Monday, Uh, Tuesday Morning Optimism

Cracked — which now probably eclipses CNN and MSNBC in reporting accuracy — has a great article up this morning on seven good pieces of news that no one is reporting. I suggest you read the whole thing — they don’t even have space for the plunging crime rates. But there is one piece of news in particular I wanted to focus on: the ozone hole.

Just like our reserve of gaping-hole jokes that don’t involve yo’ mama, the hole in the ozone layer is steadily shrinking every year.

Australian scientists have accounted for the numbers behind the fluctuations, which are apparently all about a natural weather phenomenon called dynamical forcing. Take away the weather-driven ozone swings and you still have a hole in the ozone layer, but one that has shrunk by 15 percent since its peak in the ’90s.
Even better, the hole has shrunk consistently every year, which hopefully means the ozone will be back to its pre-1980 conditions sooner than 2060, as previously predicted. So, good news for the planet. Bad news for all you heartless sunscreen moguls out there.

They also note how fast the Gulf of Mexico is cleaning itself up.

This story has been repeated, in one form or another, over and over and over again over the last forty years. Lake Erie was almost dead; now it’s not. LA used to be wreathed in a thick blanket of smog; now it isn’t. Acid rain was a dreadful problem; now it’s not. It seemed like half our body weight was from lead pollution; lead levels have plunged. Even the satanic gases of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse chemicals aren’t so bad. Economic output per unit of CO2 has surged in the US. CO2 levels are holding steady while the economy keeps growing. And population growth? Even Islamic countries are showing falling fertility rates.

All of this has happened while tacking into the gale-force negativism of the environmentalists. None of these trends were supposed to reverse without massive economic sacrifice, long periods of suffering and, of course, incredible government empowerment. But all have improved during the largest economic expansion in human history.

All of this didn’t just happen of course. Sensible pollution controls enforced by the government cleaned up the lakes, banned CFC’s, forced catalytic converters into cars and installed cap-and-trade on sulfur dioxide emissions. But in all these cases, the action was straight-forward regulation, not complex schemes that enriched political operatives while doing little to work the problem. There have been a few negatives — the ban on effective asthma inhalers, for example, or the removal of lead-based solder in favor of solders prone to electrical shorts. But our world has not been turned upside down.

That’s why I remain an optimist on our remaining environmental issues (global fish stocks and AGW, mostly). The situation is never as bad as the environmentalists claim. And the solution is never as destructive as the skeptics claim. We tend to solve our problems rather smartly. IF we’re allowed to do so.

Comments are closed.

  1. richtaylor365

    Now you’ve done it. See CM, I told you your topic de jour would resurface. Break out your case of Red Bull and your cartoon of Ding Dong’s, lock the door and go nuts.

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  2. Kimpost

    For what it’s worth I don’t think you invited to one. Casually mentioning AGW as a problem (inside brackets at that) shouldn’t be enough. Unless Alex jumps on it disputing the problem. :)

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  3. Seattle Outcast

    Interesting to see you noted replacing lead/tin solder as a example of a failed program

    Lead-free solder is worthless – hell, it’s worse than that, it makes for bad circuitry. There are so many exemptions to lead-free solder for safety reasons that they might as well dump the crap completely and just admit that it isn’t going away with current technology.

    While they are at it, get rid of attempts to do away with acetone for cleaning circuit boards. All substitutes are so inferior that you gain nothing by using them. Instead, mandate better controls for clean-up and disposal of the acetone.

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  4. hist_ed

    And all this was obvious ten years ago. Have you read Lomborg’s “Skeptical Environmentalist”? He basically says “Hey, everthing is ok and generally trending better. We got some more work to do, but things are going generally well.” For that he was excoriated as an AGW denier (he explicitely wrote that he agreed with the thesis, just didn’t think it was as bad as advertised and that the proposed solutions were idiotic).

    You would think tree huggers would be out there saying “look at all this cool stuff we did”, but that would blunt their fundraising and influence. “OH MY FUCKING GOD WE ARE ALL GOING TO DIE GIVE US MONEY NOW!!!” tends to attract more attention.

    SInce the batting average of hippy/enviro doomsayers is just about zero, maybe we shouldn’t take the current predictions too seriously.

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  5. InsipiD

    Cracked — which now probably eclipses CNN and MSNBC in reporting accuracy

    I’m going to skip what will certainly be an obnoxious discussion of this story to merely agree with the opening statement. When I was a kid, I thought of Cracked as the dumb copycat of Mad magazine. Back then, that’s exactly what it was. Sometime about 3 or 4 years ago, however, I found myself accidentally finding online Cracked articles within my circle of daily visits and added Cracked to the group that I look at every day. Despite their origins, and despite dumping their print edition, Cracked has become a serious hub of smart humor. Having daily updates allows them to be more topical than a print mag that only came out every two months. My 8th grade self would be angry at my saying this, but Cracked is one of my favorites.

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  6. Miguelito

    My (admittedly low level) understanding of load-free solder is that it also is vastly shortening the lifetime and reliability of electronics. Which I’m sure many companies are just fine with as it means more frequent replacement with new versions. Though increased early failure during warranty periods probably costs them a lot.

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  7. CM

    Did you know that Lomborg has ‘revised’ his position? He now says that climate chaange is “undoubtedly one of the chief concerns facing the world today” and “a challenge humanity must confront”.

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  8. Seattle Outcast

    It’s a total bitch to manufacture with, which makes using it costlier for the end device due to the cost of rework. Also, it drives warranty repairs, which further cuts into the bottom line and drives up cost.

    Finally, there is little benefit to be derived from lead-free solder. Electronics are now recycled and the metals are reclaimed.

    You know who doesn’t use lead-free solder? Aerospace and the military. Because it cracks under vibration, they’ve written safety exemptions from using it anyplace that it might be inconvenient for it to fail (such at 30,000 feet).

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  9. hist_ed

    I’ll have to check (well crap. it’s about 80 outside and my son wants to go swimming so I probably won’t) but I don’t think that is a revision. He has always said it was a problem, just not as big as, say, Al Gore (I mean Al Gore’s opinion of AGW, not Al Gore himself, though the Gore is getting to be a bit chunky). This was the first strike against him. He also has always said that we should get more information before we act (second strike). Astoundingly, he decried the witch hunts and insane attacks against scientists that didn’t agree with orthadox dogma of the fatih (imagien that. allowing debate and all)-strike three. Finally, he wanted to actually do a cost benefit analysis of solutions and prioritize them with the solutions to other problems (hmm we can spend hundreds of billions a year to lower temps by half a degree at the end of the century or we could eradicate malaria and supply every human being on earth with clean drinking water-for the cost of one year of AGW abatement-let’s consider that chouice, shall we?). Fourth strike-I seem to have wandered off the baseball metaphor and on to some other field, but the point remains.

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  10. InsipiD

    It doesn’t crack, it gets what’s called “tin whiskers,” which are bizarre and not quite understood growth of little crystalline pins from the metal. There are many ways for them to cause shorts either by staying put and nearly meeting or by breaking off and bridging the circuit somewhere else.

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  11. CM

    Neither Gore nor Lomborg are scientists let alone climate scientists, so we always need to be more skeptical about whether they’ve got the science right, as that forms the basis of everything else they say. I’ve read some pretty scathing critiques of Lomborg. The ones I’ve seen of Gore are usually terrible.

    I think cost-benefit analyses are hugely important (I haven’t seen people suggest they aren’t important, or are anti AGW theory).

    In terms of “requiring more information” I’m pleased to see Lomborg now admit that “we have long moved on from any mainstream disagreements about the science of climate change”. He now raises the possibility of “something really bad lurking around the corner”: the small-chance, big-consequence outcome his previous work appeared to dismiss. He advocates a carbon tax so that $100 billion can be raised annually for research and development of clean energy options, planting more trees, reducing soot and methane, and investigating geo-engineering projects such as cloud whitening. All this sounds much more like what everyone else has been saying for a while.

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  12. Kimpost

    I can confirm that Lomborg always believed that AGW was real, and that his line of reasoning previously basically was as you suggest with your malaria analogy. Even if he wouldn’t call his position change a revision, he has undoubtedly upped the global warming alert level.

    In effect, he’s no longer suggesting that we should eradicate malaria before addressing climate change. He now actively asks from governments to dedicate hundreds of billions of dollars into research on clean energy.

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  13. Hal_10000 *

    It makes sense. The whole “global cooling” hypothesis was based on the idea that sulphur emissions were going to be more important than CO2 emissions. It turned out not to be the case. But there are still some people who talk about geo-engineering away AGW by putting sulphur in the atmosphere. It seems like a far too crazy scheme given the uncertainties in the problem.

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  14. FPrefect89

    Where I work we have been attempting to go “lead free” for quite some time. It never works. I work for a major manufacturer of commercial and government avionics so I am pretty sure they do not want aircraft going “blind” because of a crappy solder joint.

    On another note, we got an exemption from using a water based conformal coat to go back to using the resin based because we could not get it to cure correctly if it got under a BGA. Something about water and electronics and that piddly little thing about it making shorts.

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  15. AlexInCT

    Yeah, blame it on me asshole. Because I am the one that despite being proven worng repeatedly pretends I have anything to add to the conversation.

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  16. Kimpost

    It is tempting to mock you. You seem to regard every single opposing view as a personal insult, and snap even at light hearted quips accompanied by smiley’s. And your binary positions are often nothing short of hilarious.

    It’s also funny to observe how you, in spite of your self proclaimed brilliance (you run circles around your opponents, if I remember correctly), still allow yourself to be so petty.

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  17. CM

    Totally agree Hal, seems a little bit crazy.
    Yankee’s link starts out by saying the warming ‘halted’ for a decade after 1998. But since 1995 (i.e. over the last 15 years) warming has been statistically significant. It would have likely been even greater if it weren’t for the identified sulphur cooling effect.
    Which is why it says:

    The paper raised the prospect of more rapid, pent-up climate change when emerging economies eventually crack down on pollution.

    At the end of the day, long term warming will continue unless emissions are reduced.

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  18. hist_ed

    It seems like a far too crazy scheme given the uncertainties in the problem.

    This is really what convinces me that some AGW folks (not you Hal) are just anti-civilization and anti-people. What if, for say 100 million a year, we could cool the planet as much as 200 billion a year in carbon abatement schemes and unicorn farts? Why wouldn’t we?

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  19. CM

    So uncertainties aren’t an issue? Given how they’re apparently such an issue with the science that they preclude taking any sort of significant action(according to some), how can that be reconciled?

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  20. hist_ed

    Neither Gore nor Lomborg are scientists

    Lomborg is a statistician. One of the longest runnign complaints about the AGW folks and their models is that they screw up the statistics. Many academic statisticians have said that the models use of statistics is heavily flawed.

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  21. hist_ed

    The best way to reduce all of those (as demostrated by history, not some computer model) is making people more secure and wealthier. Making energy a lot more expensive will retard economic development that will increase people’s security and wealth and thus will increase the likelyhood of all those calamities.

    And really, linking to the babblings of one UK politician is not exactly terribly convincing.

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  22. hist_ed

    They could get very very rich but that’s pretty much the end of the Greenland they know and love if they do.

    Do you mean physically (like flooding) or culturally/economically (lots of people getting rich)?

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  23. AlexInCT

    It is tempting to mock you.

    Don’t feel just tempted. When I AM mocking you and want you to know it. I don’t hide behind weak attempts at humor.

    You seem to regard every single opposing view as a personal insult,

    No Kimpost, I have no problem with opposing views. I understand not everybody will see things the way I do, and I do not fault most of them for not doing so. What I do have a problem with is your pretense of not being a dick when you are. Please explain to me how taking a cheap shot at me helped you make any of your stupid points? I am sure that will be very illuminating.

    and snap even at light hearted quips accompanied by smiley’s.

    Well, if a smiley makes it all right then you should have no problem with me calling you a child molesting numbnut with a crush on me :) (there a smiley makes it all nice!)

    And your binary positions are often nothing short of hilarious.

    Heh. I am not nuanced enough for guys like you? Or is the problem that it irks you I am right?

    It’s also funny to observe how you, in spite of your self proclaimed brilliance (you run circles around your opponents, if I remember correctly), still allow yourself to be so petty.

    I am glad you find humor in the reaction to your petty behavior.

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  24. Kimpost

    One of the longest runnign complaints about the AGW folks and their models is that they screw up the statistics. Many academic statisticians have said that the models use of statistics is heavily flawed.

    @hist_ed

    I’ve seen this argument a couple of times, but my sense of it is that it almost never checks out. And when it does, for instance with Mann’s hockey stick, it’s of minor importance (Mann’s hockey stick still stands).

    Lomborg for instance has never (to my knowledge) attacked the statistics of any peer-reviewed study on climate change. Monckton has tried, but has failed miserably when he has been called on it. John Christy and Roy Spencer has made better attempts, but they too have failed. Richard Lindzen has tried many times, but with little success.

    It’s the same story, pretty much every time.

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  25. Kimpost

    Cheap shot or a light hearted quip? Your mind’s already made up. Question; do you also think that CM should have been offended by richtaylor’s first comment?

    Sometimes the joke is obvious, and if we are the only one’s to not see it, perhaps we should look to ourselves for answers? IMHO, you very clearly overreacted to my “cheap shot”.

    Or is the problem that it irks you I am right?

    No, you’ll just have to accept that I rarely think you are. What irks me is not even that you think you are right, it’s more that you can’t seem to separate opinion from fact. Well, that, and your (lack of) manners.

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  26. CM

    The best way to reduce all of those (as demostrated by history, not some computer model) is making people more secure and wealthier. Making energy a lot more expensive will retard economic development that will increase people’s security and wealth and thus will increase the likelyhood of all those calamities.

    Which computer model are you talking about?

    The whole point is that people are not going to be secure and wealthier when resources (like water) become far more scare, and more land becomes useless. Doesn’t matter how cheap energy is (although if it’s cheap carbon-producing energy, the process simply speeds up).

    And really, linking to the babblings of one UK politician is not exactly terribly convincing.

    Ok so you obviously didn’t actually read it…….

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  27. AlexInCT

    Cheap shot or a light hearted quip?

    Funny how the light hearted quips seem only to be directed at me huh?

    Your mind’s already made up.

    You might want to question why you felt the need to “quip” me?

    Question; do you also think that CM should have been offended by richtaylor’s first comment?

    I would not be surprised if he was.

    Sometimes the joke is obvious, and if we are the only one’s to not see it, perhaps we should look to ourselves for answers?

    Maybe the “joke” was very obvious to you, but to me it still doesn’t look like a joke at all.

    IMHO, you very clearly overreacted to my “cheap shot”.

    IMHO you are spending a lot of time trying to defend your post as a joke, and I wonder why. Maybe the “joke” wasn’t as clearly a joke as you want it now to be seen as?

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  28. CM

    Funny how the light hearted quips seem only to be directed at me huh?

    Alex you’ve been abusing us pretty much continually since the moment we stepped in the door. Stop being a fucking tool, show a little bit of fucking respect, put your whole ‘running rings around’ embarrassment to bed, and then we might show you some.

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  29. AlexInCT

    Alex you’ve been abusing us pretty much continually since the moment we stepped in the door

    I beg to differ CM. I did not abuse anyone until it became obvious I was dealing with fanatics.

    Stop being a fucking tool, show a little bit of fucking respect,

    Respect is earned, and you don’t get any from me.

    put your whole ‘running rings around’ embarrassment to bed, and then we might show you some.

    Fuck you? Yeah, that.

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  30. JimK

    KNOCK. IT. OFF.

    Alex, you started the shit this time. It’s not called for. If you and CM cannot figure out how to NOT act like spoiled little children around each other, I WILL FIGURE IT OUT FOR BOTH OF YOU.

    What I mean is stop. Right now. This motherfucking instant..

    Obviously reasoning with the two of you is near to impossible, but let me try: CM, when Alex says things like “The left” or attacks a politician, he’s not necessarily personally attacking you, and you don’t need to react EVERY TIME as though he is.

    Alex? The levels of hate and vitriol are not useful. They don’t accomplish anything, and lead to nothing but arguments. Attack public figures all day, but turning that same level of hatred and vitriol on commenters on this blog is not going to accomplish the goal of promoting right-leaning philosophy.

    In summary; GROW THE FUCK UP, THE TWO OF YOU.

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  31. hist_ed

    Ok so you obviously didn’t actually read it…….

    I did read it. It was Malthusian blather. The Enviro chicken littles have been spouting off like this since, well, Malthus. The world is always going to end in 7-10 years. Oooops, it never does. If a movement, in a couple of centuries, has a predictive batting average of zero, why should we give their next big preidction any credence?

    The whole point is that people are not going to be secure and wealthier when resources (like water) become far more scare, and more land becomes useless. Doesn’t matter how cheap energy is (

    Uhh cheap energy does matter. If your little Village in Shitholestan lackes water, then cheap energy might just mean that you can afford to pump some from a river. Warmer temperatures might make water more scarce in some places, but it might make it more plentiful in others (warmer air can hold more moisture, after all).

    Some land might become useless; other land will become more useful (A longer grwoing season in Canada might do wonders for global food production, for example).

    If you look at history, in general warmer has meant better for humans. The Medieval Warm Period helped propel Europe out of the Dark Ages. Crops expanded. Populations grew. Diet improved.

    So, just curious, what do you think the best temperature of the globe is?

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