Climate Change

Forget Paris. It Was Never a Serious Way to Handle Climate Change

Conservatives (and others) should pursue alternative approaches to the threat of climate change.

|The Volokh Conspiracy |

On Monday, the Trump Administration formally announced its intent to withdraw from the Paris climate change agreement, as President Trump had pledged to do earlier. Environmental activists decried the move, as did many of the President's political opponents.

Withdrawing from the Paris Agreement is nothing to complain about. This move does not hamper efforts to address the threat of climate change, as serious climate policy analysts acknowledge. The agreement did little if anything to accelerate decarbonization here or abroad—and this is no surprise, as it did not require much of anything from member countries other than the submission of non-binding plans of some sort or other. It was a symbolic measure (at best) or (more likely) a misleading facade of cliamte action masking business-as-usual.

While there's no reason to criticize the Trump Administration for refusing to remain in the Paris agreement, there is ample reason to criticize the Administration's abject failure to come forward with a meaningful policy alternative, as I explained in an op-ed published in today's LA Times. Here's a taste:

Republicans know what environmental regulations to oppose, but they have a hard time identifying positive environmental policies to support. Nowhere is this more evident than with climate change.

Meaningful climate mitigation requires stabilizing (and eventually reducing) atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases. This, in turn, requires a dramatic transformation of the energy economy, both here and abroad. The type of technological transformation necessary for this feat is similar to that which we saw in telecommunications, as resource-intensive technologies, such as copper wire, were replaced first by fiber optics and eventually by spectrum. The economy's decarbonization efforts must match this sort of transformation.

Traditional environmental policy tools, such as regulatory mandates and directed subsidies for favored technologies are a poor fit for the climate challenge. Federal agencies cannot simply mandate the development of technologies necessary for such a transformation. What the government can do is can create a legal and economic environment in which such technologies are more likely to emerge and be deployed – and they can do so in ways that are entirely consistent with traditional conservative commitments to free enterprise and limited constitutional government.

Instead of trying to find ways to shoehorn greenhouse gas policies into the Clean Air Act, through initiatives like the Obama Administration's Clean Power Plan, policymakers should be focused on spurring the technological innovation that will be necessary to provide low-carbon energy around the globe. Once this is achieved, there will be plenty of time for international agreements and other measures to spur technology transfer and deployment. Focusing on treaties and mandates first, however, is putting the cart before the horse.

Policymakers should seek to increase the rewards for climate friendly innovation, incentivize reductions in carbon intensity, and remove barriers to technological adoption and deployment.  This can be done through a combination of technology inducement prizes and a revenue-neutral carbon tax (such as a cap-and-dividend plan), combined with efforts to reduce regulatory and NIMBY barriers to the development and deployment of low-carbon energy sources. In short, give people more reasons to develop and adopt low-carbon technologies, and remove the barriers to their doing so.

My bottom line is that one need not embrace centralized regulatory measures, bureaucratic international agreements, or massive public works projects to address climate change. Big government is not the best way to be Green. But ignoring serious problems, such as climate change, should not be an option either.

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  1. “Environmental activists decried the move, as did many of the President’s political opponents.”

    Two separate groups criticized Trump? /sarc

  2. My chief complaint here is that Trump, by following the withdrawal procedure in the Accord, humored the idea that the US was a party to the Paris Accord in the first place.

    He should not have done that. It was a treaty, and the Senate never ratified it, ergo we were never party to it in the first place, to have to withdrawal. Trump should have simply acknowledged that, and terminated all pretense that it was in effect.

    1. Brett, that confuses two different things.

      As far as American law is concerned, you are right, the treaty never became law. But that doesn’t mean that a US President didn’t formally make a promise on behalf of the country to other nations.

      And thus, using the withdrawal process ensures that our withdrawal is considered legal by those other countries, and prevents various forms of retaliation or sanctions, or simply ill will, that could happen if an American President just said “I declare the treaty to be not law”.

      1. I think we should not confuse other nations about this point of law: Unratified treaties have no legal force. As an effort by Presidents to extra-legally obligate the county, no real moral force, either: You should not encourage people to rely on promises you lack the right to make.

        The executive branch’s legal council claims otherwise, citing the Vienna Convention on treaties. But, of course, we didn’t ratify that, either. Let’s face it: It’s just the executive branch usurping a prerogative of the Senate, nothing more respectable.

        1. “I think we should not confuse other nations:

          Why do you treat them as idiots? They know what the Senate did or didn’t do. That wasn’t my point.

          My point is that if you formally withdraw, you don’t needlessly piss off other countries whom we may wish to work with on other matters. Whereas if you do what you are suggesting, we might get sanctioned or punished in some way, or simply not get assistance at a time we need it. Formally withdrawing is about showing the rest of the world some respect, not making a point about US law.

          1. “Why do you treat them as idiots? They know what the Senate did or didn’t do. That wasn’t my point.

            My point is that if you formally withdraw, you don’t needlessly piss off other countries whom we may wish to work with on other matters.”

            If other countries know what the Senate did or didn’t do, why would they be pissed off? Say President Smith makes a promise. Other countries know he can’t bind the country without Senate ratification. President Smith is replaced by President Jones, who quite correctly doesn’t feel bound by President Smith’s promise. Why should other countries have a beef?

          2. It should be absolutely understood and accepted by the world community that the US President does not have the unilateral ability to make a promise on behalf of the nation; that Obama’s signature no more committed the US than that of a random Chinese seven-year-old would.

            If they understand and accept that, then it wouldn’t piss them off in the slightest if a later President comes out and says exactly that.

            If they didn’t understand that, they need to have the reality pointed out to them in a way that will make them understand.

            And if they understood but refused to accept it, they were trying to subvert our Constitution, and there’s absolutely nothing needless about pissing them off.

          3. I agree, this is an executive usurpation of power committed by the Constitution to the Senate. Funnily enough, Ilya Somin didn’t call for Obama to be impeached.

            1. Well, no. The president can still pursue his own policy goals through normal means, as numerous presidents have done in supporting combatants in wars before we entered, without Congressional support. We approached WWI and WWII in this way before entering either. We materially supported the UK in the Falklands War without ever entering the war. Congress never agreed to several important nuclear weapons treaties, though we’ve still abided by them because the relevant powers were given to the president.

              Obama didn’t actually do anything outside his purview here, he just said “I like this and will guide US policy towards it,” which is perfectly allowable. He never claimed the US was bound by the treaty, for instance.

              1. He did have the treaty transmitted to the UN as “accepted”, and directed regulatory agencies to implement it.

                1. And he can do that with agencies he has authority over. Every president does similar things: Trump has authority over agencies, given to him (and previous presidents) by Congress, which he has directed to reduce the number of statutes. Congress is unlikely to support that themselves (or at least work towards it) but it isn’t stepping on their toes until they decide to revoke the authority given.

        2. I think we should not confuse other nations about this point of law: Unratified treaties have no legal force. As an effort by Presidents to extra-legally obligate the county, no real moral force, either: You should not encourage people to rely on promises you lack the right to make.

          You’re confused. The president does have the right to make promises. It’s right there in Article II. Now, those promises don’t become legally binding domestic law until the Senate consents to them.

          1. Whoops. Hit submit too quickly.

            They don’t become binding until the Senate consents, but the president’s promises are not only not “extra legal,” but the necessary — constitutionally required, in fact — first step.

            So it’s entirely appropriate, before senate ratification, for that president or a subsequent one to tell the countries on the other end of those promises, “We’ve changed our minds and will not be following through.”

            1. As a matter of law, the rest of the world neither knows nor cares about the distinction between treaties ratified by the senate and executive agreements. The US notified the depositary of its ratification on 3 September 2016, and therefore became a Party to the treaty 4 November 2016, when the Agreement entered into force. https://treaties.un.org/Pages/ViewDetails.aspx?src=TREATY&mtdsg_no=XXVII-7-d&chapter=27&clang=_en

              1. Reading comprehension problem here: You see that “A” next to the 3 September 2016? It means we “accepted” the agreement. (Which is just redundantly to say that Obama signed it.)

                If we had actually ratified it, that would have been an “R”.

                1. Reading comprehension problem indeed, my apologies.

                  (Although ratification would not have had an R, but simply no qualifier at all, so I guess your reading comprehension wasn’t 100% either.)

                  The question remains, though, what the difference is. The agreement clearly allows for states to ratify, accept, approve, or accede, but my studies of international law never revealed such a concept of acceptance or approval. You express your consent to be bound, or you don’t. (Acceding means joining a multilateral treaty that is already in force, so that’s a perfectly sensible distinct concept.)

                  Since the Paris Agreement itself doesn’t explain what the difference is between ratifying, agreeing, or approving, and the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties doesn’t, does anyone have a suggestion?

                  1. In a US context, the Vienna Convention is irrelevant, since we didn’t ratify that, either.

                    There’s no ambiguity here: As far as the US is concerned, treaties take effect when ratified by the Senate, and have no legal force prior to that. Other countries, of course, may have their own rules on this topic.

                    1. The Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties is largely a codification of customary international law, as the US has said many times.

                      Domestic ratification procedures are irrelevant at the international level.

                    2. Yes, that’s the excuse the State department uses for claiming we’re bound by it despite the Senate refusing to ratify.

                      It’s just an excuse. “Customary international law” can’t override explicit constitutional provisions.

                      Oh, and by the way, “the US” has not said that many times. The executive branch has. The Senate, unsurprisingly, takes the opposing point of view, that the Convention is in violation of internal US law in the form of the constitutional requirement that treaties be ratified to take effect.

                    3. The executive branch speaks for the US internationally. So everything the executive branch says to other countries is what “the US” says.

                      And the effect in international law of what the US says internationally is determined by international law, not by US law.

                      If the Senate has a problem with Executive Agreements, it can pass a bill outlawing the concept. (Or, for those of us who are fans of the Supreme Court’s separation of powers case law, a constitutional amendment.)

                    4. Why would the Senate need a Constitutional amendment establishing that treaties have to be ratified by the Senate to take effect, when the Constitution already says that?

                      Look, we’re getting into “Simon says” territory here: There’s no point in amending the Constitution to say what it already says, if the fact that it already says something is going to be ignored, so is the amendment.

                    5. Because clearly the message wasn’t clear the first time. There is plenty of case law about the importance of long-standing practice in constitutional interpretation…

                    6. Chief Justice Marshall, who was himself a framer, said that US law incorporated the law of nations. It is also referenced in the Constitution.

                    7. As far as US law is concerned, correct. The question is whose responsibility is it to ensure that the executive doesn’t the authority US law grants it when acting in the international forum?

                      To pick a shoe-on-the-other-foot example, assume the USMCA obliges Canada to implement some policy that the Canadian constitution puts in the jurisdiction of the provinces. Is that Canada’s problem to solve, or should the US have known better?

                    8. Domestic ratification procedures are irrelevant at the international level.

                      The international level is irrelevant at the domestic level.

                    9. And the US, having never ratified the Treaty of Versailles, is still at war with the Kaiser.

    2. Formally renouncing it makes it a lot harder for the next President to rejoin. If Trump had merely stated it didn’t apply, the next President could merely state that Oh Yes It Does.

      1. What’s to stop the next President from just re-signing it, and pretending that means something? A pretense Trump’s show of withdrawing only lends plausibility?

        Better to just reinforce the legally sound point that treaties don’t mean anything until ratified. It has the virtue of being true, that should count for something.

    3. I don’t get how “decarbonization” will not negatively impact vegetation pretty significantly.

  3. Collective action does not mean immediate directly causal solutions. The symbolism of America no longer caring about this collective effort is nontrivial.

    Second, trying to come at climate from the right is not going to work great until you get the right to accept reality and science. You are very much trying to run before you can walk.

    1. Except the Paris Accord was ridiculed from the outset from both sides of the climate change debate. Richard Hansen called it a “Travesty”.

      Russia and India promised nothing
      China promised less than nothing (their “reduced carbon intensity” promise was well under projections of technological progress).

      Several members of the right did the math. If you plug the numbers into a basic climate model, with exceedingly generous assumptions, you will get a reduction of 0.01C by the end of the century. That’s not even the rounding error of a rounding error.

      It is the left that is in denial. Stop denying basic science and measurement. Stop denying economics. Stop denying basic sense. Carbon reductions do not work and cannot work. They are ludicrously expensive, have severely negative economies of scale (acting instead on a diminishing-returns basis). The effects of climate change are mild and underwhelming compared to the objective costs and suffering that actually effective action would entail.

    2. The symbolism of America no longer caring about this collective effort is nontrivial.

      I disagree with this Sarcastro. It was perfectly clear, from the get-go, that one of our two parties rejected climate change. Other world leaders aren’t stupid, and they were always aware that a Republican administration, if it won an election, would try to roll back US commitments on this issue.

      Much as I dislike the position of the Republicans and a lot of their voters, denying the science and basically spewing lies because they don’t like the ideological implications of a crisis that requires global economic controls, the fact remains that as long as those voters exist and are a force in American politics, it was never the case that we could make credible multilateral commitments to other countries. That was true whether or not we signed Kyoto, Paris, or any other global agreement on climate change.

      And to make a more general point about foreign policy- people really need to get away from the discourse about the credibility of American promises. We stayed in Vietnam way, way too long, in part, because of rhetoric about the crediblity of American promises. The people who want us to be an imperial empire with bases all over the world forever and say we aren’t even allowed to pull a few thousand troops out of Syria blather on and on about the credibility of American promises.

      In the real world of foreign policy, everyone knows that promises are not fully credible. All the major actors take that into account when deciding how to play their cards. Nobody who signed the Paris agreement thought that the US was making some binding promise that would never be amended or withdrawn- heck, as Brett correctly points out upthread, this thing never even got ratified by the Senate.

      It is not news to anyone, nor should it keep any of us up at night, that America doesn’t always keep its word.

    3. Do not actions speak louder than words?

      US emissions dropped more than almost everywhere else.

      1. The sinful defiance of the environmental orthodoxy matters more to them than whether emissions drop.

      2. It’s funny, but the biggest cause for our drop was the transition to natural gas fired power plants, which was mainly driven by…wait for it…

        fracking. But yeah, the Democrats are all about science.

    4. Interesting Sarcastr0. You know less about science than the law, yet you still pontificate. What is your “science”? An Inconvenient Truth?

      1. I’m a trained physicist, MKE. I’m more scientist than lawyer these days.

    5. The US has been steadily reducing its emissions of CO2, more than most nations, partly thanks to evil fracking.

      Perhaps you should accept reality and science?

      1. Because fracking is a substitute for fossil fuels?

        1. Substitute? No, fracking (hydraulic fracturing) is a method of retrieving fossil fuel(s).

          Hell, less than 50% of each barrel of oil is used to produce energy products (gas/petrol, diesel, aviation, etc.) while the majority is used for synthetics (plastics, clothing, etc.)

          I doubt we would be using computers without those fossil fuel products or be able to read/comment on blogs like VC.

        2. No, but natural gas is a substitute for coal, which is not as clean burning. Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.

    6. “Second, trying to come at climate from the right is not going to work great until you get the right to accept reality and science…”

      Was it the right that killed the nuclear power industry? What does “reality and science” say about nuclear power as a solution to climate change? What does the green new deal say about nuclear power?

      1. Your missive from the 1970s has been filed.

    7. “Collective action does not mean immediate directly causal solutions. The symbolism of America no longer caring about this collective effort is nontrivial.”

      We’re the only ones hitting the goal. Shove that “caring” nonsense. Results are what counts and the ones that care a lot aren’t ACTUALLY doing a thing.

    8. The truth is, the left has been trying to deny science and reality, while ignoring the points the right makes about the left’s supposed solutions.

      Let’s use two scientifically accurate statements as an example.

      1. Higher levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide lead to higher temperatures.
      2. Intelligence has a large genetic component.

      Both are statements entirely accurate. It’s the mass of supposed “solutions” and follow-up issues that ahem “right-thinking” people strongly object to. Whether it be a demand to cut all carbon emissions, or a demand to sterilize the low intelligence “peoples”.

      When people use the above scientific statements to justify policies of dubious worth, those people should be called out on their idiocy.

  4. “Collective action does not mean immediate directly causal solutions. ”

    Then collective action does not mean any kind of solution.

    Symbolism never solved anything.

    1. Tell that to every successful protest movement worldwide. How do you think it gains momentum?
      Tell that to the stigma logic behind Brown v. Board.
      Tell that to anyone talking about making an example of someone.

      Flags are symbols. People have done ridiculous things for them. The objects, not the countries.

      1. “Tell that to every successful protest movement worldwide. How do you think it gains momentum?
        Tell that to the stigma logic behind Brown v. Board”

        You’re talking about political change. Mitigating climate change has nothing to do with politics. It’s a science issue. A technical problem.

        Greta from Scandinavia is contributing nothing to solving climate change. Jane Fonda can get arrested every Friday between now and the Second Coming and it won’t make any difference. Pass the New Green Deal, don’t pass the New Green Deal and it makes no difference, because in terms of science and tech the NGD is a farce.

        The people that are going to mitigate the problem *(and already have) are STEM folks that are working away in private companies and university labs coming up with workable solutions.

        1. Yes! = The people that are going to mitigate the problem *(and already have) are STEM folks that are working away in private companies and university labs coming up with workable solutions.

          ^This x1,000. I would have thought that the most ‘libertarian friendly’ solution here would be to let market innovators and entrepreneurs develop technologies and systems to address greenhouse gas emissions/concentrations.

          1. Yes, and in order to get those people paid you need to create some kind of financial incentive to invest in this kind of R&D. Ideally a market-based solution like cap & trade, but otherwise a carbon tax.

            As usual, the libertarians miss the fact that markets don’t appear out of thin air, but require government intervention to define and defend.

            1. Mostly what you need are the regulatory obstacles removed.

            2. No! = ….markets don’t appear out of thin air, but require government intervention to define and defend.

              Private enterprise does not need government ‘help’ to thrive. What they need the most is for government to just not get in the way with intrusive, onerous and expensive regulations.

              1. What you need is demand.

                You can have absolutely zero regulations and still no business is going to invest in R&D if they don’t think there are buyers for the ultimate product.

                Things like carbon taxes, or limits on greenhouse gas emissions, help to stimulate that demand.

                1. You need government intervention to create demand for things people don’t want, sure.

                  But government intervention in the form of regulation can prevent demand for things people would otherwise want, like cheap, clean power, by forcing the price unnecessarily high.

                  This is what has happened with nuclear power, irrationally stringent regulation has largely priced it out of the market. It’s currently the safest source of power we have, by a huge, huge margin. Deaths per terra-watt hour.

                  If the regulations had only been imposed to the point where it was as safe as the next most dangerous alternative, hydro power, it would have been much more economically viable.

                  1. You need government intervention to create demand for things people don’t want, sure.

                    It’s not a question of “things people don’t want.” The main reason people and businesses will buy power from one source rather than another is price.

                    If we want alternative energy sources to be more widely adopted it would help a lot if they became cheaper than fossil fuel energy. Things like a carbon tax can help accomplish that. Things like emission limits can help with that.

                    1. No, no, no. A carbon tax doesn’t make an alternative energy source cheaper than fossil fuels. It just distorts the market.

                      Let’s say that it costs 50 Quatloos to supply a day’s worth of energy with coal, and 100 Quatloos to supply it with a windmill. So you impose a 30 Quatloo per day carbon tax on the coal, and use it to fund a 30 Quatloo per day subsidy for the windmill.

                      Now the purchaser sees a price of 80 Quatloos a day for coal, and 70 per day for the windmill, and goes for the windmill.

                      But the actual costs haven’t changed. Only the price. You’ve given people an incentive to buy the more expensive energy, and the whole economy gets poorer, because moving counters around can’t make an economically irrational decision not have consequences. The windmills are still more expensive, and so fewer Quatloos are left in the economy for buying other things.

                      And the whole scheme collapses anyway if the penalty/subsidy program works, because people aren’t paying your carbon tax, so how are you funding the subsidy? And now everybody is directly exposed to the 100 Quatloo per day cost of the wind.

                      You can’t make things cheaper by subsidizing them! You can only make them seem cheaper, and trick people into making bad choices.

                    2. “No, no, no. A carbon tax doesn’t make an alternative energy source cheaper than fossil fuels. It just distorts the market.”

                      Theoretically co2 emissions create an externality that distorts the market. A carbon tax could mitigate that.

                    3. Actually, Brett, you don’t need the subsidy part. Just make the tax on carbon 51 quatloos.

                      Of course there will be those who will pay it, because switching to windmills requires too much investment, or is impractical for some reason.

                      That’s what makes a carbon tax, or even more clearly a cap-and-trade system, a market-based solution. Those who really need to use coal will still do so, because, contrary to your example, the cost of doing so is not the same for everyone. Indeed, even a 30 quatloo tax would cause some shifting among those who are on the margin between coal and wind.

                      And then of course there is the externality matter that TIP mentions. How does the market – in the real world where Coasian assumptions don’t hold – deal with that?

                2. Yeah….What Brett said! 🙂

                  More seriously, we do not want the federal government ‘creating’ demand for anything. Bad move. Another way of saying ‘create demand’ is ‘picking winners and losers’. The Federal government has at best, an uneven record at doing that. Private industry, OTOH, has a much better, more accurate, more efficient way of addressing known and unknown demand.

                  American business spends billions and billions annually on R&D. There are plenty of buyers out there. Just keep the federal government out of the way. They can best do that by minimizing regulation.

    2. Symbolism helps tell a story. Being a Democrat is about making up stories and then deciding to believe them.

      1. Says the Trump supporter.

        1. Says the Trump supporter.

          It should make you sad that you’re less rational than a Trump supporter.

          But it doesn’t.

          Because you’re less rational than a Trump supporter.

          1. If you don’t think Trump makes up stories you’re nuts. Does he believe them? Who knows, but his followers, of whom Ben_ is one, lap them up like mother’s milk.

        2. – The unemployment rate is not a made up story.
          – Record low black unemployment is not a made up story.
          – ISIS defeat is not a made up story — though it may or may not be a little exaggerated.
          – The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act is not a made up story.
          – My lower tax bill is not a made up story.
          – 161 judges is not a made up story.
          – The First Step Act is not a made up story.
          – A 12/1 deregulation/regulation ratio is not a made up story — though it may or may not be somewhat exaggerated.
          – Stock market at record highs is not a made up story.
          – The US becoming a net exporter of petroleum fuels is not a made up story — though it may or may not be slightly exaggerated.
          – WOTUS repeal is not a made up story.
          – Obamacare individual mandate repeal is not a made up story.
          – Rescinding the Title IX “Dear Colleague” letter is not a made up story.
          – Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines are not a made up story.

          1. The continued trends from the Obama administration.

            What changes in momentum can you point to? I see Maybe five.

            A tellingly anemic list.

            1. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act changed the US from having more-or-less the highest corporate tax rate in the world to something more competitive. It had been an unaddressed problem for 30+ years, growing worse for the US every time another country reformed their laws and the US failed to act.

              Trump accomplishments for 3 years are greater than Obama accomplishments for 8 years.

              I could list 50 or 100 things. But the point is that they are not made up stories. They are real. The anti-Trump talk consists mostly of made up stories, because that’s what being a Democrat is all about.

              1. You like the tax cut, because you’re still into the trickle-down silliness.

                But the windfall hasn’t really done much for, you know, the American People. Unless you own a crapload of stock and like dividends, that is.
                https://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2019/05/chart-of-the-day-heres-what-corporations-did-with-their-tax-cut/

                Anyhow, not shocking your extremely partisan lens sees Obama as not doing anything positive. Kinda amusing you also must see Trump as doing great things when he can’t even navigate the APA correctly.

                1. Your opinions are beside the point. Your citation is beside the point.

                  The point is that none of those accomplishments are made up stories. They happened.

          2. Ben, I can’t comment on your tax bill, but my lower tax bill was very much a made-up story. Right after the law passed, my withholding amount went down. Hooray, lower taxes!

            Then, when I did my taxes and paid up, I was short by the reduced withholding amounts, plus some more. Oh, crap! Actually higher taxes, disguised for suckers like me by a change in the withholding tables.

            It may not have worked that way everywhere. I think it did work that way for folks who own homes in locales where real estate prices are generally high. But since those locales tend blue, it isn’t hard to see the whole thing as a political scam, and an attack on blue state residents.

            Maybe you think that’s great. It sort of makes me start puzzling what can be done to turn it around at the next opportunity, and punish some red staters. I am not proud of that, and actually don’t recommend it for the nation. You shouldn’t either.

            1. Your tax bill is yours. Personally, I paid less on more income.

              If people in blue states would stop voting for high taxes, they might pay lower taxes.

              The point is that none of those accomplishments are made up stories. They happened.

  5. Forget Paris. It Was Never a Serious Way to Handle Climate Change

    LOL. Tell me about the “serious” way to handle climate change.

    1. There is no serious way to handle something that doesn’t exist.

      1. >There is no serious way to handle something that doesn’t exist.>
        And that’s the spot on response to Jimmy the Dane and the ludicrous comments posted under his name.

    2. The Green New Deal was at least on the correct order of magnitude, if the entire rest of the world could have been persuaded to do it, and if it was physically possible to implement (forget economics. It was just impossible).

      That’s actually progress, as no other politician would dare propose a realistic solution. Every other “solution” I’ve ever read is a set of half-measures, unbridled optimism, willful ignorance of technological limitation, and belief that the electrical grid works like a video game (build windmill for +1 power).

      Oh, and don’t forget genocide. While it’s typically caught up in phrasing of “population reduction”, “birth control”, or “deindustrialization”, one common feature of these plans is the reduction of human population by an order of magnitude in a shockingly short span of time.

      1. Lots of fearmongering for something that is complete fiction.

        1. When did this discussion switch to organized religion?

          1. So-called “climate change” is the religion of the left.

    3. Two words:

      Nuclear power.

      All else is bullshit from bullshitters.

      1. Nuclear power’s biggest problem is NIMBY. Mr. Alder addressed NIMBY in the article.

      2. Right? Anyone who is concerned that climate change means the End of the World(tm) in 12 years and also says that nuclear is off the table is not to be taken seriously.

  6. The problem with the panic over climate change is that while there has been some modest warming due to human released CO2, almost all the changes have been beneficial, such as increased crop yields, and no major downsides like no acceleration of sea level rise, tropical cyclone activity, or drought.

    To be sure you can find dozens of models that predict accelerated sea level rise, more huricanes, more droughts, just as you can find predictions of disaster in the bible or Greek mythology, but none of that has shown up in any of the data.

    I had to pick one link, so I picked the one most hyped about, but sea level activity and droughts tell the same story, no significant change in long term trends.

      1. The sea level rise has been at a fairly constant 2-3 mm for most of the past century. However, there is quite a lot of variation. An increase from 2.5 mm/yr to 3.4 mm/yr over 20 years cannot be extrapolated. It certainly can’t be extrapolated geometrically, as that’s not how melting or thermal expansion works. Low-Latitude glaciers melt a touch faster. Then they run out. Then, you have the fact that earth is a complicated system of cycles within cycles within other cycles that we know are moving in multiple directions. Drawing cause-effect from such a small trend is willfully ignorant of the system.

        Literally, you can’t do that. They KNOW this. NASA and the EPA wrote the book on how to interpret data. Extrapolation of trends beyond measurements in complex systems is the number 1 “thou shalt not”. These people are intentionally violating their own rules in order to reach their desired conclusion.

        1. Here’s the problem with stuff like this.

          There’s a large group of people who are experts on climate science. Thousands of people. They publish peer reviewed papers and use the scientific method. And there’s no evidence of that they conspire, or that they are a bunch of world government socialists, or anything similar. And there are literally close to no dissenters from the basic claim that climate change is human-caused and its effects are catastrophic.

          But what happens is that the people who want to lie about this issue have a clever strategy. They learn just enough of the scientific data that they can talk with an heir of expertise and deploy some numbers and make plausible sounding claims. And, you know, the ordinary person can’t refute those things easily, because, hey, most of us are busy doing our jobs and not cherrypicking numbers out of climate science papers. So you end up with someone who calls himself Ben of Houston, who is obviously not a climate scientist, telling us that all those thousands of climate scientists who have been doing this work for 30 years are wrong. But of course, Ben of Houston has never published a paper and has never gone through peer review, and wouldn’t make it if he tried, because the experts would tear his thesis apart. How do we know this? Because we’ve seen it happen many times with amateurs in this field.

          And of course, when I point this out, Ben and his conservative allies will immediately accuse me of the logical fallacy of appealing to authority- ignoring that in fact, appealing to authority is not a logical fallacy unless the appeal is unwarranted. Here, it is fully warranted to believe climate scientists over some person on the Internet.

          And meanwhile, the success of the Bens of Houstons of the world will help condemn tens of thousands of Bangladeshis to certain death. Which he doesn’t care about one bit.

          1. Dilan, you are just showing your ignorance about the science, of course the river deltas of Bangladesh are doomed, but not necessarily the people. Paris didn’t repeal continental subsidence and drift. All over the world there are land areas subsiding at a much higher rate than sea levels are rising and Bangladesh is one of the affects. The Indian subcontinent is still moving at about 35mm per year, compared to sea rise of 3mm per year.I

            It just shows the bankruptcy of the climate change movement that they try to use Bangladesh as an argument for climate change action when it has almost nothing to do with climate change.

            1. If the people who claim they care about Bangladesh really cared about Bangladesh they’d get them reliable electricity, not try to tell them why they can’t have it.

              By the way, I’m currently living in Cambodia now, so these dry debates about how the 3rd world is suffering so much from climate change that we have to condemn them to poverty for future generations isn’t just an academic debate.

          2. There’s plenty of published, peer reviewed science that is crap. See, for example, the canonical study on blind auditions in orchestras that was credulously cited by so many, but when you read the study it doesn’t show anything at all.

            The consensus in the relevant fields that false rape accusations are rare, that we read about so often in the media, is similarly unsupported by data.

            And we routinely send people to jail, or execute them, based on “science” that is complete crap.

            Science is about observing, understanding, and evaluating evidence. Knowing how to differentiate honest science done by others from propaganda posing as science is an entirely different ball game.

            1. There’s plenty of published, peer reviewed science that is crap.

              So you think the published science on climate change is crap, but the opinions of internet commenters and right-wing loudmouths are good science?

              1. One major problem with the so-called “published, peer-reviewed science” on climate change is that they continually fail as repeatable; which is a key component of the scientific method. If one’s conjecture even reaches the hypothesis stage and is not repeatable, in test after test, then it can never become a theory; let alone base any response to the issue on said non-theory.

                Climate has been changing since this rock formed an atmosphere; IOW it is a complex system with numerous components, cycles, etc. Similar to the human body, which is also complex. We do know more yet we also have diseases that we still do not understand. We do not base treatment for a disease based on unproven conjecture; so to we should not base treatment for climate change on unproven conjecture.

              2. “So you think the published science on climate change is crap,”

                I have no idea, I haven’t really looked at it. But if that’s what you got from my four-paragraph blog comment that is only tangentially related to climate science, I can’t say that that bodes well for your analysis of the climate science itself.

                1. Actually, you seemed to be trying to make a silly argument about climate science, since that’s what the thread is about, and you seemed to be responding to Dilan’s comment.

                  No doubt some of the published work is dubious, but that doesn’t mean the field is just all wrong, full of obvious errors. And it sure doesn’t mean that random internet commenters have discovered a host of kindergarten-level mistakes.

                  1. “Actually, you seemed to be trying to make a silly argument about climate science, since that’s what the thread is about, and you seemed to be responding to Dilan’s comment.”

                    Dilan claims that we should accept the findings of climate science because it’s published and peer-reviewed. (He admits he’s making an appeal to authority). I responded by saying that lots of published, peer reviewed science is crap.

                    The problem with science-driven public policy is that it suffers from the same public-chose problems that public policy suffers from in general, that people don’t have the bandwith to become experts themselves, so they have to trust experts, and experts aren’t always reliable.

                    1. There is a difference between “experts aren’t always reliable” and “experts are stupid and miss obvious flaws in their work that a high school student can easily see. Therefore we should give expert opinion, even overwhelming expert opinion, no weight.”

                    2. “There is a difference between “experts aren’t always reliable” and “experts are stupid and miss obvious flaws in their work that a high school student can easily see.”

                      For God’s sake, man, he’s only made of straw.

                      Although in the case of the claims that false rape accusations are in the single digits, the flaws really are that obvious.

              3. So you think the published science on climate change is crap, but the opinions of internet commenters and right-wing loudmouths are good science?

                Try a simple experiment.

                Pick 20 large cities in the northern and the southern hemispheres–40, in all. Now, pick a newspaper in each city, and a day of the month. Then, check the recorded temperature of the previous day–NOT the forecast– for, say 30 years back.

                And see what you get.

                Then take a look at what the published science says.

                Yeah.

                1. I don’t have those newspapers at hand. You seem to, so why don’t you tell me what great secret you’ve discovered.

                2. Azathoth!!, why would a climate scientist do a thing like that? Wouldn’t it lead to more valid results if you picked places which were less affected by unknown man-made happenstance?

          3. “And there’s no evidence of (sic) that they conspire…”

            What? You’re not familiar with the U of East Anglia scandal. The one where warmists were caught conspiring?

        2. And this is where the actual scientists have left the party – because many of their ersatz compatriots stopped being scientists and started being prophets.

          It’s especially galling when one group claims that if it wasn’t published in a specific set of journals then it shouldn’t even be considered, and then when their emails get leaked you find they were coordinating to prevent the review of any research that didn’t meet their ultimate conclusion from even being considered for those journals.

          That’s not science, that’s Scientism – the transmutation of science as a practice into a religion.

          And the easiest way to spot it is to see them invoke their god, “Science says….” Science has never said any such thing, because science is a recursive process to prove things wrong, so that only things that keep failing at being disproven remain, and therefor science can never tell us something, it can just tell us what’s definitely wrong.

          1. When right wingers accuse science of being a religion, they really show their ignorance.

            No, something that uses testing and peer review and the presumption that a hypothesis is false unless proven is not a religion. It’s the antithesis of religion, which says it is a sin to question God, is passed down from authorities (either texts or leaders), and presumes that its claims must be true.

            Right wingers desperately WANT science to be a religion, because then they can dismiss scientists as infidels and cling to their false beliefs. But it doesn’t work that way.

            1. I guess you don’t understand: Science, actually operating according to those rules, isn’t a religion. It’s just a systematic procedure for proving hypothesis wrong, and thus ideally converging on something which, while it might or might not be truth with a capital “T”, can’t be demonstrated to not be. Great stuff!

              But science, operating according to the rules that it actually follows in practice? Yeah, sometimes that’s effectively a religion.

              Science, in one case, scientism in the other. Evolution vs Lysenkoism. Science itself is great, but it’s being practiced by humans, social apes, not impartial logic machines, which means sometimes it goes badly wrong, and stops really being science.

            2. “No, something that uses testing and peer review and the presumption that a hypothesis is false unless proven is not a religion.”

              How are the temps on the control Earth looking?

        3. This is a classic troll move. First make a false claim, in this case that sea level is rising. Claim is refuted by fact supported by link. Move goal posts to new claim that this information does not allow for predictions. There is no point in further discussion with such people.

      2. Ya know … when two cities on the US Atlantic coast, only a few hundred miles apart, report way different sea level rises, it makes you wonder if something else might be happening …

        Sloppy measurements with huge error bars?

        Ground subsidence from extracting fresh water?

        Poorly sited and maintained tools?

        1. Or as seen in many long inhabited cities situated on river deltas, the cessation of deposition of new land onto the delta causing a new effect of subsidence as the prior geology had ongoing deposition.

          That’s why New Orleans is underwater now. It’s not that the land is sinking per se, but that the delta is disappearing because of water control channels humans have built. This is one place we can’t win – either we control flooding and the city slowly sinks until it’s unrecoverable, or we have regular flooding every year that wipes out our streets as they are.

          Some cities are simply unsustainable due to their core geological foundations if used the way modern humanity wants them to. For them to survive they’ll have to anchor much deeper (thousand foot foundations, anyone?), switch to hybrid floating cities (parts of Southeast Asia), or abandon the modern infrastructure. Or, of course, just keep (literally) bailing them out.

          1. New Orleans is not underwater, parts of the city are below Mean Gulf Level, but the levees have, except for the failure of the federally constructed levees several years ago managed to keep most of the water out. And the land is in fact subsiding, largely because the silt deposited over the years is compacting and without fresh deposits will continue to do so. There is no bedrock, you can drill down several hundred feet and still find only mud. Regular flooding will not replenish the silt deposits.

          2. In the case of New Orleans you could always build on piers, the way some people do along the ocean to avoid damage from storm surge.

            And maybe not have a corrupt local government that spends the levee repair funds on parties.

      3. I follow the link and I see: “Our extrapolation …” blah blah.

        Here is the data http://earthguide.ucsd.edu/eoc/special_topics/teach/sp_climate_change/images/sealevel_recent.png

        There doesn’t appear to be any significant change in the trend since the 1920’s. And even if there were, we also know that sea level has increased over 120 meters just in the last 20000 years since the peak of the last glacial maximum in our current ice age, a blink of the geological eye. It’s very unscientific to say our current temperature and sea level is the earth’s optimum and somehow think windmills are going to freeze the current transient state in place.

  7. Prof Adler, please stick to opining on the law. You are wrong about the science and are starting your analysis from several unvalidated premises.

  8. [The Paris Agreement] was a symbolic measure

    Even if that’s true, symbols matter. Before we can do any of the wondrous things you describe, we need to recognize that climate change is a serious problem. The withdrawal merely encourages denialism on the right. In that sense it is a step backwards. It’s not going to get anything done.

    1. There is no such thing as climate change. Just all mad up hoopla.

    2. “The withdrawal merely encourages denialism on the right. In that sense it is a step backwards.”

      Denialism on the right isn’t going to stop this from being solved. Fanaticism on the left isn’t going to solve it. The fact that the issue has entered the realm of politics, where objectivity and rational though have no place, has done more harm than good.

      America’s carbon emissions have been declining for 15 years and in terms of tons of emissions relative to the size of the economy, despite the efforts of our goofy politicians to fuck it up.

    3. bernard11….You know, there probably is some man-made component to the rise in global temperatures. I don’t think people really get worked up about that objective fact.

      What drives people batshit crazy are the insane solutions that are being bandied about to address it. I think we all want the same thing, in the end – a clean environment and a healthy planet. We just differ dramatically on the means to get there.

      You and your team want to rely on government coercion. That is a total ‘no go’. Others, like myself, want private enterprise doing it because it will a) be better, b) be more efficient, c) will respect our liberty and autonomy.

      1. What drives me batshit crazy is the people who don’t want to admit that there is a man-made component that it’s a hoax – either by the Chinese or by thousands of scientists trying to keep the grant money flowing.

        Lots of those here.

        As for private enterprise, I repeat what I said above. There has to be demand and government can help stimulate that. I don’t want to “rely on government.” I want government to play a role. How do you have a carbon tax, or a cap-and-trade system – once a scheme advocated by conservatives – without government involvement. How do you induce a factory to switch to cleaner energy sources without some sort of incentive?

        And, since we are talking markets here, why shouldn’t the full cost of economic activity – including emissions – be borne by those who generate them? You need government action to accomplish that.

        Oh, and I disagree that “we all want the same thing, in the end – a clean environment and a healthy planet.” I don’t think conservatives give a ff about that. That’s why they fight CA’s clean air regulations and want to subsidize coal. They care about corporate profits, period.

        1. And, since we are talking markets here, why shouldn’t the full cost of economic activity – including emissions – be borne by those who generate them? You need government action to accomplish that.

          The full cost will be borne by end users not producers. While you would need government to manage the cost transfer from say coal to nuclear the money comes out of consumers’ pockets in the form of higher energy costs. This may be worthwhile but don’t pretend that the producers are the ones who will pay.

          1. I said the costs should be borne by those who generate them – the costs, not the emissions. That would usually be partly the consumers, partly the producers, varying from product to product.

            Sorry I wasn’t clear.

        2. Well bernard, I don’t deny what I know to be objectively true. There is a man-made component going on here wrt climate change. How much that is….others can debate.

          No way to cap and trade. No way, no how. This is not a dollars and sense issue, it is a liberty issue. When you expand the reach of government as you propose, we lose individual liberty. No! But to your question How do you induce a factory to switch to cleaner energy sources without some sort of incentive?

          Answer: You don’t induce anything. Newer factories are built all the time. Older factories become more inefficient, and less profitable. They are sold, closed, or modernized. If it closes, you win – no more pollution (one hopes). If it is modernized – you win. If it is sold – it is a draw (new owner not guaranteed to close or modernize). The point is, you do not have to expand the power of government.

          Why shouldn’t producers pay the cost? They will, and then proceed to immediately pass through the cost to the consumer. Again, why expand the scope and power of the government…to collect yet more money?

          CA does not get to dictate national policy. Nor should it. That is really a federalism issue, though.

          1. Your argument assumes that new and modernized factories are cleaner because that makes them more profitable. It is at least as likely that they are cleaner because of increased regulation, something that is especially apparent outside the carbon context. Sulfur scrubbers and reduced sulfur fuels don’t contribute to the bottom line, except insofar as they avoid penalties for noncompliance.

        3. And, since we are talking markets here, why shouldn’t the full cost of economic activity – including emissions – be borne by those who generate them?

          They are.

          YOU.

          People don’t run emissions factories, Bernard.

          They run power plants so that Bernard can opine on the internet.

          And computer factories so Bernard has a computer to opine with.

          And machines to farm the corn, cheese, and soy that goes into the bag of Cheetos that makes Bernard a bit too orange for his own good.

          YOU pay because YOU want stuff.

    4. “Before we can do any of the wondrous things you describe, we need to recognize that climate change is a serious problem.”

      When people CLAIMING it is one ACT like it is one, I might take it seriously.

      I have avoided going on my private jet while opining on the wastefulness of the proles driving cars.

  9. The United States was never a signatory of the Paris Climate Agreement. Not really anything to withdraw from.

    1. Don’t confuse “signatory” with “party”. The US signed the Paris Agreement on 22 April 2016: https://treaties.un.org/Pages/ViewDetails.aspx?src=TREATY&mtdsg_no=XXVII-7-d&chapter=27&clang=_en

      1. True, we’re a “signatory”, it just doesn’t carry with it any legal significance. It’s like the President signing a draft law that Congress hasn’t voted on, meaningless.

        1. My comment didn’t say otherwise. It just corrected Iowantwo.

  10. There is no “solution” to climate change because there is no climate change. It is just a figment of the liberal imagination designed to spook people into following the extremist communist agenda of the left wing.

    1. You took the trouble to post this contentless partisan yawp throughout the thread.

      Sounds like symbolic gestures matter to you, at least!

    2. Open wider, Jimmy.

      Or not.

      I’m just trying to make this easier for you.

      1. Open wide indeed Cuckland. That is what you are going to be told when up against the wall time comes around…

  11. Most conservatives have disqualified themselves from reasoned debate on climate change. As has occurred throughout our lifetimes, with respect to many issues, other Americans will shape American policy and progress on this issue against the efforts and wishes of conservatives. A few Republicans, perhaps including Prof. Adler, may be relevant to the consequential debate, but the science-rejecting clingers do not deserve a place at any adult table in this regard.

    1. There is nothing to debate with regards to the fiction of climate change. Doesn’t exist. We all see through your political invention. Get over it.

    2. “Most conservatives have disqualified themselves from reasoned debate on climate change.”

      “Reasoned debate”. LOL. So is Greta getting up in front of a crowd and bellowing emotional gibberish a form of reasoned debate? Is that going to fix anything?

      No, it isn’t. Kirkland, you wouldn’t know reasoned debate if it slapped you in the ass with both hands.

      1. Their idea of reasoned debate is having a 16-year-old deliver a doomsday sermon.

        1. You guys seem to like sermons. Whatever works…

          1. “You guys seem to like sermons.”

            What does that even mean?

            I’m a retired engineer. I like objective and rational people doing actual work to solve problems. Which is happening in the background despite the drama being generated by our political class.

            Denying the fact that we’re in a 40ish year warming cycle does not contribute to solving the problem. Doomsday lectures from 16 year-olds and celebrities flying to conferences and politicians proposing radical plans that will hurt more than help don’t contribute to solving the problem. Condemning the use of the one carbon free technology that can run our grid doesn’t contribute to solving the problem. All of those things just fuck things up and make it harder to solve the problem.

            People like you don’t want the problem solved. You want the government to have more control over our economy and are using climate change as a tool to make that happen.

            1. A took a punt that virtually all climate change deniers in the US spent the last few decades voting for bible thumpers. If you didn’t, good for you.

              1. Oddly, literally nothing will change the mind of people convinced of man-made global warming. Not the unreproducability issue. Not the ineptitude of the models.

                Literally nothing.

                Religious fanatics are more open-minded.

          2. “whatever works…”

            Regardless of truth, facts, civility, Americans getting hurt or killed, starving children, whatever.

    3. “As has occurred throughout our lifetimes, with respect to many issues, other Americans will shape American policy and progress on this issue against the efforts and wishes of conservatives.”

      Is that why we have 3 times the co2 emissions per capita that France has?

      1. Probably has more to do with the fact that France gets 75% of its electricity from nukes v. our 20%, combined with roughly 3x the population density (radically reducing transportation costs etc).

        1. “Probably has more to do with the fact that France gets 75% of its electricity from nukes v. our 20%…”

          Correct. I’m wondering if that’s what Arthur meant by “…other Americans will shape American policy and progress on this issue against the efforts and wishes of conservatives.”

  12. If the left wanted to really fix the climate they’d have gone balls to the wall with nuclear energy decades ago not use this as an excuse to institute globalism.

    Carbon credits, wealth redistribution, and endless battles on the internet raging at user trumprox1776 for not buying into the theory of AGW clearly hasn’t worked to ‘save’ the planet in the many years its been tried but continuing to bang their head on the wall with globalist schemes to consolidate power seems to be the only solution elite libs are interested in. And ranting and arguing on the internet seem to be the only solution rank and file libs are interested in.

    Especially the buttmad libs on the internet whining and whining and slapfighting with trolls on and on and on…If we could take all that wasted energy we’d have fusion power and colonies on Europa by now. Its almost like nobody on the left really cares about saving the planet from this supposed threat at all.

    Technological solutions will be the primary factor that will solve whatever problems exist and are solvable about the climate. Not this weird ecocult libs are trying to start nor ‘pwning’ agwdenier567 with a link to the United Nations Interpanel Global World Subcommittee Planetary Blue Ribbon Consensus 2344#.

  13. If the US wants to show leadership in moving away from hydrocarbons, it needs to get active in nuclear power. Renewables are cool and all, and have their place, but nothing is going to provide energy at the scale of fossil fuels in the renewable sector for a long, long, long time. It will take a lot of additional oil consumption and mining to get new nuclear technology going so the sooner we start the better. The traveling wave reactor covered in the recent Bill Gates documentary on Netflix is a case in point. The US should be clearing regulatory hurdles to get a trial reactor online using newer, safer technology. This is an issue almost purely political and legal, as the technology innovations are there with a lot of headroom for growth. Put it in the Alaska bush if you want to avoid threats to the larger population. I can almost guarantee that a handful of villages would volunteer for a small reactor if it meant eliminating their dependence on very costly and dirty heating oil.

      1. There’s something strange about that table: It shows coal dropping by a factor of 75% in just a few months in 2016, when it was a major fraction of their electricity production, and the various categories don’t seem to add up to 100%

        1. The chart legend indicates the units are terawatts, it is a coincidence the total is near 100.

          1. Correction, terawatt-hours per quarter.

      2. Of course if you call burning wood chips imported from the US and Canada in older converted coal plants renewables then you can define anything as “progress”.

        It’s bullshit of course and it doesn’t really reduce emissions at all.

  14. Every rightwinger ever has rejected doing something about climate change for one of two reasons:
    1. Climate change is a hoax
    2. We shouldn’t be trying to fix climate change on our own, because our own emissions are irrelevant in the big scheme of things.

    So explain to me again why the Paris accord is irrelevant?

    1. Because on its own terms it accomplishes exactly nothing at enormous costs. But watermelons gotta signal their concern.

  15. Also, the Paris accord is one of the key ingredients in the Dutch court rulings requiring the state to cut CO2 emissions: https://www.rechtspraak.nl/Organisatie-en-contact/Organisatie/Hoge-Raad-der-Nederlanden/Nieuws/Paginas/Advice-to-the-Supreme-Court-Court-of-Appeal-judgement-in-the-climate-case-Urgenda-can-be-upheld.aspx

    (I know this is not American news, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t matter.)

    1. “that doesn’t mean it doesn’t matter”

      Nothing happening in Holland has mattered since the last Anglo-Dutch War.

    2. “Also, the Paris accord is one of the key ingredients in the Dutch court rulings requiring the state to cut CO2 emissions:”

      European courts making idiotic decisions isn’t news.

  16. The climate “science” purporting to demonstrate that human CO2 emissions are the cause of warming has always been about impoverishing the West and transferring it’s wealth to the third world. Period.

  17. Well Martinned I can’t ding you too much coming from an area that does not produce any fossil fuels, but if you look into it you will find that not all fossil fuels produce the same amount of carbon per BTU.

    Methane, or Natural gas is ch4 so that means combined with oxygen o2, each molecule of methane when burned produces 1 molecule of co2 and 4 molecules of water vapor.

    Whereas the primary fuel in coal is carbon which will mainly produce co2, but also contains sulfur, which produces sulfur dioxide, and a host of other impure byproducts which won’t provide a clean or as efficient combustion. In fact it produces about 2x as much co2 per btu, and an infinite amount more carbon monoxide, i.e. > 0.

    Don’t try this at home but please do try heating an enclosed space with methane, or propane, then try to do the same with coal. With the first two it may get a little stuffy as the co2 goes up, but with coal hopefully your carbon monoxide alarm goes off before you are unconscious or dead.

    1. …which is why greenhouse gas quotas are all in CO2-equivalents, counting all other greenhouse gases in terms of how much stronger their greenhouse gas effect is than that of CO2.

      1. But your comment “Fracking is a substitute for fossil fuels?” seems to indicate a belief that all fossil fuels are fungible. Of course they aren’t. And while coal still has its place in the energy mix, I think any rational person would rather live next door to a natural gas electrical generation plant than a coal fired plant, or for that matter a 300m windmill either.

  18. From the OP: “…policymakers should be focused on spurring the technological innovation that will be necessary to provide low-carbon energy around the globe. ”

    The technology is here now in the form of nuclear energy. If we could press a button and instantly get to 80-90% nuclear power around the globe I would be all for it. Unfortunately there is at present no demand for new nuclear energy almost anywhere. Without imposing very aggressive externality penalties on fossil fuels there will not be any demand for more nuclear power. The cost of such penalties will be borne by consumers and it will be very high at least at the front end. If governments make the transition by direct means it will be even more costly and likely take more time.

    Is it worth it even if it could be done politically? If you believe that climate catastrophe is imminent then you should advocate it. I don’t believe that but I’m not positive about the long term effects so I have reservations but would probably support it. I do know that it is the only feasible path to eliminating dependence on fossil fuels. Solar and wind also suffer from lack of demand absent subsidies and they can only ever be bit players on the energy stage. All the rest of the talk about reducing carbon footprints is just nonsense.

    1. We don’t actually need penalties on other sources of energy. What is needed is a relaxation of regulation to rational levels. There’s no reason nuclear should be required to be 2 1/2 times safer than hydro, 4 times safer than wind, 11 times safer than solar, 100 times safer than natural gas, 900 times safer than oil…

      If nuclear only had to be as safe as wind power, for instance, it would be much cheaper.

      1. It still won’t be nearly as cheap as natural gas or coal and even reducing regulation won’t keep the upfront cost of building plants from being at least ten times that of new gas plants. Any way you slice it the transition to nuclear would mean dramatically higher energy prices at least until the construction costs could be amortized.

        1. No, a lot of the upfront cost is due to over the top safety features and redesigns during build that dramatically inflate capital costs.

          Yes, it is pretty hard to beat the price of a gas turbine, with anything else at all. But other things get built anyway, for a variety of reasons. And if nuclear were as cheap as it should be, nuclear would be that other thing.

          1. If regulations were reduced to the levels you suggest, and I don’t know enough about the technicalities to argue that, then yes some more nuclear plants would get built, particularly in places that don’t have access to cheap natural gas. What won’t happen is a complete replacement of gas and coal fired plants with nuclear. That would require some sort of intervention in the market place. Whether that would be a good idea or not depends on one’s views about the dangers of increased carbon emissions. I admit that I haven’t made up my mind about that. Today I think the cure is probably worse than the disease.

  19. “revenue neutral” taxes?

    Its like believing in unicorns.

    1. Yeah the government would probably divert most of the externality penalty to some giveaway and then raise taxes for a direct subsidy to nukes. And even then we might not get the nukes.

    2. When measure 732 was on the Washington ballot proposing a carbon tax that was redistributed to taxpayers the Sierra Club and 350.org refused to support it because none of it was “redistributed” to them.

      Then they did a do-over and to channel all the money from the tax into slush funds controlled by the politicians and environmentalists and the voters told them to pound sand.

      And that is how Washington Governor Jay Inslee became the front-runner for Mr irellevant for the 2020 Democratic nomination.

  20. While there is no point in arguing with the hardcore climate change deniers for those who have an open mind and are capable of critical thought here is a good resource: https://skepticalscience.com/argument.php

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