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Posted at 12:00 AM ET, 01/28/2011

Monumental effort

By Tom Toles

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***

Friday rant: Power-of-imagination outage edition

Once again my house is without power. Unimaginable freak storm! Just like last year, and other recent years. A major U.S. city just can't provide basic electrical service to its residents. This is either an infrastructure problem or a "freak weather" problem. You can see where I'm going with this. (Disclaimers to the swarming crazies in the comments section: No, I am not attributing this one particular storm to climate change, and, yes, I know it is snow, not heat, so don't waste your time riffing on these things.)

There is speculation that the lack of polar ice is changing the jet stream so that arctic air has been dumping out all winter into the U.S., causing all the strange weather, but, again, the particulars are not my point. My point is this: While sitting in the dark in a cold house is far from the worst thing in the world, it's altogether plenty to remind you that a small variation in weather can yield outsize problems. A warming planet will not be all lounge-chair basking. Infrastructure is designed for the predictable. If severe weather events increase in severity and unpredictability, trying to keep up with them with infrastructure changes will be expensive and ultimately futile.

So it appears that it is beyond the imaginative capacity of people to visualize the impact of more frequent blizzards, windstorms, huge flood-causing rains, multi-year droughts, tornadoes, massive wildfires, farmland destruction, species destruction, coastline inundation, refugees and starvation. And you don't have to try if you close your eyes and pretend that all climate scientists are just making up every single bit of their evidence in history's biggest science prank! Somehow people have little trouble imagining THAT. And in any case, a bit of planetary havoc is a small price to pay for being able to sit up a little higher in your SUV! --Tom Toles

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By Tom Toles  | January 28, 2011; 12:00 AM ET
Categories:  Foreign Policy  
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Comments

In 2007 the UN warned us Himalayan glaciers would be gone by 2035. Four years later, Himalayan glaciers are expanding. The reason? According to Mr. Toles, it must be...global warming!

Posted by: DirtFarmer1 | January 31, 2011 1:51 AM | Report abuse

These may be tumultuous times.

Posted by: dalyplanet | January 30, 2011 1:09 AM | Report abuse

Wow

Posted by: dalyplanet | January 30, 2011 1:05 AM | Report abuse

hmmm....at least 70 dead...2000 injured...

Posted by: bertzel | January 29, 2011 7:35 PM | Report abuse

Let's see ... What would climate scientists have to gain by faking all their data? Being able to get published more? Then why not publish articles stating the evidence why climate change is not happening? More government funding? More status in the scientific community? If it is sound science, then why could they not prove that climate change is not happening or only part of the "normal" cycle? Maybe they should do a study why all the people on the right(aka Republicans) are just whacko!

Posted by: PlumHunter | January 29, 2011 8:28 AM | Report abuse

Since this is now an old post, I don't expect it to be read, however...

Underground Power Lines Revisited

Here's a small lesson in the law of unintended effects. Memphis, Tennessee, was almost obliterated by yellow fever in the mid 1800's, a disease which still exists needing only a vector to transmit it.

With the blessing and support of Lady Bird Johnson and her beautification program for the USA, Memphis buried many of its power lines in the 1970's.

Scientists monitoring insects in Memphis found a mosquito there which should not have been there because even mildly cold weather usually prevents the critters from overwintering. This beastie, Culex pipiens, is a yellow fever capable carrier. Now, all that was needed was the yellow fever virus to be reintroduced and presto! back to the 1850's.

Where was the mosquito hiding? They finally found its secret location: the mosquitoes were overwintering in the small amount of water contained in the underground concrete boxes holding the newly buried transformers. The waste heat from the transformers made the microenvironment just warm enough for the mosquitoes happy survival.

For lovers of irony, mosquitoes and disease, there's a similar story with recycled tires, dengue (cf. breakbone fever) and the Asian tiger mosquito, but that's another post...

Posted by: DougMUSN | January 29, 2011 8:09 AM | Report abuse

~~~Bingo! And why take the word of modern science, when there are plenty of Bronze Age writers and scholars upon which to rely? Right?
Posted by: jonroesler~~~

Guess that would all depend on the topic.
Take the Aztecs for instance...just sayin'.

Modern science is fine, tho not perfect.
Plus we are still collecting data...right?
And as the new and improved data is collected...facts change.

Posted by: bertzel | January 28, 2011 10:52 PM | Report abuse

Right O. Gore will deny everything just like he has denied everything else he once stood for once in his life, like being prolife, pro 2nd Amendment, pro tobacco, when he hoed it and growed it, and faithful to Tip........another John Edwards story the media is suppressing.

Posted by: jornolibist | January 28, 2011 9:47 PM | Report abuse

guess it all depends on what you read and who you believe...
Posted by: bertzel
--

Bingo! And why take the word of modern science, when there are plenty of Bronze Age writers and scholars upon which to rely? Right?

Posted by: jonroesler | January 28, 2011 9:23 PM | Report abuse

While you speculate, speculate on this: colder air holds less moisture, causing precipitation as it gets colder and its relative humidity rises, resulting in condensation/precipitation.
We heard about the diminishing polar ice a couple of summers ago, except that it increased and now we don't hear much more about it. But these things still come in handy when it's time to speculate.
Pretending that climate change hasn't been going on since the Earth was formed and blaming the internal combustion engine for it is the mark of the real denier.

Posted by: rightspokeBlas | January 28, 2011 7:48 PM | Report abuse

What are the proposed alternates to business as usual for CO2?

Buy carbon offsets. You pay a broker to pay a farmer to promise to plant crops or trees they were planning to plant anyway. The broker gets a big cut.

Bury CO2 gas. Figure out a way to pipe compressed CO2 to someplace that will hold it underground. The annual volume of stored CO2 compressed to very high pressure is greater than the volume of all oil we use annually. The piping network is as big or bigger than the petroleum industry uses today. No existing production plant is in operation. Uses 25% of the powerplants output.

Wind, solar ,geothermal. These sources are proven and useful, but solar and wind are not a steady source. Needs backup or a storage system. CO2 free

Natural Gas. Slight reduction in CO2 and can be somewhat flexible in it's output.

Nuclear. Has some problems, can not be used everywhere. CO2 free.

Hydro. can not get a lot more from this as it is fairly fully developed. CO2 free.

Conservation. Requires making choices. Can be difficult.

The three solutions that are real for CO2 reduction are

Conservation
Nuclear
Wind Solar Geo

I will start to think this AGW is not a prank when all of these three real solutions are in the daily discussion. Otherwise it is like deficit reduction, All talk no action.


Posted by: dalyplanet | January 28, 2011 6:22 PM | Report abuse

~~But, how can this be part of a grand natural cycle, with the last major glaciation having peaked 20,000 years ago, if the entire universe is only 6,000 years old?
Posted by: jonroesler~~~

guess it all depends on what you read and who you believe...

Posted by: bertzel | January 28, 2011 4:33 PM | Report abuse

fbrewer1

My carbon footprint is negative so I get to lob snowballs.

I can sell you a sticker and a carbon offset if you think that may hold back or delay the flood you are predicting !!

I do have a small ark just in case. So I should not need to be treading water !!!

Posted by: dalyplanet | January 28, 2011 4:29 PM | Report abuse

concerning underground transformers;

"Environmental concerns due to the risk of oil leakage have kept many utilities from offering an underground choice to residential developers, even though industry research shows that homeowners prefer transformers be out of sight."

hmmm.

Posted by: bertzel | January 28, 2011 4:24 PM | Report abuse

But, how can this be part of a grand natural cycle, with the last major glaciation having peaked 20,000 years ago, if the entire universe is only 6,000 years old?

Posted by: jonroesler | January 28, 2011 3:30 PM | Report abuse

Rhino40 |

High Voltage Transmission lines are hard to bury as the insulation increases internal friction and line losses, raises the temperature of the line requiring bigger cables 3 to 4 times larger, stray voltage in underground lines can be disruptive and dangerous, makes find and repair much harder, and cost is much higher.

Low voltage and post transformer distribution as new install is almost all underground today as it looks better and lasts longer than stringing lines.

Posted by: dalyplanet | January 28, 2011 3:29 PM | Report abuse

@dalyplanet - To quote Bill Cosby's God speaking to Noah,
God - "Noah!!"
Noah - "What!??"
God - "Noah, how long can you tread water?"
Noah - "Riiiiight. It's you and me, Lord."

So, 'dalyplanet' - how long can YOU tread water?

Posted by: fbrewer1 | January 28, 2011 2:53 PM | Report abuse

Ptgrunner, It really does not matter what you are I think about AGW.
We are not in a position to do anything about it. It only matters what the ‘players’ think.
And what the ‘players’ want, because the ‘players’ are in control…
I know I am not a ‘player’ therefore all I can do is be aware of the possibility and act accordingly. By doing the little things I am at least doing my part by cutting down on my ‘footprint’.

Personally, I think there are bigger fish to fry.
And I am checking out the highground in Africa ;)

Posted by: bertzel | January 28, 2011 1:55 PM | Report abuse

Tom, I'm on your side about global warming, but I think the real root of the opposition is not head-in-the-sand ignorance. It's an almost total lack of altruism towards victims not part of the tribe (as self defined), and the notion that wealth and a dominating security apparatus will enable avoidance of any harm from global warming. I'm sure many capitalists see it a new lip-licking opportunity for profits (the warming bubble).

A prediction that millions will be uprooted in Bangladesh, or millions (more) will starve in Africa because of climate change, does not resonate in the US - who cares? If Newfoundland replaces Florida as the "snow bird" haven, then it's an call for real estate and resort developers to get moving - and the Florida natives will demand government financing for relocating.

As long as we are deluded that our wealth and power will save us from the consequences of global warming, "What, me worry?" will be the enduring reaction.

A long shot: the Maldive Islands in the Indian ocean are considered the World's best recreational diving location, and they will probably disappear. If the well-to-do divers got concerned enough maybe they could turn "Save the Maldives" into a national movement, with the only viable strategy being to stop global warming.

Posted by: sherm1 | January 28, 2011 1:47 PM | Report abuse

Global warming is not the same as climate change. Unfortunately, those two terms are all-too-often used interchangeably. The two terms re related, with global warming being an effect of climate change. But there are also changes in precipitation patterns as well as changes in atmospheric circulation patterns. But global warming is occurring, even if some areas see periods with colder than "normal" temperatures. See:

http://www.skepticalscience.com/whats-in-a-name.html

And the cold winters of the northern hemisphere are explained nicely at:

http://www.skepticalscience.com/Global-Warming-Cold-Winters.html

No reason for me to repeat what's explained so well on these Web pages. Deniers won't read this stuff because they just don't believe. Global warming deniers are the same people who still believe in supply-side economics (aka voodoo economics) as practiced by Reagan, and GOP-style unregulated capitalism. I suppose they also believe in the Tooth Fairy and the Great Pumpkin. They are also the same type of people who say downed power lines and snarling traffic an infrastructure problem, not a climate change problem. Yet they still refuse to go along with any program to repair infrastructure...costs too much.

I was introduced to the concept of global warming in the mid-1970s, when the physics professor who taught my Atmospheric Physics class had an informal discussion with me and another student in a hallway at SUNYAB. No. Most scientists were not talking about global cooling back then. The professor in question took a quite reasonable position on global warming: the science was sound but we didn't have the data to back it up. Thirty-five years later, we have plenty of data to back up the science of global warming/climate change.

Posted by: ptgrunner | January 28, 2011 12:58 PM | Report abuse

@GaryEMasters:

Spot on: Burying the power lines IS the answer...because when those lines are buried, then:

Wind doesn't matter...
Snow and rain don't matter...
Trees don't matter...
Vehicles plowing into poles don't matter...

...The power keeps flowing so that the power company can keep billing for it!

But NOOOOOO!; the power companies whine and complain about how "the cost is too high" and how those costs would have to be passed on to rate-payer...

yeah, right!

What about the costs to SOCIETY? What about the untold millions in OVERTIME that utilities must pay their crews when an event hits? What about the BILLIONS in lost productivity, wasted fuel, and wasted food because a fallen pole or limb-broken power line shuttered workplaces, blocked roads, and de-powered homes and grocery stores?

It's a DISGRACE. BURY THE LINES!

'Nuff said!

Posted by: Rhino40 | January 28, 2011 12:31 PM | Report abuse

I meant to say...those dams definitely need some work done to ward off some of that future flooding....would be considered infrastructure, would it not?

Worker's need jobs...jobs need work...speaking of which....

Posted by: bertzel | January 28, 2011 11:27 AM | Report abuse

~~the quoted line is pretty vague about it, but then again, it's a book, and subject to interpretation ;)~~~

Damn straight..lol

Posted by: bertzel | January 28, 2011 11:24 AM | Report abuse

"So you assume that humans are the only 'harvesters' on the planet??"

Well, I guess I was thinking in terms of harvesting crops, as opposed to harvesting naturally-occurring and naturally-distributed food sources. I suppose the quoted line is pretty vague about it, but then again, it's a book, and subject to interpretation ;)

"You don't have to wonder"

Oh, I know, I was being a bit of a smart ass.

"That IS what Mr Toles is saying today, right? and he's NOT joking !"

Heh...I'm guessing you didn't finish reading my post.

Posted by: ickyfoot | January 28, 2011 11:09 AM | Report abuse

I was thinking about the glacier that covered Minnesota a few years back,

Wonder what happened to the SUV's that melted that one??!!!

Posted by: dalyplanet | January 28, 2011 11:09 AM | Report abuse

~~~Er, who's doing the harvesting if humans cease to exist? Methinks the mention of "harvest" ensures our perpetual survival. I'm glad you brought this up! ;)
Posted by: ickyfoot~~

So you assume that humans are the only 'harvesters' on the planet??

Posted by: bertzel | January 28, 2011 10:37 AM | Report abuse

Actually he is blaming it all on SUV owners : )

Posted by: bertzel | January 28, 2011 10:34 AM | Report abuse

DougMUSN,

Good post. National Geographic had a great issue last spring all about water, and talked a lot about the glaciers in the Himalayas and other places. These glaciers have been then for hundreds of thousands of years, through ice ages and warm periods, and now the majority of them are disappearing.

No...there's no such thing as AGW. *rme*

Posted by: PrairieDog60 | January 28, 2011 10:33 AM | Report abuse

~~"coldest, snowiest winter ever. Thanks 'global warming'..~~~

Posted by: ickyfoot

That IS what Mr Toles is saying today, right?

and he's NOT joking !

Posted by: dalyplanet | January 28, 2011 10:25 AM | Report abuse

ickyfoot wrote: "there's a whole other hemisphere experiencing summer while we experience winter. Wonder what temps are like down there? Wonder if heat spikes down there have anything to do with weather patterns up here..."

You don't have to wonder, NASA has a website which allows you to check out the temperature around the globe each month. Here's the map for December:
http://data.giss.nasa.gov/cgi-bin/gistemp/do_nmap.py?year_last=2010&month_last=12&sat=4&sst=1&type=anoms&mean_gen=12&year1=2010&year2=2010&base1=1951&base2=1980&radius=1200&pol=reg

Global Warming doubters effectively point to the blue areas over Europe and the east coast of NA while ignoring the red and orange over the rest of the world.

Posted by: ThorsChild | January 28, 2011 10:22 AM | Report abuse

Hahahahaha...

Posted by: jonroesler | January 28, 2011 10:18 AM | Report abuse

Well, Tom, isn't Karma a wonderful thing!! But keep on telling us that the sky is falling...because it is, one snowflake at a time!!

Posted by: stormy105 | January 28, 2011 10:13 AM | Report abuse

So the arguments for renewable energy sources -- wind, solar, hydro, and others -- are irrefutable, whether you believe in global warming or not

Posted by: devilsadvocate2 | January 28, 2011 10:07 AM | Report abuse

Don't waste your breath. It's too late to influence Climate Change, until we run out of oil. The moral course is to help people survive.

Get a topo map, plot your escape route from flooding. Maybe buy a canoe. Keep a survival pack, candles, MRE's, bandages, crank up radio, extra cell phone, a sturdy knife, good shoes. Sensible stuff. Leave the guns and gold for the paranoids.

Think about what to do if the power went out for a week. What do you do if the snow load collapses your roof? Think, dammit.

People who refuse to listen will get what they deserve. And good riddance.

Posted by: wishnevsky | January 28, 2011 10:06 AM | Report abuse

Obviously, cleaner air and water are a good thing, whether you believe in global warming or not

Posted by: devilsadvocate2 | January 28, 2011 10:05 AM | Report abuse

"Of course that doesn't cover whether humans would survive under extreme cold and heat, just seedtime and harvest."

Er, who's doing the harvesting if humans cease to exist? Methinks the mention of "harvest" ensures our perpetual survival. I'm glad you brought this up! ;)

Posted by: ickyfoot | January 28, 2011 10:00 AM | Report abuse

If the first snowstorm knocks the power lines to the ground and the second snowstorm covers them up, does that fit the "underground" requirement? JK. Regardless, transformers don't need to be underground. They are not as fragile as power lines. Although you could drive a snow plow into one.

As to the general call for climate calamity, Congressman Shimkus quotes Genesis 8:22 to remind us that
“As long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night will never cease.”
Of course that doesn't cover whether humans would survive under extreme cold and heat, just seedtime and harvest.

Posted by: Rudesan | January 28, 2011 9:47 AM | Report abuse

It always makes me giggle when people say, "coldest, snowiest winter ever. Thanks 'global warming'...hahaha, what a joke!"

Little do such people apparently know, there's a whole other hemisphere experiencing summer while we experience winter. Wonder what temps are like down there? Wonder if heat spikes down there have anything to do with weather patterns up here...

Posted by: ickyfoot | January 28, 2011 9:41 AM | Report abuse

"Swarming crazies" weren't deterred.
No surprise.
Great phrase!

Posted by: GeneTouchet | January 28, 2011 9:13 AM | Report abuse

~~In all seriousness, we really should put our power lines underground more.
Posted by: jhnnywalkr~~

Why? You still have to 'deal' with the transformers.
Can't put them underground can you?

Posted by: bertzel | January 28, 2011 8:49 AM | Report abuse

I di dlive in North Bethesda in Montgomery County and last winter were in my apartment for five days without elecdtricity. No matter tht I asked the apartment company to buy a stand by generator. That sort of infrastructure was way too much for them to pay.

Now I am in Frederick and our house has an underground power feed straight to a very large feeder line. Our power is good and steady.

Underground lines do fix the problem. And if they replaced just the lines that fall down evey year with underground that would not have the cost of a full system fix, but might solve 90% of the problem.

Posted by: GaryEMasters | January 28, 2011 8:25 AM | Report abuse

In all seriousness, we really should put our power lines underground more.

Posted by: jhnnywalkr


------------------------

I agree completely. Placing cable undergroung has to be more expensive but it's more effective and useful long term.

Posted by: pararanger22 | January 28, 2011 7:12 AM | Report abuse

for Ethelred: There has already been a profound reduction in the Himalayan glaciers. The most dramatic example is a photograph taken from the same location in 2007 by David Breashears as George Mallory, the famous mountaineer, took in 1921. Check it out here:

http://sites.asiasociety.org/riversofice/comparative-photography

Wider excursions in weather are increasing. A bit more snow or a bit more heat are one thing, but have you considered the effect of a reduction in fresh water by 50% or so? With the reduction in Himalayan glaciers, the Indus river, supplying Pakistan's Punjab province (its main agricultural supply), may decrease its flow by half.

Ditto the Brahmaputra river, draining a large part of the eastern Himalayan chain into Bangladesh.

The next big thing is likely water riots, food riots and ultimately political instability caused by mass migration of hungry and thirsty people. Are you ready for that, Sen Imhofe?

Posted by: DougMUSN | January 28, 2011 5:45 AM | Report abuse

In Jan. Feb. of 09' we had an ice storm in Arkansas that knocked out our power for 8 days. It was supposably a "100 year" storm, but who knows....
In any case it sure seems possible that man made stuff could at least ALTER the weather. I do recall a certain congressional investigation back in 94-95 regarding goverment made machines that CONTROLLED the weather, hmmmm......

Posted by: dapperdan32 | January 28, 2011 2:54 AM | Report abuse

You want to see major chaos, just wait until the Himalayan glaciers go into full melt mode. Malthus was right.

Posted by: EthelredtheUnready | January 28, 2011 2:10 AM | Report abuse

In all seriousness, we really should put our power lines underground more.

Posted by: jhnnywalkr | January 27, 2011 10:40 PM | Report abuse

Oh Oh I forgot

You all DO have really a wild imaginations!!!

Posted by: dalyplanet | January 27, 2011 9:29 PM | Report abuse

Why do liberals think manmade global warming hoax propaganda works in January? On January 26th, 2006, Al Gore, while in Park City, Utah said, "there is only 10 years left to save the planet from scorching." Only 4 years, 11 months and 30 days to go. Libs maybe it's time to think about buying gold and/or a big 4 wheel drive SUV with snow chains for more predictability if you live in DC during the manmade global warming period of November to March.

Posted by: jornolibist | January 27, 2011 9:26 PM | Report abuse

Time for the Dem\Lib speak to English translator again.

I thought remembering back to the cold snowy winters of our youth was proof of man made global warming but now it's HAVING the cold snowy winters of our youth that's PROVING man made global warming???

"Speculation" Tom? What a euphemism!

According to the dictionary this word means guessing right? Or in dem\lib speak this word means, for sure, without a doubt?

You True believers ARE a funny group of pranksters.

Posted by: dalyplanet | January 27, 2011 9:20 PM | Report abuse

oh sure...now it comes up...
must have been a short term glitch(power outage)...ha.ha.
had to have been here!

Posted by: bertzel | January 27, 2011 8:28 PM | Report abuse

ooh...edited...let's see...
Candles
ambience.
protection.
geeze!

Posted by: bertzel | January 27, 2011 8:23 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: jonroesler

gee jon...don't even need those bricks...
and if you have a gas oven...dat too helps...oh...and candles the ambience. Ahh, what can I say! Go for it!
just make sure you are 'protected' don't want to add to the 'people factor', if you know what I mean...shhhh.

Posted by: bertzel | January 27, 2011 8:16 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: jonroesler

gee jon...don't even need those bricks...
and if you have a gas oven...dat too helps...

Posted by: bertzel | January 27, 2011 8:09 PM | Report abuse

Tom... Since we already know that the burning of fuels by humans inside a closed ecosystem clearly does not cause any ill effects whatsoever, all you really need to do is get a canister of LP from the local station and the needed fittings from the local hardware store, set up a burner on some bricks in your living room, and let 'er rip. Nothing bad can possibly happen, right? (I'm kidding!)

Yes, Bert, I'm pretty sure the god prank refers to religion.

Posted by: jonroesler | January 27, 2011 6:54 PM | Report abuse

"Speculation" Tom? What a euphemism! Are you pandering to the rabble on the right? Hey, that's what you get for leaving Buffalo (where we know how to remove snow) and moving to DC gridlock. Sorry neighbor, Denial is not a river in Egypt, nor is Blizzard a city in WNY. We miss you, but the east coast is in for a long stretch of Buffalo winters, now that the arctic ice is melting.

~eric.

Posted by: 2ericc | January 27, 2011 6:44 PM | Report abuse

~~~god prank for two thousand years.
Posted by: dorsyn~~~

What's a god prank???
no seriously, what do you mean by god prank.
Religion?

Posted by: bertzel | January 27, 2011 6:30 PM | Report abuse

"close your eyes and pretend that all climate scientists are just making up every single bit of their evidence in history's biggest science prank! Somehow people have little trouble imagining THAT." - Of course not, they've been buying into the god prank for two thousand years.

Posted by: dorsyn | January 27, 2011 6:23 PM | Report abuse

Nine times out of ten your power outage has to do with some idiot who drove into a pole...or the weight of snow on power lines....used to get a lot of that here...not so much as of late...your turn. Ha, ha.
As for the jet stream...thought that had to do with El Nino and La Nina...course I guess that too could tie into the lack of polar ice which could also tie into the ozone.....vicious circle...such is life.

as for the capstone.....

Posted by: bertzel | January 27, 2011 6:16 PM | Report abuse

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