What does population have to do with climate change?


Population may not be the driving force behind many of the global world problems, but it’s certainly important: Basically, it is a multiplication factor for the environmental impact of certain actions. E.g. better environmental performance of some products has occasionally been offset by its much greater use (cf. population density). Of course, if a real innovation comes along, the environmental impact could be cut more drastically (which also happens, but counting on it may be risky).


The 20-80 story puts population in perspective: 20% of the world population uses approximately 80% of the worlds’ resources (dependent on the resource of course). That alone means that focusing on population isn’t where the shoe pinches in many cases: It’s the (over-)consumption in the rich areas that causes the most strain on the world’s resources.


On the other hand, I’ve understood that the reason that native cultures had relatively little impact on their environment is to a large extent due to their small population density. Burning a small piece of forest to use the land for food production may not be a great problem for the ecosystem if it only occurs sporadically, thereby not causing more disruption than the ecosystem can handle. It only becomes a problem when the magnitude increases above sustainable levels, which is intricately linked to population. There are plenty of examples in nature where too large numbers of a certain species causes stress on the ecosystem.

The Kaya identity shows that population is a multiplication factor, just as consumption is:

CO2 emission = population * GDP/capita * energy/GDP * CO2 emission/energy.

It would require a systemic analysis to see which factors are most responsible for a given problem, but it’s pretty clear that population is a factor that influences the total pressure on the system. The 80-20 ratio described above shows that consumption patterns by the rich cause the most strain on the world’s resources. I’d wager that the difference in consumption patterns between different parts of the world is (a lot) larger than the spread in population density, which would make the former most important. Population is not a factor that is easily or quickly influenced, but for the long term, it should be seriously considered as an important factor (especially because it has so much inertia).

Pointing fingers solely to, or firmly away from population, both misses the mark imho. reality is not black and white.

Greenhouse gases

How many people the earth can sustain of course depends on the other factors in the various Kaya identities: If everyone were to have the consumption pattern of an average American, we would already have overshot the long term carrying capacity of the earth. If we all live a Buddhist lifestyle, we could probably do with a few more people. It’s a trade off, as always.

Don’t want to use (and pay for) sustainable energy (cf consumption pattern)? Then use less energy (cf population).

Don’t want to use less energy? Then use (and pay for) sustainable energy.

Don’t want to do either? Go find another planet.

This leads to a major moral dilemma: Developing nations also want to increase their material welfare, but them doing so by mimicking our current ways of production and consumption is a recipe for disaster. OTOH, we have no more moral right to the earth’s riches as they do. Something has to give, obviously.

See also this thought provoking article by Michael Tobis, where he takes on the other, even bigger taboo: economic growth. Bottom line:

A given economic growth rate can be sustainable only if the average impact per unit wealth declines at an equal or greater rate.

I.e. if the carbon and energy intensities decrease at least as fast as the GDP increases.

Attempting to reach equitable economic prosperity and allowing for normally projected increases in GPD and population, Tobis estimates that the impact per unit of wealth has to decrease roughly 50 fold by 2050.

(Figures from Newman. Post based on a comment of mine over at Kloor’s blog)

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179 Responses to “What does population have to do with climate change?”

  1. Tom Fuller Says:

    Bart, I think this is one of the few occasions where a blog post is not the ideal method to convey the right level of information on a topic of importance.

    I’ll respond at length later, but treating population strictly in terms of the Kaya equation leads to over simplistic assertions on your part. Population dynamics change dramatically, often in one generation, to environmental and economic pressures, and without incorporating a feedback loop to include the response of population to policy you end up making policy that’s always a generation behind the times.

    More later.

  2. Paul Kelly Says:

    The irony is wealthier societies have less population growth. Wealth enables technologies that lower carbon intensity. I wonder what percentage of fossil free energy the wealthy 20% produces. Tobis’s impact per unit wealth looks like an interesting way to measure success.

  3. Tom Fuller Says:

    Still can’t do the long comment this post deserves, but I think you have to look at Kaya, Kuznets, Jevons and the energy ladder all at the same time to say useful things…

  4. Scott Mandia Says:


    Are you aware that you can add a Twitter button to your posts for instant Tweets? It can be added by going to the Dashboard > Appearance > Extras > Show a Twitter “Tweet Button” on my posts checkbox

  5. Bart Says:

    Tom, Paul, both good points.

  6. Tom Fuller Says:

    Okay, let’s break this into chunks.

    First, although it seems common-sensical to link population to climate change, it’s not really automatic. The population increased last year, but emissions of CO2 went down. The over-consuming United States increased its population last year, but emissions declined 7%.

    A growing population can change climate in other ways–deforestation, depletion of other resources, pollution, etc. But those are more common in developing nations than developed nations.

    People in the developed world use more energy per capita than those in developing countries. However, the variation between developed countries is dramatic. In the U.S., per capita consumption of energy is 323 bbtu’s per annum, while in Denmark it is 161. Variation in developing countries is equally dramatic, depending on where on the scale of development they lie.

    The growth rate of the human population is slowing down to almost zero. It has already happened in many countries (mostly developed), and is happening as we write this in emerging countries at a dramatic rate.

    So looking at the gross totals of populations does not answer our question, nor does a superficial segmentation into developed or developing countries.

    For the purpose of discussing climate change, the first question is, if a larger population did not consume more energy, emit more CO2, or worsen impacts on other climate forcings, would we care about how big the population is?

    If the answer is no, then we should look at the variation between populations.

    If the answer is yes, then we are discussing larger issues than climate change, and will probably get nowhere quickly.

    (More to come.)

  7. Tom Fuller Says:

    To continue…

    It is not only emissions that fell last year, despite a growing population. Consumption of energy also declined per capita. The U.S. DOE had to make a dramatic adjustment of their forecasts for 2010, from 508 quads to 500.

    Energy efficiency is one reason. Continued growth of combined heat and power plants, decommissioning of some old coal plants, continued adoption of ground source heat pumps and better technology in buildings help us get a better bang for the buck even though there are more of us.

    Renewable energy is not growing as a percentage of total energy, which is a pity. It provided about 52 of the quads we used last year, around 11%, and nobody thinks it’s going to jump to, say, 15% or 20% by 2030. However, if the total energy provided by renewables can keep pace with population growth, we gain in some fashion.

    The reason is that it may allow developing countries to skip a few of the dirtiest rungs on the energy ladder.

    (more to come…)

  8. Tom Fuller Says:

    Countries that are developed today climbed an energy ladder that started with using wood for fuel, and went to charcoal, coal, oil, gas, nuclear and renewables in pretty much that order.

    Each step is a dramatic improvement on the previous one, in terms of pollution, energy gained per unit of CO2 emitted, and efficiency in terms of what can be powered with the fuel source.

    Developing countries today are trying to move up the energy ladder. 70% of rural inhabitants in India burn kerosene for heat and cooking. Billions use wood as a primary fuel source. 1.5 billion do not have electricity.

    If we could provide electrical infrastructure and power generated from the top of the energy ladder, they could leapfrog a generation of energy technology and move towards energy efficiency early. Hey, they skipped landline telephones and went straight to mobile, so why not?

    So back to an earlier question–would you care if the population of this planet was 20 billion (as predicted by John Holdren and Paul Erlich back in the 70s) if they were powered by wind, solar and nuclear?

    (more to come…)

  9. Tom Fuller Says:

    The energy used by people in developing countries increases dramatically as they get a) wealthier and b) more urbanized. They accumulate power using devices at an astonishing rate–just look at how quickly cars, TVs, washers and dryers spread through the United States and extrapolate from that.

    There are just short of 2 billion people who have already gone through that acquisition process. Eventually, energy use seems to plateau, and then decline slightly. But there is no avoiding the fact that the population is going to increase to about 9.1 billion by 2075 (the mothers have already been born), and so about 7 billion people are going to jump from very low levels of consumption to very high.

    That is the dilemma. It is not the number of people, it is their developmental status and desire to live a modern life.

    How we address that will be the central question of this 21st Century. If we address this question ethically and intelligently, we will be able to go to our graves proudly. If we try to deprive the newcomers, or limit their growth, we will be condemned.

  10. Jeff Id Says:


    Not a bad post but I’m regularly amused with the concept of the ‘developing’ nation and that we should create equity amongst them. They are where they are economically based on culture, policy and opportunity. I can point out hundreds of examples, but one of the most overused and misplaced concepts in ‘climate science’ is that of wealth distribution equity.

    Another point that’s constantly overstated is the ‘consumption pattern’ of America. If you are the producer of goods for the world, your consumption is higher by necessity. People blame china for high CO2 output, but never notice that their government rejected wealth redistribution and put in place a system which allowed personal wealth (on the east coast), now they’ve repressed the value of their own money, all to produce goods for the rest of the world cheaper than the rest of the world can.

    It’s not China but those who buy Chinese goods who make the CO2. Who doesn’t have something on their desk which has origins in china?


    The collapse of the economy was the entire reason that we used less electricity. All the other crap isn’t coming on line quick enough to make a noticeable difference in that timeframe. When boat, trailer, RV manufacturers don’t slow down but shut down for months or permanently, energy usage drops. Production rates are 50% from before. We lost a lot of customers during that time and America lost a lot of manufacturing capability.

    Aluminum plants, shops, stores, 12 percent unemployment has that effect on energy and it’s nothing to celebrate.

  11. Paul Kelly Says:

    Some population and energy requirement projections to say 2050 are needed.

  12. Tom Fuller Says:

    As it happens…

    Population will reach about 8.1 billion in 2030 and 9.2 billion in 2075, when it will peak.

    Energy production is expected to reach 687 quads according to the DOE, and the UN expects it to be about 703. However, straight line extension of consumption trends gets you to about 2,100 quads in 2035, and about 3,000 in 2075.

  13. Tom Fuller Says:

    Hiya Jeff, good to see they let you off the reservation once in a while.

    I think I’ve mentioned this over at your site, but the DOE specifically said in their press release about our lowered emissions that only 1/3rd of the decline is attributable to the recession.

    One third was put down to conversion of coal fired power plants to natural gas.

    One third was attributed to energy efficiency gains and renewable fuel take-up.

    Now you can argue that that’s hooey, but if we are not going to trust their explanations, maybe we shouldn’t be trusting their numbers, and that line of thinking leads us to not trusting anyone or anything.

  14. Jeff Id Says:

    I think I’ve mentioned this over at your site, but the DOE specifically said in their press release about our lowered emissions that only 1/3rd of the decline is attributable to the recession.

    Analysis is separate from numbers. If you happen to be one of those who don’t trust big business any more than I, you shouldn’t trust big government any further.

  15. Tom Fuller Says:

    Well, sure Jeff, but we know that a lot of coal fired plants were retired in favor of lower price natural gas. It was in the news. And we know that x number of CHP plants, WTE installations, hybrid cars, solar panels, wind farms, ground source heat pumps, hydroelectric plant upratings all were actually done. That stuff does get reported. It’s not inferred…

  16. Jeff Id Says:

    It does, but the collapse of industry was the most dramatic thing this country has experienced in my lifetime. Please don’t miss it.

  17. Tom Fuller Says:

    Jeff, 2009 industrial output was down 5.9% in 2009, according to the Federal Reserve. That’s bad, news. It is not the most dramatic thing this country has experienced in our lifetime–and how dare you ignore American Idol like that? :)


  18. Tom Fuller Says:

    Oh–that stat is for capacity utilisation, not straight output.

  19. Tom Fuller Says:

    Back to the topic. The DOE and UN predict capacity of around 700 quads in 2035. Population will be about 8.1 billion. Millenium Goals for developement and normal economic advancement indicate that taking a straight line for consumption is not absurd. This leads to a ‘latent’ demand for energy of about 1,400 quads, or almost 3 times what the world is using today.

    That latent demand will be filled, as these people will be part of developing economies and have cash and urgent needs for energy. How will this latent demand be met?

    Renewable energy grew by 2% per year over a decade of strong support and investment–a decade that is probably over. Assume it will continue at 2% and you get about 67 quads by 2035. Not much help there.

    Nuclear power may almost double by that time–from about 27 quads to about 47 quads. No help there.

    Energy efficiency may ‘produce’ negawatts of about 140 quads. Which leaves well over 1,000 quads of energy to be produced by fossil fuels.

    What mitigation strategy is adequate to meet this version of reality?

    Alternatively, what version of reality can be proposed?

  20. Tom Fuller Says:

    BTW, I am not making light of this situation and I recognise the need to do something. As it stands today, burning coal to meet the recognised and latent demand of 8.1 billion people is not something we should take lightly.

    Our current efforts are not oriented towards solving this problem. My question is very real.

  21. Jeff Id Says:


    Ignoring the fact that that was laugh out loud funny, the economic collapse was very nearly the end of my years of efforts. Despite directly saving more CO2 per-month than any climatologist ever has, my company almost lost. We survived though to this point but the markets are horribly volatile – like massive earthquake aftershocks. People don’t understand how severe this was, 911 killed people that we saw immediately, I’m certain that the economic collapse of the US was far worse at the poorest edges of the globe.

    Crushing a barely functioning American industry isn’t the answer, boosting industry is. The tech will follow at an accelerated pace. Solar and battery will take over in a short time for home use – within 20 years and oddly it will even happen faster without incentives or tax.

    If govt’s, invest modestly in batteries(not required) and nukes (are required), the problem is solved.

    If instead, we miss the lessons of capitalism and we invest in expanded government, worldwide strife and war will be guaranteed. No question in my mind, but here at Bart’s blog, I’m alone.

    How silly is it when the examples of success are ignored in favor of the examples of failure.

  22. Jeff Id Says:

    I mean American Idol of course.

  23. Tom Fuller Says:

    Well, Jeff, I have highlighted the biggest market opportunity of the 21st Century, if you want it. Meet the latent demand for primary energy for 7 billion people.

    And I’m not even charging you for it…

  24. Bart Says:


    I agree with a lot of what you’re saying here. Perhaps I wasn’t as clear as I could have been in my post, but I wholeheartedly agree with eg this statement of yours:

    That is the dilemma. It is not the number of people, it is their developmental status and desire to live a modern life.

    And you have also frequently noted, as I did in my post, the dilemma of balancing the sustainability of the earth’s climate with the moral right of the poor to lead a similar lifestyle as we do in the richer parts of the world. Your comment here is also paramount to the discussion:

    What mitigation strategy is adequate to meet this version of reality?

    Alternatively, what version of reality can be proposed?

    It echoes the boldfaced choices that I highlighted in my post. Something has to give: Either very stringent mitigation, or use less energy (ie a different version of reality than the one you described)

    That different version of reality could take the form of ‘each for themselves’ and leave the poor poor, so that we can remain rich. Jeff Id doesn’t advocate that directly, but he does take issue with me for arguing for the opposite: Namely that the poor have as much right to the world’s riches as we do.

    Wealth distribution isn’t a concept in climate science, Jeff. It is concept that comes in when thinking about what kind of future we want; ethics; worldview. But it has nothing whatsoever to do with climate science. It does have a lot to do with the challenge of how to deal with the consequences of climate change. That was also clear in Copenhagen: This dilemma, expressed by the first quote from Tom above, is the central challenge.

    If you spit at the notion of a more equitable world, what alternative do you propose?

    Finally a word on the different relations between the terms in the Kaya identity, as brought up by Tom and Paul:
    As countries industrialized and grew richer, their population grew as a consequence. Which in turn increased the emissions from the industrialization even more. A positive feedback loop if you wish. But indeed, it shows again that the root of the problem isn’t population (which doesn’t make it unimportant though).

  25. Scott Mandia Says:

    oddly it will even happen faster without incentives or tax.

    Pricing carbon and govt. tax incentives for renewables will make it happen MUCH faster and will allow the US to be leaders of these technologies. Denmark is a good example of what can happen when the govt. gets on board and so do the citizenry.

    Unfortunately, the US govt. has few if any true leaders so renewables will have to compete on an unfair playing field and that is why they are taking so long to compete.

    China is our daddy.

  26. Jeff Id Says:

    “Jeff, If you spit at the notion of a more equitable world, what alternative do you propose?”

    I don’t spit, I giggle at the implication that all forms of government should perform equally. You need it so that you can call America’s success ‘consumerism’ and the governments of Iran, Venezuela or Cuba a ‘developing nation’. It’s an odd form of Euro-denialism which is amazingly widespread.

    I’m not a big fan of any government but I hold this truth to be self evident, all governments are not created equal. ;)

    Equality of opportunity and maximizing opportunity is what all should strive for, not equality of success or equality of wealth. Success should only come with effort and not be handed down to those who haven’t earned it.

  27. Bart Says:

    Oh please.

    I need inequality as much as I need toothache.

    I agree wholeheartedly that equality of opportunity is necessary. I think we’re far away from that on the global scale at the moment (eg consider the 80-20 ratio I mentioned in the post). I don’t expect nor strive for equality of success. I do strive for a level playing field.

    Do you regard the current differences in wealth on the globe almost exclusively a result of different levels of effort (on the personal and/or the government level)? Methinks there’s other very important reasons as well, and they amount to a very uneven playing field. There’s a strong legacy of the past here.

    Nobody I know likes government for the sake of it. It just so happens that some things that are in the common interest need to be managed/organized/paid for.

  28. Scott Mandia Says:

    I suggest some of you read a few posts at Climate Ethics.

  29. Bart Says:

    Indeed, very good articles over there, and from an angle that’s sorely missing in the popular debate.

  30. Tom Fuller Says:

    Here in the United States I am a ‘progressive liberal.’ Back in the United Kingdom, where I lived for six years, I would be considered close to a conservative. I find that humorous.

    There are some things government can do that companies and individuals cannot. Identifying and supporting those things and ruthlessly stopping governments from doing things where it is not the superior actor is one of the true challenges of the age, and this is just as true in this debate as in so many others.

    Government is good at building infrastructure that can be used by many actors where the capital investment is greater than can be born by an individual, organisation or even a consortium. Roads, the internet, things like this. I would submit that provision of electricity in poor countries falls into this category. Their governments have failed them (there are a lot of shockingly bad governments out there–Jeff noted some, but his list is too short and is a bit tongue in cheek. He could have included Nigeria, Afghanistan, Myanmar and two dozen more. Europeans tend to forget just how bad most governments are at providing services they take for granted.)

    Areas where government is very bad include most of the countries with rapidly growing populations (I should maybe have included India in that list…). I refuse to abandon those people just because their leaders have. We are perfectly willing to impose on them when it suits us for other reasons, such as in Iraq or Afghanistan. Considering their present predicament a result of some kind of national referendum (‘Yes, let’s stay poor, uneducated and unindustrialized, with thugs in power–forever!’) is not evidence of the kind of thinking we need to bring to the table.

    Adaptation to whatever climate change may bring is a local issue. Mitigation of what is to come will be a transnational effort. Dealing with mitigation issues in a rapidly developing environment where the people are quite rightly focused on developing out of poverty is going to be a real challenge.

    Bart (and others), the climate community has clearly failed in one important aspect of developing a solution. You all have allowed people and organisations with specific policy agendas to muddy the waters regarding what needs to be mitigated.

    There is very little mitigation possible for 20 foot sea level rise. Now, you and I both know that there will not be 20 feet or 10 feet or five feet of sea level rise. But because you allow claims for that to stand in the public arena–because you do not police the claims made by those who support you politically–you provide the perfect excuse for skeptics and doubters to throw up their hands and walk away from the issue.

    And that’s not because of the difficulties of dealing with sea level rise–it’s because there is no planning possible without the issue being surrounded by constraints.

    When IPCC AR4 came out with their projections of sea-level rise, heavily caveated because they didn’t discuss the dynamics of ice sheet activity, they essentially made it impossible for policy makers to plan.

    The U.S. EPA actually has a document floating around on how to prepare for sea level rise, but it has no relevance to discussions today because of highly publicised and irresponsible comments about high figures for sea level rise that have no scientific backing.

    The energy provision part of the equation is daunting enough. It becomes time to throw up your hands when people muddy the issue with trash talk of unrealistic outcomes.

    Which is why in my writing I am much harsher on your ‘team’ than on the skeptics–you hold the levels of power and can put the imprimatur of authority on pronouncements. Your responsibilities are greater, and I do not believe you are meeting them.

  31. Marco Says:

    Tom, can you explain how us scientists can prevent organisations from muddying the waters?

    And can you please provide some examples of organisations that you claim “muddy the waters”. Please do provide evidence, not just say (just as an example) “Greenpeace” or “they exaggerate”.

    Finally, please provide evidence the EPA has documents that discuss sea level rise in the context of irresponsible high figures for sea level rise.

    Let’s see if you can meet the standards you so desperately want to pin on climate scientists. Experiences tells us I should not get my hopes up too high.

  32. Jeff Id Says:

    “Do you regard the current differences in wealth on the globe almost exclusively a result of different levels of effort (on the personal and/or the government level)?”

    There you go again Bart, of course it’s not ‘entirely’ individual effort. However, culturally some groups don’t work as hard as others. Forcing equality by wealth redistribution to balance this is not fair and not smart.

    “Methinks there’s other very important reasons as well, and they amount to a very uneven playing field. There’s a strong legacy of the past here.”

    I’m familiar with the typical excuses given after a statement like this. Methinks you put too much credence in the brainwashing supplied by your news stations. The reason Iran stinks is because of its government. The reason Venezuela, cuba, Zimbabwe, India, pakistan, china ,,,,, all stink is the same one. Propping them up with my money is not in my, or oddly enough, their best interest. And it does SQUAT for climate change.

    Your support of that portion of the climate agenda smacks of an idealism that ironically those same governments would be proud of and it has absolutely ZERO to do with science.

    We found in the historic US that we could do just fine with a lot less government than people think. Too bad ‘the US government’ diluted the lesson in today’s school curriculum. Hmmm, I wonder why?

    Now look at the mutated disaster we got.

  33. Tom Fuller Says:

    Marco, sorry–I don’t want to play with you. You’re not a nice person.

  34. Länkar 2010-08-24 Says:

    […] What does population have to do with climate change? […]

  35. Marco Says:

    Tom, not the first time you accuse me of “playing” when I ask questions that you cannot answer.

    If only I were playing, at least I would have fun. Only good thing is that I had really low hopes of getting any functional answer from you. In that sense I am not disappointed…

  36. Tom Fuller Says:

    Marco, I use the word playing advisedly. Make of it what you will. As for the information you seek, I used this new tool called the internet to find it. I recommend it highly.

  37. Paul Kelly Says:

    Jeff Id,

    Free market advocates in this discussion need to present a path to energy transformation without a heavy government hand, punitive carbon pricing or CO2 suppression schemes.

    Many climate concerned have long been invested in a top down global governance approach. They now see that approach has very little chance of being implemented. Many have responded by ramping up the science argument.

    Meanwhile, there’s a multitude who want to speed the transformation for reasons other than climate who believe the focus on climate actually impedes progress.

  38. Tom Fuller Says:

    Marco I will elaborate a bit. Why do you think I would continue to correspond with someone who is insulting–and as shown in your preceding comment, not honest (I have no problem answering questions, or admitting I am wrong, or expressing uncertainty–‘I don’t know’ are the three most liberating words in the language.

    You are just half a step ahead of people like dhogaza, secularanimist, sod and all of that ilk. You’re probably a bit smarter and have a bit more training, I don’t know.

    But you make up stuff about me in forums like this, and you insult me in forums where you and your mates hang out–such as OIFTG, Deltoid, etc.

    That’s your choice. But why on earth do you think after doing this that I should engage in civil conversation with you?

  39. Tom Fuller Says:

    Paul, I think I can foresee Jeff’s response–which would be why would they need to do anything? I wouldn’t agree with that argument, but it is coherent in the sense that free marketers believe the market is sufficient to drive innovation and efficiency. (I agree, but not on a timescale adequate to the needs of the moment.)

    Jeff can say I’m full of it, of course, but it is not inconsistent for him to say he doesn’t see the problem so he doesn’t see the need for an interventionist solution.

    So maybe we should present it as an opportunity. X Prizes, that sort of thing. Guranteed contract for mini power producing station that runs off of wood pellets that can trucked in anywhere and set up by untrained staff.

  40. Paul Kelly Says:

    I’ll wait for Jeff’s comment, but I doubt he’d say the market drives innovation and efficiency. The market drives only price and availability. The profit motive drives innovation and efficiency.

  41. Jeff Id Says:

    Gentlemen, I’m pretty busy at work right now but will try and answer tonight. I think the discussion assumes something must change, whether I’m convinced of that or not is moot. I can’t reply do nothing. Also, Bart’s original post hits home for me in that there has to be a limit to population, something will give or population will stabilize eventually. As always, I don’t think government is prepared to answer this for us.

  42. Lucas Says:

    Bart, do you know the story of Kerala (an Indian state)? It’s a success story on rapid demographic transition without the need of economic development.

    1- http://www.theatlantic.com/past/docs/issues/98sep/kerala.htm
    2- http://ukpmc.ac.uk/articles/PMC1116113;jsessionid=3C3E8E8A9B94C4169DCC3D43DE43E777.jvm4

  43. Jeff Id Says:

    I don’t think Bart needs too much discussion on this here but assuming we actually need to do something, our options are limited.

    First, we know that from the IPCC the CO2 halflife is soo long that it’s basically permanent from a human life perspective. — I flatly don’t believe this but that’s what the claim is. If CO2 is permanent we need to look at the path to minimum total emission rather than instantaneous reduction. This means that we MUST have new technology to avoid the disaster. We cannot power our vehicles using our current technology so it must be new.

    Therefore, the sooner this technology is invented, the better off we are. Yet we have limited resources and there is a lot of false propaganda on the market for ‘green’ tech.

    Item 1 – Nuclear power must be implemented in industrialized nations globally. Third world countries don’t consume enough, have idiotic dangerous governments and ideologies, so we can ignore them for the moment. Pielke’s Jr is happy with china building 5% more efficient coal plants at 1 a week and even considers it decarbonization but that’s about the dumbest opinion I’ve heard – unless you define decarboization as the oxidation of the maximum amount of carbon. Nuclear is not a perfect solution but it is required.

    Item 2 – Acceleration of development of technology. Government can have minimal participation through fast track grants and awards, beyond that, industry already has the incentive to work on these things. Batteries, solar and a few odd things like geothermal are good possibilities. Accellerating the implementation of non-working technology is just waste.

    Item 3 – part of 2 – Maximize industrial investment in technology through permanent tax reductions for business, legal reform in the US and less unnecessary regulation such that more people are hired, output is increased and excess cash can be devoted to new technology.

    Item 4 – insure that cheap low cost power is widely available and this is where it get’s difficult for environmentalists, limiting CO2 now only affects the total cost to survive. The lower the total cost to survive the faster technology progresses. I would bet very big money that a heavy tax on CO2 would repress industry enough that we won’t see that needed technological advancement for much longer in the future than we would if we don’t tax CO2. My belief is that if you increase availability of cheap fossil energy production today, you accelerate the time to when it is replaced- the ultimate goal.

    Fossil fuel accessibility will drive its own price higher anyway so taxation is just limitation, economic load and theft, and it’s replacement will be a natural thing in 50 years. If we don’t crush industry, if we do decide to limit industry the problems will be far wider spread than the IPCC estimates. That’s what happens when a bunch of industry hating idealists get together in the room and plan for industries future.

    By my concept, people don’t have to starve, solar comes on line, local energy production becomes the standard and energy independence comes to mean – home production and storage! Lower population growth of wealthy peoples.

    So my best solution to global warming is to drill baby drill!! haha. I’m serious though. You will cumulatively emit less total CO2 this way.

    Of course it’s the opposite of the overly simple limitation thinking put forth by so many. Limitation is the path to poverty, strife and low technical development. Production, however – especially low cost production – brings knowledge, ability and the cash to implement real solutions.

    America is a far cleaner nation than most I’ve been to. We don’t get much credit for it though. Or anything else these days with all the propaganda out there.

    Home solar PV is my favorite for the future, but better batteries/storage is required to make it work. There is neat stuff coming on this front though.

    Of course if the half life of CO2 isn’t so long, my preferred solutions change.

  44. Paul Kelly Says:


    This is exactly the kind of discussion Bart needs and, I think, wants. You said: “Of course if the half life of CO2 isn’t so long, my preferred solutions change.” What would they be if CO2 wasn’t the issue?

  45. Marco Says:

    Tom, you claim the answers to my questions are to be found on the Internet. With the exception of the EPA sea level study (and there I can only assume you used “worldclimatereport” as the source for your criticism. Major fail), I cannot find the ‘answers’ to my other questions, however, and I most certainly do not intend to read every single column you ever wrote to find if perhaps somewhere deep inside you have explained how scientists can prevent organisations from “muddying the water”. History also tells me I cannot expect an explanation for that, considering that it took scientists several decades to stop tobacco company-sponsored front groups from muddying the water on the causal link between smoking and lung cancer (actually, it was court cases that did the trick); but we still have some organisations that actively try to deny the link between second-hand smoking and lung cancer.

    Yes, you have sometimes admitted you are wrong. If only you learned from those instances…

  46. Bart Says:


    Thanks for your latest comment laying out your preferred options for the future. I’ve stated multiple times on this blog and elsewhere that that is the way how skeptics could make a constructive contribution to the climate (mitigation) debate: By laying out how they would prefer to deal with these issues (assuming that the science is not wildly wrong), in a way that is the least disruptive for society as possible yet still addresses the problem. I’ll try to respond in more detail on such options later.

    In your previous comment you made some striking claims.

    To repeat myself: I’m in favour of leveling the playing field; not in equality of success (which depends on a lot of thing, eg on the playing field, effort, luck, network, boundary conditions such as government, etc). The effort and luck part of course vary by individual. But to claim that some people are culturally disposed to be lazy (or not work as hard as others) is a very slippery slope that I don’t want to go on at all.

  47. Bart Says:


    The first half of your comment (17:17) sounds very sensible, but then you go off in a tangent where you lose me.

    The responsibility of scientists lies with the science. Recently their role in communicating this science to the public and decision makers has become more important, but by and large, the science community doesn’t seem quite up to that task yet, and it remains by and large an extra-curricular activity. Scientists definitely don’t control how others communicate about the issue, nor should they. E.g. I am not at all responsible for what you say about climate science. Scientists are not police officers.

    On sea level rise:

    You probably meant to say “There is very little mitigation adaptation possible for 20 foot sea level rise.”. That’s the sort of consequence to which adaptation seems impossible. Then you go on saying that sea level rises between 5 and 20 feet will not happen. But you don’t give a time horizon. Given that all these sea levels have occurred in the past, your statement is false. By not mentioning a time scale you basically make the same slip as eg Al Gore made. If you meant “by 2100”, I think you’re still off. 5 feet sea level rise by 2100 is within the realm of possibilities (though perhaps near the upper end), as many recent studies have shown. I frequently quote the sea level rise during the last interglacial (6 metres) when global temps were only 1 to 2 degrees higher than now.

    Does that mean that sea level will instantly rise to 6 metres when we’ll reach that temp threshold? Of course not. There’s a time lag involved in the response of ice sheets to a different temperature regime, about which we know very little, but there are plausible mechanisms to make it occur faster than in-situ melting.

    Does it mean that we can laugh away the possibility of committing ourselves to a sea level rise of several metres over the next few centuries? Of course not.

    Finally, I think the misinformation coming from “skeptics” is further away from the truth in many instances than exaggeration from activists, though of course this varies on an individual basis. Case in point is that eg Gore is much closer to the truth than say, Monckton. They are therefore not equivalent, and that is why I am much harsher on “skeptics” than on AGW activists.

    I don’t think the scientists hold much power at all in this respect. E.g. public opinion wildly differs from scientific opinion. Political will to tackle this problem is severely lacking, even though scientists have been warning for the risks for decades. If that signifies power, than I pity the truly powerless.

  48. Bart Says:

    Marco, Tom,

    You could just agree to disagree if a fruitful discussion between yourselves is not possible. Stop the ping-pong, please.

  49. sailrick Says:

    “would you care if the population of this planet was 20 billion (as predicted by John Holdren and Paul Erlich back in the 70s) if they were powered by wind, solar and nuclear?”

    Yes, because climate change isn’t the only problem. There is the matter of food, more loss of habitat for wildlife, and many other issues .

    “What mitigation strategy is adequate to meet this version of reality?”

    Massive development of renewables would help a lot.

    You say
    “Renewable energy grew by 2% per year over a decade of strong support and investment–a decade that is probably over. Assume it will continue at 2% and you get about 67 quads by 2035. Not much help there.”

    We will have much stronger support when there is a national renewable energy standard, a climate bill. Why assume it will continue at 2% rate? Use the money now spent on fossil fuel subsidies to subsidize renewables. Thats a win win.
    No extra spending. Of course if we were actually politically willing to spend $billions on renewables, we could double down.
    The recent report from the IEA showed $500 billion in fossil fuel subsidies globally last year. Thats compared with $46 billion for renewables.

  50. Jeff Id Says:


    There are a lot of assumptions in my post about the severity of damage and the permanence of CO2 which I don’t agree with. It’s not a post about what I think we should do but it is a post on what would be the best path in my opinion if the doom claims were true.

    I don’t believe Sea level rise is anywhere near the problem it’s claimed to be. I don’t believe the Antarctic will be melting from human CO2, I don’t believe people will run out of water from warming, I don’t believe crops will fail, I believe there will be more plant life on a warmer planet. These all have basis in observation. I also really don’t believe politicians would like my solutions because there is no money in it for them! Remember, their goals are always different from your own.

    The positives of a warmer world very probably outweigh the negatives by themselves. The effects and damages of warming are the weakest part of the climate argument.

  51. toto Says:

    The fertility rate in the Maghreb (Algeria-Tunisia-Morocco) has gone from >7 children/woman to ~2 in about 25 years (illustration: Algeria).

    I think that’s the fastest demographic transition on record. It hasn’t really led to mass prosperity yet.

  52. Pat Cassen Says:

    Jeff, are you also sanguine about ocean acidification?

  53. willard Says:

    Maybe this has changed, but here is Jeff Id’s opinion, which amounts to say that except the CO2 thing, climate change “does not matter”:

    > My opinion is that we don’t have a single thing to worry about with respect to climate change. It’s not dangerous or controllable in any way, our technology will change whether the government gets involved or not. The sea ice, won’t melt, Antarctica land ice is in no danger of melting whatsoever, we couldn’t flood the Maldives from CO2 if we tried, acidification data is bogus, sheep aren’t shrinking, fish aren’t shrinking, hurricanes aren’t increasing, droughts aren’t happening, not one single disaster paper I’ve read is true in any way whatsoever and whole sections of the IPCC report are therefore bogus – including economic impact sections. If we created enough warming to change the climate, we might produce some flooding (from rain) or drought but nothing else of consequence and I’ve seen no evidence that we are producing any measurable warming whatsoever outside of models, which are nothing but reasoned guesses by people with a bias. The bias is created in the (potentially correct) assumptions of aerosols and water vapor feedback.

    Source: http://noconsensus.wordpress.com/2010/04/21/reader-background/

  54. Tom Fuller Says:

    I think it’s important to note that Jeff Id’s point of view as put forward by willard and Jeff himself have not been ‘thrown out of court’ in that what he describes is still within the realm of physical possibility.

    I disagree with Jeff. I personally think global warming, which I expect to be around 2 C or maybe a little more, will have negative effects and that it is worth expenditure of precious tax dollars to lower that total as much as we can and to prepare for the effects before they happen–just so we don’t have to do it all at once.

    Probably the most controversial thing I said above was about extending current consumption trends in a straight line through 2035, and I’m surprised nobody has yanked my chain about it.

    But really, that is the key statistic in all of this. Sailrick talks about other environmental impacts of a larger population, but truthfully, at the current rate of flight to urban environments, our other impacts on the environment are actually lessening even as our population grows. More than half of humanity lives in urban environments that take up 3% of the land area. Certainly they need to be fed and that increases the load on agricultural and pastoral land, but we already have the technology in hand to address that, through modern farming methods and the adoption of GMOs. What is driving new land under the plough today is the attempt to meet demand for biofuels.

  55. Pat Cassen Says:

    Thanks, willard. Answers my question.

    (Didn’t Voltaire write about this guy?)

  56. Pat Cassen Says:

    Tom says “…our other impacts on the environment are actually lessening even as our population grows.”

    You might know better if you were a fish.

  57. Jeff Id Says:

    Tom, that’s exactly right and it was written as an implicit challenge. Thousands of views per day occur at tAV and nobody rose to the challenge to prove me wrong. I assume it’s because they can’t. i’ve been shown to be wrong quite a few times at tAV, I’m willing to listen, but if I can write that kind of thing and be correct perhaps we need to consider its implications on policy.

  58. Tom Fuller Says:

    Hiya Jeff,

    Well you note above where you don’t agree with the assumptions needed to prompt you to action. However, in your ‘real world’ scenarion–what you think is actually happening–you also have assumptions in play.

    You’ve written at length about the obvious correctness of the basic physics of CO2 raising temperature, so we don’t need to start at ground zero. You and I both question the robustness of calculations regarding sensitivity of the atmosphere to a doubling of concentrations of CO2–you think it’s minimal, I think it’s a bit more, but we both do not believe it is high.

    I do not think we can build enough nuclear plants over the next 20 years to make a material difference–or staff them, for that matter. I have higher hopes for solar than you do–but that’s just picking horses in a horse race.

    My great concern is looking at a world in 20 years that may need four times as much energy as we produce today (that’s the straight line consumption trend that so far, I’m the only one banging on about), with nothing to provide it except coal. Worse, that coal will be burning in countries that don’t have the money to invest in the far cleaner coal plants that we are using now.

    If I’m right about the energy we’re going to need (and I’d breathe a huge sigh of relief if someone pointed out why I’m totally wrong), we have a real problem on our hands starting about 2030.

    Hate to say this, Jeff, but the prospect of burning 2000 quads of coal in 2030 really… (gulp)… alarms me.

  59. Tom Fuller Says:

    I should lay out my assumptions regarding my fantastickal claim that we might need 2088 quads of primary energy supply around 2035.

    The population will be about 8.1 billion (UN, many others)

    World economic development will continue at about 3% per year (UN, IPCC, many others–just a benchmark, but it’s been useful so far. Goldman Sachs projects that Vietnam will have per capita income of $40,000 in 2050. It will be behind countries like China, Brazil and Turkey. These and other countries will be walking up the energy ladder, using more energy per person, and they will have the money to get their energy needs met.

    If 7 billion of the 8 billion (there will still be the Bottom Billion to worry about) are consuming energy at an American level (323 billiton btus per person per year), that’s more than 21 quads in 2035.

    If we can tame expectations and steer development towards the Danish level of 161 bbtu per capita (which surely is enough–the Danish live well), the total drops to 11 quads. But so far, development is taking the same path Americans took–maybe even a bit more extravagant.

    Somebody tell me where I’m wrong and should happily accept the U.S. DOE’s projection of 683 quads for 2035 and the UN’s slightly higher projection of 703. What do they know that I do not?

  60. Bart Says:


    The fact that noone objected at your blog to your statement of how the science got it all so wrong sais more about your readers (who by and large agree with you on the major points) than about the correctness of your claim. But you’re quite aware of that of course.

    If you think the science is so radically wrong as the cite from Willard suggests, you must have some very good arguments. Otherwise it amounts to mere handwaving. If you do have those solid arguments, scientific fame would await you. Popcorn, anyone?

  61. Jeff Id Says:


    You write:

    You and I both question the robustness of calculations regarding sensitivity of the atmosphere to a doubling of concentrations of CO2–you think it’s minimal, I think it’s a bit more, but we both do not believe it is high.

    I’m not being very clear, I don’t claim to know how much warming CO2 will create and I certainly wouldn’t say it’s less than you. I don’t think I’ve ever written a number and said I think global warming by CO2 is X. I only know one line of evidence that would allow one to make the claim that CO2 warming is less than a certain amount and that is Chad, McKitrick and McIntyre’s blog and paper on models and it doesn’t separate CO2 warming from other causes. Warming could be as much as models say but currently they are running well ahead of the measured data – so we need to fix the data or the models.

    The effects of CO2 don’t worry me yet from the evidence we have, and when I do get worried, the solution I prefer is a different one.

    It makes it kind of funny to call myself a skeptic when I never say Bart is wrong on AGW magnitude. I say I don’t know and nothing I’ve read convinces me that climate science knows either. I’m open to be proven wrong.

  62. Jeff Id Says:


    I don’t think the science is wrong, I think the disaster predictions are wrong. I regularly comment on papers to this effect. For instance the roll of toilet paper produced by Zhao and Running where they claim that plants have shrunk 1% from sat data – due to global warming.

    Pure bovine scatology plain and simple, and it would take a generous definition indeed to call it science.

  63. Pat Cassen Says:

    Readers interested in why scientists disagree with Jeff Id’s assessment of the dangers of climate change could start by examining the ‘Changing Oceans’ special section in Science, Vol.328, starting on page 1497 (June 18, 2010).

    For instance, on ocean acidification: “[Geochemists say] The physics and chemistry of adding an acid to the ocean are so well understood, so inexorable, that there cannot be an iota of doubt—gigatons of acid are lowering the pH of the world ocean, humans are totally responsible, and the more carbon dioxide we emit, the worse it’s going to get.”

    Alarmist indeed.

  64. Tom Fuller Says:

    Pat, I’ve seen counter arguments that say that lowering the alkalinity of the oceans as a result of CO2 will be negligible in quantity and in effect on marine resources.

    How well established do you think this field of study is?

  65. Pat Cassen Says:

    Tom – “…lowering the alkalinity of the oceans as a result of CO2 will be negligible in quantity and in effect on marine resources.”

    reference, please?

  66. Tom Fuller Says:

    Hi Pat,

    Just blog talk–I don’t have references for this. That’s why I’m asking.

  67. Pat Cassen Says:

    Tom – “How well established do you think this field of study is?”

    Well enough to establish the dire facts quoted in my comment at August 25, 2010 at 20:51.

    Although the article by Caldeira & Wickett “Anthropogenic carbon and ocean pH: The coming centuries may see more ocean acidification than the past 300 million years” was only published in 2003, since then about 500 articles with “ocean acidification” in the title have been published in the scientific literature (according to google scholar).

    The Annual Review paper “Ocean Acidification:
    The Other CO2 Problem” (2009) , by Doney et al., cites about 150 articles. While acknowledging that there could be “ecological losers and winners”, Doney et al. conclude (among other things) that “Acidification impacts processes so fundamental to the overall structure and function of
    marine ecosystems that any significant changes could have far-reaching consequences
    for the oceans of the future and the millions of people that depend on its food and other
    resources for their livelihoods.”

    Take a look at some of these papers. Maybe you can find something that supports the blog talk you refer to. Maybe not.

  68. Tom Fuller Says:

    I’ll take a look, Mr. Cassen, and thanks. Before I do, a quick question. Do you understand why many are unconvinced by these recent claims? I find it astonishing that something currently being presented as a problem of first order magnitude can suddenly materialize. There are those who say that this is a ‘replacement’ problem for symbolic issues used in previous campaigns to emphasize the need for action on global warming, such as polar bears or Himalayan glaciers.

    Which doesn’t discredit the science–even if people are using it for the wrong reasons.

    On the one hand, something that is claimed to be as important and pervasive as the effects of global warming will surely have effects on many things, some of which we may not be able to identify with our present knowledge.

    On the other hand, there has been enough politicization of this issue and its ramifications by both sides that any new claims and problem areas are going to be subject to a lot of scrutiny.

  69. Jeff Id Says:


    Pat makes statements which are far too strong.

    For instance, on ocean acidification: “[Geochemists say] The physics and chemistry of adding an acid to the ocean are so well understood, so inexorable, that there cannot be an iota of doubt—gigatons of acid are lowering the pH of the world ocean,

    He’s referring to the basic chem and seamlessly combining it with the ‘full understanding’. The carbon capture cycle of biochemistry is NOT EVEN close to understood and IT balances the ocean PH. The claim of understanding of all PH driving factors by CO2 was silly enough that I almost didn’t answer.

  70. Jeff Id Says:

    BTW i again believe that CO2 does change the Ph, we just don’t understand how much.

  71. Pat Cassen Says:

    Tom – I’m not inclined (right now, anyway) to speculate on either the premise of your question, or the answer. Maybe later, after I’ve thought about it for a while.

    Jeff – That’s not my statement, I’m quoting the article. Read it. Scientists disagree with you.

  72. Deech56 Says:

    Tom, you write, “I find it astonishing that something currently being presented as a problem of first order magnitude can suddenly materialize. There are those who say that this is a ‘replacement’ problem for symbolic issues used in previous campaigns to emphasize the need for action on global warming, such as polar bears or Himalayan glaciers.”

    What do you mean by “suddenly”? A quick search shows that Ken Caldeira wrote about this in 2003:


    Who are “those who say”? I have to say that I keep seeing a pattern of making assertions and providing little evidence for that assertion. For example: “…lowering the alkalinity of the oceans as a result of CO2 will be negligible in quantity and in effect on marine resources.”

  73. Tom Fuller Says:

    Deech56, I use vague language because, as I said upthread, I am repeating from an imperfect memory comments made on weblogs. I’m not going to track them down. If you want to attribute them to me, feel free. We’re all pretty much aware of your predispositions, and I’m certainly aware of what you like to write about me.

    As it happens (and pretty much by complete chance) I am somewhat familiar with Caldeira’s paper of 2003. Two quick points: 2003 is recent in my book, after 27 years of discussing AGW. The pointed and public revival of the issue in 2010 seems a bit odd.

    The major thrust and counter thrust as far as I am aware is that increased carbonic acid may interfere with calcification of shells on various sea creatures.

    However, there is lots of uncertainty involved, not much in the way of real world evidence of it occurring, the possibility that marine life is capable of adaptation to changing levels.

    IIRC, there was a bit of fuss about the logarythmic scale used to measure alkalinity and people were upset at how the process was being described.

    So what have I missed?

  74. Jeff Id Says:

    Sorry for attributing the quote to you. I’m a lowly aeronautical engineer who is fully able to comprehend, replicate and even produce the math in climate papers, IOW I don’t need people to think for me. The fact that scientists disagree is no problem but it does not trump the reality of understanding.

    I like Bart’s blog because he’s honest in his belief, he knows exactly what he thinks and doesn’t care a whit if people want to discuss the problems. Bart is a scientist, and on many things we disagree. But Bart is a scientist so reasoned disagreement is allowed.

    People sometimes don’t understand why the thinking warmists are allowed at tAV. IMO they are the best because they don’t fear the crowd, they have their own opinions and are willing to express them.

    The whole blogging experience has been a bit of an eye opener, both in the way that RC treated me before I got the attitude or the moniker and in the caviler way climate science treats problems with the data and math methods. I can’t even express how seriously data and math would be addressed in my world.

    Things like the ocean PH in 1750 are tossed out in my mind before you get to the five. Come on, it’s crap, we don’t know, nobody does. That’s it – discussion finished.

    but it’s mainstream climate science. SST is a perfect second example.

    They USED BUCKETS and uncalibrated thermometers for gods sake.

    We don’t KNOW!!

    Nobody does!

    I looked up your profile on the net when you first commented. Us old salty climate dogs do that. I didn’t find any clear references other than retired and a signer of some IPCC comment. My suspicion is that you have a history in the enviro science, so you should know what I mean.

  75. Pat Cassen Says:

    Jeff – “I looked up your profile on the net when you first commented…I didn’t find any clear references other than retired and a signer of some IPCC comment. My suspicion is that you have a history in the enviro science, so you should know what I mean.”

    Are you referring to me??

    Nope, that’s not me. Try again…

  76. joe Says:

    Jeff: “They USED BUCKETS and uncalibrated thermometers for gods sake.”

    The errors associated with early temperature measurements (both land and sea) have been assessed repeatedly. With math and statistics that even engineers such as yourself should be able to approve of.


    As someone recently said somewhere else, early cars still drove, didn’t they?

  77. Bart Says:


    Uncertainty is not the same as knowing nothing.


    Ocean acidification didn’t suddenly, magically appear out of a hat. Increased research and understanding leads to increased knowledge. Should scientists hide new knowledge from the public for fear of the public accusing them of magically taking it out of a hat?

  78. sod Says:

    this discussion is typical.

    Tom makes massive claims, based on zero knowledge:

    “…lowering the alkalinity of the oceans as a result of CO2 will be negligible in quantity and in effect on marine resources.”

    Jeff dismissed basic science without giving any reasons:

    Things like the ocean PH in 1750 are tossed out in my mind before you get to the five. Come on, it’s crap, we don’t know, nobody does. That’s it – discussion finished.

    ever heard of henry’s law? we know the CO2 concentration in the air. we can estimate ocean ph rather accurately!

    and both of them think that more nuclear is the solution. strange.

  79. Deech56 Says:

    Pat, sorry I didn’t see that you had referenced the Nature paper before me. GMTA? Tom, you write, “We’re all pretty much aware of your predispositions, and I’m certainly aware of what you like to write about me.” So is that a warning that I will soon get the Tom Fuller brush-off like dhogaza or Marco?

    If you want to know my predisposition, it’s that I am a scientist (now administrator) in another discipline that I guess could be called medical research. I am predisposed to believe that the scientific method works pretty well and that scientists are not out there to pull a fast one on us.

    I am not sure that you understand what is behind “adaptation”. We are inducing rapid (in geological terms) changes, and with habitat fragmentation, overfishing, pollution, etc. are putting tremendous pressure on natural systems. Human population has a lot to do with this, and these pressures are not just due to CO2 emissions.

    Adaptation means that systems adapt, but not necessarily individual species. We won’t be seeing some kind of Lamarckian evolution happening, but replacement of species that are less fit for changing times with species that are “pre-adapted”. Specialists will diminish to the point of extinction and generalists will expand their range. Look at the presentations by Jeremy Jackson – we will see less of coral reefs and more of seaweed and jellyfish. There will still be life, but not as we know it. And a change in the environment like lower pH is a biggie – organisms are literally bathed by their milieu. The chemistry is not exactly something they can change or escape from.

  80. Deech56 Says:

    BTW, readers may be interested in this paper:


    An important point to make for those who claim that the future will not be that bad because so far bad things have not happened is that we are looking at a 35% (or so) increase in CO2 – not even a doubling – and a 0.8C increase in temperature, which is not at equilibrium. We’re in the foothills with the mountain range head of us.

  81. Jeff Id Says:


    “Uncertainty is not the same as knowing nothing.”

    The lesson climate science needs to learn is that sometimes that’s exactly what it is.

    One word – Paleoclimate

  82. Jeff Id Says:

    Here too sod? !!!

    “ever heard of henry’s law? we know the CO2 concentration in the air. we can estimate ocean ph rather accurately!”

    You have to measure accurately a lot of times to know the ocean ph. It’s not that easy in a sail boat – try it.

  83. sod Says:

    The lesson climate science needs to learn is that sometimes that’s exactly what it is.

    One word – Paleoclimate

    this sort of stupidity has become the new mainstream argument among people who call themselves “sceptics”.

    here is my offer Jeff:

    we give some tree ring samples to a paleoclimatologist.

    you get some random data.

    and then the two of you try to figure out what has happened in the past, and we compare it to local weather data. are you up for a challenge against a “know nothing” paleoclimatologist?

    what are you willing to bet on the outcome?

  84. Jeff Id Says:

    “this sort of stupidity has become the new mainstream argument among people who call themselves “sceptics”.”

    Keep it reasonable sod. I’ve done quite a bit with paleo data myself. I think the more math inclined climatologists should see it as an ugly wart on the side of otherwise reasonable work.

    You are not one of the math inclined.

    This thread is about population though with an unfortunate foray into equity. Bart made some very valid points that nobody I’ve seen has good answers to. It looks certain that eventually we will exceed what this rock can produce. Like a bunch of happy rabbits in a carrot patch.

  85. sod Says:

    You are not one of the math inclined.

    you are wrong a lot, Jeff. major in math, at least that is what my university said. but perhaps they know nothing, like paleoclimatologists?

    (completely absurd, how you attack my knowledge of math and in the same post dismiss the work of paleoclimatologists who use a lot of math.)

  86. sod Says:

    oh, and just if you want another challenge, i love group theory (though my knowledge might be a little bit rusty these days).

    shall we figure out who of us is more “math inclined”

  87. sod Says:

    ps: on a more serious note, and to also say something positive: i did notice, how you backpedaled on your remark about paleoclimatologists and now only talk about a subgroup of the profession.

    i think it is an important question, why people like you and tom constantly make such obviously false claims. claims that can be shown to be utterly false with a single line, a link or a short paragraph?

    my explanation is, that you spent much too much time in front of a completely uncritical audience. (if i wasn t trying to be nice, i would call them scientifically illiterate)

  88. Jeff Id Says:

    wow, a math major. I would have thought you could then understand and discuss the effects of autocorrelation or made had a comment on Mann07 or the recent demo I did of less than 10% signal in mann’s proxy set? I certainly wouldn’t have guessed your background from your incorrect comments.

    Fantastic news actually, I’ll expect and even demand a little more from you in the future.

    I don’t recall any backpedaling on paleoclimate.

    “shall we figure out who of us is more “math inclined” ” – You are welcome to demonstrate your skill at tAV any time. Just keep the math climate related. Send it by doc format. Perhaps you can demonstrate why Mann08 doesn’t show variance loss, but whatever topic is up to you. I actually don’t care the climate topic or conclusion but remember, I’m a lousy moderator so you face the world alone ;) .

  89. sod Says:

    thanks for the invitation jeff. as i tried to describe above, my training was mostly in “pure” math. i think i failed stochastic 3 times. (remember, university math stochastic. really really funky stuff..)

    my feeling from past experiences is, that it doesn t pay out to do math in blog comments. lots of work, just to have it dismissed, ignored or forgotten within moments. but lets see, if i have the time i might give it another try.


    getting back to the subject of population, i have some good news. on a recent trip to china, i was surprised to see many solar hot water systems on roofs. (not just a barrel, but a mixture of storage and modern solar water systems)

    i was also positively surprised, by a whole city running nearly nothing but electric motorbikes.

    we are talking about warm countries, with serious hunger for climate system.

    solar energy is a natural solution to this problem.

    on the other hand deploying more nuclear energy in such unstable countries is not a good idea.

    they have an opportunity to start with a decentralised energy network. big companies are fighting for solutions, that only they can afford. we shall not give in to them!

  90. Pat Cassen Says:

    Jeff – “You have to measure accurately a lot of times to know the ocean ph.”

    Yes indeed. That’s how it’s done:
    Direct observations of basin-wide acidification of the North Pacific Ocean

  91. willard Says:

    > I don’t recall any backpedaling on paleoclimate.

    Here it is:

    > The lesson climate science needs to learn is that sometimes that’s exactly what it is. [………] One word – Paleoclimate

    I believe sod is referring to the shift from climate science to paleoclimate. Paleoclimate is a part of climate science, but climate science encompasses more than paleoclimate. If someone accuses something in paleoclimate theory and wants to generalize that to climate theory, that someone must explain how this generalization works.

    Shooting at old trees is a noble entreprise. Trying to convey the idea that this is the silver bullet that kills all climate science is less so. This might explain sod’s reaction.

    That said, this is only what I believe sod means. He might be exagerrating a bit, about yet another hypoerbole from Jeff Id.

    So all looks like business as usual.

  92. Tom Fuller Says:

    Deech56, how would you suggest I deal with someone like dhogaza, who writes in every climate blog around that I am a pimp and a lying sack of shit, or similar insults? And others of your team who do the same?

    Or people like Sod up above, who attribute claims to me when I mention that others are making them, and then proceeds to his usual string of vacuous insults?

    What communication strategy do you recommend for trolls? For bad actors? For people of bad faith who try to refocus a thread on their personal pet peeve?

    I would much rather respond to your comment on adaptation and leave all this personality stuff out of this thread. But I’m not going to play silly comment games with people like Sod. It’s a waste of my time responding, and of readers’ time as well.

    And you appear regularly in the comments threads where they do this constantly, so it’s clear that you know exactly what they do, and I assume you know why. What type of commenter are you, Deech56?

  93. Deech56 Says:

    Well, Tom, I wasn’t aware that I was part of any team. I don’t do enough navel gazing to know what kind of commenter I am, and I do not presume to know the motivations of others.

    You ask, “…how would you suggest I deal with someone like dhogaza, who writes in every climate blog around that I am a pimp and a lying sack of $hit, or similar insults?” I do have a good answer, but will try to keep it to myself. ;-) I will say that from the outside, you appear to be suspicious of real scientists, yet willing to accept ideas (and language) from “skeptical” sites while applying a lower level of skepticism to them. Capitalizing on stolen e-mails has won you few friends among those who accept the science. Less reliance on imperfect memory would help, too.

  94. Tom Fuller Says:

    Deech56, you say I am suspicious of real scientists. I am not sure on what you base that, other than my having co-authored a book that is very critical of one small group of scientists. In that book we specifically write that our criticism is confined to that small group and that we do no disagree with the findings of climate science in general.

    I’m commenting on a scientist’s website. I think you’ll find that I am far more in agreement with the broad thrust of science than many others.

    I believe you, like sod and dhogaza, are critical of me because I don’t agree with your policy preferences. So they (and what about you? What are you ‘keeping to yourself’ about how I should respond to profane insults in a public forum?) resort to insults and distorting what I say.

    I don’t understand your comment on reliance on imperfect memory. Should we not write about what we’ve read unless we have a citation handy? I don’t see that happening from others.

    For example, you say I appear to be suspicious of real scientists. Your references, please?

  95. dhogaza Says:

    Deech56, how would you suggest I deal with someone like dhogaza, who writes in every climate blog around that I am a pimp and a lying sack of shit

    Well, you don’t pimp your blog as much as you used to. When I made that comment, you were constantly pointing people to your blog, where you get paid by the view.

    If you don’t want me to point out that you’re a serial liar, well, you could make an effort to tell the truth.

  96. dhogaza Says:

    I believe you, like sod and dhogaza, are critical of me because I don’t agree with your policy preferences

    I have no particular policy preference, and have said so many times. Lying about science in order to forestall presumed policy responses is morally wrong. I am critical about you because you lie.

  97. Jeff Id Says:

    I’m not certain Tom, but I don’t think dhog likes you.

  98. Tom Fuller Says:

    I’ve given up waiting on a Christmas card from him, at any rate.

  99. Bart Says:

    No more namecalling or repeated accusations, please.


  100. harry Says:


    we seem to have the complete party flock aggregated. Only Eli is missing.

    A really high ranking company, with a major in math, a disciple in physics and a devotee to dendro.

    Sod, Solar is no solution. It can only deliver good performance for 2 to 3 hours a day. When you need it most badly, it is not there. You should be able to figure this out for yourself. If not, what are you talking about? I have a large PV, and I can tell you that I will not be able to get pay-even within the next 10 years, regardless of the byzantine rate that I am paid for every solar kWh that I put back into the grid. There are 30,000 euros sitting on my roof and they only earn their salary from 12 to 15. The other hours they are still sitting there, but costing me money.

    So please, investigate before you indulge yourself in stupid blatherings.

  101. harry Says:

    And as for ocean acidification,

    everything which is out in the open peer reviewed literature is really absurd. The fact that they have been accepted for publication alone discredits a lot of Journals. Most of the papers have serious flaws, such as using hydrochloric acid to achieve an acid pH, or dissolved carbonates in combination with organic acids to decrease the pH. Recent studies have shown that even atmospheric levels of 5000 ppm are not deleterious to many calcium fixing organisms, an observation which is supported by the fossil record. And all these studies ignore the strong stratification within the deeper layers of the ocean, which serve to isolate aquatic environments from each other at distances less than 10 m apart.

  102. Tom Fuller Says:

    My concerns about water quality from higher population have always been more focused on increased amounts of effluent and overfishing.

    Again, Pat, if you’re still around, another ethical conundrum: Given that the ocean serves as a ‘commons’ and nobody is responsible for what happens to it, how do we deal with this issue? Does it not seem possible that it could sap energy from those attempting to solve declining fisheries and continued pollution?

    And given that it certainly appears that we will be continuing to emit industrial quantities of CO2 for a good while yet, is anybody looking at adaptation from the point of view of marine life?

  103. harry Says:


    Acidification of the oceans is no issue. The oceans are the most stable habitat we have on this planet, with an astounding degree of variability. We humans do not have to worry about the oceans, they will be around long after we have stopped being a species, and they will be thriving with life, but maybe not as we know it.

    It is a common them within the green conservationalist community, that they think that we should preserve Earth as it is now.

    We are not the keepers or preservators of a global museum.

    This planet is a living thing, evolving.

    Evolve with it. Let it go, accept that what you value is perishable.

    Mother Gaia will find her way, with or without humans.

    If this is not your thing, then cut the crap and start building nuclear reactors and get them on line ASAP! Do not waste time on wind and solar, go for it: nuclear! Or coal.

  104. Tom Fuller Says:

    Harry, first of all, the oceans are big–I served in the US Navy and sailed them and I know they are big. But they are not invulnerable. We’ve overfished them and we are dumping pollutants in them.

    I’m not a big fan of the Gaia theory, so I’ll leave that alone. But as for nuclear, it produced 6% of the world’s power last year. It’s going to double by 2030, at which point it will produce an even smaller percentage of the world’s power, due to population growth.

    If the only alternative is coal, we’re in big trouble. The cities in China are choking to death on old-fashioned Manchester style burning coal pollution.

    I don’t know if we can produce enough nuclear power to overcome that. I know I don’t want to rely on coal to meet the next generation’s needs. I am hopeful that solar can come to the fore. I know that energy efficiency can play a part.

    But I don’t know if there’s an acceptable solution as of yet.

  105. harry Says:


    Your list does not leave anything over to solve the fate of mankind.

    Let us resume:

    PV: less than 1% at excessive cost
    Wind: less than 5% at a little less excessive cost
    Nuclear: steady and increasing, boycotted for 30 years by the green. France has 80% of its electricity from a range of very smart reactors, including the Super Phenix.
    Coal: everyone who needs electricity starts building a coal fired plant.
    Natural gas: increasing, since gas fired turbo plants are the only solution to fading wind.

    Hydro, geo, require the right geological conditions. Are no global scavengers.

  106. Deech56 Says:

    Tom, I think Bart wants his blog back, so this is the last I’ll write to you. Trusting my memory (and going back to you blog/article post titles for verification), I have only seen criticism of the scientists at UEA, RC (mostly Mann and Gavin), IPCC, Hansen – criticism of Schneider for a paper that was mis-characterized as a blacklist. Favorable mentions of scientists? Interviews with Christy and Curry.

    My unmentioned (but snarky) advice would have actually been along the lines of what dhogaza wrote at 18:41, but I would have been much nicer. :-) I mean, you gave the perfect set-up line.

    As far as policy, I don’t think we are miles apart, but you minimize the risks of a changing climate. Have fun with harry and oceans, though.

    I would like to get into population stress on habitats and the reduced resiliency of natural systems. Jeremy Jackson’s talk is a good start:

    Might want to keep in mind that for each species, extinction is a real tipping point.

  107. harry Says:


    To explore the item of oceanic overfishing:

    Consider the next line of reasoning:

    We like the blue fin Tuna.

    We capture the entire population.

    No more blue fin Tuna.

    Did this action impair the production capacity of the ocean as a whole?

    I do not think so. It caused a disturbance in the force.

    But once we find out what fed the Blue fin Tuna, we can go and hunt for it in order to feed us. Actually, we increased the eficciency of the food chain by eliminating a step which was competing for resources.

    In the end, we all will be eating dirt, not only the poor.

  108. harry Says:


    I would like to point out to you that the definition of species is discriminatory. It is however, required for the definition of extinction. A species can not go to extinction. A certain gene pool can go to waste (for the time being). We are not yet at the Jurassic park situation, but rather close. Therefore it will be increasingly difficult for species to go extinct.
    To remind you: a human embryro goes through all the stages of the reptilian development, but does not stop at its reptilian stage, it goes beyound. The genes, the genetic programs are still there and functional.

    Where does your definition of human start or end.

  109. Deech56 Says:

    harry, have any passenger pigeons reappeared? They way I learned it, the old “ontology recapitulates phylogeny” meme is passe, unless you are writing about the similarities among embryonic stages. I don’t see extinction as being harder – rapidly changing habitats will favor generalists to the detriment of specialists. Of course, you may mean that once we lose specialists, generalists will be harder to wipe out. I dunno.

  110. Marco Says:

    Let’s see, Harry first says:

    “everything which is out in the open peer reviewed literature is really absurd.”

    And then claims:

    “Recent studies have shown that even atmospheric levels of 5000 ppm are not deleterious to many calcium fixing organisms, an observation which is supported by the fossil record.”

    Notice the contradiction here?

  111. Bart Says:

    People who bash renewables such as solar and wind love to forget about smart grids (e.g.), which admittedly are still in the development stage, but they will probably play a big role in the future electricity chain. Energy storage is a closely linked issue.

  112. sod Says:

    Sod, Solar is no solution. It can only deliver good performance for 2 to 3 hours a day. When you need it most badly, it is not there. You should be able to figure this out for yourself. If not, what are you talking about? I have a large PV, and I can tell you that I will not be able to get pay-even within the next 10 years, regardless of the byzantine rate that I am paid for every solar kWh that I put back into the grid. There are 30,000 euros sitting on my roof and they only earn their salary from 12 to 15. The other hours they are still sitting there, but costing me money.

    So please, investigate before you indulge yourself in stupid blatherings.

    look, this topic is about the climate and population link.

    even you should be able to notice, that population growth happens in countries, that get a lot of solar energy:

    as i explained above, these countries need electricity for climate system (and the most for cooling factories!!!) during the peak hour of photovoltaic system.

    and all that is needed is a little up-front investment. perhaps the folks who are currently making money by starving people via speculation in food could do something beneficial, for once?!?

  113. sod Says:

    ps: i still can not believe, that the usual suspects bring up nuclear power under this topic.

    you really want nuclear power in the countries with a fast growing population?!?

    (hat tip to Jeff for at least offering an remark on the problems with the nuclear approach..)

  114. Jeff Id Says:

    “Thanks to the PowerMatcher the washing machine will be automatically started when the electricity price is lowest, for example when there is a surplus of solar energy.”

    I prefer my washing machine to run when I turn it on.

  115. sidd Says:

    I am quite amazed that some are debating whether overfishing has occurred. For a graphic description please look at this page from Scripps, showing the catch from the Florida Keys over the years.


    I am even more amazed at the doubts cast on ocean acidification. Please see the excellent review by the Royal Society from 2005, a copy is available at

    Click to access Royal_Soc_OA.pdf


  116. Jeff Id Says:


    I don’t know if anyone debates overfishing. I do know its ridiculous to say 40% from overfishing can be separated from 3% due to global warming. It’s an intentionally in error (fill in adjective here) claim.

    I also don’t dispute acidification, I dispute the 1750 number and any long term trend using it. Again, any such paper is so far overreaching the quality of data, as to be ignored.

    Of course if a reader can’t see these obvious problems, there isn’t much hope of them figuring anything else out for themselves either.

  117. Pat Cassen Says:

    Jeff, what’s the 1750 number you’re talking about? I missed something.

  118. Bart Says:

    Jeff prefers his “washing machine to run when I turn it on”. Perhaps others prefer it go on when electricity prices are lowest (as long as it’s done before 7 a.m.). Technology such as the Powermatcher makes both options possible. What’s there to complain?

  119. sod Says:

    I prefer my washing machine to run when I turn it on.

    nothing stops you from using a clever grid machine immediately.

    what people forget is, that we are talking about NEGATIVE energy prices in the near future.

    your washing machine and multiple batteries being loaded in your household will EARN you money, if on a smart grid.

    the most funny aspect of this is: the conservatives who are similar to Jeff will be among the first who will get this technology. just wait and see!

    I also don’t dispute acidification, I dispute the 1750 number and any long term trend using it. Again, any such paper is so far overreaching the quality of data, as to be ignored.

    we have pretty accurate knowledge of the CO2 concentration in the air in the 18th century.

    which chemical or other variable (temperature?) do you think would cause a major difference from a simple calculated value?

  120. Jeff Id Says:

    In the US a smartmeter was proposed which could throttle back or shut off your power usage in favor of other customers. Are you sure that they don’t intend occasionally doing the same thing here? My guess is they will.

    If not, I’m surprised and have no problem with people who want to do this.

  121. M. Simon Says:

    Over at Jeffe’s (Jeff I, Jeff Id’s) place Bart said:

    “My goal is to limit dangerous disruption of the climate”

    Have you considered preventing the next ice age?

  122. dhogaza Says:

    Have you considered preventing the next ice age?

    I suggest we leave that problem to our remote descendants, given the fact that we’re talking about something like a 20,000 year timeframe …

  123. harry Says:


    You probably do not know that the Dutch grid was on the verge of collaps due to the high production of wind energy in the North of Germany, two year ago. Unfortunately, the Greens blocked the construction of the high voltage transmission line intended to transport the electricity from the north to the south of Germany. All energy was routed through the Dutch grid causing a nearly total breakdown.

    Lessons to be learned for wind as a “sustainable” source of electricity?

    1. Peak production from wind never happens, only when you do not need it.
    2. Grid structure should be based on the worst case situation, sitting idly or under used for 95% of the time.
    3. Very fast backup by coal, gas or nuclear is absolutely essential and at 100% level of maximum installed power.

    Smart grid technology will not be able to fullfill these primary requirements. Without these primary requirement, a smart grid is waste.

    Smart grid can only work when ther is a reliable supply of a guaranteed minimal amount of energy. It can only switch off less required services, it can not boost grid performance.
    Requirements for smart grid:
    1. Reliable supply of a mininum amount of electricity at any given time.
    2. Ability to rapidly redistribute loads by switching off less demanding utilisers.
    3. Ability to switch of producers of excess electricity.

    Smart grid is a tool in the management of, not the solution to the intermittent supply of electricity.

  124. Jeff Id Says:

    2. Ability to rapidly redistribute loads by switching off less demanding utilisers.

  125. harry Says:


    Yes, that is what I meant. The grid will switch of my AC, because it will think that my AC is a luxury consumer. However, I am running my AC because my child has a fever, and needs fresh air. I will cut the wires, rewire the AC and run it 24/7. I will decide, not the grid.

  126. Jeff Id Says:


    All we need is for the Bart’s of the world to realize that we won’t be going without power. I’m not going to stand idly by and let these people turn america into brown out China with regulations about leaving lights on after 8, or what kind of bulb to use, or who’s product qualifies as green enough or who deserves electricity today. We must generate enough for everyone all the time. Selective brownouts/blackouts is a huge step back in lifestyle which I’m absolutely not willing to suffer for something which has caused no damage yet.

    The problem is so much larger than a smart grid or dumb grid if the blackouts are true, that it will have exactly zero benefit. Well, except for to the power companies who can maximize their plant load all the time by not carrying enough peak capacity for everyone and simply cutting them off when the load exceeds capacity. Maximum profits baby.


  127. sidd Says:

    smart grid is happening already:


    Clearly Mr. Jeff Id or Mr. Harry will not sign on. That’s OK, they will spend a little more money. Free Market and all that.


  128. harry Says:

    @Jeff, Sidd,
    the solution is quite simple:

    Get your own generator, fire it up with biodiesel or oily waste.

    I am currently investigating this scenario, and it looks as if it is highly competitive with electricity from the grid with 100% tax imposed on every kWH you consume.

  129. harry Says:


    I went and read the article. Is this what you call a smart grid? People going round in an appartement building to ask for the users to delay the start of their dishwashers until after midnight?

    That is about the dumbest grid I have read about.

    You must be kidding? Am I getting something wrong? Missing some Irony?

    If the article was a serious one, have you tried to calculate how much money this silly service will add to the cost of electricity, in stead of saving money and energy?

    Please, say that this was a joke.

  130. sidd Says:

    Mr. Harry writes:
    “That is about the dumbest grid I have read about.”

    Cool. Don’t sign up, if you don’t like it.


  131. Jeff Id Says:


    They don’t give you a choice.

    “Mr. Kwit has lined up about 10 apartment buildings where superintendents will close the laundry room”

    That’s a big difference, and it’s caused by the incorrect propagandist view that Americans over-consume needlessly. Heck, laundry when I’m home doesn’t seem wasteful to me.

    The point here though is that this isn’t about money for YOU, it has nothing to do with CO2, it has to do with the envirowhackos creating an inability for power companies to build more plants, the fat cats enjoying amazing increases in price possible when supply is limited and the fact that some fools think forcing people to not use energy is a good idea.

  132. sidd Says:

    Mr. Jeff Id writes:
    “They don’t give you a choice.”

    Sure they do.

    Move out. Get your own 24 hr laundry. Hell, run your AC with the windows open. I don’t care.

    Meanwhile my clients are saving 1e6 US$/yr in peakshaving agreements with PPL and PSEG.

    I love guys like you. I really do. You are counterparty to the trade. That’s what makes a market, right ?


  133. Jeff Id Says:

    Nice, at least we see your slant sidd.

    If it were voluntary, I would agree. It won’t be soon. It’s all about the utilities which are nothing but government run conglomerates who’s customers are hostages.


  134. sidd Says:

    oh, perfectly voluntary. Don’t like it ? start your own electric trading company..

    you don’t wanna wait to do laundry. others will. see the arbitrage ?


  135. sod Says:

    If it were voluntary, I would agree. It won’t be soon. It’s all about the utilities which are nothing but government run conglomerates who’s customers are hostages.

    Jeff, i thought you had a grip on technology?!?

    for such a system to work, you will need to buy a machine that supports it. and then you need to program the machine, to use the system.


    typically you can enter the latest time you need the washing done.

    ps: washing machines are a bad example. the noise they make might limit their use on smart grid, and you really might need your washing done fast often.
    with many other machines, you simply will not notice, that they were using cheaper, “smart” energy or skipping peak hour to take pressure from the grid.

  136. Bart Says:

    Harry, Jeff,

    You’re arguing against air castles of your own making. Read up on smart grids, e.g. the example I gave you with which I’m somewhat familiar.

    Nobody forces anyone to turn off their appliance. Rather, the price of electricity fluctuates according to demand, and users can set their requirements for appliance usage, eg immediately or at the cheapest time (within a desired or needed timeframe). Car batteries could serve as back-up storage, but also only as to the owner’s directions. The owner remains the sole boss of their electricity usage.

  137. Jeff Id Says:

    You guys missed the point, if it’s voluntary it’s fine, if not it’s not.

    Sod said my readers aren’t critical enough, but my readers are currently saying the same thing you guys are. Peak load, smart meters yay! Sounds good Jeff, join the party.

    None of them have changed my opinion because you seem to miss the point that people can’t do laundry in these complexes because the management locked the room to make the management more money. Did the renters receive a discount — hell no. Can they move, yes, but is that an easy solution? Did the management disclose that they would do that to the renters before signing the lease? That’s just the test case though, you have to consider what voluntary brownout means on a wider case.

    Many have conveniently missed the quote above —-

    “2. Ability to rapidly redistribute loads by switching off less demanding utilisers.”

    The smart meter, allows utilities to shut the home completely off during peak power in favor of businesses. This is where the real savings (for the utilities not the consumer) are, and we would all have to be pretty naive to think it won’t be used this way.

    When you’re 80, in the dead heat of summer and the utility doesn’t have the capacity to keep you going because they weren’t allowed (and because of smart meters didn’t need) to develop it, they aren’t going to cut off the business, they are going to cut your home – think about it. You will be sitting there indoors in 100 degree heat with no air conditioning. Not me guys, I want a better life.

    To sum up:
    Voluntary good – but not too damned likely.
    Involuntary bad – very very likely.

    I really find it naive that people are suggesting to give a switch to ‘big energy’ such that they can keep their facilities as close to peak load as possible (maximum profit) and they have the controls. – Yet you think it will be voluntary, because the smart meter guy told you it was.

    And right at the moment when everyone really needs that AC, it won’t operate, cause the power system won’t be designed to keep up.

  138. sod Says:

    The smart meter, allows utilities to shut the home completely off during peak power in favor of businesses.

    this is complete garbage. please support any evidence for this claim!

  139. Bart Says:


    You’re being paranoid. In terms of access to energy, I think:
    Voluntary good – very very likely.
    Involuntary bad – not too damned likely.

    I should add: I hate it when people tell me what (not) to do, so we have something in common there. But of course, there’s an intricate balance between freedom and responsibility.

    You pick at a home grown community style experiment that clearly doesn’t appeal to you, and wouldn’t to the majority of people. But the future of smart grids is very different than a caretaker shutting the door to the laundry facilities. It’s based on balancing supply and demand where the price is a proxy for the relationship between them. If at any time the demand exceeds the momentary supply, the price will go up, and that will drive the demand down (at least for those who don’t care if their laundry is done immediately – at high electricity costs) or a few hours later – probably at lower electricity costs).

    Without picking on the home grown locked laundry room variety, which is all too easy to ridicule, what’s there to complain about really smart grids?

  140. harry Says:


    I think the best solution would be for the division of the population in 3 shifts, separated from each other, but sharing all the hardware available.
    One working from 9 to 17, one working from 17 to 1 and one working from 1 to 9. This would result in a cubicle occcupied 24/24, all day the same energy consumption, at 1/3 of the peak. TV stations are obliged to have three channels synchronous with their shift audience. Maximum utilisation of existing infrastructure, lowest capacity needed for peak consumption, and three times the yield. Return on investment three times as high..

    Sounds too good to be true…

    But this is in fact what smart gridding comes down to.

  141. harry Says:


    I forgot to mention, this is how crews on submarines used to live.

  142. harry Says:


    You miss a very important thing in the whole concept of the smart grid: that it will try to flatten loads on the grid during daytime, thus allowing to supply everyone with their needs with a low capacity grid. This makes sense from an engineering point of view, but relies on the willingness of people to adopt to these schemes.

    But the reality is that 99% of the people want to see the World Championship final live, not 8 h after the event when everybody already knows the outcome.

    A smart grid will not be able to deliver the peak power that we need now, because this one of the reasons that power companies are considering smart grids. It is a cheap solution to the fact that they have neglected or were prevented from building of sufficiently powerful transport facilities. And do not underestimate the problems with cutting or establishing very high voltage very high current connections. A nice read about this available for the twin DC connection between Netherlands and Norway.

  143. Bart Says:

    I guess it will be very costly to do your laundry right during the world cup then. But luckily, televisions are not the major driver of electricity usage. If electric cars are in widespread use, there will be a huge possibility to level spikes and balance the load.

  144. harry Says:


    Have you ever tried to do some math on electric cars in the sense of energy efficiency? Getting miles for your bucks is really hard. It is only due to the different taxation rules that electric cars could compete. And yes, you have to start at the source of the electric energy to come to the right answer.

  145. harry Says:


    The major problem with electric cars is the much lower energy density (kWh/kg) of batteries compared to fuel. Add to that the relatively low number of charge/discharge cycles for current batteries, the long charge times, the added weight to the vehicle, and you will have to admit that an electric car is not yet the solution. And besides, when we all come home at 18h, we all start to charge for 8 h.

    Have you tried to calculate what that would mean for the grid? Solar is not available anymore, nor does wind from 20h until 2h.

    And when your battery is dead, it will last a few hours before you can get moving, since there is not yet the equivalent of an electrical jerry can available for filling up when you are left in the wild.

  146. harry Says:


    And for many countries, and seasons: many batteries start fading when temperatures go below zero Celcius. I think you have experienced that your LiPO driven laptop did worse in winter on a cold railwaystation than compared to summer? I would like not to be sitting in an electric car during a severe winter blizzard. When the battery dies, I will also die.

  147. sod Says:

    And besides, when we all come home at 18h, we all start to charge for 8 h.

    Have you tried to calculate what that would mean for the grid? Solar is not available anymore, nor does wind from 20h until 2h.

    car will be plugged in 20 hours per day.

  148. harry Says:


    That is a nonsense argument, it would require the unlimited access to charging points. There are virtually none at this moment. And it leaves the other objections in full power present. Address them.

  149. Jeff Id Says:


    Apparently we’re not going to convince each other but you ask:

    “Without picking on the home grown locked laundry room variety, which is all too easy to ridicule, what’s there to complain about really smart grids?”

    The smart grid has at its core an intent by power companies and government to run existing equipment at closer to peak load. From their perspective, the closer the better. From your view that we ‘over-consume’ I’m sure it gives you a warm feeling.

    Thus far in my life in the US I’ve never experienced a brown out. We’ve lost power due to storm damage and mechanical failures but never because of generation capacity. I’ve seen it done in other countries by intent though.

    Currently we are paying a price for electricity here which includes the ability to generate peak power and until the politicians completely destroy this country, even the poorest in the US run their AC units in the summer. Thinking the consumer will receive a cost advantage or have a choice in wide spread implementation is also incorrect.

    It is quite naive not to see this technology from the perspective of the owners of power plants. They will push it just as far as they can such that plants are running as near full capacity as possible without complete revolt of society. I’ll tell you what, when the individual in this country want’s power for their AC and doesn’t get it, they will make their own.

    And their own will consist of large unregulated gas generators.

    Is that better than the required new clean coal plant of the design we’ve used in China?

  150. Paul Kelly Says:

    Jeff Id is not paranoid. What he does is anticipate a trend extrapolating from the laundry room. Is it the only possible trend? No, but it is likely enough to give one pause.

    I wish he’d see a greater necessity for rapid energy change. His views on energy transformation as an engineering problem, and why free enterprise is a surer way to progress than government sponsored enterprise are worth a listen.

  151. Bart Says:


    My point was that it’s easy to ridicule the locked laundry room community experiment, but not so easy to ridicule real smart grids. Jeff seems to be criticizing mainly the former but create the impression of also having rebutted the latter. Cf, if I criticize Monckton (who is relatively easy to ridicule), I don’t by extension have rebutted Lindzen.


    I’m a little surprised about your view of utility companies. You place an enormous amount of trust in private business, and routinely bash government. Yet now you seem to argue that (utility) companies are not to be trusted.

  152. Jeff Id Says:

    I don’t place trust in private business, I place trust in their motives.

    As a businessman, who by pure accident happens to own a green company, I’ve learned that the guy on the other side of the table, wants money, the guy on my side of the table, also want’s money. It makes for simple relationships.

    Understanding motives is the best way to make policy. Understanding the motives of the policymakers, is where things often go wrong in these discussions.

  153. Bart Says:

    So private businesses are only/primarily interested in making money, therefore for issues concerning the common good, private business can not be trusted. A PoV I can understand, but I’m surprised to hear it from you (assuming I understand you correctly).

    But you don’t trust government either.

    What’s left?

  154. Jeff Id Says:


    As you may not be aware, competition keeps private business focused on the common good. It has to be true competition though where prices and availability are balanced by $$.

    Recently a family member bought a house and had the electric changed from the previous owner. During the change, the person entering the data entered the wrong address. Later another person noticed the address didn’t exist and sent a truck out to investigate and shut it down. They received and cashed their check from my relative in the meantime.

    On calling the power company, they were informed that switching service takes only a couple of days, but putting new service in place is a two week minimum. They asked to speak to a manager and were informed that it’s against company policy but if you leave your number we will call back within 3 days.

    Well 3 days in the heat of summer with a newborn is of course unacceptable, so they tried to find someone else able to provide the service. Soon they discovered that the utility is a government controlled monopoly and he was a captured customer. It took a lady at a gas company who used to work at the electric company to pull some backdoor strings and the power was on the next day.

    The utility didn’t care one bit that they weren’t going to have power. They were captured customers.

    Competition, on the other hand, is a very effective mechanism for guaranteeing price and service. A proper level of competition turns out to provide just about everything this country needs without government involvement. Of course I’m talking history here, because the left has destroyed the best parts of this country already by meddling with the balance. For instance the housing crisis was created by banks loaning to people who couldn’t afford the loans, they were pressured under a democrat program from the clinton era to do so – particularly to minorities. Now they go bankrupt, and the left prints money to pay off their buddies. Bush was a fiscal leftist IMO, although it’s difficult to compete with the insane spending by Obama.

    So when you say ‘common good’, we have a different interpretation of what is good. If the government let businesses build powerplants and compete, that’s exactly what we would have. Powerplants and competition which would be a key peice to restoring industry and leading to a wealthier, more successful, lower population and cleaner global economy.

    They are dozens of applications held up in congress for clean nuclear power. They are being held back by the same environmental movement which demands action. So then we substitute power for ‘smart meters’, because in a world gone mad common sense has become a rarity.

  155. Marco Says:

    Bart, Jeff Id appears to be an anarcho-capitalist. The individual making money is considered the common good…I don’t think Jeff Id considers that bad in any way (au contraire).

  156. harry Says:


    What is this for blathering? You consider making money by working is a bad thing? Anarcho-capitalist? Name calling, should be banned by Bart.

  157. Jeff Id Says:


    IMO, the lack of sensitivity to comments is what makes Bart one of the good guys. He’s perfectly willing to let people be right or wrong on their own. If people don’t agree with my points, its their prerogative, at Real Climate, I’m not even allowed to have points.

    My moderation style has produced similar results. I once received an email from main stream press asking how the threads stay civil without moderation. Another asked something similar.

    My response to both — trolls fear graphs.

    It’s funny, and not totally true but blogs like this one are the playgrounds for the thinking crowd. It’s very much intimidating when you don’t know what people are talking about.

    Marco want’s to place an extremist label on my viewpoint. I would call my view common sense, but that is becoming pretty rare so maybe he’s right. Either way, I’m quite comfortable with the disagreement and will sleep fine tonight. After two years of people telling me I’m wrong, (and sometimes proving me so) it’s not that surprising to find another.

    I came here originally because Tom Fuller wrote that this was a good place for discussion. He was right, Bart has provided a forum where issues can be discussed in detail without fear of being edited for controversial points. The lurking readers do take home these thoughts on occasion, and the airing of everything has a strong effect on perception. In the end, if climate science is right about every single point, Bart’s approach will work best, and Real Climate should take notice. Unfortunately, to the aggregated perception of the public, the manner in which disagreements are handled is much of winning a debate.

    I’m curious about Bart’s thoughts on both Spencer’s latest and the MMH paper. I know they are tough questions, but it really seems that models are running hot. SteveM and Chad have both replicated the Santer efforts with up to date data to the same conclusions. Are they missing something serious?

  158. Marco Says:

    Gee, apparently I think making money is a bad thing…no, I don’t, and I do not suggest it is. And now the term anarcho-capitalism is name-calling, too? We’d better tell Murray Rothbard (well, he’s dead), who coined the term to describe an ideology of which he was a part himself. “Gee, Murray, Harry says you call yourself names”.

    Is it an extremist label? So far everything you have described of your ideology, Jeff, fits very well into anarcho-capitalism. It’s therefore interesting you call it extremist…I myself consider it naive, rather than extremist.

  159. harry Says:


    I had to go to wikipedia to find out what anarcho-capitalism is. You can not sincerely assume that everyone knows what this means? I had never heard of it, and I should add that I have read and studied a lot. But I do not think Jeff Id fulfills the description of an anarcho-capitalist. And naive is a description that even fits less. I think it would be more appropriate on your person.

  160. Paul Kelly Says:


    You may enjoy the anarcho -capitalist work of David Friedman (son of Milton) starting with The Machinery of Freedom. It’s very idealistic, of course, but it is good outside the box thinking.

  161. harry Says:

    are you trying to tell me that this is regular reading? If so, I am not surprised with the current demise of the US as a world power. I hope the Cinese have better control of their country.

  162. Paul Kelly Says:

    Harry, I don’t know what you mean by regular reading. If you mean is it normally assigned in schools, no. If you mean is it words organized into sentences on pages in a book, yes. Either way, I doubt it has had any effect on the geopolitical status of the US.

  163. harry Says:


    Thanks, you just freed me of some worries. But why did Marco raise this point?

  164. Marco Says:

    Harry, you could, of course, have googled it BEFORE you accused me of name-calling. Ignorance is a poor excuse after the fact.

    Jeff Id actually fits quite well, in my opinion: individual freedom is holy, with voluntary action being the only acceptable action (note e.g. how he elsewhere on this thread absolutely rejects any action that is not voluntary). Moreover, his comments about politicians and government, taxes, etc. all fit quite well with the anarcho-capitalist. But perhaps you can convince me otherwise: in what sense do you believe Jeff Id does *not* fit with the term.

    Regarding naive: anarcho-capitalism, like many other ideologies, depend very much on the willingness of humans to behave similarly, in particular on ethical issues. As soon as there is a considerable group of people who behave unethical (from the ideological point of view), the system collapses. So how to handle these people? These discussions are often missing, or are circularly argumented (“they will ultimately see how good it is, so no problem”). Perhaps Paul Kelly’s recommended book does get into this, but my experience with ideological books is that they are very good at evading the inherent dangers to the proposed system. Note also I used the term “naive” for the *ideology*.

    Finally, I brought it up because Bart reacted someone surprised to Jeff’s comments about motivation, making money, and “the common good”. However, Jeff’s comment is not surprising if you consider him an anarcho-capitalist, as in that ideology the individual making money is for the common good, while somehow hampering the free flow of money is bad for the common good.

    And a P.S.: you might be surprised to know that, ideologically, I’m no opponent of anarcho-capitalism. I wish we could set-up a society in that way. In small societies it may even work (and has done so to some extent in the past). But in the current world, no way. Too many vested interests muddying the water.

  165. Jeff Id Says:

    Marco, you have misrepresented my views and attempted to paint me as an extremist. Setting up strawman cases and knocking them down, has no bearing on my position.

    I consider the view that government has our best interests at heart naive. However, government is necessary in many cases. If we start with the assumption less government is always better, you’ll find that you still always have more than enough. The concept that anarcho-capitalism represents is an extremist version of conservatism which society doesn’t need any more than it needs a new law.

    Anyone here think we have enough laws yet??

  166. Marco Says:

    Jeff, if you so desperately want to believe I am attacking you by identifying your apparent ideology as anarcho-capitalism, be my guest. It most surely fits with my ideological agreement with its inherent principle…however naive it may be…

  167. Jeff Id Says:

    As I said Marco – you have misrepresented my view.

  168. harry Says:


    Next time I will Google it. Thanks for educating me. Or patronizing. Or pontificating. Or ridiculing. Thank you for your omni-scient remarks. I will burn a candle for you tonight. I humbly ask for your blessing.


  169. Paul Kelly Says:

    Will the real anarcho-capitalist please stand up. Well, even though I don’t use that term, it’s me. I believe all human actions should be voluntary and government should be conducted on tree stumps. Marco says he’d like to be an a-c too, but doesn’t want to appear naive. I do not consider it extreme or naive. It is, because it is a philosophical ideal, idealistic.

  170. Marco Says:

    Paul, all ideological systems are naive exactly because they are idealistic.

    The ideal world looks different to every individual and tends to change over time.

  171. Paul Kelly Says:

    A philosophical ideal is not naive. It is practical. The purpose of the ideal is not to look at the world, but to live in it. That ideals lack congruency doesn’t matter. In a society, the common good derives from the aggregate of ideals.

    My version of a-c is not an ideology. It is a starting point for thought. For energy issues the questions are “Can this be accomplished through voluntary action?” and “Could this be done even if government were conducted on tree stumps?”.

  172. willard Says:

    The only problem with anarcho-capitalism is that it’s only an ideology. In practice, capitalism needs a government to be sure that the wonderful “competition meme” does not spread into reality ;-)

  173. Tomasz Wegrzanowski Says:

    > CO2 emission = population * GDP/capita * energy/GDP * CO2 emission/energy.

    energy/GDP factor is very highly sublinear, and it should be included in even silliest toy models. This leads to conclusion that not only higher average GDP means more CO2 emission, but also that the more equal distribution of same GDP, the higher the emissions.

    And what has been happening is very rapid global convergence, so it’s worse than pure GDP models suggest.

    ( Exceptions like Middle East are due to emissions in production of exported goods are counted in producer country, instead of consumer country – as in Saudi Arabia isn’t responsible for its co2 emissions, countries buying Saudi oil are responsible for them. Once you correct for that, it’s very clear sublinearity with little noise. )

  174. harry Says:


    And what exactly is your point? It is worse than we expected? That is what we hear for the last 20 years. Please go back and hide under your stone. I will wake you up after 20 more years.

  175. The kaya identity: Should we start thinking on demographic and economic growth caps? | urbdp598 Says:

    […] What does population have to do with climate change? […]

  176. Population and Climate Change–one Lukewarmer’s View | The Lukewarmer's Way Says:

    […] Bart Verheggen’s excellent weblog My View On Climate Change. I’ve edited them slightly. The post is here. There are a variety of commenters there who disagree vigorously with most of what I wrote. Indeed, […]

  177. Suzanna Says:

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  178. 3000 Quads – the Road to Oz | Izuru Says:

    […] Why? Fuller doesn’t say. We can perhaps take a guess though. Fuller was well aware his his projected values were incredibly high. For instance, two years before writing the blog post I quoted, he said: […]

  179. Bart Verheggen Says:

    Good one on population: https://www.vox.com/energy-and-environment/2017/9/26/16356524/the-population-question

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