Posts by Bart Janssen

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  • Hard News: The Language of Climate, in reply to Moz,

    why doesn’t the mounting proof that climate change is a real threat persuade more skeptics?

    So we get occasional seminars by people studying this sort of question for different issues and I loosely follow the literature on it as well, again because of similar issues.

    There are several things going on but one thing to note is that on any issue there will be what are called polar bears and penguins, essentially people on opposite sides of an issue who will never change their minds about their position. They interpret every new data in the light of their position, dismissing opposing data and inflating the importance of confirming data, regardless of the veracity of the source.

    Once you understand that you come to realise it is pointless to address either polar bears or penguins.

    But you can talk to the people in the middle.

    The thing about most folks in the middle is that what they believe to be true depends very much on a set of core beliefs about the world. What's interesting scientifically is that a mixture of common beliefs is often found together. You can group people by sets of beliefs. Most folks in the middle will listen to data and can change their minds but different sets of people need different kinds of data to be willing to change their minds.

    The language I naturally use and the metaphors and examples I naturally use will only be heard by a certain set of people. For other sets of people there is no point in me using those examples and metaphors. It takes considerable effort to try and communicate to a really wide audience and be heard and accepted by them all.

    Nothing I ever say will affect the position of the extremes and worse, engaging with the extreme people really turns off the people in the middle who are capable of listening. There are people with whom I never engage on some subjects, it does nobody any good at all.

    The most important thing to know of all is that I am just the same as everyone else, I interpret data with the filter of my core set of beliefs. On some issues I am as intractable (because I'm right of course :P) as anyone, on some issues I view data with as skewed a bias as anyone. I hope knowing that about myself makes me more careful of my assumptions, but I'm not certain.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 3114 posts Report Reply

  • Hard News: The Language of Climate, in reply to Moz,

    If NZ devoted a significant proportion of GDP to training a generation of nuclear scientists and engineers, then once they graduated embarked on a crash program of reactor design, within a couple of generations of reactor build and test we could have safe, secure, reliable nuclear power for all.

    No no no no no no. I mean yes by all means build a safe stable reactor, although the need in NZ is dubious, but please don't reinvent the wheel. Other people have worked out all that stuff elsewhere - to pretend we need to do it ourselves is just all kinds of stupid.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 3114 posts Report Reply

  • Southerly: How I Became a Grumpy Old…,

    I also have the problem of 95%. But I'm also fond of the saying "house finished, man die" which I think has been horribly mistranslated from Chinese but works for me.

    At some point you have to figure out how to love doing the work, for me that means I do random jobs around the house in random order as the mood takes me - it makes the jobs fun rather than a chore - however, the risk of marital dispute can raise a chore into the fun category remarkably quickly.

    I'm very jealous of your table saw, or rather the space you have to use one, those old machines were built heavy and solid.

    And like everyone else I have to say your joinery looks amazing, I know how hard it can be to get those details just right.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 3114 posts Report Reply

  • Hard News: The Language of Climate, in reply to Sacha,

    and how many of those things are not a matter of sufficient resolution?

    Smell and touch are the obvious two.

    We are impressively visual beings but not everything can be reproduced on a screen. Also even just focusing on the visual you need high speed cameras to capture images of micro-expressions, they are too fast to ever get an image of them at normal frame rates - yet we respond to those incredibly rapid expressions even if we don't "see" them consciously. Yes you could argue that it's just a matter of always using high speed cameras and display systems but that would be a stretch.

    You'd be talking about huge upgrades to VC cameras and displays (at the limits of current technology) and the bandwidth required to transmit the data would be spectacular.

    Personally I'd rather take an overnight airship powered by electric engines to Melbourne for a face to face meeting and lunch at a nice restaurant.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 3114 posts Report Reply

  • Hard News: The Language of Climate, in reply to Sacha,

    reliable, affordable genuine hi-resolution video will change that. We don’t have it yet.

    Unlikely. Actual real world personal contact communicates things that we can't reproduce over the internet (yet). I'm only too happy to use the internet but I also recognise the very real value of a face to face meeting.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 3114 posts Report Reply

  • Hard News: The Language of Climate, in reply to David Haywood,

    This is the of thing that will work, if and only if, we can shift governments from focussing on minimising loss from dealing with climate change and instead focus on the opportunities it create and necessitates.

    Even the discussion here quickly focused on negatives, denying ourselves things, instead of figuring out how to have better things.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 3114 posts Report Reply

  • Hard News: The Language of Climate, in reply to David Haywood,

    Bioplastics are already widely available – I use PLA probably every week in my engineering work.

    I haven’t looked in-depth at the claimed agricultural problems with bioplastics.

    In the early days there was a lot of work looking at using GE to modify the pathways in plants to make better and more plastic precursors. The work has languished partly because oil is still cheap and partly because the costs of getting a GE product through the regulatory system and to market are too damn high. The final nail in the coffin was that the plants we knew most about were all food crops and nobody wanted to face the risks of cross contamination between food and non-food which meant (re)developing the methods in non-food crops which added a whole other layer of cost to development.

    There will almost certainly still be folks working on making plastic precursors in plants in the various universities around the world but it's unlikely anything will get to market without a change in attitudes toward the value of such products.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 3114 posts Report Reply

  • Hard News: The Language of Climate,

    For those abandoning air travel perhaps it might be worth considering the cultural and social value of travel. One of the reasons NZ is open to new ideas at all is because a significant proportion of the population have traveled and actually seen for themselves that people do things differently elsewhere.

    We have a culture of acceptance of the different because many people have seen that different can also be just as good. I'd hate to see us lose that.

    As for business travel, there are just times when real face to face makes enough of a difference to be worthwhile. Yeah there is wasted travel, particularly in the upper management zones, but most businesses view travel as a cost they can minimize.

    Perhaps a better approach to the problem of air travel is to develop alternatives. Airships have potential but they aren't as fast, which for some purposes is just fine. Sea travel really is too slow for most human interactions, but it's worth noting that all mail is now delivered by air, which is convenient sure, but is also wasteful. There have been huge changes in aircraft engines, particularly around noise, perhaps a stronger focus on fuel efficiency could see a whole other class of aircraft that were even more fuel efficient.

    With more options perhaps you could choose to take a 12 hour (efficient) flight to Melbourne, heck the travel day is usually a write off anyway.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 3114 posts Report Reply

  • Hard News: The Language of Climate,

    Just thought I should add this link from AgResearch to some of the work going on already to reduce methane emissions from ruminants. The pdfs are short summaries and give you an idea of what is already happening.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 3114 posts Report Reply

  • Hard News: The Language of Climate, in reply to Che Tibby,

    bart, what’s the need for lowering the methane output of ruminants? my layperson’s understanding says that as long as you’re not introducing fossil-carbon to the feed end then the back end is “carbon neutral”

    Your lay person's understanding is quite right (but see below) CO2 to plants to cows to CH4 is carbon neutral.


    CH4 is about 20 times stronger as a greenhouse gas than CO2, so it is not climate change neutral.

    That's the first problem, the second problem is New Zealand specific because most of our greenhouse gas emissions are methane and since a big chunk of our export economy depends on ruminants we are faced with a very specific challenge.

    The final problem is that it isn't quite carbon neutral. That's because the way we farm depends on fertiliser which requires energy input and that is usually fossil fuel energy.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 3114 posts Report Reply

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