Skip to main content

Blame It on the Volcano

dsc00696 Louise Gray at the Telegraph (U.K.) clears it all up for us:

Professor Ian Plimer, a geologist from Adelaide University, argues that a recent rise in temperature around the world is caused by solar cycles and other "extra terrestrial" forces.

Extra terrestrial? That sounds like fun. But it turns out Professor Plimer has a specific villain in mind here and it’s not extra-terrestrial:

"We cannot stop carbon emissions because most of them come from volcanoes," he said. "It is a normal element cycled around in the earth and my science, which is looking back in time, is saying we have had a planet that has been a green, warm wet planet 80 per cent of the time. We have had huge climate change in the past and to think the very slight variations we measure today are the result of our life - we really have to put ice blocks in our drinks."

Whew! Good to know. Hey, wait – volcanoes? They’ve been around for a pretty long time – we’ve seen them in pictures with dinosaurs – so surely they’ve been doing volcano-like things over the epochs. We took a look over at the U.S. Geological Survey. Here’s what it says about volcanoes and gaseous emissions:

Scientists have calculated that volcanoes emit between about 130-230 million tonnes (145-255 million tons) of CO2 into the atmosphere every year (Gerlach, 1999, 1991). This estimate includes both subaerial and submarine volcanoes, about in equal amounts. Emissions of CO2 by human activities, including fossil fuel burning, cement production, and gas flaring, amount to about 27 billion tonnes per year (30 billion tons) [ ( Marland, et al., 2006).

All right, so 255 million tons for volcanoes, 30 billion tons for human activity. In fairness, volcanoes also throw out SO2 – think acid raid – but in any event, Professor Plimes’ volcano theory seems to depend on people not visiting the USGS or their national equivalent. This is odd, since Professor Plimer, trained as a mineralogist, might be someone to make an interesting argument involving volcanoes.

In our reading, we found that Guardian writer George Monbiat has engaged Plimer’s climate change work for awhile, not usually to Plimer’s benefit. Start here for that and then search for Plimer for a lot more.

Now, we’re always reluctant to say that the Plimers of the world are 100% wrong and the Monbiats are 100% right. As say, Galileo showed, you can be a severe outlier – and right. But if the arguments on one side are notably fact-free, that’s a problem and throws credibility into doubt. It’s really a risk on either side of a debate, but this time, the burden of proof is on Ian Plimer.

Advice from personal experience: If you overdo the vinegar in your tabletop volcano, you’ll get to watch your mother turn into a living volcano – and not a notably benign one either.

Comments

Anonymous said…
Sounds like a worthwhile subject for a Blue Ribbon Panel to study... oh wait, they're still solving the spent fuel issue... but where exactly did Chu's Blue Ribbon Panel run off to? I'll get right on that after I get back to whatever that McChrystal guy wanted...

Popular posts from this blog

How Nanomaterials Can Make Nuclear Reactors Safer and More Efficient

The following is a guest post from Matt Wald, senior communications advisor at NEI. Follow Matt on Twitter at @MattLWald.

From the batteries in our cell phones to the clothes on our backs, "nanomaterials" that are designed molecule by molecule are working their way into our economy and our lives. Now there’s some promising work on new materials for nuclear reactors.

Reactors are a tough environment. The sub atomic particles that sustain the chain reaction, neutrons, are great for splitting additional uranium atoms, but not all of them hit a uranium atom; some of them end up in various metal components of the reactor. The metal is usually a crystalline structure, meaning it is as orderly as a ladder or a sheet of graph paper, but the neutrons rearrange the atoms, leaving some infinitesimal voids in the structure and some areas of extra density. The components literally grow, getting longer and thicker. The phenomenon is well understood and designers compensate for it with a …

Missing the Point about Pennsylvania’s Nuclear Plants

A group that includes oil and gas companies in Pennsylvania released a study on Monday that argues that twenty years ago, planners underestimated the value of nuclear plants in the electricity market. According to the group, that means the state should now let the plants close.

Huh?

The question confronting the state now isn’t what the companies that owned the reactors at the time of de-regulation got or didn’t get. It’s not a question of whether they were profitable in the '80s, '90s and '00s. It’s about now. Business works by looking at the present and making projections about the future.

Is losing the nuclear plants what’s best for the state going forward?

Pennsylvania needs clean air. It needs jobs. And it needs protection against over-reliance on a single fuel source.


What the reactors need is recognition of all the value they provide. The electricity market is depressed, and if electricity is treated as a simple commodity, with no regard for its benefit to clean air o…

Why Nuclear Plant Closures Are a Crisis for Small Town USA

Nuclear plants occupy an unusual spot in the towns where they operate: integral but so much in the background that they may seem almost invisible. But when they close, it can be like the earth shifting underfoot.

Lohud.com, the Gannett newspaper that covers the Lower Hudson Valley in New York, took a look around at the experience of towns where reactors have closed, because the Indian Point reactors in Buchanan are scheduled to be shut down under an agreement with Gov. Mario Cuomo.


From sea to shining sea, it was dismal. It wasn’t just the plant employees who were hurt. The losses of hundreds of jobs, tens of millions of dollars in payrolls and millions in property taxes depressed whole towns and surrounding areas. For example:

Vernon, Vermont, home to Vermont Yankee for more than 40 years, had to cut its municipal budget in half. The town closed its police department and let the county take over; the youth sports teams lost their volunteer coaches, and Vernon Elementary School lost th…