How To Give A Damn About Climate Change


Elias Isquith

Elias Isquith is a freelance journalist and blogger. He considers Bob Dylan and Walter Sobchak to be the two great Jewish thinkers of our time; he thinks Kafka was half-right when he said there was hope, "but not for us"; and he can be reached through the twitter via @eliasisquith or via email. The opinions he expresses on the blog and throughout the interwebs are exclusively his own.

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357 Responses

  1. Avatar Scott says:

    Sorry, it is hard to take AGW protestors seriously when they think we are going to meet all our energy needs on wind and solar, etc. When they take nuclear power seriously, I will take them seriously. Sure I want to improve things but we have to consider all our options to fix the problem.Report

    • Avatar Don Zeko says:

      Two things. #1: do they, in fact, think that nuclear power will have no role in carbon reduction? I keep hearing about this dogmatic anti-nuclear position from enviros, but never seeing it when I read enviros about the climate. #2: if they don’t, but the worst-case projections about climate change are still correct, doesn’t this mean that you agree that we need to fix the problem, but have decided not to address it at all because you disapprove of the approach taken by others?Report

      • Avatar Kimmi says:

        Republicans still stuck back in the 1980’s… why do you think they’re still dogwhistling socialist/communist/EVUL?

        In all seriousness, I have heard PLENTY from my local asshat of a Sierra Club Leader (that’s not why he’s an asshat, btw). Nobody else though.

        Professionals, Creative class took over the environmental movement years ago in Pittsburgh — you tend to see people looking for solutions.Report

    • Avatar Kimmi says:

      50 years of nuclear power, if you quadruple our usage rate (which we’d need, to get us off coal).
      Give me 50 years of funding for renewables, and we can make this work.
      (and, hell yes, let’s do fission. And build the damn fusion reactor already!)Report

  2. Avatar Jaybird says:

    I’m not sure that thinking about the moral obligations that we, as a society, have to those who have yet to be born (indeed, even conceived) is something that we, as a society, really have a habit of doing. Indeed, I’d say that the argument that *I* have more rights than some unborn (indeed, even conceived) individual (and, more importantly, that these rights trump those of the unborn(indeed, even conceived)) is one that is pretty deeply seated in the culture.

    It’s not insurmountable, of course… but I don’t know that we have the stomach yet for even the discussion about the amount of paternalism a truly green public policy will entail and the sheer number of assumptions we, as a society, will need to change about our relationships to each other.Report

    • Avatar Creon Critic says:

      When I think of the intergenerational equity issues raised by climate change, I think of folding them into longstanding efforts towards conservation and sustainable development. I’m curious as to what you mean by “the amount of paternalism a truly green public policy will entail”. The public policy suggestions I’ve seen on offer mean putting a price on carbon, setting international targets, and devoting resources to more sustainable energy sources. What is the paternalism you envisage that goes along with this?Report

      • Avatar Jaybird says:

        What is the paternalism you envisage that goes along with this?

        I eventually see people discussing population control. Dalits have too many children. “We’re not saying that they should have *NO* children… just an amount proportionate to the amount that the Brahmin have.”

        Eventually, discussing sustainability will lead to discussions of children.Report

        • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

          Or euthanasia day at the geriatric hospital.Report

          • Avatar Jaybird says:

            I imagine that, soon, we’ll reach the point where we decide that the best/easiest way to take care of the elderly is to get them stoned and give them 1000 channels on their 40-inch televisions. A life of endorphins to celebrate a life well-lived. Fudgecicles and Goldfish crackers will be made available to all in addition to the regularly scheduled meals down in the cafeteria.

            All-in-all, it’ll be like college without the classes.

            Edit: so I have heard.Report

        • Avatar Creon Critic says:

          Umm, one would have to do quite a bit of digging to find population culls by way of killing old people and forced sterilization in Agenda 21 or the Rio+20 outcome document, The Future We Want. I don’t think overpopulation has been at the core of the discussion of sustainable development for some time now. And insofar as concerns along those lines are expressed, they’re framed around women’s reproductive health and giving women access to contraception, mainly making the option of family planning available to people with limited access – also women’s access to literacy, economic empowerment, and overall strengthening their capability to make informed choices about their lives in contexts that’re still dominated by patriarchy (and/or poor health care options).

          I suppose I’m no on board with the use of the word paternalism because, well, is urban planning as such paternalistic? That’s essentially how I read the Radical steps needed to combat climate change piece, as a very, very ambitious urban planning framework. In my view there will be some urban plan, even the failure to plan is a plan of sorts. And with rapidly urbanizing developing world cities of millions of people someone, somewhere has to help figure out sanitation, transportation, housing, etc. – even on the simplest level of saying what’s permitted and what’s not, no raw sewage into this river that supplies drinking water, one’s engaged in this project of figuring out these types of problems. Now stick the word “green” in front of urban planning, or “green” in front of public policy, has it suddenly become paternalistic? Or raised incredibly novel issues about “the sheer number of assumptions we, as a society, will need to change about our relationships to each other”?Report

          • Avatar Jaybird says:

            they’re framed around women’s reproductive health and giving women access to contraception, mainly making the option of family planning available to people with limited access – also women’s access to literacy, economic empowerment, and overall strengthening their capability to make informed choices about their lives in contexts that’re still dominated by patriarchy (and/or poor health care options).

            Britain has begun to kick it up a notch.Report

            • Avatar Jaybird says:

              I should acknowledge: this is more about the safety net than environmental consciousness… but give it a couple of months. They will figure out a rephrasing that will appeal to both the right and the left.

              And it will add up to how the frigging dalits have too many frigging kids.Report

              • Avatar Creon Critic says:

                I was thinking more of the developing world, high infant mortality, poor maternal health, and the resulting deaths. The article you linked to is essentially about social work, typically insensitive Tory ministers’ take I’ll readily grant – after all, this is the party of “if it isn’t hurting it isn’t working” and “get on your bike and look for work”. Not surprising they’d have a get tough on the underprivileged approach, but still that’s quite some distance from overpopulation being a leading current in discussions of sustainable development.Report

          • Avatar Will Truman says:

            If you want to live Lifestyle A, and someone else is telling you that we need to redesign our entire society and Lifestyle A will not be a part of it, whether it’s paternalistic is actually somewhat beside the point. Paternalism is less worrying than a system redesign under the banner of urban planning. (Advocated, one might add, by people who were never much fond of Lifestyle A to begin with.)Report

            • Avatar Creon Critic says:

              Isn’t system redesign already underway? Whether desertification, deforestation, or through the move of tens of millions of people from countrysides around the world to new urban metropolises, the previous system is being redesigned. We currently have the knowledge to steer the redesign towards or away from more sustainable paths. I didn’t understand what Jaybird was getting at both by dubbing this process paternalism or the claim that a re-imagining of our relationships with one another in society was linked to pretty well trod territory on internalizing externalities.

              Also, how valuable is Lifestyle A if it isn’t sustainable? Even more troubling, what if Lifestyle A means cutting down the last tree on Easter Island?Report

              • Avatar Don Zeko says:

                The depressing part of that comparison is that the Easter Islanders who cut that last tree could look around and see what they were doing. It will be impossible to tell when we emit that last ton of carbon.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                Well, let’s hammer out what a sustainable lifestyle would be.

                How much room for how many people? Would you say 500 square feet per person would be a good amount? About how much energy usage per day would strike you as appropriate? A refrigerator, of course. Would a microwave be better or worse than a gas/electric stove? Maybe a George Foreman grill instead? How much hot water would we be rationed per day? (Let’s say a shower length assuming a proper low-flow shower head. 5 minutes?)

                Would we have enough energy to allow for computer usage?

                An additional thing I’m wondering is what we’d have to change, culture-wise, to make sure that this stuff kept up. We’d pretty much have to abandon anonymity, for one thing… I’m wondering what other modern conveniences we’d have to abandon.

                We’re talking about significant change that would come from the top down and would flip things on their head for pretty much everybody in the country. Granted, we’d have a lot more equality under the new system…Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                Correct me if I’m wrong, but your argument here seems two-fold. One view is that since getting people on board with re-engineering social life in a sustainable way will be difficult, so we shouldn’t bother addressing global warming issues. The other is that if we could get people one board with re-engineering, we still shouldn’t do it since it creates more government. What’s left outa the mix in both of these arguments is whether or not re-engineering is necessary for sustainability.

                Here’s a question: if it were the case that re-engineering our social relationships (which as CC mentioned occurs in any event) is necessary to achieve sustainability (on whatever definition you choose), would you conclude that we ought to do it?

                It seems to me that if the answer is yes, you’re taking a pragmatic approach to the problem. If the answer is no, you’re taking an ideological approach to the problem.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                No, no, no. I’m saying that re-engineering social life in a sustainable way will be difficult… so what’s the plan?

                Please keep in mind: I have my house, my car, my stuff, and my vasectomy. I see no real reason why I have to change outside of a handful of changes that I’ve already made that sufficiently signal to the people who live around me that, seriously, I *CARE* about the Earth.

                At this point, I’m waiting to be convinced that I need to change even more. Let’s see the argument: whaddya got?

                The other is that if we could get people one board with re-engineering, we still shouldn’t do it since it creates more government.

                I haven’t even gotten that far. I do think that we’ll see different tiers of society after the re-engineering has settled. Powerful Party Members will have more square footage, more carbon credits to cash out, and better quality of the stuff they have more ration cards for… but I haven’t even gotten to that. I was waiting to see the plan held by those who are explaining to me that my changing my life is morally imperative.

                if it were the case that re-engineering our social relationships (which as CC mentioned occurs in any event) is necessary to achieve sustainability (on whatever definition you choose), would you conclude that we ought to do it?

                It depends on how the social relationships were re-engineered, I imagine. Let’s say that we had to go back to a 1920’s model of one breadwinner per household and the other was a stay-at-home kinda homemaker. Washing clothing by hand, washing dishes by hand, and would be trained in school to better do these things instead of, say, get training in subjects that they absolutely won’t need.

                Would that price be too high? Is there another utopian scenario that I could find some green person out there endorsing that would get you to say “nobody’s arguing that we do anything *THAT* drastic!”?

                What’s the plan? Maybe you’ve got a great one like “everybody lives exactly like they do now just with better shower heads and they recycle” that will get me to jump on board.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                I’m saying that re-engineering social life in a sustainable way will be difficult… so what’s the plan?

                Well, the first thing, before this question gets addressed, is to establish that re-engineering of some king is actually necessary. Seems to me that you’re uncertain that it is. So moving on to the ‘plan’ at this point makes no sense.

                And sure enough:

                At this point, I’m waiting to be convinced that I need to change even more. Let’s see the argument: whaddya got?

                The “argument” is the accumulated evidence from the scientific community. You either accept or you don’t. If you don’t, then questioning what the plan might be – again, to repeat – makes no sense, since you deny (or you don’t) the evidence brought to bear.

                I haven’t even gotten that far.

                I think you have. Your argument upthread was that if we justify carbon emissions restrictions on sustainability grounds, we will – as a matter of fact! – see government imposing limits on family size as a result. Now, maybe you just mean for that to be a prescient prediction which you can refer back to at a later time to show how well you understand policy dynamics, but I think you intend that comment to mean something else: that we ought to reject any type of centralized planning based on sustainability.

                And again, this:

                but I haven’t even gotten to that. I was waiting to see the plan held by those who are explaining to me that my changing my life is morally imperative.

                constitutes a rejection of the view addressing global warming issues on an institutional level is justified. If you already believed that AGW constitutes a problem worth correcting, you wouldn’t argue against a hypothetical proposal to correct it, you’d be making some proposals of your own.

                So you reject that AGW constitutes a real problem worth correcting.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                So the fact that you know that I don’t *REALLY* care about whatever answer you’d give me means that you don’t have to provide one.

                Fair enough.

                I’d ask that you be unsurprised if, in the future, folks point out that their obligations to answer any questions you may have are contingent upon your own internal states that they, whaddya know?, have determined are not Correct.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                I can only assume that you’re willfully missing the point I’m making here. There’s two parts to the argument: the first is establishing that some corrective measures are required at the institutional level; the second is what those measures might look like. You’re demand for a detailed presentation of the second implies a rejection of the first.

                The two things actually are separable.Report

              • Avatar MikeSchilling says:

                I’d ask that you be unsurprised if, in the future, folks point out that their obligations to answer any questions you may have are contingent upon your own internal states that they, whaddya know?, have determined are not Correct.

                It goes well with “Never mind the science until you can convince me that the people who quote it are sincere.’Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                There’s another way that one could see it.

                Premise P: some corrective measures are required at the institutional level

                Premise Q: the corrective measures include the following (set of measures)

                If P, Then Q

                Here’s my argument: Let’s say that I am willing, arguendo, to accept P as a True premise. Granted.

                Now I’m interested in talking about Q. Let’s talk about Q! That’s what will let us determine the truth of Q and If P Then Q!

                Is it fair for me to assume that you don’t want to talk about Q because Q, seriously, entails some seriously effed-up stuff and someone who doesn’t, deep down, believe in P will be far more persuasive to people on the fence by yelling “THEY WANT YOU TO USE TOILET CLOTHS!” than the True P Believers will be?Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                I’ll rephrase your argument for you in a way that makes it coherent:

                Since the only mechanisms which could mitigate global warming are draconian and unjust, we ought not employ them. Therefore, we ought not mitigate AGW.

                Is that about right?Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

                No, I think Jaybird (if he’ll allow me to put words in his mouth) is essentially arguing:

                People are telling me that we need to X. When I ask them to detail what Plan P is to mitigate what X is, they’re telling me I don’t care about the consequences of X. Stipulated, I care about the consequences of X.

                Why won’t anybody talk about P?

                I think that’s a pretty fair question.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy says:

                “Let’s end murder.”
                “Yes! Let’s! It is no doubt a scourge! How do we do it?”
                “What? Do you want to end murder or not? Why do you need to know how?”
                “Well, you mind want to end it by blowing up the sun and ending all life as we know it. That would certainly end murder. But I would not support *that*.”
                “Do you deny that murder is a problem? I didn’t say we’d blow up the sun. There is clearly know convincing you. Denier!”Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                Since the only mechanisms which could mitigate global warming are draconian and unjust

                Wait, the only mechanisms which could mitigate global warming are draconian and unjust? Well, it’s good to hammer that particular premise out, at least.

                (And Patrick did an awesome job there.)Report

              • Avatar greginak says:

                Pat- Its seems this entire debate gets mired down every time it comes up.
                If i say we should do X to mitagate AGW, then i’m told i’m making a moral argument and that is a bad idea. If i say here is data AGW is happening and bad then again i’m making a moral argument and get a rash of denier crap.
                If enviro’s make suggestions on what to do then its all about how enviros don’t live up some standard of what other people should live that is always just out of reach so why should anybody bother with AGW.

                The entire debate, from people who appear to believe AGW is serious concern, is attacking other people who believe in AGW. Why is it some people who believe in AGW seem to spend all the time in these threads arguing with other people who beleive in AGW?Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

                Here’s my problem. Here’s a scale. On one end:

                AGW isn’t a problem if there are < 1,000,000,000 people on the planet, presuming we actually organize our resource management with a minimum of idiocy (I think this is a manageable level of idiocy). On the other end: AGW isn't a problem if there are 10,000,000,000 people on the planet assuming we organize our resource management with a maximal amount of efficiency (I think this is an impossible level of efficiency) Ergo, we need to get rid of a lot of people. Or dramatically change our ability to *manage* resources. The first solution involves a lot of war and death, but has the advantage that the human race has demonstrated that it's quite good at this sort of thing, so it's likely to be able to execute that particular solution again. The second solution involves spending a lot of time and lucre on largely speculative technological approaches, which requires that people have a manageable level of trust in technocracy. I don't think we're necessarily going to pull that mofo off.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                I believe in AGW. Hell, I’m even outraged!!!

                Now I get to say that I’ve done my part.

                Shit, I should have become a green decades ago.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                Allow me to rephrase:

                If you want me to change my life, you need to tell me two things:

                1) Why.
                2) How.

                I’ve agreed with 1. If you don’t like that we’re now talking about 2, it’s probably easier to talk about how I don’t really, deep down, agree about 1. So let’s continue to do that.

                Isn’t it awful that I don’t *REALLY* care about AGW? That I’m not *REALLY* experiencing an internal state?Report

              • Avatar Kazzy says:


                Jason had a post up about the strength of talking so that you open the minds of those on your side. The extent to which folks who agree on a basic premise argue about that which follows is probably a good thing.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                Ahh good. So maybe this is the better way to phrase JB’s argument:

                Are the costs of mitigating AGW (practical, moral, financial, etc) greater or less than the costs of not doing anything? (Is that right?)

                First, I think phrasing it this way is actually quite different than JB’s actual argument, since he’s only adopting the AGW premise arguendo: he’s still uncommitted on whether AGW requires institutional mechanisms to remedy. If the problem takes the shape of a giant prisoners dilemma or trajedy of the commons, then it seems reasonable to conclude that voluntary behavior won’t correct it (since it’s rational to defect).

                Second, what JB appears to be arguing instead is that if the cost if mitigating AGW is higher than the cost of doing nothing, then the above argument doesn’t hold. But that’s not true: the above argument holds as both a description of the problem, and the conclusions drawn from that description, namely, that only certain types of mechanisms could possibly resolve the issue. That stands on its own.

                Insofar as we attribute a different argument to JB, and wonder if the costs of mitigating AGW are worth the price according to a calculus determined by agreed upon metrics, one metric I would fundamentally discount is the one which claims “I have met all of my obligations to society to mitigate AGW, so I have no further price to pay”. The very nature of the problem is that each individual’s behavior causes externalities which cannot be contained by voluntary action. It’s an institutional problem, and it seems to me it requires an institutional solution.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                Shit, this thread really took off!! The above comment was a response to Patrick’s first post on the subthread.Report

              • Avatar Don Zeko says:


                It seems to me that this question has been answered over and over again, but whatever, let me have a go:

                Why: because there is abundant scientific evidence that continued carbon emissions will alter the climate in ways that will be expensive and unpleasant to adapt to for the wealthy and potentially catastrophic for the rest, in addition to posing a risk of disastrous consequences if the worst-case projections, or anything in that neighborhood, turn out to be true. Mass starvation and flooding, and the geopolitical unrest they spawn, are no fun even for people with food to eat and a dry place to sleep.

                How: Through a number of non-radical but still noticeable adjustments to your lifestyle, i.e. driving a somewhat smaller car, living somewhat closer to your workplace, paying a somewhat higher power bill, installing more efficient household appliances and fixtures, moderately reducing the meat content of your diet, telecommuting more, etc. These adjustments will happen in a decentralized manner as markets respond to higher energy prices and some regulations. What aspects of your question does this not address?Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:


                The second solution involves spending a lot of time and lucre on largely speculative technological approaches, which requires that people have a manageable level of trust in technocracy. I don’t think we’re necessarily going to pull that mofo off.

                Some highly speculative, some less so. Nuclear is a very good way to move the entire industrial as well residential power grid to AGW approved sources. Battery technology might catch up to people’s affection for commuting by car and long Sunday drives. Gains in solar might catch up to cost-effectiveness (maybe).

                On the other hand, if we don’t do anything, we’re surrendering to the dilemma you presented, which justifies doing nothing. But I think we have good reasons to not do nothing.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy says:


                Will the “how” you offered here be shared with all levels of society? Will my employer pay me more, cutting their own profits, so that I can afford to live closer to work? Or will that solution fall entirely on me?Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:


                Wait, the only mechanisms which could mitigate global warming are draconian and unjust? Well, it’s good to hammer that particular premise out, at least.

                This is called a “drive by”, no?Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                How: Through a number of non-radical but still noticeable adjustments to your lifestyle, i.e. driving a somewhat smaller car, living somewhat closer to your workplace, paying a somewhat higher power bill, installing more efficient household appliances and fixtures, moderately reducing the meat content of your diet, telecommuting more, etc. These adjustments will happen in a decentralized manner as markets respond to higher energy prices and some regulations. What aspects of your question does this not address?

                Oh, good. I’ve done a lot of that. I feel better already.


              • Avatar Don Zeko says:


                That depends entirely upon how the political argument shakes when/if we ever do anything about AGW. If we get more buy-in from across the electorate, it’s less necessary to bribe the minority that will lose out. So if you guys could do something crazy like, say, getting some elected Republicans on board, then maybe we get Cap and Dividend instead of Cap & Trade, or perhaps that gas tax allows us to reduce income or payroll taxes to offset it.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                This is called a “drive by”, no?

                Depends. Am I still here?Report

              • Avatar Will Truman says:


                McLaren talked about how we need to get rid of the automobile. Greer says it’s too late even if we were to cut carbons down to zero. Others talk about The End Of The Suburbs with great frequency (and sometimes more than a little glee). It seems to me that asking the scope of the necessary corrective is very much in order. The fact that we get different answer leads to a bit of concern. If we do this, and this doesn’t work, what then?

                I personally do not need to see a tiered list of reactions (if this fails, then this) to support some measures, like a redistributive carbon tax, but I share the discomfort at the open-endedness of this. That, once we accept that a corrective is needed, it will essentially be considered a blank check.Report

              • Avatar Don Zeko says:

                Well the scope of the changes depends upon how quickly they are made. If we had started this process in 1980 it would have been easy. The other big issue is that, since we’ve already released so much Carbon into the atmosphere, keeping the pre-industrial climate is impossible. The question is how close to the pre-industrial climate we get, how many feedback loops we trigger, etc.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                Do you agree with the claim that any mechanisms which remedy the problem of AGW will be draconian and unjust? (I surely don’t, even tho you attributed it to me.) This might be a fruitful line to pursue.Report

              • Avatar Will Truman says:

                Don, so that makes it rather open-ended, doesn’t it?Report

              • Avatar Don Zeko says:


                I’m sure that I understand your concern about open-endedness. To my mind, what’s open-ended and unknown (and therefore terrifying) is the status quo’s effect upon the climate. It seems to me that the space between what is politically feasible and what is optimal is so great that our priority now should be to get going (and probably devote some R&D to geoengineering while we’re at it) and see how far we can get before our political process puts a stop to it.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy says:


                While I’m not attributing this argument to me, it often feels as if I, an individual, must adhere to a moral imperative and thus adjust my behavior. Businesses continue to only be driven by the profit motive. I’m a selfish jerk if I don’t move closer to work. My job gets no flack for not doubling my salary to facilitate this (which is literally what’d it cost to live close enough to make a difference). This seems… askew… to say the least.Report

              • Avatar Don Zeko says:

                In other words, I’m not worried about draconian measures or over-mitigation, because I can’t imagine the political system swinging so far in that direction.Report

              • Avatar Don Zeko says:


                I find that approach to AGW distasteful, myself. I don’t expect the average person to make every economic decision with the climate in mind. i expect us to use public policy to price in carbon’s externalities so that the average guy will be nudged to more eco-friendly behavior. So what bothers me isn’t so much climate-unfriendly lifestyles. It’s people who prevent public policy from dealing with the problem.Report

              • Avatar Creon Critic says:

                I think, as Don Zeko has presented, the shape of many of the solutions is really mundane compared to the anti-technology dystopia or radically depopulated world that are far from the agenda of the international forums that are considering this stuff. I’d add one item, very UN-speak, but efforts to mainstream sustainability – essentially including sustainability concerns in the mix when discussing issues from construction regulations and community planning to government contracting and product design, making the discussion of sustainability part of the standard operating procedure in many more contexts.

                As has been mentioned part of this is top down, part can be bottom up, and part can be about moral suasion. And outrage, to some extent, helps a lot with the moral suasion part. Once again, fairly simple, dull measures like reducing the amount of packaging on products or considering sustainability during the course of product design to take advantage of recyclables and make a product more recyclable. Or steps like making our various electronic gadgets less power hungry in standby mode, once again not the sensational get rid of 6 billion people or wearing of hair shirts. A variety of smaller measures that are not single handed solutions to a very large problem, but the kinds of contributions that can add up. Lastly, I’d point out that companies respond to public outrage, especially consumer-facing companies with brands to protect – thus making outrage a tool in the toolkit for effective advocacy.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                It’s people who prevent public policy from dealing with the problem.

                That’s exactly right, but even then there are gray areas. There are, it seems to me, a categories:

                1) Those the reject AGW, and use an aversion to public policy to justify their rejection of AGW (this is incoherent, but prevalent).

                2) People who accept AGW but reject public policy as a legitimate remedial tool because they’re more committed to minimizing/eliminating centralized decision-making than they are to mitigating AGW.

                3) People who accept AGW and think public policy will be ineffective at remedying the problem due to general clumsiness and/or the intractable nature of politics.Report

              • Avatar Roger says:

                Creon and Don,

                I think we are living in a delusion if we think recycling, shorter commutes and hybrid cars will turn the tide on AGW. These seem to me to be nothing other than feel good efforts that distract from the real concerns. Rosary beads for the sinners.

                Anything the rich countries do to lower demand for dirty energy actually just leads perversely to lower prices and greater demand for the same dirty stuff in any country not going along.

                We either need to find a way to shift to carbon taxes or find ways to remove CO2 from the air. Perhaps Blaise will now suggest 7 billion little vacuum cleaners.

                By the way, I read somewhere that the recommended carbon tax was around 30 cents a gallon of gas. If that is the case, that actually means some states will need to lower their current gasoline taxes.Report

              • Avatar Don Zeko says:

                “There are, it seems to me, a categories:

                1) Those the reject AGW, and use an aversion to public policy to justify their rejection of AGW (this is incoherent, but prevalent).

                2) People who accept AGW but reject public policy as a legitimate remedial tool because they’re more committed to minimizing/eliminating centralized decision-making than they are to mitigating AGW.

                3) People who accept AGW and think public policy will be ineffective at remedying the problem due to general clumsiness and/or the intractable nature of politics.”

                #1 and #2 are either using bad empirical inputs or making a horrifying moral calculus, if you ask me. As to #3, I wish they’d just be honest about it. If somebody came in to these threads and said “oh, i agree that AGW is a huge problem, but it’s also an intractable Prisoner’s Dilemma, so I’d rather extract my gains from defecting than play the sucker” I wouldn’t be able to argue with it.Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

                > Some highly speculative, some less so.

                There’s “speculative” in the technical sense, and there’s “speculative” in the practical sense.

                > Nuclear is a very good way to move the entire
                > industrial as well residential power grid to
                > AGW approved sources.

                So where is your plan to assassinate Harry Reid? The closure of Yucca, almost certainly at his demand*, almost certainly to keep his seat alive*, has halted any reasonable attempt to jump-start nuclear power development in the U.S.

                If not Yucca, where perhaps are you going to put all the waste? Or, if you’re going to go another route (which is technologically feasible), where are you going to get the first plant built?

                Not here in CA, I will bet you $5.

                > Battery technology might catch up to people’s
                > affection for commuting by car and long
                > Sunday drives.

                Maybe. That one is pretty practically speculative; most power storage mechanisms require proper disposals.

                > Gains in solar might catch up to cost-
                > effectiveness (maybe).

                Oh, I think we’re there at some markets*. Certainly I could put a decent-sized photovoltaic plant on the roof of my house here in Pasadena, and I’d get into the black very quickly. Of course, I don’t have the 20 grand in up-front capital. Can I get a handout? I’ll even let the city have my surplus power for free.

                > On the other hand, if we don’t do anything,
                > we’re surrendering to the dilemma you
                > presented, which justifies doing nothing.
                > But I think we have good reasons to not
                > do nothing.

                I absolutely agree we have good reasons not to do nothing. However, I keep seeing people around me doing nothing. My conclusion is that the people around me are perniciously obtuse.

                This changes what I think is possible… the only way for me to fix something when the vast majority of people refuse to do anything about it is to marginalize their political power. That is a difficult solution to implement.

                * caution: opinionReport

              • Avatar Roger says:


                I suggest you add a category for those that are concerned with AGW and want to ensure that the medicine isn’t worse than the disease.

                You keep dismissing this in a very uncharacteristic fashion. The logic is simple… How big is the problem? What are the costs and benefits of the various solutions? How likely are they to work in the real world? OK… So what should we do?Report

              • Avatar Creon Critic says:

                Businesses continue to only be driven by the profit motive.
                Two quick thoughts. First, we should expect and demand more of business, particularly along the lines of the business and human rights framework John Ruggie has outlined. Second, even outside a world that has given thorough consideration to John Ruggie’s work on the issue, the profit motive itself needs to take into account issues of resource utilization and sustainability. Though clearly what’s being advocated, by Ruggie and that perspective, is a much more thorough examination of the responsibilities of business in society.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                Roger, It’s not uncharacteristic: you’re argument thru all these threads is that centralizing decision-making in any way whatsoever is too high a price. I think that confuses the description of the problem (ie., how to constrain externalities) with the a cost-benefit analysis of the proposed solutions (that centralization in any wayis unjustified.

                Patrick, you’re first point skips past the initial worry to another one. I was responding to the question of what technologies could mitigate AGW (nuclear was the proposal), while you’re response focused on the political problems of introducing it. That’s a different worry, and a different problem, of course.

                most power storage mechanisms require proper disposals.

                That’s a different worry as well.

                This changes what I think is possible… the only way for me to fix something when the vast majority of people refuse to do anything about it is to marginalize their political power. That is a difficult solution to implement.

                Which brings us right back to the initial conversation we had: making the acceptance of P (which is empirical and purely descriptive!) contingent on the consequences of doing so is irrational.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                If somebody came in to these threads and said “oh, i agree that AGW is a huge problem, but it’s also an intractable Prisoner’s Dilemma, so I’d rather extract my gains from defecting than play the sucker” I wouldn’t be able to argue with it.

                Well said.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy says:


                Your last response to me was very well-put. I like a lot of what you are saying here.Report

              • Avatar Roger says:


                I have not been arguing that centralized solutions are unacceptable at any price. I have asked what the costs and benefits are. You have read too much into my question since the first time I typed it on my phone from the camp site. Way too much.Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:


                Systems boundaries are pretty important animals. If you’re talking about replacing power generation method X with power generation method Y, you’d better consider the end-to-end implications.

                If you don’t have a plan for getting rid of the nuclear waste or the batteries or the rare earth metals, you’re ignoring the externalities… which is the problem we currently have, right now. I’m not sure, “I’m trading that externality for this one, but I’m not going to pay attention to this one, either!” is a scalable solution.

                Look, give me sufficient funds and get EIRs out of my way and I can replace every single power generation facility in the United States with one that will produce more power for less carbon.

                But I can’t do that if my solar array in the Mojave is held up for 10 years because a lizard is endangered, and I can’t build a nuclear waste storage facility because no congresscritter will allow it in their district. Those are impediments. They exist; they are just as empirically real as transmission loss.

                Not to mention the fact that nobody is going to give me the money.Report

              • Avatar Kolohe says:

                “Since the only mechanisms which could mitigate global warming are draconian and unjust, we ought not employ them. Therefore, we ought not mitigate AGW.”

                I think it’s already been covered

                Replace ‘Since’ with ‘If’. Then say what those mechanism are to argue whether or not they are unjust.

                Similarly – “If the only mechanisms we use to mitigate drug abuse are draconian and unjust, we should not employ them. Thus we ought not to mitigate drug abuse.”

                The only mechanisms we seem to use to mitigate drug abuse are part and parcel of the drug war. Thus, given the choice of the drug war and more drug abuse, I’ll take the latter every day, and twice on Sunday.
                (because Chik-Fil-A is closed and people will be jonesing even harder)Report

              • Avatar Roger says:

                I was like thinking maybe we could live in tepees or something.Report

              • Avatar Will Truman says:

                When does the sustenance cease? Is it in our lifetimes or not? If it’s not in our lifetimes, and we don’t think that we have a moral obligation to future generations (Jaybird seems unconvinced), then why not let things run their course?

                I at least half-reject this line of reasoning, since I don’t have a vasectomy and in a couple months (God Willing) a new generation of Truman will be born. But it is still an interesting question.

                For my part, I could be down with carbon taxes and the like. It’s hard to sign a dollar value to externalities, but I’d rather try to do that than a top-down reorganization of society. If dollar values on the externalities make some lifestyles untenable, I can more readily accept that than some guy talking about how these lifestyles (many of which many of them already disapproved of) are untenable and redesigning for the common good.

                Why does top-down bother me so? Mostly, because I don’t think they will get it right and I don’t think it will hurt them at all if they get it wrong. Especially if they are inclined towards wanting the reorg for its own sake. If it turns out the reorg was unnecessary, or it turns out it was insufficient, lo and behold we still live in a society more in accordance with the way that they wanted society to be with or without global warming.

                My thoughts are actually something of a moot point, anyway. The political impossibility of the reorg, and of being able to do much about our emissions from the top-down, likely prevents even the things I would accept from happening. This is good and bad. Good in the sense that we won’t get the reorg that puts me on-edge. Bad in the sense of ecological consequences (most likely) and a lot of irritating nibbling around the edges for the sake of Doing Something (almost certainly).Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                If it turns out the reorg was unnecessary, or it turns out it was insufficient, lo and behold we still live in a society more in accordance with the way that they wanted society to be with or without global warming.

                I suspect that the lifestyles of the Upper Party will remain mostly unchanged due to the necessities that come with being members of the Upper Party.Report

              • Avatar The Fool says:

                And? There’s always been an Upper Party, and the Upper Party always gets away with more than the Lower Party (who get away with more than the unaffiliated). Even in the libertarian paradise there’s going to be rich people with the power/money (there being no difference, outside the few areas where the law applies equally) to get away with things poor people can’t. Are you saying there’s something so repellent about the (hypothetically!) more-political-than-currently spoils system you’re discussing that it’s better to opt out and take one’s chances with nature, which at least isn’t corrupt?

                I don’t believe adjustment to AGW is going to result in a one party-style centralized system, but simply throwing rhetorical bombs like Upper and Lower Party doesn’t quite lead to an understanding of your point.Report

              • Avatar Lyle says:

                Actually a carbon tax is the flip side of renewable subsidies, and more deficit friendly. Both have the effect of reducing the relative cost of wind/solar over say coal.Report

              • Avatar Creon Critic says:

                Ideally, sustainability in a timeframe beyond an individual person’s lifetime. But in a pinch, I’d go for the “it’s a vector not a destinations” argument I’ve seen presented here before about libertarianism. Yielding the recommendation, inasmuch as possible, be more sustainable rather than less so.

                “…why not let things run their course?”

                What is the result of such thinking? Does things running their course mean cutting down the last tree on Easter Island? That doesn’t sound very pleasant to the billions of human being who have the misfortune of being born after us. What kind of narcissistic, violently epicurean philosophy warrants the overconsumption of resources, destruction of ecosystems, and mass extinctions never mind the apocalyptic wasteland our great grandchildren will inherit? Or put another way, would we want to be the descendants of such people? People who knew the pretty nasty ecological consequences of their actions and proceeded anyway?

                Congratulations on the future little Truman. Frankly I don’t understand how the conversation ended up near, sustainability means making this generation the last generation of human beings. Or the close relative to that line of thought, “let the huge population cull begin”. Like I said earlier, not an agenda item I’ve seen in international forums on sustainability, biodiversity and such.Report

        • Avatar North says:

          I disagree Jaybird. The convenient fact for any environmentalist (or anyone else) who worries about population sizes is that you can very easily control and begin a steady decline in population size by enacting highly moral policy.
          -Teach women to read: population growth drops.
          -Institute protection for women as equal to men in the law: population growth plummets.
          -Institute public safety nets and a system for reliable retirement planning: population growth drops.
          -Allow women to enter the workforce and be remunerated similarly to men: population growth drops below replacement.

          There’s simply no need for any China style population controls from leftists. They can achieve population stability and even decrease simply by advocating for women’s rights (which of course they already desire). Heck, at some point countries may have to pay women to have kids.Report

          • Avatar Jaybird says:

            I would *LOVE* to be wrong on this… but I retain deep suspicions that “control” is far more important than “outcome”.

            That’s on me, though. If the plan’s focus is on universal literacy, equal rights for women, a reasonable safety net, and equal pay? Sign me up.

            Where do I donate?Report

            • Avatar North says:

              Well my point is twofold:

              -Well meaning people who are concerned about population control can be presented with these facts and, like you, are happy to sign up. Result: no control system.

              -People with bad ulterior motives when confronted by these facts have the rational for their proposed control system critically undercut. No expensive intrusive system of forced population control is necessary. The aims of population control can be reached without it. Result: no control system.

              My own conclusion: the odds of the left or environmentalists in general ever signing on to push for compelled population control measures is exceedingly poor. While vigilance is warranted of course a high level of pessimism on the subject is unrealistic.Report

  3. Avatar Mrs. Bird says:

    Germany produces half of it’s energy needs with solar as of this year. I lived in Germany, it’s cloudy most of the year. If they can do that, we could do a lot better, and what you deniers, and most everyone else seems to ignore is industrial hemp. Solar+industrial hemp= problem solved, but politicians are standing in the way.Report

    • Let’s say you’re right about what can be accomplished. (And you very well may be; I don’t know enough about these matters.)

      But I do think that “politicians standing in the way” is part of the problem and if we simply bemoan their obstructionism without taking into account the incentives they respond to, the constraints they operate under, and the constitutional and legal norms that further constrain them and structure those incentives, then we are also in denial.

      We’re in a sense saying, it can be done but for the fact that it can’t be done.Report

      • Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

        FTR: Germany solar powered @ 40%. For a few hours. On a hot sunny afternoon.

        Good, but ass expensive: “The costs for solar power are paid for by consumers, who pay about 2 cents per kwh on top of their electricity bills for photovoltaic producers.”

        “The FIT [subsidy] in Germany was cut by 15 percent to 24.43 cents per kilowatt hour on January 1 after a round of steep cuts in 2010 and 2011 cut the incentive nearly 40 percent. The retail price for electricity in Germany is about 23 cents per kwh.”

        The US retail price is 7-10 cents per kilowatt. Were we to charge 23 cents, we could probably run on hamster power.

        “Germany is the world’s leader in solar power with about 25,000 megawatts of installed capacity.”

        25 GW. Nice, but not a whole lot.

        1.3 GW – tech: electric power output of Manitoba Hydro Limestone hydroelectric generating station
        2.074 GW – tech: peak power generation of Hoover Dam
        2.1 GW – tech: peak power generation of Aswan Dam
        4.116 GW – tech: installed capacity of Kendal Power Station, the world’s largest coal-fired power plant.
        8.21 GW – tech: capacity of the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa Nuclear Power Plant, the world’s largest nuclear power plant.[12][13]
        11.7 GW – tech: power produced by the Space Shuttle in liftoff configuration (9.875 GW from the SRBs; 1.9875 GW from the SSMEs.)[14]
        12.6 GW – tech: electrical power generation of the Itaipu Dam
        12.7 GW – geo: average electrical power consumption of Norway in 1998
        18.3 GW – tech: current electrical power generation of the Three Gorges Dam, the world’s largest hydroelectric power plant of any type.

        The US total energy infrastructure = ~1100 GW. All things considered, 25 ain’t squat, and Germany’s already cutting back the solar dream for its fiscal absurdity.

        Feb 2012: Germany once prided itself on being the “photovoltaic world champion”, doling out generous subsidies—totaling more than $130 billion, according to research from Germany’s Ruhr University—to citizens to invest in solar energy. But now the German government is vowing to cut the subsidies sooner than planned and to phase out support over the next five years. What went wrong?

        Subsidizing green technology is affordable only if it is done in tiny, tokenistic amounts. Using the government’s generous subsidies, Germans installed 7.5 gigawatts of photovoltaic capacity last year, more than double what the government had deemed “acceptable.” It is estimated that this increase alone will lead to a $260 hike in the average consumer’s annual power bill.

        According to Der Spiegel, even members of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s staff are now describing the policy as a massive money pit. Philipp Rösler, Germany’s minister of economics and technology, has called the spiraling solar subsidies a “threat to the economy.”

        $130 billion, for a lousy 25 gigawatts? The US needs 1000 gigawatts. If I have the math right here, it just doesn’t scale.Report

        • This all seems informative, although I lack the skills really to analyze it. Did you intend this comment to respond to me or to Mrs. Bird?Report

          • Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

            Ms. Bird, since the claim Germany is half solar was quite astounding, and unfortunately not true. I’d prefer it were true.

            So I hit the Google, found the story. Then I looked up costs and capacity, and this is what I found, which I pass along here for anyone who might find it informative, as I did.

            And Lord knows I might have slipped a zero or two in or out of there, doing all this in my head. That would blow my conclusions, so I’m quite open to correction. had this been a full-on post, I’d have double & triple-checked, but frankly, I’m only mildly interested in this particular battle.

            FWIW, from what I read, wind power is really ace for cost, although you do smash all those millions of poor birdies with the whirling blades.Report

            • Thanks for the answer, Tom. My eyes tend to glaze over when I have to deal with actual…..facts.Report

            • Avatar Kris says:

              I think your math is a little messed confusing here. We need to make sure not to confuse total energy demands and total electrical production and energy efficiency and all that. Let’s stick to what we know.

              Germany is doing really well with solar and wind. (The 40% claim is, you are right, about what they did on one day during peak. Current solar generation inn Germany is much less than 40%, but is accelerating pretty rapidly. The 40% at peak was supposed to excite people about the future.)

              Here’s some googling results from wikipedia:

              “The share of electricity produced from renewable energy in Germany has increased from 6.3 percent of the national total in 2000 to about 25 percent in the first half of 2012.” About 3% of their electricity is solar and that number is going up over time. (The U.S. generates about 1.8% of its electricity from solar.)

              That may not seem like much now, but the rate of increase in renewables in general, and to a lesser extent solar in particular, is really impressive here. And the funding in energy might seem like a lot, but it has payoffs, too:

              “According to official figures, some 370,000 people in Germany were employed in the renewable energy sector in 2010, especially in small and medium sized companies. This is an increase of around 8 percent compared to 2009 (around 339,500 jobs), and well over twice the number of jobs in 2004 (160,500).”

              Moreover, as we know, as you expand production and begin utilizing economies of scale, prices go way, way down. Who would’ve ever thought in the 60’s that in a few decades, incredibly advanced computers could be bought for a week’s pay?

              That said, I think switching energy sources is much, much less important than energy conservation. And as prices rise, conservation is coming one way or the other.


        • Avatar Kolohe says:

          “The US retail price is 7-10 cents per kilowatt. Were we to charge 23 cents, we could probably run on hamster power.”

          Then again, we’ve been able to endure retail gasoline prices that have trebled in the last decade.

          (23c is about what I was paying in Hawaii. But that pretty much makes your point; it would be an economic disaster for middle America to have Hawaii’s cost of living)Report

          • Avatar Kimmi says:

            economic disaster incoming.
            why not prepare?Report

          • Avatar Lyle says:

            The interesting question that sort of tests the carbon tax idea, is why is Hawaii not full of Solar and Wind plants? Note in particular that electricity is somewhat higher on the neighbor Islands than Oahu. So is Kona for example full of solar on most houses (I pick Kona because its on the sunny side of the Island. Or why are the cliffs of the northern part of the big island on the Windward side not a wind farm? (One can look at the Caribbean islands, as other examples of this, all depend on oil based generation)Report

            • Avatar Kolohe says:

              Maui has some wind farms, I forget if the rest do. Part of it is tech, part of it is expense, part of it is NIMBY, part of it is genuine environmental concerns (the high mountains with thick ground cover is how the islands maintain their fresh water supplies – w/o it, water just rolls off to the sea).

              A good deal of it is the people (and the military, and what industry still exists) are overwhelmingly on Oahu. They’re isn’t enough room for all the gen capacity they need, and so far, the concept of putting generation on another island and stringing (undersea) wires to Oahu has a lot of economic, technical and political hurdles. (but there have been proposals in that direction).Report

        • Avatar Murali says:

          2.21 GW amount of energy needed to power the time machine that can send the Delorian back to the future!

          Sorry I couldn’t resist that.Report

  4. Ought there to be “outrage”? Outrage, depending on how it’s manifested, might not necessarily take us very far and might very plausibly provoke a strongly defensive reaction that will make constructive solutions more difficult.

    I don’t know what these constructive solutions would be, but they would need to be more than “we need to reduce carbon emissions” or “China ought to stop polluting the atmosphere.” Those statements might be true (I honestly don’t know enough), but they don’t really tell us how they’re to be achieved in practical terms.

    I’m not sure how “outrage” is really going to get us there. The outrage some proclaim sometimes is partially responsible for people assigning a sense of urgency to climate change that might not be fully warranted. If someone says the sky is going to fall in x years, and x years passes and the sky doesn’t fall but some other bad things happen, the initial outrage has been discredited despite the fact that bad things really have happened.

    In other words, “An Inconvenient Truth” was pretty evocative and informative, but so was “Cool It!,” and I don’t know which to believe.Report

  5. Avatar George Turner says:

    I think if we could get back to the Emian Climate Optimum we would be doing much better. The whole world was like Hawaii back then, with palm trees in Canada, monitor lizards in Greenland, and forests in Antarctica, yet the tropics weren’t significantly warmer than present. Life flourished everywhere, instead of the glacial period we’ve fell into afterwards.

    We know cooling is bad, very bad, from both geological data and historical records. If warming is also bad, very bad, then it means we happened to be living at the absolute optimal climate the planet can sustain right when the current crop of climatologists were forming their childhood memories. That’s extremely unlikely, and represents a personal anthropocentric fallacy.

    Scientists never bothered to ask the question “What is the Earth’s ideal temperature?” Instead, as soon as they saw that there was a temperature change that might be the result of human industrial activity, they assumed that the consequences must be bad, very bad, because primates instictively know that the consequences for overindulgence is painful, severe, and unpleasant. This same instinctual fear feeds into all major religions as sin and punishment, and the idea that a fat guy sipping a slurpy could be saving the planet by driving his SUV strikes people as morally absurd. Yet it’s scientifically more likely than the opposite.Report

    • Avatar Stephan Cooper says:

      Its not a matter of whether one temperature is overall better than the other. Its that rapidly changing temperature causes climatic chaos during the transition period and that current ecological, economic, and agricultural are optimized to the status quo and would be harmed by the status quo changing.Report

      • Avatar Turgid Jacobian says:

        Also, a reasonable primate doesn’t keep his foot on the gas of a positive feedback process without an exit strategy.Report

        • Avatar George Turner says:

          It’s a negative feed back process. The direct action of CO2 is exponentially decaying, and every study of actual clouds shows the feedbacks are negative, not strongly positive, which is what the IPCC projections would require.

          Another interesting aspect of the Emian is that climate models can’t even come close to reproducing it, even a little bit. They all show the equator broiling long before the temperate and arctic areas warm up. Scientists still can’t explain where the modeling failure lies, and it’s a huge failure.

          The magnitude of even the IPCC’s mast dramatic predictions are far smaller than you’d get just by driving 60 miles closer to the equator, and I’m pretty sure people 60 miles south of you don’t realize they’re living in what the IPCC claims is some kind of climate hell. Based on their alarmist warnings, in a hundred years, many generations in the future, Lexington Kentucky might get as warm as Nashville Tennessee.

          The rate of change is so slow that a 3-legged turtle would outrun it, about 8 feet a day, and that’s incorrectly assuming that the cloud feedbacks are positive and that the errors in surface stations aren’t already reporting twice as much warming as has actually taken place (as a new paper published today shows, based on 3-years of individual surface station examinations).

          What the emian shows is that warmer is wetter, with less temperature extremes, both geographically and yearly. Much warmer, milder winters with very slightly warmer summer, warmer nights and days little changed. Warmer is also better, which is why we have the terms “tropical paradise” and “arctic wasteland.”

          Excuse me if I don’t get alarmed at the thought of a better climate for almost everyone, and all life on the planet. Greater plant growth, longer growing seasons, and a greatly increased capacity to support thriving ecosystems across a much larger area.

          The sea level rise, even in the IPCC’s projections, is about 8-inches across the next 50 years. A paving crew lays down that much blacktop in a few days. Despite the very significant increase in sea-level since the 1800’s, our cities have been expanding into the oceans and bays because of constant real-estate projects and waterfront development. The projected sea-level rise is hardly twice as much as would happen anyway, since we’re still coming out of a glacial period.Report

          • Avatar Glyph says:

            So, you are like the anti-Ned Stark then? ‘Summer is Coming?’ 😉Report

          • Avatar Turgid Jacobian says:

            The methane ices/bog decay are positive feedback. The ice/snow vs water/ground albedo differences are positive feedbacks. Oceanwater CO2 adsorption is positive feedback. Water vapor (not clouds) is positive feedback.

            There are some negative, some arguable–absolutely. What kind of wise ape keeps the foot on the gas thinking that the k-rails will slow him down?Report

            • Avatar Roger says:

              I’m all for exit options, but let’s keep in mind that the gas pedal is also known as the engine of economic progress. That means food, education, opportunity, health care and all the other things that we all bemoan when not talking about the silly little gas pedal.

              Failure to press the gas as fast means less of the things we want for the next few generations of humanity. Failure to address climate “wakes” from the engine of progress will harm current generations some and future generations even more. We need to work through the dilemma.Report

              • Avatar The Left says:

                Sorry, man, but you keep hitting my snark reflexes-

                “Yeah, sure, a few million people might suffer starvation and death, but what about my tax liability?”Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                Put it up there with “I understand that Global Warming could destroy the world as we know it, but my changing anything in my life is inconsequential to the point where it’s worthless if I do anything.”Report

              • Avatar Johanna says:

                It’s not just about our tax liability, but about the opportunity for the third world to continue developing economically– if economic growth has to slow dramatically to prevent AGW, it’s not us who are going to be hit hardest, but them. Please pardon me if I think your snark is convenient bullshit in which you assume the worst interpretation of what someone says so you can avoid the really hard questions and keep feeling morally superior.Report

              • Avatar Rod says:

                Two points here:

                1. Why the zero-sum thinking? Why do you believe that it is necessarily the case that mitigating climate change entails slower economic growth? Why the certainty with the economic forecast while decrying the uncertainty wrt to the economic effects of unmitigated climate change?

                2. If your answer to #1 is that economic growth relies on cheap energy, then we’re already well and truly fucked. Because energy prices, particularly petroleum, are going to rise substantially in any case. World-wide demand is rising and since we’ve already sucked out the easy-to-get-at oil, supply is going to be hard-pressed to keep up with that demand. It IS a finite resource after all. There’s a reason why BP was trying to stick a straw into the center of the earth and they’re tearing up forests up north to dig up tar.Report

              • Avatar DensityDuck says:

                “If your answer to #1 is that economic growth relies on cheap energy, then we’re already well and truly fucked. Because energy prices, particularly petroleum, are going to rise substantially in any case.”

                Just like the way the world economy crashed back in the 1800s when we harvested whales and northeastern timber into extinction, and we’re only just now starting to climb out of the gruesome dark hole into which our profligacy cast us.Report

              • Avatar Don Zeko says:

                If the economy in the 1800’s was untroubled by switching to fossil fuels from whale oil and wood burning, why are you assuming that the economy will be crushed by a transition to renewables, solar, and increased conservation?Report

              • Avatar Roger says:


                There are two paths to the transition. One is economically and productively more efficient than the other. Top down planning that ignores or distorts supply and demand will tend to be less efficient and thus lead to lower quality of prosperity.Report

              • Avatar Roger says:


                If we could agree to carbon tax or credit system that replaced existing taxes in a more efficient overall way, then I agree we could probably reduce CO2 and improve the growth of prosperity relative to today’s pace. I think you presented some sort of process the week before last.

                As technology and human knowledge improves, the cost of energy extraction and the extent of available resources improves, partially or completely mitigating the effects of lower initial supply. I would be very very reluctant to bet a large sum on either higher or lower energy costs over the next few decades. Over longer time frames the safest bet would probably be for lower energy costs.Report

              • Avatar DensityDuck says:

                “If the economy in the 1800?s was untroubled by switching to fossil fuels from whale oil and wood burning…”

                …which it did not do as a result of the government saying “time to switch to alternative energy sources because we’ve reached Peak Wood!”Report

              • Avatar Don Zeko says:


                Libertarian 101 talk about top-down planning and ignoring the market seems downright bizarre when we’re discussing possibly the largest, most obvious unpriced externality in economic history. The sorts of policy interventions that are currently being discussed are things like a carbon tax or Cap-and-trade, subsidies for renewables, and changes in land-use regulations and what have you. Nobody is calling for a Commissar of Sustainability that will go through your trash to see if you are composting or not.Report

              • Avatar Roger says:


                See my comments right above. As for the garbage police…


              • Avatar Don Zeko says:

                Sigh. Big City mayors are pretty intent on ruining liberalism for every one lately, aren’t they?Report

              • Avatar smarx says:

                This thread within a thread, reminds me of a personal experience:

                When I lived in Japan, household recycling was mandatory. Usually, there were color-coded bags for burnable and non-burnable trash (a loose translation). Some communities would go further and have other bags for different kinds of material, like plastic or metal. Policing for this effort is not done by any government agency, but usually little old ladies who (based on personal experience) scold people in order to get them to separate their trash correctly. Mandatory recycling was a top down decision, but enforcement is botton-up.

                Granted, Japanese communities are set up differently than American communities, but its interesting how American communities are considered the norm.Report

              • Avatar Johanna says:

                Thanks to Roger, I don’t need to answer myself. 😉Report

              • Avatar scott says:

                The third worlders will demand that the evil Americans shower them with money for the problems we caused. Never mind the Chinese have overtaken the US is greenhouse emissions.Report

              • Avatar Don Zeko says:

                I think you’re confusing rates and levels here.Report

              • Avatar Kimmi says:

                Does it, now, roger? How much cost do we actually have, if we telecommute instead of driving to work? Ditto for the schoolkids too???Report

    • Avatar BlaiseP says:

      Not quite so fast there. With the Eemian Climate Optimum came the growth of inland deserts. Sea levels were considerably higher.

      Our problem today is rather more direct: if we burn up all the petroleum and coal, we’ll bring CO2 levels up to a crisis point where the sea can’t absorb any more. Then we’re well and truly screwed. There’s a theory about black shale formation in the Cretaceous: organic matter fell to the bottom of those ancient seas and didn’t decay because the oceans had no oxygen.Report

      • Avatar Turgid Jacobian says:

        I think above all the idea that a climate *transition* is a good thing when our tropical populations are already *highly* marginal is just grossly disgusting–the opposite of conservative.Report

  6. Avatar Mrs. Bird says:

    Also, why doesn’t anyone ever mention solar+ hemp+ reducing our energy use? I have, because I’ve committed to DOING SOMETHING, and I don’t even have children. It IS a moral crime to destroy your children’s future. I’m not even talking about future generations, I’m talking about your own, living children!Report

    • A few things to consider:

      1. Is doing nothing to prevent certain destruction a moral crime in the same way that doing something to bring about certain destruction a moral crime?

      2. Now, answer the same question if we change “certain” to “probable.”

      3. Now, answer the same question if we change “certain” to “possible.”

      4. Now, answer questions 1 through 3 if it what can be done is “certain,” “probable,” or “possible.”Report

      • By the way, I realize this is probably coming off snark(il)y, but these are the types of objections you’ll have to overcome to get people of good will on your side. Saying that you have the solution and that it’s a moral crime not to pursue your solution might not be productive if you don’t account for the type of push back you’ll get from people who might be made to care for these things.Report

      • Avatar Kimmi says:

        How about doing something likely to bring about certain destruction?
        Green Revolution, anyone?

  7. Avatar James Hanley says:

    I guess my big problem here is that we don’t know with certainty what we’re doing to future generations, because we don’t know with certainty the effects of warming. I was recently tumbled to evidence showing that the Sahara is shrinking (the edges of it are greening). Apparently about half the climate models predict this…about half predict the Sahara will expand. Ocean levels are supposed to be rising, but right now low-lying Bangladesh is gaining landmass.

    I’m not exactly sanguine, but outrage assumes some degree of certainty about harm that I can’t–at least yet–see as warranted.

    On the outer edges of the issue, when I was a kid there was a general belief that we were living in an inter-glacial period. Everyone said between ice ages, but in fact we’re still in an ice age, just post-glacial…at least for now. What if warming is actually staving off another glacial period?Report

    • Your take is pretty much my own, although you probably know more about the issues and actual facts.

      I’d be interested to know what issues scientists more or less agree on and what issues are still open for debateReport

    • Avatar greginak says:

      The concern AGW is there will be significant and fast changes which makes is much harder for us to adapt and almost impossible for animals and ecosystems to adapt. Will some places improve with AGW? almost certainly, but it is still a game of 52 pick up with our environment. That is a huge risk and likely to mean big problems for many.

      I’m not familiar with the rise of Bangladesh but there are solid reasons relating to the underlying geology why land might rise while sea level also rises.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley says:

        The concern AGW is there will be significant and fast changes which makes is much harder for us to adapt and almost impossible for animals and ecosystems to adapt.

        The first point is a wash, since we’re going to have to adapt, one way or another. We’re either going to have to adapt, and quickly, in hard ways, to prevent further increase or we’re going to have to adapt to the increase.

        The second point is a real concern, I think, but the question posed was what we’re doing to future generations. I don’t want to leave future generations with a radically diminished population and/or diversity of critters and flora, but if the steps necessary to avoid that are too costly, we could be leaving future generations with a materially poorer world. And I just don’t think there’s an obvious or inarguable conclusion about which of those is worst to do, and unfortunately we can’t ask future generations which they would prefer.

        This is why I find outrage difficult. I don’t really know what to direct it toward, and I think anyone who has confidence about how it ought to be directed has an overly simplistic view of the issues.Report

    • Avatar Roger says:

      And we still have not agreed upon “Who is in charge of the global thermostat?” Or whether we really want to empower someone with this control.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater says:

        I think you’re still arguing this backwards: from a desire to not have a global thermostat operator to an evaluation of the evidence.

        That’s … unscientific.Report

        • Avatar Roger says:

          Not following you Stillwater

          Every time I ask the question of who is in charge, it seems to be a rorschach test for people to assume what I mean.

          My position is down at the bottom. The science seems to reveal a consensus today on about 2degrees over the century. Granted this is still really uncertain and whether it will be a net gain or loss short term are more uncertain, and will probably differ based upon values and local impact.

          The next thing to consider is the costs and likelihood of success of potential solutions. Because of collective action difficulties among people with vastly different goals and impacts, I agree with Jason that some kind of CO2 removal process is going to be our best bet. I’d consider extensive decentralized research into geo engineering as we also research impacts of increased CO2.Report

      • Avatar Jason Kuznicki says:

        I am strongly inclined to believe that eventually someone will have to be. Geoengineering is a potentially transformative technology not just to prevent global warming, but also to moderate droughts, harsh winters, and even hurricanes. If we can do it, we probably should, because it will probably pay off in the long term.

        Between geoengineering and the rapid improvement in solar technology, I remain hopeful, even if it does seem clear to me that we have significantly tampered with the earth’s climate, and not at all obviously for the better. Far too many major cities sit too close to sea level, and ocean acidification isn’t something we want to pursue too much further, either.Report

        • Avatar James Hanley says:

          I think someone will just take it upon themselves to be the global temperature czar. E.g., some rich guy will pay for a space flight to dump a bunch of reflective stuff in the atmosphere, or the U.S. or China (or both working together) will just do it. Or whatever technological approach is taken. I just think it won’t come from real global agreement on a czar, just a self-appointed one.Report

          • Avatar Kris says:

            Rich guy sprinkling metallic confetti into the atmosphere from his rich guy space ship sounds less plausible than a combination of converting to more nuclear/wind/solar, energy-efficient living living, electric cars, busses, bycicles, less commerical air travel, lower average meat consumption, etc.

            “I still remember when the sky wasn’t sparkly, my son. Yes, it was the days before King Richard Branson I flew St. Gates into space with bags of shiny confetti. Ah, only the stars sparkled, then.”Report

            • Avatar James Hanley says:


              The latter requires the actions of hundreds of millions, perhaps billions, of people, willing to make sacrifices as well as some coordinated action by governments that politically are able to get their electorate to make sacrifices. The former only requires the action of a single individual who’s rich, slightly wacky, and has a desire to be the greatest man ever. The single individual acting is, arguably, a more likely outcome, the more parsimonious prediction, because requires less agreement and less coordination.Report

              • Avatar Kris says:

                You really think a single individual has close to that level of wealth to geoengineer and ability to over ride people’s worries about side effects of geoengineering? Impossible. IMO.

                Lots of improvements in the world have been acheived by millions a d billions of people changing their lifestyle in an undoordinated way.Women gained the right to vote and entered the workforce, for instance. This constituted a massive change in how people lived, manyof whom thought would be for the worst.

                Change requires two things:

                1. People recognizing that an energy efficient lifestyle is not significantly worse than our current lifestyle. It isn’t
                2. Increased prices of energy (Taxes, cap and trade, decreased supply worldwide , etc. will cause this,) and a culture change to incentivize change.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                I think you could do something with $10 billion that would make someone sit up and take notice.Report

              • Avatar Kris says:

                Lots of big changes in the world haven’t been coordinated by a single government or set of governments. Think of the slow change to having women have equal rights and entering the workforce. Governments had a big role. Some were ahead of others. Culture and changing moral sense played a big role, too. Demand for new labor also played a role. You’ll see all of these play put, IMO, in creating energy efficiency:

                Some governments will set caps and taxes to encourage efficiency and clean air. They’ll shame those that don’t. More and more government grants will go to creating new effiencies. Incentive feom higher energy prices will drive people to aim at energy efficiency in their lives. General cultural changes will fuel both individual change and government action. It will take decades and some outrage now will push the whole thing forward a bit.Report

              • Avatar James K says:

                Lots of big changes in the world haven’t been coordinated by a single government or set of governments. Think of the slow change to having women have equal rights and entering the workforce

                Apples and oranges, that required no coordination at all, every country could do it at its own pace. Carbon taxes won’t work (and may be worse than useless) unless everybody does it at once.

                Some governments will set caps and taxes to encourage efficiency and clean air. They’ll shame those that don’t.

                You think the Chinese government cares about shame? What they care about is keeping GDP growth high so they don’t get tossed out of power.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                What James K said. There is indeed a big difference between changes that require coordination and those that don’t. Absent a self-appointed temperature czar as I mentioned above, what I suspect may happen is indeed an uncoordinated adaptation to climate change, because adaptation there will surely be. But that is not what concerned folks are looking for, because it’s slow and will happen after the fact–what is wanted is quicker coordinated action that happens now. But that’s what I suspect is not going to happen, however much we might think it ought to.Report

              • Avatar Kris says:

                Carbon taxes implemented by the wealthy countries on themselves can then be expanded.

                That is, if the EU and the US and Japan, etc. sign a climate treaty, then they can begin to out exonomic pressure on India and China to do it too,

                Though oddly, countries like China seem willing to aim at energy efficiency and renewables on their own. I mean, I get that China is creatin coal, too, but they can be pressured if other countries are unified.

                Once you have the wealthy countries, China and India, you’re close to set.

                The level of pessimism isn’t justified.Report

              • Avatar Johanna says:

                That’s an awful lot of ifs for a hypothesis you think is more plausible.Report

              • Avatar Kimmi says:

                sacrifices will be forced, if necessary, by simple economic necessity.Report

          • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

            First he’ll short hurricane-warning systems, then he’ll keep dumping metal confetti stuff until he causes an Ice Age, and then the government will have to step in to bail us all out.Report

          • Avatar Roger says:

            Interesting perspective, James. This does seem plausible.Report

        • Avatar DensityDuck says:

          “I am strongly inclined to believe that eventually someone will have to be. ”

          That makes sense; after all, it wasn’t until global gasoline production was put under the aegis of Inmofube (the UN International Motor-Vehicle Fuels Bureau) that we managed to solve the problem of lead and sulfur emissions.Report

          • Avatar Jason Kuznicki says:

            I’m not sure how we got from “hurricane mitigation would be great if we could do it” to “zomg the United Nations is gonna take over.”

            Could you retrace the steps, one at a time, using small words so I can understand?Report

            • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

              OK, but first you need to put this hat on. No, the tinfoil should face outward.Report

            • Avatar DensityDuck says:

              Perhaps you should re-read the part of your post that I actually replied to. I helpfully included it in my post as a quote. Note carefully how there are parts of your post that I didn’t quote, implying that I wasn’t replying to them.Report

              • Avatar Jason Kuznicki says:

                Again, I don’t get it. What I said was that managing the climate seemed like it might have to become necessary. I didn’t say it would be the government, let alone the U.N., doing it.

                So if you don’t want to explain yourself, we’re all out of conversation here. I’m sorry.Report

              • Avatar DensityDuck says:

                …so when you say “someone will have to be”, you aren’t implying some kind of government or government-like entity? You’re suggesting that Bill Gates is going to buy the planet and make it into his personal park?Report

              • Avatar DensityDuck says:

                Incidentally, I’ve given you a hint about a useful direction to take the conversation. I’m surprised that it doesn’t get brought up more often, actually, because it’s an example of a very similar problem that was solved in about fifteen years and involved a complete re-engineering of both a consumables industry and the products it served.Report

          • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

            Because the market solved that without the heavy hand of government regulation. Uh-huh.Report

            • Avatar DensityDuck says:

              Well gee whiz, maybe you should pick up the bone I threw you and run with it instead of being all “here’s some SNARK, you DENIER” :smugface:

              Maybe we should look into what was different about the leaded gasoline problem, and what was different about the solution, and why the solution worked, and what the lasting effects were.Report

    • Avatar DensityDuck says:

      “I guess my big problem here is that we don’t know with certainty what we’re doing to future generations, because we don’t know with certainty the effects of warming.”

      Well, we know for sure that if your kids’ feet keep growing then you’ll have to buy new shoes, so it’s your duty as a parent to break them and bind them to keep them from getting any bigger.Report

    • Avatar Kimmi says:

      bangladesh is also flooding catastrophically and frequently…Report

  8. Avatar greginak says:

    On a different point although regarding AGW does this editorial by former climate sceptic Richard Muller mean anything to any of the people who either deny AGW or don’t feel we should do anything about it.

    It starts: “CALL me a converted skeptic. Three years ago I identified problems in previous climate studies that, in my mind, threw doubt on the very existence of global warming. Last year, following an intensive research effort involving a dozen scientists, I concluded that global warming was real and that the prior estimates of the rate of warming were correct. I’m now going a step further: Humans are almost entirely the cause. “Report

    • Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

      When exactly was Richard Muller a “skeptic?” In 2004, affirming that Michael Mann [and Al Gore’s] global warming “hockey stick” graph was bad science, Muller still wrote:

      “If you are concerned about global warming (as I am) and think that human-created carbon dioxide may contribute (as I do), then you still should agree that we are much better off having broken the hockey stick.”

      Muller wrote:

      “Canadian scientists Stephen McIntyre and Ross McKitrick have uncovered a fundamental mathematical flaw in the computer program that was used to produce the hockey stick. In his original publications of the stick, Mann purported to use a standard method known as principal component analysis, or PCA, to find the dominant features in a set of more than 70 different climate records.

      But it wasnt so. McIntyre and McKitrick obtained part of the program that Mann used, and they found serious problems. Not only does the program not do conventional PCA, but it handles data normalization in a way that can only be described as mistaken.

      Now comes the real shocker. This improper normalization procedure tends to emphasize any data that do have the hockey stick shape, and to suppress all data that do not. To demonstrate this effect, McIntyre and McKitrick created some meaningless test data that had, on average, no trends. This method of generating random data is called Monte Carlo analysis, after the famous casino, and it is widely used in statistical analysis to test procedures. When McIntyre and McKitrick fed these random data into the Mann procedure, out popped a hockey stick shape!’Report

      • Avatar greginak says:

        Do you mean aside from that he started up an entire project based on scepticism of the majority view of scientists?

        Does his clearly stated belief in AGW mean anything? Will it change the mind of any other skeptic?Report

        • Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

          Dunno, Greg. Is this stuff accurate?

          “It is ironic if some people treat me as a traitor, since I was never a skeptic — only a scientific skeptic,” he said in a recent email exchange with The Huffington Post. “Some people called me a skeptic because in my best-seller ‘Physics for Future Presidents’ I had drawn attention to the numerous scientific errors in the movie ‘An Inconvenient Truth.’ But I never felt that pointing out mistakes qualified me to be called a climate skeptic.”

          November 3, 2011

          Richard Muller, Climate Researcher, Navigates The Volatile Line Between Science And Skepticism

          December 17, 2003

          “Let me be clear. My own reading of the literature and study of paleoclimate suggests strongly that carbon dioxide from burning of fossil fuels will prove to be the greatest pollutant of human history. It is likely to have severe and detrimental effects on global climate.” –

          • Avatar greginak says:

            So that would be a no. Nothing will change at all.Report

            • Avatar James Hanley says:

              I think that’s an unfair interpretation greg. You say Muller was a skeptic who converted. But TVD is questioning whether Muller was in fact a skeptic, using Muller’s own words. So if, in fact, he was never actually a skeptic, then your question about whether him abandoning his skepticism will change minds is moot, since–not being a skeptic–he couldn’t have abandoned it.Report

              • Avatar greginak says:

                James- What was the point of his entire project? It was born out of doubt about the consensus of climate science and funded, if i remember correctly, by sceptics. He called himself a “scientific sceptic.”

                This has been asked before, but is there any evidence will change a sceptics mind. Despite this new analysis, we’ve already seen the usual suspect trot out tired old arguments about the hockey stick.Report

              • Avatar DensityDuck says:

                I thought that research funded by right-wing groups was inherently unreliable and unacceptable in serious discussion because of the obvious biases of the researcher.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                Greg, give a better example, and maybe people will be more persuadable. But my take is that half the reason people are unwilling to change their minds is that they keep being told it’s a moral issue about which they ought to be outraged. The more emotional and moralistic folks get, the more they reinforce other folks’ belief that they’re actually motivated by moralism, not science.

                I’m not defending the other side, but I know enough skeptics that I can say confidently that they latch onto that moralist talk to reinforce their position. It’s self-serving and less than honest, sure, but nonetheless the outrage talk plays right into their hands. It actually gives them exactly the excuse they’re looking for so they can reinforce their belief and avoid any serious reconsideration.Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

                When the BEST project started, I asked people here on this blog, “Hey, here’s this guy. He’s funded by the Koch brothers. Here’s his public stance on AGW. He’s got this published issue about Mann’s work, and he’s going to attempt to re-analyze all of the raw data and do his own corrections to replicate the temperature record.

                If that guy does all that and comes back with, “AGW is real” will you change your mind?” Nobody said “yes”.

                So now he’s done exactly that and we’re talking about whether or not he’s a True Scotsman or not. Which was predictable.Report

              • Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

                PatC, I recall being skeptical of his “skepticism.” BTW, here’s the latest. Dr. Judith Curry has been on the project, but declined to sign on to Muller’s paper.


                “It’s particularly notable that one collaborator on the first batch of papers, Judith Curry of the Georgia Institute of Technology, declined to be included as an author on the new one. I learned this when I sent her this question by e-mail:

                Do you share Rich’s extremely high confidence on attribution of recent warming to humans…?
                Here’s Curry’s reply:

                I was invited to be a coauthor on the new paper. I declined. I gave them my review of the paper, which was highly critical. I don’t think this new paper adds anything to our understanding of attribution of the warming….

                I really like the data set itself. It is when they do science with it that they get into trouble.Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

                Fair enough, Tom, but neither you nor Ward has ever actually answered my question about what it would take to change your mind. Who *is* your Scotsman?

                You’re certainly within your bounds to have decided that BEST was a dubious source. But I’m still very curious as to the standard for what constitutes game-changing evidence for either of you two.Report

              • Avatar Jason M. says:

                ” Who *is* your Scotsman?”

                A “true” skeptic would never change his or her skeptical position. There, wasn’t that easy?

                Clearly, you’ve been making the mistake of assuming skeptical inquiry is some process oriented way of thinking that values evidence.Report

              • Avatar Jason M. says:

                For those needing further clarification between the fakity-fake “scientific skepticism” Muller identifies himself with, and the “true skepticism” of which he falls short of, see item #5 in the Table 1 graphic in the original post.Report

        • Avatar KenB says:

          Saying that he has a “clearly stated belief in AGW” is putting it a bit too strongly — he doesn’t subscribe to simplistic binaries:

          “How definite is the attribution to humans? The carbon dioxide curve gives a better match than anything else we’ve tried. Its magnitude is consistent with the calculated greenhouse effect — extra warming from trapped heat radiation. These facts don’t prove causality and they shouldn’t end skepticism, but they raise the bar: to be considered seriously, an alternative explanation must match the data at least as well as carbon dioxide does. ”

          “It’s a scientist’s duty to be properly skeptical. I still find that much, if not most, of what is attributed to climate change is speculative, exaggerated or just plain wrong. I’ve analyzed some of the most alarmist claims, and my skepticism about them hasn’t changed. ”

          A mature opinion on AGW has to account for the inherent lack of certainty, whether it involves GW itself, the degree to which it’s human-caused, the predictions of its likely effects, and the assessments about the effectiveness of various mitigation strategies. All the finger-pointing and self-righteousness among the certaintists on either side just drags the debate down.Report

      • Avatar Rod says:

        When exactly was Richard Muller a “skeptic?”

        When the Koch brothers paid for him to study climate change? There’s a reason why they chose him.Report

        • Avatar Roger says:

          I just had breakfast with the Koch Bros today and they assured me that is not why they hired him. By the way guys, I will transmit today’s Libertarian “talking points” out to you in a few minutes.Report

  9. Avatar Simon K says:

    What do you expect outrage to accomplish? Assuming that getting people to feel very strongly about a problem is equivalent to solving it is the worst kind of liberal political strategy. Assume you succeeded. What then? We still don’t actually understand the consequences of inaction in any detail. We also don’t actually know what to do in any detail – yes, we should reduce emissions, or possibly attempt to recapture emissions somehow, but this is a description of an intermediate outcome, not an actual solution. The actual solution consists of a great deal of complex engineering. I don’t know if you know any engineers, but their work is not normally helped by lots of people being vewy vewy cwoss.Report

    • Avatar James Hanley says:

      Being outraged shows that you’re thinking of the children.Report

      • Avatar Don Zeko says:

        Well since bloodless technocratic language with lots of actuarial charts and caveats about the difficulty of making detailed predictions about future weather patterns have been so effective in the past, I agree.Report

        • Avatar Simon K says:

          Technocracy is wildly ineffective a making people feel strongly about things. However, you still haven’t explain why its helpful for people to feel strongly about global warming if we have no idea really what to do about it.Report

  10. Avatar Roger says:

    Solving problems requires accounting for costs and benefits.

    The consensus scientific opinion is that AGW is going to increase temperatures over the next century by about 2 degrees C. The short term effects will be mixed, but possibly net positive for the next few generations, and mixed but probably net negative thereafter.

    The other half of the equation is what are the costs of solving it. This depends upon the solution taken. Assuming a carbon tax would work, the question becomes how does this interfere with economic prosperity, also known as living standards and middle class wages and poverty and such. In other words, all the things that outrage the commenters on this blog can be potentially negatively affected by the solution to this problem. We could argue whether the solution is worse than the problem, but this would be based not only upon uncertain effects of AGW but also uncertainty on the potential harm of carbon taxes and most importantly based upon our values, opinions and context.

    Agreement of 7 billion people on this issue considering some will gain, some will lose based upon doing something and based upon not doing something is highly unlikely.

    My recommendation is to continue to explore proactive, inexpensive techniques to scrub CO2 back out of the atmosphere.Report

    • Avatar Kimmi says:

      net positive? in a world where we lose Manhattan? Most of SF, LA? Where England may become uninhabitable?

      Sea levels rise 10 feet? we got a LOT of people living there… worldwide and in Philly.

      think you’re looking at a pipe dream — proactive and inexpensive? to the atmosphere?Report

      • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

        Elimination of most of the urban centers close to the sea will, in fact, provide a powerful downward pressure on the total population.

        So there’s that.Report

        • Avatar Roger says:

          That’s what they told the Dutch 500 years ago. Idiots wouldn’t listen though. Damn Dutch.Report

          • Avatar Don Zeko says:

            And I, for one, am sure that doing the same thing on a global scale will be much cheaper and easier than replacing our coal power plants with solar and nuclear.Report

          • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

            There is a problem of scale.

            I don’t think the solution that the Dutch settled upon would work zawezomely in Bangladesh.Report

            • Avatar Roger says:

              When the problem parameters are different I suggest they look to different solutions. Luckily we have a much wider tool set today than 500 years ago. Wooden shoes and wind mills are cute though.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                No we don’t. Simple physics. The Port of New York, the Port of Long Beach, the Port of Miami, there’s no saving them. They’ll be replaced.

                Take the city of Galveston, once the greatest port along the Gulf of Mexico. Along comes a great storm, the town’s washed away, they rebuild the whole city about six feet higher. Built another great wall against the sea. It didn’t change the fundamentals. The city of Houston grew up inland and replaced Galveston as the port city.

                When our port cities flood, there will be new Houstons rising up to replace them. Now Galveston is an cute little town, a bit run down at the heels and the beaches are a bit nasty what with those oil spills, but I loved driving down those beaches.

                Different solutions, my ass. The Dutch face a very different problem, more akin to the Port of New Orleans, or Venice. They’ve built on swamps. Their whole culture is based on dikes, hence “Amster-dam”. One canal and set of embankments led to another and another.

                Now here’s a problem for you, Roger. Hopefully you can reach into Santa’s Bag and give me a solution. Since the Industrial Revolution began, we’ve been laying down layers of soot onto the glaciers. That soot is as black as anything on earth, pure carbon. It absorbs infrared energy and melts the glacier. Any ideas on how to get all that soot off the glaciers of Tibet and Greenland? Once those glaciers are gone, the world’s oceans will have risen about two meters, probably more. Every major port city in the USA will be underwater.

                All this happy talk about the Netherlands. Gosh. If only.Report

              • Avatar Roger says:

                The nifty thing is that I’m not the only one reaching into Santa’s Bag. Seven billion people can do so. Not all problems are solvable. I suspect this one is, but time will tell.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                Seven billion people, fanned out over Greenland and Antarctica, with little brooms and dustpans, sweeping up all that soot, all the while, those tankers are filling up at Mina al Zour and Jubai and the air in Beijing is thick enough with particulates to make breathing masks a required fashion accessory.

                No. That soot has reduced the albedo of what few glaciers remain and there’s no disposing of it. Santa’s Bag is full of coal and he ships it by rail car to generate half the electricity in this country so the good boys and girls can sit by the Christmas tree and look at the twinkly lights and the bad boys and girls of Greenland and Tibet can have millions of tons of particulates fall on their glaciers.

                And every spring the trucks full of limestone chips can be dumped in the lakes of New England to alter the pH so the Mitt Romney can take a vacation up at Lake Winnepesaukee and catch a few fishies and tell the dumbasses:

                “My view is that we don’t know what’s causing climate change on this planet. And the idea of spending trillions and trillions of dollars to try to reduce CO2 emissions is not the right course for us,”

                We don’t know what’s causing climate change and if Mitt Romney doesn’t know, well, it’s for sure the rest of us cretins don’t know either. Let’s just go on scratching our heads and keep on wondering. Meanwhile, Mitt, the acid rain is falling on Lake Winnepesaukee and we just don’t know where that acid came from, nossir. That’s because Mitt doesn’t believe in Santa Claus and his bag of coal.Report

              • Avatar Roger says:

                Well we see that the first grab in the bag was unsuccessful. Perhaps the next seven billion will be a little more creative than “dustpans in the glaciers.” (sounds like a good name for a rock band though).

                A couple of years ago I read one of the most depressing books ever. It was “The Idea of Decline in Western History.” It was 500 pages and 300 years on the constant erection the left has had for catastrophic decline, especially when self induced.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                They’ll be very creative, that next seven billion. They’ll have to be. And there won’t be seven billion of them at any one time, what with the reduced amount of arable land.

                Our job as a species seems to be the creation of as much CO2 as we can. We’re digging up all that buried carbon, pumping all that petroleum out of the ground, all that captured sunlight wasted for millions of years underground, oxidising it and spreading ash everywhere. That’s what you look for if you’re an archaeologist, looking for ancient man, you look for his fire pits and his garbage dumps. Ancient man did a fine job of cutting down the ancient forests and burning ’em up, no other animal ever mastered fire, it’s our hallmark and it’s highly unlikely we’re about to give up that advantage.

                Now you can be as optimistic as you like, Roger. But we’re not going to evolve fast enough to avoid the consequences of having gotten to the top of the heap by being a fire-tending species. For every reaction there is an equal and opposite reaction, especially oxidation chemistry.Report

              • Avatar Roger says:


                For 300 years liberals have gotten off on apocalyptic tales of self doom of Western man. Keep at it, you guys are statistically lie,y to get it right sooner or later.

                Seriously though, there are two extreme positions here. The denialists and the sky is falling crowd. I suggest a middle course, which by the way seems to be the current consensus.Report

              • Avatar Don Zeko says:

                So we have our choice of “there’s no problem,” “the problem is so horrifying that any effort at abatement is futile” and “the problem exists, but is just large enough to justify the current status quo and more.” Sigh.Report

      • Avatar Lyle says:

        I agree New York will be in trouble, for LA it is only part of the city, more to affect Long Beach and Santa Monica, downtown LA is over 300 feet in elevation. The shore line in San Franciso, but there are hills there also going up to 900 feet in the twin peaks. London would have a wider Thames, but perhaps 2 miles wider, elsewhere in the UK its mostly the Wash , north west margin of East Anglia, Shanghai will go under water as would Bangkok.
        One should be more precise in these statements. Baltimore would go underwater to the fall line, and the outer banks of NC would be gone (actually the barrier islands would do their thing and fall back inland to reform since they are just big sand piles.Report

    • Avatar Don Zeko says:

      How is it that scrubbing billions of tons of CO2 out of the atmosphere is feasible, but replacing coal with renewables, improving conservation, and changing our residential patterns isn’t?Report

      • Avatar James Hanley says:

        You’re talking about other things being too expensive, then you throw out changing our residential patterns as if that’s not going to be as costly as building seawalls.Report

        • Avatar Don Zeko says:

          We’re going to be building new houses anyway. The question is where and how big.Report

          • Avatar James Hanley says:

            Unfortunately the L.A. suburbs are all well above sea level, as are those soread out monstrosities callrd Houston, Phoenix and Dallas-Fort Worth. Changing our residential patterns means radically rebuilding cities like that, even though they’re not being submerged. And if coastal L.A. goes under water, guess where folks are moving? Out to the suburbs.Report

  11. Avatar DAve says:

    So what we’re doing to the climate is a crime that we’re supposed to freak out about instead of the debt we’re saddling “the children” with? Which do you think will be more destructive to their lives and by how many orders of magnitude? Where’s the perspective??Report

    • Avatar greginak says:

      FWIW, AGW is a far more serious problem than our debt. Its also much harder to deal with and will have worse long term consequences.Report

    • Avatar Kris says:

      Current levels of debt are not problematic at all. If healthcrae costs continue to rise, instead of lowering to modern world norms, and the US doesn’t institute a reasonable, Clinton-plus-a-bit taxation scheme, then debt will become a moderate problem.

      The deficit problem was completely handled before Bush. We can go back to pre-Bush once the fiscal crisis is over, providing we can get healthcare costs down.


    • Avatar Jeff Wong says:

      You can default on the debt or simply dissolve the country (the US). It wouldn’t be the end of the world.

      OTOH, if there was no winter or the glaciers disappeared, it literally would be the end of the world or quite close to it. Nobody will care about debts when they have no water. People will KILL for water (you can only live 72 hours without it).

      I don’t fully understand the concept of sovereign debt or even money as defined by debt or that money is simply a proxy for energy or a claim on some slices of the resources in the world (human, natural and existing capital stock). My gut tells me that money is a proxy for energy so the debt (whatever it really is) is a bunch of claim checks for resources in the future. So it might be the case that the debt is a symbolic form of the draw down on future resources and that it’s also bad.Report

  12. Avatar Glyph says:

    My recommendation? Forget focusing on the ‘climate change’ portion of it, and focus on the ‘dirty/pollution’ aspect. The cruddy air in Hong Kong, wafted down from mainland China, was hazy and irritating to the throat and lungs and eyes.

    Climate change’s impact can be debated for all the reasons noted and more.

    But ‘don’t foul your own nest’ is something most animals understand instinctually and is harder to debate.

    ‘Wall-E’ will end up doing more for the cause of mitigating climate change than one hundred ‘Inconvenient Truths’ ever will.Report

  13. Avatar Kolohe says:

    “If you want more, you can either fork over $32 to buy the article or you can be cheap like me and read Roberts’ great synopsis instead.”

    Haven’t read the comment thread yet, but there’s your answer right there. When push comes to shove the (American) electorate is not going to accept the actual cost required to substantially reduce and/or replace fossil fuel use.Report

    • Avatar The Left says:

      Oh, but we will!

      Even now, we are bidding against the Chinese and the rest of the world for petroleum; what happens when they can top our price?

      Not to mention we have already incurred over 1 Trillion dollars in debt for the Gulf wars; would we have spent that money had Saddam Hussein been the dictator of Swaziland?
      The American taxpayers and the entire Gulf Coast business community is paying rather exhorbitantly for the oil spill down there.

      We are already paying for a cost; its only a matter of time until the American public realizes how expensive cheap gas actually is.Report

  14. Avatar Jib says:

    When have people EVER choosing to materially reduce their standard of living today in order to …. what, make things not so bad 100 years from now? Make sacrifice today for a better tomorrow? Yes people do that but tomorrow has to be something they will see in their lifetime and it has to be BETTER. Not the same, not ‘worse than today but not as bad as it could be’. It has to be better. And honestly, it has to happen soon, no more than 10 years out. 10 years is a lifetime to most people.

    Your asking people to be outraged about something that will begin to materially impact their lives in the next few decades but we are not sure how fast and how bad. You want to fight AGW? Find a way for people to materially benefit from fighting it TODAY. Basically hack the civilization to give you the outcome you want. How do you make reducing your carbon footprint profitable?

    Time spent figuring that out is much better than trying to shame people into ‘doing the right thing because ITS FOR THE KIDS DAMNIT!’Report

  15. Avatar James K says:

    In addition to agreeing with Simon K that outrage is not conducive to intelligent problem solving, I have to wonder why you think there would be outrage. Surely you don’t believe that people freak out over problems in proportion to their severity? Human beings are terrible at risk management.Report

    • Avatar Kris says:

      People are bad at solving problems when outraged. But they are even better at avoiding and ignoring problems when they aren’t outraged.Report

  16. Avatar Kris says:

    The real reason not enough people are outraged about global warming is hippie-phobia. IMO.

    The best current solution to reduce greenhouse gasses is to do what the hippies have always wanted: stop driving your car unnecessarily and walk or bike, eat less meat, don’t use the AC too much, install energy efficient windows, take a bus man, restructure the suburbs to make driving less necessary. Don’t fly. Don’t waste mother earth’s water with a 40 minute hot shower, dude.”

    But everybody hates hippies. So anything that’s even remotely associated with them must be dumb, impractical, etc. If you want to stop driving and restricture neighborhoods and farms, then you’re a dirty hippy too. If you say the business should do teleconferincing to avoid air travel to save mother earth, you might as well get dreds and wear a Grateful Dead shirt. So the outrage goes at the hippies and the outrage that comes from them becomes ridiculousl And if you are outraged about these things, you are a ridiculous outraged hippy.

    The weird thing about hippy-phobia is that most energy conservation is the kind of thing our 19th century ancestors would’ve done instinctively out of conservative, Calvinistic cheapness. (Were they hippies?) I can hear my grandparents and the lessons they’d learned from their grandparents, now: “Turn those lights off you heathen, Drive a car two miles? Are you made of money, and why don’t your legs work? Its cold and you want the heat on? Plenty of heat in hell for wasteful sinners like you. Etc. etc,” Really, the hippies who want us to conserve and grow vegetables and cook our own meals are pointing out that we’ve become decadent. And that’s why we secretly hate hippies as being decadent. We’re accusing them of what is true of ourselves.

    I have seem some change in this over the last decade. Conservation and environmentalism have gone through a pseudo-cool phase. Maybe it will become normalized soon enough.Report

    • Avatar Jason Kuznicki says:

      I think with the exception of transportation you are overestimating the amount of difference consumers make, while saying not a word about the role of industry. The problem over there is that industry has been getting a lot more efficient in terms of GDP to energy consumption, but GDP has also been growing, and the problem therefore isn’t going away.Report

      • Avatar Kris says:

        I am thinking of people who work in industry as capable of aiming at efficiency, too.Report

        • Avatar James K says:

          People in industry have been aiming at efficiency, all the low-hanging fruit are long gone. An efficiency won’t help much in aggregate – more efficiency means lower prices which means more consumption.Report

          • Avatar Kris says:

            1. It depends on what you mean by “low hanging,” but all the low hanging fruit is not gone. Not in industry or residential energy use. For example, houses have not been weatherized. Cars are overused. On and on. Commercial flights for meetings can be replaced with teleconferincing. On and on.

            2. Efficiency increases energy supply and decreases AGW, which is good. The problem is that dirty energy is cheap because the externalities it creates aren’t paid for now. That’s why we need cap and trade, taxes, regulations, etc: to force current consumers to pay for the future damage they’re causing. That will cause energy prices to go up slowly, requiring consumers to adjust their behavior and prefer energy efficient technologies and lifestyles. If you combine that price change with a moral and cultural shift to be frugal like our great grandparents, you have a solution.

            This is the “stabilization wedge” strategy defended by Pacala and Socolow here: (pay wall)


            • Avatar James Hanley says:

              Efficiency increases energy supply, which cheapens energy and encourages us to find other ways to use it. Sure, maybe I’m teleconferencing now, but I also have a hot tub in my office. (Well, I wish…) I don’t think you’re quite recognizing what the effect of effectively increasing energy supply will have on individual behavior.Report

              • Avatar Kris says:

                Not in the long term with government regulation requiring current consumers to pay for the externalities of dirty energy and with the slow depletion of the supply of nonrenewables relative to world-wide energy use.

                You prime the market now by making renewables cheaper now, making energy efficiency more readily availabe, and by making current consumers pay more for dirty energy.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                I’m all for making people pay the real price for dirty energy. I hope you’re also cool with making them pay the real cost of that environmental disaster called hydro, anfpd the real price (not subsidized) of windps and solar. And when it’s all more wipe pensive, I hope you’ll express the appropriate surprise that expensive energy has a damping effect on the economy.

                Look, I’m not opposed to doing something, especially internalizing externalities (a word liberals have recently learned, without realizing the concept was pioneered by those conformists they distrust). I’m just opposed to this pollyannaish approach that says doing something is going to be cheap and non-disruptive. Because unfortunately there still ain’t no such thing as a free lunch.Report

              • Avatar Kris says:

                Doing a lot will be cheap and not particularly disruptive,Report

    • Avatar Rufus F. says:

      This could make a good ad campaign- “Hippies: wrong about music, right about the planet!”Report

  17. Avatar balthan says:

    Even if you believe climate change may bring a net positive, or at least isn’t worth the cost to modify society’s behavior, shouldn’t we start working to protect strategic resources?

    Langley AFB, for example, is already very susceptible to flooding and storm damage. There are many other important facilities around the country that will be endangered by rising sea levels.

    It would seem to me that planning for this should already be underway, at both the federal and local levels, but instead we seem to be stuck in a perpetual head-in-the-sand mode.Report

    • Avatar Kimmi says:

      can assure you the military is already on the case. they’ve had the dept. since the dust bowl, after all.
      Wes Clark said that Global Warming is the biggest national security issue of this new century, and that was nearly a decade back.Report

  18. Avatar BlaiseP says:

    I build models. I work with other people’s models. People get the wrong ideas about models. They’re only as good as the data. Our climate data at present is pretty good but the farther back we go in time, we must drop our levels of confidence. We didn’t even have a reliable registering thermometer until the 1780s. We can look at tree rings and ice cores and suchlike with some degree of certainty but it’s still not an exact science, which provides enough ammunition for the Climate Doubters. Doubt is a crucial component of science but casting aspersions on climate scientists is not.

    It’s pointless trying to talk to the Doubters.

    It’s equally pointless to talk to the Do Gooders. Giving a damn is not making a difference. Fact is, we’re already past the point of being able to make a difference as a species. The damage is already done. The ocean pH has risen beyond our ability to buffer it. The calcium cycle which allows the crustaceans and foraminifera and corals to form up shells is in trouble. We haven’t really seen the impact of belching out all this CO2 because the oceans have been absorbing it all, forming carbonic acid in solution. When we reach a certain point, the oceans will stop absorbing it any longer and the seas will die entirely.

    It’s all over but the crying, really it is. Giving a damn, well, that’s about all we can give. Quit worrying about it. Even if we shut down all the coal-fired power plants and turned off the gas pumps, we’re fished already. All those billions of tons of CO2 we’ve been puffing out since the Industrial Revolution began, they’re not going away until the foraminifera absorb them all and precipitate down to the bottom of the ocean. At present consumption rates and the present deltas for ocean pH, they won’t cope. They’re not coping. The corals are dying already. The disaster taxa are already appearing in their wake, the jellyfish and the algae.

    I mean, really, what’s the point of worrying about it? The Deniers and the Doubters are in control of this situation. Our entire society is based on the burning of hydrocarbons. It’s pointless even criticising the Doubters and Deniers, human beings’ greatest skill is self-delusion. We can make excuses for anything. And don’t talk about nuclear as an option, it’s not. We’re not going to have nuclear powered cars. While our current economic models oblige us to spend hours driving to and from work in personal vehicles, we’re going to go on burning gasoline until every goddamn drop is gone.

    Tellin’ y’all, mankind is not going to be content until he’s fished up the world so horribly that he has to climb into a space suit to go to work in the morning. And then we’ll sing sad songs about tigers and coral reefs. But we won’t do anything about this situation. Hydrogen and stupidity, people, the two most abundant elements in the universe. Stupidity has a longer shelf life.Report

    • Avatar Kimmi says:

      battery powered cars.
      nuclear fusion might work out, too. cost a bunch, but…Report

      • Avatar BlaiseP says:

        It simply won’t change the delta enough. Our only rational alternatives are learning to cope with what we’ve already done. Fusion is decades away. Even if we got a working fusion reactor in place, we don’t have the transmission infrastructure in place to support it.

        While we continue to indulge in little fantasies and pipe dreams, all these earnest TEDsters and their ilk, telling us there just might be a solution around the corner, we’ll just be wishing in one hand and shitting in the other and I can tell you which hand will fill up first. The Stupids are in charge of this planet and the TEDsters are not and a supertanker is being loaded at Mina al Zour this very minute.

        Quit thinking there’s a solution. There’s no cure for stupidity and arrogance. The Do Gooders are not going to win this round or any other round.Report

        • Avatar Kris says:

          You take the seeds of justifiable pessimism about how difficult the problem is and turn them into a giant tree of completely unjustified hopelessness.Report

          • Avatar BlaiseP says:

            Completely unjustified? I’ve provided plenty of justification for my position. The Stupids are in charge of the planet, completely factual observation. When the opportunity arises for a bet on stupidity or wisdom, put your money on stupid every time. We’re not as smart as we think we are as a species. We know what we’re doing to this planet. And still, the Stupids go on denying everything.

            Stupidity is incurable. It’s also fatal. We’re in the midst of the greatest extinction event since the Permian and still the Stupids are in charge. Hope is what you have when nothing’s happened yet. I have every reason to believe humanity will hit the wall at full speed and all the warnings from the scientists and the philosophers and the moralists won’t make a bit of difference.

            There was another species which hit this wall. They were around for a very long time, much longer that humanity, much longer than any other life on this planet. They were the cyanobacteria. They spread all over the world and emitted oxygen as a byproduct of their respiratory cycle. Eventually, so much oxygen accumulated in the atmosphere they couldn’t do well and the oxygen-breathing life forms arose in direct consequence. Our success depended on their failure. Oh, they’re still around, secreting highly potent neurotoxins. They appear in the great offshore blooms, efficiently killing everything underneath them.

            Life will cope. We will not. We don’t have the time to cope because we don’t evolve quickly enough. As I said, even if we stopped burning coal and petroleum tomorrow, we’ve done enough damage already to believe there’s no stopping what’s about to happen next.Report

            • Avatar Roger says:

              Stop the Bus!

              For the last year you have been preaching the praises of central control and the need for benign regulation. Now you tell us that “the stupids are in charge”? Sounds like we need better stupids.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                Oh Roger. You’re such a joker. If we had meaningful government, operated by and for the people, we’d have made some intelligent adaptations by now. Of course, those adaptations might look at bit Statist and High-Handed and there are some folks who have an allergic reaction that sort of thing.

                Yes, Roger, the Stupids are in charge. They have their arms up the assholes of our politicians so far they can move their jaws. Case in point, Mitt Romney, a very bright man, whose view is that we don’t know what’s causing climate change on this planet.

                So who’s in charge? The Stupids. The rest of us are along for the ride. It’s sorta like that old joke: “When I die, I hope I die peacefully, in my sleep. Not screaming, like the rest of those people in Grandpa’s car.”Report

              • Avatar Don Zeko says:

                As far as AGW is concerned, I think we’re ruled by the evils, not the stupids. The anti-mitigation crowd here is mostly libertarians, but in Washington it’s the people who get paid by the fossil fuel business.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                There’s a grey area between Stupid and Evil, I’ll grant you. I don’t think Mitt Romney’s an evil dude. I don’t think a coal miner is evil: he’s doing the only work available, his father and grandfather did it and if someone comes along to say the stream is now polluted with mine tailings, he’s going to choose his job over any other consideration. How am I going to call that man evil? I’m not sure I’m even ready to call him Stupid.

                Stupid’s the word because stupid means the facts aren’t sinking in. Cause and effect aren’t involved in stupid thinking. Never attribute to conspiracy what stupidity will adequately explain. There is some bona-fried evil at work in the proposition of the coal companies persuading our politicians to ignore the problem and call for more Blue Ribbon Commissions and Further Studies and casting aspersions on climate scientists and calling people DFHs for even bringing up the subject. That’s evil.

                That’s also capitalism. And don’t look for me to call capitalism evil, I just won’t. I believe the government should have done something about this issue back in the 1970s when we realised how seriously addicted we were to oil from the Middle East. Popular sentiment was against such reforms. Gas prices dropped a bit and folks went out and bought gas guzzling SUVs. That’s stupid. But it’s also capitalism.

                Evil, ecch… maybe there’s some evil afoot in all this. Getting upset over it, Giving a Damn, well, that’s a strategy for ninnies who think wringing their hands will solve the problem. Earlier I said we were about to hit the wall. No, we’re already hitting it. It’s a slow-motion catastrophe, unfolding all around us.Report

              • Avatar Don Zeko says:

                I agree about the coal miners, who are getting killed by the coal that earns them a modest living. But the executives, the lobbyists, the geologists, the engineers, the various other college-educated middle-class and above types that could have gotten into any number of other lines of work? They deserve some moral reproach.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                Stalin once said a single death was a tragedy and a million deaths was a statistic. This is a juuuust a little bit larger than anyone’s definition of evil. It’s an endemic problem faced by humans and snow leopards and hummingbirds in the window. We shall all fall together.

                Blame is the argument of the weak. It’s the stick the losers use to beat on the winners. Some dear people around here think I’m in the Giant Tree of Hopelessness. It’s rather like what Newton said “If I have seen farther it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” Well, we can all see somewhat farther by standing on the shoulders of the giant idiot corporations which serve our giant appetites for all needful things — petroleum, plastics, hardwood, power in the wall socket and frozen shrimp in the fridge. Pointless to berate them. We’re the people who want all this stuff.Report

              • Avatar Don Zeko says:

                Sure, coal companies are only in business because all of us like to live unsustainable lifestyles. But then again, there are newly minted MBA’s taking jobs with those companies this summer while they watch what the drought is doing to the nation’s corn crop. They’re making a choice, and they know (or should know) what sort of business they’re getting into and how they are being rewarded for doing so. Isn’t some level of blame appropriate here?Report

        • Avatar Kimmi says:

          we gonna die somehow, betting it’s not agw.
          sucker’s bet.Report

          • Avatar Jeff Wong says:

            AGW won’t kill anyone, but starvation will. Or cannibalism. Or dehydration. Or Canadians.

            Once they wise up and decide to protect their borders by machine-gunning everyone who comes up to it. Some enterprising American officers will sell them the landmines in exchange for passports for their families and subordinates.

            People are really good at coming up with justifications for doing stuff that they need to do in order to survive. For people who will be born to parents who have nothing, what will they have to offer those who have resources?Report

            • Avatar Kimmi says:

              Drilling for oil nearly killed the world.
              Monstersanto might kill the world.
              A stupid Jew-plague might kill teh world.

              Plenty of things to break everything, including nuclear armageddon.

              No need to be so certain it’ll be AGW.Report

              • Avatar Jason Kuznicki says:

                The fact that you’ve claimed a Jewish identity for yourself doesn’t make this comment any less appalling.Report

              • Avatar Kimmi says:

                The actual research is what’s appalling. Don’t fool yourself into thinking it’s not going on.

                (all the more appalling for the potential to destroy all human life, but it would be disgusting and appalling even if it did what’s on the tin)Report

      • Avatar Jeff Wong says:

        The carbon output of humanity needs to be at least Zero if not less.

        If people can decide to stop buying another 10 inches of LCD TV, perhaps the resources and effort can be put into genetic engineering to consume the CO2 and hold the temperature down until we have adapted our crops.

        Battery-powered cars are pretty futile. The question isn’t “how can I get to LA while minimizing my carbon footprint?” The question is “*WHY* are you going to LA?”

        Nuclear fusion might help. But then again you have to wonder why the extra energy would be used to offset emissions instead of running my AC all the time because I can.

        Also, it needs to be invented. It may or may not be physically possible. It’s like jumping out of a building and hoping that someone on the ground will realize how much money you’ll pay them if they quickly inflate SOMETHING before you hit the ground.Report

  19. Avatar ktward says:

    On my own personal Outrage-O-Meter, I generally peg higher on environmental contamination issues–aka pollution–than I do on AGW science.

    For instance: both the immediate and long-term eco/enviro consequences of over-acidification of our oceans affects me, affects my 20-something kids, and affects my presumably soonish-to-be grandkids.

    My primary concern is not that our long-term use of fossil fuel energy has arguably screwed up our climate to catastrophic global effect. Frankly, I’m willing to entertain the thought that Global Warming–and all its attendant weather consequences–might, perhaps, simply be in our climatic cards. Fine.

    Here’s where I find myself conflicted:
    The folks who most vociferously deny AGW are largely the same folks who aren’t at all interested in tightly regulating industry in order to ensure a healthier environment both today and going into the future. Christ almighty, three decades later and we still have SuperFund sites that aren’t cleaned up yet.

    Politically, the folks who fight hardest against AGW science are by and large the same folks who would see us de-regulate the energy industry or, at least, ease enviro-related restrictions to the benefit of industry (vs. the benefit of the environment.)

    I’m not a scientist, but I’ll continue to hang my hat with the AGW folks: In terms of climate science, the overwhelming majority of said scientists are of like mind.

    (I realize that “But but but, the economy!” is today a fashionable canard on the right, but there simply exists no decisive evidence that being environmentally responsible is a death-knell to our economy. Rather the opposite, if anything.)Report

    • Avatar Glyph says:

      This is what I was getting at above. Focusing on AGW is a tactical mistake.

      Focusing on the here and now is likely a better tactic, IMO.

      I am always surprised that there isn’t a bigger environmental strain in American Christianity. IIRC, in Genesis, when God gives Adam dominion over the earth, he names Adam steward.

      The implication of that to me isn’t, ‘Here, this is yours, now wreck the place up!!!’, it’s ‘Here, this is my gift to you, NOW TAKE CARE OF IT’. A savvy ad campaign might be able to push this viewpoint.

      I would suggest that environmentalists put this in terms that we all instinctively understand (that is, ‘don’t s**t where you eat’ – be blunt about it) without recourse to far-future events that are still under debate by mechanisms ill-understood by most anyway, and are viewed by many as alarmist hyperbole (‘come on, everyone knows those ridiculous Roland Emmerich movies aren’t *real*!’)Report

      • Avatar Glyph says:

        Er, that last sentence is a grammatical trainwreck. Hopefully the point still comes through.

        The under-debate events are theoretically caused by the ill-understood mechanisms; the mechanisms are not doing the debating.

        Yet, anyway.Report

      • Avatar ktward says:

        I am always surprised that there isn’t a bigger environmental strain in American Christianity. IIRC, in Genesis, when God gives Adam dominion over the earth, he names Adam steward.

        There seems to be no small amount of interpretative disagreement among Christians when it comes to environmental stewardship. (Pretty much in keeping with Christianity’s general MO, imo, which is why I’m not generally impressed with any argument that hangs on “scriptural authority”.)Report

        • Avatar Glyph says:

          But the point of the ‘scriptural authority’ argument wouldn’t be to convince you or me; for us, ‘hey, don’t mess up your own house, that makes no sense’ is good enough.

          But for some Christians, ‘God said so’ seems like it could work.Report

      • Avatar Kimmi says:

        there IS an enviornmental strain amongst the YOUNGER evangelicals.
        pastordan has the research.Report

  20. Avatar Kris says:

    I think its important to note that the worries over the coat of implementing some combination of energy efficiency and renewables (as Pacala and Socolow argue for in the famous “wedge” strategy here: is not going to result in some kind if economic crisis.

    Pessimists will cite the costs of developing renewables and energy efficiency and say that the costs will turn into debt. But pessiminsts fail to remember that in an economy, one persons spending is another persons income. So all the money spent on renewables and efficiency is also income for a new generation of workers.

    Put it this way: Imagine Joe Pessimo, living in the 1970’s is pessimistic about the claim that one day computers will be everywhere in homes and businesses. He calculates the cost of a computer and even allows that that cost will go down. He then says, “It will cost a trillion dollars to implement this computer revolution. Think of all the money we’ll have to borrow to make it work. Impossible. And think of all the jobs that will be lost. Etc. etc.” But Joe Pessimo is Ignoring the economic growth and spending that will come from this new industry.

    We do have to think about how we will spend resources in the future. For example, Will will spend man hours building highways and coal or will we shift those resources to other energy projects? Will we consume too much crap while shifting resources to crap production or will we consume less crap that is made more energy efficiently while shifting resources to more energy efficient production? Those choices will be made by individual, but they will be heavily, heavily influenced by government policies, which is why cap and trade, gov’t investment, and other regulations are so important.Report

    • Avatar James K says:

      Put it this way: Imagine Joe Pessimo, living in the 1970?s is pessimistic about the claim that one day computers will be everywhere in homes and businesses. He calculates the cost of a computer and even allows that that cost will go down. He then says, “It will cost a trillion dollars to implement this computer revolution. Think of all the money we’ll have to borrow to make it work. Impossible. And think of all the jobs that will be lost. Etc. etc.” But Joe Pessimo is Ignoring the economic growth and spending that will come from this new industry.

      The reason computers made us richer is because they increased productivity. To reduce CO2 we will need to give up some very efficient energy sources. That’s going to lower productivity, at least in the short run.Report

      • Avatar Kris says:

        AGW threatens productivity inlots of ways. For example, if we lose arable land, then food becomes harder to obtain, which requires more resources to obtain the same food. So by limiting the effect of AGW, we are preventing decreases (aka increasing) productivity.

        Also, energy efficiency frees up resources -by definition- used to aquire resources, e.g. hours spent mining and drilling. As a result, energy efficiency increases productive resources for other uses.Report

        • Avatar Will Truman says:

          The hours spent mining and drilling are contributing to economic fuel. Even accounting for that, oil and coal are still cheaper. So we can’t point to that and argue that those resources are – purely economically speaking – things more efficiently directed elsewhere.

          The externality argument is the strongest. There are also some long-term arguments about cost-mitigating AGW. But short term, it’s more likely than not going to hurt to some degree. The more we do, the more it will probably hurt. Again, in the short term.Report

    • Avatar DensityDuck says:

      “pessiminsts fail to remember that in an economy, one persons spending is another persons income.”

      I could pay someone to dig a hole, and pay someone else to fill it in, and my “spending” is two other people’s “income”, but that doesn’t mean that anybody did anything useful.Report

      • Avatar Kris says:

        You’ve shifted resources to hole digging. That is unwise because hole digging contributes less to human happiness, health, art, etc. than other uses of the same resources. (By contrast, energy efficiency will benefit people by ameliorating the worst effects of AGW.)

        To stick with your analogy, I wouldn’t cite the financial cost of the hole digging without also citing the financial benefit of the hole digging in a conversation about whether we should create, say, tax incentives to dig holes.

        To cite the economic cost of energy efficiency technology and renewables without citing the benefits to argue that the costs make it impossible to fix the AGW problem thrpugh renewables and efficiency is just plain dishonest.Report

        • Avatar Will Truman says:

          Saying “we’d be trading economic efficiency for happiness” (as you are here) is one thing. Saying “there really aren’t any costs (because one man’s spending is another man’s receipt)” (as you seemed to be saying in the comment he was responding to) are two different things.

          As James K says, in the short term at least, there will be economic drag if we switch from a more efficient fuel to a less efficient fuel. The question is how much of a drag it will create and whether it is worth the drag due to non-economic gains.Report

          • Avatar Don Zeko says:

            There are plenty of economic gains involved. The trouble is that we get them all in the future, so you skew the cost-benefit analysis however you want by fiddling with discount rates.Report

            • Avatar Will Truman says:

              What sort of gains we get in the future is contestable, but I’m not denying it. I’m just saying that it doesn’t seem correct to argue that there aren’t economic drags in the short term because one man’s loss is another man’s receipt.Report

              • Avatar Don Zeko says:

                Oh, I don’t disagree with that, although I do think that the economic loss is easy to overstate, particularly in light of the cost trajectory that solar has been on for the past few years.Report

              • Avatar Will Truman says:

                Future gains are easy to overstate as well, because that’s in the future (“I will gladly pay you today…”). It is, however, difficult to sell and your point made elsewhere about not worrying about overkill due to its political impossibility is well-taken. From there the question becomes… will the half-assed methods be enough? How much do they reduce the likelihood of Manhattan and Tampa being below water? For instance.

                Cost-benefit analyses are really hard when it comes to stuff like this.Report

              • Avatar Don Zeko says:

                Sure, it’s hard to be exact. But I hardly see how that entitles us to jump to the inaction conclusion. Just because it’s incredibly difficult to calculate the present value of the economic loss associated with, say, reducing the global supply of arable land by 10% for 200 years starting in 2100* doesn’t mean that we should be blase about incurring that cost.

                *note: numbers pulled out of my ass. Substitute your own as needed.Report

              • Avatar DensityDuck says:

                So can I say that we’ll reduce the supply of arable land by .05% for 10 years starting in 2525 and therefore we don’t need to do anything?Report

              • Avatar Don Zeko says:

                I certainly share your concerns about the adequacy of the politically possible mitigation. For that problem I recommend hard liquor. Once you get done with that, how is “do as much as we can convince the political system to do and then pray like hell” not not the responsible response?Report

              • Avatar Don Zeko says:

                I’ll add that, since you were nice enough to describe how you think you might not be entirely rational about this argument, I am reacting poorly to anti-mitigation arguments from pessimism because they strike me as a sort of bait and switch. It seems like we’ve gone directly from “the science isn’t settled, so let’s do nothing” to “the science is settled and the problem is so big that we can’t possibly solve it, so let’s do nothing.” A lot of this is because I’m treating many different people as a single interlocutor, but it feels like there’s not an honest argument taking place.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                That’s a completely disingenuous line of rhetoric. The damage has already been done. There’s nothing which can save the glaciers at this point. Nothing. Get that through your head. Stopping this freight train will take centuries. It took us two centuries to get here and it will take at least that long to stop it. Inertial momentum is a bitch and so are dynamical systems. We’ve made enough substantive changes to our planet to categorically state those changes are irreversible with absolute certainty. Beyond doubt. The only dishonest part of this debate is the part where we think we’re going to put the fart back where it came from, literally and metaphorically.Report

              • Avatar DensityDuck says:

                And I’ll never pay off the credit cards so why stop spending?Report

              • Avatar Kris says:

                I’d argue that there are economic accelerators, not drags, associated with the government borrowing money (at today’s historic rates!) to spend on efficiency technology and renewables. Really any spending will accelerate the economy now that unemployment is high and the economy is stalled. We might as well spend on things that also have long term benefits,

                In the medium term, when the economy returns to normal, spending on environment will require transferring resources from other places. This is not an economic drag in terms of GDP growth, but does have consequences for human happiness, e.g. shifting medical research to environmental tech, switching low income housing construction to making homes and buildings energy efficient, etc. This is the problem. Not a drag on growth.Report

              • Avatar Will Truman says:

                Investing in the renewables may pay off and may not pay off. Whether it is worthwhile to borrow money to do it depends on which of that it is.

                However, if the cost of renewables exceed the cost of drilling, that’s a drag. Maybe a worthwhile drag for a cleaner environment, but a drag all the same. At least until electricity is cheaper in renewable form than it is in fossil fuel form.

                Anyhow, I was less addressing the “borrow-and-spend on green technologies” and more addressing the “make fossil fuels more expensive” and/or “forcibly transition people away from fossil fuels”… which is a drag.Report

              • Avatar Kris says:

                I think we disagree on some economoc fundamentals.

                Is military spending a drag on economic growth?Report

              • Avatar Will Truman says:

                Broadly speaking, yes it is. There are some arguments for a stimulus effect, and I suspect that’s where you’re going with green energy, but as far as stimulus projects go, the military is sub-optimal. Green Projects are optimal or sub-optimal depending on what economic results they produce. Given that we’re talking about the government filling in investment gaps that private industry is not, there’s reason not to be optimistic on the returns-on-investment.

                Really, though, per the last paragraph, there are some arguments for borrow-and-spend. I am talking more about prohibiting the use of or jacking up the prices on cheaper and dirtier energy. There are reasons to do this, but they are mostly either (a) non-economic or (b) not in the short term.

                I support a lot of things that I would consider to be a drag on the economy. So I’m not saying we shouldn’t do it on this basis. Just pointing out that raising energy costs (either by slashing availability of cheaper forms or by raising their prices) will be a drag.Report

              • Avatar Don Zeko says:

                That last paragraph goes double when the economic baseline we’re using is achieved by refusing to price massive externalities.Report

              • Avatar Will Truman says:

                Pricing externalities is, unfortunately, quite difficult. Not to say that it shouldn’t be done (it’s one of the reasons I am somewhat supportive of a carbon tax), just that I am skeptical of the means of determining the cost of the externality. It’s easy enough to come up with a calculation that makes sure nobody uses it. Because, as we all know, they shouldn’t be.

                Anyhow, the point remains that externalities are the strongest argument in favor of jacking up prices on fossil fuels.Report

              • Avatar Don Zeko says:

                Difficult, yes, but we don’t have to be 100% accurate for a policy of doing so to work.Report

              • Avatar Will Truman says:

                The part that concerns me about the difficulty is that the ambiguity lends itself to abuse. It will be interesting to see how things go in Australia with their carbon tax.Report

              • Avatar DensityDuck says:

                “Is military spending a drag on economic growth?”

                Considering that microprocessors and the internet came from military spending, I’d say the answer is a big no.Report

              • Avatar Kris says:

                ” if the cost of renewables exceed the cost of drilling, that’s a drag (for the economy as a whole)”

                Higher costs are also increased spending (which accelerates economies) Cost alone is thus not the only impact on the economy as a whole of moving from dirty to clean energy. Thus, to determine economic impact (drag or acceleration) you need to consider more than just cost.

                Maybe we are disagreeing about how to define “cost.”Report

              • Avatar Will Truman says:

                The question is what we’re spending the money on. If we’re paying more for the same amount of kwh, then we are spending money on kwh’s that we now can’t spend on other things. This may be a worthwhile tradeoff, but it’s a cost.

                We pay more for gas than we did two decades ago. The increased spending involved is not a benefit to the economy. We’re just spending more of our household income for the same thing that we used to be spending less of our household income on.Report

              • Avatar DensityDuck says:

                “Higher costs are also increased spending…”

                ….aaaaaaand we’re back to “first shift digs a hole, second shift fills it in”.Report

            • Avatar James Hanley says:

              Let’s not forget that cost-benefit analyses discount future gains for a reason.Report

          • Avatar Stillwater says:

            As James K says, in the short term at least, there will be economic drag if we switch from a more efficient fuel to a less efficient fuel.

            In the near term, economic losses from already occurring climate change need to be taken into account, as well. If the long term effects of AGW incur financial costs, and if we’ve already mucked things up to some degree, then we’re currently experiencing economic losses (fire, floods, hurricanes, desertification, whatnot) from AGW. At this point, mitigating AGW isn’t about maintaining the climate status quo, but bending the curve the other way to reduce all the relevant costs. At least in the near term.Report

            • Avatar Don Zeko says:

              As Kimmi notes upthread, our current macroeconomic conditions make certain types of spending on AGW mitigation much cheaper than they otherwise would be. If we assume widespread unemployment in the construction industry and negative real interest rates, the economic cost of weatherizing homes and installing solar panels becomes negative.Report

            • Avatar James Hanley says:

              “In the near term, economic losses from already occurring climate change need to be taken into account, as well.”

              Do we really know what those losses are? And if you claim this year’s drought, you’re off my Christmas card list. 😉Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                It doesn’t matter what loss might be brought to the table. Like Scrooge, confronted with Marley’s ghost, you’re likely to attribute it to an undigested bit of beef, a blot of mustard, a crumb of cheese.

                Or something else. Christmas card list indeed.Report

  21. Avatar Jaybird says:

    Hey, Still (and everybody). Down here.

    Do you agree with the claim that any mechanisms which remedy the problem of AGW will be draconian and unjust? (I surely don’t, even tho you attributed it to me.)

    I don’t even know what the mechanisms *ARE*!

    That’s what I’ve been asking for!

    If they are, as North says, just making sure that chicks can read, work, and get paid the same as guys in a society that has a safety net, then I’d say that the mechanisms are downright *LIBERTARIAN*.

    If, as Don says, they’re just stuff like driving a smaller car, living closer to work, getting better Energy Star stuff, well, crap. That’s stuff I’m already doing. I think that the greens are doing themselves a disservice by not shouting this stuff to the rooftops… if, that is, this is what will solve the problem.

    If, however, the stuff that *I* think will be necessary to solve the problem is necessary to solve the problem? Then we’re going to seriously need to sit down and hammer out exactly what we’re asking of ourselves and our future generations to do and not only what engineering problems we’ll face but enforcement problems… which, I assure you, if I told you what you’d need to ask your darling children to do, you’d say that I was Draconian and Unjust. I suppose I could then ask you if you cared about AGW.Report

    • Avatar Roger says:

      Well said JBReport

      • Avatar Stillwater says:

        Rog, doesn’t this rather confirm what I’ve been saying about your arguments thru several threads: that any mechanism that is sufficient to mitigate AGW is too high a price?

        Don’t you need to run this thru a calculus of some kind before making a categorical pronouncement on the subject? Or is your conclusion about this a priori derivable?

        I mean, both you and JB have rather conveniently and disingenuously turned the tables on the mitigation crowd, don’t you think?. You guys were demanding that we provide detailed policy proposals sufficient to achieve our goals in order to evaluate them. It turns out, tho, that both of you have already determined that any proposal sufficient to mitigate AGW is draconian and unjust, and therefore shouldn’t and won’t be accepted. That’s a clever trick. Is there an argument supporting it? One that doesn’t beg the question?Report

        • Avatar Jaybird says:

          It turns out, tho, that both of you have already determined that any proposal sufficient to mitigate AGW is draconian and unjust, and therefore shouldn’t and won’t be accepted.

          I gave three different examples of proposals and embraced two of them.

          As for the third, I have not jumped to the “therefore shouldn’t and won’t be accepted” point yet. Don is the only person who has provided a plan and, may I point out again, I’ve already said that I’m more or less following it. (We recycle, we are a one-car family, Maribou walks to work, I live close to my work, we have energy star appliances, I take staycations here in town rather than vacations out of town (the Leaguefest was the first time in years that I’ve gotten on a plane), blah, blah, blah.)

          So I’ve cheerfully embraced that plan to mitigate AGW.

          Now if you want to get into issues of how all of the above is just a drop in the bucket and all of the stuff that we seriously need to start doing Romeo Foxtrot November is just so draconian and unjust… well, shouldn’t we hold those plans up against stuff like “extinction”? How’s this? I promise not to say “so you think that we should institute a worldwide one-child policy… YOU MONSTER!” or anything like that.

          Can we discuss the sufficient proposals yet? How’s this? I’ll even assume that we’ll both be upper party members who get the good ration cards and so the whole “but you still use a lot of kilowatt hours” argument will be off-limits as well.Report

          • Avatar Don Zeko says:

            “Now if you want to get into issues of how all of the above is just a drop in the bucket and all of the stuff that we seriously need to start doing Romeo Foxtrot November is just so draconian and unjust… ”

            Isn’t the argument instead “all of the above is [at the individual level] just a drop in the bucket, so [we need to get everyone to do stuff like that]?”Report

            • Avatar Jaybird says:

              If we got everyone to do stuff like that, it still wouldn’t address the problem of AGW, I don’t think. We might shave 10% of our carbon usage if everybody did stuff like that.

              Sure, it’s not diddlysquat… but I don’t know that it raises us to a place where we can say “that’s not chickenfeed”.Report

              • Avatar Don Zeko says:

                Where is that 10% coming from? Some lazy Googling tells me that the UK’s per capita carbon footprint is half that of the US as of 2004. Is their lifestyle really so different from ours? Would a 50% reduction really be an insignificant one?Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                There’s a lot that goes into that (localized weather being the main one that I’m thinking about… the difference between summer and winter in the UK is, I understand, much less extreme than in the US).

                I think that we’d be more likely to bring ourselves in line with Canada… which strikes me as a much more apples to apples comparison. (Which is, by the way, about 10% away.)Report

          • Avatar Stillwater says:

            JB, we can switch our residential and industrial power grids to nuclear. We can drive on battery powered cars. That all on it’s own constitutes about 80% (???) of carbon emissions. Political hurdles to accomplishing this are a different issue than the one we’re talking about now.

            Where does the “if I told you what you’d need to ask your darling children to do, you’d say that I was Draconian and Unjust” fit into such a proposal?Report

            • Avatar Jaybird says:

              It has to do with how much living space they should be accustomed to having, how much privacy, and how much luxury. I’ll try to lay out a plan tonight that would allow us a sustainable world.

              Then you can call me unjust and draconian.

              Then I can ask whether you really care about AGW.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                I look forward to it.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                I am going to assume an absolute footprint on the part of each person rather than each person doing whatever they want and just buying offsets (indulgences) for the extra. I’m also going to assume that everybody is also doing what Don suggested above.

                There are a tons of assumptions we need to overcome.

                There are assumptions about the big house in the big lot with the big yard that’s a big ways away from the grocery store or the school or the workplace. These assumptions need to be tamped down. A smaller home in a mixed-use community where these places are within walking distance (or mass transit to these places is within walking distance) should be seen as the goal. This means that the suburbs have to be abandoned and the cities re-embraced.

                Condominiums are good, apartment complexes would be better. The main thing you’d want to establish is a community. People looking out for and after each other.

                Now, personally, I’d hope that something like a church service twice a week could take place where everybody would get together and be forced into fellowship. Not everybody likes religion, I know, but the “everybody sitting in a room together” has a pretty good track record so bringing back something like that would help to re-enforce the community. (Maybe we could have different types of religion in different condo/apartment complexes to help re-enforce the whole team membership thing. Baptists vs. Methodists, if you will.)

                That’s for the living situation. From a suburban/exurban sprawl back into a multi-use community that allows walking and biking to pretty much anywhere anybody would need to go.

                When it comes to food and personal energy use, there would have to be rules about eating sustainably (meat, for example, isn’t particularly sustainable) and there’d also have to be concessions made for energy use. While replacing coal-burning and gas-burning with nuclear power would do a great job at reducing the carbon footprint of any given individual, we’re still taking into account the fact that every family has a refrigerator, every family has a stove, every family has some climate control from 60ish in the winter to 80ish in the summer, and that uses up quite a bit of energy right there. How much would be left? More in the temperate spring/fall than summer/winter, to be sure. Maybe we could set up a system (better in winter than summer) where we could have bike generators that could give certain amounts of television or computer time.

                I’m thinking that if the majority of people in the country (or in the world) lived in such a situation, we could easily reduce our impact to “negligible” which would allow damage done by previous generations to start to be fixed.

                Now, there is room for the people who don’t want to participate in this particular plan… we need people working on the farms, for example. If, however, a person doesn’t want to participate in sustainable living, we have to take into account the fact that, at best, they’re stealing from everyone else and, at worst, contributing to a situation that will kill them. Exile won’t exactly be sufficient to deal with this because it’s not like we can sequester parts of the world off from other parts of the world… but this is a great big prisoner’s dilemma and if someone continually demonstrates that they won’t co-operate, they’re effectively harming the rest of everybody. We’ll have to figure something out to deal with that.

                That’s just off the top of my head, though.Report

        • Avatar Roger says:

          “I mean, both you and JB have rather conveniently and disingenuously turned the tables on the mitigation crowd, don’t you think?. You guys were demanding that we provide detailed policy proposals sufficient to achieve our goals in order to evaluate them. It turns out, tho, that both of you have already determined that any proposal sufficient to mitigate AGW is draconian and unjust, and therefore shouldn’t and won’t be accepted. That’s a clever trick. Is there an argument supporting it? One that doesn’t beg the question?”

          Like JB, I suggested at least one solution and commented positively on several others . I suggest research into carbon removal and/or investigating replacing less economically efficient taxes with carbon taxes and then pressuring/encouraging other countries to go along (rod’s plan). I do turn up my nose at rosary beads and hybrids. These will just lead to dirty energy moving elsewhere.Report

          • Avatar Stillwater says:

            If you’re in favor of “carbon taxes and then pressuring/encouraging other countries to go along” then what the hell are we arguing about? The “plan” is to phase out carbon-emitting power sources and phase in AGW-approved sources.

            What’s so effing draconian and unjust about that?Report

            • Avatar Roger says:


              I have absolutely no idea what it is we are arguing about. I was beginning to suspect asking “Who is in charge” is some kind of dog whistle.

              I’m no big fan of taxes, and I am pretty sure that the ”dummies in charge” will screw it up by kowtowing to the special interests, but if we replaced a stupid tax with a less stupid one, I would consider it a step forward. Efficient carbon removal processes would be the bees’ knees. The cat’s meow.

              Peace bro’Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                Well, if that’s been you’re position all along, I apologize for not realizing it earlier. But I have to say, that was the position I articulated about three weeks ago which (I thought) you rejected at the time. Since then I’ve probably misread your comments as implying things you didn’t intend and don’t believe. Sorry bout that.

                Peace back at ya.Report

    • Avatar Don Zeko says:

      So why not go ahead and do the things that you’re ok with, but not do the things that are unacceptably draconian? To my ears, you’re saying something to the effect of “I could lose a lot of weight if I adopted a 200-calorie diet. But if I did that, I would eventually starve to death. Therefore I will not attempt to lose weight at all.”Report

      • Avatar Jaybird says:

        Don, I’d have to say that I’d then wonder what the goal truly is: Is it to address AGW or is it to just make myself feel good?

        (for the record, I married a Canadian Socialist who makes me act all kinds of Green and crap. I wouldn’t mind putting my proverbial diet up against the diets of most folks. But I also suspect that, on an AGW level, I’m just making myself feel good rather than actually addressing anything.)Report

        • Avatar Don Zeko says:

          Couldn’t you say the same about the libertarian political project in general? There’s nothing wrong with deriving satisfaction from being on the right side of a losing cause. On this subject, I really do wonder how, say, the CEO of Exxon can sleep at night.Report

          • Avatar Jaybird says:

            The difference is that I don’t see addressing AGW as a moral problem but as an engineering problem. I don’t see Libertarianism as an engineering problem but as a moral response to an existential one.Report

            • Avatar Don Zeko says:

              But I do see AGW as a moral problem. We are killing or impoverishing the planet’s future population to make our owns lives easier and more comfortable (and not even that much easier or more comfortable, if you ask me).Report

    • Avatar greginak says:

      And has been said before when some greenie says here look at all the good stuff i do he is imeidatly branded as self-rightous and bossy. When the greenie is doing good stuff they are a hypocrite who isn’t willing to make changes in their own life. I can’t see the exact window of how a greenie is supposed to act that isn’t some sort of error.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird says:

        And has been said before when some greenie says here look at all the good stuff i do he is imeidatly branded as self-rightous and bossy.

        I’ve not seen that one happen here, Greg. The closest we’ve come is “here, look at all of the good stuff I do and, yeah, I still do some bad stuff but my circumstances are extraordinary.”Report

  22. Avatar damon says:

    All this boils down to someone telling me how to live my life–through force.

    I’m all for someone persuading me to change a behavior, like when they ran adverts telling me smoking was bad, but pass a law? NO.

    Convince me I need to drive a smaller car, use fluorescent bulbs, etc. and do it in a calm, rational manner. I’ll listen, I’ll consider, and then I’ll decide. Try to pass a law, be shrill about how the world is ending, etc. and I’ll ignore you. If you have to resort to force to get your way, you obviously can’t argue your point well enough.Report

    • Avatar Don Zeko says:

      If we lower your income tax while implementing a carbon tax that raises your power bill, and therefore you install fluorescent bulbs, has anyone forced you to change your life?Report

      • Avatar Kimmi says:

        yes. they’ve forced you to redecorate. yay more business!Report

      • Avatar Will Truman says:

        A better way of going about it, in my view, is through a rebate. Lowering income taxes would weigh too heavily in the higher tax brackets, while the costs of the carbon tax will be more distributed.

        The fact that they’re forcing us to fluorescent (or non-incandescent) bulbs is abstractly a part of the problem. Not that I had an attachment to incandescent, as I was already switching, but along with CAFE standards they signal to me the superficial aspects of the change and that they might be geared more towards getting people to Live Right (Shop how I shop! Drive how I drive!) than something that has a real chance at addressing the issue.

        As someone close to the middle on the issue, when I look at those advocating action, I see two types: Those for whom global warming is the purpose of certain actions, and those for whom certain actions are the purpose of global warming. I don’t mean to get all “Never mind the science until you can convince me that the people who quote it are sincere” as I genuinely try to set this aside when evaluating the issue, but I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t one of the skeletons playing cards in the back of my mind.Report

      • Avatar damon says:

        Sure, sure. Pass the tax reduction first. Then we’ll talk about a carbon tax…Report

  23. Avatar Kris says:

    I’ve known a lot of overweight people who are so pessimistic about their weight, they don’t diet.

    They say they know they can’t make it work, so why worry. They keep eating unhealthily and not exercising. And the pessimism is always their and they think its justified,

    Their pessimism isn’t justified. The solution is simple and even though its hard, its not the end of the world for their happiness. In the long term, eating less and exercising would make them a little happier. IMO, the real, subconscious cause of the pessimism is a desire to hold on to the things about their unhealthy lifestyle that they like.

    That’s where a lot of the commenters in this thread are, IMO. They like their current lifestyle even though its unhealthy. So they’re pessimistic that the things needed to change to a healthy life are possible. That way, they don’t have to worry about it.Report

    • Avatar Will Truman says:

      Their pessimism isn’t justified.

      Actually, their pessimism is very justified. They have statistics on their side.Report

      • Avatar Kris says:

        I mean a level of pessimism that implies trying is useless.Report

        • Avatar Will Truman says:

          I would argue that level is justified. Well, not entirely. But given the failure rates, trying is arguably more unhealthy than not trying.Report

          • Avatar Don Zeko says:

            Speaking of impossible-to-calculate cost/benefit analysis….Report

          • Avatar Kris says:

            Obese people shouldn’t try to lose weight? We shouldn’t try to help them personally and with jealth policy?


            • Avatar Jaybird says:

              There are plenty of ways to help the obese lose weight.

              Some involve social censure of the fatties.
              Some involve telling them that they’d be more attractive if they’d lose some weight. Hell, telling them that they might even get laid.
              Some involve making sure that you don’t eat in front of them. It’s like smoking in front of someone who is trying to quit.

              There’s just so much we can do to help the chubs!Report

            • Avatar Will Truman says:

              The goal of health policy, if we are to have it, should be focused on preventing obesity from occurring in the first place. Once they’re obese, it is vanishingly unlikely that they will lose weight and keep it off regardless of the number of attempts.

              Personally, if anyone wants help I am happy to do what I can. I will tell them how I did and did not lose weight. What worked for me probably wouldn’t work for them, but some information can’t hurt. It doesn’t take much in the way of encouragement, though, before you’re doing more harm than good. It should be limited to helping them along if they’re trying. Not encouraging them to try.

              Diets overwhelmingly fail. “Lifestyle changes” where the weight-loss is expected to occur years after years are less documented (harder to document), but I’d be willing to bet that the same is true (in large part because it’s easy to get discouraged if you’re not seeing the results). And with each failure comes more self-loathing. With each attempt comes more stress, which is a contra-indicator of good health in and of itself.Report

    • Avatar greginak says:

      So AGW isn’t a hot enough topic without throwing in obesity??Report

  24. Avatar Michael Cain says:

    It’s Monday afternoon, and I feel like having abuse heaped on me, so… where’s that damned soapbox… rustle, rustle… umph… ah, here we are.

    I’ll assume that you mean outrage directed at not working steadily to get off of carbon-based fuels and reduce energy use overall. If you mean outrage that we’re not taking the extreme position on AGW, which requires that we get rid of six billion of the planet’s seven billion people and the remainder largely give up electricity and personal transportation, all in short order, well… you may or may not be correct about what needs to be done, but the very large majority of that seven billion are not going to get worked up over what they regard as a crackpot position. Assuming the more moderate position, let us proceed. In the following, when I say West, I mean the 11 contiguous US states whose eastern borders lies west of the 100th meridian; by East I mean the other contiguous states, less Texas, which will do what it wants no matter what the rest of us think anyway. Alaska, Hawaii, Puerto Rico and such are special cases that I’m simply going to ignore.

    There is little outrage in the West because we have rolled up our sleeves and are moving in the direction you want. First, the Western states generate and consume only about one-third as much electricity per capita as the East. The Western states already generate a bit over 30% of their electricity from renewable sources, and that number is increasing steadily, in many cases due to voluntarily adopted state portfolio mandates. The West is not as dependent as the East on coal for electricity (far more Western coal is burned in Eastern power plants than in Western ones). On the transportation front, all of the major metropolitan areas (Seattle/Portland, the Bay Area, LA/San Diego, Phoenix, Denver, Salt Lake City) already have or have started building light rail systems. Even Las Vegas is now under state mandate to create a light-rail authority and plan.

    So here’s some specific outrage that I’m trying to stir up. What the hell is wrong with you Easterners? Based on Tax Foundation federal tax/expenditures numbers, the West is a net donor region, despite using so much less electricity. What’s the East doing to get more efficient? When your big energy companies (cough*Enron*cough) get involved out here, it’s an eff’ing disaster. Nuclear is overwhelmingly an Eastern phenomenon — if you’re going to use it heavily, it would be polite if you would dispose of the waste in your own backyard instead of trying to dump it in the West. Some days it’s enough to tempt a person to consider making a go of things on their own — the Western States of America has a nice ring to it.Report

    • Avatar Will Truman says:

      First, the Western states generate and consume only about one-third as much electricity per capita as the East.

      That’s really interesting. Could you give me a source on that? Preferably one accessible/understandable enough for a relative ignoramus?

      Some days it’s enough to tempt a person to consider making a go of things on their own — the Western States of America has a nice ring to it.

      I may have to pick your brain on that. I have a story in mind that involves a WSA.Report

      • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

        > Could you give me a source on that?

        IIRC that’s about right. The U.S. D.O.E. has publications available on energy use per state. The East is largely mired in coal-based production. I can probably dig up a link if you really want to read a DOE report.Report

      • Avatar Michael Cain says:

        The EIA publishes annual generation statistics by state by fuel type going back to 1990. You can download the numbers as an Excel spreadsheet; I save that as a CSV file and do my summing up using a couple of Perl scripts. Recent Census Bureau population figures are available directly or from a variety of sources. Some of the changes over the years are dramatic. Nevada, for example, from 1990 to 2010, went from 75% coal-fired to 20% coal-fired, and cut their coal MWhs by more than half in the process. Some changes were almost non-existent. Indiana, one of my current favorite Eastern whipping boys, went from 96% coal-fired to 90% coal-fired over the same period, but increased their coal MWhs slightly. There are a number of reasons that the West uses less electricity.

        I have the beginnings of a political thriller blocked out in my head with the West pulling off a successful secession movement around 2035.Report

        • Avatar Kolohe says:

          Lotsa luck managing your water with that setup.Report

          • Avatar Michael Cain says:

            You think we’re getting water from outside the region now? Or that we can’t afford our water storage and management needs? Especially if we could stop Easterners from moving West in such numbers? Like I said, dump the abuse on me today.Report

            • Avatar Kolohe says:

              Right now, you have the big bad federal government serving as the heavy so everyone can hate it equally. Remove that, and you’re going to have some real fights on your hand between the cities, the ag reserves, the mountains, and the deserts, and those locales that straddle categories. And that’s not even counting the environmentalists. (who may not count as much, losing their Eastern allies and money)

              You’re other problem is going to be cultural-political. No way the Mormons join a polity where they’re going be outnumbered after losing their political allies in Catholic Midwesterners & Midatlantikers and Evangelical Southerners. Now, mind you, I could totally see them going their own way. But if Deseret goes, then Jefferson goes. And if Jefferson goes, Casacadia goes. The remaining Bear Flag Colorado Republic will be the biggest shotgun political marriage since the United Arab Republic and will probably last as long.

              And since you brought it up, you probably realize already that you’re of course going to need to stop the Mexicans as well as the Easterners. Think you can do that better than the current USA, with even less political will to do so?Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                Dude, the PAC 12 is just the first shot in the Bear Flag Colorado Republic!Report

              • Avatar Michael Cain says:

                I didn’t say there weren’t problems to solve; I just happen to think a substantial majority will eventually (say in the 25-50 year sort of time frame) agree that they would be better off as the Western States than as a minority portion of the United States. That, for example, Utah will decide it can do better dealing with Colorado, Wyoming, Nevada, and Idaho than they do with Massachusetts, New York, and Georgia. I think I can make arguments that in that time frame, the Eastern states are as likely as not to decide that they’re tired of dealing with the West.

                I am curious, though; you see the Mormons and the Evangelical Southerners (“Mormons are a cult”) as political allies?Report

              • Avatar Kolohe says:

                They’re both on the same exact side in the culture wars, have the same skepticism of ‘coastal liberal elites’*, and particularly for the suburban or otherwise upscale members of both groups** currently have the same exact view on economics and the role of government therein.

                ‘Political allies’ doesn’t mean ‘agree about everything’ or even ‘I’d be OK with my daughter marrying one’

                *which is probably just another way of saying kulturkreig

                **ie. not the 1% but the 20%

                “Utah will decide it can do better dealing with Colorado, Wyoming, Nevada, and Idaho”

                This more narrow grouping I can sort of see, though Colorado is mostly the odd man out. (and as we have talked about on Likko’s & Truman’s site, Northern Idaho goes with whatever Spokane does, not with the rest of Idaho)Report

          • Avatar James Hanley says:

            I’m with Michael here, Kolohi. I’m not following your thinking here.Report

    • Avatar Kimmi says:

      mercury regs. That’s what’s putting King Coal out of business around here.

      it may not be much, but you asked.Report

      • Avatar Michael Cain says:

        The last couple of EPA rules have fairly dramatically illustrated the differences between West and East on coal. The CSAPR rule on sulfur and nitrous oxides and fine particulates was a total non-event in the West — no Western power plants were affected — but has Texas and the East screaming that their economies will be ruined by it. The effects of the mercury rule are, while not identical, at least similar. Of 25 states that have challenged the EPA’s mercury rule, only four are from the West, and they’re all coal “exporters”; even the AGs there can’t completely ignore the coal companies. Locally, most Western states have already been forcing coal-fired generators to clean up their act, even before the EPA got around to it.

        Mercury is a complicated case. Chemical differences in the way that mercury occurs in Western and Eastern coal require different approaches to control. Western power plants that burn only Western coal can implement a single cleaning method (and to a significant extent, in response to state rules, have done so); Eastern power plants that burn a mix — having added Western coal to their fuel stream in the 1990s so they didn’t have to build such big SOx scrubbers — have to make much more substantial changes. Two mercury scrubbing systems; or go strictly to Eastern coal and add sulfur scrubbers and a mercury scrubber; or try to go strictly with Western coal, with no guarantees that Western mines and the two big railroads can deliver. One of the Texas generators was blunt about it — the only way they could meet the EPA rules was if they could get guaranteed delivery of large new amounts of Wyoming coal.Report

        • Avatar Kimmi says:

          we have the oldest power plants in the country around here. I don’t care so much about the actual regs, other than all the clean air act grandfathering (ours have NOT installed sulfur scrubbers)… I care about people dying, my city stinking, and 20 year olds in fine physical health collapsing on the streets due to pollution.Report

  25. Avatar Kris says:

    The key is to invest now to build up technology such that over time you can use economies of scale to make energy efficient cheaper. Once the efficient tech is cheap enough, the poorerplaces will begin to adopt it too.

    Thus, the claim that the developing countries will just use any dirty energy we don’t is not reason to believe that efficiency is not a part of the solution to the ameliorate problems caused by AGW. In the short term, developing countries are going to burn dirty energy. But we need to push ahead with efficient technology and renewable technology that the developing countries can eventually move to, too. This could happen fast as price drops in technology do sometimes happen unexpectedly quickly.Report

  26. Avatar Kris says:

    Interesting thread. I think I disagree with a lot of you about some pretty fundamental stuff. I have commented too much,

    I wish there wasn’t such a split in the economics profession. It would be nice to see a consensus of experts there tell us about the best way forward on AGW for the economy. I blame the Tyler Cowan’s of the world, but I’m sure many of you blame the Delongs and Krugmans. Personally, I think the Krugmans and Delongs of this world have gained some authority after showing the flaws “in growth through austerity” and their side has all the real economists. But I’m not smart enough to prove that to you.

    I am glad you all admit that AGW is a massive problem.

    Baby steps.Report

    • Avatar James Hanley says:

      “Personally, I think the Krugmans and Delongs of this world have gained some authority after showing the flaws “in growth through austerity” and their side has all the real economists”

      Well, Krugman appears to have cooked his chart on Estonia, which in fact is showing that “austerity” (not really that austere, but as Krugmam measures it) doesn’t kill economic recovery. It’s doing as well as other recovering states, with much less debt. As to having all the “real” economists, it’s my impression that people don’t make much effort to really understand the economic debates but just the side whose proposals appeal to their preconceived beliefs and based on that conclude that side has the better economists. All sides do this, liberals, conservatives and libertarians. I met a gubernatorial candidate last year who told me he didn’t like economists, except one. I managed to refrain from responding, “Oh, you looked until you found the one that said what you wanted to hear?” he then proceeded to give the most economically illiterate talk I’ve ever had the misfortune to have to sit silently through.Report