at March 16, 2007 11:21 AM
Comment #212266


Your analysis says a lot about the level of hyperbole that exists today. I agree that there has been an increase in temperature worldwide. That being said, I find it amazing that so many people wish to blame mankind as the primary source. The icecaps on Mars are diminishing also, I suspect all the hydrocarbons exhausted from our rovers is also to blame. The existence of humans on this planet will have an effect on this planet. You want to think it will be doom and gloom. So sad for you, your mind is clouded by hatred of mankind and the so-called perils that will happen to the world by our existence. This persistent thought process shapes your logic, limits it, diminishes it. Too bad.

Posted by: wkw at March 16, 2007 11:52 AM
Comment #212271
so many people wish to blame mankind

I gotta go with the overwhelming scientific consensus: This round of global warming is manmade, and can be reversed.

wkw, why do you insist the world is flat? Why do you insist the sun revolves around the Earth? I understand America’s love of the underdog, but it’s a better than 90% chance that you’re wrong about global warming. Those are long odds.

Posted by: American Pundit at March 16, 2007 12:02 PM
Comment #212275

Your use of the icecaps on mars diminishing has nothing to do with our weather. But, of course, you knew that.

Other than spewing your hatred for the thinking of Rowan in his speculations about climate change, I suggest you educate yourself about the highly likely coorelation between global warming and our carbon profiles.

I don’t think anyone knows if disaster is down the road, but we do have enough science to know that we could very likely be polluting our own planet to a point of irretreviable consequence.

Unlike you, I am not willing to sit in my own stink as my evirons decay around me. I think it is abhorent when people ignore science and are so slovenly that they smile, self-satisfied in their own heaping crapper.

Posted by: gergle at March 16, 2007 12:12 PM
Comment #212281


Why do you characterize me in such a way? Do you think me stupid. If so, say so. As to the prevailing scientific consensus, no one (and I mean absolutely no one) has lived long enough to enjoy a global and geologic perspective of this phenomenon (let alone chararcterize it as a menacing problem). What we have is scientific conjecture. Throw in a dollop of political rhetoric and a dash anthromorphic loathing and boom you have a global catastrophe.

Posted by: wkw at March 16, 2007 12:27 PM
Comment #212306

all this to make Dr. Al Gore the richest man in the world.
you lefties are funny.

Posted by: JM1656 at March 16, 2007 1:42 PM
Comment #212310

As to the prevailing scientific consensus… What we have is scientific conjecture.

Conjecture? Is that the new right-wing word to describe the consensus view of the world’s scientists? I suggest you read what they have to say before you pass judgment. I’ve tried with the folks on the other side of the blog, but not one has admitted to reading a damn word of scientific research.

Posted by: Steve K at March 16, 2007 1:49 PM
Comment #212312

I do think the notion that an ice age was precipitated by such meltwater phenomena some thousands of years ago, but what I hear makes this unlikely is that the last time you had the meltwater coming from a much greater source: an ice sheet covering much of Canada.

Now, could such meltwater cause more minor disruptions? It very well could.

All that said, if our emissions keep on going like they’re going, we’ll be dealing with pretty radical climate changes, regardless.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at March 16, 2007 1:54 PM
Comment #212316

what I hear makes this unlikely is that the last time you had the meltwater coming from a much greater source: an ice sheet covering much of Canada.


As I recall, the concern is that the Greenland ice sheet melts. Now, I’ve no idea how likely that is. However, observations on the island how shown an increasing rate of melting. There is even some fear that water could collect enough under the sheet to cause most or all of it to slip into the ocean (just like what happened to the ice sheet in Antarctica a few years back).

There is, of course, nothing we can do about just that. But we can do a lot about the problem overall, starting with cutting CO2 emissions.

Posted by: Steve K at March 16, 2007 2:03 PM
Comment #212319

AP Rowan et al

Whether or not it is man made, it cannot be reversed in time to stop this IF it is happening.

There has been a lot written on this subject of cooling. Last time this happened was about 12000 years ago. But in those days, the ice was much farther south and the influx of fresh water much more rapid.

There is no cause of immediate alarm, however. As I wrote about, if it is going to happen we are already doomed to suffer it. NOTHING we can do now will avert it since the things that will cause it are already in place.

If we are looking at global warming from a logical point of view, we can take reasonable steps, which will include higher energy prices and more nuclear power.

The thing that annoys me about leftist environmental thought is that it is apocalyptical w/o being useful. Indeed if we are marked to perish, as you say, it is already too late and if we have time, we can take reasonable steps to avoid the greater calamity. An immediate 80% cut in CO2 is not worth it in either case. In the apocalyptical scenario, it will not do any good. It is like the man who is going to be executed tomorrow giving up smoking and drinking. If civilization as we know it is coming to an end in my lifetime, I want to be as comfortable as possible until then. It will not change the outcome sufficiently anyway. If we still can influence events, a reasonable response is appropriate. It is certain sure that there will not be any 50% reduction in CO2 anytime soon.

AND any environmentalist who is against nuclear power evidently does not believe in or understand the nature of global warming. If we are really in this crisis for Gaia’s sake push nuclear power AND increase funding for genetic engineering to allow adaptation.

Posted by: Jack at March 16, 2007 2:09 PM
Comment #212326

Here is the pdf file for the IPCC Summary for Policymakers:

It is 18 pages, and I would highly encourage people to read it.

There are a number of scenarios, depending upon how much CO2 (and other greenhouse gases) humanity continues adding to the atmosphere. In any event, the Atlantic thermohaline circulation is anticipated to decline, but it is “very unlikely” that the circulation will stop in the next century.

But no question, there are some harrowing scenarios, especially with the possibility of positive feedback loops accelerating the process.

The Working Group II assessment on “Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability” will be released in early April. Working Group III will make recommendations on “Mitigating Climate Change” at the end of April. It will be interesting to see if they back nuclear power.

Posted by: phx8 at March 16, 2007 2:23 PM
Comment #212331

The thing that annoys me about leftist environmental thought is that it is apocalyptical w/o being useful. Indeed if we are marked to perish, as you say …

Jack, who said we are marked to perish?

Posted by: Steve K at March 16, 2007 2:44 PM
Comment #212338


Whenever a republican says there is no cause for “alarm” it’s usually a sign that things are quickly nearing a highly f’d up status. Thanks Jack!

But then again so too when a leftie says there are things to worry about such as an ecological catastrophe on the brink there is an automatic assumption the problem is taken care of. The “overshoot” here (read overkill) is almost entirely a leftist phenom. Panic begets mayhem that someone else more sensible has to undo.

Let’s leave this issue to non-politicized scientists and non-agendized researchers and then we can reach the actual solution. The polemic politicking is the problem. It all barrels down to who wants the EPA regulations and who don’t, which side do you trust if both have an agenda behind whatever findings they tout?

Posted by: Gleep the monkey at March 16, 2007 3:26 PM
Comment #212340

You’ve summed up the cancer that Bushco has placed both upon the Presidency and the Republican Party.

While I remember a time when Republicans were not all seen as polemicists, in denial and liars. They do seem in short supply, lately.

Posted by: gergle at March 16, 2007 3:49 PM
Comment #212343

Steve K

If the kinds of things we read up there come to pass, 10 metre sea level rises, drops of 20 degrees in the Northern hemisphere etc, it means the end of our civilization. I do not believe these hysterical predictions, but those who do should consider the real consequences.

You really do not need to prepare for these kinds of fatal scenarios. You cannot prepare for them. It is like someone asking you to prepare to swim from California to Hawaii.

I have been an environmentalist since I was eight years old. For awhile I was a hysterical environmentalist. I believed in those silly books written in the early 1970s. Now I see that the world did not end. But hystria is more pernicious than merely being wrong. It can paralyze real action.

Since 1970, we have done an great job of cleaning the air and water in the U.S. Wildlife is returning, forests are growing, air is cleaner. Yet we still hear these terrible predictions. We still have lots of problems to address, but unless we make a realistic assessment, we cannot do a good job of assessing them.

If you advocate reducing CO2 by 50% not only will you NOT get that, you will discourage other useful investments and innovations. Goals have to be a little out of reach now, but not out of sight.

Posted by: Jack at March 16, 2007 3:58 PM
Comment #212369

Many of the worst predictions made take it as a given that emissions will continue or increase at certain levels, so therefore, if we reduce or mostly eliminate these carbon emissions, we might be able to pull this off.

If, however, we bury our heads in the sand, we’ll not be afflicted with the moderate warming and its relatively moderate consequences, but instead something far worse.

The thing is, though, our emissions cannot simply be stopped on a dime. hydrocarbon fueled technology has quite a bit of momentum behind it. The longer we take to switch over, the longer we procrastinate on these issues, the more expensive and less effective our countermeasures to this problem will be. This is truly a case where Ben Franklin’s advice makes perfect sense: a stitch in time saves nine.

The notion of a thermohaline conveyor collapse is unlikely, as the greenland ice sheet isn’t of the size of the ice sheet that melted to cause the most recent relapse. However, the notion that we could push the climate to the point where change becomes runaway is valid, and has historical precedent. Climate change can go into overdrive and reinforce itself. Just ask the non-inhabitants of Venus.

I think the biggest barrier here is that Republicans aren’t understanding the nonlinear, emergent, and chaotic nature of the system, that small trace gases already account for much of the warmth in our atmosphere, and that many different parts of our environment interact to determine temperature. They want definite answers to systems that defy precise predictions.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at March 16, 2007 5:39 PM
Comment #212371

Global warming is real Jack.You think this will not impact you Jack.I think you would not be happy,if all the fish in your near by lake started to die off.The deer started to move to cooler places to feed.You will not have a very good hunting trip,my friend.The workingman will be affected by global warming.I hope you will wakeup to reality Jack.

Posted by: the libertine at March 16, 2007 6:07 PM
Comment #212386

It’s ironic that a global warming could possibly also result in a globla cooling (or ice age). England (and Europe) will turn into an icecube if the deep ocean currents are disrupted (look at how far north England an most European countries are).

Global warming could also exacerbate three other serious problems that already exist:

Posted by: d.a.n at March 16, 2007 7:06 PM
Comment #212394


“They want definite answers to systems that defy precise predictions.”

I don’t want answers to the systems, but I am happy that you realize that they defy precise predictions. Even your doom and gloom ones.

Posted by: wkw at March 16, 2007 7:59 PM
Comment #212406
Whether or not it is man made, it cannot be reversed in time to stop this IF it is happening.

It can be stopped before it gets as bad as scientists predict. And and fairly inexpensively as well.

Posted by: American Pundit at March 16, 2007 9:43 PM
Comment #212417

It used to be that you saw the person on the street corner with the sign “THE WORLD WILL END TOMORROW” Now we see it on the blogs. Ain’t technology grand.

Posted by: tomd at March 16, 2007 10:14 PM
Comment #212420

If mankind is the cause of global warming. And more precisely American mankind. Then Americans need to change.

Lets rethink our whole value system. We can start by falling out of love with the automobile. We can redesign communities to become more close in and walk every where we go. Or bicycle.

Let’s quit flying. That would save energy and stymie terrorists. Turn off television and computers. That will save electricity. There’s a lot of carbon-belching coal going into generating the stuff.

We should hold on to the plastic products we already have from sandwich keepers to commode seats and everything in between. No more petroleum based products. That will cut oil dependence even more.

Oh, yes we have to quit reproducing, developing land and fishing.

Lets show China and India and the rest of the world we’re serious.

Posted by: bigkenzombie at March 16, 2007 10:28 PM
Comment #212442

I’m keeping an open mind about global warming, but did you take a look at these other environmental issues?
The numbers are hard to ignore.
I wouldn’t call that mere chicken-little, sky-is-falling alarmism.
The planet has limitations.
We get our food from the land and the oceans.
Do you know how many people the planet can support?

Posted by: d.a.n at March 17, 2007 12:01 AM
Comment #212450

Stephen & Libertine

I am one of the few people to advocate a real solution. Others traffic in dire predictions. It makes them feel better to flagellate themselves and the world.

This is what you DO. We need to drive up the price of carbon based energy so that people use less and alternatives become valid. We need to encourage nuclear power. We need to share technologies with China, India etc, where most future emission will come from. We also should work faster to address methane. Methane is much more potent than CO2 as a greenhouse gas. We hear less about it because the U.S. is not a major source of methane.

I gave a talk about the greenhouse effect in 1981 or 1982. I knew about the problem before it became cool. I believe it is happening and that human activities contribute. We agree. What do we do?

I do not believe it is as urgent as some say. CO2 stays in the atmosphere for around 90 years. Most of what we put in the air will still be around in 2100. We can do nothing to stop what we have already done, so if those dire predictions are true, we are already finished.

We should begin to take reasonable steps. Develop that nuclear power, raise those gas prices, but stop with the hot air.

Posted by: Jack at March 17, 2007 12:37 AM
Comment #212458


You’re right. A lot of people talk about problems without offering solutions. I always offer solutions. Here’s are some solutions.

We need to attack the problem on many fronts.

Nuclear fission energy is a relatively BAD idea for several reasons.
Nuclear fission power proponents frequently tout nuclear fission power as a limitless supply of energy powered by a fuel that never runs out.


  • (a) Nuclear fission plants are extremely expensive to build.

  • (b) Nuclear fission plants have the potential for catastrophic environmental and human disaster (e.g. Chernobyl, 3 Mile Island, etc.).

  • (c) Nuclear fission plants create large amounts of hazardous, environmentally toxic radioactive waste that will remain hazardous for centuries.

There are better alternatives to nuclear fission energy.

Also, there are three other important things that should be addressed too (simultaneously):

  • (1) over-population

  • (2) arable land loss

  • (3) over fishing of the oceans

How many people can this planet can support (in the next 33 years)?
After all, only 28.8% of the planet is land (57 million square miles).
And only 21% of that is arable (12 million square miles).
Even without any loss of arable land due to rising ocean levels, we are losing arable land at a rate of 38,610 square miles per year!

In 2006, there was 1.15 acres of arable land per person (i.e. 7.68 billion acres / 6.68 billion people).
By 2039, there may be only 0.53 acres of arable land per person (i.e. 6.865 billion acres / 13 billion people).

Our oceans are being severely over-fished. As many as 90% of all the ocean’s large fish have been fished out. This is a resource that is being severely mismanaged.

Posted by: d.a.n at March 17, 2007 1:39 AM
Comment #212474


I’m sorry, I have to throw a flag down on your last post. You should learn a little about nuclear energy before you spout. The 3-Mile Island reactor accident was not an environmental or human catastrophe. One of the main reasons nuclear reactors are expensive to build is because any environmentalist with a loudspeaker and enough cash can shut down the construction of the plant. This causes tremendous cost overruns. As for large amounts of environmentally toxic waste, look around you sometime, coal fire plants exhaust tons of heavy metals into the atmosphere. They don’t decay over time. They are toxic forever. You blowhards live with this everyday but would fight to the death to stop nuclear power. You practice an environmental religion that is detrimental to human kind. We need to feed people, we need to provide them with energy to make the populations prosper. You offer little and ask much.

Posted by: wkw at March 17, 2007 9:45 AM
Comment #212487

Head the Word of the LORD.

Al Gore is “Testifing” on CNN.

The End is Near.

The prophet of Doom says: “Change your ways. Do as I say and not as I do. Poltical Correctness, Multiculturialism, and Socialism will save you. Harken unto me, it’s the end of the world.”

Angelina and Al are flying around the world to save it, burning up massive amounts of jet fuel to portect the environment.

whoops, wait, severe winter weather has cancled my flight. This global warming is hell!

The earth has been warm before and survived. It will get warm/cool again and you can’t stop it. But it’s at least something politically correct you can worry about. Bring back wide open grassy plains at the south pole. More real estate is a good thing. It could become the new bread basket of the world.

They just discovered enough water on the Mars pole to cover mars in 30 feet of water. That means we may soon have humans living on two planets in this solar system. Some day, the stars folks. Unless we let idiot socialists destroy our economy and spend it all on “the poor” and “the little children”.

Posted by: Stephen at March 17, 2007 11:55 AM
Comment #212526
wkw wrote: You blowhards live with this everyday but would fight to the death to stop nuclear power.

First of all, people that resort to name calling is usually because they have a weak argument, such as yours. But, please continue the name calling and see how long it takes to get banned.

Three Mile Island?
Three Mile Island came very close to being the first disaster like Chernobyl.

wkw wrote: You practice an environmental religion that is detrimental to human kind.

Protecting the environment is never detrimental to human kind.

wkw wrote: d.a.n. You should learn a little about nuclear energy before you spout.
Perhaps you should follow your own advice.

The cost of nuclear fission energy is not as cheap as some think after you include all the costs. A lot of costs are hidden. Part of the cost is a large part of the $24 billion D.O.E. annual budget.

BTW, there are a couple of other environmental issues that may become more serious than global warming in only 33 years.

wkw wrote: You offer little and ask much.
More nonsense.

There are lots of solutions. Here’s a few. What have you offered other than rude insults?

Posted by: d.a.n at March 17, 2007 4:28 PM
Comment #212532

My “doom and gloom” predictions offer hope. If we reduce emissions with technological improvements, we can both head off the disaster and reap the economic benefits, in efficiency and new technology, that comes with such innovative spirit. Also, the predictions are not precise, nor are they offered without all the necessary caveats. You think the scientists would actually fail to tell people about all this? How do you think we learn about it at all?

The whole struggle has been over providing clear evidence of the human-caused nature of this. They’ve found a smoking gun.

All plants take in a certain amount of Carbon-14 from the atmosphere, which is like regular Carbon with two extra neutron attached. This configuration isn’t stable. It decays into Nitrogen-14. It’s the ratio of the decay elements to the original isotope that yields the dates for methods like radiocarbon dating.

Okay, now what if much of the new carbon showing up lacked Carbon-14? It would be odd, since much of the atmospheric carbon already there and in plants would have the isotope in there. The half-life of Carbon-14 is about 5700 years.

If most new carbon emissions contain little Carbon-14, then the source must have been depleted of it. That eliminates the most recent sources, and leads us to ancient fossile fuels, whose carbon-14 would have mostly decayed away.

Name one reason besides us that so much Carbon-14 depleted CO2 would be in the atmosphere, given the likely sources.

The Three Mile Island accident was one bad decision away from becoming a serious accident. They found half the Uranium from the core melted at the bottom of the containment vessel. That stuff would have melted straight through the bottom, had somebody not gotten some coolant to the vessel. If it had melted into the ground, the heat would have cracked the ground in all directions, and a radioactive release of unimaginable proportions would have occured.

One of the main reasons that those plants are expensive to build is all the safety that’s built into the system, all the redundancies, the shielding, the containment vessel, and the high performance systems and maintenance necessary to prevent problems.

Personally, I wouldn’t mind some of the breeder reactor designs being implemented, but I think developing alternatives will be more cost effective in the long run. if you still want nuclear, we could go for fusion, since that relies on a much safer fuel (Isotopes of Hydrogen or Helium), and can never go critical the way fission reactors do.

As for coal-fire plants, I think most Democrats asked would rather we try something else.

Let’s find better ways to do what we already do, and only curtail our necessary activies as necessary.

You are not one of the few people. There was a Scientific American a few months back with plenty of people looking at plenty of options for dealing with Carbon Emissions. There are plenty of people discussing the solutions among liberals and non-political types.

We should deal with methane, of course, but CO2 is the biggest problem, because it does not come out of the atmosphere as fast as you believe. it will likely take more than a 100,000 years to see levels decline to what they once were.

As for the predictions, they are made with the levels of our emissions in mind. If we start reducing them now, the worst of the warming predicted would likely not come to pass. We aren’t saying all the things we’re saying to say the world’s going to end. We’re saying there’s hope, but we have to act quickly.

As far as gas goes, I think greater effiency will trump greater taxation as a means of reducing emissions. We undershot expected increases in emissions between the 70’s and 80’s because regulations required cars to become more efficient, burn fuel more cleanly. Taxes will not change things because people will generally commute the same as they always have. You might discourage the occasional trip, but not people going to work.

I thought you knew that Al Gore pays for carbon offsets and renewable sources. It’s not the use of the energy that’s the problem, its the source of it, and that’s why Gore is no hypocrite.

I should warn you before you start proclaiming the end of winter that climate scientists are predicting that. Winter will be shorter, warmer, and winter storms will increase because they are one way nature deals with the extra heat in the system. Storms, like everything else need energy to do work, to move the winds around, to well up, to condense, among other things. More heat in the system means more energy for winter storms, as well as others.

Did you get the news that this winter is warmer than any other on record. I thought you’d like to know, given your claims.

There is, indeed, natural variability in the system, but for reasons listed above in my posts, we’re pretty certain that natural variability is getting some help from our carbon emissions. None of the scientists you would disregard have said that natural variability is canceled, either. It’s just going to occur with a little more retained heat kicking around in it.

The South Pole will remain cold, even if the worst happens, but aside from such generalisms, there’s little we can predict about what will change. We just know that the changes will be serious.

As for Mars? Don’t make travel plans yet. You still have to deal with about a hundred-fold drop in pressure, the inability of the atmosphere to retain heat, not to mention all the hard radiation and dust.

The large amount of water ice on mars is good news. But like any scientific data, it’s got to be understood in context.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at March 17, 2007 5:57 PM
Comment #212546

WKW and D.A.N.

WKW, I have to disagree about the claims of nuclear fission’s overall safety to neighboring communities, even if not a largescale catastrophic meltdown. I used to live in a city with a nuclear power plant in South Jersey. The smell alone is vicious and with that stench in the transient fogs who knows what is in all that steam it emits two to three times a day? It’s pretty foul stuff.

I think there is so much more we can do with hydro-power as opposed to other forms and keep it decentralized so we are dealing competitively marketwise as opposed to these huge conglomerates. We should end all of these statewide monopolies ASAP.

Posted by: Gleep the chimp at March 17, 2007 8:10 PM
Comment #212589

Gleep the chimp,
Yes, we have many better alternatives.
There have been some advances to help reduce the danger of nuclear fission, but they are still attractive military targets, attractive targets for terrorists, and produce waste that will be toxic for millennia. The cost of storing this waste is huge, and the tax payers subsidize it. The waste requires maintenance. It can’t simply be put somewhere and ignored. The waste also is an attractive commodity for terrorists that would like to build dirty bombs. Nuclear fission energy produces no CO2 emissions, but it is potentially far more dangerous in terms of pollution. Thus, nuclear fission energy is not as cheap when those costs are included. And the cost of storage will last for a long, long, long time. Those costs are often ignored. Also, nuclear fission is not based on a renewable fuel.

Some working on clean nuclear fusion (no fission) believe there may be breakthroughs by 2020. Fusion is a renewable energy source.

No energy conversion technology is without risks or environmental effect. All the implications of all the available options need to be examined carefully.

Non-renewable Energy Sources:

  • oil

  • natural gas

  • coal

  • gas hydrates

  • geothermal (in most applications)

  • nuclear fission

Renewable Energy Sources:

  • wind

  • wave

  • tidal

  • hydro-electric (in some applications)

  • biomass

  • solar

  • geothermal (in some applications)

  • ocean thermal energy

  • fusion

Other Hybrid (non-primary) Energy Sources:

  • hydrogen

  • fuel cells

Many of these have little promise for large scale energy production.

Transition to a renewable and sustainable energy source and all related changes in lifestyle is practically inevitable. But, will it be done the smart way (with some foresight), or the hard, painful way? Humans have a tendency to repeat history; to learn the hard way over and over. The problem is, we may not have a lot of second chances. As serious as the issue of energy is, some issues of nearly equal importance are over-population, diminishing arable land, pollution, and global warming.

Posted by: d.a.n at March 18, 2007 12:14 PM
Comment #212654

I say we should stop global warming.We need to stop Stephen from filling the planet,with his hot air.

Posted by: the libertine at March 19, 2007 12:19 AM
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