Doubling Down on Climate Change

Activists want America to reduce emissions to 1960s levels. Is that even possible?

Today, President Barack Obama opened the United Nations climate change summit in New York City with a speech characteristically long on rhetoric and short on specifics. Since the past few months have brought a flood of new facts to the policy debate, let's help Obama by digging into some of the particulars of carbon cutting math.

The aim of this week's meeting is to get 190 nations on the same page for an international deal to replace the Kyoto Protocol. The goal: a new global treaty aimed at getting developed countries to cut their greenhouse gas emissions by 20 percent below the level they emitted in 1990.

Last week, however, climate experts upped the ante, claiming the necessity of much, much deeper cuts. The World Wildlife Federation and the International Institute of Environment and Development issued a joint statement from 40 leading climate scientists declaring that in order to prevent global average temperatures from rising more than two degrees Celsius "developed countries must reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 40 per cent below 1990 levels by 2020." In July, the Group of Eight wealthiest nations agreed to limit global warming to two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial temperatures.

Leaving aside the possible impact of such dramatic cuts on the economy: Is it even possible for Americans to cut emissions enough to reach the 40 percent goal in the next decade?

Since carbon dioxide constitutes the bulk of greenhouse gases emitted by the U.S., let's use that as a proxy for figuring out what a cut of 40 percent below 1990 emissions levels would mean. In 2007, the U.S. carbon dioxide emissions totaled around 6 billion metric tons, up from 5 billion tons in 1990, an increase of about 20 percent. So cutting carbon dioxide emitted by 40 percent below the 1990 level would mean that Americans would emit only 3 billion tons by 2020—reducing current emissions by half. The last time the annual U.S. emission of carbon dioxide totaled 3 billion tons was nearly 50 years ago [PDF].  

To get a sense of the magnitude of the task, consider that in 1960, the country's population was 190 million, the number of motor vehicles came to 75 million, and real GDP was $2.5 trillion. Americans drove 718 billion miles annually, burning 58 billion gallons of fuel in vehicles that averaged 12 miles per gallon. Today, the 305 million people who live in the U.S. drive 255 million vehicles, and real GDP is $13 trillion. Contemporary Americans drive 3 trillion miles per year, burning 180 billion gallons of fuel in vehicles that average 17 miles per gallon. The good news is that we have become a lot more efficient at producing value per unit of carbon dioxide emitted. In 1960, people produced $800 in GDP for every ton of carbon dioxide emitted. Now, the ratio is about $2,200 of GDP for every ton emitted.

So how might the U.S. cut its carbon dioxide emissions to 1960 levels in 10 years? Let's begin by recognizing that although energy efficiency is not free, I will assume that efficiency improvements will reduce emissions cost-free by 17 percent (the target in the American Clean Energy and Security Act, passed by the House in June) which equals a reduction in carbon dioxide emissions by a little over a billion tons. I will also (generously) assume that Americans will use no more energy in 2020 than they do today; that means that some 2 billion tons of carbon dioxide needs to be cut from current emissions levels in order to get emissions down to 3 billion tons by 2020.

Now let's do some rough number crunching. Burning coal accounts for 36 percent of U.S. carbon emissions, natural gas 20 percent, and oil (gasoline, diesel, jet fuel, and heating oil) 44 percent. Since 90 percent of the coal burned in the U.S. is used to produce electricity, replacing all coal-fired generating plants with zero-carbon electricity generation plants would just about cut emissions by 2 billion tons.

How might this be done? The country could go all nuclear. Currently, 1,400 coal-fired electricity generation plants supply about 45 percent of the country's electricity while 104 nuclear power plants produce roughly 20 percent. So to replace all coal plants with nuclear plants would mean building 250 new 1,000 megawatt nuclear plants over the next 10 years, or about 25 new plants per year. That could be done for about $1 trillion.

But a lot of the people participating in the climate change festivities in New York this week find nuclear power distasteful; they prefer wind or solar power. In that case, all coal fired plants could be replaced with 500,000 windmills at a cost of $1.4 trillion. Similarly, using current conventional silicon solar panels to replace all coal generation would cost $4.5 trillion. (Note: I am using Electric Power Research Institute figures and standardizing wind generation capital costs to a 1,000-megawatt nuclear power plant operating 90 percent of the time, to try to account for the fact that the wind doesn't always blow and the sun doesn't always shine.)

What about natural gas? Since 31 percent of natural gas is consumed to produce 21 percent of U.S. electricity, that means that burning natural gas to generate electricity contributes just about 7 percent to U.S. carbon dioxide emissions, or about 360 million tons annually. Natural gas emits about half the carbon dioxide of coal. The upshot is that replacing all coal-fired plants with 250 1,000 megawatt natural gas plants would reduce emissions by only 1 billion tons, but at a relatively low cost of about $250 billion.

Since two-thirds of all oil in the U.S. is used for transport fuels, this suggests that entirely replacing the current fleet of 255 million vehicles with no-emissions electric or no net-emissions biofuel vehicles would cut 2 billion tons of emissions by 2020. At the current vehicle fleet turnover rate, around 125 million of today's vehicles will be scrapped by 2020. The 2007 Energy Independence and Security Act requires the production of 36 billion gallons of biofuels by 2022 which would be the equivalent of supplying 20 percent of current transport fuel consumption. Earlier this year the Sandia National Laboratory released a highly speculative report that claimed that the U.S. could produce 90 billion gallons of bioethanol by 2030, which would replace 60 billion gallons of gasoline.

Oilman T. Boone Pickens is pushing his plan to use natural gas to power millions of motor vehicles. So let's assume that all 125 million new vehicles will run on compressed natural gas by 2020. Such vehicles emit 25 percent less carbon dioxide and typically cost $6,000 more than conventional vehicles. This kind of vast conversion would reduce carbon dioxide emissions annually by 350 million tons at an additional cost of $750 billion.

So is a 40 percent cut in emissions possible? The foregoing number crunching exercise suggests that it could be. But the commitment is huge: We're talking about the equivalent of shuttering every single one of America's coal plants in favor of hundreds of new nuclear facilities, hundreds of thousands of windmills, or millions of solar panels—or perhaps replacing the entire U.S. auto fleet with zero-emissions vehicles. The magnitude of such an effort would be similar to the projected costs of President Obama's proposed government-funded health insurance plan or the price tag for the War on Terror. These are big changes, not to be glossed over in glowing speeches about international cooperation and our bright green energy future.

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

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  • ||

    Hmm, even as someone that does think that we should act to reduce the risks involved in climate change, I think that 40% in 10 years is probably asking to much, and that you wouldn't get the bang for the buck you wanted.

    I do think though that a combination of the Pickens Plan, and the Grand Solar plan would pay off.
    http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=a-solar-grand-plan

    Wind is already pretty cost competitive with fossil fuels, but Solar will probably take a couple more years. That being said, by starting now, and making firm commitments you would send the right signals to the market.

    Also of course as mentioned in previous posts, instituting a net zero carbon tax would go a long way to accomplishing most of these goals with little government interference. The only thing I think the government would really need would be to clear the way for a national electric grid to be made.

  • ||

    I think it should be left up to states, cities, and individuals. On the state level, each of the 50 states could decide for themselves on nuclear, wind, or any combo of the several different types of alternative energy. For instance, the article said only 250 nuke plants are needed? Well, a large state like Texas could fit, maybe, 10 to 20 plants, and sell the excess to its neighbors.

    Cities, too, could make their own decisions on what to use. For example, crowded cities could install electric-only mass transit. Or all cities in general could entice local businesses or industries to use wind or solar power.

    Then, of course, the most important change is at the individual level. Anyone who actually cares about climate change could do something to change, like buy an electric car (when they come out), or install solar panels, or just plain bike. That's actually what I do now, I bike everywhere I go now that I'm in college.

    And, as always, the federal government can fucking suck it. I do not want cap and trade, or carbon tax, or whatever shit they put out.

  • ||

    I would rather pay a carbon tax, then a tax on labor.

  • ||

    I would rather pay a carbon tax, then a tax on labor.

    Which is fine, unless your labor produces CO2

  • ||

    Very true.

    One way or the other carbon producing jobs will slowely decline this century.

  • Chad||

    Nice article today, Ron.

    As you wrote, the solutions are big but clearly possible, even without any new technology.

    One point that I want to comment on a little is cost. Yes, a half million wind generators would cost a lot. But so would the status quo of new coal plants, oil rigs, etc. The "cost" is the difference between these two, not the absolute, and should be adjusted for any externalities. In the case of coal, this probably implies that switching to any other reasonable technology would have no real "cost" at all.

    What it really boils down to, though, is no new coal and the electrification of transportation. Everything else is icing on the cake.

  • Rich||

    One way or the other carbon producing jobs will slowely decline this century.

    But what about the nut jobs?

  • ||

    ...and the electrification of transportation

    Electrification of transportation doesn't help the greenhouse cause unless all those electrons are getting pumped by photons, wind, or nuclear decay.

  • ||

    Oh, and thats ignoring the environmental impact of the mountain of rechargeable batteries we'd use.

  • Colonel_Angus||

    The Pickens plan is bullshit if it involves giving that bozo tax money and land taken with eminent domain.

  • ||

    eminent domain?

    Oh Yeah, to get the land for solar panels. Because apparently saving the planet isn't reason enough to "ruin the natural beauty" of a desert.

    Gotta love when 1 set of enviro-nuts collides with another.

  • The Libertarian Guy||

    What solar? The gov't put a halt on building solar collectors in the desert because some enviroweenies bitched about it.

    And I'd bet the remaining Kennedys are still against building wind farms in their precious goddamn back yard, so fuck that too.

    Better get used to banging the rocks together again, folks. Though using trees for heat is probably going to be a federal crime.

  • Colonel_Angus||

    I'm an enviro-nut? Fuck you. If it's just empty government-owned land in the Nevada desert then I am all in favor of transferring it to private ownership at market-determined value. If it is any privately owned land that is forcibly taken, such as farm land for wind turbines, that is unacceptable.

  • Paul||

    One way or the other carbon producing jobs will slowely decline this century.

    They already are. So are automobile sales, plus the purchase of consumer goods.

    Obama is doing everything he can to reverse all three trends.

  • ||

    "We" must start right away to curb emissions, to fight global warming and stop these cold spells we have been suffering . . .

  • Paul||

    Oh, and thats ignoring the environmental impact of the mountain of rechargeable batteries we'd use.

    Lithium Ion batteries, a substance of which what, about 80% of the worlds supply is located in Bolivia? We're going to have to start reducing our dependence on foreign lithium.

  • ||

    What solar? The gov't put a halt on building solar collectors in the desert because some enviroweenies bitched about it.


    Besides this, the solar idea is nothing more than a chimera for nostalgics. Solar energy is so dispersed and its gathering so inefficient, that it would be not only cheaper but energetically more efficient to build a new power plant than build an equivalent solar energy collection system.

    The future should be nuclear, but it will take a major political upheaval (meaning, something like placing all environmentalists and other reds in a soccer field and have them shot one by one) to reduce the irrational aversion to this form of energy.

  • Joe M||

    A good start towards this goal would be to nationalize and auction off the assets of all thirty components of the Dow Jones Industrial average. I foresee zero negative consequences from this.

  • Paul||

    There is an easy solution to dropping CO2 emissions back to 1960 levels. It does require the elimination of a large number of people...

  • ||

    No one is talking about using eminent domain to get land for wind farms (at least no one I've heard of). Most farmers are VERY happy to have a chance to get turbines on their land because they get about $3k a year per turbine. If you have a hundred acre farm that could translate into an extra $50-100 grand a year.

    Eminent domain would only be used for power line corridors, so nothing new.

  • Michael Ejercito||

    The future should be nuclear, but it will take a major political upheaval (meaning, something like placing all environmentalists and other reds in a soccer field and have them shot one by one) to reduce the irrational aversion to this form of energy.


    Who was it that banned the reprocessing of nuclear fuel in America?

  • Chad||

    FTG | September 22, 2009, 6:46pm | #
    "We" must start right away to curb emissions, to fight global warming and stop these cold spells we have been suffering . .


    You do realize that it was the third warmest summer on record, right?

    l2leavethemidwest

    Oh, and ocean surface temperatures set a record last month. This means we are swinging from La Nina to El Nino, and that heat is going to start coming back out of the water and into the air. Please not that water has about 25 times the heat capacity as air does.

  • C3H Editor||

    I'm amazed a writer, for a libertarian publication, believes that free-market, libertarian solutions makes the following possible:

    "So is a 40 percent cut in emissions possible? The foregoing number crunching exercise suggests that it could be. But the commitment is huge: We're talking about the equivalent of shuttering every single one of America's coal plants in favor of hundreds of new nuclear facilities, hundreds of thousands of windmills, or millions of solar panels-or perhaps replacing the entire U.S. auto fleet with zero-emissions vehicles."

    Ron's a good and interesting writer but he never seems to express a libertarian analysis to the problem nor to the proposed government solutions. Can't he find a writing job with publications that better reflect his obvious acceptance of statist, centralized planning climate "solution" proposals?

    Or, is it possible that the Reason executives could find an additional writer who would actually deliver a libertarian viewpoint on global warming and climate change issues to counter Ron's very readable, non-libertarian analysis?

  • skr||

    @ paul,

    IIRC, there is a lot of lithium in the oceans. It is just at a low concentration and as yet not economical to extract.

  • Chad||

    C3H Editor | September 22, 2009, 8:05pm | #

    Or, is it possible that the Reason executives could find an additional writer who would actually deliver a libertarian viewpoint on global warming and climate change issues to counter Ron's very readable, non-libertarian analysis?


    That's got to be the funniest thing I have read all day. Ron is a tried and true libertarian. I think you have confused "libertarian" with "climate change denialist", which should in principle have no relationship whatsoever.

    Though I would like to ask, what IS the "libertarian viewpoint on climate change", or indeed, on market failures in general. Environmental issues are often classic textbook examples of situations where markets do not work. Should the government do nothing and allow highly sub-optimal situations to occur, or should it do something that would almost certainly violate your libertarian ethic?

  • jtuf||

    I was outside the UN covering the protests today. Two of them were anit-global warming protests. Green Peace sponsored a morning protest. I approached a Green Peace activist to ask questions, but she said it was again Green Peace policy to allow protestors to talk to the media.

    A coalition of environmental groups called "Tick, Tick, Tick" sponsored the second protest. The protestor I spoke to was willing to answer questions. I asked him what caused global warming. He paused a bit stunned that someone might even ask that question. Then he said it was caused by fossil fuels. I asked him to explain how. He said burning fossil fuels releases carbon dioxide causing a carbon cloud in the air. Then I asked if anything besides carbon dioxide caused global warming. He kind of stumbled for an answer, listed a couple of natural disasters that he attributed to global warming, and kept saying that global warming is undeniable. Some of his more knowledgeable companions came to his aid. Between the bunch of them, they identifies methane and water vapor as green house gasses. They missed nitrous oxide. They also missed sunspots and the changes in the Earth's tilt and orbit.

  • Chad||

    jtuf | September 22, 2009, 8:22pm | #
    They also missed sunspots and the changes in the Earth's tilt and orbit.


    Errr, well, they missed them because it was correct to do so. We are on the slow part of the sunspot cycle (which implies cooling), and earth's tilt and orbit do not change on relevant time scales.

    Yes, not all people who support action on climate change are deeply knowledgeble. But some are, and the overwhelming majority of those with the deepest knowledge support strong action.

  • ||

    Eh, Chad, I pulled that old "dihydrogen monoxide" prank from the 80ties on a couple of Al Whore disciples back in 2006. They fell for it. How much more uninformed can you get?

  • Colonel_Angus||

    If we are on the slow part of the sunspot cycle, which implies cooling, then it correlates nicely with recent temperature trends.

  • Colonel_Angus||

    Carbon dioxide is also released in to the air by decaying organic material. Every time a dead skin flake falls off of Chav, microscopic bacteria consume it and release carbon dioxide as waste. Carbon dioxide released by anthropogenic burning of fossil fuels is insignificant compared to biological activity, which is insignificant compared to carbon dioxide released geologically, especially by volcanoes. A volcanic eruption can spew many more times the amount of carbon dioxide that anthropogenic burning of fossil fuels releases in years.

  • Colonel_Angus||

    A warming trend such as what may or may not be currently occurring at this point in time is vastly preferable to the return of an ice age. Both extreme hot and cold periods are guaranteed to happen eventually no matter what due to naturally occurring factors which are more powerful than anthropogenic factors. If anthropogenic activity has any effect at all, it can only slightly alter the process. This would mean that greenhouse gases released by anthropogenic activity could potentially prolong the occurrence of an ice age by a small amount of time, whenever that may happen.

  • jtuf||

    Yes, not all people who support action on climate change are deeply knowledgeble. But some are, and the overwhelming majority of those with the deepest knowledge support strong action.

    While I was earning my MS in Ecology and Evolution, the department had two computer modelers. Of all the professors there, those two were the least supportive of global warming theories. The most ardent global warming speaker in the department was a guy who wrote a book to dennounce "specism".

  • Chad||

    jtuf | September 22, 2009, 9:11pm | #
    Yes, not all people who support action on climate change are deeply knowledgeble. But some are, and the overwhelming majority of those with the deepest knowledge support strong action.

    While I was earning my MS in Ecology and Evolution, the department had two computer modelers. Of all the professors there, those two were the least supportive of global warming theories. The most ardent global warming speaker in the department was a guy who wrote a book to dennounce "specism".


    While I was earning my doctorate in chemistry, I learned that the opinions of every major scientific organization on earth trump a couple of un-named people known by some dude named jtuf on a random message board.

  • Colonel_Angus||

    Doctorates are horseshit. They give people more of an inflated ego than they give credibility. Just reflect on yourself for an example.

  • Chad||

    Colonel_Angus | September 22, 2009, 9:18pm | #
    Doctorates are horseshit. They give people more of an inflated ego than they give credibility. Just reflect on yourself for an example.


    When you have earned your horseshit, get back to me. You have no idea, and don't even know what you don't know.

  • Colonel_Angus||

    How do you know what I know or don't know?

  • JoshInHB||

    So the amount of $ that were wasted bailing out incomptent bankers could have converted all US power generation to Nuclear? WTF

  • comrade||

    Since when did DeVry hand out doctorates?

  • The Libertarian Guy||

    Chad, I'm a libertarian AND I think global-warming alarmism is possibly the biggest scam ever created. I also have never attended one day of college, so feel free to call me some sort of dumbshit who doesn't have a degree - it wouldn't be the first or last time someone pulled that tired ol' chestnut on me.

    For the record, I don't get paid to have this POV, but I'd gladly take a check from one of the Evil Oil Companies if they wanted to reimburse me for having an opinion.

    The right opinion, by the way.

  • Chad||

    The Libertarian Guy | September 22, 2009, 11:37pm | #
    Chad, I'm a libertarian AND I think global-warming alarmism is possibly the biggest scam ever created.


    That's nice, but your choice of political philosophy does not lead logically to your bizarre willingness to put your faith in a bunch of crackpot partisan websites over literally the calls of every major scientific organization on earth.

    Worse yet, if libertarianism DID lead to such lunanacy, what would that mean for your ideology?

  • ||

    And what are "no emissions" electric cars? Is that to say that the electricity used to charge electric cars comes from sources that create no carbon emissions? For every electric car that needs to be recharged- doesn't that increase total demand for electricity and the coal, nuclear, or natural gas that is used to produce it?
    "No emissions electric cars" simply means that the emissions created to produce the electricity - is produced elsewhere - thus ignored as if the electricity just floated down out of the sky - pollution free.
    Using todays' national electricity production sources we are simply replacing gasoline powered cars with electric cars (powered by 50% coal with a 20% nuclear back-up.) Rejoice environmentalists?

  • ||

    Ultimately these kinds of energy policies will cause millions or billions of deaths. This is what many "greens" want. Many of them openly state that this is the case. These people are the new communists, complete with Stalinist depopulation maneuvers. They preach at us and claim that we are like children (Energy Secretary Steven Chu). In fact they are like children. They are arrogant and display an unparalleled hubris. They absolutely know that they know it all. They cannot admit how little they really know. They claim to know what is best, and what is best according to them, is the liquidation of several billion humans. Any idiot can see that the result of these policies will be economic destruction and the death of most humans. Read the work of Holdren the Science Czar (really a Commissar). Ecoscience is much worse than advertised. These eco extremists are a real danger. Consider them to be an army of Al Qaeda that is composed of millions of fanatics. They are actually more fanatical and arrogant than Islamo-Fascists and other religious fanatics. Read Green Hell: How Environmentalists Plan to Control Your Life and What You Can Do to Stop Them by Steven Milloy (and we must stop them). The bibliography is excellent, too.

  • ||

    This has been the coldest summer in the 14yrs I have lived in the high desert of So. California. We even had 12 inchs of snow last winter that lasted for several days. Very unusual. Last time I checked we have yet to reduce carbon emmisions, so you tell me what is driving the weather. Maybe the sun? Ya, think. Food production was down last year due to the solar minimum. There is a consesus of over 700 scientist that say that CO2 is not a problem, that at most it would raise temps by 1 degree over the next 100yrs, big whoop there. It was much warmer during the Renaissanse than now and we are still here.

    Most environmentalist do not live in the real world and their agendas do so much damage, damage which impacts the poor the most. Besides which most of them are just pawns of those that stand to gain financially from legislation like Cap & Tax.

  • Neu Mejican||

    "No emissions electric cars" simply means that the emissions created to produce the electricity - is produced elsewhere - thus ignored as if the electricity just floated down out of the sky - pollution free.

    Last time I saw numbers on it, even if the electricity is produced from coal, you get the equivalent of more than 100 mpg for most fully electric cars, so they are a good idea no matter what.

    Of course, the big ticket items are in how we build buildings and manufacture products, but transportation going electric is not small pickles.

  • Chad||

    TLR | September 23, 2009, 1:03am | #
    This has been the coldest summer in the 14yrs I have lived in the high desert of So. California. We even had 12 inchs of snow last winter that lasted for several days. Very unusual.


    Still confused about the difference between "climate" and "weather", eh? Please go back to third grade and call us when you pass science class.

    It was the third warmest summer on record.

    http://www.noaanews.noaa.gov/stories2009/20090916_globalstats.html


    Oh, and 700 scientists out of HOW MANY? How low was the bar set in order to be able to sign on to whatever petition you talked about. Like all of these petitions, the bar was quite low, meaning it was 700 out of a very large number.

  • JoshInHB||

    Chad,

    My house is in a harbor,
    how long until I notice the sea leve rise?

    I mean, if its going to rise 20-40 feet in the next hundred years and flood the coastlines, drown islands etc. at some point soon it will have to rise 8 inches annd flood my back yard.

    Since AGW a scientific fact and your such a smart guy, when will that happen?
    6 months, Next Year, 5 years - when?

  • ||

    Consensus - Hah! Prove it.

  • ||

    Consensus - You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

  • ||

    Ever heard of the urban heat island effect? Ever compared the raw satellite temperature plots to the terrestrial data? Ever evaluated the assumptions in the holy computer models, or applied those same numbers to the historical data to see if they matched? Yeah, I didn't think so.

  • ||

    How about, have you ever wondered why models show a multiplicative effect, instead of the observed less than x1 on each doubling of atmospheric CO2? Oh, wait, never mind, there's a consensus, why would I question anything? My fault!

  • ||

    Hmmm - silence.

  • moosecat||

    25% unemployment will help us reach this goal. we're almost half way there. way to go Washington DC!!!!! keep up the hard work.

  • moosecat||

    there's only one way to out climate changer frauds: propose nuclear energy. if they don't go for it then they don't give a chit about pollution/climate change. they just want more regulation and less growth.

  • Tony||

    I'm a libertarian AND I think global-warming alarmism is possibly the biggest scam ever created.



    I am stunned by this juxtaposition of beliefs, just stunned.

  • Colonel_Angus||

    The only thing every major scientific organization in the world has reached a "consensus" on is a very vague, generic idea. Between these organizations, and especially within them, there is a hell of a lot of dissent.

  • Colonel_Angus||

    I don't understand all the obsession with this electric car bullshit when the whole transportation infrastructure itself is horribly inefficient (due to the government's inability to maintain any business it decides to get itself in to).

  • ||

    Electric cars, when taken as a system, production, transmission, storage, and final conversion into motion of energy, are actually significantly less efficient than ICE's. But don't mention that to greenies, it'll ruin their dreams of a perfect world.

  • Chad||

    aelhues | September 23, 2009, 8:43am | #

    Ever heard of the urban heat island effect? Ever compared the raw satellite temperature plots to the terrestrial data? Ever evaluated the assumptions in the holy computer models, or applied those same numbers to the historical data to see if they matched? Yeah, I didn't think so.


    Ever wondered why the strongest warming has been observed in the Arctic, as predicted? Clearly, all the urban areas up there caused it. The "urban heat island" myth is small and accounted for in the data.

    How about, have you ever wondered why models show a multiplicative effect, instead of the observed less than x1 on each doubling of atmospheric CO2? Oh, wait, never mind, there's a consensus, why would I question anything? My fault!

    No, I have never really wondered about that, because it has been well understood...since the late 1800's.

  • ||

    So, Chad, you understand why models use a multiplier occasionally in excess of 9, when real world data doesn't even come close to matching? Do please explain. I'm dying to be let in on the secret.

    So I suppose you think that the ice is gone in the arctic. Or are you one of the more reasonable that didn't fall for the scam and just believe that it is melting at an unprecedented rate. How reasonable and informed of you.

  • ||

    Actually taking action on climate change doesn't require certainty. We don't have to be 100% certain, that climate change is occuring, or that it's been man made. We just need to have sufficient evidence that points to it being a real risk.

    Is it possible that all those science organizations are wrong, and climate change isn't occuring, sure. In fact I hope they are wrong.

    But...

    On the off chance that they are right, I think it's reasonable to take some actions to mitigate the risk.

    IE, in the face of uncertainty, it is possible to take action. We don't need to "know" for sure on anything.

    Anyone that is arguing they know for 100% sure, is a dumbass or a liar.

    So, taking into account uncerainity, and the risks involved, it seems reasonable to take some steps to mitigate them.

    IE, reduce dependence on finite fossil fuels (a good idea where climate change is real or not)

    increase energy efficieny (again a good idea)

    switch some of the taxes from labor to carbon (again a good idea).


    People every day have to make decisons based on imperfect knowledge, this is no different. So we should stop arguing about certainity (when no one can be certain for sure) and start taking reasonable steps to reduce the risks that a large number of scientists believe we face.

    If we are wrong, well that happens. That's why they steps we take should be reasonable, and no bankrupt the economy.

  • ||

    Show me how the temperature data from satellites fits the AGW story, or disprove their validity. Until then, you AGW people are still commies trying to control the masses with your scare tactics based on soft science, and incomplete and questionable modeling.

  • Michael Ejercito||

    Environmental issues are often classic textbook examples of situations where markets do not work. Should the government do nothing and allow highly sub-optimal situations to occur, or should it do something that would almost certainly violate your libertarian ethic?


    Enviromental issues are worst when there is no control over a resource. For example, an unowned ocean quickly gets overfished. Unowned forests quickly get deforested.

    Who has the incentive to take care of the oceans if they do not own it? Who has the incentive to take care of a forest if they do not own it.

    There is a reason that buffalo almost became extinct while sheep and cows are not in danger of extinction.


    That's nice, but your choice of political philosophy does not lead logically to your bizarre willingness to put your faith in a bunch of crackpot partisan websites over literally the calls of every major scientific organization on earth.


    Strangely enough, those major scientific organizations avoid mention of the obvious quick fix .

    Some of them even say we need to act now before it is too late. With the obvious quick fix, it will never be too late.

  • ||

    Krone, if we go with your take, and we assume that the changes will have minimal affect on people, and we assume that we know with reasonably high certainty that the changes we suspect might be happening are in fact bad for the majority of the planet, than you have a point. However, the changes proposed are pretty nearly invariably a significant hardship to much of the world, and we don't know with any certainty whether the planet a few degrees warmer will be a worse place to live. In fact the only lab testing that I've ever run across on the subject suggests that higher concentrations of CO2 will in fact increase plant life growth rates and resistance to drought. Pretty much everything else is speculation on a system that we don't come close to fully understanding.

    Even with that, there are a number of well respected, and highly intelligent people around the world, including some that specialize in climate, that heartily disagree that the small percentage of CO2 that we contribute is going to cause any negative impacts in our climate. So I disagree completely that risking serious harm to our way of life is a good option in the face of a maybe.

  • ||

    So you agree then that there is at least some risk, and would be willing to take reasonable steps to mitigate those riks.

    So the next thing then, is what would be reasonable steps to take that would not cost to much to mitigate those risks.

    Here are some that I think we should be able to get general agreement on, and that would not have an overly adverse effect.

    I'm curious though why you think the things I proposed would have a hugely negative effect on the world.

    The best one, and the one most likely to have the most benefits is the net zero carbon tax. Tax levels stay the same, but people are encouraged to use carbon fuels more efficiently. This would encourage innovation, and conservation. Also, it would reduce the other exteranlities caused by excess carbon fuel use like healthcare costs related to smog, or particulate matter.

    Another side beneffit is that the high price of oil serves to prop up some regiems that are decidely unfriendly to us. Instead of spending hundreds of billions on wars, doesn't it make sense to stop funding those regiems (and by extenension terrorist organizations ) instead.

    It's been shown that there is a inverse correlation between freedom and the price of oil in the Middle East. When the price of oil goes down, freedom increases.


    Let's see, what else could we do,

    Maybe build a national electric grid. We need to build one anyway, because our current one is falling apart, and won't support our energy needs, why not do that, and allow it take take the energy from places like the desert, or plain states to the cities that need them?

    IMO, there are a number of ideas like that where we could make a big difference at a small cost.

    Also of note is that while green ideas usually cost more upfront, they often more than pay for themselves over the long run.

  • ||

    I don't agree that there is some risk, at least not anymore than at any past time. We aren't sure of where the future will take us. We aren't sure what the optimal global climate is. We don't even know if it's possible for us to impact CO2 levels in any significant amount.

    As for the areas such as a national energy grid, I'll support that, but not for AGW reasons, except maybe to get others behind it. I'm also behind building a ton of new nuclear plants, and allowing for spent fuel recycling. I'm also behind drilling in ANWAR, and off the coasts, and exploring the feasibility of accessing oil shale more completely. I'm for allowing investors to push the envelope on new tech to replace current energy production and storage systems, when they become financially competitive.

    I'm against the feds mandating a transition to under-developed, and expensive green tech. I'm against them taxing CO2, or other green-house gases, at least until such time as they are in fact proven to be harmful.

    p.s. I wasn't referring to your solutions, but the majority of the solutions that have been proposed. That includes any solution that artificially increases energy costs through regulation and taxation. Cheap energy is the cornerstone of developing a 1st world society. If we increase energy costs, not only will it hurt the wealthy societies, it will depress, and hold back any society that is or would other wise be improving.

  • ||

    I've got bad news for you then. Even if climate change is a bunch of crap, the cost of energy is going to be going up (that's assuming no green tech break throughs).

    Oil going up, coal going up, NG, low, but will go up. In fact, I read last year how there were some places in Texas on wind power that were paying less than the ones getting power from NG.

    If you pay attention to the investment community, and see what's really going on with fossil fuels (instead of right wing talking points), there are some serious price hikes coming with fossil fuels.


    Oh, and you don't think with all the evidence there isn't at least an elevated risk level? Really, you are that sure that all the thousands of scientists are part of some vast conspiracy?

    Maybe, but I doubt it.

  • ||

    Okay, so humans are causing the temperature of the Earth to climb to ever-increasing heights never-before seen. Ice is melting everywhere and sea level is rising. Drought, flood, etc etc. Catastrophe of - you should pardon the expression, eh? - biblical proportions is staring us in the face.

    Solution: cut back on carbon dioxide production, back to the levels of 1960. Understanding that means a reduction of industrial and energy output back to that year's level - no avoiding it; less CO2 ---> less energy and industry 'cause that's where it comes from, mostly - we then will experience another problem. That will be deciding which 3 billion - give or take a few; I forget as I sit here how many people there were in 1960 - which 3 billion people get to die and, second problem, how do you convince them to do so without another world war? You figure that they'll all just lay down and die, 'cause you tell 'em you need room to ride your horsie? Or you can tell 'em that Momma Earth has a fever. Guess again. What will happen, even if the U.S. does truly reduce carbon dioxide output to that level, the rest of the world isn't going to commit suicide for your beliefs in the evil of the human race and the horrors of capitalism. So we'll die out, others folks with fewer foolish ideas and more common sense will move it and by the time 2100 rolls around, archeologists will be digging in the ruins of American cities and shaking their heads, trying to figure out why so many of us believed in two dozen contradictory and impossible things before lunch and acted as if they were all true. Glad I'm old and gonna be dead before all this nonsense bears fruit. Damned idiots and your ideologies.

  • ||

    umm, less CO2 != less energy.

    nuclear energy a bit more expensive than fossil's but proven
    wind, comprable to fossil, cheaper than nuclear, and growing at 20-30% a year
    Solar still a bit expensive, but estimated to hit parity around 2020 or so.

  • ||

    Ronald Bailey is what passes for a libertarian?

    Global warming is a transparent pretext for transfer of power to the U.S. government and to other unaccountable international pseudo-governmental structures like the U.N.

    The globe is cooling due to reduced solar energy output another symptom of which is reduced sunspot activity.

    If you want a laugh, read who Bailey voted for for president in 2008 and why.

    http://www.reason.com/news/show/129640.html

    Yes, let's punish the Republicans and vote for the most Leftist, Statist individual ever to run for president. Oops, missed the Republicans and punished the American people.

  • ||

    Chad, Chad, Chad...typical arrogant, faux intellectual pretending to be all knowledgable about AGW and trying to knock everyone off kilter with your grandiose scientific pronouncements...which, oh by the way, happen to be utterly false.
    3rd warmest summer on record eh? Oh, would that be the discredited NOAA report? How about YOU try going back to the 3rd grade and explain to us why, when the air temp stopped cooperating with your cockamamie AGW crap, ya'll suddenly decided to switch to water temperature, which had no reliable method of measurement until 2003. And since that shows cooling since then, you've decided to overlook it and conveniently eliminate both the satellite and Argo data in the model and PRESTO CHANGO...you've got the conclusion you're looking for! A new ocean record!!! God you people are IDIOTS! Do you really think people are that stupid not to actually fact check this stuff? Go ahead...try another one. Can't wait to shove it up your deceptive derriere. I'm so sick of you people.

  • Chad||

    Michael Ejercito | September 23, 2009, 12:22pm | #

    Enviromental issues are worst when there is no control over a resource. For example, an unowned ocean quickly gets overfished. Unowned forests quickly get deforested. Who has the incentive to take care of the oceans if they do not own it? Who has the incentive to take care of a forest if they do not own it.


    Yes, Michael...we all know this blah blah crap. The problem is that most environmental resources cannot be privatized, or even if they could, would result in a monopoly.

    Now what?

  • Chad||

    Steve in AZ | September 23, 2009, 4:50pm | #

    3rd warmest summer on record eh? Oh, would that be the discredited NOAA report


    Peer-reviewed citation, please. I quadruple-dog dare you to back up your claim.

  • Chad||

    Steve in AZ | September 23, 2009, 4:50pm | #

    explain to us why, when the air temp stopped cooperating with your cockamamie AGW crap


    Ahh, STILL confused about weather vs climate, are we. Anything less than a five year average is weather. Period. Even within that, you see fluctuations. 2000-9 will be the warmest decade on record, with ease.

    ya'll suddenly decided to switch to water temperature, which had no reliable method of measurement until 2003.

    Citation, please. Peer-reviewed only. What happened, did thousands of thermometers blow up simultaneously? And why do you place your bets completely on two essentially identical indirect satellite measurements that disagree with both theory and with tens of thousands of thermometers that are directly measuring, as well has thousands of documented physical and biological changes?

  • Michael Ejercito||

    Yes, Michael...we all know this blah blah crap. The problem is that most environmental resources cannot be privatized, or even if they could, would result in a monopoly.


    It is possible for governments to use eminent domain to take control of forests, as they have in the past. The U.S. government used eminent domain to seize Yosemite.

    International waters are an entirely different matter. Who could possibly control the deep seas?

    3rd warmest summer on record eh?


    That implies that the warmest summer on record was in the past, which implies...

  • Chad||

    Michael Ejercito | September 23, 2009, 9:56pm | #

    Who could possibly control the deep seas?

    No one, which is why our fisheries are going to hell in a handbasket. In the few places where (reasonably) sustainable fishing occuring, there is heavy government involvement needed to create the pseudo-markets that are working there.


    That implies that the warmest summer on record was in the past, which implies...

    That if you look at short term trends rather than long term data, you can observe noise.

  • Neu Mejican||

    For the record, I reduced my own carbon footprint by more than 50% in the last 10 years. It ain't that hard people. And guess what, it was done with no lost quality of life. It really just takes people deciding it is important.

  • Chad||

    Neu Mejican | September 24, 2009, 2:41am | #
    For the record, I reduced my own carbon footprint by more than 50% in the last 10 years. It ain't that hard people. And guess what, it was done with no lost quality of life. It really just takes people deciding it is important.


    I agree. I also live a low-carbon lifestyle, purchase green energy to the extent that is feasible, and purchase high-quality offsets for the rest...with no significant impact on my lifestyle. The cost of offsetting everything I do is noticably smaller than my other regular charitible donations, for example.

  • Robert L Hamilton, Engineer||

    'Global Warming' facts are clear: The atmosphere weighs about 10**19 pounds of which about 5(10)**15 pounds are CO2. Annually, human activities add about 10**12 pounds if we account for sequestering in ocean and plants et c. All these figures have been known for over 100 years. The entire AGW hoax is based on two graphs: The hockey stick and the Keeling curve, and a misconception about radiation.

    The hockey stick was used in IPCC v. 1 even though it was obviously a blatant, patent fraud and has been abandoned by the GWers. The Keeling curve requires an annual addition of 10**13 pounds of CO2 over the previous 40 year period. This cannot come from our activities.

    CO2 may in fact act to keep the planet cool. Consider: At higher altitudes where there is very little water to intercept IR, CO2 can radiate small amounts of energy into the galaxy. In fact, that is the function of the atmosphere; it lifts moist air high into the region where it can condense thereby releasing the heat of vaporization. This energy can then be radiated into the galaxy without the interference of H2O.

    This hoax has been preened and fostered by the Green Horde who want us back in caves and tepees burning corn shucks to keep from freezing in the next advance of the Ice. Of course, they will be driving around in Humvees, which machinery will be adapted to burn sewer gas.

    Dr. Robert L Hamilton, Engineer


    NB: I have no connection whatsoever with UT Dallas

  • ||

    kroneborge wrote: "umm, less CO2 != less energy.

    nuclear energy a bit more expensive than fossil's but proven
    wind, comprable to fossil, cheaper than nuclear, and growing at 20-30% a year
    Solar still a bit expensive, but estimated to hit parity around 2020 or so."

    We haven't built a new nuke plant in - what? - 30 plus years. What makes you think we are going to build more starting now; or, that we have the industrial and engineering resources with which to build them? Wind? Yeah, sure. Build a 20 MW wind facility then build a 100 MW fossil-fuel plant to feed the net when the wind power fails to be generated per specification. Already existing wind generation facilities are more capital-intensive than fossil fuel, when you realize that the 20MW wind farm actually generates about 2 -3 MW considered over time. Solar is still not producing better than 40% of received energy and that's only until the cells' faces require cleaning. Face it, if wind and sun were economically competitive, energy folks would be trampling each other to build them. Oh,yes, "in the great by-and-by" all those things will work. Right now, if they were working for diddly-sh*t, they wouldn't get a smell. Meantime, you still have to decide who dies to make up for the loss in energy production and wealth creation - not money; goods. Wishin' and hopin' and prayin' don't get it done. It takes real world engineering and solid results. Even so, to paraphrase Galileo in English, "It's still cooling."

  • Wat||

    Libertarian Guy, why do you keep calling yourself a "libertarian" when you think it is OK to lock people up for trying to have sex with imaginary people?

  • ||

    I do have to admit that I'm impressed the libertarian crowd seems to accept climate science at a rate at least as high as the general population. Agreeing on the science of the situation and then going to say you simply don't give a fuck is at least intellectually honest. Of course, it's also almost comically irresponsible, so there's that.

  • Harley||

    Jeff,

    There is a difference between saying you don't give a fuck and pointing out that it might be more expensive to fight global warming than try to adapt to it.

    Also, I am naturally skeptical of anyone who claims virtually the end of the world. I have seen so many "sky is falling" predictions throughout my life that I am apathetic towards them. Not saying that there have not been legitimate concerns or that the predictions weren't based on very real and very serious problems, it is just when it goes from "in the long term, this could cause a lot of damage and indirectly kill millions by reducing food security, increasing the range of disease carrying insects, and erratic weather" to "billions will die and every coastal city will be under 40 feet of water" I zone out.

  • ||

    Some people say we are at risk so we have to act now. In a world where resources are not unlimited, that means making a choice. Because we have to spend trillions to convert our power generation and transportation systems, we will not have much money left over for medical research, education, housing and so on and on until you reach the poorest people on earth who will starve because of this. Choices have to be made. Peoples lives depend on making the right ones. How sure are you that we are making the right ones now?

  • ||

    Unfortunately - or perhaps fortunately depending upon one's stand on AGW - today there is a post on Watts Up With That and on Steve McIntyre's blog about the use of tree rings in the subsequent "hockey stick" validations. In those posts, it would appear that both the hockey stick in all its various incarnations and the elevated temperature record for the recent past are shot in the head. So we have no Global Cooling aka "Glaciers in Detroit" - that was the "sky is falling" cry in the 1970's - no World Famine and Death - same decade - no Hole in the Ozone Layer complete with UV death rays; no "Millions of Hetros Die In AIDS Epidemic"; no "Mystery Epidemic From Africa Kills Billions"; no "Pig Flu Kills Off Infants, Children and Political Leaders" epidemic. Batting 0.000 there, catastrophe-mongers. The jury is still out on "The One Saves Earth From Financial Ruin", but the preliminary returns are that it's another hoax. Likewise, "Shrub Saves U.S. From Al-Queda In Iraq" seems dubious, but there's a bunch of dead 'misunderstanders of Islam' over there, so that one's not a total loss. *sigh* I hear that Chicken Little is getting up off his back, saying that the sky really isn't falling. Consensus is pleasant and powerful in conversation and in argument, but to paraphrase Lenin, "Another wonderful theory undone by the unpleasant facts."

  • abercrombie milano||

    Libertarian Guy, why do you keep calling yourself a "libertarian" when you think it is OK to lock people up for trying to have sex with imaginary people?

  • nike shox||

    is good

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