notes jan 27
January 27, 2009 § Leave a comment
- And world’s best 1000 novels
The pre-crisis phase: Global excess demand for safe assets
For quite some time, but in particular since the late 1990s, the world has experienced a chronic shortage of financial assets to store value. The reasons behind this shortage are varied. They include the rise in savings needs by aging populations in Japan and Europe, the fast growth and global integration of high-saving economies, the precautionary response of emerging markets to earlier financial crises, and the intertemporal smoothing of commodity producing economies
And, on world history
And, on climate impossibilities
If Brand/Griffth’s vision is correct, we would be better off focusing our efforts on ameliorating the effects of global climate change rather than some half-assed attempt to forestall it. There is simply no political will, at least in the United States, for the sorts of changes that would actually be required to achieve the sort of dramatic changes that are really required.
On long now seminars
Schedule of future SALT talks
Free download of past talks
Email notification of future talks (and my summaries of the talks)
Podcast of talks
Rosetta DVD now available
Long Now blog
Contact Long Now
And, on world history
The scholars of the Annales school of French history characteristically placed their analysis of historical change within the context of the large structures — economic, social, or demographic — within which ordinary people live out their lives. They postulate that the broad and enduring social relations that exist in a society — for example, property relations, administrative and political relations, or the legal system — constitute a stable structure within which agents act, and they determine the distribution of crucial social resources that become the raw materials on the basis of which agents exercise power over other individuals and groups. So the particular details of a social structure create the conditions that set the stage for historical change in the society. (The recently translated book by André Burguière provides an excellent discussion of the Annales school;The Annales School: An Intellectual History.)
And on fuels
Environmental, economic, and energetic costs and benefits of biodiesel and ethanol biofuels
- Departments of *Ecology, Evolution, and Behavior and
- †Applied Economics, University of Minnesota, St. Paul, MN 55108; and
- ‡Department of Biology, St. Olaf College, Northfield, MN 55057
Contributed by David Tilman, June 2, 2006
Negative environmental consequences of fossil fuels and concerns about petroleum supplies have spurred the search for renewable transportation biofuels. To be a viable alternative, a biofuel should provide a net energy gain, have environmental benefits, be economically competitive, and be producible in large quantities without reducing food supplies. We use these criteria to evaluate, through life-cycle accounting, ethanol from corn grain and biodiesel from soybeans. Ethanol yields 25% more energy than the energy invested in its production, whereas biodiesel yields 93% more. Compared with ethanol, biodiesel releases just 1.0%, 8.3%, and 13% of the agricultural nitrogen, phosphorus, and pesticide pollutants, respectively, per net energy gain. Relative to the fossil fuels they displace, greenhouse gas emissions are reduced 12% by the production and combustion of ethanol and 41% by biodiesel. Biodiesel also releases less air pollutants per net energy gain than ethanol. These advantages of biodiesel over ethanol come from lower agricultural inputs and more efficient conversion of feedstocks to fuel. Neither biofuel can replace much petroleum without impacting food supplies. Even dedicating all U.S. corn and soybean production to biofuels would meet only 12% of gasoline demand and 6% of diesel demand. Until recent increases in petroleum prices, high production costs made biofuels unprofitable without subsidies. Biodiesel provides sufficient environmental advantages to merit subsidy. Transportation biofuels such as synfuel hydrocarbons or cellulosic ethanol, if produced from low-input biomass grown on agriculturally marginal land or from waste biomass, could provide much greater supplies and environmental benefits than food-based biofuels.
And, very difficult, goes with Griffith..
By RANDOLPH E. SCHMID – 17 hours ago
WASHINGTON (AP) — Many damaging effects of climate change are already basically irreversible, researchers declared Monday, warning that even if carbon emissions can somehow
be halted temperatures around the globe will remain high until at least the year 3000.
“People have imagined that if we stopped emitting carbon dioxide the climate would go back to normal in 100 years, 200 years; that’s not true,” climate researcher Susan Solomon said in a teleconference.
Solomon, of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Earth System Research Laboratory in Boulder, Colo., is lead author of an international team’s paper reporting irreversible damage from climate change, being published in Tuesday’s edition of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
She defines “irreversible” as change that would remain for 1,000 years even if humans stopped adding carbon to the atmosphere immediately.
The findings were announced as President Barack Obama ordered reviews that could lead to greater fuel efficiency and cleaner air, saying the Earth’s future depends on cutting air pollution.
Said Solomon, “Climate change is slow, but it is unstoppable” — all the more reason to act quickly, so the long-term situation doesn’t get even worse.
Alan Robock, of the Center for Environmental Prediction at Rutgers University, agreed with the report’s assessment.
“It’s not like air pollution where if we turn off a smokestack, in a few days the air is clear,” said Robock, who was not part of Solomon’s research team. “It means we have to try even harder to reduce emissions,” he said in a telephone interview.
Solomon’s report “is quite important, not alarmist, and very important for the current debates on climate policy,” added Jonathan Overpeck, a climate researcher at the University of Arizona.
In her paper Solomon, a leader of the International Panel on Climate Change and one of the world’s best known researchers on the subject, noted that temperatures around the globe have risen and changes in rainfall patterns have been observed in areas around the Mediterranean, southern Africa and southwestern North America.
Warmer climate also is causing expansion of the ocean, and that is expected to increase with the melting of ice on Greenland and Antarctica, the researchers said.
“I don’t think that the very long time scale of the persistence of these effects has been understood,” Solomon said.
Global warming has been slowed by the ocean, Solomon said, because water absorbs a lot of energy to warm up. But that good effect will not only wane over time, the ocean will help keep the planet warmer by giving off its accumulated heat to the air.
Climate change has been driven by gases in the atmosphere that trap heat from solar radiation and raise the planet’s temperature — the “greenhouse effect.” Carbon dioxide has been the most important of those gases because it remains in the air for hundreds of years. While other gases are responsible for nearly half of the warming, they degrade more rapidly, Solomon said.
Before the industrial revolution the air contained about 280 parts per million of carbon dioxide. That has risen to 385 ppm today, and politicians and scientists have debated at what level it could be stabilized.
Solomon’s paper concludes that if CO2 is allowed to peak at 450-600 parts per million, the results would include persistent decreases in dry-season rainfall that are comparable to the 1930s North American Dust Bowl in zones including southern Europe, northern Africa, southwestern North America, southern Africa and western Australia.
Gerald Meehl, a senior scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, said, “The real concern is that the longer we wait to do something, the higher the level of irreversible climate change to which we’ll have to adapt.” Meehl was not part of Solomon’s research team.
While scientists have been aware of the long-term aspects of climate change, the new report highlights and provides more specifics on them, said Kevin Trenberth, head of climate analysis at the center.
“This aspect is one that is poorly appreciated by policymakers and the general public and it is real,” said Trenberth, who was not part of the research group.
“The temperature changes and the sea level changes are, if anything underestimated and quite conservative, especially for sea level,” he said.
While he agreed that the rainfall changes mentioned in the paper are under way, Trenberth disagreed with some details of that part of the report.
“Even so, there would be changes in snow (to rain), snow pack and water resources, and irreversible consequences even if not quite the way the authors describe,” he said. “The policy relevance is clear: We need to act sooner … because by the time the public and policymakers really realize the changes are here it is far too late to do anything about it. In fact, as the authors point out, it is already too late for some effects.”
Co-authors of the paper were Gian-Kaspar Plattner and Reto Knutti of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich and Pierre Friedlingstein of the National Institute for Scientific Research, Gif sur Yvette, France.
The research was supported by the Office of Science at the Department of Energy.