Techno-Optimistic Environmentalism

Reframing the dismal science of ecology for the 21st century

In their 2004 essay "The Death of Environmentalism," activists Michael Shellenberger and Ted Nordhaus famously declared, "We have become convinced that modern environmentalism, with all of its unexamined assumptions, outdated concepts and exhausted strategies, must die so that something new can live."

What killed environmentalism? Man-made global warming. The pair argued that the problem of global warming is too big to be handled by green incrementalism. Switching to bioethanol and compact fluorescent lighting simply won't do. Something much bigger is needed. And they argued that modern environmentalism was not up to the task.

They blamed environmentalism's political ineffectiveness on the fact that environmentalists were perceived as being little more than another special interest group. In addition, the two excoriated movement activists for their "failure to articulate an inspiring and positive vision." Environmentalists turned off possible supporters because they were invested in telling the public doom-and-gloom "I have a nightmare" stories rather than delivering "I have a dream" speeches.

For Shellenberger and Nordhaus, the huge problem of global warming offers an opportunity to escape the green ghetto. Global warming is a poverty problem, a jobs problem, a food problem, an industrial problem, and an energy problem as well as an ecological problem. In their analysis, when environmentalists called for raising corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) standards, they didn't seek solutions that would also work for industry and unions. This political cluelessness means that CAFE standards have not been raised for over 30 years.

Shellenberger and Nordhaus have a model in mind for renovating environmentalism and making it politically relevant. That model is modern conservatism. They praised conservative foundations and think tanks for their alleged single-mindedness in getting the public to adopt their values and programs over the past 40 years. They urged their green confreres to mimic that success by adopting a similar single-mindedness on global warming. But above all, they correctly noted, "If environmentalists hope to become more than a special interest we must start framing our proposals around core American values."

Shellenberger and Nordhaus have now launched an effort to expand the frame of political environmentalism to encompass core American values. Earlier this year the dynamic duo issued a new book, Break Through: From the Death of Environmentalism to the Politics of Possibility, in which they attempt to outline a positive vision for the future. Shellenberger and Nordhaus identify an emerging faultline that they argue will divide the environmentalist movement of the 21st century. On one side stand the traditional anti-immigration, anti-globalization, and anti-growth greens. They believe these neo-Malthusians "will seek to establish and enforce the equivalent of an international caste system in which the poor of the developing world are consigned to energy poverty in perpetuity." Eternal limits to growth for the already impoverished.

One the other hopeful side, according to Nordhaus and Shellenberger, stand "those who believe that there is room enough for all of us to live secure and free lives. It will be pro-growth, progressive, and internationalist." Nordhaus and Shellenberger see this new positive environmentalism as embracing markets and technological innovation in order to create prosperity and protect the natural world. Central to their positive pro-growth version of environmentalism is the development of cheap low-carbon energy technologies. Not only will such technologies prevent dangerous global warming, but they will also lift billions of people out of poverty by the end of the century. But how to get there?

In a new paper, "Fast, Clean, & Cheap: Cutting Global Warming's Gordian Knot," to be published in the Harvard Law and Policy Review in January, they argue that traditional regulatory environmentalism won't solve the problem of cooling the planet while producing abundant energy. They accept that the United States must cut its emissions of carbon dioxide by 80 percent—and the world must by 50 percent—by 2050 in order to forestall the possibility of dangerous interference with the climate. Specifically, they argue that proposals that aim to cut emissions by setting a price on carbon emissions (the chief global warming gas produced by burning fossil fuels) will fail politically.

First, they point out that countries that have signed the Kyoto Protocol have essentially failed to cut their carbon dioxide emissions. They then refer to voluminous evidence that Americans in all walks of life strongly oppose higher energy prices and taxes. They cite a study suggesting that the price of carbon dioxide would have to rise to $190 per ton in order to induce the U.S. to cut carbon dioxide emissions by 90 percent. This would increase the price of electricity two-and-half-fold. While such an increase would be politically unacceptable in the United States, it would be ruinous in developing world. "Given that increasing energy use and consumption are highly correlated with longer life spans and higher living standards in developing nations," they write, "a high carbon price would increase energy prices and thus represent a major obstacle to economic development for poor countries."

So what they do recommend? A massive government-financed clean energy research and development program. "We are proposing a ten-year, $300 billion public investment into accelerating the transition to a clean energy economy," they write. This nets out to $30 billion annually. They liken such a program to the government support for creating the Internet, subsidizing the development of microchips in the 1960s, or launching the Apollo moonshot effort. Rather than inflict excessive economic pain by boosting the price of energy, they instead recommend handing out far more politically palatable research contracts and subsidies to universities and corporations. The goal is to create new low and no-carbon energy technologies that can economically compete with cheap fossil fuels.

Let's set aside until another time whether or not their examples of government R&D success are real and germane. Government can certainly also hinder technological development. Breaking up the government mandated telephone monopoly in the 1970s was also crucial to the eventual creation and spread of the Internet. Nordhaus and Shellenberger correctly note, "Energy is arguably the least innovative sector of the economy." However, they fail to acknowledge that energy innovation is retarded, in part, because it is one of the most heavily regulated industrial sectors in the United States and the rest of the world. But again, let that go for now.

What's fascinating is that people who usually are demonized by old-fashioned neo-Malthusian environmentalists are also proposing massive government-financed clean energy research and development programs. For example, in his new book, Cool It, skeptical environmentalist Bjorn Lomborg, advocates that .05 percent of global GDP—about $25 billion—be invested annually on the clean energy R&D. In addition, the Bush Administration is promoting the Asia Pacific Partnership for Clean Development and Climate. The six countries—U.S., China, India, Japan, South Korea and Australia—pledged to "cooperate on the development, diffusion, deployment and transfer of longer- term transformational energy technologies that will promote economic growth while enabling significant reductions in greenhouse gas intensities." The signatories identified promising clean energy technologies such hydrogen, nanotechnologies, advanced biotechnologies, next-generation nuclear fission, and fusion energy. The Asia Pacific Partnership agreement does not make any specific R&D funding commitments, but it does seem to fit within Shellenberger's and Nordhaus' notion of a positive technologically innovative energy vision.

Shellenberger's and Nordhaus' naïve trust in wise government bureaucrats guiding technological innovation is problematic, to say the least. On the other hand, they clearly understand that conventional environmentalist demands for sacrifice and deprivation are not a winning political strategy. "The energy challenge has been framed thus far as a forced choice between poverty and environmental ruin," they write. This framing makes ecology the true dismal science. In contrast, their environmental vision, in which human creativity expressed as technological innovation solves global warming and other pressing human problems, is most welcome.

Ronald Bailey is Reason's science correspondent. His most recent book, Liberation Biology: The Scientific and Moral Case for the Biotech Revolution, is available from Prometheus Books.

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  • Guy Montag||

    So I can not count on your support for federal and State funding to add a 440-Six Pack to my 1972 Charger? Or even the Honda Generator Powered Segway Project?

    Guessing the renewable and organic sperm oil project is out too :(

  • ed||

    We're now entering the "shakedown" phase of the debate:

    UNITED NATIONS (AP) -- Floods, droughts and other climate disasters will rob millions of children of the decent meals and schools they need unless rich nations pony up $86 billion by 2015 to help the poor adapt to global warming, an expert panel has warned.

    The U.S. government needs to cover $40 billion of that spending, which will "strengthen the capacity of vulnerable people" to cope with climate-related risks, according to the report commissioned by the U.N. Development Program.

    "The countries of the world that are the principal culprits, if you wish, for creating this problem in the first place need to act strongly to safeguard the future of those that have done nothing to cause this problem but are the most vulnerable," Kjorven said.

  • Guy Montag||

    And don't forget about those 150 people who almost froze to death due to the global warming-caused sinking of the Explorer Antartica.

  • ||

    Floods, droughts and other climate disasters will rob millions of children of the decent meals and schools they need unless rich nations pony up $86 billion by 2015 to help the poor adapt to global warming, an expert panel has warned.

    YUR AHL GUNNA DIE!!! "Yes, just sign there on the check. Very good. What? No, no, none of this has actually happened. It's purely speculative and may never happen. Why?"

    So, the choice now is who is going to screw us the least? Spiffy. Talk about your race to the bottom.

    The lefty-greens or the neo-con greens? The neo-greens will have this all taken care of through their infintite and infallible wisdom, right after they get that whole democracy thingy in Iraq thing ironed out.

  • ||

    UNITED NATIONS (AP) -- Floods, droughts and other climate disasters will rob millions of children of the decent meals and schools they need unless rich nations pony up $86 billion by 2015 to help the poor adapt to global warming, an expert panel has warned.

    Most of us at H&R saw this coming. From now on, EVERY natural disaster will be touted as proof of and caused by global warming. The fact that natural disasters were occuring long before the industrial revolution will be ignored. The fact that complete, reliable records of natural disaters prior to 1945(?) don't exist will not ever enter into the debates. From 2000 C.E. forward ALL NATURAL DISASTERS ARE CAUSED BY GLOBAL WARMING is the default position.

    I'm not a climate change denier, by any means. I'm just pointing out propoganda is coming our way. Lovers of truth and reasonable debate, be forewarned!

  • Russ 2000||

    Core American value number one: leave me alone.

  • Marcvs||

    Oooh, so Mother Nature needs a favor?! Well maybe she should have thought of that when she was besetting us with droughts and floods and poison monkeys! Nature started the fight for survival, and now she wants to quit because she's losing. Well I say, hard cheese.

  • Franklin Harris||

    Most of us at H&R saw this coming. From now on, EVERY natural disaster will be touted as proof of and caused by global warming.



    In fact, when global average temperatures inevitably start dropping again, that will be global warming's fault, too.

  • Guy Montag||

    From now on, EVERY natural disaster will be touted as proof of and caused by global warming.

    Are you getting to this issue late or something? This has been going on for a few years.

    Also, upper-atmospheric ozone never existed before the industrial revolution. Try to find a record of it! Industry is keeping us safe from skin cancer, but do these wierdos care about that? noooooooooooooo

  • ||

    Marcvs, Mother Nature (or Mother Earth if you prefer) will be just fine. She can be quite bitchy however towards species who use up natural resources and/or generate waste at an unsustainable pace.

    Unless of course Wolf and/or Biederman hit the planet first.

  • ed||

    My greater concerns lie about 5 billion years into the future (give or take) when the Andromeda galaxy starts to collide with the Milky Way. Shit will hit the fan, I predict.
    Nice light show, though.

  • ||

    J sub D

    It is most ridiculous when it comes to hurricanes.

    The claims that recent storm seasons have had more numerous and intense storms is laughable when one considers we 1) were completely unable to get any kind of accurate count before the advent of weather satellites in the 70s and 2) None of the storms of the 04 and 05 seasons (except Katrina) were notably severe.

    This is not to say that things mightn't change in the future but for the most part it is much to early to be blaming present day weather phenomena on GW.

  • ||

    Guy,
    Why the heck are you bringing up ozone? The ozone layer thing was a case where the environmentalists were right and global action solved the problem. The major difference is that CFCs are much easier to replace in use than CO2 is to replace as an emission*. Also, CO2 emissions, due to energy use, is ubiquitous, CFCs, not so much.

    Question for Ron. You fault the environmentalist for being negative Nellies and just saying "We're all doomed" without viable solutions. Let's assume, for a thought experiment, that AGW is a fact? What solutions would you offer?

    * There are countless potential propellants, while the vast majority of carbon free energy sources are crazy expensive.

  • ||

    The primary driver of environmentalism is social competition, not scientific concern, so I don't really see structure of the debate to change.

    Capital "E" environmentalist could not care less about the environment. Instead, they see it as a vehicle to justify the social and political domination of those who produce the material goods of life by those who merely articulate. Prior to the 60's, the same people made the argument that industrial technology was good and great but that only if managed by the political articulates could everyone enjoy its benefits. When they proved unable to deliver on that promise, they turned to vilifying technology and claiming they needed political power in order to protect people from the threats poised by modern technology. Environmentalism is the political result of this dynamic.

    These Environmentalist will never get behind pragmatic solutions to solve environmental problems because they need the problems to justify their lust for power.

    The rest of us are just going to have to fix things while they are not looking.

  • ||

    My greater concerns lie about 5 billion years into the future (give or take) when the Andromeda galaxy starts to collide with the Milky Way. Shit will hit the fan, I predict.
    Nice light show, though.


    Obviously, increased CO2 levels from burning fossil fuels caused an increase in our atmospheric density, which upset the Spotted-Owl-fragile gravitational balance between the two galaxies.

    In other words, it's Exxon's fault, gimme money.

  • Dave Horowitz||

    UNITED NATIONS (AP) -- Floods, droughts and other climate disasters will rob millions of children of the decent meals and schools they need unless rich nations pony up $86 billion by 2015 to help the poor adapt to global warming, an expert panel has warned.

    The U.S. government needs to cover $40 billion of that spending, which will "strengthen the capacity of vulnerable people" to cope with climate-related risks, according to the report commissioned by the U.N. Development Program.

    "The countries of the world that are the principal culprits, if you wish, for creating this problem in the first place need to act strongly to safeguard the future of those that have done nothing to cause this problem but are the most vulnerable," Kjorven said.


    If this is all we have to do and then no one brings up global warming ever again, then I say do it.

    Same thing for slavery reparations.

  • ||

    The claims that recent storm seasons have had more numerous and intense storms is laughable when one considers we 1) were completely unable to get any kind of accurate count before the advent of weather satellites in the 70s and 2) None of the storms of the 04 and 05 seasons (except Katrina) were notably severe.

    Not to mention the dire predictions of how Katrina was only the beginning of the end because of GLOBAL WARMING. The following year was supposed to be a hurricane-erific apocolypse. A light season with couple of cat 3's and no landfalls. Not much to talk about this year either.

    Funny that.

  • ||

    Talk about bait and switch! The headline is "Techno-Optimistic Environmentalism Reframing the dismal science of ecology for the 21st century"

    But when you read the article, it's the same old Ron Bailey realism, with no quick, easy, painless solutions! Ron's right, of course, as he usually is (well, 57% of the time), but I don't see any "techno-optimism" here.

  • ||

    All these comments and no one has called Ron a poopyhead yet... I, for one, am ashamed of all our trolls.

    Dave Horowitz,

    Man, that'd be awesome. 86 billion with the codicil we get to punch any hippie who brings it up sounds like the deal of a lifetime to me.

    Or, you know, the world's poor could start walking inland in the next few years.

  • ||

    In fact, when global average temperatures inevitably start dropping again, that will be global warming's fault, too.

    Oh yes. Cold spells will also be caused by Global Warming.

  • Guy Montag||

    Mo,

    Why the heck are you bringing up ozone?

    Because, in spite of all of that nonsense you typed, it was yet another bit of baseless nonsense foisted on industry by the envirosocialistas. That's why.

    Now, prove it existed before 1900.

  • Minion of URKOBOLD||

    SUGARFREE IS A POOPYHEAD. IN FACT, HE SHALL HENCEFORTH BE KNOWN AS HIGH FRUCTOSE KORN SYRUP FREE.

  • ||

    Are you getting to this issue late or something? This has been going on for a few years.

    Read again Guy. The post said From 2000 C.E. forward... Scanning vice reading does that stuff to me too.

  • ||

    Shannon Love,ob
    Too true!

    Like so many "moralists" they need an opposing force to fight against, otherwise their very existence is pointless. It doesn't seem to matter if the person in question is an [E]nvironmentalist, an anti-drug crusader or simply bent on converting everyone to kneel and obey those pesky God and Jesus fellows the tactics are the same and equally repugnant.

  • Peder||

    Mo,
    Last year's ozone whole was of record size. This year it has shrunk back to average. Please help me see how this is an example of a solved problem?

  • ||

    You're not the boss of me!

    Wait... aw crap.

  • ||

    * There are countless potential propellants, while the vast majority of carbon free energy sources are crazy expensive.

    My personal propellant favorite is Nitrous Oxide (N2O). You can guess why.

  • ||

    Once again for the 1000th time Ron you fail to acknowledge that many studies show mosquitos in Sri Lanka...oh crap, wrong thread.

  • Ventifact||

    Guy-

    Don't be insipid. Historical science is more subtle than that. Or do you allow no space for inference?

  • ||

    These Environmentalist will never get behind pragmatic solutions to solve environmental problems because they need the problems to justify their lust for power.

    The rest of us are just going to have to fix things while they are not looking.


    QFT!

  • Guy Montag||

    Scanning vice reading does that stuff to me too.

    You shall NOT trick me into breaking tradition!

    Also, my favorite propellant is C8H18. Then again, I am so into organic movement.

  • ||

    My greater concerns lie about 5 billion years into the future (give or take) when the Andromeda galaxy starts to collide with the Milky Way. Shit will hit the fan, I predict.
    Nice light show, though.


    As my recent expedition has proven, we only have 20,000 years until the radiation from the galactic core explosion reaches us, so when are we going to explore moving the Earth away from the galactic plane?

  • ||

    Peder

    When the ozone hole was discovered it was due to instruments that had just been put on line.

    In other words there has never been a time when an ozone hole was not observed.

    Since the discovery the means of observation have become better and it apparently gets bigger and smaller in cycles.

    There is every reason to believe that the ozone hole is a completely natural phenomenon unrelated, or nearly so, to human activity.

  • ||

    As my recent expedition has proven, we only have 20,000 years until the radiation from the galactic core explosion reaches us, so when are we going to explore moving the Earth away from the galactic plane?

    Those tanjit puppeteers won't come down on their price for a planetary GP engine! Screw them and their fleet of worlds! Friggin' show-offs.

  • Guy Montag||

    IB,

    In other words there has never been a time when an ozone hole was not observed.

    Um, it was not observed at all before it was discovered, i.e., there is a whole bunch of time when it was not observed.

    If you made a typo please ignore this post.

  • ||

    There is every reason to believe that the ozone hole is a completely natural phenomenon unrelated, or nearly so, to human activity.

    But how are we supposed to make money on that?

    Once we fit you with your new hairshirt you won't be able to post stuff like that anymore.

  • ||

    Peder,
    Stratospheric temperatures were at all time lows as well*. Humans aren't the only cause of depletion.

    Guy,
    Prove to me the world existed before 1850? There's no one alive from back then and for all we know, everything on this planet could have been created just as it was, people's memories and all, the day I was born. Prove me wrong!
    [/stoner in philosophy class]

    * Stratospheric temperatures are not positively correlated with global warming, fyi.

  • Guy Montag||

    so when are we going to explore moving the Earth away from the galactic plane?

    I propose we use a galactic hydroplane at a cost of only $86 billion dollars.

  • Guy Montag||

    Prove to me the world existed before 1850?

    [fires an authentic US Revolution era musket into Mo]

    I am finished with your sillyness.

  • R C Dean||

    There are countless potential propellants,

    Personally, I'm a fan of smokeless powder.

  • Franklin Harris||

    My greater concerns lie about 5 billion years into the future (give or take) when the Andromeda galaxy starts to collide with the Milky Way. Shit will hit the fan, I predict.
    Nice light show, though.



    No worries. I'm sure a nearby gamma ray burst will fry us all way before then. Or turn us all in Hulks.

  • ||

    Prove to me the world existed before 1850? There's no one alive from back then and for all we know, everything on this planet could have been created just as it was, people's memories and all, the day I was born. Prove me wrong!

    The measurable decay of certain carbon isotopes...

  • ||

    She Hulk is hot. As are many green-skinned women.

  • ||

  • ||

    Guy Montag

    Um, it was not observed at all before it was discovered, i.e., there is a whole bunch of time when it was not observed.



    You're quite right. That is what I meant to say.

    Just me no type so gud.

  • Miggs||

    A post by Ron Bailey concerning global warming and joe is nowhere to be found? What the hell is going on around here?

  • ||

    There are countless potential propellants,

    Personally, I'm a fan of smokeless powder.


    The deoderant and hairspray industries have issues with that. Or so I hear.

  • ||

    No worries. I'm sure a nearby gamma ray burst will fry us all way before then. Or turn us all in Hulks.

    That could have it's advantages

  • Guy Montag||

    Oh, according to Dr. Carl Sagan, the only people who depleated ozone would impact were caucasians.

    Oddly, the UV detectors around the USA never detected an increase in UV penetration to the surface.

    That ozone chloroflurocarbon(sp?) scare was the perfect enviro prank: make up an effect, get industry to waste a lot of money and when nothing happened claim victory!

  • ed||

    I've done some research and I am alarmed to report that it's later than you think. Andromeda will begin its collision with the Milky Way in three billion years, not five. We...must...act...now!

  • ||

    A post by Ron Bailey concerning global warming and joe is nowhere to be found? What the hell is going on around here?

    joe doesn't sleep. He waits ...

  • ||

    Years of research and of warnings (increasingly shrill), yet the data just never seem to confirm its existence. So it seems to me that 'global warming' is the modern equivalent of the infamous Orson Wells "War of the Worlds" radio broadcast.

    Someday we'll look back and laugh at all the fools who took it seriously. Except for those poor bastards in Grover's Mill who got roasted.

  • Marcvs||

    tbone:

    Sorry, I often forget that not everyone will catch a random reference to Mr. Burns from the Simpsons.

  • Paul||

    unless rich nations pony up $86 billion by

    What complete coke-addled bureaucrat retard camee up with this figure?

  • Marcvs||

    A post by Ron Bailey concerning global warming and joe is nowhere to be found? What the hell is going on around here?

    I've been thinking that myself. Either he's dead, he gave up, or he's found more productive ways to spend his time. Either way, good for him!

  • Paul||

    Core American value number one: leave me alone.

    Core American Value Number Two: gimme gimme gimme (often trumps "leave me alone")

    Core American Value Number Three: make someone else pay for it (see "gimme gimme gimme")

    Core American Value Number Four: The government will take care of it (see: "gimme gimme gimme" and "make someone else pay for it")

  • ||

    Sorry for being late to the game. Mo asks "Let's assume, for a thought experiment, that AGW is a fact? What solutions would you offer?"

    It's a good question but before I can answer you first have to tell me what the ramifications of AGW are. Is the earth 5 degrees C warmer? Is it 10 degrees C warmer? Is Mt Everest the only remaining land mass? What are the parameters of the question and in what timeframe are they manifested?

    The problems I see are:
    - civilizations have moved from coastal regions and back to coastal regions for millennia, there's no reason that can't be the case again if sea levels rise more than can be accommodated by the type of gates that surround Holland.
    -------> cost is an issue but the "prevention" of AGW is not without cost either and those costs are never discussed
    - the premise of solving AGW is that we're burning fossil fuels that emit CO2 into the atmosphere causing a greenhouse effect BUT we'll largely run out of oil in 50 years so why do we need to destroy our economy to stop emitting CO2 now when it will stop by default in the relatively near future (or is that why we can't wait....)
    - how did we decide that the current climate is the "correct" climate?
    - how will we compensate those whose lot in life would be improved with a warmer climate if we prevent that warmer climate?
    -------> the underlying assumption that hasn't been tested or validated is that a warmer climate would be bad
    - the AGW effort (for lack of a better word) is so full of alarmism that it can't be believed
    -------> it has all of the trappings of a con (act now! today only! great things await that we won't live long enough to see! etc)
    - what metrics will we use to determine if our efforts are leading us in the right direction?
    -------> who really wants to embark on economy destroying effort only to find out 50 years from now that we were wrong
    --------------> what are the short-term indicators that tell us we're getting results (and it can't be CO2 concentrations because there's no proof that CO2 levels are a problem)

    In the end it's just economics. The cost of doing something now versus the cost of doing something later. Sometimes it's cheaper to act early, sometimes it's cheaper to act later. But, in cases where there are so many unknowns it's generally better to act later after spending time and effort resolving the unknowns and determining what additional technology is needed. What's the rush? Did Global Cooling start in 1998?

  • ||

    Between now and 2015 natural disasters will kill far more people than global warming. Earthquakes, volcanos, tsunamis, hurricanes, tornados, huge floods.

    In the past, there were radical and sudden shifts that wiped out species and food supplies. Global warming caused by carbon emissions will be the least of our worries.

  • src||

    Like Curly, I'm sorry for being late.

    Having read these posts -- why do folks who don't have any sources to cite feel so strongly that global warming is a myth?

    The NCAR/DOE Parallel Climate Model has average world temperatures increasing 0.9% in the past century from the 1890-1919 average. Most of this (~90%) is due to human-produced greenhouse gases and sulfates. There's pretty unequivocal evidence of quicker melting in Arctic ice, which can be expected to raise sea levels. The IPCC's latest climate report says it's "highly likely" that future typhoons and hurricanes will become more intense with higher sea temperatures.
    http://www.ncar.ucar.edu/research/climate/

    These aren't politicians, they're scientists at a national lab. Nobody's perfectly objective in this debate, but peer review is a great way to keep scientists honest (as opposed to, say, "skeptic" think-tankers.)

    Curly -- reducing CO2 shouldn't "destroy our economy." There's a lot of money in green construction, wind power, biodiesel, and so on. It's new and increasingly popular technology; it should be an economic opportunity.

    Douglas -- natural disasters are precisely the danger of global warming. Storms, floods, and droughts. I think part of the reason some Americans don't feel a sense of urgency is that most of us don't live in shantytowns below sea level. We're extraordinarily resistant to the idea of doing something for somebody else.

  • SD/2||

    "We're extraordinarily resistant to the idea of doing something for somebody else."

    This is Reason. They see this as a virtue here.

  • ||

    Curly -- reducing CO2 shouldn't "destroy our economy." There's a lot of money in green construction, wind power, biodiesel, and so on. It's new and increasingly popular technology; it should be an economic opportunity.

    All of which are economically non-competitive to existing fuels. It's an economic opportunity for those building it, it's an economic drain on those using it and we're an energy intensive society. Check your power bill, double it, does that make a difference in your finances?

    The NCAR/DOE Parallel Climate Model has average world temperatures increasing 0.9% in the past century from the 1890-1919 average. Most of this (~90%) is due to human-produced greenhouse gases and sulfates.

    There is no scientific basis for this claim, the ice core data shows the converse of the "accepted" relationship between CO2 and temperature. How do you explain the highest temps in the modern record being in the 1930's with that "fact"? But I must admit, your implication that the UN's IPCC isn't political still has me ROTFLMAO.

  • src||

    The highest temperatures on record aren't in the 1930's. The temperature anomaly (compared to 19th century) is -0.3 to -0.2 in the 30's. Compare the last seven years, where the temperature anomaly has been above +0.4.

    As for the ice core, the glacial record shows that CO2 levels cause higher temperatures (not the other way round.) Here's an article from Nature:
    http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v347/n6289/pdf/347139a0.pdf

    I'm more than willing to admit that the IPCC is political -- at least the "summaries for policymakers," which are the only part that UN officials actually had a hand in writing. On the other hand, you'd be hard pressed to find any atmospheric research not funded by a "political" organization, if only the NSF.

  • ||

    "A post by Ron Bailey concerning global warming and joe is nowhere to be found? What the hell is going on around here?"

    I'll try to make up for it, but my bus was late.

    "There is no scientific basis for this claim, the ice core data shows the converse of the "accepted" relationship between CO2 and temperature."

    I explained this to you before. In most cases CO2 rises as a result of a feedback loop of temperatures and gasses; wherein gasses follow but sustain a temperature rise. Rarely do greenhouse gasses get a sudden injection; where temperature rise follows the increase in gasses. We are now clearly getting a sudden injection of CO2 who's isotope signature can only be the result of burning fossil fuels.

    "How do you explain the highest temps in the modern record being in the 1930's with that "fact"?

    You are confusing the U.S. Temp record with the Global one. In the U.S. 48 states 1934 was just barely the warmest year on record. Not so for the global record. Compare:
    http://www.hprcc.unl.edu/nebraska/year2005-us-temperature-graph.gif
    http://patriotpost.us/news/noaa-temp-record.asp

  • ||

    I can't access your nature article.

    However, these will demonstrate the problem some of us "skeptics" have about the global warming scare-a-thon:

    First, we find that all is well with the ice core data. It proves what we knew it would prove!

    650,000 years of greenhouse gas concentrations
    "First of all, the results demonstrate clearly that the relationship between climate and CO2 that had been deduced from the Vostok core appears remarkably robust. This is despite a significant change in the patterns of glacial-interglacial changes prior to 400,000 years ago. The 'EPICA challenge' was laid down a few months ago for people working on carbon cycle models to predict whether this would be the case, and mostly the predictions were right on the mark." (http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2005/11/650000-years-of-greenhouse-gas-concentrations/)

    Then we see the explanation that, well, ummm, the warming started 800 years before the rise in CO2 but it was a long warming trend and CO2 had to have contributed because CO2 is bad!

    What does the lag of CO2 behind temperature in ice cores tell us about global warming?
    "This is an issue that is often misunderstood in the public sphere and media, so it is worth spending some time to explain it and clarify it. At least three careful ice core studies have shown that CO2 starts to rise about 800 years (600-1000 years) after Antarctic temperature during glacial terminations. These terminations are pronounced warming periods that mark the ends of the ice ages that happen every 100,000 years or so.

    Does this prove that CO2 doesn't cause global warming? The answer is no.

    The reason has to do with the fact that the warmings take about 5000 years to be complete. The lag is only 800 years. All that the lag shows is that CO2 did not cause the first 800 years of warming, out of the 5000 year trend. The other 4200 years of warming could in fact have been caused by CO2, as far as we can tell from this ice core data.

    The 4200 years of warming make up about 5/6 of the total warming. So CO2 could have caused the last 5/6 of the warming, but could not have caused the first 1/6 of the warming." (http://www.realclimate.org/index.php?p=13)

    Then, of course, we have the Mann "Hockey Stick" graph that formed the basis of the alarmism in the late 1990's and was featured prominently in the IPCC reports. It has since been discredited but you'll still find it in the back of the IPCC reports. It would have been discredited earlier but, for some unknown reason, Mann would never release his tax-payer funded methodology. I can't think of a reason why he wouldn't have...

    Hockey Stick, 1998-2005, R.I.P.
    "The "hockey stick" representation of the temperature behavior of the past 1,000 years is broken, dead. Although already reeling from earlier analyses aimed at its midsection, the knockout punch was just delivered by Nature magazine. Thus the end of this palooka: that the climate of the past millennium was marked by about 900 years of nothing and then 100 years of dramatic temperature rise caused by people. The saga of the "hockey stick" will be remembered as a remarkable lesson in how fanaticism can temporarily blind a large part of the scientific community and allow unproven results to become "mainstream" thought overnight.

    The "Hockey Stick" is dead. This once-feared icon of global warming purported to show annual average temperature of the Northern Hemisphere for the past 1,000 years. It was derived from the climatic information that is stored in a variety of climate-sensitive or climate "proxy" data records-things such as tree rings, coral banding records, and sediment cores. It's called the "hockey stick" because its long handle corresponds to 900 years (from 1000 to 1900) of little temperature variation, and its blade represents 100 years (1900 to 1999) of rapid temperature rise (Figure 1). The "hockey stick" made its debut in the journal Geophysical Research Letters in 1999 in a paper by Michael Mann, Raymond Bradley, and Malcolm Hughes that built upon a 1998 paper by the same authors in the journal Nature which detailed the methodology for creating a proxy temperature reconstruction." (http://www.worldclimatereport.com/index.php/2005/03/03/hockey-stick-1998-2005-rip/)

    And, I'd be remiss if I didn't point out the global cooling that occurred between 1940 and 1975. Cooling that amounted to 0.1C/decade and that formed the basis for the early 70's predictions of a coming Ice Age. You'll note that the CO2 that causes global warming was increasing in those decades.

    If you believe that the earth is an equilibrium system then isn't it reasonable to assume that the various parameters of the system would fluctuate around some mean? It was cooler for several decades so is it unreasonable to expect warmer temperatures now?

    Lastly, global warming "skeptics" don't claim that the earth hasn't experienced a warming trend over the last decade. The data is what the data is. The debate, if there actually were a debate, is whether or not man is causing that warming, whether or not we need to take corrective measures if we are causing the warming, and quite frankly, whether or not we can actually do something about it if we are causing it. It doesn't help that the group arguing "we must act NOW" has been wrong so many times in the past and that the methods they propose fits with their political agenda. Where would we be if we had acted in 1973 at the behest of the same groups when they said we were heading into an ice age? Why the rush to take such drastic measures?

  • Social_lib||

    Funny to see libertarians bending over backward to be skeptical of the science of global warming in order to justify continued belief in their long-debunked economic theories.

  • Neu Mejican||

    Re: feedback loops/global cooling.
    I just posted in a similar discussion on an older thread.

    http://reason.com/blog/show/123579.html#839780

  • ed||

    Yep. And now this:

    Fever Outbreak Linked to Climate Change
    By MARIA CHENG (AP Medical Writer)
    From Associated Press
    November 28, 2007 1:03 PM EST
    LONDON - An outbreak in Europe of an obscure disease from Africa is raising concerns that globalization and climate change are combining to pose a health threat to the West.

    Nearly 300 cases of chikungunya fever, a virus that previously has been common only in Africa and Asia, were reported in Italy - where only isolated cases of the disease had been seen in the past.

    While the outbreak was largely the result of stronger trade and travel ties, some experts believe it is a sign of how global warming is creating new breeding grounds for diseases long confined to subtropical climates.


    Next: Missing white women linked to climate change.

  • ||

    Intellectual capital makes us rich, a rich ecology keeps us rich. The first part must be made explicit to the public by economist and not environmentalist. We can be rich and sustainable. In fact - the two are positively related given 6.7 billion on the planet. But again - it is the task of economists to explain that. Saudi and Russia and oil vs Silicon Valley, Hollywood, Wallstreet and creativity

    There is no need for R&D subsidizing when you can give incentives to the market. Same goal - more distributed and non-intrusive - less regulations. You do not have to punish existing polluters with tax. Cut their subsidies and transfer them the clean kWh - irrelevant where it comes from (solar, geothermal or something new..). Or at least put as much money into clean technologies as we put, or have put, into dirty ones. Now it is really worth - libertarian or not. The economy is after all build upon the ecology and not the other way around.

    The same applies to agriculture and the farm bill. Stop subsidizing rich people more than poor people appeals to everybody.

    The environmentalists (aka scientists) have done their job. Everybody talks about civil right bills - although there is not much agreement yet. It is now up politicians and economists. And who better to explain that we do not depend on natural resources for real riches than libertarians? We can live non-intrusive ecological and economical lives.

    Fortunately, entrepreneurs are always ready for the new paradigm shift.

  • src||

    Glad somebody brought this up -- at the very least, government shouldn't be providing perverse incentives (subsidizing oil, coal, American farmers.)

    Whether that will be enough, I'm not sure. The US isn't the only player in the game; as developing countries get richer (a good thing) carbon emissions are going to rise much faster than they have. China in particular has resisted US attempts to meddle in its environment, saying essentially, "You do it first." We have to do it first, maybe with both a tax and a massive R&D push. People like to compare the energy challenge with the space race -- I think it's probably more like the New Deal. Big, intrusive, risky acts of government may (unfortunately) be the only way to deal with a rapidly unfolding problem. We don't know what will work, so we try lots of things at once.

  • Sean W. Malone||

    Funny to see libertarians bending over backward to be skeptical of the science of global warming in order to justify continued belief in their long-debunked economic theories.

    Aside from the fact that the skepticism has to do with the cause, as Curly said earlier...

    Long-debunked?


    Whhhhhhhaaaaaa? I'm sorry, I can't seem to recall the free and fair exchange of goods and services in a mutually beneficial way, without force having been debunked.

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