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Monday, July 09, 2007

Movie review: episode three

Obligatory disclaimer...
Today, the kids and I watched The Great Warming, Our Children's Planet, the third and last disc of the series.

I must admit, I was pleasantly surprised. It wasn't anywhere near as depressing as the others. LOL Actually, it was almost hopeful, and acknowledged a lot really great things.

Among the things they covered was an almost humorous look at the Future Truck Competition. Universities from all over send teams to this competition, all trying to build the greenest SUV, while still maintaining the power and usefulness of the vehicle. The Canadian team from the University of Alberta got quite a bit of air time - their vehicle's engine had caught fire the day before the competition, and on the day itself, the SUV still wouldn't idle right, and the clutch got fried. The winner used a combination of diesel and another type of fuel I can't remember anymore. All the teams had major problems. I found it interesting that the gas/oil consuming internal combustion engine is still the only one that really works. Mind you, none of the teams had anything like this.

They also featured an architect/real estate developer that specialized in building energy efficient green homes. I believe the total energy costs for a unit was something around $77 a year.

Among the other things discussed:

radiant heat.
active and passive solar
geothermal - which is totally cool! though limited by geography, of course.
the use of energy recovery techniques, that reclaim energy that would otherwise have left the home
roof top gardens - now that's an idea I really like, though their implication that if all city roofs had wildflower gardens on them, it would eliminate the Urban Heat Effect was a touch optimistic.
The also covered the use of ethanol, hydrogen and harnessing the tides.

Now for the not so good.

Our view of the episode did a nose dive right at the start, when it opened with what was probably the most horrible rap group I've ever heard. It was barely audible, but they were rapping about all the terrible things happening to the earth. It took a while for the video to recover from that particular start. *L*

Once again, the terms "carbon" and "carbon dioxide" were used interchangeably. I've asked around a group that is far more knowledgeable about climate than I am, trying to figure out what I'm missing. Turns out I wasn't missing anything. Carbon, being particulate matter, is completely different from CO2 and does not have a green house effect of any kind. It does, however, play a part in smog - which again, has nothing to do with global warming. One of the people who responded to me mentioned that AGW advocates like to use images of industrial smokestacks to "show" CO2 and give a visual representation of global warming. When that was mentioned, I did realize that these discs were all full of images of smokestacks. CO2 is invisible and relatively harmless, but carbon in the air can be both visible and harmful. So the two are equated, even though the two are completely different and have different effects on the environment.

Another thing I noticed was how the term "climate change" was used. Global warming and climate change were terms also used interchangeably, plus climate change was also equated with tornadoes and other massive weather events.

All those good things I'd listed before were also tightly focused on reducing "carbon emissions" and CO2 levels. Just as an example. They featured a semi-nomadic goat herder in the mountains of Peru, who was also working to establish a tourism business - I felt he was a wise man to want to diversify his income in creative ways. He was interviewed through a translator, and he sounded very positive and hopeful.

Alas, according to the voice over (Keanu, at this point), our goat herder was also contributing to global warming! Along with his herd of goats, he had 6 tents, 2 refrigerators and a tv. Electricity was provided through the use of expensive diesel fuel. His wife cooked their meals on fires fueled by wood and dung. But, thanks to foreign investors, they were provided with a portable solar array and wind turbine. I don't know that these two items alone would be reliable enough to power his electrical needs - and there was no mention of his wife getting a stove of some sort to cook with instead of a wood and dung fire. No matter, with this new technology, our goat herder was no long contributing to global warming through his carbon emissions!

No mention that he would save money, which he could reinvest into his budding tourism business.
No mention of the improvements in living conditions by not having to breath in the particulate matter in the smoke of a dung and wood fire.
Nope, the *only* advantage to this guy having solar and wind energy is that he's no longer contributing to global warming!

It was the same with the green, energy efficient homes, or the farmer using no-till planting methods. Everything was about reducing "carbon overload."

They then went on to discuss other fascinating technology, from the Thames Barrier, to massive underwater barriers being built in the effort to reduce water damage to Venice.

Alternate technologies to fuel our home and vehicles were discussed, including the familiar ethanol and hydrogen for cars. Some had me worried. One used a sort of solar array that converter CO2 to CO, which would then be used to make hydrogen, which would then be used to provide power for homes. I'm somewhat concerned about converting the benign and essential CO2 into a poisonous gas to heat our homes.

It was the last example that really had me shaking my head. This technology would not only reduce global warming, but reverse it! Now, first off, I question that we actually want to stimulate global cooling, but that's another story. This is the idea.

Giant towers, which would act as artificial trees, would be built. A special coating on the surfaces would trap CO2 from out of the air. The CO2 would then be converted to calcium carbonate, which is the same thing seashells and corals are made out of.

Then, get this, the calcium carbonate would be collected, the captured CO2 is then "harvested for safe disposal underground, or for conversion into stable substances."


First of all, since when was CO2 not a stable substance? And burying it? CO2 is being treated like some sort of dangerous, toxic substance, like nuclear waste!

It would be laughable, if they weren't actually serious.


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