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A tale of two superpowers

news | 18:41 UK time, Friday, 18 December 2009

1926 CET: It's supposed to be about two degrees. It appears to have come down to two men.

As I write, US President Barack Obama and China's Prime Minister Wen Jiabao are locked in a room somewhere around this conference centre - a meeting that could answer the question of whether ther's a deal here.

They're deadlocked over a single sentence in the latest draft - the fourth - that leaders and their ministers have looked at today.

It says: "Mitigation actions taken by Non Annex Parties will be subject to their domestic measurement, reporting and verification..."

In language that suspicious members of the US Senate would use, this translates as: "We can't see what those dastardly Chinese are up to."

Yesterday, Hillary Clinton set out "transparency" as the key US demand. When the latest draft was presented, I'm told Mr Obama personally intervened and told everyone in the meeting this was unnacceptable.

In the corridors, a view is emerging that China doesn't really want a deal.

Four separate people on or close to national delegations have told me this; though as things stand, no-one will go on the record.

It's said that at the top levels of government, economic development now followed by fast climate protection when the impacts begin to hit is the preferred strategy.

One analyst said it's a "550 country" - meaning it has always privately favoured a target of keeping greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere below 550 part per million (550ppm) rather than the 450ppm that most favour.

There is blame, too, for the US, which despite its claims of "global leadership" has offered nothing new here.

As to everyone else? Well, they won't all like the draft agreement, and delegations are trying to get certain bits changed even now.

The question they all have to judge is whether they take it, or take the chance of achieving something better next time around - indeed, whether there will be a next time around.

If the analysis that the US and China hold the key, then there are two outcomes from this summit. One sees Mr Wen and Mr Obama joining hands in mutual glory; the other sees them heading off to their respective capitals in their respective limousines, with each saying that they tried but the other side just wouldn't play ball.

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  • 1. At 6:52pm on 18 Dec 2009, infiniti wrote:

    A2 path

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  • 2. At 6:54pm on 18 Dec 2009, tears of our forefathers wrote:

    spinning around and around and around.

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  • 3. At 7:03pm on 18 Dec 2009, bowmanthebard wrote:

    I'm a bit thick, but what are "emissions from deforestation"? One minute the wood is a vertical living tree, the next minute it's a horizontal dead tree, that weighs the same. Where's the CO2 supposed to be coming from?

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  • 4. At 7:10pm on 18 Dec 2009, bowmanthebard wrote:

    I've seen it again and again -- a completely fake "deadline" (because after all, they can meet again next week or any other time they like), a phoney "crisis" as we approach the phoney "wire", while an expectant world waits with bated breath...

    I betcha any money the two men will emerge around 11.30p.m., clutching a stupid bit of paper, claiming a hard-fought "victory", expecting a worshipful world to hail them as saviours.

    How annoying it is that human beings are so gullible, most of them will indeed be in full "worship" mode by 11.31 p.m.. The Archbishops will have the bells rung specially to honour the work of "the Great and the Good". Puke!

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  • 5. At 7:22pm on 18 Dec 2009, selfevidenttruths wrote:

    @bowman: In two ways, in its loss as part of the natural CO2 sink, but more importantly when it is burnt, as much, but not all of it is.

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  • 6. At 7:34pm on 18 Dec 2009, bowmanthebard wrote:

    #5 selfevidenttruths wrote:

    "In two ways, in its loss as part of the natural CO2 sink, but more importantly when it is burnt, as much, but not all of it is."

    The word 'emission' properly refers to something being emitted, not something no longer being absorbed.

    Burning wood emits CO2, chopping wood doesn't. If you start counting the CO2 emissions when it is chopped, you are liable to count it all over again when it gets burnt -- if it gets burnt. In the immortal words of Jack Nicholson (in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest): "you didn't weigh the chain too, didja, doc?"

    Really, the amount of double-speak and jiggery-pokery in this debate! It's a daily battle against the bewitchment of our intelligence by means of language!

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  • 7. At 7:37pm on 18 Dec 2009, selfevidenttruths wrote:

    Of course if is made into a table then the carbon is locked in there for as long as the table is around. On this particular issue the figures should be treated with caution. So if it is logging then it is not good, but nowhere near as bad as burning. Here is an article, which by the way gives some more figures to confuse the situation, ie; they don't seem to quite tally with ones I found earlier. I'm going do some more research, but it might be a day or two ... In the meanwhile if you or anyone else can find more information I'd be grateful. Trying to learn myself.

    http://www.independent.co.uk/environment/climate-change/deforestation-the-hidden-cause-of-global-warming-448734.html

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  • 8. At 7:40pm on 18 Dec 2009, selfevidenttruths wrote:

    You are quite right, what I meant is it is important in that respect. Bad phrasing on my part.

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  • 9. At 7:43pm on 18 Dec 2009, selfevidenttruths wrote:

    The strange thing is that so much of the wood seems to be burnt. You would think that they would at least sell it!

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  • 10. At 7:47pm on 18 Dec 2009, selfevidenttruths wrote:

    On a related point, as I search for information it becomes more and more apparent how poor a lot of the journalism is. So many unasked questions!

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  • 11. At 7:52pm on 18 Dec 2009, perspicuously wrote:

    #7: so then it depends what happens to the table when you've finished with it - if it gets burned in the end, the carbon dioxide will be emitted.

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  • 12. At 7:57pm on 18 Dec 2009, budgiebird wrote:

    I am confused.

    Why is it that the USA are expecting the rest of the world to make 20-30% CO2 emission reductions over the next decade or so, while all they are prepared to offer themselves is a 3% reduction?

    The USA already have the highest rate of CO2 emissions per head, yet they don't seem at all bothered about reducing THEIR emissions by much, so why do they think they are such a special case and why should the rest of us pay a fortune in green taxes and use our cars less, to reduce ours?

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  • 13. At 8:22pm on 18 Dec 2009, bowmanthebard wrote:

    Well, selfevidenttruths, we have a definite meeting of minds here!

    One thing that really put me on my guard about this stuff, a good many years ago now, is the way so many journalists seemed to implicitly refer to two different kinds of CO2. There was the perfectly harmless stuff that comes out of the mouths of innocent babes. But there was also the poison that comes out the back end of Exxon delivery trucks. Even weirder, with the good stuff, journalists seemed to be able to trace "the same" carbon molecules all the way from their "natural" source in honest organic vegetation all the way through the infant and on to its "natural" return to good honest vegetation. The bad stuff, by contrast, was lurking beneath the desert in Kuwait, waiting to be unleashed by rapists before finally destroying the planet.

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  • 14. At 8:34pm on 18 Dec 2009, Jack Frost wrote:

    The earth gods are angry.


    Deepest volcano caught on Pacific Ocean video

    "You have molten lavas at 1,400C producing acidic fluids - the sulphur dioxide makes these fluids as acidic as pH1.4 - and yet microbes are thriving," he told BBC News.

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/8419736.stm



    Philippine volcano fears force thousands to evacuate

    More than 20,000 people have evacuated homes in the Philippines after lava and ash flowed from one of the nation's most active volcanoes.

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/asia-pacific/8414744.stm


    Surely we must stand up to these volcanoes for the sake of the planet.

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  • 15. At 8:39pm on 18 Dec 2009, jr4412 wrote:

    Richard Black writes:

    "In the corridors, a view is emerging that China doesn't really want a deal."

    while the Americans speak 'with forked tongue' (thanks, manysummits) perhaps it's not worth doing a deal since the other side is sure to renege.

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  • 16. At 8:44pm on 18 Dec 2009, perspicuously wrote:

    #13: I think the fact those journalists are trying to point out is that although there is always a cycle of carbon (e.g. atmosphere to tree to atmosphere if the tree is burned, atmosphere to plant to babe to waste to atmosphere, atmosphere to plant to fossil fuel to atmosphere when the fossil fuel is burned) some of the cycles take a lot longer than others. So from these examples, the fossil fuel cycle spans many orders of magnitude longer than the other two, so from the point of view of your average journalist seems to be stationary, i.e. they can't see that the carbon in fossil fuels came from the atmosphere in the same way as that in the plants we eat.

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  • 17. At 8:46pm on 18 Dec 2009, Dempster wrote:

    14. At 8:34pm on 18 Dec 2009, Al Gore wrote:
    'Surely we must stand up to these volcanoes for the sake of the planet'

    Absolutely, where do I sign.

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  • 18. At 8:46pm on 18 Dec 2009, Peter317 wrote:

    Selfevidenttruths #5:

    "...in its loss as part of the natural CO2 sink"

    I wonder where trees got their CO2 from before we started burning fossil fuels (only half-joking)

    But, seriously, new tree growth is far more efficient at soaking up CO2 than mature trees are.

    Another question: how do you explain how CO2 levels stayed so consistent over thousands of years, despite huge changes in vegetation cover, etc?

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  • 19. At 8:55pm on 18 Dec 2009, Peter317 wrote:

    bowmanthebard #13

    Yes, what I also find amazing is that the 'good' CO2 is all reabsorbed into the biosphere within a few months of being emitted, yet the 'bad' CO2 - which comprises a mere 3 or 4% of total emissions - somehow, magically, hangs around in the atmosphere for 100+ years.

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  • 20. At 9:01pm on 18 Dec 2009, Maria Ashot wrote:

    Of course ANYONE can SEE what anyone is up to!

    Just put a vessel in international waters off the coast of any emitting nation, and take samples of the air & water!

    The notion that there is some kind of "magic phrase" that shows "integrity" is absurd.

    Sorry, but I also felt Mr Obama's "makes no sense" phrase, coming in the middle of a bleary-eyed speech that was obviously truncated by various influencing elements (did not sound authentically "Barack Obama" to me), was a misstep. It was almost a calculated slight.

    President Obama has two Chinese-Americans in his Cabinet. Were they on the flight to Copenhagen? Surely they could have been giving some guidance on cultural sensitivities.

    This smacks a little of the habitually patronising tone the US State Dept likes to take, for example, with Russians. They constantly tread on everyone's toes with their poor choice of words & only partial awareness of cultural no-nos, or cultural positives, and other diplomatic norms.

    Chalk it up to inexperience & too much "exceptionalism" in the diet. Now let us hope it has blown over?

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  • 21. At 9:03pm on 18 Dec 2009, Maria Ashot wrote:

    Actually "the impacts began to hit" quite a few years back. This is known in Beijing. They had to deal with the impacts when they were preparing for the Olympics.

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  • 22. At 9:11pm on 18 Dec 2009, Peter317 wrote:

    Maria Ashot #20:

    "Just put a vessel in international waters off the coast of any emitting nation, and take samples of the air & water!"

    Yeah, right!
    I've got a nice pocket ruler which you can borrow to measure the distance of your next plane journey.

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  • 23. At 9:25pm on 18 Dec 2009, selfevidenttruths wrote:

    @Peter 18: I did'n't know that about young tree growth. As for why CO2 levels have stayed so stable, good question. Something else to find out. With regards to good/bad CO2, a significant portion of what we emit is soaked back up via the oceans and vegetation, but the excess hangs around for quite a while until the system reaches equilibrium again, it takes some time. Until we started burning fossil fuels the amount of CO2 naturally emitted was equal to that taken up ~ 270ppmm, a kind of planetary homeostasis. Further back in time the situation was different, but there is a lot I don't know, although I am trying to pick up as much as I can.
    Btw, I am sure a tree does'n't particularly care where its CO2 comes from ; )

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  • 24. At 9:35pm on 18 Dec 2009, Dempster wrote:

    Maria Ashot

    I don't believe you are a real blogger.

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  • 25. At 9:40pm on 18 Dec 2009, Maria Ashot wrote:

    Dempster, Well, that would be one more obvious thing you don't believe in, then.

    Sorry to disappoint you, but I am flesh and blood & do drink white tea.

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  • 26. At 9:40pm on 18 Dec 2009, selfevidenttruths wrote:

    Correction, that should be ppmv. In the short period of time (geologically) since the last ice age CO2 levels have been quite stable, but then for most of that time we were not that significant, and had a small effect on the biosphere (with regard to cultivation, land use). Before then CO2 levels fluctuated along with the ice ages. I imagine that a very long time ago they were indeed higher than they are now, and that much of that CO2 is being released now through our burning of oil, gas and coal.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carbon_dioxide_in_Earth's_atmosphere

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  • 27. At 9:46pm on 18 Dec 2009, Ken Appleby wrote:

    Carbon is captured from the atmosphere primarily by the steady weathering of silicate rocks, such as granite, not so much by plant growth. CO2 is dissolved in rainwater on the surface of the rocks as carbonic acid, flows to the sea where it is eventually deposited as carbonate rocks. Acidification of the oceans is a consequence of this if CO2 levels rise rapidly, as they have been doing since the industrial revolution - it takes thousands of years for the oceans to "keep up".

    CO2 capture in the biosphere is small by comparison with this process (though still important) mainly because most carbon captured in biomass returns to the atmosphere in the short-term. Only if the bio-carbon ends up being buried somehow as fossilised peat bogs (coal) or in clathrates in the outwash of large rivers carrying biomaterial is it effectively removed for the time-being from the atmosphere.

    Mature rain forests are not net sinks of carbon, they emit more carbon by decay of dead growth than new growth of trees absorbs. Forest clearing is a rapid source of CO2 simply because the trees are burned.

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  • 28. At 9:51pm on 18 Dec 2009, selfevidenttruths wrote:

    @Ken: Thanks for that information. Appreciated.

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  • 29. At 9:54pm on 18 Dec 2009, Peter317 wrote:

    selfevidenttruths #23: It just doesn't gel with me. Two blades of grass soak up twice as much CO2 as one blade. Two trees soak up twice as much as one. A tree twice as big soaks up twice as much. The sunnier it is, the more CO2 the tree soaks up, the more cloudy it is, the less it soaks up. Trees come and go. Deserts grow and shrink. Microbes and bacteria similarly come and go. The global variation in CO2 sinking capability over time must be truly immense, yet it apparently can't cope with that 'extra' 1.5%

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  • 30. At 9:56pm on 18 Dec 2009, Maria Ashot wrote:

    President Obama's closing comments just streamed over the White House website. They were very nice comments, on the whole.

    It makes sense that they are all gradually leaving, because just getting all those sovereign jets off the tarmac, late at night & in this weather, poses logistical challenges.

    And it's a wrap.

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  • 31. At 10:01pm on 18 Dec 2009, MarcusAureliusII wrote:

    Tsk, tsk, is this the final epitaph of the environmentalists efforts to destroy America's economy? The party's over. President Obama will spened the coming days fretting over the fate of his precious health care bill being kept secret by Senator Reed. I think that will suffer a similar fate to the one the environmentalists just suffered. Badly conceived and an a failed attempt to jamb something down our throats we will not swallow. In fact in the case of the Senate bill, something we haven't even seen yet. In a real democracy like America, it doesn't work that way. In Britain, Gordon Brown can sign the country away to Brussels or anyone else he cares to and nobody can stop him.

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  • 32. At 10:01pm on 18 Dec 2009, selfevidenttruths wrote:

    @Peter 29: If I say anymore I'll be guessing, but I'll refer you to Ken's comment 27 for some of the answer. If I find out something worth posting I certainly will.

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  • 33. At 10:02pm on 18 Dec 2009, tears of our forefathers wrote:

    dempster: i concur regarding maria.

    also: anyone else reckon bowman is a quisling (no offence)?? i kind of do. AGW is a non-falsifiable hypothesis ergo not real science so you can't argue against it using science. think post normal science. its a battle of propaganda now and one side has the truth as a weapon, FYI it ain't the truebelievers. if i was to go out on a limb i'd say his real identity is mike hulme. just a thought...

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  • 34. At 10:05pm on 18 Dec 2009, Peter317 wrote:

    Ken #27: Can you quantify that?

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  • 35. At 10:09pm on 18 Dec 2009, Dempster wrote:

    25. At 9:40pm on 18 Dec 2009, Maria Ashot wrote:
    Dempster, Well, that would be one more obvious thing you don't believe in, then.

    There are many obvious things that I do believe in. Doing the right and proper thing by my wife and family being one. But some how you’re posts don’t somehow ring true.

    Wish it were different.


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  • 36. At 10:12pm on 18 Dec 2009, selfevidenttruths wrote:

    @Peter: Ok I'll have a guess. Maybe that natural variation is not as great as you think, perhaps on a scale of a few tenths of a percent. No problem for the system to adjust, but that 3% extra is per year and as Ken observed it just cannot be absorbed that quickly, even though about a third of it is. Hence CO2 levels are now at 30% above pre-industrial levels. What impact that will have is precisely what the debate is about. I stand to be corrected though.

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  • 37. At 10:15pm on 18 Dec 2009, Neil Hyde wrote:

    @25

    You drink white tea ? You heathen, don't you think about all the methane that is being emitted as a result of YOU wanting milk in your tea?

    Richard, your junket is over , just submit your justifiable expenses , from my licence fee ( as long as they come from a leak and are not "stolen"), and then head off in to the sunset , take all your CRU and Goreite frauds with you. We now have a few years for the total fraud of MMGW to come out in to the open.

    ...and thereby lies the story of Copenfraud, the SCIENCE will now come out in to the open , and the New World Order , for all the manipulation of the media in general, and Auntie in particular, will find a new scare story to start.

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  • 38. At 10:30pm on 18 Dec 2009, Peter317 wrote:

    selfevidenttruths #36: You're guessing, I'm guessing, everyone's guessing. The truth is, nobody really knows how much CO2 is coming from where, and how much is going to where. The system (carbon cycle) is just too immense for anyone to be able to measure. We can only measure relatively microscopic parts of it and attempt to extrapolate, and whether or not the extrapolation is in any way accurate is anyone's guess.
    The only reason people say that we're adding x amount of CO2 to the atmosphere every year is because that's the figure which fits with the theory.

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  • 39. At 10:35pm on 18 Dec 2009, Peter317 wrote:

    Maria #30:

    "It makes sense that they are all gradually leaving, because just getting all those sovereign jets off the tarmac, late at night & in this weather, poses logistical challenges."

    I wouldn't worry too much - all that CO2 from all those jets is bound to warm things up pretty sharpish.

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  • 40. At 10:47pm on 18 Dec 2009, RandomArbiter wrote:

    @20.

    Tell me how two Americans who have grown up "American" happen to know what a foreign culture is like because their race is the same? Would Obama have a clue about African customs because he is racially associated with that continent? You can see how stupid, ney racist, your assumption is.

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  • 41. At 10:53pm on 18 Dec 2009, infiniti wrote:

    Re 28:

    We emit roughly 30 billion tons of co2 per year from fossil fuel emissions. That is known from fossil fuel inventories, which for obvious reasons are recorded with some accuracy.

    We know that 30 billion tons of co2 is equivalent to about 4ppm co2 in the atmosphere.

    Atmospheric co2 is rising on average about 2ppm per year. This is known with accuracy from ground station, aircraft, tower and satellite measurements.

    Simple accounting shows that without our 4ppm/year addition, the existing 2ppm/year rise in co2 could not be. Therefore we are causing all of the rise and if we stopped emitting co2 then levels of co2 in the atmosphere would start falling.

    Simple accounting also shows that only half our emissions per year stick around in the atmosphere. The other half must be absorbed by natural sinks (we know that because there are no anthropogenic sinks).

    The combo of the above means we know nature is not contributing to the co2 rise, in fact it's actively working against it slowing it down, but failing to prevent it.

    We know from ice core records that co2 levels today are the highest in at least 850,000 years.

    We know one of the natural sinks is the ocean, the surface ocean is absoring more co2 than it emits (measured). This in turn is leading to the pH of the surface ocean dropping.

    None of this is a "guess".

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  • 42. At 11:03pm on 18 Dec 2009, Its Raining Sven - No More Sousa wrote:

    So, if the world is in such peril, why do we need to negotiate a deal to save the world ? Surely, if you are in a car hurtling towards the edge of a cliff, you don't negotiate to decide who is going to hit the brakes and how hard ?
    Copenhagen was never about 'saving' the planet. It was about protecting self interest.
    #41. There are lies, damn lies and statistics.

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  • 43. At 11:07pm on 18 Dec 2009, tears of our forefathers wrote:

    'We know from ice core records that co2 levels today are the highest in at least 850,000 years.'

    we can go back a lot further than that in our estimates of co2 levels.

    i wonder why the longer time frame is ignored in the media? is it because beyond that timeframe co2 is believed to have been more than 5 times higher do you think?

    ever wondered why a lot of geologists are skeptics?

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  • 44. At 11:10pm on 18 Dec 2009, tears of our forefathers wrote:

    @31

    too true. God Bless America and her Republic.

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  • 45. At 11:19pm on 18 Dec 2009, Peter317 wrote:

    Infinity #41: That's 30 billion tons of co2 per year against ~800 billion tons per year from natural sources - the latter figure being no more than an estimate (to fit with the AGW theory, perhaps?), because it can't be measured.

    OK, I'll put it another way: let's assume that the 2ppm increase due to our emissions is accurate. Now, going back to pre-industrial times, it's safe to say that without our emissions, and assuming the sinks stayed constant over time, CO2 levels would have been falling by around 2ppm per year. So, starting at a level of 300ppm, the level would have dropped to 0ppm over just 150 years!

    Please explain how it is that there's still life on earth - much less that levels reportedly stayed within a few ppm over thousands of years.

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  • 46. At 11:21pm on 18 Dec 2009, TJ wrote:

    An interesting comment from the Greenpeace UK executive director John Sauven in the last paragraph of this BBC article:

    "'Meaningful' deal reached at Copenhagen climate summit"
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/8421880.stm

    "It is now evident that beating global warming will require a radically different model of politics than the one on display here in Copenhagen."

    Anybody want to propose "World Government"?

    I'm trying really hard not to be cynical and conspiratorial but it's the only goal that makes any sense of the whole shenanigans.

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  • 47. At 11:28pm on 18 Dec 2009, tears of our forefathers wrote:

    @37

    TOOFs Independant Bookmakers (i'm gonna quit my job if this takes off) are offering the following odds on the next scare story:

    Alien Invasion/Visitation: 25/1
    Flu/Communicable-Disease Pandemic @5/1
    Chinese Militarism @3/1
    Iranian/Islamic Biological Weapons @2/1
    Resource Depletion @evens
    Over Population @ 10/11 odds on fave

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  • 48. At 11:29pm on 18 Dec 2009, infiniti wrote:

    re 43:

    I was only pointing out the overwhelming evidence for the anthropogenic cause of the recent co2 rise.

    Sure I could have pointed out that the co2 rise in the past 100 years has probably surpassed co2 levels for the last 10 million years even. But "at least 850,000 years" is a lot more solid as it is from ice core data, wheras 10 million years is an inference from climate conditions.

    Humans did not even exist 10 million years ago. That was even before our lineage split from chimpanzees.

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  • 49. At 11:31pm on 18 Dec 2009, Peter317 wrote:

    Infinity #41: I forgot to add to my previous post, there's at least one huge and unquantifiable source of fossil-fuel CO2: huge, spontaneously-combusted fires in underground coal seams in various parts of the world - eg China.

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  • 50. At 11:35pm on 18 Dec 2009, infiniti wrote:

    Re 45:

    Nature is only absorbing 2ppm extra because the level of co2 in the atmosphere has risen. If it starts falling back down the rate of absorption will fall too until the level stablizes.

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  • 51. At 11:37pm on 18 Dec 2009, Peter317 wrote:

    Titus #46: Another goal which makes a lot of sense is the humungous sums of money being raked in by the likes of Gore and Pachurai.

    Also, Big Oil can't be complaining too loudly (at least in private) about something which has done more than anything else to push up the dollar-barrel price of their product, and therefore their profits.

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  • 52. At 11:37pm on 18 Dec 2009, selfevidenttruths wrote:

    @All: I just watched this from the AGU conference, a presentation by Richard B. Alley called 'The Biggest Control Knob: Carbon Dioxide in Earth's Climate History'

    http://www.agu.org/meetings/fm09/lectures/lecture_videos/A23A.shtml

    Some of it beyond me, at least at the speed of presentation, but I found it fascinating.

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  • 53. At 11:38pm on 18 Dec 2009, tears of our forefathers wrote:

    @48
    'Humans did not even exist 10 million years ago. That was even before our lineage split from chimpanzees.'

    i don't disagree with that. modern humans evolved between 250 and maybe 80 thousand years ago (my money (if iwas foolish enough to gamble) would be on about 150k years ago but what do i know?).

    HOWEVER: much higher levels of co2 didn't cause a runaway greenhouse effect that killed off most life which seems to be what the proAGW peeps reckon is coming. Climate Apocalypse based on co2 levels is a lie.

    simples.

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  • 54. At 11:40pm on 18 Dec 2009, tears of our forefathers wrote:

    @48 sorry to double tap without giving you chance for a response but noone denies humans are contributing to co2 increases. its whether or not human increases in co2 levels matter ie will cause huge sea level rises, kill all the cuddly (carnivorous) polarbears etetc.

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  • 55. At 11:44pm on 18 Dec 2009, selfevidenttruths wrote:

    @Peter: I was trying to answer your questions because I thought they were genuine, it now appears that your mind was already made up. So why bother? If I was as certain as you I certainly would'n't bother debating with anyone, you might as well ask how can we know anything?

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  • 56. At 11:44pm on 18 Dec 2009, selfevidenttruths wrote:

    Word up!

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  • 57. At 11:45pm on 18 Dec 2009, Peter317 wrote:

    Infinity #50: Can you show that that's any more than pure conjecture? Or does the entire biosphere, with all its diversity and changes over time, conspire to respond only to CO2 over a certain level, and not under it? And how does it know what that level is?

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  • 58. At 11:56pm on 18 Dec 2009, infiniti wrote:

    re 53:

    business as usual is not expected to cause a runaway greenhouse effect. It will result in even higher co2 levels and is expected to result in significant change in climate in response. How do the tangles upon tangles of weather systems and tangles upon tangles of ecosystems react to such a big change?

    Geologists and paleontologists would recognize that one effect of big change over short time periods is mass extinctions.

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  • 59. At 11:56pm on 18 Dec 2009, Ken Appleby wrote:

    @34 Peter. No, sorry, I can't. The descriptions I have read don't do that but do show how the processes have fluctuated over 100s of millions of years, and imply that drawdown of carbon by mountain weathering now dominates, due in part to the existence of the Himalayas.

    400M years ago CO2 levels in the atmosphere were were twenty (!) times current levels. This was before there were any vascular (woody) plants. Then vascular plants evolved and spread, capturing huge amounts of carbon from the atmosphere over the next 200M years or so and locking it away as coal and oil (the stuff we are now burning.) The rise of the Himalayas and their subsequent weathering over the last 100M years, coupled with the locking away of biomass, has resulted in CO2 levels now being at their lowest ever, geologically speaking.

    The point is that all these processes are very slow, acting over millions of years. The quantity of carbon we have released into the atmosphere by burning forests and fossil fuels is about 60% of the amount of carbon actually held in the atmosphere. All this in about 200 years! This quantity is roughly 1% of the carbon held in the entire biosphere.

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  • 60. At 11:59pm on 18 Dec 2009, Gary Yohe wrote:

    Richard...

    We met in 2007 in Brussels for WGII AR4 plenary coverage.... the end game.

    So it is the endgame in Copenhagen, and you have not posted in 3 hours. What's up?

    NYT says that there is a Copenhagen Accord.

    And the US is part of the (beginning of) a solution. Great news!

    Gary Yohe

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  • 61. At 00:02am on 19 Dec 2009, bowmanthebard wrote:

    #47 tears of our forefathers wrote:

    "odds on the next scare story:

    Alien Invasion/Visitation: 25/1
    Flu/Communicable-Disease Pandemic @5/1
    Chinese Militarism @3/1
    Iranian/Islamic Biological Weapons @2/1
    Resource Depletion @evens
    Over Population @ 10/11 odds on fave"

    Rats! I was just starting to chant "crab people, crab people..."

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  • 62. At 00:07am on 19 Dec 2009, Sparklet wrote:

    Interesting - they've put a new HYS string up for the Copenhagen Conference. Of the 127 comments received so far they've only managed to publish 1 (pro-AGW) and despite having a massive headstart on all the others has only 5 recommendations.

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  • 63. At 00:08am on 19 Dec 2009, tears of our forefathers wrote:

    ' you might as well ask how can we know anything? '

    mr selfevidenttruth that is a question for the ages. i believe many great philosophers obsessed about it their entire lives. out of interest what were you 'word up'-ing?

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  • 64. At 00:10am on 19 Dec 2009, tears of our forefathers wrote:

    @61
    personally, i blame them pesky crab folks too! not all the climate profiteers.

    nice ad hom sir! did i hit a nerve earlier?

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  • 65. At 00:11am on 19 Dec 2009, infiniti wrote:

    re 57: One big factor causing the balance is that due to chemistry atmospheric co2 level falls or rises towards balance with the amount of disolved co2 in the upper ocean. If there's too little co2 in the atmosphere compared to disolved co2 in the upper ocean then the ocean will be emitting more co2 than it absorbs.

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  • 66. At 00:12am on 19 Dec 2009, bowmanthebard wrote:

    #59 Ken Appleby wrote:

    "The point is that all these processes are very slow, acting over millions of years. The quantity of carbon we have released into the atmosphere by burning forests and fossil fuels is about 60% of the amount of carbon actually held in the atmosphere."

    This strikes me as a ridiculous claim -- bonkers.

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  • 67. At 00:13am on 19 Dec 2009, infiniti wrote:

    61: But everyone expects crab people

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  • 68. At 00:14am on 19 Dec 2009, Peter317 wrote:

    selfevidenttruths #55: Sorry if I come across a bit cynically - it's just that I question things which don't make sense, and a lot of the questions I still ask are those which I've been asking for at least the last 10 years without getting a satisfactory answer.

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  • 69. At 00:22am on 19 Dec 2009, tears of our forefathers wrote:

    @bowman:

    any thoughts regarding the manbearpig episode of south park?

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  • 70. At 00:30am on 19 Dec 2009, tears of our forefathers wrote:

    @all

    Richard B has done another one! new thread available citizens!

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  • 71. At 00:37am on 19 Dec 2009, tears of our forefathers wrote:

    in all fairness, despite my suspicion, mr bowman is bang on the money in post 66. crab people, crab people, taste like crab, walk like people.

    i'l give you odds of 66/1 on them dastardly crab folk!

    any takers?

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  • 72. At 00:39am on 19 Dec 2009, Ken Appleby wrote:

    @66.

    I haven't measured it personally, but a reputable source I have tells me that the atmosphere holds about 800,000 megatonnes (Mt) of carbon. Another tells me that we have so far burned about 500,000 Mt of carbon.

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  • 73. At 09:36am on 19 Dec 2009, bowmanthebard wrote:

    #72 Ken Appleby wrote:

    "a reputable source I have tells me that the atmosphere holds about 800,000 megatonnes (Mt) of carbon. Another tells me that we have so far burned about 500,000 Mt of carbon."

    You think every cubic millimeter of it is all still up there floating around, huh?

    As for burning carbon, when I burn anything on my cooker, seems to me like an awful lot of black carbon stays stubbornly stuck to the cooker rather than conveniently drifting off as an invisible gas!

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  • 74. At 10:16am on 19 Dec 2009, Ken Appleby wrote:

    @73. "You think every cubic millimeter of it is all still up there floating around, huh?"

    No. It's drawn down by natural processes, as I tried to explain earlier. The comparison does indicate, however, that human activities are on a scale that can significantly affect those processes, both because of the quantities and short time-scales involved.

    When fossil fuels are burned the carbon ends up in the atmosphere as CO2.

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  • 75. At 11:30am on 19 Dec 2009, bowmanthebard wrote:

    "human activities are on a scale that can significantly affect those processes"

    But if the carbon is drawn out of the atmosphere "by natural processes" then we don't have any reason to say it's 60%, and the apparent precision of that figure is downright misleading, like so many other less-than-honest words in this debate (such as calling non-absorption "emission"!)

    We know very little about how much carbon is emitted by undersea vents where the continents diverge, or about many other processes of emission or absorption... We know very little about anything really. The superficial appearance of rigour that numbers lend to a discussion is a dirty trick, as it gives the gullible a false sense of security. Pseudoscience always cranks up the numbers. Scratch the numerical surface and you always find a hollow interior.

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  • 76. At 1:05pm on 19 Dec 2009, Ken Appleby wrote:

    @75.
    The figure is not precise (I did say "about 60%) but it is accurate enough to inform discussion. It does appear to surprise (and I hope inform) some people who have a view that the world is just too big for humans to have any effect on.

    The estimate of atmospheric carbon, derived from direct measurements, is not disputed. Neither is the estimate of the quantity released by humans over history. Both are obtained from peer-reviewed, published research. We have no other methods of informing ourselves reliably.

    Climate models of course include estimates of the amount of carbon released by volcanic activity, and a great deal of careful measurement and analysis has gone into that work, which has also been peer-reviewed and published. I think the current estimates put volcanic emissions of carbon to be less than human emissions, but not by very much.

    I sympathise with the view that we can't possibly know enough about all the natural processes at play in the planet's carbon system, and I think a skeptical approach is healthy. However, such a claim can't be made on the basis of that personal ignorance implies general ignorance. A great deal of highly intelligent and valuable work has been done. You could reasonably dismiss it once you have understood it, not before.

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  • 77. At 2:03pm on 19 Dec 2009, bowmanthebard wrote:

    #76 Ken Appleby wrote:

    "Both are obtained from peer-reviewed, published research. We have no other methods of informing ourselves reliably."

    I think "peer-review" is the single greatest corrupting force in academia in general, and in climate science in particular. The golden ages of scientific advance occurred without peer-review.

    Mill wrote that "the general tendency of things throughout the world is to render mediocrity the ascendant power among mankind", essentially because agreement "feeds off itself" -- it "snowballs", if I may mix metaphors!

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  • 78. At 2:42pm on 19 Dec 2009, Ken Appleby wrote:

    @77

    Peer-review in practice can hardly be described as "agreement." Anyone actually involved in getting a paper of any significance published is likely to find that notion comical. It's a difficult, antagonistic, often bitter fight to prove each other wrong. If you can convince your opponents you have probably got a good case. The result is sometimes accuracy and insight into the way the world works.

    What alternative is there?

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  • 79. At 3:09pm on 19 Dec 2009, U14260427 wrote:

    " Ken Appleby wrote:

    What alternative is there?"

    The only alternative is to say that AGW is wrong and companies should be allowed to do as they want.

    That is the ONLY alternative these self-proclaimed skeptics will accept. This is why we call them "deniers".

    PS if you want to see this in action elsewhere, take a look at the Republican actions on the Health Care Reform Bill. They do the same thing there. Put in all their recommended edits and they still say no.

    Don't believe me?

    http://www.youtube.com/profile?gl=US&user=TheYoungTurks#p/u/14/g_f-wQ9AQvA

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  • 80. At 5:13pm on 19 Dec 2009, bowmanthebard wrote:


    #78 Ken Appleby wrote:

    "Peer-review in practice can hardly be described as "agreement." Anyone actually involved in getting a paper of any significance published is likely to find that notion comical."

    That's because they're not thinking hard enough.

    Disagreement is only possible between people who share a broad background of agreement. For example, a Catholic and a Protestant can disagree about the meaning of the Eucharist, but only because they agree on a more broadly Christian background. A Jew and a Muslim cannot have a real diagreement about it.

    Peer review encourages only the most superficial types of disagreement. It perpetuates background agreement about what questions are significant, about terminology, and about many other things such as shared practices.

    It is because of peer review that weasel words -- liar's words -- such as "the divergence problem" have been allowed to pass without proper scrutiny or question. I have said repeatedly that the assumed (inductivist) methodology of climate science is an absolute disgrace. No physicist or biologist in his right mind would accept it. It is only used in psychology -- and climate science. It is peer review we have to thank for the failure to ask deeper questions, suggest radical alternative theories, or demand honesty in the form of plain English and transparency.

    Climate science will stand as a beacon to future generations: how not to do science.

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  • 81. At 7:29pm on 19 Dec 2009, Ken Appleby wrote:

    @80. We started by you expressing disbelief about a plain fact about atmospheric carbon and human emissions. I think to then go on to generalise so much about scientific method is really just obfuscation. I don't necessarily disagree with all you say, but the grand sweeping statements are unjustified. You haven't given any alternative to peer-review as a method of not fooling ourselves.

    I presume we can agree that there actually is carbon in the atmosphere? How much is there then? I expect we can also agree that humans have put carbon into the atmosphere over the last few hundred years. What figure do you put on that?

    The science behind these two figures is uncontroversial. The people who gathered the information published their data and methods and allowed others to check if they were making sense.

    Is this something you claim we just don't know?

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  • 82. At 9:17pm on 19 Dec 2009, bowmanthebard wrote:

    #81 Ken Appleby wrote:

    "I think to then go on to generalise so much about scientific method is really just obfuscation."

    Obfuscation? -- OK, if you don't understand it, fair enough -- it means I wasn't clear enough. But my problem from the very beginning has been over the questionable -- actually just plain rubbish -- methods used by climate "scientists".

    We'll probably never agree, but I've enjoyed our disagreement all the same and respect what you say. I will take what you've said into account.

    My alternative to peer review? This is the sort of question asked by someone who cannot imagine science done without "journals"!

    Peer-review is fine as an initial screening process for journals that get far too many sumbitted articles to publish. But really, only the lazy, stupid or authoritarian pay such close attention to journals. Nowadays they are a vehicle for promotion more than anything else, a place for young academics to "fatten up their CVs". It may be the usual path to a career in science, but it isn't really science, is it?

    The combination of two new technologies -- the internet and cheap desktop publishing -- is bringing us into a Gutenburg-type revolution. The standard journals themselves and the whole internal approval process of peer review are no longer a "way to express ideas" but a reactionary, encrusted, authoritarian "established church" that is quite inimical to the real aims of science.

    At one time, scientific journals were revolutionary. Now they're what the revolution needs to overturn. (Or at least leave behind.) I have no objection to the journals themselves so much as the stuffy hidebound old fools who think journals are the place to look to find good new ideas.

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  • 83. At 10:40pm on 19 Dec 2009, Ken Appleby wrote:

    82:

    I take it then that you accept that your disbelief of a rudimentary fact about the issue was mistaken.

    All of the people I have had discussions with about global warming and who reject the argument that it is largely anthropogenic base their opinions on something other than good knowledge of the subject. It seems to me that their views are generally based on a belief that combines two things: that the world is too big for humans to have any significant effect on, and that there is a "normal" or "natural" state for the world to be in, a "balance of nature" in which everything will be alright for ever because the world is just made that way. The first of these is shown to be mistaken by simple facts like the one above. The second is shown to be wrong by a good understanding of the history of the planet, very much a recent development. There is no "stable" or "normal" state for the planet, no "balance of nature". Conditions here are determined by a host of arbitrary and random events, like the collision of tectonic plates that caused the uplift of the Himalayas and the disposition of the continents. Conditions are always changing. The planet is in a state it has never been in before, one that can be described as "late middle-age", and would be without any human interference.

    Your criticism of "journals" may be perfectly valid, but it is irrelevent. The medium of publication is irrelevent. Peer review simply means the checking by the community of what someone states as true. How would you personally be able to tell whether something you read on the internet is reliable? You still haven't explained what your alternative is. The only method that I know of is to have other people who are knowledeable in the specialisation concerned scrutinse and question data, methods and reasoning. Without some organisation of this community everything dissolves into disconnected, baseless opinions. What exactly is your alternative?

    I meant "obfuscation" literally, and was not implying that I didn't understand what you were saying.

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  • 84. At 09:17am on 20 Dec 2009, bowmanthebard wrote:

    "I take it then that you accept that your disbelief of a rudimentary fact about the issue was mistaken."

    I repeat: the claim that 60% of CO2 in the atmosphere is man-made is ludicrous.

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  • 85. At 11:31am on 20 Dec 2009, Ken Appleby wrote:

    You are not repeating anything. That particular claim has neither been made nor denied. All I did was to make the comparison between the quantities produced by humans per year and the amount held in the atmosphere. I don't see how it is possible to misconstrue my original words from post 59 in the way you have.

    But it is an interesting question. What proportion of the C in the atmosphere is the result human activities such as deforestation and fossil burning? To use the term "ludicrous" strongly suggests you have firm evidence for some very low figure. You may be correct, but how do you know?

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  • 86. At 11:40am on 20 Dec 2009, U14260427 wrote:

    "I repeat: the claim that 60% of CO2 in the atmosphere is man-made is ludicrous."

    Yup. It is. Who said it? A blog poster. Not the IPCC.

    It WOULD be 60% if you included what the ocean has taken up, however.

    Just do the maths:

    How much oil, gas and coal have been excavated and burned.

    Since Hydrogen is far lighter than Carbon, assume this hydrocarbon is all carbon to make it easier.

    Then multiply that by the ratio of weight of one mole of Carbon with one mole of Carbon and two moles of Oxygen (CO2).

    Calculate the weight of the earth's atmosphere.

    Take the surface area of the earth.

    Multiply by the weight of the atmosphere on the surface (called the surface pressure).

    Divide one by the other.

    Check your figures.

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  • 87. At 12:09pm on 20 Dec 2009, bowmanthebard wrote:

    "It WOULD be 60% if you included what the ocean has taken up, however."

    I WOULD be a great pianist -- if only I had had a few piano lessons!

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  • 88. At 12:17pm on 20 Dec 2009, U14260427 wrote:

    Ah, bowman is not open minded.

    Maths is too hard.

    Or he knows he's wrong so avoids proofs.

    One of the three.

    Maybe all.

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  • 89. At 12:19pm on 20 Dec 2009, Ken Appleby wrote:

    85. Correction: I mean the accumulated total C from human activities over time, not per year. Apologies for the mistake. It is clear, I believe, from the original words in post 59.

    86. No. No one made that particular claim. Please reread the original post. On the original claim, the calculation is indeed very simple, so simple that I suspect there is no need to explain it in such detail. The estimates of the amounts are 500,000 Mt and 800,000 Mt. But in my opinion using such a patronising tone you are just as likely to obscure the facts than clarify them.

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  • 90. At 12:27pm on 20 Dec 2009, Ken Appleby wrote:

    @86 re: @87 and @89 See what I mean? :-)

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  • 91. At 1:07pm on 20 Dec 2009, U14260427 wrote:

    @89 you presume that bowman WANTS the facts or will listen to them.

    You'll learn, my young padawan.

    You'll learn.

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  • 92. At 12:51pm on 11 Jan 2010, Dennis Fraser wrote:

    China is not really bent on making a deal. A rising economy like China will bend rules in order to compromise their business ventures. My friend Zacquisha says that China won't budge on the environment issue. I guess more pressure on other parts the world should be instigated to get these world powers to finally lay down their cards and get on with an environmentally sound and fair deal.

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