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Ken Fabian

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Ken Fabian last won the day on August 5

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    Climate Science: Climate Politics: Energy technologies: Human Evolution

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  1. The link also said - Sound like about the time the plants had ceased to rely on the nutrients that came in their cotyledons they had problems. Stunted roots is an especially bad sign. Likely that some nutrients are present but some important ones are either not present or insufficient.
  2. It takes active propulsion and navigation for such a thing to stay where it is put; sunlight pushes on things, the larger the exposed area the more it pushes. The lower the mass ie thinner, the more vulnerable. Probably to being eroded too. Lagrange "points" aren't truly stable either. Fun to speculate but I'm not convinced there is any need or even any benefit. It certainly isn't commercially viable to do much of anything suggested in this thread - most of which requires tech that doesn't exist and extraordinary financing - and there isn't a compelling case for colonising and terraforming for any "greater good", as a taxpayer funded program. Going back to the original post - I don't see how complex robotic machinery could be made without a whole lot more materials, equipment, industrial processes than suggested, without a whole advanced industrial economy's worth. Some of important materials are not economically viable to produce without a large economy making sufficient demand, let alone make them from moon rock, which has not undergone the geothermal, hydrothermal processes that separate and concentrate them into ores. Nuclear powered robots making nuclear power plants for robots? Is there even any concentrated ore for thorium? Evidence of thorium is of trace amounts scattered about, probably leftover from meteorite impacts. It may be fun speculation but that is all.
  3. The ability to utilise Infrared would be a big step forward - and not primarily for achieving higher conversion efficiency in sunlight but by making it possible to use low grade heat, including back radiation from nighttime sky or heat from the ground, or waste heat. It would open up the potential for 24/7 energy from a wide variety of sources, either to avoid storage requirements or by opening new possibilities for thermal energy storage. Besides thermo-electric generators there are Optical Rectennas that might manage this as well some other possibilities arising out of graphene research - but none are standing out as viable. Yet.
  4. Consider the airborne litter problem; an accident could leave sections of lighter than air materials floating around. Even widespread use of aerogels could be a problem - light enough to be blown about, not heavy enough to stay where it lands.
  5. But the chemical compounds they are part of are affected when the atom undergoes radioactive decay. Not just the radiation from that decay damages biochemistry, the change from one element to another does too, both by breaking up the compound they were part of and from the chemical effects of the resultant compounds. I think the harms from radioactive materials are more biochemical in nature than direct radiation damage.
  6. I am not familiar with how the fracking bans came about in the UK but it sounds like potential for earthquakes was the putative reason, rather than climate and emissions - but I expect a large part of opposition to it was and is based on the latter and earthquakes used because, for whatever reasons, those concerns were not counted as a legitimate basis under whatever legislation exists for objecting and opposing them. That is, the planning processes in place by neglect or design failed to include emissions as relevant or significant? Whether it is climate science denial by the new PM or renewable energy denial or genuine belief in "only fossil fuels are good enough" (alarmist fear of going without) or being beholden to or cowed by the fossil fuel industry probably only Liz Truss can say. But probably won't. Being cowed actually has some legitimate basis; this is an industry that is sending economies into recession, not by the supply shortages or higher production costs but by massive price rises delivering windfall profits. They could cut their prices to mere very good profit levels to save economies but they won't and they appear quite willing to use the sense of crisis to encourage putting climate and clean energy concerns aside. Whether the high prices will work like a carbon price that incetivises renewables remains to be seen but looks likely to me - it is like they are putting a carbon price on themselves, only one where the revenues flow to the FF industry and they can use it to promote fossil fuel use and dependence. Or else a last ditch attempt to extract profits before renewables growth goes beyond merely slowing fossil fuel growth and results in fossil fuel decline. Here in Australia we saw a big backlash against the apathy on climate from our major political parties with Greens and Teal independents getting a lot of support. (Our conservatives colour themselves blue, these centre-right leaning candidates campaigned on climate action, thus the blue mixed with green "teal" that may even began as a kind of insult but has been embraced by them.) Can that happen in the UK?
  7. I should make mention of "preference deals" - where candidates and parties make deals about where to put each other on their "how to vote" handouts in order to gain some advantage with those preferences, in case they can't get enough first preference votes. Or to prevent some other candidates benefiting. It is an unedifying aspect. Whilst I personally decide the order of my preferences a lot of people simply follow what their preferred party or candidate suggests. Often it can be in the form of agreeing to put some an independent candidate who shares some values with them ahead of the "no.1 enemy" major party. Sometimes it is a show of putting some much disliked party or candidate last. Our politicians are capable of all the same bad behaviors as other places, if they think they can gain advantage and get away with it. If they could disenfranchise blocs of voters inclined against them they would. The checks and balances that have been introduced along the way do seem to prevent the worst but it is still a long way from perfect.
  8. Our Australian system of voting is a "preferential" (transferable?) ballot, with some variations between States and Federal and between upper House and lower (Senate vs House of Reps) - some require all candidates numbered, some allow leaving blank spaces. It is also compulsory to vote... well, to turn up or post a ballot; it can be left blank. I don't find it a great burden and it does give a sense of confidence that the results are truly representative. We number our choices, from first preference to last. When votes are counted the candidate with the least first preference votes is eliminated and the ballots that voted for them are re-counted, with their second choice used - and so on until there are two candidates and one winner. Upper House is on a State sized "electorate" and that gives opportunities to smaller parties to get representation in proportion to their popularity. Lower House is many geographic electorates and favors major parties by winner takes all. I think similar to US and other nations. Some countries require absolute majority (>50%) to win and preferential voting would prevent a need to go back around for a second election where there are more than 2 candidates and none reach that threshold. I read about follow up elections and think our preferential voting is better than that. Other places it is the candidate with the highest vote - even if less than 50% - that wins. I like preferential voting but don't really know if it is better or gives outcomes different than a simple highest vote wins - but it does allow "protest" votes for independent or minor party candidates without losing the option to choose between the major party candidates and I think that does facilitate sending a message about levels of community concern about particular issues to major parties. And most recently we have seen the major parties lose seats to independents and minor parties - the rise of The Greens and "Teals" (who are centre-right leaning climate action supporting and loosely aligned independents - our conservatives are "blue", so blue mixed with green). I don't know that preferential voting made a lot of difference but it there may have been some protest votes from people who didn't expect them to win, who may have voted for a major party first if they had. Whatever the system used it seems like it is public confidence in it that seems most important. I can't say I have ready solutions (besides Vote!) for where that confidence is absent. We have (for example) Statutory bodies for deciding electoral district boundaries - but that wasn't always the case; we did have a culture of gerrymandering. Perhaps fortunately it was not so entrenched that public opinion could be subverted enough to successfully obstruct doing something about it. Although rural voters do still get more bang for their votes, with smaller voter numbers per electorate - and that favors conservative parties. I should say that for all the good I see from the sorts of government Australia has there is no shortage of serious failing and things to criticise - nor that the trend is always consistently towards doing it better. I see "soft" corruption - undue influence, regulatory capture, partisan media, support for "rent seeking" and favors - as perniciously persistent and problematic. Thus the issue of a standing anti-corruption watchdog at the Federal level is one that could have long reaching consequences. In a roundabout way that could result in less government - the wasteful contracts that go to party supporters that evaded scrutiny for example can end up reduced when there are anti-corruption bodies.
  9. Well, I don't think "less equals better" is necessarily true or works as a better scale for 'betterness', at least not for good governance; the devil is in the detail. I think introducing bodies empowered to investigate and expose corruption can be a case where more bureaucracy is better (something currently on the agenda where I live, with and because of strong popular support) and taking them away or refusing them because of a simplistic belief in less government and less regulation can lead to worse, not better outcomes. Simplistic ideals and ideas, like that less government is always better government are easier to popularize than complex systems of rules and regulations, checks and balances but the systems of checks and balances, even if they don't work perfectly they do work (where I live), whilst the regulation free idealistic version looks hypothetical and if it works at all only seems to where there is pre-existing social homogeneity - and probably with a liberal dose of the indoctrination that Proudhon has in his list. I see the relatively safe and prosperous society I am part of as evidence of messy, imperfect government working better than it's absence. I suspect the levels of complexity our societies have are essential to the kinds of industrial economies that give us much of the extraordinary prosperity and personal freedoms so many of us enjoy. I note that Proudhon doesn't appear to see the autocratic, hierarchical corporate model as intrinsically different to autocratic government - but it looks like modern Libertarians support the freedom of such organisations to exist and be autocratic - can even have that freedom for organisations, so long as they aren't government organisations, as a priority. People may be free under that model to choose not to work for them or not purchase their services or products but if they are monopolies - and seeking to become monopolies seems to be common to them and absence of regulation supports their freedom to do so - that can and probably will end up oppressive and exploitative. More so and worse because of the lack of government. I think it can take a sustained history of regulation for behaviors and attitudes to change and for the voluntarily not engaging in crime or corruption or exploitation to be normalised and widely recognised as "better". And it will still require vigilance - and education that no doubt could be seen as indoctrination. I think Libertarians, like most idealogical activists, are being naive and are open to being exploited. Anarchism/Libertarianism - past the fictional introduction to these ideas from Heinlein's "The Moon is a Harsh Mistress" as a teen (no laws, cool) - has looked unlikely to actually work to me. It makes me think of someone I knew who was inclined to approach a garden or kitchen renovation with tear it down, rip it out and then be left amidst the mess scratching her head - what do I do now?
  10. Not that hard to argue against, surely. I think the worst of Proudhon's litany are made more likely, not less, by the absence of governance. The being numbered, licensed, listed and so on hasn't been especially onerous or done me serious harm - no matter how infuriating it seems sometimes - but most of the ones on that list that truly hurt are not part of my personal life experience. I put that down to having representative government and the rule of law. Admittedly government began in the form of the toughest gang taking the spoils. We have gotten better at it. A lot better in some cases. From consent of the governed obtained under duress to willing consent and participation seems good to me. I suspect even doing it badly is better than not doing it at all. Doing government better looks like a better goal than doing it less. Did Proudhon apply his principles to commercial companies and criminal enterprises? Sounds like he did - anarcho-syndicalist communes, autonomous collectives and all maybe? If ever those become possible I think it will be a sustained history of doing government better - not revolution - that makes it happen.
  11. A few nations do have the will to tax the windfall profits and use those for easing the short burden on the most burdened but also for supporting investment in longer term solutions. Others lack the will, whether genuinely believing only fossil fuels are good enough or politically beholden or cowed by the influence of this industry - which does appear capable of deliberately constraining supplies to keep high profits and using a sense of crisis to advance their industry. Apart from dealing with the short term harms of the current conflict induced energy crisis, that needs quick fixes, I would agree with carbon pricing at producer level and using other actions to reduce the hit passed on to consumers, especially for those at risk of hardship. Although I wonder to what extent high fossil fuel prices will work unintentionally as carbon pricing; it seems like greater commitment to renewable energy is emerging out of the current crisis, in large part because of an expectation that prices may never decline to pre-crisis levels. And climate change concerns are not going away. I see carbon pricing as about inducing investor choices and only about consumer choice indirectly, that framing it as about consumer choice misses the point that changing the supply of energy is the main point. And it probably couldn't do what we want until and unless there are other options that are approaching or have achieved some level of cost competitiveness; if the gap is too great (and not so long ago that looked like a given) the result will be the counterproductive outcome the economic alarmist fear of green energy targets, ie rising costs that hurt consumers but effect no change. If carbon pricing works then revenues should decline to zero, and carbon pricing should be designed to be avoidable, ie it should not be treated as an enduring source of revenue.
  12. Whether it is wise will be in the detail. Mostly the gas suppliers apart from Russia are not supplying less and are not producing less. Their costs may have risen marginally but their prices and profits have gone stratospheric. They won't willingly cut their prices down to mere very good profits, not even to prevent global economic disaster, even though perceptions of them as greedy and careless of consequences could conceivably harm their businesses over the longer term. As global recession could too. Some nations are taxing the super profits, ie have made the cause of rising prices the source of some funding for price interventions, but where the gas industry has the ears of policymakers and influence they appear capable of turning this sense of crisis into an opportunity for growth, with taxpayer money flowing to them, rather than away, irrespective of their current extreme profitability. They will fiercely resist price caps at producer level - mostly successfully. It will be power companies that purchase fuels off them at inflated prices (some being subsidiaries and not actually separate) that will be needing assistance to prevent the costs flowing through - which may come directly or indirectly from funding support for price differences at consumer level. I think we do need to see this as short term. Longer term will see greatly increased commitment to renewable energy and to the things that weren't done to make it constantly available... because gas was, we were assured, able to do it much cheaper and more reliably, which everyone except Greens supported. I expect that their failure to deliver that reliable supply at low cost - plus global warming concerns not going away will only make them more determined to reframe this fossil fuel energy crisis into a 'green' energy crisis. With an overflowing abundance of financial resources to put towards lobbying, PR, advertising, strategic donations, tactical lawfare, post politics payoffs etc.
  13. Yes, in the face of a fossil fuel energy crisis, where the fossil fuel industry promised gas would make the transition to low emissions easier, with greater reliability and lower cost - and failed to deliver - plus the combination of downward renewables costs and high fossil fuel prices, it is more important to them that it be reframed as a green energy crisis. They'll take the windfall super profits and fiercely resist reducing them to mere very good profits to save economies from disaster, whilst making out they are being badly, unfairly treated because of "unreasonable" climate concerns. I am not convinced people apart from the climate science and renewable energy deniers will believe them except that they have large parts of the media and mainstream politics - powerful influencers - onside. Not sure to what extent politicians are beholden or cowed or actually believe them but most seem unwilling to challenge them. I think climate concerns are not - and never will - go away. People know that global warming is real and what is responsible. And electricity grid operators like the Australian Electricity Market Operator - AEMO - aren't fooled either - and are calling for greater investment in renewables as the solution to energy supply, high prices and price volatility, even aside from emissions concerns. The arbitrary division between responsibility and accountability of end consumers and absence of it applying to producers (actually a full inversion of long established legal principles) allows a forked tongue approach for Australian politicians, where assurances that they will give full support for fossil fuels for exports are also assurances that miners that currently service local demand will have future opportunities even if domestic emissions reductions efforts succeed. In a way they are turning the efforts by environmental activists to urge personal responsibility and personal action back at climate activism by encouraging perceptions that it is consumers, not energy producers that have to embrace and lead the way with change - knowing most people will resist any change that appears to reduce their immediate prosperity and that resistance flows through to tolerance of commercial resistance to change. I don't think we can demand consumers change much until the low emissions alternatives are in place and available - ie following, not preceding, change at the supplier/producer level. It is institutional change that is pivotal; my climate activism is mostly about getting the economy wide changes in place rather than applying guilt to consumers who didn't choose the kind of society and economy they are part of or what it takes to be a productive citizen or decide what energy markets make available to them and to the companies that do the products and services they use.
  14. We shouldn't assume continuity of energy supply cannot be plugged by other means than fossil fuels or fusion - especially when speaking in terms of even if takes a hundred years to achieve. We should be looking wider than that. Still a lot of potential gains in geothermal, tidal, pumped hydro and other gravity storage. Chemical batteries and capacitors are not truly out of the running for large scale, long storage. Cost competitive SMR's are still possible and nuclear will have it's place even if it remains expensive. There is perovskite solar that may make adding solar to any light exposed surface trivially inexpensive. There are nantennas that could make the IR from the ground below and the night sky above into electricity. Truly we have an abundance of potential clean energy options and science and technology is better placed than ever before to make them work. They are all worth pursuing but some that look a lot more achievable get a lot less funding than fusion. Not to take funding away from fusion but give more... everywhere. R&D is still showing itself to be a stunningly good investment. Surely it isn't in doubt that we can expect climate disasters from high CO2, nor that there is a sufficient abundance of fossil fuels to still take global warming into worst case territory. It is fortunate that clean energy innovation, which has surprised us more than once, has a lot of potential for major advances, is giving hope that it may surprise us again. Even as things stand now, with what is in the pipeline, there is hope that it isn't inevitable, that the worst cases are avoidable. Given Carbon Capture and Storage is intrinsically loss making and unscalable I think we have to accept we have to leave most of those fossil fuels unburned.
  15. I'm not sure that domestic use is the biggest issue, rather it is burning wood pellets in power stations. It hasn't been increased domestic demand driving greatly increased forest harvesting; it doesn't help to lump them together. I see wood burning in power stations - like gas - as a compromise mainstream politics supporting specific commercial interests insisted on to support building renewable energy. Much was made of the dependable, reliability of burning of fuels as a the lower cost alternative to investments in things like pumped hydro and the industry successfully made themselves into an "essential" ingredient of a transition to low emissions; that it was supply of the "low cost reliability" element - natural gas - that failed makes it more important to those commercial interests to persuade the public that we are witnessing a profound failure of renewables and that this conflict induced fossil fuel energy crisis be rebranded in the public - and the policy maker - mind as a green energy crisis. Most of the "crisis" is soaring prices; I doubt overall supply of gas has diminished that much. These companies (apart from Russian ones) are making staggering hyper profits out of things going wrong in the world but fiercely resist bringing their prices down to merely very good profits to ease that sense of urgent crisis or prevent economies crashing and burning. It is the sense of crisis that lets them push for increasing overall supply and dependence and get government backing to do it. Climate concerns do count in this; this crisis is being used as an opportunity to sideline them. I boggle at the audacity - and the success - of blaming climate and emissions reductions as the cause of current woes and massive expansion of fossil fuel supply as the solution. Most Green parties have opposed large scale forest harvesting for wood burning and tended to promote things like pumped hydro - batteries really only finding a viable place quite recently - along with (less helpfully) energy frugality, with the unwillingness of the rest of mainstream politics to commit to climate action and need for blameshifting a large part of the framing of the issue as green "you care so much, you fix it" and blaming of green politics for the failures "not like that!". Promotion of energy efficiency and frugality was turned back against climate action advocacy as "they want to take us back to the stone age" memes. Alarmist economic fear - of losing prosperity by going without fossil fuels - remains one of the most potent messages deniers and fossil fuels supporter have. The sense of urgent crisis is temporarily overwhelming longer term climate concerns but I don't know those concerns or growth of renewables will ultimately be prevented but it can be slowed. I'd have thought the fossil fuel industry would be at risk of losing their social license - promising energy reliability and low costs and not delivering, making hyper profits out of economic instability, total disregard for climate consequences - but at this point they seem to be laughing their way to the bank, with a little bit of the windfall set aside for ongoing favorable political influence and publicity. In Australia our variant of this gas supply crisis has come from our gas industry focus on exports - much on fixed price contracts but still a lot at global market prices. Domestic supplies are at the "will be cheaper this way" global price; the projects and gas production were and are so large that it seemed like assuring domestic supply required no special planning - like trickle down - so none was done. Record flooding (with attribution studies showing they were worse because of global warming) put some coal mines out of action so coal plants shut off and more gas was needed, for which no planning was made, with Winter starting with a cold snap, that wasn't anticipated - like a cold snap in Winter was something no-one could anticipate! Even as the Australian electricity market operator (AEMO) calls for greater investment in renewables (including storage) as the longer term solution to price volatility and reliability the ongoing fossil fuel influence is getting politicians and governments to approve more mines and drill sites and make more dependence on fossil fuels the solution. It is incredibly frustrating - and dismaying.
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