Monday, 13 July 2009

Tilting at Windfarms

The other scientific thing that caught my eye over the weekend was a very well-written post over on Black Sun Journal about global warming and the future of energy use.

I have to admit that I am instinctively a bit of a global warming sceptic. On the one hand, I've always worried about using up resources of the earth that took millions of years to create - seems a bit reckless. On the other hand, I hate bandwagons and I dislike the fact that it is now socially unacceptable to question global warming as a fact, or the effectiveness of alternative energy sources.

So a good, well-reasoned argument in favour of the case for alternative energy production is very welcome, in this corner of the pond. Sean makes a good case for wind energy, for example. The only thing I wonder about is if wind energy was widely used throughout the world, surely weather patterns would be affected? If the wind is being turned into energy instead of powering its way round the world, it must have an effect. Anyone got any answers?

I like the sound of the halogen replacement bulb though and will certainly give them a go when they come down in price. It's the disposal of all our stuff that I think is as important as the energy itself and silicon sounds a lot better than mercury.

Right, that's enough clever stuff - my brain hurts. As an antidote, xkcd, as usal, has the answer...


Coffeecup said...

I don't think that harnessing the wind's energy could change weather patterns. Now you have me thinking back to school geography lessons. Umm it's the constant change between high and low pressure that causes the atmosphere to move around and it can negotiate entire continents and mountain ranges without a hitch so must have a massive amount of energy.

Those ugly turbines can spoil the natural landscape, but out there in the sea near Liverpool they look rather elegant. Don't think they're the answer to the energy demand problem though.

It's just the scale of our use of resources that concerns me too. I realise that the climate has fluctated since the Earth was created, but the immediate worry is that this time it could effect our children and grandchildren which makes it an issue now.

Did you see James May fly up over the planet in that U2 Puddock? The atmosphere below was a thin skin like tissue paper over a football. Now that is scary!

Anonymous said...

It's hard to know what to believe, particularly as there seem to be so many lobby groups pushing their own barrow. I do believe however, that global warming is happening. At the very least the weather patterns of the world are changing so markedly our ability to grow food and so on will be affected.

My current cause though is garbage. Plastic, in particular. I am concerned with how much stuff we produce and just dump. We are running out of land. If we continue to dump rubbish in the sea it's going to cause major problems for us. I just think we're focusing on the wrong thing at the moment. There are more greenhouse gas emissions produced from garbage dumps than from all the cars in the world. We really need to do something about that, I think.

I also think wind technology is good but I prefer solar. It's much less intrusive on the environment.

The whole debate surrounding this is very interesting at the moment. Part of the problem is that there is too much debate and not enough action. Meanwhile, we continue to drown in our own garbage. It worries me a lot. Great post!

Anonymous said...

A bit of visual pollution has to be better than a lot of greenhouse gasses. I know they are noisy and I know they look ugly in rural settings but I would prefer to get my power from them than from coal burning power stations.

Shane K. said...

I wouldn't think harnessing the wind would affect wind patterns.

But on the other point you raised about it being socially acceptable or not to question global warming - I think there needs to be a change of ideas here. It's not 'global warming' it's 'climate change'. Climate change is a natural recurring event that has happened many times before. We've already had two ice age's so I don't understand how people expected the climate to stay the way it is today. It makes no sense that we can be that ignorant.

While I believe we have abused this planet and I think a lot more needs to be done in terms of alternative energy sources only to save us from using what's left of the planet leaving us with nothing, I also believe we need to spending less money on trying to combat "global warming" and more on how the next ice age will impact humans. Spending billions, taxing people and the like to try and reduce CO2 emissions is just redundancy at its pinnacle. We should be researching which countries will suffer the most during an ice age and how best to prepare for this kind of event.

Keep up the good posts though!

Shane K. said...

By the way, as far as alternate energy goes, we need to look into hydrogen fuel cell technology. There are cars coming out (namely the Honda FCX Clarity) that utilise hydrogen to be converted into energy to move a family sized car and only emits water vapor.

Surely this kind of technology can be increased in size to pump out electricity for the masses over time? Harnessing wind or solar is great for small communities or personal use, but we need something bigger to power the major cities and I believe the hydrogen fuel cell to be the answer.

The only difficult thing is getting the hydrogen as it's mostly attached to other molecules. But at the same time, the researchers at Honda have said that harnessing pure hydrogen is no more difficult as a process than drilling for oil, transporting it, refining it, putting it in tankers then making it available at your local petrol pumps. Great point!