Can the Climate Be Fixed?

A new book offers a clear-eyed view of the technological and economic magnitude of addressing climate change.

The Climate Fix: What Scientists and Politicians Won’t Tell You About Global Warming, by Roger Pielke, Jr., Basic Books, $26.00, 276 pp.

“If there is an iron law of climate policy, it is that when policies focused on economic growth confront policies focused on emissions reductions, it is economic growth that will win out every time,” writes University of Colorado political scientist Roger Pielke, Jr. in his new book, The Climate Fix: What Scientists and Politicians Won’t Tell You About Global Warming. The world saw this iron law of climate policy fully in action this past year, as both the Obama administration’s push to adopt a domestic cap-and-trade scheme to ration carbon dioxide and the Copenhagen climate change negotiations over a treaty to follow the United Nation’s Kyoto Protocol collapsed before it.

To illustrate the iron law, Pielke cites a 2009 poll [PDF] of Americans commissioned by the Economist. When no price tag is attached to cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 17 percent by 2020 and 80 percent by 2050, 62 percent of Americans are in favor and 21 percent are opposed. At an annual cost of $80 per household, 53 percent still favor emissions reductions, but support drops to 30 percent at $175 per year, and to just 7 percent at $770 per year. Accepting one popular low estimate that it would cost one percent of GDP per year to cut greenhouse gas emissions over that period, the rough costs for an American household today would be about $1,200 per year. ($14 trillion x 1 percent ÷ 300 million x 2.6 average household size ≈ $1,200)

Pielke also points out that the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has built historically unprecedented rates of spontaneous decarbonization into scenarios of future emissions. This is a huge problem because the UN scenarios assume that most of the cuts in emissions will be relatively easy to do, requiring only a little extra policy push in the form of carbon taxes or markets to cut carbon dioxide emissions enough to keep the climate from warming too much.

Pielke convincingly argues that this is not so. For example, the average annual rate of decarbonization implied by a 50 percent reduction in global emissions below 1990 levels by 2050 assuming a 3 percent annual GDP growth is 4.4 percent. The actual rate of global decarbonization between 1980 and 2006 was 1.5 percent while annual average GDP growth was 3.5 percent. In other words, the world would have to nearly triple its rate of decarbonization. And just how effective have the Kyoto Protocol and carbon markets been in accelerating decarbonization? Not very, given the experience of the European Union which signed onto Kyoto Protocol and has the world’s only functioning carbon market. “Decarbonization in the EU occurred at an annual average rate of 1.35 percent per year in the nine years before the Kyoto Protocol and 1.36 percent in the nine years following,” points out Pielke.

To get some idea of what higher decarbonization rates imply, Pielke parses the Obama administration’s proposed target of reducing U.S. carbon dioxide emissions by 17 percent below their 2005 levels by 2020. Assuming an increase of energy demand of 0.5 percent per year, this implies that the U.S. would have to shut down just about 60 percent of it coal-fired electric generation plants, and build the equivalent of nearly 350 new 750-megawatt nuclear plants. There are currently 104 operating nuclear plants in the U.S. and 441 total in the world.

Alternatively, the U.S could cut its carbon dioxide emissions by 16 percent if it replaced all of its coal plants with natural gas by 2020. Ignoring intermittency and energy storage issues, the goal could be met by deploying 200,000 2.5-megawatt wind turbines by 2020. The 17 percent reduction target could be met by shutting down the equivalent of 20 750-megawatt coal-fired power plants per year between now and 2020, bringing total energy consumption back to 1980s levels. At the global level, assuming a cut in emissions by 50 percent of 1990 levels by 2050 with energy consumption increasing by 1.5 percent per year implies building 8,500 new nuclear plants. That’s equivalent to about one new plant every two days for 40 years.

Pielke argues that the politicization of climate science derives in part from definitional problems in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). In the UNFCCC, climate change is defined as changes that are attributed directly or indirectly to human activity that changes the composition of the global atmosphere and that is in addition to any natural climate variability. Also, signatories to the UNFCCC are supposed to prevent “dangerous interference” with the climate. If there is no interference, then there is no reason to act. “For those wanting to argue a case for action, there are strong incentives to attribute impacts of concern to society (and disasters are of utmost concern) to greenhouse gas emissions,” declares Pielke. “Thus, the policy framework itself creates incentives to view the science in a particular way.”

Pielke provides numerous examples of how these definitions subtly politicize climate science. For example, proponents for action against climate change often claim that losses from climate related disasters are increasing. Pielke acknowledges that it is true that losses are increasing from events like hurricanes. However, he goes on to show that once hurricane data are normalized—that is, frequency, wind speed, population trends, and coastal development are taken into account—there has been no discernible increase in losses in nearly any area of the world. The same trends hold for flood and wildfire damage.

Just how politicized climate science has become was exposed in the infamous “Climategate” episode in which emails from activist climate researchers were leaked to the public. Among other things, the emails revealed efforts to remove journal editors with whom the researchers disagreed and suppress the publication of articles that they disliked. “The emails reveal activist scientists busy extolling the virtues of peer review to journalists and the public, while at the same time they were busy behind the scenes plotting to corrupt the peer-review process in a way that favored their views on the science and politics of climate change,” writes Pielke.

Pielke acknowledges that just how much man-made climate change we can expect remains scientifically uncertain, but he asserts that uncertainty is not a reason for inaction. He argues that the definition of climate change must be broadened to include climate effects caused by changes in land use and pollutants such as black soot. Once climate change policy is no longer just about cutting greenhouse gas emissions, Pielke believes that policymakers and the public can consider other policy responses to whatever climate change occurs in the future. For example, efforts at adaptation will no longer be treated largely as costs arising from failed carbon dioxide mitigation, but as economic development. Societies become less vulnerable to whatever disasters might occur as they become richer.

Pielke ends by arguing that the uncertainties about man-made climate change means that the world needs to develop no-carbon energy sources in the future. Given the iron law of climate policy, the new energy sources must be cheaper than the fossil fuels they replace. How can this be accomplished? He proposes that countries levy a $5 per ton carbon tax and that governments use the tens of billions raised to fund research and development for such new energy technologies. Pielke believes that reaching an international agreement on such a course will be far easier than trying to negotiate a comprehensive carbon rationing scheme (which would be ineffective anyway). Such a tax would raise about $30 billion per year in the U.S. Given the past sorry experience of government-funded energy R&D in the United States, Pielke is making a huge leap of faith that federal bureaucrats will get it right this time.

Pielke’s proposals look increasingly likely to garner some bipartisan support on Capitol Hill. Ultimately, The Climate Fix is a clear-eyed analysis of how climate science became politicized and of the magnitude of the technological and economic issues that addressing the uncertainties of any future warming will entail.

Ronald Bailey is Reason'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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  • Realist||

    Bailey, what climate change would that be? You should get a degree in science!

  • Zeb||

    Perhaps the climate change that is and always has been happening since the world began? Whatever the cause, climate does change and we may have to deal with unpleasant consequences of that at some point.

  • GMT II||

    "Whatever the cause",

    Global cause would be equal heating of large areas of the Earth unequally. To put it another way, unequal heating of the Earth's surface.

    Well, that is what I teach pilots when discussing the weather in ground school.

  • Ecolibertarian||

    However, he goes on to show that once hurricane data are normalized—that is, frequency, wind speed, population trends, and coastal development are taken into account—there has been no discernible increase in losses in nearly any area of the world. The same trends hold for flood and wildfire damage.

    Well, spluhh! Isn't the argument from those favoring carbon emissions limits that warming causes increased frequency and severity of hurricanes? So it's not surprising that when you control for frequency and severity, warming doesn't cause an increase in damage.

  • ||

    Ecolib: Perhaps I have not been clear -- normalizing means taking into account the number of hurricanes and their relative strength. It turns out that there were bigger and meaner hurricanes in the 1920s and 1940s. Had they hit areas with their current level of development and population, damages would have been much worse than in the 1990s. Sorry for any confusion.

    For more recent data, see Klotzbach in GRL 2006 which looked at trends in number and intensity of tropical cyclones for the last two decades and found:
    This study indicates that, based on data over the last twenty years, no significant increasing trend is evident in global ACE or in Category 4–5 hurricanes.

  • ||

    Isn't the argument from those favoring carbon emissions limits that warming causes increased frequency and severity of hurricanes?

    Yes, it is. Unfortunately for them, no one who actually knows anything about hurricanes is willing to back them up.

  • ||

    Not even bicycle-powered generators are "carbon free". (And that's not counting the energy used in making the apparatus.)

  • DLM||

    Not even bicycle-powered generators are "carbon free". (And that's not counting the energy used in making the apparatus.)

    I like the idea of electric generators powered by tides and ocean currents? We have quite a few of those (tides).

  • ||

    it's operation is however Fossil-Carbon Free.

  • Shorter Ron Bailey||

    I'm just gonna criticize everything, offer no ideas of my own, and pretty much tacitly argue for the petro-coal status quo, because that's what I'm paid to do.

  • Tman||

    So you must be new around here huh..

  • ||

    SRB: Might want to catch up on what I actually think about climate change. And how some people have reacted to it.

    Or you can be a troll.

  • ||

    +1

  • ||

    +1 more

  • ||

    You can't win, Ron. 4 posts in and two climate changers are already on your back for...well, whatever mindless complaints they made, because they're not exactly clear. And one person on you for believing in warming. Heads they win tails you lose.

    But of course, this merely illustrates the author's point of how politicized this debate has become. So at least you get that, Ron.

  • Old Mexican||

    Pielke acknowledges that just how much man-made climate change we can expect remains scientifically uncertain, but he asserts that uncertainty is not a reason for inaction.

    Of course not - just ask any compulsive gambler.

  • Tony||

    You make the faulty assumption that inaction is not also a gamble.

  • ||

    In the same sense that not placing a bet at the rouletter wheel means you are taking the chance that the bet you would have placed, would have paid off big.

    If you had made it. You compulsive gambler you. Even when you never go into a casino, you're gambling gambling gambling.

  • Old Mexican||

    Re: Tony,

    You make the faulty assumption that inaction is not also a gamble.

    It's not faulty, Tony - inaction means NOT to gamble, whereas gambling leads to two possible results: you either win, or you lose. Draw up a decision tree and you will see that it is YOU who is making the wrong assumptions.

  • Tony||

    Say your house is burning down. You are on the second floor. Do you run for the window, the door to the hall, or just stand there? How is just standing there not taking at least as much of a risk as the alternatives?

  • Old Mexican||

    Re: Tony,

    Say your house is burning down.

    Let's say that it is not burning.

    We can play these games all day, Tony.

  • Tony||

    Let's say the overwhelming consensus of firemen is that your house is burning.

  • sevo||

    Let's say we're tired of you silly hypotheses.

  • Old Mexican||

    Re: Tony,

    Let's say the overwhelming consensus of firemen is that your house is burning.

    Let's say the firemen were from East Anglia...

    I'll take my chances.

  • Al Gore||

    The earth has a fever.

  • Let's play.....||

    The UN says your house is burning and is shaking you down for trillions for corrupt tin-pot governments the world over......I say check it out carefully; and if it really is burning, put the fire out and tell the UN to get fucked. Let's not avoid the fact that this thing has become almost hopelessly politicized.

  • Tony||

    It was bound to be hopelessly politicized, it involves upending the status quo for every country and many huge industries. What's your point?

  • Ted S.||

    Let's say that it is not burning.

    As the mathematician would respond, set fire to your house, thereby reducing the problem to a case that's already been solved.

  • Realist||

    Once again, some choose to argue with Tony the idiot. What is the purpose? You dips have been doing this for months maybe years with no benefit. Shit you must be bored!

  • Tony||

    It is a wonder that they enjoy so much ass kicking.

  • ||

    What is the purpose?

    By our very nature libertarians are romantics.

    We hope beyond hope that rational argument will convince him.

  • Albert||

    That is the definition of insanity.

  • Ron||

    I for one like it when they reply to trolls because the public is full of them and I learn the finer points of arguments by reading these comments so keep up the good work.

  • ||

    your house is burning down.

    hmm...no smoke no visible fire...lets look around. I see no fire or any smoke and all the fire alarms have batteries in them and they work when I test them.

    Tony can you please stop screaming at the top of your lungs that my house burning down.

  • ||

    But the argument is that we are in fact playing roulette, dice, blackjack, slots -- whatever gambling metaphor that floats your boat -- with the climate. We don't know how much money we have on the table -- it could be more than our future income stream or it might a dollar.

  • Old Mexican||

    Re: Ron Bailey,

    But the argument is that we are in fact playing roulette, dice, blackjack, slots -- whatever gambling metaphor that floats your boat -- with the climate.

    The argument is that we're not, Ron. Kicking the side of the Rockies is not the same as saying I'm taking a gamble that the damned whole thing is going to fall on me. Same with climate - we're just not that powerful.

    We don't know how much money we have on the table -- it could be more than our future income stream or it might a dollar.

    Again, I might get hit with a pebble or the whole damned mountain for kicking it on the base - the broadness of such "estimate" is not different from a mere guess. The problem here is that the uncertainty is right now scratching the side of "unlikeliness."

  • ||

    OM: With due respect, I think the uncertainties are a bit narrower and more worrisome than you apparently do. I hope that I will one day be able to admit that I was wrong.

  • ||

    Are you saying that you believe that because of human activity the planets climate will no longer fluctuate but only increase? It kind of seems to be the claim. Would it increase a little, and then return to natural fluctuations? Would AGW end Ice Ages? Would you define that as "bad"?

    Three times as many people die from cold as from heat. Would a reduction in this number of human deaths be "bad"? How many square miles of land now in permafrost would be opened up for agriculture? Another bad thing? Opening up the Northwest passage, more badness?

    I am not even mildly convinced that a slight warming wouldn't be a ginormous boon to mankind. Would I pay to end the next Ice Age? Nope, not a penny.

  • ||

    MG: Actually, many integrated climate models do find that mild warming would be a net good for humanity. But the concern is that won't stay mild.

  • Rrabbit||

    The problem is not so much a little bit of a temperature increase. The problem is what is then caused by that temperature increase, such as rising sea levels, meaning billions of humans living near the coast might have to migrate elsewhere.

  • Paul Krugman||

    "The problem is what is then caused by that temperature increase, such as rising sea levels, meaning billions of humans living near the coast might have to migrate elsewhere."

    What you fail to understand is that all those houses and roads we'll have to build will be a great economic stimulus.

  • ||

    MG: Actually, many integrated climate models do find that mild warming would be a net good for humanity. But the concern is that won't stay mild.

  • ||

    "Are you saying that you believe that because of human activity the planets climate will no longer fluctuate but only increase?"

    Actually I think the claim is that it will still continue to fluctuate, but the swings will be greater, and the overall trend will be up.

  • ||

    Ron, I really appreciate your responses. It takes a hearty soul to come to this place and take on all comers.

  • Realist||

    Any asshole can come up with a climate model. You can make the model predict anything since assumtions are made. The climate models can not even predict the past correctly. Too many novices like Bailey think that if a computer is used to run a model the answer must be correct. Computers just obtain an incorrect answer, from a piss poor model, much quicker!

  • DLM||

    We could move to Antarctica. :)

  • Realist||

    There is no empirical evidence that AGW exists.

  • C'mon man||

    Yes, yes, YES! This. "Uncertainty is not a reason for inaction." We knew that eventually Saddam would attack us with a weapon of mass destruction. We knew that we were headed into a Depression greater than the Great Depression. This is why we have to act, goddamn it. Pass that fucking legislation now. Now, motherfuckers.

  • Realist||

    Oh fuck no let's not let a little something like lack of evidence stop our do gooder assholes from their religion.

  • ||

    Pielke acknowledges that just how much man-made climate change we can expect remains scientifically uncertain, but he asserts that uncertainty is not a reason for inaction.

    IOW, uncertainty about whether there is any value at all to engaging Pielke and footing the bills to implement his pet project should in no way inhibit you from spending your money for his benefit.

    Got it. The door's over that way. Don't allow me to detain you.

  • Old Mexican||

    He [Pielke] argues that the definition of climate change must be broadened to include climate effects caused by changes in land use and pollutants such as black soot.

    "To better control you, my dear!" said the Wolf.

    Once climate change policy is no longer just about cutting greenhouse gas emissions, Pielke believes that policymakers and the public can consider other policy responses to whatever climate change occurs in the future.

    And have more things to blame it to. You can imagine a Land Use credit exchange and a Black Soot credit exchange - there's no limit for rent-seeking visionaries!

    "We're in the money! We're in the money!"

  • ||

    ++

  • ||

    "Given the iron law of climate policy, the new energy sources must be cheaper than the fossil fuels they replace."

    And the way he wants to do that is to TAX carbon? Why not let the market find a better way...

    Oh, sorry I forgot. If we let the market get rid of our buggy whips, what is government supposed to do??

  • ||

    OK, I don't want to be a dick here (even though I am), but these climate change threads have become the equivalent of Israel/Palestine threads. It's utterly political, people are completely invested in sides for identity reasons, and no one will change their minds no matter how much evidence is presented; and whether that evidence is bullshit has obviously been shown to be a factor, which makes this all worse, because the climate changers have blown any shred of credibility with the doubters. And remember I'm saying this as someone whose position is both that you can't possibly know enough from the evidence we have to make any decision, and anyway, I don't give a shit. If it does cause some effects, we'll deal with it, just as we would if it happened because a volcano erupted or carbon emitting elves raided us from the moon.

    On top of this, it looks like most of the most pernicious things the climate changers were trying to do have failed, and after the Climategate thing, they're pretty fucked for any future stuff too. So there's not much to worry about other than people spending tax money on stupid shit. Nothing will change.

    Which is pretty much the way I view Israel/Palestine too, hence the similarity.

  • Tony||

    This is only a political issue because deniers (and their industry backers) have made it one. Science has gone on being science, and you have no better reason to dismiss it in this field than you do in any other.

  • ||

    Tony: I think you might benefit from reading Pielke's book - the science is far more politicized and biased than you apparently know. Take a look. It might make you a little less certain.

    Disclaimer: My best reading of the science, my talks with researchers, and the scientific information I garner from conferences put on by both "alarmists" and "deniers" is that climate change is a problem, possibly even a big problem.

    The question is: what is the best mechanism for addressing such a commons problem? For many good reasons, e.g., having been a low level government energy bureaucrat among them, I don't share your touchingly naive faith in the efficacy of government when it comes to solving commons problems. Clearly encouraging economic growth in poor countries is a very good way to help them handle any future problems that the climate may cause them. Unfortunately, even real smart folks, e.g., development economists, don't clue about how to help dysfunctional poor countries overthrow their kleptocrats and adopt the rule of law which are prerequisites to prosperity.

    In any case, I review a whole raft of climate policy approaches in my article, "What's the Best Way to Handle Climate Change?"

  • Tman||

    I don't share your touchingly naive faith in the efficacy of government when it comes to solving commons problems.

    It's not naivete after how long he's been posting here. There's no WAY he doesn't understand the other side of the argument. He just doesn't want to believe it. There's nothing "naiive" about it.

  • ||

    Tman: Benefit of a doubt, man. Benefit of a doubt.

  • Tman||

    You are much more generous man than I. Must be that altruism gene.

  • Tony||

    I do not have faith in the efficacy of government. I just believe in government. It can be a tool for good or evil, but good luck having the former with people who hate government in charge of it.

  • ||

    This doesn't preclude bad government from people who love government.

  • Chad||

    The problem, Ron, is your "naive faith" that the market can solve problems, even when it has no mechanism to include important factors in its prices.

  • ||

    Pretty rich from the guy who puts his faith in the system that produced the corn ethanol subsidy and lobby, and the SynFuels Corporation.

    I feel safe in assuming that anyone in the private sector who invents the fantastic new technology will reap enormous rewards.

  • ||

    The problem, Ron, is your "naive faith" that the market can solve problems

    US consumption of oil peaked 2 years ago and it did it without cap and trade.

    If the market did not do that then what did?

  • Tony||

    If the market was all that was necessary to solve the problem in the most efficient way, it would have done so by now. It's just gonna get more costly and more uncertain.

  • ||

    it would have done so by now.

    Perhaps you should go and actually read the latest IPCC report.

    the negative effects of man made global warming will not start having adverse effects for another 50 years and that is if the warming is 3-6 degrees over a century....and we have only been seeing 1.4 degrees of warming per century.

    If solving the problem 50 years before there is a problem not soon enough then when should we have solved the problem? 1950?

  • Tony||

    So what exactly about the market status quo makes you think it's capable of solving a long-term global environmental problem when the market status quo is motivated by short-term profits for heavily subsidized polluting industries?

  • ||

    So what exactly about the market status quo makes you think it's capable of solving a long-term global environmental problem when the market status quo is motivated by short-term profits for heavily subsidized polluting industries?

    The US consumes less oil then it did in 2003 and the trend is set to continue downward. Problem solved. The motivation of what you describe as short term profit seeking has done what your democrats in congress could not. It has created peak demand for oil.

    Scores for solving Tony's non-existent problems:

    Freemarkets: 1

    Socialist statists of the world: 0

  • Ron||

    unfortunately one of the reasons we have used less energy since 2003 is because so many factories have moved out of the country. so for the whole planet there may have been a net gain in energy use

  • ||

    incidentally, 1958 is when we the public got our first warning:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0lgzz-L7GFg

  • Tony||

    Ron I have no faith in governments being able to solve this problem. I'm pretty pessimistic about that. I'm saying that's what they should be doing, because who else is gonna? Not the market, certainly not in time to help.

    One thing is certain: poor countries will pay disproportionately for the harm caused by rich countries, and thinking we can make the world an equitable place capable of adapting is much more naive. Anyway that would require extremely dedicated big government work (when was the last time removing a kleptocrat proved cheap?).

    As far as certainty, I do not find the "teach the controversy" false equivalence between the mainstream scientific consensus with "denier conferences" very useful.

  • DLM||

    Not the market, certainly not in time to help.

    I sometimes get the idea you consider the 'market' as some kind of conscious living entity. It's merely the sum of the transactions between people and relies on self-interest, a much more consistent and reliable human characteristic than altruism.

  • Tony||

    And there's no guarantee that from this sea of activity will emerge a proactive solution to a global environmental problem.

  • Blind Faith||

    Shame that Chadster and Tony the Tiger share such entirely voluntary blind faith in the "good intentions" of government leaders. A little skepticism is okay!

  • Tony||

    As I've said, I am highly skeptical of governments' ability to handle this problem. But I'm even more skeptical of the market alone, such as it is, being able to.

  • ||

    Ron,
    I will admit that I have not done as much research here as you have. However i must ask if you have talked to Hal Lewis, in the University of California, Santa Barbara - well if you could get ahold of him anyway being as he quit. I am sure you have read his resignation letter: http://my.telegraph.co.uk/reas.....l-society/
    If so, how do you answer his responses/views?

    Thanks

  • Realist||

    What science degree do you have?

  • Realist, simplified||

    What I mean is, did you a) even go to college and b) was it Harvard or its equivalent?

    If not, shut the fuck up.

  • Realist||

    You're simple for sure!

  • Michelle||

    You mean like that shit for brains husband of mine?

  • Mr. FIFY||

    *I'm* a denier. Where the fuck is MY industry backing? I haven't seen Thin Dime One from those rat bastards.

  • Tony||

    Peddling anti-science industry propaganda and not getting paid for it just makes you an idiot.

  • ||

    Episiarch: I hear you. I will point out that in the 2009 Economist poll that Pielke cites and to which I link, 69 percent of Americans believe global warming a serious(41%) or somewhat serious (28%) problem.

  • Fleeing Cali||

    Ron, the term "serious problem" doesn't describe what the 'alarmists' are predicting. A "serious problem" might not be serious enough to the people in the poll to warrant a drastic change in their lifestyle and standard of living I would bet.

    A more accurate poll answer would have been "dire emergency".

    I don't think many americans believe AGW is a big enough issue to warrant the solutions that are being pushed for it.

  • ||

    FC: Which is why the same poll indicates that most Americans would be willing to spend under $100 per year on global warming, but only 7 percent would spend around $800 per year.

  • Chad||

    You don't need a "drastic change in lifestyle".

    Rather, you need to give up half a year's economic growth over the course of a couple decades. Big frickin whoopie. You won't even notice the difference.

  • Fleeing Cali||

    Can you put a dollar figure on that please?

    If we give up growth for a couple of decades, what would that do to our global competitiveness? There is no/zero/nada chance that the rest of the world will give up 'half a year's growth' for a couple of decades. Especially the worlds two most populous countries. If you think china is going to jeapordize their growth targets for AGW, I have a few thousand bridges to sell you. If you have fallen for the token 'green' gestures from China, then I have a few thousand more bridges available at a discount price (just for you.)

  • Chad||

    Can you put a dollar figure on the 40-70% of species we are going to wipe out? The value of all the land we are going to lose? The people lost to war, famine, and disease? Those numbers might be a bit more relevant. And whatever they are, I am sure that the people of the year 2100 will be willing to wait an extra six months to get their IPad10000 in return for having a habitable planet.

    And perhaps you better check out what is going on in China. They are smoking us on the green energy front now, and yes, they are giving up the more cancerous forms of growth in order to do so.

  • ||

    Also, you should see these great villages that Grigory Potyomkin has built in the honor of Catherine II.

    Anyway, so you're claiming that:

    1) China really is inventing awesome new forms of technology that will save the world (which will shock anyone that's actually been to Beijing), and

    2) If we went first and spent money to develop these technologies, it would be cheap to do so, then doesn't it follow that:

    3) It will be even cheaper if we wait and copy them or trade with them? Why don't we specialize in things we're good at, like biotech research, and let them handle the energy?

    If they're "smoking" us and have a huge comparative advantage and it's a fairly easy and affordable problem, sounds like we don't have to do anything different from what we're doing.

    Whew, thanks for making us all feel better about doing nothing, Chad!

  • ||

    I mean, when I hear someone say, "These people have a huge comparative advantage in this over us," I think "Great, that means we should specialize in something else and trade with them."

    Chad apparently, like the great minds that thought up the auto bailout, the agricultural subsidies, or corn ethanol, thinks that it means that we should subsidize ourselves in an effort to "catch up." Weird.

  • ||

    Chad: The IEA's World Energy Outlook just came out today and it turns out that China is projected to use a lot more coal by 2035.

  • ||

    I am constantly amazed at otherwise intelligent people that buy the "China is beating us in green technology" myth.

    I have a lot more respect for Pielke and others who realize that's not true and we need a miracle than people like Chad who strangely seem to argue that it would be easy and cheap and China's doing it anyway, yet it's still so vitally important to take action right now.

  • Chad||

    Ron, China is going to have a lot more of just about everything by 2035.

    John, how it is a myth? They have all but captured the solar market in the last two years, and are surging ahead in every other greentech category. Like everything else, they subsidize the snot out of it.

  • Fleeing Cali||

    I can tell you have never been to China. They may be making green tech, but they're not using much...

  • Oh, really!||

    Then I, with Mr Obama, propose a gigantic solar-panel factory to be built in the San Francisco Bay area. With the wage concessions from the unions and the regulatory variances from government entities we will successfully build cost-effective panels which we can export to China.

  • Alex||

    Chad: "And perhaps you better check out what is going on in China. They are smoking us on the green energy front now, and yes, they are giving up the more cancerous forms of growth in order to do so."
    ---------------------------
    This is flat out false. Look at the coal fired plant build rate in china on page 18 here:

    http://www.netl.doe.gov/coal/refshelf/ncp.pdf

    You should perhaps at least have a clue on the subject you're discussing before making such ridiculous assertions.

  • sevo||

    Chad|11.9.10 @ 6:59PM|#
    "You don't need a "drastic change in lifestyle".
    Rather, you need to give up half a year's economic growth over the course of a couple decades. Big frickin whoopie. You won't even notice the difference."

    In that case, Chad, just man up and do it for us! You'll be a hero.

  • Chad||

    Already did. Next?

  • My Big Vacation||

    Chadster, may I vacation like Leader Michelle Obama and travel like Eco-Good-Example Al Gore? The hypocrisy of your heroes reeks to high heaven. You are an enabler.

  • ||

    Half a year's economic growth (or 1% of GDP by the lowball calculation) per year for a couple of decades?

    You're really, really bad at math, aren't you Chad?

    Do you realize how large that would be after "the course of a couple of decades?" Exponential growth gets huge.

    After twenty years, with just 1% smaller growth in GDP, we're talking over 20% smaller GDP.

    Chad the sub-prime mortgage lender: "So the APR is twice as high. You pay twice a year's interest over the course of a couple of decades. Big frickin whoopie. You won't even notice the difference."

    Chad on middle-class wage growth: "So real wages haven't gone up in twenty years. Big frickin whoopie. You wouldn't even notice the difference if they had gone up 20%."

  • Chad||

    No, John. Half a year's growth, once, spread over a couple decades as we implemented the policy.

    Before you call someone bad at math, you should check your own.

  • ||

    Half a year's growth, once, spread over a couple decades as we implemented the policy.

    Before you call someone bad at math, you should check your own.

    My math is correct. Perhaps this isn't a math issue, it may be a reading issue on your part.

    The Stern Report does not say slightly less than 1% of GDP once, or spread out over several decades. It says slightly less of 1% of GDP per annum to be spents-- although I understand that he's raised it to 2% recently. That equates to lowering the growth rate by 1% every year if you're spending it on something that turns out to be useless. It compounds.

    By the same token, he does not expect the negative consequences of climate change to be a one-time cost, either, but something that also would compound.

  • ||

    I realize that I'm assuming that if the money is unnecessary that it's extremely wasteful and inefficient, but I at least have the examples of the existing big government projects like SynFuels and corn ethanol and nuclear and everything else to point to.

    Since Stern raised his expected spend rate to 2% of GDP, the money only has to be about half totally useless and counterproductive to reach this.

  • Chad||

    John, I suggest you re-read the Stern report. You are simply misinformed.

    It predicts GDP will be 1-2% smaller than baseline, not 1-2% smaller compounded every year.

  • Rrabbit||

    you need to give up half a year's economic growth over the course of a couple decades.

    I disagree with that. Global warming needs to be addressed in a smart way, rather than by merely throwing money at it.

    Right now, it is not addressed at all, and that might ultimately become an extremely expensive mistake.

    But there exist lots of low hanging fruit. As your next car, buy a car with a much better mileage. You'll save money on gas, and probably on the car, too. You need a car that gets you from A to B, not a penis extension.

    Improve the isolation on your house. Not in a paranoid way, just to some reasonable extent. If done right, that will pay for itself - reduced energy cost for A/C in summer or heat in winter.

    In many jobs, there is no need to drive into the office every day. Work a few days per week from home, a few days per week in the office.

    None of that hurts the economy in any way.

  • Oil & Coal||

    Unless you define hurting the economy as hurting our bottom line, which we encourage you to do!

  • Mr. FIFY||

    Yeah, Chad, like it would be THAT painless.

  • Few Manchoo||

    It's utterly political, people are completely invested in sides for identity reasons, and no one will change their minds no matter how much evidence is presented

    Concern troll is concerned?

  • ||

    Fail troll fails.

  • Chad||

    "It's utterly political, people are completely invested in sides for identity reasons, and no one will change their minds no matter how much evidence is presented"

    I disagree. As soon as the scientific journals are flooded with papers confirming some news theories of how AGW theory is incorrect, and the observed warming was either a data anomoly or traced to some natural phenomenon, I will change my opinion on the matter.

    I am not holding my breath.

  • ||

    Sure you will, sockpuppet. Sure you will. Doesn't this ever get old for you? I guess not. Tedium seems to be your milieu.

  • JOe||

    “On top of this, it looks like most of the most pernicious things the climate changers were trying to do have failed, and after the Climate gate thing, they're pretty fucked for any future stuff too. So there's not much to worry about other than people spending tax money on stupid shit. Nothing will change.”

    The climate changers are still at work trying to stuff crap down our throats. Even if you are bored.

  • ||

    In the UNFCCC, climate change is defined as changes that are attributed directly or indirectly to human activity that changes the composition of the global atmosphere and that is in addition to any natural climate variability.

    And how much accurate data exists to know what this is? Tree rings? Ice cores? 40 or even 50 years of actual measurements are enough to extrapolate natural global climate variability?!!!! Bullshit.

  • ||

    Ron?

  • ||

    MG: You're right. Disentangling natural variability from man-made climate change is the chief uncertainty with which researchers and the rest of us are dealing. For a good example how difficult it is to try to figure out changes in the energy balance of the planet see Trenberth's "Earth's Global Energy Budget" [PDF] in the March 2009 BAMS.

  • Chad||

    Ron, as I have said many times, "natural variability" is not magic. There is no currently-known natural phenomenon which is significantly changing the earth's energy balance on the relevant time scales. As one climate scientist put it, we are causing somewhere between 80% and 120% of the observed warming. The "natural variation" is small and could be pointing either way.

    Yet you are willing to be the farm on the wild guess that every scientific organization on earth is not only wrong, but wrong in a particular direction. Nevermind that the data keeps tracking along their *worst case* estimates, not their best case.

  • ||

    There is no currently-known natural phenomenon which is significantly changing the earth's energy balance on the relevant time scales

    This is why they cannot explain why 10,000 years ago earths global temperatures went from an ice age to current temperatures in a 50 year time span.

    It is also why they cannot explain why it was 2 to 3 degrees warmer during the roman warming period and 1 to 2 degrees warmer during the Medieval warning period. all three events showed as fast or faster warming periods then the current warming period.

    Congratulations Chad you now know what the rest of the world knows...that we do not know why the earth cools and warms. Man made global warming is one theory...and it does not explain the roman warming period, the end of the last ice age or the Medieval warming period...and considering that the theory of man made global warming predicted a 3 to 6 degree increase over a 100 year period and the fact that the earth is only warming at 1.4 degrees per century it does not explain the current warming either.

    Chad you are an idiot.

  • ||

    Chad: Read Trenberth's paper and get back to me.

  • Tony||

    That paper discusses refinements made in calculating the global energy budget. What particularly are you pointing at?

    Trenberth certainly doesn't question warming or human contribution to warming because of uncertainties. The only problem is that measurements may not be refined enough to account for where all of the energy from observed warming is going.

  • ||

    Trenberth certainly doesn't question warming or human contribution to warming because of uncertainties.

    So Ron linked to a paper that does not question waring and human contributions...

    Tony you do know that Ron Bailey is a Climate Change believer right?

    Do you even read the articles? or do you just post random hateful bullshit about libertarians when your mom tells you to clean your room?

  • Tony||

    I know that Ron is a reformed skeptic. I'm just wondering what point he's trying to get across.

  • Chad||

    I agree, Tony. I have no idea what Ron feels is important in that paper to his argument.

    Is Ron falling for the old "uncertainty can only work in my favor, and not against it" fallacy?

  • Mr. FIFY||

    Get a room, you two.

  • ||

    Disentangling natural variability from man-made climate change is the chief uncertainty with which researchers and the rest of us are dealing.

    Wouldn't this be a pre-condition of declaring that the sky is falling?

    Why the belief that there is some man made, and negative, effect when it hasn't even been established that it isn't natural?

  • ||

    Temperatures in the past few decades have increased and, all things being equal adding CO2 to the atmosphere will increase average temperatures. Man-made global warming is physically plausible.

  • ||

    Man-made global warming is physically plausible.

    And it is physically plausible that it isn't, right? Sure it might be caused by man, but it also might not be caused by man. Hardly what one would call a scientific consensus.

  • ||

    And it is physically plausible that it isn't, right?

    No. increasing CO2 concentrations effect a planets albedo.

    But it should be noted that CO2 has a limit to how much it can effect earths albedo. once a certain concentration is reached there is no more IR radiation for the CO2 to absorb. On earth that concentration is about 600ppm CO2.

    Note this explains why on Venus when atmospheric pressure is equal to earth atmospheric pressure at sea level the temperature difference is less then 10 degrees...and not 100s of degrees hotter.

    Also note that the theory's of man made global warming depend on forcings. the forcings are actually one forcing which is if the earth gets hotter then more water will enter the atmosphere as water vapor. Of course this whole idea is idiotic because even if this occurred and water vapor is the green house gas climate models claim it is (more water vapor could also mean more clouds which means less radiation hitting the planet in the first place and will be bounced back into space) it will still have no effect because when CO2 reaches 600ppm all the IR radiation will still have been absorbed. Sure there will be more green house gases....but without extra IR radiation to absorb and store in the atmosphere green house gasses will have no heat to trap.

    The whole scheme is beyond idiotic.

  • ||

    And it is physically plausible that it isn't, right?

    Wait I guess the answer could be yes. It is possible that the green house gases in the atmosphere (CO2 and water vapor and others) are absorbing all the IR radiation that is entering our atmosphere...and that every thing we are seeing is simply natural.

    it would be cool to measure the earths albedo and see if it is getting higher in altitude....bit the problem is the earth has waether so our albedo is constantly going up and down...we would have to measure it gloabaly get an average then look at that average over time as consentrations of CO2 increase...if that average icreases in altitude then we would know that we have not yet reached maximum IR radiation absorbtion by green house gases....of course dooing that sort of measurement is currently beyond our technological ability. We can do it on Venus because Venus does not have weather as we know it. It is an Isothermal body...ie it has the same temperatures on the night side as it has on the day side. so its albedo is relatively smooth and easily measured.

  • DLM||

    In the long run, life will go on. After homo sapiens has disappeared as a species. After the world has warmed and cooled again and warmed and cooled. New life will evolve and we won't even have been noticed.

  • Matt Taylor||

    It seems to me that there are 5 logical questions to ask about AGW:
    1. Is the earth warming (scientifically, statistically, different from prior periods of warming)?
    2. What is the result of this warming? Good, bad, not hype, not exaggeration, etc.
    3. What is the cause of the warming? How much is natural variation, sun activity, man's activities, etc.?
    4. What can we do to reduce the warming? Options? Ideas?
    5. What is the cost and effectiveness of anything we might do to reduce warming?
    Personally, I have trouble getting beyond questions 1-3, because the uncertainties are so large I cannot leap to a "solution."

  • Tony||

    The answers to 1 through 3 have been answered by science definitively enough to warrant strong action. 3 is pretty irrelevant if you consider it a problem anyway, but the answer is known. 4 and 5 are what policymaking bodies all over the world are trying to figure out, with no help coming from people still skeptical of scientific fact for ideological reasons.

  • Matt Taylor||

    I expected a reply from a global warming believer that questions 1-3 were "settled," and let's move on to 4-5. Global warming skeptics still ponder the validity of 1-3. As I do. A couple of inconvenient facts make me pause: the lying/cheating from East Anglia, the periods of warming/cooling throughout geological history, and the obvious role of the sun in global temp. As a scientist, I remain unconvinced, and as a real scientist, am open to compelling, data-based argument.

  • Tony||

    Lemme guess, engineer?

  • Rrabbit||

    Why the belief that there is some man made, and negative, effect when it hasn't even been established that it isn't natural?

    In the likely case global warming is man made rather than natural, just waiting will be extremely expensive.

  • ||

    In the likely case global warming is man made rather than natural, just waiting will be extremely expensive.

    The earth over the last 30 years has risen about .14 degrees per decade...which if it follows this trend will be 1.4 degrees per century....from 1910 to 2010 the earth has warmed a little over 1 degree...

    Please explain how last centuries 1+ degrees of warming was so cheap that no one noticed it yet our next century of 1.4 degrees of warming will be "extremely expensive"?

  • Chad||

    Linear extrapolations are for kids, silly Josh.

    Even if we stopped emitting now, we would get more than a degree of warming as the slow-motion climate caught up.

  • Rrabbit||

    The most likely value of the temperature increase for the next century has been predicted as 4.0 degrees Celsius.
    That number is in no way reliable - not because of any scientific fraud, but simply because this is much more difficult to predict than next month's weather. You can find studies that predict a higher temperature increase, and you can find studies that predict a lower temperature increase.
    I believe that at this point it is pointless to debate publicly which of those studies is less incorrect. There is no need to panic now, there always will be plenty of time to panic later.

    In a couple of years we will have better studies.

    Anyways, the risk that the current studies are close to the truth exists.
    Assume average temperature growth of four degree Celsius over the next 100 years. That can be expected cause sea level at the US coast to rise by two to seven feet, again depending on which study you believe, but also depending on where on the US coast you are. For complex reasons, the sea level rise is not uniform across the globe.

    So in case the average predictions of the current studies come true, various parts of the US coast will have to deal with sea levels rising by five feet or more by 2100, and rising a few more feet later on.

    That would be "extremely expensive".

  • ||

    Say your house is burning down.

    Assume a can opener.

  • Tony||

    You mean assume a magically cheap, clean energy source that will be invented within 20 years?

  • ||

    Tony: Pielke and the folks over at the Breakthrough Institute, the Brookings Institution and the American Enterprise Institute make a pretty strong argument that nothing much will be done unless such technologies are invented, magical or not.

  • ||

    Well, alternatively, we could just destroy the world economy. That would reduce the carbon consumption a bit.

  • Tony||

    I'm all for it... so let's reduce the entrenchment of the polluting industries by removing all subsidies, including those for allowing them to pollute for free, so the new techs can possibly compete in the marketplace.

  • Mr. FIFY||

    Since when do you give half a fuck about the marketplace, Tony?

  • Old Mexican||

    Re: Tony,

    You mean assume a magically cheap, clean energy source that will be invented within 20 years?

    Well, the great Tlatoani is going to pluck it out of the heavens for us.

  • Jack||

    I believe nuclear power has already been inented. If not, then I wasted two years in grad school.

  • ||

    Jack: And there are some really neat new nuclear reactor designs coming along too. What do you think of Terrapower's traveling wave reactor?

    You may also want to see my article "The New Nuclear Future."

  • Jack||

    Looks interesting. Remember, waste is only waste until someone figures out how to make money from it. Then, it magically becomes a resource.

  • Fleeing Cali||

    Hi Ron, I've seen this mentioned before (travelling wave reactor) and saw the site. But I'm not sure if it's just a concept or if they have a working prototype. They use words like 'will' a lot.

    I get frustrated when I talk to someone who says that carbon is the greatest threat to human civilization but then rejects nuclear power reflexively.

    If carbon is a huge threat, and energy is needed for our way of life, why automatically turn away from a low carbon, reliable energy source? There's some sort of disconnect.

  • ||

    FC: Last I checked with them, they were working on computer models to see if the concept would scale up. Assuming all goes well, should have one up and running by the end of the decade. Admittedly, it won't contribute much to cutting CO2 in the meantime. ;-)

  • JOe||

    “working on computer models to see if the concept would scale up.”

    Why scale up? I want my own reactor.

  • Chad||

    I have no problem with nukes. However, they have received insane levels of subsidies in the past, and if they can't stand on their own to feet by now, it's their own damned problem.

    Nukes would still stand a chance, even without subsidies, if coal plant operators were forced to pay to pollute, as basic economic theory indicates they should be.

  • Tncm||

    "...basic economic theory dictates they should be."

    Do you think he choked a little on the irony of that?

  • ||

    what do you think about a modernized version of a Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor aka Molten Salt Reactors? Lectures I've watched show it to be the simplest design, inherently safe, cheeper start up cost, non-proliferation, and Thorium is plentiful.

  • ||

    Lectures I've watched show it to be the simplest design, inherently safe, cheeper start up cost, non-proliferation, and Thorium is plentiful.

    The EPA fined Tesla Motors $275,000 for not running emission tests for their all battery powered cars....

    What the fuck do you think they will do to a safe clean and cheap nuclear power plant?

    What I think about the FLT reactor is that it is a great idea that our Byzantine class government long ago killed the possibility of it ever being used in the US.

  • Chad ||

    Tesla DESERVED to be fined. They didn't follow the rules.

  • ||

    Tony, better to assume that someone will invent some new cheap, clean energy source in exchange for the boundless profits than to have the government decide that SynFuels or corn ethanol is the One True Solution, as it's done in the past.

    If there isn't some major breakthrough, and all the doomsday predictions are correct, then things like the Kyoto Protocol are no less whistling past the graveyard than doing nothing.

  • ||

    Don't forget; that ball could shoot out of the roulette wheel and put your eye out. And then where would you be?

  • ||

    No, Tony- you're claiming "The house is burning down!" when the real point of discussion is "How likely is it that the house MIGHT burn down? And, what should/can we do to reduce that likelihood?"

    We could tear the house down, but that's not a very good solution.

  • Old Mexican||

    He [Pielke] proposes that countries [countries?] levy a $5 per ton carbon tax and that governments use the tens of billions raised to fund research and development for such new energy technologies.

    "Who's being naive, Kate?" - Michael Corleone

    Apply Public Choice theory. Now, imagine what investigators on the government dole are going to say year after year after year:

    "We're just about to reach a breakthrough! Just give us some more money!"

    That will give a new face to the term "rent seeking."

    This is why I would probably not read the book, as the guy is pretty much pointing out to the obvious and then arriving at some really loopy ideas about how to fix the "problems."

  • ||

    That is the problem that Ron identifies.

    Unfortunately, people like Chad will chime in and say that even though his people proposed SynFuels Corporation and ethanol and other boondoggles in the past, this time they'll get it right, and it's unfair to tar them with all those other ideas, since those were other, earlier environmentalists who seized on bad solutions.

  • Chad||

    And how many things have we supported that ARE working?

    Better ten for twenty than zero for zero, don't you think?

  • sevo||

    Chad|11.9.10 @ 7:10PM|#
    "And how many things have we supported that ARE working?"

    Absent subsidies? Oh, about zero.

  • Chad||

    Every form of energy and transportation is heavily subsidized. What's your point?

  • sevo||

    My point is simple; you have no successes.

  • Chad||

    My point is smarter:

    There ARE no successes, by your criteria.

  • ||

    Driving is on the whole not heavily subsidized. Some individual drivers are, though. Commercial aviation is not heavily subsidized per usage; general aviation is.

  • sevo||

    John Thacker|11.9.10 @ 7:52PM|#
    "Driving is on the whole not heavily subsidized."

    I avoided this, as the strange calculus of the left presumes the US defense budget subsidizes petroleum.
    Like his 'Pielke is wrong!' statement, there's not much you can do with that sort of assertion.

  • Chad||

    Wrong, John. First, drivers only pay for about half of our road system's capital and maintenance budget. They also do not pay for any of the pollution coming out of their tailpipes. Nor are they find for the noise, the danger they inflict on pedestrians and cyclists, the cost of parking, or the general annoyance they create by forcing everything farther apart. An additional gasoline tax north of a $1.00/gal is justified based on road costs and pollution alone.

    And yes, petro subsidies count. Not only is the industry subsidized up the ying-yang, but it also places a huge burden on our military. While asking how much smaller our military would be if it weren't for oil is a difficult question, it is a real one that you can't just wish away.

  • Mr. FIFY||

    So... we should ALL stop driving, right? Including politicians?

    If you don't answer "yes", you risk further exposure as a fucking hypocrite, Chad.

    Especially if you, yourself, own a gas-powered vehicle.

  • Al Gore||

    Fuck off, peasant. *I* am too important to give up MY limousines and jet planes.

  • ||

    Zero for zero? That's why commerical air travel has easily led the way in becoming more energy efficient? Amtrak, OTOH, is almost stable, with the only real differences being due to passenger load-- see how 2005 is almost the same in efficient as 1975, but 2008 looks better, solely due to load? Amtrak would look even better if they shut down the actually energy-wasteful long distance routes with no passengers-- which brings up the point of how the government actually sometimes subsidizes waste. Ten for twenty? What about all the negative ten for negative twenty?

    Even if you claim externalities everywhere, there are plenty of places where the market has incentives to reduce energy costs. That you claim it's "zero for zero" is ridiculous and ignores those incentives, but at the least the market doesn't have active incentives to waste extra the way that the government does. (Well, it doesn't unless you're watching Captain Planet.)

  • Steve||

    We (the US) produce much less pollution than we did in say, the 1970's. All those closed factories and all. (Hell, imagine the crap we were sending in the air in the 1930's!) How the hell could we (the US) be the major problem (or possible solution?)

  • Fleeing Cali||

    The rules/game changed. Since we already made huge reductions in what USED to be considered polution (at great cost), the definition of pollution has been changed to that lovely CO2 that we exhale all day long.

    I remember in the old days it was 'particulate matter' that was going to cause a new ice age. Does that mean that we should release more particulates in the air to conteract CO2? ;)

  • ||

    Does that mean that we should release more particulates in the air to conteract CO2? ;)

    Uh, some of the proposed "solutions" to the "AGW problem" recommend exactly that.

  • Fleeing Cali||

    I should also point out that I think we were recently passed up by China as 'biggest polluter'. And I know enough about China to understand that there is no way that they will risk economic growth with any serious committment to AGW measures.

  • Chad||

    "For example, efforts at adaptation will no longer be treated largely as costs arising from failed carbon dioxide mitigation, but as economic development."

    And efforts at decarbonizing wouldn't be "economic development" for what reason? Hello? Hello?

    God, there was so much nonsense in this article, I wouldn't know where to begin.

  • ||

    For the same reason that the Broken Window Fallacy is a fallacy, for the same reason that the Spanish "efforts at decarbonizing" are unsustainable, and for the same reason that the European "efforts at decarbonizing" by outsourcing carbon production to China aren't effective.

  • ||

    Chad: What you don't appear to understand is that Pielke and others are arguing that there are no currently available or reasonably foreseeable energy technologies that would enable decarbonization at the rates that are being proposed.

    For example, he does a very nice job of showing that Pacala's stabilization wedges are just so much wishful (not to say, "magical") thinking, but I can't put everything into a review. You should consider reading the book - you might learn something.

  • Chad||

    Then Pielke is just wrong, Ron. For example, with respect to electricity, humans are consuming about 2000 GW of electricity right now, and this has been growing at 4.5% per year, or 90 GW per year. The solar industry is currently producing 15GW per year of new capacity (nominal), or about 2.5GW (actual capicity). This means a 40x scaling of our current solar capacity would cover ALL future growth, and a 100x scaling would eliminate our need for any other form of electricity in 14 years. It is patently obvious that nothing prevents us from doing this. We scaled our airplane production by 100-fold in just a few years in the run-up to WWII. There is nothing but our will that prevents us from doing the same with solar.

  • sevo||

    2.5 X 100 /= 2000
    Oh, and the equivalency argument ought to make even you embarrassed.

  • Chad||

    God, sevo, pay attention.

    2.5 x 100 x 14 > 2000, now isn't it?

  • sevo||

    Oh, I see! So 14 years later we could, might, maybe produce the energy we need now from your magic source! How.....................
    stupid.
    God, Chad, try to act like you have at least one brain cell.

  • DK||

    Chad,

    Your units don't make any sense. When someone is talking about power usage, they're talking about rate of energy used per unit of time. The few thousand GW numbers that you cite mean that, at any given time, a few thousand GJ (gigajoules) of energy are consumed every second. Actually energy usage is average rate of power (in GW) multiplied by time (in seconds) to get energy (in GJ). Your numbers don't work out. What you've shown is that, if we scaled up solar 100x and stored the energy for 14 years, we'd have enough energy to meet today's demand for about one second. Not that great. You should also note that the accepted average worldwide energy demand is closer to 15000GW (yes, three zeros) than 2000GW.

    One thing you're absolutely right about is that solar does have the potential to solve all of our energy problems. If we were able to harvest all of the radiant power hitting the earth using solar cells, we would be able to solve our power demands with an array of solar cells about the size of Los Angeles. With today's not particularly efficient solar cells, we'd need an area about the size of the state of Nevada.

    However, the limiting factor is not the energy, but the cost. Various estimates put the size of such an array of solar cells at over $10 trillion. Turns out that silicon, which almost all solar cells are made of, is extremely expensive to process. Today's solar cells are not the answers. And there's no likely near term solution in this area. Thin film solar cells made from polymers may be good enough, but are years away from becoming a technological reality.

  • Tman||

    So let me ask you this Chad:

    Despite the enormous holes in your arithmetic in the above example (BIG difference between "nominal" and "actual" as in the sun ain't always shinin' numbnuts) what do YOU think is the main reason why big business hasn't capitalized on this "patently obvious" answer to our electricity needs?

    Difficulty: You can't use externalities or subsidies in your answer.

  • ||

    Chad: Then Pielke is just wrong.

    Well, I guess that's the end of the argument then.

  • C'mon man||

    FINALLY, Ron gets it:

    The debate is over!

    Big Al.

  • Chad||

    Ron, what is wrong with my argument?

    A hundred-fold scaled solar industry would be a $1.5 trillion dollar industry, assuming no improvement in technology and cost, which is obviously unrealistic. This implies that the industry would be about the same size of the automobile industry, which sold about 70 million automobiles last year and had revenues north of a trillion. Now tell me why this can't be done?

    There is only one reason: we chose not to.

  • sevo||

    Chad|11.9.10 @ 11:38PM|#
    "Ron, what is wrong with my argument?
    A hundred-fold scaled solar industry would be a $1.5 trillion dollar industry, assuming no improvement in technology and cost, which is obviously unrealistic."

    Let's see what's wrong:
    A hundred-fold increase wouldn't do squat (see your *own* arithmetic, above) and, taking your comment as somewhat believable, that's the size of the US auto industry.
    So we have a *huge* industry that only exists if the feds keep pouring money into it.
    How stupid do you choose to appear? You're doing a good job here suggesting an IQ in the single-digit range.

    "There is only one reason: we chose not to."
    Oh, and, no I won't do your homework; *you* research how dumb you wish to appear and report.

  • Chad||

    Obama ought to force American industries to manufacture solar-power components. With tanks and missile launchers, if necessary.

    You know... in the name of freedom.

  • Chad||

    Oh, and none of these industries should be allowed to make a profit.

    And no non-union labor.

  • Zeb||

    Who is this "we" you keep talking about?

  • Esteban||

    Sorry you can't replace current fossil fuel generation with wind and solar. Not enough to cover the entire country and transmission losses are too high. Nuclear is the only modern equivalent that will be useful. No other technologies are far enough along.

  • Corduroy||

    Other than money.

    Oh yeah, I forgot, the collection of money under the threat of violence is perfectly acceptable to Chad and his ilk. As long as it is for the greater good.

  • ||

    Getting better porn is actually a more pressing issue than a 0.01 inch sea increase.

  • ||

    I am sure Ron and Roger Pielke, Jr. love each other. Despite having front row seats to climate scientists lying cheating fabricating data and playing Nixonian games to cut out their critics they both still drink the koolaid of man made global warming.

  • ||

    JC: I've never actually met him, but I'm sure he's a nice guy.

  • sevo||

    How about Lomborg? Met him?

  • ||

    Sevo: Several times - smart and intense.

  • sevo||

    Sounds about right by his writing. He's among the folks with whom I'd love to share a dinner.

  • ||

    I tried reading this thread, but gave up after Janus: The Two Idiots Who Are One showed up.

  • ||

    Chad said,

    Ron, what is wrong with my argument?

    Well to start with.

    You neglected the trivial little issue of the fact that the sun sets every day and it gets dark.

    But carry on with the argument.

    I'm sure that little detail will not impact your naive but entertaining faith in solar energy.

  • ||

    That doesn't mean the sun can't be used.

    See for example
    http://www.scientificamerican......grand-plan

    Of course most plans don't depend on one tech. It will almost certainly be a mix of wind/ solar/ geothermal, and of course energy efficiency.

  • ||

    I wonder what people who lived in tropical Alaska would think about the current climate in that area?

  • ||

    I just realized the stupidity of that. Tropical Alaska probably predates humans.

  • tiffany jewellery||

    good topic

  • nike shoes UK||

    is good

  • nike shoes UK||

    is good

  • sohbet||

    As long as it is for the greater good

  • muhabbet||

    I just believe in government. It can be a tool for good or evil, but good luck having the former with people who hate government in charge of it. gazeteler

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