Global Warming (or not?) Page
There has been some talk in the media about a 'global warming hoax' or certain climatologists or scientists hand-picking their data to meet an agenda. I think this is likely but not certain. There has been a lot of time and money put into 'green' technologies and propaganda, and certain people don't want to see all of this be criticized. I also don't think it really matters. Here's what I think, and why I don't think it matters.
It is certainly possible (I would say quite likely) that CO2 does not contribute significantly to climate conditions. The Beer-Lambert law says that this is probably the case. Infrared absorption seems to be an unlikely contributor to significant climate change. However, if the climate change 'propaganda machine' is right (and it just might be), do we really want to play with burning up the planet? In other words, if there's a 2% probability that we burn up our planet or at least the support systems we're needing now by not taking steps to curtail CO2 emissions, do we want to take that risk? I think not.
It is very likely that CO2 lags temperature changes - it tends to track them but some time later. In this case, the atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide is a proxy for global temperature and not a cause. Some amount of data appears to support this, and so does simple physics.
There has been some consideration of a positive feedback systems going into runaway (in control systems terms, latchup). I don't see this as being very likely with atmospheric gas using absorption. There is a logarithm in the feedback loop (the Beer-Lambert law), and a system which is marginally stable (so that the balances are maintained at a critical level) can't continue to wind up to burn-up mode because the logarithm lowers the effective proportional gain of the system as the error from nominal increases. The atmosphere must be built already as a negative feedback system - it must be or it would be much less stable than it is. Positive feedback systems usually stay latched up until the power is removed. The sun cannot be turned off - it is, in a sense, similar to an RBMK nuclear reactor. However, is is likely that there are nested negative feedback loops that damp out positive feedback loops - that is the function of a control loop. Many processes have positive feedback contained within them - so long as the negative feedback gain is higher than the positive feedback gain, and the phase shifts are short enough, the system remains stable. If the time constants are wildly different, then oscillatory behaviour is likely. For stability, the negative feedback time constant must be considerably shorter than the positive feedback one. What does that mean to me? It's likely that the negative feedback gains are much higher than the positive feedback gains in our atmosphere. That leaves the sun, and gravitational effects of other planets to dominate our climate patterns.
But it does not matter, really, if we are being conned by a global warming 'hoax', or if it indeed is a big issue. A friend of mine is pretty convinced of climate change, and I'm the mostly the opposite - I'm not convinced yet, but I'm not going to be an ostrich-style denier. Even with that difference, we share very strongly our opinions of the path of action that we must take. Conventional oil and gas may be a pair of relatively infinite resources. But 'relatively infinite' is defined in a geologic timeframe. If oil and gas are indeed organically created compounds (in this case, I mean organic to be based on what was previously living matter), it may take many millions of years to accumulate enough energy and material to make even how much oil we've already used. If oil and gas are abiotic in nature, and are generated in some other manner, it is still in a relatively long timeframe - a geologic timeframe - and that makes it (most likely) impractical to consider for long-term energy sources, if we are to continue or extend our way of life. Other than overconsumption, our way of life is great - our standard of living is far better than any other time in history - mostly. We live longer, have more time to play, but we are not in as good a physical shape. Ok, perhaps oil depletion can improve on that aspect of it. We do know that we are slowly depleting the surface or near-surface oil, and anything much further down has an unacceptable energy-return-on-investment (EROI). There is absolutely no argument on this point.
If Thomas Gold is correct, and oil is indeed abiotic, that knowledge may not be that useful directly. Sure, it could be used to discover and open up some more oil reserves, but oil has other problems. At some point, carbon emissions may actually cause significant climate change - if it has not already. But there are many other hydrocarbon byproducts (pollutants) that need to be considered. Just walk by a 1963 Plymouth and take a good sniff at the exhaust. His theory does have some practical use, even in a post-petroleum society. Note that I said 'post-petroleum' and not 'post-oil'. That is a very critical distinction. Given a knowledge of how oil was created, it is certainly possible to create renewable, engineered, oil products. This means that, for some (or perhaps all) uses, we could enjoy the convenience of oil without many of its pitfalls. Algae oil is one example of a closed carbon-cycle fuel, and having a better idea of how the stuff was made originally could help in these fields. Blending carbon capture and recycling (not storage) with practical algae (or other) oil generation could potentially solve a fuel/energy problem, and if, indeed, carbon emissions really did affect the climate a lot, it would also address that issue, too.
So does it matter if the media tells a big ol' fib to us? Well, it kinda does - how can you trust the mainstream media? But on a more important level, does it really matter? If you think global warming is a hoax, save some oil for your kids. If you think global warming is real, save some CO2 headroom for your kids. See, it doesn't matter. Do what's right. Also, as a friend of mine says, just because something is legal, doesn't make it right.
Since I wrote this page initially, a large blowout has occurred in the Gulf of Mexico, spreading out many barrels of oil throughout the ocean. The ocean can deal with some oil seepage (it happens naturally) but this is a bit too much. The environmental disaster left by something like this can't be discounted. We should look at our energy-inefficient ways in light of this bit of a problem.