My issue with Ecomodernism

I was thinking a little more about why I haven’t embraced the ideas behind the Ecomodernism Manifesto. It’s a positive message, and it’s promoting innovation and technology development; all things that I would regard as crucial parts of what we should be doing to address the risks associated with climate change. So, why haven’t I simply accepted that this is the way forward?

One reason is simply the tone. It’s a bit antagonistic and rather dismissive of other ideas. That’s fine, but it doesn’t really give the impression that those involved are actually interested in a genuine discussion. Putting that to one side, though, there is – in my view – a more fundamental issue. I get a bit of flack if I don’t properly recognise that ultimately we should be aiming to balance the risks associated with climate change with the risks associated with the various future pathways. It’s clearly not easy, but I do agree that this is what we should be aiming to do, even if we can’t do it in some kind of exact way. I don’t, however, see much evidence for anything like this in the Ecomodernist Manifesto. It really just seems to be a description of their preferred future pathway (be positive, innovation, technology).

To be fair, they do acknowledge the risks associated with climate change, but then seem to effectively ignore them. For example, a number of those associated with Ecomodernism seem to be promoting the view that we cannot achieve a 2oC limit, that we should therefore accept this, and – given this – simply do the best we can; the “good Anthropocene”. The problem is that the 2oC limit is not some kind of boundary; there’s a continuum. Whether or not having such a limit was a good idea, it was simply intended as a target, rather than as some kind of divider between “good” and “bad”. Even if we are going to miss this target, there is still a vast difference between missing it by a lot and missing it by a little.

So, the impression I have is that part of the justification for the Ecomodernist idea is that because we’re going to miss this target, we should now ignore targets, and simply focus on how best to develop technologies for the future (a variant of the “no regrets” idea, I think). In a sense, ignore the risks associated with climate change because we can’t avoid them, and focus – instead – on technology that will let us deal with this. Of course, I agree with the general idea of technology development, but how much we priortise this, how we do it, what we actually focus on, and how quickly we change our energy sources is still relevant. Broadly speaking, how much we warm will depend only on how much we emit. The more we emit, the more we will warm and the more likely it will be that the impacts of climate change will be more severe. Implying that it’s somehow binary (we’re going to miss the target, move on) seems to ignore that it’s still likely to be better to miss it by 0.5oC than to miss it by 1.5oC.

To be fair, this idea seems quite new and maybe there is more to it than I appreciate. If anyone knows of any other documentation that explains it in more detail, feel free to point that out. Similarly, if anyone wants to explain it in more detail in the comments, go ahead. However, while it appears to be more a mechanism for justifying a preferred pathway, than something based on a genuine analysis of the various risks, I suspect it will remain something that is largely accepted by those who find these ideas particularly appealing.

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320 Responses to My issue with Ecomodernism

  1. talies says:

    I wonder if it’s yet another deliberate attempt to confuse the issue and take the wind out of the sails of the sense of urgency.

  2. talies,
    I think there are certainly some who perceive it that way.

  3. They make some odd claims re (re/de)forestation (none with references; another reason not to like, if you’re looking):

    “Agricultural intensification, along with the move away from the use of wood as fuel, has allowed many parts of the world to experience net reforestation. About 80 percent of New England is today forested, compared with about 50 percent at the end of the 19th century. Over the past 20 years, the amount of land dedicated to production forest worldwide declined by 50 million hectares, an area the size of France. The “forest transition” from net deforestation to net reforestation seems to be as resilient a feature of development as the demographic transition that reduces human birth rates as poverty declines.”

    Now http://www.earth-policy.org/indicators/C56/forests_2012 provides actual numbers, which shows a decline from 1990 to 2000 to 2010. But now I read their para again, I find I can’t even tell what its supposed to mean: *some* areas have reforested? Or *globally*? What does “Over the past 20 years, the amount of land dedicated to production forest worldwide declined by 50 million hectares, an area the size of France” mean? Is it bad (it appears to be telling me that global forest has declined) or good (it was “production forest”, and therefore not a good forest)? But if there are “bad forests”, don’t you need to account for that in countries that are reforesting?

  4. William,
    I’m trying not to look for things to dislike, but it is hard 🙂 In principle, I don’t dislike the basic ideas at all, I’m just not sure what they’re actually suggesting – other than, don’t worry, we’re clever, and it will all be alright.

    I did notice one of the BTI people on Twitter doing the rather standard tactic of making very strong claims on the basis on things that may be true, but rather simplistic. There was an interesting exchange between Michael Shellenberger and Peter Gleick about water quality, for example.

  5. I can do no better than provide a link to Clive Hamilton’s post. He says what I would like to have said: http://clivehamilton.com/the-delusion-of-the-good-anthropocene-reply-to-andrew-revkin/

    Quote from his conclusion…

    “In the end, grasping at delusions like “the good Anthropocene” is a failure of courage, courage to face the facts. The power of positive thinking can’t turn malignant tumours into benign growths, and it can’t turn planetary overreach into endless lifestyle improvements. Declaring oneself to be an optimist is often used as a means of gaining the moral upper hand: “Things may look bad but, O ye of little faith, be bold and cheerful like me.”

    Things are bad, and if we carry on as we are things will be very bad. It is the possibility of preventing bad turning into very bad that motivates many of us to work harder than ever. But pretending that bad can be turned into good with a large dose of positive thinking is, even more so than denying things are bad, a sure-fire way of ending up in a situation that is very bad indeed.”

  6. That said, much of it remains sensible, with the possible but important exception of the energy section.

  7. William,
    If you don’t think the energy section is sensible, which bit is sensible? I had been somewhat taken aback by the whole decoupling idea, but I think that is more reasonable than I had, at first, realised (if not quite as convincingly explained as it could be).

  8. This eco-modernist stuff seems to me to be like the icing on the cake. It looks great, but if the cake underneath is stale it will still be inedible.

    I was going to make a comment about polishing a turd and rolling it in glitter but decided that would be a bit on the crude side. 😉

  9. The sensible bit is the not-back-to-nature bit. Perhaps: “Intensifying many human activities — particularly farming, energy extraction, forestry, and settlement — so that they use less land and interfere less with the natural world is the key to decoupling human development from environmental impacts… Cities occupy just 1 to 3 percent of the Earth’s surface and yet are home to nearly four billion people. As such, cities both drive and symbolize the decoupling of humanity from nature, performing far better than rural economies in providing efficiently for material needs while reducing environmental impacts… These patterns suggest that humans are as likely to spare nature because it is not needed to meet their needs as they are to spare it for explicit aesthetic and spiritual reasons”.

  10. William,
    Okay, yes. I think that is essentially the basis of the decoupling idea which is defined as

    Decoupling occurs in both relative and absolute terms. Relative decoupling means that human environmental impacts rise at a slower rate than overall economic growth. us, for each unit of economic output, less environmental impact (e.g., deforestation, defaunation, pollution) results. Overall impacts may still increase, just at a slower rate than would otherwise be the case. Absolute decoupling occurs when total environmental impacts — impacts in the aggregate — peak and begin to decline, even as the economy continues to grow.

  11. “Intensifying …farming”?!

    Already much of the world’s soil is being depleted and lost (South East Australia, Brazil’s Cerrado, California, Chile’s coastal plain), and many of those areas are also suffering drought conditions. We need to be resting soil and putting life back into it. And up until now ‘intensifying’ has just meant more fossil fuels for fertilizers and heavy equipment. I don’t see much that will help intensification in the short term without costing the soil in the long.

  12. john,
    As I understand it, we will cleverly do this in a way that overcome all those issues. Quite how we will do so is, of course, not yet clear.

  13. Joseph says:

    It seems that almost all prominent “skeptics” and “lukewarmers” have in common is there aversion to active government intervention (e.g. taxation or regulation) to mitigate the risks associated with climate change. Even if government intervention might spur the technology innovation that the Ecomodernists want. I think there is a noticeable influence of political ideology in many of their views.

  14. russellseitz says:

    “Cities occupy just 1 to 3 percent of the Earth’s surface and yet are home to nearly four billion people. ”

    This would suggest an empirical ( and utilitarian ) case for focusing on the development of urban microclimate mitigation- a local , not global , enterprise.

  15. Joseph,
    Indeed, but what confuses me (and what I think Eli has been pointing out) is how you implement their ideas without quite strong pressure from governments. The whole decoupling idea seems to require a focus on intensive agriculture and living in concentrated, modern, technologically advanced cities. I don’t see how that would simply be something that would happen if you don’t have an active effort to do so.

  16. BBD says:

    If rapid climate change buggers up global agriculture – intensive or otherwise – all the people of Pollyanna City starve in their climate-controlled highrise apartments.

  17. I’m still ploughing through Laudato Si. Which looks the other way.

  18. I’m struggling to get past all the religous and moral reflections in the Laudato Si. Not that I object to moral arguments, but I find it hard to extract what’s actually being suggested.

  19. Indeed; me too. I’ve just found “In order to continue providing employment, it is imperative to promote an economy which favours productive diversity and business creativity. For example, there is a great variety of small-scale food production systems which feed the greater part of the world’s peoples, using a modest amount of land and producing less waste, be it in small agricultural parcels, in orchards and gardens, hunting and wild harvesting or local fishing” which is directly opposite to the Ecomodernist approach; I doubt he’s thought that bit through very carefully.

  20. izen says:

    The aims and goals of ecomodernism and the Pope neatly define each other as they are advocating diametrically opposed futures to cure the problem of CO2 emissions.

    Pope:-
    Big cities and intensive farming bad.
    Everybody living a low energy ‘The Good (rural) Life’ with an acre of land, a cow, two pigs and a dozen hens.

    Ecomodernism:-
    Low energy, rural life bad.
    Everyone living in big cities consuming nuclear energy efficiently, virtual products and hydroponically produced, intensively farmed food.

    The two groups probably also disagree on abortion and the trinitarian nature of a supreme deity.

  21. Rob Nicholls says:

    I seem to remember that as a child I read a lot of books about space exploration which were confidently predicting that we’d all be taking holidays on the moon by 1995. (sorry, no citation; the details may be wrong). I’m still sore about that. The ecomodernist manifesto reminds me of this.

  22. Part 4 of this ‘Manifesto’, p20-22, makes some questionable statements – there’s not the substance or referencing to call them arguments – about climate mitigation with respect to energy and emissions that seem to be carefully phrased to avoid both: the ‘flow to stock’ nature of the problem; and the speed at which humanity could use up the carbon budget for each half degree Celsius of essentially irreversible warming.

    In the following, my reference (well worth reading) is Jarvis, Leedal & Hewitt (2012) http://www.nature.com/nclimate/journal/v2/n9/full/nclimate1586.html

    The Manifesto notes, “for at least the past three centuries, rising energy production globally has been matched by rising atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide”. Well yes, but the point is that the rise in global emissions has been exponential since at least 1850 by about 1.8% per year (ibid), so the amount of extra carbon humans have put into the atmosphere has doubled every 40 years. The last 40 years of the “three centuries” have added as much carbon as in all of the previous centuries. This point is rather lost in ‘the past three centuries”.

    Then, “Nations have also been slowly decarbonizing — that is, reducing the carbon intensity of their economies — over that same time period.” Yes, the amount of energy being used globally has also increased exponentially, by about 2.4% annually, so doubling every 30 years. So the average long term rate of decarbonisation has been about 2.4 – 1.8 = 0.6% (ibid.) although decarbonisation has been around zero over the past 15 years or so. But all the talk of ‘decarbonisation’ avoids the point that the non-zero flow of anthropogenic carbon emissions continues to increase at an ever faster rate to now adding ever more to the atmospheric (and land and ocean) stock of carbon. Spending efficiency savings on more carbon emissions continually adds to the stock and it is the stock that counts here. We have to get to zero carbon very quickly and somehow allow room for development in poorer countries.

    Then, “But they have not been doing so at a rate consistent with keeping cumulative carbon emissions low enough to reliably stay below the international target of less than 2 degrees Centigrade of global warming. Significant climate mitigation, therefore, will require that humans rapidly accelerate existing processes of decarbonization.” Failing to note the massive scale and speed of change required to achieve a 2ºC limit at this point shows how evasionary the ‘Manifesto is on climate action. Jarvis et al. find that society will have to become “about 50 times more responsive to global mean temperature change than it has been since 1990”. The Manifesto’s “significant” does not begin to cover it.

    Perhaps most bogglingly it then says “Meaningful climate mitigation is fundamentally a technological challenge”. This, and the paragraph following to support it, is diversionary nonsense based on Pielke Jr ‘iron law’ thinking that political-economic feasibility will somehow always and forever trump limiting consumption. This is what cod fishers thought about cod fishing until the Newfoundland Banks fishery collapsed. Suddenly what was feasible was nothing at all. An iron law is subject to rust followed by sudden failure. Smart engineers plan to avoid such eventualities but policy-wonks are often very good at walking blindly onward to failures, because in their view ‘evidence’ (= reality) is just one of many competing inputs to decision-making. These darn scientists should stop being so uppity with all their evidence (they say; see Oliver Geden for example).

    We have the technology to go zero carbon right now but to equitably enable limiting warming to 2ºC would require a very different global political economy, most of all among the currently, most wealthy and high emitting nations, corporations and individuals of the world. That possibility or anything involving that kind of change is definitely not something the Manifestonians want to contemplate. The idea of the rich nations having to do things differently is papered over by the magical ‘energy for the poor’, mantra. When asked for their carbon budgeted 2ºC (or any ºC) pathway for this ‘high energy planet’ they go very quiet, switch topics or get annoyed. I’ve had all three from them on Twitter.

    Meaningful climate mitigation is fundamentally a societal challenge: what kind of political economic choices can we best make to reliably chart a way to some level of climate stabilisation as soon as possible starting now. As Kevin Anderson shows, we don’t have time now within a 2ºC budget for just techno supply change, we need very rapid demand reduction for energy and emissions to allow time for poorer-county development, tech changeover and building new low carbon infrastructure. Twitter encounters with BTI types have shown me that they really don’t want to know about carbon budgets, carbon caps, or wealthy country mitigation action at all. In terms of climate reality as described by the IPCC’s reports this makes no sense at all. One wonders if they have even read AR5 with any awareness that the conclusions are at odds with their biases.

    We simply don’t have time for the kind of transition this Manifesto for Advanced Handwavers describes. To me it seems to be a weak mist of wishful verbiage that, intentionally or not, obscures the urgency and global commons nature of the problem that has to be faced now – first and foremost by those with the greatest capacity and responsibility to act.

    – Sorry to go on at length, reading the papal anti-Modernist eco Encyclical provides a poor template for brevity 😉

    Ref:
    Jarvis, Leedal & Hewitt (2012) http://www.nature.com/nclimate/journal/v2/n9/full/nclimate1586.html

  23. MikeH says:

    As I understand it, the BTI are not opposed to government intervention. In fact they actively call for it to as a means of creating the new technology “that will save us” at some yet to be determined time in the future.

    e.g. this document is one of two linked from their “mission” page and it defends the role of the partnership between government and private industry as a driver of new technology.
    http://thebreakthrough.org/archive/american_innovation.

    I am just guessing but I suspect that politically, they would probably be most comfortable with the right wing of the Social Democratic parties or in the USA, the right of the Democratic party although in the past they have allied with the American Enterprise Institute. (see http://clivehamilton.com/the-technofix-is-in-a-critique-of-an-ecomodernist-manifesto/)

    One of Clive Hamilton’s criticisms is directed at their techno-optimism but you could also argue that of Elon Musk. The difference is that Musk is actually walking the walk and wants to deploy now whereas the BTI always appear to be downplaying the urgency and their new tech is usually just a variation on business as usual.

  24. Joshua says:

    So Ted gives a talk where he speaks about the important of ….“accelerat[ing] the long-term processes of growing more food on less land”

    And yet he doesn’t discuss the comparative ratio of calories/land use for raising cattle – whether feedlot beef or grass-fed beef – and growing vegetables??

    ????

    Huh?

    How could Ted have had this talk, which highlights the importance of growing more food on less land, without that discussion?

    It’s hard to take the Breakthrough folks that seriously if they engage in that kind of shallow rhetoric. That doesn’t mean that they don’t offer interesting arguments for consideration, however.

    I hope you don’t mind if I repeat a couple of links. If you have some extra time, listen to the NPR interview. It puts the BTI arguments in an interesting light:

    http://www.npr.org/2015/06/08/412236817/as-global-population-grows-is-the-earth-reaching-the-end-of-plenty

    http://www.amazon.com/The-End-Plenty-Crowded-World/dp/0393079538

  25. Joshua says:

    Here’s what I like about the BTIers… They present arguments that can lead to deeper analysis of some viewsI might take for granted – such as that small-scale, organic farming is preferable to industrial farming that uses pesticides.

    However, it seems to me that in their zeal to show that they’re smarter than hippies, they leave a lot of important considerations out of their analyses. Combined with a tone, that I agree is arrogant, they become part of the sameosameo – no matter how much they try to pretend, rather sanctimoniously (IMO, that they’are above the fray.

  26. Steven Mosher says:

    “john,
    As I understand it, we will cleverly do this in a way that overcome all those issues. Quite how we will do so is, of course, not yet clear.”

    Of course its not clear. Its not clear how we will get to negative emissions which are required to stay below 2C

    Some ideas

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vertical_farming

    I dont even follow this crap and I knew about it

    http://www.verticalfarm.com/

  27. Joseph says:

    Mike, from your link:

    The institute frequently attacks renewable energy and energy efficiency, at times with a highly tendentious use of data. For an organization concerned about spiraling greenhouse gas emissions, it’s hard to work out why the group is so dismissive, except as a way of differentiating itself from mainstream environmentalism. Conversely, it vigorously promotes nuclear power, also deploying data and arguments in a misleading way. –

    It’s interesting that they attack renewable energy when it seems to have a lot of room for technological improvement.

    the BTI are not opposed to government intervention. In fact they actively call for it to as a means of creating the new technology “that will save us” at some yet to be determined time in the future.

    But do they have any specific proposal or is it all smoke and mirrors. I have mentioned how I think neoconservatives (eg AEI) in the US reminded me of the “lukewarmers.” During the Iraq war one could see the two faced and sometimes contradictory nature of their arguments although to some it must have been persuasive.

  28. Steven Mosher says:

    Cool place in the valley.
    http://www.ecopiafarms.com/clients

  29. Joseph says:

    Here is something I read that makes me think of BTI in the way they approach to things.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neoconservatism

    During July 2008 Joe Klein wrote in Time that today’s neoconservatives are more interested in confronting enemies than in cultivating friends. He questioned the sincerity of neoconservative interest in exporting democracy and freedom, saying, “Neoconservatism in foreign policy is best described as unilateral bellicosity cloaked in the utopian rhetoric of freedom and democracy.”[86]

  30. Eli Rabett says:

    Ecomodernism is just Stalinist industrial marxism with collective farms (what do you think intensive agriculture is bunnies?)

    We have seen eomarxism before and it does not work

  31. As TP notes, overshooting 2ºC by 0.5ºC is orders of magnitude different from over shooting by 1.5ºC (or heading for ever higher than that). The BTI and co. will not show how their supposed plan would or could follow a carbon budgeted pathway that limits warming to 1.5ºC or 2ºC, or indeed any ºC. As Joshua notes on food, and as I’m saying on carbon they don’t want to show their working, that might reveal how much they really care for the poor.

    For a start they could show us their 2ºC DECC Carbon Calculator example pathway. When I asked BTI’s Arthur Yip about this (in a twitter exchange along with Kevin Anderson), he said he was working on it but it seemed he really wasn’t. If they start showing us, even in outline as per the DECC model, how their Manifesto distributes carbon emissions geographically and through time then we could start seeing if they are offering anything other than evasionary waffle.

    Until then, as talies says above, the Eco Modernists are simply sewing confusion and abetting delay. The IPCC say that limiting climate change WILL REQUIRE substantial and sustained reductions in GHG emissions. For any sort of equitable sharing of emissions that means rich nations peak *consumption* emissions now and decarbonise very rapidly. Even developing countries will have to peak soon. The EMs give us nothing of this nor the societal changes that will be needed nor the type of global institutions and governance mechanisms that are almost certainly required to make this happen.

    I’d like some climate hope, the EM’s version doesn’t offer much of anything.

  32. Eli,
    I have wondered how this Manifesto would have been received if it had been written by a group regarded as alarmists, rather than eco-pragmatists. We’ll never know for sure, but I imagine there would have been shrieks of “Socialism!!!!”.

    Paul,
    Thanks for the comments. It’s interesting, at least, that they claim to be working on a carbon calculator pathway. I agree, though, that until they try and present some estimates of the carbon pathway, they’re not really offering anything much (other than optimism).

  33. Steven,

    Of course its not clear. Its not clear how we will get to negative emissions which are required to stay below 2C

    I agree that this isn’t clear (as Oliver Geden seems to enjoy pointing out). However, this still doesn’t change the point that not being able get negative emissions – and hence missing the 2C target – doesn’t mean ignoring that cumulative emissions are relevant.

  34. Victor Petri says:

    @attp
    If it was written by a group regarded as alarmists, you guys wouldn’t be so overly critical at it.

    @Eli
    It has nothing to do with marxism, where did you get this idea?

  35. vp,

    If it was written by a group regarded as alarmists, you guys wouldn’t be so overly critical at it.

    If you’re going to say things like this, you really should whine less when people respond in kind. Either learn to take it, or stop doing it.

  36. Victor Petri says:

    @attp
    Whine, where does that tone come from?
    Seems to me I made a perfectly apt observation.

    I for one, judged the ecomodernism on its ideas, I only later learned the names behind it, and I was not “shrieking socialism”.

  37. When we are discussing how to respond to global warming, what we have in common is that we find devastating faults in the proposals of those who approach the issue from another angle.

    The proposals of BTI have their serious weaknesses but so do all other proposals. Many of the arguments fail to include any actionable proposals and state only that something unspecified (but drastic) must be done by some unspecified party.

  38. Victor Petri says:

    Ecomodernism is a manifest, it’s conceptual. It’s not a full policy guide on what to do against any and all environmental problems, but more an alternative frame of mind. And I do think it addresses many caveats and inconsistencies in environmentalism, it certainly addresses a lot of issues I had with it, and in doing so creates a form a environmentalism that could be excepted by a much broader group of people, from the left and the right.

    If anyone is interested, this talk by SB is from 2009 and concerns 4 main ideas that are central to this manifest.

    His book, Whole Earth Discipline, was nice as well.

  39. vp,

    Whine, where does that tone come from?
    Seems to me I made a perfectly apt observation.

    Really? Seems like you chose to make a judgement of people in which you accused them of bias. If you don’t get that, maybe you should think a little more before you make silly comments. Also, my point was more that you seem to complain when people make such comments about you. As I said, either learn to take it, or stop doing it.

    Pekka,

    The proposals of BTI have their serious weaknesses but so do all other proposals. Many of the arguments fail to include any actionable proposals and state only that something unspecified (but drastic) must be done by some unspecified party.

    I agree. That’s a problem with the Encyclical letter too. It’s probably not going to be easy to actually produce a genuinely viable proposal, but maybe those who do produce these manifestos should acknowledge that.

  40. vp,

    Ecomodernism is a manifest, it’s conceptual.

    Sure, that actually seems to indeed be the case. It’s really just an ideological framework and, as such, doesn’t really address anything specific. There’s nothing fundamentally wrong with that, but being positive and believing we can deal with anything we might face doesn’t really tell us how to do so.

  41. Victor Petri says:

    @attp
    You say:
    how this Manifesto would have been received if it had been written by a group regarded as alarmists, rather than eco-pragmatists. (…) I imagine there would have been shrieks of “Socialism!!!!”.
    I say:
    If it was written by a group regarded as alarmists, you guys wouldn’t be so overly critical at it.

    Which would be the EXACT same accusation of bias. Although I am sure yours is absolutely baseless, since nobody, as I haven’t, would be “shrieking socialism”. While you guys are going with a toothcomb through the manifesto nitpicking, to find things to satisfy your preconceived dislike of it.

    If you confuse my “whining” (which was so long ago I can’t even find it) about impoliteness, ridiculisation and unconstructive discussion methods by some commenters on this blog (yourself not included), with this harmless remark, you did not understand my complaint even a little.

  42. vp,
    If you can’t get the difference between me making some kind of comment about an unspecified group, and you making a comment about a specific group (people here), I can’t help you. They are not the EXACT same accusation. However, I don’t really care. This seems to be the norm when you comment here. Either try to make comments that add something to the discussion, or start commenting at places where these type of ridiculous exchanges are encouraged.

  43. Sam taylor says:

    You know, they talk about intensifying agriculture further, but they don’t seem to have bothered looking at any of the numbers on energy, for example. I think it was Pimentel who found that modern intensive agriculture needs something like 10 calories of fossil energy per calorie that ends up on your plate. At the farm gate things were slightly better, but it’s still a huuuuuge energy sink and is entirely unsustainable. A lot of the industrial ag vs smaller more intensive farming is skewed by which metrics you use. Per unit labour industrial ag is very obiously miles better since you’re replacing human labour with oil and machinery. But in general smaller more labour intnsive agriculture gets better yields per acre (this can be skewed by if you choose to measure in say bushels of wheat per hectare, because often smaller more intensive farms tend to have lots of different crops groing together) and in general have vastly superior soil health, and much better ecological health in general too. You also avoid the issues of N and P runoff, which is a massive issue with industrial ag and is behind one of the planetary boundaries that Rockstrom et al argue that we’ve crossed already.

    As for their whole “we must live in cities” argument, while cities themselves have very small footprints in terms of land area, this ignores the requirements of the cities in terms of the raw materials required to sustain the cities. Their indirect footprints are going to be much bigger. I doubt it’s a coincidence that increasing global urbanisation is going hand in hand with increasing environmental degradation. Indeed megacities account for an outsize amount of global material flows ( http://www.pnas.org/content/112/19/5985.abstract ).

    So my main issue with ecomodernism is that it’s a fairlytale which ignores most of the messy, hard data which directly contradicts many of their bold and bright assertions. I don’t think it’s an accident that half of them seem to be from California.

  44. Rob Nicholls says:

    Steven Mosher – ” Its not clear how we will get to negative emissions which are required to stay below 2C”. Yeah, this is alarming to me. IPCC AR5 talked about biofuel with carbon capture and storage as a potential technology for negative emissions (there may be problems with this – e.g. how much land is it going to need?), but I don’t think it mentioned many other ideas.

    Maybe there is other stuff already out there; maybe some new technologies will come along to help with this, but that’s not predictable. (I’m sure there ought to be a lot of investment into research in this area). There’s a very long list of things that are already known that can be done to cut GHG emissions, and I think we ought to get on and do them now and not just wait for new technologies to come along and solve everything.

    Although I moan about the lack of holidays on the moon which were promised in kids’ books as late as the 70s, on the flip side, when my older brother told me in the late 80s that in 15 years we’d all have pocket communicators like in Star Trek I didn’t believe him. I had no idea about what the electronics industry was capable of. In some sense future discoveries are presumably uncertain and unpredictable even to people who follow these things closely.

    I don’t think more advanced technology is always better than less advanced technology (I’m not sure if an ecomodernist perspective agrees with me on that). e.g. a bicycle might be considered less advanced than a car but more use of bikes for short journeys would have health benefits as well as cutting GHG emissions, although development of much lower emission cars is v important, and I’d be overjoyed if most of us are using zero-emission fusion powered hover skateboards to get to work in 20 years time.

  45. BBD says:

    Sam taylor

    I think it was Pimentel who found that modern intensive agriculture needs something like 10 calories of fossil energy per calorie that ends up on your plate.

    Yes – vertical farms are lit by HPS lamps (‘electric sun’) – *very* electricity-intensive though not necessarily FF, just all that imaginary low-carbon capacity that doesn’t exist yet.

  46. BBD says:

    vp

    If you confuse my “whining” (which was so long ago I can’t even find it) about impoliteness, ridiculisation and unconstructive discussion methods by some commenters on this blog (yourself not included)

    This is tone tr0lling which is synonymous with whining.

    You don’t even know you are doing it, which is almost funny.

  47. Sam taylor says:

    By “low carbon electricity” is solar part of your thinking? Because plants are kind of well optimised for solar radiation as it is, so I struggle to see the point of using solar radiation to make, well, solar radiation. I somehow think the efficiencies might not be ideal. In all honesty I think vertical farming is a terrible idea and is probably going to be a complete failure if tried at scale. But we shall see! I’m sure someone will give it a try.

  48. Andrew Dodds says:

    Sam –

    Vertical farming is a classic example of ‘Given sufficient primary energy, pretty much any resource or environmental problem can be fixed.’

    With the possible addendum of ‘as long as your population is stable’.

    And – very importantly indeed – ‘can be fixed’ does not mean ‘will just sort itself and we don’t need to worry’.

    To be honest, I’d rather look at the direct synthesis of bulk carbohydrates as a way of using energy to reduce the footprint of agriculture. If you could make an artificial flour with all the right properties.. and indeed optimized so that if was OK for gluten-intolerant people, had complete proteins and had a full range of nutrients.. you could wind down huge areas of agriculture.

  49. verytallguy says:

    As a concept, ecomodernism seems excellent, it’s really just “don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater”: Become sustainable without reverting to a pre-technological society.

    So far, so good.

    The problem is that the actual manifesto is a rather indigestibly saccharine motherhood and apple pie recipe from Dr Pangloss’ cookbook.

    Technologies like nuclear fusion are bandied around, and anodyne truisms abound – “ The amount of solar radiation that hits the Earth, for instance, is ultimately finite but represents no meaningful constraint upon human endeavors.”

    Hard numbers to back up assertions are lacking, or when provided, highly questionable.

    The issue of the finite nature of the earth is glossed over, if not denied outright. “To the degree to which there are fixed physical boundaries to human consumption, they are so theoretical as to be functionally irrelevant” – I call bullshit on this one.

    Interestingly, though, the thing which probably most makes me want to reject it is less the content than the style. The language is that of a second rate self help guide written by one of Donald Trump’s acolytes. “Humans are made from the Earth, and the Earth is remade by human hands?” Bring me a bucket!

    I suspect this means I am shallow and prone to prejudice.

  50. BBD says:

    Sam taylor

    so I struggle to see the point of using solar radiation to make, well, solar radiation. I somehow think the efficiencies might not be ideal.

    Yes, that was my intended point. Vertical farms seem to require either nuclear or FF in abundance.

  51. Eli Rabett says:

    Victor Petri,

    BTI describes the virtues of technology and industrial agriculture make a lovely match to Stalinism and Maoism. Ecomarxism in dead sheeps’ clothing as it were.

    http://rabett.blogspot.com/2015/06/the-four-pests-campaign.html

  52. @Sam Taylor

    I agree with all you write about vertical farms. They’re ludicrous. George Monbiot looked at them, with a little assistance from me, here: http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2010/aug/16/green-ivory-towers-farm-skyscrapers.

    At the most, vertical farms might be useful for growing a few of the most exotic high market-value veg species out of season: certainly not any of the staples.

  53. Andrew Dodds says:

    Regarding the ‘ecomodernist’ concept –

    I think the idea of using technology to reduce the human footprint on the planet is a sound one, and indeed about the only practical way forward.

    It might be better to think of it as ‘Spaceship Earthism’. Basically saying that we need to adopt the mentality of living on a generation spaceship – closed-loop recycling, synthesis instead of recycling, all based on primary energy inputs.

    The real problem is the ‘how do you get from here to there’, and I’m pretty sure that ‘Leave it to the market and hope’ isn’t the answer.

  54. Perhaps one problem with ‘Spaceship Earthism’ is you need to create some stable parameters—like population size—so you can aim for an equilibrium of sorts.

    No wonder the Pope isn’t keen on it. 😉

  55. Andrew,
    Indeed. It does seem to be a proposal to change – quite substantially – how we live our lives, but presented in a way that makes it sound modern and exciting. I agree with the general idea that we should be using technology to reduce our footprint, but I’m still not sure how we do so and I certainly have no idea if it is actually possible to make these kind of changes in a timescale that can actually have any impact on anthropogenically driven climate change (well, an impact that reduces, rather than increases, the effect).

    The interesting thing – to me – is that if anyone claims that we should change our lifestyles to address climate change, they get shot down in flames. This manifesto, which appears to be essentially doing that – is, however, being embraced by some who I would expect to be appalled by any explicit suggestion that we should change our lifestyles. I presume that’s because what this manifesto is suggesting seems appealling.

  56. Joshua says:

    Pekka –

    ==> “The proposals of BTI have their serious weaknesses but so do all other proposals.

    Yes – and so that’s where the issue of “tone” becomes more than just “tone-trolling.”

    A question for me is whether they present their proposals in a way so as to invite engagement. I think that, for example, when they present their views as a “manifesto,” they are not inviting engagement – even if they claim that they are. It seems to me, as an observer from a distance (with my own biases baked into the cake), that their approach is inherently both defensive and aggressive. Of course, it isn’t likely that everyone affiliated with the BTI can be so described, but it looks to me like that is the public face they put on their initiative. It seems to me that they think that they can leverage aggression towards hippies or more standard arguments of environmentalists to create a broader dialogue with those who don’t typically identify with environmentalists; a kind of “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” approach.

    I will also note that you are frequently critical when people present arguments that might be overstated, and argue that such overstatement undermines trust.

  57. Joshua says:

    Anders – dude. Are you “censoring” me yet again!?!? 🙂

  58. Joshua,
    I really don’t know it is. It might just be “trolling”.

  59. Joshua says:

    Anders –

    ==> “This manifesto, which appears to be essentially doing that – is, however, being embraced by some who I would expect to be appalled by any explicit suggestion that we should change our lifestyles. .”

    So then might you be saying that an “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” might be working here?

  60. Joshua,
    I don’t know. Maybe it’s just as illustration of how important presentation is. Make it sound exciting and modern and people think it sounds like a good idea.

  61. Joshua says:

    ==> “Make it sound exciting and modern and people think it sounds like a good idea.”

    That’s part of it, but I think it’s more than that. The BTI messaging gains purchase with some folks because it plays well in the identity-politics arena.

    In fact, if we were to get past the surface of their rhetoric, to the “socialist” and “statist” implications, the image of the BTI would lose its soft-focus among many libertarian ideologues whose interest is currently captured by the shiny and glittering hippie-punching component.

    It’s like nuclear energy. It works great as a tool to exploit – for libertarians to vindicate criticisms of “alarmists” – only so long as they fail to acknowledge that like any existing countries that currently rely extensively on nuclear energy (with the possible exception of Finland?), significantly greater reliance on nuclear energy would require “statist” centralized policies and federal funding that would be obtained via taxes..

  62. BBD says:

    Joshua

    Use of “tr0lling” triggers auto-moderation – it just happened to me on an earlier thread.

  63. Sam taylor says:

    ATTP

    “I agree with the general idea that we should be using technology to reduce our footprint”. See, this is something which I think actually needs questioning pretty seriously. Take energy effiiency, for example, which is something that is almost always taken for granted as being a tool to help with climate change. If one uses the simplistic GDP/unit of energy measure (which I’m on record as thinking is rubbish) then globally we’re more energy efficient than ever, and what exactly has this done for our CO2 output? The only reason that energy use has been declining in the western world is that we’re getting outbid by China for our consumption. Otherwise, efficiency has historically generally gone hand in hand with increased consumption, at least up to 2004 when there was a phase change of some sort. This is unsurprising, surely. One only needs to look to nature for examples of this, the most efficient animals are always the biggest and have the largest throughput of resources.

    Expensive energy (70s oil shocks) and recessions are, thus far, the only tools proven to reduce consumption on a global scale. This is why I’m worried.

  64. Steven Mosher says:

    It’s funny. This thread reads like a typical wuwt thread. Just saying.

  65. Please don’t tell me it’s that bad. In what sense?

  66. Sam taylor says:

    We all need a good 5 minutes hate every now and then.

  67. Willard says:

    > A question for me is whether they present their proposals in a way so as to invite engagement.

    Pascal to the rescue:

    [W]hatever it may be of which we wish to persuade men, it is necessary to have regard to the person whom we wish to persuade, of whom we must know the mind and the heart, what principles he acknowledges, what things he loves; and then observe in the thing in question what affinity it has with the acknowledged principles, or with the objects so delightful by the pleasure which they give him. 17

    So that the art of persuasion consists as much in that of pleasing as in that of convincing, so much more are men governed by caprice than by reason! 18

    Now, of these two methods, the one of convincing, the other of pleasing, I shall only give here the rules of the first; and this in case we have granted the principles, and remain firm in avowing them: otherwise I do not know whether there could be an art for adapting proofs to the inconstancy of our caprices. 19

    But the manner of pleasing is incomparably more difficult, more subtle, more useful, and more admirable; therefore, if I do not treat of it, it is because I am not capable of it; and I feel myself so far disproportionate to the task, that I believe the thing absolutely impossible. 20

    Not that I do not believe that there may be as sure rules for pleasing as for demonstrating, and that he who knows perfectly how to comprehend and to practice them will as surely succeed in making himself beloved by princes and by people of all conditions, as in demonstrating the elements of geometry to those who have enough imagination to comprehend its hypotheses. But I consider, and it is, perhaps, my weakness that makes me believe it, that it is impossible to reach this. At least I know that if any are capable of it, they are certain persons whom I know, and that no others have such clear and such abundant light on this matter. 21

    The reason of this extreme difficulty comes from the fact that the principles of pleasure are not firm and stable. They are different in all mankind, and variable in every particular with such a diversity that there is no man more different from another than from himself at different times. A man has other pleasures than a woman; a rich man and a poor man have different enjoyments; a prince, a warrior, a merchant, a citizen, a peasant, the old, the young, the well, the sick, all vary; the least accidents change them.

    http://www.bartleby.com/48/3/7.html

  68. izen says:

    Ecomodernism reduces to state Stalinism because its prescribed pathway of intensive techno-farming and mega-cities is only achievable by centralised state control. Its a socialist, or communal program because any minor percentage of dissidents who wanted to pursue private entrepreneurial operations within such a organised society would undermine it.

    Or any group that wanted to follow the ‘Back to the Land’ anti-city, small farm utopianist concept put forward by the Pope.

    Both ecomodernism and Catholic agenda seem to require something almost unknown in human history, but often a prerequisite of Utopian futures.
    A social monoculture with no room for disagreement or diversity of views.

  69. ok… a little hyperbolic.

    let’s take an example. One of the traits of a wuwt thread is the way in which even intelligent people can be totally dismissive .

    http://www.skygreens.com/technology/

    “With the harnessing of natural sunlight, there is no need for artificial lighting. Rotation is powered by a unique patented hydraulic water-driven system which utilises the momentum of flowing water and gravity to rotate the troughs. Only 40W electricity (equivalent to one light bulb) is needed to power one 9m tall tower.”

    I guess I would say this. I am not suggesting that vertical farms are a panacea. They might even be a total absolute flop. I’d give them less than a 1 in 20 chance. The challenges are huge. Same with the challenges of decarbonizing. Given the stakes.. I’d be a bit more open minded toward alternative views.

  70. Steven,

    Given the stakes.. I’d be a bit more open minded toward alternative views.

    Sure, and I agree. I’m not anti any of the basic ideas in the Manifesto. I think being positive, encouraging innovation, and funding technology development are perfectly fine ideals. As I was trying to get at in the post, it does seem to have brushed many of the complexities under the carpert (the carbon budget being one, for example). I also think the presentation (and how it’s been promoted) has been the very opposite of being open-minded towards alternative views.

    My personal view is that these manifestos can be fine if they actually trigger something, but by themselves they’re largely meaningless, and primarily ideological.

  71. I should add that if those who think the Manifesto is a pathway to a better future want to actually start promoting, and campaigning for, whatever it is that will lead to that better future, they should really just go ahead and do so. Actions, words, and all that.

  72. anoilman says:

    Anders: It strikes me as a very Lomborgian attempt to get everyone to do nothing.

  73. AoM,
    That’s kind of what lead me to add my comment above. I’d be more impressed if it actually appeared to be leading to something, rather than appearing to be simply some technological ideal.

  74. The other way it is like a typical WUWT thread is the manner of logic used. Basically any new idea has to mapped into an existing scheme of ideas (statism, socialism, identity politics, lysenko, climategate, blah blah blah ) so that it can be dispatched with ease. So the arguments take the form of

    X is an example of Y…. and then transition to well worn attacks on Y
    X is genetically related to Y and then transition to well worn attacks on Y.

    Ideas are not engaged… they are processed into a machine that knows how to handle them.

    In contrast to the comments I see the OP struggling with ideas.

  75. Sam taylor says:

    Aluminium needs, what, 155MJ per kg. How many kilos in one of those frames? That’s a lot more embodied energy than goes into some dirt in a field. A full lifecycle analysis of one of those would be good to have a look at.

  76. Basically any new idea has to mapped into an existing scheme of ideas (statism, socialism, identity politics, lysenko, climategate, blah blah blah )

    Yes, there is an element of that.

    However, what’s your general view on the how the Manifesto appears to be arguing for a fairly constrained society – intensive agriculture, high-density, technological cities? It’s hyperbolic to refer to it as socialism/marxism, but it’s hard not to see it as an argument for quite a controlled society.
    I guess, in reality, many people are indeed moving into cities which will become high-density, so using technology to improve how this impacts nature is perfectly sensible. That seems, however, to be somewhat different to this being a solution to something like climate change.

  77. anoilman says:

    How many elements of eco modernism can be measured in the wame way as Lomborg’s Politiics;
    https://thingsbreak.wordpress.com/2009/01/08/lomborg-long-game/

    How many items are calling for action on global warming? How many are disparaging? How do they look at oil and environmental destruction? How does it look at other issues?

    The creepy thing about Lomborg’s supporters and financiers (far right conservatives) is that Lomborg is calling for us to raise taxes and give it away. The people who’d really get mad at that are the ones funding him.

  78. John Hartz says:

    Edwaqrd Hadas* has written a very insightful and thought-provoking analysis of the pope’s encyclial. It would behoove everyone to take a couple of minutes to read it. Here’s a key paragraph directly pertaining to this discussion…

    In the encyclical, Francis adds an imaginative twist. He talks of the debts of all humanity to all of the natural world in terms of the preferential option for the poor. Inspired by his namesake St Francis of Assisi, the pope explains that nature suffers from a weakness that the poor also have – it cannot resist human aggression and depravity. In the face of this helplessness, rich humanity owes nature what he calls an ecological debt, the obligation to be good stewards of creation. The debt can only be honoured by treating the physical world as the human community’s shared responsibility.

    Unforgiving pope is right on money, Op-ed by Edward Hadas*, Reuters Breakingviews, June 24, 2014

    *Edward Hadas writes about macroeconomics, markets and metals for Reuters Breakingviews. Before becoming a journalist, he worked for 20 years as an equity analyst in Europe and the US. His book, “Human Good, Economic Evils: A Moral Approach to the Dismal Science” is published by ISI Books in Wilmington, Delaware. He has also written a course-book about political philosophy for the Maryvale Institute in Birmingham. Edward has degrees from Columbia University, Wadham College, Oxford and the State University of New York at Binghamton. He has a website, edwardhadas.com.

  79. izen says:

    Vertical farms deserve the dismissal, a more ridiculous and capital intensive method of producing small amounts of high value product (cut flowers?) would be difficult to invent.

    The reality of future intensive farming, in part as an adaption to climate change and greater variability is the polytunnel. Using the minimum materials, allowing control over the growing environment, effective drip irrigation and protection from extremes and variability in the local climate. it can be deployed on a large enough scale to have an impact on total food production and extending growing seasons.
    Here is what it looks like:-

    http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/IOTD/view.php?id=4508

  80. “We offer this statement in the belief that both human prosperity and an ecologically vibrant planet are not only possible, but also inseparable. By committing to the real processes, already underway, that have begun to decouple human well-being from environmental destruction, we believe that such a future might be achieved. As such, we embrace an optimistic view toward human capacities and the future.”

    “However, what’s your general view on the how the Manifesto appears to be arguing for a fairly constrained society – intensive agriculture, high-density, technological cities? It’s hyperbolic to refer to it as socialism/marxism, but it’s hard not to see it as an argument for quite a controlled society.
    I guess, in reality, many people are indeed moving into cities which will become high-density, so using technology to improve how this impacts nature is perfectly sensible. That seems, however, to be somewhat different to this being a solution to something like climate change.”

    you want me to map it into controlled/uncontrolled. I wont play. As you note people are indeed moving into cities. That presents an opportunity for decoupling. Decoupling is something that I think should be encouraged. Will it solve the climate change problem? That’s a fine hope. I would not count on it or dismiss it. I’d encourage it. If I’m forced to play I’d say that yes the movement toward more and more urbanization will lead to a more “controlled” society and decoupling could result in even more control. But I note the differences between say San Francisco and Singapore. I prefer Singapore.

    http://www.forbes.com/sites/johngoodman/2015/03/31/singapore-a-fascinating-alternative-to-the-welfare-state/

  81. “Aluminium needs, what, 155MJ per kg. How many kilos in one of those frames? That’s a lot more embodied energy than goes into some dirt in a field. A full lifecycle analysis of one of those would be good to have a look at.”

    I could have lifted this from WUWT.

  82. Steven,

    you want me to map it into controlled/uncontrolled. I wont play.

    I wasn’t trying to trick you into saying something you might regret 🙂

    As you note people are indeed moving into cities. That presents an opportunity for decoupling. Decoupling is something that I think should be encouraged.

    Now that I understand the concept of decoupling better, I agree.

    Will it solve the climate change problem? That’s a fine hope. I would not count on it or dismiss it.

    Sure, I certainly wouldn’t dismiss it. As I was getting at in the post, though, the impression I have is that we will somehow “solve” the problem by simply being innovative and relying on technology. My issue with this is not that this isn’t going to be part of the solution, but that they seem to think that this will be the solution even though they appear to have brushed the problem under the carpet – I think we do need to recognise that there is a problem if we actually want to solve.

    Something else that has been pointed out before (but not on this thread) is that I don’t think that there is any mention of a carbon tax. That seems to be regarded by many as one of the first steps we should be taking, and the manifesto appears to ignore it completely.

  83. “Vertical farms deserve the dismissal, a more ridiculous and capital intensive method of producing small amounts of high value product (cut flowers?) would be difficult to invent.

    The reality of future intensive farming, in part as an adaption to climate change and greater variability is the polytunnel.”

    This too is a typical WUWT style of comment.

    You guys forget that I lived there daily for years. Same pattern of thought. different venue.
    Dont feel bad. Its not you thinking.

    Element number 1: dismiss something and get the facts wrong…
    quick find the cut flowers?

    http://www.skygreens.com/skygreens-vegetables/

    Element number 2: Assert the certainty of something else.. polytunnels

    bottom line. we face a wicked problem. encourage experimentation. polytunnels look cool.

  84. Sam Taylor says:

    “I could have lifted this from WUWT.”

    So the people at WUWT are into lifecycle analysis to try to figure out if something is worthwhile or not? Good.

    The idea of people moving into cities somehow leading to decoupling energy and resource use is directly contradicted by of West and Bettencourts work on the scaling properties of cities, and indeed the whole concept of decoupling rests on the fact that by and large people are confusing poorly defined non-physical units, such as $ GDP, with real physical units. When you get past that the evidence for any decoupling vanishes with a puff of internal consistency.

    There’s evidence that bigger cities are more polluting ( http://www.nature.com/srep/2014/140228/srep04235/full/srep04235.html ), and lots of evidence that global per capita material throughput is rising in all sorts of ways ( http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S095937801400065X ) and all this while we’re getting more efficient and moving more people into cities all the time. Increasing efficiency and economic growth and all it’s unintended consequences are two sides of the same coin, and the sooner people wrap their heads around this and figure out that, no, this probably isn’t going to cut emissions like we want, then the better, because we can ditch fairytale rubbish like ecomodernism and actually start figuring out things that are going to work. Like a nice fat carbon tax making it too expensive to overconsume, for starters.

  85. Joshua says:

    ==> “Basically any new idea has to mapped into an existing scheme of ideas (statism, socialism, identity politics, lysenko, climategate, blah blah blah )”

    Since I was the only one to mention statism, identity politics, and lysenko…. I guess I should respond?

    I wasn’t “mapping” new ideas against those schemata. I was pointing out that many of those who seem favorable to the “manifesto,” and who hand-wring about horrible environmentalists because they judge those environmentalists as being lysenko-like, statist, etc., are being logically inconsistent.

    I was not criticizing the BTIers because I am calling them statist, Lysenko-like, etc., or suggesting that anyone else should criticize them for those reasons.

  86. anoilman says:

    Steven Mosher: I’m not sure why you’re harping on Sky Greens… It will only represent a shift in agriculture if its more efficient. Otherwise I pretty much don’t care, and wish them the best of luck. Further more, I’d like a carbon tax since then I wouldn’t have to worry whether a more carbon intense process was used for food production. (For instance… aluminum is produced with hydro power near where I live, so… its low carbon in my eyes.)

    And you might want to look a little closer as what Singapore is like, its pretty totalitarian, and that may play a big role in its current success; (I’m questioning if it could it succeed without total control over your life. I know for a fact that I’d hate to live there.)
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Disneyland_with_the_Death_Penalty

    Although I have to say, I like the idea of forced minimums for retirement savings, etc. I’m not so keen on their health care. Libertarians will rip you a new one for trying any of this in the West.

  87. Sam,

    and indeed the whole concept of decoupling rests on the fact that by and large people are confusing poorly defined non-physical units, such as $ GDP, with real physical units.

    Yes, it would seem important to distinguish between relative and absolute decoupling.

  88. BBD says:

    Steven M

    I guess I would say this. I am not suggesting that vertical farms are a panacea. They might even be a total absolute flop. I’d give them less than a 1 in 20 chance.

    Me too. So why all the guff about WUWT?

  89. Steven Mosher says:

    Me too. So why all the guff about WUWT?

    I was struck by the similarity. Make of it what you will.

  90. Joshua says:

    ==> ” Make of it what you will.”

    What I make of it is that you were making a bogus argument, prolly just to rile people up a bit.

    FWIW.

  91. Steven Mosher says:

    oilman

    “Steven Mosher: I’m not sure why you’re harping on Sky Greens… It will only represent a shift in agriculture if its more efficient.

    1. I wasnt harping
    2. Someone said intensive ariculture wasnt clear. I gave an example.
    3, Working examples ( like BC experiment with a carbon tax are interesting)
    4. One commenter suggested it was only flowers.

    Information is a good thing.

    “Otherwise I pretty much don’t care, and wish them the best of luck. Further more, I’d like a carbon tax since then I wouldn’t have to worry whether a more carbon intense process was used for food production. (For instance… aluminum is produced with hydro power near where I live, so… its low carbon in my eyes.)”

    1. you cared enough to comment
    2. pay all the carbon tax you like. Buy coal and dont burn it. money: mouth. every little bit helps.

    “And you might want to look a little closer as what Singapore is like, its pretty totalitarian, and that may play a big role in its current success; (I’m questioning if it could it succeed without total control over your life. I know for a fact that I’d hate to live there.)”

    1. I’m well aware of what life is like in Singapore.
    2. I loved every minute of it.

    As I noted, we can see a trend toward more urban concentration and that may as some fear lead to more control. I dont like that, but if thats the future then I note that control comes in many styles.
    I’ve lived in SF and worked for a Singapore based company for 11 years. So ya, lots of time spent there. If I had to choose, I’d choose Singapore. Persuade me that my lived experience is wrong.

  92. Joshua,
    You forgot to add “Make of it what you will” 🙂

    I should probably have given Steven a harder time for comparing this to WUWT, but I think we do have to be careful of motivated reasoning. I do agree with this, though. There is a difference between mapping things onto the existing scheme of ideas, and being surprised that those who would normally do so, have not done so in this case.

  93. Joshua says:

    BTW – Steven

    I’m struck with how many of the arguments you’ve been making at Climate Etc. are very similar to the arguments I’ve been making there over the years.

    I’ve also noticed that as you have done so, the response ratio to your comments is extremely high (not sure if that represents an increase or not) – as often has been the case with my comments. A recent check showed that at the point in the recent thread where you had made around 35 comments, there were something like 43 comments not written by you were “steven” appeared or “mosher” appeared without the “|” (“mosher |” would indicated a comment written by you.

    IIRC, a while back you made some cryptic comments about what would happen at Climate Etc. if I, or Willard and I, stopped commenting there. I’m wondering if there’s some connection to what I have observed.

  94. Joshua says:

    FWIW…

    Spent a little time in Singapore. IMO, traveling there after a pretty time traveling in nearby countries that had a somewhat similar ethnic makeup but an entirely different standard of living was very educational. Making comparisons between a city state and other countries is very, very dubious – but I did find Singapore kind of challenged some of my previously held beliefs. The “benevolent dictatorship” aspect is fascinating.

    One fun sport is to discuss Singapore with libertarians. They twist themselves into very intricate pretzels as they praise Singapore’s “business friendly” environment and also deal with its “statism.”

  95. Joshua says:

    Anders –

    ==> “I should probably have given Steven a harder time for comparing this to WUWT, but I think we do have to be careful of motivated reasoning.”

    Maybe if he had been more specific, it might have been useful from a motivated reasoning standpoint.

  96. izen says:

    @-Steven Mosher
    “If I had to choose, I’d choose Singapore. Persuade me that my lived experience is wrong.”

    It is not wrong.
    But it is a perspective that can only be shared by a few with the support of many who have a different lived experience.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-24278776

    Singapore has introduced legislation to ensure domestic staff have at least one day off a week, but some workers are not receiving the break.
    Welfare groups have complained that the rule has not been properly enforced but authorities explain that the measure is being introduced over two years.

  97. John Hartz says:

    I don’t know if it happens to others, but my eyes glaze over when a thread becomes a discussion about Steven Mosher and his exploits.

  98. anoilman says:

    Steven Mosher: I used to live in South Africa at the height of Apartheid… and I loved it. South Africa did me a lot of good. However that doesn’t make Apartheid right.

    I have to agree though. I can’t convince you that you didn’t enjoy it.

    Back on topic though… Eco Modernism is just another attempt tell everyone to do nothing.

    I’m an engineer so I find it odd that anyone could ever suggest not addressing a problem. I’ve noticed in my career that problems don’t go away by ignoring them. (I have to solve them. For me its a pathological behavior really. Furthermore my employers are grateful not to have faulty products.)

    Now… In my career I noticed that all the companies which fail do a crappy job and or ignore problems.

  99. Pingback: Laudato Si versus the Ecomodernists – Stoat

  100. Andrew Dodds says:

    @aom

    But if you had a career in management or politics, you’d have had wide ranging experience of ignoring engineers and scientists coming up to you with problems that won’t manifest until after your next promotion/election cycle..

    The thing is, if we take ecomodernism at face value, then it defines a vigorous program of government-directed action. Those thorium-molten-salt-breeders need tens of billions of dollars/pounds/euros to go from experiment to mass production, together with a real commitment to the back end of the fuel cycle. Synthetic food production isn’t going to happen without serious and sustained government involvement either, at least not this side of 2050. The private sector and Teh Markets may help once these things exist, but they don’t have the capacity to bring them into existence.

    Oh, and winding down the coal industry. Replacing oil with synthetic fuels and/or EVs. Replacing natural gas with electricity – bit of a grid upgrade there. Completely changing big ag.

    I did once do a back-of-the-envelope calculation for the UK, and the bill would be in the region of a trillion quid over 20 years for the full ecomodernist conversion. Plus getting it all through a Parliament of dubious scientific and economic literacy. As an economic stimulus program it would certainly beat having a major war, of course, and be cheaper, but wars seem an easier sell.

  101. Steven Mosher said on June 25, 2015 at 5:33 pm,

    “But I note the differences between say San Francisco and Singapore. I prefer Singapore.
    http://www.forbes.com/sites/johngoodman/2015/03/31/singapore-a-fascinating-alternative-to-the-welfare-state/

    Steven Mosher said on June 25, 2015 at 7:58 pm,
    “1. I’m well aware of what life is like in Singapore.
    2. I loved every minute of it.
    …I’ve lived in SF and worked for a Singapore based company for 11 years. So ya, lots of time spent there. If I had to choose, I’d choose Singapore. Persuade me that my lived experience is wrong.”

    Your lived experience is only a very, very small part of the whole truth as to what is actually going on there in its totality, since by all the below and much more, your lived experience is clearly not the lived experience of very many others there. That is, in general, the lived experience of those who are part of a privileged class in an economy that prospers on the backs of massive amounts of exploited, cheap labor are not the lived experiences of many in the same population who are not part of a privileged class of that economy.

    Perhaps it would be helpful to provide some more facts by people who are actually Singaporeans and who care about social justice:

    This article below is a very long and very well documented expose by a Singaporean who cares about social issues in his country, showing chart after chart after chart that shows that the labor exploitation in Singapore is utterly horrendous by the standards of modern human rights. Roughly 40% (about 2.1 million) of its population of about 5.5 million is comprised of noncitizens, of which about 3/4 (about 1.5 million) are non-permanent non-citizens, about 30% of the population. Most of the cheap labor for the much richer citizenry comes from the non-citizens. The vast majority of this much richer citizenry is of Chinese ethnicity, and the vast majority of this cheap labor that mostly is from non-citizens is of a different ethnicity, and here we go again, essentially yet another example of one group of people of one ethnicity acquiring and maintaining economic prosperity for themselves off the exploited, cheap labor of a large group of people of another ethnicity. To all who care about the truth, I *very strongly* recommend reading this article below along with the many more articles on this massive exploitation of cheap labor in Singapore.

    The blog is:

    The Heart Truths
    To Keep Singaporeans Thinking by Roy Ngerng Yi Ling

    Note: Almost all the quotes below are accompanied by charts. Look at them.

    “This is What is Wrong in Singapore. Now, are You Willing to See It?”

    http://thehearttruths.com/2014/11/05/this-is-what-is-wrong-in-singapore-now-are-you-willing-to-see-it/

    A few quotes:

    “-Singapore and Hong Kong: Sister Cities United in Cronyism and Inequality
    -Indeed, Hong Kong is ranked first on The Economist’s crony-capitalism index.
    -But Singapore is not ranked far behind. Singapore is fifth.
    -Hong Kong is the most unequal economy in the developed world but Singapore follows immediately behind, being the second most unequal.
    -The rich-poor gap in Singapore is the highest among the developed countries.
    -Hong Kong government implemented a minimum wage in 2011 and defined a poverty line last year.
    -Minimum wage in Hong Kong stands at about $1,300. It was revised upwards last year. Poverty is set at 19.6 percent.
    -In Singapore, however, the government has been heavily resistance towards implementing a minimum wage and refuses to define a poverty line, claiming that this will create a “cliff effect”.
    -Singaporeans still do not know how a poverty line will lead to a “cliff effect” or what a “cliff effect” actually means.
    -Singapore’s De Facto Minimum Wage of $1,000 [per month] is the One of the Lowest in the Developed World
    -For countries with a comparable level of national wealth and cost of living, Japan has a minimum wage of about $2,000, Australia and Switzerland has roughly $3,000 and the lowest-paid Norwegians earn around $5,000.
    -Even as Singapore is now ranked the most expensive city in the world by The Economist, the lowest wages that Singaporeans receive mean that Singaporeans have the lowest purchasing power in the developed world…

    [Oh? Want to sing the praises of the healthcare system in Singapore?]
    -This has resulted in Singaporeans paying the highest out-of-pocket expenditure among the developed countries.

    [Nasty little secret: “Being covered” can mean nothing in terms of actually getting needed healthcare, since oops, there’s this thing called out-of-pocket expenses such as deductibles, copays, and coinsurance, which when combined with the actual premiums one has to pay out-of-pocket even after subsidies, means no healthcare because one simply cannot afford it *even if* one is “covered” with some so-called health insurance.]

    -On top of the lowest wages that Singaporeans are made to earn and with one of the highest prices in the world, this means that Singaporeans are forced to work for the rest of their lives because they can never save enough to even retire. This also explains why there are so many elderly Singaporeans who continue to work as cleaners, labourers and cardboard collectors.

    -In a nutshell, this is the Singapore model…Meanwhile, depress wages and increase prices across the board, since you own all [actually, about 60% of] the companies, and earn the highest profits in the world off the people.
    Then take the people’s wages and with whatever is left of it, make them pay it into what was a retirement fund but is now really a holding vault for you to siphon the money away to invest and earn money for yourself….It is a sure win for you if you operate on the Singapore model – the economy grows on slave wages while you continue to siphon off the wealth for yourself.

    -But this comes with a whole host of psychosocial problems – possibly the highest rate of mental problems and suicide rates that go under-reported, and a ruptured society where Singaporeans have become the second least likely to help a stranger in the world, have one of the lowest levels of happiness….

    http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/asia/modernday-slavery-shopping-mall-in-singapore-found-to-be-selling-housemaids-like-commodities-9581931.html

    “Modern Slavery In Singapore”
    http://www.kcet.org/shows/global_3000/global-3000-89.html

    “Singapore’s high dependence on foreign labor begs an alternative model of growth”
    http://yoursdp.org/publ/perspectives/singapore_s_high_dependence_on_foreign_labor_begs_an_alternative_model_of_growth/2-1-0-1470

    http://wagingnonviolence.org/feature/the-sorry-state-of-unions-in-singapore/

    And, of course, Singapore is not the only country in the world with a very high per capita nominal GDP in which a privileged class of people get and stay richer – even much richer – off the exploitation of the labor of a very large underclass of the population. Here’s another example:

    “Kingdom of Slaves
    In the smallest Gulf kingdoms, upwards of 90 percent of residents are immigrant laborers. Many face unspeakable abuse.”
    http://fpif.org/kingdom-slaves/
    Quote: “Qatar’s 1.8 million foreign workers-who vastly outnumber the country’s 300,000 native citizens-are frequently deprived of wages, trapped into permanent debt, exposed to hazardous working conditions, and denied the right to unionize.”

  102. Eli Rabett says:

    It’s hyperbolic to refer to it as socialism/marxism, but it’s hard not to see it as an argument for quite a controlled society.

    IEHO ecomodernism has the same attitude towards technology (will save us all under the guidange of Chairman Shellenberger and Great Leader Nordhaus) and agriculture that the Communist dictatorships had in the 20th century. ATTP’s point about their goals requiring a controlled society are right on, which is why it is hilarious to watch the libertarians taking up cudgels for it.

  103. Joshua says:

    K & A –

    Thanks for that post. Looks like some interesting reading – about some important considerations. I will say, also, that it’s important to consider the conditions in Singapore relative to other countries in the region – although again, comparing a city state to different national structures is problematic to say the least….

    In my Googling after reading your comment, I came across this…thought you might find it interesting:

    http://thehearttruths.com/2013/02/21/singapore-has-the-highest-income-inequality-compared-to-the-oecd-countries/

  104. anoilman says:

    Andrew Dodds: Well… thanks for pointing out that reality sometimes sucks.

    I don’t trust anything involving doing nothing. There are many examples of this in the real world. Like knowing that your pipeline might burst in a specific area and doing nothing about it;
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kalamazoo_River_oil_spill
    Or, knowing that ignition switches can fail and kill people;
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2014_General_Motors_recall

    Frankly, the opposition to dealing with Global Warming are the same folks who want to whittle down government research. Canada’s “National Research Council” could aptly be renamed Canada’s “Contract Engineering for Big Business”.

    This is how conservative minds (the ones behind Eco-Modernism) view curiosity driven research. They don’t want it. They don’t want it at all. Its expensive. Kill Kill Kill. I know of very few businesses that do it anymore. Furthermore, conservatives also oppose research into areas that compete with local business. They also oppose research into things they may be found naughty over, like GHG emissions… (Big Oil is putting up a private satellite to investigate what they are doing. They don’t have to reveal their results.)

    You pretty much exemplify the disconnect between science and engineering (not saying you are) with your comment saying we need to pump money into “thorium-molten-salt-breeders”. You’ve pre-defined the solution. I dunno, but life doesn’t always go the way you planned. Curiosity driven research unlocks many more doors.

    I guess that telling me that you think it looks good is fine, but meaningless. Its the same with Bjorn Lomborg’s Copenhagen Consensus. It also looks good, but that’s not its intent;
    https://thingsbreak.wordpress.com/2009/01/08/lomborg-long-game/

    FYI: I’ve been trying to convince BBD that nuclear should be government operated. I still think its too expensive with the profit motive in the equation. But in the UK… What da heck can you do? Its not easily a ‘green’ place to live.

  105. MightyDrunken says:

    Vertical farms seem unpopular in some of the comments but I believe they have potential. Maybe the problem is that some advocates oversell them, hinting they will replace normal farming. This seems impossible considering the huge expanse of land we use for farming and the ease of farming.

    Even so vertical farms or maybe simply advanced greenhouses have the potential to farm areas which are too hot, dry or even on the sea. The huge water savings, controlled climate and reduction in fertilisers gives good reasons to use them. I expect they will become fairly widespread in some rich but dry areas like the Middle East and they will pop up in many cities around the world. However they will hardly dent the amount of land we use to farm. Well not until the Earth is one big mega hive city. 🙂

  106. John Hartz says:

    Question the Day: Is Bill Gates an Ecomodernist?

    Bill Gates plans to double investment in green energy technology and research to combat climate change, but rejects calls to divest from fossil fuels.

    Gates to invest $2bn in breakthrough renewable energy projects by Emma Howard, Gaurdian, June 26, 2015

  107. Willard says:

    Why write a one-page solution when you can write a manifesto?

    Climate change seems like this complicated problem with a million pieces. But Henry Jacoby, an economist at MIT’s business school, says there’s really just one thing you need to do to solve the problem: Tax carbon emissions.

    “If you let the economists write the legislation,” Jacoby says, “it could be quite simple.” He says he could fit the whole bill on one page.

    Basically, Jacoby would tax fossil fuels in proportion to the amount of carbon they release. That would make coal, oil and natural gas more expensive. That’s it; that’s the whole plan.

    http://www.npr.org/sections/money/2013/06/28/196355493/economists-have-a-one-page-solution-to-climate-change

    As seen on NA:

  108. For me, taxing the release of green house gasses has great attraction — provided the tax is returned to places where it will also help reduce emissions further (like insulating homes) and provided also that the poorest are protected from the inevitable price rise in the basic commodities. It creates pressure to change, innovate and develop new low-carbon energy sources.

    We could make a good start by removing fossil fuel subsidies.

  109. Kingb says:

    johnrussell40, ATTP,

    You ask about intensifying farming, that can involve moving from field-based farming to greenhouse-based farming which allows for substantially larger crop yields from substantially smaller physical footprints and in the process avoids the overuse/erosion of soils. Consider my native British Columbia, where greenhouses, often built to use waste heat from nearby commercial/industrial facilities, now generate tremendous yields per hectare and do so in proximity to the consumer thus reducing energy costs for transport of the food to the community. The greenhouses in our Fraser Valley now mean that our community has become a net exporter of calories rather than a net importer even as our population booms. Similarly by moving to a model of vertical farming within urban communities and green roofs we can intensify our farming by turning previously unused/underutilized spaces in commercial, industrial and residential areas to the generation of food. Ultimately every calorie we can generate on anthropogenically modified lands is a calorie we do not need to extract from the ocean or from lands currently dedicated to nature.

  110. John Hartz says:

    Willard:

    The new government of Alberta is wasting no time in making major changes re the taxation and regulation of the petroeum/bituminous extraction industry doing business in the province. The most recent news about this is summarized in:

    Alberta NDP’s plan to increase carbon fees another strain on oil industry by Jeff Lewis, Globe & Mail, June 25, 2015

    What are the prospects for the NDP in the next federal election?

  111. Blair,
    I’d probably take you a little more seriously if so much of what you said wasn’t nice stories about what you’ve seen and observed. It’s very interesting, but doesn’t really tell us much overall.

  112. John Hartz says:

    Kingb:

    Ultimately every calorie we can generate on anthropogenically modified lands is a calorie we do not need to extract from the ocean or from lands currently dedicated to nature.

    Thanks to overfishing, polution, and acidification, the world’s ocean systems are unlikely to provide a signifigant amount of seafood in the future. The ability of the human race to despoil its only home is apparently unlimited.

  113. Kingb says:

    As anyone who has studied communication knows accompanying scientific data with personal reflections does a better job of informing readers about an idea as the personal reflections provide a means to ground the narrative in the here and now. The best part of my personal reflections, are that they are accompanied by real data. I’m not throwing out anecdotes or saying “I heard this somewhere” or “I read this somewhere”. I am describing a case-study (the lower mainland of the coast of British Columbia) where the model was demonstrated to be valid. Certainly mine is but one example, but it is one of many. The drive to intensify agriculture has been strong and examples abound. Unfortunately, many of your readers are not familiar with these types of examples, not through deliberate ignorance but because it is completely outside of their daily experience, and so in my descriptions I tend to personalize them as it helps make them appear less distant.

  114. Blair,

    Unfortunately, many of your readers are not familiar with these types of examples, not through deliberate ignorance but because it is completely outside of their daily experience, and so in my descriptions I tend to personalize them as it helps make them appear less distant.

    Clever and humble. A winning combination.

  115. anoilman says:

    johnrussell40: Unfortunately… carbon tax is a double edged sword so of little value. Governments that gain income from a Carbon Tax will be less likely to see it though to its logical conclusion. (This is a nod to Andrew Dodds pointing out reality.) Namely, if you get the money… it looks good enough, and it reduces taxes, so it looks like really good financial management.

    I believe that is why the current British Columbia government has stopped raising its carbon tax. It works… but you don’ want to kill the golden goose.

  116. Dear Kingb,

    Please tell Blair to make sure he’s not sock puppeting.

    Thank him for his concerns,

    W

  117. Rob Nicholls says:

    Steven Mosher – “Given the stakes.. I’d be a bit more open minded toward alternative views.” I liked that comment. I think the need for urgent GHG emission reductions is very clear regardless of how optimistic or otherwise we are about future technological change, and I think there are a lot of things that governments should do now (should have done years ago) to set the framework for emission reductions; continued delay is terrible and storing up huge trouble. However, I probably should re-evaluate some of my assumptions about what kind of technologies / changes to society / changes to agricultural systems are likely to help.

    I don’t have a problem with things being framed a certain way to get big sections of society who are hostile to the idea of AGW to do something positive, as long as it doesn’t confuse the rest of us into not taking urgent action.

  118. ordvic says:

    ATTP,

    I have left you an apology for my over the top remarks on Climate Etc. I deeply regret those remarks. I hope you continue to post there as I enjoy your imput and have learned from it.

    Sincerely,
    Ordvic
    Thread: Scientists speaking with one voice: panacea or pathology

  119. ordvic,
    Oh, it didn’t seem all that over the top to me, but maybe I just expect so much worse these days 🙂 . Thanks anyway. I appreciate the apology.

  120. Ken Fabian says:

    I would probably go for taxing CO2e – with no demands for where the money gets spent. Let politicians and various interests wrangle as per usual on that. Oh, I’d personally still advocate shifting the burden of costs to those more able to afford it, put some towards R&D&D(eployment) but independent of the decision to tax GHG emissions.

  121. Sam Taylor says:

    Oilman,

    I’d disagree about the carbon tax. If we look at the advanced economies, oil consumption has been falling since around 2004. I think that the reason for this is the sharp increase in the oil price in the last decade, as increased competition from China and India has meant that the price has been bid up above what the advanced economies can afford. Historically, pretty much the only things that have stalled CO2 emissions were the oil shocks in the 70’s and the financial crisis. Both of these things occurred when oil (and thus energy) was extremely expensive. Thus I’m of the opinion that a sufficiently massive carbon tax is the only lever we can pull which is likely to do anything. If you want to lower CO2 emissions, you have to make emitting CO2 sufficiently expensive. All the drives towards efficiency and whatever are moving in the opposite direction. As for the “where does the tax revenue go” question, well, if the tax was working then it could drive the consumption of the undesirable thing down. If we stuck a £1000 tax on every pack of ciagrettes, then tax revenue from cigarette sales would plummet. In general though one would probably expect this action to shrink the economy, which would be congruent with the government running a surplus, and thus destroying net financial assets and reducing aggregate demand. How one manages this is the biggie. I’d like to see more programs looking at things like agroforestry and the like, which attempts to more closely integrate things like natural and human systems, encourage beneficial species and so on and try to find beneficial feedback loops which work for everyone. It’s the polar opposite of the ecomodernist approach, which is probably why I prefer it.

    The issue with this is that energy probably has a higher productivity that its cost share, so this would probably end up hitting the economy, and it’s why I find all the “green growth” talk rather hollow. I don’t believe we get out of this without significant pain and hardship, but hey, lesser of two evils. There’s a chance that the appearance of something resembling peak (cheap) oil over the coming decade might end up doing some of this for us, but best not leave such things to chance.

  122. Sam Taylor says:

    I forgot to mention, the collapse of the USSR was also a biggie in holding CO2 emissions stable around 1990. So there’s always that option too.

  123. Joshua said on June 26, 2015 at 3:42 pm,

    “K & A –
    Thanks for that post. Looks like some interesting reading – about some important considerations…
    In my Googling after reading your comment, I came across this…thought you might find it interesting:
    http://thehearttruths.com/2013/02/21/singapore-has-the-highest-income-inequality-compared-to-the-oecd-countries/

    Joshua, you’re welcome. That blogger is very big on graphs or charts given by studies. That blog is very good, therefore, as a source of good information, since we can go to the sources of all those charts to see and fact-check for ourselves.

    A chart in the article you linked to shows the UK, Italy, and the US as the countries with the highest income inequality after Singapore, and it shows the Scandinavian countries with the lowest income inequality, as measured by that GINI Coefficient (after taxes and transfers). I immediately thought of the results of that major OECD study a few years ago that, along with some other studies, shows that the US, the UK, and Italy have the lowest levels of upward income mobility, and it showed that the Scandinavian countries have the highest or among the highest levels of upward income mobility, as measured by “intergenerational earnings elasticity”. (To those who heard of it: That recent study that said that the US upward income mobility has stayed roughly the same for the past 20 years does not change this, since it also found the US fared poorly when compared to other countries in terms of upward income mobility.)

    “Research desk investigates: How great is American income mobility?”
    http://voices.washingtonpost.com/ezra-klein/2010/08/research_desk_investigates_how.html

    The reason for these types of bad numbers for the US and good numbers for so many other countries with respect to is that unlike in these other countries, US economic policy since the conservative revolution that started before even Reagan has long been in the process of dismantling the much higher wage economy the US used to have.

    I think that it’s therefore instructive to do a country-by-country comparison on lower wages in the respective countries, where statutory or effective minimum wages as annual incomes are taken as a percentage of per capita nominal GDP. I think it will be eye-opening for some.

    In 1970, here in the US, using a rough method of 40 hours per week at 50 weeks per year (most actually work 51 weeks per year, that one week off not paid) giving 2,000 hours per year worked, the *federal* minimum wage was $1.50 per hour, giving an annual income of roughly $3,000, where the US per capita nominal GDP in 1970 was (as I recall) roughly $5,000. That’s 60%. Now the *federal* minimum wage is $7.25 per hour, $14,500 per year, where the per capita nominal GDP is roughly $53,000. That’s roughly 27%. In terms of the federal minimum wage, we fell from 60% to 27% – and it’s still falling and will forever continue to fall as long as the US House of Representatives is ruled by this new breed of conservative Republicans that took over in 2011, which will no doubt continue for many years to come because of severe gerrymandering, which is legal. (Read about this gerrymandering that is yes, quite legal, on the Internet – plenty of articles.)

    Compare this to plenty of other countries out there roughly as rich or richer than the US in terms of per capita nominal GDP – they are still in a general range as high and higher than where the US was in 1970, sometimes larger, even much larger. Here’s proof:

    First we see monthly incomes of statutory or effective minimum wages:

    Source:
    http://thehearttruths.com/2014/11/05/this-is-what-is-wrong-in-singapore-now-are-you-willing-to-see-it/

    Multiply these monthly figures by 12 to get yearly statutory or effective minimum wage incomes for all these countries, and then take these minimum wage annual incomes as percentages of the per capita nominal GDPs, found here:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_GDP_%28nominal%29_per_capita

    Examples, approximations:
    Norway, $60,000/$100,000 ; 60%
    Sweden, $50,000/$60,000; 84%
    Denmark, $48,000/$60,000; 80%
    Finland, $40,000/$50,000; 80%
    Australia, $36,000/$65,000; 55%
    Netherlands, $30,000/$50,000; 60%
    United States, $18,000/$53,000; 34%
    Singapore, $12,000/$55,000; 22%

    Why the difference from how I calculated above for the US, which is 27%? Those who made the chart probably included the fact that a number of states (most don’t though) in the US have minimum wages that are somewhat higher than the federal minimum wage. In 1970, the federal minimum wage was the national standard, while now it’s below standard in a number of states.

    Finally, this little tidbit that could be eye-opening on the subject of income distributions in countries, since some think that such countries as Singapore show a better way to go than, say, the Scandinavian social welfare states that do so well (so much better than Singapore) in the many different above measures as well as on so many other measures:

    “80% of Singaporeans Are Poorer Than A Cleaner In Norway”
    http://thehearttruths.com/2014/04/30/80-of-singaporeans-are-poorer-than-a-cleaner-in-norway/

  124. J Bowers says:

    * Increasing CO2 threatens human nutrition. Myers et al (2014)
    * Carbon Dioxide Enrichment Inhibits Nitrate Assimilation in Wheat and Arabidopsis. Bloom et al (2010).
    * Grassland Responses to Global Environmental Changes Suppressed by Elevated CO2. (Shaw 2007)
    * Photosynthetic inhibition after long-term exposure to elevated levels of carbon dioxide.(DeLucia 1985)
    * Insects Take A Bigger Bite Out Of Plants In A Higher Carbon Dioxide World.
    * Food for Thought: Lower-Than-Expected Crop Yield Stimulation with Rising CO2 Concentrations

    Without a stable temperature regime around 30C +/- 5C during growing season, we don’t grow food. Above 40C for any period, crop enzymes just denature. Then there’s the floods and fires and that kind of stuff. Sorry to not be an optimist, but, there you go.

  125. Roger Jones says:

    K&A, very interesting stats. Will have to look into this – thanks

  126. Eli Rabett says:

    Synthesizing many of the arguments above lead Eli to the conclusion that Huxley’s Brave New World was the dystopian model for the Eco Modernists and that what they were engaged in is paradise engineering. (thanks to izen and K&A)

  127. J Bowers says:

    Been happening for a long time, Eli. Small wonder Lomborg’s enterprise takes the cash from the Kochs.

    Recovered Economic History: “Everyone but an idiot knows that the lower classes must be kept poor, or they will never be industrious”

  128. anoilman says:

    Sam Taylor: I was just trying to say that regular politics and human nature will kick in with a Carbon Tax. To any government’s eyes,
    free money = good finances = re-election..
    hardship = bad finances = out of office..

    BC’s carbon tax works, but they halted increasing it. The government is currently bragging about balancing its budget. (To be fair there is only so much increases you can make before your economy is out of whack with the rest of the world.)

    KeefeAndAmanda: My stepfather tried to hire a worker for his mental hospital. After the interview, my step father offered him $45k (in the late 1990’s no less).

    An hour later, the guy called back and said, “But that’s below the poverty line!” (My step father’s hospital was in Hawaii.)

  129. Pingback: Utopian solutions, dystopian precipitates. | izen

  130. John Hartz says:

    Sometimes we ignore the forest while dissecting a tree — in this case Ecomodernism. The following article about the condition of our “forest” is indeed worth reading and pondering.

    We are used to hearing that if everyone lived in the same way as North Americans or Australians, we would need four or five planet Earths to sustain us.

    This sort of analysis is known as the “ecological footprint” and shows that even the so-called “green” western European nations, with their more progressive approaches to renewable energy, energy efficiency and public transport, would require more than three planets.

    How can we live within the means of our planet? When we delve seriously into this question it becomes clear that almost all environmental literature grossly underestimates what is needed for our civilisation to become sustainable.

    Only the brave should read on.

    If everyone lived in an ‘ecovillage’, the Earth would still be in trouble by Samuel Alexander, The Conversation US, June 26, 2015

  131. @King B

    While I agree with everything you say about green/glasshouses, and while I’m an advocate for small scale intensive, mixed farming of the ‘allotment/smallholding’ variety—they can achieve higher and more sustainable yields than industrial farming could ever dream of—they don’t get over the fact that the bulk of the world’s food energy is obtained from just three plants: rice, maize and wheat provide 60 percent of the world’s food energy intake. http://www.fao.org/docrep/u8480e/u8480e07.htm

    I question vertical farms because of the stupid amounts of steel and concrete they’d consume in building, and the constant large imports of nutrients and energy they’d require to operate. So I’m convinced, while will continue to be technological improvements in growing, there won’t be an overall magical technological solution that makes conventional farming redundant. And furthermore, why do humans feel the need to invent a whole new technology for producing food when nature offers us established and sustainable methods which can provide us with everything we need; provided we don’t push those methods beyond their ‘environmental performance envelope’ and create long term problems we struggle to deal with?

    Having said all that, the day zero emissions energy becomes abundant and, as they say, ‘too cheap to meter’, then all that could change. But that’s something that for the moment is a fantasy.

  132. Anyway, it’s not up to us to prove the ecomodernists are wrong; it’s up to them to prove they’re right. Show us the numbers.

  133. Dan Riley says:

    There’s some things I agree with, some things I don’t, and a whole lot where it isn’t clear to me what they are arguing.

    I believe we should be replacing dirty energy with cleaner sources and better efficiency, not expecting any massive pullback in the standard of living anywhere. More direct technology R&D investment is one means to that end. A carbon tax is another means. Currently in many parts of the world (including the US), carbon consumption is priced well below the real cost due to subsidies and ignored externalities. That means we are wasting money by over-consuming carbon and under-consuming (and under-investing) in alternatives; taxing carbon to bring the price of consumption in line with the full cost would increase efficiency and overall wealth. BTI accepts the first half of that argument, but doesn’t (mostly from other sources, not the manifesto) seem to accept that taxing carbon to the real cost doesn’t just discourage carbon consumption, it also encourages the competitiveness and development of alternatives. This is basic economics, denying it seems like a Lomborgian delay tactic.

    Their recommendations generally seem to be very capital intensive. High energy-density electricity generation is capital intensive. [Fusion currently has a high negative energy-density–mentioning it reminded me of the Larouchies 40 years ago.] Livable high density cities are capital intensive. What does that mean for the poorer parts of the world, what’s their path to an ecomodernist future? Is there an incremental path to ecomodernism, beyond what we’ve already achieved?

    Their recommendations seem highly prescriptive to me, but maybe I just don’t understand what they mean by decoupling. The generic goal of reducing environmental impact I favor, but I don’t really understand what they mean by “we reject another, that human societies must harmonize with nature”. What does that mean? It seems that this rejection leads to a kind of containment strategy of higher density urban dwelling, energy sources, farms, etc. But (for example, and I think noted earlier) high density feedlots for beef, pork, shrimp, etc. can have much worse sustainability than lower density pastures. Do we need to wait for cultured meat? Is high density a higher priority than sustainability? I can’t really tell from the manifesto.

    I also don’t see how to achieve some of their decoupling recommendations without a large degree of central planning and government coercion. 40 years ago I was fascinated by Soleri’s arcologies; what I’ve learned since then is that we just aren’t very good at the kind of central planning. One reason I like a carbon tax (or cap-and-trade) is that it is relatively non-prescriptive: it is up to the market how to respond to the price pressure and reduce carbon consumptions, and can be implemented with very little regulatory or coercive infrastructure.

    Or are they really arguing that we’re already nearly there, and should just let current trends take care of everything? I couldn’t tell. Mostly, it seems under-developed. I don’t feel like the time I spent looking at it was a good investment of my attention.

  134. I’m just back from my first BreakThrough Dialogue. Key message: This is not a closed shop. Shellenberger and Nordhaus invited some of the fiercest critics of ecomodernism and there was thorough (but good-natured) discussion.

    Suzy Waldman gave the best synopsis of ecomodernism. It is environmentalism, but Enlightened rather than Romantic.

  135. Richard,
    Suzy also suggested – on Twitter – that one message from the meeting was that humans would blast through 2C and would get by. I realise that she was paraphrasing, but is that a fair interpretation of a general view from the meeting? If so, what does “get by” mean and on what is that view based?

  136. Yup, humans will also get by with a dwindling supply of high-grade crude oil.

    I never can understand why the discussion always ignores the system side of earth sciences.

  137. Eli Rabett says:

    Shellenberger and Nordhaus invited some of the fiercest critics of ecomodernism and there was thorough (but good-natured) discussion.

    Which, of course, is why they, you and #Ecomodernism block Eli. Of course, Eli is a Grouchomarxist.

  138. Willard says:

    Seems that Suzy blocked me on Twitter too:

    > You are blocked from following @SuzanneWaldman and viewing @SuzanneWaldman’s

    Fancy that.

  139. Ron Graf says:

    ATTP, I read the manifesto and I could agree to be a member and I will hope to explain why.

    1) First, do we have a realistic choice of back stepping our human footprint without technological advancement? I don’t think so.

    2) If technology is the only path to sustainability (recycling resources) what are the proven ways to optimally advance technology? Free markets and motivated ingenuity.

    3) Motivating people by coercion of centralized government does not seem to work except in times of a direct existential threat like world war. Motivation of free people does not, however, need to be by direct means. The 1960s space program famously birthed the microchip, Teflon, carbon fiber and instant orange juice (and more).

    4) It is no coincidence that Elon Musk is interested in both electric cars and space colonization. All the technology necessary for living off this planet is also needed to save this planet. Any new extraterrestrial colony would have success dependent upon very tight recycling loops.

    5) We humans are naturally nostalgic for the past yet the future is the only choice. People tend to prevail in adapting to the needs that present themselves, sometimes amazingly and heroically. We have more problems than CO2 accumulation. In a 100 years we will have solved it and will be fretting much larger problems yet to be created (if the past is any guide).

  140. J Bowers says:

    “It is environmentalism, but Enlightened rather than Romantic.”

    Strangely enough, that quote in the link I gave earlier, “Everyone but an idiot knows that the lower classes must be kept poor, or they will never be industrious”, is from a gentleman of the Enlightenment and friend of Jonathan Swift. Comedy timing, Dr. Tol.

  141. John Hartz says:

    The rich may “get by”. The poor not so much.

  142. Willard says:

    Even Bruno Latour can be right from time to time:

    Now you could ask, since neither the concept of ”modernity” nor that of ”nature” have any analytical traction, why on earth are they used so relentlessly as if there was indeed a divide between modernity and archaism, nature and non-nature? Well, the reason is entirely due to the political traction it allows when the two concepts are put to use. To modernize is to distribute agencies along a gradient that allows the orientation of action in such a way that those who resist — who remain backward, who remain archaic, etc — are beaten into submission. In other words, the use of the concept of modernity allows us to shortcut the political process of assemblies by introducing a radical, even revolutionary cut in the back of those who move forward (a “paradigm shift” as Ted and Michael like to say, or, if I understand the technical sense of the word, a “ratchet”).

    http://entitleblog.org/2015/06/27/fifty-shades-of-green-bruno-latour-on-the-ecomodernist-manifesto/

  143. Steven Mosher says:

    hehe..

    good find Willard. that find led me to this

    “To this, the ecomoderns must answer no. The logic of physics, its proponents insist, means that the scaled, the intensive, the co-located, and the consolidated are in and of themselves the conditions for emancipation through productivity. To “degrow,” humanity has to expand and centralize its aspirations in the form of ever-more-intensive systems of production. All else is romance.

    “Technocratic Leviathan!,” cry the political ecologists!

    These critical political observers must conversely answer: yes. Nothing of consequence happens at scale, they insist. The will to “live a simpler life, in common, [in] a world of connection rather than disconnection” (in Giorgos Kallis’ words), sits at the heart of better worlds. To “Degrow,” means shrinking production and consumption. The alternative is crushing hegemony.”

  144. Exactly. And Latour was certainly not the only critic of ecomodernism who was invited to speak at Ecomodernity HQ. Many punters here may find Clive Hamilton more likeable than Latour.

    Wotts: Waldman did not paraphrase. That was a literal quote.

    Bowers: Waldman characterized ecomodernism as Enlightened environmentalism, as opposed to the Romantic sort. No value judgement was implied.

    And to return to my original theme, Ruth deFries (a Romantic) was given an ecomodernist award at this meeting.

  145. Richard,

    Wotts: Waldman did not paraphrase. That was a literal quote.

    Ahh, okay, but that wasn’t really the most significant aspect of what I was saying. You haven’t explained what “get by” means, on what it is based and – what would also be interesting – is to know what “blast through” means. There would appear to be a vast difference between just creeping past, and blasting through.

  146. J Bowers says:

    “Bowers: Waldman characterized ecomodernism as Enlightened environmentalism, as opposed to the Romantic sort. No value judgement was implied.”

    ‘Enlightened’ may not be what most of us think it is, and it would fit right in with this catchy ‘ecomodernist’ thang. How many Enclosure Acts would it take to starve the rest of the populations into the cities to be good little worker drones for capital? Because, historically, that’s how it’s been done, cheered on by ‘Enlightened’ fellows.

    Anyway, Tom Smith’s ecomodernist mythbuster is worth a read.

    The Ecomodernist Myth

  147. @wottsy
    I don’t know what that person meant either, and we working under Chatham rules so you can’t ask.

    @bowers
    The Enlightenment was a terrible thing. If only we had listened to the Pope.

  148. Richard,
    Chatham rules in the US. Really? Also, that you were working under Chatham rules does not mean that I can’t ask. In fact, IIRC, it means you can’t tell me who said what, but it does allow you to discuss what was said. To be clear, though, I didn’t really expect you to answer.

  149. Strangely enough, I can’t find any mention of Chatham House rules on the Breakthrough Institute site. However, it appears that Richard’s understanding of the rules are completely backwards. He’s told us who was present, but won’t explain what they were saying. The rules are:

    When a meeting, or part thereof, is held under the Chatham House Rule, participants are free to use the information received, but neither the identity nor the affiliation of the speaker(s), nor that of any other participant, may be revealed. – See more at: http://www.chathamhouse.org/about/chatham-house-rule#sthash.PddwhnWC.dpuf

  150. J Bowers says:

    So nothing to say about the Enclosure Acts, and how they’re a solid historical example of social engineering by starvation in the name of Enlightened progress, Richard? Wait, POPE!!

  151. Willard says:

    > we working under Chatham rules so you can’t ask.

    Take that, Enlightenment!

  152. John Hartz says:

    Re Richard Tol’s comments…

    Pass the salt please.

  153. John Hartz says:

    Speaking of Pope Francis and his encyclical…

    “You could sum up Pope Francis’ fresh encyclical Laudato Si’ in this pithy statement:

    We are not God. The earth was here before us and it has been given to us.

    “But Pope Francis is, it may surprise you to learn, a thorough-going humanist. He argues for a chastened – and thoroughly Christian – humanism as the best hope for the planet. Human beings need to recall and then enact their deep interconnectedness in the universe as creatures of the gracious Creator.

    “There is nothing mealy-mouthed, mind you, in his chastising of human beings for their destructive and arrogant behaviours:

    Never have we so hurt and mistreated our common home as we have in the last two hundred years.

    “And while there is nothing anti-technological here, it is also the case that our faith in our technology to save us has made us blind to the real nature of things:

    Technology, which, linked to business interests, is presented as the only way of solving these problems, in fact proves incapable of seeing the mysterious network of relations between things and so sometimes solves one problem only to create others.

    “Francis points out that the Bible’s diagnosis of our condition is as pungent as ever. Our problem is our refusal to be human, which means that the three vital relationships that ground human life – ‘with God, with our neighbour, and with the earth itself’ – have been broken.

    “The evidence of this deep rupture in the relatedness of things is in the disintegration of the natural order around us. We have mistaken the call of the creator for men and women to be the carers and nurturers of the planet – to bring it harmoniously to its potential – and have instead become tyrannical.”

    The Pope on climate change: We are not God, Op-ed by Michael Jensen, The Drum/ABC, June 21, 2015

  154. Eli Rabett says:

    The rule Richard quotes is somewhat strange given the publicity push for what was discussed.

  155. Willard says:

    The Enclosures were nothing compared to the Clearances, J Bowers. Decoupling at its finest.

    ***

    The OmniFoundation just approved the Manifesto:

  156. J Bowers says:

    They were both bad, Willard. You can add the Game Laws to the list.

  157. Sorry for being late to the party.

    On the one hand, pursuit of a technological solution or entrepreneurial solution is attractive and is a way of getting over the frustration with lack of progress on the political front, especially in the United States, and evidence of backtracking among some countries which previously had made a lot of progress. On the other hand, both these solutions and the political solutions are, I believe, difficult to finally roll out, not so much because of deep entrenchment of the current market winners or Citizens United or whatever — and there are those effects — but because people on the OECD countries have gotten fat, dumb, happy, and content with having fossil fuel genies at our beck and call. Further, we are convinced by our behavior and our purchasing choices that we really do need an average of over 2 bathrooms per single family home, and that not only our comfort but our jobs depend upon keeping up purchases for the holiday season. Assailing exponentially increasing consumption is seen as the key sin of demand-based solutions proposed by some deep-thinking environmentalists (e.g., Anderson and Bowles of University of Manchester, for two), even if they make a lot of sense. These are the only solutions which have a chance of reducing demand enough to get zero Carbon online. Yet because they have economic consequences, they are not even spoken of.

    Also, to agree with the tone of the post, if some kind of technological solution were really sought, the appropriate response is to invest massively in it, and that is the mark of actually believing there is a climate emergency. So far, however, all I see is talk, talk, talk. Where’s the money to come from? Well, if OECD countries don’t want to cut their lifestyles, perhaps there should be a Carbon Tax levied, not only on the Carbon drawn from the ground, but on retrospective Carbon emissions which can pretty much be allocated to the OECD.

  158. EWI says:

    The ‘decoupling’ is a hoot – it seems like just yesterday that the Breakthrough/Spiked! lot were claiming that it wasn’t at all possible without mass famine etc. (talk about alarmism).

    If one learns from experience and presumes that their latest ‘initiatives’ will inevitably just be a new lobbying angle (with a renewed cast of goodwilled but gullible folks pulled in), I think you can’t go wrong.

  159. In reply to my comment (presumably) on June 27, 2015 at 11:48 am, anoilman said on June 27, 2015 at 2:53 pm,

    “KeefeAndAmanda: My stepfather tried to hire a worker for his mental hospital. After the interview, my step father offered him $45k (in the late 1990’s no less).
    An hour later, the guy called back and said, “But that’s below the poverty line!” (My step father’s hospital was in Hawaii.)”

    ?

    Here are what the actual facts actually are with respect to the poverty line in Hawaii, from US federal government data:

    2015 Poverty Guidelines

    http://aspe.hhs.gov/poverty/15poverty.cfm

    Scroll down for:

    2015 POVERTY GUIDELINES FOR HAWAII

    The first column is “Persons in family/household” and the second column is “Poverty guideline”:
    1 $13,550
    2 $18,330
    3 $23,110
    4 $27,890
    5 $32,670
    6 $37,450
    7 $42,230
    8 $47,010

    I note that these are 2015 numbers. Late 1990s would be of course much lower.

    The per capita GDP of Hawaii is about $44,000 – see here
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_U.S._states_by_GDP_per_capita
    for this, and the present minimum wage is $7.75 per hour, which means a roughly $16,000 per year income, which from $16,000/$44,000 means roughly 36% for the annual minimum wage income as a percentage of the per capita nominal GDP, just a bit over the 34% for the US as whole from the calculations I gave in my message above, and better still than 27% based on the US federal minimum wage. Still way, way below the 55%-84% figures I calculated for all those Scandinavian and other countries roughly as rich as the US or richer than the US in terms of per capita nominal GDP.

  160. anoilman says:

    KeefeAndAmanda: Thanks for that. It was an anecdotal story.

    Usually people don’t use those numbers anyways. They do a cost of living analysis using more reasonable numbers. I do the same which is why I gave away my green card and stay in Canada.

  161. Andrew Dodds says:

    hypergeometric –

    When I read a post like that I genuinely want to despair.

    Why the hell does it matter if a house has 3 bathrooms? Does it mean people will go to the toilet more often? Building regulations in the UK insist on a disabled-access downstairs toilet on newbuilds anyway. Do you think that painting a load of people as ‘dumb, and fat’ is a good thing? To me it’s a dehumanizing tactic generally used before inflicting suffering on people, presumably for their own good.

    And energy consumption – which is what matters – is not exponentially growing in developed countries and has not done so for decades. Most of our energy consumption goes on home heating, cooking, hot water, washing, refrigeration and transport – and, again, has done for decades. Consumer trinkets are a small proportion of consumption, whatever moral outrage they inspire.

    And this is the problem: This is NOT a moral crusade to make people ‘live better’. It’s about looking for solutions to problems in an environment where those causing the problems are screaming to all and sundry that there is no problem. Telling people that they are fat lazy pigs who should happily embrace a life of hard work and discomfort really isn’t helpful to this.

  162. Sam taylor says:

    @Dodds

    Consumer electronics are pretty big consumers of electricity though, and recently became the dominant source of electricity consumption in the UK ( https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/338662/ecuk_chapter_3_domestic_factsheet.pdf ), along with growing use of electricity for home computing. Though total energy wise, natgas is still waaay ahead for cooking and heating. Although as heat pumps become more popluar I expect that more people will start using electricity for domestic heating, which is going to have repercussions of the shape annual electricity demand. This is something that’s already happening in France as a response to all their nuclear electricity. Anyway point being we actually use a lot of juice on iphones and tvs and whatever, and the amount of energy needed to power all the server farms and broascasting masts for our smarthphones (which isn’t captured in domestic energy consumption) is actually very significant. Not to mention the things take loads of energy to make in the first place.

    Also, as always, interesting to note that per capita energy consumption in the UK peaked in 2005, which neatly co-incides with Chinese demand skyrocketing and the conventional oil supply hitting a peak. Though, of course, this does’t include all of the embodied energy which we consume in the form of imported smartphones or cars or whatever, imported water and soil fertility from wherever we fly in our vegetables from and the human energy in various services which we’ve outsourced.

    As an aside, I’m always amazed that people (eg our dear chancellor) want us to try and become a net exporter and run a current account surplus. In our current situation we net gain things like food, goods and services from places like China and Europe, and in return we credit them with electronic digits in electronic accounts that we have set up, at essentially zero marginal cost. We’re huge winners in this game!

  163. Andrew Dodds says:

    @Sam..

    Interesting link.. Figure 6 is horrible (technical term) but my take on it is as 66% essentials, 33% Consumer electronics + computing. Focusing on 33% of electricity which is 20% of domestic use is still a bit much (although it is actually more than I thought).

    It does confirm the extent to which we have to replace natural gas.. although to some extent this helps, because a policy of having large hot water tanks combined with smart meters has the potential to act as a serious buffer to wind energy.

    And yes.. Bangladeshis work themselves to death to give us clothing so cheap it’s practically disposable, we give them enough sea level rise to destroy half their country. I do hope that there is no justice in the world, otherwise we’re f**ked.

  164. Sam taylor says:

    Yeah, I know that the consumer stuff isn’t a huge amount of energy, but it’s still surprising. If you dig a bit deeper and look at the energetic cost of running the internet and stuff it’s actually pretty serious, despite what amazon and apple would have you believe.

    Thing about switching to largely electric heating is that you’ll end up really, really exacerbating the difference between peak demand in the winter and the minimum demand you get in the summer, which will have the effect of meaing that you need a lot more installed capacity. I read a report recently that highlighted that if we were to electrify heating completely, we’d have peak demand in winter of about 65GW just for heating, compared with an annual average requirement of about 12GW for heating. So you’d need to install 65GW of some kind of plant, which would run mostly in the winter and would have a capacity factor of around 20%. Even with big hot water tanks I don’t think this arrangement would feasibly work with just wind, since most of the time the turbines would probably have to be curtailed, and cold still week in january would be a risk. It’d probably be too variable for nuclear plants, too. The only technically feasible solution might be converting wind to gas via electrolysis, but that’s incredibly inefficient and probably would be prohibitively expensive. Frankly it would be much easier if burning gas gave off the smell of lavendar or something, as opposed to CO2.

  165. Andrew Dodds says:

    I’ve always had the idea that what we should do is build enough capacity to reliably meet peak demand – which looking at it, would be something like 120-130GW for the UK if we had full electrification, and then divert the surplus into synthetic liquid fuel production.

    That and other industrial processes (Fertilizer, Aluminium, Iron-by-electrolysis et. al.) that could conceivably use large volumes of off-peak power. Basically, make the supply/demand matching problem one of consumption, not production – the current idea of tailoring generation to demand only really woks with fossil fuel plants.

  166. anoilman says:

    Andrew Dodds: The issue here is that consumers are not subject to spot prices for energy. So there’s little incentive to match consumption to production. For instance if you were seeing peak electricity costs of $0.50 (I know I’ve seen higher numbers… can’t remember), and average costs of $0.10, then there would be an incentive to reduce costs. This is especially true of industry which has the means and the resources. I’m saying they’d benefit from a battery like the 7GWh one in Scotland;
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cruachan_Power_Station

    By the way, the reason we don’t match consumption to costs is that it has traditionally been too hard to do all the accounting. But as an engineer, I’d be a tad afraid

  167. Consumers are more and more often subject to spot prices, in my case that has been true for about 2 years, but others in Finland have a somewhat longer experience of that.

    To be more exact, I pay for my electricity always the hourly spot price of NordPool Spot for Finland + a small margin. That’s, however, only part of my costs, because I pay also for the distribution (that includes also a small fraction for high voltage transmission) and the taxes.

    So far that has not affected my behavior or the behavior of most others on the similar tariff, but within a couple of years I expect that automatized solutions will be available that make control of the timing of part of the consumption so easy that scheduling of certain loads based on current tariffs becomes a reality. The most important application may, in future, be charging of electric vehicles, but heating of hot water (and space) is another important application.

  168. Sam taylor says:

    If we’re theoretically going all wind then we’d need to build a load more than 160GW just to get through any extended slow wind periods. There’d be a lot of issues, since you’re moving from a stock based system to one which is dependent on flows. If you were going to ramp industrial activity on/off with the wind I think you’d probably run into problems there with availability of feedstocks (and how long they might last for), staff, batch timings, efficiency costs and so on. Most heavy industry relies on continual power for a reason, if you were to go to swtiching it on and off at what is essentially random I think you’d run into a lot of issues pretty quickly. Course these could be solvable, not a process engineer so I dunno, but I’d imagine they’re pretty big sticking points.

    I’m very skeptical of the feasability of the 100% WWS stuff that people like Jacobsen are touting for reasons like this. I just don’t think they’ve done nearly a good enough job of assessing things like whole system costs and efficiencies.

  169. anoilman says:

    Sam/Andrew, I’ve come around to liking nuclear. However I see a lot of conflict of interest here. The issue is that nuclear is best if used as a dispatchable power supply, but Wind and Solar essentially shuts it off when they are on. This is currently what is killing coal; http://www.greentechmedia.com/articles/read/this-is-what-the-utility-death-spiral-looks-like

    I think the issue will be worse with nuclear since its cost is driven by construction, not the burning of fissiles.

    UK has serious issues with being a northern climate with weak sun. On the other hand, it would make more sense to look at Europe as a whole. Draw energy where it makes sense to, and offer up a minimum of what is needed locally.

    But that is confusing as well since monster power grids are horribly expensive and ugly. (Unless you live in Iceland.)
    http://www.choishine.com/port_projects/landsnet/landsnet.html

  170. John Hartz says:

    Speaking of the future of nuclear power…

    According to the Nuclear Energy Agency of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, France consumed 495 terawatt-hours of electricity, generated 551 TWh and exported 47 TWh in 2013, the most recent data available said. This generation mix has averted 31 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions.

    However, in fulfillment of a campaign promise, President François Hollande’s government is aiming to pass legislation in July that will cement a nuclear energy drawdown, bringing nuclear’s share of generation to 50 percent by 2025 in an effort to diversify France’s energy production as the country adopts new targets for cutting greenhouse gas emissions.

    The move is a drastic shift for one of France’s iconic industries.

    “Nuclear was sort of proof of the greatness of France,” said Bernard Laponche, a French energy consultant who helped develop France’s first generation of nuclear reactors. “It became a source of national pride, and there was never a strict separation between civilian and military affairs.”

    Why the French are losing enthusiasm for nuclear
    Umair Irfan, E&E reporter
    ClimateWire: Monday, June 29, 2015

  171. John Hartz says:

    Another article about the future of nuclear power…

    Four years after Germany’s decision to phase out nuclear power completely, the country’s oldest remaining reactor has been shut down. But is Germany’s nuclear phase-out on track – and what obstacles does it face?

    How far along is Germany’s nuclear phase-out? by Gero Rueter, Deutsche Welle. June 29, 2015

  172. John Hartz says:

    anoilman: Like you, i have an engineering dgree and mind-set. I cannot, however, support the construction of new nuclear power plants until and unless the disposal of exsting nuclear waste in permanet repositories that will be safe for thousands of years takes place.

  173. J Bowers says:

    anoilman: “UK has serious issues with being a northern climate with weak sun.”

    No, not really. It’s all about our climate scattering photons, it seems.

    Uni of Sheffield: Second anniversary of green energy research reveals solar panels “do what they say on the tin”

    The hidden bonus is famers love solar farms because their costs sheltering sheep and allow the famers to spend more time on other things. The microclimates beneath the panels also improve grazing.

  174. J Bowers says:

    ‘Famers’ should be ‘farmers’.
    ‘Because their costs sheltering sheep’ should be, ‘because it reduces their costs sheltering sheep’.

  175. Andrew Dodds says:

    aom –

    Yes.. which is why a joined up energy policy (ha!) would be seriously looking at variable demand.

    Always over-generating and dumping excess electricity into a hydrogen electrolysis plant (pre-req for Ammonia, methane and Methanol) sounds a lot, lot easier than building the vast battery parks, pumped hydro storage and whatnot needed for seasonal level energy storage. An element of variable demand at the domestic level would help as well.

    It really does worry me that these kind of issues are basically being ignored with a ‘build it and it’ll be fine’ attitude. It does not take a lot of imagination to work out what will happen to the whole RE sector in the event of serious blackouts during a winter cold snap. For example, J Bowers just above is basically dismissing the extreme seasonality issues that affect UK solar in a pretty cavalier way. The reality is a factor of 6 or 7 comparing winter to summer, and what you do get can be concentrated into just 4 or 5 hours.

    At the moment we have balancing through hydroelectric systems. Once we have reached the limits – both in total storage and generation capacity – there is no plan as far as I can tell. For the UK, you need a balancing capacity of at least 50GW (ignoring future electric heating and EV charging) and at least 10TWh total storage.

    John H –

    The answer is recycling and reuse. Again, with a properly joined up system we would be breeding, reprocessing and using fast reactors such that the only high level output would be the ~30 year HL fission products.. then to be used in nuclear batteries. Slightly more responsible than burying it and walking away.

  176. The economics of electric power systems is made complex by the dominant role of investment costs in all other components except fuel based generation. When that’s combined with highly variable load and unpredictable future policy decisions, the economic risks of investments grow very large.

    High subsidies for renewable generation leads to the situation, where (short term) marginal cost of generation goes down, possibly occasionally to zero or even negative, as has been the case in Germany and Denmark. The total cost of the power system goes up, but the market price goes down. Renewable generation gets paid from the subsidies, other generation not from any source. Total cost for the consumers may be relatively little affected for a while, but at the cost of deteriorating power system. Where that will lead depends on future development. It’s possible that the consumer prices will gradually be raised also by higher payments needed to restore the reliability of the power system.

    The idea of storing energy as hydrogen or other fuels synthesized using hydrogen as intermediate step are interesting, but the costs are very high, both as investment costs and as energy losses in conversion and possibly also during storage. With present technology well more than half of the electricity used to produce hydrogen is lost, if the energy is later converted back to electricity. Therefore also the required capacity of primary generation goes up adding to system cost even more.

    Building such a power system rapidly would for consume more energy than the new system can generate for years (decades) to come even if the energy payback time of the new individual primary power plants is of the order of one year.

  177. Sam taylor says:

    I’m ex nuclear industry before I made the move to oil (greenpeace charity guys love me) and, honestly, I have my doubts about how realistically it could ramp on in the required timeframe. There’s issues of negative learning curve, the fact that we really should’ve figured out waste disposal by now and there would be real difficulty in ramping the required uranium supply up in anything like a timely manner. Plus, with the current once through model being dominant, you’d probably start running out of energetically viable uranium sources somewhere towards the end of the century. And that seawater thing is never happening. Breeders remain something of a bone of contention, and they’re still not really commercial anywhere (Russia is running the BN-800 as a plutonium burner these days). Anyway, they mostly make electricity, which isn’t what we’re likely to be short of in the immediate future.

  178. Extensive nuclear fuel cycle studies were made in late 1970’s because nuclear industry people were worried about the looming shortage of uranium at acceptable cost. The conclusions drawn by many based on such studies were that it’s important to separate and store plutonium from light water reactors in order to have enough fuel for the early generation of breeders.

    The worries have changed since 1970’s, but the conclusions of that time remain largely valid.

  179. Andrew Dodds says:

    Sam –

    As long as we use the current model of trying to arrange various subsidies in an ad-hoc manner to try and persuade the private sector to do things, we’ll be lucky to keep the grid running, never mind convert to a carbon-free model.

    I suspect that what we’ll see is a slow migration to a renewable/natural gas powered grid, assuming we can actually find the gas. Combined with improvements in insulation and car efficiency (and exporting all energy intensive industry) it’ll continue to drift emissions down. Of course, what happens when the gas runs out is an open question..

  180. victorpetri says:

    Ridley chips in:
    Technology, consumerism and the pope
    Published on Monday, June 29, 2015, updated Monday, June 29, 2015
    Some religious people seem to think that shopping leads to violence

    http://www.rationaloptimist.com/blog/technology,-consumerism-and-the-pope.aspx

  181. BBD says:

    J Bowers

    No, not really. It’s all about our climate scattering photons, it seems.

    Um, no, it does not seem.

    Please, also do the numbers on UK solar. It is essential to distinguish between personal electricity consumption and total UK per captia energy consumption. SPV in the UK is and will always remain marginal.

  182. BBD says:

    Andrew Dodds

    It really does worry me that these kind of issues are basically being ignored with a ‘build it and it’ll be fine’ attitude. It does not take a lot of imagination to work out what will happen to the whole RE sector in the event of serious blackouts during a winter cold snap. For example, J Bowers just above is basically dismissing the extreme seasonality issues that affect UK solar in a pretty cavalier way. The reality is a factor of 6 or 7 comparing winter to summer, and what you do get can be concentrated into just 4 or 5 hours.

    The fairydust attitude of RE-will-fix-it-all merchants will do untold harm.

  183. John Hartz says:

    Andrew Dodds:

    The answer is recycling and reuse. Again, with a properly joined up system we would be breeding, reprocessing and using fast reactors such that the only high level output would be the ~30 year HL fission products.. then to be used in nuclear batteries. Slightly more responsible than burying it and walking away.

    Please document the sources for the claims you have made in the above. Thank you.

  184. John Hartz says:

    Sam Taylor:

    I cannot help but wonder how many nuclear power plants in Europe and NA will be temporarily shut down this summer because the water they use for cooling will be too warm.

  185. Sam taylor says:

    Or, in the case of California, because there’s no water there at all.

  186. Andrew Dodds says:

    @JH

    This is not obscure stuff.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fission_products_(by_element)

    There is a big gap in fission products between short and long lived. Broadly speaking, the long lived ones are safe to handle, especially if diluted. And the short lived ones decay. There is nothing in the 1000-10000 years half life range that would be especially troublesome. The argument for keeping them above ground and in use seems strong to me.

    I could also point out that diluting them in the oceans would be fine, although it’s not something I would really recommend. In many ways, burial is the worst option – it’s only pursued out of cheapness, just like the once through cycle.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Integral_fast_reactor

    Burns the transuranics that are also produced, as well as getting vastly more use out of the uranium. Reprocessing is part of the process.

    The once through PWRs in common use are roughly equivalent to the Newcomen Steam engine by comparison.

  187. John Hartz says:

    Andrew Dodds:

    Is Wiki the best source that you can provide?

  188. I cannot help but wonder how many nuclear power plants in Europe and NA will be temporarily shut down this summer because the water they use for cooling will be too warm.

    Not a single one for that reason. Warm water affects somewhat the efficiency and available power, but dramatically. Shortage of cooling water may be a different issue.

  189. J Bowers says:

    @ BBD. And David McKay’s source for those figures was from where, and is how old….? As demonstrated by far more recent research that I linked to (i.e., still ongoing), UK solar is doing exactly what it says on the tin and there’s no disadvantage to using solar in the UK. As empircally measured.

  190. BBD says:

    J Bowers

    It’s no good trying to pretend MacKay’s numbers are wrong. You need to show why they are wrong.

  191. BBD says:

    MacKay writes (my emphasis):

    Photovoltaic (PV) panels convert sunlight into electricity. Typical solar
    panels have an efficiency of about 10%; expensive ones perform at 20%.
    (Fundamental physical laws limit the efficiency of photovoltaic systems to
    at best 60% with perfect concentrating mirrors or lenses, and 45% without
    concentration. A mass-produced device with efficiency greater than 30%
    would be quite remarkable.)
    The average power delivered by south-facing
    20%-efficient photovoltaic panels in Britain would be

    20%× 110 W/m2 = 22 W/m2.

    Figure 6.5 shows data to back up this number. Let’s give every person
    10 m2 of expensive (20%-efficient) solar panels and cover all south-facing
    roofs. These will deliver

    5 kWh per day per person.

    There is nothing in the rather vague press release you quote that challenges this estimate.

  192. J Bowers says:

    That’s a false dilemma and unrelated to what I posted. Nobody says all of the UK should be powered by solar alone, but solar panels still do what they say on the tin in the UK as shown by Uni of Sheffield. And you still can’t provide McKay’s source, so you need to be a bit of a sceptic and pony up.

  193. BBD says:

    And you still can’t provide McKay’s source, so you need to be a bit of a sceptic and pony up.

    Read the text. It is entirely self-explanatory. Asking for a source is to create a rather crude strawman.

    Based on the estimates provided, it is clear that SPV will always be marginal in the UK.

    Let’s revisit the part of Andrew’s comment that you ignored above:

    It really does worry me that these kind of issues are basically being ignored with a ‘build it and it’ll be fine’ attitude. It does not take a lot of imagination to work out what will happen to the whole RE sector in the event of serious blackouts during a winter cold snap. For example, J Bowers just above is basically dismissing the extreme seasonality issues that affect UK solar in a pretty cavalier way. The reality is a factor of 6 or 7 comparing winter to summer, and what you do get can be concentrated into just 4 or 5 hours.

    And that’s it. Those are the numbers and the latitudinal / seasonal constraints.

  194. The strength of the arguments of McKay is that he considers the role of various technologies as parts of the energy system rather than the apparent economics of individual technologies in rather arbitrarily chosen and simplified settings. Considering the full system does not always lead to unique answers, because the outcome depends on scenarios that extend to the future. McKay’s arguments are not always based on full quantitative analysis but hey are, in general, reasonable and justified. His book is somewhat outdated, but the logic of his approach remains valid.

    The value of solar energy is very highly dependent on the chosen settings. Two approaches that are on the first sight both reasonable, may give results that differ by a big factor. It’s very common to see calculations that are highly misleading in conditions of countries like Finland (my home country) or UK.

  195. BBD says:

    Until we crack the problem of seasonality at ~52 degrees N latitude and higher, we have a big problem with SPV.

  196. Jim Hunt says:

    Just a quick heads up to point out to the assembled throng that for some strange reason I currently find myself in the middle of an “Ecomodernist Twitstorm” in which amongst many other things Judy Curry tells Michael Shellenberger and my good self that the “Ecomodernist Manifesto is a great contribution, planning a blog post on this at some point”.

    This is my favourite bit up to now:

    Gavin Schmidt is in there somewhere too, but Richard Betts is keeping strangely quiet. I haven’t had so much fun since I nearly drowned last night!

    http://forum.arctic-sea-ice.net/index.php/topic,1222.msg55256.html#msg55256

  197. Andrew Dodds says:

    J Bowers

    I have empirical data from my roof. Technically they do 121% of what was on the tin. Which is, interestingly, just under 2 kWh/person/day for my household.

    If you want solar to be a major contributor in the UK (and Europe, for that matter), though, you have to find a way to store energy on a seasonal basis. That is hard. At niche levels, it’s not such a problem because it displaces natural gas during higher demand daylight hours in the UK.

  198. Jim Hunt says:

    We have plenty of wind during the Great British winter though Andrew. However our glorious new government doesn’t seem to be very keen on taking advantage of it!

  199. Joshua says:

    Sometimes I’m tempted towards fence-sitting about TBI, because I think that they do present some important perspectives.

    Then I follow a chain of tweets from Jim Hunt’s link and I see Shellenberger whining about “people who can’t engage on substance” and then, tweet how after previously tweeting about how the following article is a “terrific write-up.”

    http://www.realclearscience.com/blog/2015/06/breakthrough_institute_everything_modern_environmentalism_should_be.html

    Oy.

    I have a friend who does environmentally-related public advocacy work in the Oakland area, who says that their actual engagement at the policy level isn’t well-reflected by their polemical rhetoric in their public policy discussion.

    I hope he’s right about that, because while I’m used to sameosamo, it really gets my goat sometimes to see people “progressives” acting like assholes.

  200. Willard says:

    > I think that they do present some important perspectives.

  201. Jim Hunt says:

    Good morning Joshua.

    Sameosamo?

  202. Andrew Dodds says:

    @JimH

    Well, if I were in command, we’d be seriously rolling out offshore wind.. which seems to have much better characteristics in terms of capacity factors, and NIMBYism.

    But even so, there is still the ‘Blocking high for 2 weeks in Nov/Dec/Jan’ scenario. However you think we can supply electricity (and even moreso heating) it has to pass that test.

  203. Sam taylor says:

    Jim,

    There’s actually not a whole lot more wind in winter than in summer, according to DECC ( https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/energy-trends-section-7-weather ) average windspeed in July is about 8 knots, and increasing to 10 in January. There’s certainly room room for some more, but balancing will become an issue relatively soon I suspect. Installed wind capacity is approaching 50% of average demand, and I think you start running into problems when you get wind producing something like 50% of total system demand. I think that’s where the Irish grid (which is something of a close analogue to our own) curtail wind, for reasons of system stability.

  204. J Bowers says:

    I went to David McKay’s own ‘UK 2050 Calculator’ and came out with a solar figure of 9 kWh per person per day for 2050, based on a projected population increase to 77 million (256 TWh/yr). This assumed all suitable roof and facade space had solar panels (9.5m2 per person). It also used 60% of hot water coming from solar panels.

    If the numbers are changed to 5.4 m2 per person solar panel coverage for electricity, the total energy supply from solar becomes 196 TWh/yr, which still gives around 6.9 kWh per person per day for a population of 77 million.

  205. J Bowers says:

    As Jonathon Porritt put it to Ed Davey and Greg Barker:

    “Even your Chief Scientific Advisor, David McKay, probably recognises by now that he got the potential for solar so badly wrong in his otherwise quite useful ‘Hot Air’ tome. He is a scientist, after all, and facts are meant to count for something.”

  206. Joshua says:

    Jim –

    Yup. That be sameosameo.

  207. Andrew Dodds says:

    J Bowers.

    Great. Fantastic. I mean, if I covered my roof edge to edge with better panels, I might get 4kWh per person per day (no hot water though) on my perfectly sited detached house, but let’s disregard this real world observation.

    Now, what happens in November, December and January? Please answer the question.

    Seriously. We cannot drift along for another decade or two pretending that the problems of intermittancy and seasonality are just going to go away. We don’t get a second chance to do this. If it’s 2030, we keep getting winter blackouts, gas prices are through the roof and we’ve lost the last expertise in nuclear power through age.. we will end up burning coal again. And liquifying the stuff for fuel. And gasifying it for heat. Because politically, access to energy is more important than a stable climate, and there is a lot of coal.

  208. BBD says:

    J Bowers

    I think you’ve conflated SPV with solar thermal. The discussion was about SPV only so this is an invalid comparison.

    Second, Porritt does not challenge anything MacKay writes or and which is under discussion here, and is therefore irrelevant.

    Third, and for at least the third time, you are *still* failing to address seasonality.

    My comments about the marginal nature of SPV at >52N stand.

  209. John Hartz says:

    Whatever sustainable energy solutions are developed and deployed in the UK, the fact that suburban sprawl may continue unabatted must be taken into account.

    Satelite survey reveals urban sprawl ate up 22,000 hectares of forest, farm and wetlands, as planning reforms ‘unlock countryside’ for further development

    How and where did UK lose city-sized area of green space in just six years? by Karl Mathiesen, The Eco audit, Guardian, July 2, 2015

    Note: This issue also applies in most countries of the world. Controlling urban growth may very well proove to be a tougher socio-economic nut to crack than the development and deployment of sustainable energy will be.

  210. anoilman says:

    Andrew Dodds: Folks:

    Natural Gas is off the menu. Its carbon footprint is greater than coal if consumed in the home, and only slightly less than coal if used in power plants.

    The old measurement of natural gas being 50% of coal’s carbon footprint assumes only power plant consumption, and only 1% fugitive emissions.

    However measurements of fugitive emissions since Ingraffea 2011 have been far far higher.
    http://www.acsf.cornell.edu/Assets/ACSF/docs/attachments/Howarth-EtAl-2011.pdf

    This is such a concern for the industry, that they are putting up a private satellite to measure it;
    http://www.ghgsat.com/ Fracking and drilling companies were the first to sign up.

  211. anoilman says:

    Most of what Pekka said is correct about nuclear, and the costs of going green. However green tech isn’t dirty if its produced using relatively clean energy.

    So… Solar panels made with Chinese Silicon in China, and shipped to, oh say, the Orkney’s (not must sun there so you need more panels) would be a truely dirty solution. But most silicon (biggest energy component for solar) is produced in cleaner economies, so I see little reason to be concerned.

    Canadian panels are produced with hydro, solar, wind, and coal… so way cleaner.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electricity_sector_in_Canada#Ontario

  212. anoilman says:

    John Hartz: I’m actually of he same mindset. Buuut… you might wanna look at what the UK is facing. Its not a green friendly place unless you can make energy from clouds and rain.

    BBD: J Bowers: Solar Insolation determines how many panels you need to generate the same annual solar output. In the UK you need 50% more panels than most of southern Canada. In layman terms, it means it costs 50% more for you to use, and needs a 50% greater land mass. Electricity which costs me $0.19 cdn per kwh with solar off grid (unsubsidized, using batteries, with 25 year warranty and amortization) will cost you $0.30 cdn per kwh.

    And… sheep fart. So, they’ll be hit with a carbon tax. Just saying.

  213. anoilman says:

    Andrew Dodds: Energy storage by any means is still a serious concern. You are still paying the grid price for the electricity to be generated. Then you are paying to store it by some means. (Life time costs for an off grid Tesla Home unit is $0.10 per kwh.) Each step of the way incurs losses as well.

    I’m still eying Ambri for storage. They are hoping to hit $0.05 US per kwh;
    http://www.ambri.com/

    Storage is such a costly concern that in the past we built more coal power plants to back up our coal power plants. (Each plant is offline 13% of the time.)

  214. John Hartz says:

    Anoilman:

    If current urbanization trends were to continue unabatted in the UK, much of the existing tillable land and rural greenspaces would be converted to urban use. Generally speaking, the inhabitants of sprawling megalopolises consume more energy than do the inhabitants of compact urban areas. Again, these observations apply to most countries of the world.

  215. John Hartz says:

    From Matiesen’s article cited above:

    Major changes to land use from development in UK (2006-2012)

    Land-use change Hectares (thousands)
    Coniferous forest lost to clear-cutting (much will be replanted) 100
    Agricultural areas to artificial surfaces 14
    Forest to artificial surfaces 7
    Coniferous forests cleared for industrial development (mostly wind farms) 3
    Wetlands to artificial surfaces 1

    SOURCE: UNIVERSITY OF LEICESTER

  216. Joshua says:

    At least Ridley is consistent:

    “Why are people so down on technological progress?”

    Why are people still beating their wives?

  217. Willard says:

  218. John Hartz says:

    ATTP: re you and/or other readers of this thread attending next week’s conference described in the below blog post excerpt?

    Humanity’s ability to curb global greenhouse emission largely depends on how future cities and towns embrace carbon mitigation, says a leading researcher ahead of 2015’s largest meeting of climate scientists.

    “Despite uncertainties on how cities will evolve in the future, we have a large window of mitigation opportunities in guiding new urbanization,” says Shobhakar Dhakal, Associate Professor at the Asian Institute of Technology and keynote speaker at the Our Common Future Under Climate Change conference taking place in Paris from 7-10 July.

    These mitigation options include avoiding unnecessary activity, over-consumption and carbon intensive infrastructure development; shifting to lower carbon modes of food, energy, transport, infrastructure, urban design; and improving technology (e.g. electric vehicles charging on renewables), low carbon fuels, and efficiency.

    The science should guide us for developing visions for the future, he says, and the alternative pathways to reach there.

    “We need science that shows us feasibility of options, clarifies costs and benefits and provides ideas on policies and actions for what works, what does not, and how to make it work.”

    “We need transformative change and the future is in our hands. It’s up to us to decide and plan what type of world and cities that we want to live in the future.”

    This is part of a blog series profiling climate scientists, economists, social scientists and civil society members who are presenting and discussing innovative climate science at Our Common Future. For more follow @ClimatParis2015 and #CFCC15 on Twitter.

  219. John Hartz says:

    The blog post excerpt I posted above is from:

    The future of cities: Q+A with Shobhakar Dhakal by Michelle Kovacevic, Our Common Future Under Climate Change, June 29, 2015

  220. John Hartz says:

    Please note:

    Dr. Shobhakar Dhakal is an Associate Professor at Energy Field of Study of the Asian Institute of Technology in Thailand. His areas of expertize are in urbanization, cities and climate change mitigation; and energy and climate change mitigation policies and modeling. He is also a visiting researcher of the National Institute for Environmental Studies Japan since 2012. Dr. Dhakal served as one of the Coordinating Lead Authors for the Fifth Assessment Report of IPCC for the Working Group on Mitigation (for the Chapter ‘Human Settlements, Infrastructure and Spatial Planning’). He also co-editor of ongoing international Assessment Report on Climate Change and Cities. He is a member of the scientific steering committee of the Global Carbon Project, which is a premier scientific program under the Future Earth.

    In the past, Dr. Dhakal was a guest research scholar of International Institute for Applied System Analysis in Austria for 2010-2013. He has served as a lead author for the Global Energy Assessment, principal scientific reviewer for UNEP’s Global Environmental Outlook-5, member of the Consensus Panel on Low Carbon Cities of the Academy of Sciences of South Africa, member of the Cities Energy Modeling Group of the International Energy Agency, an international expert to the Taskforce on Urban Development and Energy Efficiency of the China Council for International Cooperation on Environment and Development, among others.
    Dr. Dhakal is also one of the editor-in-chiefs of Carbon Management journal published by Taylor and Francis. He has over 50 publications including scientific journals, edited books, journal special issues, and others. He holds Ph.D. from The University of Tokyo.

    http://www.commonfuture-paris2015.org/Programme/Keynote-speakers.htm

  221. J Bowers says:

    @ BBD – “I think you’ve conflated SPV with solar thermal.”

    I haven’t. I’ve used both which I mention in my comment. Try David McKay’s calculator for yourself.

  222. “Natural Gas is off the menu. Its carbon footprint is greater than coal if consumed in the home, and only slightly less than coal if used in power plants.”

    wrong

  223. BBD says:

    J Bowers

    I have to admit that the Calculator is confusing me.

    Here is what it says about Level 4 SPV (my emphasis):

    Level 4 assumes that solar SPV capacity reaches 150 GW in 2030 (producing 127 TWh/y) and 165 GW by 2050 (producing 140 TWh/y). The area of panels required is about 10 m^2 per person, roughly the same as the area of all South-facing roofs of domestic homes.

    Level 4 can also be visualised in terms of land-based solar farms where the land area requires to deliver 140 TWh/y is 3,200 km^2 (assuming a power per unit land-area of 5 W/m^2). This is equivalent to 12,800 of the solar farms in Fig. 2 [shows Muhlhausen, Bavaria 25,000 m^2 array]. It is also equivalent to 1.3% of the country and similar to the land area currently occupied by all buildings.

    Where is the extra array area for solar thermal which produces an additional 116 TWh/y?

    That’s why I thought you had conflated (combined additively) SPV and solar thermal.

  224. BBD says:

    J Bowers

    The SPV / thermal puzzle aside, if we take the extremely optimistic deployment projections that result in a combined figure of 256 TWh/y and compare this to the full stack (3,888 TWh/y unless I’ve missed something) then we see that SPV + Thermal might (at the absolute edge of plausibility) represent just 6.6% of the stack. Which is marginal, by any measure.

    And then there’s winter, which I notice remains unaddressed as yet.

  225. J Bowers says:

    Steven Mosher – “wrong”

    Why?

  226. J Bowers says:

    @ BBD

    It’s better than many would have us believe….

  227. Dan Riley says:

    Seems to be a few math errors. Muhlhausen’s array size is 25 ha (not 2.5 ha) according to MacKay’s book, giving 2.8 W/m^2. 5 W/m^2 would be typical of a more southern location. I haven’t checked the calculator itself to see if the figures make sense.

  228. BBD says:

    Dan Riley

    You are right: the book quotes 25ha:

    41The Solarpark in Muhlhausen, Bavaria. On average this 25-hectare farm is
    expected to deliver 0.7 MW (17 000 kWh per day).

    But the online calculator gives an area of 25,000m^2 which is, I think, a ‘missing zero’ typo.

  229. John Hartz says:

    Speaking of solar power…

    An upstart material—perovskite—could finally make solar cells that are cheaper and more efficient than the prevailing silicon technology.

    Perovskite Solar Cells Could Beat the Efficiency of Silicon by Varun Sivaram, Samuel D. Stranks and Henry J. Snaith, Energy & Sustainability, Scientific American Volume 313, Issue 1

    Is the creation and refinement of this new material an example of Ecomodernism at work?

  230. anoilman says:

    Steven Mosher says:
    “July 2, 2015 at 6:34 pm

    “Natural Gas is off the menu. Its carbon footprint is greater than coal if consumed in the home, and only slightly less than coal if used in power plants.”

    wrong”

    Got anything to back that up? You do know that frackers are s**t scared of this, right? They are paying for a satellite to figure it out. If they aren’t bragging about how clean they are next summer, you’ll have your answer.

    All the estimates for fugitive emissions are coming in much higher than 1%. In fact the 50% CO emissions compared to coal predate fracking, and exclude home use. New EPA regulations for Green Completions call for flaring instead of just dumping some 20-30% of a well’s raw emissions into the atmosphere. They aren’t in place yet as far as I know, but that is what EDF verified with the industry in the US.

    It looks like the EPA is moving to start, you know, measuring it (something you say isn’t a concern);
    http://www.climatecentral.org/news/epa-methane-emissions-fracking-18511

    Its a concern at the highest levels of UN, and emissions regulations;
    http://www.unep.org/ccac/Initiatives/CCACOilGasInitiative/CCACOilGasMethanePartnership/tabid/794017/Default.aspx

    Its pretty obvious why no one wants to look at this. Pipes are leaky, and fixing them is ball bustingly expensive. Even your local natural gas companies have little idea over how much is really going in and out of their systems. I have seen papers quoting 2% fugitive emissions, but all your local meters are just pain out to lunch, even the expensive ones;
    http://www.lincenergysystems.com/manufacturers/honeywell-mercury-instruments

    If you use LNG you are also increasing your emissions by 8% on average. Most is consumed compressing the natural gas, as well as leaks in transport (.15% per day?).

    Why build new natural gas plants when you can just use coal? Less work cheaper, and similar emissions.

  231. Jim Hunt says:

    Willard – Mr. BTI doesn’t seem to understand me either 😦

  232. J Bowers says:

    Could be of interest:
    ATES – Aquifer Thermal Energy Storage
    Thermal Energy Storage: Technology Brief

    @ BBD – I really don’t know why there are differences between McKay’s book and calculator. It begs a couple of questions, though, as noted by Jonathan Porritt (who is also cited in the book).

  233. BBD says:

    J Bowers

    I don’t understand Porritt’s criticism of MacKay as he does not define it in any way.

    So far as I can see from this discussion, if anything, MacKay is rather generous in his estimates of total solar potential.

  234. John Hartz says:

    The following resonates with me.

    Klein also expanded on what may appear to be an unlikely alliance with the leader of the Catholic Church.

    “Given the attacks that are coming from the Republican party around this and also the fossil fuel interests in the United States, it was a particularly courageous decision to invite me here,” she said, according to the Associated Press. “I think it indicates that the Holy See is not being intimidated, and knows that when you say powerful truths, you make some powerful enemies and that’s part of what this is about.”

    “I have noticed a common theme among the critiques. Pope Francis may be right on the science, we hear, and even on the morality, but he should leave the economics and policy to the experts,” Klein said in her speech. “They are the ones who know about carbon trading and water privatization, we are told, and how effectively markets can solve any problem. I forcefully disagree.

    “The truth is that we have arrived at this dangerous place partly because many of those economic experts have failed us badly, wielding their powerful technocratic skills without wisdom,” she said. “In a world where profit is consistently put before both people and the planet, climate economics has everything to do with ethics and morality. Because if we agree that endangering life on earth is a moral crisis, then it is incumbent on us to act like it.”

    Invited by Vatican, Naomi Klein Makes Moral Case for World Beyond Fossil Fuels by Nadia Purpios, Common Dreams, July 2, 2015

    In this context, the scope of the Ecomodernism Manifesto is extremely narrow.

  235. John Hartz says:

    ATTP/Rachel: I’m having a bad hair day when it comes to keying in comments correctly. In my immediately prior post, please change the author of the Common Dreams article from “Nadia Purpios” to “Nadia Prupis.” Thanks.

  236. Dan Riley says:

    According to the studies cited in Howarth, Santoro and Ingraffea, there are existing technological measures that could reduce fugitive methane emissions enough to make conventional natural gas clearly cleaner than coal. Further reductions might be possible. Coal is very hard to improve substantially (short of carbon sequestration) as it is almost all direct CO2, due to lower efficiency and a worse hydrocarbon ratio. Before reaching for a lump of coal, I’d want to seriously study how much it would cost to improve natural gas.

    I also hear that home burning of coal is way worse than home burning of natural gas, shouldn’t both be off the table? That would greatly reduce the infrastructure remediation needed to reduce fugitive methane emissions during transport, storage and distribution, which are the biggest sources for conventional gas.

  237. anoilman says:

    Dan Riley: You can always take my pedantic statements with a grain of salt… I arguing from the perspective of addressing Global Warming.

    The time to have developed an improved technology to reduce fugitive emissions for natural gas was like 10-20 years ago. That’s why big oil is shying away from this. Big oil positively attacked Howard and Ingraffea when they first published their work, ’cause that’s cheaper. When Big oil was asked to spear head initiatives to deal with this, they wouldn’t do it.

    Right now, prices are low, wells are loosing money, and there’s no will to fix or replace the (new I might add) bad infrastructure that’s in place. From some Geophysicist friends of mine, “Natural Gas is a bad word.”

  238. Jim Hunt says:

    Andrew – My sources at DECC hint that the “flavour of the next parliament” might well be “community energy”:

    http://www.V2G.co.uk/2015/06/is-distributed-energy-storage-on-ofgems-roadmap/

    Will that solve all our problems? Meanwhile over on Twitter Mike@BTI is up to 49 already, but I’m only on Q3 😦

  239. Andrew Dodds says:

    Jim –

    So.. a 30kWh electric car battery might, optimistically, power my house for 3 days in winter. As long as it’s not used for heating, and I don’t want to preserve the range of my EV.

    Given our family status as a 2 car family, I’m seriously considering replacing the smaller one – that my wife usually drives – with an EV when it’s due. I can just imagine the telephone conversation when she wants to go somewhere but finds that it has been discharged overnight.

    V2G seems to involve an awful lot of wishful thinking.

    There are large areas of the world – rural and within the tropics – where the combination of batteries and solar panels is both highly functional and cost effective. The UK is mostly urban, a very long way from the tropics and has a very comprehensive electricity grid.

  240. Jim Hunt says:

    Andrew,

    Have you read this article of mine yet?

    http://www.V2G.co.uk/2015/06/carlos-ghosn-reveals-long-range-nissan-leaf/

    Does that ease your anxiety at all?

  241. Sam taylor says:

    I have to admit I’ve always found the whole vehicle to grid thing to be a bit barmy. So many extra layers of complexity and system cost compared to centralised generation, or indeed storage. Might work well on a few small demonstration plants, but on a nationwide grid infrastructure I’m deeply skeptical whether it would have any chance of working. I might end up being wrong, but it’s certainly something I’d bet against.

    As much as anything, EV sales are getting hammered thanks to the current oil price crash, it seems, which is going hurt people like Tesla who’re trying to get costs down by realising economies of scale.

  242. Jim Hunt says:

    Sam,

    I can assure you that here in Europe the Renault-Nissan Alliance and Endesa are far more bullish about the prospects for V2G than you are:

    http://www.V2G.co.uk/2015/03/nissan-and-endesa-pledge-to-promote-v2g-in-europe/

    Of course I’m not a betting man, but……

    http://GreatWhiteCon.info/2015/05/the-new-normal-in-the-arctic/#comment-208884

  243. Sam taylor says:

    Of course they’re bullish about it, they’ve got cars to sell!

    My main issue with the whole VTG idea is that it requires loads of electric vehicles to be just sat around the whole time on a driveway somewhere (all with their own inverters and devices to communicate with the central grid and so on), ready to turn on at a moments notice and magically balance the grid. I think this is just incredibly wasteful, as indeed is the whole one or more car per household paradigm. I think the idea of car sharing, using services like zipcar, is in general far better and makes more sense in general. Much better from an environmental footprint perspective to have many fewer cars which are in use a much higher percentage of the time, surely? Make them electric if you want, but really try to cut down the absolute number of cars. Then, if you really want to go for grid scale storage, have large centralised battery storage plants. Then your cars can be optimised to be cars, and your storage batteries can be optimised for storage. VTG to me seems like it’s trying to do too many things at once, and in doing so probably won’t be able to do any of them well.

  244. anoilman says:

    Andrew, Jim, Sam; Electric cars need to be kept warm in winter or the chemistry breaks down. They will self heat to make sure they don’t wear out. They also have a reduced range in winter. You might want to see what this really looks like locally. -40 in Toronto can be nerve wracking;
    http://cleantechnica.com/2015/07/01/long-term-electric-car-ownership-really-like/

    To my eyes, cars don’t make sense for storage. They need to get plugged in and charged at the end of day during peak consumption. Middle of the night would make more sense, but then, that’s not exactly friendly to anything but Nuclear, Natural Gas or Coal.

    If you work it out, its also a lot of panels to go all solar electric.

    However they are still ‘green’ depending on how power is generated on your grid. We use a mix of coal and natural gas where I live, so a coal powered Tesla seems a tad unwise.

  245. Jim Hunt says:

    Sam/AOM,

    However you may view the potential shortcomings of V2G, I can further assure you that the ink is currently drying on a contract for the ETI to pump a hefty chunk of cash into researching the technology here in the UK:

    http://www.eti.co.uk/events/consumers-vehicles-and-energy-integration-project-introductory-workshop-for-potential-bidders/

  246. Sam taylor says:

    And good luck to them. Personally I think it’s probably entirely the wrong strategy to be pursuing, but then perhaps there’s a reason nobody listens to me.

  247. John Hartz says:

    Sam Taylor:

    … but then perhaps there’s a reason nobody listens to me.

    Hmm. 🙂

  248. John Hartz says:

    While we wax eloquently on comment threads such as this, thanks to AGW, the Earth’s climate system is going to hell in a handbasket at an accelerating and alarming rate.

    In an editorial published today, Marcia McNutt, Editor-in-Chief Science Journals, eloquently states our predicament in a single paragraph:

    In Dante’s Inferno, he describes the nine circles of Hell, each dedicated to different sorts of sinners, with the outermost being occupied by those who didn’t know any better, and the innermost reserved for the most treacherous offenders. I wonder where in the nine circles Dante would place all of us who are borrowing against this Earth in the name of economic growth, accumulating an environmental debt by burning fossil fuels, the consequences of which will be left for our children and grandchildren to bear? Let’s act now, to save the next generations from the consequences of the beyond-two-degree inferno.

    The beyond-two-degree inferno, Editorial by Marcia McNutt, Editor-in-Chief Science Journals, July 3, 2015

  249. Jim Hunt says:

    Welcome back to the fray Anders! For some strange reason Snow White appears to have taken issue with Ecomodernism as well?

  250. anoilman says:

    I wanted to add one more bit to all this. Arguing over the best way to solve a problem is a healthy thing to be doing. Further more, as with any big range of problems there will be a big range of solutions in the end.

  251. John Hartz says:

    anoilman:

    Arguing over the best way to solve a problem is a healthy thing to be doing.

    When it comes to mitigating manmade climate change, time is not on our side. We’ve been arguing over how to do this for decades — with precious little to show for it.

    In only three years there will be enough fossil fuel-burning stuff—cars, homes, factories, power plants, etc.—built to blow through our carbon budget for a 2 degrees Celsius temperature rise. Never mind staying below a safer, saner 1.5°C of global warming. The relentless laws of physics have given us a hard, non-negotiable deadline, making G7 statements about a fossil fuel-phase out by 2100 or a weak deal at the UN climate talks in Paris irrelevant.

    A hard deadline: We must stop building new carbon infrastructure by 2018 by Stephen Leahy, The Leap, July 2, 2015

  252. Jim Hunt says:

    John – Meanwhile back on Twitter Mr. BTI seems to be recommending just the opposite?

    “A heavy-fuel-oil power plant” in Caracol!

  253. Jim Hunt says:

    A right old TwitStorm has fired off now. I’m afraid it’s all very confusing for a bear of little brain. As best as I can work it out Mark and Mike can’t their act together?

  254. J Bowers says:

    Spain helps out [nuclear] neighbour France in green power surge

    “Javier Garcîa Breva, director of the solar energy programme, said that “even five years ago no one would have believed these figures were possible. No one expected renewables to grow so fast. They have unlimited potential.”

    Spain continues to import electricity from France but only as a staging post en route to Morocco, Portugal and Andorra. “France has not increased its capacity and so its ability to export has decreased,”…”

    (Bold emphasis for the usual confusion concerning end user and port of call, which often includes France > Germany > Italy et al, although that energy trek may be diminishing, too)

    Renewables bring 43% of Spain’s power in H1 2015

    Wind farms generated 21.7%, followed by hydropower, with 13.9%. Solar photovoltaic (PV) and concentrated solar power (CSP) plants represented 3.2% and 2.1%, respectively, while renewable thermal units — 1.8% of the total.

    In June alone, renewables accounted for 35.9%. Wind power output went down 11.8% year-on-year to 2,889 GWh, with a 14.1% share of total output. Hydroelectric, PV and CSP plants produced 12%, 4.1% and 3.8%, respectively.”

    Is Spain windier than the British Isles?

  255. John Hartz says:

    Jim Hunt:

    A combination of roof-top solar and small stoarge batteries could very well become a cost-effective energy solution for Haiti.

    When Elon Musk, the chief executive of Tesla, took to the stage in California in April to launch a solar battery for the home, the audience hollered and whooped at every detail. On the other side of the Atlantic, a more modest, quieter challenger plans to take on the US electric car giant.

    Based within a railway arch, with the sound of trains running overhead from nearby London Bridge station and surrounded by other ecologically minded startups, the offices of Powervault are a far cry from Tesla’s showpiece Californian stage. The similarity lies in the product – the Powervault battery, which stores energy from domestic solar panels.

    “Some people, especially if they don’t have solar panels, just assume solar panels come with a battery,’ says Joe Warren, Powervault’s managing director. They don’t.

    Home energy generation has blossomed in the UK over the past four years, with an estimated 650,000 homes fitted with solar panels. In 2010, the government introduced the feed-in tariff scheme to pay householders who produce and supply energy. The scheme aims to push renewable energy in the UK towards 15% of total energy by 2020. In 2009, the figure stood at 2%.

    The innovators: how smaller batteries give more power to UK solar households by Shane Hickey, Guardian, July 5, 2015

  256. John Hartz says:

    J Bowers:

    Is Spain windier than the British Isles?

    That’s a loaded question. 🙂

  257. Jim Hunt says:

    John,

    Now you’re entering my area of professional expertise! My latest musings on that very subject:

    http://www.V2G.co.uk/2015/06/is-distributed-energy-storage-on-ofgems-roadmap/

    Quite possibly prompted by Elon Musk‘s recent announcement, Samsung have also launched a domestic version of their modular Energy Storage System (or ESS for short). Stefan Quandt (of BMW fame) has launched the SolarWatt MyReserve, which has already won an award at the recent ees Europe exhibition over in Germany.

    I don’t see any signs of Elon, Stefan et al. rushing into the Haitian market however?

  258. Eli Rabett says:

    Is Spain windier than the British Isles?

    Depends on proximity to Lord Monckton.

  259. Jim Hunt says:

    Meanwhile back on Twitter I’ve just gatecrashed Richard Tol’s BTI pantomime:

    Compare my first ever Storify with the Breakthru Boyz revision of history. aTTP gets a mention in mine, as do I. I wonder why we aren’t in theirs?

  260. Andrew Dodds says:

    Jim (and the other Js)

    Right. This is for Hati:

    http://www.weather-and-climate.com/average-monthly-Rainfall-Temperature-Sunshine,Port-Au-Prince,Haiti

    And for London:

    http://www.weather-and-climate.com/average-monthly-Rainfall-Temperature-Sunshine,London,United-Kingdom

    Now – and I understand that this is a very tricky question – can anyone see a difference in the ‘sunhours’ graph for the two locations? Anyone? And – for bonus points – given this, would one location be more suitable than the other for solar power?

    (I would apologize for the tone, but if people will respond to serious questions with irrelevant press releases, or a simple ‘pfft! Wikipedia’ dismissal then they deserve to be patronised.)

  261. Jim Hunt says:

    I can see a difference Andrew. I plump for the former. What’s my prize?

    Meanwhile Shellenberger evades all questions on carbon budgets, insists heavy fuel oil is more cost effective than solar in Haiti, and frames the so called “debate” as “Should Haiti’s poor be denied cheap energy to solve climate change?”

  262. J Bowers says:

    Can’t say I was responding to any specific question about solar, but London’s ‘windspeed’ graph kicks Madrid’s into touch, and Inverness wins the game.

    http://www.weather-and-climate.com/average-monthly-Rainfall-Temperature-Sunshine,Madrid,Spain
    http://www.weather-and-climate.com/average-monthly-Rainfall-Temperature-Sunshine,inverness,United-Kingdom

    Note the high UK windspeeds in winter when we’re often told low pressure systems bring the nation’s windfarms to a standstill. I’d have thought a sensible energy mix would give us the kind of results Spain saw this year so far, if not better.

  263. Jim Hunt says:

    JB – Not so handy for Haiti, but apparently floating offshore wind is looking promising:

    http://www.carbontrust.com/about-us/press/2015/06/scotland-opportunity-to-lead-floating-wind

  264. Andrew Dodds says:

    Jim – Well, the prize is to notice that in a country like Haiti, you only need energy storage to work on a 24 hour timescale (pace cloudy periods). Plus, there is little existing infrastructure. Plus it tends to get visited by earthquakes and hurricanes.

    In this case PV/Battery solutions will win hands down on a cost basis, and practical basis. On a practical basis the competition is the diesel generator, not a putative grid anyway. In a country without effective infrastructure, local repair of PV systems is a much better prospect than trying to get a grid connection back, or even acquire diesel in a crisis.

    But in a country like the UK, we need energy storage to work on a seasonal scale. It has to work alongside massive existing infrastructure and expectations (always-on, multi-kW demand spikes per house), and we are about the least disaster-prone country on the planet, so local resilience is less important. All of these factors point away from solar PV as anything more than a niche source; grid level storage on the scales needed is essentially impossible.

    J Bowers – Way to disregard the inconvenient question. I’d also point out that it’s blocking high pressure systems that are the problem, not low pressure systems, and that average wind speed is not a particularly useful measure. This is:

    http://www.gridwatch.templar.co.uk/

    Note the high pressure we had from the 8th to 16th June.

  265. Jim Hunt says:

    Hear, hear! Re your first two paragraphs at least.

    Re local resilience down here in sunny SW England, please see:

    http://www.V2G.co.uk/2014/05/the-great-dunchideock-blackout-saga/

  266. anoilman says:

    Eli Rabbet: At least Denial is renewable;

  267. BBD says:

    J Bowers

    Neither Andrew Dodds nor I are ‘anti’ renewables. We are anti misinformation about renewables, which is not, contra the idiot in Spain you quoted earlier, unlimited.

  268. anoilman says:

    There are many issues with renewables, and you have to factor that in before you can attempt to say its a viable solution.

    As I’ve pointed out, they have poor sun in the UK, and they have even less in winter. Solar would cost at least 50% more in money and land area to deploy there, than where I live;
    http://www.weather-and-climate.com/average-monthly-Rainfall-Temperature-Sunshine,calgary,Canada

    So.. about $0.30 per kwh today, unsubsidized, on battery, and dude, you’ll need a big yard for all those panels. (And by the way, if those panels are made somewhere dirty, you are in effect generating more pollution than say, coal.)

    This doesn’t mean you can’t or shouldn’t use it, but the details of how it works is still a consideration. The other half of the problem is grid costs. In places where they don’t have grids (3rd world), solar will be downright cheap. In the developed world, solar has to compete with subsidized coal burned in long paid off power plants.

    Hence… I pondered the difficulty and cost of a massive grid to distribute power from places that generate it, to places that can’t do that so well. (Like UK offshore wind, or Sahara solar.)

    Hence… I’m quite concerned about storage and its costs (currently $0.10 at best, and hoping for $0.05 per kwh lifetime costs).

    Hence… I think the world will settle of a variety of solutions based on their needs.

  269. Sam Taylor says:

    Precision is important, people. Spain did not bring in 40% of it’s power from renewables, rather it brought in 40% of its electrical power from renewables. Around 80% of it’s total consumed power will still have come from burning fossil fuels. Renewables including hydro supplied about 18% of Spains energy needs last year, per the BP statistical review. And indeed the amount of energy supplied by Spanish non-hydro renewables appears to have decreased from 2013 to 2014, which I have to admit surprises me somewhat.

  270. anoilman says:

    Sam Taylor, they are also receiving dilbit from the Tar Sands;
    http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2014/jun/06/first-tar-sands-oil-shipment-arrives-in-europe-amid-protests

    So, that’s one of the dirtiest of the dirty fuels.

  271. Sam taylor says:

    Oh, nice.

    Well, one of the upsides (I guess) of the oil price crash has been that projected output from Canada by 2020 has collapsed by 1.1mbpd ( see this report http://capp.ca/publications-and-statistics/publications/264673 ). Of course, the Canadian economy is totally screwed anyway what with the massive housing bubble and the fact that waaaaay too many people are working in construction. But that’s beside the point.

  272. Andrew Dodds says:

    aom..

    Yes, since if the UK is to absolutely abandon fossil fuels, then we need roughly 150GW of average generating capacity. It’s not like any viable source of non-carbon-based electricity is going to be squeezed out by selecting something else, we are at least an order of magnitude short in all of them.

  273. Joshua says:

    Yet more information that leads me to think that there’s more to discussion of the environment and the future than can be found discussed in the “manifesto.”

    http://www.npr.org/2015/06/25/417430662/how-a-historical-blunder-helped-create-the-water-crisis-in-the-west

    The interplay between that interview and discussion of the “Eco-modernist” arguments are quite interesting. There is much in that interview to support arguments that some of the biggest and most pressing environmentally-related risks are not directly linked to climate change, but also to support the notion that a focus on “environmentalists” as the obstacle to progress is a red herring.

  274. Jim Hunt says:

    Joshua – The “Manifesto” is somewhat short on the practicalities. For some strange reason the cat seems to have got Mike’s tongue since that was pointed out to him:

  275. Andrew Dodds says:

    Funny thing is that a water pumping operation in the desert – which presumably does not need to be 24/7 – is a really good target for a big solar project..

    But I do regard at least some of this as academic. Just look at today’s UK budget. Slightly anti-renewables, slightly anti-fuel efficiency, very pro-status-quo.

  276. BBD says:

    @ Andrew Dodds

    Yes, it’s like physics never happened.

  277. John Hartz says:

    I find it strange that people witha BAU fossil fuel agenda would deliberately choose to describe their document as a “Manisfesto.” I’ve always associated the word “manifesto” with Communism. Perhaps its because I’m older than many of you and rembeer the end of the McCarthy era.

  278. Joshua says:

    Geebus –

    Two successive tweets (not a Twitterer- so I don’t know how to post actual tweets):

    “My neighbors in Berkeley successfully grow a heirloom tomato & think they are French peasant farmers…. “

    and

    … my neighborhood is thick w/solar panels & Teslas. They think they’re making their own power.

    The condescension and contempt and air of superiority just drips from Mike’s rhetoric. Really difficult for me to reconcile that rhetoric with his calls for engagement. Caricature, guilt-by-association, straw men, etc. are not good foundations for dialogue.

    I am actually kind of surprised that as an organization, the BTI wants this man as a mouthpiece; unless, their strategy is explicitly to leverage enmity and hippie-bashing for the purpose of gaining entry by employing an “enemy of my enemy is my friend” strategy.

  279. Joshua says:

    JH –

    ==> “I find it strange that people witha BAU fossil fuel agenda …”

    I think that’s a bit of a stretch.

    ==> “… would deliberately choose to describe their document as a “Manisfesto.”

    I think it relates to an entrenched sense of embattlement. They seem to think that identity politics are inextricable from their ideology. As such, one needs a “manifesto” to get their ideas across. Simply making arguments aren’t enough. The public declaration of their perspective needs more gravitas. It needs to be branded, politically, as a “platform” or “mission statement.”

    Don’t know if you saw this when I linked it previously:

    http://www.newyorker.com/tech/elements/is-the-ecomodernist-manifesto-the-future-of-environmentalism

    “The manifesto, as a form, has been diluted in recent years, used to advertise burritos from Chipotle and leggings from Lululemon. But it is, by tradition, an expression of frustration. “It’s a declaration, a polemic,” Janet Lyon, an English professor at Pennsylvania State University and the author of a book on the history of manifestos, told me. “It signals the end of a conversation, not the beginning of one.” “

  280. John Hartz says:

    Joshua,

    Thanks for reposting your prior comment re the word “manifesto.” Enlightening.

  281. Jim Hunt says:

    John/Joshua,

    My second ever Storify! The torrid tale of how Michael Shellenberger blocks those who try to engage with him on substance by quoting the Breakthru Boyz “Manifesto”:

    https://storify.com/jim_hunt/happily-engaging-with-ecomodernists-on-solar-pv-in

  282. Joshua,

    The condescension and contempt and air of superiority just drips from Mike’s rhetoric.

    I did point that out, and was accussed of trolling.

  283. Jim Hunt says:

    And there I was thinking it was only me 🙂 Haven’t you been blocked by the great man yet?

  284. Jim,
    I haven’t checked 🙂

  285. Eli Rabett says:

    Andrew:

    Funny thing is that a water pumping operation in the desert – which presumably does not need to be 24/7 – is a really good target for a big solar project..

    Made for the Qattara depression. Interesting idea.

  286. John Hartz says:

    ATTP:

    I did point that out, and was accussed of trolling.

    Will you ever learn how to be civil? 🙂

  287. Jim Hunt says:

    Anders – You will no doubt be overjoyed to learn that your fame is spreading. Despite the confusing URL, I’ve just discovered that Mike has Storified you too!

    https://storify.com/MichaelBTI/concern-trolling-by-thingsbreak

  288. Joshua says:

    Anders –

    I saw that you asked him why he lives in his neighborhood, but not that you’d been accused of trolling.

    Accusations of trolling are one of the examples of how blog (and I guess twitter) exchanges function as ink blot tests. “Troll” means “someone who disagrees with me.”

    I get that living in Berkeley, it probably isn’t too hard to get cynical about the political correctness of the environmental gestalt…but that doesn’t, IMO, explain why BTI would allow Mike’s contempt and condescension to become the public face of BTI public interaction.

    Looks to me like another example of the strategy of: (1) poison the well and then, (2) complain that the well is being poisoned.

  289. Joshua says:

    Well, just followed the exchange of tweets, and indeed, it’s the ol’ poison the well and then complain that the well has been poisoned trick (with some “I’m going to take my ball and go home thrown in at the end.”)

    I wouldn’t have thought it possible, but my impression is that Twitter exchanges tend to be even more of a black hole of worthlessness than blog exchanges.

  290. Joshua,
    I think I make the mistake of thinking that if I imply that someone is being somewhat condescending/arrogant that they might go “oh, okay, that was maybe a bit unfair”. I keep forgetting that the norm is to double down and make some kind of accusation against the person making the implication. To be fair, I imagine it can be quite irritating, but I guess it does highlight that the President of the BTI is really no different to a typical online commenter. Good to have that clarified at least.

  291. Joshua,

    I wouldn’t have thought it possible, but my impression is that Twitter exchanges tend to be even more of a black hole of worthlessness than blog exchanges.

    It’s a close call, but I think you may be right.

  292. Joshua says:

    I like to pretend that because I know it’s naive to expect anything other than sameosamo, I don’t get pissed off sometimes. But it doesn’t work.

    For example, this pisses me off:

    From Paul Robbins:

    I strongly agree that a friendly critique of our own precious communities is totally appropriate.

    What? Saying that his neighbors think they’re French peasant farmers is a “critique?” Saying that they think they make their own power is a “critique?”

    No it isn’t. Those aren’t serious comments, that are worthy of the label of “critique.” They’are over the top, polemical, caricatures that poison the fucking well. “Critique?” Seriously? Critique?

    Skip to 38 seconds in… Substitute “critique” for “practice.”

    We’re talking about “critique,” man.

    (Best sports interview ever, BTW).

    (You can tell I’m pissed when I start cursing).

  293. Willard says:

    Twas in response to this:

    The Zen-inspired tweet:

    Storify this!

  294. Joshua,
    I thought Paul Robbins might have been mocking Shellenberger, but I couldn’t quite tell.

  295. John Hartz says:

    I suspect that all of the discussions and dissections about whats going down on Twitter and the comment threads of other websites is only of interest to a subset of your readers. It’s akin to “inside baseball” as we say in the U.S. I look forward to your posting of a new OP.

  296. I’m seems that I’m part of the “blocked by MichaelBTI club” too now. Not complaining mind you.

  297. Willard says:

    Thanks, Jim. I think the “less manifest fallacies, please” did me in:

    OTOH, MikeS abuses a bit too much of “but substance”.

  298. Joshua says:

    ==> “I thought Paul Robbins might have been mocking Shellenberger, but I couldn’t quite tell.”

    Interesting. I guess he was critical of the “manfiesto,” so that might make sense.

  299. John Hartz says:

    Breaking news directly related to the OP and some of the ensuing discussion…

    China plans to build a safe and environmentally friendly smart-grid system by 2020 as it promotes the spread of clean energy.

    The nation will build long-distance transmission networks and active power distribution networks to fully use hydro power, wind and solar, according to a statement from the National Development and Reform Commission.

    Grid constraints threaten to temper China’s rush to develop renewable energy supplies. Already, some of the nation’s wind capacity has been idled because of issues with the grid. There’s also the matter of being able to get power from where it’s produced to where it’s needed most.

    China eyes safe smart-grid system by 2020 to push clean energy, Bloomberg/Japan Times, July 7, 2014

  300. Willard,

    MikeS abuses a bit too much of “but substance”.

    I’m not quite sure what you mean. Are you referring to the tendency to use data/evidence that supports a view to argue that that view is therefore completely justified, rather than simply justified in certain circumstances. For example, “water quality has improved through the use of technology, therefore technology is the only way to improve water quality”?

  301. Jim Hunt says:

    Anders – Mike@BTI is fond of ignoring/muting/blocking those who ask him difficult questions whilst airily asking “where’s the substance”?

  302. Willard says:

    Like Jim said, AT. His definition of a troll rests on “substance”. Coming from a guy who touts modernism, relying on a substantialist wording is a bit funny. My only interaction with MikeS was to criticize this:

    This is wrong on so many grounds it is not even funny.

  303. John Hartz says:

    More breaking news directly related to the OP and some of the ensuing discussion…

    Dealing with climate change and its risks will require not only technical responses like drought-resilient crops and higher sea walls but also reshaping economic and political incentives that are driving global warming, scientists said on Wednesday.

    “The biggest risk of all that we face is that we’re addressing the wrong problem,” University of Oslo sociologist Karen O’Brien told a week-long conference of climate researchers in Paris.

    Using more renewable energy and setting up crop insurance schemes and early warning systems is important, she said. But climate change “is more than a technical challenge”.

    Finding genuine solutions will have to involve “looking at who has power and how that might need to change”, she said.

    http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/07/08/climatechange-science-technology-idUSL8N0ZO3TU20150708>Technical solutions alone can’t fix climate change – scientists by Laurie Goering, Thomson Reuters Foundation, July 8, 2015

  304. Jim Hunt says:

    Here’s another issue with Ecomodernism:

    The first of many!

  305. anoilman says:

    What exactly is an Ecomodernist replacement to dead species I wonder?
    http://news.sciencemag.org/biology/2015/07/bumblebees-being-crushed-climate-change

  306. John Hartz says:

    anoilman:

    What exactly is an Ecomodernist replacement to dead species I wonder?

    Stuff like this…

    Jumping, Froglike Robot Takes a Big Leap Forward by Renee Morad, Discover News, July 9, 2015,

    Unbridled technology can do wonderous things!

  307. bill shockley says:

    Paul Price says:
    *Smart engineers plan to avoid such eventualities but policy-wonks are often very good at walking blindly onward to failures, because in their view ‘evidence’ (= reality) is just one of many competing inputs to decision-making. These darn scientists should stop being so uppity with all their evidence (they say; see Oliver Geden for example).*

    This is so good! Seems to capture exactly the debate between (otherwise, very wise) policy wonk Joe Romm, and scientist/climate-engineer James Hansen over fee/dividend vs cap/trade. Cap & Trade has proven itself ineffectual in the field (evidence), and James Hansen points this out and can tell you why.

    A few links:
    http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2013/03/21/1687651/theda-skocpol-doubles-down-with-self-contradictory-blame-the-victim-misanalysis-of-cap-and-trade-failure/
    http://grist.org/climate-energy/what-theda-skocpol-gets-right-about-the-cap-and-trade-fight/
    http://thinkprogress.org/romm/2009/07/09/204353/nasas-james-hansen-pushes-false-misleading-and-pointless-attack-on-u-s-climate-action/
    http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/07/opinion/07krugman.html?_r=0
    https://www.masterresource.org/hansen-james/the-people-vs-cap-and-tax-james-hansen-and-the-lefts-civil-war-on-climate-policy-even-the-new-york-times-could-not-stomach-his-sack-goldman-sachs/ (see Hansen’s post at the bottom)

    Hansen’s masterful contra-IPCC paper, “Assessing Dangerous Climate Change”, does in 20 pages what the IPCC doesn’t in thousands. Besides outlining the state of the art in climate science (“2C is a prescription for disaster”), it explains what needs to be done and how to do it. Through improved methods of forest and soil management, a hundred gigatons of carbon can be removed from the atmosphere (he has revised this number upwards recently: youtube: “James Hansen Talks To MIT Nuclear Engineering Department” 36:10), an enormous advantage–and requirement–for stabilizing CO2 at a safe level this century.

    Where a carbon tax has been tried, results have been immediate (see British Colombia for example). Why should we wait 15 years for narrow government policies to bring us to declining CO2 levels (China) when we can do it starting now?

    I don’t understand why this important and unique work of Hansen’s is largely overlooked in the climate blogosphere.

    Hansen transcribed from the above video:
    *And we now have more than 3000 Argo floats distributed around the world’s oceans which dive down to a depth of 2 kilometers and come back to the surface and radio their measurements to a satellite, and actually, new argo floats are being developed that will go all the way down to 4 km and also go under the sea ice. But what the measurements tell us is that the planet is out of balance by about 6 tenths of a watt/m2. Which means,other things being equal, if you want to remove that imbalance—and it’s quite a lot of energy actually—but to remove that imbalance you have to reduce CO2 from 400ppm to 350ppm. And if we don’t do that we’re going to have to figure out some geo-engineering, which is not… there are other reasons like ocean acidification—you really want to limit the amount of CO2 you put in the atmosphere. We pointed out in this paper that to do that, if we make an assumption that if we improve our agricultural and forestry practices enough to restore some of the carbon in the forests and in the soil by as much as a hundred gigatons of carbon—which we thought was an ambitious target—then you would need to reduce CO2 emissions 6% per year if you want to stabilize the planet’s energy balance this century. And that seems a little difficult, practically speaking. But one positive thing is that… the system is taking up approximately half of our CO2 emissions, so we’re burning enough fossil fuels to increase CO2 by about 5ppm—almost 5ppm per year— but it’s only going up 2 point some ppm per year. The other half is going into the ocean and into the soil or biosphere. And, in fact, that number is not understood very well. Because the models had said, 25 years ago, that it was 40 per cent disappearing, and they said, well these sinks are filling up and so it’s acutally going to decrease to 30% or 20%. Well, it hasn’t decreased—instead it’s increased to 50%, even though the emissions have gone up, so the size of the sink has really increased, a lot, for reasons that aren’t fully understood. So I think the potential for getting more stored in the soil and the biosphere is maybe more than a hundred gigatons, so we wouldn’t have to reduce as fast as 6% per year, but we need to understand that better.*

  308. Jim Hunt says:

    Kevin Anderson on “carbon pricing” earlier today:

    I couldn’t resist butting in!

    Re the “The other half”, anyone for Terra Preta (AKA Biochar)?

    http://forum.arctic-sea-ice.net/index.php/topic,273

  309. bill shockley says:

    Jim, thanks for the links! I’m a big fan of KA. Seems odd to me that he seems unaware of the “revenue neutral” flavor of carbon fee/dividend—Hansen insists that carbon tax revenues must be returned 100% to the public on a per capita basis. One of KA’s objections:

    “Moreover the equity implications, even within the UK and similarly wealthy Annex 1 nations, would be devastating; but nonetheless would pale into insignificance compared with the impacts on the many millions of deeply poor, disenfranchised and powerless people around the world.”

    Far from fee/dividend adding stress to the poor, it would be a socialistic redistribution of wealth. Most of the money raised through the tax would be liberated into the economy, promoting efficiency and decarbonisation in many ways that modeled regulation could not foresee. In BC where much of the tax revenue is redistributed, the results are quite good (nearly 5% reduction in carbon emissions per year through the first 3 years, despite a very modest tax level) and the tax is very popular!!


    (from this article in The Guardian: http://www.theguardian.com/environment/climate-consensus-97-per-cent/2013/jul/30/climate-change-british-columbia-carbon-tax )

    Sounds to me like KA is also unaware of what is possible through soil and forest management, considering he thinks we need 10% per year reduction in emissions vs Hansen’s <6%, not to mention Hansen's more aggressive target of +1C. KA should contact JH.

  310. John Hartz says:

    Directly related to the OP, the headline of this article says it all…

    We are deluding ourselves: The apocalypse is coming — and technology can’t save us by Tim Donovan, Salon, Dec 9, 2013

    The lede for this article:

    Long-term human survival is at risk, and some are convinced technology will somehow save us. Here’s the hard truth

  311. Pingback: Some more thoughts on Ecomodernism | …and Then There's Physics

  312. Monbiot seems to agree with you.

    Well, that’s that then 🙂

    Actually, I think I noticed the post I highlighted because George Monbiot mentioned it on Twitter.

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