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Earth Science

Talking To the Public: the Biggest Enemy To Reducing Greenhouse Emissions 324

Lasrick writes: "Lucien Crowder is fed up with the notion that solutions for climate change would be easier to enact if only the public (especially the American public) understood the science better. Crowder looks to nuclear disarmament advocates as a model, as the move to reduce nuclear weapons has seen comparatively greater success even without public awareness and understanding: 'Indeed, in the nuclear and climate realms, desirable policy often seems to flow less from public engagement than from public obliviousness. Disarmament advocates, no matter how they try, cannot tempt most ordinary people into caring about nuclear weapons—yet stockpiles of weapons steadily, if still too slowly, decrease. Climate advocacy provokes greater passion, but passion often manifests itself as outraged opposition to climate action, and atmospheric carbon has reached levels unseen since before human beings evolved.'"
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Talking To the Public: the Biggest Enemy To Reducing Greenhouse Emissions

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  • by Trepidity ( 597 ) <delirium-slashdot@NOsPam.hackish.org> on Friday May 02, 2014 @04:08PM (#46902469)

    I think there's a bit of similarity (though it's still not a perfect analogy) along one particular axis: a large portion of the public, in both cases, believes that not much is going to happen on a global scale anyway, so why take unilateral action. Sure, a world with no nuclear weapons might be great, but it'll never happen, so better keep our own. Similarly, sure, a world without runaway greenhouse gas emissions might be great, but China isn't going to stop and within a few decades will burn so much coal it'll swamp anything we do, so why unilaterally handicap our own industry when it won't matter?

    That's somewhat different from visible, localized pollution like smog, where people see a differential benefit: if we clean up our particulate emissions and China doesn't, we get cities with cleaner air and they get gross haze, which we can then feel good about as a sign of our greater level of advancement and quality of life. But emitting less CO2 doesn't really give your local area a pollution advantage, because it's not a localized kind of pollution.

  • Bad analogy (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Tailhook ( 98486 ) on Friday May 02, 2014 @04:09PM (#46902481)

    Drawing down strategic weapons is a part of the "peace dividend" in the public mind. What "dividend" is the public supposed to believe will appear by making energy into an expensive luxury? This analogy is just bogus.

  • by microbox ( 704317 ) on Friday May 02, 2014 @04:40PM (#46902813)
    A revenue neutral carbon tax would have none of these effects. Your number (5) is just catastrophiying.
  • by Jane Q. Public ( 1010737 ) on Friday May 02, 2014 @04:40PM (#46902819)
    To clarify:

    This is the fundamental problem that occurs when people who speak of warming (like Dr. Roy Spencer) compare CO2 to "insulation": thermal insulation actually works on a completely different principle than the claimed "greenhouse effect".

    The idea of "the greenhouse effect" is based on the concept of trapping outgoing radiation. And this is where a lot of confusion occurs, because that's not how actual greenhouses work.

    A real greenhouse work this way: sunlight enters and warms things inside. Those things (plants, dirt, the ground, etc.) in turn warm the air via conduction. Then that warmed air is prevented by carrying that hot air away (via convection, you know, like in a convection oven) by the glass walls of the greenhouse. Therefore all the heat (minus losses via conduction through the glass walls) is trapped inside.

    The way you cool off a greenhouse is by letting the hot air escape, not by using a different wall material that "lets out the infrared". Because in fact greenhouses that use such material (like acrylic for example) work just fine. My sister has one.

    The "radiative trapping" effects of greenhouse walls has somewhere in the neighborhood of 0.000000 effect on the heat inside. We know from real observation... it has been measured innumerable times over the last few hundred years.

    So... the point here is that the concept of "the greenhouse effect" doesn't work like real greenhouses. Okay so far?

    As it turns out though, regular thermal insulation DOES work in a way similar to real greenhouses. It prevents loss of heat via conduction and convection, by limiting both.

    As counterintuitive as it may seem, that has little to nothing to do with radiation.

    So anyway, back to my main point: it is not the "insulation" properties of CO2 that are purported to cause "greenhouse warming". The whole "greenhouse" label is a misnomer that arose for historical reasons. It has nothing to do with either insulation or greenhouses.
  • Not the same... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by superdave80 ( 1226592 ) on Friday May 02, 2014 @05:45PM (#46903361)

    Nuclear disarmament vs. greenhouse gas reduction is a poor comparison.

    How much did nuclear disarmament affect the day-to-day lives of the average person? Zilch. Zero. Nada. 50 nuclear missiles sitting in some empty part of the country vs. 200 nuclear missiles sitting in some silos in some empty part of the country affects people not at all (unless there is a nuclear war, but were all screwed anyways).

    Greenhouse gas reduction involves changing things in peoples day-to-day lives. How much is, of course, up for debate, but the perception is that we will have to sacrifice some of our standard of living to accomplish this.

    Nuclear Disarmament spokesperson: "We are going to have fewer nuclear missiles in our subs. What do you think about that?"

    Joe Blow: "Uhhhhh, OK...."

    Greenhouse Gas Reduction spokesperson: "We are going to slap a tax on the fuels you use, so now you will get to pay more at the pump. What do you think about that?"

    Joe Blow: [punches Greenhouse Gas Reduction spokesperson in the face]

  • by digsbo ( 1292334 ) on Friday May 02, 2014 @06:22PM (#46903725)


    I had occasion to go to a NASCAR event, and I was surrounded by lots of poor white people (and a smattering of other types) with bad body odor. I wasn't sure if it was just a bad day, and so I went again the next year. Still didn't enjoy it, still hated the smell of 100,000 people who were in the summer sun too long, burning rubber, and fuel exhaust. But I have to admit, there is something enjoyable about the roar of the engines on that first full speed lap, and the tension of the pit stops.

    As it turns out, actually going to this stuff, which isn't what I'd normally do, was kind of an interesting experience, and exposed me to seeing some things and some people I wouldn't normally experience. And I kinda feel like that's well beyond the kind of "tolerance" and "openness to diversity" that people who use the term "redneck" in a purely pejorative sense can ever show.

    If that's what you mean by empathy, I agree.

    So-called "rednecks" often have much less screwed up ideas about things like personal finance, conservancy, food sources, and so on than the college-educated folks who consider themselves superior.


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