Cash for Climate

How to get your money's worth on climate change geoengineering

Let's say the world will spend $250 billion a year for the next 10 years to minimize the suffering caused by climate change. What's the best bargain we can get for the money?

The Copenhagen Consensus Center (CCC), a think-tank in Denmark headed by Skeptical Environmentalist Bjorn Lomborg, has commissioned 21 papers from leading climate experts and economists to answer that very question. Over the coming month, the CCC will be looking at the benefits and costs of proposed actions in four different areas: climate engineering, cutting future greenhouse gas emissions, economic growth, and green energy technologies. Each topic will feature a main research paper accompanied by a series of critiques by other experts called perspective papers.

At the end of the process, the CCC will assemble a panel of five leading economists, three of them Nobelists, to rank all of the proposed solutions as to their relative cost-effectiveness. This ranking process is the CCC's specialty—it has twice used this technique to rank order various proposals for solving some of the world's biggest problems, including disease eradication, sanitation, economic development, malnutrition, and the oppression of women.

This week, the CCC kicked off the process with the high-tech topic of climate engineering, starting with a paper by J. Eric Bickel, an assistant professor at the University of Texas at Austin in Operations Research and a fellow in the Center for International Energy and Environmental Policy, and Lee Lane, a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, D.C., where he also serves as the co-director of the Institute's Geoengineering Project. Bickel and Lane accept that global warming poses some risks to humanity and use cost-benefit analysis to weigh various proposals for engineering global climate. The chief question that they address is how much research and development funding should be devoted to investigating the feasibility of climate engineering.

The two geoengineering options to manage climate change that Bickel and Lane consider are blocking sunlight or capturing carbon. They favor blocking sunlight—or solar radiation management—over taking carbon out of the atmosphere—or air capture. Bickel and Lane estimate the costs of various solar radiation management scenarios that would offset 0.6° C, 1.3° C, and 1.9° C of future warming, and find that the benefits of deploying some proposed solar radiation management techniques outweigh the costs by between $4 and $18 trillion. (Assuming the calculations of Dynamic Integrated Model of Climate and Economics developed by Yale University economist William Nordhaus, which suggests that the 200-year present value of climate damages would be about $22 trillion, are in the right ballpark.) Air capture involves technologies that would remove ambient carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and most likely bury it underground. Bickel and Lane argue that air capture technologies are too expensive and so do not spend a great deal of time on the topic.

The planet is warming because greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide re-radiate heat from the sun back toward the earth as it tries to escape into space. Solar radiation management techniques aim to increase the amount of sunlight radiated back into space in order to lower the globe's temperature. Bickel and Lane look at proposals that would purposely inject sulfur or other reflective particles into the stratosphere on an ongoing basis to counter the effects of man-made global warming.

This phenomenon sometimes occurs naturally. Volcanoes occasionally inject sulfur particles high into the stratosphere 8 to 12 miles above the earth's surface where they reflect sunlight back into space cooling the planet. For example, when Mount Pinatubo erupted in 1991 in the Philippines, it injected huge amounts of sulfur particles into the stratosphere lowering the globe's average temperature by about 0.5° C for the next year.

The priciest option that Bickel and Lane analyze is a proposal to install a sunshade involving about 4 trillion autonomous "flyers" placed at about 1 million miles in space to dim the sunlight before it reaches the earth. To offset temperatures by 0.6° C, it would take 4 trillion flyers, each about 400-inches square, and weighing a total of 5 million tons. Assuming each launch could carry 800,000 flyers up at a time, that would mean 5 million launches. If a launch occurred every 5 minutes, the entire sunshade could be in place in about 50 years. Using current numbers for launch and satellite manufacturing costs, the sunshade would cost $135 trillion to make and $395 trillion to get it into space. These costs greatly exceed mainstream estimates of the damages that might be caused by climate change. In fact, those figures add up to about 10 times the size of the current world GDP.

Stratospheric aerosols are next up for consideration. Bickel and Lane report that one recent study suggested it would be possible to use a fleet of 167 F-15 airplanes flying three times per day to inject about 1 billion million tons of sulfur particles into the stratosphere each year. This would cost about $4.2 billion per year. The same study calculated firing 8,000 artillery shells daily loaded with sulfur into the stratosphere would cost about $30 billion annually or launching 37,000 stratospheric balloons daily would cost between $21 billion and 30 billion per year. Bickel and Lane calculate that the benefit-cost ratio for using artillery shells to loft aerosols into the stratosphere is 27 to 1. The F-15 option's benefit-cost ratio would be even more favorable.

The third solar radiation management technique Bickel and Lane consider is marine cloud whitening, a proposal that involves hundreds of ships cruising the world's oceans spewing salt water as a mist into the atmosphere. The salt particles would function as cloud condensation nuclei which would increase the extent and brightness of low level clouds over the oceans. These clouds would reflect sunlight back into space cooling the earth's surface.

In this case, to offset 0.6° C of warming would involve 284 ships spewing salt water into the air at a cost of $1 billion per year. To reduce future temperatures by 1.9° C, 1881 vessels would have to be deployed at a cost of $5.8 billion annually. Bickel and Lane calculate that the benefit-cost ratios for cloud whitening range from 7,000-to-1 to 2,500-to-1.

On the strength of these high benefit-cost ratios, Bickel and Lane argue that the Copenhagen Consensus panel of economists should allocate an average of 0.3 percent of its $250 billion climate change budget ($750 million per year) to solar radiation management and air capture research over the next decade. 

To help the final panel in their evaluations, the CCC commissioned two critiques of the Bickel and Lane paper. In her perspective paper critiquing Bickel and Lane's assessment of climate engineering, Anne E. Smith, an economist who heads up the climate and sustainability practice at the consultancy Charles River Associates, delves deeper into the uncertainties about the benefits and costs of solar radiation management. One important goal of R&D into solar radiation management is to reduce uncertainties about its risks.

A remarkably interesting observation by Smith is that such research will have no value to people who are inclined to have positive views about climate engineering. This is because partisans of the technique will tend to dismiss research that suggest that it poses higher risks as false alarms. On the other hand, research might also have no information value because it will never be good enough to convince hyper-cautious people that geoengineering is safe. Finally, Smith opines that Bickel and Lane have given air capture too short shrift and that it could serve as a backup option should new costly risks emerge after solar radiation management has been deployed.

The second perspective paper, from University of Colorado environmental studies professor Roger Pielke, Jr. takes a harder look at the costs and benefits of air capture of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Among other reasons, Pielke favors air capture over solar radiation management because it meets the three rules for technological fixes, which are quite useful and worth examining in more detail here.

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  • not so fast||

    Mr. Bailey writes: "The planet is warming because greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide re-radiate heat from the sun back toward the earth as it tries to escape into space."

    Oh really? That's a rather presumptuous statement. I thought the whole the debate centered on the accuracy of this theory - yet it's being presented as recieved wisdom.

    What if the sun occasionally gets hotter? What if diminished cloud cover is letting in more heat? What if surface temperature is impacted more by urban development than climate?

    Stronger case please.

  • T||

    The planet is warming because greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide re-radiate heat from the sun back toward the earth as it tries to escape into space.

    This sentence is dumbed down to the point of nonsense.

  • ||

    It seems perverse to use the climate models that most right wing people don't believe in, to argue the cost-benefit of technology to left wingers.

    The "cost", if I read it right, is the cost of doing nothing and having the Earth warm. Even putting aside the large number of Reason readers that would call that figure into question, is that really the figure to use? Shouldn't the cost for analysis be the cost of reducing carbon emissions?

  • ||

    What if our manipulation of data gathered by instruments that aren't properly placed and aren't guaranteed to work up to spec creates a great amount of doubt about the existence, much less the extent of, this "problem?"

    So many "what-ifs," so little open questioning by the media.

  • ||

    The planet is warming because greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide re-radiate heat from the sun back toward the earth as it tries to escape into space.

    I wasn't even aware that we knew, for sure, which way the causality arrow pointed in the correlation between CO2 and higher temperatures.

    When did we determine that the historic temperature oscillations of the planet were caused by CO2 somehow accumulating and causing warming, then somehow dissipating so cooling could occur.

    I could have sworn there was some evidence that warming causes the release of CO2 from various "storehouses", such as the ocean.

  • ||

    Global warming or no, we're going to want to find ways to control the weather so we won't be at the mercy of this fucking Gaea woman.

    Don't you people read science fiction?

  • ||

    Climate is a complex chaotic system and nobody knows anything definitive about it. If someone claims to know what the weather is going to be more than five days from now, be very, very skeptical.

    I gotta stop peeking in on climate discussions. The complete lack of common sense and scientific reasoning that occurs during these discussions makes this scientist very, very perturbed.

  • ||

    Global warming or no, we're going to want to find ways to control the weather so we won't be at the mercy of this fucking Gaea woman.

    Seriously, who is holding back research on The Weather Dominator?

  • ||

    EVERY advanced future world has weather control. So, obviously, it's going to happen. Before warp drive, after the first AI rebellion.

  • ||

    Carbon extraction is indeed the solution. Best of all, such technology already exists, and has for quite some time. The cost of utilizing it is miniscule.

    That technology is called "vegetation."

  • ¢||

    Vegetation is a shill for global warming.

  • ||

    T: Dumbed down? Take a look at this slide show at UC San Diego for more information.

    As for the controversy over the effects of added carbon dioxide to the atmosphere, even University of Alabama climatologist John Christy accepts that all other things being equal the doubling CO2 will increase average temps by 1 degree Celsius. The controversy is over climate sensitivity -- chiefly what is the size of a positive water vapor feedback loop that amplifies the rise in temperature caused by added CO2.

    RCD: With regard to whether carbon or temps come first (causality arrow), I suspect you may be referring to the ice core data which shows that temps increase first followed by atmospheric CO2. One version of that sequence is temps increase and ice ages begin to end due to higher insolation as a result of changes in orbital dynamics. CO2 begins to increase afterwards further amplifying the temp increase that began with the higher insolation.

  • ||

    Grrr.... correction: NOT "and ice ages begin to end" BUT "as ice ages begin to end"

  • ||

    I propose a Carbon Repository Initiative as a new Apollo/Manhattan Project for the American people to undertake.

    We will utilize the best technology, in the form of self-replicating solar-powered nanomachines.

    The unwashed masses who didn't go to Harvard have a colloquialism for such far-out tech; "trees" these peasant stock call them...

  • ||

    I remember similar excercises in the early 80s (or late 70s) about how to warm up the earth for the coming ice age. Suggestions included planting new dark lichen-like plants all over the poles or deserts, to absorb heat instead of letting it be reflected back.

    Thankfully we didn't implement any of those.

  • ||

    All you carbon treehuggers, you'll be happy to know that the Copenhagen Consensus Center has commissioned a paper looking at forestry as way to mitigate any future warming. It will be released next week.

  • ||

    I suspect you may be referring to the ice core data which shows that temps increase first followed by atmospheric CO2.

    Indeed. So we have historical data of warming periods demonstrably not driven by CO2, since temps increased first. Does this not raise some questions about the seemingly Standard Model of CO2 controlling global temperature?

    And there it is:

    higher insolation as a result of changes in orbital dynamics.

    Where, pray tell, would we be in the current orbital dynamic-driven temperature cycle? In a warming period, perhaps?

    The controversy is over climate sensitivity -- chiefly what is the size of a positive water vapor feedback loop that amplifies the rise in temperature caused by added CO2.

    Since we have had previous periods with much higher CO2 concentrations than we now have, can't we get some clue from them the degree to which various feedback loops, both "damping" and "enhancing" apply to whatever increases in temp are attributable to enahnced CO2?

    Its interesting. As you get more and more into climate dynamics, CO2 plays a more and more minor role, with orbital dynamics, sun activity, other gases, albedo changes, and the like all contributing, it seems, as much or more. Yet we are hypnotized, policy-wise, by a relatively minor player. Why would that be?

  • ||

    We are having an awfully cold summer in the midwest and northeast. Any colder and we will have trouble growing crops. Don't we really want to find out if there is really any global warming going on first. And if there is, is it going to hurt anything? Slightly warmer weather would increase crop yields given the same rainfall. Is that a bad thing? I am convinced the global warmists are in this for the purpose of controlling us, not saving the planet.

  • ||

    Don't we really want to find out if there is really any global warming going on first. And if there is, is it going to hurt anything?



    Since this has already been accomplished, at what point do you and most of the people on this thread accept it as established scientific reality?

  • ||

    RCD: You ask Where, pray tell, would we be in the current orbital dynamic-driven temperature cycle? In a warming period, perhaps?

    Hmmm. I don't know where the earth is in the Milankovitch cycle. The current interglacial period, the Holocene, began about 11,000 years ago with the end of the last ice age. Apparently, recent interglacials have lasted between 11,000 and 15,000 years.

    On the other hand,

  • ||

    Ahem. As I was typing:

    On the other hand, NOAA says: Astronomical calculations show that 65N summer insolation should increase gradually over the next 25,000 years, and that no 65N summer insolation declines sufficient to cause an ice age are expected in the next 50,000 - 100,000 years

  • ||

    And if there is, is it going to hurt anything...

    ...more than trying to prevent it will hurt things?

  • Gilbert Martin||

    The only "tech" fix that is needed is a liberal application of epoxy resin to the lips of all the chicken-littles screeching about man-made global warming.

    That should take care of the problem quite nicely.

  • ||

    We have the opposite of the theists in the Collins thread! Disbelief despite a wealth of evidence.

    Gilbert, since most all credible scientific sources on the subject agree on the basic principles you reject, what would be sufficient to convince you?

  • grizzly||

    Where's wealth of evidence? Tony, point me to an AGW model that has any predictive power.

  • The Libertarian Guy||

    "...the cost of doing nothing and having the Earth warm."

    I thought the new mantra from The Church of It's Mankind's Fault was "global climate change", in case we have a premature ice age because some people drive Hummers.

    It's all horseshit, either way. Mankind can't wreck the climate short of all-out thermonuke exchanges. Nuclear winter could be a real bitch.

    Besides, if the candyass AGWer's REALLY cared, they'd all get rid of their gas-powered cars, junk the home A/C units, and live by candlelight... and cease exhaling carbon dioxide.

  • Michael Anderson||

    I would like to apply for a multimillion dollar grant to research unintended consequences of spewing sulfur and/or salt water into the atmosphere. No doubt, the same idiots who get the money to do the current research will be the first to get the grant money for whatever new impeding disaster they dream up due to the release of sulfur into the atmosphere.

  • Tostitos||

    I was hoping the concept of a tech fix to global warming would be warmly received here, sadly I was disappointed. You are all to hung up on global warming being a lie, which the majority of scientists disagree with. The problem is preventative care for the environment, cap and trade is impractical, a 4% cut in CO2 emissions will do nothing, especially if only one country complies. If the permafrost thaw actually happens, then we will have no control over global warming as methane is released into the atmosphere. That is why we will be forced to engineer the climate, and I'd rather not waste money on CO2 cap programs that will be widely regarded as failures in fifty years. In the end our unnecessary skepticism makes us look like those inept republican politicians who fail to understand most of the science involved. The tech solution is something we can get behind as being way more practical.

  • Chad||

    Ron, we don't need to way for the CCC papers, as we already know what they will conclude: Do little or nothing for the foreseeable future.

    This isn't because this is the "right" answer, but because it is predestined by the very methodology they use and the assumptions they make. As many have pointed out many times, cost-benefit analysis does not work well over long time horizons because your choice of discount rate (which is philosophical) dominates the outcome.

  • Alan R. Light||

    I'm still not entirely convinced about global warming - especially about its causes - but I'm willing to take reasonable steps to eliminate or mitigate any threats. So far, the only reasonable suggestion I've seen worth more than R&D at this point might be the ships to seed low-level clouds over the oceans to reflect excess sunlight. It's relatively cheap, works using technology that already exists, and unlike the disks-in-space idea if we find out it isn't working or has significant side effects we only have to hit the off switch. Besides, even if carbon isn't a problem humanity will likely require more energy in the future, which means more production of heat, which means that having such a technology available could be very useful for years to come.

    With correct placement of a fleet of such ships, we may also be able to take advantage of prevailing winds to halt desertification in some places, to eliminate droughts, and to regulate weather extremes in many ways. It certainly deserves more attention.

  • The Libertarian Guy||

    We can't build solar collectors IN THE FUCKING DESERT because of "environmental concerns".

    The Kennedys pitched a bitch fit over windmills in "their" backyard.

    Rachel Maddow once said some stupid shit about "oil wells on the Florida shoreline" (obviously, she's too busy being an idiot to realize nobody drills on the beach).

    And rational people know the proposed drilling area in ANWR is postage-stamp sized in comparison to the rest of the refuge.

    No wonder we can't get anything done.

  • ||

    Too bad the tree-huggers have banned all the dirty sulfur out of diesel and the not-so-light-sweet-crude coming from Chavezistan; sounds like we needed all that shit in the air the whole time!

  • ||

    Tostitos is right. I would add that you guys diminish everything else you say by being unscientific on this subject.

  • ||

    I read about this last night on the PopSci website, specifically the marine cloud ships.
    The thing that got me about this scheme is the unintended possibilities. While most of the water would simply fall back to the sea, there is that possibility of adding extra moisture in hopes of adding to inland rainfall. Imagine a fleet of those off of California, Africa, or Australia pumping tons of water into the atmosphere.

  • C3H Editor||

    "The planet is warming because greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide re-radiate heat...." -- really? Review this chart closely, www.c3headlines.com/2009/08/politicians-global-warming-claim-were-having-unprecedented-temperature-increases-are-they-just-ignor.html , and the above becomes a very inaccurate portrayal of global warming. The chart represents current U.S. provided temperature and CO2 data.

    C3H Editor, www.c3headlines.com

  • Mike||

    Ron,

    Thanks for speaking to all these global warming skeptics in a thoughtful way.

    Usually when someone brings up doubt in global warming related threads, they get shouted down as "oil company funded propagandist", "flat earther with subpar IQ", or "inbred racist southern redneck"(really).

    It is refreshing to see actual science discussed in one of these threads by someone who doesn't hold the assumption that industry or the human race is evil and destructive.

  • ||

    I wasn't even aware that we knew, for sure, which way the causality arrow pointed in the correlation between CO2 and higher temperatures.

    Oh, we don't, but Al Gore does! Do as he says, you impudent peasant!

    -jcr

  • ||

    Disbelief despite a wealth of evidence.

    Tony, what you're glossing over is that there's a wealth of evidence pointing both ways, and whether or not AGW is a fact and whether or not it will have the drastic effects that Al Gore claims it will[1], or if those guys in the 1970's were right and we're actually heading for a new ice age, we're obviously going to need our freedom to cope with it.

    -jcr

    [1] Of course, I don't believe for a second that Al buys his own line of propaganda, or he wouldn't be flitting around in private jets. But, Al's hypocrisy is merely amusing, not evidentiary.

  • ||

    That technology is called "vegetation."

    I like trees. They're pretty.

    -jcr

  • Chad||

    John C. Randolph | August 11, 2009, 10:52pm | #

    Tony, what you're glossing over is that there's a wealth of evidence pointing both ways


    I can't believe you honestly believe this. The "evidence" pointing against AGW theory is very thin, and dwarfed by the evidence pointing in the opposite direction.

    Btw, I know all you Science magazine lovers noted this beauty.

    http://climateprogress.org/2009/07/24/science-deniers-lindzen-clouds-amplifying-positive-feedback-not-negative/

    Your holy grail negative-feedback that was going to mystically offset all the well-understood positive feedbacks turned out to be....duh duh duh...positive as well.

    It can join deforestation, melting ice, methane releases from tundra and arctic waters, and water vapor as things that will re-inforce AGW.

    Maybe the tooth fairy will save us instead?

  • Max D.||

    So Reason has drunk the GW Kool-Aid? Been nice knowing you.

  • Ramesh Raghuvanshi||

    I alway wonder myself why western thinkers think reverse way about climat change.Want to spend billons dollers,Thareare moresimple and effective way you can reduce the bad effect of pollution.
    Spend money on education, reduce world population, reduce use of enegry.use more healty life style.
    These are very cheapest solution of all our cronic diseases.

  • ||

    Ramesh - no truer words have been said.

  • Ebeneezer Scrooge||

    Global warming or no, we're going to want to find ways to control the weather so we won't be at the mercy of this fucking Gaea woman.

    Yeah! When we're done, she's going to be at our mercy. Begging.

  • Ebeneezer Scrooge||

    Spend money on education, reduce world population, reduce use of enegry.use more healty life style.
    These are very cheapest solution of all our cronic diseases.

    If you're into the idea of seeing everyone living in grass huts with a 35-40 average life expectancy again, this is a brilliant idea.

    Reduce energy usage! That'll fix everything. It'll sure reduce the population.

    Or better yet let's return to the stone age and live in caves. We have to protect that grass you know! No cutting it down and turning it into huts, you bad humans.

  • Sam Grove||

    Has the AGW signature been found?

    You know, the warming in the upper troposphere that indicates warming caused by increased proportion of CO2.

  • Ronald, Poor Ronald||

    Wow. If the responses are anything to go by, Libertarians are still trying to convince people that there is no scientific consensus on Co2's role in global warming. It's time to give in on this debate, or be forced to wear the dunce cap.

    You were wrong. Accept it. You're not scientists, and many of you cherry pick until your heart's content. There isn't a debate over C02's role in warming. The debate now surrounds, and has surrounded for quite sometime, the effects of this warming.

    Choosing to ignore global warming is imbecilic, since we do know why the Earth is experiencing warming.

    Also, Ron, if these uneducated opinions make you frustrated, it's because you, along with other Libertarians, successfully muddled the argument under the guise of skepticism. I followed those arguments. You've been so mealy-mouthed about the science that it is little wonder that Libertarians are confused. I'm sure much of it is willful ignorance, but you've done your part in giving them cover.

    If you had listened to the science, instead of your ideology, then you wouldn't be such a later bloomer in all of this.

    History is not going to be kind to many of you. Libertarians have a bad habit of clowning themselves, and it's usually because they overvalue their own opinions. The need to fit every aspect of reality into market economics requires excessive amounts of bullshitting.

  • Ebeneezer Scrooge||

    If the responses are anything to go by, Libertarians are still trying to convince people that there is no scientific consensus on Co2's role in global warming

    And if your response is anything to go by, science in the 21st century is now established democratically. The fact that it never was before, is nothing to worry about.

    In science the few can be right and the many wrong. Or vice versa. History may yet tell a very different story than you're thinking it will.


    The need to fit every aspect of reality into market economics requires excessive amounts of bullshitting.

    And the need to have government take everything over instead -- which is the alternative -- requires excessive amounts of self-deluded arrogance on the part of the central planners. Plus excessive amounts of faith in "the system", on the part of true believers like you.

    Which is just bullshit of a different flavor.

    History shows that socialism and central planning don't work. Libertarians know this all too well.

    You clearly don't.

  • Chad||

    Ebeneezer Scrooge | August 12, 2009, 5:02am | #

    In science the few can be right and the many wrong.


    Name a time in the last 100 years that has been. Indeed, for AGW theory to be wrong, you are going to have to disprove chemical and physical principles that are far older than that.

  • Chad||

    Ebeneezer Scrooge | August 12, 2009, 5:02am

    History shows that socialism and central planning don't work. Libertarians know this all too well.


    Perhaps you hadn't noticed that China is holding us by the economic cajones, and their grip is ever tightening?

    Ahh, blessed are those who ignore data points that they don't like.

  • ||

    Yea, Chad. How's that working out for the individual Chinaman? And we're still waiting for the data point in the signature zone. You guys are getting desperate as the American people have realized the theory is full of crap.

  • ||

    Um, China is staring into the abyss. If we continue to buy less, their entire economy will crash. People drastically overestimate the strength and size of the Chinese economy.

  • Mike M.||

    Well, for two or three days there, we actually had the sort of hot and steamy weather here in Washington D.C. that we expect to get in the middle of summer.

    Alas, it appears to have been just a temporary heat wave, and today we're right back down to our below average temps of high 83, low 71, and it looks to stay around there for the next several days, in spite of the coming El Nino.

  • ||

    The "few" were named Robin Warren and Barry Marshall.

    For more than a hundred years, the consensus of the "many" was that stomach ulcers were caused by stress and spicy food.

    In 1982, Warren and Barry proved that H. pylori was responsible. Their work was ridiculed until 1994 when the consensus begrudgingly admitted they were wrong.

    In 2005, they received the Nobel Prize for their work.

  • ||

    Chad:

    As many have pointed out many times, cost-benefit analysis does not work well over long time horizons because your choice of discount rate (which is philosophical) dominates the outcome.

    Actually your assertion has more than a little bit of "philosophy" behind it. Two things however--
    the Bickel and Lane paper looks at low (Stern Reviewesque) discount rates and still finds very high benefit-cost ratios for cloud whitening and stratospheric particles. (My article was already getting way too long so I didn't go into all of their calculations and scenarios though you may want to read their full paper.)

    Second, may I direct to you my article "Wagging the Fat Tail of Climate Catastrophe" for a discussion of discount rates and long term high consequence uncertainties?

  • ||

    people still believe that being outside in the cold leads to actually getting a cold. this is consensus. the germ theory is incorrect.

  • EscapedWestOfTheBigMuddy||

    In science the few can be right and the many wrong.

    Name a time in the last 100 years that has been. Indeed, for AGW theory to be wrong, you are going to have to disprove chemical and physical principles that are far older than that.



    One chosen from my field of science: Ray Davis's and John N. Bahcall's Homestake Experiment.

    These guys measured a solar neutrino flux substantialy (i.e. factor of 2--3) lower than the prediction.

    They were widely criticized for have "done it wrong".

    Ray lived long enough to get the Nobel prize for that work.




    Aside: For AGW to be completely wrong would be a big surprise at this point. But for AGW to be wet firecracker with economic effects that don't warrant any effort to combat would only require a bunch a touchy large-scale computer models to have misunderstood an exceedingly complex, chaotic system. This would come as a very modest surprise.

  • ||

    All: I am curious if Chad and the other commenters who accept the scientific consensus on AGW also accept the scientific consensus on the health and environmental safety of current biotech crops? It is certainly the case that many major environmental activist groups don't accept the biotech crop scientific consensus. What say you all?

  • Sam Grove||

    Indeed, for AGW theory to be wrong

    For AGWC theory to be right, we need to see it's predicted upper tropospheric warming manifest.

    Has this been seen yet?

    Skeptical minds want to know.

    If a theory makes a prediction which does not come to pass, then the theory is not substantiated.

  • ||

    So I came here intent on lambasting this statement:

    The planet is warming because greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide re-radiate heat from the sun back toward the earth as it tries to escape into space.

    Much to my pleasant surprise, EVERYONE is blasting it. THANK GOD people are waking up to the propagandist mantras that even a so-called "Free Market" media source is bombarding us with. It is a strange time in history, not unlike the 50s where the media has fabricated a complete illusion that we are supposed to believe is reality. However unlike the 50's, rather than placating us into a life of useful domesticity, this message is intended to scare us into turning control, freedom and money to the most disingenuous and untrustworthy people in the world. So thus it is no surprise to see major media outlets like the WaPo and NYT deep in losses and struggling to survive. No doubt this type of sloganeering has irreparably damaged the fine line of trust Americans already walk with their media.

    But my question is WHY? What does the media get out of telling us that a cooling world has warmed? What does the media get out of calling a "Center for Consensus" a "Think Tank" (thinking and follwing consensus are polar opposites). And what will their place be in the new world where facts, truth, science, and history are manufactured by central agencies. I just really don't get what the media thinks they're going to get out of destroying the one thing we look to the media for. Impartial Truth.

    This is a sad and trying time for truth, science and free thought. The implications on our future are profound as they are scary. Yet many seem content to let it slide. I'm glad that there are those who understand that words DO matter. And the TRUTH DOES MATTER. Sad that much of it has been driven underground by a suicidal propaganda machine. Ultimately I have no fear that the cream will again rise to the top (the comments here give me hope). But what that will do to the landscape of politics and the media will be the defining issue of our time. And that is something that should really scare politicians and the media, even as they to try so hard to scare us...

  • ||

    Chad, I would love to hear your interpretation of these "age old scientific principles" you call on as somehow making the THEORY of Global Warming anything more than the unsettled science it is. But since you brought it up, the LAWS of Thermodynamics say that increasing CO2 will INHIBIT temperature rises, as CO2 has a considerably higher heat capacity that our standard air. Oh and by the way, Al Gore's own Inconvenient Graph illustrates this, see for yourself. You'll see temperatures start to drop as CO2 levels hit their maxima. FACT.

    The LAW of Conservation of Energy says that something that represents .04% of a macroscale system, cannot exert an energy change of .2% on that system. Should be pretty obvious to anyone capable of thinking about it, but you apparently believe the opposite.

    So its clear you're clueless despite your feigned bravado. Truth is the entire debate is about the fact that there is no clearly defined causal mechanism behind Global Warming. If there was there could be no debate. But all we have in reality are manipulations of data offered as "proof" that some warming happened.

    If you'd like to discuss the science that you claim to understand so well, I'm a chemical physicist and I'd be happy to take you to task. But somehow I think your only reply will be a smart-alec character attack, a complete change of subject, or total silence. I see blabbering know-it-alls like you blabbing these untruths every day. And all you're doing is illustrating to commonsense people what an intellectual step backwards belief in this totally fabricated junkscience is. Hence the ever fading belief in it, well documented by recent polls.

    I guess for that us real scientists owe you a thank you.

  • ||

    The LAW of Conservation of Energy says that something that represents .04% of a macroscale system, cannot exert an energy change of .2% on that system.

    Huh?

    Light a match inside a bell jar. The burning part of the match and the oxygen it consumes may be less than 10% of the match and air system, yet when it finally goes out due to lack of oxygen, lo and behold, that 10% provided 100% of the energy change to the system.

  • Tostitos||

    Of course there are exceptions to the rule of scientific consensus but I am more then willing to trust it depending on the circumstances. For example the acceptance for AGW has been growing over the years, rather then it just being a "the way it is" situation like the faulty consensus on ulcers. The majority of arguments against AGW have been based on (sometimes laughably) faulty science, there have been a few more well informed dissenters but not many. Just like I trust in scientific consensus on the age of the Earth, I'm willing to accept humanities part in global warming.

  • Ebeneezer Scrooge||

    Light a match inside a bell jar. The burning part of the match and the oxygen it consumes may be less than 10% of the match and air system, yet when it finally goes out due to lack of oxygen, lo and behold, that 10% provided 100% of the energy change to the system.

    Sure.

    And your point is what? Because the example you give here does not refute the point you seem to be objecting to.

  • Ebeneezer Scrooge||

    If the responses are anything to go by, Libertarians are still trying to convince people that there is no scientific consensus on Co2's role in global warming

    btw, I never said there wasn't "scientific consensus". I just said that this particular consensus, is particularly questionable.

    We have roughly 5,000 years of (more or less) recorded history behind us. We know from this, that there have been global temperature and climate shifts in the past, over 2,000 to 3,000 year time scales. There is also evidence of temperature and climate shifts going back well before the start of recorded history.

    The current "scientific consensus" on AGW does not, and cannot, explain these past shifts, which occurred long before industry was extensive enough to have been the root cause.

    So while some fraction of the current global trend may be caused by man, we do not have any clear insight into how much. For all we know, man's contribution remains an insignificant fraction.

    Further, as the AGW "consensus" scientists admit, by their own models, there is very little we could do now, that would stop the "warming" that is theoretically coming. Hence there is no reason for any rational person to believe that we'd benefit by killing off our economy, as the AGW crowd is egging for.

    The AGW crowd then in turn claims that their carbon taxes etc won't kill the economy (though they clearly will do serious damage). And then, after the AGW's make this gigantic blunder in logic, they wonder why the rest of us -- do not trust their logic.

    I'll give you three guesses why, and the first four don't count.


    And just to top off the cake, there is very good reason for rational people to question the accuracy, indeed the validity, of what's coming out of the global climate models. Because those models have never been subjected to the kind of rigor that I know we use in the aerospace industry every day.

    Until those models get "shaken down", so we know there aren't big mistakes getting made, there's a very good chance that the existing global climate models are suffering from the "garbage in, garbage out" syndrome.


    The scientific community can come to any consensus it likes. It is not incumbent on the rest of us to accept their consensus, if that consensus represents stupidity.

  • ||

    Because the example you give here does not refute the point you seem to be objecting to.

    Then perhaps you can help explain it.

    DubID writes...

    The LAW of Conservation of Energy says that something that represents .04% of a macroscale system, cannot exert an energy change of .2% on that system.



    I gather 0.04% is the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere. But what is the 0.2% energy change on the system? And, more importantly, how does the law of conservation of energy imply that one portion of a macroscale system cannot exert a different energy change from a another portion of that system. Indeed, engineering would be a dull field if some parts of macroscale systems didn't produce or direct more energy than other parts.

  • ||

    Ron Bailey,

    Ok, I am a major skeptic on man made global warming. On the flip side, I am open to the concept as a learning point, and if I am wrong, will admit so without hesitation. That having been said, here are my questions:

    1- Many people are saying 'the majority of scientists support the man made global warming theory'. I have yet to see a link that shows the ratio of the for/against scientists with names and political affiliations listed as well on both sides. Please provide evidence if this is indeed true.

    2. If man made global warming is indeed a reality, then why is it that the change in solar activity and the global temparature at the time never mentioned?
    http://www.windows.ucar.edu/tour/link=/sun/images/sunspot_num_graph_big_jpg_image.html
    http://geology.com/nasa/images/global-temperature-change-graph-large.jpg


    3. In conjunction with 2, NASA now has a chart out that says that 1950 and 1960 was colder then it was in the 70's where everyone was squawking about global cooling. The chart actually shows that the globe has been an upward trend since the late 70's.

    4. If one follows the current solar activity trend: http://www.swpc.noaa.gov/SolarCycle/ one will see a nearly perfect mirror of solar activity to global temperature change, including a lowered activity (no suprise that this year was colder then last on their own charts).

    5. Ignoring points 2-4, are charts like http://zfacts.com/metaPage/lib/zFacts-CO2-Temp.gif . This chart however only goes up to 2000, and if one investigates the charts further, emission peaks in 2002. Oddly enough, I find a hard time getting charts of Co2 output from the last 5 years. According to all these 'super-scientists', it has increased. Okay then, of C02 is the man made global warmer, then why have temperatures been on the decline for almost a full 2 years?

    6. In addition to point 5 - why are temperature and solar graphs published by all parties, but not Co2 emissions?

    7. Having heard no reasonable arguments against this (the only one I get back is 'because this scientist says so'), how am I expected to believe that man made global warming is true? When real hard data is being ignored or pushed to the side, and there is a lack of proof to the contrary, why am I supposed to buy into it?

    8. As for saying 'a majority of scientists agree' as proof of this theory, I am even more skepticle. Why is it that we plan on using Co2 emission cuts as a world trade chip? Could it possibly be to help balance the deficits we can never make up due to the poor policies we pursue?

    9. In conjunction with 8- Please do not get the wrong idea, but there is actual proof to this.

    10- In the slide show presented near the beginning of this thread, it includes, methane, C02, and water as gasses. How is this not 'dumbed down'? If it is not dumbed down, then why does it not tell you how Co2 captures IR, and redirects it to earth? It never mentions the chemistry behind this (I personally know 5 chemistry and physics majors who have declared shannigans on this as to its explaination).

    11. Even assuming that these chemistry and physics majors are wrong, and point 10 is inconsequential, why is that in all these examples for 'proof of man made global warming', the documentation is only looking at a 20 year snap shot, ignoring both previous times, and the facts right now?

    12. Last but not least, I see a lot of people who say 'oh you just don't want to believe it'. This is not true. I just refuse to believe in anything that cannot be rationally explained that will have strong impact. I see alot of people like Tostitos posting, but they never back their arguments with anything other then 'this scientist said so'. Just remember, the last few presidents at least have been ivy league grads, yet look where they got us. For once, I want all the crap put aside, and a real scientist offering real proof that I can access and verify before making our country an ACES victim.

  • ||

    Chad said 'Perhaps you hadn't noticed that China is holding us by the economic cajones, and their grip is ever tightening?
    Ahh, blessed are those who ignore data points that they don't like.'

    Chad,
    China is not holding us by the cajones because socialism and communism worked. They are holding us by the cajones because our own socialist programs and lack of real production has caused China to lend us money by buying US Treasuries to pay for said programs.
    Our government exists on taxes or by deficit. If all work goes to the government and government programs, the amount of taxes available to collect from outside the government shrinks, and the deficits rise (or we become slaves).
    Socilalism and communism are examples where the populace exists for the common good overseen by the government. In contrast, a free market allows for more production and research with less cost to the parties not involved in a venture. By adapting social security, the FED, universal laws not based on circumstance, medicare, etc, we become more socialist and less free market.
    We have going down this path now for almost 100 years which is why a social and communistic China is lending us money- they know the game. Yet think about. China is getting very cautious about buying long term US Treasuries. Maybe because they realize that if they stop letting us borrow money, they will save on shipping cost etc, and cut out the middle man - namely us. Yes we buy Chinese products, but what they pay to buy our debts is less then what we spend on their products.

    -cheers.

  • Chad||

    DublD | August 12, 2009, 2:02pm | #
    Chad, I would love to hear your interpretation of these "age old scientific principles" you call on as somehow making the THEORY of Global Warming anything more than the unsettled science it is.


    DublD, the water vapor feedback was first recognized in the EIGHTEEN HUNDREDS by Arrhenius, a very famous and important chemist. His estimates (doubling of CO2 --> 4-5 C), using what is now in every high school chemistry book, were not terribly different than today's ultra-sophisticated models.

    I am sure Arrhenius was a closet liberal who re-wrote the text books as some part of a vast, liberal conspiracy.

    It is not rocket science. Heating ANY liquid causes it to vaporize more. Water vapor is a strong greenhouse gas due to its absorbtion of IR light. Get it?

  • Chad||

    DublD | August 12, 2009, 1:36pm | #

    The planet is warming because greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide re-radiate heat from the sun back toward the earth as it tries to escape into space. Much to my pleasant surprise, EVERYONE is blasting it.


    Welcome to the echo chamber, where a handful of cranks shout the same old crap over and over, hoping that will somehow make it true.

  • Chad||

    EscapedWestOfTheBigMuddy | August 12, 2009, 12:21pm | #

    from my field of science: Ray Davis's and John N. Bahcall's Homestake Experiment.

    These guys measured a solar neutrino flux substantialy (i.e. factor of 2--3) lower than the prediction. They were widely criticized for have "done it wrong". Ray lived long enough to get the Nobel prize for that work.

    Aside: For AGW to be completely wrong would be a big surprise at this point. But for AGW to be wet firecracker with economic effects that don't warrant any effort to combat would only require a bunch a touchy large-scale computer models to have misunderstood an exceedingly complex, chaotic system. This would come as a very modest surprise.


    That's exactly what I was looking for. When science gets is "wrong", it is about small, difficult-to-measure things, and eventually corrects itself as it refines its knowledge and finds ways to make more precise measurements.

  • Chad||

    Ron Bailey | August 12, 2009, 10:00am | #

    the Bickel and Lane paper looks at low (Stern Reviewesque) discount rates and still finds very high benefit-cost ratios for cloud whitening and stratospheric particles.


    Ron, I wouldn't be surprised if some geo-engineering schemes are actually cost effective, and I have no objection to them in principle. However, I doubt anyone has enough information to do a solid cost-benefit of these schemes yet, as the information needed isn't there until we test them at smaller scales. I am particularly suspicious of stratospheric particles, which not only addresses affects rather than causes (always a poor choice for an engineering control) but also will likely cause an increase in air pollution and decreased crop and biomass yields. Fighting pollution with pollution seems like a fool's errand. I am more bullish on cloud whitening and ocean fertilization, which if managed correctly and with a depth of knowledge that we currently do not possess, could actually have positive side-effects rather than negative.

  • EscapedWestOfTheBigMuddy||

    Here is Chad:

    Name a time in the last 100 years that [the many have been wrong and the few right].



    then we show him a couple of recent examples and he tries to duck out with:

    That's exactly what I was looking for. When science gets is "wrong", it is about small, difficult-to-measure things, and eventually corrects itself as it refines its knowledge and finds ways to make more precise measurements.



    Sure, Chad. Declare victory and run home.

    I'm pretty sure that you don't have the first clue about how "difficult" climate physics is. All the "you have to make policy changes OR ELSE" ado is based on the predictions of a few BIG computer models.

    < Long ass post warning >

    I'd like to tell you a story about a smallish computer simulation.

    It started life as a program called SIMULATE written by the physicists on a SLAC project called NE18. Its purpose was to simulate how the experiment would work IF physics was well represented by a particular model called the Plane Wave Impulse Approximation. It was to be used as the basis of comparison for detecting an obscure phenomena known as color transparency (CT).

    SIMULATE did what it was meant to do, and NE18 got a nice data set, and a null result (i.e. didn't see any CT).

    Later some of the NE18 scientists convinced DOE to let them have another go at CT at JLAB. SIMULATE was renamed SIMC and adapted to the new experimental setup. The first JLAB CT experiment was also null. Later, when the accelerator could provide higher energy and more intense beams, and the software tools were better shaken down, it was decided to have another go at it.

    At this point, the physics core of SIMC was 15 years old and the model of the experimental hall and equipment at JLAB were more than 5 years old. Both parts had been used repeatedly by several experiments as SIMC had been extended to simulate more physics than the original program.

    Around here, I joined this effort.

    Now we could, and did take regular data to test that we had the simulation well tuned up and working for the for each new configuration of the equipment. We had DOZENS of data-v-simulation plots that we made and checked every time. It was beautiful. Almost uncannily good, and we would gleefully show these plots at conferences.

    Except for one plot.

    We showed that plot at every meeting too, because if you don't own up to the difficulties, no one will take you seriously.

    The simulated extended target acceptance in one of our spectrometers deviated considerably from reality outside of +/-4 cm.

    This known bug was five years old and had eluded repeated attempts to find it in software or in the data inputs to the software (magnetic fields had been remapped several times), and was not cured my any of several efforts to make the physics environment of the hall more reliable (including the institution of an tedious and time consuming anti-hysteresis ramp-up procedure for the magnets on the affected spectrometer).

    Now pay attention here:

    0. this was smallish, single-processing program

    1. we knew about this bug *because* we could do end-to-end data versus simulation comparisons.

    2. even knowing about it, we couldn't fix it.

    3. The problem we were simulating was mostly linear (i.e. easy)

    The climate models that people are using are much bigger, much more complicated, parallel, highly non-linear in places, and can't be tested against data end-to-end.

    How many subtle bugs might be hiding in those codes?

    Which is not to say that they are completely untrustworthy, or that they should be thrown in the circular file. The people working on these models are good at what they do, they have good physics inputs, and they can test the models ability to simulate each physical effect they care about in some limited environment. [Aside: I must say, I fear that some of the posters here are mistaking pop-sci descriptions of the underling science for the real thing and spending far too much effort on what are essentially straw-men.]

    But large scale modeling is hard.

    The thing to do is simply of course: run the simulations, look for a simulated effect that you haven't measured yet, then go out into the world and see it the effect is there.

    Which is Sam Grove's point about the troposphere warming signature of CO2 driving a warming trend. If it isn't there are only two choices: the model is wrong (in which case you don't base policy on it) *or* CO2 isn't causing the recent warming trend (in which case CO2 reduction policies are simply misguided). So, anyone know the answer to Sam's question?

  • jk||

    Someone said "Name a time in the last 100 years that [the many have been wrong and the few right]."

    My favorite example is positive eugenics.
    The Supreme Court even got on the bandwagon after scientific consensus said we should start sterilizing people so they don't pollute the gene pool.

    And they did. The government actively participated in forced sterilization of tens of thousands of people here in the United States.

    Isn't scientific consensus grand?

  • ||

    "The complete lack of common sense and scientific reasoning that occurs during these discussions makes this scientist very, very perturbed."

    Amen

    "There isn't a debate over C02's role in warming. The debate now surrounds, and has surrounded for quite sometime, the effects of this warming."

    Oh really? How much warming has it caused? Where is the evidence that it has caused a certain amount of warming? Does CO2 now trump natural sources of climate variability? Outside of Global Climate Models (mathematical assumptions made by AGW scientists about how the atmosphere-ocean-sun-earth system works), is there hard evidence for your claims?

    For some time now, scientists of many disciplines have been studying the effects of "global warming" because placing the term (or "climate change")in a grant application brings in the money.

  • Chad||

    Karl Fnfcst | August 13, 2009, 3:18pm | #
    "The complete lack of common sense and scientific reasoning that occurs during these discussions makes this scientist very, very perturbed."

    Amen

    "There isn't a debate over C02's role in warming. The debate now surrounds, and has surrounded for quite sometime, the effects of this warming."

    Oh really? How much warming has it caused? Where is the evidence that it has caused a certain amount of warming?


    I'll answer you in detail when you first explain, in detail, what such evidence would constitute.

    CO2 now trump natural sources of climate variability?

    "Natural variability" is not magic or voodoo. Please explain what has "naturally varied" recently that could have caused the observed changes. All the standard denalist hobby horses such as solar changes or cosmic rays have been studied again and again, and have been found to be insufficient.

  • ||

    "Please explain what has "naturally varied" recently that could have caused the observed changes."

    Please, tell me, what has changed? Climate is always changing. The warming we experienced at the end of the 20th century is not out of the ordinary, if that's what you're referring to.

  • Chad||

    Karl Fnfcst | August 14, 2009, 1:21pm | #

    Please, tell me, what has changed? Climate is always changing. The warming we experienced at the end of the 20th century is not out of the ordinary, if that's what you're referring to.


    Let me repeat: The earth doesn't magically get warmer. Its average temperature changes FOR A REASON. Please, tell me what "natural" phenomenon has changed, such that it could cause a change in temperature.

    The answer is that we have not found one, despite a hell of a lot of people looking.

  • Tristan||

    @Chad

    I love how you didnt bother replying to EscapedWestOfTheBigMuddy. Its a lot easier to pick a couple random straw men to beat up.

  • ||

    Chad,

    I have posted a few questions in the above asked for proof. I wrote a long 12 point post asking many questions. These questions by the way are far more detailed then your answers thus far, so I am genuinely interested in your proof sources in regards to these 12 points.

    cheers - david

  • abercrombie milano||

    My only point is that if you take the Bible straight, as I'm sure many of Reasons readers do, you will see a lot of the Old Testament stuff as absolutely insane. Even some cursory knowledge of Hebrew and doing some mathematics and logic will tell you that you really won't get the full deal by just doing regular skill english reading for those books

  • nike shox||

    is good

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