The Arctic is Utterly and Unavoidably Doomed — and Conservatives Were Right All Along

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575 Responses

  1. Avatar Roger says:

    I just googled this and found that recent reports are that we are losing Artic sea ice at a rate of 3to 4% per decade. Is this a joke, or are you serious?

    • Avatar wardsmith says:

      Mars is melting too, but we’re not supposed to talk about that. This is ALL about CO2 according the AGW crowd and it doesn’t matter how often their models are wrong, they will continue to cry the sky is falling as long as the public is stupid enough to keep funding them.

      My friend from college works at JPL He brought the solar system’s planets heating to management’s attention years ago. He was told in no uncertain terms to drop it. They’ve systematically defunded the research and even merely collecting the data. He hates what they’re doing but wants to make it to retirement intact. I despise the cancerous sore on true science that “climate science” has become.Report

      • Avatar Bob Wallace says:

        Ward, check your facts. The “Mars is warming” is not based on reliable data.Report

        • Avatar Jaybird says:

          The polar caps of Mars subliming (NOT MELTING!!!) at the same time that the polar caps of Earth are melting (NOT SUBLIMING!!!) are merely coincidences.

          Now change your energy policy to be in line with my moral views.Report

          • Avatar wardsmith says:

            Unfortunately carbon dioxide doesn’t seem to have a liquid state so sublimation is what we are stuck with when “dry ice” melts.

            Bob, read it and weep. Oops now you have to worry about “more” than Mars. Yes I admit it is difficult to post the links from heliophysics that explain all this, so I won’t. Hint, total solar irradiance isn’t the only thing to watch.Report

            • Avatar Bob Wallace says:

              Ward, read some science. Not a five year old opinion piece.

     (You might want to back up to the beginning page and then read the intermediate.)Report

              • Avatar Bob Wallace says:

                Tom, the first link you provide is data limited to northern Europe. We don’t know if it applies to the entire planet. But let’s suppose it does. What does that tell us?

                It tells us that the planet was cooling over the 2,000 years or so before the Industrial Revolution when we started heating it up by burning tremendous amounts of fossil fuels.

                Goddard, do you suppose he made a mistake or intentionally lied?

                What he wrote about me is not what I wrote. I stated that if the Arctic sea ice continues to decline as it has been we could see a summer meltout in the next few years.

                Goddard distorted that into me predicting a melt out.Report

              • Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

                Mr. Wallace, I was mostly commenting on your snark at WardSmith. I want no part of this, or you. I see your vocation is litigating this in comboxes across the internet and I never argue with anyone who buys cyberink by the barrel. Cheers, and rock on.


              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                There’s that duck, dive, dodge, dip, and duck again. If you want no part of it, then why do you enter the fray? It’s cheap talk; what it really looks like is you do want a part of it but don’t want to be challenged on anything you say. If you really want no part ofit, the only course of action O’s yo take no part in it.Report

              • Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

                I commented on the snark sent at WardSmith and since there was a complaint about old news, put a link to something that came out today.

                So it’s all yours, brother. Enjoy.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                That’s taking a part; anything claim to the contrary is fraudulent. It’s why you get treated with so much disrespect.Report

              • I think all commenters should be commended for participating when they throw me a link. Thanks, Tom!Report

              • Avatar Whatever says:

                Goddard is constantly blogging but never actually says anything intelligent or logical. He is the guy who will reference a Kansas town in winter that has icy water pipes as proof that global warming is a scam and then turn around and discount a summer of 4o,000 heat records as a case of “alarmist” cherry picking.

                Only the desperate and ignorant use Goddard as a reference.Report

              • Avatar wardsmith says:

                Read it when he wrote it Bob. Even the skeptical “scientist’s” own commenters called him out on it. You have no answer for the OTHER planets warming up either and skeptical isn’t going to carry your water for you. I sincerely doubt your skill in physics matches my own.

                Oh and the “opinion” piece referenced:
                Habibullah Abdussamatov of the Pulkovo Astronomical Observatory in St. Petersburg, Sami Solanki of the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research in Germany, Sallie Baliunas and Willie Soon of the Solar and Stellar Physics Division of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics and a host of the rest of the world’s leading solar scientists are all convinced that the warming of recent years is not unusual and that nearly all the warming in the past 150 years can be attributed to the sun.Report

              • Avatar Bob Wallace says:

                Please, Ward. It’s not the Sun. That’s crackpot science.


                “Over the last fifty years, the sun’s output has decreased slightly: it is radiating less heat. We can measure the various activities of the sun pretty accurately from here on Earth,”

                And we are not experiencing solar-system wide planetary warming.


              • Avatar wardsmith says:

                Uh Gee Bob, who NEVER posts here except when told to (and apparently paid?_) by the climate science community? I fully accept your “scientific” theory that the sun has NOTHING to do with climate “It’s not the Sun”. Why you are a fishing GENIUS! We could blot out the sun tomorrow and the Earth’s climate would blissfully stay warm. Your scientific bona fides are intact. Now go collect your paycheck you’ve been a good little useful idiot. BTW, perhaps in future you’ll be able to point to more than a single source.

                Interesting that the supposedly false quote by Goddard replicated something you said right here. Or were you hoping for a dumber audience?

                Meanwhile I imagine everything on this page is beyond you. Useful idiot indeed.Report

              • Avatar Bob Wallace says:

                Sorry to tell you Ward, but no one pays me to post. No one has even approached me about posting for pay. You’re going to have to find another way to attack the messenger….

                Now, please show me how that I predicted here, or anywhere else, that the Arctic sea ice would melt by 2015 +/- 3 years or something along those lines. Please don’t use Goddard’s claim of what I said as he posted something not true.Report

      • Avatar Morat20 says:

        I’m glad you’ve brought the conspiracy to our attention. Thousands of climate scientists, either mustache-twirling villians enlisted in an eco-conspiracy of terror — or incompetent morons who forgot to think about the sun.

        I’m not sure there’s an eyeroll big enough for your position. I’m afraid I might sprain my eyes trying.Report

        • Avatar DensityDuck says:

          …you know there aren’t “thousands” of climate scientists, right? There’s like twenty, and they don’t all agree.Report

          • Avatar Kazzy says:

            Only twenty people in the entirety of the world study the climate? There have been more Popes than that.Report

          • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

            If there’s 20, where’s the list?Report

          • Avatar Liberty60 says:

            Yep, there isn’t a consensus among scientists; in fact, there is a growing controversy over whether Galileo was wrong-

            The Commie-dems* are furiously spinning, trying to shout down and drown out the growing objections to Secular Progressive Heliocentrism (SPH)

            Turns out, there are scientists who take issue with the Lamestream Media’s insistence on the now-discredited SPH; so really, we should teach the controversy, and let people make up there own minds as to whether the earth revolves around the sun, or vice versa.

            Now, as for that so-called “Round Earth” theory…

            *Look, in Mr. Cheek’s absence, someone has to hold up his end of the argument, fer cryinoutloud.Report

            • Avatar MikeSchilling says:

              “Current cosmology really has no explanation for earth’s tides.”

              It’s hard to argue with that kind of logic.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                And my cosmetologist can’t explain why I use Tide.Report

              • Avatar Morat20 says:

                I used to argue with Creationists. It got old, real quick. But I was young and bored.

                I always found Hoyle an interesting fellow. Always a go-to guy for the Old Earth Creationists, although the young-earth ones were always happy to grab him out of the closet if the Big Bang came up.

                He’s an excellent example of a scientist whose big idea didn’t pan out, and instead of letting it go, doubled-down and spent decades trying to force it to work. And now he’s best remembered by people who think the universe is 7000 years old.

                His work was about things that happened 13 billion years ago, and the people that talk approvingly about his work most often think the world is 7000 years old. Because he says the Big Bang is wrong.

                Hollywood shows us the loaners, the outsiders who get it right — against the establishment. Because that’s a good story. Lone wolf overturns the old ways, brings in the new. Beats the man!

                It’s also, you know, kinda rare. But “scientist who defies conventional wisdom is wrong” is, well, not a very good story. Nor is “scientist offers small tweak to conventional wisdom, maybe adds a new facet. Scientists mull it over. Many are convinced. Some want more tests. Will report back in two years”.

                But it’s how reality is. 🙂

                The sad thing? Apparently this is infecting the justice system. Too many CSI-style shows have jurors believing some crazy stuff about what forensics can do, and confusing “we can’t do that because that’s fiction” with “we can’t show you this proof you are asking, because we are wrong. This is the second Act of CSI, wherein we chase the wrong suspect. Save us juror!”.Report

          • Avatar Liberty60 says:

            There must be more than 20 climate scientists; Hell, there are at least that many people on any given blog post speaking with confident assurance on the hockey stick graph, temperature norming, jet stream patterns and ocean currents.

            If there were only 20 actual climate scientists, well, then that would suggest that these people are speaking out their ass.Report

          • Avatar Morat20 says:

            Did it even occur to you, for a split second, to take a second and google it real quickly, before making that statement?

            Did it not even enter your MIND that “twenty” is a ridiculously low number for what is a very, very large and important field of study? One that, even if AGW wasn’t an issue, directly relates to agriculture and weather — just to name two rather important issues?

            Apparently it didn’t. On this issue, you are so at odds with reality that you can make a claim that is utterly laughable “There’s about 20, and they don’t all agree”, and it doesn’t even occur to you that you might be just a wee bit wrong.

            Jesus, the IPCC alone involved thousands of scientists in one role or another.

            And you know what? I have no doubt that even though your estimate is off by orders of magnitude, that your statement there is on the lines of telling astronomers to shut up about what causes supernova because “The sun revolves around the Earth, you guys are so wrong about everything” — you won’t even for a second stop and think “Wait, how did I get that so dang wrong? I mean, I’m like bizarro world wrong on a simple fact.”

            You certainly won’t question whatever dodgy source gave you THAT number.Report

    • Avatar Pyre says:

      Nope, you’re not.

      On the other hand, if I’m interpreting this correctly:

      and extrapolating what this will likely mean for the later cycle based on previous years:

      even if we beat out 2007, the worst will be that we will dip below 4.1 million kilometers. We might even touch 4 million kilometers. However, the claim of an ice-free arctic by October of this year seems alarmist especially if September is where the ice starts expanding.Report

  2. Avatar Bob Wallace says:

    Roger, the 3 to 4% number you found is a two dimensional measurement of the Arctic sea ice. Ice has three dimensions. Thickness is a very important measurement and should not be ignored.

    Here, let me copy down the link that you should check. It will show you what is happening when we do a complete measurement of the ice.

    Think about what only a two dimensional measurement doesn’t tell you. I’ve got a small pond outside my window that freezes of 100% every winter. Several times each winter, because the ice never gets thick enough to withstand a few above freezing days.

    Most likely we’ll see great (two dimensional) areas of the Arctic Ocean covered with ice for many winters to come. But when we loose enough thickness then we’ll see the Arctic Ocean become ice free during summers.

    No joke….Report

    • Avatar DensityDuck says:

      Your argument would be more meaningful if the articles talking about decline weren’t all basing their estimates on extent.Report

  3. Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

    Okay – so let’s say these predictions are correct (I am not smart enough to assess them). What is the earth going to look like in 10 years? Do winters go away? This summer has been the hottest in KY since 1936. Should I expect more of the same? Or is any of the science in The Day After Tomorrow accurate?Report

    • Avatar greginak says:

      Losing sea ice will lead to more warming. The current trends will increase and makes continuing warming much more likely. Screw TDAT.Report

      • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

        Well that sucks. I hate hot weather. I could have tolerated another ice age.Report

        • Avatar Will H. says:

          From what I can tell, from over the past few years, the jetstream is affected.
          One side of the planet gets the heat, and the other gets a wetter-than-usual summer.Report

        • Avatar Kimmi says:

          move north, and the ducks and plants will follow as they can. (we have a lot of biodiversity up in pittsburgh’s area. plenty of things you’d recognize)Report

    • Avatar Bob Wallace says:

      Current thinking is that as we warm the Arctic we will see longer periods of heat and longer periods of cold. The hot times will be some hotter and the cold periods some warmer.

      That means more extreme heat waves like we’ve seen this year with “Summer in March” and the heat wave that’s been cooking most of the nation.

      The extra heat is causing the atmosphere to hold more moisture, until conditions are right for rain or snow. So more of the “100 year” and “500 year” floods like we’ve been having. More Snowmaggedons. It will still get cold enough to snow in most of the places where it has snowed before, but there will often be higher amounts falling.

      More droughts, like what Texas just went through. Crop and cattle operations will be hurt. Food prices will rise. (Remember how this spring’s early heat caused a lot of the fruit trees to bloom and then when it turned cold again a lot of the blossoms froze? We lost at least 10% of the year’s crop.)

      All in all, the weather will most likely get more extreme. We’ll have more weather related deaths. Property and infrastructure damage will increase. We’ll spend more tax money cleaning up messes and face higher insurance costs.

      Let’s put aside the liberal/conservative stuff and talk smart business.

      A smart business person would look at a situation that is likely to cause them some significant losses down the road and get busy trying to prevent those losses. That, IMO, is what we should be doing. Acting like smart business people.Report

      • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

        “Current thinking is that as we warm the Arctic we will see longer periods of heat and longer periods of cold. “

        So basically Game of Thrones?Report

        • Avatar Bob Wallace says:

          Sorry, don’t know that program.

          Think about it this way.

          First, there is a distribution of daily temperatures from cold to hot. They might plot out something like our friend the bell curve. That curve is getting shifted to the right, to the hot side. We’ll see hotter hot days (we’re setting new high temperature records at a very high rate), but we’ll still see some cold days (we’re setting few new low temperature records).

          Second, we’ll have longer “strings” of hot days and cold days. Heat spells, rather than hanging around for 3-4 days will hang around for longer periods, letting the heat build and stressing us out. We may see longer strings of cold weather, I just don’t know about that bit.Report

          • Avatar Bob Wallace says:

            This just hit the news…

            “The United States Department of Agriculture has declared natural disaster areas in more than 1,000 counties and 26 drought-stricken states, making it the largest natural disaster in America ever.

            The declaration—which covers roughly half of the country—gives farmers and ranchers devastated by drought access to federal aid, including low-interest emergency loans.”


            Drought = less food production = higher food prices at the grocery store and at restaurants.

            More federal aid going to ranchers and farmers to help them pull through. Another drain on the budget.

            Prevention. We need to practice prevention.Report

            • Avatar CK MacLeod says:

              Your own example shows that we haven’t and we won’t start practicing prevention until it’s no longer definable as prevention strictly speaking. That is, we won’t start practicing comprehensive and systematic prevention until we’re preventing more of something that even the wardsmiths of the world – or most of them – are no longer bothering to argue against, or are too embarrassed or afraid to argue against, while their counterparts in the real world are too embarrassed or afraid to campaign and fight against.

              Our system and the world system such as it is are designed that way – to block comprehensive, systematic, sovereignty-infringing, inconvenient and costly action until the consensus for it is more or less overwhelming, and consensus of this type is unlikely to arise until externally motivated. This would be true not just because it will take external and concrete events to convince people, but because it will likely take fear to motivate people to fight and defeat likely violent resistance from the un-convinced.

              Seems to me the only two alternatives are 1) you’re wrong, and the effects won’t really be very dramatic, so no big whoops and never mind, or 2) a miraculous change of human consciousness and human nature globally.Report

              • Avatar North says:

                There are some uttely critical clashes on the matter. If I was a third world country on the way up out of starvation and poverty and some western yuppies landed in jets and informed me I had to shut down the power plant or else the world would end I’d reach for a gun too.Report

              • Avatar CK MacLeod says:

                I don’t think 3rd world countries would be the main impediment to coping with the ecological problem by the time it became a disaster for the 1st world, though China and India do serve as convenient excuses in the meantime. If it wasn’t them, it’d be something else, I suspect.Report

              • Avatar North says:

                True, technically 3rd world countries aren’t the problem but for the purpose of my argument I’d define 3rd world countries as being countries that wish/need to use environmentally dirty industries and methods to advance their economies into modern levels in which case both China and India would count.

                In either case absolutely they make a good excuse but the point is salient. If you enact regulation in modern economies and maintain free trade then the GDP will simply move to non-modern economies (and pollute even more than if it’d remained in the modern one). If you try and cut back on free trade in the name of the environment the non-modern economies can (rightly) demand to know why they must pay for the modern nations history of pollution. And of course you usher in trade wars and stop global economic development in its tracks and start setting the stage for problems that humans would find considerably more worrisome than global warming.Report

              • Avatar CK MacLeod says:

                Since my belief is that nothing very significant will happen until and unless it’s “too late” (in a way this is NOT an unreasonable way for mass human societies to operate), I can assess the mechanism you describe as an aspect of the normal process of externalization operating in a theoretically post-external or closed global environment. It should help to impede efforts to think through actually effective and implementable “prevention.”Report

              • Avatar North says:

                You and I sit in mutual cynical agreement on the likelyhood of any “prevention” occurring.Report

              • Avatar Will H. says:

                I don’t think it’s non-viable as much an unimplemented.
                The systems for power plants are far above what is commonly implemented in the US.
                Rail produces less carbon emissions than air travel, but I don’t see people crying out for better rail service.

                I think the issue with 3rd world nations is one of a lag time of implementing technology.
                Reducing that lag time appears feasible, though it would come with a cost.Report

              • Avatar Bob Wallace says:

                Most Americans haven’t experienced “better rail service”.

                I had the opportunity to ride HSR in France this spring. I’m now a big fan of HSR. I’d much rather take HSR for moderate length trips than fly.Report

              • Avatar Bob Wallace says:

                I can see that, but that is not what is happening.

                The undeveloped countries are leap-frogging to renewables just like they jumped from (essentially) no phones to cell phones. I travel a bit in less developed countries. I was amazed to see how fast cell phones showed up in places like Thailand and India while they were still rare in the US. We had land lines, going to a cell was redundant. Other countries had few land lines, going cell was cheaper than stringing wire.

                Same thing is happening with renewables. Indonesia and a couple African countries are installing a lot of geothermal. India is putting wind and solar in places where their grids haven’t served (or have greatly under served).

                India will shut down it’s coal plants and diesel generators, not because some jet-flying yuppie gets on their case but because renewables are cheaper than transporting coal and diesel.Report

              • Avatar North says:

                And if renewables get to that level great but as far as I’ve seen they haven’t yet reached the point where they’re better than fossil fuel for providing energy. It’s when we try forcing underdeveloped economies to be ecological that the questions of the morality of it come up.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                I was amazed to see how fast cell phones showed up in places like Thailand and India while they were still rare in the US.

                When I was in Dubai, I was delighted to see hand-cart jockeys–one of the most menial and least modern of jobs–sitting on their carts during slow periods and texting on their cell phones.Report

              • Avatar North says:

                There are huge warts of global capitalism but we shouldn’t ever forget that we’re seeing skin with warts on what was previously bleached bones.Report

              • Avatar Bob Wallace says:

                “Seems to me the only two alternatives are 1) you’re wrong, and the effects won’t really be very dramatic, so no big whoops and never mind, or 2) a miraculous change of human consciousness and human nature globally.”

                I’m going with 2b.

                Another good dose of pain (some more heat waves, some more massive floods, some more droughts, and some “Dang, what’s a derecho and why did one just wipe me out?” and we’ll get serious.

                We could get ourselves totally off fossil fuels in 20 years if we were the “world’s most efficient pump” (a scared guy with a bucket on a sinking boat).


                I doubt we’ll move that fast, but with the way wind and solar prices are dropping and considering how low tech they are to install I think we’ll start moving fast.

                Fast enough to save ourselves? That we won’t know until many years down the road….Report

              • Avatar CK MacLeod says:

                I meant “the only two alternatives other than being forced to act by actual disruption of business as usual.” So we can number them 1) there is no real problem 2) harmonic convergence unprecedented in human history, 3) only after it may be “too late” in critical respects.

                What I’m suggesting is that people who are convinced that crisis is coming within a relatively short time frame might want to prepare for #3 in its various dimensions rather than focus on measures that are either un-serious or extremely unlikely to be adopted, though I recognize that proposing prevention that “would have worked” and that seems almost doable can still serve a function.Report

        • Avatar North says:

          Winter is leaving.Report

      • Avatar DensityDuck says:

        “A smart business person would look at a situation that is likely to cause them some significant losses down the road and get busy trying to prevent those losses. ”

        A really smart businessperson would multiple those losses by the percentage chance of occurrence, then compare that number to the cost of mitigation. If the latter is larger than the former, then it’s not smart to spend the money on mitigation.Report

        • Avatar Bob Wallace says:

          That is correct.

          So, here’s my take. The probability that we’re going to essentially ruin the planet for human existence as we know is is higher than 90% if we continue to burn fossil fuels at our current rate.

          Cost of switching to renewables = A trillion dollars up to a few trillion dollars*.

          The cost of wrecking the planet > Many, many, many trillions of dollars.

          Many, many, many trillions * 0.9 > a few trillion dollars.

          *Do remember that all the existing fossil fuel infrastructure that we have now will wear out over the next 1 to 50 years. We will be replacing it anyway. We can replace with renewables for the same amount or less. The extra cost of mitigation is mostly to get the process moving faster.

          My trillions are obviously ‘back of the envelope’ numbers….Report

          • Avatar Pyre says:

            So it comes down to wreck the economy now or wreck the planet later?

            (Tried looking for some figures on what it would cost to transition but all the figures fall into either “All the jobs that are created will bring in so much money that there will be no economic pain whatsoever” or “The green economy will have us living in mud huts and eating dirt.” style of rhetoric.)Report

            • Avatar Bob Wallace says:

              I really can’t see how we could possibly “wreck” the economy.

              We would be spending money offshore for solar and wind since we’ve let much of our in-country manufacturer wither. That would be a cost. On the other hand we spend about a billion dollars a day for imported oil and that would be money saved.

              I’d guess a balance of trade balance, or close to. Remember, that billion per day continues to be savings long after we’ve made the switch.

              Additionally, we replace a portion of the generation infrastructure every year. Coal plants, nuclear reactors, cars – all that wears out and gets replaced. So as long as the replacement costs are somewhat similar a hunk of the changeover costs nothing additional.

              What have we spent on three oil wars? Aren’t we up around $9 trillion? Need to credit changeover with the future savings of not fighting another oil war. We could save hundreds of billions more by being able to pull some or all of our military presence out of the Middle East. We might even save some on Homeland Security if we got out of certain countries.

              Then, let’s look at rooftop solar. Right now in parts of the US PV solar has reached grid parity for retail users. You can put panels on your roof and pay for them out of electricity bill savings. Then after the system is paid off in a few years you will get to enjoy many years (30+) of free electricity. That sort of smart investing hardly wrecks either the country or personal budget.

              I just can’t see “wreck the economy” as being a possibility.Report

              • Avatar Pyre says:

                Fair enough but the cost to replace an oil/gas/coal is a lot larger than you’re making it out to be.

                I looked into solar when I got my townhome (was mostly looking for a portable generator as my homeowner’s wouldn’t allow me to mount panels so the best I could do was either the “soft” panels or that largish briefcase sized thing that I saw once but have never found again.) and it is not as cost-effective as you make it out to be.

                Looking at my electric bill for the year, my peak electric use was during January at an average of 18KWH per day and my low is 11 kwh so, to completely power my home, I have to be able to produce 18KWH. For argument’s sake, we’ll say that my city will buy excess electricity and that I average out at 15 KWH. Having taken a look through businesses that install in the Springs, I’m going with AC Solar because they give me figures for the Federal Tax Credit and the Solar Rebate.

                Cost of a 21 KWH on-grid system=29548.00
                Solar Rebate (1.50 per watt)=(7560.00)
                Federal Tax Credit (30%)=(6596.00)
                Final Price=15392.00

                So, presuming that my utilities company pays back a rate that is comparable with my rate including access charges, they’d be paying me $15 on average and I’d be saving $60 for a net of $75 per month. I have an electric water heater so no real savings on gas.

                This gives me a total of 900 per year. In order to pay off the initial investment, I would have to live in this house and have no mishaps with the panels for 17.1 years.

                Yes, the life expectancy is 20-40 years but how many people live in the same place for 20-40 years. I have never lived in one place for 17.1 years much less half-all my life. Given the job market in the Springs, having to live in this house for three years to avoid paying back the first time homebuyers credit has been an issue. Given that the housing market is still feh, I’d have a hard time adding the remaining cost of the solar panels into my asking price for selling my home.

                Currently, rooftop solar does not pay off in a “few years” even with rebates and it is certainly not on parity in my part of the country. I looked at Solarworld because they have their map which brags about how much their systems save in various parts of the country. Even with the assumed annual increase of 6%, none of them could fully power my home and, even in the sunniest parts of the country, the lowest payback rate is 7 years.

                This is presuming that I have 30K to drop on a new system. Sure, I’d get a lot of it back (at the speed of most government refunds) but that doesn’t make the initial outlay any less daunting. I don’t know how much you make but I can’t afford to drop 30k. It is also not smart money to get into a payment plan that jacks the total cost up 1.5 to twice the initial payment.

                I like solar. I really do. I think it is the eventual way of the future if only because it is, in essence, free energy with minimal to no damage to the environment. If I had a full house with a porch, I might dabble in small solar generators (although a lot of panels don’t generate enough to run a 170 watt Xbox360 very long) but, as of now, solar simply isn’t a cost-effective alternative to the current utilities setup.Report

              • Avatar Bob Wallace says:

                I think you failed to divide your system size needs by the average daily solar hours for your area. You average 15kWh per day and I don’t see where you live, so let’s use a conservative 4.5 hour average for the moderately sunny parts of the lower 48. You need about a 3.3kW system.

                Here’s a solar insolation map.

                First quarter 2011 US average installed price was $4.44/W. The 30% federal discount drops that to 3.11/W. Your solar rebate ($1.50/W) brings the price to $1.61/W.

                I took those numbers and plugged them into a LCOE (levelized cost of energy) calculator. Looking at a 20 year financing at 6%, 4.5 solar hours your cost of electricity over the 20 years would be $0.087/kWh. That would be a fixed number for the 20 years.

                Assuming your cost of electricity is the nation average of $0.12/kWh and inflation over the next 20 years is 3% the average cost of purchasing power would be $0.157/kWh.

                Solar would cut the price of power by 45%.

                Here’s the LCOE calculator.


                I’ll let you take issue with my use of the word “few”. I’ll let you calculate payback time. Most payback times I’ve seen are less than ten years and ten vs. thirty to forty at least approaches few in my book.

                As for not staying in your home long term, that seems to not be an issue. We’ve got only one large scale study of which I’m aware. (Just found a second while looking for details.)

                “The National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) recently released an analysis that found solar panels add between 3 percent and 4 percent to the value of a home. That result is consistent with a study released in April by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory which found that solar photovoltaic (PV) panels have a “sizeable effect” on home prices.”

                “The authors calculated that, on average, solar Photovoltaic (PV) panels could add about $5.50 per watt to a home’s resale value. This means that the owner of a typical solar home with a 3.1-kilowatt pv system stands to make an extra $17,000 above the cost of a comparable, non-solar home.”


              • Avatar Pyre says:

                Fair enough. I’ve plugged in the solar zone 3 (Colorado Springs) into the calculations.

                Once again, I’m going with AC Solar’s figure for the 5.04 KW system but I will plug in the 5 hour of daylight figure instead of their estimated figure.


                Cost of a 5.04 (25.20 KWH) on-grid system=29548.00
                Solar Rebate (1.50 per watt)=(9064.75)
                Federal Tax Credit (30%)=(6596.00)
                Final Price=13887.25

                Average savings per month:
                $60+$36 (once again, I’m doing a slightly higher price that includes access charges as part of what they’d pay back.)
                $96 total per month.
                $1152 savings per year.

                Break even point: 12.05 years

                This is without financing. A 20 year loan of $30000 at 6% has a total cost of $51583.04. If you refinanced after 5 monthes (Took 4-6 months for people to get their first time homebuyers so I presume Federal Rebate would work the same) under the same standard loan conditions:
                327.91 applied to principal during 5 monthes.
                29672.09 principal left
                (9064.75) solar rebate
                (6596.00) federal tax credit
                14011.34 new Principal
                Total cost of new loan at 20 years and 6% Interest
                cost of earlier 5 month payments: 1074.65
                Total cost of panels with financing: 25166.23


                This is why I wanted to go with straight cost as financing makes things more depressing.Report

              • Avatar Bob Wallace says:

                Test post.

                The replies I’ve made via email are not showing up.Report

              • Avatar Bob Wallace says:

                OK, let me do this and then I’ll turn off my subscription to this discussion. It’s too hard to find comments when the number is so high and responding by email isn’t working for me.

                A daily average of 15kWh and a 5 hour solar day means that you need a 3kW system.

                3kW * $5.04/W = $15,120 (3,000 * $5.04)
                $15,120 – (3,000 * $1.50) = $10,620 (reducing by rebate)
                $10,620 * 0.7 = $7,434 (allowing for 30% tax rebate)

                $7,434 financed for 20 years at 6% = $53.26 payments.

                I think you say you’re paying $60 per month now? But that does not include rising costs over the years. You would be locking in your monthly electricity bill at $53.26.

                I posted a bunch of stuff about how installed solar systems are shown to be adding more to the selling price of homes than what they cost.

                Here’s one study –

                There’s a more recent which builds on these findings. Just google a bit. I’m out of here.Report

              • Avatar Pyre says:

                Your math is off. The 5.04 is the KW for the system. It is not a price per watt. Link is up there as to the system prices and what the figures mean.

                I’m honestly not sure what your math is trying to show me but you aren’t working with the actual price of the system.

                No, it doesn’t include rising costs. I’ve already said as much. Math that uses predictions is, at best, fuzzy math and, at worst, outright lies. Yes, I believe the price will go up but that doesn’t matter to the here and now.

                I have googled a bit. At this point, you’re ducking the question. I’ve actually skewed my equations to favor going solar and the math is still working out to 12.05 years in Colorado Springs as the breakeven point. The 3-4% (Presuming my homeowner’s association didn’t forbid such things) would only add 3600-4800 to my townhome plus that’s in San Diego. Colorado Springs housing is 52% as expensive as San Diego housing so that figure declines to $2513-$3351 and that’s without CNN Money’s report that housing in San Diego is, on average, 28% overvalued.

                I could go on but the thing is that you’re doing the exact thing that has allowed the AGW crowd to flourish. You’re skipping key facts (price of the system, both upfront and financing) in favor of fuzzy math figures that favor your point of view. I’ve given you my figures and laid them out as to what they mean and your counters do not address such figures.

                To argue solar effectively, you have to prove to the guy who is looking at AC Solar’s prices and saying “That’s a lot of money to put down” and prove to them that this figure will pay off within a reasonable amount of time. Going into unrelated “per watt” calculations convinces noone because they’ll say “I’m only saving 3 cents a watt. Hell, I’ll just go with my utilities rather than pay that much upfront or add another financing charge to my home payment.”Report

          • Avatar DensityDuck says:

            “The probability that we’re going to essentially ruin the planet for human existence as we know is is higher than 90% if we continue to burn fossil fuels at our current rate.”

            Got a link for that?Report

            • Avatar Bob Wallace says:

              That is a dishonest “quote”.

              Here is what I posted – “So, here’s my take. The probability that we’re going to essentially ruin the planet for human existence as we know is is higher than 90% if we continue to burn fossil fuels at our current rate.”

              You edited out the part that stated that 90% was my personal estimate.Report

              • Avatar DensityDuck says:

                So, no, you don’t have a link.Report

              • Avatar Bob Wallace says:

                A link to my opinion?

                What kind of a question is that? Some sort of attempted cover for your dishonest quote?Report

              • Avatar DensityDuck says:

                See that part earlier where I said that a Smart Business Person would ask for hard numbers before making a decision?

                I’m asking if you have hard numbers, and you do not. You have “gut feelings” and “opinions” and “instinct” and “my take”. You bring that to a Smart Business Person and he’ll tell you to get bent.

                I mean, let’s just be aware, here, that you’re rolling out actual numbers and using those to say that it’s stupid to not do something, and when I asked if you had a source for those numbers you called me dishonest.Report

              • Avatar Bob Wallace says:

                You want hard numbers for my opinion?

                OK, at least 97% of all climate scientists agree that the planet is warming and that humans are the critical cause.

                Would you like links to global temperature? To Arctic sea ice volume loss? To the physics of CO2? Those are the things on which I base my opinion.

                BTW, I did not call you dishonest. I demonstrated that you dishonestly represented what I posted.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                But you don’t have anything like hard numbers for your probability of ruining the planet for human existence. “the planet is warming and humans are the cause” is a far cry from being equal to “ruining the planet for human existence.”

                This gets back to the issue of scientific certainty. While some aspects of AGW are certain, this kind if claim absolutely is not, and you’re asking for drastic costly action based not on certain science but on your mere opinion.

                Can you see why some of us might be just a little bu hesitant?Report

              • Avatar Liberty60 says:

                This is why I get tired of fixating on global warming, as the single issue of environmental sustainability. As if, absent global warming, everything else we do is just fine.

                “But you don’t have anything like hard numbers for your probability of ruining the planet for human existence. ”

                Are you seriously trying to assert that our industrial processes are not ruining the planet for human existence?Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:


                Yes, I am seriously asserting that. I think we can do great harm that causes substantial decline in the human population, but I don’t think human existence is threatened. Our entire history demonstrates tharpt we’re an impressively adaptable species. I find it hard to believe that a precise that colonized environments ranging from the arctics to the Mohave to the tropics is going to be wiped out by a few degrees rise in temperature; even if the consequences are severe enough that Kansas is a barren desert and Florida disappears.Report

              • Avatar Kimmi says:

                HARD NUMBERS? how much beachfront property has Wall Street bought in Cleveland? (look it up)
                There’s your fucking hard numbers.

                end of message.Report

    • Avatar Scott says:


      “Or is any of the science in The Day After Tomorrow accurate?” I guess it depends on whether you are asking Al Gore or someone else.Report

  4. Avatar Bob Wallace says:

    Robert, are you using the definition of conservative v.1?

    Conservative v.2, the one we now have operating isn’t interested in drawing up plans to relocate or evacuate people in low-lying coastal regions if sea rise begins to accelerate. In this version of conservatism it’s every man for himself and let the rich pick the bones of those who don’t make it.

    Old time conservatives used to value the community. That attitude is no longer operative. Conservatism is no longer about conserving, it’s about personal greed (with a fair amount of hate of others thrown in).

    Now, I’m applauding you for figuring out that ice has three dimensions and a very critical dimension is declining at an alarming rate, but take your understanding further please. Learn what it will mean if we simply relocate to higher ground and await the globe’s self-corrective measures.

    It will be a long, long, long wait and a very, very nasty condition in which we try to hang on. Check around and see what the planet would be like with a 12 degree C warmup.

    It’s not enough to depend on individuals changing their behavior. Far too many of us are short-sighted. Far too many of us are too greedy. What we are facing is not unlike seeing a very powerful nation gearing up to invade us. We can’t defend ourselves, our planet, with the disorganized action of the few. We’ve got to get everyone on board.Report

    • Avatar James K says:

      We can’t defend ourselves, our planet, with the disorganized action of the few. We’ve got to get everyone on board.

      You’re probably right about that, but let me ask you a simple question with a difficult answer – how? Every anti-climate change measure that has been implemented so far anywhere in the world has been a joke and the reason for that is that no one is prepared to pay the massive cost of actually fixing this problem.

      The reason I tend to be sympathetic to geoenginnering is that it may be able to buy us a little time. I think the only viable solutions here are technological, until we can make abandoning carbon less expensive it will be politically impossible to actually do it.Report

      • Avatar Bob Wallace says:

        I don’t see that every anti-climate change measure has been a joke. The US hasn’t done a lot but other parts of the world are charging ahead with installing renewable energy and decreasing their fossil fuel use.

        Think about the issue, put on your smart business britches. Robert’s telling you that we’re looking at relocating all our coastal infrastructure (many of our major cities) to higher ground if we let Greenland melt out on us.

        The most likely way to avoid those trillions and trillions and trillions of dollar expenses is to spend some billions installing wind, solar, geothermal, etc. generation and getting off fossil fuels. I don’t remember the estimates offhand, but from a business perspective doesn’t it make sense to invest a billion to save a trillion? Or invest a billion to save a few billion?

        I’d be more sympathetic to geo-engineering if we had a good, workable plan. So far I know of only three.

        We can paint a lot of roofs white, install light/white shingles. This will help, but it’s not enough.

        We can blast lots of sulfur dioxide (SO2) into the air. That’s what we did right after WWII when we greatly cranked up our rate of burning coal and created a cooling period sometimes referred to as the Global Dimming. But SO2 doesn’t stay up there, it comes down as acid rain which ruins forests and lakes and damages human health.

        We can put mirrors into orbit and reflect some sunlight away. But that would be a very expensive undertaking from what I’ve read. It would be a lot cheaper to just install renewables.

        Perhaps science will come up with a good way to engineer our way out of this mess, but then science may not. I don’t think we can risk waiting to see if scientists figure out a different solution. We need to get cracking and install renewables.

        (We’re going to run out of coal and oil anyway. Won’t hurt us to drastically cut our usage early.)Report

        • Avatar Simon K says:

          The rest of the world’s efforts may look impressive but in practice the impact is tiny. Very few countries even came close to meeting their Kyoto-prescribed goals. Those – like the UK – that came close, did so mainly by switching power generation from coal to gas. Countries like China, Australia and Canada that would have suffered any impact from trying to meet goals imply ignored them or refused to sign up.Report

          • Avatar Simon K says:

            To be clear, even meeting the Kyoto goals, even if the US, China, Australia and Canada participated fully, would be grossly inadequate according to the mid-line IPCC projections.Report

        • Avatar James K says:

          I don’t see that every anti-climate change measure has been a joke. The US hasn’t done a lot but other parts of the world are charging ahead with installing renewable energy and decreasing their fossil fuel use.

          I’ve seen a few (heavily subsidised) renewable schemes, but I’m not aware of any genuine reductions in CO2 that aren’t just a product of the economic cycle (you’d expect CO2 output to fall in a recession, but it will come back again when the economy recovers).

          The most likely way to avoid those trillions and trillions and trillions of dollar expenses is to spend some billions installing wind, solar, geothermal, etc. generation and getting off fossil fuels. I don’t remember the estimates offhand, but from a business perspective doesn’t it make sense to invest a billion to save a trillion? Or invest a billion to save a few billion?

          Ah, if only it were that simple. The trouble is that you’re modelling the entire world as if it were one decision-making entity, when that’s not a good picture of how decisions are made. It might make sense to spend a billion to save a trillion, but it makes even more sense to get someone else to spend a billion to save you a trillion. Climate change can only be solved by altruistic coordinated action among sovereign governments, in an environment where self-interested calculation is the norm. Every country has an incentive to hang back and let everyone else pay the price for fixing climate change, and in an environment like that no one ends up doing anything.

          Perhaps science will come up with a good way to engineer our way out of this mess, but then science may not. I don’t think we can risk waiting to see if scientists figure out a different solution. We need to get cracking and install renewables.

          Until renewables are cheaper that’s not going to happen. At this point government effort should be focused on ways of making carbon-zero energy cheaper (without actually subsiding it, as that’s not a sustainable solution). If that happens quickly, great. If not, then we may need geoengineering as a backstop, though I’m not disputing any of the problems you raise with using geoengineering.Report

          • Avatar North says:

            Yeah James, global environmental politics are an utterly awful prisoners dillemma.Report

            • Avatar James Hanley says:

              To be precise, an n-player prisoner’s dilemma, which dramatically multiplies the transaction and monitoring costs.Report

          • Avatar Bob Wallace says:

            If you will look at the data you’ll see that most (close to all) developed countries are moving forward with renewable energy. No one is moving fast enough, but all changes tend to start slow and then accelerate.

            The under developed world may, in fact, move to renewables faster than developed countries. They have very little fossil fuel capacity to “abandon”.

            People in far from the grid often rely on kerosene for home lighting. New programs are bringing them “pay as you use” micro solar systems which give them much better quality light and the ability to charge a cell phone for less than the weekly cost of kerosene.

            Up a step at the village/small town level, many local grids are run with diesel generators. Those people pay more per kWh for their electricity than just about anywhere else in the world. Solar/wind/storage is a bargain for them.

            China and India are moving to renewables on their “big grids” because the cost of coal has become very high. The coal itself is fairly cheap, but it takes a lot of expensive oil to get coal either from their own mines or from foreign countries to the places they want to generate power.

            We’re going slow in the US largely because we have some very rich people who are in the coal business funding efforts to slow renewables. That should not be new news for you.

            The price of solar is falling very fast. Solar panels are now under $1/Watt and on the way to half that in the next few years. Once we get installed solar prices down to about what Germans pay (~$2.50/W) from our ~$4.50/W people are going to install solar like gangbusters. Coal, while it can mess with renewable subsidies, will not be able to stop individual installations.Report

            • Avatar James K says:

              If you will look at the data you’ll see that most (close to all) developed countries are moving forward with renewable energy. No one is moving fast enough, but all changes tend to start slow and then accelerate.

              My understanding is that they’re only progressing with substantial subsidies, which is a problem because you can only subsidise power generation while it remains a sideshow. The main event has to compete with fossil fuels unsubsidised.

              The price of solar is falling very fast. Solar panels are now under $1/Watt and on the way to half that in the next few years. Once we get installed solar prices down to about what Germans pay (~$2.50/W) from our ~$4.50/W people are going to install solar like gangbusters. Coal, while it can mess with renewable subsidies, will not be able to stop individual installations.

              This is very good news, if trends continue (always a dangerous thing to assume of course), then we’ll reach a point where the political problems become moot and fossil fuels will become mostly obsolete on their own. I imagine fossil fuels will remain popular for some applications (such as aviation fuel) for quite some time, but as long as consumption drops sufficiently that doesn’t really matter.Report

            • Avatar Pyre says:

              Also, with China, I got into the whole industrial pollution argument thing which prompted me to look up ye olde science links. Unfortunately, I don’t have all the links but, doing a quick Google, I’ve come up with this chart from the Guardian which kind of illustrates the point.


              China, regardless of what changes they’re making, had been increasing their output by the same amount as Canada’s total output per year from 2005-2008 and then they accelerated.

              Now, I realize that there are other factors going into this and I can’t be arsed to make this a research project but I don’t think you’re going to see China becoma a “clean” energy nation…or even reverse the rate of pollutants that they spit into the air for many years to come.Report

              • Avatar Bob Wallace says:

                China is producing a lot of pollutants. Of course much less per person than the US, so it depends on how you pitch your argument.

                China is also being very aggressive about cleaning up their act. China has passed the US in terms of installed wind. A couple years back they set a 2015 goal of having 5GW of installed solar. The recently cranked that goal up to 21GW ( 1GW of thermal solar).

                China has also announced that they are capping the amount of coal that can be burned per year starting in 2015. That has put industries on notice that they have to change their focus to renewable energy if they want to expand.

                China has been building some coal plants but they have been ‘state of the art’/efficient plants and they have shut down around 9,000 dirty coal plants.

                It’s extremely unlikely that China will ever get as dirty – per person – as are the US and Canada. And I expect they’ll soon have more renewables – per person – than the US.

                We should have, by now, learned to not sell China short. They’re busy eating our lunch and eyeing our dinner….Report

              • Avatar Pyre says:

                China is producing much less per person and you could also argue that, since a lot of their energy is spent producing products for export, it’s actually even lower than the total/per person figures would have you believe. However, if you go off per person figures, then Australia per person is currently 111% dirtier than the U.S. and, when you start getting into really low population regions such as the Virgin Islands or Gibraltar, you really get into the multipliers.

                To an extent, per person is just a way to shift blame and has little to do with what I’m saying. China isn’t going to give up their manufacturing base anytime soon and, as we’re seeing with them cornering the Rare Earths market and selling manufactured goods instead of exporting raw materials, their power needs aren’t going to go down either.

                Plus, China’s cap in 2015 is going to be 4.1 billion tons and they’ve said that it is a target but not a hard cap. Their current usage is 3.48 billion tons.

                I stand by my statement. It’s going to be years before their emissions start declining much less before they become a “green” nation.Report

              • Avatar Bob Wallace says:

                It seems to me that not to divide total emissions by population numbers is a way to shift blame away from countries such as the US.

                We’ve got different numbers for China’s coal cap/target.

                “China, the world’s biggest user and producer of coal, will limit domestic output and consumption of the commodity in the five years through 2015 to reduce pollution and curb reliance on the fuel.

                Production and demand will be restricted to about 3.9 billion metric tons a year by 2015, according to a five-year plan for the coal industry released by the National Energy Administration at a briefing in Beijing today.”


                Obviously we’ll have to wait to see what actually happens to China’s emissions but I think they will start falling soon. Capping coal, installing lots of wind and solar, building dams, building nuclear reactors – all that cuts emissions.

                Add to that the fact that we’re starting to see Chinese citizens begin to put pressure on the government to clean up the environment. The Chinese have moved past the point where life was a daily struggle to provide themselves food. Now they have the luxury of working to improve other aspects of their lives.Report

          • Avatar BlaiseP says:

            Dynamical systems get in trouble and they can’t be rescued. This isn’t a car engine where you might retorque a few bolts. No remedial measures can possibly put all that ice back onto the glaciers.

            No, we’re in for about nine million years of this. That’s my guess. Even if we shut down every fossil fuel engine and power plant in the world, the oceans will continue to warm because water is darker than ice. Enough carbon precipitate has fallen on the ice to absorb infrared and melt it.

            At this point, there’s no stopping this. The theta has already crossed the margins of cyclic stability. The top is wobbling and there’s no speeding it up to try to get it spinning correctly again. The Triassic was sorta like what we’re about to see in future, inland deserts, some life along the coast. The reptiles will do pretty well.Report

          • Avatar Will H. says:

            True enough on the aggregate, less so in the particular.
            We’re not even building enough power stations to keep up with increase in demand, much less replace existing demand.Report

    • Avatar CK MacLeod says:

      Little evidence I’ve seen indicates an ability to act ahead of incurred damage. If and when the catastrophe is well under way, when we’re taking casualties, here and now among “us” and therefore perceive the threat to be real, then and only then will we “get everyone on board.” If history is any guide, and assuming the eco-catastrophical projections are more or less correct, the relief from the burdens a peculiar model of freedom will be seen very positively by most participants, and subjective tendencies in that regard will be strongly reinforced. After however many years of collective action – typified by what today’s so-called conservatives call socialism, statism, totalitarianism, etc., names for those ideas whose deprecation also defines the system whose limits have palpably and destructively been demonstrated – if a new steady-state has been secured, then overcompensation in the other direction might become possible again.Report

  5. Avatar North says:

    Curious, if immediate switching to a reliable non-fossil fuel power source is advisable why advocate for renewables (a young and unreliable power source which generally provides no base load power*) instead of nuclear?

    *except hydro which we’re pretty much built out on.

    Other than that an interesting post, kudos.Report

    • Avatar Bob Wallace says:

      One reason, nuclear is more expensive than renewables. Don’t get mislead by the price of power from plants built many years ago. Current estimates for power from new nuclear plants runs from $0.15 to $0.25/kWh. Wind is about $0.06/kWh. Geothermal is under $0.10/kWh. Solar is about $0.15/kWh and dropping fast.

      Second reason, it takes far too long to build reactors. Wind farms are built in less than two years, some in less than one year. Large solar arrays are installed in weeks.

      Third, we don’t have enough sites for nuclear. Reactors need cooling water and they need receptive communities.

      Fourth, we don’t have enough trained and experienced nuclear engineers, technicians, and construction experts. It would take a decade or so to produce a new generation.

      The intermittent nature of wind and solar is not a problem. Our grids could accept up to 25% (Eastern grid) to 35% (Western grid) wind and solar as the grid now exists. We’ve got enough dispatchable supply (natural gas, hydro) to allow large increases in renewables before we need any more storage. (We built a lot of storage when we built nuclear, back then.)

      We’re now in the 4% – 5% range for wind, solar and geothermal on the grid. Coal is down to 32%. There’s plenty of room to install solar and shut down coal.Report

      • Avatar Simon K says:

        But you can’t carry the base load for major metropolitan areas off of solar and wind because their power output is intermittent. The only non-fossil-fuel options are solar thermal and nuclear. Solar thermal is cheaper and all-round bettter but it requires infrastructure to be created in desert areas with adequate all-round sunshine.Report

        • Avatar Simon K says:

          Oh, and hydro works too, now you mention it, but suitable areas are in short supplyReport

        • Avatar North says:

          Simon, solar thermal relies on liquid salt as I understand it (mostly for transmission and storage of the heat energy). If we assume practical liquid salt tech then yes solar thermal becomes feasible but nuclear reactors with liquid salt reactors become downright magical. A nuclear reactor with a liquid salt system could be run at essentially normal pressure (no super pressure containers and zero risk of explosive escaping radiological contaminants) and could be fuelled continuously (no down time, less wear on the equipment) plus they’d be pretty much accident proof (you have a reactor breach the salt just turns into a block rather then evaporating or running around all over the place).Report

          • Avatar Simon K says:

            I’ve seen solar thermal based on a big black box of water sitting on a pole. I’m sure liquid salt helps, but I doubt its necessary.Report

        • Avatar Bob Wallace says:

          Certainly you can Simon. Every single generation method is intermittent. Nothing runs 24/365. We engineer around that by having storage, dispatchable supply and load shifting.

          Renewables would in the short term rely on dispatchable natural gas but as the cost of storage falls we would switch to storage.

          BTW, South Australia took down all their fossil fuel generation this month. They have gone 100% fossil fuel free.Report

          • Avatar Fnord says:

            There is a practical difference between “planned shutdown for a month out of the year” and “doesn’t work at night”, even if they both, technically, qualify as intermittent.Report

            • Avatar Bob Wallace says:

              And those two Virginia reactors that went off line following the earthquake? Brown’s Ferry that went down because an engineer set the guts on fire with a candle? Davis-Bessie that went down for years (?) because a hidden leak almost melted through the containment dome? Humboldt Bay that was discovered to be sitting on top of a earthquake fault? Indian Point when the cooling tower collapsed? There are more.

              And there was Three Mile Island.Report

              • Avatar North says:

                Yes, the utter canard of Three Mile Island. The big bad pre Fukushima western disaster. What was the butchers bill on that again? Oh yeah like 4 employees got almost the maximum federally permitted radiation exposure, no documented direct fatalities and no concrete slam dunk evidence of heightened cancer incidences.

                I mean people are human and mistakes have been made but the nuclear record isn’t bad. The worst we have now is Fukushima and that took a fifty year old reactor getting hit by a tidal wave and a historic earthquake to cause. Coal kills more people in mine collapses in a year than nuclear has killed in its entire history and until renewable energy does some serious scaling up we have to run the power grid on something other than unicorn farts.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                And Fukishima’s bad effects could have been averted if they had just flooded the reactors right away.Report

              • Avatar North says:

                Yes, James very true, they were trying to salvage a workable reactor out of the incidentt poor saps. It bears repeating and emphasizing that this was a fifty year old reactor. Modern reactors are built with passively safe systems. If something goes sideways the reactions fail and the reactor goes dormant, no booms or explosions or runaway reactions.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                This topic seems to have really tapped into your area of expertise, North. I haven’t seen you this active in a debate in a long long time.

                And I didn’t know you were such an anti-environmental earth-hating conservative! 😉Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                On this score, I’m an anti-environmental earth hater too. My nephew works in the public-private renewable-technology nexus and the news on those emerging technologies is that they aren’t. Emerging, that is. From what I’ve been able to figure out on my own I have to agree with him. Nuclear is the way to go. At this point in time, given the parameters of the problem, it seems to me that it’s the only way to go.Report

              • Avatar Rufus F. says:

                I got to be honest, North, some of this stuff you guys are saying is making me skeptical. I don’t really have a dog in the fight. Most of our power here is hydroelectric because we live under an escarpment. I’ve lived in France where most of the power is nuclear. I’m okay with whatever. But, I dunno… saying that what happened in Japan would have been averted if they’d only handled it better sounds a little too good to be true.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:


                This is not an area of expertise for me, but I co-taught an Atomic Weapons and Power class last year. I handled the politics and cold war stuff, and my chemist colleague handled the science stuff. As my colleague explained it to me, Fukushima’s initial problem was the loss of backup power due to the tsunami, which put it into meltdown mode, but they had the capability of flooding the reactors with sea water and that would have cooled them and prevented meltdown. They didn’t because they were worried about the cost of losing the reactors–essentially they were caught up in crisis mode with a focus on the wrong one of the different possible bad outcomes. But the solution to meltdown, had they set aside their concerns about costs, was actually very simple. (In their case, because of their proximity to the ocean.)Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

                I don’t doubt what North says, but it just reinforces my major qualm about nuclear. While the technology can be used safely, too often the people making safety decision are going to be penny-wise, pound-foolish, irresponsible assholes. Not that it’s unique to nuclear: the Deepwater Horizon horror was caused by the same sort of calculation, that ignoring safety issues because of pressure to get the well online. The Exxon Valdez disaster was a result of the policy of under-staffing tankers, again to save money at the expense of safety. But the possible risks of nuclear accidents are even larger, and I have no faith that that that will be reflected in more care.Report

              • Avatar North says:

                Rufus, Mike your reactions and concerns are perfectly reasonable but it bears emphasizing that the major flaw of the reactor was simply that when things went sideways its default state was to get messy. Modern nuclear reactors are designed to be passively safe. What this means is that maintaining a nuclear reaction requires that perfect conditions and that when those conditions fail the result is the reaction fails and the reactor goes inert. If it simplifies it imagine the old reactors as a candle on a bale of hay. If the candle tips over there’s risk that the whole bale of hay lights up. Modern reactors replace the bale of hay with a block of ice; your candle falls over and puts itself out instead.

                James, nuclear is a hobby-passion of mine (and I’ve finally hit a lull in work); it’s the closest thing that this fiction lover can imagine to magic. It comes up infrequently so I do like chatting about it. Also I’ve found that when it comes to AGW discussions you can very rapidly figure out how serious the person is about AGW by bringing up nuclear. If they do the equivalent of standing on a chair and holding their skirts up then it’s clear they don’t consider AGW as serious as they let on. But I don’t think nuclear is necessarily conservative or even libertarian. Lord knows I think that nuclear, while viable, must always be firmly regulated.Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

                I[‘m not at all up-to-date on nuclear technology, and I’m sure that what you describe has little if anything in common with the old use of neutron-absorbing cadmium rods to damp the reaction. Still, my analogy is a fail-safe reactor melting down because that secondary backup system wasn’t fully provisioned because have you seen the price of cadmium these days?Report

              • Avatar North says:

                Mike first off thanks for giving me the excuse to talk about this subject a bit more. I understand your confusion so let me try and elaborate a bit.

                When thinking about old traditional nuclear reactors what you’re concerned about makes perfect sense. You have a big nuclear pile and left to its own devices the fissile materials natural inclination is to react and heat up and go critical. It is prevented from doing this by cadmium rods and cooling systems among other safety measures that are used to hold it back from doing what it’s naturally inclined to do (which is react and react more the hotter and more neutron rich the reaction is becoming). These reactors are considered “actively safe” in that they are under control and non dangerous as long as systems are actively working to hold them back. Of course as you posit in your scenario if some greedy or stupid idiot tries to cut corners on backup systems or safety systems the reactor is at a risk of going critical, breaching containment and contaminating the surrounding countryside.

                Modern reactors on the other hand employ what is called passive safe designs in that the reactor and the reaction inside it produces a critical reaction where a failure of control systems results in the reaction going non-critical. Pebble bed reactors, for instance, become less reactive the hotter the fuel gets so if our hypothetical idiot fishes the control systems then when the reaction gets out of control it smothers itself rather than going critical and presenting a risk of breach.

                Think of it like an eager dog on a leash (old style nuclear reactors) versus a passive donkey with a carrot (modern reactors). In this scenario the leash and the harness/carrot are the control systems. If your owner gets a cut rate leash and it busts on the dog then that dog runs hog wild, chases the cat, craps over everything and chews up your shoes. If the owner gets a cut rate harness then the donkey eats its carrot and then stands around swishing its tail at flies doing no useful work but doing no harm either. With passive nuclear design cheapness or idiocy results in damage only to the nuclear plant itself rather than to the countryside it is in. Because this passive safety is built into the very way that the modern plant functions, the very nature of its nuclear reaction, there’s no way for an idiot to accidentally cause a disaster (and very few to no ways for a malevolent actor to cause a disaster either).

                Does that help at all?Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                Modern nuclear reactors are designed to be passively safe.

                Can’t be overstated.Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

                There is no safety system so perfect that some fool can’t gut it to save a few bucks. As North says, fully regulated.Report

              • Avatar North says:

                Yes Mike, I can’t agree with you emphatically enough. As far as I know nobody has ever advocated for some kind of pure unregulated reactor industry (not even libertarians do as far as I know, the potential externalities blow the lid off it ever being able to operate independent of input and monitoring from most of the state it’s located in*).

                The point of passive systems is precisely that; that if Scrooge Mcduck or Kleetus Mcidiot throws the wrong switch (or if Hurricane Disaster lands on it) whether out of money mad greed or drunken incompetence all they end up with is that the reactor turns off and sits there.

                *Though now that I think about it I’ve never read much written about nuclear power from a libertarian perspective and that’s very much not intended as a gotcha, I’d honestly think it’d be quite interesting (Jason, James if anything hops out in your minds let me know).Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

                The point of passive systems is precisely that; that if Scrooge Mcduck or Kleetus Mcidiot throws the wrong switch (or if Hurricane Disaster lands on it) whether out of money mad greed or drunken incompetence all they end up with is that the reactor turns off and sits there.

                I don’t think we’re disagreeing, but I still want to emphasize that the issue that worries me isn’t throwing the wrong switch, it’s that when that expensive monitoring computer needs replacing, they use a refurbished PC AT.Report

              • Avatar North says:

                Yeah I don’t think we’re disagreeing. With the modern passively safe reaction if they install the cut rate PC AT into their nuclear puppy instead of crapping radioactive junk all over the county it turns itself into a brick.

                Old reactors fishup= regional calamity.
                New reactotrs fishup= calamity for the plant owners but noone else.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                Off the top of my head I’m not familiar with any libertarian writing on nuclear power. I’m sure there’s some out there, and I’d guess it’s pro-nuclear, but beyond that I’d hesitate to guess at details.

                I’m with North, the potential externalities make un-regulated nuclear power a non-starter for at least this libertarian. I’m all for close government monitoring of uranium, from mining to buying and shipping, too, since I rather think terrorists might make use of it otherwise.

                But I think North’s point is worth emphasizing; that modern designs make the consequences of bad operation non-disastrous; e.g., the cost is automatically internalized. That’s pretty cool, and that’s a perfect outcome of a regulatory scheme.Report

              • Avatar DensityDuck says:

                Seems to me that half the problem is the general public believing that a nuclear reactor is the same thing as a nuclear bomb only it’s not exploding quite as fast.Report

              • Avatar North says:

                DD, yeah that’s about a third of the problem. The other third is governmental instincts towards ass covering and the final third is an institutional environmentalism that simply can’t/won’t change course from the issues they fought in their golden youthful years.Report

              • Avatar Kimmi says:

                Quehana Natural Area. UNINHABITABLE.
                Saxton’s children wiped out.
                And never forget DETROIT — the city we almost lost.

                Nuclear is not your friend. and nuclear has been covered up to boot.

                Coal’s deadlier, sure… but don’t whitewash.Report

              • Avatar Kimmi says:

                Anyone got stats on the death rate from drinking radioactive contaminated milk from Utah?Report

              • Avatar North says:

                If you have some that’d be fascinating to see.Report

              • Avatar North says:

                But Kimmi, this is all allegedly due to fallout from nuclear bombs; that’s utterly unrelated to nuclear power generation. Believe me, I do not think that nuclear weapons are a good idea for much of anything!Report

              • Avatar Kimmi says:

                nuclear is nuclear. you got enough stuff floating out there, someone’s going to do something dangerous with it.Report

              • Avatar North says:

                That’s like blaming oil power plants for dead children because both conventional bombs and oil fuelled plants use chemical combustion. The only thing nuclear bombs and nuclear reactors have in common is that they both are fissile reactions (except of course the bombs that use fusion reactions).Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                this is all allegedly due to fallout from nuclear bombs; that’s utterly unrelated to nuclear power generation. Believe me, I do not think that nuclear weapons are a good idea for much of anything!

                Judicious application of nuclear weaponry could help address a great deal of the demand for fossil fuels.Report

              • Avatar North says:

                Well Jaybird, arguably nuclear winter could be an answer to global warming too.Report

          • Avatar James Hanley says:

            South Australia took down all their fossil fuel generation this month. They have gone 100% fossil fuel free.

            Citation? I can’t find a news article verifying this, and Wikipedia’s page on Australian energy policy says South Australia hopes to be at 33% renewables by 2020.

            Please don’t tell me you’re a troll and just making stuff up, Bob.Report

      • Avatar North says:

        I’m skeptical about questions of expense. There’s a not insignificant amount of that expense that’s associated with regulation and litigation both of which are legacies of administrations and attitudes that viewed nuclear with ideological hostility.

        With regards to time, again, reactors take a while sure but they also take up much less space. I’ll note that we have several examples of countries that run either almost their entire (France) or a significant fraction (Japan, the US, Canada) of their power grid off nuclear power. Could you present me with an example of a modern economy that runs entirely or near entirely off renewable power sources?

        Sites are once again a bit of a distraction. There’re plenty of sites with cooling water (assuming of course that water is required) and as for hostility, that’s mainly a product of an organized campaign of disinformation by the same forces that now advocate non-carbon power. Renewables have the same site problems that nuclear has to a degree. Nimby’s don’t like windmills in their back yards or spoiling their view, environmentalists don’t like solar farms ruining fragile desert ecosystems and no one like geothermal related earthquakes or tidal coastal erosion or hydro flooding and migratory river species issues.

        Engineers and technicians aren’t very persuasive. We don’t have a worlds worth of wind farm techs or solar engineers on hand. The point of deciding to move our generation in one direction or another early on is that the technicians and engineers come about along with the industry.

        I’m all for a super effective smart grid that’d allow storage and movement of power across large distances and across great variances of demand but again we need to remind ourselves that such a grid doesn’t currently exist.

        I’m sympathetic to renewable power sources, they obviously are important but I’m still puzzled by your emphasis of them and your disregard for fission. From where I sit renewable power represents a potential for considerable useful power generation sometime in the future. Nuclear power on the other hand is a significant power generation source right now and that’s with decades old outmoded generators. Heck, solar power’s utility, to my knowledge, pretty much is dependant on mastering liquid salt energy storage but of course if you get the kinks out of liquid salt then nuclear goes from practical to downright economical power generation. Factor in the potential advances for nuclear like thorium, fuel recycling or passively safe modern reactor design and I don’t see how anyone who’s genuinely concerned about global warming can write it off.Report

        • Avatar Bob Wallace says:

          Here’s a list of countries which get at least 60% of their power from hydro. On the list are several who get 100% from hydro.

          Now, I realize that you want a list of countries that get 100% from wind/solar but there are none yet. These are emerging technologies. We didn’t move from ledger books to computers, from film to digital overnight.

          As for your nuclear country list, France is ramping up solar and wind. Japan, as you probably know, shut down all its reactors following the earthquake and has restarted only two. Japan is installing solar and getting ready for offshore wind. If they make it through this summer with only two reactors I wouldn’t be surprised to see those two shut down in the fall and not restarted.

          Whether the community resistance to nuclear is organized, rational or irrational, it doesn’t matter. The resistance is there and almost no communities outside the reddest of red states will tolerate a reactor in their midst.

          Wind techs are trained in six month junior college sessions. In fact, many students have been getting hired before completing the full coursework. Solar, that’s nothing but common construction skills. Pour concrete footings, bolt together racks and bolt on panels, wire it up. (I’ve done three solar installations myself – it’s pretty easy.)

          Environmentalists are concerned about solar and wind siting. They don’t want the most beautiful and the most ecologically sensitive places spoiled. That’s why a major study of available lands was made and several million acres identified as the best places to site.

          No one wants a wind turbine in their back yard. (If you’re getting several thousand dollars a year for leasing the land you might tolerate one.) Early on there were some inappropriate site selections. I think that’s not happening any longer.

          The smart grid and the “big grid” are being built. We have some HVDC (high voltage direct current) lines being built today. One to bring wind from the Plains to Chicago. One to carry Kansas wind to St. Louis and that part of the country. One to move Oklahoma wind to East Tennessee. One to tie Wyoming wind to the Pacific Intertie and Intermountain Intertie. When that one is complete we’ll have tied the excellent hydro of the Pacific Northwest to the excellent solar of SoCal to the excellent wind of Wyoming and surrounding states in a “loop” running from Seattle to San Diego to Utah to Wyoming and back to Seattle.

          It’s not clear how everything will play out. Pretty clearly nuclear is not going to be a major component. The price is just too high and it promises to get higher. The wildcard here is grid storage batteries. There are some new very promising technologies and if even one of them proves out then we’re looking at a future of cheap, clean abundant electricity.Report

          • Avatar North says:

            Once we can see some countries running modern economies mostly on wind and solar I am sure my own skepticism will abate.

            If renewables become as cost effective and easy to implement as your sunny predictions suggest then the transition to them will be swift, volontary and easy and will require little to no intervention from governmental organizations to make happen (and the business interests in favor of such a shift would easily overwhelm any ability of fossil fuel companies to prevent it).

            Now me, I remain skeptical. Smart grids, cheap renewables and especially sufficient battery technology all are in work but not yet working as far as I’ve seen.

            If, however, renewables are not as cheap or as easy to use as you imply or the technologies to implement them don’t materialize. Well there’s nuclear and I feel that the environmental movements’ blase dismissal of it badly undercuts their arguement that global warming is a serious issue. They do a classic two step about it:

            Environmentalists-Global warming is a serious problem, a shift to renewables must occurr and governments should move to force this.

            Opponents- but people don’t want to pay more for energy or have renewable power sources near them.

            Environmentalists- Sacrifices have to be made, the fact that it’s expensive and people don’t like it don’t matter. We’re trying to save the planet here.

            Opponents- Okay what about nuclear power. It doesn’t produce any carbon.

            Environmentalists- *turning pale* Oh no, nuclear is expensive and people don’t like having it near them.

            Opponents- … … …Report

            • Avatar Kimmi says:

              nuclear is short term. so long as we keep that in mind, throw it in. multiprong solutions work better, dammit!
              (physicist by training. not that I’m the one winning bets with Hawking, mind–that’d be a very good friend of mine.)Report

              • Avatar North says:

                By what measure my dear lady? There’re proven uranium reserves for decades even at highly elevated use levels. Recycling extends that much much further and there is a lot of unproven uranium out there (no commercial incentive to find it). Add in thorium and you could run the planet on nuclear for centuries. By what definition is it short term?Report

              • Avatar Kimmi says:

                200 years is short term, for me, at least. And I don’t like the thorium — rather do fusion, which might actually be sustainable..Report

              • Avatar North says:

                Fusion is, in my mind, at the same level as massive solar thermal and other widely deployed renewable schema, floating out there in theory but not yet employes.

                Still using just proven tech and near proven tech there’s nuclear fuel for the long term. Add in deuterium from ocean water (somewhat more theoretical but less pie in the sky than fusion) and we’re talking about indefinite fuel (or at least until we start collecting it from space).Report

              • Avatar Kimmi says:

                we have prototype specs for a fusion reactor. quadruple the expected cost to build, and we’ll have a working fusion reactor.

                200 years for fission is fine — but with increasing use of it, we might be talking something like 20 years — which is all well and good! But don’t talk like we’ve actually got 200 years of supply for “the entire world’s energy” because we don’t.

                Me? I like green roofs, swamp coolers, solar hot water heaters — cheap, simple and easy. Better insulation.Report

              • Avatar North says:

                No no, I meant it when I said centuries and that is at elevated use assuming that nuclear was shouldering a much large % of world generating capacity. There is a lot of uranium out there there’s an even bigger amount of it out there but not yet surveyed (no money in uranium right now) and again I must reemphasize that reprocessing turns most of the “waste” we currently produce right back into fuel.Report

              • Avatar North says:

                From your lips to God(ess?)’s ears my dear lady. They get a commercial fusion reactor up and running and I’m gonna be right there in the parking lot with a tourist hat and a foam finger.Report

            • Avatar Kimmi says:

              Let’s just build the damn fusion reactor already. Thank the Navy for the plans, and let’s get a prototype. That might be a long term solution.Report

      • Avatar Will H. says:

        Doesn’t really cover it.
        It takes about three years to build a new reactor. There are more coming online. The discontinued one at Watts Bar is up and running now, and there will be work later this year on the damaged one at Crystal River. Plant Voegle will be finished soon. Not sure about the status of the Kewaunee plant; that might have been scaled back.

        There’s a big solar plant going up in Arizona now, and it’s likely to be 1 1/2 years of work.

        I don’t think coal is the problem. The problem is the older technologies in use.
        Like removing the lead from gasoline years ago, we can remove the carbon from coal.

        Coal is really dirt cheap right now, and there are a lot of mines that have been laying off. I talked to a lady from Kentucky earlier this week, and she told me that one mine had laid off 500 workers.

        We’ve got plenty of qualified people to build and run more nukes, and the capacity to train more. It doesn’t take much. A few extra safety courses.
        Not sure why they don’t build more. I think water would be more of an issue, and the transportation of waste. Disposing of the waste is one thing, but they have to transport it there as well.Report

        • Avatar Bob Wallace says:

          No one in the west builds a reactor in three years. The two under construction currently in Europe are taking a decade or more. Watts Bar is not up and running. Completion has been delayed and budget overruns announced.

          Coal is not a problem. Shipping costs are the problem. The price of oil drives up the price of delivered coal. Coal jobs in the US are declining because we are burning less coal. A few years back the US grid was fed by coal with a 57% share. Last year coal’s contribution fell to 36% and this year it is running about 32%.

          We have no carbon sequestering technology that “works”. We can capture part of the CO2 but doing so drives the price of coal-produced electricity above what the market will pay.

          I don’t know where you got your information about having qualified people to build reactors. That’s not what the big companies that own reactors have said. And we have no long term solution for nuclear waste.Report

          • Avatar Will H. says:

            There were two in Georgia that were built in three years; one in Savannah, one in Augusta.
            It takes three years of litigation to build anything these days.

            A lot of those mines in Wyoming are owned by the railroads.
            The problem is natural gas is so cheap this year. Coal started rising about a month ago when it got warmer.
            The data I’ve seen tells me we’re burning more coal. Stating the matter as a percentage of power production confuses the issue.

            Carbon sequestration is an incomplete, non-viable, and now obsolete technology. There is no need for sequestration with gasification.
            Of course, the catalyst makes a big difference. At the Duke Energy project in Edwardsport, Ind. they were using Selexol. At the Waltonville plant in Illinois, they were planning on Rectisol, which was pretty much made obsolete by Selexol.
            I went to Edwardsport as something of a specialist in emissions systems, having previous experience at ERGS in Wisconsin and CBEC-4 in Iowa. And I’ve worked on the control systems for a gas-fired plant in Missouri as well (that one isn’t there anymore). Not unusual, because I was working on similar control systems at Kennedy Space Center years ago. It doesn’t matter to me what it goes to.

            I wouldn’t listen to what the people at Shaw tell you. I was offered a job at the nuke in Turkey Creek earlier this week. Turned it down, because I want to go out to a refinery.
            I could easily have the names of 20 qualified men by 9am tomorrow.
            More often than not, it’s the people that are running the work that make those sites unfavorable. Some are better than others. A lot of brother-in-lawing going on.Report

            • Avatar Bob Wallace says:

              When were those “three year” reactors built?

              BTW, Vogtle won’t be on line “soon”. They’re years from completion and already running over budget. They just experience a setback when some components were incorrectly fabricated.

              It takes a few years to clear the regulatory process in order to get started. And then it takes a few years to build. If nothing else, the cheap price of natural gas has pretty much killed the nuclear industry. Any reactors that get built will only happen if the companies can push cost and risk off on their customers. And there aren’t many states where people will allow that sort of stuff to happen.

              In 2011 the US generated 1734265 thousand MWhs of electricity. 15840 thousand MWhs were supplied by coal. That’s 42.2%. Working from a few years back coal supplied 50.8% in 2003 followed by 49.8%, 49.6%, 49.0%, 48.5%, 48.2%, 44.4% and 44.8% in 2010. 42.2% last year, 36% first quarter 2012 and about 32% for the first half of 2012.

              (I think I made an error further back in saying 36% for 2011. It was 36% for the first quarter of 2012.)Report

          • Avatar James Hanley says:

            The price of oil drives up the price of delivered coal.

            But if we go back to steam engines, problem solved! 😉Report

        • Avatar Michael Cain says:

          “Plant Voegle will be finished soon.”

          Well, for some definition of “soon”. Vogtle 3 is scheduled to come on line in 2016, Vogtle 4 in 2017. Those estimates assume that the lawsuits recently filed will be resolved quickly. Over the next 25-30 years, the large majority of the 104 US reactors will reach 60 years of age. Just personal opinion extrapolating the reported condition of many of the reactors after 40 years and the political trends, but it seems unlikely that the existing fleet will be allowed to run past 60 years. In which case 20% of the Eastern Interconnects generating capacity needs to be replaced with something in the next 25-30 years. Whether that’s imposed conservation, demand destruction by price, new reactors, whatever — I would bet that big chunks of the Eastern Interconnect will have problems keeping the lights on affordably and reliably in 25 years.Report

          • Avatar DensityDuck says:

            Is there a technical delay, or a litigation delay?

            I submit to you that a government decree that no nuclear power plant may be delayed in construction or operation by legal action would be less intrusive, more effective, less costly, and more popular than any amount of carbon-restriction legislation.Report

            • Avatar North says:

              The majority of it is regulatory and litigation based. Some of the road blocks are merited; a considerable amount of it, however, is systematic environmentalist opposition using the courts and appeals boards.Report

    • Avatar Bob Wallace says:

      BTW, we have something like 80,000 existing dams in the US. We use about 2,500 for power production.

      Based on a study of existing dams on federal land we should expect 10% of existing dams to be potential power producers. We’ve got a lot of hydro that can be harvested from existing dams if we decide that’s needed. A number of existing dams are currently being retrofitted with turbines and turned into producers.

      Baseload is an outmoded term. We don’t need massive power plants cranking along 24/365, we need to be able to supply electricity when it’s needed. We could use wind when the wind is blowing, solar when the Sun is shining, and fill in the other times with stored power, hydro, or dispatchable gas.Report

      • Avatar North says:

        That’s great but aren’t those dams being used for irrigation and isn’t there a trade off between irrigation and power generation.

        On the other hand I’m all for greater power through hydro. A lot of irrigation is used to do idiotic thinks like growing strawberries in deserts. Lets scrap agricultural subsidies, import the strawberries from Latin america (I’m sure they would appreciate the cash crop) and use the dams for power!Report

        • Avatar Bob Wallace says:

          Some are irrigation. Those dams can be converted to pump-up storage by installing a hybrid pump/turbine and a “few days” reservoir below the main dam.

          Some are transportation, such as on the upper ends of our major rivers. Turbines are being installed in the dam locks.

          Some are flood control. We can make power as the water is released later in the year to get ready for the rainy season.

          There’s also a lot of ‘run of the river’ potential. Taking some of the water out of a stream, putting it into a feedstock, spinning a turbine further down the hill, and returning the water to the river.

          Then there’s putting turbines directly into rivers, which is being done. It’s the same sort of technology as tidal harvesting. And we’ve got that great big rich Gulf Stream off our southeast coast that packs an incredible amount of energy.Report

          • Avatar James Hanley says:

            Let’s not pretend hydo is real enviro-friendly, though. Pacific salmon stocks have been devastated by them.Report

            • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

              Nothing that generates power for 7 billion people is going to be terribly eco-friendly. Even supposing you could get all that from geothermal, you’d still have power generation lines running all over hell and gone.

              One of the problems I have with the environmental movement is that there is no sense of priority; it’s save everything that’s endangered right now. This is clearly idiotically unsustainable given how fast species are going extinct on a yearly basis.

              If we want to keep the body alive, we’re going to have to perform some serious emergency amputations.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                This is clearly idiotically unsustainable …

                It is, however, ideologically sustainable.Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

                Usually things that are ideologically sustainable are also realistically idiotically unsustainable.

                Yanno, that whole, “Not everybody thinks the way you do” problem, if nothing else.Report

            • Avatar Bob Wallace says:

              I’ve been talking about existing, not new dams.

              In my perfect world we would pull down all the dams, but I don’t see that as possible short term.

              Now, don’t in any way make this into a defense of dams but because of extensive stream restoration (and possibly some help from a volcano) we’re having a heck of a good salmon year here in the PNW. Nothing like in the days before dams, but incredibly better than what was happening.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                Glad to hear that about the salmon. I’ve been out of the PNW for a decade now (sigh), so I don’t follow that as closely as I used to. It’s always good to get some good fish news.Report

              • Avatar Bob Wallace says:

                Here’s an example of what we’re seeing…

                “Since Bonneville Dam outside Portland was built in 1938, there have been plenty of times there weren’t 38,000 sockeye salmon swimming over the fish ladders in a whole year. But on Monday that many passed the Columbia River dam, and another 41,000 swam over the dam on Wednesday — a rate of nearly 30 a minute. That bought the total so far to 290,000.

                According to the story, more than 400,000 salmon are expected to return this year, and what’s more, almost all of them are wild salmon, born in the region’s rivers instead of a hatchery. Biologists credit favorable ocean conditions and improved habitat in the area’s rivers as the reason for the upswing in numbers.”


                I’m not saying that all the runs are doing that well, haven’t checked them all out. I can say that we’ve brought a lot more fish back into the Eel River over the last couple of years thanks to stream and flow restoration.

                Dams are coming down on the Klamath with will greatly increase spawning grounds and then those numbers should climb.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                Dude, that totally warms my heart. You can’t imagine how much.

                And how many dams are they taking out on the Klamath?Report

              • Avatar Bob Wallace says:

                I think four dams are coming off the Klamath. That will open up something like 400 miles of spawning water. It’s pretty major.

                Of course until it actually happens, it hasn’t happened. But it seems like the roadblocks are taken down.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                I’m surprised to see the day. But glad. Thanks much for the update. Are you in Oregon? I lived six years in Eugene, and while I don’t love the town (fondness, not love), I do love the state passionately.

                If you live in Washington, go to hell! 😉Report

      • Avatar Simon K says:

        If baseload is an outmoded term, what do you call the constant load on the power grid? It has to be supplied somehow. If the wind isn’t blowing and sun isn’t shining is everyone just supposed to wait for the lights to come back on?Report

        • Avatar Bob Wallace says:

          There is no constant load on the power grid. Loads come and go. Supply comes and goes. The job of grid managers is to match demand and supply.

          Utilities are moving away from using the term “baseload” because it tends to restrict thinking to generation methods which have very high capacity ratings.

          High capacity is not necessarily a good thing. We built over 20GW of pump-up and CAES storage when we built our reactors ‘back then’ because the grid had no use for the late night, off-peak power that those reactors produced. We supply shifted.

          In the future grid we will use more dispatchable supply (hydro, etc.) and storage along with cheaper renewables and get by just fine without those big dirty, expensive plants rumbling along in the background.

          You can get more details here…

        • Avatar Kimmi says:

          batteries, baby. and that’s what the car people are working on — good efficient batteries.Report

      • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:


        First of all, welcome to the blog. I’ve gone around this maypole myself a few times and AGW is one of the intractable discussion topics with some of the contributors around here. Just a head’s up on that score.

        “We could use wind when the wind is blowing, solar when the Sun is shining, and fill in the other times with stored power, hydro, or dispatchable gas.”

        The problem I see with a completely dynamic power grid such as you describe here is that such a structure would be incredibly brittle unless it was massively over-engineered. Baseline power generation can certainly be provided by dynamic sources during times of relative stability.

        During a regional-wide disaster such as a hurricane or an earthquake, the thing would fall to pieces and it would be exceedingly difficult to get any part of it working again in any timely fashion. Well, unless you go back to the “over-engineered” part.Report

        • Avatar Bob Wallace says:

          We have very large standby generation and load canceling plans in place now in order to make the current grid work.

          A couple of years ago we suddenly lost a couple of nuclear reactors with no advance notice on the east coast when an earthquake hit. The one that damaged the Washington Monument. Just this year we lost a California reactor when it was discovered that Homer had been in charge of supplying new parts. We loose reactors off the grid when summer temperatures get too hot to use streams for cooling. Coal plants go down for maintenance and repair.

          The ebb and flow of wind and solar is much less dramatic than a nuclear reactor or coal plant suddenly going off line. Wind and sun are fairly predictable, especially over the short term. And neither the wind nor sun suddenly shut off across the entire grid. Systems move over the landscape, clouds move across the sky.

          Obviously it won’t be a simple thing to replace fossil fuels, but it’s doable. And easier than rebuilding all our coastal cities up higher.Report

          • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

            > The ebb and flow of wind and solar is much less
            > dramatic than a nuclear reactor or coal plant
            > suddenly going off line.

            Yes, but it’s a different kind of drama, particularly when the grid, as it stands, is currently built to occasionally lose one big source without falling over (although we will probably have brownouts and rolling blackouts this summer if they don’t get San Onofre back online, which it sounds like they won’t).

            But load distribution over the grid is a huge engineering problem in and of itself. The grid is a monster.

            Now, granted, in places like Southern California with its near-omnipresent sunshine, I don’t understand why solar panels on the roof are still such a relatively rare sight. You can throw up a very decentralized grid pretty easy here because during our times of biggest power consumption (summer) is also where we have the greatest capability of local power generation (sun’s a shinin’ on the rooftops).

            But that’s a much different problem from, say, Seattle. Or even New York. There you’d have to have a much more dynamic set of power generation capabilities, and stitching them all together would be an enormous problem, because most of them would not be colocated with use, so you still need to have a very large grid distribution system.Report

            • Avatar Bob Wallace says:

              It’s quite likely that the grid will spread it’s wings and become less local because widely shared generation, backup generation, and storage makes financial sense. Moving surplus power from one region to another makes financial sense. There will be more decentralized generation as rooftops gain solar panels and factories find that they can make electricity from their waste heat, etc. My take is that the grid will get both larger and ‘smaller’.

              Right now we’re seeing transmission lines being built to move wind power from the Plains to Chicago, from Oklahoma to East Tennessee, etc. The new HVDC line being developed to take Wyoming wind power to SoCal will also carry SoCal solar electricity to Wyoming.

              The grid is getting more responsive. This just got published today…

              “Down in Chattanooga, Tennessee, another unexpected storm blew through town just days after the derechos hit the other states. For EPB Chattanooga, the municipal utility that serves 170,000 customers, it was the first storm where it got to see its smart grid investment work in tandem to cut the amount of power outages at least in half.

              “This was the first one [during which] we had this magnitude of automation, and it made a difference in the way we ran the storm, especially the first night,” said Jim Glass, manager of smart grid development at EPB Chattanooga.

              EPB still saw about 30,000 customers lose power, but there are an estimated 50,000 more that would have lost power if it wasn’t for the utility’s 1,200 S&C IntelliRupter automated switches that have been put on the distribution grid since early 2011. The utility also boasts one of the fastest internet pipelines in the world and a full rollout of smart meters.”


              • Avatar Michael Cain says:

                You’ve hinted at, but avoided, the blunt truth that the US runs three power grids — Eastern, Western, and Texas interconnects — with minimal power transfers between them. Each has quite different characteristics from the others. The Western uses far less electricity per capita than the others; in very round numbers, one-third of the Eastern use and one-half of Texas. The Western gets about 30% of its power from renewables (including conventional hydro), 30% from NG, 30% from coal, 10% from nuclear. Texas starts with 50% from NG. The usual “national” figures that are tossed around of about 50% from coal, 20% from nuclear, 20% from NG, and 10% from renewables are dominated by the Eastern Interconnect figures.

                The the Western and Texas Interconnects are relatively rich in unexploited renewable resources relative to the East. NREL published a study recently about meeting a large fraction of national demand for electricity with renewables. My take on it is that the prediction that the East can manage is based on three “then a miracle happens” assumption. They require large exports of power from the West to the East; they require massive offshore wind be built along the Atlantic Coast; and they assume that the Midwest will be able to divert large amounts of its farm production into biomass to burn in power plants. I’m a skeptic — I think it unlikely that *any* of the three will occur.

                I’ve advised my adult children that they have to be crazy to move farther east than Denver.Report

              • Avatar Bob Wallace says:

                Haven’t avoided anything, just haven’t written everything I know. You left out the Hawaiian grid, the Alaskan grid, the Puerto Rican grid, …. ;o)

                Plans are underway to connect the three major US grids (WECC, Eastern and ERCO). Two east/west HVDC lines are being studded/planed, a northern and a mid-country route. There’s a very interesting concept under way call Tres Amigas which would link all three grids together in New Mexico (they get really close to each other there) using super conducting lines.


                The tossed around 2011 number for coal was 42.2%. This year coal was 36% for the first quarter and below 32% (IIRC) for the first six months. Might be the second quarter was below 32%.

                Actually, I think the Eastern grid has a higher biomass potential than does the Midwest ag portion.

                Here’s the bottom line. Absolutely none of the generation operating today is “permanent”. We are extending some nuclear plants to 60 years. The best won’t go much further than that. Coal plants wear out and are rebuilt/replaced. Turbines in dams wear out and dams silt in. We will replace every single piece of generation hardware with something new. The only questions are “with what?” and “how fast?”.

                I’m arguing that we are almost certainly facing a tragic future if we do not get fossil fuels off our grids and off our roads.

                Accept that possible future and both questions are addressed. Replace with non-fossil fuel energy and do it quickly.


                (I’d advise your children to locate along the northern Pacific coast, some distance above sea level. Use the cooling effects of the Pacific Ocean and avoid the areas where thermal fed storms are likely to become more intense. Also the PNW has plenty of water and not expected to experience droughts.)Report

              • Avatar Michael Cain says:

                “I’m arguing that we are almost certainly facing a tragic future if we do not get fossil fuels off our grids…”

                I’m not disagreeing with that. I’m just saying that the states of the Eastern Interconnect have an enormously more difficult problem doing so than the rest of the country. It’s a bigger problem in absolute terms — much more electricity generated/consumed per capita than the other regions. It’s a bigger problem in relative terms — a much higher percentage of power generated from coal, the worst of the fossil fuels. And it’s a bigger problem in terms of the lack of alternatives — generally lower quality renewables, smaller renewable resources relative to the amount of power needed, and the best of their renewables at this time (wind) are located far from the major population center (East Coast states at 118M people).

                I know I’m out approaching the lunatic fringe on this topic, but I believe that at some point the East will demand that Texas and the West pony up big bucks to help solve the Eastern problem (where bucks may not be money, but may mean attempting to build massive renewable plants and the necessary transmission to power the East), and Texas and the West will tell the East to go pound sand. I expect… interesting political repercussions.Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

                Texas and California are very likely to unite on that score.

                Every California representative: “Hey, remember all that political hay you made off of making fun of us trying to follow the Kyoto protocol at a cost of our taxpayers’ money? Go fund your own goddamn power generation replacement project”.Report

              • Avatar North says:

                I’d note, in peril of becoming one note on this, that the north east has one thing in relative plenty: bodies and sources of water that could support nuclear plants and a dearth of common natural disasters that’d threaten them (earthquakes, tsunamis).Report

              • Avatar Trumwill says:

                This actually brings up a good point. If the west is covered by way of renewables, what if Cain is right about the east? What are they going to do? Not only do they seem to have a particular aversion to nuclear, but they also seem to be prone to NIMBY arguments regarding wind power. Are there a lot of dams out there for hydro that I am unfamiliar with? Is there enough sun to take care of it? Or are they going to be reliant on the west as Cain believes? What will the west ask for? Will the east be willing to give it?

                It seems inherently problematic (or unstable) to me to have so much of our population on one side of the country, while the other side develops so much of our power.

                It brings up a lot of questions (ones that nuclear would seem to be the answer to, but even in the face of ecological armageddon, is declared too dangerous).Report

              • Avatar Bob Wallace says:

                The East buys hydro from Canada. We’ve already got lines running up to the Bay of Fundy area and there’s a heck of a tidal source that’s being developed there. There’s also tidal along the East Coast, some is installed now on a test basis.

                West Virginia has very significant geothermal potential.

                And, if necessary I’m sure the Midwest would be very glad to sell some wind-generated eastward.

                There’s likely to be little to no resistance to off-shore, out-of-sight wind and that endeavor is underway. Google boys are paying for some of the transmission lines in order to get things cooking.

                On top of all that, all the area has an average of 4.5 solar hours per day, compare to LA’s 5.5 hours. Solar is significant, just a bit more seasonal. (Of course the wind tends to blow harder in the winter.)Report

              • Avatar North says:

                Bob, I’ve seen the tidal source operating in the Bay of Fundy; it doesn’t even power the community it sits next to and any further development is on hold because of the huge impacts tidal berms have on erosion (underwater turbines are a consideration but there are no practical ones. Salt water is ~bad~ for machinery).Report

              • Avatar North says:

                Trumwill, my own cynical opinion: nuclear opposition is driven not by the larger population so much as by a dedicated environmental lobby making effective use of existing regulations and litigation state of affairs (and much of this was laid down during a time when nuclear was in the ideological doghouse and before AGW was a concern so nuclear was considered unnecessary as compared to fossil fuels).

                Assuming that Bob’s renewables don’t pan out the way he presents them (which I consider likely; if the renewables were as viable as he asserts then there’d be no need for large scale government intervention to add prices to carbon and subsidize renewable energy which the environmental movement advocates for) then at some point the options are going to be nuclear or cutting back on power use.

                When given the choice between accepting a handful of nuclear plants across the region (and remember a relative handful is all it takes, those plants take up very little space and crank out a ton of power) I have no doubt that the blocks that environmentalist maintain would be swept out of the way. Opposition to nuclear is very wide but not enormously deep and much of it is vague and based on impression and hearsay rather than concrete facts.

                Oddly enough I even think that Fukushima will have a salutary effect on the industry in the long run. Not only does it firmly emphasize the importance of passively safe modern designs but the contamination caused by Fukushima has occurred in the densely populated landscape of Japan. In Ukraine it was easier to essentially write off the land and stay out of it; in Japan there’s intense pressure for land use. This means that we’re going to see a very detailed accounting of exactly what the actual extent and effect of this contamination is on the livability of the area and we’re going to see one of the worlds very inventive and advanced nations turning their brain trust loose on the problem of decontamination.Report

              • Avatar Will Truman says:

                North, I’ve long thought that a lot of people really underestimate our need for energy. I don’t mean underestimating how much energy we need, but our need for whatever energy we have grown accustomed to.

                People act like Peak Oil, if it’s true and imminent, means that we will just have to make due with renewables (again, can’t have nuclear, cause that’s dangerous). Actually, it means we’re going to strip-mine Utah to dust, forget about ANWR, double down on deep sea drilling, and so on. The less oil we have, the less people will actually care about the environment.

                Granted, if renewables really can do what Bob says, this becomes a non-issue because we’ll have the energy we need. Like you, I’m skeptical. I truly hope he’s right, though.Report

              • Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

                Energy is more often an ideological question; the math seldom seems up to date.

                Jerry Taylor, Cato: ““When the day comes that the electricity from solar or nuclear power plants is worth more than the costs associated with generating it, I will be as happy as the next Greenpeace member (in the case of the former) or MIT graduate (in the case of the latter) to support either technology.””

                Graph, cost per kWh 2016:


                Solar, last place. Nuclear, lots of upfront costs. Natural gas—#1.

                Frack, baby, frack.


              • Avatar North says:

                I’m with you 100% Trumwill. Another annoying conceit people often maintain is that one day the oil will just be gone; you drive up to the pump but nothing is there. In reality of the end of oil will come gradually through a steady but relentless increase in cost. The depletion of oil will naturally come to an end as people first cut back and then eventually stop using this increasingly expensive fuel.

                And yes, environmentalism especially underestimates our need for the level of energy use we like. In particular they think that with just a little regulation people will significantly cut down on their energy use instead of using energy sources environmentalists disapprove of. I can say with enormous confidence that if the choices are triple your energy prices, going without air-conditioning in the summer or building a nuclear plant that some people say is scary that nuke plant is gonna go in fast.

                And Tom, is have no serious objections to fracking so long as the companies that are doing it are forced to pay for (or preferably pay to prevent) any long term damage they do to the areas they frack (water table poisoning, leaks, ground settling etc).Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                Frack, baby, frack.

                Are the costs of polluted aquifers calculated into the costs you’re quoting?Report

              • Avatar Bob Wallace says:

                “And yes, environmentalism especially underestimates our need for the level of energy use we like.”

                I think you’re way off base with this statement. The environmental movement is very aware of how much energy people would like (notice I used the word “like”) to use and how to provide that demand with renewable energy.

                ” In particular they think that with just a little regulation people will significantly cut down on their energy use instead of using energy sources environmentalists disapprove of.”

                But that’s what a little regulation does. California put efficiency regulations into effect years ago and kept its per resident electricity usage almost flat since the 1970s while other states have greatly increased their per capita use.

                Look at the ‘efficient light bulb’ standards. About 11% of our residential and 15% of our commercial electricity usage is used for lighting. Moving from incandescent to LED lighting cuts electricity per lumen by 75% or more. One simple piece of regulation drops energy consumption by something around 10%. (And it saves people money as well.)

                “I can say with enormous confidence that if the choices are triple your energy prices, going without air-conditioning in the summer or building a nuclear plant that some people say is scary that nuke plant is gonna go in fast.”

                You argument breaks down if you look at the cost of new nuclear power ($0.15/kWh or greater) vs. the cost of renewable energy (less than $0.15/kWh). The choice you present isn’t a real world choice.Report

              • Avatar North says:

                Bob, your quoted costs for renewable just doesn’t seem to be in keeping with what I’ve read elsewhere. They don’t seem realistic to me nor have you really gotten into questions of materials. As I understand it both wind power and solar power (note that tidal and geothermal generally just don’t exist as power sources right now) both have huge bottlenecks in materials like rare earths and lithium that have not been addressed. If we’re going to replace entire economies with these power sources where’re the materials going to come from. The ultimate problem with your assertions about renewables is that if they are as easily cost effective and easy as you posit then they should be going in everywhere right now with no government encouragement necessary at all. Instead solar companies are struggling to keep their doors open.

                Also you’re careful to emphasize “new” nuclear power since of course the older plants once they’ve been paid off generally become cash generators. Nuclear plants have long life spans and even when you include shut down and clean up costs they make considerable economic sense in their lifetime. I’ll note also that the majority of your argument against nuclear appears to be “nuclear is uneconomical because environmentalists don’t like it and use regulation and litigation to make it uneconomical” to which I can only retort that if AGW is as serious as you think it is then maybe the environmentalist knee jerk opposition to nuclear should be reconsidered.

                And I’ll not in passing that citing California, pretty much the only state in the union where there’ve been recent rolling power blackouts, as a paragon of regulatory environmentalism is pretty much a fast way to get everyone in their right minds to run for the exits. I’m entirely happy with how much renewable (read hydro) works in the northwest but the fact is that most of this country and the world is not graced with large proportions of land that’s vertical with water flowing over it.Report

              • Avatar DensityDuck says:

                @North: I’m a big nuclear supporter but you are kind of trying to get it both ways–saying that Fukushima was an outlier due to age *and* that older nuclear plants are cash generators. If we have to continually turn over plants to avoid future Fukushimas then the plants will never have a chance to get old.Report

              • Avatar North says:

                Density, that’s a perfectly valid objection and one I’ll plead blog format on it rather than actual conflicting points.

                All nuclear plants are frontloaded on their costs. They are capital intensive to establish and extremely cheap to fuel once they’re up and running. So once a nuclear plant (any nuclear plant) is running the longer it runs the cheaper it overall becomes.

                Yes the older plants lack the passive automatic safety systems that modern plants possess.
                So when you’re dealing specifically with old plants there’s a definite balance concern: the longer they run the more problematic they become safety wise but the longer they run the more cash they make off the entire initial investment.

                With nuclear plants in general, however, I feel it’d be fair to factor in that modern plants are simply exponentially in terms of safety and for plants built to modern standards that conflict between length of running time and safety isn’t the same. With an old plant if you run it too long at some point you have a risk of environmental calamity. With a new plant if you run it too long at some point you’re going to be putting more money in on maintenance than you get out in energy and at some point an accident may happen and the plant will turn into a brick and be more expensive to decommission. The risks between old and new plants are very different (better).

                Does that help?Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                And getting rid of those more dangerous older plants would be much easier if it weren’t so politically hard to build new ones.Report

              • Avatar DensityDuck says:

                North: Yes, that’s pretty much what I had in mind. Thanks!

                James: Exactly.Report

              • Avatar Kimmi says:

                Wind in WV seems safe enough. And if PA is part of the East coast thing (and by damn it is) we ought to be able to route enough from WV to cover something — no need to do it all offshore.Report

    • Avatar Robert Greer says:

      Hi North,

      Good question. In keeping with the general theme of my post, I’d argue that solar is better preferable because we should use processes that have shown their value for a long time. Although nuclear power plants have been around longer than solar ones, getting energy from the sun has a longer pedigree in the natural world. It’ll be easier to learn from the advances and mistakes plants and algae have made over the past three billion years than to rely on a power source that has only been around a half-century.Report

  6. Avatar Liberty60 says:

    Global warming is only the tip of the iceberg, so to speak.

    We also know with certainty that we are destroying the air soil and water in a thousand different ways; everything from destroying thebarrier islands that protect the Gulf Coast from hurricanes, to sucking the underground aquifers dry that feed the grain fields, to overfishing the seas and countless other ways in which our political and industrial organization is making life very ugly and grim.

    But what makes it most aggravatiing is how unnecessary it is; its a foolish trope to pose everything as a dilemma between unemployment and pollution, or hunger and habitat destruction. Most of the most destructive practices are being done only by benefit of massive taxpayer subsidies and rent-seeking.

    The fact is, sustainable industrial practices are not only possible, but actually being done all over the world.Report

    • Avatar North says:

      I agree 100%. There’s a lot of ecological hay to be made simply through scrapping subsidies. Some of the most destructive agricultural practices can be traced back to some very foolish regulations and subsidies.Report

      • Avatar Liberty60 says:

        And tax breaks for the oil and coal industries, and mining fee giveaways of public land…the list is pretty long.
        And even simple things like- why do we provide free or nearly free trash disposal in most cities?
        What if people had to carry their own trash to the landfill, or pay open market rates? How would people come to view the massive amounts of overpackaging and disposable consumer items?

        Why are auto related transportation systems like freeways given away for free, but trains and busses are required to charge?
        What if we flipped that- it cost a toll every time you got on the freeway, but the trains were free?

        And so on. Most of what we view as the inevitable invisible hand is actually the result of decades of intervention and conscious results-oriented policy.Report

        • Avatar North says:

          Unfortunately rather than trying to get rid of rents for tax and oil companies we’re mainly trying to set up rents for renewable companies instead. The provision of free trash disposal is, again, very much a product of our liberal inclinations (I count myself as a liberal incidentally).
          Certainly if people had to pay open rates or carry the trash themselves there’d be a change (though in the latter case illegal dumping would become a massive problem).

          I’ll note that freeways are paid for using tax revenues (as are large portions of train and busses tolls*). Unfortunately the democratic fact is there’re more dedicated users of roads right now than there’ll ever be users of trains and public transit. Flipping the equation is a political recepie for the political exile of environmentalism and everything that even sounds like it.

          *and nearly all of their initial establishment costs.Report

        • Avatar Will Truman says:

          mining fee giveaways of public land…

          The government makes quite a bit of money from mining on public lands.

          And even simple things like- why do we provide free or nearly free trash disposal in most cities?

          To prevent illegal dumping. The town where I sometimes work has quite reasonable disposal fees, but have to have “dumping amnesty” periods simply because too much illegal dumping was going on.

          You might be able to tax it at the point of purchase, though. I’d have to think about that. But our current method isn’t “conscious results-oriented policy.”

          Why are auto related transportation systems like freeways given away for free,

          Subsidized, but not free. There’s a reason that we’re as reliant as we are on gasoline taxes when it comes to freeway construction. The percentage coming from gas taxes and tolls has been going down, but it was still a majority. I can’t find the similar statistics for how much mass transit is subsidized by fares, but I think it’s less than half. I’m amenable to saying that we should raise the gas taxes and tolls so that it does pay for it all, but I’ve been informed that gasoline taxes are regressive. So, too, would tolls be I would imagine.

          its a foolish trope to pose everything as a dilemma between unemployment and pollution, or hunger and habitat destruction.

          Have you tried explaining that to the Louisianans who were going apoplectic when Obama stopped the offshore drilling that screwed up their water? They saw the pros and cons pretty clearly and made a choice. Maybe the wrong one, but of course it wasn’t my job on the line for the public good.Report

          • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

            It’s often presented as a war between drivers and transit riders. While driving to work (transit’s not a realistic alternative these days, though I do carpool) I think about all the people on BART who aren’t on the Bay Bridge, and wish there were more of them.Report

            • Avatar Will Truman says:

              I don’t know the area enough to get the reference, but isn’t it well-established that everyone likes mass transit for others?

              Truthfully, I would have loved the opportunity to take the bus at any of my jobs. It was, unfortunately, never there or wildly inefficient. In my own sprawling home city, I have difficulty imagining how we could put one together that would have been workable. (Where I live now, we have no taxis, so public transportation is out of the question, though bike-riding is possible!).Report

              • Avatar Bob Wallace says:

                I spent some time in France this spring and made a point of riding their high speed rail system some while I was there. I am in love with HSR.

                It’s as fast or faster than air travel for moderate distance trips. Stations are ‘city center’, not out in the boonies. No need to show up two hours early to get your junk fondled. Lots of legroom. You can get up and walk around whenever you wish, no buckling in for turbulence.

                And you can look out the window and see the countryside as you zoom along.

                The SkyTrain in Bangkok is wonderful. You zip along in a comfortable carriage above the packed city streets.

                Delhi’s new subway is a miracle for anyone who’s spend hours in a cycle rickshaw trying to go a modest distance on those streets. Paris’s Metro is old, but so, so good. As is London’s.

                Good mass transit systems. People use them.Report

              • Avatar DensityDuck says:

                There’s nothing about rail travel that prevents TSA declaring that they need to apply the same level of security screening to it as they apply to air travel.Report

              • Avatar Bob Wallace says:

                True, but blowing up the insides of one rail car doesn’t get the same sort of media attention as does taking down an airplane.

                Perhaps you’ve traveled in a country that has experienced rail/subway incidents? If so, you know that there are often some security searches, but nothing that rises to what those same countries require prior to boarding a plane.Report

              • Avatar DensityDuck says:

                “Perhaps you’ve traveled in a country that has experienced rail/subway incidents?”

                Did these countries have the TSA?Report

              • Avatar Bob Wallace says:

                They certainly have their version. The US requires strict security for all planes flying into the US. And some countries had strict air security before the US did.Report

              • Avatar Trumwill says:

                Bob, we have long-since demonstrated that none of that matters. The TSA is already encroaching on land transportation. There is no reason whatsoever that they won’t make trains as much of a hassle as flight.Report

              • Avatar Will Truman says:

                Incidentally, if rail ends up leading to more sprawl, I’m going to laaaaaaaaaugh….Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

                isn’t it well-established that everyone likes mass transit for others?

                To the point of being glad to pay for it?

                I’d much rather be able to nap or read instead of driving, but currently it would involve too many transfers between different systems.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                Mike, out of curiosity, have you ever been in a position to commute by ferry?Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

                For two years, until a few months ago. I miss it, badly.Report

              • Avatar Will Truman says:

                I was actually thinking of the famous Onion article.

                I ran into the same problem when I was living in the Pacific Northwest. You’d have thought that a three-hour round-trip commute would have made mass transit more attractive. In reality, it just added time due to a transfer.Report

        • Avatar James Hanley says:


          I’m mostly in agreement with you, but inthink you hit a sidetrack when you talk about garbage fees. It’s always crucial to think about how people will actually respond, not how you want them to respond. Jack up fees on garbage and one of the predictable responses is people dumping their garbage wherever convenient. Down hillsides and in streams is, unfortunately, real convenient.Report

          • Avatar dexter says:

            In East Baton Rouge Parish you get charged a fee each month for garbage, recycling and general stuff like everything from limbs to old stoves that comes with your water bill. Even with that we get people who think it is a good idea to toss and incredible amount of stuff out their car windows or back of their truck.
            I maintain the lawn for my wife’s studio that is very small and sometimes it takes me longer to pick up the trash from the bugger kings and wally’s world type stores than it does to mow and weed eat the lawn.
            People remind me of seagulls. We foul our own nest.Report

            • Avatar BlaiseP says:

              I used to marvel at the amount of trash on the side of the road as I drove up from Baton Rouge to Mamou.Report

              • Avatar tarylcabot says:

                Mamou? My step-brother used to love to joke that’s where he was from. Never expected to see anyone else mention it as it’s far from a famous local.Report

              • Avatar dexter says:

                Tarylcabot, Mamou is a famous local if you are a local. They produce some very good cajun bands and better than average festivals even by Louisiana standards.Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

                It’s the only city in Louisiana run entirely by atheists.

                Because you can’t serve both God and Mamou.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                A bit from my personal diary.

                Mamou LA. C says I’ve been talking about Mamou the whole trip. It’s as if I’ve never left. We stumble in for the last few seconds of the Cajun music at Fred’s Lounge and over to the Hotel Cazan to see squeezebox prodigy Mary Tweedel and the Cajun Mixers. She’s been playing every musical thing she can get her hands on since the age of six.

                Rain pours down on the truck as we push on to Lafayette. A wet world of rice farms and Brangus cattle.

                Lafayette LA. Dinner at Fezzo’s. No oysters, but a big crowd. The sky is low, no more rain. A two year old boy screams with laughter as he is horsed into the open jaws of a bronze alligator.

                Getting ready for a dance at Whiskey River Landing. Report

          • Avatar Liberty60 says:

            James and Will-
            All subsidies are done for very good reasons; for instance, some cities have public skate parks to prevent kids from loitering and thrashing on park benchs.
            And if public trash fees were raised, I am sure there would be some increase in litering and dumping; but the behavior of the public re: disposable items would change the same way that changing free parking on a street creates an increase in parking in alleys or driveways to skirt the meters.

            The bigger point is to push back against the notion that the world around us was the result of impartial forces, conducted without any thumbs on the scale.
            Our industrial organization, how we make things, how we live, how we transport ourselves- all these things were the result of decades of artificial manipulation of the marketplace.

            In the original post here, the author calls for a coordinated action (by government presumably); The most common criticism of that notion is that government shouldn’t be making such decisions; I think its important to point out that it always has.Report

            • Avatar Will Truman says:

              What you say is true, though whether it’s useful depends on perspective. Confronted with evidence that we’re subsidizing roads, one can just as easily respond that the solution to this distortion is not another distortion, but rather to fix the first distortion. Or if we need the initial distortion, say because we want to prevent illegal dumping, then the solution may well be a disposal tax. All of which you may *completely* agree with. I might in this case, but not in that case.

              It’s less useful, however, in cases where the government responds to a distortion here with a ban there (banning, as opposed to taxing, plastic bags for instance), or alternately a counter-distortion that is poorly targeted (CAFE comes to mind).

              My main concern with combating global warming is that the solutions are going to be poorly targeted. Quite a few of the solutions are things that they would support even if the problem they are advanced as a solution to didn’t exist. My preference is that we tax the externalities as best we can (fuel taxes, whatever) and then let people make their own choices with these things in mind. I always get the sense that those advocating solutions to global warming already have the correct choices that people should make in mind (that, for instance, even if it reduced carbon output, employers moving to the suburbs rather than people moving to the city would be considered an unacceptable or at least undesirable outcome).Report

              • Avatar Michael Cain says:

                “Confronted with evidence that we’re subsidizing roads, one can just as easily respond that the solution to this distortion is not another distortion, but rather to fix the first distortion.”

                Look at the mix of traffic on I-80 across Wyoming and Nebraska. I made that trip recently, and my crude estimate was that tractor-trailer traffic was at least 20% of the vehicles. Almost none of it carrying loads that will originate or terminate in either state. Road surface damage is a fourth-power law with respect to axle weight, so for practical purposes, the truck traffic transiting those states is doing *all* of the damage to the road. A surprising fraction of the truck traffic is vehicles operated by a handful of companies (for example, one encounters a staggering number of CR England refrigerated trucks — scheduled 72-hour delivery from California to the East Coast is a big draw). I have no idea how to correct the distortion that exists there.Report

              • Avatar Rod says:

                CR England is based in SLC, so that’s why you see a lot of them on that corridor.

                If I’m reading you correctly, the situation wrt to trucks isn’t as distorted as you might think. Some years ago the states all got together and set up a system for rationalizing fuel taxes. It’s called IFTA. Basically, the trucking companies have to keep track of a) their fuel purchases, including fuel taxes paid at the pump, and b) miles driven in each state.

                Each quarter you figure total up your miles driven, total fuel purchased, and the same thing for each state you drive in. Then you basically pretend that you had to purchase the pro-rate share of your fuel in each state you drove in instead of where you actually purchased it. Since each state has different fuel tax rates that can mean that you end up owing or getting a refund. You send that in to the state (with or without a check) and then the states have some mechanism for totaling it all up and figuring out which state owes who how much to equalize it all up. It sounds like a PITA, but once you figure it out it’s just a spreadsheet sort of thing that’s fairly straightforward.

                So, for instance, you could be based in Kansas and purchase all your fuel there, while actually operating in all the surrounding states. After you send in your report, Kansas cuts a check to all the surrounding states to account for the miles driven in those states. So even if I don’t actually purchase fuel in a particular state, if I use the roads I still end up paying their fuel tax, at their rate, as if I had.

                The upshot is that for commercial vehicles the fuel tax works a lot more like a road-use tax. And while we care about where fuel is more or less expensive we don’t really care about which state has higher or lower fuel taxes when making decisions about where to fuel.Report

              • Avatar DensityDuck says:

                Thanks, that’s interesting to learn!Report

  7. Avatar Anderson says:

    “Most of the most destructive practices are being done only by benefit of massive taxpayer subsidies and rent-seeking.”

    Not sure if I agree with this statement. I don’t believe the Industrial Revolutions that came through Britain/ the U.S.etc etc last century and is sweeping China/India etc etc now were the result of subsidizing carbon-emitting sources. It was an inevitability of providing mass electricity, transit, and (in monetary terms) wealth via consumer products. We keeping living longer and longer too, which only means we use more energy. Unless there’s a massive paradigm shift in how we measure GDP and calculate societal success, the demand for each generation living better than the previous one will result in long-term unsustainability. Without that shift, no amount of “ending tax breaks for big oil” will make a difference.Report

  8. Avatar Matty says:

    Putting together the comments from JamesK with those from Bob Wallace I see a possible small area for hope.

    – Carbon emissions can only come down long term when non-carbon emitting power generation is cheaper without subsidies.

    -In places like India options like domestic solar panels and wind turbines save the cost of connecting remote areas to large power stations via a grid.

    Does this mean that it is cheaper for India and China to install small scale renewables in every village than to connect those villages to coal or gas generation? If so there may be room for optimism on that score.

    The harder part is whether renewables can be cheaper in places where there are already grid connections.Report

    • Avatar Bob Wallace says:

      “Carbon emissions can only come down long term when non-carbon emitting power generation is cheaper without subsidies.”

      If all we were talking about was the natural progression from one technology to another then I’d agree with you. As/if carbon-free generation becomes cheaper than fossil fuel generation then we’d see a move away from fossil fuels and a decrease in CO2.

      But, as with just about any decision, there’s more than just the simple math. We need to include the cost of more climate change. We have a choice between slowing and eventually reversing the climate change we have caused or continuing to make the problem more extreme, possibly driving the climate to a place where we would have trouble surviving.

      When confronted by an enemy we don’t wait for prices to drop before building planes and ships. We recognize danger and spend what we must to protect ourselves.

      I hold that we are in the situation right now at which we must take significant protective action. We must defend ourselves against what promises to be the most dangerous enemy mankind has ever faced.Report

      • Avatar CK MacLeod says:

        If you think of it like war or any other great and uncertain undertaking, you can expect its actual course and outcomes to be very different from anything that could be anticipated at its outset. If we could have known in 1941 what we knew in 1945 (much less in 2005 after decades of careful study and re-consideration), we might have fought the war very differently, but knowing in 1941 what we came to know by 1945 or 2005 is an absurdity. Once the human race commited to the cause, much of what needed to be done at least initially would be little more than an act of will, certainly minimal compared to the sacrifices of soldiers on the front or civilians under aerial bombardment, for example, but it would require us to give up on or suspend or reverse certain precious notions about who and what we are, and replace them with other ones, but that’s the problem: We need either nature or wardsmith and TVD, or all, to be making war on us in order to summon from us the required effort, the required unity and energy in effort. Just in the U.S., Wardsmith and TVD and Jim Inhofe and the Koch Brothers and Rush Limbaugh and the AEI and on and on don’t seem ready to give up without a fight. We did after all spend the entire Cold War prepared to destroy the planet rather than sacrifice our Exceptional Way of Life. On another level, it seems to be human nature to seek and need the terror. It’s what makes things real, and serious, and undeniably valuable to us. We don’t just want to have a bright cheap energy future. We want it to mean something. We want to be proud of the effort it took to get there, of the painful and near impossible struggle in which we overcame great odds and our greatest fears etc. We generally want myths as meaningful and flattering to us as the Americanist myths that wardsmith and TVD believe in are to them, fiercely believed legends and sacrifice-commanding, thought-stopping and discussion-ending symbols that connect us to each other and to greater things. Probably they would have to be created retrospectively, not manufactured ahead of time, however. We prefer to trick ourselves, or stumble into creative desperation or “world’s most efficient water pumps” as you put it. Not sure whether it would mean “conquering nature all over again,” or “really conquering nature,” or “conquering human nature,” or “conquering the will to conquer nature.” May depend on the eye of the beholder.Report

  9. Avatar Bob Wallace says:

    “If you think of it like war or any other great and uncertain undertaking, you can expect its actual course and outcomes to be very different from anything that could be anticipated at its outset.”

    This part, I agree with. How we fight off severe climate change (if we successfully do) will start with the technology and knowledge at hand. As we work on the problem our technology and understanding will almost certainly improve. Just ramping up our efforts will drive innovation and new ideas.

    Our solar panels, batteries, and EVs of today will almost certainly look quaint when viewed from the vantage point of 20 years into the future. But they are the stepping stones on which we build that future.Report

  10. Avatar Roger says:

    I guess the real question is…

    “Who is in charge of the thermostat?”

    And since the answer now is probably nobody, the next obvious question is “who should be in charge?”

    But that leads us to “what are the consequences of empowering someone to be in charge?”Report

    • Avatar Bob Wallace says:

      That would seem to come down to what you mean by “someone”.

      Do you mean the governments of the US, China, India, France, Bulgaria, etc.? If so, in most countries the government has the ability to control the thermostat.

      Are you worrying about “One World Order” telling you whether you can or cannot use toilet paper/whatever?

      I see no need for extra-country thermostat control. The most unreasonable countries at the moment are the US and England. I suspect even we can get our acts together once we get adequately scared.Report

      • Avatar Roger says:

        How can the government of Bulgaria control their thermostat?

        If we get adequately scared, how do we agree on the temperature?Report

        • Avatar Bob Wallace says:

          Your “someone” and “thermostat” are fairly cryptic. Forgive me if I’m guessing wrong.

          How does any government reduce greenhouse gas production in their area of responsibility? They pass and enforce laws. They create legal and fiscal environments in which certain activities are favored over others.

          How do we agree on what the CO2/GHG level in the atmosphere should be? I’d suggest we listen to the smart kids in the room who have spent years and years studying this issue. Right now they are saying that we must get back below 350ppm and we’re barely under 400ppm.

          We can take blankets off the bed (reduce heat retention), we really can’t turn down the thermostat/furnace (the Sun).Report

          • Avatar Roger says:

            Not sure why it is so cryptic…. Let me be more specific.

            If the globe were our house, who on this planet is responsible for setting the global thermostat? Who gets to decide which temperature is right or wrong? Who gets to decide what actions are taken to influence the temperature? How do we agree on the powers and constraints of this somebody or some organization?Report

            • Avatar Morat20 says:

              Well, you start by looking around the house and finding the kid with the outsized heater unit going full blast and bitching about how hot it is and how everyone should turn down their heater.

              Then you look at him and say “Maybe you should, you know, turn that down a few notches. This house has a hundred people in it, but your heater there is producing something like a quarter of the heat. Why not, you know, turn it down?”

              Global warming? Start with the biggest CO2 producers. Which, surprisingly, isn’t China or Pakistan or some third-world country. It’s…the US and England.

              Both tiny countries, with tiny populations (compared to the world), producing insanely more per person than anyone else. And both filthy rich and full of scientists and engineers. And then you say the following:

              “Dude, cut it out. Then sell your ‘cut it out’ technology to the world and make bank.”

              Which doesn’t happen — the Chinese and others are doing that — because certain industries are making bank now and don’t want to change.

              *Sigh*. Carbon taxes would have been nice. CO2 is just an externality that’s not priced into the market. Price it in.Report

              • Avatar Roger says:

                Who gets to decide the temperature is too hot or too cold or just right? Who gets to decide we should start with the US?
                What happens when a country disagrees?
                What happens if solar changes more thrifts set map made warming and the planet gets cooler?

                You guys are all just assuming you all agree on all this. You don’t. Someone needs to address the issue of who decides and what are the consequences of putting someone in charge — good bad and so on.Report

              • Avatar Morat20 says:

                Actually, everyone pretty much agrees that CO2 levels need to be below…what, 350ppm? And it’s close to 400.

                That’s not the problem. Everyone who actually produces enough CO2 to matter had at least a base level aggreement of “It should be X or lower”.

                The problem is, you know, doing anything about it. Carbon taxes is the simplest solution, that would let the free market sort it out.

                I get why conservatives hate it — half think AGW is a liberal plot to make them wear sweaters and read by candle-light, and the other half are far happier to not pay for the costs associated with polution and just free-ride on the commons.

                What I don’t get is why libertarians aren’t demanding carbon taxes! It’s probably the simplest, least arguable example of a commons problem and the simplest, most free market way of dealing with it is to tax according to use.

                There’s only two ways to deal with the tragedy of the commons — regulate the snot out of it, or tax/charge according to use. (Well, there’s a third — pretend the problem isn’t there).Report

              • Avatar Roger says:

                And who imposes this global tax? Who imposes this global regulation? How do they ensure compliance? What do they do when people disagree with your ppm standard?

                What if some entities or countries want it warmer?

                Seems like everyone on this site is avoiding the question.Report

              • Avatar Bob Wallace says:

                I don’t think anyone suggested a global carbon tax.

                Perhaps you worry too much about black helicopters and bar codes on the back of stop signs.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                I think that’s right on another level. There are certain types of externalities that violate people’s rights, and if global warming is one of those types then government is not only justified in acting to constrain the behavior, it’s the only mechanism which could constrain that behavior.Report

              • Avatar Roger says:


                Which government was given control of the global thermostat? Last I checked the answer was none of them. If your answer is all of them individually, then we better start reading up on our Ostrom.Report

              • Avatar Roger says:


                Yeah, Morat just suggested one right above.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                Everybody here is missing Roger’s point. He’s asking who can makes this happen and how we can get there, and you guys are saying, “let’s just cut back on carbon” (and then Bob has to show his stripes by accusing Roger of conspiracy theorizing).

                What you all don’t get is that Roger is asking a practical question, and none of you have answered it. Let’s say the U.S. takes the lead. OK, how do you get agreement for action in the U.S.? Morat admits with great unhappiness that we couldn’t even achieve carbon taxes in the U.S. So how do you get that done? You’re assuming it gets done, not explaining how you get it done.

                Let’s say the U.S. does achieve that then. What if England doesn’t follow suit? What does the U.S. do? How do we get that done?

                Let’s say England follows suit, but China and India are still developing and don’t want to crimp their growth while they’re still behind the west in standard of living (and collectively they have almost 1/3 of the world’s population). How do you get them to do it?

                And what happens when the U.S. and England demand 350 ppm and China/India demand 400 ppm? Who decides and how do you get there?

                You all are playing Larry the Cable guy, saying “git ‘r done!” and Roger is saying, “seriously, in the real world, how do you get people to take action.” I had a boss like you all once–he wouldn’t explain how to do the job and would get frustrated if we’d ask, and respond by snarling, “just do it.” A good slogan for Nike, maybe, but of no practical help.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                Everybody here is missing Roger’s point.

                Actually, no, we’re not. Roger’s complaint is that resolving some of these global warming issues requires having a global government or regulatory apparatus, one which doesn’t exist and would potentially exercise it’s power thru enforcement. The response is that yes, you’re right, resolving some global warming issues requires a global regulatory apparatus which may have to exercise it’s power via coercion.

                AGW strikes me as the type of CAP and creates the type of externalities that quite likely require government to correct. So when Roger says that solving global warming potentially requires a global enforcement mechanism the liberal completely agrees.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                Groovy. And given the utter failure so far of our extant systems of global governance, how do you get there?Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                And given the utter failure so far of our extant systems of global governance

                Aren’t you a fan of open trade? How do you think that came about?Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                That was too quick. The trade policies you advocate are and have been institutionalized by a global governing mechanism: the WTO. We have global governance brother. Nobody likes to talk about it tho.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:


                But also, it seems to me you’re confusing the logic of each sides approach to this. THe libertarian view (as expressed by Roger) is that if resolving AGW requires a global enforcement mechanism, then let’s not solve the problem because it creates another level of government (and all that entails).

                The liberal view is that if resolving AGW requires a global enforcement mechanism, then let’s get a global enforcement mechanism.

                Am I confused that you’re confused about this, or am I just confused?Report

              • Avatar Morat20 says:

                Roger, you assumed I was speaking globally. I was not. I’m not sure WHY you lept to that belief.

                I’m firmly of the mind the US should pass a carbon tax. I suspect that the US could be quite convincing to a number of other first world countries to pass one, especially if it’s shown to work.

                If the US and the UK get a handle on it, the rest of the world will pretty much follow. Because, despite the idiots on the net, the major governments understand AGW is a problem.

                You seem to be of the mind that ANYONE needs to dictate ANYTHING. They don’t. The UN’s own report suggested 350 ppm is a cap. Theoretically, that’s a pretty good sign that “Everyone” agrees that 350 ppm is some sort of target. I’m not aware of anyone boycotting the report.

                The UN doesn’t have black helicopters or police or anything like that, so the IPCC’s report is just that…a report.

                I support a carbon tax in the US. I support the US, which produces a massively outsized part of hte problem, doing something about it. And I suspect the US is quite capable of convincing the rest of the world to follow where it leads.

                I spoke about the US specifically in my posts here. You should consider why you kept leaping to one government, one controlling entity handling it.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                Only Roger can actually answer this, but it seems to me you’re making dubious assumptions when you imply to him the view “that if resolving AGW requires a global enforcement mechanism, then let’s not solve the problem…” It’s not clear to me he’s saying that at all when he says, “What if some entities or countries want it warmer?”

                I think you’re assuming he’s making ideological arguments, but it appears to me he’s asking pragmatic questions.

                We have global governance brother. Nobody likes to talk about it tho.
                Indeed, but we don’t have global government. So the question remains; what do you do if significant country X doesn’t want to play along?

                Aren’t you a fan of open trade? How do you think that came about?
                Heh, that came about through individuals making their own choices, then governments got involved and started preventing it, then governments got together and said, “well, we’ll allow it in these particular circumstances if you allow it in these particular circumstances, etc. etc.” But open trade actually comes about quite naturally if governments don’t actually do anything at all. So, really, it’s not quite a good analogy.

                But I get your general point, which is that we get these governments together to negotiate and come to agreement. But the question still stands–what if they don’t? What if they continue to play Kabuki theater as with the Kyoto protocols? That’s Roger’s point as I take it; we can have negotiations and negotiation and endless negotiations, but because the harms are unequally distributed, and there will be some places that actually benefit, what are you going to do if some place just draw a line in the sand at, say, 450 ppm? Do you really think the Chinese or the Russians give a tinker’s damn about Bangladesh or Kirabati?Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:


                This comment isn’t meant to dispute anything you’ve said here – or been saying throughout the thread – but I think Roger’s argument is looking down the logical road (so to speak): imposing a carbon tax that isn’t global encourages free-riders on that part of the economic system (it becomes cost effective to relocate to countries that refrained from imposing the carbon tax), and imposing a global carbon tax requires a global enforcement mechanism. You can’t prevent carbon-emitting free-riding without enforcement (well, lets suppose that’s true).

                So the issue quickly resolves to a discussion about the mechanisms of enforcement at the global level. (Something James K, Simon K and North discussed quite a bit upthread.)Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:


                At least here, you and I are on the same page in our interpretations of Roger.

                It seems to me that this post has sparked far too much of the expected kind of argument, with everyone (or nearly) assuming everyone else is responding according to an ideological playbook, which leads them to respond as though they are working from an ideological playbook. It ends up being all heat, no light, and reinforcing barriers between us.

                What if we assumed those with greater concerns about AGW weren’t all statist Chicken Littles, secretly delighted to have another excuse to impose top-down control over every aspect of our lives, and assumed those more skeptical about the extent of catastrophe weren’t anti-science capitalist shills hoarding every penny while they say fuck you to the Kiribatians?

                You know, what if rainbows, puppies, and unicorns flew out of my ass next time I went to the bathroom.

                This issue just seems to bring out our least generous natures when we discuss it. Which is why I’ve been glad it’s so rarely discussed here.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                Only Roger can actually answer this, but it seems to me you’re making dubious assumptions when…

                That’s a fair enough point. It seems to me, tho, that Roger’s argument takes this shape (he can correct me if it’s wrong): if resolving the problem (assuming it’s real) requires a global governing body to enforce whatever carbon-restricting mechanisms are employed, then let’s not do it.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                It doesn’t appear to me he’s said that. It appears to me he’s said “if this requires global governance or government, consider the costs of that as well as the benefits.” For costs there will surely be, and perhaps the benefits will greatly outweigh them, but to assume away the costs by looking only at what you hope to achieve is to deceive yourself.

                There seems to be an effort at doing cost-benefit analysis without the cost, or which a facile assumption that the cost is minimal enough to be waved off without serious consideration. It could be a lot more than global bureaucrats telling us we can’t have incandescent light bulbs.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                He’s saying more than that, I think. He’s saying that if a government doesn’t want to comply with some otherwise agreed upon mechanism, then that’s a deal killer.

                I mean, a country might want to refrain from signing on to enforcement protocols precisely because they want to free-ride, so the logic of voluntary compliance (which constitutes a huge collective action problem) being a necessary condition on an acceptable solution is logically impossible given the premises. At some point, insofar as the issue is generally agreed upon as requiring a solution, some force is required. And not necessarily straight ahead coercion. It may take the form of employing leverage, which Roger is pretty OK with.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                Let me add this. At the extremes, there are two possibilities. One is a global system of governance that is too weak to prevent massive free riding. At the other end is a global government strong enough to prevent free-riding, which means it has the power to command all individuals and lower-level governments throughout the world.

                In between is a messy area of probabilities where we try to balance an increasing capacity to achieve the goal against an increasing capacity to command.

                Granted this is the same as with any government, so in the abstract the problem is not at all new, except for its scale. On the other hand, it’s a problem we’ve never yet wholly satisfactorily solved, in large part because we’ve never achieved general consensus on where the balance should lie.

                I’m not trying to provide an answer to the problem; I’m just suggesting that there’s a lack of awareness or the problem, or maybe an unwillingness to seriously address, the problem because of the potential scope of harm from the status quo.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                He’s saying that if a government doesn’t want to comply with some otherwise agreed upon mechanism, then that’s a deal killer.

                If that country can single-handedly prevent reductions in CO2, then it effectively is a deal-killer, right? I don’t think he’s making a normative claim that if you can’t get everyone to agree then there should be no agreement. I think he’s making a positive argument that if you can’t get everyone to agree, then you’re still fucked. So what’s your fallback position in that case?

                I really think if you assume he’s making positive rather than normative arguments, just as you did in your response to Morat, above, you’ll find it’s a much more productive conversation.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                Good point. I have been reading him as making, or at least including, normative claims about these issues in his arguments.Report

              • Avatar Roger says:


                What would Elinor Ostrom recommend if we had asked her?Report

              • Avatar Roger says:


                I would be favorably disposed toward any action which improved the lot of humanity. The difficulties with this issue are that

                1) We are still not sure how big a problem it is. The answer depends upon the extent of the problem. real big? Kinda big? Not big at all for forty years then big? Catastrophic in next few years big? If you think you know the answer, then I suggest you are right. You THINK you know.
                2) if we do nothing to address it, there will be winners and losers. Thus it is a win lose game. These get ugly.
                3) Every action we take will introduce additional “wakes”. There will be unintended consequences, good and bad.
                4). Those gaining by the solutions or unintended side effects will naturally seek more of side effects. Those harmed will oppose them. Battle lines will form. The battles will have side effects unrelated to global climate issues. Rent seekers will be attracted to the game as will bureaucrats and politicians. The factions will muddy the water with biased experts as failure to do so concedes the argument to the other side which will do so.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                Roger, I couldn’t say explicitly what she would have said in terms of solutions, but I can say a bit about what she would have said in outlining the problem. One is that institutions for solving collective action problems should involve all stakeholders. The second is that the larger the cap, the more complex the institutional design is likely to be. My guess is that she’d suggest we’re going to need a set of nested institutions operating at different levels. That’s pretty vague, but it’s the best I can give off the top of my head.Report

    • Avatar Liberty60 says:

      ““what are the consequences of empowering someone to be in charge?””

      And are they worse than the consequences we face currently?

      Consequence A: Light bulb Nazis!
      Consequence B: The North American Great Plains becoming a desert.Report

      • Avatar Roger says:

        I’m trying to be serious.Report

        • Avatar Liberty60 says:

          Did you think I wasn’t?
          I looked at the link below, and what jumps out at me is this bizarre contrast in consequences.

          On one hand, the author (and you) seem to acknowledge the climate change is real, and that it could have devastating impacts on billions of people, even if it has positive impacts on others.

          “Devastating impacts” means mass starvation, hurricanes, tornadoes, flooding, and so on. Misery on a global scale. Neither you nor the author of the link seem to be arguying that point.

          Yet your repeated questions all seem to circle around some fear of loss of income or economic liberty, like maybe you might have to pay more taxes or not be able to buy the kind of lightbulb you want.

          Can you see how bizarre this contrast appears?Report

          • Avatar Jesse Ewiak says:

            One small business job creator not being able to buy the lightbulb he wants is equally as horrible as hundreds of millions of climate refugees.Report

            • Avatar DensityDuck says:

              And the best thing about those hundreds of millions of climate refugees is that they don’t actually exist yet, and in fact might never exist. So there can have just as many as we need, and they can be just as miserable as we like because nobody will ever be able to point to them and say “there aren’t as many as you think” or “they aren’t as miserable as you claim”.Report

          • Avatar Stillwater says:

            Excellent comment Liberty. I’ve been puzzling over that very thing for some time now, and you expressed it better than I could.Report

          • Avatar Roger says:

            You can’t put your thumb on the scales to get the result you want. Some Areas will get better weather, some worse. Some will be harmed, some helped. Nobody seems to be disputing that the experts are suggesting we will be helped for the next few generations on net and hurt on net thereafter. Or if they dispute it they are doing so silently on this blog.

            My point is that there are winners and losers, and there are massive collective action free rider issues all over this topic. Until we decide how to go about addressing it, nothing will be done. But if we do address it, we will need to create new institutions and agencies. But these new entities will influence how the world works. They too will have positive and negative effects, intended and unintended.Report

            • Avatar Liberty60 says:

              First of all, “WE” are NOT going to be better off, today tomorrow or 20 years from now.
              The point in the link was that humankind in general might be better off as the warmer climate allows more arable land or whatever.

              That this arable land might also be occuring while Kansas becomes a wasteland and Houston is obliterated by repeated hurricanes is, on balance, from a macro economic aspect a wash.

              Which is all fine, if we are all ok with the fact that some Canadian or Russian guys become billionaires while America craters into economic ruin.Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

                > That this arable land might also be occuring while
                > Kansas becomes a wasteland and Houston is
                > obliterated by repeated hurricanes is, on
                > balance, from a macro economic aspect a wash.

                This largely depends on how much you care about Kansasians and Texans. Or how much they expect you to care about them, I suppose.

                It has occurred to me that the areas of the country that are most susceptible to the worst outcomes are highly correlated with those that find the issue to be a whole bunch of hooey.

                This will make for some interesting outcomes 40 years from now.Report

            • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

              Also, that the temporary gains cannot be separated from the eventual disaster. If you drive off a cliff, you get great gas mileage for the first few hundred feet.Report

      • Avatar Brandon Berg says:

        This isn’t really a valid comparison; assuming that the North American Great Plains is really on track to become a desert, using different light bulbs isn’t going to be enough to stop that.Report

  11. Avatar Kazzy says:

    The thing I don’t get about AGW and other related deniers is the apparent investment they have in their side of the argument. This isn’t sports we’re arguing. Or even politics. It is science.

    It is one thing to say, “I’ve looked at all the relevant data and come to a different conclusion.” It is quite another to say, “I’m going to do anything and everything possible to defend my side of the argument.” Seriously. I don’t get it at all. Unless folks are conflating science with politics, which is very possible, but also very silly.

    If we saw this in other arenas, we’d laugh at the deniers, as we should…

    “Does 2 plus 2 equal 4 or 5?”
    “I think it’s 5.”
    “My calculator says 4.”
    “Fuck that. It’s 5.”
    “I dunno. My abacus also said 4. So did this math book.”
    “That’s all bullshit. I’ll be back…”
    [Shuffles off… returns with 3-year-old]
    “This kid says 4 plus 4 is 5. What do you think of that?”
    “Well, he’s wrong.”
    “Fuck you, asshole.”Report

    • Avatar DensityDuck says:

      “This isn’t sports we’re arguing. Or even politics. It is science.”

      Just like evolution. It’s obvious that if parent animals are stressed by their environment in a particular way, then their children’s physiology will be better adapted to that environment. It’s basic science, proven by clear observation of the world around us. Only an idiot would argue that changes in physical form happen completetly at random; otherwise how would we end up with so many animals that were so perfectly adapted to their ecological niche?Report

      • Avatar Kazzy says:

        Your point being?Report

      • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:



        That’s a pretty horrid mangling of evolution with natural selection.Report

      • Avatar Rod says:

        Um.. DD? You don’t understand how evolution and natural selection works either, do you? I mean your post sure doesn’t seem to indicate that.Report

        • Avatar Morat20 says:

          He’s trying to make global warming Lysenkoism. In his head, it makes perfect sense.

          The Soviets pushed it because of idealogical reasons, not scientific. (Evolution was a bit too capitalist for their tastes). Science DD believes there are only 20 climate scientists in the world, most of whom are part of a liberal conspiracy to [promote liberalism? Radical environmentalism? Kill most humans? I’m at a loss as to why people believe AGW is some sort of conspiracy, but they do] he forced the connection.

          DD believes AGW stuff is all idealogical BS, therefore it’s like Lysenko. His proof of this? Well, he doesn’t need any. It’s idealogical BS.

          Also, there are 20 climate scientists in the world. Total. It’s not a real science, obviously! It’s just 20 guys, probably in their mom’s basements, just saying crap. Heck, they even forgot about the sun! Did they check solar variablity? DD has never heard about it, so obviously they didn’t.

          So busted.Report

          • Avatar Stillwater says:

            I actually think DD is arguing the other way. He’s not rejecting evolution because of a prior commitment to creationism (or whatever the analogy is supposed to reveal). He’s essentially asserting that the scientific community cannot in principle meet the burden-of-proof requirements to justify their theories. It seems to me he’s basically asserting (or implying) that those theories cannot be justified by anything less than a proof where every other possible theory purporting to account for the evidence is shown to be logically impossible. Of course, empirical theories don’t work that way. Being empirical and all, they’re contingent. Expecting them to be logically necessary confuses things, tho whether that confusion is intentional or not is something only DD could answer.Report

            • Avatar Jaybird says:

              I think it’s more of a argument that if you are asking me to give up the following things: (and there is a either a trivial list of things here or a huge list of things here, depending), then the burden of proof ought to be on the person who is saying “CHANGE YOUR LIFE!!!!” rather than the person who says “I don’t want to change my life.”

              When it comes to global warming, exactly what are you asking me to give up?

              (For the record, I find the “not much” people much more pleasant to concede points to than the “a whole bunch!” people.)Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                then the burden of proof ought to be on the person who is saying “CHANGE YOUR LIFE!!!!” rather than the person who says “I don’t want to change my life.”

                Sure. But! if what you say is correct, then the burden-of-proof requirements map onto the subjectively held emotional commitment to “not changing my life”, rather than onto objective properties like explanatory power, theoretical coherence, etc. That is, it reduces burden of proof from an external and objective property to a psychological and subjective one.

                Also, it seems to me that what you describe (accurately) entails that if someone is emotionally committed to not changing their life, there is in principle no theoretical or empirical evidence that could persuade them otherwise.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                Have you ever tried to discuss nuclear power plants with some of these global warming people? Sheesh. It’s like they think that the point of the argument is to get people to stop using power instead of stop creating so much carbon dioxide.Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

                Some of the people supporting AGW are unpleasant? OK, it must be false.Report

              • Avatar Will Truman says:

                Jay, that’s one of the things that gives me pause. The majority of people I talk to who talk about how we have to do X, Y, and Z because of global warming support X, Y, and Z for other reasons. If you bring up W as a potential solution, well then suddenly there’s no reason to go crazy over this (the potential ecological armageddon), because W is a bad idea.

                Mike, it’s not so much “they’re unpleasant, so they’re wrong” but rather a question of the extent to which they really believe what they say they believe, or whether it’s a convenient argument to get people to live in such a way that they think they should for other reasons. For me, anyway, it has no bearing on the veracity of AGW, but leads me to think that a lot of the discussion that surrounds it is political, rather than scientific.

                (I mean, if a husband and wife are both talking about how their credit card is unsustainable, and she demands that he gets rid of satellite TV – which she has always complained that he watches too much – but won’t give up her nail appointments, and he demands that she get rid of the CSA food service – which he has previously complained clutters up the fridge and is full of a lot of food he doesn’t like – but both consider giving up their own thing as unimaginable because it’s such a good deal… well, their credit card problem hasn’t gone away, but the context of the discussion sort of appears different.)Report

              • Avatar Morat20 says:

                Eh, my experience has been that the pro-nuclear people cheerfully ignore human nature. Neither side particularly covers themselves in glory.

                *shrug*. Nuclear power is a scary, dangerous beast. People associate it with big, giant explosions and centuries or millenia of silent, invisible, lethal radiation.

                Asking to build plants powered by that nearby is gonna meet with honest resistance, beyond that of “It’s ugly” and well into the honest (if perhaps mistaken) beliefs that it is singularly dangerous.

                Worse yet, from a pro-nuclear point of view, has been the clownshoes level of competence involved in building some of these things. From situating them in clearly ridiculous places (fault lines? Sounds good!) to inadequate safety systems and cut corners…

                Well, telling them “Don’t worry, most plants aren’t like that” doesn’t help. It makes it worse. It says “this is a dangerous thing, and the people making them often don’t care”.

                Me? I divide the anti-nuclear power folks into two parts. The part that screams about the US Navy powering vessels that way, and the part that doesn’t.

                The second half? Those are the people you have to convince, because they’re okay with competent use of nuclear power — which they feel the US Navy meets. (Again, right or wrong doesn’t matter). The first half? They’re idiots and marginal anyways.

                Personally, I don’t think nuclear’s gonna be that big of an answer. I think future power generation is going to be far more distributed, with less of an emphasis on big, giant plants and more on micro or mini-generation.

                Anyways, that’s the issue with nuclear. The public at large has some serious safety concerns, and the people selling it are hampered by the fact that nuclear accidents are — shall we say — particularly potent and lingering disastors in a way which exploding oil-fired plants aren’t — and the fact that there’s been several high-profile incidents which indicate the at least some of the people making and running these things are, bluntly, idiots.

                And no one wants an idiot-built nuclear plant nearby, even if they are firmly aware of exactly how a nuclear power plant fails. (You know, no mushroom clouds).Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                When it comes to global warming, exactly what are you asking me to give up?

                Also, JB, I think this gets things backwards. The first question is whether AGW is a realtruefact, has it been established by the conventionally agreed upon methods of the scientific community. The second question, which requires establishing the first, is how painful (etc) are the commitments individuals must make to remedy the problem.

                Really, the two things are separable, it seem to me. To argue from a hypothetical list of sacrifices backwards to the degree of proof required is anti-empirical and anti-evidence. The truth of the theory can be determined independently of what follows from that truth.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                “The truth of the theory can be determined independently of what follows from that truth.”

                Of course it can. However, what would this look like in practice?

                “I don’t understand why Mars would be going through increased warming at the same time as Earth if warming were not due to something external to both.”

                “You deniers are all the same.”Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                Yeah, there’s that. One the one hand, AGW Believers can be too quick to assume that a denier is demanding a level of justification which cannot be met, so they too-quickly dismiss legitimate criticisms/worries with the theory. On the other, AGW Deniers often cite the incompleteness of the (empirical!) theory in order to too-quickly dismiss it in it’s entirety.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                If I may get all Marshall Mcluhan, the more the argument styles of Team Science mirror that of their opponents, the more the argument demonstrates itself to be a political one rather than a scientific one.Report

              • Avatar Will Truman says:

                They’re separable in theory. In fact, we’re not dealing with what is realtruefact and what is not. Not necessarily. We’re dealing with at least some level of uncertainty in the degree and in the degree to which the remedies will sufficiently help.

                The more sacrifice that is required, the higher the necessary threshold of confidence before we agree to act.

                Of course, this works both ways. Discussing an imminent and tremendous threat, but then being unwilling to make sacrifices against your own ideology, demonstrates a lack of complete confidence in the projections (or, alternately, in our ability to do anything about it).

                Which kind of goes back to the other thing. If you think we are on the eve of ecological Armageddon, and yet you oppose nuclear power plants on the basis that they are dangerous, I have to wonder how certain you are that we are on the eve of ecological Armageddon. (To be fair, Bob Wallace over here is giving reasons other than safety for being against nuclear power.)

                But it’s also something I understand. I don’t think it’s actually a matter of being (intentionally) disingenuous.Report

              • Avatar Rod says:

                When it comes to global warming, exactly what are you asking me to give up?

                But that cuts both ways, JB. If GW continues apace, and the scientists are correct about the consequences, then business-as-usual has its own set of costs.

                So the question can be readily flipped around, “When it comes to doing nothing about global warming, exactly what are you asking me to give up?Report

              • Avatar Morat20 says:

                There’s a simple answer to “What do you want me to give up”.

                We want you to give up abusing the commons and pretending you aren’t. The same way we made people stop dumping waste into streams.

                Yes, it sucks majorly and causes prices to rise a bit when you have to actually properly dispose of your waste rather than dump it. CO2 emissions are no different, in that respect, than dumping chemicals into groundwater.

                We’d like you to pay for it. That’s it. Carbon taxes, cap and trade, regulations — there are a MILLION ways to handle it. PICK ONE.

                That’s it. That’s all you have to give up. You have to give up the free ride of industrial dumping of CO2 into the atmosphere. You have to pay for the right to do so, and the price is going to be designed to get global emissions down to a certain level.

                I have faith that the free market can find a way to do so. It’d be a shame if it was magic pixie dust for everything else, but can’t seem to solve a simple pollution problem.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                Yes, it sucks majorly and causes prices to rise a bit

                I’m all in favor of internalizing externalities. I get irritated at the claim that reducing pollution will hinder the economy, because following that argument rigorously leads us back to dumping oil and chemicals straight into the Cuyahoga River until it burns again.

                But let’s not be too cavalier about “causes prices to rise a bit.” I’m far from rich, but I’m pretty comfortable in life. I can handle a rise in prices, and the rules aren’t going to cost me my job. So it’d be easy for me to ignore those who can’t readily afford a rise in prices, whose jobs will be cut.

                Even more, let’s keep in mind that dramatic action could very well be a perverse way for the western world to reinforce its superior standard of living, if the developing world is prevented from continuing to develop because of energy constraints.

                Combating AGW may be a net win, but it’s not necessarily a win-win.Report

              • Avatar Rod says:

                You might want to look into Cap and Dividend, James. It’s a neo-Georgist solution that was advanced at one time by a couple of Senators from each side. I’m thinking Patty Murray and Olympia Snowe, but I may be wrong on that score.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:


                That’s a new one to me. Thanks for bringing it to my attention, and I will look it up.Report

            • Avatar DensityDuck says:

              I’m not actually arguing about evolution at all. I’m pointing out that it’s not very persuasive to say You’re Wrong Because SCIENCE when there have been any number of scientific theories that were well-reasoned, based in sound logic, supported by observed evidence, and flat damn wrong. Lamarckian evolution (which, by the way, was how Charles Darwin thought evolution worked.) Spontaneous generation. Aether flow and geocentrism. Saying that something is Science doesn’t make it infallible.Report

              • Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

                “The so-called “Clovis First” theory had until 2008 been accepted as unquestioned truth among archaeologists, who considered that the Clovis people – so called from 13,000 year old archaeological finds near the village of Clovis in New Mexico – were the true native Americans.

                When the still more ancient 14,000-year-old excrement was found at the Paisley caves, it was pointed out by disgruntled boffins that no stone tools or other evidence of the type seen at Clovis had been found, and that the DNA poo evidence could have been erroneous.

                Dr Dennis Jenkins of Copenhagen uni was having none of that, however, and he continued to poke about in the caves. Now he and his team are back, this time packing stone artifacts including “Western stemmed” stone projectiles and new, more comprehensive DNA dating.

                According to a Copenhagen uni statement:

                The new study refutes every one of the critics’ arguments and uses overwhelming archaeological, stratigraphic, DNA and radiocarbon evidence to conclusively state that humans — and ones totally unrelated to Clovis peoples — were present at Paisley Caves over a millennium before Clovis.


              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                Saying that something is Science doesn’t make it infallible.

                That you think it needs to be infallible confirms my earlier point, btw.Report

              • Avatar DensityDuck says:

                Why aren’t you on a mechlorethamine infusion? Why do you still have your colon? Do you want to die of cancer?

                “But I don’t have cancer!”

                Are you sure? I mean, if you had cancer, it would be really bad. Why aren’t you taking every possible step to avoid dying of cancer? Don’t you understand how severe cancer is? Are you really arguing with me about how severe cancer is?Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                . Lamarckian evolution (which, by the way, was how Charles Darwin thought evolution worked.)

                Eh, what? You might want to go back to the study table, old boy.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                Heh. Not to pile on (too much), but there is something deeply ironic abut a lecture on scientific fallibility which makes fundamental mistakes about specific scientific claims.Report

              • Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

                Score one for Mr. Duck.Report

              • Avatar Liberty60 says:

                I think its interesting that out of all the science in the world, only climate science is subject to this level of scrutiny and doubt.

                I mean, when a geologist gives a report to ExxonMobil that says “this formation suggests that the best place to drill is right here” apparently that science is settled. Settled enough that they risk billions in following its conclusions.

                The science of genetic modification in GMO crops is, apparently, settled enough for Monsanto to invest billions.

                Funny how only when the conclusions of science are unsettling to certain ideological dogma, that science is suddenly fraught with uncertainty and doubt, that the scientists suddenly become bumbling mendacious fools.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                If I am willing to risk billions, I am going to want the best scientists available.

                If I am willing to risk your lifestyle (which, may I point out, I’ve found offensive for years now) without really changing much of my own? Heck, a headline is sufficient.

                What’s the car:driver ratio in your household, again?Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:


                I’m not arguing against AGW, but you might want to consider that there is a considerable difference in complexity between such things as figuring out where to drill for oil (which is more engineering than science) or modifying DNA (which is becoming more engineering than science) and modeling a system as complex and adaptive as a global climate.

                Examples like this are weak enough that they serve to bolster your opposition’s confidence, rather than weaken it.Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

                A better example is the connection between tobacco smoking and cancer, which was controversial for decades, at least at the Tobacco Institute.Report

              • Avatar Liberty60 says:

                I was responding more to DD and Tom’s assertions of how Science Can’t Be Trusted.

                Engineering is applied science; when corporations gamble billions of dollars they want, as Jaybird pointed out, the best scientific opinions available.
                For instance-
                Here is an article in World Net Daily, a reputable news source. (That is, a news source that is not part of the Lamestream Media):

                It references a paper (by a real scientist!) that shows evidence that oil is not produced by decayed organic matter, as the liberals tell us, but is produced by the earth itself, and is in no danger at all of running out. In fact, it is nearly unlimited!

                Well, as you can imagine, we can conclude that the science of oil generation is definitely NOT settled. We can also be sure that ExxonMobil, upon seeing this paper, immediately halted all its investment into conventional oil exploration, because, as everyone here has pointed out, why risk so much investment if the science can’t be trusted?

                Now, lets get back to that so-called “Round Earth Theory”…Report

              • Avatar CK MacLeod says:

                I think its interesting that out of all the science in the world, only climate science is subject to this level of scrutiny and doubt

                Because climate science approaches a theory of the whole by reducing the entire economy, the super-thing that we continually remind each other is the only thing “the people” really care about in our exceptional democracy, to a scientific experiment whose implications lethally undermine that same economic system.Report

              • Avatar DensityDuck says:

                “I think its interesting that out of all the science in the world, only climate science is subject to this level of scrutiny and doubt.”

                All science is subject to this level of scrutiny and doubt.

                The difference is that when someone says that, for example, estrogen replacement therapy might significantly increase the risk of cancer, they aren’t accused of being an anti-woman Hormone Denier who thinks that the status quo is just fine. And when it turns out that it does increase the cancer risk, people don’t claim that those studies were bankrolled by insurance providers who have a vested interest in denying coverage.Report

      • Avatar Robert Greer says:

        Hey man, the neo-Lamarckians have had a couple big successes in epigenetics lately. Just sayin’.

  12. I just found this post because Bob Wallace above kindly linked to my list of countries with over 60% renewable generation.

    But I also thought it was interesting to note that some people predict an ice-free arctic in the very short term, since that is one theme of “Great News”, my global warming science fiction novel I released in May.

    In that novel, just like Jules Verne in “The Purchase of the North Pole” before, I have my main character make a profit from the melting ice. He then goes on to solve that little “global warming” problem in a couple of years.Report

  13. Avatar Roger says:

    Interesting article on how even though the consensus view on global warming reveals that the warming will improve human outcomes for two or three generations, that eventually it becomes a net negative. Anyone care to weigh in on this debate?

    • Avatar Bob Wallace says:

      Improved human outcomes for what group of humans?

      Will prolonged droughts improve the lives of ranchers and farmers in the already hot and dry parts of the world? Did you observe what happened to Texas cattle ranchers during their recent multi-year drought?

      Will more warming improve life for the farmers in Africa who are being driven off their lands by people who used to follow their herds in even dryer parts of the countryside but are now attacking farmers in order to keep their stock alive?

      How about the people whose lives depend on lots of hard ice in the winter and permafrost to support their roads and houses (which are now sinking into the slush)?

      Those people were part of the consensus?Report

      • Avatar Roger says:

        Beats me. You guys are the experts, I take it you are familiar with the arguments.

        The point is we cannot cherry pick the stories of who is hurt or those that are helped. Climate change is a win lose situation. Some peopl gain I some ways and some are harmed in others. The experts in the field seem to say that on net, it will be a gain for the next few generations and a loss after that. If you disagree with them, where are they wrong?

        This whole argument gets back to my central question.


        Nobody seems to be addressing the issue. Until you answer that and the ramifications of your answer, we are just having an interesting chat.Report

        • Avatar CK MacLeod says:

          I addressed the issue above, but people on both sides remain in their own kind of denial about it. “Who is in charge of the global thermostat?” is the question of political order on a global level. International law is a work in progress. It took us a world war to accept the UN and other institutions of relatively weak global governance. Mainly, we left “the economy” in charge, but ecological catastrophe puts the legitimacy of economism radically in question.

          1. Problem will escalate to intolerable level in the absence of systematic and comprehensive transnational action.
          2. Systematic and comprehensive transnational action is impossible under current political-economic conditions.
          3. Problem will escalate to intolerable level.

          Intolerability of the problem and political-economic crisis are virtually the same phenomenon, or two sides of the same problem.

          If the problem is not intolerable, then carbon and related externalities are absorbable under current political economic conditions – so nothing will happen except that some alternatives may become increasingly politically-economically competitive or preferable.Report

          • Avatar James Hanley says:

            Systematic and comprehensive transnational action is impossible under current political-economic conditions.

            I think this gets to the heart of Roger’s question; the most accurate answer so far.Report

          • Avatar Roger says:


            Finally someone addresses the point. Sorry if I missed it earlier.

            So the question now becomes what will the nature of these international organizations be? Will they be centralized or decentralized? Once we create such entities, what are the risks of those being used to harm humanity (even assuming good intentions, which of course is an absurd assumption).

            Is this global institution in charge of CO2 levels or the temperature? How will they address winners and losers? What if the temperature gets colder due to natural reasons and CO2 goes up?Report

            • Avatar CK MacLeod says:

              We’re trying to imagine the unimaginable, since any forecasts we make regarding a world-historical crisis to come must be made from within the same conceptual framework that would to some great extent have to be superseded. We’re already assuming we’ve been very severely wrong about everything, so the odds would be against any one of us being right in general, or, if right, being understood and accepted.

              That’s why I introduced as potentially instructive the WW2 example – with reference to not knowing in 1941 what would prove decisive by the end of the war. The entire course of WW2 is worth considering also as the pre-eminent example of global governance forced into being under emergency conditions. For a moment, when the United Nations was a military alliance at war, and not a mere international “organization,” we did have a strong global government in operation, the Great Powers represented by political leaders with actual or virtual dictatorial power dividing up the world – its resources, people, and places, or at least those parts of the world they cared about – as they saw fit.

              Once you agree that “it’s an emergency” and that “someone has to take charge,” you stop worrying so much about minority viewpoints and getting everything exactly right. You take your best shots on incomplete information in the fog of war, assuming you lack the luxury of avoiding decision. It would be normal for us – the world – to overcompensate as much in the newly determined correct direction as we perceive ourselves to have strayed beforehand.

              So, it’s possible that Greer had things right about the end state – small is beautiful everywhere – but that we’ll get there by ironic/dialectical opposites. So, for a rough guess I think you can take everything that the majority of LOOG participants think is ideal in politics, culture, law, etc., and assume the opposite – though, I emphasize again, this is assuming that the crisis is inevitable and already under way, and that a miraculous alteration of human nature is not going to rescue us.

              A lot would be determined, of course, by how exactly the perceived threat emerged. It could be that climate change is a completely authentic problem and enough by itself to generate global crisis eventually, but that long before it is taken to be critical, the emergency is identified along some other axis or developing bad synergy – acidification of the oceans, global water shortages, super-disease, resource wars, civil breakdown due to worldwide profits (“financial”) crisis, active subversion of global trade, and so on.

              In any event, a lot to look forward to!Report

        • Avatar Liberty60 says:

          Those who contribute the most to it. This issue has been addressed at length, with the discussion and debate between developing carbon emitters like China and veteran emitters like the US and who should shoulder the burden of GHG reductions.

          What might be an interesting question, particularly wrt the link you provided, is “Who will suffer from our industrial processes?”

          The obvious fact that data shows, is we aren’t poisoning the earth, we are poisoning our economy.

          What happens to the long term prospects of Archer Daniels Midland when the Ogalla Aquifer dries up? What happens to the investments in cities along the Gulf Coast as hurricanes become stronger and more frequent?
          The San Joaquin Valley in California is experiencing seawater intrusion into their groundwater- the groundwater that feeds a sizeable chunk of America’s food supply- when the millions of acres of farms become arid wastelands, what happens to the American economy?

          Or suppose a quirk of global sea currents and jet streams cause the devastation to happen elsehwer- like, say, our primary trading partner China; or Europe. Think this won’t cause a global economic catastrophe? The fact that you can plant corn in the Arctic Circle isn’t going to matter much.

          This is the absurdity of the “jobs v. Bambi” crap we keep hearing.Report

          • Avatar Roger says:

            Again you look only at the costs, not the benefits, the losers, not the winners. In addition you seem to imply that solutions have only benefits and no costs More importantly you assume away all free rider problems.

            Absent institutional solutions of some sort, the “rational” thing for individuals, organizations and countries to do will be to free ride. Once you solve it organizationally, you introduce a new cost / benefit issue around the impact of these new institutional forces.Report

            • Avatar DensityDuck says:

              When Frank Miller wrote “Martha Washington” and proposed that the United States would invade Brazil in an effort to stop environmental damage due to beef production, it was meant as satire.Report

  14. Avatar Robert Greer says:

    Thanks for the lively comments everyone. I’d like to add a few broad thoughts.

    I still think conservatives and liberals are talking past each other on this issue. I think the conservatives score a fair point when they point out that concerted action led by powerful governments is deeply problematic: While I admit to skimming a lot of these comments, no liberal has convinced me how to overcome the Prisoner’s Dilemma-type problem inherent to top-down solutions, or the epistemic problems, or the regulatory capture/broader public choice problems that weave in and out of these kinds of debates. CK MacLeod’s fear that nothing will be done until the consequences are clearly catastrophic strikes me as apt.

    As upset as I am with liberals, however, I think it’s more disappointing that conservatives are spending so much time trying to pretend that environmental destruction isn’t happening, or that it somehow isn’t a problem. While I think it’s proper to note (as DensityDuck has done) that science is not monolithically correct, and that we should therefore take it all with a grain of salt, the hard data out of the Arctic from the last few years doesn’t map well to these Kuhnian concerns (nor does the fact that the albedo-feedback process, which is fairly well-understood, so neatly explains the accelerating decline of ice). Therefore it’s hard for me to draw any other conclusion than that conservatives are clinging to Pollyannaish arguments instead of being completely honest with themselves.

    So, conservatives: Let’s stipulate that government intervention in the climate is a bad idea, and that the free market can’t be guaranteed to generate a solution in time to avoid catastrophic effects. I tried to run through a few conservative solutions to climate change, but they haven’t been received enthusiastically. Why not, and what would you recommend in their stead?Report

    • Avatar North says:

      Good comment except that I’d gently suggest the debate in the comments has been more between the liberals and the libertarians for the most part with conservatives throwing only an occasional rock and then me the nuclear crazed neolib peddling my split atoms in one sideshow.Report

      • Avatar Robert Greer says:

        When I was in college I used to go to the Objectivist Club meetings. (I hadn’t been a Rand devotee since high school, but I was looking for political interlocutors who would challenge my position, and I was getting bored of theoconservatives.) When the topic of global warming came up, the group’s leader said because combating it would require that people give up their economic liberty, that it violates an axiom of ethics and therefore can’t be correct. I appreciate the differences between Objectivism and libertarianism more broadly sketched, but many of the libertarian comments in this thread haven’t seemed to progress from that college-level ideological thinking.Report

        • Avatar Robert Greer says:

          So I guess what I’m trying to say is that I’m not very interested in engaging the more dogmatic libertarians, and that the thoughtful ones have criticisms of AGW-mitigation that overlap substantially with the conservative position anyway and can thus be considered conservatives for this issue (okay, that’s unsatisfying, but I think you understand where I’m coming from at least). Thanks for keeping me precise.Report

    • Avatar Jaybird says:

      I tried to run through a few conservative solutions to climate change, but they haven’t been received enthusiastically. Why not, and what would you recommend in their stead?

      Begin with a discussion of what you, yes you, personally, have done to change your life. Give a balance of things that cost a little bit more but actually save money in the long run (“we changed out our windows and our heating bill was cut by a third!”) and things that have inconvenienced you but demonstrate that you think that these things are important (“we gave up one of our cars”) and make appeals to a romantic localism where you can (“we’ve stopped flying places on our vacations and have started taking staycations where we spend time with each other and we keep our dollars in our local community”).

      In addition to those things, I’d make little concessions here or there to how you changed your mind about things. Like, if you were opposed to Nuclear Power once but now see that Nuclear Power is part of the solution to address the growing power needs of the world (and point out the significant advancements in nuclear power generation technology), then you will help establish your own objectivity in the discussion. It will effectively say “I had personal beliefs about things, too… but looking at the Science! resulted in me changing my mind about my personal beliefs and I abandoned them in the name of The Truth.”

      The story of Elmer Gantry resonated for a reason.Report

      • Avatar Robert Greer says:

        I guess a devolution into my personal habits was the logical endpoint of my post, so sure, I’ll oblige.

        My biggest personal failing on the score is that I fly about a half-dozen times a year. I don’t want to get too defensive about something that is obviously terrible for the environment, but I think it’s fair to point out that I travel by plane only to either move or to visit family, and that I’m still in school and thus relocate more often now than will be typical over my lifetime. Another problem is that I take long showers.

        Other than that, though, my carbon footprint is pretty damn small. I haven’t owned a car for seven years, even though five of those years were in Los Angeles. My diet is very planet-friendly: nearly raw-vegan, which I highly recommend if you do it correctly (maybe I could write a food politics post?). I forgo air conditioning whenever I can get away with it. I’m no saint, but I do alright.

        I’d like to push back a little against your assumption that being planet-friendly is a sacrifice. Public transit, walking, and biking are all a lot cheaper than purchasing and maintaining a car. Yes, they’re often less convenient, but they also get me out into the community where I imbibe more local culture than whatever’s on the stereo in my car pod, and get more exercise to boot. Using less AC means that I have to be more creative with how I cool down: I try to keep plants in my apartments whenever possible, which not only cools down the space considerably, but also absorbs carbon dioxide, produces oxygen, and provides a nice piece of biological art that, to my eyes, is more beautiful than any human artifice.

        I don’t consider my diet a sacrifice either. The most sustainable food is usually the most delicious: I eat fresh, ripe fruits and vegetables every day, which is more delicious and satisfying than any processed crap out there. I’m less alienated from my food, and am more in tune with my body than I would be if I had a more Western diet. I’m healthy, I feel great, and I have a body that works well and looks pretty damn good in a mirror.

        (Okay, okay, I’ll stop.)Report

        • Avatar Jaybird says:

          Hey, I’m just saying what you need to do if you want other people to open their ears. At the end of the day, you’re going up to them and telling them “You need to change the way that you are living your life.”

          If you are living a lifestyle that is fairly similar to their own, you will not be taken seriously.

          The whole “push back a little against your assumption that being planet-friendly is a sacrifice” is a good tack to take as well. Focus on the “quality of life improvement” where you can, focus on the “saves money” where “quality of life” won’t work, and focus on “the children” when neither of those will work.

          You want people to change their lives? You’d best be a good example.

          We can get into the whole “you’re going to need to do a hell of a lot more to put the brakes on global warming than merely the things that are easy to do and have intangible psychic benefits” another time.Report

          • Avatar Will Truman says:

            Being a good example is a good thing, though “I do these things and it really isn’t much of a sacrifice!” is not of great comfort to those for whom it is a sacrifice. I mean, I can say that everyone should buy a car made in the US and that would make our country a better place, and I can say “And I bought a car made in Indiana!” Of course, the car I happened to want was made in Indiana, so saying that everyone should buy a car made in the US is rather easy for me.Report

            • Avatar Jaybird says:

              Yes, that’s true too. You don’t want to say “I have stopped vacationing in Europe!” to someone who barely has the disposable income to eat out with his or her significant other on special days. That said, you *REALLY* don’t want to say “you guys need to change your lives!” to someone who barely has the disposable income to eat out with his or her significant other on special days when you take your own vacations in Europe.Report

              • Avatar Will Truman says:

                Quite so. Private jets really come to mind. I have a lot of trouble reconciling anyone saying that they are concerned about the environment who flies on private jets.

                The trouble with the reconciliation isn’t “Ooooh! Hypocrite! Hypocrite!!” I mean, Ted Haggard can be a hypocrite but I can sort of understand something being sinful but the heart wanting what the heart wants and the internal conflict having bad results.

                Private jets? They seriously make me wonder if the people actually believe what they say they believe. Or otherwise, whether they genuinely believe that they take such a privileged role in our society that they believe the burden to rightfully fall onto others.Report

            • Avatar James Hanley says:

              i want to add to what wil said. Saying something isn’t a sacrifice is a personal statement. But we have very little room to tell others what is ir isn’t a sacrifice for them.Report

            • Avatar Robert Greer says:

              Yeah, I meant to include something about how I’m in a privileged position to forgo a car. But I think similar arguments could be made for carpooling (which I did when I had a car, and loved it — travelling with other people is more fun), and I think the rest of my post stands regardless. Eating a more sustainable diet IS cheaper and healthier — you can argue about the fungibility of utility all you want here, but you’re pushing against an enormous corpus of medical literature.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                travelling with other people is more fun

                The hell it is.

                you can argue about the fungibility of utility all you want here, but you’re pushing against an enormous corpus of medical literature.

                You really don’t understand utility. Utility is not what is objectively good for you. It may overlap with that, but it is not coterminous.

                And there’s no doubt that billions of people over the years have lived quite healthy lives while eating dead critters. So the question becomes, what do I prefer at the margin, another unit of already pretty good health or another unit of pretty tasty dead critter? Medical literature doesn’t answer that.Report

              • Avatar Robert Greer says:

                You’re asking the wrong questions, James. The medical literature establishes fairly convincingly that a diet based on fruits and vegetables is healthier than one that is heavily meat-based. This isn’t to say that a little meat consumption is bad, but the vast majority of Americans consume meat to the point that it leads to less-than-ideal healthy outcomes.

                Also, I wasn’t necessarily talking about what is “objectively good” for anyone, so your criticism there is not entirely apt.Report

              • Avatar Will Truman says:

                I don’t think he is arguing the point that meat in general leads to less healthy outcomes in the aggregate. I think he’s arguing that there are other variables in the calculation of what’s for dinner (or what we want for dinner).

                Eating healthy is, generally speaking, cheaper. It is not, however, nearly as easy. It is also more time-consuming. Add that to the fact that a lot of people consider it less pleasant, and you end up with what counts, in my view, as a sacrifice.Report

              • Avatar Robert Greer says:

                If that’s indeed what James is arguing, then that’s great — it’s a permise of what I’ve been arguing all along.

                Eating healthier isn’t necessarily more time-consuming. It’s a lot faster and convenient to chop up a salad with fruits and throw some nuts in it than to grill up even a simple burger (after you factor the clean-up, which consists of rinsing a cutting board and a knife). But I realize I’m getting awfully crunchy-granola here (although I’m skeptical of grains myself), so I won’t press the issue.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                Health is part of utility; so is the tastiness of charred flesh. That’s all I’m saying.

                And there seems to be a bit of conflict between the following two statements:

                The medical literature establishes fairly convincingly that a diet based on fruits and vegetables is healthier than one that is heavily meat-based.

                I wasn’t necessarily talking about what is “objectively good” for anyone

                If you’re focusing on what the medical literature tell is is healthier, I don’t see how you can possibly not be talking about what is objectively good for us, assuming health is good. And I have no problem with you talking about what is objectively good for us; there’s absolutely nothing wrong with pointing out what the medical literature says. What’s wrong is any implication that that is dispositive of the question of whether I should eat meat or not. It’s a factor that ought to go into my decision-making, but it’s not dispositive by itself.Report

              • Avatar Robert Greer says:

                James, utilitarians argue all the time about objective vs. subjective utility, and I’m not interested in that debate except to point out that it exists, and that it’s therefore grotesque for you to thwack me for not operating from your favored definition. But if you really want to talk about Chapter Five of On Liberty, I might be persuaded.

                “If you’re focusing on what the medical literature tell is is healthier, I don’t see how you can possibly not be talking about what is objectively good for us, assuming health is good.” You got me there. I guess I’d go back to my original point and point out that it’s not clear that being sustainable is a sacrifice in the ways it’s often conceived to be.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:


                But you want me to give some credence to your belief that utility is objective, so that you can define someone else’s utility for them, even if they disagree with your assessment of their utility?

                That sets off a lot of warning bells for me, but I’ll just set them aside in the interest of maintaining comity, and ask why we should take your word about John Doe’s utility over his word?

                Do others get to supersede your judgement about your own utility? Is that a door you really want to open?Report

              • Avatar Robert Greer says:

                James, I’m aware of how problematic that line of thinking can be, which is why I tend toward anarchism over authoritarianism. Even in the areas where I think it’s pretty clear that certain actions are better for people than others, I would rather use personal moral suasion than coercive government force. But that apparently makes me a nag and a moral braggart, so I should sit silently by while the world climate gets steadily more precarious.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                so I should sit silently by while the world climate gets steadily more precarious.

                But of course I never said that. Look at Pyre’s example about recycling above. He neither tried to pass a rule nor tried to use moral suasion; he just set an example.

                I don’t know if you’ve ever read the fine blog slacktivist, but the author is a Christian (a politically liberal one, for however much that matters), who frequently complains about how poorly most Christians witness–his view is that the best witness is to just live a Christian life as an example for others to observe, not to go out and badger them in any way about it. He thinks the latter does more harm than good.

                And that’s pretty much all I’m saying here. If you ever came over to my house for a cookout, and I knew you were a vegetarian/vegan, I’d make the effort to make sure I had something appropriate for you to eat. I wouldn’t mock you, tell you to suck it up and snarf a brat or go hungry, or make a big deal of it at all. If I’m in the right mood, I might even prepare a fully vegetarian meal because I don’t have any problem eating those. But the moment you even hinted that I shouldn’t be eating a brat you’d find yourself hustled out the door.

                It’s just counter-productive because it irritates people. Just as you get irritated when you think I’m condescending to you, so that my arguments fail to resound…that’s the problem you create for yourself when the moral suasion comes out.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                I should sit silently by while the world climate gets steadily more precarious.

                Raise your voice!

                And then when people ask “why haven’t you changed your life?”, get all “HOW DARE YOU?”

                Seriously. You will improve the day of countless people if you do that.Report

              • Avatar Robert Greer says:

                James and Jaybird, I was under the impression that moral suasion included setting an example, and doing a little poking around shows that I’m far from the only one, so I don’t see a need to reset my internal lexicography. And I still don’t understand why you two are free to advocate the libertarianism while I’m barred from advocating environmentally-friendly measures. I honestly don’t see how what I’m doing is “badgering” — yes, I’ve advocated for a certain line of action, but I hope you agree that I’ve refrained from judgment of people who don’t hew to it. If you disagree, feel free to point out where I’ve been judgmental.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                Dude, how in the hell am I barring you from doing *ANYTHING*?

                My tack has totally been some pre-reqs you need to satisfy in order to best get skeptical people to be responsive to your argument.

                You don’t need to live like a monk. Seriously, you don’t. You *DO* have to be a good example (and, I suspect, your example is good enough for jazz).

                Now, when it comes to your little lapses, the main thing you need to *NOT* do is wave them away as being things that are okay because, seriously, your circumstances are extraordinary. This is a collective action problem and your *FIRST HURDLE* is to get other people to listen to your argument. We’re not even to the whole “get them to *AGREE* to it” thing yet.

                If they come up, you need to point out two things: 1) You know it’s bad. 2) You’ve been working on it and it’s better than it was.

                An example: let’s say that the long, hot shower is your weakness. Talk about how you used to listen to Dark Side of the Moon (THE WHOLE THING) while in the shower and you used to say “hey, I pay my water bill” but now you just listen to “Comfortably Numb” in the shower. You’re working on moving down to “Run Like Hell”.

                Talk about how difficult this is for you *BUT* how you’re doing it anyway.

                Don’t talk about how it’s really a small thing and so it’s okay.

                If you can get people to just be open to the idea of changing their lives a little bit, recycle, shorten their showers, get better insulation around their windows, use a lap blanket instead of turning up the heat, so on and so forth, you want them to think that “If he can do it, I can do it.”

                You do not want them to think “if he doesn’t have to change, then I don’t have to change”.

                Do you see the difference between my saying that to you about what you’re saying and my barring you from speaking?Report

              • Avatar CK MacLeod says:

                Thanks for the post, RG, and for the discussion it prompted. Sorry if the result turned out depressing, but, if so, probably was always in the cards.Report

          • Avatar Robert Greer says:

            “You want people to change their lives? You’d best be a good example.”

            I think this is exactly right, and is (a much more clear way of saying) my criticism toward liberals in the AGW debate. People who are worried about AGW too often make it a question of what the government should do about it instead of about personal ethics. I guess this makes my argument here a special application of Conor Williams’ thesis.Report

            • Avatar James Hanley says:

              Telling us we’re alienated from our food is a bad move, though. It takes it from personal example to didactic moral preaching. Thank you for boasting about your superiority, now pardon me while I slap one alienated steaks on the grill.Report

              • Avatar Robert Greer says:

                Hey, I thought I was self-aware of how talking about my personal decisions can turn into boasting (hence the “Okay, okay, I’ll stop.”) Yes, I believe that what I’m doing is more ideal, and I was actually invited to reveal it. I don’t see how that makes me an asshole.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                Just thinking you’re morally superior comes perilously close to making you an asshole. I’m not saying you are one, because I really don’t think you are. But I don’t think you’re quite aware that smugness is a vulgarity, if not a sin, at least an indulgence that is its own reward, but which precludes the reward of having the desired effect on anyone else.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                Personally, I prefer the “externality/collective action” line of argument. If the facts are what they appear to be wrt greenhouse gases, then we’re currently doin to rong. It’s not about ideals or morality of judgment.

                And the facts being what they are (if they are facts), and people being what they are, the solution to our problems requires collective action towards amelioration and mitigation. I can see how certain ideals are consistent with these goals, but certainly not necessary. I mean, even a pure pragmatic ought to be persuaded that institutional action of some sort is required (if what we believe to be the case is true).Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                I don’t disagree at all. But if you really really really want to purposely set out to undermine your efforts to get people on board, one of the best strategies you can choose is to say, “I’m less alienated from my food than you are.”

                I’m reminded of my time in graduate school, where offering a vegetarian option every time you had a cookout was socially required–it was just bad manners not to. And that was cool, because that was the local culture. Then I went home to Farmville, Indiana, and went to a cookout at my neice’s boyfriend’s house, where everything had meat, even the green beans (bacon, mmmm). I mused about whether it would be funny to ask for a vegetarian option or not, and quickly decided it wouldn’t be funny at all. If that isn’t funny, imagine how telling them they were alienated from their food would be.

                And frankly, I’ve never felt more alienated from a rack of ribs than I have from a banana. And, even more frankly, if we’re going to talk about being alienated from our food, Mike Dwyer’s probably less alienated from the squirrels he shoots and skins than I am from the corn I buy at the local farmer’s market. Meat v. veggie’s got little to do with it.

                In brief, “food alienation” is a self-sabotaging argument. It’s pure indulgence.Report

              • Avatar Robert Greer says:

                The language of externality and collective action still presupposes a certain view of the world. You can pretend it’s not a moral choice all you want, but it still exhibits all the important features of one.

                James, you’re being awfully uncharitable here. I spoke only of my own relationship with food, while I was arguing that vegetarianism is no worse an option for me. That you decided to take such immediate and vociferous offense to a relatively circumspect formulation doesn’t give me a lot of reason to reconsider my position.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:


                Offense? No, I’m just pointing out that certain uses of language are going to be unproductive. “Alienation from food,” like it or not, and even accurate or not, screams leftie elitists moralism. You might not be intending to send that message, but it is is the message that is received–is going to be received by anybody not already in your choir–despite what your intentions may be.Report

              • Avatar Robert Greer says:

                Well, the problem is that the externality/collective action avenue has been largely foreclosed, because it infringes on people’s liberty or whatever.

                So, to recap:

                1) Favoring government action is impermissible because it takes away people’s freedoms, and

                2) Resorting to moral suasion is also impermissible because advocating moral ideals is gauche.

                I guess it’s no wonder that the conservatives and libertarians are so invested in the (untenable) view that climate change isn’t happening.Report

              • Avatar Robert Greer says:

                I do not want to be smug. If you know how I can advocate for a certain way of living that I happen to follow without being smug, I’d like you to tell me.Report

              • Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

                Robert, this Republican household drives a Prius. Along with an SUV, mind you—the band needs me to haul the PA. The wife loves broccoli. We’re like totally with you, bro, sort of. There’s even some tofu in the fridge, although admittedly, for the better part of a year now. But every time we fry some up, we agree we should do it more often.

                In fact, I’m going to see if I can order up a tofu pizza rightfungingnow.

                Thx, man. I do respect yr sincerity, truth no snark.Report

              • Avatar Robert Greer says:

                TVD, I’ve long thought you’ve gotten a lot of undeserved shit from the liberals here. I call a truce, and if there was no quarrel to begin with, an alliance.Report

              • Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

                An Alliance of the Decent, Robert? I like it. Keep the vampires off each other’s necks, that sort of thing.Report

              • Avatar Rod says:

                It doesn’t make you an asshole, but it doesn’t actually point the way to any systemic solution either. I mean, if your solution starts with, “If only everybody would…” then it’s a non-starter. (Which, BTW, is the same blinkered thinking you get from anarchist libertarian and other utopianist types. But I digress.)

                Example: I drive a big rig for a living. Given the amount of diesel fuel I burn in a year to put food on my family, does that make me a bad guy? If I didn’t do it somebody else would be driving this thing, so not particularly as far as I can tell.

                The real issues are systemic and industry-wide. For starters, I basically live in this thing. It has a bunk in the cab and I sleep in it when I’m off duty. Now try that when it’s -20 or 90+ outside. So the normal practice has been to idle the truck to heat or cool it when you’re taking your required rest breaks. Terribly inefficient, running that big engine just to generate hot or cold air, but what ya gonna do?

                One option is an Auxiliary Power Unit (APU). Basically a small diesel generator that can run an electrically-driven heating/cooling unit. Kinda spendy, adds weight (which is cargo you can’t haul), another device to maintain, but they purport to have a payback period of about 18 months, more or less, depending on the price of fuel. You see a fair number of them out there but now some states have included them in the their anti-idling laws. Bad move IMO, but there it is.

                Another option is some kind of infrastructure solution. There was (emphasis on the past tense) an outfit called “Idle-Air” that had facilities at a number of truck stops to supply heated or cooled air directly into the cab along with phone and cable-TV. You paid your money, put an adapter in the window, and hooked up what looked like a giant dryer-vent hose. Never tried it personally. Couldn’t justify the expense when the company didn’t say much about idling and they weren’t willing to re-imburse. Plus it seriously fished up the parking lots, reducing the available spaces and making you park nose-in, which drivers don’t like for reasons I won’t get into here. Fail.

                Now I’m seeing something called “Truck Electrification” pop up here and there. Apparently the idea is to plug your truck into an outlet to run heat and A/C. Nice idea if your rig is set up for it I suppose. But very few are. I predict another fail.

                Upshot is you have a real chicken and egg problem with these schemes. That and you don’t always park at regular truck stops either. Right now I’m sitting at a shipper waiting for 10 hours because my driving clock ran out. Can’t legally go anywhere. The only way to make anything like this work would be to legally require (coercion, oh my!) manufacturers to install APU/Shore-power units on all new vehicles and let the fleet age out. Then you could see truck stops seeing it as worthwhile to install the plug-ins and trucking companies would see it as worthwhile to pay for the hook-ups.Report

              • Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

                An eco-friendly dude who feeds his family by polluting the environment. Real rubber-meets-the-road shit. Rock on, and I mean this completely sans snark. Now you have my attention.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                Exactly. How each of is lives our lives isn’t relevant to the facts of the matter wrt GW. That’s one reason I disagree with JB’s line of argument where living an “eco-friendly, small carbon-footprint life” is necessary for one’s views about reducing carbon emissions to be persuasive. It brings ideals into the equation, and life-style choices, and all the other stuff, in what is, and ought to be, a fact-of-the-matter discussion.

                And maybe that confusion is what leads to so many heated disputes about AGW. Anti’s look at enviros as imposing their vision of an ideal lifestyle on them – one of those “if only we could get everyone to drive a Prius” sorta things – and that justifiably breeds resentment.

                That’s a bad argument strategy, it seems to me.Report

              • Avatar Rod says:

                But it’s not really me doing the polluting. It’s the system.

                It’s our system that manufactures goods in China to save a few bucks on labor and then sends it half-way around the world where I pick it up at the Port of Long Beach and haul it to Denver. That’s going to happen whether I work this job or not and since it’s my best prospective employment at the moment my choices are completely rational.

                Ultimately, my choices for personal consumption make a difference, but only infinitesimally at the margin. So yeah, I recycle and use those curly-cue light bulbs and stuff, but I’m under no delusion that I’m saving the planet by doing so. It makes me feel better and I actually save a few bucks so there’s that.

                Real systemic problems require real system solutions. But that presents all sorts of hurdles we’re all aware of, starting with the reality that folks will tend to believe what is in their best interests to believe. And people don’t like to feel guilted into shit, so that’s a both a losing strategy and pointless besides. Neither you nor I individually are the problem and so neither of us can individually be the solution.Report

              • Avatar CK MacLeod says:

                Thank you, Rod. I think you have that mostly right, except that, beyond intrinsic benefits of healthier, lighter footpring lifestyle, there is marginal value to associating yourself with the alternative/superior/desirable way of life, as a statement to yourself and others. You don’t absolutely know that it won’t lead to a miraculous world-changing accumulation of marginal effects. If it does not do so, then at least you’re better positioned for an early onset of crisis, including perhaps a position of greater authority when you encourage your irate and vengeance-seeking fellow citizens to treat people like TVD, wardsmith, and other enemies of the state/humanity/nature interned at the FEMA camps humanely.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                Very well said, Rod.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:


                I don’t think bringing production of goods to the U.S. would substantially reduce energy use much. There’d still be the necessary shipment of resources and materials to the production location, and often that’s going to involve materials that aren’t at all local.

                Consider also transportation of foods. Yes, we expend a fair amount of energy transporting bananas from central America to the U.S. But it would cost more energy to grow bananas in the U.S.

                Could we live without bananas? Yes, reluctantly. Could we live without all the various foods and goods that we can’t produce locally (because, assuredly, even if we could produce anything locally, we can’t produce everything locally)? Sure, we could. But at that point Robert’s “it’s not a sacrifice” argument’s going to be a pretty tough sell.Report

              • Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

                Now hold on there, MacLeod: Does the camp have free Wi-Fi? Don’t talk me out of a sweet deal.Report

              • Avatar CK MacLeod says:

                Wi-Fi will be free by national right to Wi-Fi law, but in your case your commo would probably have to monitored and subject to… adjustment. Just like everything else…Report

              • Avatar Rod says:


                Prior to 1980 the U.S. was the largest exporter of finished goods in the world and the largest importer of raw materials. Now that’s exactly reversed. A great deal of what we import is made of materials that we originally exported, so the substance is making a big around-the-world loop-de-loop, all powered by fossil fuels. You know why we used to built cars in Detroit? Because the steel they were made from was mined and refined in the Iron Mountains of Michigan.

                I’m not opposed to international trade, although I would prefer it was actual trade of goods for goods, rather than just buying shit from other countries. (Ricardo’s fine theory has been brutally abused, IMO, but that’s for another discussion.) If I grant that tariffs and quotas distort international trade will you grant that subsidizing transportation costs by failing to adequately cost fossil fuel use is also a gross distortion?

                You may be able to make the case that electronics are best and most economically manufactured in China if it happens that they’re sitting on a bunch of rare earth metals. But that seems like a much harder case to make for something like clothing when we’re growing about eleventy-bazillion tons of cotton, sending it overseas, and then importing t-shirts and jeans. Our southern states, where the cotton is grown, used to be our nation’s clothiers.

                I take Hayek seriously; hell, even Mises in small doses. I’m no advocate of central planning. I just want to properly cost the inputs, things like energy and water, so that individuals and firms can make rational economic calculations. If there’s any truth to economic theory, far from “wrecking” the economy–as so many of your ideological fellow-travelers assert–this will result in greater efficiency and prosperity for all. Isn’t that cool?Report

              • Avatar Robert Greer says:

                One of my favorite online friends drives a big rig, my dad was a mechanic for a long time, and (I guess this is the big reveal of my post, hidden way down in the comments) I’ve worked in industrial shops and oil fields. I’m not unaware of the decisions people have to make, and I hope nobody mistakes my yearning for an ideal with a condemnation of people who look at their particular circumstances and make different decisions. I applaud your efforts around the margin making our carbon-based economy more sustainable, and I hope people look to your example and follow it instead of ritually condemning the Al Gores of the world in an effort to hush their own consciences.Report

        • Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

          Try all that with kids. You know, the ones we’re presumably saving the planet for.

          I don’t know how else to say it. I really have laid out of this latest AGW go-’round and din’t want to just get sarcastic. But the point is that eco-consciousness runs hand-in-hand with wealth and a lack of pressing need—the most pressing need in the world being to provide for one’s family.

          Tuna/dolphins, logging/forest/spotted owls, loading up the Voyager to get the kids to soccer.

          One can live and eat abstemiously [Ed Begley’s no hypocrite], but inflicting that lifestyle on one’s family takes either a fair amount of wealth, a perverse sense of values, or a really lousy handle on the math.Report

          • Avatar Robert Greer says:

            I think you’re mistaken about this, Tom. Of course there are lots of different ways that (certain kinds of) environmentalism is (/are) a privilege of the wealthy, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Your kids will survive if they have to bike to school, forgo plane trips to exotic lands, and eat fruits and vegetables, God forbid. It’s not living abstemiously; it’s living in harmony with one’s locale. What could be more conservative than that?Report

            • Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

              I admire happy eco-Puritans like you and Begley, but condemning our kids to your gray oatmeal lifestyle and their parents to even more drudgery just ain’t my idea of Land of the Free™.

              Daily family life in America—Try getting five kids across town on bicycles and buses, not to mention getting them to eat the apple slices and pitch the rest of their Happy Meal. Neither, if one wants their kids to see something of the world, is there time to take a horsecart or a tramp steamer.

              Just go for the carbon tax already.


              One more top-down tyranny will barely be noticed. The less said the better. Shhhhhhhhh.Report

              • Avatar Rod says:

                I favor a neo-Georgist approach: Cap and Dividend. Like the much-derided Cap and Trade you set emission targets. But unlike C&T there are no give-a-ways or grand-fathered emitters. All permits are auctioned annually based on that year’s target (with perhaps a wind-down/phase-in period). The proceeds are then equally distributed to the citizens on a per-capita basis.

                It’s a market-based approach that properly and organically incentivizes less carbon-costly activities while no hurting po-folks. Basically the bad pays for the good.

                As far as global free-riders are concerned… well, we’re a big economy and we buy a bunch of stuff. Maybe. It depends, huh? We don’t actually need to convince everybody; we just need to be prepared to use the power of the tariff to “persuade” other countries to go along. Iceland couldn’t do something like that, but we could.Report

              • Avatar Robert Greer says:

                Tom, I’m not out to condemn you if the easiest way for you to transport your clan to church involves combusting carbon, I’m just pointing out that alternative lifestyles that are more environmentally friendly are not as hard as people think. When you spout off about oatmeal and tramp steamer, it makes me worry that you’re not willing to meet me halfway.Report

            • Avatar James Hanley says:

              As a parent of three, I’m always amused when childless people tell me how easy it will be to raise children in a particular way.Report

              • Avatar Robert Greer says:

                Feel free to tell me what’s so awful about raising your kids on fresh produce and physical exercise, James.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                I don’t have kids either but I think that people should teach their kids Latin when they’re young. It’ll benefit everybody involved.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:


                Where did I say it was awful to do that? I’m talking about your implicit assumption that it’s not hard. How many school age children do you have? Where do you live? What is your actual experience with this?

                Here’s my experience. Because of four school district’s setup, we’re in the middle of a 4 year stretch where our 3 children go to 3 different schools. My daughter’s fall schedule is swim practice at 6:30 a.m. (before sunrise as the days get shorter), swim practice after school, then band practice until 8:30 (after sunset). We have harsh winters. No sacrifice in making my kids bike to school? Are you kidding me?

                There’s absolutely nothing wrong with raising your kids the way you want to raise yours if you have any. And of course I never said there was. I’m just objecting to your very facile assumption that with your lack of experience you can speak for how difficult it might or might not be for other parents.

                I’ll also critique your objection to flying to exotic locales as being no sacrifice. As a college prof my biggest problem is students who’ve never traveled. As a group they’re shallow, immature, and not very interested in the world. Students who have traveled, especially abroad, to places where they’re thrown out of their comfort zone, are deeper, more mature, and generally better prepared to make their way in the world.

                My wife and daughter flew to the Netherlands this year to visit family, and my daughter then met a high school group in Germany for an exchange program, in which she spent the week living with a Turkish German family. No sacrifice to not have that experience? Again, are you kidding me?Report

              • Avatar Robert Greer says:

                James, you keep attributing positions to me that I do not hold. Nowhere did I say that these things are not sacrifices, only that I doubt your children would be unduly burdened if you raised them this way.

                James, you’re responding as if I’ve been demanding that you become a complete ascetic. I’m not. I’m pointing out that it’s often a lot easier than people think to be environmentally-friendly. I understand you live in a rural area, and it sounds like your circumstances are special in other ways as well, so it makes sense that your mileage may vary. But I get the sense that you’d rather complain about how hard it is for you to do your part and brag about eating steaks than think hard about how someone in your circumstances could change things around the edges. That’s your right.

                I agree that overseas travel is a great way to learn about the world (as well as often being “fatal to prejudice,” as J.S. Mill put it). However, I also hope you realize what a privilege it is. The cost alone makes it prohibitive to most Americans, and it’s harder for people to break out of their American shell if they haven’t been exposed to other cultures in the way upper-class folks tend to be.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                Global Warming, if it is a solvable problem, is not a problem that will be solved by changing things around the edges.

                We’re talking a fundamental gestalt shift when it comes to how we live and interact with the planet.

                (Of course, there is no real upside to pointing this out so if you already knew this but were keeping it hush-hush for tactical reasons, I apologize for condescending and wrecking the illusion you were going for.)Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:


                You wrote, “It’s not living abstemiously;” I took that as you arguing that it’s not a sacrifice. See, for me, not traveling, not eating meat, and making my kids ride their bikes to school in the winter would be living abstemiously.

                And of course international travel is a privilege. That’s got nothing to do with the issue except to throw another layer of implicit moralism into it.

                I’m pointing out that it’s often a lot easier than people think to be environmentally-friendly.

                I’m not arguing that; I’m pointing out that for people with families, it can be quite a bit more difficult than you think it is.

                I get the sense that you’d rather complain about how hard it is for you to do your part and brag about eating steaks than think hard about how someone in your circumstances could change things around the edges.

                Brag about eating steaks? Hell, yeah. And if you don’t think you’re being moralistic, you really need to engage in a bit of self-analysis. And no, I wouldn’t rather complain about how hard it is to do something than to do some things around the edges, but I do like to point out when someone’s being exceptionally smug in their assumptions that what works for them works for others, even though they haven’t actually lived that other person’s live.

                I’ve got no argument with how you live your life. If it works for you that’s fantastic. But you’re …what…single? childless? urban? You literally can’t imagine the lives of many of us, so while it may not be an abstemious life for you, you have exactly zero standing to tell anybody else it wouldn’t be an abstemious life for them.

                Look, I don’t think you’re a bad guy, really. But you are being a moralist. God spare us from moralists.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                Actually Robert, as I review, you did in fact say these things are sacrifices.

                I’d like to push back a little against your assumption that being planet-friendly is a sacrifice.

                And now you say;

                . Nowhere did I say that these things are not sacrifices</em.

                This looks to me like the second clear contradiction, following your contradictory claims that you're just looking at the medical evidence about eating meat and that you weren’t “necessarily talking about what is “objectively good” for anyone.”

                I think if you could actually pull all the way back from trying to compare others’ lives to yours, those contradictions would disappear.Report

              • Avatar Robert Greer says:

                James, surely one can contest an assumption that something is a sacrifice even though a possibility remains that it’s in fact a sacrifice. Some environmental remedial measures are clearly sacrifices, while others haves surprisingly pleasurable side-effects. I contradict myself as often as I can, but I really don’t think you’ve identified such a case here.

                Also, nowhere did I say that it wouldn’t be harder for people with families to do the things I’ve outlined (except I truly believe it’s not harder to be a vegetarian unless you live on some remote grassland, in which case it’d probably be just as easy, healthier, and more sustainable to eat a lot of dairy instead. But anyway.

                I can understand if you want to say I’m moralistic. I’m taking a stand on something I think is a moral issue, and I’m encouraging a certain pattern of behavior in other people. But I honestly don’t think I’m being overly judgmental when I do so, and so I don’t understand why your knives have come out so quickly.

                “I’ve got no argument with how you live your life. If it works for you that’s fantastic. But you’re …what…single? childless? urban? You literally can’t imagine the lives of many of us, so while it may not be an abstemious life for you, you have exactly zero standing to tell anybody else it wouldn’t be an abstemious life for them.”

                James, I hope you (and all others like you) remember this line of argument when you espouse your stony economic libertarianism.

                And you’re mostly wrong anyway. I’m in a domestic partnership (not married, but we’ve been living together for two years, so hey), I’ve spent a fair bit of time living in rural areas (haven’t we been over this before?), and as the oldest of three latchkey kids, I know a decent amount about how to deal manage kids (which is probably why my relatives asked me to babysit my little cousins so often). You’re right that I don’t have as much experience in these areas as many other people, but it’s pretty unseemly for you to crow about my judgmentalism when you’re being pretty damn prejudicial yourself.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:


                1. Utility is subjective; none of us can say what is a sacrifice for another without substituting our judgement about what they value for their own judgement for what they value. I don’t think anyone can do that with any honesty.

                2. I am an unremitting enemy of moralists of all stripes. Live a moral life by all means. I respect those who do. But implying moral superiority, ot that others should do as oneself does, does in fact bring out my knives. Perhaps you really don’t think you’ve been moralistic, but you did come across that way to me.

                Like I said, I don’t think you’re a bad person. I just think you’re being too moralistic here.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                By the way being the oldest of three kids beats being an only child for experience, but it’s really nothing like being a parent, nor is babysitting. I understand why you think so, since you don’t actually have the parental experience to compare it to, but that’s really the point; not having the actual parental experience you don’t really know what it is, so you have no standing to advise parents. Your concerns are well intended, but you need to ask yourself what things you really do know, and which things others simply have more experience with, so that they really are likely to know better.Report

              • Avatar Robert Greer says:

                James, I think I couched my response appropriately. My conscience is clear.Report

              • Avatar Robert Greer says:

                James, what would you say if I remarked that your admonishment to not be a moralist is itself moralistic? What makes your “should”s superior to my “should”s? Aren’t you just, in true libertarian fashion, exempting your own outlook from the same type of scrutiny?Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                James, what would you say if I remarked that your admonishment to not be a moralist is itself moralistic? What makes your “should”s superior to my “should”s? Aren’t you just, in true libertarian fashion, exempting your own outlook from the same type of scrutiny?

                Sure, you can say that. My view is that any philosophical view ultimately runs into a similar kind of bind. The difference is that if being anti-moralist is in fact moralist, it just doesn’t travel well. It doesn’t set a standard for further moralism, but constrains it. Whereas other types of moralism set a precedent for continuing moralism.

                My moralism, if that’s what it is, asks only that you not try to control others’ lives, but stick to living your own. Your type of moralism says, “it’s ok to move beyond living your own life and to try to control others’.” There’s no inherent limiting principle in that.

                The seeds of authoritarianism are built into that. Which is absolutely 100% not an implicit claim that you are an authoritarian. I truly am not claiming that, and you’ve given no indication that you’re going to come rip the steak out of my hands and flog me for eating it. But moralism is a first step on the path toward authoritarianism, or at least authoritarian tendencies. It’s a dangerous thing to begin practicing.Report

              • Avatar Robert Greer says:

                I’ve seen a couple calls to give this thread the axe, so this’ll be my last post. Thanks for the pushback, guys, and for the generally very well-informed comments.

                James, I don’t think you’re being fair to my position. You say,

                “My moralism, if that’s what it is, asks only that you not try to control others’ lives, but stick to living your own. Your type of moralism says, “it’s ok to move beyond living your own life and to try to control others’.” There’s no inherent limiting principle in that.”

                But I’ve explicitly disavowed attempts to control others multiple times in this thread. I guess you could say that when I merely publicize my belief that certain ways of living are more ideal than others (as you do when you advocate libertarian policies), I’m sowing “the seeds of authoritarianism,” but that seems a little… histrionic.

                It hasn’t yet been my endeavor to establish a limiting principle to my implied belief that it’s okay to voice opinions about personal habits, so I don’t see why you think you’ve scored a point there. Just because I haven’t established a limiting principle doesn’t mean one couldn’t be congruent with my thinking; I suspect you’re making a lazy slippery-slope argument here.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                d it sounds like your circumstances are special in other ways

                I just noticed this, and I want to emphasize that there’s nothing special about my circumstances. My circumstances are banally normal. Saying they’re special makes it possible to grant me an exception from a general rule. But the problem is that if my circumstances really are quite normal, then what applies to me isn’t an exception, it is the normal rule.Report

              • Avatar Robert Greer says:

                James, you live in a rural area, right? That alone makes you pretty special, given that only 16% of Americans do.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                Robert, I think anything that characterizes 1 in 6 Americans isn’t exactly an outlier. But in fact I live in a town of 20,000, and it appears that characterizes about half the population (although I think we can fairly ask how many of them are in separated towns like mine and how many in small suburbs in urban areas).Report

        • Avatar Jaybird says:

          Oh, and avoid the “yes, I do things that are bad but I have good reasons” thing. *EVERYBODY* has a good reason.

          I got into an argument once with someone over the whole “how many cars does your household have?” thing and he explained to me that winters got really bad where he lived and if I thought that His Girlfriend should drive a Civic when the roads were icy, then I was deliberately trying to put His Girlfriend IN PERIL.

          Everybody’s circumstances are extraordinary, dude.

          If you can’t practice what you preach, then you should expect others to see either a problem with your sermon or with you (or with both).

          Remember the whole Ted Haggard thing? Remember how laugh-out-loud *FUNNY* it was?

          Avoid that.Report

          • Avatar Robert Greer says:

            Jaybird, I don’t remember writing anything that would preclude sympathy for people who have a hard time being maximally good for the environment, and so I don’t feel like an ass for pointing out how it’s been difficult for me personally. I hope a discussion of my personal circumstances will lead to a discussion of how we can construct society to make things easier on people like me instead of it turning into an inquisition regarding whether I’m blameless enough to proclaim a particular message.

            Yes, it’s a problem when people excuse themselves from what they themselves preach. But it’s just as much a problem when people cynically excuse themselves from acting ethically because other people are imperfect.Report

            • Avatar Jaybird says:

              Who cares about sympathy?

              You asked: I tried to run through a few conservative solutions to climate change, but they haven’t been received enthusiastically. Why not, and what would you recommend in their stead?

              I’m telling you what groundwork you need to set in order to get people to sit through your pitch on how to best address climate change. You will be telling them “you need to change your life”.

              They will notice if you instead communicate “you need to change your life but I don’t need to change my life”. If that’s what they hear then your message WILL FAIL.

              Don’t get defensive on me when I tell you that. It’s the truth.

              But, maybe, this is a golden opportunity.

              Please answer this question for me: How could I have phrased this particular truth in such a way that you would not have felt defensive and the need to push back?Report

              • Avatar Will Truman says:

                To be fair, his comment can be described as “Look, I am far from perfect and here is how I am far from perfect, but here is what I am doing for the cause. What can you do for the cause? On balance, I have a very small footprint. Do you?”

                I don’t think that’s an unfair line of reasoning. Nor do I think it necessarily comes across as a double-standard.Report

              • Avatar Robert Greer says:

                This is more what I was going for. Thanks, Will.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                Let me rephrase thusly:

                “You rankled at the thought that someone would tell you that you needed to be even more (whatever). Now, try to imagine that you’re those people out there that you’re trying to get to change. What tactics do you wish that I would have used to talk to you? Why not use those tactics to talk to them?”Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                I see a petard and a hoist.Report

              • Avatar DensityDuck says:

                “On balance, I have a very small footprint” is different from “driving big cars is bad for the environment and you should stop”.Report

        • Avatar Liberty60 says:

          I’m not satisfied.

          We haven’t been provided with Mr. Greer’s personal history , with a full disclosure of daily dietary habits, inventory of recyclable v disposable items in his pantry, detailed analysis of his financial records, provenance of all clothing items sorted by union vs sweatshop labor, not to mention where is his goddamn birth certificate?

          Why are you allowing this man to post when we haven’t done a proper inquisition on his moral character?
          Could we get some quality control on this blog fer Chrissakes?Report

          • Avatar Jaybird says:

            “Hey, Jesus is still Lord and Savior even if Ted Haggard is smoking meth with male prostitutes in Denver. I don’t see why we’re spending so much time talking about Ted Haggard instead of the Transformative Power Of Jesus.”

            Someone actually said that to me.

            For some reason, your comment reminded me of them.Report

            • Avatar Will Truman says:

              And, of course, it’s entirely true that the veracity to the claim of Jesus as Lord and Savior is not ultimately affected one bit by the actions of Ted Haggard. It is true, or it is not true.

              That doesn’t seem to stop it from calling to mind certain questions, of course.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                My problem with Haggard was never his metaphysical claims, of course. More power to him.

                My problem was the laws he was trying (successfully!) to enact that prevented me and mine from doing stuff we were otherwise inclined to do.

                Now that he’s back to just preaching, I think he’s awesome. He’s actually helping people again. His ability to help people who need help has been improved by his fall. More power to him. So long as he stays away from the halls of power, of course.Report

            • Avatar Robert Greer says:

              “Claiming a poisoned-well-fallacy defense is illegitimate when Christians do it.”

              Thanks for Godelian defense of the day, Jaybird.Report

            • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

              I don’t see what the big problem with Ted Haggard is. He preaches that homosexuality is an evil impulse that leads to sin and estrangement from the Lord. And for him, homosexuality was an evil impulse that led to sin and estrangement from the Lord. Look at it: meth, hookers, being unfaithful to his wife. All pretty awful stuff. Admittedly, a more humble man would say that homosexuality has led him to be evil, but all he’s really guilty of is generalizing from one example, with some amount of Biblical support for his conclusions. I find him far less odious than, say, a closeted gay man in a committed, loving relationship who works for an anti-gay preacher or politician while knowing better.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                He was one of Dubya’s “Spiritual Advisors”, actually. President of the National Association of Evangelicals.

                It was a bit of a scandal in some circles that Dubya asked Haggard to come to Warshington to stand by his desk as he signed some “pro-family” legislation instead of asking Dr. Dobson Himself.Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

                Speaking of odious.Report

            • Avatar Liberty60 says:

              This is the aspect of environmentalism that annoyed me when I was a conservative, and annoys me twice as much now that I am a liberal.
              The aspect that concern about the environment is a moral stance, something that we do for altruistic reasons of vague goodness and self-righteousness.

              All the things I have mentioned here are things that impact humans, and our economy.
              Whether Mr. Greer has a zero carbon footprint or whether he clubs baby seals is completely irrelevant to the subject.Report

              • Avatar greginak says:

                I agree and also note that focusing on enviro types moral feelings is a sophisticated “Al Gore is fat” argument to avoid talking about the practical, real world affects of enviro damage on humans.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                If you don’t care enough about this stuff to change your life, why in the hell should I listen to you when you say that I should care enough about it to change mine?

                Please understand that this is a question I’m asking you and not a statement that happens to have a question mark at the end of it.Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

                Back when you supported the war in Iraq, how impressed were you with the “chickenhawk” argument against it?Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                I thought it stung.

                I thought that the folks who opened with “I went on two tours to De Nang for my country and I never questioned it when others were burning their draft cards and, unlike Vietnam, this is actually important!” had a much better counter-argument than the people who opened with “we have an all-volunteer military for a reason…”Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

                Yet it didn’t change your mind.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                Looking back, had I wanted to change my mind, I would have merely asked if I thought that The Government would do a better job than “not doing anything”.

                I might have limply discussed the benefits of decapitation of a despotic regime in response, of course. That would have given me a lot more pause than “only military folks can support this kinetic action but anybody can oppose it.”

                (If I’m trying to change anybody’s mind, opening with “you don’t have the right to your opinion” is a good way to not change them.)Report

              • Avatar MikeSchilling says:

                I don’t understand why an ad hominem argument that doesn’t even try to disguise the fact that it’s an ad hominem argument has any standing.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                “You are pushing for a policy that has costs that you will not pay” is, as ad hominem arguments go, a pretty good one.Report

              • Avatar Scott says:


                Ah yes it is the old liberal argument that we should all shut up and do as they say when the folks like Gore won’t even make any changes and keeps flying around the world to global warming conferences to tell the rest of us that we need to reduce our carbon footprint.Report

              • Avatar greginak says:

                umm scott, not all. Al Gore is irrelevant to whether AGW is an issue. The “Al Gore is fat” argument is making his personal details the issue instead of whether or not AGW is going to fish over you/me and our families. Its a dodge to avoid the issue. I think we’ll still be flying around the world even if we actually try to do something about AGW.Report

              • Avatar Scott says:

                It is relevant to whether anyone is going to listen to Al Bore and take him seriously. His goal is to be taken seriously and convince folks he is correct, right?Report

              • Avatar greginak says:

                So don’t take Al seriously, i’ve never seen his movie. Throwing tomatoes at the messenger is always easier then talking about the message. As I understand his movie he only presents a variety of data about research.Report

              • Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

                A UK court put threw a bigass tomato at Gore’s propaganda, just one more reason a lot of folks don’t believe a word of this stuff.


                A controversial documentary on climate change which has been sent to thousands of schools has been criticised by a High Court judge for being ‘alarmist’ and ‘exaggerated’.
                Mr Justice Burton said former US vice-president Al Gore’s film, An Inconvenient Truth, was ‘one-sided’ and would breach education rules unless accompanied by a warning.

                Despite winning lavish praise from the environmental lobby and an Oscar from the film industry, Mr Gore’s documentary was found to contain ‘nine scientific errors’ by the judge.Report

              • Avatar greginak says:

                Tom that is a laughable response. Trust me, i laughed quite a while. Just say you don’t believe, don’t Google and throw upwhatever you can find.Report

              • Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

                Mr. Greg, can’t smirk away the facts. Al Gore’s movie was indeed flagged by the UK courts.


                A controversial documentary on climate change which has been sent to thousands of schools has been criticised by a High Court judge for being ‘alarmist’ and ‘exaggerated’.
                Mr Justice Burton said former US vice-president Al Gore’s film, An Inconvenient Truth, was ‘one-sided’ and would breach education rules unless accompanied by a warning.

                Despite winning lavish praise from the environmental lobby and an Oscar from the film industry, Mr Gore’s documentary was found to contain ‘nine scientific errors’ by the judge.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                Whether Mr. Greer has a zero carbon footprint or whether he clubs baby seals is completely irrelevant to the subject.

                He asked how he could better change the minds of others. Like it or not, being a good example is right at the top of the list of the best ways of doing that.

                If you don’t like how people work, take it up with them.

                May I suggest taking it up with two different groups? For the first group, be as belligerent as possible. For the second, be as good an example as possible. Let me know which minds change, if any.Report

              • Avatar Liberty60 says:

                So if Mr. Greer sets his thermostat too low, that means calls for higher energy conservation is a bad idea?

                What does Robert Greer have to eat/wear/drive to convince you that overfishing in the Pacific Ocean is something to be concerned about?

                I’m about to go grocery shopping; what can I pick up to convince you that corn subsidies are a bad use of resources?

                Afterward I will be sure to balance my checkbook; I know how overdrafts will devastate my argument for a more responsible fiscal policy.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                So if Mr. Greer sets his thermostat too low, that means calls for higher energy conservation is a bad idea?

                I didn’t say that.

                Here’s what I said: He asked how he could better change the minds of others. Like it or not, being a good example is right at the top of the list of the best ways of doing that.

                What does Robert Greer have to eat/wear/drive to convince you that overfishing in the Pacific Ocean is something to be concerned about?

                Oh, I already know that overfishing in the Pacific is something to be concerned about. If, however, I were trying to convince someone who was not particularly concerned about overfishing in the Pacific that they *SHOULD* be concerned about overfishing in the Pacific, I would try to do this when I had not just talked about this awesome new Sushi place I found that has the *BEST* cresthead flounder.

                I’m about to go grocery shopping; what can I pick up to convince you that corn subsidies are a bad use of resources?

                I’d suggest something other than Coca-Cola that you brag about buying on sale.

                Afterward I will be sure to balance my checkbook; I know how overdrafts will devastate my argument for a more responsible fiscal policy.

                It certainly would damped my enthusiasm to listen to your plan on how we ought to impose a more responsible fiscal policy on how I live my (balanced!) life.

                And if you don’t understand why those things are true, I understand why you consistently run straight toward legislation being the solution to problems.Report

              • Avatar Liberty60 says:

                Fascinating; so if Mr. Greer lives a perfectly exemplar life of environmental sustainability, you will embrace his point of view?
                But uh oh- what if Mr. Greer lives that way, but Al Gore persists in being fat?

                What if Libertarian Mr. Hanley lives with self-resourcefulness, and personal responsibility, but Libertarian Roger goes on the dole?
                Who should I pay attention to?

                Oh, if there was only a way to make our policy choices on some other basis than making judgements on other people’s lives!Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                Again: I was asked a question. I will repeat the question for your benefit:

                I tried to run through a few conservative solutions to climate change, but they haven’t been received enthusiastically. Why not, and what would you recommend in their stead?

                Could you provide an answer to this question?

                Is your answer “Why do you want them to receive your argument? Just pass laws!”?Report

              • Avatar Robert Greer says:

                For the record, I think JayBird’s argument here has some merit. When assessing the merits of a position, it’s epistemically valuable to inquire whether the person advancing the position lives consistently with it. If everyone who stumps for reducing their carbon footprint drove SUVs and took long showers, that might be good evidence that it’s not feasible to do what they’re asking of everyone else. So I guess I think Jaybird’s argument is valid but not sound.Report

              • Avatar greginak says:

                My question to Jay or anybody else would be what number of the “lets do something about AGW” group need to do X amount of stuff before we actually do something or at least talk about what solutions we should do. I get that in a conversation with one person you want to know how seriously to take that person. That, as far as it goes, makes sense to me. Its not different from the ” so your a conservative/libertarian who drives on federal interstates and uses National Parks” argument. But i would suggest any actual progress on AGW will require group action and without that and single persons actions are a drop in the ocean.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                It depends on how much you want me to change my life, Greg.

                If you want me to do something as simple as (shout out to Pyre) recycle at work? Well, all it will take is a handful of people recycling at work.

                If you want me to make myself a one-car household in a neighborhood where people can walk to work, if you want me to fly less, if you want me to use a low-flow showerhead, if you want me to sort my trash, if you want me to change my shingles to the white ones, if you want me to forgo meat but once a week, and if you want me to otherwise make my footprint as small as possible, then you probably need to do more than recycle at the office.

                How much? Well, I don’t have a formula or anything.

                But, then again, I’m not trying to get you to change your mind. I’m just trying to get you to understand why other folks’ minds aren’t changing.

                And you either will or you won’t.

                And, seriously, it’s no skin off my nose either way.Report

              • Avatar greginak says:

                I don’t necessarily disagree with seeing things that way Jay. I’d note that i don’t hear people converting to the “do something about AGW side ” because of an Ed Begley conversion experience. It also makes the entire debate about personal signalling. It does sort of make holier then thou enviro freak lifestyle types the leaders though. However i don’t see much love for holier than thou enviro freak types. If anything people will hate on them for all their showy Prius’s, solar panels and whatever. In fact i do believe I’ve heard people say Prius owners are the most arrogant people and get their noses out of joint.

                Like i said, i see your point and you do have one. But the more people go out of the way to show their enviro bonafides, the more i hear how pushy, arrogant and self-righteous they are. I’m not sure where that needle gets threaded.Report

              • Avatar Pyre says:

                Liberty, it is not irrelevant. Since this part is devolved into “Al Gore is fat”, allow me to give you two non Al Gore examples, one positive and two negatives.

                When I started my current job, everyone had a garbage can and a recycle bin. Almost noone used the recycle bin in their cube. (This was before the company decided to make recycling a half-hearted priority for the publicity.) Being who I am, I put all my recycleables into the bin. If I had dead batteries, I’d walk to the copy room to put them in the battery recycling box. If someone dumped paper in my garbage can, I’d fish it out after they were gone and put it in the bin.

                At one point, the woman in the cube across from me saw me fish paper out of my can and asked why I did it. I told her that I just think that I should recycle. She chewed on that for a bit and then asked if she should do it. I told her that I wasn’t going to tell people what they should and should not do. Soon after, she started recycling. Then the rest of my unit followed. At one point, a different person even told me that they had started recycling solely because they saw me doing it and they felt that, if I could do it, then they should too.

                Not once did I ever get in anyone’s face about their habits or go off on a lecture but, just by doing my own recycling, I got 9 other people to follow my example and do their own recycling.

                The negative example can discourage people. I can’t remember if it was 2008-2009 but a group of Global Warming scientists got together (I want to say Geneva but that’s probably not right) and urged people to start phasing meat out of their diet for the reasons that you’ve heard above and elsewhere. The problem here is that, instead of a teleconference, vid-chat, Halo room, or even flying commercial, all of them took an individual private jet to this conference where they made their anti-meat pronouncement.

                Now, when someone decides to fly a private jet to a conference to tell me to phase out meat, my first impulse is to go buy a whopper.

                This happened during college too. I rode my bike roughly 10 miles round-trip to campus almost every day and, on the days I couldn’t, I took a bus. If I went to the bank or almost anywhere else, I used a bike. My use of a car was restricted to groceries.

                When the campus had an Earth Day celebration, everyone involved drove up to the spot (and a lot of these were the type to drive to campus with a bike on their roof then ride the bike a block so they could look environmentally conscious) and they trashed the field. Yet these were the people who were telling me that I had to be more earth-friendly. Why the hell should I listen to them?

                Being an example is important when you are relaying a message. If you’re telling me to lower my carbon footprint, then your next action should not be to jump on a private jet which will leave a bigger carbon footprint in a week than I will leave in a year. If you do that, I’ll say “Message can’t be too important if it isn’t important enough for the messenger to heed it.”Report

              • Avatar Pyre says:

                “three examples”

                I thought of the Earth Day thing afterwards.Report

              • Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

                Ace, Mr. Pyre. My biggest regret about quitting smoking is losing my rebel status. Here in SoCal, the rulers of Burbank and Glendale have banned it even in the open air on the street, where even the most demented of calculations would fall short of justifying it as any threat to public health.

                In fact, a little secondhand smoke here & there might be damn good for you, esp as a kid. Makes you tough.


              • Avatar Rod says:

                I do that, too. I’m a terrible example of a liberal. In fact, unless you asked me you probably wouldn’t guess.Report

    • Avatar Liberty60 says:

      In the spirit of comity, we can stipulate that empowering any entity to regulate matters on a global scale can be fraught with danger.

      But we know from experience and emprical observation that:

      1. The global economy is woven with a complex web of regulation and codes and agreements; some of which are voluntary, others coercive, and most a combination of the two; e.g., trade and tariff agreements, global banking and currency trading systems, international systems of weights and measures, industrial standardization organizations and others.

      2. This web of systems is not perfect, and fails occasionally to do what it was intended to do; and tends to favor those who write and enforce the rules rather than the end users.

      3. These interlocking webs of rules are most commonly created by the business community to facilitate commerce; they are enforced by governments most commonly at the request of businesses.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley says:


        You do know that libertarians agree width you on number 3, right? But that we’re still really puzzled about your response to it?Report

        • Avatar Liberty60 says:

          Really? #3? That honestly does surprise me.

          My assessment of standard libertarian opinion was something like this:

          “[open trade] came about through individuals making their own choices, then governments got involved and started preventing it, then governments got together and said, “well, we’ll allow it in these particular circumstances if you allow it in these particular circumstances, etc. etc.” But open trade actually comes about quite naturally if governments don’t actually do anything at all.”

          It sounded to me like libertarians see international trade rules as being imposed from above by government, and I wanted to point out that most rules for trade are the invention of the business community, and enforced at their request by government.

          In fact, I would argue that absent some form of government action, international trade is virtually impossible.Report

          • Avatar James Hanley says:

            Liberty, I don’t follow this at all. My statement about free trade was a brief historical overview. Before anybody ever talked about free trade, before the concept existed as something to be debated, people just did it. Then governments got involved, usually at the behest of businesses that didn’t want people buying from someone other than them, and banned lots of it. Then those governments got together again, often at the behest of businesses that wanted to buy from wherever they could, and unbanned lots of it, but with all kinds of rules, such as, “if you don’t let your citizens buy bananas from us, then we’ll retaliate by not letting our citizens buy chocolate from you.”

            In fact, I would argue that absent some form of government action, international trade is virtually impossible.

            I find such a claim nearly incomprehensible. Absent government action, international trade would just occur whenever someone found it convenient to do so. What kind of government action is necessary to make it possible for me to drive the hour and a half to Canada, buy a bunch of Canadian whiskey and bring it back to Michigan to sell? If government paid no attention to trade whatsoever, it would be no problem.

            Does it require government action for me to engage in trade with someone in the next town over? The next county over? The next state over? If not, then why would it take government action for me to engage in trade with someone in the next country over?Report

            • Avatar Liberty60 says:

              Contra many another post, I wasn’t trying to be snarky in quoting your post. I honestly get the impression that Libertarians (generally) believe regulations to be almost always imposed by government against the wishes of business; that business and government are almost always mutually antagonistic. If this is a misreading of Libertarian thought, I stand corrected.
              I usually try to point out that businesses actually enjoy the benefits of regulation and enforcement that government provides. They just chafe when it conflicts with their financial interest.

              Your example of whisky trade is a good example. In that example government is an invisible partner, first by providing a safe environment (you don’t need to assemble a party of hired guns for protection against bandits) then by creating a currency, then by creating roads and bridges.

              And if our economy were so simple as 15th century cash and carry purchases, it might stop there;

              But suppose you signed a contract for more whiskey? Who would enforce it?
              How would you assess its value? Sip each bottle maybe? Or perhaps it would be better for business if there was a stamp of approval from a neutral government agency, or a federal entity that assured it was safe and wholesome?
              How do you know your seller actually owned the whiskey? Maybe a system of certificates of purchase, and land deeds, that formed a paper trail demonstrating that they had legal claim to the distillery and materials.
              Do you want an insurance contract to cover your risk in buying and selling something that is potentially lethal? How about copyright protection for your business identity?
              How about a court system to try any claims against you? And you against others?

              Oftentimes discussions like this remind me of that joke about the two fish swimming along when another asks them- “How do you like the water?” And one fish asks the other- “What the hell is ‘water’?”

              When libertarians assert their independence from “government” they are asking “whats water?”Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:


                Oh, I see. You’re going to make this the classic “libertarians want to get rid of all government but they don’t understand the role of cops and courts argument.” It’s just so nice to know that with all the times you’ve had discussions with libertarians here, you’ve gone to such efforts to not actually here what we have to say. I can only guess you’re not interested in truth as much as in scoring rhetorical points. Good for you.

                I’ve just finished a post about common libertarian myths that I’m going to send to Erik soon, hoping he’ll put it up as a guest post. But I’d be hard pressed to give you a remotely courteous response right now, since I’m just sick to death of you liberals telling us how wrong we liberals are about X, when you get our position on X wrong.Report

              • Avatar Liberty60 says:

                Yeah, I pretty much have to make it one of those “libertarians want to get rid of government” posts.You talked about how government wasn’t necessary for you to conduct business; What other conclusion could I draw?

                After all the interactions I have had here, I still haven’t had anyone describe what a libertarian society would be like; liberals have their ideal model, conservatives theirs, but even the most basic framework of libertarian society is a mystery:

                Would there be a standing army? Maybe. Maybe not.
                Would there be a central bank?
                Would there be a social safety net?
                Would there be any form of land use regulation?
                Would there be public schools, roads, utility infrastructure, police and fire?
                Would there be fiat currency?
                The answer to all these questions seem to be Maybe, Maybe Not.

                By this standard, the old trope of Libertariana being Republicana with legal dope and brothels seems like the clearest vision put forward yet.

                I’m honestly sorry to have pissed you off. But of course we get your position on X wrong, since no one can seem to articulate what X is.

                Maybe after your post on what libertarianism isn’t you can write one on what it is.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                Yeah, I pretty much have to make it one of those “libertarians want to get rid of government” posts.You talked about how government wasn’t necessary for you to conduct business; What other conclusion could I draw?

                You said trade was virtually impossible without government. I demonstrated that it wasn’t. And you leap from that to “you don’t think government plays any role in trade and want to get rid of it”?

                I didn’t make that leap of logic; you did.

                But of course we get your position on X wrong, since no one can seem to articulate what X is.

                Actually, Roger, Jason, Jaybird, Kolohe, James K, and I have all amply demonstrated that we think government plays an important role in punishing fraud and theft. For you to say we haven’t articulated our position on that is, well, astonishing.

                Maybe you should try paying attention to what we actually say, before telling us we haven’t said it. It would be the honorable thing to do.Report

              • Avatar Liberty60 says:

                Actually, I thought we demonstrated the opposite; that without government, trade WAS virtually impossible.

                Even the most primitive cash and carry example you made required some form of government even beyond mere protection against fraud and theft to the establishment of the basic framework of society that permitted trade to occur.

                Did you contradict that?Report

              • Avatar Will Truman says:

                Lib60, you’re talking about basic commerce. James is talking about international trade specifically. I think that’s the source of the disconnect.

                The nations of Freedonia and Sylvania both need governments for property protection, fraud protection and so on, in order to have effective, basic commerce. I think we’re all agreed on that. What James is saying (I believe) is that for Sylvania to not allow traders from Freedonia, that requires specific government intervention.

                Without specific intervention, Sylvania would presumably offer Freedonians the same protections they offer Sylvanians. If Sylvania puts up a trade barrier, it’s not just refusing to offer basic trade protections, but is actively prohibiting trade (or applying specific tariffs). Without that intervention, trade between Freedonia and Sylvania would be no different than trade between northern Freedonia and southern Freedonia.

                I suppose you can look at this and say “Hey, since the Sylvanian government is required for trade to begin with, there is no effective difference in size and/or scope of government if they allow this or do not allow that. After all, commerce occurs at the pleasure of the government anyway. That’s not how most libertarians – and most people – are going to view it.

                So when James says “governments are required to restrict trade (between states),” that’s what he means.

                Another example would be if Sylvania banned birth control and the sale thereof. That is a government action. To argue otherwise and say that since commerce exists due to the protection of the state is true in a sense, but not a very useful sense. The most accurate depiction, in my view, is that Sylvania is interfering with commerce (regardless of whether or not the Sylvanian state is required for commerce more broadly to exist in the first place). Likewise, barriers between countries are interfering with trade because it is a specific exclusion (with punitive consequences, to boot).Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                Thank you, Wil, that’s exactly right. The government doesn’t even have to take any cognizance of international trade for it to occur freely, so long as they have provided the basic economic support structure. Taking cognizance of international trade can only limit its freeness, not increase it.

                But even more, the claim that trade is virtually impossible without government is simply wrong, as a historical matter. There were extensive trade networks throughout North America in the pre-Columbian era, and they increased after contact with Europeans, all without benefit of formal governments providing any of the benefits Liberty60 points to. OK, it wasn’t “cash” based, but barter. And yes, without the commercial protections and support provided by formal governments it would probably never have advanced beyond that primitive stage. But the fact remains that this primitive stage was in fact international trade in that it was carried on between members of different Indian nations.

                And they did it without benefit of any government to provide protection against fraud and theft. It’s easy for us to downplay the significance of that trade, from our comfortable 21st century perch, but it was very important and beneficial to the people involved. I think if you look at the history of the Mediterranean, or China, you’ll find the same things happening.

                I wasn’t even making a libertarian argument.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                I still haven’t had anyone describe what a libertarian society would be like; liberals have their ideal model,

                Stillwater’s been doing a good job of persuading me that liberals in fact don’t have an ideal model, and I’m willing to bet if I took a variety of possible public policies and specified them I’d find there’s not a single liberal position that covers all of them. And yet libertarians are supposed to be able to specify their ideal world in detail.

                Oddly, it never seems to occur to you that perhaps we’re not all focused on an ideal world we don’t expect ever to see, but just on trying to nudge the current world in a marginally more libertarian direction. If that’s not a grandiose enough vision to satisfy you, then try this. Scroll down to the last section, “Toward a Framework for Utopia.” I think it covers it pretty well.

                But since you openly admit what I am saying, that you don’t understand libertarianism, I have to ask why you feel qualified to make claims about it? It seems to me that intellectually decent people don’t do that. People uninterested in whether they’re speaking the truth, well, they’ll say just about anything, regardless of their level of understanding, won’t they?Report

              • Avatar North says:

                Yeah last I checked the left abandoned their ideal model when it failed (spectacularly) in the real world and in general lefties have failed to agree on a new ideal ever since (I would assert this is actually a strength for leftists now days).Report

              • Avatar Liberty60 says:

                Sweden has failed?
                I gotta keep up with the headlines.Report

              • Avatar North says:

                C’mon Liberty, lets not play cute. Liberals are not united in their endorsement of the Sweden model. On the left wing its capitalism (especially its low level of regulations on businesses) and its nativism all are looked down on. Sweden is, if anything, a pretty market liberal/neoliberal state. Absolutely it’s a great place to my mostly neoliberal eyes with its excellent government provided social services and light hand on the business world but its far from a global liberal model.Report

              • Avatar Liberty60 says:

                Then what, pray tell, is this liberal model that failed completely?Report

              • Avatar CK MacLeod says:

                North, you seem to be playing with Liberty60, or are you really adopting the midnight talkradio position according to which all non-far right cats are the same left-liberal black? There has never been a single “left” “ideal model.” For most leftists, the notion is absurd, since leftists generally understand, and have in diverse ways explicitly sought to integrate into their praxis, the recognition no “real existing” party or state is or can ever be the same as the “ideal.” I won’t say anymore cuz I think you’re probly just funnin, and, whether you or aren’t, I can’t really tell what you’re trying to say… plus it’s comment 400+…Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:


                Let’s begin with your description of the liberal model? And don’t leave out any details. If you’re going to complain that we libertarians haven’t provided a completely worked out model, then I think it’s fair to ask you to go first.

                Make sure it’s one that all the liberals here at the League agree with (I’ll give you a pass on all the other liberals out there), so that there’s none of that “maybe, maybe not” that you object to.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                There has never been a single “left” “ideal model.”

                C.K., but that’s not what Liberty60 said. He said;

                I still haven’t had anyone describe what a libertarian society would be like; liberals have their ideal model,

                Now I actually agree with you. But if you and I are right, contra Liberty, that there’s no one single left-liberal model, then I’m wondering what business a liberal has asking for “the” libertarian model?Report

              • Avatar North says:

                CK, Liberty, this isn’t a question of what we liberals believe now (thank goodness) now but up until centralized economic theory was discredited the left wing ideal for a lot of liberals globally (particularly for the thinkers in the academies and activist wings) was a non-capitalist communist model. Happily the more moderate liberals who were actually at the levers of power kept away from it (and used socialism to inoculate against it) but it wasn’t until the entire experiment imploded that the left got off the idea en masse. I’d submit this is all to the good; libertarians have never had a shot at their ideal model before (Conservatives have but their model can’t fail, it can only be failed) so they still have the specter of it tantalizing them. Liberals are free to deal with the world as it is and be wonks. Sure talk radio and the right still pretends it’s the late 1970’s but that’s no surprise, their eyes are in the backs of their heads so of couse they’re always looking back in time.Report

              • Avatar CK MacLeod says:

                Annoying when the LOOG comment threads reach this particular point, formatting-wise. If you all want to attempt a systematic discussion of political models and their implications, I guess we could start over again way down below, or maybe we can leave it for some other day.

                …Lib60 can speak for himself, and we could try to figure out what it means to make Sweden your “model,” and to call it “liberal.” I don’t know if or how he distinguishes between “left” and “liberal” and “left-liberal.” Does Denmark have a “centralized economic model”? Japan? China? The U.S.? Brazil? The Whole Wide World? If so, or partly so, what do the models have in common with North Korea and the Soviet Union? How are we judging “success” or “failure”? Did the USSR collapse because its model was centralized or because it was stupidly or incompetently centralized or was it actually a much more complex process?

                What failed or was perceived to have failed was an idea about Marxist-Leninist-Stalinist Democratic Centralism representing or potentially representing an actual alternative model for movement from present inequities and dangers closer to the ideal, communism. This notion had hardly any currency among American liberals since WW2 at the latest. On the far left you could find people who recognized that Soviet Communism was bad, but who tried to argue that in key respects it was better or potentially better than capitalism. For a brief historical moment it was thought to be “delivering the goods” despite its flaws, leading American conservatives more than anyone outside the CP itself to overrate its prospects. Liberals were generally much more likely to think that Communism was an authentic threat.

                All of which is to say, please don’t elide the difference between left and liberal when I’m around, because you know a guy’s got to make a living and I find it very distracting.Report

              • Avatar CK MacLeod says:

                oops – bad typo (incomplete meaning-reversing revision), meant to write:

                Liberals were generally much less likely to think that Communism was an authentic threat.


              • Avatar North says:

                You’d know better than I, CK. My impression was that at it’s basic form the left globally thought that communism represented a superior organization to that of capitalism. Certainly I’ve read (though I’m a political history dillitant) that it was only with the total failure of the states that tried to base their economic systems on communism that the leftists generally abandoned the idea.Report

              • Avatar CK MacLeod says:

                My impression was that at it’s basic form the left globally thought that communism represented a superior organization to that of capitalism.

                I think that characterization is based on and leads to confusion. “Communism” names an ideal that numerous parties have sought to claim. For many, including people who would never have been caught alive near a real life capital “C” Communist Party member, it represented in comparison to capitalism a morally superior ideal. Real existing socialism, by contrast, is or was in the view of its own ideologues a bridge, not a destination. Its supporters believed, and may still believe, that, for all of its flaws, its underpinnings and intentions were morally superior to capitalism’s, under the recognition that morally superior and materially or practically superior are not precisely or immediately the same thing at all times – if they were, there’d be no need at all for a revolutionary movement, or struggle or progress of any kind, and for that matter we wouldn’t even need two different words for “moral” and “practical.” The truth would already have won out, and history in that sense would be over before it started.Report

              • Avatar Liberty60 says:

                I checked with the Soros Comintern, and have been authorized to proudly declare that We formally denounce Stalin and Maxist-Leninism, and have since 1952.

                Moreover, We hereby embrace and formally endorse a European mixed economy such as the Scandanavian countries have as our Ideal Model.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                The whole anti-anti-communism dynamic from the 60’s and 70’s resulted in anti-anti-anti-communism making an alliance with anti-communists in the 1980’s.

                What are we on now? Anti-anti-anti-anti-communists who are taking on the anti-anti-anti-communists and figure out the best way to do that is to adopt the military philosophies of the anti-communists and the social philosophies of the anti-anti-communists in the hopes to create a new political dynasty?

                I hope the anti-anti-anti-anti-anti-communists will be up to the task of returning us to a non-interventionist foreign policy.Report

              • Avatar Liberty60 says:

                In 1979 Liberty60 was a young energetic Reaganaut, and the veteran of many an argument with leftists over the failure of state planning.
                So it is a bit wierd to be in that same place where conservative thought is fresh and new, where Marxism is still a powerful threat.

                Lets stipulate that central economic planning has utterly failed wherever it has been tried.
                But who the hell is proposing it?
                Name anyone of significance in American politics who advocates anything even close to a New Deal program, much less Maxist-Leninist state planning.

                What next, is someone here going to take a bold stance in opposition tothe Jacobins?Report

              • Avatar North says:

                In 1979 North was either in utero or brand new born and getting spoiled rotten by his doting paternal grandmother.

                But, Liberty, you’ve come full circle. I stated in my initial comment on this subject that the left has abandoned any interest in centrally planned economies. Now half a dozen posts later you’re asking who said they still are into centrally planned economies. To which I can only answer: Not me! I was celebrating that whatever elements on the left did now generally do not.Report

              • Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

                True, JB. They hated McCarthy more than Stalin.Report

              • Avatar Brandon Berg says:

                The answer to all these questions seem to be Maybe, Maybe Not.

                It’s almost as though libertarians were individuals who didn’t necessarily agree on everything, rather than a monolithic hive mind.Report

              • Avatar Rod says:

                Grant me this, please. The particular bunch of libertarians that inhabit this site aren’t typical. It’s like I can talk to you guys and everything. Wow.

                The typical internet libertarian that I normally run into is indeed much more strident, dogmatic, and… well, angry. Much more likely to be a hard-core Randian or Rothbardian type, usually an An-Cap. Has exactly one answer to everything: The Free Market (Blessed Be His Name).

                This is refreshing but it’s been something of an adjustment to me.Report

              • Avatar Roger says:


                Your recommended solution sounds promising. Who auctions the credits? What do we do with the proceeds? How do we set targets? How do we trade off living standards compared to climate?

                In other words who is in charge of the global thermostat?Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

                The typical internet libertarian that I normally run into is indeed much more strident, dogmatic, and… well, angry.

                Word. But that’s true if you replace “libertarian ” with “liberal”, “leftist”, “conservative”, “right-winger” etc. It’s the nature of the internet. (And talk radio, of course, which is why it’s so easy to think of conservative Republicans as an unwashed mass of drooling dittoheads.)Report

              • Avatar Rod says:


                Thanks for taking it seriously. Let me return the favor. You asked:

                Who auctions the credits?

                Ideally? A global Sky Trust. It would be neither a government, government agency, nor a corporation. Rather, a legal entity that would be “deeded” property rights in the global atmosphere. Trusts operate under a charter that specifies performance of particular duties. Like trust funds for rich kids or many non-profit orgs. The nice thing about trusts is that they’re legally answerable to the beneficiaries of the trust which is set out in the charter.

                Less than ideal answer? Something like that on a country-by-country basis. Whatever’s feasible.

                What do we do with the proceeds?

                Once again, ideally the proceeds would be distributed as a per capita annual dividend to all the beneficiaries. If it was a true Global Sky Trust that would be all 7 B humans on earth. This could be a great boon for under-developed nations and get a lot of buy-in.

                How do we set targets?

                In the case of the Sky Trust, we wouldn’t. That would be up to the trustees of the atmosphere operating in the best interests of the beneficiaries who they’re legally liable to. Presumably they would do so using the best available science and economics.

                How do we trade off living standards compared to climate?

                The climate isn’t separate from our living standards. It’s a large determinant of them. Consider what would happen to our living standards if the oceans die. I know that sounds alarmist but it’s a very real possibility from acidification (about 2/3 of the CO2 is going in the oceans). Marine scientists have studied this using aquariums and it doesn’t look pretty. Most fish, crustaceans– anything with a shell is fucked, and the base of the marine food chain collapses. It doesn’t completely die, of course. Basically the jellyfish take over but a lot of people get their food from the ocean. Not good at all.

                And really, you’re the one in the Inequality Symposium who was wagging his finger at liberals over our supposed zero-sum thinking. Isn’t that what you’re doing? Asserting that we can’t protect the climate and environment while enjoying a pleasant life-style? When I was a kid we had rivers that were so fouled they would actually start on fire. I remember photos in the newspaper of Los Angelenos walking around wearing face/gas masks from the smog. We (coercively… oh, my!) cleaned that up and I don’t see where it’s had such a negative effect on our standard of living. I think your hand-wringing over this is over-wrought.

                In other words who is in charge of the global thermostat?

                Nobody. But somebody needs to be. And I’m suggesting we use the logic of property rights to solve this. Doesn’t that warm your libertarian heart? Just a little?Report

              • Avatar Roger says:


                I am aware that the climate influences our standard of living. You can’t sweep tradeoffs under the carpet though. Please don’t read anything else into my comment.

                I still don’t get who forces everyone to pay up. Do they then send a check to 7B people? Or do they send more to those harmed more by higher energy prices? Is the idea that those nations agreeing to it will establish tariffs on those not complying? The tariffs then go into the fund?

                It seems that your idea along with research into low energy carbon sequestration as Lomborg suggests would be reasonable tactics to investigate.Report

            • Avatar DensityDuck says:

              “Absent government action, international trade would just occur whenever someone found it convenient to do so.”

              Well, to be honest, absent government there would be no nations to trade inter. So he’s technically correct(*) when he writes that government action is necessary for international trade to occur.

              (*) the best kind of correct!Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:


              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                absent government there would be no nations

                I don’t even understand this comment.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                Max Weber: “The state is that human institution that successfully claims a monopoly on the legitimate use of violence over a given territory.”Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                What if that entity is a single individual, say a king, or a group of stationary bandits?

                I mean, there’s the legitimate use of force, and then there’s codifying the legitimate use of force. Private individuals or stationary bandits can do that. But that’s just surface dressing.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:


                I’m not sure that’s relevant to Duck’s crack, but it’s an interesting question by itself. The big wobble in Weber’s definition is what counts as “legitimate,” who determines legitimacy, and how do we know legitimacy when we see it?

                We’re still working on answering those questions, but at that point it gets awfully philosophical, which is a bad sign, in my opinion.Report

              • Avatar Brandon Berg says:

                I don’t even understand this comment.

                The existence of government is a defining characteristic of a nation. Without government, there’s land and a bunch of people, a culture, perhaps, or a civilization. But no nation.

                Duck was just sarcastically defending Liberty60’s claim. When there’s no government, there are no nations; therefore there can be no international trade without government.Report

  15. Avatar Roger says:

    If CO2 is the problem, what solutions have been generated on taking CO2 back out? Why don’t we slowly take it back down toward the proper ppm? Didn’t Lomborg or whatever his name suggest something similar?Report

    • Avatar Rod says:

      My wife used to like to mix up a pitcher of iced tea and then add sugar. I prefer my tea unsweetened. My argument was that it’s a hell of a lot easier for her to sweeten her glass of tea than for me to try to un-sweeten mine. Just hours and hours picking sugar molecules out with a tweezers. Uggh.

      Seriously, though. Carbon sequestration at the source is problematic enough. It’s difficult and expensive, but do-able given the right siting (you need somewhere, usually a suitable geologic formation, to put it). But trying to suck it back out of the atmosphere once it’s out there all nice and diffused? Even more difficult and expensive.

      I’ve seen various proposals and designs for CO2 filtering machines. It’s feasible… sort of. Making the machine isn’t that difficult. Making and deploying enough of them to do the job? Sort of spendy. Like appreciable chunk of GDP spendy.

      And they need power to work, either for the collection itself or for some kind of re-generation cycle (not to mention just building them). So then you decide (going with the general green motif) that solar panels would be the best power choice. Now at that point, you run the calculations, and… guess what? It makes a lot more sense, from the standpoint of technical efficiency and economics, to just use the solar panels to supply energy to the grid to displace coal and gas plants.

      Sort of the hard way to do things.Report

      • Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

        Rod, as you mention it, CO2 capture machines hit me as the last ditch defense. Wait until GW is a big, real problem—not a minor, projected but still uncertain one—then drop a few trillion on the CO2 machines.

        But only if/when necessary, rather than cripple the world economy with underdeveloped technology now. We could be going through a cooling period that global warming might balance nicely, and by the time the pendulum swings back, we could have fusion or any number of cost-efficient alternate energy technologies.


        Keith explains just how this technology could be used by companies across the globe: “A company could, in principle, contract with an oilsands plant near Fort McMurray to remove CO2 from the air and could build its air capture plant wherever it’s cheapest – China, for example – and the same amount of CO2 would be removed.”

        In a recent test, Keith and his team demonstrated that they could capture CO2 directly from the air, using less than 100 kilowatt-hours of electricity, and capture the equivalent of about 20 tons per year of CO2 on a single square meter of scrubbing material. “This means that if you used electricity from a coal-fired power plant, for every unit of electricity you used to operate the capture machine, you’d be capturing 10 times as much CO2 as the power plant emitted making that much electricity,” Keith says.

        And though this technology is in its early stages, and relatively expensive – despite being comparable to carbon capture and storage technologies – the relative simplicity of the device and scalable technology will see the technology flourish over the next few years with commercial input.Report

        • Avatar Rod says:

          Ya left this part of the story out of your quote:

          “While it’s important to get started doing things we know how to do, like wind power nuclear power and ‘regular’ carbon capture and storage, it’s also vital to start thinking about radical new ideas and approaches to solving this problem.” [emphasis mine]

          There’s other problems with your proposal.

          First, the climatic system has a great deal of “inertia,” for wont of a better term. If we completely quit burning fossil fuels tomorrow the temps would continue to rise for several years before leveling out.

          Second, we would then be forced to devote a considerable fraction of our industrial capacity to building machines that do nothing useful beyond sucking CO2 out of the atmosphere. That means we would be able to produce that much less of anything else we want to consume, drastically lowering our standard of living. Yeah, I care about that; I like my conveniences, too.

          Finally, color me skeptical. Not from a political standpoint, but from an engineering/scientific one. (FTR, I have a degree in Mechanical Engineering, though I haven’t done a lot with it. Subject for another day perhaps.) The notion that you can produce electricity from the chemical energy of hydrocarbon fuels, creating CO2 in the process, and then turn around and use that energy to suck ten times as much diffused CO2 out of the atmosphere seems a little too good to be true. I would need to know more about the process, but I suspect that a comprehensive life-cycle accounting would be less favorable. Just like comprehensive life-cycle accounting of nuclear plants is often much less favorable wrt to CO2 emissions.Report

    • Avatar wardsmith says:

      Left to its own devices, CO2 will bind with calcium to form calcium carbonate (limestone). Another way is via basalt tombs. Our future generations may complain that we kept the biomass smaller than they needed to support their population. My garden is very happy with the extra 50 parts per /million/ it gets to eat now. Pollutant indeed.Report

      • Avatar Rod says:

        Geez, ward, you’re well-schooled in all the denier fallacies, aren’t you?

        Yeah, calcium weathering does that. Over geological time-scales. If it were operative over human time-scales the CO2 concentration wouldn’t now be a third higher than it was prior to industrialization. It would have simply disappeared.

        Also, plants do take up CO2. Big duh for anyone with a grade school science education. And that was a valid question that has been answered. A small part of the excess CO2 is being taken up by plant life but not nearly enough to make a difference. The problem is that CO2 availability isn’t usually the limiting factor for plant growth. It’s usually other nutrients.

        Fail and fail.Report

        • Avatar wardsmith says:

          There’s my problem Rod I started my collegiate education at the premier mining engineering school in the country. There I learned actual geology and the other physical sciences. Also while there I heard the professors say numerous times, “If the mining, petroleum, geophysics, metallurgy, materials science and our other majors are too difficult for you, the best thing is to go for a degree in environmental science, that is by far the easiest degree we offer”. While there I observed first-hand the disdain everyone held for the environment “science” students. These guys couldn’t handle the simplest calculus, the degree consisted of a smattering of entry level science courses, nothing harder than that. Naturally when these guys graduated (with C’s), they got jobs with the EPA where they could get even with all those STEM majors who actually had intelligence and were trying to earn a living being /productive/ with their lives. They got even all right, and destroyed multiple industries and millions of jobs to make up for their lack of intellectual ability and effort.

          Today I see the same thing all over again with climate “science”. These guys are by no means the intellectual heavyweights of the scientific community, they know it, the other scientists know it and it is the reason they are continually getting tripped up by “amateurs”. Now we have the mental midgets of the scientific community attempting to understand an incredibly complex and interconnected dynamical system while playing the pied piper to the rest of humanity. Color me not amused.Report

          • Avatar Liberty60 says:

            This is the flip side of the liberal moral preening I was mentioning.

            Instead of the tree hugging sensitive guy who smugly drives a Prius and eats free-trade tofu, we have the Manly Man who has a Real Degree in swollen, throbbing, Rock-Hard Science, not the limp, flaccid touchy-feely stuff.

            This is Palin country, with all its tribal signalling of lifestyle choices.Report

            • Avatar MikeSchilling says:

              a Real Degree in […] Science
              This is Palin country

              There’s something not quite right there.

              Anyway, it’s funny to see someone bragging about the dumbed-down “calculus” courses engineers take, without delta or an epsilon in sight.Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

                Oh, hey, I didn’t see you guys all the way over there.Report

              • Avatar Robert Greer says:

                For the uninitiated:

                Cue James Hanley calling me superior and preeningly self-satisfied in 3…2…Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                No, actually. As a political scientist I’m over there to the left, between the psychologists and the sociologists, hopefully closer to the former rather than the latter.

                I’m not sure what about you linking to that would lead me to call you superior, unless perhaps you are a mathematician. 😉Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

                Former mathematician turned soft scientist. I get to sneer at people from both ends.Report

              • Avatar Murali says:

                As a molecular biologist turned political philosopher, I think I have got bigger sneering rights. On the pure philosophy aspect of what I do, mathematics becomes applied philosophy. At the same time, some of what I do applies political science and economics to the earlier abstractions. And from the middle, I have got my molcular biology background sinping at everybody on either side.Report

              • Avatar DensityDuck says:

                It’s funny how the science is totally easy and anyone can understand it and only a stupid Denialist would ever disagree, right up until someone points out that they’ve actually got some technical background at which point they’re totally unqualified to make comments on scientificy science stuff and they should just shut up and do what the REAL scientists say.Report

              • Avatar Liberty60 says:

                The science ISN’T easy; thats why we trust the scientific consensus of climate scientists, not mining engineers or geologists.

                If I was mining for coal, I would probably tell the climatologists to shut up and listen to the mining engineer.Report

              • Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

                YOU trust them. They’ve betrayed that trust in my book, from the Al Gore fraud movie to secret emails to the sloppy work like the Himalayas melting.


                Yes, yes, I’ve heard the xplanations and tapdances, but you know, I’m just not buying.

                BTW: Heh.


              • Avatar Liberty60 says:

                Because thousands of scientists worldwide are in fact, in league to destroy the America way of life.

                and the proper form is “heh-indeedy.”Report

              • Avatar Kazzy says:

                Who do you trust?Report

              • Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

                I’m still listening, despite their crimes against the truth.

                And damn right I think there’s an ideological socio-political agenda that warming hits all the buttons of.

                And damn right I think they try to destroy their enemies.

                And damn right I think they have a percentage of the academy cowed, who know that they better not get out of line.

                And damn right that aside from the few who [admittedly] get funding from the corporations, the real money in academia is in global warming, the scientist who isn’t on board is max screwed.

                But despite all that, I’m still listening. I’ve done quite a bit of reading on it and am familiar with most of the arguments. I do think there’s a heavy cloud over the credibility of the alarmist camp, for reasons given.

                And the sneering about Palin and such is just one more indication that warmism is more a tribal ideology than an argument, and not a very good one at that.


              • Avatar Robert Greer says:

                So Tom, what do you make of the graphs showing an accelerating decline of Arctic sea ice that point to open blue ocean by the end of the decade? Do you just think the figures are fabricated, or that the ice loss will level off somehow…?Report

              • Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

                Dunno, Robert. Sea ice was plus in May, then minus in June.

                I keep up on this stuff.



                It looks like there are variations. Duh. As WardSmith linked, they’re sailing through the Northwest Passage this year for the first time in recorded history.

                Except for 1903. And 1950-something. Etc.

                I’m still listening. Not ready to destroy the world economy just yet.Report

              • Avatar Robert Greer says:

                TVD, ice extent and area are problematic measures of the health of the ice, which is why I focused mostly on volume. If you still honestly believe that the Arctic isn’t melting away before our eyes, I invite you to review this video (linked above, but somewhat obscurely):

              • Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

                Robert, find someone else to evangelize. If you can find someone who’ll sit still for it.


                I’ll read what you have to say. I keep up on these things. Meanwhile, I just cited Mr. Smith on the possibility that these things are cyclical and our baseline is questionable unless you have some satellite data from 1798. So perhaps you should listen to him instead of watching YouTube.Report

              • Avatar MikeSchilling says:

                See, the sneering doesn’t work when you have no clue what’s going on.Report

          • Avatar Bad-ass Motherfisher says:

            Ah! Ad-homininum!

            An excellent selection, sir!Report

  16. Avatar Roger says:


    No the hard way to do it is to assume you will ever convince seven billion people some who gain some who lose to ever agree. The situation is quite different when seven billion are adding sugar as a side product of living.

    I just googled Lomborg and he does recommend we immediately start funding research in this area “His chief finding: the most cost-effective and technically feasible approach is through geoengineering, the use of technology to deliberately alter the earth’s climate.”Report

  17. Avatar Brandon Berg says:

    It just occurred to me how bizarre it is that we face a real and indisputable problem of much greater magnitude and severity than global warming—one with a death toll in the billions, and in the hundreds of millions in the last ten years alone. One that has left no life untouched, and which will without fail kill every last one of us if nothing is done to stop it. One which has devastated the economy, putting 20% of the adult population out of commission, and eating up as much as 10% of our GDP.

    And yet, nobody cares. If you think we should devote huge amounts of resources to solving the problem of global warming, well that’s just good sense. But if you think we should even try to solve the problem of aging, you’re a crank.Report

  18. Avatar Jaybird says:

    Liberty, down here. I’ve got an argument.

    Well, let’s break it down like this. Let’s say that I’m an Anthropomorphic Global Warming Skeptic. I look at the Global Warming Science and while I see that there probably is climate change going on, I don’t have the skills to read the science and come to the conclusion that the warming is caused by mankind. (Let’s say that my knowledge of the Scientific Method tells me that a proper experiment involves a control and if you set up an experiment on X that involve changing variables and the same things happen to the control that happen to the specimen you’re experimenting on, you can come up with a reasonable hypothesis about the efficacy of whatever variables you changed and how important they are to the outcome. Something like that.)

    Now, on top of that, let’s say that one notices social benefits to publically embracing a particular viewpoint. If someone says “I believe X!”, they get accolades from “the right people” and they get insulted by “the other people” and public affirmation of X is a good way to align yourself with a particular group of folks and align yourself against others. If you follow up with “I believe Y!”, you get even more accolades.

    Now, let’s posit that X, in this case, is “global warming is caused by humans”. Let’s say Y is something like “human beings need to change their lifestyles to help address global warming.”

    Now: Keep in mind that I don’t have the tools to understand whether Y is true or not. All I have is what I understand and what I can see.

    If I see that the biggest voices in the movement are saying X and saying Y and receiving accolades from “the right people” by doing so and, at the same time, I see that they explain that they trust The Scientists when it comes to the truth of X and Y and, at the same time, I see that they don’t really change their lives that much:

    Is it rational on my part to come to the conclusion that the people who claim to understand the science are saying what they are saying because of the social benefits they receive from saying it rather than because they actually believe Y?

    If not, Y not?Report

    • Avatar Liberty60 says:

      Yes, its perfectly rational to question the integrity of those who fail to live up to their stated beliefs.

      If we have a post where we are debating someone’s character, this would be a sharp comment.
      But then I probably wouldnt be interested in commenting.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird says:

        No, no, no. I’m not talking about character at this point.

        I’m talking about what conclusions we can reach about the science if the people who claim to understand it don’t do what they are prescribing for others?

        Can we reasonably come to the conclusion that things might not, in fact, be as dire as they tell us? Keep in mind: I don’t understand the science. The only tools I have are what I can see and understand. Based on what I can see and what I can understand:

        Why ought I change my life?

        (For the record, I don’t think you can answer this question affirmatively.)Report

        • Avatar Liberty60 says:

          That seems like a really strange way to analyze policy.

          What conclusions can I reach about economics, once I discover that Ayn Rand took Social Security?nEven if Ayn were a total hypocrite, we could still argue objectivist theory independently.

          Your point seems to be that many people embrace sustainability out of stylish fashion, without internalizing its message- like that cloud of smug that hangs over Southpark.

          Completely true, by the way. But hardly confined to this issue. We see people banging the drum for war who sit safely at home, we see people braying about self-reliance from the comfort of their Medicare hoverround, we see people beating their breast about the plight of the poor while doing nothing for them.

          Even your question betrays this politics-as-moral-preening logic; asking why you should change you life, as if the focus of our national policy is on its effect on Jaybird’s life. Sort of an unfunny version of Al Franken’s “Me Decade” sketch.

          I don’t have anything to say about your life or you you live it. I do have strong opinions as to our national policy on energy and resrouces. How this affects your life is irrelevant.Report

    • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

      People smoke. People ride motorcycles without helmets. People do all sorts of things that they know aren’t good for them. People overeat. People drink too much.

      In all of those cases, of course, they are failing to override a temptation.

      In the particular case of AGW, if Joe believes that humans (a substantial portion of the 7 billion of them) need to do several things to prevent Bad Things, but a vanishingly small number of the 7 billion seem to actually have any interest in doing any of those things, let alone all of them, it’s not surprising that Joe doesn’t change much.

      What’s he supposed to do, become a hermit and deprive himself of all of the immediate benefits of radical change while everyone else keeps on keepin’ on?

      Why quit smoking if everyone around you chain smokes and you live in a domed city with two big smelting plants that have no emission controls whatsoever? If you’re unavoidably breathing in two pounds of carcinogens a year, what’s a tenth of an ounce?Report

      • Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

        PatC, can I smoke if I wear a helmet? Pls advise.Report

        • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

          You can smoke if you want, Tom. I have before, and I will again some day.

          Probably not by the pack, though.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird says:

        I could not *POSSIBLY* agree more.

        Now, let’s say that I get Religion and decide that People Need To Quit Smoking. Let’s compare different scenarios:

        A) I quit smoking and I tell people “you need to quit smoking for the following Very Good Reasons: (and then list them)”

        B) I publically quit smoking but privately still smoke in the privacy of my own bathroom and I tell people “you need to quit smoking for the following Very Good Reasons: (and then list them)”

        C) I still smoke publically the way that everybody else does but tell people “you need to quit smoking for the following Very Good Reasons: (and then list them)”

        If my goal is to actually get other people to change, which option is my best option?

        I’m looking at A and B, myself.Report

        • Avatar Stillwater says:

          I could not *POSSIBLY* agree more.

          That’s weird, since Pat’s basically a substantial part of your argument.Report

          • Avatar Stillwater says:

            “basically undermining a substan…Report

            • Avatar Jaybird says:

              I agree that there’s no reason to change.

              That’s not what my arguments have been addressing, however.

              My arguments, from the get-go, have not been about changing. My arguments have been “let’s say you want to change someone else’s mind about whether *THEY* should change. What’s the best way to do that?”

              If I wanted to get you to change your life, what would be some of the pre-reqs you’d need me to establish, Stillwater? Let’s say that I wanted to convince you to be more (whatever). What would I need to do? My fundamental assumption is that I’d have to go into the prisoner’s dilemma and pick “co-operate” even if I had good reason to believe that other people would pick “defect”. Then, with tears in my eyes, I could tell you that you should pick “co-operate” too.

              Can you think of a better way for me to convince you?Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:


                Well, if I’m just trying to convince Stillwater, probably not.

                If I’m trying to just get 300 million people to do something, I can see a powerful desire to just pass a law. Convincing that many people of anything is too much goddamn work.

                Shoot, dude, Al’s wife is the one that Anthrax wrote that song about. He spent most of his life in politics. Passing a law or nine is probably the first tool in his toolkit for almost any problem you can think up.

                Whether or not this is a great idea is something else entirely.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                I don’t see that law passing. We could barely pass the Popular People’s Affordable Care Act For The Children.Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

                I don’t either.

                The people who want to pass this particular set of laws are those who believe in a version of humanity with which I have little familiarity.

                They’re pretty convinced that they’re correct, though. Go figure.Report

              • Avatar Or Jaybird says:

                I think that it might be possible to change enough peoples’ minds to get these laws passed, however. There are more than a handful of good arguments that you can use to appeal to all kinds of people.

                Treating it like a solvable engineering problem (with beneficial outcomes) is likely to resonate with a lot of people who will be irritated (to say the least) by people using morally imperative language for things that they are mostly unwilling to do themselves (without being forced to do it along with everyone else).

                If it’s a problem, we can solve it.

                If it’s a sin? What can be done about sin? From what I understand, we’ll need to kill something. Or Someone.Report

    • Avatar Brandon Berg says:

      I don’t think so. I think it’s perfectly reasonable for a person to refuse to pay the costs (by dramatically restricting his personal use of fossil fuels and standard of living) when he’s not going to reap any of the benefits (because not enough other people are doing it), while at the same time saying that we would all be better off in the long run if the government restricted our use of fossil fuels.

      I’m not convinced that that last bit is correct. But in a seven-billion-way prisoner’s dilemma where almost everyone is defecting, you’d be a sucker not to do the same.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird says:

        Ironically, I am a bit of a sucker.

        Some things are the right thing to do even if you’d have to be a sucker to do them.

        If, however, I wanted someone else to become a sucker? I’d point out, hey, I’m a sucker too. Join us. We have lentils.Report

        • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

          You’d be surprised how many people who believe this stuff live lives like yours.

          They just aren’t the poster children. The poster children are Recognizable Faces.Report

        • Avatar Roger says:

          I think driving a prius and feeling guilty every time you fly is nothing but pointless moral signalling. It makes as much difference as trying not to fart to control worldwide methane limits.

          If you care about the problem then we need to work toward a sustainable solution which aligns the selfish interests of individuals with the climate.Report

          • Avatar Murali says:

            Hybrids make fairly good economic sense. It is sufficiently fuel efficient that I (or my mom to be more accurate) save more on less petrol usage than the slightly higher initial price tag. A carbon tax/pollution permits scheme would make hybrids more economical for more people.

            As with a lot of collective action problems we can solve them by imposing some kind of governance solution. e.g.creating property rights in the relavant goods, or if that is not practical, regulation etc.Report

  19. Avatar Burt Likko says:

    I have a request, specifically of those with stronger international relations and internation law background than myself.

    It’s already happened that Arctic sea ice has receded during later summer months enough to open up the Northwest Passage for periods of time. It seems safe to assume that this will continue to be the case, and indeed may become a permanent, or near-permanent, state of affairs.

    Canada considers the Northwest Passage to be within its territorial waters and that it can therefore tax its use. I look at the map and see that the route runs right between several large islands all of which are Canadian territory, so that seems to me to be a substantial argument. But most other nations with significant maritime trade, including the United States, consider the NWP to be an international “transit passage,” meaning that they concede Canada can regulate it for environmental and fishing controls but must allow free passage of shipping. That brings to mind places like the Hormuz Strait or the Strait of Malacca.

    The NWP strikes me as a focus for considerable commercial activity as shipping to the developing rail transit hub at Churchill, Ontario could and eventually will provide a much cheaper hub for distribution between Asia and the eastern United States than shipping to a U.S west coast city, making Canada something of a winner in the dismal global warming sweepstakes.

    How does the dispute about tax status for the Northwest Passage get resolved? Which argument is stronger on the merits, and are there predictions on who will win the dispute?Report

    • Avatar North says:

      Burt, I’m very much an ametuer about this but I suspect a lot of this resolution rests on Canada. If the Canadian government ponies up the dough for a significant arctic presence (icebreakers, enforcement etc) they pretty well could establish facts on the ground which the UN would have an awfully hard time overturning. The US would probably feel kindof squidgy about this too since there’s be similar questions revolving around the Bering Strait.Report

  20. Avatar wardsmith says:

    Burt, what typically happens within the jurisdiction of a governing authority (like Canada in this case) is that they require permission to navigate “their” waters and provide a “pilot” to operate the ship during some part of the transit period. The fee for the pilot is very hefty and the rationale is that the channel is dangerous. Not a “tax” per se, but similar in effect if not nomenclature.

    Of course to hear folks like Greer tell it, the arctic has NEVER been ice free before and we can always count on bad reporting of bad ‘facts’. Luckily we are almost out of the last mini-ice age and given the damage that can be done by cold (crops ruined, mass starvation, disease) we’re probably better off. Not to the chicken little crowd of course, the sky must always be falling for them.Report

    • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

      Ward, I’ve asked this before, and I’ll ask it again.

      Is there anything that could happen that would lead you to change your current position about AGW, as a theory?Report

      • Avatar wardsmith says:

        When the current “theory”, that Man’s contribution of less than 1.5% of the world’s TOTAL CO2 gets to be the sole cause of global warming you mean? The story that the AGW crowd is pitching you mean? That CO2 in microscopic amounts in the atmosphere gets a magical property that causes it to have this incredible multiplier effect? THAT theory? I find it a bit easier to believe in a magical spaghetti monster. Now if, eventually the /real/ science gets to come to the forefront and AGW stops calling people who disagree with their phlogiston theory “deniers” and we get to examine ALL the inputs and outputs in a non-judgmental manner and follow the data instead of forcing the existing data and methodology to fit a pet theory, THAT day I’ll be very interested to sign up. But the AGW theory as espoused today is little better than the luminiferous aether of yesterday. So what you’re really asking me is what it will take for me to sign up to the luminiferous aether theory.Report

        • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

          I’m guessin’ that’s a “no”, then.

          Ward… when you critique a theory, implicitly, because it isn’t “non-judgmental”, in the same comment where you compare it to phlogiston, you come across as having severe cognitive dissonance on the topic. Which is weird, because normally you come across as a smart dude.Report

          • Avatar greginak says:

            This sort of puts a hole in the ” enviro types should just make sure they “walk the walk” if they want people to listen to them discussion up thread.Report

            • Avatar Jaybird says:

              Back to passing laws.Report

              • Avatar greginak says:

                Well i guess it is an option for every person who thinks AGW is an issue we should deal with through some sort of collective action to live their lives in exact accordance( allthough who can say what that is) with what AGW deniers think they should live and then at some unspecified point the deniers will be raptured into seeing the AGW light. That seems like a plan.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                I’m down with expanding the definition of “denier” to include “people who don’t act as if global warming is a problem that requires action on their part”.Report

              • Avatar greginak says:

                I meant to put some sort of definition in there about what i meant by denier. It was quick term to include everybody who doesn’t think we should do something collectivly about AGW. Not a good term but i was lazy. I vote for somebody else to come up with a better term. Its not my problem.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy says:

                That is really sloppy. Denier is far from an accurate term for the whole range of people for whom collective action around AGW might not be a pressing concern.Report

              • Avatar greginak says:

                I agree it was a sloppy term.Report

          • Avatar wardsmith says:

            Patrick, I said nothing about judgmental. What I said was anyone who disagreed was immediately labeled a “denier” with the same kind of rhetoric normally reserved for religious deniers. This, putatively by a group that wants to claim they are “scientists”. I had the great good pleasure of having a physics professor who would always say, “Now in our current state of ignorance we believe X”. Judgmental isn’t the issue with AGW, it is hubris. The term “denier” was never chosen by accident, it was intended to bring with it exactly the connotation it has. I happily endorse the term “skeptic”, but the AGW community does not, insufficient baggage. I’m also happy to throw in my lot with real Nobel physicists rather than pseudo scientists like Al Gore promoting their pseudo-religious scam.

            Drop that point and the rest of your argument (naturally) falls apart. We’ve had these discussions before, I promised myself I wouldn’t argue science with non-scientists again. I had hoped your math background would put you in better stead to discuss science, but unfortunately it doesn’t. And don’t feed me any more bullshit about “consensus”. The “consensus” on phlogiston and luminiferous aether was likewise virtually universal at the time. The only difference is scientists were open-minded then and of course climate scientists are anything but. The problem for me of course is when will YOU have the Aha! moment and realize this has all been a scam. What event would have to occur short of a cataclysmic ice-age for you to recognize you’ve been a patsy? Given that climate science takes credit for any and all weather anomalies including record cold snaps, that will be difficult indeed.

            And the warm summer /some/ in the US (only) have experienced? Doesn’t even match what happened in the 30’s. Had the dustbowl not happened (and the albedo effect therefrom) the 30’s likely would have been even hotter, albeit without the CO2 numbers AGW pretends is the primary climate driver.Report

            • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:


              YOU put theory in scare quotes. You included “magical” and “incredible”. And here you toss in scare quotes around scientist, and call the AGW community pseud-scientists.

              If this isn’t intended to be disparaging and judgmental, it certainly seems like it from the standpoint of this reader. Which is particularly odd, given that the central point of this last comment is that the AGW crowd suffers from hubris.

              The problem with the groupthink theory is that groupthink is most prevalent in smaller groups, not larger ones. Contrary to Mr. MacRae link’s supposition (he’s obviously not a social scientist), global climate change would be a *remarkable* outlier example of groupthink, not a textbook example at all, and I’m saying this as someone who has read an awful lot of freakin’ case studies on groupthink.

              > I had hoped your math background would put you in
              > better stead to discuss science, but unfortunately it doesn’t.

              Yes, because clearly anybody who thinks you’re incorrect must be a shitty scientist… (sigh)… respectfully… blow it out your ass, Ward. That’s a cheap shot and I don’t think I’ve done anything to warrant it.

              And really, dude, I’ll put up the boys and girls here at Caltech up against any other group of scientists in the world.

              This research group.

              These guys.

              This group.

              Guys and Gals.

              This dude.

              I can go on.

              Up against just that list, which is comprised of dozens and dozens of individuals just here at this one research institute, I see skeptics mostly point to one or two or a half-dozen of the same skeptics, none of whom did any of their thesis work on atmosphere or climate. None of whom publish papers on the topic.

              You bring up a specific assertion regarding a question that, when I pop up ISI web of science, I find literally thousands of references.

              CO2 Forcing? 525 goddamn pages of results in ISI Web of Science, Ward. 5,248 papers. Now, I haven’t cleaned through the results to see that they’re all atmospheric-related papers, but 18 of the first 25 clearly are just by checking the abstract. This is hardly robust analysis, but I’m okay with saying that at least a couple thousand of these results are related to your question.

              Your incredulity regarding “magical properties” leads me to believe that you’ve read approximately zero of them.Report

              • Avatar wardsmith says:

                Pat, could a person suffer from confirmation bias and groupthink without even knowing it? Your links to your pals at CalTech merely reinforces that supposition. They prove to me is what I already know, there is a LOT of money in climate research, hundreds of billions of dollars so far. Given how hard some may have to work to get their degrees and the lack of job openings at supercolliders, going into climate seems a better career choice than cosmology. Your ISI links do the same, of COURSE there are a ton of papers promoting CO2 as the climate driver, Orthodoxy!

                My apologies about the “math” smear (and by the way, quotes are just quotes, not “scare” quotes). My OWN undergraduate degree is in math, at the time (admittedly stone age) when I went to university there was no such thing as a computer science degree, therefore you were compelled to receive a degree in Math and Computer Science. But here’s the problem with math majors and science, which I fell victim to myself in graduate physics courses. Algebraic manipulations of formulas that are perfectly acceptable in math (they’re just symbols after all) can be verboten in physics. Why? Well think about something like negative time (excepting Feynman’s antimatter theories). Might as well be dividing by zero.

                My ultimate intent isn’t to convince you that you should change religion. You’re committed and I’m not. One of us is free and the other one isn’t.Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

                > They prove to me is what I already know

                … by/with …

                > You’re committed and I’m not.

                Ward, you’re the one who won’t put up a falsification standard for what you believe. I think this makes you the committed one, not me.

                > Given how hard some may have to work to get their
                > degrees and the lack of job openings at supercolliders,
                > going into climate seems a better career choice than
                > cosmology.

                I think you’re giving them a much shorter shrift than they deserve, Ward. Nobody who goes into graduate school here is under any illusions about their future employment prospects in any branch of their academic field. Many of them leave before they graduate simply because they can make a metric ton more money working for private industry than they will ever be able to make working in academic – even assuming that they can find an open position in their field. If “God I can only make money prostituting my scientific integrity” was a real motivator, you’d see a lot more symptoms of it than I do. It’s a huge deal when someone falsifies research in any field, and it’s really, really hard to keep a scientific fraud going for any significant amount of time. You’re talking about multiple decades worth of pervasive fraudulent behavior across almost every notable physics department in the country… plus the international community.

                But there’s really no way for me to convince you of that, that’s something you’d have to arrive at yourself. And you don’t think that’s the case. Well, all I can say is, rather than wonder how I’m flummoxed, why don’t you actually take a trip to one of the conferences these guys talk at, and just walk around and listen to their idle conversations? Go hang out with some of them at a bar. Find out if… in unguarded moments… they sound like they actually believe this stuff or not.

                Let me put it to you another way: I’ve had a long career as both a student (at different institutions of higher learning) and a staff member at an academic institution. My wife used to work for a nonprofit, we have plenty of friends and relatives and ex-coworkers that are in the academic biz. I’ve directly seen unethical behavior by academics before, and I’ve heard plenty of anecdotes from other people I know at various other institutions. I’m under no illusions that the Ivory Tower is a place of purity and light.

                I’m also just staggeringly unconvinced that the sort of collusion you think is happening here is something that is going to get past my bullshit radar, and the collective bullshit radar of all of the people I know from full PIs down to administrative assistants. I hear stories about all sorts of behavior that boggles the mind, and not one whiff of academic malfeasance on the scale necessary to describe what you’re talking about, here. I’m naturally a suspicious, cynical sort of dude, and I’m maybe fooling myself that I’m good at ferreting out this sort of thing, but I’ve seen plenty of stuff to convince me otherwise and not much to shake my confidence in my ability to spot shenanigans.

                Apology accepted, fwiw. I think you’re a good egg, normally. I think this is a hot-button issue with you and for whatever reasons (maybe good, sound ones) you get your dander up and write in ways you don’t, normally. Or at least that’s how I read what you write on this topic – but hey, part of that might actually be confirmation bias on my part.Report

              • Avatar wardsmith says:

                Pat this OP already has a ton of comments, perhaps it is best to put it to rest. I’ll only address a couple of your points so this doesn’t go on and on (not to mention I have a beer calling me). To the malfeasance point what really happens (and what I told you already in other posts) is that the confirmation bias leads the researchers to smooth the data in the direction they want it smoothed via “tricks” like the ones alluded to in the emails. McIntyre caught them at it and has been a thorn in their side ever since. They call /themselves/ the “team” so the normative bias of their groupthink is pretty self-evident.

                As for going to conferences, been there done that. At one I asked the presenter ONE question, she was presenting as a PhD in Oceanographic Climatology and committed the cardinal sin of reading the slides out loud to us. That said the moderator left a lot of time at the end for questions and by luck mine was the first. She had gone on and on about “acidification” of the oceans. My question was simply this, if the oceans are heating up as her slides 12-21 indicated, what mechanism was in place to allow the hotter water to absorb more CO2 since that flies in the face of known physics? She looked at me like a deer in headlights, and then literally ran out of the room. The moderator said something about her possibly needing a bio-break and we all laughed, and waited and waited. She never returned. There were several scientists there (it was at a university) and we discussed it among ourselves, largely coming to the conclusion that she ran from the room because she had neglected a serious element in her argument.

                Later as I was at the airport to leave, who should I see but a very famous climate scientist? And we did go into a bar and I did buy him a beer (or several). He’s dead now and I treat the confessional of the bar as more sacrosanct than priests their confessional so I won’t say precisely what transpired. Suffice to say however that he admitted to a less than strident belief in AGW but felt that pursuing it “for the greater good” was worth it. He went on about getting off of fossil fuels and doing more renewables because they were a good in and of themselves, regardless of whether the science behind doing it was sketchy. He also admitted that the funding, travel and perks were an added bonus. So in an “unguarded moment”, one of the loudest voices admitted to me that he did /not/ reallybelieve this stuff. Left a rather sour taste in my mouth, which hasn’t gone away after all these years.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy says:

                How does “…he admitted to a less than strident belief in AGW…” equate to “…he did /not/ reallybelieve this stuff…”?

                This seems to be a hallmark or denierism… “A CHINK IN THE ARMOR! IT’S ALL BULLSHIT!”Report

              • Avatar Liberty60 says:

                “this OP already has a ton of comments, perhaps it is best to put it to rest.”

                Mark your calendars- Wardsmith and I agree on something.

                Bipartisanship reigns!Report