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Global Warming, Coal Combustion and Sea Level Rise

Since about 1960, the Arctic annual average temperature has increased about 2 to 3 C (3.6 to 5.4 F). The world average temperature, WAT, has increased by about 0.7 C (1.3 F) over the same time period. The WAT increase of less than 1 C since about 1850 is likely too small to have caused the large temperature increase in the Arctic of recent decades.


A much more likely cause is soot, SOx and ash particulate deposits on snow and ice surfaces have accelerated the melting, especially due to the increased emissions from coal combustion by China, India, Brazil, etc., since about 1960. The resulting snow and ice is slightly darker than without the deposits and melts easier. As it melts, it becomes darker thereby accelerating the melting; an unstoppable positive feedback.


This process started in the 1960s, about the time China, India, Brazil, etc., were ramping up coal combustion without efficient air quality control, AQS, systems to produce the goods for the markets of the US, Europe, Japan, etc. Business leaders were closing domestic plants and opening them in China, India, Brazil, etc. 


An indication of Arctic  warming is the sea ice volume (extent x thickness) decreasing since about 1960.  


The particulate deposits on snow and ice surfaces likely contributed to the ending of the Little Ice Age, LIA, and the onset of the Present Warm Period, PWP. Whereas the quantity of coal consumption was much less than at present, its combustion process was much “dirtier” regarding particulate emissions.


The atmospheric CO2 ppMv started to rise during the late 1800s and therefore, was not a factor in the ending of the LIA and the onset of the PWP; other GW factors were more influential. 


CO2, among other manmade GW factors, such as urbanization, industrial agriculture, deforestation, etc., will add to the PWP cycle. All these factors would be less with fewer people and a lesser resource and energy consumption  per capita. 


Note: The Arctic was in a cooling phase from 1900 to 1925, a warming phase from 1925 to 1960, a cooling phase from 1960 to 1990, and a slightly warming phase from 1990 to Present, all while CO2 ppMv was steadily increasing, which indicates other GW factors are influential.  


The particulate deposits in the Arctic have affected the Northern Hemisphere climate (the refrigerator of the North is shrinking, temperatures are rising, temperature distributions and weather patterns are changing), because arctic ice reflects about 80% of solar energy into space, whereas water reflects only about 10%.


Present trends indicate the Arctic float ice will be absent during summer within a few years which will significantly affect Northern Hemisphere weather and further increase Arctic summer temperatures. Most of this melting is due to particulate deposits from coal combustion, including particulates entrained in precipitation.


The CO2 ppMv increasing from about 0.0316% in 1960 to 0.0390% in 2011 could not have been THE major factor for the Arctic temperature increase during that time period. Particulate deposits act near-instantly regarding Arctic warming, whereas CO2 emissions have a much longer time constant. 


Note: Methane is increasingly released from rapidly-warming tundra areas in Siberian Arctic areas; an unstoppable positive feedback. A methane molecule traps about 21 times the energy trapped by a CO2 molecule. Methane has an atmospheric lifetime of about 12 years vs. CO2 about 50-200 years. 





Dirty combustion of coal was common from the early 1800s to about 1950 when low-efficiency AQC systems (cyclonic separators, precipitators, fabric filters, scrubbers, etc.) were being installed in the US, Europe, Japan, etc., because smoking chimneys were no longer considered a sign of progress and prosperity. This was mostly not the case in the developing nations, such as China, India, Brazil, etc. 


With highly efficient AQC systems, only the submicron particles, of which there are many, do not get collected. They take longest to settle and some may never settle, except as entrained in precipitation. Hence, the increasing aerosol nature of the troposphere. Fuel-injected internal combustion engines, especially diesel engines, produce millions of submicron particles per gallon of fuel.


Note: Diesel fuel and airplane jet fuel contain about 0.01% ash; the US EPA standard is 0.02% ash. That means for every 1,000 lb (about 140 gallon) of jet fuel combusted, about 1 lb is released as submicron particles mostly at 30,000-45,000 ft elevation. Each submicron particle consists of only a few dozen molecules. The water vapor from combustion condenses and freezes onto the particles from combustion, which, after a plane length, agglomerate to become large enough, 0.4-0.7 micron (millionth of a meter), to refract sunlight and become visible as contrails that spread out to become veil-like clouds over large areas of the sky. They eventually “disappear”, but give the sky a permanent, grayish haze. Because all this takes place in the upper troposphere, these ice-covered, submicron particles stay at that elevation, largely undisturbed by the weather, for some years. As such pollution is added at a greater rate than it settles, the intensity of the grayish haze has increased during the jet plane era. The GW potential, plus or minus, of this upper tropospheric change has not yet been quantified. 


Note: Lower troposphere soot and particulates have a cooling effect which counteracts other GW factors, such as increasing CO2 ppMv. 


Coal contains about 10% ash, on average. After combustion about 80% of the ash becomes flyash, the other 20% becomes bottom ash. It takes about 1.1 lb of coal, 10,000 Btu, to produce a kWh which yields 0.11 lb of ash of which 0.088 lb is flyash.


A modern AQC system collects about 99.9% of the flyash, whereas a mediocre AQS system collects about 95% or less, i.e., particulate emissions are either 1 lb in a 1,000 lbs of flyash, or greater than 50 lb in a 1,000 lb of flyash.





Some people have proposed to capture the carbon from fossil power plants and storing it underground, so-called CCS. The three main arguments against CCS are linked to each other.

The Energy Cost: Engineering the Future stated all of the CCS technologies currently available would require approximately 20 – 25% more coal or 10 – 15% more natural gas to be burned to produce the same amount of electricity.

The UK, together with the rest of Europe, is running low on indigenous primary energy supplies. There are only two rational responses to this serious problem:

– We must do all we can to boost sensible indigenous energy production, and

– We must do all we can to reduce energy consumption through energy efficiency and energy conservation strategies. CCS takes us in the opposite direction.

The energy costs include energy embedded in massive engineering at power stations, pumping stations, pipelines and burial sites. Coal is burned to create all that steel. And energy operating costs to capture, transport and compress CO2. This will add to the UK’s, and the rest of Europe’s energy import bills and dependency on imported fuel. The exact opposite of what we should be planning for. And these additional energy costs will be added directly to consumer electricity bills.

The Efficiency Cost: The energy efficiency of a large coal fired power station may be around 35%. That is 35% of the energy contained in the coal is converted to electricity and the remaining 65% is lost as waste heat. This waste heat is a serious problem for fossil fuel based generation and the sensible, traditional science and engineering approach would be to devise ways to address this problem. These strategies do of course exist in the form of combined heat and power generation where waste heat is used to heat homes or greenhouses and modern ultra supercritical coal fired power stations that can be 42% efficient. That 7% increase in efficiency may not seem a lot but it means the plant will consume 20% less coal.

CCS takes us in the exact opposite direction. A 25% energy penalty on a 35% energy efficient plant will reduce the overall thermal efficiency to 26%.

The Economic Cost: Mr. Allam of NET Power highlighted that a power plant with CCS costs 50% to 80% more to generate electricity than power plant without CCS. The CCS Cost Reduction Taskforce’s 2013 final report estimated that the first set of CCS projects may have costs in the range of £150–200 per megawatt hour (roughly three times as expensive as fossil fuel plant without CCS), a figure largely supported by industry. The main reason for this is the high energy consumption of powering the CCS equipment, especially the carbon capture stage of the process.

One would think that any MP, most of whom claim concern on high electricity prices, would read this and conclude that the proposals are unworkable. How can they reconcile in their own minds the concern for high electricity prices with the intention of government to subsidize measures that may result in a three-fold increase of these same prices they are so concerned about. And there are no benefits for consumers.



The world consumption of coal grew from about 3.8 billion metric tonnes in 1980 to about 7.783 billion metric tonnes in 2011. China and the US consumed about 3.576 and 1.004 billion metric tons of coal in 2011, respectively. China consumption is increasing, US consumption is decreasing. 


Because of a lack of high-efficiency AQC systems, a ton of coal combusted in China, India, Brazil, etc., is at least 50 times worse than in the US and Europe regarding particulate emissions/kWh, but about the same regarding CO2 emissions/kWh. 


Currently, developing nations represent about 50 to 55 percent of the gross world product, a “dirty” percentage that is rapidly growing, whereas the “relatively clean” percentage of the developed world is decreasing.


Annual world energy production is about 20,000 TWh, of which the US 4,000 TWh, Germany 600 TWh, Vermont 6 TWh. At least 12,000 TWh is from “dirty” coal-burning by developing nations. 


About 1,200 coal-fired power plants are planned worldwide, 75% in China and India. China’s CO2 emissions are increasing 8 to 9 %/yr, and are now about 50% greater than US emissions. China’s emissions are not expected to peak until about 2030.



Production – Self use, about 5% = Delivered to the grid.

Delivered to the grid – Trans. & Distr. losses, about 5% = Consumption. 

China’s Coal Burning: China gets about 80% of its electricity and 70% its total energy from coal, much of it high-sulphur coal.

Coal CO2 emissions are about 2.15 lb/kWh x 1 kg/2.205 lb = 975 g/kWh at rated output. China is planning to build plants with more efficient coal plants. Here are some numbers of what is possible.

Plant Type………………………..Eff, %…………..g CO2/kWh

Standard boiler………………….33.2………………..975*

Subcritical boilers……………….38.6………………..838

Supercritical boilers…………….40.4………………..800

Ultra-supercritical boilers………42.0……………….770

* Efficiencies of existing, older standard plants range from 30 – 35%.

Note: Combined cycle gas turbines, CCGTs, with an efficiency at rated output of 60%, Lower Heating Value, or about 54%, Higher Heating Value, would consume (3,413 Btu/kWh)/efficiency 0.60 = 5,688 Btu/kWh and emit 117 lb of CO2/(million Btu x 1 kWh/5,688 Btu) x 1 kg/2.205 lb = 302 g of CO2/kWh, much less than even the most efficient coal plants. 


China has enacted emission standards for NEW coal plants, similar to the standards of Europe and the US, that became effective January 1, 2012. Coal plants of recent vintage have to comply with somewhat stricter standards by 2014. Coal plants of older vintage are “grandfathered”, i.e., need not comply. 


Satellite surveillance likely will not detect a significant decrease in China’s particulate emissions for least two decades, as happened in the US after the 1970 Clean Air Act was enacted. Since 1970, as a percent of total energy production, the US coal energy percent decreased and the natural gas percentage increased which has materially reduced particulates and CO2 emissions from what they would have been.


Switching To Gas: The relative economic advantage of coal-based developing nations is low wages and low energy costs. They would not be switching to renewable energy, RE, because it would divert trillion-dollar investments from development over decades AND would increase their energy costs 2 to 3 times. As already-developed nations implement RE, they will become relatively less competitive vs. developing nations.


Because of advanced drilling techniques, developed and developing nations alike, would have available about a 300-year supply of low-cost, clean-burning natural gas. Those techniques could be used all over the world where there is shale. 


The gas could be burned in 60% efficient, closed-cycle gas turbines, CCGTs, at a generation cost, including capital, O&M, etc., of about 6-7 c/kWh, less expensive than energy from NEW coal plants. The capital costs of CCGT plants would less than half of coal plants.


At rated output, CO2 emissions of a CCGT plant would be about 1/3 of a NEW coal plant. No RE can compete with this cost. Coal mines could shut down over time, the most expensive ones first. The net effect would be a major WORLDWIDE reduction in CO2  and particulate emissions. 




The melting of glaciers, such as on mountains, and other land ice, such as on Greenland and the Antarctic, has raised sea levels. 


– from 1870 to 1930, 60 years, the rise was 50 mm, or 0.83 mm/yr

– from 1930 to 1993, 63 years, the rise was 150 mm, or 2.38 mm/yr

– from 1993 to 2012, 19 years, the rise was 60 mm, or 3.17 mm/yr


At the latter rate, sea level rise will be about 88 yrs x 3.17 mm/yr = 279 mm = 279/304.8 = 0.92 feet by 2100. With an increasing rise rate, the sea level rise will likely be about 1.5-2.0 feet by 2100, and rising further. During weather events, such as Tropical Storm Sandy ($50 billion damage) and Hurricane Katrina ($146 billion damage), there are tide- and wind-driven water level surges which may temporarily raise water levels by 10-15 feet. 


Note: The melting of sea ice (floating on water), such as at the North Pole, has almost no effect on raising the sea level.


Note: The top 1,000 feet of oceans are becoming warmer; the water expands and thereby adds to the sea level rise.


In recent decades, the sea level rise rate has increased due to increased particulate deposits on snow and ice surfaces, primarily from increased coal combustion by China, India, Brazil, etc. The particulates are also entrained in any Arctic precipitation. As the 24-hour summer sun melts the Arctic snow and ice, it becomes darker which accelerates the melting; an unstoppable positive feedback that will not abate until particulate deposits become minimal which will take many decades, if ever. 


Arctic float-ice volume is better measure of Arctic warming than float-ice surface area. Satellites measured the minimum Arctic float-ice volume at 16,900 cubic kilometers in 1979, it was 3,600 in 2012, almost a 5-fold reduction during 33 years. At this rate, the Arctic float-ice will likely be almost entirely absent during the summer by about 2015-2016. This melting has and will significantly affect the weather and climate of the Northern Hemisphere. The CO2 ppMv influences this process at the margins.


The newly-exposed land and sea areas, instead of being highly reflective when covered with snow and ice, are highly absorbent of the sun’s energy, causing local increases in temperature, which in turn accelerate the melting; an unstoppable positive feedback. 


Coastal studies experts: “For coastal management purposes, a sea level rise of 7 feet (2 meters) should be utilized for planning major infrastructure.”


By extrapolating the accelerating trend, 


– Maine is preparing for a sea level rise of up to 2 meters by 2100,

– Delaware 1.5 m

– Louisiana 1 m

– California 1.4 m

– The Netherlands 0.6 – 1.2 m 

– Southeastern Florida 0.6 m by 2060, at least 1 m by 2100.




The average elevation of New Orleans is currently 1-2 feet below sea level. Some areas are up to 20 feet above sea level at the base of the river levee in Uptown and others up to 7 feet below sea level in Eastern New Orleans.


Coastal erosion was accelerated by hurricane Katrina. By 2100, the coastline will pass New Orleans which will be, on average, at least 4 feet below sea level due to land subsidence plus sea level rise, i.e., entirely surrounded by the Gulf of Mexico, a la Venice. The city will need to be surrounded by a 40- to 60-feet tall levee system; currently, the top of the levee system at the Mississippi River side is 23 ft above sea level and at the Lake Pontchartrain side 17.5 ft. 


About 2,000 square miles of coastal lands have been lost since 1900. An additional 5,000-6,000 square miles of coastal lands will be permanently under water due to rising sea levels and land subsidence by 2100.


A much larger area will be periodically flooded during hurricane events accompanied with wind- and tide-driven water surges, such as by hurricane Katrina.




As infrastructures are usually built to last for at least 100 years, the most prudent approach for the effective use of limited resources would be:


– not to spend decades building expensive, massive waterworks to prevent flooding, except around high-value areas, such as Manhattan Island of New York City; the Dutch would have built a series of seawalls at least 100 years ago. Manhattan will need to do it. It will be expensive, about $15-$20 billion, but if the Dutch can afford it, so can the US. Just spend less on defense, education and healthcare per person, as the Dutch do.


– to build any new housing and other buildings, roads, etc., on grounds at least 20 feet higher than the present sea levels to provide a long-term margin of safety.


– in coastal areas and in land areas near river estuaries that would be permanently or periodically flooded, no new building should be allowed. 


Note: some land areas, especially those subject to wind- and tide-driven water surges, that were thought to be safe, i.e., at least 20 feet above current sea levels, might erode at some time, and thus would not be suitable for resettlements. 


– the newly-built houses and other buildings, roads, etc., should be arranged for the highest possible energy efficiency, i.e., minimal energy and other resource consumption per capita.


– areas with centuries of experience dealing with rising water levels, such as the Netherlands, would need to modify parts of their waterworks to avoid future flooding.


Measures to Reduce Development in Flood-Prone Areas: One way to encourage people to resettle from flood plains is to immediately prohibit new development in flood plains and start eliminating the subsidies for existing real estate in flood plains on a 5-year or 10-year schedule, such as:  


– real estate mortgage interest and real estate tax deductions from taxable incomes  

– real estate depreciation deductions from taxable incomes

– the $500,000 capital gains exclusion from taxable incomes

– prohibit private and government flood insurance

– prohibit private and government mortgages

– prohibit government funding for upgrading existing development; repair would still be allowed


These measures would depopulate the parts of Florida, the US East Coast and the Mexican Gulf that are too low-lying and that, by hindsight, should never have been developed. Those areas acted as natural barriers to flooding. 


Any new development in those flood-prone areas should not be allowed. The funds saved by eliminating the subsidies should be used to resettle people and reclaim these areas for natural barriers to flooding.


Note: Most of the damage to the US East Coast due to Tropical Storm Sandy in 2012 was due to people building houses and other buildings on filled-in marsh lands and sand bars that are only a few feet above mean sea level; JFK airport is partially built on such land. That damage would have been avoided had the above measures been in effect. It is perverse to provide subsidies to rebuild in these areas. People, owners and renters, who were flooded by Sandy should be given a generous check for damage and relocation expenses,, i.e., “made whole”, and be told to move elsewhere. The debris, foundations, underground piping, wiring, etc., in the flooded areas should be removed, and the areas graded, etc., so they can be returned to Nature. It is beyond rational to rebuild, rebuild, rebuild, etc., mostly at government expense.




Because resources are limited, these measures should take precedence over expensive RE build-outs that would take decades to implement, produce expensive energy, but would be ineffective to slow the GW trend.


To limit manmade GW factors would be to:


– reduce CO2 emissions by means of increased energy efficiency.

– reduce energy and other resources consumption per capita.

– reduce the population to about 1.5 billion (the level in the late 1800s) from the projected 10 billion by 2050.


Based on hindsight, it can be concluded that already in 1865, certainly by the late 1800s, deforestation, pollution, overfishing, flora and fauna habitat destruction, etc., by less than 1.5 billion people were unsustainable, even with each person using relatively little resources compared to what each person uses at present. 


The projected 10 billion people by 2050 will be spreading themselves around the world, taking over, dividing and diminishing more and more of the environment and the ecosystems and habitats of the fauna and flora; turning 4-lane roads into 8-lane roads, a la California; turning million people cities into multi-million people cities, a la China and India; each succeeding generation adding its damage to the prior damage. 


An unavoidable environmental holocaust? A predictable outcome worth celebrating? Germany’s ENERGIEWENDE (turn towards RE) the answer? Is a worldwide environmental remediation and population control effort not at least 150 years overdue?


Example of Deforestation and “Reforestation”: In New England, after 80% of it was stripped of its old-growth trees by about 1865, much of the top soil, a thin layer on top of rocks in most places built up over about 9,000 years, eroded. 


As a result, the new-growth trees that “reforested” less than 50% of New England can be only a pale copy of the old-growth trees. Acid-laden precipitation from Midwest coal plants has damaged the soil, sickened the trees, reduced their longevity and their CO2 absorbing capability. 


New England’s forest biomass quantity prior to 1865 likely was about 5 times greater than at present and its CO2 absorbing capability likely was about 10 times greater than at present. New England has seen vastly greater additional manmade environmental destruction since 1865; highways and sprawling urban areas come to mind. 


Proposals to burn biomass (wood) for New England’s thermal and electrical energy requirements is akin to scorced-earth warfare, given the present forest and soil conditions. 


To remedy the situation would require a significant reduction of acid-laden precipitation AND the forests to be left undisturbed for several hundred years to restore top soil health and thickness. 


If dead trees and branches were cut into woodchips that were spread evenly throughout the forest floor, the top soil restoration would be quickened. The thinking all this can be remediated by reducing CO2 emissions with RE build-outs is well beyond rational.




As the required resources/capital are massive, the most cost-effective way is EE before RE. I am not saying “no RE”, just that it should be done after EE. The RE systems would be much less costly and of much lesser capacity AFTER EE.


It would be much wiser, and more economical, to shift subsidies away from expensive renewables, that produce just a little of expensive, variable, intermittent energy, towards increased EE. Most of those renewables would not be needed, if we use those funds for increased EE. 


EE is the low-hanging fruit, has not scratched the surface, is by far the best approach, because it provides the quickest and biggest “bang for the buck”, AND it is invisible, AND it does not make noise, AND it does not destroy pristine ridge lines/upset mountain water runoffs, AND it would reduce CO2, NOx, SOx and particulates more effectively than renewables, AND it would slow electric rate increases, AND it would not require expensive electric grid build-outs, AND it would not require inefficiently-operated gas turbine balancing plants, AND it would slow fuel cost increases, AND it would slow depletion of fuel resources, AND it would create 3 times the jobs and reduce 3-5 times the Btus and CO2 per invested dollar than renewables, AND all the technologies are fully developed, AND it would end the subsidizing of renewables tax-shelters at the expense of rate payers, AND it would be more democratic/equitable, AND it would do all this without public resistance and controversy.




Outsourcing Goods Production: In the 1960s, business leaders in the US, Europe, Japan, etc., became eager to sidestep union labor rates and work rules and increasingly strict environmental rules. They expanded their production of goods in China, India, Brazil, etc., which responded by building hundreds of coal-fired power plants with minimal AQC systems.


Global Environmental Rules: As predicted, Northern Hemisphere air pollution, i.e., CO2, SOx, NOx and particulates, increased to such an extent that it accelerated the melting of snow- and ice-covered surfaces, mostly in the Arctic.


For decades, numerous meetings were held with developing nations to get them to agree to strict environmental rules. The meetings were futile, because business leaders did not want their governments to require China, India, Brazil, etc., to comply with strict environmental rules, because it would have increased production costs and reduced profits.


Whereas the US, Europe, Japan, etc., continued to tighten environmental rules, developing nations refused to comply and, in the end, were given a pass. This was a major strategic mistake that accelerated GW.


Adversities of Outsourcing: The lower-cost goods from China, India, Brazil, etc., caused:


– tens of millions of workers in the US, Europe, Japan, etc., to become uncompetitive and redundant.

– wealth and income to shift to the top 5% of households leading to more upscale consumption of imported goods and services, especially in the US.


To deal with the adversities of outsourcing, less-disciplined governments of less-competitive European nations excessively borrowed to maintain a government-debt-driven, Potemkin prosperity.


In the US, an-anything-goes financial sector, led by Wall Street, aided and abetted by a bought-and-paid-for Congress doing “constituent service”, did its part by hyping boom conditions that led to the 1987 real-estate collapse, the 2000 collapse and the 2008 real-estate collapse, which reduced the net worths and incomes of tens of millions of households, which led to the Great Recession.


To rescue the financial sector from its follies: 


– the US Federal Reserve engaged in $3.025 trillion quantitative easing in 3 phases: QE I, $1.725 trillion, QE II, $0.6 trillion, to be followed by QE III, 0.7 trillion; creating money out of thin air and using it to: 


* buy “assets”, i.e., real estate mortgage backed securities, MBOs, from financial entities that are choking on them 

* loan it, at near-zero interest rates, to the federal government to finance its deficits (few other entities would)  

* loan it, at near-zero interest rates, to financial sector firms to improve their balance sheets


– the federal government engaged in trillion-dollar deficit spending to finance several wars (Iraq I and II, Afghanistan) and to ameliorate the adversities of the Great Recession; currently, the US national debt is in excess of $16 trillion, increasing at about $1 trillion/yr. Those deficits likely will be taken care of by QE IV, QE V, etc.


Adversities of RE Build-Outs: The GW and climate change, CC, scare-mongering, business tactics of RE promoters, aimed at maintaining and increasing subsidies for expensive RE build-outs that produce expensive, variable, intermittent energy, would:


– further worsen the economic competitiveness of the US, Europe, Japan, etc., as the extra costs have been, and will be, rolled mostly into household electric rates.

– not reduce the Arctic warming caused by air pollution, because the coal-burning developing nations, including China, India, Brazil, etc., will continue to get a pass on environmental rules.


– cause significant additional destruction of the environment and the habitats of the fauna and flora than would increased EE.


– cost trillions of dollars more in captal outlays than would increased EE; capital that could be more profitably utilized.

– cost trillon-dollar government subsidies to project developers and financiers, plus trillion-dollar foregone tax revenues due to subsidies in the form of tax credits, such as the production tax credit, PTC, and income tax reductions for high-income households due to the special 5-year depreciation write-offs associated with RE build-outs.


Willem Post's picture

Thank Willem for the Post!

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John Miller's picture
John Miller on Aug 30, 2012

Willem, good posting.  You have done a thorough job of providing data on some of the many variables that can affect climate change.  What is rarely covered in most articles and postings concerning climate change or global warming is the significantly high level of uncertainty for green house gas only theories and future impact projections.  The one thing that is certain about the earth’s climate is that it’s always changing and there are many significant variables other than just green house gases.  Since ancient times mankind has survived and prospered due to the ability to adapt to a constantly changing environment.  This is the same issue that possibly faces most countries around the world today.  Since resources are limited, do we spend available resources on attempting to substantially curtail carbon (equivalent) emissions and still risk experiencing global warming, rising sea levels, etc. or do we continue to adapt to our changing environment?  

John Miller

Michael Jones's picture
Michael Jones on Aug 30, 2012

You should also rewrite the statement about sea level rise. I feel you are very selective (cherry picking, infact) in regard to global warming.You claim that sea level rise has "almost" no effect on sea level rise. What youy do not point out, of course, is the dramactic ice melt partly sea ice and that is the reason why this is so. Actually, Greenland is witnessing significant land area ice melt too. Also, particle and soot emitted in the atmosphere also has a "cooling" action and global warming would actually be much worse without it.

Also, believe it or not, the methane hydrates are being looked at by energy companies as a source of new assets to use as fuel!

Edward Kerr's picture
Edward Kerr on Aug 30, 2012


A disappointing post at best. Suggesting that it would be more "prudent" to direct resources toward building on higher ground than toward renewables which, you aver, would be too expensive, is, in my humble opinion, missing the entire point of the "global warming debate". Global warming is, by most, agreed to be taking place with the causes being held hostage to debate. This implies that we can somehow continue to utilize fossil fuels until total depletion. A criminal suggestion.

Even if global warming is not anthropogenic (which you seem to agree that it is) the need to to implement renewable energy build outs (regardless of cost) is an imperative. I agree with you that energy efficiency measures are also imperative but to suggest that they should delay renewable build-outs is short sighted.

The problem is complex. The task at hand Herculean. The failure to fully implement alternatives to fossil fuels will leave us in a much deeper hole regardless of where the climate decides to go.

With best personal regards,

Edward Kerr

Bob Dickey's picture
Bob Dickey on Aug 31, 2012

Wouldn't volcanic erruptions have something to do with sootand SO2 on the ice in the Arctic? Wouldn't Brazil be contributing to "ice melt" in the Antartica and not the Arctic? Why are all of the discussions about the Artic and not Antarctica? Why is ther no significant temperature rises in the troposphere? What else could be causing the seas temperature to be rising to a depth of 1,0000 feet? is there something else going on on the ocean floors. Wouldn't melting Ice be cooling the water instead of warming it?

Larry Johnson's picture
Larry Johnson on Aug 31, 2012


Thank you for your informative contributions to the GW conversation.

When natural gas is used as a fuel in internal combustion engines, do the emissions contain any of the sub-micron particles that you refer to in the article?  If there are measurable amounts of particles released, are they the by-products of the fuel or are they from the lubricating oils present in the engine?

Have ocean temperatures reached a point where methane hydrates are being released from any sea beds?

Do you agree with Michael Jones that particles released into the upper atmosphere cause a cooling effect?  Wasn't that confirmed when air traffic was substantially reduced after 9-11?  Didn't skies clear for a brief period and didn't ground temperatures bump up?  Or was that just a urban myth? 

Again, thank you for your time and interest.


Paul Felix Schott's picture
Paul Felix Schott on Aug 31, 2012

Read well and study on your own after you have read this.


This is not a game or joke Our Sun gives off a Solar Wind all day year round if you live in the State of Alaska you see it in the sky above what a sight it is going through our Earth’s Magnet Polls of the North and the South, North Poll. It’s called the Northern Lights or the Aurora Borealis.


The day will come when you will be able to see it all over Earth as in the year 1859 Solar Flare, It was the largest in 500 years. Two Astronomer’s Hodgson and Carrington told the World that the Solar Flare made a Geomagnetic Storm reach Earth in hours not days. Back then it gave new meaning to Reach For The Skies from Telegraph Operators. For hours sparks flew from the key board. Even after the Batteries were disconnected. Nov 3 and 4, 2003 had a X40+ Class Solar Flare.


Our Sun’s UV Rays will get stronger as each passing day goes by, read and i will tell you why.


The Great big forest have be stripped from most of the Earth for Greed of Money by the Wicked. The trees are our Main Source of Oxygen on this Plant.
The Forest Trees scrubs the Pollution out of the air and makes Oxygen from the rain and dirt that it grows in.


The Forest Trees do more than just make Oxygen they stop Soil Erosion, just Look at the 1930 Dust Bowl. Greed by our Government taxes led farmers to clear cut all their Forest and farm all the land they were being Tax on. They had to farm it to pay for the Taxes. Why leave the Trees when food crop makes Money. This did not Help the Depression that effected most all Worldwide. This year 2012 more than 100 million will suffer from Malnutrition lack of food and Dehydration lack of water. Many will not make it and die!


Soon many will run out of Safe Drinking Water from pollution going into the world’s water supply.



In the United States of America alone more than 45 Million Americans Received Food Stamps and that number is going up every day every year for more than 3 years in a row now.


The Pollution and CO2 Carbon Dioxide go into the Tree Bark as a shield from most bugs so they do not eat the tree.


Less Forest less Oxygen this is why the moon. That has no Oxygen is very cold on the side without Sun Light, And hot as ever on the side with Sun Light. Way too cold and too hot to live there. You would need at least 10 times the Energy we use on Earth to even live there and life on the Moon would be very short.


With no blank of Oxygen to lessen or reduce the Sun’s UV Rays and Solar Wind they are deadly there on our Moon. Every Mt. Climber and Aircraft Pilot knows the higher you go the thinner the Oxygen and colder it gets.


Just spend a night on a Mt. top above 13,000 feet with no Sun Light and you will see or should i say feel the cold stinging any of your exposed skin. If you are new to Mt. Climbing stay below 10,000Ft. The Astronauts and the Cosmonauts and Fighter Pilots that i have been with for years know this very well, and the Radiation Hazards to humans at High Altitudes.


Soon the Sun’s Solar Wind and UV rays will be way to strong for most to go out in the Sun Light for even a short time. The Geomagnetic Storm to come and the Bad Weather Storms well you have not seen nothing yet and the Sea Level is Rising the Oceans. Many Millions have been affected by Floods in China and Pakistan just last year. In 2005 Over a Thousand dead in New Orleans flood, and the list going on. The sounds and rumbling of Volcanoes Around Earth are Waking Up at a Alarming rate.


And there shall be famines, and pestilences, and Earthquakes, in divers places such as was not from the beginning of the Creation.


The last 30 years On Earth we have broke all High Temp Records and the temp it is still going up. All the Worlds Ice Glacier are melting at an Accelerating Rate. The Glaciers and Polar Ice Caps store more water than all the Fresh Water Lakes on Earth. Many of them are drying up or water levels are going down past the lowest point every recorded.


The Bad Weather Storms now are Babies compared to what is to come.

They will get even bigger and worse less Oxygen the more UV Rays to the Earth and more Water molecules will evaporate and go up into the Earth’s Atmosphere. Less Oxygen the colder without sun light and hotter with it.


The Sky full of more water vapor molecules, more snow in the winter and more Flash Floods in the Summer. All earth will see way more fires and the Deserts are growing larger.


If every living person on Earth were to Plant A Tree Today we might have a chance.


The Earth’s Atmosphere Blanket surrounding it protects life on Earth as Our Lord and GOD will all that seek Him.


Then it is written when the tree is full it is harvest time. All the Earth will someday burn away.


This is all Foretold in the Bible Read it
and may our Lord Bless all that do so.


The Lord’s Little Helper
Paul Felix Schott


2 Peter 3:10
But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the Earth and its works will be burned up.


GOD Bless You and Your Love ones
Give thanks to our Lord Jesus Christ every day.


Matthew 24: 30-33


Earth is at its Limits


The United Nations is now taking a serious look into "Earth's Limits" Earth will very soon be at its Limits of no return for many things including all life on Earth.

If we keep going at this rate we will not have another 20 years to go back to Rio De Janeiro to play. Most all in the Scientific Community said this 20 years ago at the last time Leaders set up this meeting in Rio De Janeiro. Of course on the Tax payers money, and of course they said about the same thing again we need to do something!

There is enough Energy from our Sun to Power all are needs on Earth and more. The richest on Earth are doing just that Building Solar Power Plants at a record pace.


Solar Energy

The Fastest growing energy on Earth.


Albert Einstein 100 years ago showed the World it could get
Free Energy, Electric from the SUN. (THE PHOTOVOLTAIC EFFECT).


Edward Kerr's picture
Edward Kerr on Sep 1, 2012


I agree with almost totally that EE needs be immediate and aggressive. Even though, as you note, "more bang for the buck" we cannot "efficiency" our way out of the absolute need to transition to an all renewable energy delivery system. You agree (or seem to) that burning fossil fuels is contraindicated to sustained life on this planet. Therefor, we should be looking at every possibility technology that facilitates that goal.

Logically, both avenues of attack (EE and RE) should be fostered even though we both know that changing the way people think and act is a difficult endeavor, at best.

All of these assertion are independent of the global warming issue (though we ignore that issue at our own peril) and are based on the depletion of fossil fuels in general.

As you also note, resources are haden't we best make the necessary resource investment while we still have something to invest. (ironically, the remaining fossil fuels, or at least some of them)

And just how much more expensive will it be to, as you say "move people away from flood prone area's"

Best wishes for the labor day Holiday,

Ed's picture on Sep 1, 2012

Excellent post about sea level rise. (I am quite familiar having researched this for three years for a forthcoming book, "High Tide on Main Street" available next month.)  The only few points I might add to your excellent overview are:

If we look at the planets long term historical changes in sea level on the millennial level there are a few insights that are enlightening. Sea level fluctuates by hundreds of feet naturally. Over the last few million years it has been a hundred thousand year cycle, in synch with the regular ice ages.  At the last ice age max 20,000 years ago, the ocean height was down almost 400 feet. This helps to grasp the magnitudes of what can -- and will happen.

Now the natural cycles have changed due to CO2 being raised to nearly 400 ppm from the 180-280 normal range, causing the unusual warming. Over the last century global temperatures are 0.8 degrees C warmer. The long term correllation between SL and average global temperature is 65 ft (20m) per degree C, according to published works of David Archer and Richard Alley.  The point is that the rising sea level is a slow response mechanism to the changing ice sheets, due to changing average temperature.

What we do now will slow or speed up the process, but the effects have a long lag time, like stopping a supertanker.

Therefore low lying areas, particularly those made of porous limestone like South Florida and most coral based islands probably will disappear over the next century, just like the low lying island-nations that are already disappearing. This means that the long term planning and adaptation in these areas needs to have a different perspective than in areas where there really is higher ground for gradual relocation and new design.

David Hone's picture
David Hone on Sep 1, 2012


I don't think it is the case that humans adapt well to a constantly changing environment. One of the remarkable things about the last 10,000+ years which has seen the huge expansion of humans on the planet is the extraordinarily constant state of the climate, to the extent that we have hardly had to adapt. In areas where ancient civilizations have expanded and vanished again, research has shown that it was often shifts in local climate that destabilized them.

Small perturbations on a global scale (massive volcanic eruptions) have caused all sorts of problems over the centuries (e.g. ~1816), but they quickly go away and life returns to normal. We have never had a long term global change to deal with (excluding the end of the last Ice Age as that marked the start of a stable period which saw civilization thrive).


John Miller's picture
John Miller on Sep 1, 2012

Willem, another factor I’m sure you are aware of is that recorded ancient civilizations generally grew and thrived more during warming periods than cold periods.  More people have been casualties of cold weather than hot weather and the same trend generally exists today (despite the apparent bias of normally reporting only heat related deaths and largely omitting those caused by cold factors).  As long as there was sufficient water past civilizations readily adapted to increased temperatures.  In the case of long-term droughts (or transition to more arid environments) or ice ages, civilizations would migrate to more moderate-survivable environments.  The same has been true for all animal and plant life.  Yes, extinctions occur for species that cannot adapt or migrate to suitable environments (climate related or man-kinds' physical influences).  This issue has been a fact of life since well before man walked the earth.

John Miller

Edward Kerr's picture
Edward Kerr on Sep 1, 2012


All of your points are valid when looking at a shorter term strategy to slow the damage being done by the use of fossil fuels. Even though EE (if you could get people to aggressively employ the methods to accomplish significant changes) would, as you state, "slow depletion of fuel resources", I still think that it must be coupled with an aggressive build-out of RE as that is where we will need to go eventually. At the rate we are consuming our present supplies of coal, oil and NG they will be depleted in my grandchildren's life time. The economic hardship will be daunting.

If one calculated the total amount of fossil fuels that remain the energy involved would be dwarfed by that amount of energy that the sun provides in a single years. With molten salt concentrated solar the issue of 'intermittency' becomes less important. And if we continue using fossil fuels there will still be mountain top removal, open pit mining, dangerous fracking and equally dangerous off shore drilling (especially in the arctic). As fossil become more difficult to extract I can only see the ROI dropping. Whereas with RE, once the initial investment is amortized the ongoing costs drop precipitously to maintenance of equipment.

WE can I suppose, agree to disagree. Unfortunately, neither of us is likely to live to find out who is right. I suspect that we both are a bit of both...right and wrong.

With best regards,


Rick Engebretson's picture
Rick Engebretson on Sep 1, 2012

I never saw so much authoritative discussion so completely evade a most obvious alternative concern.

Never, in all of the geological history of the earth, has there been the tractor/plow/herbicide used in almost every area that might support abundant plant life. How so many intelligent people can ignore a unique experiment of this scale, and its correlation to climate impacts, is beyond me.

Normal science looks at the most likely answers before diving into such rampant obscurity. If dirty air is a problem, probably so is plain dirt.

But "normal science" isn't what it used to be, either. I would think I was the oddball here, but National Geographic Magazine rescues me time and again.

Rick Engebretson's picture
Rick Engebretson on Sep 2, 2012

Willem, we are now seeing the worst environmental and economic disaster in American history. This drought and heat is killing one of our few exports industries, with enormous long term resource damage. All under a Democrat farm bill and administration. So please don't invent history you clearly don't understand, and I don't care to try debate. I have usually agreed with your challenges to false energy claims, but it is now important to attend to a critical issue. This isn't some "I'm smarter than you quiz qame."

Most of the world's religions begin with a heaven and earth dichotomy. The mysterious, overreaching, beautiful sky. The Garden of Eden Earth. Today, many people never see the sky. And fewer touch the complex abundance of this unique planet.

People eating frozen pizza and soda pop from a couch watching video, bought with a check of borrowed money in the mailbox, and opinions to match, have left their footprint on this planet.

Other than in the movies, the small farm saved lives and employed people during the Great Depression. And when WWII came, US agriculture was well prepared to feed us plus England plus help feed the Soviet Union and China. People were not pushed off agriculture, and instead were often exempted from military duty. Their hard work and knowledge is now replaced by movie myth. I always wonder how many did it without electricity and indoor plumbing. Pathetic today.'s picture on Sep 3, 2012

In the post under the subhead, SEA LEVEL RISE, you break the historic rates into 3 periods, with 1930 and 1993 as the break points. Can you give me a citation / refererence for that? I have not seen that breakdown of the earlier two parts.

Rodney Smith's picture
Rodney Smith on Sep 4, 2012


Thank you for the time you have spent identifying, documenting, and linking several climate change and energy elements.  I wish to share some thoughts that I hope will engernder further discussion.

1). I agree the cheapest watt is the watt saved.  EE should be aggressively pursued NOW.

2). We need to think in terms of delivered cost of watts and not only generated cost of watts.  When watts travel there is loss, and we must build expensive transmission lines.

3). An honest accounting of the end-to-end costs of the energy supply chain would reveal there are many hidden costs and much collateral damage resulting from certain types of generation.

4). Some forms of generation are far more water intensive than others both in fuel extraction and in generation. 

5). Many regions of the world are operating at severe water deficits and one should not assume the water will always be there for generation.

6).Generally RE has far fewer hidden costs and far less collateral damage.  For example, the USA might not station the Fifth Fleet in Bahrain if it were not for the oil supply chain, and RE does not require mountain tops to be torn off that not only spoil the view but also the water supply.

7). The plan, site, build, commission, operate, and decommission cycle for generation plant may exceed 100 years.  If we aggressively pursue EE we may be able to delay building some traditional generation while R&D on RE can drive down costs.

8) Electrcity storage has made great strides during the past 5 years and is poised to be ready for prime time this decade.  Advanced Li battery power factors have increased an order of magnitude during the past 2 years, and a 5 minute vehicle charge is within sight.

9). Electrcity storage has been called a "game changer" by the Edison Electric Institute and can serve to smooth the demand curve, assist with frequency regulation, and solve the problem of intermittency associated with RE.

10). Yes natural gas is cleaner than coal by 50%--yet as global demand for electrcity doubles we wil be treading water if we over rely on NG.

11). We do not yet know even the unknowns associated with climate change and are only beginning to understand certain feedback systems.  It would be dangerous to assume that it is a linear model--since it is a highly complex system the state-changes are more likely to occur rapidly fashion in a non-linear than incrementally.

12). Small changes in climate can have major impacts on human systems.  A relatively modest climate change around 1320 brought unseasonal rains to England in the winter.  The population had increased during the Medieval Optimum climate period and marginal land had been put into production.  The resulting famine resulted in a 25% death rate and was followed 20 years later by the Black Death (and the Hunred Years War).

13). Our just-in-time agricultural system has been successful in reducing the % of people on the planet subjected to famine while reducing the number of days of food supply significantly. (I belive the most recent figure is 42 days of supply assuming efficient distribution).  A relatively monor climate fluctuation could result in deep famine and rising prices especially in the developing world.

14). Famine historically destablishes governments and the bigger they are the harder they fall.  Many dynastic changes in China can be traced to famine events.

15). You mention methane clathrates existing in ocean beds and in the tundra.  CH4 also is being emitted in gaseous form from melting permafrost and rect studies suggest vast quantities exist beneath Artic Ocean ice (rapidly melting) and beneath Antarctcia.  The permafrost belt extends across Siberia, Alaska, and Canada (not to mention Greenland) and the Yedoma region of Siberia (twice the size of Sweden) has seen millions of thermokarst lakes form within the period of satellite imagery--and many of these lakes have CH4 bubbling up out of them sufficient to prevent freezing in the winter.

16). CH4 release potential dwarfs human ghg emissions and has the appearances of a powerful  positive feedback loop over which we have no control.  It is extremely dangerous to take a wait-and-see approach with the permafrost as it might be a runaway train and could force a cliamte state-change.  reducing anthropogenic ghg emissions can only slow the train down and might buy us time to adapt.

17). Yes humans have successfully adapted during the past severe ice age cycle and we live in most environments on the planet.  Species survival is one thing--societal survival is another.  Geneticists have observed several "bottlenecks" where human population was all but wiped out.  A major volcanic eruption 70,000 ybp is perhaps the best example (Mt. Toba if I recall correctly).  More recently the 17th century expansion of Sweden was terminated when famine prevailed for several years following eruption of a volcano in Iceland.  

18). Assuming we might just squeak by without anthropogenci ghg's forcing a climate change we will cannot assume natural factors will not inconveniently occur.

In summary: Agressive Energy Efficiency NOW and Aggressive Renewable Energy R&D NOW.  Through efficiency we buy time, and if we use the time wisely to drive down the cost of renewables we might just avoid a train wreck.

Thanks again for your post--I took the time to reply because of the high quality of work you shared.


Rodney Smith 

Rodney Smith's picture
Rodney Smith on Sep 4, 2012


Thank you for your insightful reply to my comments.  I realise even Woodrow Wilson only had 14 points, and I believe it was the French negotiator at Versailles that remarked that God only has Ten Commandments.  In any event I appreciate you reading all 18 of mine!

While I indicated we might just squeak by that is not my true feeling--I am not that optimistic.  As you note the climate system has a significant time delay and momentum built into such things as sea level rise so even if we held ghg emissions at their current levels we would see much more climate change than we have seen to date.

I also agree that more coal than ever is likely to be burnt between now and 2050 and I fear that energy emissions combined with natural sources such as CH4 from the permafrost could drive us rapidly into severe climate change.  Of course the rate of change will be a significant determinant of the impact on human societies.

Your point of RE deployment is well taken, and when I describe R&D I mean just that--figure out the RE technology so in ten years or so we could be considering widespread deployment.  EE alone will not do it.  Peter Kiernan (formerly of Goldman Sachs) states there are approximately only about 1.5 billion of the total world population currently that are classifed as "energy intensive", and that number is projected to grow by 2.5 billion for a total of  4 billion by 2050.  China just surpassed the US in new cars being delivered to its market.  We need to do whatever we can to dampen the growth of ghg's in order to avoid the worst that climate change has to offer.

As you know we are currently in a relatively warm period within an ice age epoch.  Climate state changes within the current epoch have swung from ice ages to somewhat warmer than now, however we have not seen the high global temperatures present before the epoch started roughly 3.6 million years ago.  Climate changes within the limits of the current epoch would be catastrophic, however we need to fear climate change of a magnitude that could flip us out of the current epoch.  Some may say we could grow more food in a warmer world, etc.  However, climate epoch changes often drive biological regime changes that could put at risk most sizable organisms to emergent microrganisms.

There have been previous events leading to massive extinctions involving SO2.  These "green sky" events lead to toxic oceans and noxious skys.  The conditions required for green sky events are only beginning to be understood.  We do know that ocean ph has been significantly changed by CO2 absorption, and we know that ghg emissions will continue to rise preciputously.  We should not risk forcing a moderate cliamte change into an epochal change.

Rod Smith

Rodney Smith's picture
Rodney Smith on Sep 4, 2012


Thank you for your insightful reply to my comments.  I realise even Woodrow Wilson only had 14 points, and I believe it was the French negotiator at Versailles that remarked that God only has Ten Commandments.  In any event I appreciate you reading all 18 of mine!

While I indicated we might just squeak by that is not my true feeling--I am not that optimistic.  As you note the climate system has a significant time delay and momentum built into such things as sea level rise so even if we held ghg emissions at their current levels we would see much more climate change than we have seen to date.

I also agree that more coal than ever is likely to be burnt between now and 2050 and I fear that energy emissions combined with natural sources such as CH4 from the permafrost could drive us rapidly into severe climate change.  Of course the rate of change will be a significant determinant of the impact on human societies.

Your point of RE deployment is well taken, and when I describe R&D I mean just that--figure out the RE technology so in ten years or so we could be considering widespread deployment.  EE alone will not do it.  Peter Kiernan (formerly of Goldman Sachs) states there are approximately only about 1.5 billion of the total world population currently that are classifed as "energy intensive", and that number is projected to grow by 2.5 billion for a total of  4 billion by 2050.  China just surpassed the US in new cars being delivered to its market.  We need to do whatever we can to dampen the growth of ghg's in order to avoid the worst that climate change has to offer.

As you know we are currently in a relatively warm period within an ice age epoch.  Climate state changes within the current epoch have swung from ice ages to somewhat warmer than now, however we have not seen the high global temperatures present before the epoch started roughly 3.6 million years ago.  Climate changes within the limits of the current epoch would be catastrophic, however we need to fear climate change of a magnitude that could flip us out of the current epoch.  Some may say we could grow more food in a warmer world, etc.  However, climate epoch changes often drive biological regime changes that could put at risk most sizable organisms to emergent microrganisms.

There have been previous events leading to massive extinctions involving SO2.  These "green sky" events lead to toxic oceans and noxious skys.  The conditions required for green sky events are only beginning to be understood.  We do know that ocean ph has been significantly changed by CO2 absorption, and we know that ghg emissions will continue to rise preciputously.  We should not risk forcing a moderate cliamte change into an epochal change.

Rod Smith

Rick Engebretson's picture
Rick Engebretson on Sep 4, 2012

With all due respect, Willem, there are enormous negative feedbacks, too.

If kept clean, the oceans will evaporate water and deposit much of the high energy content fresh water on land where it allows sequestered carbon. The importance of water in GW discussions has reached equal standing with CO2 in most of the world outside the US. Rio+20 is a good example. Huge fresh water sequestration projects are underway in most of the world. Indeed, US water projects during most of our history are part of our success. Why it is absent in our debate is curious.

Instead of sequestering water we are depleting it with disregard, and our current summer reflects that disregard.

It is frustrating being insulted by windmill advocates who will never allow including water in the discussion. But the rest of the world is moving on water at top speed.

Randy Dutton's picture
Randy Dutton on Sep 4, 2012

Why does your article neglect the global warming gas increases caused by progressive policies? For example, growing biofuel feedstock has increased US farmland use by about 40 million acres, much of it in marginal land that requires significant irrigation, fertilizer, herbicide, and pesticides. Water vapor is Earth's most significant global warming gas and is dramatically increased by irrigation. Also, 3% of the fertilizer used for crops goes into the air as N2O, a GWG 296X worse than CO2. 

You blame capitalists for sending production to China, but excessive regulations in the US, such as tort law, forces production to Chine, et. al. Unions also are to blame for creating inefficiency in US production. Environmentalists block the US from exporting low sulfur coal to China, thus the result is they burn dirtier coal. And environmentalists block using biomass for energy generation, preferring it rot in the forest (See Rep. Dick's 2007 Energy Bill). But rotting vegetation creates more methane, which is 28X worse than CO2.

Why not also address the failure of government, unions, and manufacturing to address corrosion? Corrosion directly affects energy use and global warming gas emissions. China's air is so contaminated that electronics often corrode in the factory resulting ultimately in 'latent corrosion'. That then causes society to replace equipment much more fequently and use more resources. Several times I tried to get unions to use this issue to keep production in the US and they were never interested. Bell Labs did a study a few years ago, which found the inside air of one of their suppliers had a H2S concentration of 1,500ppb. The average North American concentration is 7ppb.  

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