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Minnesota Introduces World's First Carbon Tariff 303

hollywoodb writes "The first carbon tax to reduce the greenhouse gases from imports comes not between two nations, but between two states. Minnesota has passed a measure to stop carbon at its border with North Dakota. To encourage the switch to clean, renewable energy, Minnesota plans to add a carbon fee of between $4 and $34 per ton of carbon dioxide emissions to the cost of coal-fired electricity, to begin in 2012 ... Minnesota has been generally pushing for cleaner power within its borders, but the utility companies that operate in MN have, over the past decades, sited a lot of coal power plants on the relatively cheap and open land of North Dakota, which is preparing a legal battle against Minnesota over the tariff."

Comment Re:Climate change is a security threat (Score 1) 417

Maybe you are talking about drought? No, rainfall will increase if it gets significantly warmer.

Drought isn't just about precipitation. A warmer climate might mean more rainfall (eg. flash floods), but also that rainwaters evaporate faster, so that when it doesn't rain, lands become drier faster.

Both are problematic.

Also, precipitation that now comes down as snow and get released slowly in snow melts in the warmer months would in the future just come straight, exacerbating flooding in some areas, and again affecting the consistency of water supplies.


Whatever Happened To Second Life? 209

Barence writes "It's desolate, dirty, and sex is outcast to a separate island. In this article, PC Pro's Barry Collins returns to Second Life to find out what went wrong, and why it's raking in more cash than ever before. It's a follow-up to a feature written three years ago, in which Collins spent a week living inside Second Life to see what the huge fuss at the time was all about. The difference three years can make is eye-opening."

Comment Re:Why Are We Deferring to an Economic Organizatio (Score 1) 715

In reality, the situation isn't urgent. It's well known that as more CO2 is added to the atmosphere, the approximate energy absorption and temperature rise is logarithmic in nature. There's a good discussion at: The Cold Facts About Global Warming. By the best current estimates, a doubling of CO2 concentration from current levels would result in less than a one deg. C increase in temperature - and that's without considering likely negative cloud feedback.

First you say the atmosphere is too complex to model, then cite an article that uses an even simpler model with its own projections. A bit of a double standard if you ask me.

But fine, let's go with it. What do the calculations regarding double CO2 actually say?

The net effect of all these processes is that doubling carbon dioxide would not double the amount of global warming. In fact, the effect of carbon dioxide is roughly logarithmic. Each time carbon dioxide (or some other greenhouse gas) is doubled, the increase in temperature is the same as the previous increase. The reason for this is that, eventually, all the longwave radiation that can be absorbed has already been absorbed. It would be analogous to closing more and more shades over the windows of your house on a sunny day -- it soon reaches the point where doubling the number of shades can't make it any darker.

So another way of looking at it is by thinking of adding blankets to your bed on a cold night: if you have no blankets, adding one will have a big effect. If you have a thousand blankets, adding another thousand will have an unmeasurably small effect.

Sounds right - or does it?

Well, the amount of energy absorbed by the entire atmosphere doesn't change much - I can grant that much. This is because as you get higher into the atmosphere, because of all the CO2 below you, there isn't much heat coming out for you to block further anyway - hence the extra blankets analogy - the extra blankets don't do much more.

However, the analogy is wrong.

The problem is, it is calculating the total absorption of the entire atmosphere and then calibrating it against the surface temperature changes (which is totally unrelated). It doesn't matter to us how much the total temperature of the atmosphere increases. What matters is how much the surface temperature increases, because that's where we live.

It mentions earlier:

It is generally accepted that the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is already high enough to absorb almost all the infrared radiation in the main carbon dioxide absorption bands over a distance of only a few km

Let's say 5km of atmosphere is capable of absorbing 100% of the heat energy. If you double the CO2, then the same amount of energy is absorbed in the bottom 2.5km. If you double again, then the same amount of energy is absorbed in the bottom 1.25km.

If 1.25km of atmosphere absorbed 5km worth of heat, that's 4 times the amount of heat as before. As we double the CO2 concentration twice, the amount of CO2 is 4 times more.

In other words, the surface temperature increases mostly linearly. That the total atmospheric temperature increase is logarithmic because more and more of the upper atmosphere is getting colder is immaterial. We don't live there!

The article is intentionally confounding two unrelated concepts to fool you into believing it.

I say this because earlier in the article, it said

For radiation from the sun, this theory predicts that increased CO2 would cause cooling in the upper atmosphere and warming in the lower atmosphere

So they know this, yet still manage to overlook it in their model.

Comment Re:Why Are We Deferring to an Economic Organizatio (Score 1) 715

There are quite a few problems with your "logic" here. First of all, the trillions spent to save the economic system from collapse have already been spent - they're gone.

No, I wasn't proposing that trillions should be spent. I was using the fact to illustrate that the amount of political will or political commitment to solving the problem of climate change pales in comparison to that of solving the global financial crisis.

We don't have trillions to spend on nonexistent global warming - good thing it's not a problem.

A couple of problems:

  1. The US and other nations didn't have trillions to spend on fixing the global financial crisis either. But the trillions were found nonetheless, whether from debt or relaxation of fiscal policy.
  2. It would still be cheaper than finding accomodation for dislocated climate refugees and dealing with resulting social problems.
  3. Spending money is not the best way to fight climate change in any case. It's much better to raise a carbon tax and use the revenue to cut other taxes. As there is no net tax revenue change, there is no net effect inflationary or deflationary effect on the economy, but it introduces the incentives for investment new technologies. In no way does fighting climate change require killing an economy.

Further, even if we here in the US were to sign up to such a disastrous policy, China and India have refused. China is the world's largest CO2 producer at this point, and as our economy died theirs would simply pick up the slack. The net effect of what was attempted at Copenhagen would have been close to zero.

The US doesn't have to sign up to Copenhagen to act. All I want is for the US to act seriously. How it does it is immaterial to the rest of the world - only that it does. A number of European nations have long ago enacted a carbon tax for instance without any agreement or damage to their economy.

Further, killing the US economy would also kill many of the innovative projects that will eventually reduce CO2 output, whether such reduction is needed or not.

That was never what I proposed.

Comment Re:Why Are We Deferring to an Economic Organizatio (Score 1) 715

The glass walls of a greenhouse don't permit convection,

Neither does the vaccuum of empty space.

whereas the atmosphere does.

Why you would compare the glass of a glass house to the atmosphere is beyond me. The air contained in a glass house convects. The air in the glass house is a more appropriate analog to the atmosphere is it not?

Some highly nonlinear things happen in the atmosphere when convection occurs

Hurricanes would likely fall under that category.

- mainly falling under the category of "clouds". Clouds reflect a lot of solar energy back into space. So, the comparison between a conventional greenhouse, and the Earth's atmosphere is not straightforward at all.

Not straightward isn't the same as not true.

You don't get convection without a temperature gradiant, so the existance of more convection presupposes that a temperature gradient has already become exaggerated, one manifestation being that the surface temperature has already increased.

Comment Re:Why Are We Deferring to an Economic Organizatio (Score 1) 715

One of the funnier things, actually, is the resolute attempt by the CRU and IPCC to discount the Sun as a source of climate variability. None of the IPCC models take into account the sunspot cycles, nor are there "what if" runs based on possible variability. That's not entirely surprising given that the mechanism for sunspot minima causing lower temperatures isn't understood. However, we do know historically that minima such as the Maunder Minimum produced sharply lower temperatures.

As I understand, solar activity correlated for most of the time we have direct temperature records, but the correlation diverged markedly in the last two decades. Solar activity having reduced in that time is unable to explain the continued rise in temperature. Solar activity is therefore not something I can use to explain currently warming trends.

True, although the "greenhouse effect" applies to closed systems (bounded in the case of a greenhouse, with glass). It's not at all clear the IPCC is modeling the open "greenhouse effect" here on Earth properly.

The "greenhouse effect" in any sense of the word not a closed system. Even a glass greenhouse has external energy input via sunlight and output via the gradual dissipation of heat into its environment via the contact of glass with air. The distinction is false.

To equate climate change to phlogiston or egg cholesterol is a long stretch indeed.

Not really so much, but the other thing to keep in mind is that phlogiston was never used as a justification for spending trillions of dollars, permanently changing the world economy, and affecting the standard of living of billions of people. So, the standard for the science used to "prove" anthropogenic global warming should be high indeed.

As if changing the world economy is a bad thing. The standard of living of billions of people is already poor and developed nations grapple with traffic congestion, pollution, rising grocery prices due to poor planning and energy security. Trillions of dollars were spent on saving the economic system from collapse and bailing out banks to preserve a world economy that didn't work particularly well. Commitments to save the planet pale in comparison by orders of magnitude.

IMO, the current state of the art is not even close. Fortunately, given the state of the Sun's sunspot cycles we may be in a multi-decade timeout on warming, anthropogenic or no. We should know quite a bit more twenty or thirty years down the road.

By which time projections say we will be too late.

Comment Re:No Java or C# please (Score 1) 558

Type inference makes anonymous types more useful.

For instance in Scala I could do this (this is the Scala interpreter by the way):

scala> class A {
          | val value = new {
          | val x = 1
          | val y = 2
          | }
          | }
defined class A

scala> new A().value.x
res10: Int = 1

scala> new A().value
res11: java.lang.Object{def x: Int; def y: Int} = A$$anon$1@bc9f8fb

In other words, in Scala, type inference wasn't just allowed on local variables. It was allowed on methods and fields too. This makes it possible for me to store the value, {x = 1, y = 2} of an anonymous type in a field for reuse.

This is impossible to do in C# and it means I can't store results of Linq queries somewhere in a typesafe manner for later use as well.

Plus Scala has an interpreter and can be a scripting language. A scripting language that has access to the Java class library is really cool.

I'm surprised isn't a scripting language given its name. I can't just put code into a *.js text file just run it without compilation.

This is a poor effort on Microsoft's part.

Comment No Java or C# please (Score 4, Interesting) 558

I was initially excited by .net when it was first released and have preferred it over Java, which as a language seemed to have stagnate. Now, I am finding C# quite a disappointment with Microsoft not investing the time and energy to ensure the features they add to the language are polished:

* Adding extension methods without also adding extension properties
* Refusing to implementing covariant return types
* Adding type inference, but disallowing it for class method return types

As so forth. Microsoft simply doesn't have the discipline to finish any feature addition to the language before moving to the next.

That doesn't mean I prefer Java either. I only use Java and C# at work out of necessity.

My language of choice is now Scala.

Comment Re:Why Are We Deferring to an Economic Organizatio (Score 1) 715

Funny how you so easily dismiss the tree ring data, but desperately latch onto the sunspot data as if it was proof of the causation between solar activity and temperature.

Guess what? It diverges too:

Recent data totally disproves your thesis that solar activity is the prime driver of climate change in recent history. Yet the meme persists in climate skeptic circles and highlights the bankruptcy of the movement.

Tree ring data however is not settled yet. The divergence happens in some trees - especially in those found in the northern hemisphere where the majority of the world's population lives, but not in the southern hemisphere. It is certaintly plausible that human activity is causing the divergence, and if so, the tree ring data would be likely fine in a pre-industrial era.

We don't know for sure, but a person genuinely interested in the science would want to know why - perhaps even favoring more funding to investigate the discrepancy.

Yet instead of teasing out the real cause of the divergence, you'd rather have all tree ring data tossed out so that we can never know the truth.

That there exist people who think that way is truly sad.

Comment Re:Plenty of funds going around on both sides (Score 1) 715

"when there are billions of dollars riding on cap & trade and the whole green industry behind it"

Funny. I could have sworn, I read something about a leading climate scientist opposing cap and trade in his fight against global warming.

Just because there are billions of dollars to be made, doesn't at all mean the climate scientists are the ones to pocket any of it as part of *any* action against climate change.

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