25 year nostalgia: The Montreal Protocol

    Imagine the 2 leaders of the world's Conservative movement agreeing that industry is destroying the environment, and taking decisive, concerted action to stop it.

    That in effect is what happened in 1987 when Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan signed the Montreal Protocol, to ban CFCs, which took effect less than 2 years later and had drastically beneficial effects on the Ozone Hole. 

    Of course it wasn't just conservatives who pushed this measure, and it was based on science that evolved over a decade, but from the view of 2012 it's still amazing. Now the conservative official line is that man can't really affect the environment, which rather than relying on the "6000" history of the world, simply denies confirmed reality of 25 years ago. Work across the aisle for the sake of the Environment? Pshaw. Rio? D.O.A.

    The Ozone experience doesn't confirm that all Global Warming predictions are correct. However, the basic premise, anthropomorphic global warming, is based on the confirmed premise that our industry and living habits can significantly affect the environment - and the health effects of unprotected sun for creatures under the hole were significant as well.

    What's also odd about this is that one of the key claims is that global warming worriers were worried about global cooling in the 1970's. That of course was a minority blip opinion, compared to the major consensus and coordinated response for the CFC / Ozone concern over the subsequent decade.

    However, we also have a growing sense of the techno-skeptic on the left. With some common-sense causes, the shift from a pro-internet dotcom boom to the subsequent (short-lived) crash, global warming flare-up and the helplessness in view of terrorism threat seems to have give us a fatality about our technical systems and approach.

    Instead of global warming being something to understand and evolve a response to, we're in a panic. Even while our understand of science including environmental/oceanic/energy use is taking yearly leaps and bounds, our mode is "act now, study later".

    That reaction has some justification, as studying issues to death has been one dear method of killing off actual action. 

    However, daily we're getting scientific breakthroughs, whether confirming the Bose particle, nanotube cooling, room-temperature quantum computing, speed of battery recharging....

    Where is our estimate of innovation acceleration? For the next few years, average computer performance is likely to greatly exceed Moore's Law thanks to changes from standard hard drives to flash SSD devices, improved miniaturization and cooling, better I/O, improved in-memory caching and changes in algorithmic approaches (big data and the like), while cloud computing is giving supercomputer-like performance to millions as a monthly utility bill (companies like Twitter can now go without their own data center).

    Those improvements will filter back into scientific efforts in energy, atmospheric sciences and other areas with tight budgets.

    The high price of petrol has also increased investments into energy alternatives, and while fracking is seen as delaying peak oil, it won't lower the costs - higher investment in the coming future is guaranteed, including now practical electric cars. The situation isn't perfect for mass adoption, and even changes by 2030 will be modest, but the landscape is moving.

    Additionally, for climate change, we're getting massively more data than we had 5 years ago, our techniques, sensors and analysis are improving. In a field that's long been dominated by supercomputing, the access to greatly superior machines and new ways of crunching data - worldwide, not just in a few US & European labs - creates a ballooning international cooperative space as well.

    Germany & Switzerland are carrying out a massive experiment where they close nuclear reactors while lowering carbon outputs. Meanwhile nuclear energy - free of CO2 - is expanding in Asia, presumably with much more efficient designs.

    How lessons learned will be applied to policy remains to be seen, but models of the past have sometimes been guess work, and escalating intricacy both in measurement and prediction will help refine theories & spur responsive action.

    So given the likelihood that we won't be underwater or out of gas by 2030, where's our optimism? How do we then drive the rest of the century? How do we restore the fragile balance that let Ronnie & Maggie support treehugging goals that are no longer speakable on the right? How far will the left allow themselves to believe in the technical/political/public policy success of fixing these big problems? And what's the way these problems have to be addressed in order to make legislation palatable or at least passable?

    (hint: many folks still seem more concerned about pocketbook than save-the-planet - even if it's close to home - but somehow 25 years ago we managed to plug a hole in the sky, and it didn't seem that tough at the time)


    The 3 main things presently stopping faster progress in North America:

    1. The goddamn hype merchants behind fracking. They're shouting that it's not just a temporary bubble in natural gas, but ALL oil and gas prices are gonna fall, and stay down. This shit is being done to drive up the value of their shitty companies, but it's being clutched to the breasts of a whole lot of otherwise sensible people. Worth noting that natural gas prices in North America are 80%-90% LOWER than in Europe or Asia, which doesn't, therefore, face the same fracking hassles.

    2. Too many goddamn leftie-greenies have decided to clutch an anti-technology, Apocalyptic, "I'm smarter than you because I can see technology won't work, and so we're all gonna hafta eat roots and berries" madness to THEIR breasts. Shorter: they've lost hope. It keeps happening in history, but the shabbiness, the softness, of the motivations and determinations of so many leftie-greens saddens me.

    3. The Hard Right's insane hatred for Obama has led to this crackers thing whereby anything that he touches has to be seen as evil. And our media - led by money and terrified of anyone with convictions - lets them do it. Global warming? Media mentions are a fragment of what they were. EVEN THOUGH all the polling shows that attitudes are still essentially where they were as the global warming debate peaked a few years back. All that happened was that a few moderate Republicans got scared back further to the right, while older people - who don't believe this stuff - continued to die off. I just wish November was over.

    What was the question again, and do I have to show my work?

    Also, someone bet me that I couldn't work the word "penis" into my reply. Idiots.

    "snipe" is penis spelled sideways - useful if you're playing Scrabble, don't know if it helps with your bet.

    Had a bit of a painful discussion on ocean levels last week - pointed out that the last 20 years on accepted sources showed linear rise, not accelerated (and last year had a major downturn thanks to La Nina). That doesn't mean it won't accelerate, only the recent measurements, but it gets tiring to have people yell at you to see blue when you see yellow.

    I'm still thinking about your earlier comments on the magnitudes for an energy source to be useful. solar, wind - the economics improve but the size to be significant... i'm still hoping for a fission/fusion improvement to take us past chernobyl-age reactors. scientists split an electron the other day, kinda cool though don't know if lower energy useful

    Hydrogen is the solution

    Maybe someday we can find an inexpensive way to split H2O, through electrolysis, then burn off the hydrogen to create more energy.   


    Water  is the most abundant compound on Earth's surface, covering about 70 percent of the planet.


    Hydrogen gas (dihydrogen or molecular hydrogen)[13] is highly flammable and will burn in air at a very wide range of concentrations between 4% and 75% by volume

    In 1766–81, Henry Cavendish was the first to recognize that hydrogen gas was a discrete substance,[9] and that it produces water when burned, a property which later gave it its name: in Greek, hydrogen means "water-former".


    Water former is the power of the Gods...

    We look throughout the universe for planets with water and here it is in abundance.

    Figure out how to harness this abundant resource, full of Hydrogen. Maybe enough to power a planet and keep it alive?

    It's waste.............. is more water.

    I'm all for helping save the planet, BUT not at the expense of my life and that is what the banning of CFC's has done it is killing me. I am only ONE person that this has affected.There are many out here who can't use any medication but one and it was AZMACORT and it was taken off the market because it didn't get the HFA perfected for their product.


    One man's wife couldn't get her AZMACORT in March and by June she was DEAD. Now I'm going down real fast and will not be here for long if something isn't done soon to help us. You are using our tax money to do this with and killing us off at the same time. I would be ashamed if I were you.


     I am very much in favor of measures to save and protect our environment, but we cannot lose sight of the fact that this was also a medical decision ( With life and death impacts ). How much research was undertaken into the effects of this ban on patients health? Is any mechanism in place for tracking ,monitoring and reporting medical outcomes in affected patients? This just proves how much thought was given to peoples lives NOW and not just the future.


    Please give us our medicine back. At least the AZMACORT  it is a one of a kind and the only one MANY of us can use. We are dying out here we are like a fish taken out of the water and thrown upon the bank and left to flop around until we DIE. THIS IS NO JOKE. WE ARE DYING OUT HERE.

    So what's with AzmaCort CFC-free? No mention.

    Being a Tron you could say - how many people's lives, what's the skinny?

    AZMACORT info:

    Pulmonologists have been recommending alternative medications such as:

    • Aerobid® (Flunisolide)
    • Asmanex® (Mometasone)
    • Alvesco® (Ciclesonide)
    • Flovent® (Fluticasone)
    • Pulmicort® (Budesonide)
    • Qvar® (Beclomethasone HFA)

    It is recommended that all patients affected by this decision consult with their physicians to try and find a solution. Individuals are also encouraged to contact Abbott (the manufacturer of Azmacort) at 1-800-633-9110 or the U.S Food & Drug Administration at 1-800-332-1088. They can also participate in the petition to save CFC inhalers at savecfcinhalers.org, or share their story in the medicine community's Azmacort Forum at no charge.

    On the technical fixes from the Montreal protocol on CFC's, the new chemical doesn't affect the ozone layer, but is long lasting, and thousands of times more potent as a greenhouse gas than CO2, fix one problem, create another, NYT, June 2012:

    ...these gases.......contribute to global warming thousands of times more than does carbon dioxide, the standard greenhouse gas.

    The leading scientists in the field have just calculated that if all the equipment entering the world market uses the newest gases currently employed in air-conditioners, up to 27 percent of all global warming will be attributable to those gases by 2050.....

    So we kick the ball downfield another 30 years, sometimes the best can do. Interesting the comments immediately launch into colonialism repeats. as if India post independence made no growth and environmental mistakes

    Just a few thoughts/questions/whatevers:

    • RR and MT were operating at a time before "movement conservatism" had fully taken over--at least in my memory. The whole idea of "objective reality" or "science" hadn't yet become politicized. So when science said there was a hole in the ozone layer and it wasn't good for living things, a broad spectrum of people believed it.

    Now, when I talk with conservatives about "global warming," they immediately--and I mean, immediately--leap from any talk of the science to talk of the Gulag and mass murder as the inevitable end point of any government action. And I'm accused of wanting to send humanity back to living in caves.

    • Maybe the relatively narrow focus of the problem and the solution made it easier for people to talk about and contemplate acting on. We had to give up aerosols, not change our entire way of life and political system (as it's portrayed). Global warming, its causes and solutions, are, well, global in nature and its hugeness may scare people to the degree they're being honest and not just shills or ideologues.

    • You (and Q) seem to see an anti-tech push on the left that I haven't been aware of. I guess it's there, but I haven't seen it. Mostly I'm astounded by those on the right who seem to think that solar hasn't gotten any more efficient and never will. They dismiss green technologies with a wave of their hand. My compatriots in these arguments tend to be big believers in the future of these technologies based, in large part, on our experience with how fast all other technologies have developed. Maybe Donal, who seems to think the future isn't so bright for EVs, etc., and we all need to ride bikes. Dunno.

    I'm reading Michael Mann's new book and, call me naive, but I'm stunned at the depth, breadth, and energy of the "denialist" movement. How they've managed to buy-out otherwise very accomplished scientists and their full-court press to enlist scientists, faux experts, media types, politicians, bloggers, average citizens in a massive and pervasive dis-information campaign. Apparently, and I found this peculiarly creepy, they've enlisted "seasoned veterans" from the tobacco dis- information campaigns of yore (and still today!)

    It's really stunning in its power and size. How do you get that many people--otherwise knowledgeable and full of integrity-- to simply turn their back on science? Are they spreading THAT much green around?

    Apparently, the key tactic is sew doubt, rather than confront the science directly. So they don't really have to disprove or prove anything, they just have to cast enough doubt that people will shy away from any talk of doing anything. Can't tell you how many conversations I've had with accomplished, sensible people who have swallowed the message of this dis-information campaign hook, line and sinker.

    Maybe everyone has been aware of this all along, but I'm stunned. Guess it goes back to my belief in reason...

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