Reflections on climate discussions in the blogosphere between Keith, Lucia and me: The spectrum of opinions, uncertainty, risk and inertia

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Keith Kloor has a post up that is an almost literal transcription of a conversation we had between him, myself and Lucia.

It’s a good initiative I find, to attempt to ‘bridge the climate divide’, as his post is titled. It’s an important theme for me as well. I’ve tried to find common ground with others before, e.g. Tom Fuller and Roger Pielke Jr.  Not that I see such a huge divide between Lucia and myself at all, but that’s also what makes such a conversation both possible, useful and enjoyable. A conversation between more extreme or more excitable voices on either side may quickly become an exercise in mudslinging; there has to be some common ground in order to have a conversation.

The crux of what I had to say is this (quoting myself):

So you have a large amount of inertia in the energy system, in the carbon cycle and in the climate system, which means if you start taking actions, it’s decades into the future until they start taking effect.

If you combine that inertia in those different systems, with uncertainty of the precise effect, and with some knowledge that it could go pretty wrong with a business as usual scenario, then you have to take proactive steps, and that’s where the urgency comes from.

In my view, it’s similar to a chainsmoker who gets told by a physician, “hey, you should really be careful, you should stop smoking if you care about your heath.” And the person says, “hey I can still bike to the town and I feel fine and my grandmother lived until she was 96 and died in a car accident.”

You can postpone dealing with smoking until you’re in the intensive care unit. But that’s a little late. That’s the line of argument in which I see the urgency of climate global warming.

I plan to go into these issues in more detail at some point.

Thanks Keith and Lucia!

Lucia’s report is here. She makes the interesting observation that

It seemed that Bart and I may disagree less when on Skype than when posting comments at Roger Pielke Jr.’s blog. That’s an interesting thing in and off itself.

Though perhaps we have slightly different recollections of our (few) discussions at Roger’s. We never were very antagonistic as far I recall, though on the impersonal internet it’s always easier (tempting even?) to be more antagonistic than one is in “real” life (insofar as Skype is real and not internet; ah well, you get the point).

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89 Responses to “Reflections on climate discussions in the blogosphere between Keith, Lucia and me: The spectrum of opinions, uncertainty, risk and inertia”

  1. kkloor Says:

    Bart,

    I too found Lucia’s Skype observation interesting–and noted that over at her site, as well.

    BTW, that chainsmoker analogy is brilliant. I used to think the house insurance analogy was among the best. But the chainsmoker tops that.

    But here’s where you can explore it further–and this will take you into the realm of human behavior. People don’t even need to be told by their doctor anymore that chainsmoking will likely kill them 30+ years down the road,or whenever.

    That still doesn’t stop them. So a similar admonitation from climate scientists about future climate change won’t do the trick, either.

  2. Steve Bloom Says:

    Call me cynical, but I would be very surprised if the chainsmoker argument or anything else moves Lucia off of her inactivist position. For that matter, I doubt that it will move Keith off of his two-sides-and-a-Breakthrough-Boys-middle paradigm.

    Possibly a better discussion to have is how to move forward notwithstanding that no amount of facts (or the presentation thereof) will persuade such people to support the needed sharp reductions in emissions.

  3. Steven Mosher Says:

    Steve I think characterizing Lucia as an inactivist doesn’t fit well with the facts as I know them and my conversations with her. Unless one defines “action” as drastic cuts. That’s a rather unthinking way to characterize things and it polarizes the debate. A tactic, I would hasten to add, that itself leads to inaction.

  4. Bart Says:

    Thanks Keith. Indeed, just knowing that certain (collective) behavior is risky for the future isn’t quite enough for people to stop said behavior. Human psychology at work I guess.

    Steve Bloom, even if I don’t agree on everything with Lucia and Keith, there’s a constructive discussion to be had with them. If anything I think it useful to not start off such a discussing with labeling people in overly negative ways. I agree with Steve Mosher that it’s unnecessarily polarizing (or “tribal”, being the new buzz word).

    Your last point (Steve Bloom) is one I wholeheartedly agree with, as you can see in the interview at Keith Kloor’s: The discussion should indeed move from discussing scientific details as a proxy for the politics to the actual political issues of how to respond to the issues.

  5. lucia Says:

    Bart–
    I don’t think we fight like cats and dogs at Rogers, but quite often the conversation focuses on our differences rather than agreements. Keith’s interview format asks questions, we both answer, and quite often we are not that far apart.

    There may be something about the blog format that causes people to read something and notice where they differ. The alternative is to post a “me too” response to what someone says. It’s worth thinking about.

    Of course, I also learned you have a cat. So, maybe we agree cats are good pets. :)

  6. Bart Says:

    Hi Lucia,

    I think that’s very true, and I guess that will be featured in the part two of the interview, where we talked about the blog format. This example shows how the communication platform can steer the discourse in a certain direction, e.g polarizing vs building bridges.

    About the cat… having her in the house wan’s exactly my choice, but she’s okay ;-)

  7. John Sully Says:

    Having a cat in the house is never your choice. It is the cat’s.

  8. Steve Bloom Says:

    Yep, mosh, appropriate action does mean drastic cuts soon (the equivalent of immediately stopping smoking in Bart’s metaphor).

    I suppose the only grounds for polite conversation with a dedicated smoker would regard some form of cutting down. Asking them to stop would be seen as impolite.

  9. Richard Hill Says:

    Bart, I tried to follow the link you gave on KK’s blog, but something failed.
    Again, trying to merge your chain smoking analogy with Lomborgs approach…
    The physician looks at the chain-smoker’s case history.
    Ms Terra presents with high blood pressure, dehydration, bad skin rashes, boils and carbuncles, headaches, emphysemia, stomach pains, aches in all limbs, temperature 39,,,,,
    The fact that she is a chain smoker *could* explain all this, but the physician knows that there might be other causes and also that immediate relief can be given by direct action on specific symptoms, eg aspirin for the headache will work in minutes.

    Lomborg’s point is that there are immediate problems, such as burning cowdung for cooking which could be relieved by rural electrification in 3rd world countries.
    We should be giving priority to fixing starvation and poverty. Diverting resources to decarbonisation to fix a problem 100 years away when people are starving right now could be regarded as immoral.
    Yes to more research, but no to the other cruel diversions of resources.
    Have you heard of the “Copenhagen Consensus”?

  10. Bam Says:

    Richard Hill:

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2008/aug/22/climatechange.carbonemissions

  11. gallopingcamel Says:

    In your recent response to “shub” you said:

    “The IPCC is a proces more than an institution, so in effect you’re saying that all those scientists who participtae in the IPCC, and the articles they assess are adapting their science to fit their worldview?!? Quite a conspiracy going on there.”

    As someone whose job depends on research contracts from the federal government I long ago learned to “sing for my supper”. To survive, one has to tell the managers at AFSOR, NRL, NSF, DoE, DARPA and the rest what they want to hear.

    This process does not constitute a conspiracy so I have invented the term “Soft Lysenkoism” which is more dangerous than the hard kind practiced under Stalin.

  12. Bam Says:

    Gallopingcamel, could you please explain what you mean exactly with “sing for my supper”?

    My own personal experience, having been at both ends, is that all grant applications try to explain how the application is relevant to the grant they apply for. Thus, a grant to the DoE would have to make it clear how the research (and its potential outcome) is relevant to the DoE. However, that does not imply that the science is adapted to fit the view of the DoE. The research aim, yes, but you cannot adapt the outcome (in the absence of fraud).

    To give an example relevant to climate: Bart could write a grant application to the DoE on aerosol research. In that application he could (should) indicate how energy production leads to aerosols, which are known to affect A, B, C. He should focus on the A/B/C that are ‘hot topics’ at the DoE to get more attention. That would be “singing for his supper”. If he would write that his research will show aerosols are no problem at all (during the Bush years) or that it will show they are very dangerous (during the (non-existent) Gore years) he *would* be practicing ‘soft lysenkoism’, but get nothing. Every (and especially large) research grant involves a multitude of reviewers, and they would all pick up on this clear political statement. The managers aren’t even involved in this initial selection, and would have a hard time overruling the external reviewers’ evaluation. We’re talking hundreds of external reviewers here. Which gets us back to the conspiracy…

  13. Bart Says:

    Richard Hill,

    The link to my critique on Lomborg’s position is here.
    What you’re referring to (‘more immediate problems’) is the false dilemma he sets up.

  14. Steve Bloom Says:

    Bart, for better or worse I just took the time to read through the long parallel thread at Lucia’ and thought it might be worth passing on a couple of comments to you:

    You wrote there: “Joe Romm is to the more activist side, but I’m having difficulties naming a blog that’s more activist than his.” Well, I think Arthur literally fulfilled your need, but in addition I think you have a misunderstanding about Romm. Romm works for John Podesta, a former Bill Clinton chief of staff (the job currently held by Rahm Emanuel) who ran the transition for Obama (and would have run it for HRC had she won). The center of gravity in American politics being in the center-right of the Democratic Party, Podesta virtually defines that center. The target audience for Romm’s blog only includes the general public because including it is necessary to getting at the real audience, which is the U.S. policy-making elite (including the media). I’m actually quite encouraged that someone like Podesta has acquired a sufficient grasp of the science to have wanted to sponsor Climate Progress to begin with. It’s also encouraging to see that Romm is in no apparent sense a mouthpiece for the administration, but is able to be quite critical of them when circumstances warrant.

    Re my terming Lucia a “denialist”: There are various things to be in denial of. One is the basic science, which she does not deny. OTOH, she appears indifferent to the idea that warming even at the low end of the IPCC range will have some rather nasty consequences, and appears entirely uninterested in the obvious lessons to be drawn from deep-time paleoclimate. At the same time, she seems to want to focus mainly on picking nits at the details of the surface record and the short-term trajectory of the models. It also seems that she’ll be happy to engage in endless (and exceedingly polite) discussion of these points. Call it what you like, but denial fills the bill for me. Maybe “lukewarm denial” would be more appropriate, but I doubt that’s going to acquire common currency.

  15. Richard Hill Says:

    Bart,
    Thank you for the reference.
    I feel embarrassed at trying to talk on behalf of Lomborg, because he would be much better at it than I am.
    We are discussing cost benefits, priorities, uncertainties and risks.
    The risk that Lomborg (and Simon) and a very few others would might like to see included is the risk that, over a longer time span, human ingenuity and enterprise may come up with solutions to current problems that lie outside current thinking.
    AFAIK this risk is not included in the Stern report and possibly not the others you reference. It may even be possible to quantify it. Do you know about “The Limits to Growth” and Ehrlich’s earlier works?. The unfixable disasters that they fortold never came to pass. The late Simon wrote on this issue and his books may include some calculations.
    It could be regarded as quite arrogant to assume that at this point in time we know about all possible solutions to known problems.

  16. MapleLeaf Says:

    Mosher and Lucia,

    Do you agree that we need to move towards a sustainable and low carbon energy future?

    Mosher, if I recall correctly, you say we need to act on AGW. Lucia seems to focus on consequences of warming without considering other serious negative impacts of emitting 30 Gt a year of anthro CO2 into the troposphere, for example, ocean acidification. Just how many hundreds of millions of people are dependent on the ocean for food? Well, about 200 million people currently live less than 1 m AMSL…..

    With that in mind, which of the IPCC scenarios do you think that we should pursue? And no, BAU is not an option.

    If you do not accept any of those scenarios, fair enough, but then please provide you own emission curve with specific and clear description of how the emission curve will be met. Please also provide a list of global potential impacts (in terms of temperature, food and water supply, biodiversity etc) arising from following that course of action.

    Thanks.

    PS: As for how dramatic reduction in emissions should be, has anyone here heard about Solomon et al’s new paper that is in review (in press?)? I attended a talk that Dr. Solomon gave recently and we are looking at many problems extending well beyond 2100, especially if we adopt BAU or a conservative/myopic approach to reducing GHG emissions.

  17. steven Mosher Says:

    Steve

    “Yep, mosh, appropriate action does mean drastic cuts soon (the equivalent of immediately stopping smoking in Bart’s metaphor).”

    I’ve not seen anything resembling science that supports such a position. Further I think there is a much better argument for mitigation measures. So again, framing the debate as MY action is the only real action, is an old rhetorical trick. Works on some I suspect.

    “I suppose the only grounds for polite conversation with a dedicated smoker would regard some form of cutting down. Asking them to stop would be seen as impolite.”

    Non sense. People ask me to stop smoking all the time. Its not impolite. Now if they try to talk about junk 2nd hand smoke science, then the conversation will change.

  18. steven Mosher Says:

    Maple Leaf/ First off please use your real name. It hard to have civilized discussions with monikers. my experience. anyway

    Do you agree that we need to move towards a sustainable and low carbon energy future??

    I think your question literally makes no sense. Do I think we should move toward sundown? Do I think we should move toward transparent aluminum? those two questions make the same kind of sense.

    “With that in mind, which of the IPCC scenarios do you think that we should pursue? And no, BAU is not an option.”

    I think the fairy tale scenarios are the most suspect aspect of all the IPCC work. I dont think chasing a global emissions strategy is a workable path. I think those who chase that idea actually retard progress toward the right action. They think C02 can be handled like CFCs were. They are wrong and the planet is worse off because of the people who persue emissions cuts.
    You wanna deal with 1 Meter sea rise? talk to the dutch.

    So, I dont have any scenario and I think its wrong headed to suggest that we have to act in a global fashion on emissions or do nothing at all. i think the focus on fairy tale scenarios ( I laughed pretty hard when I first read them) is a detriment to taking the right kinds of action. Since I think we should take action, I really dont want to contribute to delay by discussing options ( emmission scenarios) that are part of the reason why we dont take action.

  19. Bart Says:

    Steve Bloom,

    Indeed, Arthur Smith made some very spot on comments in the parallel thread at Lucia’s.

    About Joe Romm: He’s got a great grasp of energy issues, and on the science he’s also careful to not steer away too much from what the science actually sais (though he sometimes does have a tendency to emphasize the worst case outlook). The biggest issue with him is not in what he sais, but how he sais it: I find his tone overly adversarial.

    I would certainly not classify Lucia as “denialist”. For one, I don’t use the term lightly because it invokes such strong negative emotions. But also, I don’t see her denying blatantly obvious physics (or other things), which to me is a precondition for considering the term denialist. The basic scientific picture (IPCC WG1) is quite clear, but the effects (WG2) are much less so. Plus, to what extent effects can be labeled problematic involves s judgement call, so adding those two things up mean that there’s a lot more room for disagreement on the nastiness of the consequences than on, say, radiative forcing of climate.

    I can see where your charge of nitpicking comes from, but everybody is free to focus on those details that interest them. Wiki sais about nitpicking: “the practice of meticulously searching for minor, even trivial errors in detail, and then criticising them”. Hmm, ok, so not all attention to detail is necessarily nitpicking. Lucia and me not having discussed this topic (and the topic of the CRU emails) may have contributed to us agreeing on more than we expected, granted. But at least Lucia is careful to not draw all too far reaching conclusions or lose complete sight of the bigger picture, which is what distinguishes her from e.g. McIntyre.

    Especially with people with whom there may be common ground to explore and with whom a constructive discussion can be had, it is entirely unconstructive to label them as more extreme than they really are.

  20. MapleLeaf Says:

    Steve Mosher,

    I have very good reasons for using a moniker, please respect that. But if you wish to use a name call me, let me see, Stuart ;)

    I’m disappointed with your answer, if one could call it that. My question was simple, nor am I the first to (to my knowledge) to ask it. So I’m not sure what you find so confusing, other than to perhaps to try and obfuscate, again. As you know, right now, our economies (for the most part) are not based on sustainable practices and nor are they low carbon. FFs are not a sustainable energy source, and we need to move towards incorporating renewable energy into the energy and manufacturing sectors etc. That is the thinking underlying my question.

    Mosher, “Since I think we should take action, I really dont want to contribute to delay by discussing options ( emmission scenarios) that are part of the reason why we dont take action.

    IMHO, this is a global issue and it needs to be tackled globally and will thus need some formal framework– many governments are not going to do reduce emissions this on their own accord, especially if their competitors refuse to (Canada is one example, ask McI). The emission scenarios are extremely difficult to predict, that is no surprise, but they do present a metric which can be used by governments and policy makers to gauge the impact on GHG levels, and to develop ways to achieve those targets. That is the main issue here, so whatever action is taken (or framework is proposed) we need to estimate as best we can the path that course of action will take us down the road. Is it going to be aggressive enough? Too aggressive? Is it focusing on the right players? Et cetera. It is easy to ridicule what was proposed in the IPCC report Mosher, but I do not see you or any of your ilk making the effort, some like Lucia don’t seem to even want to entertain the idea of cuts.

    It is naive it assume that we can take action without there being some sacrifices, especially in places like N. America. So perhaps that is why you are so reticent to put some numbers and specifics to your words (rhetoric?). Anyhow, please, outline in detail your plan of action that will reduce global emissions of CO2, and which will avoid the pitfalls of trying to get global agreement on something. You made reference to CFCs. Could you elaborate with some specifics please.

    Thanks.

  21. Steve Bloom Says:

    Well, Bart, that seems to me to be a naive view. (I say that based on 35 years of experience in environmnetal politics; I’ve had a lot of polite but fruitless discussions with politicians and bureaucrats.) But it’ll be an interesting experiment to see how long you’re willing to keep up the conversation.

    Re impacts, the big concerns are very much to found in WG1. As a non-scientist, I just follow people like Hansen and Ray Pierrehumbert on this point (although I do put great effort into understanding the science at a detailed level). As you know, they think the paleoclimatic evidence means we’re in a screaming emergency. Even the famously reticent Richard Alley is starting to make noises along those lines. I’m curious to know your reasons for (apparently) differing with their view.

    Re Romm, I would add that he wouldn’t be doing his job if he weren’t adversarial enough to be entertaining. Of course it’s not to everyone’s personal taste, but it looked to me as if your original comments were more on the analytical side.

  22. Steve Bloom Says:

    mosh: A smoker in denial of the science on second-hand smoke. Perfect.

  23. Bart Says:

    Steve Bloom,

    I think the overall uncertainty in impacts (wg2) is much larger than that in the climate physics (wg1). Any concerns are based on impacts. Though it’s not quite as black and white of course, eg sea level rise is very much a climate physical issue which is of great concern indeed.

    I never said I disagree with Hansen or Pierrehumbert or Alley; I don’t. (Though a ‘runaway’ greenhouse effect is not really a plausible scenario I think). Alley’s talk at AGU was first class and I’d recommend it to everyone.

  24. steven Mosher Says:

    Steve:

    “my terming Lucia a “denialist”: There are various things to be in denial of. One is the basic science, which she does not deny. OTOH, she appears indifferent to the idea that warming even at the low end of the IPCC range will have some rather nasty consequences, and appears entirely uninterested in the obvious lessons to be drawn from deep-time paleoclimate.”

    1. I see no evidence whatsoever that Lucia is “indifferent” to the the idea that warming on the low end ( as luke warmers we tend toward estimates that are below the IPCC estimate of 2C/ century) will have nasty consequences. There are nasty consequences in every direction. On thing we believe in is taking action even if there is uncertainty. But we’d like our uncertainty calculated accurately. That’s not too much to ask.

    2. There are no “obvious” lessons from deep time paleoclimate.

    “At the same time, she seems to want to focus mainly on picking nits at the details of the surface record and the short-term trajectory of the models. ”

    1. Lucia ALLOWS Zeke and the rest of us to discuss the surface record. She has no interest in it whatsoever. I’ve asked her in the past to post on it and she has no interest. Having Zeke post what interests some of us is a nicel solution. She does not pick at nits of the surface record. A few of her commenters do and if you follow the conversation you would see that the people discussing it fall into 3 camps:
    A. Those who want to show that the surface record is largely correct.
    B. 2 or 3 commenters who believe the record is entirely useless
    C. A couple people ( Carrick and me) who hold to Position A, but like to
    look at the math of things.
    I find it curious that OUR curiousity is somehow out of bounds.

    2.WRT short term model projections. That’s another one of those interesting cases where people have said silly unmathematical things. Like, “you cant look at short term trends.” of course you can. The math is starightforward. The CONCLUSIONS you can draw are another matter. But you CAN do the computation. An so I’m fascinated by this blind spot. The other thing that interests her readers is the whole model validation question. A good number of her readers have spent their lives working with high fidelity physics models and so we have experience in doing the model versus observation work. And the whole ensemble of models business strikes us as odd. Is our curiousity here out of bounds as well?

    “It also seems that she’ll be happy to engage in endless (and exceedingly polite) discussion of these points. Call it what you like, but denial fills the bill for me. Maybe “lukewarm denial” would be more appropriate, but I doubt that’s going to acquire common currency.”

    Lucia’s place is more academically minded than say RC. What’s the BLACKBOARD mean? We kinda think of it as a seminar of sorts. Lucia works through problems at the board. Other people can go to the front and pick up the chalk. it is a discussion. And yes it can be endless. Thank god. There is nobody to say “debate is over” Those three words are perhaps the most corrosive in this who discussion. Saying the debate is over is in my mind and invitation to settle things by other means. people say it, thinking that they mean “its time to act.” But its taken in quite a different way.

  25. steven Mosher Says:

    Steve.

    Some of the science on second hand smoke is fine. And I have no issue with regulating based on that. In short, I think the certainty is overstated and the harm is overstated, BUT I would not disagree with any of the regulations on it.
    Is that such a hard position to understand? The confluence of science and policy almost always puts the screws to the science. Where harms are overlooked or blown out of proportion. Where certainty is overstated or uncertainty is overstated. It’s almost axiomatic.

  26. MapleLeaf Says:

    Steve Mosher,

    >i>Lucia’s place is more academically minded than say RC

    That is too funny Steve, that made my day :) Well, at least you did not refer to WUWT…..that really would have had me on the floor laughing.

    Scientific curiosity is healthy and used by scientists all the time– Lucia et al. are definitely not even remotely unique in that context. It is the spin and distortion and ambiguity that is often applied by the contrarians which is unacceptable because it is used as fodder to feed the “skeptics”. That is what raises the ire of scientists. Also, skepticism is only healthy when it is applied symmetrically. That is not what contrarians such as Anthony Watts, Marc Morano, Roger Pielke Jnr, Patrick Condon, Steve McIntyre and Lucia etc. typically do. In fact, the asymmetry of their skepticism is obvious to all but themselves it seems. So Steve the modus operandi of you and your cohorts is very well known and documented,so please do not try and claim (again) to be innocently exploring your “curiosity”.

    “The confluence of science and policy almost always puts the screws to the science.”

    Stoat, Rabett and Gareth have some very interesting thoughts on that very topic. For example, Gareth says:

    “The tactics being used to delay and undermine action climate change are quite deliberately poisoning the interface between science and policy-making. It has become almost standard corporate practise to deny, delay and defer action.”

    One needs to be very careful about context when saying “the debate is over” and be very clear to what it applies. The debate is over regarding whether or not we need to take action, no? Is the science of AGW settled? No, not in its entirety, never will be, it is a complex and diverse field and science, by its nature, evolves. However, some fundamental components of climate science as it pertains to AGW are settled and have been for some time (e.g., radiative forcing of GHGs).

  27. MapleLeaf Says:

    Oops, sorry for the glitch with the html!

  28. steven Mosher Says:

    Maple leaf

    “Do you agree that we need to move towards a sustainable and low carbon energy future??”

    I think this question makes no sense. In the first place because I have no idea what you mean by “sustainable”. No energy source is sustainable. I think that term and the term “renewable” are misleading, so I would rather not encourage their use. In the second place the question makes no sense because it presupposes a solution. Framing the solution as the question, doesnt lead to good conversation. For example, If one has solution that allows you to have a High carbon future, but a lower GHG level in the atmosphere, then what? So, we don’t NEED to move to a low carbon future.
    That frames a solution as a question. The conversation will go better if you specify a measurable. We want a planet at a temperature of X. Then once that specification is agreed upon, you can look at various paths to that goal.

    “As you know, right now, our economies (for the most part) are not based on sustainable practices and nor are they low carbon. FFs are not a sustainable energy source, and we need to move towards incorporating renewable energy into the energy and manufacturing sectors etc. That is the thinking underlying my question.”

    Again, I think the term sustainable is misleading. FF going forward will mostly likely form a diminishing part of our energy sources. The speed with which that happens and the best ways to incourage that are the operative questions.

    “MHO, this is a global issue and it needs to be tackled globally and will thus need some formal framework– many governments are not going to do reduce emissions this on their own accord, especially if their competitors refuse to (Canada is one example, ask McI). ”

    I think the idea that a global solution on emissions is required is an unexamined assumption. It’s basically the assumption that the IPCC was founded on if you go back and look at the original documents. The direct result of requiring global action of emissions is the forestalling of experimentation at the local level. I’ll recommend “Adaptive Governance and Climate Change.” Essentially, I think the adoption of a paradigm of “scientific management” needs re examination. Business as Usual– that is, thinking that this is a problem that is best solved by making a push for a global solution, a planned solution, is the business as usual that has to change.

    “The emission scenarios are extremely difficult to predict, that is no surprise, but they do present a metric which can be used by governments and policy makers to gauge the impact on GHG levels, and to develop ways to achieve those targets. That is the main issue here, so whatever action is taken (or framework is proposed) we need to estimate as best we can the path that course of action will take us down the road. Is it going to be aggressive enough? Too aggressive? ”

    This is the fatal flaw of the BAU approach. And by BAU I mean the thought that somehow planning or managing the future “scientifically”, is a tenable idea. It’s a utopian idea.

    “Is it focusing on the right players? Et cetera. It is easy to ridicule what was proposed in the IPCC report Mosher, but I do not see you or any of your ilk making the effort, some like Lucia don’t seem to even want to entertain the idea of cuts.”

    No need to use the word “ilk” its very tribalistic. My criticism of the IPCC pertained to the SRES. Some of the futures they assume are not even logical. Simply, scenarios where there is great warming and supposedly some great damages that result from that warming but no impact (or feedback) on the economic activity causing that warming. WRT entertaining the idea of cuts.
    Of course we entertain that idea. However, you want to start the conversation by saying “how many cuts, because we have proven that cuts are the only answer moreover we have proven scientifically that global cuts are the only approach and moreover we have proven scientifically that global treaties are the only known solution” Now, what if I said that you and your “ilk” 9 ugly word that ) dont even want to consider the idea that persuing global treaties may be the wrong approach to getting cuts? In fact, all the observations point to the case that chasing global action is the wrong approach to getting cuts. In fact, that is my argument. And what I find paradoxical is that people who have been chasing cuts and who passionately believe that they are necessary are unwilling to consider ( much less try) any other approach than the one that is failing and demonstrably so.
    In any case, I think the whole debate needs to be reframed.

    Ps. MapleLeaf.. you can call me Steve or Mosh, Thanks.

  29. Steve Bloom Says:

    Bart, a lot of the uncertainty has to do with the timing. Personally, I’m not terribly concerned if something happens precisely in 2100 versus 2125 or 2150 or even 2200. The question is whether we commit to it happening at all. I’m unwilling to wish away the problem by making assumptions about how our wealthy descendants will be able to buy their way out of the problem using entirely speculative technology. That’s just crazy talk IMHO.

    I would list the poleward shift of the atmospheric circulation ahead of SLR, BTW, unless it turns out that the WAIS and GIS have a really nasty short-term surprise in store for us. A planet with 9 billion people really isn’t in a position to tolerate an extensive shift in precipitation patterns, especially given the time needed to build up adequate soil in newly-watered areas. There’s also ocean acidification, although I would agree that there’s more of a question as to how soon that will get bad, plus of course long before then we may be reduced to jellyfish burgers due to toxicity, over-fishing and the direct effects of warming.

    Responding to the foregoing as if it constitutes something other than a basis for immediate sharp emissions reductions is rather like refusing to to buy fire insurance just after you’ve discovred that the insurance agent moonlights as the local arsonist.

    As for the runaway, Hansen’s point is that it’s a distinct possibility if one totes up the worst-case carbon inputs (and noting that it could never get as bad as Venus since solar rediation isn’t strong enough to dissociate significant amounts of water at the top of the atmosphere, although it might be enough to wipe out complex life). Bear in mind that relative to the PETM we would have a larger fossil fuel contribution, plus the permafrost carbon, plus a greater supply of clathrates due to starting out at a much colder temperature. Anyway, you can email him and tell him why he’s wrong. If your difference with him isn’t over the science but instead is based on an assumption that human beings couldn’t possibly be that stupid, I would say you’ve got quite a case to prove.

  30. Steve Bloom Says:

    BTW, Bart, as you don’t find yourself in disagreement with Ray, I would remind you of his comment that he has no objection to being called an “alarmist” since the science tells us we should be alarmed. How does that sense of alarm manifest for you?

  31. Shub Niggurath Says:

    Steve Bloom
    It is none of your business to speak for complex life forms. Especially when you cannot even speak for a few humans.

    Give up on playing God

  32. Tom Fuller Says:

    Gee, Maple Leaf, you sound so polite when you’re not on Deltoid. Quite a change. Bipolar, maybe?

    The consensus accuses we lukewarmers of being delayers bent on frustrating any effective action. The consensus is pushing for an impossible-to-achieve global commitment to make emissions conform to an arbitrary cap. This cap if evenly applied will immiserate even further the Bottom Billion, and will be happily evaded, frustrated and cheated on (as is happening now throughout Europe) by everybody else.

    Meanwhile, without global emission targets or cap and trade, the U.S., recalcitrant refuser of Kyoto, has stabilized energy usage, has declining CO2 emissions, and is just using Nudges to enhance the operations of the market. And it’s working.

    I like tax breaks, feed-in tariffs, research grants, Energy Star and all the rest. I want more of them. Because that is the Business As Usual that actually works. It has in the past, it is working now, and it will work in the future.

    Hey–you can even throw in a simple carbon tax at $12/ton, if you rebate the proceeds to the public. Sign me up!

    Or dither, moan and complain about the rough treatment climate science and climate scientists are getting.

  33. MapleLeaf Says:

    Aah, Fuller joins the fray…..I stand by what I said at Deltoid Thomas.

    Mosh,

    Good grief, I feel like I’m chasing ghosts replying to your posts. More smoke and mirrors than Las Vegas magic show. This is getting tiresome. We are both familiar about the accepted nomenclature Mosh, no need to argue strawmen about terminology (e.g., renewable energy).

    “So, we don’t NEED to move to a low carbon future.”

    Actually, experts in the field would disagree with you. Regardless, it is not so much oil and natural gas that are the problem, but coal. Lots of carbon, black carbon and Hg etc., for a relatively low return of energy. So if that is what you are trying to say (moving away from coal), we might be in agreement.

    “Business as Usual– that is, thinking that this is a problem that is best solved by making a push for a global solution, a planned solution, is the business as usual that has to change.

    Wow, more hypotheticals. So much so that what you are trying to say is almost undecipherable. We did not address CFCs using local experimentation or going with BAU. Nor did the US address acid rain with BAU.

    “Now, what if I said that you and your “ilk” 9 ugly word that ) dont even want to consider the idea that persuing global treaties may be the wrong approach to getting cuts? In fact, all the observations point to the case that chasing global action is the wrong approach to getting cuts.

    Now you are going off the deep end. I am torn between you being purposely obtuse or simply naive. The Montreal Protocol (MP)– international agreement, with set and binding targets and a timeline. It was not BAU. Du Pont and other industries fought the MP though– even created some conspiracy theories and said the science was bunk (where have I heard that before?), some of which are often cited by contrarians on AGW. The Acid Rain program in the USA was enforced by the EPA, same thing. Industry attacked the science and floated yet more conspiracy theories about government wanting to control everything. Same with CAFE standards. The reality is Mosh, that industry are hopeless at self regulating (well banks too it seems) and taking the initiative, especially if their competitors are not required to make the same cuts in emissions, because reducing emissions takes capital and investment. So like it or not, the reality and history have demonstrated repeatedly that legislation is required to move thinks forward; at least some formal agreement or framework with binding targets. There is no way in hell we will achieve cuts but going with BAU or naively hoping that business is going to make cuts on their own accord.

    “The conversation will go better if you specify a measurable. We want a planet at a temperature of X. Then once that specification is agreed upon, you can look at various paths to that goal.

    Umm, Mosh, that has been done, nothing new there. See work By Andrew Weaver etc. Also,

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2009/apr/29/fossil-fuels-trillion-tonnes-burned

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2009/apr/14/global-warming-target-2c

    Let us be conservative and assume that equilibrium climate sensitivity is +2 K for doubling CO2. According to Weaver, the allowable cumulative emissions from 2007 to 2500 is about 4822 GtC per year (CO2) between 2007 and 2500. We are currently emitting about 35 Gt per year. You do the maths– with BAU we reach our limit after about 135 years….and that is for the low end of the equilibrium climate sensitivity.

    Now how one does that is the trillion dollar question. There is contraction and convergence (Aubrey Meyer), there is the “wedge” concept put forward by Pacala and Socolow from Princeton. Some have proposed a consumption tax, and governments have the freedom to decide how they wish to reduce emissions, that has to be done in a manner similar to the MP and the Acid Rain Program.

  34. MapleLeaf Says:

    Fuller,

    I agree cap and trade will not work. It worked for SO2, but the CO2 problem is a different beast.

    Because that is the Business As Usual that actually works. It has in the past, it is working now, and it will work in the future.

    Nonsense– see my post to Mosher above. You like him are either being ridiculously naive or disingenuous when you make that absurd statement. Auto companies in the USA, have not voluntarily, increased the MPG performance for their fleets? The acid rain program was required to “encourage” businesses in the USA to reduce SO2 emissions– still Du Pont and others fought reducing SO2 emissions.

    A Carbon Tax? Sure, IF it is managed properly (e.g., rebates for low income families).

    In the meantime global CO2 levels continue to increase by ~2 ppmv year-over-year:

    http://co2now.org/

  35. ianam Says:

    Steve I think characterizing Lucia as an inactivist doesn’t fit well with the facts as I know them

    Such quibbling doesn’t help advance the conversation … and I see from the rest of your comments that it’s characteristic.

    Or dither, moan and complain about the rough treatment climate science and climate scientists are getting.

    You have no shame.

    People, you are wasting your time conversing with such persons of bad faith as Mosher and Fuller.

  36. MapleLeaf Says:

    Correction. Du Pont was, of course, arguing that CFCs were not responsible for ozone depletion. Sorry about that.

    And Ianam, I concur with your last statement. But, it is nice to see Mosh et al. try and tie themselves in knots to justify BAU and contradicting themselves.

    Anyhow, super busy for the rest of the week, so I’ll have to let Mosh et al have the last word and let them dig even deeper into the massive hole that they have dug for themselves.

    Still waiting for some hard numbers and a detailed plan Mosh, no more hypothetical musings and hand waving please……

  37. Bart Says:

    MapleLeaf,

    Assuming that under BAU, emissions will increase again after the economic crisis is over and as developing countries start emitting more, there will be much less than 135 years left before we have used up the allotted second half of the trillion ton carbon.

  38. MarkB Says:

    Steve Mosher writes:

    “No need to use the word “ilk” its very tribalistic. ”

    Kind of like “the team”, “cabal”, “tribe”, etc..

    “And by BAU I mean the thought that somehow planning or managing the future “scientifically”, is a tenable idea. It’s a utopian idea. ”

    Controlling CFCs / acid rain, energy efficiency were dismissed in similar fashion. “It can’t be done without destryong the economy…it’s a pipe dream” It’s amazing what the free market can accomplish when given strong incentives and appropriate controls.

    I do agree that relying solely on global action is insufficient, as it inevitably results in the lowest common denominator agreement. Rich nations should take the lead individually – kind of like a grass roots effort. Technology that develops will eventually be adopted elsewhere.

    Political will obviously varies from nation to nation and state to state. Part of that is shaped by how strong entrenched industries are (although that’s beginning to crack) and some with how well-informed policymakers are (which folks like Tom Fuller work against). Even while the previous U.S. federal administration was shunning action over the last decade, some U.S. states were taking the lead, and federal policy is looking better these days (better, but far from ideal). U.S. emissions may have reached their peak 4 years ago. In addition, European Kyoto nations have collectively met modest Kyoto goals, even with rising economic growth during the period. As global warming worsens, further action is inevitable, regardless of persistent (and increasingly nasty) politically-motivated attacks on the science. For the sake of our climate, sooner rather than later is preferrable.

    Quite frankly, it’s a little creepy to see such vehement opposition to carbon taxing or global agreements from the “denier/delayer” crowd. It’s similar to their reaction to the EPA declaring CO2 and other greenhouse gases harmful to human health, which probably set the floodgates of science denial lose. Since most of these folks see science through a political lens, I think government putting an effective price on carbon or declaring that GHGs can be controlled through the Clean Air Act are things viewed as their skeptic side losing the scientific debate. All too often I’ll read some skeptic commentator use the non-sequitur variety of “the science is wrong because cap and trade is dead” or “if the science was right, don’t you think the world would be doing more?” When parts of the world do take action, it’s a major blow to their narrative.

  39. Shub Niggurath Says:

    MarkB the skeptics did not originate the term “Team.”

    “Since most of these folks see science through a political lens, I think government putting an effective price on carbon or declaring that GHGs can be controlled through the Clean Air Act are things viewed as their skeptic side losing the scientific debate.”

    Since ‘these folks’ see through a political lens, what do ‘you folks’ see through? And you started your post with a criticism of tribalism etc.

    Funny.:)

    The vehement opposition to ‘carbon taxing’ arises from a clearer understanding of how economies and governments function. Don’t be ‘creeped out’ by it.

    Remember we are all people in the same boat. Dont succumb to the temptation to view skeptics as though they were absolute existential enemies. They are not.

    Maple, the Montreal protocol is the brain virus infection that opened the gates for global non-democratic regulatory frameworks such as the FCCC. It is obvious why you are in love with it.

    Fuller and Mosh ‘tie’ themselves in knots because they think there must some points worthy of consideration in the GHG-obsessed camp. So they try to reconcile things.

    Let me formulate, without tying any knots etc

    1) There is no NEED to ‘move’ to a ‘low-carbon’ future.
    2) We will automatically ‘move’ when the alternative makes its appearance
    3) It will not be easy to predict whence the alternative will come from
    4) The path to an alternative fuel may lie in vigorous government mandated pursuit by research or in serendipitous discovery – that cannot be predicted
    5) Wilful pursuit of alternative fuel can only carry us so far. Advancements come in quantum leaps and they can come from unrelated fields. Crippling society in pursuit mode of alternative will make this quantum leaps difficult.

    Lastly, NOBODY is going to die because of climate change.

  40. Bart Says:

    Shub,

    Could you elaborate why you view the Montreal protocol so negatively? It is often cited as an example of successful environmental regulation, and for good reason.

    Your point 2, “we will move when the alternative makes it appearance” (that’s little cryptic). The problem with that, as I mentioned, is that it may very well be too late at that point to avoid very problematic consequences. Of course, even then we could still try and prevent the effects of climate change from growing even worse, but it’s a little akin to stopping with smoking only after you’ve been on the intensive care. It’s a little late.

    Your point 5, “crippling society in pursuit of alternative” sounds overly alarmist to me. See Scott Denning’s points on that a few posts back.

  41. MarkB Says:

    Shub writes:

    “MarkB the skeptics did not originate the term “Team.””

    Neither did MapleLeaf create the word “ilk”. Do you have a point? Mine was merely to point out Mosher’s glass house.

    “The vehement opposition to ‘carbon taxing’ arises from a clearer understanding of how economies and governments function. ”

    My observation is that such views are clouded by ideology. The belief that the Montreal Protocol is a threat to democracy might be one indicator. This leads folks to grossly inflate costs of mitigation (i.e. “crippling society…”).

    “Lastly, NOBODY is going to die because of climate change.”

    a woefully naive statement.

  42. Tom Fuller Says:

    Maple Leaf, I’m glad you are busy for the rest of the week. You are actually quite contemptible.

    Bart, the Montreal protocol for CFCs was okay–but it’s not really applicable here as it was designed to combat a much simpler (not necessarily easier) problem. People have been saying for 10 years that it would not really serve as a good model for dealing with CO2. Montreal worked because the ‘emitters’ were a small group of fairly homogenous producers that had a proven alternative available for purchase.

    MarkB, you’re as bad here as you are at every other blog you pollute. I’m sure it doesn’t take long to spew your fact-free drivel so you can do a casual commute–my question is do you smoke a cigarette after you hit submit?

  43. Bart Says:

    Tom,

    I realize that the Montreal protocol was different in the ways you describe: It dealt with a class of substances emitted only by specific industries, rather than by a ubiquitous waste product of fossil energy production, which really touches on the economic nerve of society.

    My statement was in reply to Shub, who said some rather strange things about the Montreal protocol: “the Montreal protocol is the brain virus infection that opened the gates for global non-democratic regulatory frameworks such as the FCCC.”, which struck me exactly because the Montreal protocol actually was a success story of global environmental regulation.

    Shub, do you plan to defend or explain your statement, or rather to let this stand as a confirmation of your conspirational mindset?

  44. Steve Bloom Says:

    Bart, “conspirational” isn’t technically correct grammar (you want “conspiratorial”), but I like it! We might also say that Shub was conspired to post his views.

  45. Tom Fuller Says:

    Hi Bart,

    I disagree with Shub on this one–although he quite often makes very good sense, I think he missed the boat on this one. (Sorry Shub.)

    I think Cap and Trade is proving unworkable in the places it’s being tried–what is your opinion on how it’s working in the EU, Bart? You’re there on the ground. I see organised crime taking advantage of it, VAT carousel fraud, lots of gaming the system, companies taking tactical advantage of reporting requirements.

    This could all be cleaned up, but I don’t see anyone making it a priority–and it certainly gives ammunition to those who don’t want it here.

    I would be willing to accept a well-administered cap and trade program. I would prefer a simple carbon tax that is revenue neutral–less chance to play games with it.

    There are consensus holders (including regular commenters here) who will say that that makes me a delayer, simply because there is legislation being considered that has cap and trade inside.

    What do you think, Bart?

  46. MapleLeaf Says:

    Tom,

    I agree with your post at 22:15 about the pifalls of Cap and Trade and support your idea of implementing a carbon/consumption tax/levy. Someone is going to have to administrate and manage that though (most likely the federal government)…..so I’m hoping you are OK with that. Also, the efficacy of such a tax would be optimized if applied to the major players (or at least goods produced by major players such as China), and I honestly cannot see that happening without a formal international agreement in place to level the playing field.

  47. MarkB Says:

    Tom Fuller rants:

    “MarkB, you’re as bad here as you are at every other blog you pollute. I’m sure it doesn’t take long to spew your fact-free drivel so you can do a casual commute–my question is do you smoke a cigarette after you hit submit?”

    Gee, Tom, you sound so polite when you’re not on Deltoid ;)

    And for the record, cap and trade or a carbon tax can both work. Waxman-Markey is revenue neutral and shields low-income consumers from costs.

  48. Richard Hill Says:

    “Lastly, NOBODY is going to die because of climate change.”
    a woefully naive statement.
    People might die from the consequences of GW.
    The most life threatening are mostly hydrological.
    Droughts, floods, inundations.
    The fatalities are caused by 100-year, 50-year spikes, storms etc.
    These happen anyway.
    GW may increase frequency and severity.
    But as people like Pielke Sr say, we have to recognise and cope with these severe events anyway.
    We are talking, in the end, about allocation of resources in a world of risk.
    #1 climate related risk for the Netherlands is inundation.
    Its 99 pct sure that a unusual event will cause fatalities.
    (1000’s of people died in the mid 1900s when sea defences were breached)
    The Netherlands can spend money on engineering, and reduce the risk of a storm breaching the sea defences.
    The Netherlands can spend money on making houses that float up when floods occur.
    Or the Netherlands can spend money on decarbonising, which is only 90 pct certain will work, and then only if every major country joins in.

    Bart, what is actually being done in the Netherlands?
    I’m very curious to know how an exposed country assesses the risks right now.

  49. Shub Niggurath Says:

    Bart
    As Tom points out above, on which I will try to expand.

    The Montreal protocol :

    1) opened the floodgates for one more international arena of negotiation and dealmaking for faceless powerbrokers, safe and secluded from repurcussions. It created another channel, another layer, of diplomat-bureaucrat-technocrat entities who ‘negotiate’ presumably on behalf of their countries interests.

    2) created an illusion for those sincerely wishing to solve the CO2 problem (assuming it is real) that a similar approach was possible.

    Merely considering point (2) alone, we can see why Montreal is like a ‘brain virus’ – it gave rise to a delusion, the FCCC (not judging here – persisting in the same approach and belief in spite of repeated frustration and demonstration of insurmountable barriers is a delusion).

    Let us forget climate for a moment. Let’s say we want to reduce CO2 output. Can it be done, just for kicks let us say?

    It.cannot.be.done.

    How and why did the international policy making genius community get involved then, in such a project?

    The simple answer is: they got involved pretending to solve a problem simply because it increased their power, gave rise to careers, put food on their table, gave them a purpose in life and made them feel important.

    The ‘success’ of the Montreal protocol is only when it is judged in and of itself. All countries got together and banned some chemical substances. How is that a success? A success of what?

    Environmentalists of the earlier era saw that as a sucess because the political tensions of the period within the movement were over whether they could translate their politics into action. Montreal was therefore the the pinaccle of their achievement. They realized they could.

    We, modern day environmentalists have to get smarter than that. Feeding into the Montreal delusion only strengthens governments and corporations. It was a good ride while it lasted – the heady rush of ‘success’ and all. Let us not be powerdrunk any more.

  50. Tom Fuller Says:

    Shub, wait a second. You say reducing CO2 cannot be done–but we did it last year. Emissions were 2.6% below 2008. The Montreal process worked–it charted a course of action with concrete goals, it did what it said it was going to do, and it got the results they were aiming for.

    I don’t think it translates well to a program for CO2, but it seems you are twice wrong in your comment…

  51. Shub Niggurath Says:

    Tom
    I am not saying the Montreal process is not a ‘success’. Of course it worked as far as CFC reduction goes.

    What is ‘success’ in our context?

    If a project/process does something (meaning it is doable ), achieves what it sets out to to do, and benefits more than just the people who implement it.

    If you look at the Montreal protocol, it certainly satisfies the first two, but are we going to reap the benefits of closing the hole? From what I understand ‘we’ have to wait till the end of the century for that.

    Skin melanoma has risen dramatically in the US and Australia meanwhile. The fear-mongering that drove the Montreal process has actually come true but yet we congratulate ourselves.

    We should talk about success after that falls.

    Yes, CO2 output fell in the US, but China does its manufacturing, unemployment in California is ~15% (IDK exact figures), the govt is buying clunkers and calling that a ‘success’, Goldman Sachs is drinking up stimulus blood – you know it better than I do.

    The economy and productivity should rise and CO2 should fall – I’ll accept your thesis then.

    My main contention is: if you do something simple and stupid, and gain confidence by the fact that you ‘did something’ and then bit off more that you can chew, do you call that a success?

  52. Marcel Kincaid Says:

    the GHG-obsessed camp … Lastly, NOBODY is going to die because of climate change.

    What sort of conversation is possible between a rational person and someone in that “tribe”? Or this one:

    MarkB, you’re as bad here as you are at every other blog you pollute. I’m sure it doesn’t take long to spew your fact-free drivel so you can do a casual commute–my question is do you smoke a cigarette after you hit submit?”

    in response to MarkB’s comment at 17:43? If MarkB said something erroneous there, I can’t find any evidence of it in Fuller’s ad hom.

  53. Bart Says:

    Tom,

    I don’t know much about the cap and trade program in Europe. I’ve attended a talk of someone who was engaged in evaluating the emissions trading scheme (ETS), and remember him calling it a “modest success”, though how he exactly came to that conclusion escaped me (or I simply forgot/didn’t understand; also quite possible). The current problem is that due to the crisis, economic activity is down and, as a result, so are CO2 emissions. For one, the CO2 price is too low and not stable, neither of which is conducive to investing in clean technology. Currently it’s cheaper to buy more emission rights than to invest in sustainable technology. And some (heavy) industries already put their freely obtained emission rights already into the price of their products, for which consumers (in this case other businesses) will pay the higher price. There is a lot of “hot air” in the CO2 market because of the collapsed Eastern European economies who as a result have lots of unused CO2 permits. This “hot air” of unused CO2 permits could destabilize the CO2 price.

    It is for these kinds of complexities that I think a simple CO2 tax and dividend is a preferred option, though it’s not clear that the current system is really at fault, or whereas it’s mostly due to either the way it’s been implemented (with lots of exemptions) or due to the destabilizing effects of the economic crisis.

  54. Bart Says:

    Richard Hill,

    The policy focus in the Netherlands regarding risks of (both river and sea) flooding and salt water intrusion are mostly on adaptation, it seems. Besides that, there is also focus on mitigation, but that’s more for the grand scheme of things, because as you say, by only the Netherlands decarbonizing, we won’t substantially decrease the risks of flooding. So we need to do both. See eg my commentary on the Dutch delta commission.

    Some Dutch scientists have indeed floated the idea of floating houses and other innovative approached to reducing our vulnerability (eg here).

  55. Bart Says:

    Shub,

    I’ve read in “Loesje’s dagboek” decades ago something very wise:

    When people say “it cannot be done” they usually mean “I don’t want it”

    Of course it (decarbonization) can be done. Nobody said it’s gonna be easy. But saying we can’t is a very poor excuse for not even trying or for covering up that you don’t really want to try.

    Imagine, indeed.

  56. Bart Says:

    Shub,

    Indeed, ‘we’ have to wait till the end of the century for that (the benefits of closing the ozone hole). And that shows the importance of pro-actively tackling a problem when it’s being signalled, especially if there are long timescales associated with the both the effects and proposed solutions, such as is the case both with the CFC-ozone layer problem and the CO2-climate problem.

    “What’s the use of having developed a science well enough to make predictions if, in the end, all we’re willing to do is stand around and wait for them to come true?” — Nobel Laureate Sherwood Rowland (referring then to ozone depletion)

    Timescales is the issue, as you rightly pointed out.

  57. Beaker Says:

    @Shub,

    But we are reaping the benefits of not increasing the ozone hole even further. Without the Montreal protocol current concentrations of CFC’s would probably have been higher, the ozone hole would have been bigger and number of cases of skin melanoma would have been rising more strongly than they are now.

  58. Shub Niggurath Says:

    Beaker

    What you state is merely a flaw, a pitfall, in human reasoning. Not easy to identify or not succumb to, but it can be done.

    Do you walk up to another person and tell him – ‘hey, I could have punched your face in, but I havent, so give me 5 bucks for that’? You dont, right?

    Melanoma incidence has *increased*. So you are telling me that the present incidence is lower than a fictional putative incidence which could have been higher than what we have now? ;)

    If melanoma rates had fallen – the greenies would have dropped dead from the sheer orgiastic rapture. They WOULD have taken credit for that.

    Do you you think they would have said – melanoma rates have fallen, but we cannot be sure it is because of our banning CFCs? They WOULD NOT have said that.

  59. Beaker Says:

    Shub, you have yourself agreed that CFC’s increase the ozone hole and an increased ozone hole also increases melanoma rates. You have agreed that the CFC’s already brought into the stratosphere by us will linger there yet for 100 years.

    That means, by the facts you yourself have agreed to, that if we would not have acted the ozone hole would currently be bigger than it is now. Which would mean that the increase in melanoma rates would have spread across a larger area than it has now. Given the current knowledge we have, the measures have prevented cases.

    Now, you could argue that we don’t know with 100% certainty that this is the case. Perhaps some kind of balance would have occurred whereby the ozone layer would not have deteriorated further, despite further increases in greenhouse gases. And that might have been correct. We cannot test that proposition, because we banned CFC’s. But gambling on that would be very irresponsible policy making, gambling with people’s lives. Perhaps you are comfortable with that, but I am not.

    And yes, if the rates would have fallen and this would not have been attributable to banning CFC’s, this would have been reported in the scientific literature. Nobody would gain anything by not doing so.

  60. Beaker Says:

    Also, your analogy fails:
    “Do you walk up to another person and tell him – ‘hey, I could have punched your face in, but I havent, so give me 5 bucks for that’? You dont, right?”

    An analogy a little more in line with the CFC regulation is that a guy came up to you with his fist raised after he had already knocked out two other people, but the government intervened and stopped him. And now you are saying that the government stopping him was not effective because those two other guys still have bruises and he might just have wanted to shake your hand instead of hit you.

  61. Shub Niggurath Says:

    “you have yourself agreed that CFC’s increase the ozone hole and an increased ozone hole also increases melanoma rates. You have agreed that the CFC’s already brought into the stratosphere by us will linger there yet for 100 years.”

    I do not agree to any of those things in this thread. Those facts are not relevant to what we are trying to discuss.

    It is now accepted that the linkage of ozone to skin cancers is not very strong, and not straightforward as well.

    I was trying to point out that support for the Montreal protocol was derived from the proposed increase in skin cancers that might result if no action were to be taken.

    That increase has occured. What is the reason?

    Look at this graph. Melanoma is the light brown line at the bottom

    Could you please point out the Montreal connection in this graph?

    Without this connection (between skin cancer and CFCs), one of the basic drivers for the Montreal process is in a shambles. The theories of some atmospheric chemists (very true theories though) were translated directly into international political action, using this motivation.

    There should be a real-world measurable dip in melanoma rates. There has to be a drop. Only then are you allowed to make up your “what if we hadn’t banned CFCs’ graph and superimpose it on the incidence data and claim credit for the difference.

  62. Beaker Says:

    “I do not agree to any of those things in this thread. Those facts are not relevant to what we are trying to discuss.”
    They are relevant to what we are trying to discuss, because they form the basis for the policy. You criticize the policy without looking at the scientific evidence that is used to formulate the policy. You are basically formulating a strawman.

    “There should be a real-world measurable dip in melanoma rates. There has to be a drop. Only then are you allowed to make up your “what if we hadn’t banned CFCs’ graph and superimpose it on the incidence data and claim credit for the difference.”

    Nobody expects a direct drop in melanoma rates (or basal and squamous cell carcinomas, which are linked strongly to UVB), because CFC’s are not directly linked to melanoma’s. They are linked to melanoma’s through increased UVB through breakdown of the ozone layer by CFC’s. CFC’s linger in the stratosphere for a long time, so their effects will continue long after the production of them has stopped. This was known when the policy was formulated. The policy was not formulated to stop current effects. Nobody expected a direct drop in skin cancer. The policy was formulated to prevent more damage than what was already caused. The ozone layer only showed signs of stabilization since 2005, and only the last few years is the ozone layer actually showing some signs of recovery.

    Please criticize the actual policy and it’s actual goals shub.

  63. Shub Niggurath Says:

    Beaker:
    “Nobody expects a direct drop in melanoma rates (or basal and squamous cell carcinomas, which are linked strongly to UVB)…”

    Contra

    “But we are reaping the benefits of not increasing the ozone hole even further.”

    I agree with almost everything you say. But I do not want to derail the discussion (which doesn’t seem to be going anywhere soon) by discussing ozone itself – it is the inference we should learn from the ‘success’ of the Montreal protocol that was the original question, do you agree?

    When you say things like “damage”, we have to be clear about what that means.

    If the ozone layer were to be completely destroyed and let us say hypothetically, that it were to not have any effect whatsoever on human life or any life, would we have created something like the Montreal protocol and set a timetable to get rid of CFCs?

    Whether it be founded upon good reasoning or unfounded fear-mongering, the Montreal protocol drew policy support and momentum from its linkage to skin cancers – that is over and done. The linkages were proposed – I do not think we should play revisionism on that.

    Summing up therefore,

    The Montreal protocol will be deemed a success

    1) If the rates of melanoma fall (irrespective of whether the policy actually contributed to the fall – one can be 100% sure of this)

    2) If the melanoma rates keep rising – (the benefits of a reduction will then be declared to be expected in the future. ‘Success’ will then be defined as fruition of international effort to cut down the CFCs – One can be 100% sure of this too. It has happened in this thread )

    3) If the melanoma rates stabilize ( Same as (1) – CFC cutting efforts will be credited with the stabilization).

    Anyway, the original point was: As Tom Fuller pointed out, CFC control was amenable and doable and therefore it got done. This provided the impetus to try the same approach with CO2.

  64. Shub Niggurath Says:

    Should read “The Montreal protocl will be deemed a success if”

  65. Beaker Says:

    Beaker:
    “Nobody expects a direct drop in melanoma rates (or basal and squamous cell carcinomas, which are linked strongly to UVB)…”

    Contra

    “But we are reaping the benefits of not increasing the ozone hole even further.”

    The two statements are not contradictory.

    Note that the policy will not be evaluated on the basis of the increase or decrease in skin cancers for two reasons. First, what I already talked about, the mechanism. Second, skin cancer rates are not solely determined by the ozone hole, but also by other factors, in the case of skin cancers behavioral changes. That is why the success of these policies is always evaluated in terms of whether the exposure (in this case increase of the ozone hole) is tackled, not in direct rates of cancer incidence. You seem to object to this, but this is the only way you can evaluate such policies with multifactorial diseases. This is why I don’t understand your objection. How else would you measure it’s success?

    The reason the Montreal protocol is deemed a success is because it fullfilled it’s direct goal, namely phasing out CFC usage.

    “Anyway, the original point was: As Tom Fuller pointed out, CFC control was amenable and doable and therefore it got done. This provided the impetus to try the same approach with CO2.”
    Yes, and I have not yet seen you any good reasons on why it wouldn’t, or why we shouldn’t take that approach.

  66. Shub Niggurath Says:

    Dear Beaker
    I have answered many of the queries you raise, in my previous posts.

    “The reason the Montreal protocol is deemed a success is because it fullfilled it’s direct goal, namely phasing out CFC usage. ”

    This is exactly what I pointed out much earlier. If we want to get rid of CFCs there has to be a rationale, a specific reason, for doing so.

    Going by you therefore, all signatory countries decided to ban/phase out CFCs just for the heck of it? To reduce skin cancer? Why? What ‘benefit’ will we reap in the future ?

    If you want me to take out insurance, the risk against which I insure, should be real.

    Policy advice: Do not link multifactorially-caused entities to a single simple atmospheric component in order to control that component for putative benefits. That is the real lesson to be learnt from Montreal – not one of ‘success’.

    If I start contributing to reduce CO2 tomorrow out of my pocket, by force or otherwise – you CAGW advocates will morph into ‘skeptics’ overnight – again 100% about this.

    Every severe storm, every flood, every heatwave that will then occur – you will be at pains to point out that “it is all a part of natural variability” and that “we must be patient” and “we never claimed that there was a direct link between CO2 and extreme weather” and “these are multifactorial in causation”.

    For the safety of your skin (pun intended), you might even publish in peer-reviewed journals that catastrophic climate change is due only a couple of hundreds of years later.

    Once again to summarize:
    A specific flaw in human reasoning, and our irrational desire to predict the future leads to these patterns of thinking, especially when it comes to attribution (the oldest pitfall of them all – cause-effect). I am not saying anything new obviously, but the Montreal-ozone demonstrates this pattern.

    Regards.

  67. Beaker Says:

    Shub, the problem with what you write is that it keeps coming down to a strawman. Are you even reading what I write?

    “Going by you therefore, all signatory countries decided to ban/phase out CFCs just for the heck of it? To reduce skin cancer? Why? What ‘benefit’ will we reap in the future ?”
    I already answered this. Less skin cancer than we would have had without the measures. This doesn’t mean that the number of cancers would drop or stop to rise, it only means that the number of skin cancers now is probably lower than it would have been if we wouldn’t have implemented the measures. It mean that with the measures, we have 1000 cases five years ago, 1100 four years and 1200 three years ago, while without them we would have had 1500 five years ago, 2000 four years ago and 2500 three years ago. Of course, this is impossible to measure, it can only be modeled.

    Because of that knowledge, the policy goal was set to remove CFC’s and the montreal protocol set out to do that. Note that while the rationale for the policy goal is prevention of skin cancer, the goal was formulated purely in terms of removal of CFC’s, given that this is what actually can be measured as a goal. So while setting the goal was motivated by concerns over human health, the goal itself was never formulated in that way for the very reason I explained, it is impossible to meaure.

    “If you want me to take out insurance, the risk against which I insure, should be real.”
    Another failed analogy. The policy on CFC’s was like using fire-retardents in a building. The use of them doesn’t mean that a fire won’t start and burn down the building. But it may delay the fire for long enough that more people may be able to leave the building. You’re the guy that is now shouting that using flame retardents was ineffective because 6 guys were still in the building when it burned down, ignoring that without the measure there would have been 50 in the building when it happened.

    “Policy advice: Do not link multifactorially-caused entities to a single simple atmospheric component in order to control that component for putative benefits. That is the real lesson to be learnt from Montreal – not one of ‘success’.”
    Well, that is extremely bad advice. You are basically saying that if we know a certain substance or action is a risk factor in a multifactorial disease, we should not tackle that risk factor. So let’s do nothing, right? Look, if you tackle a single risk factor in a multifactorial disease, you will reduce the number of cases caused by that factor. That doesn’t mean you will reduce the number of cases, just that the number of cases without that risk factor will be lower than it would have been with that risk factor present. It seems to me that this part is what you find hard to understand, but I for the life of me can’t figure out why.

    “A specific flaw in human reasoning, and our irrational desire to predict the future leads to these patterns of thinking, especially when it comes to attribution (the oldest pitfall of them all – cause-effect). I am not saying anything new obviously, but the Montreal-ozone demonstrates this pattern.”
    Cause and effect don’t exist? I have no idea how I can otherwise parse this. What you seem to be saying is that we should just be ignoring the science when it attributes a cause to a certain effect and that we definitely should not make policy based on such causal chains. That can’t be what you mean, right?

  68. Shub Niggurath Says:

    Beaker
    Whenever I find that one of the parties in a discussion starts using these words:

    1) strawman 2) ad hominem 3) ad hom,

    my opinion is, that their case has become weak. Not to say that has happened now. ;)

    Of course, I read what I write.

    I mentioned this previously too – I agree with most of your points. The argument is about a specific point alone. You really do not have to explain all those things, but thanks.

    The point of disagreement between us is only about attribution of melanoma rates to the Montreal protocol.

    What I am trying to say is important: – *If* there is a *change* in a disease incidence rate (in our case melanoma), only then can we perform a modeling or a valid attribution analysis that you speak of.

    One cannot simply make up a fictional increased rate for melanoma incidence for any point of time and simply claim the real rates are lower.

    Does this mean that UV does not contribute to melanoma at the present? Of course not. It only means that the effect cannot be extracted.

    When the rates drop – let us say, beyond the second half of this century, let us credit the Montreal protocol. Until then, let us not congratulate ourselves.

  69. Shub Niggurath Says:

    From Mackie et al, Annals of Oncology, June 2010 (one of the main reasons for citing this paper is that it is freely available, at http://annonc.oxfordjournals.org/content/20/suppl_6/vi1.long)


    The main reason proposed for the general increasing melanoma incidence over the last 40 years is greater exposure of pale Caucasian skin to natural ultraviolet (UV) radiation. Inexpensive flights from high-latitude countries, such as Scandinavia, to Mediterranean or warmer climates have become available at all times of the year. Short, intermittent burning episodes of sun exposure have been identified by Elwood et al. as a major melanoma risk factor, so some of the increase could be attributed to greater opportunities for burning of pale, non-acclimatised Caucasian skin.

    A major problem in linking putative risk factors to diagnosis of melanoma is the lack of current knowledge on the latent period between initiating factors such as UV exposure and clinical appearance of a melanoma. This is thought to be measured in decades, and therefore Diffey in the UK and de Vries in the Netherlands predict that melanoma incidence will continue to increase for at least the next 10 years. While there is no sound current data on ozone layer changes affecting melanoma incidence, it is quite possible that such data will become available.

  70. Bart Says:

    Please move the oncology discussions to an oncology blog.
    Thanks!

  71. Beaker Says:

    “What I am trying to say is important: – *If* there is a *change* in a disease incidence rate (in our case melanoma), only then can we perform a modeling or a valid attribution analysis that you speak of.”

    And that is the problematic part of your argument. Well, one of the problematic parts. The problem is in the fact that diseases are often multifactorial and that addressing one of the factors does not necessarily influence the others. If I have two risk factors and have succeeded in reducing one but the other has increased and therefore the incidence of the disease stayed the same, has my policy than been ineffective? You say no, I say yes. The policy never intended to counter all possible risk factors for the disease, only a single one.

    According to you, we should therefore never have made policy to reduce that single risk factor. And I really cannot grasp your rational for this? It strikes as very short-sighted, to put it mildly.

    What is also misunderstood by you is what people talk about when they say the policy has been effective in the context of this discussion. If we consider other possible pollutants and ways to reduce them, we are looking at a policy method that is able to reduce them. In the context of that discussion, whether the montreal protocol was able to reduce skin cancer is irrelevant. What we are interested in is whether the montreal protocol was successfull in reducing the use of those pollutants and whether this can be applied to other pollutants.

    Also, I already indicated that the connection with melanoma is unclear which is why I focused on squamous and basal cell skin carcinomas, where the evidence is much stronger. These skin cancers are also more common.

  72. Beaker Says:

    “One cannot simply make up a fictional increased rate for melanoma incidence for any point of time and simply claim the real rates are lower.”

    Also, it isn’t “making things up”. It is predicting how the world would look like without and with the policy, based on the knowledge available to us. What else can we do? I mean, the whole point of preventive policy is to prevent things from happening, right? Should we just pretend that our knowledge of these kind of influences does not exist and not implement preventive policies?

    Take Y2K as another example. In the end, no great disturbances occurred during the switch to the year 2000. Some argue that the problem was overstated because nothing disastrous happened. Others argue that nothing happened because we had an army of programmers working on preventing this whole disaster. Should we just have ignored the possible problems and done nothing? To me, it comes over as if you argue we should have? It that really a sane way to conduct policy?

  73. Shub Niggurath Says:

    Beaker,
    We are going around in circles. I do not entirely blame you – but I have already mentioned this several times over. I agree with you – except for only one minor detail.

    That detail is: let us wait until the rates of melanoma fall and then give the Montreal protocol credit. Until then, let us not give or take away credit re: Montreal. That is all.

    If we over-reach and call it a success (without defining what this success is, I am afraid we might learn the wrong lessons and apply it to CO2, which unfortunately has already happened).

    You can check out the June 9 Nature issue for a book review – a piece that declares the European Emissions trading system ‘robust’ and ‘successful’ merely because the author finds that a system has achieved what it set itself up to achieve.

    Quoting:
    “The authors are so keen on the empirical focus that they largely eschew judgement, even as to whether the system has been a success. Nonetheless, the book is suffused with the sentiment that establishing a credible cap and price on CO2 emissions on a grand scale is a triumph of policy, one that is still a world first after more than five years. I agree that it is a huge feat.”

    http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v465/n7299/full/465691a.html

    Government-backed policies are backed by the rule of the law – you follow the law or you go to jail. Those are the only two possibilities. Policy can dictate and get a certain thing done, once past the initial negotiation stage, because people *will* arrange their lives around the requirements of the policy – there’ll be no other choice. Policy-makers should not take ‘credit’ for this.

    A lot of us do something creative or offer services for our livelihood. Policymakers and politicians are involving in formulating yet another series of rules and regulations on the rest of us – they see this as their positive contribution. I wish there would be a set of policy makers whose sole job would consist of resisting more and more ‘policies’.

    I am making up a few pseudoscientific graphs on ozone and melanoma. I’ll post them on my blog later.

  74. Beaker Says:

    “That detail is: let us wait until the rates of melanoma fall and then give the Montreal protocol credit. Until then, let us not give or take away credit re: Montreal. That is all. ”
    And I consistently point out that this is exactly the point where you go wrong. But instead of addressing what I write on this issue, you seem to ignore the points I make.

    1) In the context of the discussion of reducing CO2, whether the policy resulted in a decrease in the use of CFC’s is the proper policy goal to measure success by.

    2) In the context of health effects, these can only be measured in terms of modeling exercises.

    3) In the context of health effects, you need to talk about skin cancer, not just melanoma (that you keep mentioning this instead of basal and squamous cell carcinoma makes me suspect you are not properly reading my posts. If you are, why keep mentioning only melanoma?).

    4) In the context of the montreal protocol itself, reduction of CFC use and subsequent recovery of the ozone layer was the stated goal of the policy. The rationale was a likely relationship between the ozone hole and health effects (the rationale of montreal is defined even wider than just cancer), but the rationale behind a policy is not the same as a policy goal.

    In other words, you are criticizing the montreal protocol for not doing something it did not set out to do. Reducing melanoma incidence was never a stated goal of the policy.

  75. Shub Niggurath Says:

    Hi Beaker
    I had written up all kinds of things about melanoma when Bart asked not to discuss oncology. I think he meant to say, ‘do not discuss oncology alone’. So I got rid of that post I was writing.

    So I tried to summarize so we could make a transition from ozone to CO2.

    I am ‘reading’ your posts. I raised several questions you haven’t answered either – does that mean you are not reading my posts? ;)

    I mentioned melanoma originally and continued to talk about it because it illustrates the problem of inferring ‘success of a policy measure’ – with the present data. If we add other skin malignancies, it only worsens the case ‘attributionally speaking. There is no disease called ‘skin cancer’ anyway.

    You want to define the Montreal protocol’s societal justifications narrowly enough so that any unintended consequences and failure to produce results will not resulting in questions being raised about the policy.

    The CO2 crowd, I am afraid, will do exactly the same thing with CO2.

    I’ll post the figure I was talking about soon – we could discuss this (important ) isssue there. I’ll give you a heads-up with a link.

    Regards

  76. Shub Niggurath Says:

    http://omniclimate.wordpress.com/2010/06/24/bastardsmass-manslaughter-by-agw-co2-obsession/

    “In addition to climate change, the health implications of particulate pollution make a compelling case for tackling black carbon, speakers agreed. Like other small particulates, it causes premature death and respiratory disease, they claimed”

    He confirmed that politicians seem to be nervous about “taking the eye off the CO2 ball and focusing it on something else”.

  77. Bart Says:

    Shub, have you read Hansen et al, 2000: Global warming in the twenty-first century: An alternative scenario?

    Reducing black carbon is a win-win situation for climate and health issues, as no sensible atmospheric scientist would disagree with.

  78. Beaker Says:

    “I had written up all kinds of things about melanoma when Bart asked not to discuss oncology. I think he meant to say, ‘do not discuss oncology alone’. So I got rid of that post I was writing.”

    And I already stated that the connection between melanoma and UVB (or better, direct sunlight exposure) is contentious and that the issue is skin cancers in general, including squamous cell and basal cell skin cancer. So why do you think that those writings were relevant? I’m kind of mystified why you think expandig on something I already agree on with you is relevant?

    “You want to define the Montreal protocol’s societal justifications narrowly enough so that any unintended consequences and failure to produce results will not resulting in questions being raised about the policy.”
    But the Montreal’s policy intentions were always more narrow than you have put them. The goals have always been just to reduce the presence of a single risk factor. Removing a single risk factor does not necessarily translate into reduction of disease occurrence, for reasons I already explained. If the policy goals were to reduce skin cancer, I would agree. But they were not. You seem to say that reducing a single risk factor is therefore a bad idea. Do I have that correct? How do you justify that?

    You stated before that: “That detail is: let us wait until the rates of melanoma fall and then give the Montreal protocol credit. Until then, let us not give or take away credit re: Montreal. That is all.”
    But how would you know that this meant that the Montreal protocol was a success? You don’t. Perhaps behavior changed and people just stayed indoors all the time and that caused the drop in skin cancer rates. You treat this issue as if skin cancer only has a single cause. It doesn’t. Governments have multiple programs to reduce cancer rates. In the case of skin cancer, these include the Montreal protocol, but also informative policies on sun bathing behavior and regulation of other substances known to cause skin cancer. Attributing changes in skin cancer rates to any single policy cannot be done, yet you want to do that. That is why the overarching goal of reducing skin cancer is divided into sub-goals. Policies like Montreal are only intended for these specific subgoals. That is the only sensible way to evaluate policies: by evaluating them for the specific goal they were set up to achieve. In the montreal protocol, that was phazing out CFC’s to facilitate recovery of the ozone layer. That is what you have to evaluate it on.

    “I am ‘reading’ your posts. I raised several questions you haven’t answered either – does that mean you are not reading my posts? ;)”
    But I wasn’t talking about not answering all my questions when I stated that it seemed you weren’t reading my posts, Shub. I mentioned it because it kept going on about a point that I already agreed with for several posts.

    “The CO2 crowd, I am afraid, will do exactly the same thing with CO2.

    I’ll post the figure I was talking about soon – we could discuss this (important ) isssue there. I’ll give you a heads-up with a link.”
    But here the same thing applies. Governments are faced with a consensus of most climate scientists that there is an increase in global temperatures and that this increase is likely to be cause by anthropogenic greenhouse gasses. It has decided an overarching policy goal to reduce climate change. But his is not a workable policy definition, it has to be split up in subgoals. These subgoals and policies based on those subgoals have to be evaluated on their own (more narrowly defined) merits. They will at best contribute to the overarching goal.

    Taking your post into account, suppose we decide more emphasis should be pointed out black carbon. How would we do that? Precisely the same way, right? You’d end up with a montreal for black carbon. And again the same would apply. If after that “black carbon montreal” you would end up with a reduced rate of cardiorespiratory diseases, would that be because of the drop in black carbon, or because of policies tackling other pollutants like fine dust or because of policies tackling other risk factors?

    If you advocate reducing black carbon, you end up with exactly the same dilemmas as you have with reducing any other pollutant, with exactly the same problems in determining its effects.

  79. Eli Rabett Says:

    Black carbon is an exception in that it is not associated with any positive good, being a byproduct of incomplete combustion and having really nasty health issues associated with it. The principal source today is low value fuels (dung) for cooking in south and southeast asia. There are some social costs to replacing it (the poor people who gather and dry the fuel, and there are costs associated with replacing the lowest cost fuel (as in cheap as x xxxx), but it is a good place to start. As far as the other sources, more efficient combustion and filters on diesels are win win propositions.

  80. Shub Niggurath Says:

    Folks,
    Please follow the link provided. You did not even read Omniclimate’s post, did you?

    The EU has provided funding for black carbon emission reduction previously. They are talking about reducing that. (!!!) – “to keep an eye on CO2″.

    “But a senior Commission official warned against allowing the black carbon discussion to distract from the EU’s focus on cutting CO2 emissions, which he said remains the top priority.

    “We should be careful not to reverse priorities,” said Niels Ladefoged, a member of Climate Action Commissioner Connie Hedegaard’s cabinet, suggesting that the EU was already dealing with the problem under its air quality legislation.”

    Direct link: http://www.euractiv.com/en/climate-environment/experts-call-action-black-carbon-news-495488

    Conclusion (and reason for providing that link in the context of ozone discussion)
    We want to reduce ozone depletion, to benefit from the deleterious effects its reduction might have on human life and other lifeforms right? Or do we feel happy about cutting CFC as an objective in itself?

    What the EU does with its money is its business. But would it be right for it to advise developing countries tomorrow, let us say, to focus on reducing diesel and gasoline consumption (to cut cO2), when it is fossil fuel usage that will lead to reduction of black carbon emissions?

    You decide for yourselves.

    Regards

  81. Beaker Says:

    “We want to reduce ozone depletion, to benefit from the deleterious effects its reduction might have on human life and other lifeforms right? Or do we feel happy about cutting CFC as an objective in itself?”
    We want to prevent deleterious effects of CFC. However, the way you want to measure that (reduction in melanoma cases) is fraught with problems, if not downright irrealistic. I have yet to see you tackle that problem. The only realistic way to measure the effects of the montreal protocol is in reduction of CFC usage.

    “What the EU does with its money is its business. But would it be right for it to advise developing countries tomorrow, let us say, to focus on reducing diesel and gasoline consumption (to cut cO2), when it is fossil fuel usage that will lead to reduction of black carbon emissions?”
    Shub, Diesel and gasoline are fossil fuels. Black carbon is especially related to emissions of diesel motors. So reducing diesel consumption will reduce both CO2 and black carbon emissions. That is one of the reasons why putting the priority on CO2 is more sensible than putting it on black carbon (soot). CO2 is more comprehensive and many of the policies reducing CO2 will also reduce black carbon emissions. Also, that the EU prioritizes CO2 does not mean it doesn’t put policies in place aimed at black carbon (in fact, it does).

    And let’s not forget the central question you will need to tackle here. Suppose we put the emphasis on black carbon and succeed in reducing black carbon concentrations, but cardiovascular and respiratory diseases
    still increase due to an increasing elderly population. Will you than declare the policy failed, even though you yourself stated that the relationship between black carbon and health is not controverial?

  82. Beaker Says:

    “Black carbon is an exception in that it is not associated with any positive good, being a byproduct of incomplete combustion and having really nasty health issues associated with it. The principal source today is low value fuels (dung) for cooking in south and southeast asia.”
    Well, the post brought up by Shub centers around Europe. Here diesel emissions are most strongly associated with cardiorespiratory outcomes. This is a uniquely European problem, due to the relatively high percentage of diesel cars. There is somewhat of a conundrum here, given that benzine cars emit less black carbon, but are also less energy efficient as diesel cars. But then, both diesel and benzine cars are strong emitters of fine dust, which is also strongly related to adverse cardiorespiratory effects, so just replacing diesel with benzine would not solve the problem. It would just displace it to a different source.

    [quote]There are some social costs to replacing it (the poor people who gather and dry the fuel, and there are costs associated with replacing the lowest cost fuel (as in cheap as x xxxx), but it is a good place to start. As far as the other sources, more efficient combustion and filters on diesels are win win propositions.[/quote]
    Well, seeing that Shub was talking about Europe, these policies are put in place in European law (specifically stricter regulation on diesel emissions and industrial soot emissions). Contrary to what Shub believes, stating that CO2 has priority over black carbon, this does not mean that black carbon is not tackled as a problem.

    Also, what is European law other than a European montreal. I thought Shub thought that was a bad idea, but apparently not.

  83. Shub Niggurath Says:

    Beaker

    Your CO2 focus is distorting your perception.

    Black carbon emissions contribute to deleterious health effects today. The problem can be formulated thus:

    People in developing countries burn firewood and other combustion-unworthy materials. This results in heart and eye diseases. We should raise the general standard of living to alleviate these problems. Concomitantly, the reduction of inefficient fuel usage that will occur with improvement in living standards, will address the black carbon emissions issue.

    The EU policy wonks have the problem in the exact reverse order.

    Diesel is the NOT the immediate health-destroying soot and black-carbon producing source in developing countries. Diesel is the blood of life for developing countries. Affordability and consumer demand for clean air (after they live long enough healthily) will automatically increase demand for more efficient diesel combustion.

    On Ozone:
    Reducing CFCs was the policy goal, the putative reduction in health effects of ozone depletion was the rationale for the policy. Is this OK?

    Good policy will eventually address both these aspects of the socio-political reality. I am afraid there is no getting away from this.

    To wit, I quote Paul Edwards, on the elements of a successful policy:

    “…, the incentives which influence policymakers most in technical decision-making tend to reward projects that
    a) are narrowly focused,
    b) have a high probability of success,
    c) can produce a steady series of short-term payoffs or milestones, and
    d) have tangible, easily perceived, widely desired benefits”

    Edwards P, GLOBAL COMPREHENSIVE MODELS IN POLITICS AND
    POLICYMAKING Climatic Change 32: 149-161, 1996.

    Ozone satisfied many of these points and *therefore* became successful. CO2 cannot.

  84. Beaker Says:

    Shub, your whole last post ignored the issues I raised. Let’s try again, shall we?

    So, let’s say we agree for the moment you are right. What kind of policy are you going to set up to tackle black carbon? What are your policy goals going to be and how are you going to measure its success?

  85. Shub Niggurath Says:

    If we want to reduce ‘black carbon’, I would immediately recognize, as mentioned above, that the problem has been formulated in reverse.

    The first thing therefore, would be to get away from a paradigm (and accompanying language) of ‘emission reductions’.

    I would then identify, that the predominant source of black carbon, worldwide is ‘biomass’ burning.

    “Asia has been identified the biggest source of the pollutant due to the burning of wood, dung and coal in cooking and heating stoves, burning fossil fuels in the industrial sector and using diesel fuel in cars, the use of which is increasing.”
    -quoting from the same Euractiv article (this fact is widely accepted)

    It would therefore be obvious (to me at least) that getting people not to burn cowdung and wood is not as straightforward as V Ramanathan’s solar cookers.

    From this point on, what *can be done* and in what order can vary.

    No one goes rummaging in the bramble behind their home because they like doing it – they are satisfying their energy needs.

    One way of relieving such pressures on the land would be to encourage urbanization at the edges of such areas. This would mean increased investment in fossil fuel availability and LPG, roads and electricity.

  86. Beaker Says:

    Shub, now you just wrote a lot without actually answering the question. Besides, your answers contradict themselves. You first state that you want to get away from a paradigm on emission reductions, but the rest of your post is just that, emission reductions. To be more specific, reducing emissions by identifying the source and tackling it. This is not any different from anything done already. It only specifies an even narrower subgoal than the montreal protocol did.

    Great, so you’ve completely tackled the use of cowdung and wood. Is that your measure of success? I mean, you state that fazing out a substance is too narrow as a goal to evaluate the success of a measure (Montreal) and state that success of policy should be measured on health effects. But your policy proposal is even narrower, focusing not on health effects, not on black soot concentrations, but on sources (in a way completely irrelevant for most Western countries I might add, black carbon emissions in Asia have no effect on health in Europe (they have most effect about 50 to 100 meters from the source) and they effect of emissions in Asia on climate in Europe is at teh very best doubtful).

    If you succeed in reducing cowdung and wood usage in Asia, would you then define your policy as a success? Why, why not?

  87. Beaker Says:

    I might add that a source specific approach as you are describing is nothing new and is applied routinely by policy makers. What you have to realize is that policy goals are set at multiple levels and specific policies and their success are measured at different levels as well.

    To take the Montreal protocol as an example, the countries participating in it will probably have a policy declaring that they want to reduce cancers. That policy will have a host of subpolicies aimed at reducing risk factors (of which Montreal is one). This will be implemented again by the countries through multiple subpolicies like source-based approaches or research approaches. What you are doing with your criticism of declaring Montreal a success is that you misclassify the level at which the policy is implemented and thus also the level at which success should be measured.

    Suppose you implement the source based approach you suggest for black carbon and implement policy tackling wood and cowdung burning. And suppose you than succeed in fazing out usage of wood and cowdung. But than you discover that, for whatever reason, black carbon has increased nonetheless. Did your policy fail? No, because it did exactly what you designed it to do. But you (possibly) decided on the wrong policy. Or maybe the policy did have effect on black carbon concentrations, but other (new) sources swamped the source you tackled in your policy. You mix up the difference between designing the wrong policy and designing effective policy.

  88. Shub Niggurath Says:

    Apologies Beaker. I left out some specific points, which I should have addressed.

    The original question was:
    So, let’s say we agree for the moment you are right. What kind of policy are you going to set up to tackle black carbon? What are your policy goals going to be and how are you going to measure its success?

    I started off by saying I would get away from a paradigm of “emissions reductions”. I say this for two important reasons:

    1) You would know that industry and NGOs are actively involved in promoting pellet stoves and other crazier contraptions with computer fans in developing countries. You would know about the solar cookers. I am not entirely sure such efforts are good-hearted simply because they ignore the larger realities.

    2) The health effects of soot have been present and felt long before any climate business became the hot issue. Addressing soot through its health effects may be a good strategy because it produces immediate benefits.

    Therefore I would NOT include measuring soot levels as part of my policy. Doing that would be a quagmire.

    I would set eye disease and direct home surveys to detect wood burning as indicators end-point of my policy efforts, give myself a frame of ten years, and obtain measurements every two years.

    At the end of that period, if eye disease incidence has fallen, I would declare ‘success’ in reducing glacier-melting black soot.

    You ask:
    “Suppose you implement the source based approach you suggest for black carbon and implement policy tackling wood and cowdung burning. And suppose you than succeed in fazing out usage of wood and cowdung. But than you discover that, for whatever reason, black carbon has increased nonetheless. Did your policy fail?”

    If framed as above, if I discover that eye disease has failed to reduce in incidence, I would infer failure of positive policy measures.

    I would try to detect whether my metrics were correct. Conduct repeat surveys etc.

    Because I framed ‘black carbon reduction’ in human disease terms, I would have the ability to gauge relatively quickly whether my measures are working (unlike the soot-centric policies which hinge on slow-grinding presumed-to-be-true earth processes ).

    Please not a subtle point in this approach. One should tackle *all* sources of black carbon, (to possible degrees), but the policy thrust and metrics both lie in the largest chunk and the one with the most immediate concerns and rewards – domestic/semi-domestic firewood and dung burning.

    The Montreal protocol does not do this – it did not cleverly or otherwise frame its targets in health terms. Which is fine and even the fact that we reduced ozone depletion rates are fine too – I never objected to that. But in terms of producing ‘benefits’ – we will have to wait.

    You really have to check out some earlier papers. They draw nice looking graphs where skin cancer incidence shoots up sky high etc etc. I do not shoulder the blame on the melanoma thing.

    In this context, let me ask the same question back. Suppose you had measured atmospheric black carbon and recorded a certain degree of reduction, but eye and cardiovascular disease incidence had remained unchanged or even increased. What then?

    Because that is what is happening with melanoma. Or it looks like the beginning of such a thing.

    Regards

  89. Beaker Says:

    Apologies for my delay in response.

    “Therefore I would NOT include measuring soot levels as part of my policy. Doing that would be a quagmire.”
    Well great, but then you have no idea whether your policy does one of the things it purports to do.

    “At the end of that period, if eye disease incidence has fallen, I would declare ‘success’ in reducing glacier-melting black soot. ”
    With the very real chance that, through some other influence, outdoor levels of black soot would have remained constant. For example because of the new coal-powered energy plant build outside of the city. Your cardiovascular incidence would remain as high as it would be now, since outdoor concentrations of black soot would hardly change and thus total exposure time and cumulative exposure would hardly change.

    The problem with what you describe is the same I already indicated. Because you focus your goals to narrowly, you cannot address possible other influences. You will indicate your project a failure, even if it does exactly what it is supposed to do and has a positive benefit.

    “Because I framed ‘black carbon reduction’ in human disease terms, I would have the ability to gauge relatively quickly whether my measures are working (unlike the soot-centric policies which hinge on slow-grinding presumed-to-be-true earth processes ).”
    But this is hampered by the exact same problems as you indicate for the Montreal protocol. You focus on short-term health effects and a narrow proxy of exposure, neglecting long-term health effects and actual exposure levels. And than I come along and say that cumulative exposure to soot hasn’t actually decreased and neither have cardiovascular diseases. Do you than declare your policy a failure? What probably happened in that case would be that the newly build coal power plant would have increased the soot levels while your policy reduced them, resulting in stable levels of soot where they would otherwise have increased. This holds especially with regards to cardiovascular diseases. You might have succeeded in reducing soot levels, other risk factors for cardiovascular diseases in developing countries are increasing (especially on diet and exercise).

    Would your policy have failed? No. Cardiovascular incidents woud have increased because dietary changes will outweigh the effects of soot reductions. But if you wouldn’t have tackled soot, cardiovascular incidents would have been even higher. You could come to me with models showing this. But I keep claiming your policy was ineffective. Don’t come to me with those made-up numbers!

    “In this context, let me ask the same question back. Suppose you had measured atmospheric black carbon and recorded a certain degree of reduction, but eye and cardiovascular disease incidence had remained unchanged or even increased. What then?”
    Then this would mean that there are other factors that also have an effect on these diseases next to soot. That does not mean that removing soot from the environment didn’t have it’s effect. It would mean that these other factors became stronger relative to soot. In your evaluation, removing soot from the environment would have been ineffective. But this would be a false conclusion, since we know soot is a causal factor for these diseases.

    Note that this might not even mean we neglected other, more important causes. Things like diet and behavior are notoriously difficult to influence.

    And so we are back at square one. You have a multifactorial endpoint, in this case cardiovascular disease. You want to make policy that prevents this disease. Therefore, you have to set policies addressing the multiple causal factors. Some of these policies will fail, others will work. Not bringing down the total incidence of the disease would not mean that all policies on any of the specific risk factors has failed. You have to look at whether the policies you designed reduced the risk factors to determine that. This holds for exposure as well.

    This is the problem with your argument. You want to use multifactorial diseases to evaluate the effect of policy measures aimed at single factor influencing those diseases.

    “The Montreal protocol does not do this – it did not cleverly or otherwise frame its targets in health terms. Which is fine and even the fact that we reduced ozone depletion rates are fine too – I never objected to that. But in terms of producing ‘benefits’ – we will have to wait.”
    But we weren’t talking about producing “benefits”. We were talking about being successfull, ie, doing what it was supposed to do. What is more, when talking about benefits you neglect benefits from prevention, because those can only be modeled (given that we actually instituted the policy) and you call modeling “making stuff up”, which is not an accurate assessment of what modeling exercises do.

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