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Can We Delay a Greenhouse Warming? (1983) [pdf] (epa.gov)
40 points by glhaynes 28 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 52 comments

Terribly sad to see that the Fossil Fuel industry has waged such an effective stall campaign for as long as it has. We're all the victims for it.

As long as they keep getting away with it they will continue to corrupt our institutions.

Relevant piece, Losing Earth: The Decade We Almost Stopped Climate Change (covers the time frame when this was published), was discussed here:



It looks like they were predicting a 3-4 degree celcious increase by 2020 if I’m reading the chart right. I wonder why that didn’t materialize? Maybe more warming later on.

IIRC, while the paper notes the ocean serves as a carbon sink, its capacity was not yet known, and that it later proved much larger than anticipated.

It's pretty remarkable that in the first paragraph they say that the temperature increase is likely to be about 2 degrees C by the middle of the 21st century and about 5 degrees by the year 2100. And that's almost exactly what we're on track for now.

Downvotes. Really guys. I’m just saying, it’s impressive that they were that accurate with the primitive models they had way back in 1983.


It's funny how the conversation have changed now to Climate Change instead of global warming.

A lot of this has been pushed by the environmental organizations who despite their claims that CO2 is the biggest threat to humankind still are overwhelmingly against nuclear energy despite it being both safer, more scaleable, more reliable and actually able to provide energy compared to unrealiables like wind and sun.

If anything this just shows how long this discussion have been going on and how much of this is politics and ideology rather than science.

You've posted about this a lot, and your comments are unfortunately crossing into flamewar at times. We've had to warn you about this before. Can you please reduce the quantity and increase the quality of what you post? Remember that the guidelines say: "Comments should get more civil and substantive, not less, as a topic gets more divisive."


Hi Dang,

Fair enough, I will try and reduce my comments on this topic but people are asking me questions often with lots of personal attacks in there and I am trying to answer the questions.

I am seriously trying to understand how my comment is not mostly civil or substantive or how they are crossing into flamewar which is defined as:

"A flame war is a series of flame posts or messages in a thread that are considered derogatory in nature or are completely off-topic. Often these flames are posted for the sole purpose of offending or upsetting other users."

That's not at all my intention quite the contrary. I am trying to get balance into the very one-sided nature of this debate which is easily verified by looking at the claims of the posted articles/essays.

I am totally fine with being in the minority when it comes to what I think is substantive but I frankly do not see how it's not civil any more than some of the comments I get which doesn't get treated or told off or downvoted into oblivion.

By 'flamewar' I mean the kind of internet discussion that gets angrier and shallower as it goes along, typically on divisive topics, typically repeating things that have been said many times before, with people trying to defeat rather than connect with each other. There's no intellectual curiosity in those arguments, so they're off topic here.

Also, they're tedious, except to the minority whose passions happen to be inflamed on that topic, and people tend not to know when to stop. These are the sorts of thread that make HN worse, and which all users are asked to have the discipline to refrain from. I know it's hard sometimes.

I'm sure that some of the replies you're getting are also breaking the guidelines, but we don't see all of those. Flagging them helps bring them to our attention. If there's anything particularly abusive you can email us at hn@ycombinator.com.

Hi dang, I’m given to understand that you’re one of the moderators here. I’ve tried to contact you twice in two weeks through email without a response, so I’m concerned that it’s hitting your spam folder. Is there a better way to contact you? I don’t feel good about inserting my comment in an unrelated post like this, but I’m unsure what else to do.


"Both of the terms in question are used frequently in the scientific literature, because they refer to two different physical phenomena. As the name suggests, 'global warming' refers to the long-term trend of a rising average global temperature ...

'Climate change', again as the name suggests, refers to the changes in the global climate which result from the increasing average global temperature. For example, changes in precipitation patterns, increased prevalence of droughts, heat waves, and other extreme weather, etc."

Frank Lutz is a big reason for why we went from talking about Global Warming to Climate Change. Frank Lutz is a famous Republcan operative.


That vast majority of human beings worldwide understand CO2 causes climate change whatever their view on other environmental issues. So the question reduces to: what percentage of humanity thinks nuclear power is a good idea.

Singling out environmentalists as hypocritical is as unreasonable as singling out Japanese who are overwhelming aware of climate change but dislike nuclear.

Harmful change is the most significant result of the warming. We could instead call it "North Carolina Estuary loss" but that would not capture the issue adequately. Heating, coastal erosion and change are all happening whatever the name and some of that is more important than other.

The last administration was the first in ~30 years to expand the US nuclear power capacity, and there is not any concerted pressure to shut down existing nuclear plants in this country. Your suggestion that there's some sort of semantic shell game taking place is unhelpful. It's particularly odd that you complain about environmental groups while ignoring the input of the coal and oil lobbies on policy making.

>there is not any concerted pressure to shut down existing nuclear plants in this country.

It's making a comeback. The initial released documents for the Green New Deal called for phasing out all nuclear power within 10 years.

[0] https://www.npr.org/2019/02/07/691997301/rep-alexandria-ocas...

[1] https://apps.npr.org/documents/document.html?id=5729035-Gree...

I am not very exercised about draft documents, and given the huge subsidies and externalities in the nuclear power industry, it's not too surprising that people are skeptical about that. I'm not anti-nuclear but those are legitimate problems nuclear advocates need to address instead of complaining about how hard they have it.


Maybe it is because the nuclear industry in the US has a kind of mixed safety record, requires vast subsidies of its own and so few people want to handle the waste that it is shipped around the country in secret and possibly illegally. I actually do think nuclear is part of a green future but ignoring these issues while criticizing the semantics of 'global warming' v. 'climate change' seems counter-productive.

What point are you hoping to make? The perfect is the enemy of the good.

The alternative to GND is not increased nuclear power, it's the status quo, in which nuclear power is also on the decline.

mabbo 28 days ago [flagged]

The paper itself uses the term "climate change".

> Means must be found to explore the advantages of climate change where they appear, and to minimize the adverse effects.

Did you read the paper, or the title only?

ThomPete 28 days ago [flagged]

Yes I did read it.

Global warming used to be the term that was used, then we had a period of non-warming and it was changed to climate change.

That had nothing to do with it.

Terminology changed because "global warming" was too simplistic. And because it encouraged simplistic thinking.

Sure, increased greenhouse forcing from CO2, CH4, etc will lead to increasing global average temperature. But the specifics will be far more important.

For example, polar temperatures will increase more than equatorial temperatures. And generally, winter temperatures will increase more than summer temperatures.

More importantly, peak winter and summer temperatures will increase more than averages. And weather variability will increase. Mainly because there'll be lots more water in the atmosphere, and so lots more energy available to drive stuff.

Edit: There have been periods of global cooling (mid 60s to mid 70s) and ~stable global mean temperature (late 90s to late 00s). Even though atmospheric CO2 levels have been increasing, the whole time, at an increasing rate.

So how can that be? The key factor, I believe, is changes in SO2 emissions. SO2 reduces greenhouse forcing through increased cloudiness (and so increased reflectivity) and stratospheric haze (and so increased absorption and IR emission at high altitude).

SO2 emissions decreased dramatically during the late 50s to early 70s. So that allowed greenhouse forcing to increase, commensurate with atmospheric CO2 etc levels.

And then, since the 80s, China has ramped up coal use, and released increasingly massive amounts of SO2. So that counteracted, somewhat, increased greenhouse forcing from CO2 etc.

The fit will seriously hit the shan as China implements emission controls on coal plants. So we'll still get their CO2, but much less SO2.

I think you have it wrong. The language was deliberately changed due to work done by Frank Lutz.


The term "climate change" predates "global warming", and according to google ngrams it has always been more common.


Can you point me to data about a period of non-warming since this paper was written (1983) that coincided with a change in terminology? These data from NASA seem to show a consistent warming trend over that time period https://climate.nasa.gov/vital-signs/global-temperature/

I think the term "climate change" became preferred, because "global warming" over-simplifies the threat. It's not just about a warming planet. It is also about more devastating storms, longer and more dangerous fire seasons, changes in precipitation and weather patterns, etc.

> It's funny how the conversation have changed now to Climate Change instead of global warming.

What conversation has changed?

These aren't terms of fashion, these are terms used to try to be as descriptive as possible within the best understanding of science (as it continues to learn).


Are you really arguing that the reason we haven't addressed climate change (or global warming) (or increasing CO2 levels) is because some environmental organizations were anti-nuclear power?


Wouldn’t that be the smart thing to do if both fossil fuels and nuclear had glaring environmental drawbacks not shared by renewables?

In comparison to the alternatives, nuclear has the fewest environmental drawbacks.

On the long term scale, absolutely not. Plutonium-239 has a half life of 24,000 years, a length of time 5x longer than all of recorded history. Can you predict what humanity and earth will be like over long time spans like that and that your low environmental drawbacks remain in effect the entire time?

I also have my doubts about your "low environmental drawback" assessment. When have wind or solar, etc. caused anything remotely like Fukushima or Chernobyl?

Maybe because nuclear proponents can't resist using pejorative language when dismissing public concerns about safety.

The conversation used to be about warming now it's about climate change.

I am arguing that the very sorry fact that we are focusing on inferior technologies like solar and wind instead of nuclear is pretty ironic given the claims by anyone who claims co2 emissions and climate change is the biggest threat to our existence. If you can't see the irony I am not sure what to say.

That's just not true though. Did you read the link I provided? Global warming and climate change are two terms with semantic differences.

You are, I think, arguing that it is the fault of environmentalists that our climate is changing as fast as it is. Because they opposed nuclear power. I think that's a fantasy. The oil and gas industry never made a serious push for nuclear power. US "energy-friendly" administrations never made nuclear power a serious priority (unlike the vast amounts of attention and resources that oil and gas have received).

That's not what I am arguing at all and I have no idea where you would get that idea from.

That's very much how your argument reads. In general, people are going to assume that you are most concerned about whatever you choose to address first and the order in which you make your points.

curious what makes you think nuclear is scaleable? Things I've read lately says even if you wanted to build a bunch, it's going to be a very long time to get them built. Though I'd expect with serious investment lead times would reduce, but I'm picking that's going to be decades of time.

What are you asserting? That the world will be uninhabitable by then, so we shouldn't try?

No, I'm questioning why they believe Nuclear can scale to solve this problem. I'm not against using it, I'm just saying from what I know, this may not be practical. I'd be interested in seeing an analysis of whether this is achievable and what its impact would be. I'm all for trying, but I'd like to know how effective it would be.

A more charitable view is that US nuclear power projects have historically been very slow to build, with massive cost overruns (2-10x), which scares off investors. That makes it not a good use of the limited political capital of environmental activism.

Building nuclear plants just seems to be too hard these days there are very few that are being made here in the US that are successful.

The types of people who claim to have solutions for global warming now haven't exactly covered themselves in glory over the last 40 years, that's for certain.

It's also rather pathetic that the discussion on HN is basically political wanking.

Paper itself (only read first 50 pages) is interesting in that it is basically saying what people are still saying (aka about 2 degrees warming by 2050, or 0.3 a decade). It's also remarkable for the lack of screeching or weird opaque models. It's simple stuff anyone can understand.

It’s also funny how people are totally fine with dumping the nuclear waste to 3rd world countries or third world states (Washington State and Nevada). As long it is not in your backyard it’s fine I guess.

Were you WA and NV residents aware that you live in "Third World states"?

And AFAIK, the US has never exported domestic reactor waste.

The United States had developed a program to handle the nuclear waste. The Nevada site was determined to be the best option from a long term sustainability option. Then politics got involved to force the science off the table.

The solution is to curb development in countries like India. But good luck selling that idea.

Instead, let's over-regulate Western markets, because there's definitely not any private investment going towards renewable energy, and the US definitely doesn't lead in carbon emission reduction /s

given US is one of the biggest contributors in absolute terms and also is incredibly high in per person terms, surely that's the best place to start.

It's gotta be both. People aren't really going to forgo energy intensive lifestyles anywhere they have the choice and each megawatt of coal is about as harmful as every other megawatt of coal.

Of course, it can't be limiting development in places like India, it's gotta be shaping it in the direction of being less carbon intensive without being overly restrictive.

What about in terms of GDP?

The US is the world leader in GDP.

Right. So European countries that burned oil and coal way back to bootstrap their industrial economies get to enjoy all the benefits, but developing countries have to stop development at their current level, and surrender all hopes to ever catch up?

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