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An Inconvenient Truth 1033

There's a movie teaser line that you may have seen recently, that goes like this: "What if you had to tell someone the most important thing in the world, but you knew they'd never believe you?" The answer is "I'd try." The teaser's actually for another movie, but that's the story that's told in the documentary "An Inconvenient Truth": it starts with a man who, after talking with scientists and senators, can't get anyone to listen to what he thinks is the most important thing in the world. It comes out on DVD today.

The scariest horror film of 2006 was a documentary.

The first thing everyone wants to know, or at least to argue about, is whether Al Gore has his facts straight. The short answer is yes, he does. There are minor errors. They don't detract from Gore's main point, on which the scientific debate has ended.

And the main point is scary, and almost too big to think about or talk about. The earth is warming, because of us. Sometime in the next hundred years, our environment is going to change in big ways. We can't predict it with much accuracy yet, but the best estimates we have are that it's going to be -- measured in lives and dollars -- really bad.

In a way this film isn't really about that story. It's about a man telling that story -- someone who, after suffering a bit of a setback, asked himself, well, what can I do now? What's important to me? How do I want to spend my time?

What's important is a question a lot of nerds may be familiar with. We like to talk about important things. But how do you respond when you try to say something serious and the cool kids laugh at you? What do you do, when you put yourself out there, try to engage people's minds, and instead they make fun of your clothes?

The good news for anyone who's had a prom invitation rejected is that people can come back from worse disasters. His presidential bid didn't go so well in 2000. Gore had given talks on global warming before; after he was forcibly retired from public service, he took a Powerbook and Keynote on the road, sharpening and expanding his slideshow talk in airports and hotels.

Half of the film is that talk, and it's an engrossing talk. There are charts and diagrams and footnoted stats (and a Futurama clip) and it's about as fun as numbers and chemicals get. Turns out Al Gore has a sly sense of humor (but not a nasty one -- the film's only two political nudges are pretty gentle). Unless you're a climate scientist you'll probably learn something too.

But the other half, interwoven with the lectures, is a man picking up the pieces and rediscovering something important in his life, a message that he has to tell. That succeeds as a film.

And Gore's lecture succeeded too. Somehow, I'm not sure how, this documentary changed the way Americans look at global warming. In early 2006, global warming was still seen as one of those things that may be true or may not. Pundits were fairly evenly divided and both positions were routinely heard. It's now late 2006 and the debate has moved from "is global warming happening?" to "it's happening, we've caused it, and what if anything should we do about it?"

Most of the warming-deniers left are the real extremists out in Rush Limbaugh territory. We're not yet all the way to a serious, scientifically-informed debate, but somehow, overnight, this film pulled most of the fence-sitters over to where the scientists were years ago.

As for actually fixing global warming, it will take a miracle. Maybe two miracles. I think in the next few decades we're going to need to start an Apollo moonshot-type miracle of technology and engineering to beat back the greenhouse effect. Nanorobots. Reflective dust in the stratosphere. Giant mirrors at the Lagrange point. Bioengineered plankton to sink carbon or change the oceans' albedo. Something. That's just a guess.

But meanwhile, though we hope someone can build us an airbag before we crash the car into the tree, that doesn't absolve us from stepping on the brakes. Right now, we need a change in attitude, in our community and our politics, to start slowing the damage we're doing every day to our grandchildren's Earth -- to buy them time, and give them more options. The only way that happens is when the governments of industrialized and developing nations decide this is a priority.

And the only way that happens is for people everywhere to stop listening to the cool kids and, once again, pay attention to the nerds.

Go buy the nerd's DVD.

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An Inconvenient Truth

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  • by Josh Lindenmuth ( 1029922 ) <joshlindenmuth&gmail,com> on Tuesday November 21, 2006 @11:25AM (#16931018) Journal
    I don't think the reason that nobody initially wanted to listen had to do with the story, but rather the storyteller. Gore was about as charming and captivating as an endangered sea turtle. Had some other high profile public figure attacked the problem with the same gusto, there may have been a little more initial acceptance of the core message, which I actually feel would have harmed the result.

    Why? Because if anyone else had tried to get congress to act on Global Warming, there would have never been An Inconvenient Truth. Had Gore been more successful in convincing congress to join the Kyoto treaty or strengthen EPA guidelines, I don't believe there never would have been the movie. Which just means that the public would remain uncommitted/unconvinced, and future administrations would have just reversed what the more convincing version of an Al Gore could have achieved in Congress.

    What's amazing is that Al Gore's movie really IS engrossing. He comes across as a man with a mission. While he may sensationalize the risk a little at times, he delivers a message that is irrefutable: we must act now. I believe he has helped increase awareness of the problem, and the greater the awareness the greater the chance for long term change. Governments will act on ridiculously expensive endeavours only in the face of overwhelming public support ... An Inconvenient Truth is one big step in the right direction.
  • by stankulp ( 69949 ) on Tuesday November 21, 2006 @11:44AM (#16931382) Homepage
    "It has long been accepted that the Earth has experienced climate cycles, most notably the 90,000-year Ice Age cycles. But in the past 20 years or so, modern science has discovered evidence that within those broad Ice Age cycles, the Earth also experiences 1,500-year warming-cooling cycles. The Earth has been in the Modern Warming portion of the current cycle since about 1850, following a Little Ice Age from about 1300 to 1850. It appears likely that warming will continue for some time into the future, perhaps 200 years or more, regardless of human activity."

    The Physical Evidence of Earth's Unstoppable 1,500-Year Climate Cycle []

  • by xlurker ( 253257 ) on Tuesday November 21, 2006 @11:45AM (#16931398) Homepage
    I have seen the movie; it is well done.

    There are some conclusions that I think are inevitable... The final ultimate conclusions is essentially:

    • Wind or solar energy-farms should be build in gargantuan scales. If one is dubious about such large scaling, just think of Google, they use tens of thousands of computers to power the search machine, all are centrally controlled and maintained.

    Nothing, absolutely nothing, says it can't be done with energy-farms on colossal areas. These farms are used for sequesteration and also as an energy source. This does not depend on changing human nature, it will work and it will pay itself of. All it needs is for someone to propagate the idea.

    Runup to that conclusion:

    Sadly recent news and statistics can let one only draw the following conclusions:

    1. it is not possible to change human habits even if the first world nations reduce CO2 emmisions, the second and third world nations will compensate by buying oil and coal no longer being bought by first world nations [1]
    2. for us as a developed and civilized world to (really don't want to sound melodramatic) survive this, we will need to reduce CO2 levels in the atmosphere. As much as I would like humanity to finally change its habits and maybe become a bit more conscious of itself as a whole: what I would like has little influence on what "is" ; in particular little influence on 6 billion+ people ... (e.g. China will likely overtake the US concerning CO2 emmisions in 10 years...)
    3. Since (1) will happen no matter what, reduction of CO2 in the atmosphere by reducing emmisions will not be enough
    4. the conclusion from (3): sequesteration of CO2 requirement: large amounts of energy
    5. the amount of energy needed for (4) will be large, it cannot come from other limited sources such as gas or atomic thus it must come from renewable sources: wind, solar, tidal/water (I exclude fusion since this is still too uncertain for the next 30 years)
    6. no matter what the source of energy, the industry needed to provide the amounts of energy will be huge, it cannot only be used for sequesteration but also (obviously as an energy source)
    7. a second conclusion of (1) is that humanity cannot change one of it's habits: consumption of resources / pruduction of goods, both need energy; if we cannot solve the problem by reducing consumption of energy, then we solve the problem by producing more means of producing energy
    8. based on (7) look for systems that have a positive energy return on energy investment scale the good candidates to very large levels basically I think (8) is the only way to go for humanity, (8) is then applied to (4) examples of (8) can be found : ment []
    9. first example: a wind turbine produces enough energy for a bit more then 300 homes, the US has approx. 300 million citizens, and maybe 80 million homes, thus 1000*1000 wind-turbines would supply enough energy for all households and sequesteration of CO2 just lining them up next to each would not work since there is only so much wind availible, spacing them at a distance of 1km to each other might work, thus one would need 1 million square kilometers, the US itself occupies 10 million square kilometers. wind turbines could be setup on the same areas used for agriculture the energy return on energy investment is more than twenty-fold, amortization after approx. 3 years. Amount of time to build: decades
    10. a further maybe quicker to implement example for (8) would be to create large industries that create huge amounts of solar panels, not based on silicon but instead on the energy/resources-cheaper version: copper indium gallium selenide (CIGS) solar panels [2] [3] claims th
  • by HoneyBeeSpace ( 724189 ) on Tuesday November 21, 2006 @11:47AM (#16931434) Homepage
    If you'd like to recreated a lot of the stuff from the movie, using real data as inputs and getting similar results as what Gore gets, the EdGCM [] project has wrapped a NASA global climate model (GCM) in a GUI (OS X and Win). You can add CO2, re-arrange the continents, change the vegetation cover, or turn the sun down by a few percent all with a checkbox and a slider. Supercomputers and advanced FORTRAN programmers are no longer necessary to run your own GCM. Disclaimer: I'm the project developer.
  • by Alpha830RulZ ( 939527 ) on Tuesday November 21, 2006 @11:54AM (#16931558)
    The short answer is, you don't look at scientific consensus as proof, but as evidence for forming your own conclusion. The caliber of people that hold an opinion are testimony as to it's potential worth. When a bunch of religious nutbars, tin foil hat conspiracy theorists, and oil industry executives hold one side of the opinion, and a wide collection of highly educated, fairly disinterested parties hold the other, I'm inclined to give the nod to the group that actually studies the issue and knows how to work numbers. The fact that the educated group also has data to support their views, while the rejectors mostly proclaim, like Monty Python's knight, "It's not proved yet!" is merely icing on the cake.
  • Even a devout Catholic can't look at the history of the Catholic church and say that organized religion has been anything other than a monstrosity for most of its history. From the Inquisition to the Crusades to anti-Semitism to political and social oppression - the history of Catholicism is sordid and shameful. Most organized religions fare no better, and the shame of their history simply depends on how long they've been around. The Mormons, for example, have the Mountain Meadows Massacre ( sacre).

    However, just as science has been misused to support things like phrenology ( the argument can be made that what we've seen historically is not necessary to organized religion. It is instead what happens when organized religion falls prey to lust for political and economic power. As far as I'm concerned the chief difference between the evils of organized religion and the evils of science are that religion is a much, much older social institution than science. As a result, religion has had time to be perverted in all kinds of ways that science has not yet and - if we are vigilant - never will be.

    In short: People who believe in organized religions should be the ones who are the angriest about what religious institutions have done throughout history. It's our duty to try and make sure the same mistakes of the past aren't committed again.

    As far as my anti-authority stance goes, yes: there is a certain amount of intellectual tension in both adhering to a standardized body of theological belief and the scientific method. But tension is not the same thing as contradiction. I happen to think that part of the purpose of an organized religion is to make our intellectual lives harder - not easier. Intellectual tension is the motivator for intellectual growth in the same sense that necessity is the mother of invention. This means I don't hold my spiritual beliefs as sacrosanct and my scientific ones as conditional. All belief is conditional. I don't expect everyone to believe that, especially given religion's dearth of credibility on Slashdot, but that's the intro to the answer to how a devout Mormon also holds anti-authoritarian beliefs if you're curious.

    -stormin (and here come the flames...)
  • by Mantorp ( 142371 ) * <mantorp 'funny A'> on Tuesday November 21, 2006 @12:01PM (#16931694) Homepage Journal
    the current wave of unprecedented warming is due to "natural changes." "God's still up there," []

    Chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works James Inhofe.

  • by WhiplashII ( 542766 ) on Tuesday November 21, 2006 @12:03PM (#16931752) Homepage Journal
    I once asked a global warming activist if they would still be against the use of oil if there was another way to eliminate global warming. He replied:

    That would be great, but I would still argue against oil burning.

    That is the real issue - and most people see that. To put it another way, what most people say about global warming is "there is a scientific concensus", and "you can't understand it unless you are a climatologist". Both of those arguments are obviously ad hominum - trust the message because of the messenger. If that is the only way to make the argument (which may be true - this is not simple stuff), then you need to be especially careful about the flip side - the ad hominum attack. Mankind is supposed to trust you because of who you are, but one of the things you are is biased. Good, bad, or indifferent, that is how most people percieve the situation. Of course, sites like this help a lot - but even then, since the average layman can't really follow the physics, it still smells of ad hominum.

    The problem is that there are alternate explanations that have not been eliminated. For example, a possible posit is that atmospheric effects act as an amplifier of the solar input. In other words, a 10% increase in solar activity causes a 100% increase in temperature, with about a 1000 year step response function (or delay before the results show). So a slight increase in solar activity 100 years ago can cause an exponential rise in temperature today.

    Venus is very strong evidence for this (as are changes in other planet's weather) - that atmosphere is clearly doing things that are impossible at Earth's solar energy levels. The worst case numbers (at 100% CO2 absorption band saturation) is about a 10C swing for Earth's energy input levels.

    That said, this theory is certainly not proven either (though it does fit all the facts) - and if we do experience (or can forcast convincingly) global warming that is annoying to humans we should look at CO2 reduction or insolation reduction (there are many methods available, all need to be explored without bias).

    The global warming activits do not see what is wrong with what they propose - they say that the changes needed will not put us back in the stone age. But they are talking about taking my money away from me and transfering it to their priorities (for certain values of them and me), at gun point. (I'm assuming here that I am not allowed to opt out). How would everyone here feel if I forced the world's population to pay for my priorities (cheap space access for all, btw). I honestly think that cheap space access will solve 90% of the worlds problems, and is a good investment. Should I be able to gather a consensus of like minded people and force the world to pay for it?

    Again, this is why the separation of problem and solution is so important - otherwise, you are simply viewed as presenting your agenda. Global warming should not be about CO2, except to scientists. Global warming should be about how likely it is to get hot, and what we can do about it - all of the options. In other words, when global warming is suspected, and the obvious solution to scientists is to cut CO2 and the crowd reacts negatively - give them the other options, and say choose! Don't presume to choose for them - if you do that, they cannot trust you. And if they cannot trust you and cannot understand the physics, they will not avoid an approaching global warming catastrophe.

    To wit, making the movie "An inconvenient truth" was worse than doing nothing. It riles up the activists - making the normal people less likely to believe them - and doesn't really bring any new information to the debate. It's not like global warming was unheard of - it just has a credibility problem.
  • by 0xdeadbeef ( 28836 ) on Tuesday November 21, 2006 @12:23PM (#16932264) Homepage Journal
    How very true, and completely beside the point. Consensus is important because it is enough to justify action. The debate is not really about the "truth" of global warming, it is about the cost of preventative measures versus the cost of inaction for a range of possible scenarios. It is about risk assessment, it is about pinning down variables.
  • by hey! ( 33014 ) on Tuesday November 21, 2006 @12:25PM (#16932304) Homepage Journal
    Which explains one of the controversial aspects of the movie: the apparently equal focus on Al Gore, the man.

    One reviewer I read hit it on the head: this is a concert movie.

    It helps that the concert turns out to be a surprisingly good one, but the film takes you not only backstage, but to the back story. There is a poignancy to watching the man who won the popular vote for US President in 2000 schlepping his stuff from venue to venue, telling the same story over and over. If you don't put a human face on his motivations, it would go from poignancy to pathos.

    It's important for the movie not go there, because despite its dire message it is supposed to leave the viewer with hope and optimism.
  • by gcranston ( 901577 ) on Tuesday November 21, 2006 @12:35PM (#16932568)
    It's not really a bandwagon jump if he's BEEN AT IT SINCE HE WAS IN UNIVERSITY!

    And where are these arguments against Global Warming being our fault? Seriously, where? And nothing from a newspaper, industry report, or Congressional committee counts on this issue. I'm asking where are the bona fide scientific papers in refereed journals? There aren't any. Saying there is evidence either way on this is like saying cigarettes might not kill you because I have this report from Imperial Tobabcco, and another from the Senate Committee on "Taxes on Tobacco make us piles of money" that say they're healthy.

    Please, for our sakes, pull your ignorant head out of your ass and read something.
  • by PaxTech ( 103481 ) on Tuesday November 21, 2006 @12:36PM (#16932600) Homepage
    You have utterly no idea what you're talking about. Clinton signed Kyoto, but the Senate voted 95-0 against ratifying it. Later, Bush withdrew the signature, which means nothing since no treaty is binding unless ratified by the Senate, which was and is never going to happen.

    On July 25, 1997, before the Kyoto Protocol was finalized (although it had been fully negotiated, and a penultimate draft was finished), the U.S. Senate unanimously passed by a 95-0 vote the Byrd-Hagel Resolution (S. Res. 98)[37], which stated the sense of the Senate was that the United States should not be a signatory to any protocol that did not include binding targets and timetables for developing as well as industrialized nations or "would result in serious harm to the economy of the United States".

    That darn George Bush, he's so evil he has the power to block international treaties from the Texas governor's office.

  • Re:Not political (Score:3, Interesting)

    by PoderOmega ( 677170 ) on Tuesday November 21, 2006 @12:40PM (#16932716)
    This reminded me of something. I remember being scared to death when I was a kid (20 years ago) because I saw a news article that the o-zone may be completely gone in a 10 years!! Well, what the heck happened? I know there is still a big whole in the ozone but where is it now? The fear mongering media must have moved on.

    I also remember in an early science class that we would be out of oil by 2015, but I saw a report recently that we wouldn't be hitting problems until 2050. Not that 2050 is good either, but I just do not respond well to this "SKY IS FALLING" attitude anymore. .

    My favorite argument for global warning I've heard is "Even though we can't prove it 100%, the consequences are so grave we should stop C02 emissions now!!" Well, I have a theory that I can't prove 100% that Aliens are going to invade the earth and grind us into sausages, and the only way to stop them would be to shroud the earth in a planet wide blanket so the earth can't be seen. I can't prove it, but DO YOU WANT TO BE GROUND INTO SAUSAGES?!?!.

    I do believe that global warming COULD be a problem, but this is highly reminiscent of media fear mongering. Where are all those hurricanes we were going to have this year because of global warming?!
  • by smallpaul ( 65919 ) <paul&prescod,net> on Tuesday November 21, 2006 @12:43PM (#16932816)

    . The trouble is: how do we make up our minds about the issue if we reject scientific consensus as proof? The only thing I can think of is to understand as much of the issue as we can for ourselves rather than from the media. That's something I definitely need to work harder on.

    It is far better to act on the basis of authority than not act at all. 98% of people do not have the ability or time to work through the equations and models themselves. Does this mean we should never act on environmental issues? If a parent is told that scientific consensus says that taking Thalidomide while pregnant will result in birth defects should the parent continue to take Thalidomide until they go back to school to study up on statistical methods and double blind tests?

    When you go off and research the issue and come back to us with arguments that undermine the authorities then you have a right to tell us we're on the wrong path. But it is totally irresponsible for you to just wave your hands and say: "Don't believe the authorities! Don't act! Don't do anything until you've studied it yourself! I'm not studying it, but you should!" You're just parroting what the oil companies have been saying for the last decade. "In the absence of absolute proof, inaction is preferable."

    In this case, there is one aspect which is totally undisputed. We are changing the atmosphere. Where I come from, pissing in the bathtub is considered impolite whether anyone is guaranteed to get sick from it or not. Human beings should minimize their impact on the atmosphere precisely because we do not know with certainty what the consequences are likely to be.

  • by Shads ( 4567 ) <shadus.shadus@org> on Tuesday November 21, 2006 @12:49PM (#16933000) Homepage Journal
    You're right, there is no hard proof we can fix the environment any longer.

    However, there is also no proof that when I walk out of my house today that I won't get ran over by a bus... but I'm still going to walk out of my house.

    So we're not sure if we can fix it? Does that mean we shouldn't try?
  • by Rei ( 128717 ) on Tuesday November 21, 2006 @01:19PM (#16933826) Homepage
    That is the real issue - and most people see that. To put it another way, what most people say about global warming is "there is a scientific concensus", and "you can't understand it unless you are a climatologist". Both of those arguments are obviously ad hominum - trust the message because of the messenger.

    The issue is the complexity of the problem at hand. It's not a subject that you can learn the intricacies of with a cursory read. As a consequence, pretending that you know why something is right or wrong when you aren't familiar with all of the evidence and science at hand is doing a disservice to the discussion. I know you don't want to have to rely on others. You'd love to have a little experiment in your hands, or a simple equation, or whatnot that demonstrates it. Sadly, the issue is far too complicated for that. You'll have to rely on Peer Review -- the process that has gotten us almost all of the scientific advancements of the past century. I hope that's not too much of a leap of faith for you.

    The problem is that there are alternate explanations that have not been eliminated. For example, a possible posit is that atmospheric effects act as an amplifier of the solar input. In other words, a 10% increase in solar activity causes a 100% increase in temperature, with about a 1000 year step response function (or delay before the results show). So a slight increase in solar activity 100 years ago can cause an exponential rise in temperature today.

    You seem to have the strange impression that models don't already account for amplification effects (they do), or that the rammifications of changes of solar input haven't been extensively studied (they have). In the latter case, there was yet another report, this one a rather major one, released last year which determined that, even with amplification, solar input couldn't cause more than (1/5th?) of the observed warming. In the former case, the models are so bloody detailed that they take into account how the current windspeeds in China kick up dust (and what kinds), and where they deposit it in the oceans, and how that fuels plankton populations, and how those particular plankton respond... I've briefly chatted with the head of NCAR about their models; they're really incredible. They showed a demonstration of their model operating on the short term, predicting the path of Hurricane Katrina (it was presented to the White House as an "experimental product", but wasn't included in the official predictions). They superimposed the actual hurricane over it. Not only did the path match, but even the rain bands matched. They then superimposed their damage predictions over the actual damage, and again, it matched up near perfectly.

    I can't wait until their new supercomputing facility comes online. Unfortunately for NCAR, their computer use requirements are growing notably *faster* than Moore's Law.

    The global warming activits do not see what is wrong with what they propose - they say that the changes needed will not put us back in the stone age. But they are talking about taking my money away from me and transfering it to their priorities (for certain values of them and me), at gun point. (I'm assuming here that I am not allowed to opt out).

    Because if you could opt out of Kyoto, everyone who produced large amounts of CO2 emissions would, and it would be a pointless gesture. I can just imagine applying your "Opt Out" message to other things in life. Hey, I never got a chance to opt out of these whole "No Murder" laws. They're forcing me, at gunpoint, not to murder people. Can you imagine? What an indignity!

    give them the other options, and say choose!

    Okay. Here are the options that are currently achievable with modern technology.

    1) Cut CO2 levels.

    Your call! Take your pick. Yes, there are some proposed methods, but they haven't been studied enough to know what their effects would be, or if they're even possible to implement. Studies are ongoing, but for most, it could be decades before we could start to implement them -- if ever.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 21, 2006 @01:35PM (#16934242)
    Out of the things I am passionate for, my support of nuclear fast breeder reactors (specifically speaking, the lead-cooled variety) and the development of such is probably at or near the top. Here's why.

    Number one: INHERENTLY SAFE
    Any commercial nuclear reactor anywhere in the continental US in this day and age is of the thermal type. To put it simply, this means that they operate using highly pressurized water as a coolant and as a moderator. The consequences of using such a reactor are that the water must be pressurized to the extent that it remains liquid while heated to somewhere around 200 degrees C higher then it's normal atmospheric boiling point.
    Is this a good thing? Quite frankly, in my opinion, no. Chernobyl was what it was because when the folk operating the plant (a comparatively poor design to be sure) failed to keep the reactor under control, and the heat reached uncontrollable levels, the cooling water literally became a steam explosion, bursting the pipes and blowing a section of the plant apart. This radioactive "steam" then escaped and spread across much of eastern europe. The consequences of using such a design may not ever be fully known.

    A fast reactor (as opposed to thermal) is of an entirely different design. A fast reactor does not need a moderator and typically uses a highly heat-conductive liquid (usually a metal with a very low melting point) to cool the reactor core. In most designs, the reactor core sits inside a large "pool" of such material and is cooled by natural convection, rather then traditional "fail-safe" mechanisms like pumps. In addition, the reactor core can be designed in such a way that basic physics prevents it from getting above a certain temperature. As the materials used in such a design expand, the amount of fission reactions actually decrease the hotter it gets. Meaning the hotter it gets, less heat gets generated. It's a natural check against any conceivable type of meltdown, without the need for human interference. In addition, no pressurization of any kind is needed. The entire plant can operate at normal atmospheric pressure. No steam explosions. If every single human being working at such a plant were to die, the fission reactions would die off naturally over time, the reactor would cool down to outside temperatures, and eventually become entombed in a huge chunk of shield material (if Lead or Lead-Bismuth is used as the cooling material). In effect, it's an entirely safe reactor design in every way that practically matters.

    Number Two: MORE EFFICIENT
    This actually means several different things. First off, and most striking, is that a breeder type of reactor can potentially get nearly a hundred times as much energy out of the already impressive energy potential of uranium ore used in traditional "thermal" reactor designs. This is because thermal reactor designs only "burn" about 1% of the uranium ore that gets put into them, which is Uranium 235. The rest of the Uranium 238 (far more common in nature) becomes highly radioactive and gets thrown away as "waste" that lasts a considerable amount of time before it goes back to the same level of radiation as the ground it came out of. A breeder reactor alleviates this problem by not only burning the usable Uranium 235, but by "breeding" an even greater amount of the Uranium 238 into new fuel, plutonium. The really ideal part is that if integral plant designs become common, the new fuel that gets bred in this process can be refined and put directly back into the reactor core, without the need to ever leave the site. Over time, all of the uranium that gets put into such a reactor gets used as fuel. This gives the human race enough potential energy, given the worlds known reserves of uranium, to last well over a million years. In addition, all that is left is leftover fission-products that have a much smaller frame of time to decay to safe levels then traditional waste, 300-400 years to be exact. And far less of it; small enough amounts to handle safely on site without problems. It can even be
  • by glsunder ( 241984 ) on Tuesday November 21, 2006 @02:30PM (#16935642)
    No. You strongly discourage people from buying polluting devices and encourage efficiency. You do that by taxing low efficiency vehicles and using that money to subsidize high efficiency ones (in their size class). If fluorescent bulbs save energy over incandescents, then you do the same with those, and whatever else. Taxing fuel might put us 5 or so years ahead of schedule by doing it this way, but taxing fuel will hurt the poor more and risk the economy much more.

    Granted, this results in people making the changes more slowly, but you're not jolting the economy. People can still buy SUVs, but instead of buying one that gets 11mpg, they either have to pay a big premium, or buy one that gets 30mpg. Overall, you push up the efficiency standards, while letting people still have a choice and you don't cause a sudden price increase in transportation costs.

    The big problem is GM and Ford. They're screwed and they know it. If we raise the efficiency standard by very much, we're basically banning American made cars in America. Politicians can't let those companies be devastated (huge layoffs != votes), so you won't see the US seriously tackle GW until the American corporations get their shit together. Unfortunately, we have a chicken and the egg situation - the corps won't do anything unless they have to.
  • by MrRee ( 120132 ) on Tuesday November 21, 2006 @02:33PM (#16935714) Homepage
    I know this is an odd question, but has anyone considered the amount of heat our modern society produces? Lightbulbs, cell phones, cars, trains, airplanes, power plants--everything modern society relies on produces heat.

    Might that heat--maybe combined with greenhouse gases--be contributing to recently noticed warming trends?
  • by Iron Condor ( 964856 ) on Tuesday November 21, 2006 @02:52PM (#16936226)

    They can't even predict the weather next week

    I cannot predict the outcome of a coin flip. Could be heads, could be tails. But I can sure as hell predict the outcome of a million coin flips: 50% heads, 50% tails. And the error bar on my prediction is going to get smaller and smaller the more coin flips there are.

    You are hereby advised not to post about this issue ever again until you have learned the (very, very simple) difference between weather and climate.

  • by Melfina ( 872932 ) on Tuesday November 21, 2006 @02:54PM (#16936286)
    One sided? It's supposed to be.

    It's a documentary about Global Warming, not 'Our Earth: Greenhouse or God's Judgment?'.

    This is science, it's not been proven or dis proven yet. But there is a scientific explanation for it, much like most of the other theories out there. (Evoloution, black holes...)

  • Only 5% ?... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by FaustIN ( 1030298 ) <<faustinroman> <at> <>> on Tuesday November 21, 2006 @03:08PM (#16936622) []
    Paramount Classics announced today that "An Inconvenient Truth" has grossed over $20 million dollars, making it the #4 highest grossing documentary of all time. As part of the campaign to encourage audiences to see "An Inconvenient Truth," Classics made an unprecedented pledge of 5% of all box office receipts to be donated to The Alliance for Climate Protection. With the success of the film, that donation will exceed $1 million dollars.
    This reminds me of Mohamed ElBaradei,2005 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, Lecture in the Oslo City Hall, December 10, 2005:
    Consider our development aid record. Last year, the nations of the world spent over $1 trillion on armaments. But we contributed less than 10 per cent of that amount - a mere $80 billion - as official development assistance to the developing parts of the world, where 850 million people suffer from hunger. My friend James Morris heads the World Food Programme, whose task it is to feed the hungry. He recently told me, "If I could have just 1 per cent of the money spent on global armaments, no one in this world would go to bed hungry." /2005/elbaradei-lecture-en.html []
  • by rk ( 6314 ) * on Tuesday November 21, 2006 @03:55PM (#16937738) Journal

    Actually, By the time Piltdown Man was revealed as a hoax, many anthropologists' models of human evolution were already regarding it as an aberration and disregarding it. I imagine quite a few of them blew sighs of relief when they heard it was a hoax. There were a few at the time of discovery believed it to be a hoax, too. I suppose time will tell on the global warming debate, too.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 21, 2006 @07:43PM (#16941936)
    This is science

    Bwaahahahhahah Um ..... Sorry

    Science refers to either:* the scientific method - a process for evaluating empirical knowledge; or* the organized body of knowledge gained by this process.

    Ok now here is the challenge show me ONE of these studies you are talking about
    much less read and understood that does not have fudge factors built into it and I will agree that you are approaching it from a scientific stand point not before. Every one that I am aware of has included some kind of fudge factor built into it.

    Now on that note

    Aceptance of ideals, beliefs, etc., which are not necessarily demonstrable through experimentation or reason.

Research is what I'm doing when I don't know what I'm doing. -- Wernher von Braun