Comments on: The depressing politics of climate change http://blogs.reuters.com/felix-salmon/2011/05/03/the-depressing-politics-of-climate-change/ A slice of lime in the soda Sun, 26 Oct 2014 19:05:02 +0000 hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.2.5 By: DanHess http://blogs.reuters.com/felix-salmon/2011/05/03/the-depressing-politics-of-climate-change/comment-page-1/#comment-26245 Wed, 04 May 2011 17:14:28 +0000 http://blogs.reuters.com/felix-salmon/?p=8093#comment-26245 @VisualCarbon —

I studied physics and computer science at Cornell, as well as meteorology. My first job was as an intern at NOAA in Silver Spring, MD. Admittedly that was years ago, but do share your background. Your claims that we know everything there is to know doesn’t comport with my sense of science as a field of great caution. What do I know? Maybe the old ethos of scientists is gone, at least in certain fields.

Look, I am not a skeptic that humans are changing the climate. There is no question we are adding to the mix. I believe!! But to claim that we actually know what will happen in the coming century (“We have a model that is 100% accurate with all variable included. It is called the Earth. “) is a riot!

Our geological record is spotty but here are a few elephants milling about the room that make it hard to claim all variables are 100 percent sewn up:
* Carbon levels at around 390 PPM are well above the recent historical range of 200-300 PPM. But looking across just the last tens of thousands of years of carbon in this range we have had massive swings of 14 or 15 degrees C in relatively short periods of time with CO2 in its historic range. These are the ice ages. We have no idea what triggered each one, only that they are a positive feedback loop.
* Solar intensity is one of the most important variables of all (and yes it is significantly variable over thousands and millions of years) and it is completely absent from the geological record.
* A number of studies have attempted to look at carbon levels across geological time. The one thing that stands out is that historical carbon measurements are all over the map and no two studies come anywhere close to each other.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Phaner ozoic_Carbon_Dioxide.png
About the only thing they agree on is that atmospheric carbon was once much higher than today.
And there’s this: “the early Phanerozoic includes a global ice age during the Ordovician age combined with high atmospheric carbon contents ”

Apparently the bar at which scientists are willing to say they know things with certainty has gotten a lot lower. This is not helping public perception.

In Tamil Nadu (south India), one of the hotter places on Earth where I have been twice, they have three harvests a year. On the other hand, ice ages are very much more difficult to deal with. Evidence points to a present warming trend and evidence is that humans are a part of it. But I’m just not seeing the end of the world as we know it, at least on that front.

Exhaustion of much mineral wealth is what we really need to be stressed out about if we really care about the kiddies. That is not a problem on a 100 year time frame. That is a problem arising right now. The fossil fuel / carbon problem is solving itself because we are running out of them anyway as thisspaceforsale noted.

Nuclear based electric power seems to be the only source that scales up to the level we need. Absent a viable alternative of massive scale what discussion is there to have?

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By: swmpratt http://blogs.reuters.com/felix-salmon/2011/05/03/the-depressing-politics-of-climate-change/comment-page-1/#comment-26222 Wed, 04 May 2011 02:41:54 +0000 http://blogs.reuters.com/felix-salmon/?p=8093#comment-26222 If we continue to do little to slow down climate change are we not ensuring a day in the future where life on earth is not sustainable for us or for the plant and animal life that exist here with us? While there are problems that need attention in addition to climate change, it can be argued that in combating climate change we may also help solve some of our other problems – unemployment, rising gas costs, etc. Instead, if you listen to Congress it is like we cannot be bothered with trying to mitigate or slow down climate change. We need to elevate climate solutions and encourage our political leaders that the climate problem is also a problem we hold them accountable to come up with a workable solution.

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By: BuddhistWonk http://blogs.reuters.com/felix-salmon/2011/05/03/the-depressing-politics-of-climate-change/comment-page-1/#comment-26220 Wed, 04 May 2011 02:35:48 +0000 http://blogs.reuters.com/felix-salmon/?p=8093#comment-26220 But individual actions do count, and I don’t only mean that in a touchy feely “throwing starfish on the beach” way. The development of new technologies requires alpha consumers to buy early generation products which tend to be more expensive and, on some level, require personal sacrifice. Solar panels will eventually pay for themselves, but if you’re just in it for the money, there are probably better ways to invest than putting panels up on your roof. With the price of oil inevitably rising over the next 20 years, electric vehicles are probably destined to become the primary way we power our cars. But if you’re looking for a car this year, current fuel costs alone can’t really justify the purchase.
If you’re buying these things, you’re probably buying them because you are trying to make a personal statement that you care about the future of the planet and you are willing to invest your resources to do something about it. In the process, you’re creating a consumer market for the product that encourages more of them to be built. Manufacturing more of something means that each item costs less for future buyers. The widespread consumer market is a major part of the reason why the cost of solar electricity is nearing parity with natural gas and will surpass coal within the next 10 years:

Of course, a big part of that story is also state renewable energy mandates – individual action alone isn’t sufficient. But the reason we’ve been able to win state renewable energy mandates is because the market got big enough to prove the validity of the technology.
Smaller purchases such as more fuel-efficient appliances follow the same pattern: the bigger the market size for Energy Star refrigerator, the more the incentive to produce the big and small innovations that will drive down electricity use. Likewise,
As Simon argues elsewhere in the same piece, increasing the size of the clean technology marketplace goes hand in hand with increasing our ability to create strong climate policies. If the solar industry had the political clout of the oil industry, a price on carbon or a cap on emissions might be able to pass Congress.
Finally, to get a little more touchy-feely, I think Simon also understates the importance of cultural norms. Studies have shown that the installation of solar panels in a neighborhood increases the probability that a new solar panel will be installed. Others indicate that people are much more likely to engage in political action after they’ve made a commitment in their personal lives. Spreading the value of concern for the environment is itself one of the most important things we can do to build political power, and for many people, the most likely path to spreading those values is through commitments in their personal lives.
The establishment of cultural norms cannot easily be described in the language of utility – it’s hard to talk about comparing the utility of a lost plane ride with the “value” of establishing a cultural norm – but that kind of individualistic attitude is at root a problem for the climate movement.
buddhistwonk.tumblr.com

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By: BuddhistWonk http://blogs.reuters.com/felix-salmon/2011/05/03/the-depressing-politics-of-climate-change/comment-page-1/#comment-26219 Wed, 04 May 2011 02:35:44 +0000 http://blogs.reuters.com/felix-salmon/?p=8093#comment-26219 But individual actions do count, and I don’t only mean that in a touchy feely “throwing starfish on the beach” way. The development of new technologies requires alpha consumers to buy early generation products which tend to be more expensive and, on some level, require personal sacrifice. Solar panels will eventually pay for themselves, but if you’re just in it for the money, there are probably better ways to invest than putting panels up on your roof. With the price of oil inevitably rising over the next 20 years, electric vehicles are probably destined to become the primary way we power our cars. But if you’re looking for a car this year, current fuel costs alone can’t really justify the purchase.
If you’re buying these things, you’re probably buying them because you are trying to make a personal statement that you care about the future of the planet and you are willing to invest your resources to do something about it. In the process, you’re creating a consumer market for the product that encourages more of them to be built. Manufacturing more of something means that each item costs less for future buyers. The widespread consumer market is a major part of the reason why the cost of solar electricity is nearing parity with natural gas and will surpass coal within the next 10 years:

Of course, a big part of that story is also state renewable energy mandates – individual action alone isn’t sufficient. But the reason we’ve been able to win state renewable energy mandates is because the market got big enough to prove the validity of the technology.
Smaller purchases such as more fuel-efficient appliances follow the same pattern: the bigger the market size for Energy Star refrigerator, the more the incentive to produce the big and small innovations that will drive down electricity use. Likewise,
As Simon argues elsewhere in the same piece, increasing the size of the clean technology marketplace goes hand in hand with increasing our ability to create strong climate policies. If the solar industry had the political clout of the oil industry, a price on carbon or a cap on emissions might be able to pass Congress.
Finally, to get a little more touchy-feely, I think Simon also understates the importance of cultural norms. Studies have shown that the installation of solar panels in a neighborhood increases the probability that a new solar panel will be installed. Others indicate that people are much more likely to engage in political action after they’ve made a commitment in their personal lives. Spreading the value of concern for the environment is itself one of the most important things we can do to build political power, and for many people, the most likely path to spreading those values is through commitments in their personal lives.
The establishment of cultural norms cannot easily be described in the language of utility – it’s hard to talk about comparing the utility of a lost plane ride with the “value” of establishing a cultural norm – but that kind of individualistic attitude is at root a problem for the climate movement.
buddhistwonk.tumblr.com

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By: FelixSalmon http://blogs.reuters.com/felix-salmon/2011/05/03/the-depressing-politics-of-climate-change/comment-page-1/#comment-26212 Tue, 03 May 2011 23:41:50 +0000 http://blogs.reuters.com/felix-salmon/?p=8093#comment-26212 @VisualCarbon, I like the both-and approach a lot. And I suppose that if you live in BC near your family, then you have little need to fly…

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By: VisualCarbon http://blogs.reuters.com/felix-salmon/2011/05/03/the-depressing-politics-of-climate-change/comment-page-1/#comment-26211 Tue, 03 May 2011 23:34:04 +0000 http://blogs.reuters.com/felix-salmon/?p=8093#comment-26211 Felix, I found this part of your article the most confusing: “When I see people suffering a significant loss of utility because they’re watching their footprint and refuse to fly, for instance, it’s pretty clear that the personal cost of their decision is much greater than any global benefit. ”

I think you are mistaking morality for strategy.

My family stopped flying years ago because we felt that the levels of climate damage it does just for “fun” was immoral. The personal cost to me is much greater to get on a plane than not to. It isn’t some silly, ill-thought-out strategy to change the world’s carbon levels. It is a moral choice. We just didn’t want to do that much damage. It made us feel bad.

The phrase “loss of utility” doesn’t even make sense to me in this context.

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By: VisualCarbon http://blogs.reuters.com/felix-salmon/2011/05/03/the-depressing-politics-of-climate-change/comment-page-1/#comment-26210 Tue, 03 May 2011 23:22:04 +0000 http://blogs.reuters.com/felix-salmon/?p=8093#comment-26210 Dan Hess, all your points are reasonable on the surface but I think if you read about climate science you will understand the issues better. For example:

YOU: “(1) Humans have adapted to major climate swings in the past, when technology and mobility were much less. We will adapt again. The climate was bound to swing one way or another anyway, whether we humans tossed our hat in the ring or not.”

SCIENCE: Human civilization has never faced major climate swings. Warming climate swings have been very slow in the past when naturally forced. We are pushing the climate ten times harder than what caused ice age to end.

YOU: “(2) Enormous amounts of carbon have poured into the atmosphere over the last several centuries. Climate change has resulted but swings have been quite modest so far.”

SCIENCE: CO2 has a long lifetime which means there is a delay between when we dump it and when the full effects are felt. Most of the CO2 has been dumped in the last couple decades. Changes are already dramatic (polar ice melt, permafrost thaw, ocean acidification levels). Lots more in pipeline from past CO2.

YOU: “(3) Accurate prediction in this area is nearly impossible. Not only are there many variables whose values we don’t know, we don’t even know what all the variables are.”

SCIENCE: We have a model that is 100% accurate with all variable included. It is called the Earth. Paleoclimate is very well understood now and we have a good idea of how the Earth climate reacted in the past…and so how it is very likely to react now.

YOU: “(4) This is a 196-party prisoner’s dilemma after all, with South Sudan as the most recent addition.”

SCIENCE: This is a 10-party prisoner’s dilemma. Top 10 GHG nations emit around 80% of GHG.

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By: VisualCarbon http://blogs.reuters.com/felix-salmon/2011/05/03/the-depressing-politics-of-climate-change/comment-page-1/#comment-26207 Tue, 03 May 2011 23:05:56 +0000 http://blogs.reuters.com/felix-salmon/?p=8093#comment-26207 NikFromNYC, it is clear you don’t believe you have any moral, ethical or self-preservation reasons to cut your fossil fuel pollution.

Good news for you is that you don’t have to. Go for it. Pollute away. Nobody is stopping you.

I’m unclear however why you feel you have to make fun of people who do feel a moral, ethical and self-preservation reason to pollute less.

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By: VisualCarbon http://blogs.reuters.com/felix-salmon/2011/05/03/the-depressing-politics-of-climate-change/comment-page-1/#comment-26205 Tue, 03 May 2011 22:56:36 +0000 http://blogs.reuters.com/felix-salmon/?p=8093#comment-26205 “For similar political reasons, I’m evolving away from my preference for cap-and-trade over a carbon tax, since a cap-and-trade system is certain to get gamed by special interests. ”

Again, it is hard to know where to start.

Up in British Columbia the conservative government a few years ago did the sensible thing by deciding to do both a carbon tax and a cap & trade. Why?

Because a carbon tax can be brought in quickly and give the economy the maximum time to adjust. Economists all agree that the longer you have to transition off carbon the cheaper and easier it is. So the conservatives decided to give the economy a big head start by getting a low carbon price in ASAP. Smart. It has worked great and citizens strongly support it at the polls.

The reason you need a “cap” is to ensure the carbon levels actually go do. There are lots of ways to do a cap system. The conservative government in BC decided to join the biggest cap system (WCI) around to ensure integration and level playing field.

Carbon pricing is coming. The economies that hold out the longest before getting started are the ones that will feel the most pain.

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By: NikFromNYC http://blogs.reuters.com/felix-salmon/2011/05/03/the-depressing-politics-of-climate-change/comment-page-1/#comment-26204 Tue, 03 May 2011 22:49:22 +0000 http://blogs.reuters.com/felix-salmon/?p=8093#comment-26204 I just had another thought. Wow. I think those who continue to cling to such clearly mistaken beliefs are self-selecting in this way due to a form of chronic depression. It’s akin to how priests rant on and on about everybody being evil sinners who must not show pride in themselves. This really is a new religion we are dealing with here, doomsday and all.

From an evolutionary psychological point of view that incorporates group/group Darwinian selection I can imagine that societies that failed to have unproductive people that minimize their resource use got clobbered by a conquering group whose unproductive people tried to extract as much welfare and perks as would be dictated by selfishness alone.

So indeed, go right ahead. Leave the hot chicks to me guys and the fine wine too. Oh look! The sky is falling. See ya.

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