Saturday, October 22, 2005

Climate Change Roundup

There have been so many articles about so many reports that I've not been able to keep up. Here's a preliminary post. I hope to find and add a couple more links that I've come across in the past couple of weeks.
New Scientist: Antarctic glaciers calving faster into the ocean:
The edges of the Antarctic ice sheets are slipping into the ocean at an unprecedented rate, raising fears of a global surge in sea levels, glaciologists warned on Monday.

The findings confound predictions made just four years ago, by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), that Antarctica would not contribute significantly to sea level rise in the 21st century.

In one area, around the Amundsen Sea in West Antarctica, glaciers are dumping more than 110 cubic kilometres of ice into the ocean each year, Eric Rignot of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California, US, told a meeting at the Royal Society in London, UK. This loss, which is increasing each year, is many times faster than the ice can be replaced by snowfall inland, he says.

Also, it's worth noting that the folks at New Scientist have a nice section of their site devoted to climate change.
Arctic Ocean could be ice-free in summer within 100 years
Originally published in the Aug. 23 Eos, the weekly newspaper of the American Geophysical Union... The report is the result of weeklong meeting of a team of interdisciplinary scientists who examined how the Arctic environment and climate interact and how that system would respond as global temperatures rise. The workshop was organized by the NSF Arctic System Science Committee...

The current warming trends in the Arctic may shove the Arctic system into a seasonally ice-free state not seen for more than one million years, according to a new report. The melting is accelerating, and a team of researchers were unable to identify any natural processes that might slow the de-icing of the Arctic.

Such substantial additional melting of Arctic glaciers and ice sheets will raise sea level worldwide, flooding the coastal areas where many of the world's people live.

Melting sea ice has already resulted in dramatic impacts for the indigenous people and animals in the Arctic, which includes parts of Alaska, Canada, Russia, Siberia, Scandinavia and Greenland.

"What really makes the Arctic different from the rest of the non-polar world is the permanent ice in the ground, in the ocean and on land," said lead author University of Arizona geoscientist Jonathan T. Overpeck. "We see all of that ice melting already, and we envision that it will melt back much more dramatically in the future as we move towards this more permanent ice-free state."

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Peak Oil in the Corporate Media

Another roundup. A small sample of the increasingly common corporate/mainstream media articles dealing with peak oil.
From USA Today: Debate brews: Has oil production peaked?:
Almost since the dawn of the oil age, people have worried about the taps running dry. So far, the worrywarts have been wrong. Oil men from John D. Rockefeller to T. Boone Pickens always manage to find new gushers.

But now, a vocal minority of experts says world oil production is at or near its peak. Existing wells are tiring. New discoveries have disappointed for a decade. And standard assessments of what remains in the biggest reservoirs in the Middle East, they argue, are little more than guesses.

"There isn't a middle argument. It's a finite resource. The only debate should be over when we peak," says Matthew Simmons, a Houston investment banker and author of a new book that questions Saudi Arabia's oil reserves.

From The Sunday Times: Waiting for the lights to go out
We've taken the past 200 years of prosperity for granted. Humanity's progress is stalling, we are facing a new era of decay, and nobody is clever enough to fix it. Is the future really that black, asks Bryan Appleyard

The greatest getting-and-spending spree in the history of the world is about to end. The 200-year boom that gave citizens of the industrial world levels of wealth, health and longevity beyond anything previously known to humanity is threatened on every side. Oil is running out; the climate is changing at a potentially catastrophic rate; wars over scarce resources are brewing; finally, most shocking of all, we don't seem to be having enough ideas about how to fix any of these things.

It's been said before, of course: people are always saying the world will end and it never does. Maybe it won't this time, either. But, frankly, it's not looking good. Almost daily, new evidence is emerging that progress can no longer be taken for granted, that a new Dark Age is lying in wait for ourselves and our children.
...
A barrel of oil contains the equivalent of almost 25,000 hours of human labour. A gallon of petrol contains the energy equivalent of 500 hours — enough to propel a three-ton 4x4 along 10 miles; to push it yourself would take nearly three weeks. To support economic growth, the world currently requires more than 30 billion barrels of oil a year. That requirement is constantly increasing, owing to population growth, debt-servicing, and the rapid industrialisation of developing countries such as India and China. But we are about to enter an era in which less oil will be available each year. And many believe that industrial society is doomed. Are we really running out?

Well, half of all supplies come from "giant" oilfields, of which 95% are at least 25 years old; 50% have been producing for 40 years or more. In the North Sea, production peaked in 1999. Late last year, Britain began to import more oil than we export. Worldwide, discoveries of new oilfields peaked in the 1960s; and despite technological advances, new discoveries are at an all-time low. A recent story in The New York Times suggested that oil companies are failing to recoup exploration costs: significant discoveries are so scarce that looking for them is a monetary loser.

Time has this from Matthew Simmons: The Real Oil Shock
One expert argues that the Saudis won't be able to meet demand; we'd better prepare now

Between 1950 and 2005, the world's use of oil grew more than eightfold, bringing global demand to 85 million bbl. of oil per day. Despite that incredible growth, the world's oil appetite is just getting a head of steam, as countries like China and India finally move toward lifestyles comparable to those of Europe and the U.S. Most oil-forecasting models show demand rising to between 120 million and 130 million bbl. per day by 2025 or 2030. The only way this demand can be met is for most of the additional supply to come from the Middle East, with Saudi Arabia providing the bulk.

Don't bet on it.

For decades, almost all public-policy planners, aided by most oil experts, assumed that the Middle East had vast quantities of proven oil reserves that could be extracted at extremely low cost, thereby enabling oil demand to grow to almost any level. Anchoring that belief is a hope that Saudi Arabia's oil production can increase from around 9 million bbl. a day in 2005 to 25 million or even 30 million bbl. a day by sometime between 2025 and 2030.

...

Saudi Arabia's specific production risk stems from the fact that almost 90% of its supply comes from only five key but aging giant oil fields. Each of those aging fields is exposed to a potential production decline.

...

The likelihood that Saudi Arabia can increase its output to even 15 million bbl. a day is remote. Even maintaining its current production rate for an indefinite period of time is hardly a certainty. The Ghawar, Abqaiq and Berri fields (which still make up about 90% of Saudi Arabia's light crude) now pump oil from water-injection wells--essentially the low-hanging fruit. Once that ends, oil production in those key fields will decline, and the declines could be steep.

...

The bottom line: the global oil supply has probably peaked. While the world expects to consume 120 million bbl. a day two decades from now, actual supply may be half that rate. This conclusion aptly portrays the potential magnitude of the energy ditch we are now in. It is impossible to calculate the odds of this supply-demand imbalance happening, but prudent planning argues that the world should assume the bleaker scenario. Then it follows that a global plan to use oil more rationally must be urgently developed and implemented.

More from Time:It's the End of Oil

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$600 gets your house on solar power

Want to begin the move to sustainable energy production? Off-grid has an excellent article on how cheap the first step can be. Seems pretty simple too.
Got 600 bucks hiding in an old book somewhere? Maybe it’s time to bring
electricity into that little homestead you’ve got tucked away in the
woods. But wait a minute, you say, with justifiable hesitancy.
Solar-electric systems all cost thousands, don’t they? No, just the
expensive ones.
$600 gets your house on solar power


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Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Peak Oil and the coming crisis

Want to know more about peak oil? Check out this Jim Kunstler Speech in Hudson NY 2005:

The world - and of course the US - now faces an epochal predicament: the global oil production peak and the arc of depletion that follows. We are unprepared for this crisis of industrial civilization. We are sleepwalking into the future.

The global peak oil production event will change everything about how we live. It will challenge all of our assumptions. It will compel us to do things differently - whether we like it or not.

Nobody knows for sure when the absolute peak year of global oil production will occur. You can only tell for sure in the "rear-view mirror," seeing the data after the fact. The US oil production peak in 1970 was not really recognized until the numbers came in over the next couple of years. By 1973 it was pretty clear that US oil production was in decline - the numbers were there for anyone to see, because the US oil industry was fairly transparent. They had to report their production to regulatory agencies. And low and behold American production was going down - despite the fact that we were selling more cars and more suburban houses. Of course we had been making up for falling production by increasing our oil imports.

--

Now, some of the most knowledgeable geologists in the world believe we have reached the global oil production peak. Unlike the US oil industry, the foreign producers do not give out their production data so transparently. We may never actually see any reliable figures. The global production peak may only show up in the strange behavior of the markets.

The global peak is liable to manifest as a "bumpy plateau." Prices will wobble. Markets will wobble - as the oil markets have been doing the past year. International friction will increase, especially around the places where the oil is - and two-thirds of the world's remaining oil is in the states around the Persian Gulf where, every week, a half dozen US soldiers and many more Iraqis are getting blown up, beheaded, or shot.


More at Clusterfuck Nation.

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A glimpse of our post-oil future


The San Francisco Chronicle
has an excellent description of what we might expect as we enter peak oil:
Acres of chard and lettuce in Golden Gate Park? The Marina Green with community gardens? Wind turbines on top of the Bank of America Building?

Welcome to the post-oil future.

Depending on which expert you believe, we have already reached or will reach in the next few years the point when worldwide oil demand starts to exceed supply -- and gas prices really go through the roof. If cities like San Francisco are to survive as viable places to live, they will have to redesign themselves in ways barely imaginable now.

It's hard to overstate the impact the looming oil squeeze is going to have. A lot of people are going to be left stranded in the suburbs, and a lot of grocery store shelves are going to go empty as supply lines collapse due to rising fuel costs. Many folks are going to lose their jobs as our oil-dependent economy withers. But there will be a greater need for farmworkers, as petroleum-fueled factory farms give way to smaller, labor-intensive operations. In general, human energy will replace machine energy, and there will be an increased demand for craftspeople with time-honored skills: shoemakers, soapmakers, glassblowers, seamstresses.

It will be a wrenching transition as we go from a passive consumer society to one in which each of us will need to play an active role in providing our basic needs. It's easy to see why there are already predictions of economic chaos, widespread violence and looting, and the imposition of martial law if we fail to begin planning now for a post-oil future.

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Thursday, October 13, 2005

About that camping trip

Didn't really happen due to internal family stuff that I won't go into at the moment. Plan B worked out pretty well and was almost camping. We visited my sister and her family which means we slept around a campfire in the woods about 150 feet from their log home. As it turned out I spent most of the week helping my sister and her husband with various projects including: digging a 150 ft path and laying rock, mulching and planting lots of fall flowers, hanging drywall, and a few oddball techie tasks. So the camping trip didn't really happen but it was a nice week anyway and I did fit in a few nights around a campfire.

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Bad Apple: Where's the quality control?

Where do I start? Apple, you can kiss my ass. Steve Jobs, pucker up and let me present my right cheek to ya. I've commented on this blog before about problems with Apple quality control but it just seems to get worse and worse. Pull up a chair and let me explain.
I began using Macs back in 1993 when I purchased my first, a Color Classic. Since then I've owned many and have become something of a geek. Over the past 12 years I've learned the ins and the outs from System 7 to OS 10.4. I've delved into web development, database development and video editing. As I learned I also began recommending Macs to many folks and have probably sold over 15 in the past 5 years. Not only that but I've always done my best to support those folks as they learned how to use and maintain their computer, often their first. I think I'm starting to regret that I recommended Apple. Now, before I launch into the rant let me just say that I think the Mac OS is fantastic. In particular OS X 10.2 - 10.4... it just keeps getting better. Furthermore, Apple software also keeps getting better and better.
Now, lets get into the rant which is all about the hardware. Since 2001 I've seen so many repairs and then follow-up re-repairs of Macs that it's become dizzying. I've had to send in 3 of my last 4 and have another repair waiting to be sent in so make that 4 of 5. Now, to make matters much worse 2 of those had to go straight back in because they came back with new problems. Thats correct, they broke it when they "fixed" it. My current PowerBook had to go in 3 times in the course of 40 days. My previous PowerBook was sent in for a repair to the optical drive and came back with a broken optical drive. What? What?!
Off the top of my head I can think of 9 out of 12 people that I've encouraged to get a Mac who have had to send in for repairs. Of those 9, 3 had to send in for multiple repairs. Peter, oh Peter, he sent his iBook in at least six (I think it may have been seven or eight) times for logic board replacement. My brother has sent his iBook in three times. This past week my sister got her 17 month old iBook back from a hard disk replacement. Wait for it... wait... badaboom... 2 days later the hard disk failed again and its going back to Apple at this very moment. This is terrible. Who does Apple have doing these repairs and what is the process used for checking the quality of repairs?
The folks at Apple should take a long hard look at the resources they have dedicated to supporting their hardware. I don't know if it's a matter of training, not enough workers, the use of untested, refurbished parts or all of the above but I will say that their repair process is badly broken. The company apparently has plenty of resources to develop new iPods and new products generally... but this should only happen if they can continue to adequately support and repair the products they have already sold.

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