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Ken Fabian

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Everything posted by Ken Fabian

  1. I think the lengths climate action opponents and obstructionists have been going to to undermine trust and confidence in science based expert advice - including attack anyone that can cut through their interfering noise is indicative of how vulnerable they are to growing popular opinion that does have confidence in it being capable of turning government policy. I do think that we will either see good policy overwhelmed by misinformation and ignorance and serious climate action made ineffective, with all the downsides that will haunt humanity beyond the lives of people now living, or else we will see the issue treated with a lot more seriousness - even enough seriousness that people will accept that some sacrifice, rather than holding to "no regrets" policy that depend on taking action being cheaper than not taking action to be supported. I think the issue is approaching a political tipping point; I would like to think that when the tide turns the Doubt, Deny, Delay politicking will cease to have potency and, without that constant source of misinformation and doubt we will see a level of popular support grow strong enough to make a real difference. Whilst I think leaders throwing it back to the voting public was a means of delaying decisions and avoiding responsibility - an unforgivable abrogation - the same people are showing they are not above claiming unthinking populism driven by extremists (anything but the science) is behind that continuing growth of public concern, concern that is on the cusp of forcing them to action - and turn to claiming that therefore they should not base policy on what the public thinks it wants. Any surprise people, young and old, who do take the expert advice seriously are getting angry? But the young do have more to lose and more to endure. I don't think Greta was necessarily especially insightful in choosing to keep calling for world leaders to have policy consistent with that advice - it is kind of basic and obvious. But it is a simple, direct message that is difficult to argue against - which is why there is so much effort to make the argument about something else. Her youth for example. Her associations with Environmental Activists or anyone deemed "extremist" for example. Whatever her personal views on what appropriate policy should look like they will be used offensively against her, and by implication, the whole climate "movement". Doesn't like nuclear? We don't need to look beyond this forum for how that argument degenerates into deadlock by re-framing the debate along entrenched Left vs Right lines - although I understand Greta has not expressed outright opposition to nuclear or claimed it has no place. Which won't matter; just look at how her calls for policy consistent with the science degenerate into claims her taking the science seriously is evidence of being influenced by partisan extremists! Getting angry that policy is not consistent with the science (that is advising us of a problem of extreme, real world seriousness) looks like righteous and appropriate emotion to me. I think that the absence of clear commitment to solving the problem and not any specific policy and technology options are the fundamental cause of anxiety - that is turning to legitimate anger.
  2. I did mean barefoot inside, for example the ISS - I'm inclined towards Outside spacesuits that have no legs at all, to free those feet and toes for foot operated controls inside the space "suit". That is also because I think it is appropriate to make best use of feet in an environment where they are freed up for other uses than standing and walking. I can't see hygiene as a serious issue - where would feet be used on the ISS that gets them dirty? The "gross" response to bare feet is, in my view, unnecessary and inappropriate, but if people do find the sight of naked feet a problem there are such things as foot gloves. Or they can get used to them. There are apparently issues with dead skin on feet peeling and flaking from lack of use - a legitimate hygiene issue - so wearing socks can be more than an issue with nakedness. But foot gloves are equally able to deal with it. They apparently use bars they can slip feet behind, to anchor themselves, but mostly socks are worn. That is certainly a reasonable use of feet which being barefoot doesn't change - but they could be used in other ways, for which feet and toes would be entirely appropriate. I could reach for small items that are out of reach of (occupied) hands and arms. I could get a (light) steadying grip without any dedicated foot bar . Or, if I have been keeping my body flexible - a lot more flexible than I am now - I could possibly hold something I am working on with one or both feet so both hands can still be used. Ultimately we could and probably should develop foot specific tools and aids.
  3. Which is one of the reasons Greta Thunberg has been successful with her message that climate policies should be consistent with the science based expert advice. It is not brimstone and fire, but sea level rise, extreme weather, more extreme droughts, refugees, based on mainstream expert advice, not myths - plus all the extra problems that mismanagement will add.
  4. It seems to me that whilst feet and toes are not as dexterous or strong as hands they are still capable of gripping and holding - and that would be useful in zero gravity. Those with no choice but rely on feet show how versatile feet and toes can be with practice. Down here on Earth I will use my toes to pick things up off the floor and pass them to my hands when I am barefoot, usually without conscious thought. I think not using feet in space is a wasted opportunity. Should astronauts be training to use their feet and toes to maximise their body's versatility?
  5. I think this is reality, as it actually is. Politicians using emotion based arguments to engage the public with the truth is fine with me - it is not the use of emotion to engage with the public that makes the examples you give problematic, but that they are promoting false fears. That is not reality, as it actually is.
  6. I disagree - and with extra added emotion. Greta's anger is well grounded in facts and it is effective - as, I believe, mine is well grounded. Not nearly so effective, but perhaps it takes someone who has no power besides their voice - a child whom adults should feel obligated to protect and offer hope of a better future to - to induce a modicum of shame in those sitting in the very Offices where decisions with far more weight than personal lifestyle choices are made. I don't see how getting well informed can, let alone should result in an emotionless response; the fears about our future are justified, based on non-emotional assessments of the state of our climate system and engaging with that emotion is how to engage with a complacent (due to ignorance and misinformation) public. People who are, for the most part, ill equipped to assess the science directly. There is a big difference between promoting falsehoods by preying on emotional and intellectual vulnerabilities and using emotion based appeals based on true and scientifically verifiable concerns. I don't see how we can move the masses without engaging emotionally with their hopes and fears. Getting that engagement is a different task to developing policy. But is nothing new or unique to the climate problem.
  7. That world leaders and mainstream political figures, faced with this most serious global problem fail to feel or show any real concern - expressed with emotion - and fail to engage the public using it just demonstrates a lack of concern that is deeply disturbing. That so many have no apparent difficulty with raising alarmist fears of extremist politics and economic disaster from taking the climate problem seriously - using emotion to engage the masses in the cause of opposing strong climate action - is doubly disturbing. There is nothing wrong with politics and advocacy using emotion to engage with the public - but the assessments of the problem's seriousness that concern is grounded upon still needs to be based in science based expert advice that is not emotion based.
  8. Yet Greta Thunberg repeatedly asks that world leaders to (my paraphrasing) look up the evidence and base their policy responses on it. Which, if they are not already (and most especially those who are holding hard to their doubts are not - willfully and deliberately are not) is an extreme indictment on their competency and fitness.
  9. She is telling elected world leaders to do something they already should be doing, that I would argue they have a fiduciary obligation to do - to take a known serious threat to enduring prosperity and security, that approaches 100% likelihood, seriously. Because she is 15 years old and cannot vote, all the more reason to speak out and ask that the adults act and choose responsibly.
  10. I don't think this is true because it is not as simple as more CO2 equals more photosynthesis; other factors come into play. Changed pH impacts algae - and algae impact pH; if algae health declines the ability to (via enzymes they release) break down CO2 to carbonate ions and an important regulating factor in ocean pH is impacted negatively, in ways that are not good for algae. Water temperature is also a factor. https://askabiologist.asu.edu/plosable/algae-ocean-acidification Back to the Amazon - oxygen supply was never a problem that knowledgeable sources brought up; like a lot of poor information, News and Entertainment organisations - for whom viewers/readers and clicks are more important than accuracy - are often responsible. They are inclined not to bother much with experts and fact checking.
  11. Being paid to be on standby is not anything new - and is not usually seen as a subsidy. Backup supply should not need to be subsidised to support wind and solar; they will either be paid a premium price to supply power when wind and solar supply is constrained or be paid for being on standby as part of reliability obligations. Which could end up looking like financial support from wind and solar, rather than fossil fuels financially supporting wind and solar. I see the matching of variable demand with variable supply problem as an issue with market mechanisms and pricing - it has and will always be an issue for energy supply networks; it is not unique to those with wind and solar, even if the extent of variability is going to be much larger. I think ideally, we should move to a variable, time of use pricing model - the higher price for power when other power is constrained makes a market based incentive to invest in various kinds of backup supply and, conversely, for consumers to reduce demand. We are partway there in Australia with the National Electricity Market and will move from suppliers bidding at 30 minute intervals to 5 minute intervals. We are also seeing more requirements on new solar and wind projects to include storage or other "firming". But that is not at levels for 100% 365 day a year supply, but sufficient to smooth supply so more expensive backup options are not called on unnecessarily at short time scales. It would be unreasonable to expect backup/storage to be the specific obligation of wind and solar energy providers; every kind of generation spends time off-line. Increasingly in the (increasingly common) extreme heatwaves in Australia, it is coal and gas that is proving unreliable. I think backup/storage is going to be it's own market sector, that will have to argue for the regulatory arrangements that ensure they are economically viable should overarching foresight and planning that makes workable market frameworks remains politically elusive. Meanwhile there are pumped hydro projects going ahead that should add a lot of on demand backup capacity in Australia - whilst others, already in existence are not yet being used to best effect, due to continuing political resistance to market rule changes that disadvantage coal and gas generators, as part of a climate science/climate responsibility denial political agenda.
  12. We are currently engaged in empirical testing of renewable energy in multiple locations and climates. It doesn't look like a failure to me - more like just emerging from it's early stages. If massive growth of Nuclear were a well supported plan, with demonstrable recent successes then arguing that investments in wind and solar should be curtailed might make sense, but it is not. There is no such plan. To blame opposition to nuclear for that is oversimplistic - given the refusal of large parts of mainstream politics (lots that like nuclear) to even concede the climate problem is real and as a consequence withhold their backing for things like carbon pricing - that the World Nuclear Association counts as the most significant single policy nuclear needs. Storage, in most cases, is not even required until certain thresholds are passed and large scale investments in it won't happen until that need is impending. Or there is a clear plan that foresees and requires it. I see no serious problem with high levels of wind and solar reducing demand for high emissions energy periodically and intermittently. It requires a different way of looking at energy supply and use but does not look anything like the certain disaster the economic alarmist doomsayer opponents make it out to be. Nor is it somehow pointless to invest in enough solar and wind to relegate fossil fuels to backup - that is something renewables in their current iterations can do and should. That helps create the incentives for the solutions needed for displacing fossil fuels as backup - becoming an exercise in market economics. That renewables are growing rapidly in the absence of any overarching plan is a good thing and the pressures that growing levels puts on energy systems to change are a necessary thing. But expecting renewables to exist entirely independent of fossil fuels from the word go is unreasonable - as long as there is no carbon pricing I think that would only enhance the unfair advantage fossil fuels get through not being accountable for their emissions. It isn't a case of fossil fuels subsidising renewables by being needed in the manufacturing chain or energy backup, it is a transition. If that were so then things would be very different. Let us all fervently wish for that. Had that happened 2-3 decades ago I expect nuclear would have featured highly - and the absence of mainstream denial would have seen popular opposition to nuclear crumble in the face of demonstrated need. Lots of "green-left" voices were showing willingness to consider nuclear, because of that need - by no means a majority but not a small minority either. That was an opportunity that was lost when the political Right turned away from facing up to the issue and chose denial and obstruction in order to not face up to it - and happily pushed nuclear under a bus. That they chose hippie painted bus to push it under should not distract from the fact that it was those holding those positions of high office and responsibility who abrogated that responsibility - in the face of the greatest threat to enduring prosperity we have ever faced. It ought to be unforgivable - but, by relying on the broader inclination of all of us to reject our small share of responsibility they can get us to forgive their much bigger share. Where countries getting serious happens now we get renewables - because they do work. Not because of the overwhelming power of Green politics. For all the focus on the extremists this issue is not primarily driven by green populism, but by decades of top level, science based expert advice. Long running power companies now choose wind and solar - increasingly in the expectation of no subsidies. They are looking to storage - they aren't stupid - but they aren't going to invest heavily in it until the overall energy mix requires it. And we should not ignore the use of demand management - of reduced demand by agreement in place of expensive storage. Nor ignore the opportunities that >100% RE - even periodically and intermittently - will make.
  13. Oops - got it backwards and did not notice before the edit time limit ran out. I think nuclear is for nations with sustained histories of operating within the rule of law; there are nations and regions that probably cannot be trusted to operate them competently or abide by non-proliferation agreements. If a lot of the world can't be trusted with nuclear then a lot of the world does not have nuclear as a low emissions option. All the more reason to push ahead with other solutions.
  14. As long as the externalised costs of fossil fuels are omitted from calculations of relative costs the alternatives will look more expensive than they actually are - or rather, not using alternatives appears cheaper than it actually is. A lot cheaper if credible estimates of Social Cost of Carbon around US$40 per ton of CO2 are anything near correct - doubling or tripling the cost of coal. I do see great potential in solar and wind with storage to take us a lot further than we are now without expecting it to reach a 100% threshold easily, especially were existing patterns of energy supply and use to remain unchanged. But I also see the way we use and distribute energy changing in ways that do moderate the impacts of variability of supply. Some regions would find it harder, but a large portion of the world's population do live in places that get lots of sunshine all year round. I see gas plant being relegated to backup to solar as a step forward - because that reduces overall emissions, a circumstance where it does not compete with solar but competes with batteries and hydro or demand response (reducing load by agreement). Relatively small amount of storage (compared to the amount needed to do it all) can change the mix from gas or other fossil fuel plant running every night to switching off for days at a time during sunny periods: I think batteries appear to be capable of doing a lot of that. Dedicated pumped hydro is only just getting started - like other elements, they tend not to happen until the need is there. ie wind and solar penetration grows and other options for moderating the variability and demand are not available. Once through hydo can also be adapted to more responsive variability. I am increasingly of the view that renewable Hydrogen, using excess solar and wind, is going play a big role; for one, it offers the best non-fossil fuel option for iron and steel smelting. But with respect to an RE heavy energy system, having gas plant that can transition to H2 offers another kind of storage and backup. I think that gas plant ought to be built to be H2 capable (a lot of it should be already) and thus able to utilise Solar and Wind during it's periods of abundance to make fuel for when it is not. On-site production and storage bypasses the need for economy wide H2 infrastructure and would not require the very high pressure storage (and related costs) that transporting - and transport fuel use - requires. Demand response - curtailing loads by agreement when demand is more than supply should not be underestimate either. As should opportunistic industrial batch processing, that can be flexibly scheduled; periods of overabundance of electricity, ie very cheap, is a huge opportunity. I would be very surprised if ways to exploit it aren't developed. Presuming industry cannot adapt seems shortsighted. They won't if the don't have to - which is why seeing governments and leaders accommodating that desire to not have to is so dismaying. If this all seems complicated compared to "just build lots of nuclear" - I think that underestimates how difficult "just build nuclear" actually is and overestimates our ability to manage complicated systems. Solar and wind and storage and efficiency and demand management and etc are forging ahead now because they are easier and cheaper. I see a lot of this happening despite a continuing absence of comprehensive, overarching planning, let alone appropriate pricing of emissions. I can't see nuclear happening at the scales needed without carbon pricing as well as high level of government planning and intervention. Whereas RE proceeds with projects with short build times, with changing course always an option; even legislated 100% RE commitments are never going to be truly binding and can be changed relatively quickly in response to emerging problems and constraints. I think a big nuclear approach requires a level of planning and commitment that cannot yet be achieved - and must wait on the Wall of Denial to come down and let the largest bloc of support for it come out from behind it.
  15. No doubt they were military hardware and by civilian standards, expensive. Yet compared to "conventional" missiles or aircraft capable of inflicting the same damage they probably are cheap. Compared to the damage inflicted they almost certainly are cheap - and conflicts can be lost because of the cost. It may be that Great Powers won't be at heightened risk of invasion or destruction, but their capability to "project" power, to invade or intervene elsewhere, could be severely curtailed. Like I say, it is a question.
  16. My fictional example was indeed fictional, yet I think it remains illustrative - civilian autopilot system + GPS possibly could guide a cruise type missile to a specific target. Most of the components needed to make such a thing probably can be obtained legally - although such purchases may set off Intelligence alarm bells. Journalists are increasingly writing articles like this https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-09-18/drones-changing-war-fare-like-ieds/11520196 and cite incidents like a drone attack on Russian aircraft on the ground in Syria - We now have a "drone swarm" attack that did serious damage to well defended oil installations in Saudi Arabia. Journalists are describing the drones as low cost but details are still absent. Very likely these are military drones and compared to civilian ones they are probably expensive. Compared to the aircraft destroyed they may be cheap. It sounds like they are something that some State player is happy to sell to militias in war zones. In any case I am asking whether especially effective low cost weapons could emerge that well equipped militaries could prove vulnerable to and how that might impact major military powers such as the USA?
  17. Where genetic variants already exist within a population that give advantage under conditions that are predicted to become more common, then we might predict those variants will be more successful. Whether the variants that are disadvantaged will persist or be lost from the population could remain in question.
  18. There have always been improvised weapons but they mostly have limited utility - terrorism, that might use a dirty bomb is mostly aimed at easy targets and rarely attacks or damages major military assets. They are only war winning where a regime is already very weak. In the modern context IED's are more nuisance than serious military threat to Great Powers. Drones are changing things in ways those do not and may offer an emerging ability to deliver small explosive payloads to places more conventional weapons cannot, bypassing defenses that would detect larger missiles - or Intelligence seeing the military movements ahead of their use. Small, relatively low cost ground to air missiles were a major problem for Soviet helicopters in Afghanistan. Shoulder fired if I recall correctly, able to reliably take down a very expensive military asset. The recent attack on Saudi Arabian oil assets were able to penetrate past superior US aided military defenses; counterattacks by the USA on Iran (presumably) will not undo that damage. I wonder if we are beginning to see a new kind of drone warfare that defense systems are not adapting quickly enough to be able to deal with. I mentioned the ability to target stealth aircraft; surely that has been a priority for military technologists around the world. A lot of US military success is dependent on stealth aircraft but it seems to me it would be a mistake to assume small missiles capable of tracking and targeting them won't ever be possible.
  19. The attack on Saudi Arabian oil refineries appears to be a result of (relatively) low cost weapons. I recall reading SF stories by Donald Kingbury - "Courtship Rites", "The Moon Goddess and the Son" - that expressed a view of history of war of swings back and forth from elite professional soldiery, that are expensive to equip and train to peasant armies with cheap but effective weapons. (Hammers and knives and longbows in the hands of footsoldiers taking out armoured knights). The second of those stories (written before Gorbachev but set later with intact USSR) had a homemade drone-missile, made from parts on-line fired at the Kremlin and very nearly setting off all out nuclear war. Is it possible that small, cheap missiles will come along that can take out multi-billion dollar assets like stealth bombers? It is surmised by many that the USA/USSR arms race effectively sent the USSR broke. Could that turn about and hyper expensive technologies become ineffective and a serious economic burden?
  20. "Habitable" in popular usage seems to be a quite flexible term. I suspect most people - who get news of exoplanets from news and current affairs TV - are imagining something people could live on, tapping into that primitive urge of humans to strike out for new lands with untapped resources, away from all that competition. I remain deeply sceptical myself. Borrowing some xkcd insight-
  21. Examples of extremely long hair are people whose hair follicles do not go through the normal shedding phase. But I suspect your surmise is correct, that because the shed hair doesn't fall away, the dreadlocks can continue to grow indefinitely. Or until baldness sets in.
  22. I think the endgame for solar is ubiquitous incorporation into built structures, including roads as well as roofs. I do expect to see ever more incorporation of solar into roof (and wall) materials. I think it needs to be either very durable - able to last as long as the roof - or easily replaceable. Photon absorbing paints that can be re-done at low cost might be an alternative to durability - but I have a particular liking for durability. If roofing sheets and tiles can be done at low cost I don't doubt it will be a popular inclusion that could become ubiquitous. Roads? This seems like something that demands either durability or systems that allow easy replacement. I've long liked the idea but I think it will be much harder; solar awnings over roads or just alongside may continue to be more cost effective. I don't buy the arguments that PV is too fragile; solar powered blinking road studs appear to be durable and they are made to cope with tyres hitting them at speed, deliberately, so impacts can be felt and heard to alert drivers. Highest wear areas on roads as well as those that are excessively shaded can be avoided entirely and still leave large areas available. I wonder if induction charging capability could be built into roads where vehicles stop - approaches to intersections as well as parking. The synergy of sun exposed surfaces that connect to towns and cities and major centres of energy demand as well as more directly for transport does make it appealing. I think incorporating PV into road is being shown to work, but it is a long way from cost effective. Yet.
  23. Australia does have an abundance of available land with low agricultural value - so yes, co-existence might look better where that is not the case.
  24. I have read of improved pasture growth on some solar farms (which shared with sheep). This was in Australia - but whilst I can't recall the source or details it was a result of both partial shade and rain runoff from panels. In low rainfall situations they will concentrate the rainwater in rows along (in S. Hemisphere) the Northern edge of panel rows, where wetter soil will support plant growth both in front as well as under that edge. I think between rows got advantage from the partial shading, with more shading in Winter as well as mornings and afternoons, less in Summer and middle of the day; rather than see this as less than ideal I suspect it just changes the plant species selection. I don't recall the spacings between panels were changed; these were set up for maximum solar output from the land area. But they were mounted in "conventional" angled rows and there are different mounting setups that are growing in popularity. I've noticed the growing use of nearly flat, tightly packed arrays for solar farms that are relatively low to the ground and that won't suit crops or pasture and grazing. I believe that, whilst they lose some efficiency by not being ideally tilted, these are using construction methods that significantly reduce setup costs and that makes up for it. I suspect most solar farms won't be giving much consideration to combining agriculture with solar farms.
  25. The self appointed hypocrisy police are working overtime to criticise anyone unwilling to go all stone age to prove they take decades of consistent expert advice seriously, yet anyone who knows better but doesn't care is apparently fine. Morally superior even. Yet these are mostly people would still not take anyone who does go all stone age seriously. Hypocritical of them in my opinion. Yet this kind of attack is surprisingly effective; I suspect the all too human urge to avoid responsibility (and any sense of guilt for it) makes this a popular and effective way for climate science deniers to attack the integrity of those who call for change whilst diverting attention from the profound and dangerous irresponsibility intrinsic to ignoring clear warnings of what may be the greatest threat to enduring prosperity ever - for convenience and profit. Those who seek to advance the very activities that make global warming worse - who also know better but do it all the same - are having their hypocrisy passed over without comment by those keyboard warriors. I think it is like facing an invasion - but no-one will take your concerns seriously unless you are personally sacrificing life and fortunes on the front line - that the invasion is not even considered real unless they do and your calls for nationally coordinated response are ignored. Whilst there are people who think going without stuff should be the principle response, I and many others do not; we know personal lifestyle choices exclusively by those willing to go without stuff is totally inadequate to the task. The intent is to prevent generations of people being forced to go without stuff from climate consequences, by taking economy wide actions to reduce emissions to reduce those consequences. I'm not those (mostly environmentalist voices) who make going without the preferred response are not doing us any favours. But there has also been an extraordinary abrogation of responsibility - unforgivable in those in positions of trust and responsibility - that abandoned the issue to "those who care" and, whilst being relentlessly critical of the policies that resulted, have failed to put forward anything better themselves. I'm assuming this refers first of all to 1970's global cooling fears. Yet the 1975 US National Academy of Sciences/National Research Council report "Understanding Climatic Change: a Program for Action" made it very clear that mainstream science did not endorse any such predictions. From the preface - They proposed science programs to develop that good quantitative understanding sufficiently that it could be possible to predict climate change and by the 1980's they were bearing fruit. Unfortunately that good understanding of exactly why we need not worry about an imminent ice age were not nearly as reassuring as people hoped! A lot of other criticism seems to be less about what the top level science advice said than about the media's version of that advice - which often presented worst case but less likely scenarios as absolute predictions whilst failing to communicate the if's and but's. I'm not sure the actual science based advice ever made absolute predictions - more like likelihoods under a variety of circumstances, many of which were never considered highly likely.
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