* Re: An Inconvenient Movie, some doubts about Al Gore on

Topics: Regulation
13 Aug 2006

From: Ervan Darnell

At 04:33 AM 8/11/2006 , Vincent Kargatis wrote:
From: "Ervan Darnell" <ervan@kelvinist.com>
Sent: Friday, August 11, 2006 12:27 AM
> If we shoot for lowering the temperatue 11 degrees and it's only going
> up by 2, we could be making a big mistake.

Huh? Lowering the temperature by 11 degrees? How are efforts to reduce
anthropogenic warming causes supposed to do this? Or are there
refrigeration plans under discussion I haven't heard about?


That's a fair question. I didn't have a strong point here. It would be better stated as: what if we react on the assumption that the harm is 11 degrees but only 2? That may be needless direct mitigation costs, the cost of building sea walls, the indirect cost of CO2 wars to shut down polluters elsewhere. How about the diplomatic problems of China and India producing 50% of the world's CO2 (in the near future) and sequestering none of it? If we really believe it's 11 degrees, it becomes worth fighting over.

Back to my original point: if we cease to do more harm (e.g. by reducing CO2 emissions to 1990 levels), then that's harm not done, no matter what the forcing factor is (of degrees per ton of CO2). So, in that sense I take you objection.

But there are some other possibilities:

1) Perhaps we do "refrigerate" indirectly by increasing particulates. If the global dimming theory is right, it might be a short term measure to inject more particulates (hopefully something less destructive than coal dust).

2) There are other greenhouse gases. As I understand it, methane is a more potent greenhouse gas, but much less common (in the atmosphere) than CO2. Maybe we genetically engineer algae to eat atmospheric methane as compensation for CO2 and overshoot there? If we don't know the forcing effect of CO2, I doubt we know it for methane either. We could get the ratio wrong. We could get the impact of the algae wrong.

3) I'm repeating a previous point, but perhaps some natural balancing mechanism (e.g. existing CO2 absorbing algae) is still getting ramped up. If we put the brakes on CO2 emissions immediately, that existing absorption mechanism might keep going for a while and remove too much.

4) Perhaps we get a grip on the impact of ocean currents in all of this. The ice age theories I know all rely on feedback loops involving changing ocean currents. There is some subtle interaction with global climate and ocen currents mixing the temperature. Perhaps simply harvesting 1% of ocean current energy in the right stream will induce some substantial change (most of these changes seem to be toward more extremes and higher averages, but not clearly all of them).

5) More likely, we directly sequester CO2 in some chemical process[1]. What if it seems necessary to overshoot and sequester more CO2 out than we emitting to make up for past mistakes? So far, so good, but the negative side is not necessarily linear. That is, removing x tons may have double (or half) the forcing effect of emitting x tons (after whatever strange natural feedback loops get involved). That seems unlikely, but with the forcing effect as poorly understood as it is now, it would be worth knowing.
[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carbon_capture_and_storage

Yes, these are extreme possibilities. Let's hope there is some techno fix for affordable sequestration at the emission point. But if we go to other means and start tinkering with the climate overtly, we better really know what's going on. If policy is based on political reaction and hysterical estimates from the Gore crowd, this could go badly wrong.
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Subject: [Ragnar] sell the sidewalks: smoking ban
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Hayward is a mostly lower middle class (by Bay Area standards) Oakland
suburb near where I live:

> The Hayward City Council voted 5-2 Tuesday night to enact a smoking
> ban on sidewalks, streets and other public places. [1]
The right question should be: how do they even have the authority to do
such a thing?

It speak to the nature of precedent and the creeping nanny state. The
initial bans on smoking in restaurants were justified to be for the
health of the employees, but clearly that was an excuse in the crusade
to ban smoking. Here we are taking the next step toward a total ban.
After restaurants, it was bars, then 20' of space outside of bars, and
now any public sidewalk. The next step is obvious: if your smoking 20'
away from me outside is a hazard, then your smoking in your home is a
hazard because the air ultimately reaches the sidewalk.

Why don't liberals (as they favor this more than conservatives) just
admit they want prohibition and get on with it honestly? Don't tell me
Bush sold the Iraq War dishonestly when the war on tobacco is being sold
dishonestly as well.

We also have a tidy study in tyranny of the majority. As fewer people
smoke, the majority becomes more oppressive. There is a corollary here:
ban advocates say that almost no bar/restaurant was smoke free before
the ban, but that's when most people smoked. Now that fewer people do,
it becomes more economically viable to offer such. Also, as the
perception of the risk of second-hand smoke rises (correctly or not),
there is a higher premium on offering smoke-free venues. People didn't
prefer smoke-free environments when they didn't perceive it as risky.
That doesn't prove much. Put another way, by the time there is the
political will to enforce a new behavior, there is sufficient market
incentive to provide the good anyway (to those who are willing to pay
what it's really worth).

The excuses the city council offers are just ridiculous:
> Although the ordinance affects the entire city, Mayor Mike Sweeney
> said it was largely generated by complaints city officials have
> received from downtown pedestrians and merchants bothered by
> secondhand smoke near certain businesses.
> Sweeney made specific mention of the Stein Lounge on B Street, where
> he alleges patrons "get tanked up in the bar and then go outside to
> smoke, and start yelling and cussing each other and driving people
> away from the surrounding businesses."
Last I checked, loud and rude behavior is an incident to drinking, not
smoking. So we have drunks outside of a bar being rude, and smoking is
blamed. For that matter, the whole problem was created by a previous
law of banning smoking inside of a bar. Indeed, the ban in public
places would be more acceptable if private property were private
property for the owner to make any use agreement with [s]he wished
(smoking allowed or not). Just like any price control, when its failure
becomes clear the response is to pass another price control instead of
repeal the first one.

As for second hand smoke, I'm bothered by all sorts of incidental things
that aren't mine to control. I'm bothered by Bible thumpers crusading
at the street corner, and people on government transit who don't shower
regularly. But somehow the incidental annoyance of second hand smoke is
special (were there good evidence of serious harm from the tiny amount
of second hand smoke one breathes in outdoor public spaces I'd rethink
this, but it's not compelling as of this date [2]).

Incidentally, I hate tobacco smoking. I think it's an unredeemed habit,
causing lots of harm, and usually driven by addiction (sorry, I know
there are smokers reading this). But, that doesn't change anything,
because what matters to someone else isn't what matters to me. Maybe,
beyond philosophical purity, I defend smoking because the creeping nanny
state and abuse of precedent used in attempts to control it have
significance beyond that. I'm sure the anti-smoking do-gooders would
like to prohibit many of my habits too. The tragedy is that there
doesn't seem to be any ability to build a coalition of people seeking
freedom to preserve their own desired habits in the same way that it is
easy to build a coalition of rent seekers willing to abuse government

[1] http://www.mercurynews.com/ci_9414763?source=rss
especially reference 99 for the current unsettled state of the data.
Also, it's worth asking how many years of life smokers lose, not what
percentage of smokers die from smoking related illness, which might not
be an interesting question (e.g. they could all die of smoking 1 day
before they would have died of something else). It's frustratingly hard
to find this because the studies I see don't normalize for the income
level of smokers, and income level is an even stronger determinant of
life expectancy than smoking. But it should set some upper bound on the
risk of second-hand smoke. There are claims that side stream smoke is
more dangerous than inhaled smoke because it isn't filtered. I find
that suspicious because smokers are usually inhaling side stream smoke
and direct (filtered) smoke.

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