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A New Shade of Green

By Sherry Listgarten

E-mail Sherry Listgarten

About this blog: Climate change, despite its outsized impact on the planet, is still an abstract concept to many of us. That needs to change. My hope is that readers of this blog will develop a better understanding of how our climate is evolving a...  (More)

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Reader Questions

Uploaded: Aug 4, 2019
I love the great comments and questions you contribute each week, so I thought for a change I’d answer a few of your questions in a blog post proper instead of in the comments...

"If you could write a little more about the difference between emissions that lead to warming, and pollution that leads to cooling, I'd appreciate the clarity. I believe it has to do with the size of the aerosol -- the smaller size atmospheric particles let sunlight through (which warms the planet surface), and the bigger ones block sunlight at a certain altitude (so that sunlight "bounces" back into space before heating the surface)."

I really like this question. It is confusing how some things in the atmosphere warm the planet and some things cool the planet. And I like your guess that maybe the sun bypasses the small stuff but reflects off the big stuff. That is some good intuition! Here is a bit more information, though you can read lots more here and in other places. There are many questions that remain unanswered or uncertain -- the impact of pollutants on climate is a very active area of research.

When incoming light from the sun encounters particles in our atmosphere, it sometimes reflects off of them. But if the particles are too tiny, as you guessed, the light will just go right by. Visible radiation from the sun has a wavelength between 400-700 nanometers, which seems really small (a nanometer is a millionth of a millimeter). But greenhouse gas molecules are less than one nanometer in size. So mostly the light just passes by. There is a small amount of “scattering” that happens when sunlight comes in through our atmosphere. When it does happen, it tends to interact with the shortest wavelengths, which are the blue ones. That is why, in fact, our sky looks blue -- the blue light has been scattered around. It is also why the sun looks yellow and sunsets look red/orange. Instead of seeing all the colors, you see only what’s left once the blue has been scattered away. FWIW, this scattering of light by very small objects is called Rayleigh scattering.

Even when atmospheric particles are big, though, the sun doesn’t always reflect off of them. Some of the larger (1000-10,000 nanometer) particles (“aerosols”) that are suspended in the atmosphere for days or weeks include soot from coal plants and forest fires, sulfates from fossil fuel combustion and volcanoes, mineral dust from deserts, and sea salts from ocean spray. The aerosols that cool best are the ones that are light-colored and stay in the air for a while. Black carbon (aka soot) is a dark aerosol, so it absorbs rather than reflects the incoming sunlight. But sulfates, for example, are very reflective.

Source: University of Michigan

Aerosols can cool not only because they reflect sunlight, but because they disrupt clouds, causing them to form more, smaller droplets that better reflect light. If you have seen clouds from a ship’s smokestacks, or contrails from a plane, these are the effect of pollution interacting with ambient water vapor. So aerosols cool not only by reflecting light directly but also by enhancing the ability of water vapor to do the same.

So particle size and color both help explain why incoming radiation reflects only off of some particles. But what about the infrared radiation emitted by the Earth? We know that greenhouse gas molecules trap that radiation, which is how they warm the planet. (See this earlier post for more on that.) But what about aerosols? They can have a similar effect, particularly when they mix with water, as mentioned above. Water in the atmosphere has both a warming and a cooling effect. Water vapor that has condensed into tiny water droplets, forming clouds, is very reflective and cools the planet. On the other hand, water vapor is a greenhouse gas, and warms the planet. Clouds at night, for example, generally provide a warming effect.

There are many interactions of aerosols with water vapor, clouds, and precipitation, and it’s difficult to tell how they sort out. If you take airplane contrails, for example, it’s not obvious what net effect they might have -- warming or cooling. And it may depend on whether they occur in day or night, over dark areas or light areas, etc. According to a recent report in Nature Communications, contrails warm rather than cool the planet. In fact, by some estimates, aircraft-induced cloudiness accounts for over half of the warming impact of aircraft flights. But research is ongoing.

The net effect of pollution is fairly well understood to cool the planet. Some researchers recently attempted to quantify this effect. Norwegian climate scientist Bjorn Samset says in this interview that “if you removed all our emissions today, then the world would rapidly — within a year or two — warm between a half of a degree and 1 degree Celsius additionally.” Yikes. But stay tuned. The impact of aerosols on climate continues to be a very active area of research with many unknowns.

"It's unclear to me what may be "good" or "ok" to burn...dead wood, live trees, biofuels, diesel?? or none of these?"

What is okay to burn? Hmm. AFAIK, none of those is great to burn, at least emissions-wise. But if you think about it from a budget point of view, some things are better than others. As an example, suppose you’ve got an Arctic lake (or a big pond of cow poo) that is emitting lots of methane. If you collect and burn that methane, you are putting a bunch of carbon dioxide into the air. That is bad. But it’s better than putting the methane in the air, at least in the short term. So it is arguably *good* to burn naturally-emitted methane, at least until we learn to do something better.

Here’s another budget-related thought. If you compare burning dead wood to burning fossil fuels, the CO2 from the wood would eventually recycle back into the atmosphere over a sufficiently long time, while the fossil fuel could have just stayed buried in the ground. So it’s arguably better to burn wood than fossil fuel, since you are “just” accelerating a natural process. But that is a bit of a stretch. There is a longer discussion on that in this recent Smithsonian article.

As far as I know, the jury is still out on biofuels like ethanol. I think it’s fair to say that improvements are being made to reduce emissions from growing crops (e.g., sequestering carbon in soil), while fossil fuel extraction is getting more emission-intensive (e.g., getting oil from tar sands). But for now the full lifecycle comparison is not great, with biofuels maybe 10-20% better, though even that depends on the time scale at which you look.

Finally, some combustion generates pollutants other than greenhouse gases. That is why some people claim that natural gas is a “clean” fuel, because it doesn’t release those pollutants. But if you buy that, I have a nice low-lying tropical island to sell you…

I think if people really want to burn something, and I’m sure we do, it’s best to figure out hydrogen, which emits only water when burned.

"What is the relative safety of each mode of transportation? For me, it's not simply about price, speed, convenience and environmental issues. I need to make it to my destination in one piece before anything else…. Perhaps in the next blog posting, we can see the fatalities per passenger mile traveled."

It’s generally reported that buses are much safer than driving. There are lots of kinds of buses, though, from transit buses to school buses to the intercity motorcoaches being discussed here. For motorcoaches specifically, and passenger fatalities specifically, they have been improving in recent years.

Source: FMCSA Large Truck and Bus Crash Facts

There was something of a crackdown 5-10 years ago, for example, requiring seat belts (!)

You can also look up per vendor information at FMCSA here, though I’m told these are not fully adjudicated. In the last 24 months, Greyhound has had 3 fatal crashes and 76 injury crashes. Given they drive five billion passenger miles per year, that is a pretty good rate. On a smaller scale, Megabus’ western subsidiary (Megabus West LLC) has had 0 crashes in the last 24 months.

So, I would say that buses are pretty safe, and much safer than driving. I expect that planes are technically the safest way to get to LA, though, assuming you ignore the impact of their pollution.

Thanks again for all the great questions!

Current Climate Data (June 2019)

Global impacts, US impacts, CO2 metric, Climate dashboard (updated annually)

Comment Guidelines

I hope that your contributions will be an important part of this blog. To keep the discussion productive, please adhere to these guidelines, or your comment may be moderated:
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Posted by focal point, a resident of The Greenhouse,
on Aug 5, 2019 at 11:14 am

"The impact of aerosols on climate continues to be a very active area of research with many unknowns."

A good share. Thank you for adding so much to the discussion. But....


Not a fan of the focus on aerosol and particulates as any sort of viable solution, or deviation from solutions we know can work. In my mind, I see low information voters, or those that don't really believe facts and science, using it as rationalization to not act or support action.

These are the wise folks who told us in the 90's that the ozone hole was bs, that their wife's hairspray could never, not in a million years, possibly have a such a global effect. I literally remember being told by one women that it was my hubris to believe such nonsense, as she shared the hubris canard about a rooster thought his crowing brought the sun up every morning.

How'd that argument hold up? She was a childless, older woman who is probably no longer with us, so yeah, she sure 'won' that debate.

Climate change is a present day global emergency that will effect every one of us that makes a few more years, and certainly will wreak havoc on our children. Our blogger's concentration on sharing fact and information is to be applauded.

Do not lose focus. We are in a greenhouse.

Posted by CrescentParkAnon., a resident of Crescent Park,
on Aug 5, 2019 at 2:52 pm

Thanks for a lot of good information and things to consider.
The state of this debate in the public and them media is pathetic,
and I am afraid that facts don't help because our media seems to
be working on ways to immunized the public from facts and fact-
based discussions - on the Left and on the Right ... whatever those
two terms mean anymore.

I recall years ago seeing, I believe it was a "Frontline" program
about climate change, and the gist that I recall was from atmospheric
measurements in certain areas of the Earth they made the claims
that there were two competing effects humans were having on the
planet. Global Warming, and for wont of a better terms I think they
called it of course Global Cooling or Global Dimming.

The warming was due to effects from carbon dioxide and methane,
etc greenhouse effect, and the cooling was due to the particulate
matter we put into the atmosphere that shades and reflected energy
back into space.

What ends up as a sarcastic insult-fest in the media and on the
(anti)social sites is that we have people rooting for their teams or
their side rather than explaining their thinking processes, and trying
to track it back to actual scientific research. One common thing is
"whataboutism" where people start going after every possible thing
that can push temperature one way or another instead of looking
for those factors that are most significant.

If we stopped global warming, we could kick off global cooling by
not burning coal and not putting particulates in the atmosphere. Or
we could assume that we humans must monitor and modulate the
atmosphere of the planet by manipulating the levers of cooling and

The problem is that the Earth has had million(s) of years of maintaining
life and pretty good stability on the planet, and humans have had a
horrible record of responsibly managing nature in almost every
attempt, not to mention we dump stuff all over and don't even bother
to think about it.

We should have never allowed industries to pollute like they have.
Ideally if there was some way to reforest the world, re-populate the
plains and savannahs with the animals that used to be there and
keep our industrial excrements out of the ecological loop it seems
logical things could return to a less volatile state.

That seems unlikely, so we all should realize that by doing this
experiment with the planet, born of the mistake of endless,
pollution, clearing land and desertification we are gambling with
the lives and futures of everyone. Why do we seem to be OK with that?

( sure hope that with all those rules at the bottom of you article
that you are not goingt to start deleting everyone's post like
some other PAO bloggers )

Posted by focal point, a resident of The Greenhouse,
on Aug 5, 2019 at 3:31 pm

I recall years ago seeing...

"If we stopped global warming, we could kick off global cooling by not burning coal and not putting particulates in the atmosphere."

Appreciate your thoughts, but this is an example of claims that allow low information voters, etc.. to ignore the *real* emergency today. Your post implies you recognize the emergency.

Are there any peer reviewed studies that indicate that cooling to moderate warming is even a possibility, or of any concern at this point of the emergency?

Sure, it's great to speculate and fantasize (hey, it used to sell newspapers: look! set off 30 nukes and the dust will cool earth!) but we're staring down the barrel of a gun, wondering if the guy holding the gun is wearing flannel or just plain old cotton plaid.

Memories of a decade old tv program don't cut it, curious though they may be.

Peer reviewed science is the gold standard of any discussion.

Posted by CrescentParkAnon., a resident of Crescent Park,
on Aug 5, 2019 at 5:37 pm

"focal point", that strikes me as a bit belligerent and condescending
reply ... is that what you meant to say?

The "gotcha" reply where you look for any possible point to attack someone's
opinion or even a small piece of it gets a bit tiresome "focal point".

Did you read with enough comprehension to dig out my point, or you
think the Global Warming is really so urgent that you cannot stop and
read someone's idea because it might not be in line with your own
emotional priorities?

> but this is an example of claims that allow low information voters, etc.. to ignore the *real* emergency today.

The subtext of that comment is that we have to really fear and tiptoe
around these low information voters or something terrible will happen
and that I violated your expectation so I must be argued with.

Specifically, I don't think your "low-information" voters are looking for
ways to ignore the emergency any more than they are looking for ways
to hype it up. Low information voters are low information voters and
trying to tailor my every word to manipulate them in some way is not
the way I want to spend my life or, or articulate my ideas.

Maybe we can agree that low-information voters are the bain of
a democracy, as are totally self-centered voters, or voters who
corrupt the system with money?

My point is that how we humans have managed our planet, or mis-
managed our planet, or not managed our planet is so bad that I seriously
question that anyone is really getting this defined in a way that is or
can be productive besides leading to the next argument.

I am not speculating about setting off nukes, as you "hyperbolventilate",
in fact if you had got it, I was arguing against any such thing or moving
towards thinking that we have to do any such thing, and against the
"virtual nuke equivalents" or whatever analogy you want to used that
we are already set off without realizing it - that is an action too, that
we continue every day.

> Peer reviewed science is the gold standard of any discussion.

There are several points to be made here. If peer reviewed science
is so important, there is plenty of it - so why do you think the American
people are not exposed to it. I gather you think it is more urgent and
important to attack my comment than to add something about this
subject you think is so important. I like to think I'm not so dangerous.

In fact if you believe hearing from science is so important, write
the White House and demand some changes in policies that muffle
scientists from talking and sharing their results with the public,
that we all paid for.

If you want science to be able to get to and influence the citizens
of a democracy you'll have to "focus" on that much harder, which was
also part of what I was saying.

Finally, all this information is not a ( excuse the expression ) critical
mass yet. What to do, specifically what the US should do about
global warming is far from clear. Science says that our emissions
now are not an issue and if we completely stopped burning anything
the problem would not be significantly reduced or delayed.

The reason things are so "messed" up is not because of my little

Posted by Sherry Listgarten, a Almanac Online blogger,
on Aug 6, 2019 at 10:50 am

Sherry Listgarten is a registered user.

I want to tease out a few points that you are making, which are great.

@crescent remembers a Frontline show a while back indicating that humans are having two competing climactic effects on the Earth: warming from greenhouse gases, and cooling from pollution. Yes! That is exactly right. The warming effect is bigger than the cooling effect, but the cooling effect is significant. If we were to stop polluting now, then within 6-12 months, global temps would increase by 0.5 to 1 degree Celsius. Yikes. Pollution has a silver lining...

@focal goes a step farther, referring to the fact that scientists have looked at the possibility of intentionally “polluting” the atmosphere in order to cool it down. That is also correct, and it is called “solar radiation management” (SRM). There is a lot of work on this, at Harvard and other places, by very respected scientists. It is controversial, for several good reasons, but the scientists claim that our situation is so dire that we need to at least understand our options, and they are working on some approaches that have fewer negative impacts. This is not a blog post on SRM, but I will do one at some point.

@crescent makes the excellent point that we are doing ourselves no favors by dissing the low information voters. Instead, we want to listen to them, understand their concerns, and talk to them in ways that do convey the science in a context they can relate to. Maybe they are low information because no one is speaking their language. We are all in this together.

Finally, I see a claim that “What to do, specifically what the US should do about global warming is far from clear. Science says that our emissions now are not an issue and if we completely stopped burning anything the problem would not be significantly reduced or delayed.”

I am particularly curious about “Science says that our emissions now are not an issue”. Yikes. That is contrary to all the science I am seeing and reading. Our emissions now are a huge issue, and we need to turn them to zero as quickly as possible.

Also “If we completely stopped burning anything the problem would not be significantly reduced or delayed”. Again, not true. I would love to see a reference. It is the case that if we stopped emissions soon, the temps would still rise slightly. But it would all be tolerable. And so much more tolerable than if we do nothing to stop temperatures rising. How much sea level rise, drought, fires, heat waves, and species extinction would you welcome? These are directly impacted by how quickly we stop our emissions.

These are very, very problematic statements. They are not only contrary to all the established science, but they also urge us in a direction that would make things much worse.

Finally, “What the US should do about global warming is far from clear”. Actually, there is a lot of consensus on what the US should do. The transportation sector needs to move away from fossil fuels. The power sector also needs to move away from fossil fuels and coal. Buildings need to be electrified (space and water heating). Carbon needs to be taxed, which will help to move industry away from carbon-intensive processes.

If we just did those things over the next five or so years, it would be huge. Some states, including California and New York, are leading the charge. But the nation as a whole is faltering. And that needs to change.

Posted by focal point, a resident of The Greenhouse,
on Aug 6, 2019 at 2:47 pm

I agree, when I scanned the tldr last night, this stood out like a sore thumb:

" Science says that our emissions now are not an issue..."

Yeah. I missed that study, as well. Rather highlights the point about deflection away from the central crisis on our planet today.


Oh yeah - did everyone enter the pool for July? Will they announce it as the hottest July ever? Close? Top Ten?

I think the over/under is top three. Longest odds are below top five.


Posted by CrescentParkAnon., a resident of Crescent Park,
on Aug 6, 2019 at 2:55 pm

>> Science says that our emissions

Buried in the context of my comment on that was that by "our" I mean the US's emissions, are not THE issue.

I find it kind of bizarre how everything the US does has to be tailored into corporate profits, or identity politics ... i,e, driving a Hummer or driving a Tesla. In the US it does not matter what we drive, the problem is China and India. Was that point mis-stated, not obvious, or you disagree with it?

And by that I do not mean the US should not care about our pollution either - most pollution and enviornmental mis-management that ruins our environment has been going on for centuries and has nothing to do with Global Climate Change. Like rivers on fire and super-fund sites.

> I would love to see a reference.

Again, referring the US.
Richard A. Muller - "Energy For Future Presidents".

> These are directly impacted by how quickly we stop our emissions.

I'd like to know who it is you think this "we" is and how you think "we's" behavior can change?

This is also something else in my comment that you either did not get or glossed over. The idea that we, human beings, in some form or another must develop a way to manage the Earth by massive interference with nature, since we have destroyed the natural balance. I was saying that relative to every other thing humans have done to try to make things better in some way - they have mostly failed and led to larger and larger problems - so I am very skeptical of such global management.

> but they also urge us in a direction that would make things much worse.

None of my comments urged anyone in a direction to make things worse, or are meant to do that. I would appreciate it if you could please detail specifically what I said or the way I stated it to make you think that? It was not my intention, nor I don't think my wording ... but I could be mistaken in how I would be interpretted.

> The transportation sector needs to move away from fossil fuels

Nice sounding comment ... and how do we do that? How do we get China and India to do that? The US has a very clean fleet of automobiles and trucks ... relatively. But moving cars to electricity, at the same time we move off of nuclear and shut down our nuclear power plants we actually are increasing CO2. It is all in how and how fast these changes can happen. In the US we are heading the right direction have been for good time now. China is still building coal fired power plants. In the interim natiural gas in the US is cheap, plentiful and cleaner than the alternatives - and does not export our capital overseas.

> Buildings need to be electrified (space and water heating).

"Need" ... I don't think so, especiallty in view of the nuclear reference above. Geting rid of natural gas works against the things you are suggesting. Insultating buildings is a huge immediate win though, but it is not going to make up for hundreds of coal fired powerplants in China, no?

I think one problem, one big problem, is just what I said at the beginning of this comment - we are always marketed to and put in product teams trying to "virtue signal" ( hate that term ) and outdo each other rather than have a discussion of the facts.

Also ... maybe more fundamentally, if we cannot have a fact-based discussion, something is broken in our edcuation and media, and if these problems are as critical as you believe, you will get nowhere with a country full of babbling idiots and halfwits raised on nonsense advertising but not critical thinking.

Posted by Sherry Listgarten, a Almanac Online blogger,
on Aug 6, 2019 at 4:26 pm

Sherry Listgarten is a registered user.

@crescent -- Thanks for taking the time to explain your thinking. I’ll add a few comments here. Maybe others will chime in with their thoughts as well.

1. When you said “Our emissions now are not an issue”, I did understand you to mean the US only, as you’ve made that comment before. I responded to it here. I’m not sure if you don’t agree with the data, or if you didn’t see it.

2. The book you cite was written in 2008 by a climate skeptic. Within 3-4 years of writing that book, the author did a “total turnaround” (his words) and became a believer in climate change. He wrote about it briefly here. More generally, I’d encourage you to read more current information. I try to cite that in this blog, along with reputable sources.

3. You say that you are skeptical that we can fix this, that we are likely to make problems worse. You are then in violent agreement with @focalpoint about solar radiation management! That will be an interesting post when I get to it… Many people are skeptical about that particular technology.

4. I think what is harmful about saying things like “It’s not us” and “We don’t have to change” and “We don’t know what to do” is it negates much of the science and policy work to date while also encouraging all of us to take no action. That is not a winning strategy. There are some simple, generally well understood things that we all can do -- individually and collectively as a nation -- that would make a huge positive difference. But will we?

5. You ask how we can electrify vehicles and buildings without nuclear power. That is a great question, being actively debated. Some will say storage, micro-grids, better transmission networks, and over-provisioning are the answer. Others will say it can’t be done. People are looking both at new nuclear technologies and at hydrogen power. There is no single answer at this point. We are moving forward on a few fronts. Once nice thing about electrification is (a) the cars, heaters, etc, are more efficient even if they are powered by gas; and (b) we can try different power mixes behind the scenes.

6. You ask how we get China and India to make progress on their emissions. I don’t know much about diplomacy, but leading by example and being a participant in global climate agreements would be a start. As the largest emitter (by far) to date, I think it is a huge mistake for us not to do that, and it is setting the world’s progress back significantly imo.

7. I could not agree more that we need to be more fact-based and less judgmental. This isn’t about virtue or lack thereof. It’s about how we best put our heads together to solve a serious problem. So it is great that you are taking the time to think about this.

Posted by CrescentParkAnon., a resident of Crescent Park,
on Aug 6, 2019 at 6:20 pm

Sherry, I think I am reading your posts and comments more comprehensively than you are reading mine.

Your CO2 numbers are PER CAPITA ... China has over 4 times the number of people as the US, all of whom are coming online rapidly in terms of energy consumption, consumer lifestyles, housing, and maybe more importantly meat consumption. The US is replacing lightbulbs with LEDs, replacing the automobile and truck fleet with hybrid and electric vehicles. We are moving in the right direction quite naturally.

Energy for Future Presidents: The Science Behind the Headlines 1st edition by Muller, Richard A. includes the information on climate change. Also a lot of good information on nuclear power and how to evalutate it and how it has changed in the last 40 years. You really should not condescend to me about reading current material, the information you asked for and I quoted has not changed or I would not have cited it. Additionally, I am well aware of Muller's and others turnaround on climate change - but it does not warrant the over-statements of the other side, which is another reason I recommend the book, or if you want to be more updated you can listen to some of this lectures and talks on Youtube. Muller was not a climate change denier, he was skeptic, made more skeptical because he heard a lot of nonsense coming from the climate change side. Certainly there is mostly nonsense coming from the Republcians the climate change deniers, but amping up the lies in a battle of BS has not worked very well. Also touting deadlines that have no basis in science or actions that we should take unilaterally that will not significantly change anything are not helpful too.

It's kind of annoying to get that vibe that you are still trying to dismiss what I said by projecting me as a climat change denier. ( you and focal point ) I am not anything of the sort

You are also reading things into what I wrote that I did not say. I did not say we do not have to do anything, or anything that was alarming. One of the problems of both sides of this issue is that people read a few words and might see a patten and then just assume they already know what the other person means or is saying. Then they respond back in not well thought out and emotional language that does not serve any discussion. Sorry if I am lecturing you, but it feels to me that you have been very unfair and uncharitable in how you have interpreted and responded to my comments.

Another thing that Muller writes about in his book that has not changed much since its publication is electrical storage, as well as transmission from where the energy is generated to where it will be used. Great information there. I would also not be surprised if Muller updates that book sometimes soon, at least I hope he will.

Also, the book I cited was written in 2013 by the way, here is the listing on Amazon:

Energy for Future Presidents: The Science Behind the Headlines 1st edition by Muller, Richard A. (2013) Paperback Paperback

> So it is great that you are taking the time to think about this.

No comment.

Posted by Sherry Listgarten, a Almanac Online blogger,
on Aug 6, 2019 at 10:17 pm

Sherry Listgarten is a registered user.

@crescent: I am sorry that I got the date of the book wrong. Thanks for pointing that out.

Posted by focal point, a resident of The Greenhouse,
on Aug 7, 2019 at 11:29 am

Wait a sec - are we still referencing a book the author later disavowed?

The guy who claimed no polar bears have been harmed, and that warming is related to "sunspots"?



Okay, grab your betting slips - who had "hottest July ever recorded"? Winner!!!

NYT: "How Hot Was July? Hotter Than Ever, Global Data Shows"

Time to place your bets on August -the over/under is "top four ever".

I'm with top three. Taking the low odds, again. Safe money.

Posted by CrescentParkAnon., a resident of Crescent Park,
on Aug 11, 2019 at 12:49 am

I happened to catch a video on You-Tube of Elizabeth Warren doing a Town Hall
in Las Vegas from August 2nd, 2019.

This is the first candidate I have heard echoing the concerns I have thought about
and raised here which to me seem to be misinterpreted.

The video is here, queued to the section where Senator Warren talks about Climate
Change: Web Link

( the rest of her speech is quite impressive as well )

Perhaps my take or way of communication on this issues was not to your liking, so
maybe you will appreciate what Warren is saying more.

I would go further as a suggestion and see if there is any way countries that sign
on to a Climate Change agenda can set up a system of trade where countries
that do not follow a regime of de-carbonizing are embargoed from trade by the
developed world. I would go even further and add human rights to that requirement.
It may be that the world is not ready for that yet, but this is the direction we need
to move in because the US according to Warren is only 20% of the problem and
shrinking. We need a way to incentivized or coerce the rest of the countries to
follow suit, and in terms of civilization we could take a leadership role again, as
well as increase the number of manufacturing jobs at home.

Posted by In The Hills Above Skyline, a resident of Woodside,
on Aug 11, 2019 at 12:23 pm

They key is to avoid population density and gridlock (if possible). In other words, living around masses of people only exacerbates the usage problems & the pollutants being produced & discussed here.

If one lives on the outskirts of suburbia & urban centers, the pollution index is far less so burning wood & occasionally using an aerosol propellant poses far less impact on the environment as a whole from the standpoint of concentrated amounts in a given area.

For example, we don't get smog where we live but can see its brown ugly blanket down in the valley from our hilltop vantage point.

With a propane tank, solar paneling & storage battery system + a few old trees to cut down every now & then for firewood, it's no big deal.

Not so for midpeninsula residents. Our friends who reside in the outskirts of Marin say the same thing.

Bottom line...if you are that concerned about this kind of stuff, move away as you cannot control what your neighbors and others will be doing to detract from your idyllic & quality of life living experience.

Posted by Sherry Listgarten, a Almanac Online blogger,
on Aug 11, 2019 at 5:14 pm

Sherry Listgarten is a registered user.

@Crescent -- Thanks for sharing that, and for keeping at this. I could not agree more with Elizabeth Warren and others that we should be investing more in energy and other green tech for the future, both for ourselves and for others. There is so much possibility. California is doing some of that, but as a country we are dragging our feet and fighting the science. It not only makes no sense, it is dangerous.

Also, to your point about trade, carbon taxes customarily come with some kind of “border adjustment”, so that countries not taxing in the same way can be equalized. But it’s tricky, because international trade law says we can do that only in certain circumstances. It’s hard for me to imagine we would implement a carbon tax without that kind of protection. And you are right that our doing so might encourage others to implement a similar tax. Everyone wins!

If we got serious about this, I expect we would find a number of ways to encourage other countries to move in the same direction. So when will we stop subsidizing the fossil fuel industry?

Anyway, thanks again for your clarification, and for sharing your thoughts.

@InTheHills -- You are right that it's better to pollute in areas where there are fewer people, because the effects of that type of pollution, which is relatively short-lived, are more localized than those of, say, greenhouse gas emissions. So emissions in rural areas affect fewer people. It sounds like you pay attention to your emissions, so I expect you will continue to keep an eye out for greener approaches you might use, like hooking a heat pump up to your solar panels. If we are going to be successful at keep global temps down, you should have plenty of options.

Thanks for the comments...

Posted by CrescentParkAnon., a resident of Crescent Park,
on Aug 12, 2019 at 5:58 pm

There is an interview with Richard Muller at Climate One talking about some of the things mentioned previously. The web page is here, which includes the audio interview, and transcript of what was said:

My concern is that I did a Google search for Muller's name and the first thing that came up was a link that totally attacks him in ways that I think if you listen to what he actually says, and listen to his concerns and intent show that attack as exactly the kind of thing he is warning about ... but on both sides.

So, Muller for all his concerned work and care ended up being attacked by both sides - because that is just how ridiculous the whole issue has gotten in the public.

Here is the brief except where he says the data after being adjusted show that Earth's temperature is rising: Web Link

Richard Muller:
Yeah, yeah. And that's their job. They collected raw data which is virtually unusable, then they analyzed it, and much of their data is then used also by the NASA group, and there's some independent work done in the UK. What -- but in the process of doing this analysis on the data, all three groups were doing a lot of adjustments to the data. And the data have to be adjusted. We see records in which it's clear the temperature jumps from zero degrees all the way up to 32 in one hour. Well, no, someone just started to switch from Celsius to Fahrenheit. So you have to go look at the data and make those adjustments.

But there were problems with this. There were undocumented station location changes. There were -- only a small fraction of the data were being used. Of the stations that were available -- of the nearly 40,000 stations that are available, the group, the NOAA group was using only 8,000 of them. The group in the UK was only using 2,000. There were issues of how they were selecting these. If they were selecting them because they had long records, which was the method that they said they were using, then there's a danger that records with long records were once rural. If they are 200 years old, they almost certainly were once rural. But now they may be deeply buried inside of the city and there's the urban heat island effect. So there are all of these questions, and when I read the papers, I could not find adequate answers to these questions that bothered me. I wanted to know whether global warming was real and whether it's caused by humans. And I could not convince myself when I carefully scrutinized the data.

Greg Dalton:
That was a couple years ago. Last fall, you came out and said you have scrutinized the data. And what was the conclusion?

Richard Muller:
That the global warming of the past 50 years was very close to what the prior groups had claimed it was.

Greg Dalton:
So they were right?

Richard Muller:
On this issue they were right. That's right. And I -- my reaction was that the issues that they did not answer, that they didn't answer in their papers and that they didn't answer publicly were issues that they had put a great deal of careful scientific thought into. And they were able to answer it to the standards necessary. Now, there's a difference between being able to come to a conclusion and being able to convince every skeptic that you've come to that conclusion. The details of this get so complex, that their failing was not in the work they had done. Their failing, I felt at the end, was in their ability to address openly all of the issues that had been addressed in such way that an unbiased outside observer coming in would be compelled to accept their conclusions.

Greg Dalton:
Which is you're talking about a communication issue and scientists are often not--

Richard Muller:
That's right.

Greg Dalton:
--the best communicators, they agree with what they don't know rather than what [crosstalk].

Richard Muller:
So they were right.

Greg Dalton:
There's a whole set of issue there.

Richard Muller:
On the measurement of the temperature change, they were right.

Greg Dalton:
And what was the reaction to your report? You previously were known as a climate skeptic or a denier, and there were some pretty strong words for you. Among some people, you were called a media whore; some people thought you were, you know, a convert. So what was the reaction?

Richard Muller:
Well, actually, if these had all happened 15 years ago, you wouldn't have such quotes. These days we have the internet--

Greg Dalton:
Thank God for blogs.

Richard Muller:
And anybody can use the strongest language that they want and put it on. And then even if they retracted, it's there.

Greg Dalton:
Yeah, that was -- so--

Richard Muller:
So, yeah, a lot of people misunderstood. They -- people still today confuse media reports of what, let's say, I have done with what I have done. And it's like this famous painting, “This is Not a Pipe", it's a painting of a pipe. So people would respond to what people had said I had said, not to what our group, our Berkeley Surface Temperature group had actually said. To try to avoid this, we -- our goal was not just to test the conclusions of the prior groups, but to do it in a far more transparent and open way. So even though they had not yet been accepted for publication, we put them online -- Jim Hanson [crosstalk]--

Greg Dalton:
And you were criticized for putting out non-peer-reviewed literature by people saying, “Hey, this is--

Richard Muller:
Despite the fact that that's the longest tradition in science. People have done this; we used to call them preprints. And it was -- traditionally I was raised in by Nobel laureate, Luis Alvarez. You send your papers out and you get peer review--

Greg Dalton:

Richard Muller:
--before you even submit them to the journal.

And this was what I learned was peer review. And now, some people have decided, no, that's not peer review. Now, it's only the journals who decide what's peer review.

Greg Dalton:
And what was the response of some of the funders? The funders of this include Charles Koch with the Koch Industries, Bill Gates, Ann and Gordon Getty. How did they respond to the results?

Richard Muller: I haven't had anything other than expressions of pleasure that we were able to do what we proposed to do.

Greg Dalton: And so you validated the basic measurement of the earth's surface temperature is warming.

Richard Muller: That's right. That's right.

Greg Dalton: That's right.

Richard Muller:
And we were able to measure with greater accuracy. We were able to address what we felt in an open and clear way the objections that had prevented me from reaching this conclusion in the past. This included the fact that we were able to use all the stations. I have a -- my -- person we hired to do much of the math and computing named Robert Rohde, who is one of the few geniuses I've ever met in my life. And he did a superb job on the statistical analysis on the data -- data work. And we were able to show that the station -- we were able to use all the stations which previous groups couldn't do. We were able to directly look at -- because we could use all the stations, we could pick a subset of the stations that were all rural, none of them in cities. And we could get the global temperature solely from the rural stations. This is the most direct way to address the urban heat island effect. We got the same answer. We can do this because we're using all the stations.

Greg Dalton:
So the science is sound -- you've written about -- there's skeptics, which all scientists should be skeptics, and there's closed-minded deniers. So, talk about the difference then. Did you convince anyone -- did your work convince anyone who's like, “Uh, okay, well, if this guy says it, it must be true."

Richard Muller:
Well, it's hard to know, but there are deniers on both sides. I mean, they are -- I call the deniers the people who pay no attention to the science.

They don't care -- they start with the assumption that there's a great conspiracy, and that whatever's happening in the climate is good.

Greg Dalton:
If Al Gore says it, it's got to be wrong.

Richard Muller:
That's right. Now, on the other side, there are the exaggerators who are just as bad as the deniers.


Muller was trying to filter out the Right-wing conspiracy theorist deniers and the Left-wing exaggerators. When you listen to Muller speak you realize he is calmly coming at this issue as objectively as he can, as a good scientist would. My appreciation of his work is because of this, because that is literally the best we can do. Doubling the volume of voices, or the spitefulness of words on either side makes no difference, except in riling up people on both sides who probably at this point do not care about the truth or understand any of it, and yet convincing those people because of elections has become a priority issue.

The question is now, given there is global warming, what can be done in a theoretical sense, and what can be done poltically. I don't like what either side is doing, nor do I think either side is being particularly productive.

If we want to solve the problem we need to listen open-mindedly to experts, and be open to hearing criticism and criticizing. I don't see how this happens in the current political predicament.

I like what Elizabeth Warren had to say, but in order to survive in the Democratic party she has to pay lip service to the Green New Deal, Al Gore, detest nuclear power, and act like she agrees with every Green voice and plan out there, and then somehow transmit that to enough people to get the Democratic nomination, as do all the rest of them on both sides.

If we want a democracy we have to be responsible adults about it because what has been happening for a long time now is that democracy seems to be failing, or it is incompatible with our version of capitalism. The establishment seems not to want the American people to learn, or to know the facts

Posted by Sherry Listgarten, a Almanac Online blogger,
on Aug 13, 2019 at 12:03 pm

Sherry Listgarten is a registered user.

@Crescent. I get your point. Thanks for the transcript, etc. In general, this seems like an obviously true thing to say: "If we want to solve the problem we need to listen open-mindedly to experts, and be open to hearing criticism and criticizing."

Right? I was just listening to a climate course from ten years ago, and the professor was careful to tell his students to always seek out and listen to both sides. This is what we've been taught, and try to do.

But then you have people like Bill Nye (the Science Guy!) saying we are giving way too much air-time to climate skeptics. If 98 out of 100 scientists agree on something, but in the news we have one of the two guys who is against debating one of the 98 guys who is for, is that representative?

So then we have news organizations saying they are not going to debate the science any more, at least what is relatively settled. Is that censorship? Or is that good judgment?

I am in Bill Nye's camp on this, and it's partly because there are intentional disinformation campaigns that are run by companies whose profits are threatened by science that they cannot afford to agree with. Not just climate, but everything from tobacco to opioids to asbestos and ozone and pesticides and .... Heck, you can go back as far as evolution or, before that, the Earth rotating around the sun. Organizations fought these (are fighting these) using similar techniques. Is the Earth really round?

So "there are good ideas on both sides" is often not as straight-forward as it seems. I know you are making a broader point, and there is over-zealousness on both sides, for sure. But this is where some of the pushback against deniers comes from. Is it unfair or is it justified? IMO, the intentional disinformation campaigns create an environment of mistrust that makes progress much more difficult.

I love your point about theoretical reality vs political reality. There is a lot of polarization, which makes progress in the best of times hard, and this isn't the best of times. The erasing of inconvenient science by this administration, which has been reported in a variety of departments, is really, really troublesome, as you say. If we can't lean on science and objective facts, what can we lean on?

Posted by CrescentParkAnon., a resident of Crescent Park,
on Aug 13, 2019 at 7:55 pm

We need to have scientists with good intentions to dig into the data ... and of course the data needs to have integrity and be available/public. I think Muller did a great job in this on his book. Good intentions and freedom from economic interest and corruption are the most important. What Trump is doing in the EPA forbidding certain areas of study or muzzlying experts is the height of corruption.

Muller's study group was prompted by the exaggerations he heard on the Pro-Global Warming side of the argument. Which was actually good because he went about checking it out with skepticism. All his methods and data were public.

I've a great deal of concern about some of the fairy tale ideas I hear concerning things like the Green New Deal, which I am provisionally for parts of it, but when people get the ball and run with it who are not checked we can end up stuck with very bad ideas. I find myself tentatively in support of a return to nuclear because of its low maintenance, high-availlability and super-low operating costs, and of course zero-carbon.

I think the phrase that "there are good people on both sides" or that "both sides of the issues have good ideas" is worn out and hackneyed at this point, and one can never just agree with it for the sake of agreeing with it - as if that will always be true. It almost always boils down to economic interests. There are some issues that are just plain not good ideas, and yet Republicans seem to be able to pay people to market them.

The facts should speak for themselves, but when they need interpretation we need people like Muller to step up and expose what has been going on to daylight. But it will not always be the same people either.

Lately I was reading about an start-up that Muller and his daughter are trying to get going where they take nuclear waste and slide it down the same kind of miles deep drilling holes the oil industry uses for slant drilling and fracking. This seems like the worse most hair-brained idea I could imagine, like the idea of putting barrels of toxic waste in subductions zones with the idea that they will effortlessly slide down into the earth's molten core. To me it seems like you want to keep something do potentially dangerous where you can keep an eye on it, even if it takes more or less forever. The difference here is Muller's economic interest. Yet, economically uninterested people often do not make good decisions either.

It would just be much better if we never got to the point where we needed to deal with existential issues because the human history for that is not good.

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