Moving the debate forward: Tom Fuller’s league of 2.5

by

Tom Fuller has an interesting proposition:

I nominate 2.5C as a working definition of sensitivity until we get better data and start making plans accordingly.

He also aired it over at WUWT in slightly different terms:

So, I call for all those involved in the climate debate to throw down their weapons, embrace this practical solution [presumably referring to climate sensitivity being 2.5] as being of use to the rest of the world, climb aboard the Peace Train and sing Kumbaya. Right.

Ok, all together now: Kumbaya!!

I interpret his ‘motion’ as suggesting: Let’s assume that climate sensitivity is 2.5 deg C per doubling of CO2 and move the discussion to how we’re going to deal with that in terms of mitigation and adaptation.

This movement of the debate to the policy sphere is close to what I suggested to Fuller over a year ago, when I wrote:

Let’s distinguish the following main issues:
– To what extent is climate change occurring, and to what extent is it man-made?
– To what extent is that (going to be) a problem?
– What can or should we do about it?

(…)

The ‘next generation questions’ in my view relate to the last one: How are we going to deal with this?

Why?

Because

Any realistic change in our scientific understanding is not going to change the needed policy response, at least not in the short to medium term (~decades). As Herman Daly noted: “If you jump out of an airplane you need a crude parachute more than an accurate altimeter.”

Climate sensitivity.

Tom gets at the 2.5 number by using the Mauna Loa time series for CO2 and comparing its 19% increase with the 0.5 deg C temperature increase over the same time period. Obviously there are some major issues with this approach:

- The net climate forcing is only poorly known because of large uncertainties in aerosol forcing. (Aerosol forcing is close, but opposite in sign, to that of the other greenhouse gases, so accidentally the net forcing is close to the CO2 forcing, though with a very large uncertainty dominated by the aerosol effects.)

- The climate hasn’t fully responded to the current climate forcing yet, as it takes time to equilibrate (mainly due to ocean thermal inertia). This reflects the warming in the pipeline.

- Temperature depends logarithmically on CO2; not linearly.

Nevertheless, his approach more or less accidentally arrives at a very decent estimate, which is right in the ballpark of more accurate estimates of climate sensitivity (3 +/- 1 degree C per doubling of CO2).

The warming we can expect in the future depends not only on the climate sensitivity (which we have just tentatively agreed to put at 2.5 for sake of the argument), but also on future emissions: How much greenhouse gases and aerosols are we going to dump in the atmosphere together? That depends on the choices we make, obviously. But it helps to move the debate forward by assuming a reasonable estimate of the former so we concentrate the debate on the latter, which is where it really gets difficult, because this is where tough choices have to be made and where values clash.

An example of the latter can be seen in the comments to Fuller’s WUWT post. But his message gets lost on most of them: Instead of discussing their values and political wishes, they attack the premise of Fuller’s climate sensitivity or climate science as a whole and ignore the difficult questions. A missed chance.

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111 Responses to “Moving the debate forward: Tom Fuller’s league of 2.5”

  1. Dana Says:

    3°C would be a better choice.

    http://www.skepticalscience.com/climate-sensitivity-advanced.htm

    But 2.5°C is close enough. ‘Skeptics’ will never accept this value, because it requires taking serious action to reduce anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions, and their unwillingness to take these measures is the motivation behind their ‘skepticism’.

    We’re headed for 2xCO2 by mid-to-late century in a business-as-usual scenario, and 2°C warming above pre-industrial levels is considered the ‘danger limit’. Thus accepting 2.5°C climate sensitivity requires advocating for significant greenhouse gas emissions reductions.

  2. M. van Delft Says:

    This reminds me of the saying ‘measuring with a micrometer and dividing with an axe’. Of course science should proceed, but we don’t need more preciseness or certainty to act, we are in a desperate need for balls.

  3. PDA Says:

    I hadn’t realized the ill regard with which at least a portion of the WUWT commentariat held Fuller. Though I’ve had my spats with him, I take absolutely no pleasure in watching them bash him. It seems like – at least as far as the Wattsosphere goes – this is a zero-sum game. No negotiated settlements, just the crushing of the climate scientists and their exiling to the outer darkness, followed by an operatic aria sung by Willis Eschenbach and the Venereforming of planet Earth:

    I think we need more carbon dioxide, perhaps up to 2000 ppm. We need warmer weather. This two things will open up fertile lands that are currently locked in ice, and allow more area for food to be grown, as well as providing the plant fertilizer that carbon dioxide is.

  4. rustneversleeps Says:

    I’m really not following what exactly this is supposed to be moving forward.

    All the parties to the Copenhagen Accord agreed “To achieve the ultimate objective of the Convention to stabilize greenhouse gas concentration in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system, we shall, recognizing the scientific view that the increase in global temperature should be below 2 degrees Celsius,” and, “include consideration of strengthening the long-term goal referencing various matters presented by the science, including in relation to temperature rises of 1.5 degrees Celsius.”

    Whereas Tom Fuller, in his WHUWT? article suggests: “So I think we should provide a ‘rough and ready’ estimate of 2 degrees C climate change this century to the public, business and politicians, so they can start making plans for the future.”

    Since we’ve already had ~ 0.8C temperature rise from pre-industrial, Fuller seems to assert that we simply abandon the internationally agreed-to guardrails for “dangerous interference” and instead simply accept and start planning for a rise of ~ 2.8C by the end of this century.

    But why?

    He seems to start by arguing for a new “agreement” that CO2 is lower than consensus, and then – somewhat non sequitur in my opinion – proceeds from this to assert that we should start “planning” for a 2.8C temperature rise.

    I don’t see how one follows from the other.

    As Dana says, if you accept the 2C guardrail, then it doesn’t much matter whether we use 2.5C or 3.0C for sensitivity. Both suggest that if we want to try to hold to that, we need to aggressively reduce emissions, asap.

    Tom’s argument seems, to me anyway, to run something like this. “We don’t know precisely what the climate sensitivity is. My feeling is that it is lower than the consensus figure of 3C, and this back-of-an-envelope guesstimate is conveniently in agreement with my feeling. Let’s agree that it is instead 2.5C. Therefore, let’s abandon objectives to limit the temperature rise to 2C, and plan instead for a 2.8C rise, for no particular related reason why.”

    It doesn’t logically follow.

    It seems to me that we did a massive, quick two-step from “3C sensitivity. 2C temp. rise objective.” to “2.5C sensitivity. 2.8C temp. rise planning number.” with zero reference as to why the second part follows.

    And there is something about the arbitrary symmetry of his argument – where he starts with 1958 temperature, bumps into a 0.5C rise since then, derives a 2.5C sensitivity, and then assumes a 2C temperature rise over the next 90 years. If I didn’t presume better, I might think there is an attempt to conflate sensitivity and temperature increase.

    Frankly, I’m ok with “working with” a 2.5C sensitivity number. But why should that lead to an apparent abandonment of the Copenhagen targets?

  5. Eli Rabett Says:

    The real question here is why Fuller and Walt Meir’s posts on WUWT. Why Pielke on the greenhouse effect.

  6. Dana Says:

    rustneversleeps – it’s a good point that Fuller is basically arguing “let’s assume 2.8°C warming from pre-industrial levels and prepare to adapt to it” without discussing whether that’s wise. He’s assuming that we’ll limit the atmospheric CO2 increase to 600 ppm by the year 2100, but we’re already on pace to exceed that.

    So even in Fuller’s “let’s prepare to adapt to 2.8°C” scenario, he’s still implicitly endorsing some sort of emissions reduction, he just doesn’t come out and say so (probably because it wouldn’t make him too popular among his fellow ‘skeptics’). But on top of that, he doesn’t explain why 2.8°C warming is an acceptable amount of warming.

    My take is that it’s just a first step to try and get his fellow ‘skeptics’ on board with something reasonable – to at least accept a reasonably realistic climate sensitivity value for the sake of future planning. I presume he doesn’t consider the 600 ppm and 2.8°C by 2100 as set in stone.

    Unfortunately, the WUWT readers can’t even seem to get on board with this first step. The comments reveal a lot of people who are very ignorant about basic climate science, saying things like “how do we know CO2 is causing warming and not vice-versa?”. Too bad WUWT doesn’t discuss the very simple scientific answers to those sorts of questions. There’s really no point in discussing climate sensitivity with people who don’t even understand basic climate science to begin with.

  7. Bart Says:

    For me the point is basically in this older post of mine: http://ourchangingclimate.wordpress.com/2009/08/19/my-next-generation-questions-on-climate-change/

    Of which I used some things here: We know what we need to know to start doing something. A move from debating climate science specifics to debating response strategies is a big step forward that’s long overdue.

    Fuller interspects his post with some confusing things (eg that besides sensitivity also the total net forcing matters for the temp change in 2100, and his comment about ice sheets), but I chose to focus on his main point, which -if I understand him correctly- is good.

  8. Dana Says:

    I agree Bart, it’s useful in that respect. Fuller is trying to get ‘skeptics’ past the argument “we don’t know enough to act” by saying “let’s agree on these reasonable assumptions”, and given those reasonable (though imperfect) assumptions, we can then move on to discuss what response strategies are appropriate.

    It’s a good attempt, but again based on the WUWT comments, a failed one. Which does not surprise me in the least. The whole motivation behind ‘skepticism’ is an ideological refusal to take any response actions, except perhaps nuclear power, which ‘skeptics’ generally seem to love for some bizarre reason (perhaps because they perceive that ‘environmentalists’ oppose nuclear).

  9. thomaswfuller Says:

    Hi all,

    I’m a bit fatigued keeping up with the comments on WUWT, so I’ll be a bit briefer than normal here.

    First, although there was quite a bit of negativity in the comments, there were also quite a few reasonable comments that noted some of my confusion in how I initially phrased the proposition and one or two skeptics who supported the idea in principle. I’ve experienced worse at WUWT, although nothing as bad as what happens at… well… you know where.

    I read through the whole thread again this morning, and I’m not discouraged. I think a reasoned approach from someone with better chops than me could find traction with part of that community.

    The key would be explicit rejection of some far-fletched claims, a promise not to move the goal posts, and including them in the construction of the position statements.

    You guys would have to be willing to turn your back on the Joe Romms of the world–no, that’s going too far, Joe still has the best green technology news section on the internet–you’d have to reject statements regarding sea level rise that exceed our understanding of what’s currently happening, and probably tone down the conversation on oceanic acidification. But they’d feel like they are being asked to give up more–like I said to the late Stephen Schneider a year ago, the skeptics think they’re winning and are in no mood to concede territory. And that was before Nov. 19.

    Curry could do it, or Mac. The new slogan could be, I went to a climate debate and a hockey match broke out…

  10. Jeff Id Says:

    Tom, in my view it’s not the person, it is the message. Establishing any trend which cannot be demonstrated, is just throwing a dart. Lower trend, higher trend, the models are all over the place. On average the models run 2 to 4 times observation, but some models drop in line.

    You write about ‘skeptics’ as though they should form a consensus. It’s like taping water to mercury. Half of em, won’t believe that CO2 captures radiation. Sometimes I think it must be the only gas which doesn’t!!

    But it’s crap CO2 is a global warming gas.

    The only snip at tAV this year was a long time reader who would’t stop writing that models suck. I agree that models aren’t what they are claimed to be, but come on, if we don’t understand them, why conclude anything?

    What is the point of establishing an unknown number.

    Skeptics are winning? I don’t think so, but politically reasonable people are. The AGW group is full of radicals who believe they are mainstream.

    Skeptics are losing, slowly, and that means that everything in the world is as it should be. Skeptics always lose to the balance of science. Science always concedes appropriately to skeptics. Skeptics concede appropriately to science.

    skeptics are scientists are skeptics.

    What shouldn’t be happening is a declaration of consensus based on these models. Not enough skeptics and too many politiicans.

    Although, I have now read my first model as forced by Nick Stokes. It is very interesting mathematically, FEA was always fun. I hope to have another interesting post on it in the near future based on Emanuel’s work.

  11. dana1981 Says:

    Aside from the fact that I think it’s utterly bizarre that ‘skeptics’ think they’re ‘winning’ (winning what, exactly? I can’t remember that last time I saw a ‘skeptic’ make an intelligent scientific argument), I don’t like this attitude of winning vs. losing and conceding points to make the other side happy.

    Science, facts, and reality are what they are. I’m not going to ‘tone down the conversation on oceanic acidification’ just to make ‘skeptics’ happy. Ocean acidification is a major threat – that’s simple reality whether or not ‘skeptics’ are willing to admit it.

    It sounds to me, at least the way Tom Fuller is framing things, that ‘skeptics’ view global warming as some sort of game to be won or lost in silly arguments on meaningless blogs. The climate doesn’t care if you win a point in an argument on WUWT or RealClimate. The climate is going to do what it’s going to do, and you aren’t going to be able to convince it otherwise with clever arguments. It’s not a game. And until ‘skeptics’ realize that, we’re never going to be able to have a serious discussion about how to address global warming.

  12. Paul Kelly Says:

    The futility of basing policy on sensitivity.

    1) Arguments about sensitivity itself, which all seem to agree is unknown no matter the confidence in any particular figure.

    2) There is enough probability on both sides of the sensitivity curve to politicalally prevent effective government action.

    3) Uncertainty about sensitivity makes assessing the effectiveness of any given policy is extremely difficult if not impossible

    Tom Fuller is wrong to think a rapprochement is necessary even if possible. Bart and many others seem to hold the same view. It is a prescription for inaction for those who prefer argument over constructive involvement. The insistence that climate drive policy is the biggest impediment to mitigation.

    Some 25 years ago, one of the fathers of the science who’s name I can’t recall, said that the solution to global warming must come from actions whose primary benefit is not climate. He was right.

  13. Bart Says:

    Tom,

    My agreement is mostly with your phrasing at CaS, which was clear and to the point. At WUWT you were hinting towards warming being capped at 2 degrees because of your reasoning, which is clearly not the case, as I tried to explain in this post: It’s a choice.

    I agree with Dana, with the added notion that I think it’s very worthwhile to move from debating the science to debating response strategies. That to me is the crux of what I agree with in (my interpretation of) Tom’s motion.

    Paul Kelly,

    I strongly disagree, esp with 2.

    1. Yes there is lots of uncertainty regarding the exact climate sensitivity, but uncertainty is not the same as knowing nothing.

    2. Not at all. Any realistic change in our scientific understanding is not going to change the direction of needed policy response, at least not in the short to medium term (~decades). It is clear that within the realm of realistic possibilities, we need to step up our mitigation efforts in order to prevent dangerous interference with the climate system. That conclusion does not depend on uncertainty in the science at all.

    3. For the long term yes, but see 2 for why that doesn’t matter for policy response needed this decade.

    My whole point is that I prefer constructive involvement over argument. I don’t see how you twist that around.

  14. snide Says:

    The amazing thing is that the ‘deniers’ have become the ‘lukewarmers’. Those who deny even basic radiation physics have been cast adrift, although not too obviously. They are just ignored now. In contrast, the climate scientists have changed nothing.

  15. Eli Rabett Says:

    Why do you think the Overton window has moved to 2.5 K? It’s not because of Mark Morano.

  16. dana1981 Says:

    I second Bart’s last comment. Climate sensitivity is probably between 2 and 4.5°C for 2xCO2. It’s possible that it’s outside that range – more likely higher than lower – but all signs point to somewhere within that range, probably close to 3°C. But more importantly, anywhere within 2 to 4.5°C and we need to do something to reduce GHG emissions, because we’re going to reach 2xCO2 within the next ~50 years otherwise, and most climate scientists agree on the 2°C ‘danger limit’.

    Of course I suspect if ‘skeptics’ did join Fuller’s “League of 2.5″, their next argument would be that 2-3°C is nothing to worry about, ‘warmer is better’, etc.

    Eli – I’m not sure the Overton window has moved to 2.5°C. After all, when Tom Fuller suggested it, most of WUWT commenters didn’t buy it for a second.

    In fact, I’m not sure there is an Overton window for climate sensitivity. I don’t think it’s a concept most of the general public is even familiar with. Sadly, most in the public are still deciding whether AGW is science or a scam. ‘Skeptics’ seem to have their own acceptable range of climate sensitivity in discussions, which generally seems to be less than 2°C, and realists generally use the 2 to 4.5°C range, with the window centering around 3°C.

  17. thomaswfuller Says:

    dana1981, at some point someone’s going to have to point out to you that this issue is not scientific, it’s political. The science is what it is, and it’s not in good enough shape to be as declarative as people on both sides tend to be.

    Temperatures are going to do what they are going to do. The activist brigade failed in their shot at global action to cap emissions. That opportunity is probably not going to come around again any time soon.

    The people living in this century are probably going to experience about 2 degrees C of warming during its course, plus or minus about 10%. I base that on observed CO2 concentrations since 1958 at Mauna Loa and a presumed sensitivity of 2.5C of the atmosphere to heating from all causes. Obviously I might be wrong–but it’s safe to say it will not be zero, and it seems fairly obvious that it won’t be much greater during this century.

    Meanwhile, we will need a lot of energy during this century. If it comes from coal it will not be beneficial to us. Arguing clean energy has the chance of getting more people on board and may do some good re climate change.

    That’s my position in a nutshell.

    Bart, you’ll note I write of 2C this century, not total. Paul, I don’t think we need to shoot for unanimity. Just getting some previous skeptics on board, and grudging indifference is more than adequate for policy change.

    Eli, as always, you take something totally irrelevant and dress it up as a key question. You never fail to fail.

  18. dana1981 Says:

    “thomaswfuller Says: The people living in this century are probably going to experience about 2 degrees C of warming during its course…it seems fairly obvious that it won’t be much greater during this century.”

    I think that’s a fairly bizarre statement, particularly for someone who I presume thinks there’s significant uncertainty involved in these sorts of projections.

    If – and this is the biggest if – we manage to keep atmospheric CO2 at 600 ppm or below by 2100, then I agree the planet probably won’t warm a whole lot more than 2°C between now and then. Though I certainly wouldn’t call that “fairly obvious”.

    But in the IPCC moderate A1B scenario, we hit 520 ppm in 2050 and 700 ppm in 2100. So I think if you’re going to say the planet will only warm 2°C over the next 90 years and probably not more, you have to also make it clear that you’re assuming we will significantly reduce GHG emissions over that period.

    The way you’re phrasing it, it’s like you’re saying “this is just what’s going to happen”, but it’s not going to happen that way unless we make it happen by taking serious steps to reduce emissions. By neglecting this point, you’re making it sound too easy.

    I agree the science is what it is. The problem is that you can’t argue politics until you first understand the science, which ‘skeptics’ almost universally do not, as is evidenced by the WUWT comments on your article. If somebody thinks global warming is just a hoax, that we don’t even know if humans are increasing atmospheric CO2 or if the planet is even warming, etc., you’re never going to get that person on board with political solutions to the problem they deny exists to begin with.

  19. Bart Says:

    Tom, you wrote

    I base that (temperature rise by the end of this century) on observed CO2 concentrations since 1958 at Mauna Loa and a presumed sensitivity of 2.5C of the atmosphere to heating from all causes.

    The warming we can expect in the future depends not only on the climate sensitivity but also on future emissions. See also the second last paragraph of my post.

  20. Bart Says:

    I probably won’t be checking in here for a week. Feel free to continue the fun (and be nice).

  21. Rocco Says:

    Haha, so the IPCC sensitivity is now in the lukewarmer territory? Looks like Anthony will have to rearrange his blogroll again :)

  22. thomaswfuller Says:

    Dana1981, you say that we cannot argue the politics until we understand the science, but you say the skeptics don’t understand the science (shall I alert Richard Lindzen and John Christy?), but they seem to be arguing the politics with or without understanding the science.

    If there ever was a moment when climate change was about the science, that moment is long gone. Al Gore–meet James Inhofe. Joe Romm–meet Marc Morano.

  23. Paul Kelly Says:

    When Bart comes back, I hope he’ll read that I don’t think he prefers arguing over solving. I think he and others are trapped in the sincere middle, ever long trying escape through a locked door when there’s an open window right behind them.

    Tom wrote “Just getting some previous skeptics on board, and grudging indifference is more than adequate for policy change.”

    My position is that no one on any side of climate science must change their views in order for actions that will mitigate potential climate issues to occur.

    The most grievous error is seeking mitigation through political processes. Energy transformation is a social challenge, not a political one. It is the right, and indeed the duty of the people to confront such a challenge free of political or government control.

    If the climate concerned truly want to solve the problem, they will stop talking about climate. They might be better off not even thinking about it. Put that time and intellect toward the physical work of energy transformation.

  24. Rocco Says:

    thomaswfuller: Creating false equivalency will not make you look more neutral, you know.

  25. thomaswfuller Says:

    Rocco–wow! What insight!

    I’m not neutral and don’t want anyone to think I am.

  26. dana1981 Says:

    Comparing Gore to Inhofe or Romm to Morano is…..I don’t know how to put it nicely. Not very smart. Let’s try that.

    By the way, please don’t mischaracterize what I say. I was very careful to say “‘skeptics’ almost universally do not [understand basic climate science]“. Those ‘skeptics’ who do, like Lindzen and Christy, don’t dispute the obvious like the increasing global temperature (well, Lindzen does in public, because he’s intellectually dishonest) or its human causation.

    What these informed skeptics generally dispute are aspects like climate sensitivity, so at least it’s possible to have an intelligent conversation with them.

  27. Neven Says:

    Timeo Danaos et dona ferentes…

  28. thomaswfuller Says:

    dana1981, I guess your comments weren’t phrased carefully enough for me. Are you saying that Lindzen does not understand climate science, or is not a skeptic, or is plotting the meltdown of the world to further his nefarious causes?

    Almost all of the skeptics I correspond with regularly would fall in the category you describe as ‘generally disputing aspects like climate sensitivity.’ The commenters who go off at places like WUWT remind me of nothing more than the same type who do exactly the same at places like… well… you know. They’ve just chosen sides, and facts don’t matter.

    But to limit that description to skeptics is really foolish.

  29. dana1981 Says:

    I don’t know who you correspond with, Thomas, but I rarely meet ‘skeptics’ who understand basic climate science or realists who don’t. Or at the very least, realists generally have an open mind and are willing to learn, which ‘skeptics’ do and are not. Though I also rarely encounter a ‘skeptic’ who doesn’t dispute either that the planet is warming or the cause is anthropogenic.

    As for Lindzen, he obviously understands climate science. I think there’s a big difference between scientist Lindzen and public Lindzen. When he writes Op-Eds or engages in debates or is otherwise publicly visible, I find him exceptionally dishonest. But that’s off-topic.

  30. J Bowers Says:

    If a car will crash, and it’s known it will crash at some point and at a speed of anywhere between 40 mph and 80 mph, you don’t build the car to withstand an impact at 60 mph. If, for reasons of cost, it eventually was built to withstand a crash at 60 mph, I challenge anyone to not call the buyer a damned fool.

  31. Rocco Says:

    dana1981: Your experience is not unique (e.g., see here)

    thomaswfuller: Like I said, your “both sides do it” schtick is pretty lame, especially given your ignorance of the subject.

    As for Lindzen’s skepticism, well, let’s hear it from the man himself: Leading Global Warming ‘Skeptic’ Lindzen: Time to Abandon the ‘Skeptic’ Label

  32. Jeff Id Says:

    J Bowers,

    If you do know for certain that the car cannot be built to withstand the crash no matter the cost, then what?

  33. M. van Delft Says:

    @J Bowers, the buyer might not believe that a crash at 80 mph will occur. He could think that tens of thousands of automotive engineers are conspiring against him, as they sell more expensive cars when calculating the 80 mph. This buyer is not overly prudent.

    Alternatively, the buyer might not have the money for a car which stands an 80 mph crash (or not the capacity to borrow the money from the Chinese;-), or want to spend his money on other stuff. This buyer has a funding problem or can’t set the right priorities.

    A third plausible reason for buying the car is that one is tired of life, or at least doesn’t think it is very important. This buyer needs a shrink more than a car.

    Your point is clear: if you mix right and wrong, you never get something good.

    @ Jeff, a lower speed limit helps.

  34. snide Says:

    # Jeff Id Says:
    October 24, 2010 at 11:09

    J Bowers,

    If you do know for certain that the car cannot be built to withstand the crash no matter the cost, then what?

    Are we talking an ‘On the Beach’ scenario here? You get to pay for your goods at the department store with an orange peel.

  35. TimG Says:

    Why do people keep insisting that the question of ‘what to do about CO2′ is something that can be resolved by agreeing on the ‘science’? The science is largely irrelevant at this point and what we do is purely a question of values, economics and technology.

    On that front, the UN/IPCC advocates have failed because the only “solutions” they offer require the creation of a massive bureaucracy tasked with micromanaging global industry. This is a non starter for anyone who generally believes the UN is hopelessly corrupt and governments often do more harm than good.

    More realistic adovocates have set their sights on some sort of national ‘carbon price’ but those efforts quickly fall apart as politicians and bureaucrats scramble to undermine the effectiveness of said tax by granting “rebates/exemptions” to politically favoured groups. The resulting compromises have zero chance of accomplishing anything useful.

    In the end, adaption as required with a side order of alternate energy R&D is the only option available to us no matter what CO2 sensitivity is and it rather pointless to keep arguing about it.

  36. willard Says:

    > [M]assive bureaucracy tasked with micromanaging global industry. [...] UN is hopelessly corrupt and governments often do more harm than good.

    We should all leave this to BP.

  37. J Bowers Says:

    @ Jeff Id: The car will crash, it is a certainty and known, but there’s a 40 mph uncertainty with the speed. IMHO, you build it to withstand an 80 mph crash.

    Additionally: The buyer has a family, a wife, two children and three grandchildren, and insists on taking them with him on every trip in the car. Not only that, the buyer makes sure that whenever his neighbours need to go somewhere they use his car. Is the fool now only a fool?

  38. Marco Says:

    TimG:

    You are setting up strawmen. The IPCC does not make, nor has made policy. It has evaluated several methods with which CO2 reductions have been attempted, but that’s it.

    Similarly, the UN has not made any policy.

    Oh, and you may find out that adaptation also requires politicians to take decisions…

  39. Eli Rabett Says:

    Snide asks if we are talking of an “On the Beach Scenario” Perhaps

  40. Paul Kelly Says:

    TimG has not set up a strawman. He does not say or imply the UN or IPCC recommends policy. The term “UN/IPCC advocates means those who say the the science and projections in IPCC reports should be the basis for policy. Marco is arguing from a clear, if not deliberate, misinterpreting of Tim’s words.

    What is not confronted is TG’s contention that the science is irrelevant to the solution; and, that mitigating solutions cannot bet obtained through policies based on the science.

  41. Jeff Id Says:

    J Bowers,

    Build the arc, I’ll join you when the time is right.

  42. TimG Says:

    Marco,

    You missed the point. There are basically two styles of AGW action: those centered on a UN managed international agreement to meet specific CO2 reduction targets and those centered on putting a carbon price without specific targets. The former ‘actions’ are completely unacceptable to people who believe the UN is nothing more than a talking shop for corrupt dictators. The latter is impossible to achieve without added many loop holes designed to pay off politically favoured constituencies.

    You can talk about the “science” until you are blue in the face but that means nothing as long as there are no economically and technically viable plans for CO2 emission reductions.

    Adaptation costs money but it is a largely a local problem that can be addressed by making local decisions. i.e. China and the US do not need to agree on an adaption plan.

  43. Rocco Says:

    TimG: “China and the US do not need to agree on an adaption plan.”

    But they still need to agree on who will pay for it. It is unfair to expect developing countries to pay for adaptation to changes they did not cause (assuming they can afford it at all).

    That “there are no economically and technically viable plans for CO2 emission reductions” is speculation. So far the only obstacles are political.

  44. TimG Says:

    Rocco,

    Assistance to developing countries for adaptation is nothing but a line item on a long list of worthy foreign aid expenditures. Dispensing foreign aid has never required advance agreement on who spends what on what nor will it in the future.

    The ‘its not their fault’ narrative ignores the fact that most developing countries are poor because of choices made by their citizens and not because of any external forces (i.e. no one forced China to waste decades with bad economic policies that kept its people poor).

  45. willard Says:

    > [T]he UN is nothing more than a talking shop for corrupt dictators.

    News from a related future: Goldman Sachs to bid as the exclusive manager of the projected CO2 Stock Exchange.

  46. TimG Says:

    Perhaps another way of looking at the policy question could start with these questions to evaulate a proposed policy:

    1) Will the policy likely achieve the stated objective?
    2) What collatoral damage will be caused by the policy?

    The real trouble with the climate debate is different people have different answers to those questions even if they agree 100% on the actual science.

    For many people demanding action they have convinced themselves that “doing something” is worthwhile even if that “something” fails and causes numerous other harms. (a.k.a the ends justify the means).

    Those sceptical of political action tend to view the proposed policies as unlikely to succeed and likely to cause a lot of collateral damage. For them “doing nothing” is better than “doing something” that causes more harm than good. (a.k.a the ends do NOT justify the means).

    There are no facts or evidence that can show that one view is “correct”. Each view is a purely a value based cost-benefit analysis that has nothing to do with the “science”.

  47. TimG Says:

    willard,

    You are entitled to your opinion on the integrity of the UN but it is just your opinion that is not universally shared. The problems with the UN make a UN centered climate policy a non-starter for many people.

  48. Paul Kelly Says:

    Paradox

    A leap of faith is required of the climate concerned that mitigation of CO2 can only occur through actions, rationales, and approaches which primarily benefit something other than climate.

  49. thomaswfuller Says:

    The debate is not just moving forward. It’s racing past the older paradigms. This week alone, over $2 billion in contracts for large combined heat and power installations were announced worldwide, and that only covers the big ones.

    If energy efficiency received anything like the governmental support that wind power or fossil fuels got, emissions would be dropping like a stone.

  50. Dana Says:

    Once you understand basic climate science, you realize that carbon emissions are having negative impacts on the climate.

    Once you acknowledge this reality, it becomes clear that we need to put a price on carbon emissions. Otherwise they’re an economic externality – we pay for the effects of the emissions, but nobody pays for the emissions themselves. Economists hate externalities.

    Once you put a price on carbon emissions, it gives people incentive to emit less and create technologies which reduce their emissions. That’s how it worked with sulfur dioxide, whose cap and trade system cost a quarter as much as the EPA originally projected. I think ‘skeptics’ think too little of people and capitalism. If you give people an incentive, they’ll find a way to profit from the system, and in the process we reduce emissions at less cost.

  51. Marco Says:

    TimG:
    All the UN can do is to act as a global secretariate for CO2 emissions and emission reductions. It already acts as such for a wide, wide range of agreements between governments. Somehow it is a problem when CO2 comes up.

    Second, you will find that adaptation is NOT just a local issue. If Germany takes major actions to reduce water problems due to the Rhine, the Dutch suddenly find their main river to act all crazy. Another form of adaptation, one that Bangladeshi may well have to follow, is to go on the move. I’m sure India will be thrilled in getting a whole group of impoverished people entering regions that are also under pressure. Ask your grandparents how much fun the Dust Bowl years were, because you can expect several factors worse.

  52. TimG Says:

    Dana,

    You are correct that putting a price on carbon would, in theory, reduce emisisons. The trouble is there will never be a global price on carbon which means there is only an incentive to move production to where the carbon price is cheapest. This is EXACTLY what has happened with the EU where their nominal emissions from within the country may have declined but the emissions required to support the EU lifestyle are at an all time high.

    So get back to us when you have the Chinese and Indians agree to accept a single global price for CO2 emissions. Until then a carbon price is a nothing but tax that will do nothing about the stated problem.

    The need for a single global price is one of the reasons why I think just waiting and letting peak oil do its job. When oil supplies tighten the developing countries will be in the same boat and won’t be able to whine about ‘historical emissions’.

  53. TimG Says:

    Marco,

    The UN is looking to have control over the CDM mechanism. This is a huge scam that will make oil for food look reasonable in comparison.

    There are some regional aspects that have to be dealt with. If India does not want refugees then it will be in its best interest to help Bangladesh out. There is no reason for the US or Europe to get involved.

    Of course, you are assuming that there is actually evidence that Bangladeshs problems are related to AGW. The real problem is poverty and over population but it is harder to extort money from others when the problem is of your creation.

    The developing world is a lot like a alcoholic who is homeless. At one level we would like to help out from a sense of human charity. But we cannot forget the choices that led to state of homelessness in the first place.

  54. Marco Says:

    Care to show that “the UN is looking to have control over the CDM mechanism” ?

    Moreover, what do you think will happen if India gets destabilised due to huge influxes of immigrants? There’s something called “global economy” these days. Just try and explain why the US and Europe are so concerned with everything that happens in the Middle East. Regardless of claims of wanting more freedom in the Middle East, there’s a good reason everyone is so nice to Saudi Arabia’s dictators: oil. Just try and imagine the economic impact of Saudi Arabia in turmoil. Now do the same with one of the most populous countries in the world. Enjoy your “no reason for the US or Europe to be involved”.

    Finally: a problem can be exacerbated by additional factors. The Dutch would not have a problem with water if they had not decided to live in a country of which 1/4th is below sea level. See, problem of their own making…

  55. J Bowers Says:

    Jeff Id Says: October 25, 2010 at 00:57

    “Build the arc, I’ll join you when the time is right.”

    I’ve seen a calculation for the arc. It’d need to be the size of the Indian subcontinent. Got any better ideas? And no, there’s no Planet B to move to, either.

  56. TimG Says:

    Marco,

    My problem with the UN is really a problem with any binding international multi-lateral treaty which seeks to force some signers to make open ended spending commitments where the decision on whether a commitment has been met or not is left to some unaccountable bureaucrat. Such system is open for abuse and the UN has a very poor track record whenever it is given the power to dispense money.

    For that reason, I feel that any multi lateral treaty will inevitably fail but it has the potential to cause a lot of economic damage to the countries saddled with the commitments.

    So, it really does not matter how much disaster awaits us because a multi-lateral binding treaty will not help but it will likely cause harm – harm that cannot be justified given that we don’t really know that disaster is coming. All we really know is the temps will get warmer and that might cause problems or it might not.

  57. Marco Says:

    TimG:
    Shifting goalposts much, are we? I asked a simple question, and rather than answer it, you come with the next claim: “seeks to force some signers to make open ended spending commitments where the decision on whether a commitment has been met or not is left to some unaccountable bureaucrat.”

    Where oh where is the evidence for those large claims?

    Moreover, you come with a claim that this bureaucrat (or the UN) will be given the power to dispense money. Where is the evidence for THAT claim?

    Your final point can be summarised as follows: “I know I will have an accident, but since it may also be a slight fender-bender, I’ll switch off the airbag”. Studying the history of the earth’s climate tells us there will be MAJOR problems, even with a 2 degrees increase (which we are likely to surpass in less than 100 years).

  58. Dana Says:

    Saying companies will shift their operations overseas if we put a price on carbon is a huge oversimplification. For example, electricity production cannot be shifted overseas. With a price on carbon, Americans will demand more fuel efficient cars, and alternative fuel technologies. Putting a price on carbon will result in emissions reductions.

  59. thomaswfuller Says:

    Dana, you’re getting into dangerous ground here. Americans are shifting to more fuel efficient cars and alternative fuel technologies as we speak, without a price on carbon.

    I support a small carbon tax, but as that becomes more of a fantasy than a possible reality, it is starting to look as though in the US we may have to content ourselves with the EPA pushing large emitters away from coal. They’ll mostly end up with natural gas, but it’s a start.

  60. Dana Says:

    Putting a price on carbon adds additional incentive to increase fuel efficiency. I never said that we won’t reduce emissions without a price on carbon – we just won’t reduce them anywhere near enough.

    I agree, we certainly won’t have a price on carbon in the USA for the next several years, and will have to rely on EPA regulation. Which will be worse for the economy than if a climate bill were in place, but unfortunately political games are trumping what’s best for the country right now.

  61. TimG Says:

    Marco,

    As far as I am concerned a treaty brokered by the UN with compliance mechanisms overseen by the UN means the UN has control over the compliance mechanisms. UN officials have also stated many times that they would like to have a giant slush fund under their control that can be used to dole out favours to corrupt despots under the guise of ‘climate adaptation’.

    Your airbag analogy is silly. There is no cost to turning on an air bag and an air bag would do no harm if there is no accident. OTOH, emission reduction schemes will cause a lot of harm – especially if the predicted disasaters never materialize.

    Ultimately, I have no interest in supporting policies that are not likely to achieve the stated objectives. I see it as a rational and sensible position given the evidence available and I not moved by the arguments of people who think that being seen to “do something” is more important than actually “doing something”.

  62. Dana Says:

    TimG says “emission reduction schemes will cause a lot of harm”.

    No they won’t. The proposed ‘schemes’ in the USA were projected to cost about 75 cents per person per week, and reduce the federal deficit. Plus as I said before, it only makes economic sense to put a price on carbon emissions due to their environmental impact, to internalize the externality.

    Certainly a ‘scheme’ could be conceived which would do more harm than good, which is why all parties need to be involved in constructively developing the best possible ‘scheme’. Unfortunately many individuals are too busy decrying any ‘scheme’ and unwilling to provide any constructive input. This sort of attitude does more harm than good.

    For example, in the USA now the EPA will regulate greenhouse gas emissions, which will be less effective and have a larger economic impact than the proposed climate legislation would have. Certain parties were so invested in blocking any ‘scheme’ that we now instead have a far less ideal government regulation system in place. Had those parties instead provided constructive input to create the best possible ‘scheme’, we would now be in far better shape.

  63. Jeff Id Says:

    “No they won’t. The proposed ‘schemes’ in the USA were projected to cost about 75 cents per person per week, and reduce the federal deficit.”

    I often wonder if people really believe this stuff. Can you think of any incentive that the purveyors of nonsense numbers might have to tell a rosy story? Be more skeptical Dana, less bad stuff will happen.

    What kind of new energy could we develop that would cost only 0.75 difference per week and make any difference at all in CO2 output? It’s not even sane.

  64. Dana Says:

    JeffID, you seem to be confused. We’re not talking about creating new energy sources, we’re talking about a carbon cap and trade system. And the “purveyors of nonsense numbers” are non-partisan economists (from at least 4 different organizations – CBO, EPA, EIA, and Peterson Institute).

    Don’t be ‘skeptical’ just because something doesn’t fit your pre-conceived notions and biases.

  65. Jeff Id Says:

    Sorry Dana, if you limit one energy source, you need a new one. Also, just because someone tells you 0.75/week, does not make it true.

    As you may or may not be aware, non -partisan offices are always given ‘assumptions’ to work from. The answer is often pre-built into the assumptions – US health care was low cost because of the assumptions sent to the CBO. But of course you are right, someone like myself has too many pre-conceived ideas to grasp reality so don’t worry yourself about it.

    We’ll just send some government official $40/year and everything will work itself out.

    The answer to the problem as posed is both bigger and more obvious than you realize. Of course, many of us are still skeptical that the problem is as big as stated.

    I really don’t believe you’ve looked too deeply into the topic.

  66. TimG Says:

    Dana,

    There are two types of “schemes”: those that waste a lot of money but have zero chance of meeting their stated goals and those that achieve their stated goals by shrinking the economy.

    The recent legislation in the US is an example of the former. I consider wasting money to achieve nothing to be a harm.

    To be useful climate policies must focus on modest goals and eshew the ‘it will change the world rhetoric’. i.e. spending money on alternative energy R&D (but not production subsidies or targets) or a carbon tax which is used to fund the R&D.

    This also means we must accept that if serious problems occur we will have no choice but to adapt as required.

  67. Dana Says:

    Jeff, again you’re confused. We’re not talking about limiting energy sources, we’re talking about putting a price on carbon emissions. And “somebody” didn’t tell me 75 cents per week per person, those were the conclusions of the 4 aforementioned non-partisan economic analysis.

    I’m citing 4 economic analyses by expert economists, you’re citing zero other than your “gut feeling”, and then you have the gall to tell me “I really don’t believe you’ve looked too deeply into the topic.” I hope you were looking in the mirror when you typed that.

    TimG, same to you. I’m not going to keep arguing with people who constantly make false, unsubstantiated claims.

  68. TimG Says:

    Dana,

    What is false about my claim? I simply stated that a “plan” which costs only $40/year/person is not going to reduce emissions. The only thing it will do is generate new tax revenue.

    I also don’t recommend that you play the ‘expert economist’ card because the peer reviewed economic literature on climate change makes it clear that the economic costs of climate change are likely to be less than 5% of global GDP 100 years from now or about $0.08 week/person

    Such costs are trivial and hardly enough to justify adopting potentially damaging policies today. i.e. why pay 75 cents/week to protect us from 8 cents per week of damage?

  69. Rocco Says:

    TimG:
    “Assistance to developing countries for adaptation is nothing but a line item on a long list of worthy foreign aid expenditures”

    There is no way that costs of adaptation could possibly be covered by adding another line item to foreign aid. Also note that this is not about giving aid but compensating for damages, which brings us to the second point:

    “The ‘its not their fault’ narrative…”

    You seem to confuse words. It is not a narrative, but a fact, that developing countries have nothing to do with most of the accumulated emissions.

    This, on the other hand:

    “most developing countries are poor because of choices made by their citizens and not because of any external forces”

    is a narrative, and a rather embarrassingly ignorant one. It also does not have much to do with the present discussion.

  70. adelady Says:

    Tim, why do you limit yourself (or the rest of us) to only 2 options.

    All you need is 2 issues, success and cost (in any venture). If you ascribe just 6 levels to each Best, Better, Good, Bad, Worse, Worst you’ll get 36 options.
    The opposite extremes would be Raging-Success-with-Burgeoning-Economic-Wonderfulness, to Abysmal-Failure-with-Worldwide-Decades-long-Depression. We’re not interested in the Worst results so we have to eliminate them, we now have 25 possibles. Of course if you reintroduce another level like say, Neutral, you’re back with 36 options.

    Much better than 2.

  71. TimG Says:

    Rocco,

    We can go on for hours arguing about your phoney ‘developing countries are victims’ narrative, however, I suspect we will have to agree to disagree since it is purely a question of opinion – not fact.

    In my opinion developing countries have benefited tremendously from the CO2 emissions in the developed world and have no moral claim for compensation of any sort. If they have problems adapting the rich world has moral obligation to provide *charity* but nothing more.

    Personally, I find your notion of ‘collective guilt’ that you seek to impose on citizens of developed countries to be a morally reprehensible position. No one living today has any greater oblilgation simply because of where they live.

    The fact that many people involved in the UN process seek to use the ‘developing countries are victims’ narrative to extort money is one of the reasons why I categorically reject any policy that includes an international treaty. I also feel that a sizeable group of people share my views which makes a climate treaty a politically impossible policy option and if you want to talk about viable climate policies you need to look elsewhere.

  72. TimG Says:

    adelady,

    I look at each policy option individually and look at the cost-benefit analysis for that policy. If a policy clearly has costs that outweigh the likely benefits then I reject the policy option and look for another.

    I tend to prefer policies that do not leave us trapped if the policy turns out to be really bad. Cap and trade is an example of a policy that would leave us trapped since we would be creating a new class of assets that could not be easily eliminated in the future – especially if an international agreement is part of the mix.

    R&D is a good approach because funding can be dropped at anytime.

  73. Dana Says:

    TimG – “What is false about my claim? I simply stated that a “plan” which costs only $40/year/person is not going to reduce emissions.”

    That’s what’s false about your claim, and you provide no supporting evidence for it, so there’s no reason for me to waste my time arguing with you about it. The proposed climate bills laid out a path to reduce US GHG emissions 17% by 2020 and 83% by 2050, and were estimated (by 4 seperate non-partisan economic analyses) to cost an average of $40 per person per year. If you don’t believe that, I don’t really care. But your disbelief doesn’t make it wrong.

  74. TimG Says:

    Dana,

    I don’t think you have a clue what these reports actually say because no competent economist would claim that the recent bills would lead to any real reductions in emissions. I suspect you are mixing up the propoganda spewed by the bill supporters with the analysis of the economic impacts.

    Here is an analysis by the WSJ that points out the emission reductions require massive increases in costs after 2020 but the CBO analysis deceptively reports only the costs until 2020.

    The CBO report also only looked at the direct costs and ignored the fact that higher energy prices reduce economic activity which, in turn, reduces incomes.

    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB124588837560750781.html

    Of course, one does not need to analyze the CBO report to know it is BS. One only has to understand the basic economics of energy production and recognize that any absolute reductions in emissions will not happen until someone finds a non-emitting source of power that can compete with fossil fuels in a free market. Until we have that source of power emission reductions can only occur by strangling the economy.

  75. Rocco Says:

    How are we supposed to move the debate forward when some people can’t even read charts?

  76. Marco Says:

    TimG,

    I have now, on multiple occasions, asked you to provide proof of your claims. Rather than provide such proof, you make more claims. No use discussing further with you, we are likely to go around in circles, with you coming with new claims (eventually returning to some of the older ones) and me asking for proof at every turn without getting an answer…

  77. Dana Says:

    TimG, I would suggest you read the CBO report rather than a falsehood-filled editorial from the right-wing Wall Street Journal which references a report from a right-wing think tank. Except you state “Of course, one does not need to analyze the CBO report to know it is BS”. With such an open mind it’s a wonder that I’m not willing to argue with you. Nevertheless, if you would like to educate yourself (I know, that’s a good one), here it is.

    http://www.cbo.gov/ftpdocs/103xx/doc10327/06-19-CapAndTradeCosts.pdf

  78. willard Says:

    Here’s one we could count to lead us where we have already gone before:

    http://www.theonion.com/articles/my-opponent-knows-where-washington-is-on-a-map-i-d,18330/

  79. TimG Says:

    Dana,

    So would you read a report by “expert economists” that claimed a perpertual motion machine exists? Or you would rely on your understanding of physics to know that such such a report is likely nonsense?

    The CBO makes claims which are the economic equivalent of “perpetual motion” (i.e. large CO2 reductions with no economic impact). The only question is how they fudged the numbers. In this case they fudged the numbers by ignoring many of the costs.

    The only analysis that will convince me that emission reduction goals are possible are analyses based on real technologies which have been used on a large scale. Nuclear is the only technology that comes close at this time. The claims of a bunch of economists with no experience building and deploying large scale energy systems is worthless.

    As for having an open mind: I am willing to change my mind. I can tell you exactly what I need to see in order to change my mind. What I do not do is blindly accept the claims of experts.

  80. Dana Says:

    Thanks TimG, you did my work for me by discrediting yourself.

  81. TimG Says:

    Marco,

    If you disagree with my claims then there is nothing stopping you from providing links to sources that refute it. That is what Dana did and that is why I responded with a link to a source that supported my view.

    That said, in my experience debating warmists is providing sources is pointless because if the source disputes the dogma they refuse to even read it.

  82. TimG Says:

    Dana,

    Really? So you think that your blind faith in “experts” that tell you what you want to hear is a credible argument?

    You may not like my style of argument but I did provide a counter argument which you dismissed because it came from a “right wing think tank”. You have a lot of nerve claiming I am closed minded.

    Try reading the counter arguments – I do. I don’t spend time on pro-AGW blogs because I think I will change anyone’s mind. I do it to learn what the counter arguments are.

  83. Dana Says:

    No, a credible argument is that 4 seperate non-partisan economic institutions all concluded that the legislation in question would result in minimal costs. Your counter-argument did come from a right-wing think tank and their long-debunked fatally-flawed report. I’m sorry if you don’t like it when that’s pointed out, but it’s a fact.

    Among other flaws, Heritage only modeled the costs of the cap and ignored the many bill provisions which would have passed savings to consumers. The Heritage analysis is like doing your household finances by looking at your expenditures while ignoring your income.

    http://docs.nrdc.org/globalWarming/files/glo_10042201a.pdf

    What you and many other ‘skeptics’ can’t seem to understand is that putting a price on carbon – whether it be through a tax or cap and trade system – creates a revenue source which can then be re-distributed, whether it be through reducing other taxes or investing in green tech R&D and energy efficiency programs, or most likely a combination of these options. Some have suggested a carbon tax be completely offset by reductions in other taxes, which I think is a reasonable idea.

    What Heritage did was estimate the revenue stream created by the carbon cap and then pretend it goes into a black hole. It’s a complete joke.

  84. TimG Says:

    Dana,

    Taxing carbon and forcing people to spend it on products and services that no one wants IS the same as dumping the money into a black hole.

    For example, let’s say a construction company decided to get rid of its CO2 emitting machines and hired more men with shovels because of the tax. On the surface this sounds like a benefit because more people will have jobs and the cost to the company is the same because of the tax.

    This is an illusion because the productivity of the company just dropped dramatically (i.e. the amount of income it can generate from the inputs). In the long term this drop in productivity will force the workers wages down in order to keep the company in business.

    The analogy applies to the economy as a whole too.

    The biggest problem with many AGW activities is they don’t understand basic economics and think you can get something for nothing. They reason we dont use non-emitting tech today is it is much more expensive and no tax and subsidy shell game on the part of the government will change that. This means any policy that results in people paying more for energy must reduce economic growth and depress wages.

    The only way to avoid that trap is to find technologies that are viable without the tax and subsidies. Those technologies do not exist today.

  85. Dana Says:

    “Taxing carbon and forcing people to spend it on products and services that no one wants IS the same as dumping the money into a black hole.”

    No it’s not, nor is it what’s proposed. If you feel like rejoining us here in the real world, let me know.

  86. TimG Says:

    Here is a link to the well known broken window fallacy that supports my argument above.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parable_of_the_broken_window

    The entire argument for carbon control depends on a belief that unknown technological advances will be enough to mitigate the damage caused by the carbon control policies. That is a leap of faith that I am not willing to take.

  87. thomaswfuller Says:

    TimG, you make quite a bit of sense, but I’d like to point out that hard-headed businessmen and women are indeed spending their money on products and services that reduce their companies’ emissions.

    They’re just not the products and services that are being talked about.

    The global market for combined heat and power is about $55 billion, and it’s growing by about 8% per year. Almost all of that is sales to business. The global market for waste-to-energy is about $22 billion, and the part of that that is growing fastest is small scale anaerobic digestion–chicken manure feeding cogeneration. Ground Source Heat Pumps are a $4 billion market that has been growing at 10% a year. Energy efficient windows comprise half of all new sales in the developed world. LEDs are growing like Iowa corn.

    I think at least 23 coal plants have been decommissioned this year and replaced by natural gas (and a couple of windfarms). And about 3 million people have bought plug-in hybrid vehicles.

    Of course, not all of them may have been thinking about controlling carbon, but people are trying…

  88. superstore Says:

    # TimG Says:
    October 26, 2010 at 22:55

    Here is a link to the well known broken window fallacy that supports my argument above.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parable_of_the_broken_window

    The entire argument for carbon control depends on a belief that unknown technological advances will be enough to mitigate the damage caused by the carbon control policies. That is a leap of faith that I am not willing to take.

    We are looking at a window that is getting more and more broken with every year that passes. You don’t want to stop it getting more broken.

  89. TimG Says:

    superstore,

    More ‘broken windows with every year that passes’? I don’t think so. What we have is mass hysteria where every bad event is blamed on CO2 even if there is not one shread of evidence to link the two. The recent extreme weather events in Russia and Pakistan are perfect examples. AGW true believers take it on faith that there was a connection. Sceptics understand that pure random chance dictates that once-in-a-millenia extreme weather events will somewhere on the planet almost every year. It is simply not possible establish any causal link without centuries of a data.

    The only argument you really have is the science says your windows “might” get broken in the future and you should change the design of your building to prevent this. This argument is reasonable depending on cost of replacing windows later vs. the cost of redesigning your building today. In many cases, it is perfectly rational live with risk and invest your money in other things.

    How one trades off risk of future cost vs. current costs is largely a decision based on values – not science.

  90. Marco Says:

    TimG:

    Hilarious answer, ahem. First of all, if you make a claim, you are supposed to provide evidence. Second, it is rather difficult to refute something which is made up. Your claims about the UN doing this and that, UN officials wanting money so they can commit fraud, etc, is not possible to refute. It is “not even wrong”, to paraphrase Pauli, and thereby impossible to refute.

    Finally, you dismissed a report that you openly indicate you do not WANT to read yourself, and then come with the laughable accusation that providing proof (which is not the same as linking to conspiracy theories about a World Government) is useless, because ‘warmists’ will dismiss it anyway because it contradicts the dogma.

  91. TimG Says:

    thomaswfuller,

    What is your point?

    People already have a strong incentive to find better ways to produce energy and use energy. When someone succeeds (e.g. LED lights) the market ensures that the better technology is used and the productivity of the economy improves.

    The trouble is better efficiency leads to higher productivity which leads to more wealth and more consumption. The net result is improvements in energy efficiency tend to *increase* the consumption of energy which undermines the goal of using *less* energy (this is called the Jevon’s paradox and a recent paper on LEDs suggests LED lighting will likely increase consumption of electricity).

    The problem with ‘carbon pricing’ is it immediately reduces productivity by increasing energy costs. The justification is the economy would be able to compensate by finding new technologies but there is no guarantee that the new technologies would be enough to make up for the initial hit to productivity.

    e.g. let’s say introducing a carbon price causes productivity to drop by 10 (arbitrary units). The market responses by using technology that would not be viable without the tax. This reduces the productivity to drop to 4 which is good but we are still further behind than where we started and this loss of productivity has to be countered as a “cost” of the carbon price policy.

    The only way the tax could leave us further ahead is if it happens to trigger the development of a new technology that is better than the original fossil fuels. I do not think this is a plausible argument because if such a technology can be found it will eventually be found even if there was no ‘carbon price’.

  92. superstore Says:

    TimG Says:
    October 27, 2010 at 12:48

    superstore,

    More ‘broken windows with every year that passes’? I don’t think so. What we have is mass hysteria where every bad event is blamed on CO2 even if there is not one shread of evidence to link the two. The recent extreme weather events in Russia and Pakistan are perfect examples. AGW true believers take it on faith that there was a connection. Sceptics understand that pure random chance dictates that once-in-a-millenia extreme weather events will somewhere on the planet almost every year. It is simply not possible establish any causal link without centuries of a data.

    It is quite possible.

    http://www.ucar.edu/news/releases/2009/maxmin.jsp

    BOULDER—Spurred by a warming climate, daily record high temperatures occurred twice as often as record lows over the last decade across the continental United States, new research shows. The ratio of record highs to lows is likely to increase dramatically in coming decades if emissions of greenhouse gases continue to climb.

    “Climate change is making itself felt in terms of day-to-day weather in the United States,” says Gerald Meehl, the lead author and a senior scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR). “The ways these records are being broken show how our climate is already shifting.”

    You talk about the earth as if there was only one species on it. Every other species does not have an economic system, or the ability to reduce our CO2 emissions. What do they do to cope?

  93. TimG Says:

    Marco,

    My opinion on the UN and corruption is my opinion. I feel it is a rational conclusion based on decades of reading about its failures but laying out the case is way beyond the scope of this forum. That said, my opinion on the UN is only relevant if I am asked to support a policy that requires that I trust that the UN will do the right thing. This is not something I am willing to do. Doing nothing is preferable. You may not like it but you are the one trying to change the status quo so the onus is on you to provide policy options that I (and people like me) can support. Binding international treaties managed by the UN is not on that list.

  94. TimG Says:

    superstore,

    You provided a link that shows the average temperature is rising. So what? That does not provide any evidence that the rising temperature was caused by CO2 or that it will have a statistically measurable effect on the chaotic weather systems which we care about.

    Survival of the fittest is nature’s law. I could not care less if a few hyper specialized species like polar bears disappear and I am confident that another mega carnivore (i.e. grizzlies) will move in to fill the niche it vacated. That is the way it always has been and always will be.

    What does matter to me is a sustainable economy which does require a sustainable environment. But I do not see CO2 as a threat to a sustainable environment. There are many other types of human impacts that deserve much more attention.

  95. willard Says:

    Here’s how Exxon sustains fiscal economy:

    http://thinkprogress.org/2010/04/06/exxon-tax/

  96. superstore Says:

    superstore,

    You provided a link that shows the average temperature is rising. So what? That does not provide any evidence that the rising temperature was caused by CO2 or that it will have a statistically measurable effect on the chaotic weather systems which we care about.

    They just showed you a statistically measurable effect.

  97. TimG Says:

    superstore,

    What you showed was the RATIO of record highs to record lows is changing. So what? In many climate zones, cold days are worse than hot days for humans so a decrease in the number of record lows is a good thing for humans.

    What you assumed is the NUMBER of record breaking days is increasing. But that is not what the study you referenced says. If fact, it appears to say the total number of record breaking days is constant,

    Your use of that quote is a good illustration of how scientific data is spun by people to promote their political views. In your case, you really want to believe that there is evidence that warming is a bad thing so you lept to the conclusion that an increase in the ratio of record high and lows is evidence of an increase in the number of record days.

  98. Marco Says:

    TimG:
    If you have an opinion, you should put it down as an opinion.

    Here’s my opinion on your opinion on survival of the fittest: grossly oversimplified. You may want to read up on the interactions between flora and fauna, and the effect of even small changes in the local flora and fauna.
    Case example 1: rabbits in Australia. The introduction of that species into a previously unknown environment (both sides) turned out to be a huge problem for the local fauna (and has had significant adverse effects on agriculture, i.e., economical losses).
    Case example 2: Mountain pine beetle. Due to increasingly warmer temperatures along the Westcoast of the US and Canada, it has spread further north, killing off more and more trees that have no or little natural resistance. The ‘best’ solution is to burn down parts of the forest. Way to go, huge economical losses too!

    If we take your own example, we will get from one species (polar bear) with a distinct behavioral pattern (which affects its environment) to another species (grizzly bear) with a *different* behavior and thus *different* effect on its environment. It won’t be just the polar bear that is affected, there will likely be many more changes by removing just one species.
    You could also read this article:

    http://www.cedarcreek.umn.edu/biblio/fulltext/t1689.pdf

    discussing the effect of removing a single plant species on ecosystem productivity (amongst others). This is just one of many studies showing that reducing diversity is bad for ecosystem stability and productivity (the examples of the rabbit and MPB show that introducing a new ‘unknown’ species isn’t all that good either). Guess what that means in terms of the economy.

  99. Dana Says:

    Arguing with TimG is like playing whack-a-mole. You debunk one of his wrong arguments, and he pops right back up with 2 more! Have fun guys, my arms are tired.

  100. TimG Says:

    Dana,

    I missed the part where you debunked anything. You did at least make an attempt to rebutt the Heritage Foundation analysis on the cost of cap and trade but I addressed that by pointing out that productivity goes down if energy is taxed and redistributing the money does nothing to fix that drop in productivity.

  101. thomaswfuller Says:

    TimG, I’m familiar with Stanley Jevons from 1865 showing that increased access to a resource leads to increased consumption. However, he didn’t factor in (he had no need to at that time) the concept of saturation. Eventually, there is a concept called ‘enough.’ You can have 10 cars, but you can only drive one at a time. A U.S. home has 52 sockets for electricity. A Singaporean home has grown from 5 to 18 over the past decade. I can believe Singapore growing to 52. I don’t buy the idea of U.S. growing to 104.

  102. TimG Says:

    thomaswfuller,

    The increase in consumption does not have to occur in the home. i.e. a family saving money on electricity will have more money to spend travelling to distant locales.

    IOW, if one form of consumption saturates another form will always emerge to supply the need.

    You should be able to see this by looking at basic economics. i.e. if people have more disposable income it WILL be spent on something that results in energy being consumed. This is true even if a consumer puts it into a bank account because that money will be loaned to someone who wants to spend it.

    The only way to stop the Jevon’s paradox is to ensure that disposable incomes do not increase even as more efficient devices are deployed. Of course, jacking up energy prices to prevent consumption from increasing will also hurt the economy and increase unemployment.

  103. thomaswfuller Says:

    TimG, Yes, but saturation is a real phenomenon. Increases in real income in the (over) developed world have led to spending on products and services that use less energy than those they replace. It’s great that families can afford Ipods for their kids. It’s even greater that Ipods use less energy than dune buggies, motorcycles and televisions.

    Plot GDP against energy use in the most developed countries over the past decade and control for population change.

  104. TimG Says:

    thomaswfuller,

    There are 3 trends worth comparing: total energy use, total energy use per capita and energy use per unit of gdp.

    The last one has been steadily declining thanks to technology.
    The first one has been steadily increasing despite the better technology.

    What is interesting is the global per capita energy use appears to be increasing as well. See:

    http://earthtrends.wri.org/text/energy-resources/variable-351.html

    In a global economy where energy consumption can be outsourced to china the trend per capita consumption in the US is not that interesting because the energy consumption required to create imports is not captured in the data.

    Those numbers suggest that there is no observable saturation effect and improving efficiency does not lead to reduced consumption.

  105. thomaswfuller Says:

    Global per capita energy will increase dramatically as the developing world develops. Up to a point…

  106. thomaswfuller Says:

    And TimG, apart from the recent unpleasantness associated with the recession, it is my impression that manufacturing has actually increased in the U.S.

  107. thomaswfuller Says:

    Just checked at http://investing.curiouscatblog.net/2010/02/17/usa-china-and-japan-lead-manufacturing-output-in-2008/ . U.S. manufacturing grew continuously from 1990 to 2008, almost doubling during that period.

    Energy consumption per person peaked in… drumroll… 1979.

    Energy consumption per dollar of GDP is half what it was in 1970.

    Primary energy grew in lockstep with population growth until 2008–it has declined the last couple of years.

    GDP was $9.3 trillion (in today’s dollars) in 1990. Today it is $14.6 trillion.

    That’s a 2.28% CAGR, during which time energy consumption grew by 1% CAGR. During that time, population grew at a CAGR of 1%.

  108. TimG Says:

    thomaswfuller,

    You may be right that saturation occurs. I am saying there is no evidence that it has occurred globally do date.

    Your stats on US manufacturing are misleading. Increasing demand for imports from China does not automatically mean US production decreases. They both can go up together. The massive number of imports from China means that the total energy consumption of a US citizen is not captured by the US numbers.

    The consumption per gdp numbers are not that interesting. They go down naturally and but they don’t really matter when it comes to issues like Jevons. All they do is show that increased efficiency correlates with increased GDP (I think efficiency promotes economic growth).

    The problem for climate policy is increasing efficiency does not actually help reduce actual energy consumption/emissions. Reducing those requires the economy to shrink.

    Lastly, I cannot confirm your claim that US energy consumption peaked. The data I have shows a constant increase:

    http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/EG.USE.COMM.KT.OE?page=5

    Per capita use is a flat line – also confirming that energy consumption reductions are not happening in the US despite the amazing improvements in technology.

  109. thomaswfuller Says:

    Hi TimG, I think energy use has declined in the US for the past two years, and maybe three out of the last four.

    And I agree with you that saturation has not yet occurred. But I think the developing countries are close.

  110. thomaswfuller Says:

    Meant developed, of course…

  111. willard Says:

    > [W]hen it comes to scorekeeping on the larger real world, we’re abysmally, shamefully – and dangerously – ignorant.

    Source: http://www.livingontherealworld.org/?p=114

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