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You have convinced me:  This thing is fated to occur. Not for the reasons Crutzen suggests.

Exactly, we will most likely take over the entire biosphere and use huge amounts of energy to make up for the cleaning and stabilization functions of the biota that won't be there any longer. We may even come to see acid rain as an acceptable price to pay to prevent global warming.

Luckily, we don't have more than 50 years of coal anyway.

Those whom the Gods wish to destroy They first make mad. -- Euripides

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sat Oct 14th, 2006 at 07:07:20 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I thought it was at least 200. According to the Wikipedia article on coal, an estimate from British petroleum is 155 years. I don't know under what assumptions this was made, if we don't just adjust for economic growth but also assume that coal should substitute for oil and gas when those run out, it would become less.
by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Sat Oct 14th, 2006 at 08:19:03 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It's 155 years at current demand. Assuming demand grows by just 4% per year, over 159 years' worth of the initial demand is consumed in 51 years.

Those whom the Gods wish to destroy They first make mad. -- Euripides
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sat Oct 14th, 2006 at 08:33:44 AM EST
[ Parent ]
And if coal is turned into fuel to replace oil, we will run out of coal even sooner.
by Plan9 on Sat Oct 14th, 2006 at 10:05:28 AM EST
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Yes, that is a point...

I looked into it, and first, BP is taking proven reserves. Estimated reserves are 10% higher, but that's not very much. Coal has grown very much over the past two years (around 5%) due almost entirely to China, but the 10-year average is 2.5%.

So if we factor in that coal will have to gradually replace oil and gas as a source of electricity, 4% growth or higher is necessary, otherwise the growth rate it will be lower, I think.

by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Sat Oct 14th, 2006 at 11:01:40 AM EST
[ Parent ]
We may even come to see acid rain as an acceptable price to pay to prevent global warming.

Anthropogenic SO2 emissions have recently fallen by several percent per year. Because an SO2 sunscreen would increase SO2 emissions by several percent, it would set back progress in cleanup by several years. For example, if this were to start tomorrow, it would make the rain about as acidic as it was in 2004 (and reverse global warming, of course). We might not get back down to today's emission levels and resume progress until 2008.

If we suggest that delaying progress in SO2 cleanup by a few years might be worse than the effects of ongoing global warming, what would that mean? It seems to me that it would would be equivalent to announcing that global warming is an almost negligible problem.

(BTW, if we got good at making useful stuff, like greenhouses and photovoltaics, why would we be inclined to destroy the biosphere?)

Words and ideas I offer here may be used freely and without attribution.

by technopolitical on Sun Oct 15th, 2006 at 12:22:21 AM EST
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