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» Hatrack River Forum » Active Forums » Books, Films, Food and Culture » David Brin on Global Warming

   
Author Topic: David Brin on Global Warming
AndrewR
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David Brin has just posted an essay on global warming. Although it doesn't go into much detail on the science, it does cover some "lies" about Climate Change, including some by Michael Crichton (whom Mr. Card as quoted in the past on this subject).

It would be nice if Mr. Card started a correspondence with Mr. Brin on the subject of climate change. As a working physicst and fellow award-winning SF author, I'm sure he'd be happy to answer any question Mr. Card might have.If he didn't know the answer to a question, I'd bet he would probably know someone who does.

It'll never happen, of course. I suppose Mr. Card hardly has the time to check his facts with knowledgeable experts in the field. But I can dream, can't I? [Smile]

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Icarus
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Given the exchanges between Card and Brin in the past, I'm going to say I don't see such an exchange happening.
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Lyrhawn
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Good article.
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BlackBlade
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Seemed more like a rant then an essay.
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The White Whale
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I agree with BlackBlade, it was more like a rambling rant than an essay. I don't think anyone will change their minds about the subject after reading it.

I did, however, like this point:

quote:
Let me reiterate. That is what it boils down to...Simply putting efficiency at or near the top of our civilization’s urgent agenda.
This is something I never have understood. Why do people not jump onto technology or lifestyle changes that make things more efficient? Wait...other than technology like computers, cell phones, televisions, etc, which seem to be always improving... Why not embrace automobiles with greater fuel efficiency? Why not support better home building to increase efficiency and reduce unneeded waste?

I caught a glimpse why from 'Who Killed the Electric Car?,' when it was clear that the EVOs required less maintenance, and didn't require constant tune ups and oil changes and repairs. So I can see, understand, but hate the reasons these car companies take the position they did/do.

I cannot see or understand why efficiency isn't number one on most political or social agendas.

I recently got a car that gets much better fuel efficiency than my previous one, and I love it! Sure it's smaller, but I'm a single college student, not needing space for more than me and a few friends.

I can't help but also think about Daniel Quinn's 'Ishmael.' He (or the gorilla) taught how Mother Culture was always assailing us with things we need to own or need to be afraid of, when we really don't. I can't stand to watch live TV anymore because of the constant car commercials. Sure the cars are shiny, and can probably make your bum feel nice and warm in the winter, but we don't need those. What we (the nation, humans, etc.) need is more efficient cars, houses, etc....

I realize this has turned into a pseudo-rant, and I apologize. [Dont Know]

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Lyrhawn
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Efficiency is something I've ranted and raved about here and other places for the last couple years whenever someone tries to level the BS "it'll ruin the economy" claim over the Green movement. Anyone who says that doesn't know what they are talking about.

Efficiency means saving money and reducing waste, which is only a good thing for the American economy, and especially for the American consumer.

OSC should read the Green News thread, people are making a bundle off of the Green movement. Our society drastically changed when we switched from coal to an oil based economy. The same thing happened in Britain. When they ran out of trees and coal they were forced to switch to oil. And from oil we've seen dozens upon dozens, or really, thousands of upon thousands of new applications open up, money made, and our lives improved. But now it's time to move onto the next thing, a Green economy, and it's time to enjoy the thousands of new inventions that will come with it, and the billions of dollars we can make in the new economy.

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TheGrimace
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note: I'm all for increased efficiency in most/all things, but here's a very quick and dirty explanation of why increased efficiency is generally not an easy sell.

In general technologies can get to the maybe 50-85% efficiency range without too much trouble (though some such as solar cells are levelling out much lower than that). However, that last 15-50% is generally much more difficult to obtain. By more difficult it may mean it's physically impossible, very impractical or very expensive.

Examples could include:

Internal combustion engines - our current engines achieve a certain efficiency, but there are well known losses such as those associated with energy loss due to friction, heat transfer out of the system, vibration etc. Let's take one of these loss mechanisms (which I think is a fairly major one) Heat loss.

Heat loss could be combatted by adding significant amounts of thermal insulation to our engine systems, but this would likely add a fair amount of weight and complexity to the system which would increase cost and likely decrease overall efficiency because of added weight. Alternately we might make more engine components out of materials that are more adiabatic, however these materials are likely to wear down more quickly, break easier, be more expensive to produce, more difficult to handle etc...

Basically any even remotely complex mechanism is going to have to balance a lot of different efficiencies in its design. My car example may not have a perfectly adiabatic engine, but it's fairly light and cheap to produce and will last a while because it's design took those other things into account.

I drove a car back in highschool that probably got about the same milage as a Prius without any fancy hybrid motors or anything. It was a YUGO, and it got fantastic milage not because it had a really efficient engine but because it weighed about 15 lbs, fit two people and had practically no electronics, safety features etc.

I honestly have been seeing a lot more in recent years focusing on making things more energy efficient (such as energyStar appliances) and that's great, but it's also not something that is going to be a magic button to solve all the world's energy problems.

Sure, I can probably make a car that will get 150 mpg, but will anyone buy it if it tops out at 15 mph, seats one person and costs $200,000? (complete exaggerations I'm sure) And also keep in mind that in some areas greater efficiency is probably beyond our current technological know-how.

Like I said to start with, I think greater efficiency is something to be strived for, and in many areas we may want to keep pushing for paradigm shifts if it's really that important (i.e. if we're willing to pay more for a more fuel efficient car, or take it in for repairs more often etc then so be it) but acting like people are being willfully ignorant by not making the nebulous "efficiency" their #1 priority is inaccurate in many/most cases.

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The White Whale
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TheGrimice, I understand what your saying, and I know that perfect, near-perfect, or even decently perfect efficiency isn't a practical goal.

But it still makes me angry to see cars (i.e. Hummers) that are so BLATANTLY un-efficient. The makers of these cars put efficiency at or nearly at the bottom of their priority list. And what gets me upset and/or depressed is that there actually is a thriving market for these un-efficient vehicles. Every time I see one clunk by, I wonder what motivated that person to sacrifice the extra money they spend on gasoline and the inconvenience of having such a bulky, impractical vehicle.

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TheGrimace
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TWW, ok then I don't think we're in as much disagreement as I initially thought. I wholeheartedly agree that monstrosities like hummers are just rediculous. Thankfully, I think there really has been a push in recent years more and more towards more efficient cars (admittedly I live in LA, so I'm sure the mentality here is a lot different from elsewhere in the country)
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Qaz
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I would hope that his side could muster a better set of perspectives than him or Gore. When an essay starts out by saying that he is not going to bother with the facts I suppose we should not be surprised, but I think we have a right to expect something better. He could not even remember point 5 (that his opponents fear harm to the economy) when he got to point 7 (when he wondered what his opponents were afraid of). And...dealing with the nonvalid nature of scientific consensus by changing the subject to Newt Gingrich, English majors, and the imagined motivation of his opponents--!
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heifertipper
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I absolutely agree. I have a hard time believing anyone who doesn't bother giving facts to support his conclusions. Science requires you to give proof of your conclusions. I read A State of Fear and found it to coincide with every teacher's opinion I ever had in college so I don't see Chrichton's opinions to be so "over the top." I am not an expert and I don't practice climatology, but I have six years of Environmental Science classes under my belt and am experienced enough in the field to wonder what he is driving at.
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Lyrhawn
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Grim -

The Chevy Volt will get near the efficiency you mentioned, I think it's being touted as 125 MPG equivilant because it's insanely efficient, and the batteries can run 40 miles without the use of gas at all, and since the average American drives less than 40 miles a day anyway, it could theoretically never use gas, except for long trips. Also, it'll be less than 40K, maybe even less than 30K depending on pricing and PHEV tax breaks. And it will seat five I believe, maybe four. It will get equal performance to your average mid sized sedan, and actually with it's fully electric four wheel drive, it might get better performance than many.

And you mentioned the ICE. Check out NEVIS. It's a total reinvention of the ICE with a modular design, twice the fuel efficiency, and it can run on almost any fuel. It's still a few years away from being production ready, but it's just another example that with some research and American can do spirit (yeah yeah, I know), we can achieve a lot of things that naysayers are saying are impossible or impracticle. Check out the Green Energy thread, you'll find all sorts of efficiency increase inventions and practices in there, all things people are making big money off of.

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aspectre
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"...with some research and American can do spirit..."

Sorry, we haven't had that spirit here since 1969.
Just ghouls with steely knives feasting on the remains of the day.

"...a car that will get 150 mpg, but will anyone buy it if it tops out at 15 mph, seats one person and costs $200,000?"

"The Shell Eco-Marathon is an annual fuel economy competition... The rules are simple - build a machine which uses the least fuel possible while averaging more than 15mph... ...Team MicroJoule achieved an average fuel consumption of 10,705 mpg...the distance from London[UK] to Melbourne,Australia on less than one gallon of fuel"
Not bad for a buncha kids and their advisors workin' in their spare time.

Admittedly a highway vehicle gettin' 75mpg ain't quite as good as a one gettin' 150mpg, but then seating for 2 passengers and zero-to-250mph in under 20seconds with a top*speed of 292mph hasta count for somethin'.
A little pricey for sure, but that's with custom building. With mass production, it's sure to meet your price point.

Of course some folks might wanna question why a car needs to waste gas to be capable of exceeding 130kph** when it ain't even legal to go over 80mph***. Which is where the most obviously needless waste goes to: dragging around the extra weight and the extra inefficiency of engines, frames, transmissions, and suspensions engineered for scofflaws.

* With speed governor

** The less-than-81mph maximum "recommended" speed on small stretches of the German Autobahn. Get in an accident going faster, and the speeding driver is liable for damages even if the non-speeding driver would have otherwise been considered completely at fault.

*** A higher 80mph speed limit was enacted this year for one stretch of freeway in Texas. Every other road has a speed limit of 75mph or less.

[ June 26, 2007, 01:32 PM: Message edited by: aspectre ]

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Javert
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I haven't read the article yet, but I will tonight.

Until then, my global warming solution: Go nuclear!

That is all.

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Scott R
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I thought Brin was an astronomer. Go figure.
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Puffy Treat
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Haven't a lot of OSC's recent columns talked about NOT using up our remaining Fossil Fuels/seeking out alternative energy sources?

He doesn't agree on Global Warming, but he does agree we should find ways to stop using so much oil.

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BlackBlade
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quote:
Originally posted by Puffy Treat:
Haven't a lot of OSC's recent columns talked about NOT using up our remaining Fossil Fuels/seeking out alternative energy sources?

He doesn't agree on Global Warming, but he does agree we should find ways to stop using so much oil.

That more or less sums up the Orson Scott Card columns *I* have been reading.
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TheGrimace
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Lyr, don't get me wrong in that I'm all for increasingly efficient cars (and other things) when possible, and I know there is definately advancement that we can make in these areas.

I'd caution you though on the Volt example. It's a good example of the tradeoffs. the 40 mile limit, while generally not a problem, can be crippling. For example, I've personally driven cross-country about a half dozen times in the last few years and if I were driving a volt it would have been effectively impossible to get back and forth between school and my internships. Aditionally, while I'm certain it's still more efficient than regular ICEs electric engines aren't 0 consumption vehicles, they just defer their consumption to the greater power generation market. they may not use any gas, but how much coal or oil or whatever has to be run through a power plant to provide the electricity for the car. Like I said, this is almost certainly a great step forward in efficiencies/conservation, but just keep in mind that it's not as cut-and-dry as it often appears.

aspectre, the Eco-Marathon is exactly the kind of thing that I was referring to. For the most part (from my understanding) those vehicles aren't really all that advanced and eco-friendly (I believe they have to use off-the-shelf engines etc). They just get incredible mileage because they're all going ~15 mph, seat maybe a couple people, have little-no structure, safety equipment, etc etc.

on the flip side we obviously don't need the cars that can go 300 mph for any normal usage, but we almost certainly do want cars that can go maybe 100 mph and any number of other performance criteria (which unfortunately tend to reduce efficiencies).

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Alcon
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quote:
I thought Brin was an astronomer. Go figure.
From Brin's Website:

quote:
1973: Bachelor of Science, Caltech

1973-1977: Research Engineer, Hughes Aircraft Research Labs

1975-1977: Master of Science (Electrical Engineering), UCSD

1981: Doctor of Philosophy (Space Physics), UCSD


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Alcon
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quote:
I'd caution you though on the Volt example. It's a good example of the tradeoffs. the 40 mile limit, while generally not a problem, can be crippling. For example, I've personally driven cross-country about a half dozen times in the last few years and if I were driving a volt it would have been effectively impossible to get back and forth between school and my internships.
I think you misread what he said. It can get 40 miles before having to use gas. After that it switches to gas. It didn't say it could only go 40 miles.
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TheGrimace
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oh, my bad
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tern
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I was immediately turned off of Brin's article by the first few paragraphs and the tone he took. I'm unconvinced on global warming - just that, unconvinced, either way - but what makes me suspicious is the general tone that many of the adherents take. In my experience, the tone generally takes the same tone as a Southern Baptist telling a Mormon that he is going to Hell for not believing. Hey, maybe that is true...but it certainly isn't the way to convince me.

I have seen enough evidence on both sides to convince me that there is a legitimate scientific debate, one which should be approached with rationality and respect - which Brin chucked out the window almost immediately.

The other thing that makes me suspicious is that all too often, we're urged to adopt a particular, and statist political agenda almong with with the global warming creed. I dunno. The whole thing just smacks of a religious belief - which doesn't necessarily make it wrong, but it doesn't convince me scientifically. Mockery and derision do not a solid scientific argument make.

But I'll go with Javert - tell ya' what. Start building nuclear power plants, and I'll fully support the move to electric cars. Especially with the new Tesla roadsters.

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Lyrhawn
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Thanks for the correction Alcon.

I should add Grim, that that's also why we need to add more Green energy. I think the future of green energy, with respect to electric cars, is to have very small electric generation capacity at people's homes. Either some of the new small wind turbines that can be roof mounted, or roof mounted solar panels. Either way, electrical general is jumping forward leaps and bounds in the Green arena. Besides, even if it were the case that we just deferred our energy consumption to fossil fuel plants, we'd STILL come out ahead for a variety of reasons. First of all, energy would be cheaper, which might not help the environment, but it would help our wallets. More importantly, it would still reduce emissions, simply because electric cars are far more efficient than ICEs, which wildly waste energy and are horrible inefficient. Besides, we're getting greener every month when it comes to energy production. I don't even think we need to 100% eliminate fossil fuels (though that should be a future goal) we just need to get it down to sustainable levels, whatever those might be.

Nuclear power though, isn't the answer in large numbers. Too many problems come with it, not the least of which is the huge amounts of fresh water it takes up, and the coming droughts could cripple energy production. To say nothing of the droughts that are already here.

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rivka
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quote:
Originally posted by Alcon:
From Brin's Website:

quote:
1973: Bachelor of Science, Caltech

1973-1977: Research Engineer, Hughes Aircraft Research Labs

1975-1977: Master of Science (Electrical Engineering), UCSD

1981: Doctor of Philosophy (Space Physics), UCSD


I knew about UCSD, but I had totally forgotten that he was Techie. [Big Grin]
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Lisa
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Cool site.
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Javert
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quote:
Originally posted by Lyrhawn:
Nuclear power though, isn't the answer in large numbers. Too many problems come with it, not the least of which is the huge amounts of fresh water it takes up, and the coming droughts could cripple energy production. To say nothing of the droughts that are already here.

Is water completely unusable/uncleanable once it's used in the process?
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Lyrhawn
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I'm honestly not sure.

I don't remember specifics off the top of my head, but I know at least one nuclear reactor last summer, I think in Michigan, had to shut down because of a water shortage, and we aren't even in a drought right now. Al Gore isn't just sputtering nonsense when he says we need to look at our water usage habits, we've ruined aquifers and many natural sources of water through poor usage and overusage. And now many studies are saying that desalnization on a large scale could be harmful to the ocean ecosystem.

I just think it's something we need to study a lot more before we latch onto it as any type of solution.

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Javert
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quote:
Originally posted by Lyrhawn:
I'm honestly not sure.

I don't remember specifics off the top of my head, but I know at least one nuclear reactor last summer, I think in Michigan, had to shut down because of a water shortage, and we aren't even in a drought right now. Al Gore isn't just sputtering nonsense when he says we need to look at our water usage habits, we've ruined aquifers and many natural sources of water through poor usage and overusage. And now many studies are saying that desalnization on a large scale could be harmful to the ocean ecosystem.

I just think it's something we need to study a lot more before we latch onto it as any type of solution.

I could be wrong, but I believe that the plant had to shut down because of the drought, as opposed to the drought being helped by the plant.

From my VERY quick research online, it looks like nuclear power uses a lot of water but doesn't pollute that water. It just turns it to steam and emits it as non-radioactive vapor(the job of those big cooling towers).

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Sterling
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Regarding the Volt: unfortunately, it's just a concept car at this point. They're hoping to be producing it by 2010, but that production goal depends on the creation of battery technology not currently in existence, technology the company itself is not financing.

Don't get me wrong, it's a cool concept. But until it starts rolling off the production line, I've got to wonder how much it exists to distract from the Hummer.

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Lyrhawn
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Javert, that's sort of the point I was making. Drought is the new norm in many parts of America, time to get used to it. And that means shortages of water, which makes water guzzling nuclear power plants a little bit less feasible than they once were. I wasn't so much saying that nuclear power makes drought worse, as I was saying drought might make nuclear power unfeasible in large numbers in the near future, and that is something we should consider.

Sterling -

It's more than a concept car. Their goal is 1,000 cars by the end of 2009. A car that plan to have rolling off the assembly line, and are putting major money and manpower into to get into production in the next two years is a lot more than a concept car. Besides, the battery is largely already designed. It's just a matter of testing and getting it into the car, which they think will be accomplished within a year. They awarded contract to two different battery makers just a couple months ago. Check out the Green Energy thread for more details.

In other words, don't write it off as a publicity stunt, it's far more than that.

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Dagonee
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quote:
From my VERY quick research online, it looks like nuclear power uses a lot of water but doesn't pollute that water. It just turns it to steam and emits it as non-radioactive vapor(the job of those big cooling towers).
This is correct with respect to radiation or chemical contaminants (barring something being wrong with the plant, of course). There are concerns about thermal pollution, though.
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