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What is Wrong with the Kyoto Accords

By WinPimp2K in Op-Ed
Wed Apr 18, 2001 at 04:17:57 PM EST
Tags: Technology (all tags)
Technology

The Kyoto Accords are a really bad idea. As a political "solution" to a technical problem, it seems pretty much guaranteed to produce a result exactly the opposite of their claimed intent. For the sake of argument I'm going to acccept the following points as given:

  1. Global Warming is a real phenonoma, and if not reversed will have catastrophic effects on our planet;
  2. Global Warming is caused by excess "greenhouse gases" (primarily C02) produced by human industrial activity;
  3. The US with 4% of the worlds population produces 25% of the world's C02.
Remember, I'm accepting them because these (first two points anyways) are the basis for the "plan" the designers of the Kyoto Accords came up with -- and I believe that their reasoning is so fundamentally flawed that it is not even internally consistent.


The designers of the Accords feel that the solution to this problem is to require the "developed" nations to reduce their levels of greenhouse emissions while the "developing" nations are exempt from any restrictions on their greenhouse emissions. China, for the purposes of the Accords is defined as a "developing" nation. China alone has approximately 20% of the worlds population. When China becomes as "developed" as the US, it will therefore be producing 5 times the greenhouse gases that the US does now - or 125% of the world's current level of industrial C02 emissions. Even if the US were to reduce CO2 emissions to zero, the result wouild be a net increase in worldwide C02 emissions. And China is only one (though the largest) of the developing nations.

So, allow me to peer into my crystal ball and offer some predictions (not terribly original ones, but hey it was only 12.99 at Target) on what would happen if the Kyoto Accords were to go into full effect:

  1. Industrial development would move to the developing nations. Since the C02 they produce is not restricted, these new industrial plants would be rather nasty polluters. And all "perfectly legal" under the Accords.
  2. Only that industry which absolutely can not be moved from a restricted to an unrestricted nation would need to worry about their emissions. But because of point 3, they will not.
  3. "Developing" nations will learn to "game the system" with the multinationals (including "new" multinationals"). This means those plants which are not candidates for relocation will not need to reduce their emissions after all because enough other industry moved out to meet the Accord requirements.
  4. The greenhouse gas problem gets a lot worse a whole lot faster than mere politicians can respond.
But I have a plan (trademark and patent pending, copyrighted and encrypted as per requirements of both the US DMCA and the EC analogue):

Just Say No To Hydrocarbons

The developing nations need really major infrastructure development. Let's use them as competitive laboratories for all new infrastructures that do not depend upon hydrocarbon fuels. Just say no to all hydrocarbon buring industry. If, for example Ethiopia wants to become a developed nation, let them require that their infrastructure be based on burning hydrogen. (Some Dead White European Male was pushing H2 as an ideal fuel in the 19th Century, but we got sidetracked by coal and oil.) H2 will burn in existing internal combustion engines, so when all the kinks are worked out, we can start replacing hydrocarbon burning systems with hydrogen in the developed nations (including those SUVs we so love in the US) All of the various "big oil" companies are now calling themselves "energy" companies so let them prove it.

Other "developing" nations might look at different approaches -- perhaps go "all electric" with massive wind turbine farms in their deserts, or really high tech with space based solar electric and rectenna arrays. Space development will be cheap once it is turned over to engineers -- my crystal ball says this will happen -- maybe in China?

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Poll
So, how would you end global warming?
o Go nuclear and geothermal all the way 36%
o Batteries charged by Burgess Meredith on a bicycle (as in Soylent Green) 3%
o Apply the Kyoto Accords -- with public executions for the heads of state of violators 14%
o Solar Electric -- watch that goose get cooked 11%
o Controlled atmospheric nuclear detonations -- cause a "nuclear autumn" to offset the warming 12%
o Import lots of water ice from Saturn and beyond 8%
o Mandatory sterilization before being allowed to operate a motor vehicle 10%
o Inoshiro? 2%

Votes: 108
Results | Other Polls

Related Links
o Kyoto Accords
o Also by WinPimp2K


Display: Sort:
What is Wrong with the Kyoto Accords | 83 comments (70 topical, 13 editorial, 0 hidden)
Clarification (4.00 / 5) (#1)
by Estanislao Martínez on Fri Apr 13, 2001 at 12:00:04 AM EST

What's your position? You say that the Accords are bad; but do you mean that they should be made stronger to close the loopholes you perceive, or that we'd be better off with no accords at all?

--em

clarified? (2.50 / 2) (#2)
by WinPimp2K on Fri Apr 13, 2001 at 12:11:04 AM EST

I mean that they will not accomplish what they claim. The Accords strike me as a power grab by ignorant politicos hounded into "action" by alarmists and guided in their actions by agendas not related to the problem at hand. The entire global warming debate will probably not be settled until New York City is either:
A> flooded by the rise in sea level when the ice caps melt or
B> wiped off the face of the Earth by advancing glaciers
And while that will settle the debate, it won't actually prove either side was right.

[ Parent ]
I thought it was clear. (3.00 / 1) (#5)
by delmoi on Fri Apr 13, 2001 at 12:43:14 AM EST

Th author sugested that developing nations be required to build 'clean' infistructure, rather then simply allow poluters to relocated to developing nations.
--
"'argumentation' is not a word, idiot." -- thelizman
[ Parent ]
but... (none / 0) (#19)
by Estanislao Martínez on Fri Apr 13, 2001 at 06:26:18 AM EST

The author has this in the first paragraph:
For the sake of argument I'm going to acccept the following points as given:
1> Global Warming is a real phenonoma, and if not reversed will have catastrophic effects on our planet
2> Global Warming is caused by excess "greenhouse gases" (primarily C02) produced by human industrial activity
3> The US with 4% of the worlds population produces 25% of the world's C02
The author did not commit himself to any of these essential premises. Which means that, as far as we can tell, this person might consider the whole argument to be counterfactual.

--em
[ Parent ]

Go nuclear (4.12 / 8) (#3)
by enterfornone on Fri Apr 13, 2001 at 12:16:47 AM EST

I seriously don't get what the greenies problem is with nuclear energy. I'm sure part of it related to cold war paranoia and part is the NIMBYs concern that you have to be able to store the waste somewhere. But isn't storing nuclear waste somewhere much better than pumping waste into the air or sea?

--
efn 26/m/syd
Will sponsor new accounts for porn.
They can go boom... (3.14 / 7) (#14)
by Anonymous 6522 on Fri Apr 13, 2001 at 02:05:17 AM EST

...and spew a whole heck of alot of waste into the environment, besides the waste they they already produce.

I personally think that nuclear power is the way to go, just as long as the power plants are built out of the way and underground, to minimize any risk. Also if you build the plant undergound, why not just dig a bit deeper hole and build a waste storage facility under the plant?

[ Parent ]

Bah (4.50 / 4) (#15)
by Miniluv on Fri Apr 13, 2001 at 02:59:29 AM EST

Lots of things can do horrible things to the environment when not properly engineered, constructed, run and retired. I mean, gee, oil refineries and supertankers aren't particularly nice either, are they?

As to digging deeper to store the waste, have you heard of water tables? Nuclear waste is notoriously hard to contain properly and seepage into the water table is at least as bad as fallout from an explosion like Chernobyl.

"Its like someone opened my mouth and stuck a fistful of herbs in it." - Tamio Kageyama, Iron Chef 'Battle Eggplant'
[ Parent ]

Well... (4.00 / 6) (#18)
by Anonymous 6522 on Fri Apr 13, 2001 at 06:18:43 AM EST

Yeah, oil tankers can cause lots of damage, but there isn't the perception that they will explode like a nuclear bomb when they malfunction.

Digging holes and dumping nuclear waste in them is a bad thing, and it wasn't what I was talking about. I was talking about some kind of facility that would be maintained until ether the waste decays or we find a better solution. It would be kept seperate from the water table if it were below it.

How about we put the waste on some abandoned nuclear test site? The ground probably has all kinds of nuclear waste in it already, so any seepage wouldn't cause as much damage as, say, it seeping into some city's water supply. Or we could just say that nuclear waste is good for you and eat it for breakfast.

[ Parent ]

Key word, and a few thoughts (5.00 / 4) (#29)
by jabber on Fri Apr 13, 2001 at 10:41:58 AM EST

"Perception" is indeed a very big issue here. The general public is grossly misinformed by the anti-nuclear zealots, who spread fear and build on ignorance to further their own agenda. I am a big proponent of nuclear power. I think it has the potential to solve very many of the world's problems. I know that it is a powerful and dangerous thing. Education is a key feature in the success or failure of nuclear power being used to it's full potential.

Ralph Nader is a big opponent of nuclear power. He is a very intelligent man, yet insists on spreading FUD to increase his number of supporters. He seems to feel that he knows better than the General Public, and that the 'people' can simply be told his final analysis. This is why I can't in good conscience vote for him. He's one man who purports to think for many people. But I digress.

Nuclear waste can be treated and processed to separate the radioactive material from the inert. The inert matterial can be used in the making of concrete, asphalt, whatever.. The radioactive matter can be further processed and re-enriched to make more nuclear fuel. Eventually, this too is rendered inert if freshly produced fuel isn't added. Waste can be processed into an inert state.

This is a costly process, and it requires technology which can also be used for the production of weapons-grade fissible material. Since the nuclear power generation industry in the US is privatized, this technology is not available to the people who make the nuclear waste. Due to international pressure and a variety of non-proliferation treaties, the US gov (and those of other nations) does not engage in the recycling process.

So that leaves us with disposal only, unless the world-view of nuclear power suddenly changes in the near future. Disposal in a wasteland is not feasible since the harm potential of waste is much greater than of radioactive tumbleweeds. Waste really needs to be well undergroud in a hollow mountain or such. Currently, that is exactly what is done. Old salt mines (by definition, very, very dry places) are used. Casks upon casks of waste are rolled in and stockpiled. These casks are multi-layer and very structurally sound - they could even be submerged in water and not contaminate it - still, care is taken to keep them dry and secure. After the site is 'full' (which is a very relative term, since the storage is not 'standing room only') the mine is pumped up with interesting mixtures of inert gasses to force out oxygen and other reactive agents and then sealed with yards of reinforced concrete.

It's all quite safe and secure. The problem is in the finding, preparation, zoning and worst of all publicising, the site. Due to 'perception', there is incredible opposition from people that simply do not know anything. They imagine that the desert rats will mutate into glowing green 9' tall monsters and eat their children or something. Everyone KNOWS that mutant rats don't like the taste of children.

A relatively new and still theoretical idea is to drill deep into the mantle, hollow out a chamber, stock-pile the waste sans the expensive containment, and then drop in a small nuclear bomb. The result would be a big blob of radioactive glass, deep in the earth, below the water table and not subject to leakage since it would be a single solid mass. This could even, in theory of course at this point, be done from a drilling rig out in the middle of the ocean, which has environmentalists in all sorts of unnecessary knots.

[TINK5C] |"Is K5 my kapusta intellectual teddy bear?"| "Yes"
[ Parent ]

Reprocessing for fuel (4.50 / 4) (#34)
by /dev/niall on Fri Apr 13, 2001 at 12:21:41 PM EST

Nuclear waste can be treated and processed to separate the radioactive material from the inert. The inert matterial can be used in the making of concrete, asphalt, whatever.. The radioactive matter can be further processed and re-enriched to make more nuclear fuel. Eventually, this too is rendered inert if freshly produced fuel isn't added. Waste can be processed into an inert state.

Breeder reactors (which I assume you are talking about) actually produce more fuel than they use, perhaps 20% more. This could be used to "start off" other breeders, but eventually we reach a balance between the excess fuel and our power requirments.

Granted, our power requirements tend to increase too, but I have no idea what the statistics are, or what availabilty of cheap, safe, nuclear power to developing countries would do to the numbers. ;)

This is a costly process, and it requires technology which can also be used for the production of weapons-grade fissible material. Since the nuclear power generation industry in the US is privatized, this technology is not available to the people who make the nuclear waste. Due to international pressure and a variety of non-proliferation treaties, the US gov (and those of other nations) does not engage in the recycling process.

That's the problem in a nutshell. Anti-nuclear proponents spread FUD and governments are powerless to dispute it because they fear the availabilty of weapons-grade materials. *sigh*
--
"compared to the other apes, my genitals are gigantic" -- TheophileEscargot
[ Parent ]

A side note (3.00 / 2) (#52)
by Miniluv on Fri Apr 13, 2001 at 07:02:17 PM EST

This comment and it's parent are exactly the kind of discourse I wanted to see. I'm not a nuclear physicist, chemist, etc and thus not qualified to comment greatly on the details, though I do remember the basics from school. Nuclear power is the best choice we have currently open to us based on overall environmental impact, fuel to power produced efficiency, and so forth. Sadly it is underutilized, and that is getting worse not better.

"Its like someone opened my mouth and stuck a fistful of herbs in it." - Tamio Kageyama, Iron Chef 'Battle Eggplant'
[ Parent ]
Radioactive tumbleweeds (none / 0) (#76)
by sigwinch on Wed Apr 18, 2001 at 07:46:41 PM EST

So that leaves us with disposal only, unless the world-view of nuclear power suddenly changes in the near future. Disposal in a wasteland is not feasible since the harm potential of waste is much greater than of radioactive tumbleweeds.
The Hanford Nuclear Reservation has to collect their radioactive tumbleweeds before they blow away and carry radioactivity miles away. And that was a money-is-no-object military project. Imagine the same situation as handled by the lowest bidder in a commercial setting...

--
I don't want the world, I just want your half.
[ Parent ]

Perception (none / 0) (#79)
by strumco on Thu Apr 19, 2001 at 08:53:31 AM EST

"Perception" is indeed a very big issue here. The general public is grossly misinformed by the anti-nuclear zealots, who spread fear and build on ignorance to further their own agenda.
I hope you'll be honest enough to admit that you're doing the same thing - in reverse.

I'm old enough to remember when the nuclear industry told us that power would soon be too cheap to meter, when they said it was inherently safe and clean, when there were never any accidents (here in Britain, nuclear "incidents" were covered by the Official Secrets Act).

These "pro-nuclear zealots" turned out to be less than honest, many of them turned out to be cavalier with public safety (at best), some turned out to be positively dangerous - both to public safety and to the democratic process.

It may be that nuclear power has some contribution to make to our future, but before that can happen, the nuclear industry will have to earn the public's trust. That won't be achieved by patting the public's collective head and saying "there, there - we know what we're doing".

DC
http://www.strum.co.uk
[ Parent ]

Technically speaking (4.50 / 2) (#26)
by jabber on Fri Apr 13, 2001 at 09:48:10 AM EST

The Chernobyl explosion was conventional in nature. It was not a 'critical mass' explosion that is produced by nuclear weapons. There is a significant difference in magnitude and immediate destructive power. This is not to diminish the severity of that accident (see below), but only to make the point that nuclear plants can not explode in the same scale as even the weakest nuclear bombs. The fallout from Chernobyl was the result of the reactor and containment building BURNING. Chernobyl fallout was radioactive smoke. Still a problem, yes, but not Hiroshima.

You are very right about the water table issue. This is why 'meltdown' is even a concern, really. Yes, a molten pile could reach to the core of the Earth, and ooze radioactivity throughout the world's volcanos, but that's just sci-fi since the radioactivity would be dilluted to 'normal' levels in the process. Having the local water supply destroyed by a meltdown is the real problem in the remote chance that a plant should go bad.

For the record, more people died in the single Union Carbide (conventional chemical) disaster in Bhopal, India than in all nuclear power related incidents combined, excluding the still rising death toll of Chernobyl - currently at over 10,000 people.

[TINK5C] |"Is K5 my kapusta intellectual teddy bear?"| "Yes"
[ Parent ]

Should I demand a recount? (none / 0) (#43)
by khallow on Fri Apr 13, 2001 at 02:40:38 PM EST

Could you provide information on who is claiming 10,000 people have died from Chernobyl? According to this link, most predicted deaths will be mostly due to thyroid cancer and will effect mostly people who were young children at the time of the accident. No real estimate of total predicted loss of life was given, but less than 1000 people seems a reasonable conclusion to me. It's a 1995 Nuclear Energy Agency study so it could be too early or biased.

According to advice from the International Atomic Energy Agency, there is a theoretical 1 in 5000 increased chance of death due to cancer for people who chose to live in areas near Chernobyl. It seems to me that this yields at most a few hundred deaths over a lifetime for the region. Again the advice could be biased.

Clearly, I'm not finding this information with a cursory search of the web.


Stating the obvious since 1969.
[ Parent ]

Link (4.00 / 1) (#50)
by jabber on Fri Apr 13, 2001 at 04:37:37 PM EST

Here is the source I used. And yes, most of those deaths are not immediate in nature, but directly attributed to the accident.

It's too convenient to dismiss the long-term effects of nuclear accidents. This is why, even while a pro-nuclear person, I am obliged to include the cancers, malformations and other radiation-related deaths.

[TINK5C] |"Is K5 my kapusta intellectual teddy bear?"| "Yes"
[ Parent ]

Long term effects (3.33 / 3) (#53)
by Miniluv on Fri Apr 13, 2001 at 07:06:26 PM EST

Part of the problem for both sides of the issue is that is so easy to cast a pall over the statistics. I don't have numbers handy, but I do know there is a baseline number of expected incidences of each type of cancer in the qualified portion of the population for said cancer. You start throwing those numbers around, couple it with the poor record keeping regarding congenital health conditions in Soviet Russia at the time, and we have a welter of unknown variables in the equation.

Ultimately, yes we have to count long term deaths. To be realistic it is probably best to overestimate the death toll as human life is undeniably precious. However, I think it would also be reasonable to balance that out with a look at the total kilowatt hour production per human death in nuclear power compared with other methods.

"Its like someone opened my mouth and stuck a fistful of herbs in it." - Tamio Kageyama, Iron Chef 'Battle Eggplant'
[ Parent ]

There is no spoon? (none / 0) (#57)
by jabber on Sat Apr 14, 2001 at 12:39:01 PM EST

KWH/death? Depending on who you ask, it might be of more benefit to just store living people in tanks and harvest their body heat. Eek! I wonder if anyone has ever tried burning corpses for fuel...

Can Godwin's Law be invoked by implication? :)

[TINK5C] |"Is K5 my kapusta intellectual teddy bear?"| "Yes"
[ Parent ]

Not at all (5.00 / 1) (#58)
by Miniluv on Sat Apr 14, 2001 at 11:33:11 PM EST

Honestly KWH/death is the only way to evaluate the human toll efficiency of any power source. It takes it account all the death causing facets of any modern power source. I hardly suspect that nuclear power is less efficient than burning corpses however.

"Its like someone opened my mouth and stuck a fistful of herbs in it." - Tamio Kageyama, Iron Chef 'Battle Eggplant'
[ Parent ]
err... could you find a more direct link? (none / 0) (#72)
by khallow on Wed Apr 18, 2001 at 10:13:47 AM EST

I saw the 10,000 death figure quoted, but a lot of the links on the page were dead (so I couldn't located where this number came from). Do you know of the original source for these figures? I'm still dubious of the figure. However, I am seeing it cited in other places without attribution. This could be another urban legend. Incidentally, here's an interesting 1996 article on various discrepancies in various viewpoints of Chernobyl.

Opinions on the current number of deaths range from dozens of people to 150,000 people. The amount of radioactive material range from 11 tons (the official number) to ten times that (saw 170 tons elsewhere) although officials do admit that at least 50 tons are unaccounted for. The point is that this looks like a number of people either did some back of the envelope calculations or invented numbers.

When I look at actual research, I see only that suicides and thyroid cancer have increased significantly. Thyroid cancer <a href="http://www.elon.edu/student/kmcinnis/kim'spage.html">increased from 4-6 cases per million to 45 cases per million (presumably of the Ukraine population) - a huge increase, and the cases are veiwed as generally more aggressive.

I'm not even sure what this is really saying since the US apparently has a cancer rate of roughly 50 per million in comparison. Presumably the clinical determination of what is thyroid cancer differs between the US and Ukraine. What a mess!


Stating the obvious since 1969.
[ Parent ]

No, they can't (4.50 / 2) (#24)
by jabber on Fri Apr 13, 2001 at 09:18:28 AM EST

At least not in the 'magic mushroom from Hiroshima" sort of way. About the worst thing that a reactor can do is 'melt down', with emphasis on the 'down'. There is an explosion potential, but this explosion can only react from excessive gas pressure inside the containment vessel around the pile. If the reactor heats up too hot, and if the cooling system fails, and if the control system fails, and if the emergency poison system fails, and if the manual intervention fails, then maybe, maybe, there can be a breech.

That's a whole lot of ifs, and all these systems are independent of each other and redundant, and SPoF corrected. So it isn't going to happen outside the realm of statistical probability. Add to that that the containment vessel is designed to withstand a full speed impact from a 747 (which sounds like hype, but it is in fact true) and youi've got pretty good protection from explosion. We've learned a great deal since TMI, and the potential for explosion, even then, was hypothetical.

Now 'meltdown' is a much more likely problem, but it is still an astronomically remote possibility in a modern, properly respected plant.

[TINK5C] |"Is K5 my kapusta intellectual teddy bear?"| "Yes"
[ Parent ]

Meltdowns and Explosions (5.00 / 3) (#41)
by cameldrv on Fri Apr 13, 2001 at 02:34:52 PM EST

Well, when you look at what happened to Chernobyl, you had a buildup of Hydrogen gas as a result of extreme heat. When the Hydrogen exploded, it spewed a big part of the core into the atmosphere. This could have happened at TMI if the condititions were a little different. In fact, there was a Hydrogen buildup at TMI, but luckily there was not much oxygen in the reactor core. Western reactors have a huge advantage on this score though because they have a containment vessel which probably would keep the waste inside the big concrete structure. However, to say that an American reactor cannot explode is probably naive. That said, there were a lot of safety measures taken after TMI, and I am quite comfortable living ten miles from a nuke plant.

[ Parent ]
Chernobyl? (none / 0) (#61)
by adamsc on Mon Apr 16, 2001 at 02:35:40 AM EST

However, to say that an American reactor cannot explode is probably naive.
I'd say comparing any western reactor to Chernobyl is probably naive - it's tantamount to claiming that because something is done very badly, it cannot be done right.

[ Parent ]
Waste (5.00 / 3) (#21)
by tumeric on Fri Apr 13, 2001 at 08:06:44 AM EST

Actually some waste is pumped into the sea.

Nuclear power is a potentially clean wonderful technology that could lead to a safer world if everything was carried out perfectly. Sadly, for every 100 well run power stations there will be at least one poisoning the environment for 1000s of years. Minor mistakes can cause major catastrophes. There is also the question of what to do with the radiating wrecks of old power stations -- nice children's play areas they do not make.

[ Parent ]

Glowing Plastic Money (4.50 / 2) (#22)
by jabber on Fri Apr 13, 2001 at 09:07:07 AM EST

Yep, for every 100 plastic bottles that are recycled, at least one will end up washing up on the Jersey Shore.

I am ALL FOR Nuclear Power - but I think that it' needs to be Federally managed. Of course, people only do the right thing with the right funding in my perfect little world.

But, point for point: Waste CAN be properly managed, to the point of being completely inert. Then it can be used as a building material. The only problem with Nuclear Power today is that companies cut corners to save money, and that people get careless since a well-running plant provides little incentive to stay vigilant. Minor mistakes cause minor incidents (like the Palo Alto "oops!" last week - royal fuck-ups cause catastrophies like Chernobyl and the Japanese processing incident of three years ago. Radiating wrecks are a by-product of decomissioning, which results from the anti-nuclear power policies championed by feel-good Democrats and pro-oil Republicans. If Nukes were supported by the Gov, there would be no need to decomission a single plant.

[TINK5C] |"Is K5 my kapusta intellectual teddy bear?"| "Yes"
[ Parent ]

Nuclear Waste (3.00 / 1) (#23)
by BackSlash on Fri Apr 13, 2001 at 09:17:29 AM EST

The by-products of the uranium rods in a nuclear plant (That glowy-green stuff Mr. Burns stores in a self-storage locker) is the most bio-hazardous material. Fortunately, it still retains a LOT of potential energy. The government is stockpiling drums of this stuff in cut-out salt mines in the mountains for a couple of reasons.

1. You have to keep this stuff out of harm's way in case of an enemy attack. (Can you imagine carpet-bombing a nuclear waste dump?)

2. With a half-life of a gabillion years, and its potential to destroy the eco-system as we know it, you have to keep nuclear waste in a contained environment.

So why don't we launch this foul, nasty stuff into space?

3. NUCLEAR WASTE WILL BE THE FUEL SOURCE OF THE FUTURE.

One day, in the not so distant future, we will (have to) figure out how to harness the energy left in nuclear waste. Once that happens - bye-bye, OPEC... as long as we figure it out before its gabillion year half-life is over.


[ Parent ]
excuse my ignorance (5.00 / 2) (#30)
by mikpos on Fri Apr 13, 2001 at 10:43:00 AM EST

This is probably on every FAQ on the planet, but I'm lazy, so sue me.

Why don't they just store used uranium in the uranium mines? It seems a lot easier than hollowing out caves and making concrete caskets and whatnot.

[ Parent ]

Some clarifcation (5.00 / 1) (#33)
by /dev/niall on Fri Apr 13, 2001 at 12:14:53 PM EST

The by-products of the uranium rods in a nuclear plant (That glowy-green stuff Mr. Burns stores in a self-storage locker) is the most bio-hazardous material. Fortunately, it still retains a LOT of potential energy. The government is stockpiling drums of this stuff in cut-out salt mines in the mountains for a couple of reasons.

I notice that you don't actually say what the by-product is other than referring to it as "glowy-green stuff". If your knowledge of nuclear energy was obtained by watching the Simpsons, perhaps you should preface your comments with "I'm not a nuclear engineer, but..."

That being said, I'm not a nuclear engineer, but...

2. With a half-life of a gabillion years, and its potential to destroy the eco-system as we know it, you have to keep nuclear waste in a contained environment.

Conventional nuclear reactors use fuel enriched in Uranium-235 around 3 or 4%, with a natural content of about 0.7%. The remaining uranium is the isotope U-238.

The U-235 is fissioned, which (among other things) produces energy which is used to heat water to steam, which turns turbines, which produce the electricity. The fission process produces fast neutrons (which are slowed down by the water), some of these are taken up by the U-238 isotopes to form U-239. U-239 is highly unstable and decays to Plutonium-239, which is what you called "glowy-green stuff". ;)

Depending on what book you pick up, P-239 has a half life of 24,000-24,360 years. A very long time indeed, but not "a gabillion years".
--
"compared to the other apes, my genitals are gigantic" -- TheophileEscargot
[ Parent ]

I'm not a nuclear engineer.. but... (none / 0) (#51)
by BackSlash on Fri Apr 13, 2001 at 04:57:48 PM EST

I knew someone would fill in the blanks for me. ;)




[ Parent ]
re: I'm not a nuclear engineer.. but... (none / 0) (#55)
by /dev/niall on Fri Apr 13, 2001 at 11:46:52 PM EST

I knew someone would fill in the blanks for me. ;)

You just missed the Simpsons episode where they explained it all, that's all. *grin*


--
"compared to the other apes, my genitals are gigantic" -- TheophileEscargot
[ Parent ]

Fast Breeder Reactors (5.00 / 3) (#39)
by cameldrv on Fri Apr 13, 2001 at 02:29:45 PM EST

Nuclear waste coming from conventional reactors has lots of energy still in it. In fact, only about 0.03% of the total energy available in the enriched Uranium is actually used in a conventional fuel cycle. Using fuel reprocessing (illegal in the United States for political reasons), about 50x as much energy can be extracted from the Uranium, and thus you get 1/50 of the waste. If you use an advanced Fast Breeder Reactor, you can extract about another 30x the energy of reprocessing alone. This is acheived by using the U-235 to turn U-238 (the most common form of Uranium) in to Pu-239. The Pu-239 can then be fissioned for fuel. To do this, you need a different reactor design, some of which have been used in other countries, with unfortunately not-so-spectacular results. However, Argonne has developed the IFR which solves most of the problems with the older breeders. The real bonanza for the breeders is that the waste they produce (and they don't produce much of it), has no medium-half-life isotopes. This means that you can build storage containers which are only designed to last a few hundred years. Once that time has elapsed, the radiation from the waste from an IFR, for example, is down to near background levels.

[ Parent ]
A few questions about IFR. (none / 0) (#46)
by claudius on Fri Apr 13, 2001 at 04:06:16 PM EST

IFR sounds great. Since you seem to know alot about the device, please permit me to ask a couple questions: How is the efficiency of IFR compared to conventional reactors? I seem to recall this being a big problem with fast breeders in the past--many of the designs couldn't attain break-even. If so, what was the change did they made to the design to do so? (A link to an IFR site would be fine). How would the per-kilowatt-hour cost with an IFR-like power plant compare to conventional reactors and to other ways of generating power, such as coal? Thanks in advance.

[ Parent ]
IFR specifics (none / 0) (#56)
by cameldrv on Sat Apr 14, 2001 at 04:49:18 AM EST

You may be thinking of Fusion reactors. The IFR is a Fast Breeder fission reactor. Therefore it is somewhat different than other fission reactors, but it is still using relatively well understood physics. The test reactor at Argonne was far more efficient than any other reactor in terms of energy/fuel burn or energy/waste. In terms of cost efficiency, I'm not really sure. It's my understanding that it should be the about the same or somewhat more than other nuclear reactors. However, a commercial IFR has never been built, and the project was cancelled by President Clinton and the test reactor is currently being dismantled. This is the activism problem that I mentioned in an earlier message. The project could probably be restarted if Bush gave them the money, and he has been making noises about nuclear power recently. If we were to make these reactors on a scale to replace fossil plants, I would certainly expect that the price would be competitive with fossil. A lot of technical info about the IFR project is at http://www.nuc.berkeley.edu/designs/ifr/


[ Parent ]
its not environmentalists (3.00 / 2) (#32)
by alprazolam on Fri Apr 13, 2001 at 11:36:34 AM EST

the vast majority of people opposed to nuclear power are average citizens who don't want to have the plants or waste come anywhere near their homes.

[ Parent ]
reasons (5.00 / 2) (#49)
by SEAL on Fri Apr 13, 2001 at 04:37:14 PM EST

Waste and long-term storage problems:

Even with fast breeder / burner reactors, you still end up with some quantity of long-lived isotopes. Look at some of the non-fissionable plutonium isotopes (242 has a half-life of 3.76 x 10^5 years). Also many of the shorter-lived isotopes decay into OTHER radioactive elements, so the picture is not quite as rosy as some would make it out to be.

Some isotopes are liquid or gas, which is an entire can of worms all by itself.

Terrorism:

The U.S. government worries about this a lot. Fast breeder reactors deal with plutonium-239 which can be used in weapons. Of course, U-235 is good for this too, but must be enriched more than is done for standard reactors. Regardless, the U.S. perceives fissionable isotopes as a security risk, and puts a very high level of scrutiny on their production. One of the reasons Canada uses heavy water reactors is because they don't require enriched uranium and mitigate this risk.

Pollution:

But isn't storing nuclear waste somewhere much better than pumping waste into the air or sea?

Don't forget that reactors do a lot of damage to river ecosystems. They aren't directly pumping waste into the river. However, they do use rivers for cooling and this tends to cause problems of its own.

Nuclear power is useful but it isn't a free ride. Same goes for carbon-based fuels. I would imagine the same goes for hydrogen, if you consider the excess water generated by a planet full of people burning it.

- SEAL

It's only after we've lost everything that we're free to do anything.
[ Parent ]

You have won a house! (3.00 / 2) (#63)
by Tezcatlipoca on Mon Apr 16, 2001 at 06:34:55 PM EST

There is a nuclear dump close by, which is walking distance from your source of drinking water and your children's school is not so far as well. Enjoy. Next question please.

Might is right
Freedom? Which freedom?
[ Parent ]
I'll take it! (none / 0) (#64)
by enterfornone on Mon Apr 16, 2001 at 08:31:43 PM EST

I used to live a short distance from Australia's only nuclear reactor. I don't really see the problem. There is no evidence that living near a reactor or a nuclear waste dump will cause any problems - in Australia and I assume the US they have very strict standards. Living near a coal burning plant or even under overheard power lines has proven to cause far more problems than nuclear power.

If someone wants to give me a house near a reacor then I'll take it.

--
efn 26/m/syd
Will sponsor new accounts for porn.
[ Parent ]
Overhead power lines? (none / 0) (#68)
by magney on Tue Apr 17, 2001 at 08:57:44 PM EST

Out of curiosity, what are the documented and peer-reviewed studies connecting high-voltage power lines with health problems? I've heard some speculative reports, but I never heard that anything was confirmed?

Do I look like I speak for my employer?
[ Parent ]

um.. (none / 0) (#83)
by enterfornone on Thu Apr 19, 2001 at 09:09:24 PM EST

I think there was an Eddie Murphy movie about it...

--
efn 26/m/syd
Will sponsor new accounts for porn.
[ Parent ]
Nuclear isn't good enough [yet] (3.00 / 1) (#77)
by Shaggie76 on Wed Apr 18, 2001 at 09:54:53 PM EST

Conservative estimates suggest that if all of the earth's uranium is used with existing fission reactors, we'll only have enough fuel for 15-20 years.

Fusion reactors have yet to prove themselves, but emerging breeder reactor technology may change this figure.

[ Parent ]

Hydrogen a bad idea (4.00 / 10) (#10)
by weirdling on Fri Apr 13, 2001 at 01:19:21 AM EST

All hydrogen does is move the pollutants to a more centralized location; there aren't large stores of hydrogen lying around. Now, as to the dynamics of hydrogen in an internal-combustion engine: Hydrogen has a very low flash point. What this means is that in order to avoid detonation, one must either run very low compression or use some form of injection, which won't be easy, because hydrogen is a gas and the compression problems are horrific. The other problem is that hydrogen has a low specific energy. The reason gasoline and diesel are so useful is their high specific energy. Diesel has a higher specific energy than gasoline due to its high carbon content. Coal is even higher. Carbon is where the energy is. Now, with a low specific energy, you're going to have a low specific output in the engine. In other words, a one-liter engine can make 150 horse on gasoline if correctly done, but with hydrogen, the number would be considerably lower, say, 50. Now, there are two ways to increase specific output: increase flow or increase displacement. Turbos and superchargers are out; they exacerbate the compression problem. An increase in displacement will result in an increase in weight, with a point at which the weight increase is sufficient to cause a significant reduction in efficiency of the overall vehicle. This is easily witnessed in various other vehicles which employ a high-hydrogen gaseous fuel, such as methane or CNG. Now, if one abandons the infernal combustion engine, switching to, say, a Stirling, or a turbine, many of these problems go away. However, you're presented with two very different problems: with the Stirling, you have a low-rpm/high-torque engine, but it tends to be heavy. It is highly efficient, however. With a turbine, you have a high-rpm/low-torque solution, which means that gearing will be a sincere pain. Most turbine vehicles have a terrible time getting rolling, although they can cruise all day as fast as you'd like.
I'm not doing this again; last time no one believed it.
Centralized pollution is better (none / 0) (#37)
by khallow on Fri Apr 13, 2001 at 01:50:59 PM EST

All hydrogen does is move the pollutants to a more centralized location; there aren't large stores of hydrogen lying around.

There are huge stores of hydrogen around (as water), they just require lots of energy to get at them (which may have been your point). I agree that no mechanical engine designed to burn hydrocarbons is going to burn hydrogen. Fuel cells probably could do it but not mechanical ones. The characteristics of hydrogen and hydrocarbon fuels are just too different.

Finally, centralized pollution sources are better in many ways than distributed pollution sources. It's much easier to monitor and control the pollution from a few hundred coal burning plants than it is from several hundred million vehicles. There's problems with distribution of electrical and hydrogen, but I believe these can be surmounted.


Stating the obvious since 1969.
[ Parent ]

I would agree with you (none / 0) (#47)
by weirdling on Fri Apr 13, 2001 at 04:14:53 PM EST

If you used a nuclear plant for your power generation, as it produces next to no polution and what it produces is small and easily stored someplace safe, but debating nuclear power isn't my point here.
There are a lot of considerations to be had in using hydrogen as an automotive fuel. Even with fuel cells, efficiency is still pretty low due to the fact that the separation of water into hydrogen and oxygen is problematic and prone to low efficiency. It's got to be separated and compressed. The separation isn't cheap in energy, and quite a bit of that energy won't be recovered by the vehicle. Then there's the compression, which costs a lot of energy to do to any level high enough to make it worthwhile as an automotive fuel.
Then there's the transfer of the fuel, which is, essentially, a recompression, with all the concomittant energy inefficiencies. I don't have the numbers, and I'm not sure if you'd actually result in lower CO2 emissions through a coal plant doing this, but I doubt it. You'll have lower nitrous and sulfide emissions, though, which is a good thing...

I'm not doing this again; last time no one believed it.
[ Parent ]
What's that I hear whizzing by? (4.50 / 16) (#11)
by Mr. Excitement on Fri Apr 13, 2001 at 01:34:28 AM EST

Other "developing" nations might look at different approaches - perhaps go "all electric" with massive wind turbine farms in their deserts, or really high tech with space based solar electric and rectenna arrays. Space development will be cheap once it is turned over to engineers - my crystal ball says this will happen - maybe in China?
Meanwhile, back in the real world, "developing" nations are the ones that don't have the resources or infrastructure to fully industrialize, much less build complex solutions (turbine farms, or the last-I-checked grotesquely expensive and completely infeasible idea of sending space-based energy down as microwaves), to a simple problem (the generation of energy).

Besides, if even the most struggling developing nation can afford to squander billions on space-based energy generation, then surely the richest nations could simply fly up and spray the right amount of O3 to patch up the holes in the Ozone layer, and then use weather control systems to magically turn down the global thermostat. And then, after your completely pollution-free car flies you to work, you can simply have it fold itself into a suitcase! (Non-leather, of course.) Ahh, the wonders of non-existent technology! It should be the basis for all international policy! After all, it sure is a great substitute for rational thought!

1 141900 Mr. Excitement-Bar-Hum-Mal-Cha died in The Gnomish Mines on level 10 [max 12]. Killed by a bolt of lightning - [129]

Wind generators (none / 0) (#75)
by sigwinch on Wed Apr 18, 2001 at 07:32:54 PM EST

Meanwhile, back in the real world, "developing" nations are the ones that don't have the resources or infrastructure to fully industrialize, much less build complex solutions (turbine farms,...
I dunno. If the location has steady winds it might be pretty effective. Any nation with a modest amount of metal fabrication industry can make its own generators. (In fact, only the copper wire and the steel laminations need much technology at all. Assembling the laminations, winding the stators, casting the rotor, and general assembly can be done -- and are done -- under Third World conditions.) You wouldn't need much in control systems or voltage regulation -- just switch big steel-ribbon resistors in and out to regulate the system. The vanes could be made out of stamped sheet metal, plastic, wood, or whatever is locally cheap. The hard part is coming up with a design that fits the local technology base.

--
I don't want the world, I just want your half.
[ Parent ]

My opinion (4.16 / 6) (#12)
by Anonymous 6522 on Fri Apr 13, 2001 at 01:54:19 AM EST

I personally thing that using one standard for one set of nations and a different standard for the others is a bad and unworkable idea, if what will happen to these standards in the future is not spelled out.

Developed nations should be subjected to restrictions now, as should companies based in or owned by companies based in developed countries. Developing countries should be exempt from restrictions for, say, 25 years. After those 25 years, they are subject to the same restrictions that the developed nations are. I think that this delay is necissary because all of the developed nations have had time to pollute without restrictions and no developing nations would sign because unless they got a similar time. This delay should be short enough so that any factories built during the interim would expected to be in operation by the time the restrictions come into effect. That way there is a disincentive for developing countries to build monster pollution factories that would be difficult to bring under the regulations once they take effect.

BTW, I am very unfamiliar with the Kyoto Accords. All I know is that they limit CO2 emissions, and president Bush is against them because they restrict nations like the US, but grant exceptions to most developing countries.

(Warning, the following sarcastic remark is undoubtedly not funny) Is that $12.99 crystal ball really crystal, or just plastic or glass? I've seen crystal balls in the "Things You Never Knew Existed" catalog, and they're always $100+.

I personally think, not I personally thing [nt] (2.66 / 3) (#13)
by Anonymous 6522 on Fri Apr 13, 2001 at 01:56:28 AM EST

Damnit, I probably should have hit "preview" at least once.

[ Parent ]
Hydrogen & developed nations (4.16 / 6) (#17)
by cameldrv on Fri Apr 13, 2001 at 04:38:37 AM EST

Well, first of all, Hydrogen is not an energy source on Earth because we can't dig into the ground and get it. The Hydrogen has to come from somewhere. People who cite Hydrogen as the solution to energy problems are either misinformed or are making unstated assumptions as to where the energy comes from.

Canidate one for Hydrogen production is Nuclear power in some form or another. This could take the form of conventional reactors such as the ones deployed today (PWR, BWR, or Gas cooled), or one of the newer fast breeder designs such as the Argonne IFR. Fusion is in here too, but I have no idea when this will become feasable. The problems with nuclear power are: Waste (almost completely solved in breeder designs, as they produce very little waste), Proliferation (partially solved with the IFR design, but still a serious problem if unsupervised in a hostile country) and Safety (largely solved with the IFR design and other LMFBRs, but still a concern), finally, the biggest problem with Nuclear power is Activists (who are largely uninformed and cannot grasp the concept of a lesser of two evils)

Renewables such as Solar, Wind, and Geothermal have definite potential if the nuke activism problem is not solved. Wind is the most economical today, however, it's mostly grabbing the low-hanging fruit. There are definite limits to how far we can take wind technology, even if we have good storage technologies such as Hydrogen fuel cells and efficient electrolosis. Solar has huge potential, and there is great potential in cells which directly produce Hydrogen instead of producing electricity. However, in order to make the technology economical to power our entire society, we will need to make some advances in polymer solar cell technology, as Amorphous Silicon probably will not scale up to huge quantities at the price and environmental cost which we are looking for.

Certainly, we can stop using fossil fuels as an energy source if the research and political will is in place. Unfortunately, our best hope is Nuclear, and the will is not there for it.

More on nuclear and another anti-oil argument (3.66 / 3) (#40)
by Erbo on Fri Apr 13, 2001 at 02:34:06 PM EST

One thing people fail to realize about nuclear plants is, while the pollutants they produce can be quite nasty indeed, the pollutants all tend to stay in one place, as opposed to the CO2 produced by coal/oil/gas power plants, which gets belched all across the sky. At least you can be fairly sure that spent fuel rods are going to stay in their little swimming pool, barring human intervention or force majeure (such as an earthquake, but even that need not be disastrous if you plan for it in advance and design your containment vessel accordingly).

Also, there's another good reason that burning oil is a bad idea. To quote "one word" from The Graduate: "Plastics." Crude oil supplies a lot of the raw material used in making plastic. Could our world survive without plastics any more than it could survive without power? In fact, petroleum products are essential to the chemical engineering industry as a whole. Sometime soon, oil's going to be far too valuable to turn it into gasoline and pour it by the barrel into the tanks of our Ford Titanics.

Eric
--
Electric Minds - virtual community since 1996. http://www.electricminds.org
[ Parent ]

due to latest events in europe (none / 0) (#59)
by Prophet themusicgod1 on Sun Apr 15, 2001 at 05:22:36 PM EST

[if you really need the URL for this i can fetch it, but unless you really need it dont ask] The entire fusion thing was going to be created, or at least tried...however, funding was cut (at least 3/4 of the way into the project, after the actual structure was built), and there is no longer any chance of that specific project of creating it. so we are looking into at least a decade before we get it now...at least! but it was feasable, the money just ran short...
"I suspect the best way to deal with procrastination is to put off the procrastination itself until later. I've been meaning to try this, but haven't gotten around to it yet."swr
[ Parent ]
Nuclear pollution.. (none / 0) (#73)
by ajduk on Wed Apr 18, 2001 at 10:38:13 AM EST

The average Coal powered plant emits about 5
tons of uranium per year (e.g. 1 million tons of coal @ 5ppm U). I don't think a Nuclear power plant would get away with emitting that, even measured by radiation levels.

The anti-nuclear movement has a lot to answer for when it comes to protecting the environment... nuclear power plants to need regulation, and waste disposal needs to be managed carefully, but it can be done.

[ Parent ]
Why not wind? (none / 0) (#78)
by Eccles on Wed Apr 18, 2001 at 10:11:45 PM EST

There are definite limits to how far we can take wind technology

Why not put the turbines offshore? There are thousands of square miles of continental shelf where you could plunk them, and their stands would serve as artificial reefs. You probably don't have the bird problems of land-based turbines if you're a mile or more off the coast, there are few or no concerns about aesthetics, and so on. The price is supposedly about that of other power sources (according to cogreenpower.org), and I doubt going a little offshore would add that much to the cost.

[ Parent ]

Hydrogen production (none / 0) (#80)
by strumco on Thu Apr 19, 2001 at 09:00:50 AM EST

Candidate one for Hydrogen production is Nuclear power in some form or another.
Iceland is putting a lot of work into hydrogen research. There, they propose to use hydro-electric* and geothermal energy for the production.

* Before anyone points out that hydro-electric dams are unpopular with environmentalists - they are, with good reason. But H-E dams are so big because the power companies need the "head" to cope with peak power demand. For hydrogen production, you can extract the energy in real time; the hydrogen serves the peaks, so you don't need big dams.

DC
http://www.strum.co.uk
[ Parent ]

catastrophic? (4.27 / 11) (#20)
by wiredog on Fri Apr 13, 2001 at 07:44:08 AM EST

Global Warming ... will have catastrophic effects on our planet

No. It may have catastrophic effects on us. But the planet will be just fine. Heck, it's taken direct hits from asteroids without coming apart, a little co2 won't do any harm.

The idea of a global village is wrong, it's more like a gazillion pub bars.
Phage

You are both correct (4.50 / 2) (#36)
by DontTreadOnMe on Fri Apr 13, 2001 at 12:57:13 PM EST

It depends on your defintion, of which there are three common ones in widespread use:

def. 1: "the Planet" == humanity, a typically homo-spaiens-centric view many people at least tacitly adhere to. In this case, CO2 emissions and global warming will be catastrophic, very likely leading to the fall of our technological civilization and quite possibly the extinction of the species.

def. 2: "The Planet" == the biosphere, also a common, life-centric point of view many, perhaps most, people adhere to. In this case, CO2 emissions and global warming will have a catastrophic effect (just as the asteroid impacts you refer to did), including mass extinctions and biological and ecological upheaval.

def. 3: "The Planet" == the big round thing we're all standing on. This definition sounds simple, but can be further split into two subdefinitions which are quite different:

subdefinition (a): The rock and everything on it (including us, the atmosphere, etc.), in which case one begins to argue semantics and definitons of "catastrophic" ... for example, if the planet is everything, would it be catastrophic to remove the atmosphere completetly? After all, almost all of the mass would remain, the planet (or its remains, depending on your definiton) would continue its journey around the sun, etc.

subdefinition (b): Just the rock, in which case you are correct: whatever happens to the atmosphere isn't happening to "the Planet", just some obscure, self-organizing molecules which happen to be wafting about its surface.

In summary, we have two common definitions by which your comments are completely incorrect, another common definition for which the answer is ambiguous and boils down to defining what catastrophic means and to which part of the planet and how greatly it must apply before being considered "catastrophic", and one definition (arguably the least commonly used of all) by which you are unequivocably correct.
--
http://openflick.org - Fighting Copyright with Free Media
[ Parent ]

inherently flawed assumption makes poor argument (5.00 / 16) (#25)
by Anonymous 242 on Fri Apr 13, 2001 at 09:24:28 AM EST

Obviously, WinPimp2K has put a decent amount of thought into this. The problem is that the article is based on an inherently flawed assumption that somehow escaped WinPimp2K's attention. Because of this, the reasoning WinPimp2K uses to expand on the core premis becomes pointless.
The Kyoto Accords are a really bad idea. As a political "solution" to a technical problem, it seems pretty much guaranteed to produce a result exactly the opposite of their claimed intent.
Global warming is a political problem, not a technological one!

We do have the means to almost entirely reduce green house gas emissions to the point of other species. We just don't want to do what it takes to do this. We don't even want to do what it takes to reduce emissions significantly, let alone go back to the stone age. Because the problem is one of we not wanting to implement available solutions, the problem is squarely in the domain of political and social problems and not in the domain of technological problems. Advances in technology might very well help alleviate the symptoms, but the root of the problem lies within cultural issues, not technological issues.

Look closely at WinPimp2K's proposed solution. It isn't even technical in nature, but political. Don't make us USA reduce emmisons of greenhouse gasses, make other countries reduce greenhouse gasses. If this solution were truly technological in nature, then the USA could apply the technology just as effectively (if not more effectively) than less developed countries. The problem isn't in a lack of technological solutions, however, it is in the politcal will to implement those solutions..

The problem is very simple, people in developed nations like the USA are not willing to give up the lifestyle of the suburban consumer. This is clearly a political/social problem. As long as technical solutions are sought, the problem is likely to be insurmountable.

I will concede that possibly, someday, someone might come up with a silver bullet that make all our greenhouse emissions magically go away. I am pessimistic that this will ever happen as history seems to me to teach the opposite lesson. Silver bullets rarely appear and when they do they seldom work out exactly as described.

My best guess is that if global warming is real, there will not be the political motivation to start fixing the underlying social problems that cause it before the problem reaches a blatantly obvious crisis level. And even then, there will be those that say, "you can the keys to my SUV when you can pry them out of my cold, dead fingers."

Shortsightedness (3.00 / 1) (#70)
by Woundweavr on Wed Apr 18, 2001 at 01:30:33 AM EST

very good points. The truth is people dont comprehend global warming (again assuming it is true blah blah blah). They are presented with some seemingly vague idea that its getting warmer and it will eventually flood major cities because of 'pollution'. First of all, immediate quality of life is far more important, at least to them, than possible ecological consequences. This is ingrained in the US psyche; we must get as much as possible, and not give it up. Second, realistically one soccer mom walking her kids to practice will make little to no difference. Without a widespread movement or legal regulation, noone will do anything even if they want to because "Im just one man/woman/eunuch."

To approximately quote the Onion (i know its cliche) :"I am very concerned about global warming. However, I am not prepared to change my lifestyle whatso ever to fix it."

[ Parent ]

Not all developed countries are the problem... (none / 0) (#81)
by infraoctarine on Thu Apr 19, 2001 at 03:51:46 PM EST

Very good post, I just have one comment. You write:

The problem is very simple, people in developed nations like the USA are not willing to give up the lifestyle of the suburban consumer.

The fact is that the developed nations sans US are very much FOR an agreement to reduce emissions of greenhouse gasses. The US is a special case, alone among the developed countries refusing to take an active part and do something about the problem. This is, sadly, how the US usually reacts to suggestions of environmental treaties.

[ Parent ]
Wrong (3.20 / 5) (#28)
by Lelon on Fri Apr 13, 2001 at 10:29:46 AM EST

Global warming is a technical problem not a political one. Global warming WILL have catastrophic consequences on the *planet* not just humans. In the next 100 years the global temp will raise between 2.5 and 10 degrees. Anything more than 3 degrees will decimate the American farm industry (which feeds a large % of the world) Damage to the ozone takes hundreds of years to naturally repair. So anything you can do to reduce any CO2 will give human kind more time to find and accept a solution. The being said, the biggest problem with C02 is this: Once we see the effects and finally realize the huge changes we need to make, it will be a generation too late to do anything about it.


----
This sig is a work in progress.
Ozone? (none / 0) (#44)
by Osiris on Fri Apr 13, 2001 at 02:51:02 PM EST

Ozone has nothing to do with global warming.



[ Parent ]
Ozone & Global Warming (none / 0) (#45)
by Parity on Fri Apr 13, 2001 at 03:16:23 PM EST

Less ozone means more radiation getting through and hitting the surface, ie, a broader range of the sun's spectrum, which means more energy, which means more heat, and hence is at least contributory. Granted that the excess heat would probably leak away again relatively harmlessly if not for increases in greenhouse gasses, and be a short-term only effect, but since there is an increase in greenhouse gasses, well, there it is. (Direct damage from the radiation, of course, only affects at present those in or near the artic and antartic circles, so we Americans don't need to worry about that... err... wait... I'm in New England which is about as north as the USA goes... utoh...)

Parity Odd

(Any inaccuracies in this article are the result of thin-ozone induced radiation sickness...)


[ Parent ]
Developing nations... (3.77 / 9) (#31)
by ucblockhead on Fri Apr 13, 2001 at 10:43:07 AM EST

Part of the idea is that by forcing developed nations to develop less polluting technologies, the cost of those technologies will drop to the point were they are comparable to polluting technologies by the time the developing nations fully develop.

In other words, China would never produce 5 times the world's CO2 because by the time it got "fully developed", it would be using whatever technologies the US developed to get under the wire. So assuming that they "fully develop" in 2050, their 2050 CO2 emmissions will be 5 times the 2050 US CO2 emmissions, not 5 times the 2001 US CO2 emmissions.

The second point is that it is pretty clear that the rules in the Kyoto accord are intended to be changed as countries changed, so there is no reason to think that China woulded get placed under heavier restrictions as it developed.
-----------------------
This is k5. We're all tools - duxup

I think not (none / 0) (#38)
by makaera on Fri Apr 13, 2001 at 02:07:54 PM EST

However, these new technologies will be more expensive (older technologies will also drop in price) and possibly more complicated to install. If there is no reason to use them, they won't get used. The Chinese will not use more expensive (and environmentally friendly) technologies simply out of the goodness of their hearts. No, they will use the cheapest method they can, so that they can develop fastest. They will have to be forced to use better technologies the same way that US corporations will have to be forced to use them. This will require that the signatory nations have the political will to make and enforce these changes in the future. There is no guarantee that that will ever happen. There should be clearer guidelines about what types of restrictions should be in place.

makaera


"Ninety rounds in there," Joel Andrews said. "If you can't take it down with 90 rounds, you better turn in your badge!" -- from Washington Post
[ Parent ]

Dropping prices (none / 0) (#48)
by ucblockhead on Fri Apr 13, 2001 at 04:18:18 PM EST

It is not a given that older technologies will drop in price at the same rate. Technologies tend to drop in price according to how much they are being used. Vacuum tubes are real expensive right now.

Also, since a lot of dirty fuels are also nonrenewable fossil fuels, the prices won't drop forever.


-----------------------
This is k5. We're all tools - duxup
[ Parent ]

I'm not so sure (none / 0) (#62)
by bjrubble on Mon Apr 16, 2001 at 04:26:29 AM EST

it is pretty clear that the rules in the Kyoto accord are intended to be changed as countries changed

I am skeptical about this. The single legitimate gripe that countries like the US can make about Kyoto is that it imposes very large initial costs rather than working in phases and adapting as various participants progress (or don't) toward its goals. I take this as a sign that the designers believed they could not maintain the political consensus necessary for such an open-ended arrangement, and thus I have doubts that currently undeveloped nations will be smoothly brought into the fold as they industrialize.

Ideally, Kyoto would treat countries differently based on their situations, but not name names -- at any particular time, the level of pollution and the historical trends should dictate the performance expected of each signatory.

However, politics is the art of calling things "good enough" -- I doubt we can do much better than Kyoto, and any attempt will cost valuable years. The US deserves a good bitchslapping.

[ Parent ]
Funny (4.40 / 5) (#60)
by skim123 on Sun Apr 15, 2001 at 10:27:18 PM EST

I like your comment:

If, for example Ethiopia wants to become a developed nation, let them require that their infrastructure be based on burning hydrogen

It sounds as if the only reason Ethiopia is not a "developed" nation is because it has not yet decided that it wanted to become one. Perhaps tomorrow the nation will agree that they wish to become developed. :-)

Money is in some respects like fire; it is a very excellent servant but a terrible master.
PT Barnum


Hydrogen (3.50 / 2) (#67)
by Simon Kinahan on Tue Apr 17, 2001 at 07:07:47 AM EST

I am not fan of the Kyoto accords, regardless of whether or not the world is warming up and whatever the consequences, I think it is a really dumb treaty.

However, Hydrogen is not practical as a fuel for the simple reason that there isn't any. Fuels either have to be hanging around in large quantities, or producible by some process that does not require manmade energy as an input. The only way to get hydrogen is to electrolyse water, and until someone invents the Hydrogen Tree (which won't happen because all the genetic scientists were lynched by the fanatics in 2012), the only way to do that is with electricity, which will require fuel to produce.

Simon

If you disagree, post, don't moderate
Electrolysis is rarely used (5.00 / 2) (#69)
by spinfire on Tue Apr 17, 2001 at 10:41:49 PM EST

Most industrial H2 production is a result of a reaction between methane and water vapor(steam) at high temperatures (over 1000C).

CH4(g) + H2O(g) -> CO(g) +3H2(g)
CO(g) + H2O(g) -> CO2(g) + H2(g)

This is used for large scale H2(g) production, and is highly efficient. Methane, which is the major component of natural gas, is easily available, and this process can produce a large quantity of hydrogen gas readily.

Electrolysis produces very little of the H2 used. In fact, H2 is a byproduct of the hydrolysis of brine (saltwater) to produce Cl2 gas (chlorine gas).


Freelance Hacker. spinfire on FooNET.
[ Parent ]

Who can afford the R & D (3.00 / 2) (#71)
by nichughes on Wed Apr 18, 2001 at 08:02:06 AM EST

Part of the point of the Kyoto accord was to create a level playing field between the developed countries which strongly encouraged them to do the R & D on less polluting technologies. Once the technologies are in production and the costs start dropping then other countries would be required to use them in future rounds of negotiation. As nations developed their wealth and the costs of low-pollution technology would converge - just at the time when their pollution would otherwise begin to skyrocket.

Trying to push the R & D costs of new technology onto those who can least afford it is a recipe for abject failure.

Similarly allowing any major developed nation (such as the USA) to avoid the level playing field undermines the whole exercise. This wrecks the system not just environmentally but also economically - by advantaging the most polluting but currently cheapest forms of industry.

Better then nothing (none / 0) (#82)
by strlen on Thu Apr 19, 2001 at 04:04:15 PM EST

Yes, the Kyoto treaty is not perfect, but it's better then nothing. Let's at least limit the emissions layer in countries which have already established a permanent economy, and are moving from an industrial to a service based economy. What I'd prefer to see is quotas set for each country, for its emission. And also emissions done by American owned companies, in let's say Brazilian territory, should be counted as American emissions -- because they are not of an indigenous source. That would also prevent American companies moving manufacturing off shore, to escape the quotas.

--
[T]he strongest man in the world is he who stands most alone. - Henrik Ibsen.
What is Wrong with the Kyoto Accords | 83 comments (70 topical, 13 editorial, 0 hidden)
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