It’s okay to lie?

The House of Commons Science and Technology committee have just concluded an inquiry into science communication. One of those who presented evidence was David Whitehouse of the Global Warming Policy Foundation.

David Whitehouse’s evidence focussed mainly on science journalism, and some of what he presented was quite reasonable. It would be nice if science journalism didn’t so often involve simply copying university press releases (not all do, but it does seem quite common). Would be good if science journalists did a bit more actual investigation (although some are very good). However, the most amazing part of his evidence was his final point:

Some argue that free speech does not extend to misleading the public by making factually inaccurate statements. But it does. ………….. the freedom of speech principle does not mean that you have to be factually accurate. …… If someone says something others deem inaccurate then demand a say, not their silence. Whatever one’s stance one should criticise, highlight errors, make a counterbalancing case if it will stand up, but don’t censor, even by elimination. …..

Technically, I think he’s correct; with some exceptions, people are allowed to say things that are not true. What, of course, the above ignores is that this has little to do with freedom of speech. Our right to say certain things, does not mean that doing so is somehow acceptable. There are societal norms, which means that even if we are legally allowed to say and do things, we often choose not to. For example, we don’t typically go around saying nasty things about other people, even if they’re true. Similarly, we expect an organisation that claims to be providing information to the public, and to policy makers, to be presenting information that they at least regard as being true (i.e., they’re not being intentionally dishonest). In some cases, the latter can be required in order to maintain a certain status.

So, yes, freedom of speech may allow for people, and organisations, to mislead the public, but as a society we mostly expect that people, and organisations, do not intentionally do so. What’s maybe more interesting about the above quote is the implication that even if some are intentionally misleading the public, those who respond should aim to do so in a reasonable/responsible manner. It’s essentially suggesting that even if they behave in some socially unacceptable manner, that the response should still be socially responsible.

This is the fundamental issue, though; if you feel free to violate societal norms, then you should expect others to do the same. You can’t give yourself the freedom to do so, while expecting others to not do so (okay, you can – of course – argue for this, but it would be silly to expect it). However, this kind of thing seems rather common. Many of the complaints about the public climate science debate appear to be more about discouraging criticism than about any real desire to improve the dialogue.

Similarly here, we have an argument that people should respond responsibly in cases where another party may be intentionally misleading the public and policy makers. Well, there may be cases where a reasoned response would be the optimal way to respond. There will be others, however, where calling them liars (or whatever other descriptor may seem most suitable) may be both justified and optimal. If it’s clear that the other parties are behaving dishonestly, and are not actually even trying to present credible information, then responding as if they are may simply make their obviously disingenuous arguments seem far more credible than they actually are. The problem, of course, is that sinking to their level then makes one no better than they are, so it is a very fine balancing act.

Links:
DeSmogUK’s article.
Article in the Independent.

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199 Responses to It’s okay to lie?

  1. Magma says:

    “the freedom of speech principle does not mean that you have to be factually accurate” — David Whitehouse

    Except scientists set the bar a little higher than that when it comes to their work. Climate change deniers seem to be flailing more desperately with every passing year.

  2. Thanks for writing most of my planned (and now cancelled 🙂 ) blog post for me. I would have added two things.

    1. Even if the freedom of speech includes the right to lie, this does not include a right of political activists for their lies to be printed in the media. David Whitehouse seems not to make this distinction. While I defend his right to deceive the population, I would not pay for a newspaper that would be willing to print his deceptive bullshit.

    It is amazing how open Whitehouse is about defending his right to deceive the public given the history of his Global Warming Policy Foundation. It would have been smarter to ask someone defending civil liberties in general to write such a testimony rather than defending a right he himself desperately needs so much.

    2. Whitehouse also rants about the use of embargoes for newly published papers. Without it journalists would have to scramble to get an article written immediately after publication of the paper. In the process they would get a lot wrong and would be forced to spend less time on asking other experts in the field for their opinion and provide less perspective. In other words, the quality of the reporting on new findings would go down. I understand that a member of an anti-science political pressure group likes such errors as they can be used to claim that science has problem, but as a member of the public and as a scientist I prefer my science reporting to be accurate.

  3. Victor,

    Thanks for writing most of my planned (and now cancelled 🙂 ) blog post for me. I would have added two things.

    Sorry 🙂

    Yes, I agree that people cannot expect what they say to appear in the media. Sadly, it still seems pretty easy to get things are questionable into the media. I hadn’t thought much about the embargo issue, but I agree that you do need to give journalists some time to at least try and collect additional information about a new paper.

  4. An area where I repeatedly bumped into this problem, as a statistician, is the tendency for companies to exaggerate the worth of a result or the benefit of a product, even after they’ve been told they have no evidence to substantiate the claim. I’ve heard this rationalized in dozens of ways, from “being mere puffery,” to accusations that my “standards are too high,” to “our competitors do it” (how would they know?), to “that’s not how business works.” Once in a long while, the fabrication is so severe, such as falsification of an acceptance test for a system that is supposed to protect human lives, it demands a firm response.

    But I often wonder if, in this culture where business is increasingly worshiped as as idol, whether or not acceptable practice there does not bleed into popular behavior. I mean, you do see it in sports, too, notably in football (soccer, to the Americans, even if I am one), where drama is used to increase probability of a favorable call. Why not in politics? Why not in governance? It certainly is done in courtrooms, where rhetoric is king.

    But someplace along the line, there are business projects and products which simply won’t work if evidence is ignored, and these businesses know that. There are deliberate choices made that if the evidence and science advances their financial prospects, then it it important. And if it doesn’t, not so much.

    The question is, Does relativism have limits? Obviously, people can go on and on about this, and have.

    However, James has, in my opinion, a nice approach:

    The pragmatic theory of truth is the subject of the book’s sixth (and to some degree its second) chapter. Truth, James holds, is “a species of the good,” like health. Truths are goods because we can “ride” on them into the future without being unpleasantly surprised. They “lead us into useful verbal and conceptual quarters as well as directly up to useful sensible termini. They lead to consistency, stability and flowing human intercourse. They lead away from excentricity and isolation, from foiled and barren thinking” (103). Although James holds that truths are “made” (104) in the course of human experience, and that for the most part they live “on a credit system” in that they are not currently being verified, he also holds the empiricistic view that “beliefs verified concretely by somebody are the posts of the whole superstructure” (P, 100) (emphasis added)

  5. Ken Fabian says:

    There remain all those annoying professional codes of conduct. Whilst there are examples of scientists who show casual disregard for such codes, they appear to be the exception. From where I sit scientist look the best of our professions for holding honesty and accuracy as fundamental guiding principles.

    I’m told journalists and news editors have such codes too – but they look more like vague statements of principle, for show, as a kind of PR exercise for raising the perceived status of the work they do, and look aspirational; if they actually have them (I remain sceptical, in the believe it when I see it sense) then they must not be considered binding so far as I can tell.

    Then there are think tanks, which can put loyalty to ideology or donor/subscribers above accuracy and truthfulness and routinely mislead and misinform in their role of “impartial” (ie amoral) advocates. As with PR and advertising.

    Politicians around here seem similar, and appear to operate within a de-facto bubble of immunity, with no binding rules or even conventions about truthfulness, often in tandem with compliant media editorial support.

    For those in positions of trust and responsibility and their obligations – if enough prominent people simply ignore those and the media go along with it, being dishonest acquires a degree of acceptability, even respectability, it could otherwise not have. It becomes the winner who gets voted into the highest offices.

  6. This seems simple.
    Freedom of speech is the freedom to say, publicly, what you believe to be true.
    In no circumstances is freedom of speech the freedom to deliberately deceive others; for that is fraud.

    I got the impression the HoC S&T committee endorsed that viewpoint

  7. Magma says:

    @ Ken Fabian

    I know a number of journalists. A general — or at least a widespread — attitude seems to be to treat such standards with worldly cynicism, passing in some cases into contempt. Many journalists seem to consider them unrealistic or naive. The best in the profession do not, but they are a small and somewhat beleaguered minority, who often fall outside the ranks of the well-paid and well-known ranks of ‘name’ journalists doing little more than recycling lazy platitudes or acting as stenographers to the powerful.

  8. Joshua says:

    Anders –

    =={ There will be others, however, where calling them liars (or whatever other descriptor may seem most suitable) may be both justified and optimal. .} ==

    First, I think it is important to distinguish between justified and optimal.

    Considering that both criteria are subjective… I am curious in particular of a scenario where you think calling someone a liar would be optimal. What is the standard you might use for measuring the value of calling someone a liar?

  9. George Montgomery says:

    “.. the freedom of speech principle does not mean that you have to be factually accurate. …”
    Daniel Patrick Moynihan — ‘You are entitled to your opinion. But you are not entitled to your own facts.’ The Baltimore Sun (Sat April 1) — Individuals “need to start asking questions about whether what they’re reading and watching is substantiated or if it just repeats what they want to hear. The Internet can make the fake look credible, but it also gives anyone the power to check the facts.”

  10. Joshua,
    I’m not really sure. What I was really meaning was maybe there are times to be direct. Doesn’t necessarily mean actually calling someone a liar, but might mean being very clear that what they’ve said is very simply not true.

  11. johnrussell40 says: “In no circumstances is freedom of speech the freedom to deliberately deceive others; for that is fraud.

    We should use the coercive power of the state when you answer the question “how do you do” with “good”? Or when you keep the peace by saying: “honny, you look fabulous in that dress”? Everyone lies multiple times a day, without it social life would be hard.

    I would argue that David Whitehouse has the right to do what he does as a person. We could have a discussion whether corporations should have that right and whether dark-money think tanks like the GW Policy Foundation/Forum should have that right.

    Even if for corrupt activist judges in the USA corporations are humans, I do not think they are.

    We may want to grant a clothing corporation the right to say their ugly dresses are beautiful, but we can limit their political speech rights and certainly do not have to give them deceptive speech rights on political and business matters.

  12. Joshua says:

    Anders –

    Thanks for the clarification.

    Related:

    http://rankexploits.com/musings/2017/the-dummy-dishonest-and-intolerant-left/#comment-160681

    FYI, I found that thread to be pretty entertaining, in a sameosameo sort of way.

  13. Leto says:

    We are responsible for the consequences of our lies. If we spread malicious lies that damage reputations, we are guilty of defamation. If we spread lies that make us a profit, we are guilty of fraud or “theft through deception”. If we tell a lie that predictably leads to loss of life, we are guilty of manslaughter. If we tell lies that threaten the well-being of the whole planet and risk millions of lives, we are Republicans.

  14. Joshua: “I am curious in particular of a scenario where you think calling someone a liar would be optimal. What is the standard you might use for measuring the value of calling someone a liar?

    Part of what got the USA into this mess is a media system that tries to be neutral: X said, Y said, I am not willing to tell the difference and help the listener/reader understand what is going on. I prefer media to be objective.

    When David Whitehouse wants to execute his right to deceive the public and the reply is a polite response, this gives the fake impression of a serious scientific debate to most of the audience that is not able to tell the difference or is not willing to invest the resources to determine who is right.

    If you want to get the USA out of the mess they are in, you have to be willing to honestly say how the people are being deceived and why. The members of the elite may clutch their pearls when the plebs are honest about them, their deceptions and corrupt policies, but we cannot afford pretending they are just making a serious contribution to the public debate. If you were raised not to be impolite to them, just say “alternative facts” rather than “lies.”

  15. Victor; I agree with your point. Clearly telling someone they look good, when in reality you can see flaws, is for their benefit—even if there’s also a knock on benefit for you. But when you deceive others for your benefit alone, and at their expense, then you’ve crossed a line.

    As well as freedom of speech there’s also a freedom to not be harmed by what someone else says.

  16. “As well as freedom of speech there’s also a freedom to not be harmed by what someone else says.”

    Well, if a statement is provably false and is non-compliant with a contract, then it is breach, whether or not the statement was said “in freedom” or not.

  17. Indeed, the biggest problem with overbroad tolerance of non-true assertions is that then it is impossible to prove compliance or non-compliance with contracts, whether written or verbal, and, so, it makes contracts pointless and the entire structure which depends upon them topples. I daresay that is civilization itself.

  18. David B. Benson says:

    Note that a
    https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/lie#lie_Noun_200
    is an intensionally false statement. So to say “he lies” one would necessarily know that person’s intent. Philosophers generally hold that knowing the mental state of another is impossible. Better to express “that statement is false”, which leaves out the claim one knows the mental state of another mind.

  19. I’m with Leto:
    April 1, 2017 at 11:07 pm
    We are responsible for the consequences of our lies. If we spread malicious lies that damage reputations, we are guilty of defamation. If we spread lies that make us a profit, we are guilty of fraud or “theft through deception”. If we tell a lie that predictably leads to loss of life, we are guilty of manslaughter. If we tell lies that threaten the well-being of the whole planet and risk millions of lives, we are Republicans.
    ____________________________
    I find it interesting no one has brought up that these lies are driven millions of dollars worth of right wing strategic, well researched misinformation. The entire growth of the Murdoch empire and the Koch’s are but the most visible example. Now what?

    Where do we go when geophysical lies (delusion – disconnect) about our planet go into the upper reaches of government and business and power what hope is there?
    It’s all quite well documented.
    http://www.merchantsofdoubt.org
    http://www.waronscience.com/home.php

    ________________________________________
    It’s not a pastoral world of rationalist interested in constructive outcomes. It’s all about ruthless power politics with individuals who really couldn’t care less about anything but their own immediate self interest. and so on and so forth. . .

    Enlightened self interest – Now that was a good idea, while it lasted.

  20. Nick Stokes says:

    “It’s okay to lie?”
    On April 1 🙂

  21. angech says:

    Leto says:
    ” If we tell lies that threaten the well-being of the whole planet and risk millions of lives, we are Republicans.”
    citizenschallenge says:
    “I’m with Leto: We are responsible for the consequences of our lies. If we spread malicious lies that damage reputations, we are guilty of defamation.”
    Not all Republicans tell lies and not all lies are told by Republicans.

  22. Jim Hunt says:

    What Victor said, except that I will ultimately get around to penning a blog post on the topic.

    In the mean time I’ll carefully follow Willard’s explicit instructions and merely mention that coincident with Mike Mann’s “climate science denier!” assault on ex. Prof Judy in Washington recently I “persuaded” the Fail on Sunday to correct their previous correction to one of David Rose’s recent fantasy fiction pieces:

    Stale News? Mail on Sunday Corrects Yet Another David Rose “Porky Pie”

    Which version do you like best Lamar? 1, 2 or 3?

    Answers on a postcard please, to the usual address

  23. Susan Anderson says:

    I too am with Leto, and thanks to Hypergeometric for the William James: “Truths are goods because we can “ride” on them into the future without being unpleasantly surprised. They “lead us into useful verbal and conceptual quarters as well as directly up to useful sensible termini. They lead to consistency, stability and flowing human intercourse.””

    Slightly tangential, we beleaguered rationalists in the US of A are troubled with what I refuse to call facts, even coupled with “alternative”. The alternative to a fact is a fiction or a lie, and indicating that there is such a thing is one more case of “normalizing” the unacceptable.

    The source of some of the more bizarre assertions (Hillary murdered 30 people, that kind of thing) comes especially from a segment of the population that was described in my New Yorker about some clever hackers undermining a protest. It describes the extreme nature of the opponents of reason, courtesy and tolerance and may come as a shock to some of you, since you are polite and civilized.

    The project caught the attention of the hordes on 4chan, an online message board where people post anonymously. One of the most notorious parts of 4chan is called /pol/, which stands for “politically incorrect,” and where the ideologies range from anarchism to fascism and ironic anarcho-fascism. It was the denizens of /pol/ who, last year, turned Pepe the Frog, once a benign cartoon, into a neo-Nazi icon. Many frequent posters there could be called trolls—young, understimulated men whose main goal is to be the chaos they wish to see in the world.

    Within hours, 4chan trolls had decided to protest the protest. Or, as one poster put it, “Shia Leboof and a bunch of libtards making an ass of themselves for 4 years live because Trump won. /pol/ fucks with them.” At MOMI, a few trolls infiltrated the crowd, shouting about conspiracy theories and white supremacy.

    This is a mite off topic, so I’ve cut off the bit where they describe the clever hackers using astronomy and such to locate each new location and deface it. Understimulated indeed …

  24. Chris says:

    “Even if the freedom of speech includes the right to lie, this does not include a right of political activists for their lies to be printed in the media. David Whitehouse seems not to make this distinction. While I defend his right to deceive the population, I would not pay for a newspaper that would be willing to print his deceptive bullshit.”

    Unfortunately, Victor, as you know the “lies” and misrepresentations of political activists are printed in the media and very many people are happy to pay for newspapers that print this stuff.

    David Whitehouse could hardly say otherwise (i.e. that he thinks it’s OK to tell lies – it’s actually rather useful to know that he admits this openly BTW), and the fact that we’ve reached a situation where lies and misrepresentation are acceptable is down to us (we the electorate) who have allowed this to arise (or have been suckered into accommodating this state of affairs).

    What’s the answer? In relation to science, we have the advantage of reality on our side and so misrepresentation can only go so far until it becomes obvious that we’re being lied to– unfortunately this is really difficult in the case of global warming and so shifting public opinion towards engaging with honest representations and expressing disdain for misrepresentation isn’t happening at a wide enough level yet.

    This does happen though and no doubt will in the case of global warming (though most likely after quite a bit of damage and misery has accrued or been locked in) – an example is the MMR vaccine scare where it was acceptable for many years for some journalists in some newspapers to misrepresent the science long after the time when the scientific issues were pretty clear. There was still a market in public opinion for this misrepresentation. This changed though so that by 2013 public opinion in the UK had shifted away from accepting misrepresentation : e.g. as Roy Greenslade writes in a Guardian article from 2013:

    ”Two weeks ago, the Independent ran a front-page story headlined: “MMR scare doctor: this outbreak proves I was right”. In response to a storm of protest, its editor, Chris Blackhurst, said the paper should have made clear its contempt for Wakefield. It showed that the public had, at last, turned against the doctor – and the media that give him disproportionate coverage.”

    https://www.theguardian.com/society/2013/apr/25/mmr-scare-analysis

  25. Phil says:

    So how are we to assess David Whitehouse’s articles for the GWPF, and comments he has provided to the Daily Mail, if he is of this opinion ?

  26. angech says:

    There is no true freedom of speech and despite Voltaire only a grudging acceptance of the concept of some limited debate. This has always been the way through most societies. What we have here is the current status quo, well 97% of it being challenged as to the correctness of its orthodoxy, Defenders fall into two types, the in your face tell it as it is people who know the truth and a few thinkers who consider the truth.
    It’s okay to lie?
    This can be broken down Skeptical science style.and discussed.
    Basic level. Yes if it does good and No it is never right.
    Intermediate level you can have a more nuanced approach, yes, shades of grey and no.
    Expert level the big guns come out. What is the truth. Most of us know when we tell an obvious lie, the punishment comes in the end from our own conscious. We all have a world view built up as we go. We all transgress. Everyone here knows where their boundaries are and for most of us that means we are telling the truth as best we can.
    We just all do not share the same world view.
    Hence one person’s truth can sometimes be another person’s lie.
    As long as we can get up and blog feeling we are truthful that is all anyone can ask.

  27. Jim Hunt says:

    Phil – A priori and based on past experience? He’s telling “porky pies”!

  28. Leto says:

    Angech… agreed. I have simplified somewhat. That tiny minority of Rebuplicans who still hold to objective reality should be applauded, encouraged, and may yet play a major role in turning this ship around.

  29. Greg Robie says:

    English does not have a robust lexicon in the matter of communicating truth … or what science [& religion] is the pursuit of. While reading this post it was the absence of the past practice of duals that kept coming to mind. The loss of the practice among the social elite has been part of what, over time, has changed both the elite and the character of the elite. Socially we are upwards of 10 generations removed from its common practice, and 6 to 8 from its practice. To the degree it was dueling that fed into it being honorable to be truthful, the social quandary we find ourselves in today is what it is discussed in this post.

    Observationally there seem to be four ways to be untruthful. The term “lie” is, as an intentional falsehood, the overt version. Ignorance is the nascent version of the condition. In addition there is willful ignorance, and socially conventioned niceties that accomplish a similar condition. The latter does so in a more inclusive framework.

    I’ve often posted here about the role of motivated reasoning in social dynamics. It applies to this discussion because of its role in social dynamics. With the ‘freedom to be untruthful’ being both conditional and pragmatic, it is, perhaps, a valuing of the matter (feeling) of honor that socially countermands an otherwise inevitable slide of a society into ignorance concerning truth … and its decline and collapse. Motivated reasoning is the means for our coming to truthfully ‘lie’ to ourselves in all of the above ways. As I asserted, the English lexicon is not robust concerning the absence of truth in what is communicated.

    This is because what is done communicates what is ‘true’. In old English, such was our faith. Dueling among an elite, and physical fights among the social “deplorables”, is, systemically, the doing way of getting, in good faith, to the truth. And then there is verbal dueling/fights as a less physical means. With the decline in the constraining social restraint that physical fighting and honor feed into, verbal jousting has been ‘freed up’ from having physical consequences. What, thanks to honor, constrained egregious falsehood, now can be used to argue a market a market for lying about truth. Add mass media, and now social media, into the mix, and the hard work of a search for truth looses out to the socially entertaining ‘value’ of fighting for the sake of fighting (not to mention the “profit” such propaganda can lead to within limited liability law enabled CapitalismFail: the Anthropocene with its abrupt climate change. TRUTH!).

    All civilizations collapse. Is what it held to be honorable a key factor in the observable truth of this?

    =) Greg

    sNAILmALEnotHAIL …but pace’n myself

    https://m.youtube.com/channel/UCeDkezgoyyZAlN7nW1tlfeA

    !END

    >

  30. angech says:

    Leto as you say there may not be many of them

  31. Leto says:

    To clarify, my agreement with angech was only intended to cover “Not all Republicans tell lies and not all lies are told by Republicans.” Our posts crossed in cyberspace.

    I don’t agree with his subsequent attempt to imply that the faux climate debate is full of shades of grey and I reject his closing comments: “We just all do not share the same world view. Hence one person’s truth can sometimes be another person’s lie. As long as we can get up and blog feeling we are truthful that is all anyone can ask.”

    Feeling we are being truthful is not enough, and we can and should ask for much more.

    Angech: put the effort in to draw an accurate conclusion, one that is derived from data – don’t emote your way through the issues as if scientific reality were something like art appreciation, where you can stretch your conclusions as far as possible within the soft limits of ‘feeling truthful’. There are wrong answers in this faux debate, and they stay wrong no matter what you tell yourself.

  32. izen says:

    What about people who have a ‘world view’ that includes a genuine belief what they claim?

    https://www.newscientist.com/article/dn18780-simon-singh-wins-libel-battle-against-chiropractors/

  33. Joshua says:

    Anders –

    As I think about it, I’m not sure about the framing you use. You say:

    =={ “It’s ok to lie? … Our right to say certain things, does not mean that doing so is somehow acceptable. }==

    I’m not sure that it’s reasonable to interpret the statement that you quoted from David as suggesting that it’s “ok to lie,’ or that it is acceptable to lie.

  34. Chris says:

    Josua, David Whitehouse asserts that “…misleading the public by making factually inaccurate statements..” is OK (it falls within his notion of what he calls the “free speech principle”).

  35. Joshua says:

    Victor –

    =={ Part of what got the USA into this mess is a media system that tries to be neutral: X said, Y said, I am not willing to tell the difference and help the listener/reader understand what is going on. I prefer media to be objective. }==

    First, there is a difference between saying that someone lied and remaining neutral. But second, and more to the point of the question that I first asked Anders, there remains the question of whether, in any given situation where someone has said something that isn’t true, it is “optimal” to call them a liar. Perhaps there are such situations…but I’m hard pressed to think of any.

    =={ When David Whitehouse wants to execute his right to deceive the public and the reply is a polite response, this gives the fake impression of a serious scientific debate to most of the audience that is not able to tell the difference or is not willing to invest the resources to determine who is right. }==

    I think that the ways to point out that Whitehouse was deceptive (whether intentionally so or not) are not limited to calling him a liar. So I would say that the audience being able to discern why his argument isn’t a serious scientific argument, and that his argument is a deceptive one, is not singularly contingent on whether you choose to point out the falseness of his statement by calling him a liar.

    As Greg speaks to above, calling someone a liar demands a knowledge of intent that I suspect none of us have in this case, and so, IMO, calling him a liar isn’t reflective of sound reasoning. But even if it were, whether you calling him a liar is “optimal,” I would say, is up for debate. So I think that there are two distinct issues in play here. The first is whether we can accurate say that he lied. The second is whether calling him a liar is somehow “optimal.” Maybe it is, but if you think it is, then I would like to know what means you are using to measure optimality.

    =={ If you want to get the USA out of the mess they are in, you have to be willing to honestly say how the people are being deceived and why. }==

    I think that you have a much greater confidence in how to get out of this mess than I do. I remain unconvinced that honestly saying how the people are being deceived will have a net positive benefit, let alone reach “optimal” results. There are a lot of complicated dynamics in play, IMO, and I don’t think that there is any such clear and simple way to move forward in a positive direction.

    =={ The members of the elite may clutch their pearls when the plebs are honest about them, their deceptions and corrupt policies, but we cannot afford pretending they are just making a serious contribution to the public debate. }==

    Again, “pretending” they are making a serious contribution and calling them a liar are not the only options available.

    =={ If you were raised not to be impolite to them, just say “alternative facts” rather than “lies.” }==

    It seems that you think that the issue I’m raising is one of “politeness,” and that isn’t what I’m referring to. First, I don’t particularly care about politeness, but more than that, just like I doubt that calling people liars or pretending Whitehouse is making a serious contribution will make much progress, nor to I think that simply being polite in and of itself will make much difference.

  36. Joshua says:

    Chris –

    Where did he say that it is “ok?”

  37. Joshua says:

    This reminds me a bit of the “skeptic” argument about Schneider. and the “double ethical bind.”

  38. Chris says:

    It’s OK in the context of his “free speech principle”.

  39. Joshua says:

    Chris –

    That isn’t how I interpret the segment that Anders excerpted. I seem him arguing against censorship of factually incorrect statements – not exactly the same thing as saying that factually incorrect statements are OK.

    For example, I don’t think that it is “ok” to (knowingly, or even unknowingly for that matter) make factually incorrect statements, but I don’t think that such statements should be censored, for a host of reasons.

  40. Joshua,

    I’m not sure that it’s reasonable to interpret the statement that you quoted from David as suggesting that it’s “ok to lie,’ or that it is acceptable to lie.

    His point appears to be claiming that this is essential to modern democracies. Okay, he doesn’t actually say it’s okay, but he seems to present an argument that paints misleading the public in a positive light:But it does. Being able to speak freely without censorship is fundamental to modern liberal democracies.

    A few other points. The hearing was about science communication so why introduce an argument about freedom of speech that concludes that it essential to allow for misleading the public by making factually inaccurate statements? Why even present this argument unless you’re suggesting that it’s somehow acceptable, or somehow a good thing? If he simply means freedom of speech allows for this, why not clarify his position to make clear that he doesn’t approve of it, or clarify to make it clear that he doesn’t mean intentional? So, sure, we could be incredibly generous and accept that he’s making some deep philosophical point, but doesn’t necessarily condone it, or doesn’t mean that he’s encouraging people to intentionally mislead, but that would seem remarkably generous.

    This reminds me a bit of the “skeptic” argument about Schneider. and the “double ethical bind.”

    Except Schneider did clarify to say I hope that means being both.

  41. Joshua,
    Actually, let’s take this a little further. Whitehouse’s evidence appears to be arguing that science journalists don’t present alternative views often enough. He then ends with an argument that allowing people to be mislead by factually inaccurate statements is fundamental to democracy. Seems to me that one could argue that he’s doing more than saying that this is okay, he’s almost arguing that it’s essential. Okay, you could argue that he could still be meaning doing so unintentionally, but that seems a little generous.

  42. Joshua says:

    Anders –

    I think that making this about “free speech” is a bit exploitative, and a gambit… but that said, and as you kind of agreed to, I would say it is true that freedom of speech does extend to misleading the public.

    So no, misleading the public is not fundamental to modern liberal democracies, but I think it is a good question as to whether the right to mislead the public is fundamental to modern liberal democracies.

    Perhaps making holocaust denial illegal would be an interesting example there, as it seem to me that there are quite a few countries which I would consider to be modern liberal democracies where holocaust denial is illegal. Perhaps, then, the point isn’t some kind of blanket rule, but that context is important….and that is why turning this into an issue of free speech is exploitative?

  43. Willard says:

    > We just all do not share the same world view.

    Yet we share the same world, Doc. It’s not OK to say that vaccine causes autism. Perspectivism did not do Nietzsche any good.

    But it may even less OK to say that David Rose is an “award-winning journalist” like Judy said to justify why she reached out to him so that the Bates episode gets fabricated. It upset you, Doc. It shouldn’t have.

  44. Chris says:

    Joshua, Whitehouse introduces his idea of free speech and his notion of “free speech principle” in his final point (#25). He asserts that “misleading the public by making factually inaccurate statements” falls within his notion of a “freedom of speech principle”. He then asserts that if someone does this (“misleading the public by making factually inaccurate statements”) they shouldn’t be censored but countered with arguments (“demand a say, not their silence”).

    Not sure how one can interpret his point #25 other than that Whitehouse’s “freedom of speech principle” allows for “misleading the public by making factually inaccurate statements”.

    As with several of the points on his list Whitehouse’s argument is somewhat specious since individuals that make factually inaccurate statements (knowingly inaccurate or not) aren’t censored and one wonders where this idea of “censoring” comes from..

  45. Joshua says:

    Anders –

    =={ Whitehouse’s evidence appears to be arguing that science journalists don’t present alternative views often enough. He then ends with an argument that allowing people to be mislead by factually inaccurate statements is fundamental to democracy. Seems to me that one could argue that he’s doing more than saying that this is okay, he’s almost arguing that it’s essential. }==

    If I try to get into his head, then I have a hard time agreeing with your interpretation of what he was saying. I think the comment I was writing as you were posting your 3:39 gets to why. My guess is that if you think he was saying that journalists writing misleading views is essential, then you are most likely misinterpreting what he was saying. That is why this reminds me of the “but..Steve Schneider said it’s ok to lie” gambit. Yes, with Schneider we have specific clarification, but I would say that it shouldn’t be necessary because if someone is engaged in good faith, then the “it’s ok to lie” argument should ring hollow, unless there is clear and overwhelming evidence that was actually the intended argument.

  46. Joshua says:

    Chris –

    =={ Not sure how one can interpret his point #25 other than that Whitehouse’s “freedom of speech principle” allows for “misleading the public by making factually inaccurate statements”. }==

    I think that calling someone a liar is allowed for, but I wouldn’t say it is “ok.” I would not say that promoting misleading information (deliberate or otherwise) is fundamental to modern liberal democracies, but I do think that the right to do so is, at least in some contexts, fundamental to modern liberal democracies.

    =={ As with several of the points on his list Whitehouse’s argument is somewhat specious since individuals that make factually inaccurate statements (knowingly inaccurate or not) aren’t censored and one wonders where this idea of “censoring” comes from.. }==

    Well, I think that is the more salient point. Since no one is actually censored for making the kinds of statements he is referencing, then why does reference free speech as an extension of his argument? My impression is that he is cynically exploiting the issue of free speech to score partisan points in the climate wars. Happens all the time.

  47. Joshua,
    Yes, I agree that the right to do so is fundamental. Okay, I can see that one could argue is that he was simply making a final point about this right to do so. However, the context is important. It’s at the end of some evidence arguing that science journalists don’t present alternative views often enough. It appears to be addressing nothing (i.e., noone – I think – has argued for formally censoring those who might mislead through presenting factually inaccurate statements).

    I’ve got people arriving for dinner, so I’ll have to go and think about this a bit more (also, I did quickly reread my post, and – apart from the title – I think what I presented in the post was a bit more nuanced than him arguing that it’s okay).

  48. Willard says:

    The right to mislead does not exist in Canada:

    http://laws-lois.justice.gc.ca/eng/acts/C-34/page-18.html?txthl=misleading#s-74.011

    I suspect the same applies in the Commonwealth. Otherwise Whitehouse’s rant would make even less sense. The United States could claim being exceptional in another domain, if think tanks can hide their misrepresentations under the first amendment.

  49. Chris says:

    I should maybe qualify the phrase in my last sentence:

    “…since individuals that make factually inaccurate statements (knowingly inaccurate or not) aren’t censored….”

    to clarify (a) that this refers to factually inaccurate statements on scientific subjects (since that’s the topic under discussion) and (b) that the views of certain cranks (e.g. on HIV-AIDS; intelligent design, MMR vaccine- autism link etc.) may be thought to be “censored” to the extent that they are generally not allowed a platform in serious media (plenty of room on the Internet though!).

  50. Joshua says:

    Anders –

    I want to think more about it also. Have a good dinner.

    (also, I have a comment stuck in mod – you’d think i’d be able to remember not to write l*ar)

  51. Willard says:

    There you go:

    http://www.which.co.uk/consumer-rights/regulation/misrepresentation-act-1967

    While it applies to contractual matters, this law covers ignorance and recklessness.

  52. Chris says:

    “The Misrepresentation Act exists to protect consumers from false or fraudulent claims that induce you into buying something or entering into a contract.”

    Dear Misrepresentation Act – I’ve been suckered, by gross acts of misrepresentation, into purchasing a Brexit which I now realize I don’t want and wish to return this and have have my country back.

  53. Willard says:

    You may have a case, Chris. I can’t find your comment, J.

    Here’s the state by state status:

    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Freedom_of_speech_by_country

    I’m on my tablet and have stuff to do, so I won’t quote the bit where UK citizens have the negative right of free speech. I can quote this other bit about the European convention:

    The exercise of these freedoms, since it carries with it duties and responsibilities, may be subject to such formalities, conditions, restrictions or penalties as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society, in the interests of national security, territorial integrity or public safety, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, for the protection of the reputation or the rights of others, for preventing the disclosure of information received in confidence, or for maintaining the authority and impartiality of the judiciary.

    Holocaust denial is illegal in Germany.

  54. izen says:

    @-“The hearing was about science communication so why introduce an argument about freedom of speech that concludes that it essential to allow for misleading the public by making factually inaccurate statements?”

    In one context it has already been determined that misleading the public by making factually inaccurate statements it is NOT acceptable.

    IIRC one reason Simon Singh won his defence against libel brought by the chiropractors (link in post above) is that they were making claims about medical conditions. There is a reasonable expectation that claims about the benefit of a treatment are backed by credible scientific studies. Singh got away with describing chiropractors as “spreading lies” because they claimed benefit from their treatments with no scientific evidence to support those claims.
    In a context in which the public have come to expect, and government regulates, science as the arbiter of acceptability.

    This is a relatively recent cultural phenomena. Not yet global, and a few decades ago any snake oil could be sold as curing cancer, preventing baldness and reversing ageing with just a few well written testimonials.

    If, or when, those ‘opinion formers’ (Lamar Christy, Curry Pruitt) fail in making testimonials acceptable in the field of climate science is uncertain given the US cultural push-back against evidence based policy. But I look forward to the time when it is as unacceptable to give credence to discredited claims about the climate in the general media as it is to make factually inaccurate claims about causes and cures of medical conditions.
    http://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamainternalmedicine/article-abstract/2548255
    I wont hold my breath.

  55. @angech,

    You are technically correct, but for whatever reason (*), the set of Republicans who do get it, and seek to make the appropriate changes, such as the former Rep Bob Inglis, and the recent set of a dozen or so Republicans who tried to advance a Carbon Tax in the House, are shut out of the official Republican power structure. Moreover, these same Republicans, despite some of their protests, don’t seem to assess the problem serious enough to bolt the party, whatever the name, and go out and do their own. I’m not in the least suggesting they go over to the Democrats.

    As far as the Democrats go, I have absolutely no delusion that they are as much in bed with indefinite fossil fuel extraction as the Republicans, although many in power play the opposite on TV. I must, of course, set Senator Bernie Sanders aside on that point, as he is a Liberal Democrat, something which citizens of the United States seem to confound with Socialists. I had no doubt, apart from the possible wholesale destruction of the scientific and scholarly apparatus the Trumpiliosis is proposing, Secretary Clinton would not make much progress towards zeroing U.S. emissions, although she might, by luck, and state initiatives, achieve the COP21 promise in 2020. It would not be at all to her credit nor that of the Democrats.

    Setting aside, once again, the Democrats who support coal, that party, in addition to the Republicans, are staring a schism in the face. We Bernie Sanders supporters, urged by Sanders himself, admittedly, put our support behind Clinton even if many of us felt we should make a symbolic vote of support for the Senator. How did that work out, eh?

    I think we need at least four parties, and to the degree that the R bigwigs and the D bigwigs inhibit this inevitable development, they are forestalling the natural political evolution we need.

    Meanwhile, I am keenly interested in what Nature is going to have to say about all this during the next decade. And I have plenty of popcorn in the ready to watch the realizations on people’s faces unfold, and, sorry, it will be with some significant glee.

    (*) You can speculate but I won’t: I don’t really care.

  56. angech says:

    Joshua says: =={ Not sure how one can interpret his point #25 other than that Whitehouse’s “freedom of speech principle” allows for “misleading the public by making factually inaccurate statements”. }==. true.
    The key word here would be acknowledges rather than allows. As in he acknowledges the right for “misleading the public by making factually inaccurate statements”. }==
    Insofar as it also allows it, he does say it is contestable, if anyone wishes to put the time and effort in. This is not completely allowing it, it is an “allowance with benefits”.
    Some of us tell our kids stories about Santa Claus [some don’t] but at the right age when they contest the story we tell them the truth.Plus they have been good for years.

  57. angech says:

    Willard, giving Flu shots at the moment. Often asked “”Do I need them”. Thinks to self “It’s okay to lie?”
    Some facts. 5% of people will catch the Flu in a given year means 19 out of 20 people will have it unnecessarily. There are many strains of Flu A out there, Most H1N1 variations which is the swine flu pandemic we saw 6 years ago and is now the dominant strain [also is in one sense the old Spanish Flu reborn]. Immunity is said to run down a little months after vaccination but take with a grain of salt.So basically I am just boosting the immunity of a known antibody group with slight tweaks. A second Flu A the previous predominant H3N2 for the last 40 years with tweaks is given but basically it is disappearing. Two types of Flu B, pretty stable basically boosting with tweaks.
    Should one have a Flushot?
    For the individual it is >50% effective on average.
    Australia prioritizes people who are vulnerable, the elderly and sick, and the benefits are higher in this group. I tend to give a lot to people who cannot afford to get ill, Final year students, working people.
    These are groups that should try it if they wish to have it. Myself I get vaccinated every 3 years to get some new varieties or when high risk like overseas travel. I have a half shot due to fairly intense local allergic reaction redness lump pain swelling for 2 days.
    Basically I try to dodge the question and answer that it will do no [little] harm, I say it will hurt me more than them beforehand and admitted that I lied afterwards.
    A good lie.

  58. chris says:

    “Basically I try to dodge the question…”

    Yup, that really does seem to be what you do…….the topic isn’t about pandering to individual sensibilities (children; patients) but about disseminating misinformation to policymakers and the broad public on science topics (in support of self-serving agendas). BTW we know this happens – the question is: it OK to do so? In general scientists don’t, certainly not in the collective (there are occasionally Dr. Wakefield types who do so as individuals) – so (a) science is at a particular disadvantage when communicating on subjects where there are powerful interests involved and (b) the electorate is denied (for the time being) the information it may need to make informed decisions.

    Is that OK?

    Still I can’t imagine why you feel you have to dodge the question about flu shots. Why not say “for someone of your age a flu jab provides a significant benefit to you as well as limiting the spread of the virus”…or “Someone of your age shouldn’t really need a flu jab, but since you have your final exams in 6 weeks, it might be worth having one this year”…or if you don’t believe it has any benefit: “A flu jab is unlikely to benefit you but if you want one I can give it to you”…

  59. The Very Reverend Jebediah Hypotenuse says:

    Willard:

    Yet we share the same world, Doc. It’s not OK to say that vaccine causes autism.

    According to who?
    Willard?

    It is perfectly OK to say that vaccines cause autism.
    (Unless you happen to be my medical doctor.)

    Sure – It is a false claim – but people make falsies all the time…
    Even Willard.

    Other people are free to say “That’s bullshit! – and here’s why!”

    Where freedom of speech is concerned, no one has said it better that Hitch.

    http://blog.skepticallibertarian.com/2014/09/30/christopher-hitchens-freedom-of-speech-means-freedom-to-hate/

  60. Joshua says:

    Very Rev –

    Is there a difference between “ok” and illegal? I think that is an important distinction – and if you don’t make that distinction, I think that you run the risk of trivializing freedom of speech.

  61. Willard says:

    > It is perfectly OK to say that vaccines cause autism. (Unless you happen to be my medical doctor.)

    Good. What about otters’ doctors, Very Tall? Or medical associations? Or autist think tanks?

    I thought we were talking about authoritative claims made in public. Even the GWPF shies from them when they publish reports with an editorial warning according to which “the view expressed by the author may not be shared” &c. The modulz follow a classic two-step:

    (1) I’m merely voicing my opinion.

    (2) We’re only publishing this opinion.

    Every time the GWPF publishes crap, ClimateBall players should make it clear that it doesn’t even endorse it. Then they should read their press releases for contrast. The caveats usually disappear.

    It’s not science but it’s important.

    ***

    I’m allergic to Christopher. The Hitch makes me itch. For instance, his thought experiment falters on the fact that all popes have doubts about God. (Even teh Jesus doubted.) That’s why they have faith. His heart may be in the right place, but his grandiloquence fails him. Bulldozing nuances only gives short changed wins.

  62. Mal Adapted says:

    So, we’ve got David Whitehouse of the GWPF saying, according to the Independent:

    “Some argue that free speech does not extend to misleading the public by making factually inaccurate statements. But it does,” he said.

    Joshua, with our host’s concurrence, appears to agree:

    I would not say that promoting misleading information (deliberate or otherwise) is fundamental to modern liberal democracies, but I do think that the right to do so is, at least in some contexts, fundamental to modern liberal democracies.

    OTOH, we have Stephen Metcalfe MP, chair of the UK House of Commons’ Science and Technology Committee, as quoted by the Independent:

    “Too often the clever practice of communications overshadows the true advice of experts, and the public are left bewildered, and not knowing who to believe”

    Up until the last 60 or so years, the legal right of free* speech didn’t seriously obstruct rational, collective action to halt a global Tragedy of the Commons.

    I submit, however, that if the polity of the US had responded rationally to Hansen’s 1988 Congressional testimony, the transition to a global carbon-neutral economy would be much farther along than it is.

    IOW, I’m saying that the free* speech enjoyed by citizens of modern liberal democracies, when wielded by mercenary practitioners of clever communications in support of economic freedom*, may have cost the globe at least another degree C of warming.

    My questions for the participants in this blog:

    A: Was it worth it, in your personal cost-benefit analysis? If so,
    B: How much more is it worth to you, as the globe warms, that professional disinformers are able to speak freely*, even though hardly without charge and with much of the cost held external to the price?

    * Ironic quotation marks can’t convey the extent of semantic unpacking these words require.

  63. Mal,
    My view is rougly that the responsibility lie with our policy makers (and with us for electing them). They are expected to take advice from suitable experts when making decisions about the societies in which we live. That they have given undue credence to views expressed by those who are spreading misinformation is more their fault, than the fault of those who spread the misinformation.

    Also, if our policy makers are willingly being mislead, then it’s hard to see how one could have implemented anything legal that would have somehow prevented the spread of misinformation. It seems to me that if somehow our policy makers could have been convinced to pass some kind of legislation to prevent this, then they probably wouldn’t have been as easily misled in the first place and such legislation wouldn’t have been need (and, just to be clear, I’m not proposing that any such legislation should be introduced as I do think that freedom of speech does – and should – allow people to say things that may not be true).

  64. FWIW, even David Whitehouse appears to be associating his point with “lying”.

  65. Joshua says:

    Mal –

    =={ A: Was it worth it, in your personal cost-benefit analysis? If so,
    B: How much more is it worth to you, as the globe warms, that professional disinformers are able to speak freely*, even though hardly without charge and with much of the cost held external to the price? }==

    The problem, IMO, is that I’m not sure there is any way to reasonably, in the real world, limit the context as you have done. I think it is exceedingly difficult, in any practical sense, to isolate the freedom of professional informers in one area from professional misinformers in another area. And because it would be perhaps insurmountably impractical to even try, then rhetorical counterfactuals about what might be better if we were able to do so seems rather beside the point, IMO – and in fact, has the potential to exacerbate the existing problems professional misinformation.

    Saying that we can’t let ’em get away with it seems rather unsatisfactory to me, as we don’t have the power to prevent it. A strategy of calling them liars or wishing there were laws to prevent specific misinformser in some imagined isolated context, it seems to me, is questionably effective let alone questionably optimal.

  66. RickA says:

    Mal Adapted:

    A: Yes, it was worth it. We still don’t know how much of the warming was natural and even 50% is not ruled out by the evidence so far. Even if all of the warming is human caused (and I think the evidence is against this) – the warming so far has been more beneficial than costly. This is even more true if the warming is 25 or 50% natural.

    B: With the el nino over and done, we are back to about .8C of warming from pre-industrial. I would say I am willing to rise another .8C before I hit the panic button. Even than I would not change free speech laws.

    Lying is in the eye of the beholder – but isn’t lying if the person saying it really believes what they are saying. Sometimes people are just wrong (and sometimes they are right even though lots of people think they are wrong).

    I think people throw around the “L” word to freely.

    The real question is are we going to stop people from saying stuff which a majority of people think is wrong?

    I don’t think Americans would stand for that rule.

  67. Joshua says:

    [Done. -W]

    RickA –

    =={ I think people throw around the “L” word to freely. }==

    I invite you to stop over at CE to weigh in. I would do so on your behalf, but I my being “censored” makes a tad difficult.

  68. verytallguy says:

    Willard,

    Good. What about otters’ doctors, Very Tall?

    That was Revd, not Tall!! Caught in the act, a LIE! You have defamed me and proved that your hockey stick and everything you’ve ever been associated with is also A LIE. I demand your emails.

    etc etc ad infinitum until the apocalypse.

  69. Willard says:

    > Caught in the act, a LIE!

    What act, Reverend?

    It’s not a rhetorical question – we’re talking about speech acts here.

    ***

    > The real question is […]

    There are no real questions, only squirrels introduced with “the real question is.”

    The discussion is UK-based, RickA. A real democratic entity. Not a republican facsimile.

  70. Joshua says:

    angech –

    Regarding your 1:46 am comment…

    As is often the case for me with willard, your comments often require a Google translate app that hasn’t yet seem to have been invented, but I am particularly confused by that comment. So,

    1. Was it directed towards me?

    if so…

    2. It seems that thought you were quoting me when in fact, you were quoting my quote of someone else? Were you confused about that? I use “==={” or some variant of that to try to make it clear that I am quoting someone (I would try using the “blockquote” tag, but screw it up so much I’ve decided to go with something a little more forgiving when I make an error).
    3. Could you try to explain again what you are trying to say about allow vs. acknowledge?
    4. Could you try to explain again your point about Santa?

  71. Joshua says:

    Mal –

    One more point. You my statement and then contrasted it with a quote from Metcalfe, by prefacing it with “OTOH.” To me, that suggests that you see the two statements as perhaps contradictory, when in fact I would completely agree that: “Too often the clever practice of communications overshadows the true advice of experts, and the public are left bewildered, and not knowing who to believe”

  72. Willard says:

    I’m just going to put it there:

  73. RickA,

    We still don’t know how much of the warming was natural and even 50% is not ruled out by the evidence so far.

    We don’t know precisely, but we do have estimates that indicate that it is extremely likely to be more than 50% anthropogenic and that have a best estimates that indicate that we are responsible for all (or maybe more than all) of it.

    With the el nino over and done, we are back to about .8C of warming from pre-industrial.

    No, I think we’re much closer to 1C of warming relative to pre-industrial times.

    I would say I am willing to rise another .8C before I hit the panic button. Even than I would not change free speech laws.

    Noone is suggesting that we should.

  74. Joshua,

    I invite you to stop over at CE to weigh in. I would do so on your behalf, but I my being “censored” makes a tad difficult.

    Any in particular?

  75. Joshua says:

    Anders –

    ???

    I was suggesting that RickA provide some his thoughts about using the “L word” too freely in the following thread:

    https://judithcurry.com/2017/03/31/deniers-lies-and-politics/

  76. Joshua,
    Sorry, I got confused about who you were addressing your comment to.

  77. Mal Adapted says:

    RickA:

    Yes, it was worth it. We still don’t know how much of the warming was natural and even 50% is not ruled out by the evidence so far. Even if all of the warming is human caused (and I think the evidence is against this) – the warming so far has been more beneficial than costly.

    Our self-esteemed random-guy-on-the-Internet is overpluralizing again. In his private, idiosyncratic utility-maximization equation, the warming is worth it even (or especially) if it’s “only” 50% natural.

    The problem for the rest of us is that when RickA assigns his value weightings, he draws on both professional disinformation (clever enough for him, at least) and strong cognitive bias in favor of his self-interest. As long as his position continues to dominate our polity, there’s little hope for collective action in any form of judged by actual experts to be cost-effective in aggregate, despite verifiable evidence of its urgency to avert impending global tragedy.

    To RickA, “free speech” means that anywhere he can get it posted under his pseudonym, he may legally echo the pernicious nonsense communicated to him by well-paid disinformers, without himself receiving direct compensation from the disinformers or their clients. How much is that worth to you, climate realists?

  78. RickA says:

    Mal Adapted:

    I am just answering your questions.

    If you don’t want random people answering them, you should be more careful in how you phrase them.

    I read your questions as being posed to participants on this blog (which I am).

    My answers are honest and forthright.

    I think it is good for the people who read this site to know that there is a point of view that holds that none of the warming so far is harmful, and even some more warming could be beneficial before we pass the point to more harmful than beneficial.

    It is my point of view – but it may be wrong.

    We don’t know yet.

    But I would wager that millions of Americans hold the same point of view.

    After all, I do get to vote.

    So this point of view needs to be understood by people who want to solve the “problem” by making everything more expensive, including fuel, food, transportation, energy, heating, cooling, etc.

    People like me will oppose action to the point we believe the costs outweighg the benefits – and we are not there yet.

  79. RickA,

    I think it is good for the people who read this site to know that there is a point of view that holds that none of the warming so far is harmful, and even some more warming could be beneficial before we pass the point to more harmful than beneficial.

    A problem is that this is not definitively true. It may well be that there has been a net benefit, but there is a chance that it’s been net harmful.

  80. Joshua says:

    RickA –

    =={ People like me will oppose action to the point we believe the costs outweighg the benefits – and we are not there yet. }==

    Separating out the effects of warming…I’m curious as to how you deal with the uncertainty in calculating the cost/benefit ratio … in order to support your opinion that the benefits of BAU outweigh the costs.

    More specifically, how do you calculate the cost/benefit ratio of the externalities from ACO2 emissions relative to those of alternative fuel pathways?

    You can leave out the climate change aspect. I just mean stuff like how do you estimate the cost of particulates that accompany fossil fuel usage, the environmental costs of mining fossil fuels, the geopolitical costs of empowering and enriching oil exporting governments, the benefits of providing cheaper energy to developing countries, etc.

    It seems to me that every single “skeptic” that I’ve run across – who shares your opinion that addressing ACO2 emissions would make “everything more expensive” lacks anything approaching a sophisticated process for determining the cost/benefit analysis of the relative positive and negative external costs of fossil fuels and alternative energy pathways, respectively. Yet they seem so confidence nonetheless. You seem confident also.

    What is your analysis?

  81. Vinny Burgoo says:

    ATTP: A problem is that this is not definitively true. It may well be that there has been a net benefit, but there is a chance that it’s been net harmful.

    Oooh nooz!

    The past is now as frightening as the future.

    (+1 for the bit you quoted from RickA.)

  82. Its easy too avoid lying, just pose all your lies as questions and then say, youre just asking questions.

    If we want to amp up this debate, take it there. Is it Ok to Question the truth and undermine
    people’s belief?

    Do we know vaccines don’t cause autism? Can we really prove the holocaust happened?
    do we know the precise number of jews? Do we have real empirical evidence? what’s the null
    hypothesis for the holocaust? how accurately do we know the past? Do we have a secure
    chain of custody for all those documents? haven’t the numbers changed? who would object to a red team looking at that? If you cant explain all the numbers in detail and why they changed, then we dont know? right?. Hevnt those numbers been adjusted? The holocaust was nothing special, those kinds of things happened before, since there is nothing unprecented about it, you dont need to explain it, people killing people is normal. If it really happened people wouldnt disagree, right?

    so take this old tired debate about freedom to lie and ask is it ok to question the truth.
    and keep questioning, because, yall know audits are neverending.

    at some point you have to question foundationalism.. another topic however

  83. RickA says:

    Joshua:

    My family came from Ohio and my grandfather (and great grandfather) had black lung from mining coal.

    So are particulates dangerous – sure.

    Do they kill people – sure.

    They also provide 33% of the energy in the USA and 66% if you widen it to all fossil fuel.

    Central heat, air conditioning, cars, trucks, trains, electricity, industry and farming all form part of that 66% which give rise to particulates.

    In my opinion, the benefits of coal, oil and natural gas outweigh the death toll of mining, and emissions.

    Of course, that is just my personal opinion.

    Personally, I support replacing coal with nuclear – but I appear to be in a somewhat small minority in that opinion.

    Nuclear requires less mining, less transportation to where it it burned and nuclear is far safer – both in accidents and emissions.

    Just compare mining deaths with deaths from nuclear power accidents (start with the USA – but even worldwide – there is no comparison).

    Passive cooling designs are even safer than the designs of the reactors which generate 20% of the power in the USA currently.

    We could easily generate 40 or 60% of our power with nuclear – if we wanted to.

    That would be my answer to coal – phase out coal power plants and replace the plants at the end-of-life with nuclear power plants (like the AP1000 design).

    People have an irrational fear of radiation – so it is doubtful we will do this anytime soon.

    So I say people are choosing the emissions of coal.

    That is there right.

    The people have spoken (currently) and they find the emissions of coal preferable to the fears of radiation.

    They have done their cost-benefit analysis and that is where we are at.

    I even agree that the warming of the globe has been beneficial thus far and perhaps even a bit further (.8C or so).

    But if I could wave my magic wand and get the government to pass an energy policy which replaced all coal power plants over the next 40 years with nuclear power (passive cooling design) – I would do so.

    I hope that answers your question.

  84. Vinny,
    Although I thought you might get this, I’m simply referring to a net benefit/cost relative to a case where we hadn’t warmed by ~1K. However, my point was more to do with Rick’s absolute certainty, than whether or not there was a net benefit/cost.

    However, I think Joshua has asked the key question? What cost/benefit analysis indicates that we would benefit more by continuing to increase our emissions rather than trying to follow a pathway in which we do not continue to increase our emissions? Or, more correctly, indicates that we’re better off not doing anything to address this now?

  85. Rick,
    You didn’t really answer Joshua’s question, which was more to do with the cost/benefit analysis of continuing with BAU than with assessing past benefits.

  86. Joshua says:

    RickA –

    =={ Of course, that is just my personal opinion. }==

    Sure. I get that’s your opinion.

    FWIW, I got that far, and I’m afraid I stopped reading.

    I’m asking what kind of sophisticated cost analysis you use as the basis for your opinion about the results of a cost analysis.

    I’m not really asking for anecdotes.

    Until you add something more responsive to my question, I will just put you in the category of “skeptics” who, for some odd reason, doesn’t answer my question. As I said, I have yet to find one who has.

    Could be coincidence. Maybe they have answers that they just don’t want to share with me. Or, it could be that relatively few “skeptics” actually use a cost/benefit analysis to support their opinions about the costs and benefits of fossil fuels relative to other energy pathways.

  87. It would be dishonest not to call Trump or Monckton a liar.

  88. Joshua says:

    Anders –

    =={ Or, more correctly, indicates that we’re better off not doing anything to address this now? }==

    Of course, that is really the key question (e.g., what is the long term payoff from building out alternatives now?), but how do we even start walking down that path w/o a realistic cost/benefit analysis of where we are now?

    It just seems so easy for some folks to divine the answer. I wish I had their gifts.

  89. Joshua says:

    =={ people killing people is normal }==

    Perhaps take it a few more steps: People dying is normal. People have always died. No one questions that people have always died.

    I was actually surprised that Judith went there in her testimony. There appears to be no bottom.

  90. Willard says:

    > A problem is that this is not definitively true.

    And one problem with definitive truth is that it’s not empirical, RickA.

    ***

    Also note, vintage less than two months ago:

    RickA,

    Look.

    Not.

    Again.

    The.

    Sloganeering.

    With.

    One.

    Sentence.

    Followed.

    By.

    Two.

    Carriage.

    Returns.

    OK?

    Please.

    https://andthentheresphysics.wordpress.com/2017/02/24/intellectual-monocultures/#comment-92291

  91. Joshua, yes I was not just talking about the term “lies” and the mental gymnastics and unreasonable demands for evidence for it, but more in general about the failing appeasement attempts in response to rhetorical violence. People should show that they care and that they believe their ideas will make the world better rather than play intellectualized defense.

    Let me repeat Willard’s video.

  92. RickA says:

    Joshua and ATTP:

    As I indicated, I think BAU is more beneficial than not, even for another .8C.

    I would prefer not to continue BAU – but perhaps Joshua didn’t read that far.

    I never said my cost/benefit was sophisticated.

    My cost benefit is based on Tol and 14% greening.

    But it is just my personal opinion.

    I am not sure what else you were expecting.

  93. RickA says:

    Williard:

    Personal opinion is not empirical.

    Of course I never said my personal opinion was “definitively true.”

    I think if you go back and read my answer to mal adapted’s question you might even see that I acknowledge I could be wrong.

  94. RickA,

    As I indicated, I think BAU is more beneficial than not, even for another .8C.

    There is a slight logical inconsistency here. It’s already largely accepted that avoiding a further .8C is going to be extremely difficult; it’s almost locked in. Our current trajectory puts us on a path for a further 2.5C. So, you’re basically saying that you’re happy with something we can probably not avoid now. The more interesting question is whether we should be doing more than we currently are so as to aim for less than a further 2.5C of warming.

  95. RickA: “We still don’t know how much of the warming was natural and even 50% is not ruled out by the evidence so far.”

    It is not ruled out that when I throw a die 3 times, I get a 6 every time, so it is very reasonable for me to expect that to happen. OMG

  96. RickA says:

    ATTP:

    That is not a logical inconsistency – it is a poorly phrased question.

    I also indicated I would be in favor of replacing all coal power plants with nuclear over the next 40 years.

    Is that not changing our current trajectory?

  97. RickA,
    My point is that BAU, even for another 0.8C, doesn’t really make sense, because we’re pretty close to another 0.8C now (in other words, even if we made drastic emission cuts starting now, we’d still probably warm by about 0.8C). Continuing along some kind of BAU pathway would almost certainly guarantee more than 0.8C.

  98. RickA says:

    ATTP:

    Well then we should start switching coal power plants to nuclear right now!

  99. Mal Adapted says:

    RickA:

    People like me will oppose action to the point we believe the costs outweighg the benefits – and we are not there yet.

    Since the costs of AGW are borne unevenly around the globe, “people like” RickA may be correct that the costs to them of collective action outweigh the benefits to them. By assigning benefits to anyone else a value of zero, they excuse themselves of responsibility for their socialized climate change costs. Consequently, the aggregate benefits to the globe of halting AGW can never be enough to change RickA’s mind. No wonder he can only reiterate false facts and fallacious logic when it’s asserted that the homes, livelihoods and lives of people on the other side of the world, who don’t even look like him, have non-zero value.

    Reinforced and exploited by skilled professional disinformers, counter-factual beliefs like RickA’s have unequivocally contributed to the accelerating accumulation of AGW’s aggregate costs, and thus the aggregate benefits of collective action against a Tragedy of the Global Commons shown by verifiable facts and ineluctable logic to be clear and present. The question for the reality-based is whether a Constitution that sanctifies the freedom to socialize private cost regardless of its global aggregate cost is a suicide pact.

  100. Joshua says:

    RickA –

    =={ As I indicated, I think BAU is more beneficial than not, even for another .8C. }==

    Would it be fair to say that you don’t have any sophisticated method for evaluating the cost/benefit analysis that you spoke of…that you’re just kind of winging it? If so, that’s cool, it’s a tough nut to crack…but then I’m curious as to how you attempt to control for your ideological biases?

  101. RickA,

    Well then we should start switching coal power plants to nuclear right now!

    Well, if you think that continuing along a pathway where we’re likely to see a further 2.5C of warming is something we should try to avoid, then we’d probably need to start doing something right now.

  102. Joshua says:

    RickA –

    =={ I think if you go back and read my answer to mal adapted’s question you might even see that I acknowledge I could be wrong. }==

    I’m glad that you acknowledge that you could be wrong. But then again, you said the following:

    So this point of view needs to be understood by people who want to solve the “problem” by making everything more expensive, including fuel, food, transportation, energy, heating, cooling, etc

    I don’t see much wiggle room there. You say:

    I think if you go back and read my answer to mal adapted’s question you might even see that I acknowledge I could be wrong.

    I’m not getting a lot of wiggle room out of that. It seems to me that your opinion is that you know of some people who want to solve the problem by making everything more expensive. You are not saying that there are people who want to solve the problem by making some things more expensive, and, perhaps, by extension making other things less expensive (e.g., healthcare). That means that you are referring to a definitive cost/benefit analysis.

    I ask again, what is the basis on which you have formulated your definitive opinion of the relative costs and benefits?

  103. RickA says:

    Joshua asks “Would it be fair to say that you don’t have any sophisticated method for evaluating the cost/benefit analysis that you spoke of…that you’re just kind of winging it? If so, that’s cool, it’s a tough nut to crack…but then I’m curious as to how you attempt to control for your ideological biases?”

    Yes – that would be fair to say.

    I don’t control for my ideological biases.

    My personal opinions are full of ideological biases.

    Remember what mal adapted asked:

    “My questions for the participants in this blog:

    A: Was it worth it, in your personal cost-benefit analysis? If so,
    B: How much more is it worth to you, as the globe warms, that professional disinformers are able to speak freely*, even though hardly without charge and with much of the cost held external to the price?”

    I gave my personal cost-benefit analysis – as poor as you think it is, that is what it was.

    It is my personal opinion – and full of ideological biases (all of my own of course).

    Is your personal cost-benefit analysis more sophisticated?

    Share it.

    Is your personal cost-benefit free of ideological biases?

    I doubt it.

    But share it and we can see.

  104. Joshua says:

    BTW –

    RickA – I don’t know of anyone who wants to make everything more expensive. I will grant you that there are some who want to slow down all economic growth, generally (I’d say a fairly small %, but even those folks see a trade-off in they then see that preserving natural resources would be less expensive.

    It’s kind of a matter of perspective. You might not see preserving natural resources as a way of saving cost…but you could at least acknowledge the erroneous manner in which you framed the issues at hand.

  105. RickA says:

    ATTP said “Well, if you think that continuing along a pathway where we’re likely to see a further 2.5C of warming is something we should try to avoid, then we’d probably need to start doing something right now.”

    I doubt your magic wand is any better than mine.

    All I can do is vote – which I do.

    And blog about my opinion about what we should do.

    I certainly have no power to enforce my personal opinion.

    You will have to look elsewhere for action.

  106. RickA says:

    Joshua:

    What would a carbon tax make cheaper?

  107. Joshua says:

    RickA –

    =={ Is your personal cost-benefit analysis more sophisticated?

    Share it.

    Is your personal cost-benefit free of ideological biases? }==

    I don’t have a very sophisticated cost/benefit analysis. But I didn’t express confidence in a conclusion in that regard, whereas you did.

    Further, it is one thing to say that you have a method to control for ideological biases, but yet another to say that you employ it well-enough in order to ensure a conclusion that is free of ideological biases.

    IMO, it is important to at least suggest a method for control, and certainly to do so before reaching certain conclusions. And once again, while you acknowledged that you might be wrong, you also promoted a conclusion that allows for no error. That is, the problem that I’m pointing to, that I see running throughout the “skept-o-sphere,” where “skeptics” speak to the importance of acknowledging uncertainty, but don’t allow for uncertainty when they speak of the “cost” of mitigation.

  108. Joshua says:

    RickA –

    =={ What would a carbon tax make cheaper }==

    I think I’ve already answered that to some extent…but what the hey…It depends on how you frame the discussion. If you want to constrict the frame, that is one alternative. But I get suspicious when I see that because I think that is often a way that people let themselves off the hook for controlling for bias. I think that a carbon tax would, potentially, make health costs cheaper, or potentially reduce the cost of preserving the environment, or potentially make alternative fuels cheaper. Of course, it depends partly on how you calculate opportunity cost. It depends on how you constrain what you do with the money that you collect from a carbon tax.

  109. Willard says:

    > Personal opinion is not empirical.

    This might need some rewriting. The belief in that opinion could be opaque to observers, but the expression of it can sometimes be publicly verified. Of course an opinion can be about an empirical matter.

    Take “I believe I just told you to stop sloganeering with one-liners.” It’s hard for someone else than me to verify if I really hold that belief. But it’s easy to verify that I just made that request. It’s also easy to check that you’re still sloganeering using one-liners.

    ***

    > Of course I never said my personal opinion was “definitively true.”

    Personal opinion about non-empirical matters can be. For instance, the belief that warming is beneficial until it’s harmful is quite definitively true. It’s basically a truism. One important problem with such truisms is that they seldom suffice to warrant anything about the real world.

    So again your claim needs some rewriting.

    ***

    > I think if you go back and read my answer to mal adapted’s question you might even see that I acknowledge I could be wrong.

    In return, I think that if you accept that empirical matters are not definitive, requiring definitive truths might be asking a bit too much. It would not be the first time a contrarian came here to burden AT with an impossible demand, if indeed that’s what it’d take to make you change your mind. Unless you dispute that dumping CO2 in the atmosphere won’t lead to more harm than good, and more importantly that you justify your disputation with something tangible, then so much the worse for your empty opinions and beliefs.

    All in all, the crux of the matter is not if what you believe is true or not, it’s if it’s warranted or not. The Singh case showed that medical associations had a responsibility to back up their claims. The GWPF’s disclaimers in front of its reports show that they don’t own the very obnoxious stuff they themselves peddle.

    That is not OK.

  110. RickA says:

    Joshua:

    A carbon tax has known costs – they can be calculated.

    In my view (which could be wrong), a carbon tax costs are known to a much better degree than the potential costs of doing nothing.

    The uncertainty cuts in favor of doing nothing – because a carbon tax will have severe negative costs compared to the potential benefits or potential lessor costs of doing nothing.

    Then I have also stated if I had a magic wand I would replace all coal power plants (at least in the USA where I have the power to vote) with nuclear – which would certainly cut CO2 emissions.

    I am really very certain that a carbon tax will cost more than doing nothing – because that is my personal opinion.

    I am really very certain that a carbon tax will cost more than switching over from coal to nuclear – because that is my personal opinion.

    But you are certainly free to have a different personal opinion and even vote differently than me.

  111. Joshua says:

    RickA –

    =={ A carbon tax has known costs – they can be calculated. }==

    I don’t see how you can meaningfully calculate the “cost” of something if you don’t know how much you are spending relative to benefits, and the costs and benefits of alternatives. Counting how much you spend on something doesn’t exactly explain its cost.

    I could give you some analogies for explaining my view there, it it is necessary. But I think you would agree with that, no?

  112. RickA says:

    Williard:

    You are to smart for me.

    I didn’t understand a word you said.

  113. Willard says:

    > The uncertainty cuts in favor of doing nothing – because a carbon tax will have severe negative costs compared to the potential benefits or potential lessor costs of doing nothing.

    You have yet to substantiate the reasons why you hold that belief, RickA.

    Saying “that’s my belief” just won’t cut it.

    Neither would be saying “but I could be wrong.”

    Please cut to the chase.

    Don’t worry.

    I can say one-liners after

    oneliners

    to make

    my point

    too.

  114. Joshua says:

    =={ In my view (which could be wrong), a carbon tax costs are known to a much better degree than the potential costs of doing nothing. }==

    How are you calculating the costs of doing nothing?

  115. Joshua says:

    RickA –

    =={ The uncertainty cuts in favor of doing nothing – because a carbon tax will have severe negative costs compared to the potential benefits or potential lessor costs of doing nothing. }==

    There, again, I’m not seeing any wiggle room. You cay that you could be wrong, but you express certainty about your conclusions.

  116. RickA –

    =={ What would a carbon tax make cheaper }==

    A revenue neutral carbon tax would make other taxes cheaper.

    In most proposals it would make labor cheaper, which, if you believe in capitalism, means that people would buy more of it and unemployment would go down.

  117. Leto says:

    Mal Adapted, well said.

    I think that even the most privileged communities of the world will look back on the early 21st century as a time when inaction on climate change was disastrous for their own regions, but the denialist position is heavily bolstered, psychologically, by selfish disregard for those facing the worst effects.

  118. Joshua says:

    =={ I am really very certain that a carbon tax will cost more than doing nothing – because that is my personal opinion. }==

    That is a very interesting mechanism of cause-and-effect.

    You are really very certain of X (where X is extremely complex, based on counterfactuals and projections into the future about opportunity costs)….because X is your opinion. You know, sometimes I think that I operate in a similar fashion in how I formulate my beliefs, but I like to at least hope I engage a more dynamic process. Maybe I’m just less shy than you about admitting how I formulate my opinions?

  119. Willard says:

    > I didn’t understand a word you said.

    That’s a bummer.

    It’s easier to go one sentence at a time.

    Take for instance The belief that warming is beneficial until it’s harmful is quite definitively true.

    Do you understand why it’s definitively true?

    Because what’s beneficial is not harmful and vice-versa.

    As soon as you understand the meaning of both words, you understand that this sentence can’t be false.

    See?

    Easy.

    Try not to understand that.

    ***

    Now, onto the point I’m making with that observation.

    How can a truism justify any belief you can have about dumping CO2 in the atmosphere like there’s no tomorrow?

    It can’t.

    So your empirical belief is not warranted.

    See how easy it is?

    Try not to understand again.

    I dare you.

    Thank you for your concerns.

  120. RickA says:

    Joshua:

    I don’t see it that way.

    To me, the costs of a proposed action are independent of the benefits – not relative thereto.

    Take a proposed action of replacing coal power plants with nuclear.

    One can calculate the costs of doing this (I am proposing replacing coal power plants at end of life with nuclear – so it is the incremental cost of a nuclear power plant over a coal plant).

    One can also calculate the cost of storing nuclear waste, or building a reprocessing plant to burn the stored waste.

    One can calculate the likelihood of a nuclear accident and factor that in as a cost.

    Then one can calculate the benefits of replacing a coal plant with a nuclear plant.

    One could calculate the difference in mining uranium versus coal (I assume less for uranium versus coal just based on volume of fuel), moving it to the plant (I assume less for uranium versus coal just based on volume), the saving in mining accidents (ditto), the smaller co2 emissions and so forth.

    I don’t see the costs relative to the benefits.

    I see one calculation for the costs and a totally separate independent calculation for the benefits.

    One does that for each proposed action and then compares the calculated costs and benefits of each proposed action to the calculated cost and benefit of doing nothing.

    Than a decision is made.

  121. RickA says:

    Joshua asks “How are you calculating the costs of doing nothing?”

    Since I use incremental cost of a nuclear plant over coal there is no cost there.

    But there are higher co2 emissions from co2 plants – so therefore more warming versus a nuclear plant – so that cost needs to be calculated.

    Black carbon changes the albedo so that is a cost.

    Particulate aresols increase cooling so that is a subtraction from cost.

    I would use a range based on ECS of 1.5c to 4.5c for all that.

    I personally would lean towards the lower end of the range based on observations – but that is a personal preference.

    I would also use a range for sea level rise and factor that in as well.

    Again, nuclear would save on all of these costs versus doing nothing (more coal plants).

    I assume the costs of doing nothing (BAU) would be higher than the costs of replacing coal power plants with nuclear – but that is just my personal opinion and I could be wrong.

    This is why I would prefer to go nuclear – just in case I am wrong on my personal opinion that the warming thus far has been more beneficial than the costs.

  122. Joshua says:

    RickA –

    Working backwards.

    =={ One does that for each proposed action and then compares the calculated costs and benefits of each proposed action to the calculated cost and benefit of doing nothing. }==

    …of doing nothing, and of doing other things.

    =={ To me, the costs of a proposed action are independent of the benefits – not relative thereto. }==

    I have to think about that. As of right now, I can’t even imagine the cost of anything independent of the benefit, let alone make a decision to incur that cost. If I did, I can’t imagine a reason for getting out of bed in the morning, brushing my teeth, drinking some coffee….

    Maybe willard can help me to suss that one out.

  123. Joshua says:

    RickA –

    BTW, before I sign off…just a pet peeve:

    =={ Joshua asks “How are you calculating the costs of doing nothing?” }==

    FWYI…It bugs me when I’m having a discussion with someone, and then a response to something I’ve said is addressed to an audience. It feels disrespectful….a hint of poor faith exchange. Maybe I’m over-reading into it, but looking at socio-pragmatics of exchange is kind of an area of interest to me.

  124. Joshua says:

    FWYI must be a combination of FYI and FWIW… 🙂

    Looking at mixed metaphors is another area of interest.

  125. RickA says:

    Joshua:

    By the way – I don’t take externalities into account for my cost benefit analysis.

    That would muck up the comparison of say a new coal plant versus a nuclear power plant.

    I just look at the cost of the new coal plant in actual dollars versus the cost of a nuclear power plant in actual dollars. I guess I do price in externalities in looking at emissions from a coal plant versus emissions from a nuclear plant and storing nuclear waste in casks and recycling plants and so forth – but do you see my point.

    Externalities have no place in a cost benefit analysis because you try to just price in what you believe the actual costs are and the actual benefits are in real dollars.

    Again – that is my personal opinion.

    But I think you are double counting if you price the coal plant with externalities and then look at co2 emissions and sea level rise as separate costs.

  126. RickA says:

    Joshua says “As of right now, I can’t even imagine the cost of anything independent of the benefit, let alone make a decision to incur that cost.”

    Let me give you a crazy example – just for fun.

    Let us say the next ice age was upon us and we are getting cold.

    Some moron proposes making the sun go supernova to warm us up.

    Let us say (just making shit up) that the cost of making the sun go supernova was 1 trillion dollars.

    What would the benefit be?

    I estimate negative infinity – because our planet gets wiped out and everything dies.

    So I would reject this cost/benefit proposal compared to doing nothing.

    Now my benefit calculation is negative infinity no matter what the cost of building my supernova device is – they are independent (I think).

    Again – I will confess that I am not an economist – just a voter citizen with an opinion.

    So I may have this whole cost benefit thing all wrong.

    But that is how I am looking at it.

  127. BBD says:

    RickA

    Externalities have no place in a cost benefit analysis because you try to just price in what you believe the actual costs are and the actual benefits are in real dollars.

    If you misunderestimate the external costs, your actual costs vs actual benefits analysis is bust.

  128. Willard says:

    > Let us say (just making shit up) that the cost of making the sun go supernova was 1 trillion dollars.

    Let us just say that you better have something better than that in your next comment, RickA.

    Like justifying why taking externalities into account would mock up comparing coal with nuclear, because, you know, that kind of comparison could be the very reason why we consider externalities in the first place.

    Arguing against a truism is hard.

    Best of luck.

    And no, I’m not just expressing an opinion.

    If you could land on your feet and connect what you’re peddling right now with the topic of the thread, that would be nice.

  129. Ken Fabian says:

    RickA – if you don’t believe climate change is a serious and urgent problem then I am left believing you will not really fight to see fossil fuels replaced by nuclear. Nuclear is hard and expensive and most of the political support for it is strongly aligned with opponents of strong climate action, ie that support base is being rendered ineffective because of the successes of climate science denial and climate action obstruction.

    In the mouths of people who don’t accept the urgency and seriousness of the climate problem the nuclear option can only be seen as about stalling commitment to actions other than nuclear – ie Renewables – and comes without any actual commitment to nuclear to fix emissions. It’s an untenable position that only advantages fossil fueled BAU.

    Climate science denial sucked the support away from nuclear back before renewables were advanced enough to be a viable emissions reduction energy option. Climate science denial – the gift that keeps on taking.

  130. Leto says:

    I can’t see any evidence that Rick A even cares if his cost benefit analysis is grounded on likely costs or likely benefits, much less that he has genuine reasons to challenge the conventional view that drought, fires, rising sea level and refugee crises and climate wars are expensive and guaranteed to increase with further AGW. He has an opinion, which he pseudo-defends by declaring it to be just an opinion. Oh, and Tol says we will green up.

    On the whole, it does not seem to be a fertile ground for sensible discussion.

    I note that, among RickA’s various fallacies, he pulls the typical denier trick in assuming that something that cannot be estimated precisely (even if it is known to be large) is somehow less substantial than something that can be estimated precisely (even if is known to be small). So, climate costs are judged insubstantial and possibly fictional while a carbon tax is solid and must be avoided. Similarly, we should prefer to jump off a 30 +/-10 meter cliff rather than a 2+/- 0.1 meter cliff because, you know, who can trust an estimate as vague as the former, the cliff might not even be there if they can’t even tell how big it is and maybe it is actually fitted out with fairy dust down below to cushion the fall.

  131. Marco says:

    RickA, if you are proposing to replace coal plants with nuclear plants, you are in essence also calling on governments to invest significant amounts of taxpayer money. Fine with me, but considering your own self-professed economic ideology, I doubt that you are willing to support this in any way. Private investments are not going to do it, the ROI time is much too long, and you need too many private investers for just a single plant.

  132. RickA,

    What would a carbon tax make cheaper?

    In the following way. Without a carbon tax we have some energy sources (fossil fuels, for example) that have future costs that are not included in the price. This means that not only will someone eventually pay for this, but also means that they have an advantage in the market today. By introducing a carbon tax you – in principle – ensure that you’re paying to “correct” price for using fossil fuels (or, the correct price for emitting CO2 into the atmosphere) which allows alternatives to compete in the market and – in theory – will produce the most efficient energy infrastructure. Therefore, introducing a carbon tax should ultimately make it (energy) ultimately cheaper. To be fair, I don’t necessarily believe that this will definitively be the case, but this – as I understand it – is the basic idea. I also think that a carbon tax is the correct thing to implement because we are currently not paying – today – the full cost of using fossil fuels.

  133. Philip Clarke says:

    Liar is always going to be an emotive term and perhaps counterproductive. So, as we now have that organisation’s regard for factual accuracy on record, I propose that in future people simply characterise statements that they know to be wrong as ‘GWPF-Approved’.

  134. RickA says:

    Marco:

    I don’t see any reason why private companies cannot invest in a new nuclear plant, instead of investing in a new coal plant.

    xcel (or NSP) built two of them in Minnesota and I am sure they could build two more.

    One large power source, which will last 50 years has to be easier to manage than lots of small intermittent sources.

    Maybe it would be more attractive if we offered tax credits and made the regulatory environment easier to navigate.

    I am not a law maker – but I don’t see any real problem in doing this and getting it done with private money.

    It would be helpful if millions of people didn’t show up to protest the construction of a new nuclear plant – but that is out of my hands.

  135. RickA says:

    ATTP:

    I read your answer as saying that nothing will be cheaper in the near term.

    But that over time, the cumulative expense MAY be cheaper at some future date.

  136. RickA,

    I read your answer as saying that nothing will be cheaper in the near term.

    Well, yes, but that’s because we are not paying the full price of emitting CO2 into the atmosphere. In not doing so, we are passing an actual cost onto people in the future and it means that we have an energy market in which there isn’t a level playing field (some things are fully costed, others are not). So, yes, we could choose to not introduce a carbon tax but we should, in my view, at least acknowledge that this means that we are not paying the full price for using fossil fuels.

  137. Willard says:

    > Maybe it would be more attractive if we offered tax credits and made the regulatory environment easier to navigate.

    Once upon a time, “regulatory environments” were called states.

    Slogans about deregulation were hammered instead of euphemisms like “making easier to navigate” .

    That were the good ol’ days when one could punch a hippie right on the nose.

    Punching a hippie was the best way to make him navigate.

    ***

    One reason not to use the D word (i.e. deregulation) is that we’re talking about nuclear.

    Think about what deregulating the nuclear industry implies.

    Nuclear, deregulation – what could go wrong?

    That’s just what RickA suggested we do, besides subsidizing it.

    RickA did not mention the S word either – he rather talked about “tax credits.”

    Fancy that.

    ***

    In either case, nuclear subsidies would need to beat those we offer the fossil fuel industry.

    Let’s start with coal:

    Now, onto fossil fuel exploration:

    Source: priceofoil.org

    Somehow, I think this shows a “real problem in doing this and getting it done with private money.”

    Maybe it’s a vocabulary thing.

    ***

    A side note:

    Our concern is that Xcel would get permission to build the plant without going through the process of discovering whether it is the least-cost alternative.

    http://www.startribune.com/legislators-propose-bills-to-allow-a-new-xcel-plant-in-becker/410578955/

    Perhaps RickA should offer to help.

  138. Marco says:

    “I don’t see any reason why private companies cannot invest in a new nuclear plant, instead of investing in a new coal plant.”

    It’s not a “cannot”, but rather “would prefer not”.

    Let’s start with the fact that a nuclear power plant requires a *much* larger starting capital. Construction costs per MWh are much higher for a multitude of reasons. Find your investors, and tell them their ROI will possibly be in 10+ years, if the building doesn’t take too long (in Finland one new reactor is already delayed by 11 years – nice investment…).

    Moreover, to keep those costs somewhat manageable, the nuclear power plant needs to be rather big. This generates two additional problems:
    1) it may need to replace other power plants that are in principle not yet planned for decommission, whereas the new coal plant can be ‘small’ enough to replace one that is. Do not ignore the financial losses incurred by having to decommission plants that weren’t planned to be decommissioned! Investors don’t like that stuff
    2) if the nuclear power plant shuts down, for whatever reason, you loose a *lot* of power in one go. Other power plants are much smaller, and thus their shutdown will create less problems.This is a financial issue to consider, too.

    Then add the uncertainty with regard to the acceptance of nuclear power in a constantly changing political environment. Coal actually has, to some extent, the same problem, but much less. People don’t care about that coal power plant 100 miles away. They do when it is a nuclear power plant.

    Your comment regarding Minnesota is a bit strange. If Xcel energy can easily build two more, why are they spending so much money on upgrading/maintaining their two very old plants (40+ years)?

  139. Mal Adapted says:

    Did someone say “carbon tax”? While one doubts the DK-afflicted RickA’s skill will improve by it, ATTP has answered him rather well IMO. I want to emphasize, though, that the ultimate rationale for carbon taxes isn’t just to internalize the costs of AGW in the price of fossil fuels. As our host explained with appropriate reticence:

    By introducing a carbon tax you – in principle – ensure that you’re paying to “correct” price for using fossil fuels (or, the correct price for emitting CO2 into the atmosphere) which allows alternatives to compete in the market and – in theory – will produce the most efficient energy infrastructure. Therefore, introducing a carbon tax should ultimately make it (energy) ultimately cheaper.

    Disclaimer: IANAE either, but my brother is, so I do look like one.

    Yes, assuming a spherical cow, fossil-carbon taxes are indeed intended to make energy cheaper counting the costs of AGW, and bring a halt to AGW by replacing fossil fuels with carbon-neutral energy sources. By eliminating the price advantage FFs obtain by socializing the cost of AGW, a well-designed carbon tax would immediately reduce greenhouse emissions to the extent demand for FFs is price-sensitive, as consumers reduce their FF consumption to save money. In addition, consumers would seek alternative energy, and would find its current, somewhat higher prices are now competitive with FF prices with the carbon tax in place. If history is a guide, “market forces”, i.e. the lure of profit for entrepeneurs, should then drive R&D and buildout of the carbon-neutral economy to completion, while minimizing the overall impact to national and global economies. Mission accomplished, nobody crying but energy investors with stranded FF assets. In principle.

    For both economic and political reasons, proposals for “revenue-neutral” carbon taxes have gained the most traction. They’re more acceptable to “small-government” conservatives, and they minimize the overall economic impact of the ripple effect from increased FF prices. Because the carbon-tax revenue remains available for private investment, it’s more palatable to “free-market” conservatives who acknowledge the existence of market externalities.

    IMHO it’s critical for any domestic carbon tax to include a Border Adjustment Tax, to discourage domestic industry from off-shoring production, and encourage our trading partners to follow our example.

    There’s a lot more to say about carbon taxes: visit carbontax.org and citizensclimateinitiative.org. Assuredly there are more ways to implement a bad one, one that’s inefficient and unfair to say nothing of ineffective, than a good one. That’s not an argument for taking them off the table, however.

  140. Joshua says:

    RickA –

    In my experience of observing pro-nuclear proponents on climate blogs, most of whom lean towards what they describe as libertarian ideology (I often am not sure of the veracity of that self-description), is that there is a disconnect between their ideology and their pro-nuclear advocacy.

    Other commenters have already touched on that disconnect….but I’ll just add my two (or probably more accurately hundred?) cents.

    I think that a nuclear build-out on a meaningful scale would require a significant amount of federal funding (picking winners and losers) and centralization of energy policies (creating government too big to drown in a bathtub, federal agencies deciding on policies that would be implemented at state levels, etc.).

    We might find some examples here and there that would be exceptions, but by definition they would be on a different scale than what would be required to enact an meaningful increase in our use of nuclear power. I can only think of one exception where perhaps nuclear power has been employed on a scale that we’re talking about without accompanying conditions that would, in other contexts, be rejected out of hand by self-described “libertarians,” and that would be in Finland. But I have my doubts about that also, as it seems to me that a Finland-style government would be anathema to self-described “libertarians,” given that it is generally considered to be a “Socialist’ government, has high taxes, has unionized teachers, etc.

    I don’t doubt that at some level, “regulatory overreach” is an obstacle for large-scale nuclear that could conceivably be mitigated…but…in my understanding there are other inherent obstacles to a “private sector” massive build-out of nuclear power in the States. As mentioned above by others, that would be (in the least): (1) the massive scale of funding that would be involved and, (2) the extremely long time-horizon for return on investment. I don’t think that those problems can be dealt with only by a reduced regulatory burden, and it seems to me that people who have that kind of money to throw around would be very likely to find other investment vehicles which might have similar or better rates of return, on far shorter time horizons, where there is far less risk involved (not only from accidents, but also a competitive risk imposed by rapidly advancing alternative technologies). I have brought up those issues to “skeptics” on climate blogs, and never seen responses that have particularly impressed me. Maybe that is because of my inherent biases, but if you have some good responses, maybe this old dog could be edumacated.

    Another point, also. You speak of “irrational” fears of radiation. I might agree that there is a fear of radiation that might not be completely explained by the available scientific evidence, but I am reluctant to assign the adjective of “irrational.” One of the relatively few things that I agree with David W, of CE fame about, is the problem in the looseness with how the term “irrational” is bandied about (similar to your concerns about “liar” I would guess). “Irrational” can sometimes mean “reasoning I don’t agree with,” but even beyond that, whether or not you think it is “irrational” doesn’t really address the existence of the phenomenon. You won’t make fear of radiation go away just by calling it “irrational.” Wishful thinking isn’t a particularly good problem-solving strategy, either.

    So given that you agree that concerns about radiation are a real obstacle, even if we might disagree about how to label such fears, in order for your cost/benefit analysis (such as it is) – that leads you to promote a move towards nuclear – to be manifest, on top of the financial obstacles you would also need to have a realistic strategy for dealing with concerns about radiation – unless you would suggest that government move towards nuclear despite significant numbers of people who might not be on board. (Would you be in favor of such governmental action – my sense is that you wouldn’t if you weren’t being selective in your application of your political ideology, in which case you’d need to explain why you’d be making exceptions?). This is also an issue which, in my experience, I have never seen effectively addressed on climate blogs, where my sense is that instead, “skeptics” tend to exploit advocacy of nuclear energy without seriously addressing realistic obstacles, so that they can promote their “skeptical” agenda (which is associated with, IMO, if not necessarily caused by, motivated reasoning in support of an ideological agenda)…

    Now that comment was waaay too long and convoluted to get a particularly useful response, and unfortunately I asked a lot of questions….which is something that has been criticized a lot and something I need to think about….So I am going to ask you to just pick one aspect of what I wrote to respond to, hopefully in some depth. And it is hard to understand your comments when you stretch them out over a series of somewhat loosely associated sentences. In my habitual way of understanding what people are saying, paragraph structure plays an important role, in that (hopefully) it organizes the information in a logical and hierarchical sequencing.

  141. RickA says:

    Marco:

    I fully admit that nuclear is more expensive than coal.

    Are we not willing to pay more for electricity to avoid CO2 emissions and [coal] particulate?

    I also will admit that there is not a large group advocating for nuclear (I feel like the only one in Minnesota – although I am sure that is not true).

    The NRC and litigation make it almost impossible to build a new nuclear plant in the USA – which is why no new nuclear plant has gone into operation since the NRC was created. I think there are four new plants under construction currently. However there was a near halt on new nuclear plant construction over a 30 year period (hello NRC).

    In my opinion we have to decide whether we want coal emissions or nuclear power.

    After we decide that we need to decide do we want natural gas (another fossil fuel – but cleaner) or nuclear power?

    I really don’t see conservation or renewable stepping up to replace 66% of our power needs.

    But if nuclear isn’t a possibility than we can just keep on with BAU.

    All I can do is sit back and watch (and blog about it).

    I suspect that over time, more and more environmentalists will become pro-nuclear (like James Hansen). But that is probably just wishful thinking – we will see.

    Without grid level power storage, renewable will never crack 30% – so we either need inventions (grid level power storage and/or a cheaper form of non-fossil fuel power) or to go nuclear.

    We can certainly not count on inventing our way out of this over a short time horizon.

    So what to do?

    Put me in the nuclear camp.

  142. RickA says:

    Joshua:

    On the issue of a nuclear build-out requiring a significant amount of federal funding – you could be right. But here is what I envision. I am envisioning an energy bill in which we switch whatever subsidies we have for coal towards encouraging nuclear plants to be privately built. I am envisioning picking a design, preferably a passive cooling design like the AP1000 and giving pre-approval, so any utility could download the plans, get local approval and start construction. Perhaps we could fast track the review of the NuScale small modular reactor design, and get that deployed. Wouldn’t it be great if we could locate a small modular reactor at a substation, and provide power to whatever area is served by that substation? Maybe even get coops going to invest in small modular reactors? Probably pie in the sky thinking.

    On the issue of radiation fear – I have no thoughts on how to overcome that. You would think that with 100 plants currently operating in the USA that people would have overcome their fear by now. Really – what is the difference between 100 or 200 or 600? My hope is that at some point environmental groups will decide nuclear is in their best interests, to head off CAGW and will start educating people and actually promoting nuclear. I certainly have no plans on doing anything beyond commenting on the issue. I built my house in 2007 and installed a geothermal heat pump, so use electricity for heating and cooling – but 66% of my Xcel electricity is still fossil fuel based. I personally don’t really understand people’s fear of radiation – and think that any rational person reviewing the issue would choose nuclear over replacing end-of-life coal power plants with new coal power plants. These same people probably sun bath and have no idea they are being exposed to radiation. They probably fly and have no fear of the increased radiation they get at altitude. What can you do?

    Maybe we should start small by building regional recycling nuclear plants for the specific purpose of reprocessing the spent fuel stored in casks at the 100 existing plants. Yes we would have to ship the fuel regionally – but that would actually be killing two birds with one stone (solving an existing problem and using the wealth of fuel just sitting around not being used). This would also result in a smaller volume of waste and significantly reduce its half-life – win win win.

    Maybe we should take some old military reactors or even decommissioned ships – bring them into port and just start generating power for port cities with these existing reactors? Maybe the government could sell them cheap to port city power companies.

    I don’t really know how to solve the problem – I just think the obvious answer is to go nuclear as quickly as possible.

    I have always enjoyed our exchanges, which I think extend back to 2009 or so. You are always polite and do not name call – which I really appreciate (and try to model as well).

  143. BBD says:

    RickA

    Without grid level power storage, renewable will never crack 30% – so we either need inventions (grid level power storage and/or a cheaper form of non-fossil fuel power) or to go nuclear.

    You peddle this endlessly at Greg’s so you’ve been told – many times – that nuclear is not a silver bullet. Nobody argues for a transition to 100% nuclear electricity generation, never mind TPE. Just getting around 20% of global *electricity* from nuclear by mid-century is regarded as optimistic. So ‘going nuclear’ will only be a component of decarbonisation. We still need a huge expansion of W&S to do the heavy lifting even with a scale of nuclear build-out that currently looks like a pipe dream.

  144. Marco says:

    “I fully admit that nuclear is more expensive than coal.”

    a) It isn’t
    b) it should be even less expensive

    Over a long period, nuclear is likely cheaper than coal. It’s the initial investment that can be several factors higher, and that’s where governments need to be involved, assuring the finances are in place.

    Now, if one would add a proper carbon price, coal-powered plants would become much less attractive than nuclear power plants. Gas would likely still be lower, but suddenly nuclear will have a real chance among investors, even though the ROI time remains a problem.

  145. Jp says:

    Certainty of beliefs based on personal opinions based on nothing _ does that fall under the definition of idiocy?

  146. Marco says:

    Which reminds me: Denmark has 50+% of its electricity from renewable sources (primarily wind). I can’t remember any significant grid problems. Costa Rica doesn’t have problems either (and its at almost 100% generation from renewable sources). Spain has 40+% of electricity production by renewable sources, too, and also doesn’t have any significant grid problems.

  147. RickA says:

    Marco:

    It works great if you can import electricity from your neighbors.

    http://www.energinet.dk/EN/KLIMA-OG-MILJOE/Miljoerapportering/Sider/Import-og-eksport.aspx

    Denmark is a net importer of electricity and they generate 17% less than they consume.

    I am sure they deal with the non-windy days with imports.

    I am not sure the USA could import enough from Canada and/or Mexico – but maybe I am wrong.

  148. RickA says:

    Marco:

    Rather than a carbon tax – how about a coal tax instead?

    That would hit only coal – rather than absolutely everything.

    I am not in favor of a carbon tax – but if the goal is to make coal power plants more expensive, make coal more expensive is fairly targeted.

    Why make food more expensive.

    Why make heating, cooling, farming, manufacturing, transporting, and so on – more expensive?

    Carbon is an input to pretty much everything.

  149. Rick,
    Except, by design, a carbon tax would hit coal harder than other fossil fuels because (IIRC) coal emits more CO2 per MWh than other fossil fuels.

  150. RickA says:

    ATTP:

    Ok – coal will get hit harder.

    But with a tax on CO2 emissions (a carbon tax) won’t everything else get his to some extent.

    Let me give you an example – take a loaf of bread.

    Now I am just guessing here – but I guess that fertilizer will cost more, as well as pesticides (because their manufacture probably emits CO2).

    So farming wheat will get more expensive.

    Driving tractors and plows will get more expensive.

    Delivering the wheat to the plant will get more expensive.

    Processing the wheat to make the bread at the plant will get more expensive.

    Delivering the finished loaf to the grocery store will get more expensive and driving the loaf home will get more expensive.

    The carbon tax hits all the inputs and all the outputs for the loaf of bread, as well as the entire distribution system.

    So food gets more expensive.

    The same is true for all other inputs.

    Steel manufacturing gets more expensive – so anything which uses stell gets more expensive.

    Ditto for any other manufacturing item – it all gets more expensive to make and deliver.

    This is why I say that absolutely everything – every good and every service will get more expensive.

    That hits poor people hardest.

    Will it cause less CO2 emissions – yep.

    But it is a blunt tool.

    A little like just doubling the cost of electricity.

    Will less electricity get used – yes.

    Will rich people use less electricity – probably not – it will be poor people who cannot afford electricity.

    Personally, I would rather just encourage the replacement of coal power plants with nuclear power plants – which will cost way less (in my opinion).

    I don’t even understand the concept of a revenue neutral carbon tax – since the tax is applied at every stage of production of everything and the delivery of everything – so I am skeptical that such a thing really exists.

    A carbon tax is basically just an agreement to raise the price of absolutely everything, to discourage production and consumption of everything.

    So a little bit less gasoline, a little bit less steel, a little bit less aluminum, a little bit less food, a few less cars, a little bit higher restaurant food, a little bit higher cost to build a house – etc.

    I think it is a terrible idea.

    But I only get one vote.

  151. Rick,
    But the point is that if you don’t introduce a carbon tax then those things will be cheaper because we’re not paying the full price. Not only will someone else end up paying for this, but it also suggests that the market is not operating in the most efficient way that it can; there could be other energy sources that would be ultimately cheaper but that can’t compete because effectively because we’re not paying the full price for emitting CO2 into the atmosphere.

  152. RickA says:

    ATTP:

    That whole externality thing is hard for me to wrap my brain around.

    Who is going to pay, when and how much?

    How far out do you project.

    Is 8 inches of sea level rise in the next 100 years very expensive?

    I live in Minnesota, and am 900 feet above sea level – so I don’t have to pay for that.

    So the costs of sea level rise are not borne by everyone.

    Only people on the coast have to pay for sea level rise and they have 100 years to jack their houses up 8 inches or move it or adapt or whatever.

    The ocean rose 120 meters over the last 20,000 years – but none of the people displaced ever got a bill and I never heard them complain. They must migrated higher. Is that really a “cost”.

    Have you read any books about how tough it was for all the coastal communities to deal with the 8 inches of sea level rise over the 20th century?

    Looking back, I don’t see any evidence people understood they were being billed for some externalized cost and I doubt people in 100 years will look back and see these externalized bills either.

    So that takes care of sea level rise.

    How much does it cost because the temperature rises another 8C or 1C?

    I never got a bill for the last .8C rise.

    Will people in the future really even know they are paying this alleged externality?

    How much did you pay because of the last 150 years of CO2 emissions?

    Do you really have any idea?

    I don’t.

    So I think externalities is a nice accounting trick – but isn’t a real expense like paying a bill from your electric company.

    Just my personal opinion of course.

  153. Rick,
    This is one of the few times I have hoped that Richard Tol might come and comment here 😉 . The caculation are clearly difficult and not precise. However, the general view amongst those who do this work is that there is a cost to emitting CO2 into the atmosphere today, and that it is positive and probably in the range of 10s of dollars per tonne of CO2. Therefore, in order to pay the full price of using fossil fuels and emitting their CO2 into the atmosphere, we should add this cost.

    This article is quite a nice explainer.

  154. RickA says:

    ATTP:

    Thank you for the link (which I did read).

    I have trouble translating the SCC and 10s of dollars per tonne of CO2 into a meanful number.

    Does anyone know how much $56/ton (using the average foreign number from the link) would translate into a percent increase in the price of electricity? Say I pay 10 cents per KWh now, how much would it cost for a KWh with a $56/ton carbon tax on it?

    How much would a $56/ton carbon tax cost me? That is what I am trying to figure out. How much would all my expenses go up due to the carbon tax (a before and after comparison)?

    Than I can extrapolate to the rest of society.

    I must confess that $56/ton doesn’t mean anything to me in terms of my bottom line or yours or the entire USA (or the world).

    Any thoughts?

  155. RickA says:

    ATTP:

    Another question for you to ponder.

    My life expectancy today is 80 years (give or take) and I think has doubled compared to what my life expectancy would have been 150 years ago.

    How much is that worth?

    Would you rather live today, in a warmer world (405 ppm CO2) with higher seas, with a life expectancy of 80 ish or in 1850, with 280 ppm CO2, lower seas and a life expectancy of 40 ish years?

    What is the net SCC over the last 150 years?

    It has brought tremendous advantages and benefits, as well as costs.

    Some even say the benefits still outweigh the costs and might for another 1C of warming.

    Anyway – that and externalities hurt my brain to think about.

    Fun discussion.

    Thanks.

  156. Okay, some rough numbers that I’ve just quickly looked up, but haven’t quite confirmed. It appears that coal produces about 1 MWh of energy for every 1000kg (tonne) of CO2 emitted. The cost of 1 MWh in the UK is about £120 (12p per kWh). If you then add about £30 for a carbon tax, you increase the cost by about 25%. On the other hand, natural gas is more like 500kg of CO2 per MWh, so adding a carbon tax of a few tens of dollars, would only increase the cost by about 10%.

    However, I don’t think the suggestion is that we would add a carbon tax of this magnitude instantly, It is more likely that it would start smaller, and rise with time.

  157. Rick,

    Would you rather live today, in a warmer world (405 ppm CO2) with higher seas, with a life expectancy of 80 ish or in 1850, with 280 ppm CO2, lower seas and a life expectancy of 40 ish years?

    I think that there is no question that there has been a net benefit to using fossil fuels. However, the question we are asking ourselves now is whether or not we should continue as we are, or start trying to adapt our energy infrastructure so that we emit less CO2 into the atmosphere. It’s really the difference between continuing as we are with likely costs in the future associated with emitting CO2 into the atmoshere, and the potential cost of adapting our energy infrastructure so as to reduce the risks associated with emitting CO2 into the atmosphere.

  158. RickA says:

    So if there has been a net benefit to using fossil fuels – do we get to net the net benefit against the net harm (once we hit the tipping point and the costs outweigh the benefits)?

    Or do we ignore the net benefit we have banked and just start billing ourselves now, because at some point in the future we will tip over from banking more benefits to withdrawing?

  159. RickA says:

    I guess I am asking why we are looking at externilized costs and not externilized benefits?

  160. Rick,
    The comparison that is being made is the benefit + cost of continuing to use fossil fuels to the benefit + cost of using an alternative. The current analysis suggests that fossil fuels currently have a cost that is not included. If we include this, then the cost of using fossil fuels goes up. If, however, this is still less than the cost of the alternatives, then we would continue to use fossil fuels. If, however, some alternatives become cheaper, then presumably they would start to be use instead of fossil fuels. In principle, it should be the most efficient way in what to drive changes to our energy infrastructure.

  161. Rick,

    I guess I am asking why we are looking at externilized costs and not externilized benefits?

    I’m getting outside my comfort zone, but I think this is all included. When you buy a product, you always consider the cost versus the benefit. You would generally hope that the benefit is greater than the cost.

    There are costs associated with generating energy using fossil fuels. We should pay these costs when we use this energy. When we use the energy, we get a benefit. We would hope that this benefit is greater than the cost. If it starts to become the case that the cost is greater than the benefit, then we would hope that some kind of alternative, for which the cost is less than the benefit, would then become available.

  162. RickA says:

    My brain is spinning out of control!

    What happens if life expectancy continues to lengthen into the future.

    Say average life expectancy is 100 or 120 in 100 years?

    Does that trump the SCC?

    What about this geoengineering idea – what would it cost to control the radius of our orbit around the sun. Move 100 miles away from the sun or 50 miles towards it (or any arbitrary number, plus or minus). That should change insolation and allow us to control our climate (if we really understood it of course).

  163. RickA says:

    ATTP said “I’m getting outside my comfort zone, but I think this is all included.”

    I wish Richard Tol was here as well.

    I have this vague feeling that SCC only looks at costs and does not factor in any benefits (like increased life expectancy or all the inventions enabled by artificial light and so on).

    Still – I am sure someone reading will educate me.

  164. Does that trump the SCC?

    Well, no, because the SCC is really just an estimate of a cost that isn’t included. It’s really just an estimate for a cost associated with generating a certain amount of energy using fossil fuels, versus generating the same energy using a source that does not emit CO2 into the atmosphere. It’s not suggesting that we would be better off if we simply stopped generating energy at all.

  165. Rick,

    I have this vague feeling that SCC only looks at costs and does not factor in any benefits (like increased life expectancy or all the inventions enabled by artificial light and so on).

    Well, yes, I think this is the case, but that’s by definition. Again, it’s really a comparison between a cost associated with generating energy and emitting CO2 into the atmosphere, versus generating the same amount of energy without emitting CO2 into the atmosphere. For example, let’s say we can calculate how much extra it would cost to completely change our energy infrastructure so that we no longer emit CO2 into the atmosphere. We then estimate the extra cost (i.e., future damages) associated with generating energy via fossil fuels that emit CO2 into the atmosphere. If the cost of changing our energy infrastructure is smaller than the future cost/damages associated with emitting CO2 into the atmosphere, then we would presumably change our energy infrastructure (it would be cheaper). If not, then we wouldn’t.

    Of course, it’s much more complex than the above, but the key point is that if we provide the same energy, then the benefits are the same, and the only comparison we need to make is between the additional costs (cost of changing out energy infrastructure versus future costs of emitting CO2 into the atmosphere).

    Again, getting slightly our of my depth here.

  166. RickA says:

    You have been very patient with me, and I appreciate it.

    I will give us both a break for now.

    Thanks for a fun and thought provoking discussion.

  167. Marco says:

    RickA, Denmark is in a very much integrated electricity grid with Sweden and Norway (+ Northern Germany). This means that when Norway (or Sweden) produces a lot of hydropower, the electricity is so cheap that Denmark will have to shut down several power plants and use the hydropowered electricity instead. It’s not that Denmark cannot generate enough electricity, but it just sometimes cannot compete with the hydropower. Without that hydropower, Denmark still has well over 30+% electricity generation from renewable sources (over 50% with the hydropower from Norway/Sweden). I don’t know how well the electricity grids are integrated in the US, but I doubt they are as much as they are in Northern/Northwest Europe.

    I don’t quite see a reason why coal should get all the blame.

  168. Marco says:

    With respect to the cost-benefit analysis, either *I* may be missing something, or you two are:
    The SCC obviously does not take into account benefits. There’s a reason you call it “SCC” and not “SC&BC”.

    Benefits will need to be taken into account separately. You can tout all the benefits of artificial light you want, but you cannot make it a benefit of fossil fuels: it is a benefit of electricity generation. This is thus where the direct costs of electricity generation come in.

    While I understand the pushback against a carbon tax, I also know that a lot of people don’t realize that they are, in essence, paying a ‘carbon price’ anyway through higher costs of other ‘products’ (e.g., dykes and other sea level protections). The lack of a carbon tax makes it harder for products to compete that would reduce those other costs.

  169. The SCC obviously does not take into account benefits. There’s a reason you call it “SCC” and not “SC&BC”.

    Yes, I thought I’d said something like that, but maybe not all that clearly.

  170. izen says:

    there are numerous studies that show burning coal to generate electricity kills large numbers of people. Here is one:-

    In any cost-benefit analysis this may emerge as a benefit as it takes out the elderly that would otherwise be entitled to age-related welfare and pensions.

    The idea that Tol could contribute meaningfully to this discussion appears to be the triumph of hope over experience.

  171. Marco says:

    That means I missed something 🙂

  172. Marco,
    I realise that this comment was maybe not that clear. What I was trying to get at was that, of course ,how much we benefit is also important because this will influence how we use a product, or will influence the development of alternatives to a product if the cost of that product exceeds the benefit. You’re of course correct, that the SCC itself is simply associated with determining the cost and doesn’t (and shouldn’t) include some kind of estimate of the benefit.

  173. Willard says:

    > Denmark is a net importer of electricity and they generate 17% less than they consume.

    In 2015. In 2010 it exported more than it imported.

    The US of A may not be there any time soon.

    https://www.eia.gov/electricity/annual/html/epa_02_13.html

  174. Joshua says: April 2, 2017 at 3:15 pm – “As Greg speaks to above, calling someone a liar demands a knowledge of intent that I suspect none of us have in this case, and so, IMO, calling him a liar isn’t reflective of sound reasoning.” ~~~
    Given that the facts laid out in Merchants of Doubt are accurate – where would tactical and malicious intent to deceive the public, fit into your scheme?

    What about the entire attack on Mann which is predicated on ignoring caveats printed in the original paper and manufacturing a grand fiction that treated minor variations and uncertainties as mortal sins. {…and collectively, no one successfully called ‘them’ on it, another horrendous failure to communicate, but I digress.}. What should that be called?

    How should one categorize and label what we’ve recently watched with Lamar Smith, Bates/Curry/Rose, Karl et al 2016, and the “Hiatus” travesty and the way facts were and continue to be creatively twisted to fit an absolutely false storyline. Supported by that GOP hermetically sealed faith-based political agenda, that refuses to acknowledge the existence of everything they don’t want to hear about, every bit like five years old stuffing their ears and singing a tone to drown out what they don’t want to hear.

    As for what is Truth how about physical facts, such as: There was no global warming hiatus, our impact on our planet continues unabated right on through the first decade of the new millennium with all indications pointing to an accelerating trend during the second decade as irreversible cascading consequences come into play with increasing impact.
    __________________________________________________________________
    As for those who get offended when I or others singled out the GOP as ‘the bad guys’,
    what about:

    5 ways Trump and the GOP disparaged science this week
    An executive order sent the message that climate change doesn’t matter, and the NIH was threatened with an imminent budget cut. / Brian Resnick | Mar 31, 2017

    http://www.vox.com/science-and-health/2017/3/31/15136266/5-ways-trump-gop-disparaged-science-this-week

    An executive order with a clear message: climate change doesn’t matter
    1 Roll back the Clean Power Plan (Obama’s plan to cut emissions from existing US power plants 32 percent below 2005 levels by 2030)
    2 Reconsider standards for carbon emission at new coal power plants
    3 Reconsider methane emission standards for oil and gas production
    4 Potentially readjust the “social cost of carbon” — which helps the government weigh the costs and benefits of new regulations
    5 Lift the moratorium on federal coal leasing
    6 Repeal the guidance that the government needs to factor in climate change when it reviews impacts of new problems
    7 Roll back Obama-era climate executive orders on climate — including one on preparing for extreme weather
    8 Instruct all federal agencies to review all rules and policies for potential impacts to energy production

    2) Trump’s requests for the final 2017 budget contain considerable cuts to scientific research

    3) The White House doesn’t seem interested in staffing up on science and technology policy experts

    4) The chair of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology continued his attack on scientific institutions and expertise

    5) The House passed two bills that would stifle science at the EPA

  175. John Hartz says:

    When public officials lie, they are liable to face the consequences. Scott Pruitt is a case in point…

    The Oklahoma Bar Association has launched an investigation into an ethics complaint filed against Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt.

    The complaint accuses Pruitt of breaching Oklahoma Rules of Professional Conduct by allegedly misrepresenting the facts when he told a Senate committee at his confirmation hearing that he did not use a personal email address to conduct business while attorney general of Oklahoma, reported KSWO-TV.

    Documents that the attorney general’s office released through an Open Records Act lawsuit in Oklahoma appear to contradict sworn testimony from Pruitt, the state’s former attorney general.

    Oklahoma Bar Association Probing Ethics Complaint Against Scott Pruitt by Mary Papenfuss, Huffington Post US, Huffington Post US, Mar 31, 2017

  176. JCH says:

    There were anomalous trade winds. That means more powerful than any seen in the record. Nobody knew they were about to happen. Nobody knew how powerful they could get. Nobody knew how long they would go on. Nobody knew what caused them to happen. Nobody knew when they would go away. What they did know was… the GMST was going to remain flat for as long as the big surprise kept blowing.

    Sorry, there was a hiatus. It ended just the nick of time. No scientist knew that was going to happen.

  177. John Hartz says:

    “Oh! What a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive” …

    Scott Pruitt, the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), is under investigation by his own agency for misstating the basic scientific consensus on human-caused global warming.

    Turns out that providing misguiding scientific information to the public isn’t a cool thing to do, after all — even in the Trump administration.

    EPA administrator Scott Pruitt is fast becoming one of the most controversial of President Donald Trump’s cabinet picks. He is leading the push to unravel the Obama administration’s landmark climate change policies while overseeing a historic downsizing of the agency he runs.

    But Pruitt may have crossed a legal line when, during an interview on March 9 with CNBC’s “Squawk Box” morning show, he denied the reality of human-caused climate change, contradicting findings published on his own agency’s website.

    EPA head Scott Pruitt may have broken integrity rules by denying global warming by Andrew Freedman, Mashable, Apr 4, 2017

  178. Greg Robie says:

    The existence of motivated reasoning as an evolutionary development in our species suggests that the general social experience of homeostasis requires us to tell ourselves falsehoods. The more ignorant of the RedPillReal a society is, the closer it is to its collapse. Throw in the lag between cause and effect that is integral to the climate system and forcings, and, well, . . . . .

    This has been a fascinating thread. It has also been tedious. Has it morphed from a question of the efficacy/morality of lying/naceint ignorance/willful ignorance/socially conventioned ignorance to a ‘theological’ discussion that is analogous to debating how many angles can dance on the head of a pin?

    It is truthful to use CapitalismFail as a compound word. Limited liability law enabled CapitalismFail’s Anthropocene with its abrupt climate change, has, in good faith (i.e., the old English meaning of this word: what is done), proven itself to be the false go[o]d it is. A hope/ trust in “privileged” and irresponsible living can do no other. Technology can mask the truth of this with short term falsehoods, but, well, … and then there’s physics!

    =)

    PS: My fellow American from Minnesota has ‘taken a knee’, so to speak, from advocating that CapitalismFail should trump physics … since earlier today I tried to post this from the blog site. As Americans we have twice the carbon footprint of Europeans. We hope in our energy intensive a lifestyle, perhaps just as Europeans do, but if so, we have our heads twice as far up our piety when we do so. Isn’t it past time to stop talking to us and talk about an economic boycott of us/US … even if all that comes from it is the capacity to observe what we are lying/naceint ignorance/willful ignorance/socially conventioned ignorance about physics’ incompatibility with CapitalismFail?

    sNAILmALEnotHAIL …but pace’n myself

    !END

    >

  179. Michael 2 says:

    The question “is it okay to lie” presumes the existence of a universal judge and a universal morality; something and someone to say “yes” or “no” and perhaps offer some nuances. This does not exist.

    A Darwinian evaluation suggests that since lying exists and is widespread, it serves a useful purpose. Truthfulness also exists; not nearly as widespread BUT is dominant in a small subset of human cultures (Scandinavian, typically). A comparison is weeds versus edible crops. Weeds take root, grow quickly, and will smother the edible crop. It takes *work* to remove the weeds although it is a lot less work if you catch the weeds early.

    But the weed does not see itself as a weed; it is the proper plant chosen by Nature herself and if you don’t believe then leave the field alone for a season or two and Nature will decide what she chooses. Weeds.

    Another thought has popped into my mind at the end but I’ll put it here. Suppose you were an excellent farmer and you kept the weeds so controlled that none were visible. Visitors would wonder why you are going to all the effort to suppress weeds when there are none; they might even think you a bit daft or obsessive-compulsive.

    So it is that truth must be cultivated and it takes work. Truth is found, in my opinion, more among clan-oriented cultures (Scandinavia) where detection of lying is easy and punishment swift and effective combined with negligible reason or benefit in lying.

    It is reasonably widely known that Winston Churchill was a liar, and because of it, England survived World War 2. I sometimes use the word “expedient” rather than “right” or “wrong” in such cases. It is possible, I think, to objectively decide something was “expedient” but right, wrong, and “okay” simply are not objectively testable judgments.

    Governments cannot be the agent of deciding what is truth and who is the liar. In the United States, “freedom of speech” is expressly oriented toward criticism of government, political speech in other words. That is the most protected kind. Science communication *is* political communication when taking place in Congress.

    If you prevent the “other side” from speaking, I will know that something is being suppressed. I will hear all sides of a story before I decide anything. You cannot impose “prior restraint” on your opponents’ speech. In fact, generally in the United States that’s illegal anyway.

    I don’t really care whether you CALL someone a liar. But if you call someone a liar, and fail to provide evidence that this person knows the truth and is willfully lying anyway, then such person as makes that judgment is himself subjected to a judgment, by me and others, that his argument is weak and he seeks to deflect attention via the “red herring” mechanism.

  180. Joshua says:

    Kind of on topic….and definitely hilarious (and spot on):

  181. John Hartz says:

    Off topic for this OP, but frequently discussed on multiple threads on this site…

    Alan Alda’s Crusade to Make Science Talk a Jargon-Free Zone by Claudia Dreifus, Guest Blog, Scientific American, Apr 5, 2017

  182. Leto says:

    Michael2: “I don’t really care whether you CALL someone a liar. But if you call someone a liar, and fail to provide evidence that this person knows the truth and is willfully lying anyway, then such person as makes that judgment is himself subjected to a judgment, by me and others, that his argument is weak and he seeks to deflect attention via the “red herring” mechanism.”

    That may indeed be the response of many denlialists, so it is probably useful to be aware of mindsets like yours. But it is a false inference that the claim about denlialists’ lying is an attempt to deflect attention from a weak argument. Even if you don’t agree with the “warmists”, you should at least recognise that they are sincere, and that they do not consider themselves to have a weak argument. Deflecting attention from the evidence is the last thing they want because the evidence supports them.

    Because it is hard to prove intent, it may be futile to spend much time publicly claiming that the denialists are lying. It is not the most important battle.

    On the other hand, among people who do accept the consensus scientific position, it is important to recognise that there are many payers in this faux debate who are not arguing in good faith. Most of the hints that this is the case are only apparent if you accept and understand the consensus position, so the claim that they are lying often (not always) sounds weak.

    Apart from the lines of evidence in, say, Merchants of Doubt, one of the clearest indicators of dishonesty on the denialist side is that many of the players, like Pruitt, talk in a series of carefully crafted misleading truisms. What this tells us is that there is no point trying to convince Pruitt, and people like him, of the truth. Efforts should be spent on exposing the general punter to the evidence, and on trying to remove liars like Pruitt from positions of power. If we thought he was honestly mistaken, we might waste time trying to convince him, and that would be a waste of effort.

  183. John Russell and Leto are right – fraud is wrong, and in most jusridictions there are laws against fraud (i.e. lying when you’re describing what you’re selling). It’s a bit more difficult to establish in politics, especially when the underlying assumptions differ so much between protagonists. But still…

  184. Jon Kirwan says:

    This is the central problem facing any individual scientist or scientific organization wishing to convey the important issues regarding climate science to others. They have the facts on their side. But the facts are nuanced and it takes time and appropriate educational effort to acquire the ability to navigate them well (and/or to arrive at their own independent understanding of them.)

    Few outside of those who have made this their avocation can afford the time. I know. I’ve spent a lot of my own personal time since 1990. And it has required serious and sustained effort that I cannot expect many others to attempt and in 20/20 hindsight I can see my own evolution not as a snapshot of sudden inspiration, but as a relatively long climb with a few occasional insights to help along the way.

    As I said, the facts and credibility are on the side of science. And active scientists hold all the trump cards here. But if in communicating with the public they keep only to their high ground of good, solid science theory and reasoned evidence in order to support their points well, the bulk of their audience is lost to them from the sheer effort required. And if instead they succumb to the temptation of propaganda methods, leaving their high ground where they own all the facts and instead getting down into the mud (with those who want exactly that to happen), then they’ve still lost their audience — but for another reason: people have gotten quite experienced at recognizing such pandering tools, repetitive and glib statements, or grossly over-simplified catch phrases. And so scientists cannot win by leaving the high ground and wrestling in the mud, either. All it does is dirty up their own fine garmets (made of good theory and evidence) and they lose the very thing that differentiates them from ignorance and perfidy.

    Science and scientists lose no matter which way they go. They either lose their audience by burying them with facts they cannot apprehend, or they lose their audience because they’ve become no better than those they must fight.

    Catch-22.

    Best wishes.

  185. Mal Adapted says:

    RickA:

    I guess I am asking why we are looking at externilized costs and not externilized benefits?

    None of what follows are my ideas; all of it reflects mainstream expert opinion. As the burden is thus on AGW-deniers to support contrary arguments, I won’t cite my own.

    Now then: when RickA buys a tankful of gasoline or a kilowatt-hour of electricity from a coal-fired power plant, he obtains a private benefit equal to the price he pays at the pump or in his monthly utility bill. That tankful fuels no one else’s car, that kWh cools no one else’s food nor heats anyone else’s home.

    The price he pays covers the producer’s cost to get it to him, plus a profit up to RickA’s willingness to pay; it does not cover the increment of global warming caused by the fossil carbon in that gasoline, or in the coal burned to generate that kWh. IOW, RickA has socialized the marginal AGW cost of his energy consumption, leaving it for other people to pay with their money and grief.

    There are a range of expert estimates of that cost, but there is little expert disagreement that the net economic damage from more plain old heat stroke, more sunny-day flooding as sea level rises, proportionately more high-category tropical storms and more that don’t stay in the tropics, more biblical temperate zone convective cloudbursts, more drought due to higher evapotranspiration rates even if precipitation is unchanged, and so forth is presently greater than zero; nor that the net cost of AGW will increase as long as fossil-carbon emissions continue.

    RickA may justify making other people pay for his private benefit, by imagining a balancing marginal social benefit of his personal energy consumption. He has no idea, nor does he care, just what non-zero externalized benefit there might be. If it sounds like a plausible defense against the threat to his presumed liberty the very concept of externalized cost represents, he’ll go with it while his personal climate debt accumulates.

    Once again, the facts do not matter to RickA; what matters is that he give no ground to the Enemies of Freedom, even if the most dire warming scenario results. Long after the purely pragmatic goal of a carbon-neutral global economy is reached, he’ll be like a Japanese soldier hiding on a pacific island, refusing to believe WWII is over.

  186. Leto says:

    RickA: “Is 8 inches of sea level rise in the next 100 years very expensive? I live in Minnesota, and am 900 feet above sea level – so I don’t have to pay for that.”

    This is simply pathological selfishness. To the extent that you made the sea invade other people’s homes, by opting for fossil fuels as your energy source despite being told of the consequences, you owe them compensation, as surely as if you threw an electric battery through their window and then drove back to Minnesota before they had time to take your number plate. The fact that you are a long way away from the scene of the damage by the time it takes place does not change the morality at all.


    (Florida sea level rise)

    What you personally would owe any single flooded Floridan or Sri Lankan is so small that it makes no sense to collect, but you personally will owe millions of individuals affected by sea level rise, and some of those affected individuals will die. At present, you owe them in the moral sense, rather than the legal sense, but you still owe them. There are tonnes of CO2 in the atmosphere with your name on them.

    The cost should be borne by all of us who put CO2 in the air. The only fair way of compensating everyone is to establish a cost per CO2 molecule.

  187. RickA says:

    Mal Adapted:

    That gallon of gasoline also drives an ambulance to the hospital to save a life.

    A gallon of diesel runs backup generators for the hospital when the power goes out.

    66% of the electric you use to post on this website is created from fossil fuels (at least in the USA).

    None of these benefits are externalized, just as the global warming costs are not externalized.

    It just makes sense to net them – that is all.

    If you don’t want to then by all means try to convince policy makers not to.

    It is just that fossil fuels benefits continue to outweigh the harms, and will for quite a while yet – and it doesn’t make sense to ignore that.

  188. BBD says:

    It is just that fossil fuels benefits continue to outweigh the harms, and will for quite a while yet – and it doesn’t make sense to ignore that.

    Who is ignoring it?

    The suggestion is that since the balance between net benefit and net harm is likely to change in the future, then the status quo needs to change.

  189. John Hartz says:

    Rick A: You proclaim:

    It is just that fossil fuels benefits continue to outweigh the harms, and will for quite a while yet – and it doesn’t make sense to ignore that.

    Please document the source(s) of your global assertion.

    If you cannot provide appropriate documentation, your statement is merely your personal opinion and carries very little weight in this forum.

  190. John Hartz says:

    Speaking about the economic dimension of manmade climate change…

    Winning effective action on climate change will require treating the problem less as an environmental or human rights crisis and more as a sensible economic shift, the former Maldives president said Thursday.

    “While it remains an ethical or human rights issue, it’s not so easy to have it in your political manifesto,” Mohamed Nasheed said, pointing to climate change’s political divisiveness in the United States.

    But any politician, he said, can win votes by promising more jobs and a stronger economy – something eminently achievable if the world transitions to cleaner and more sustainable energy, a move that also would bring environmental and social benefits.

    The world needs to package the benefits of a low-carbon transition in a way “that political parties can embrace”, said Nasheed, speaking at the Skoll World Forum on Social Entrepreneurship in Oxford.

    Make climate change an economic – not green – issue, urges ex-president of Maldives</strong by Laurie Goering, Thomson Reuters Foundation, Apr 6, 2017

  191. Leto says:

    RickA: “That gallon of gasoline also drives an ambulance to the hospital to save a life.”

    That benefit is immediate, obvious, and already factored in.

    All benefits and harms from every action are part of a causal web that could, in theory, be traced for millenia. If you get distracted by that no one could put a price on anything at all. And yet we do put prices on most things, because it is not nearly as difficult as you make it out to be.

    The ambulance officers get paid for their efforts, the ambulance manufacturer gets paid, the miners and factories that produced the gasoline get paid, and those payments are complete at more or less the same time that the ride is complete. If the benefit of the ambulance ride has been systematically underestimated, and this becomes known, then it will lead to more funds being directed to the ambulance service. If the benefit is less, and they are being overpaid, competitors will step in to provide the same service more cheaply. If the visible cost of the gasoline changes, then this could lead the ambulance service to choose a different energy source, and the benefits would continue. If a carbon tax made the ambulance ride $10 more expensive, say, then society would see the benefits you are talking about and choose to pay the new price, or not. All of this is highly visible already. The problem is that there is an additional cost that is not currently being factored in, and vested interests are busy pretending the cost does not exist.

    The benefits, though distributed, all stem from the gasoline being burned in a known engine at a known location, something the economy has no trouble putting a value on. Some of the costs, by contrast, are distributed and delayed, because the gasoline byproducts diffuse a long way from the point of their creation, and harm people who had nothing to do with that particular use of the gasoline. The economy is currently pretending that those delayed costs do not exist.

    If the ambulance ran on a battery, and at the end of the battery’s life cycle the ambulance service dumped the battery on your lawn, expecting you to pay the cost for its removal, I suspect you would want the actual user of the battery to pay that cost. If this happened often, but the individual battery user could not be identified, there would be pressure for a battery tax to be passed on to all battery users. If a Floridan battery user shrugged and said, it’s not my lawn, you would not be all that impressed.

  192. John Hartz says:

    Here’s a nice example of how serious and caring people thoughtfuly address the ramifications of manmade climate change…

    More than 20 million people are at risk of dying from starvation within six months, the U.N. World Food Programme warned several weeks ago. Persistent armed conflict and prolonged droughts have crippled the economies of Somalia, South Sudan, Yemen and northern Nigeria, where communities are suffering the worst hunger.

    That means we need to change the way we look at climate risk, Maarten van Aalst, director of the Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre, told a meeting in Nairobi this week.

    Experts at the gathering called for the U.N.’s climate science panel to change the way it works, and examine how climate risk plays out locally and interlinks with other factors like the economy and health.

    “Rising levels of food insecurity are not just due to a lack of rainfall, but also because people are vulnerable to conflict,” van Aalst told the Thomson Reuters Foundation by phone from Kenya. “Climate is only one piece of a much bigger puzzle.”

    He urged scientists and policy makers to focus on what matters to people in highly vulnerable places. “They aren’t interested in rainfall projections for the next 100 years – they want to understand what is happening to them now,” he told the event convened by the Climate Centre and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

    How do you manage climate risk? Ask those on the frontline by Zoe Tabary, Thomson Reuters Foundation, Apr 7. 2017

  193. Joshua says:

    RickA –

    =={ None of these benefits are externalized, just as the global warming costs are not externalized.

    […]

    It is just that fossil fuels benefits continue to outweigh the harms, and will for quite a while yet – and it doesn’t make sense to ignore that. }==

    You speak of externalization, yet make a statement about costs outweighing harms without having done the math. In fact, you have no idea what the externalized costs are relative to the externalized benefits – and then your certainty about costs does not stand up to due skeptical scrutiny.

    This, again, is what bugs me about the argument that I see so many “skeptics” make about the “cost” of mitigation – where they selectively ignore uncertainty.

    In fact, it seems to me that you are “ignoring” inconvenient uncertainties.

  194. Mal Adapted says:

    RickA:

    That gallon of gasoline also drives an ambulance to the hospital to save a life.

    It sounds like RickA saying the same gallon of gasoline he bought to drive his car also drove an ambulance to the hospital. Perhaps he’s the only one who doesn’t see the flaw in that logic.

    No, RickA is the sole beneficiary of that unique gallon of gas he pumped into his car. It drove no ambulance and saved no lives. He bought it because he wanted to drive his car as far as it will go on a gallon. As he did, he released 5.5 lbs of unique fossil carbon atoms to the atmosphere. Therefore, RickA is solely responsible for the small but finite increment of warming he has caused by transferring that carbon from geologic sequestration back to the climatically active pool.

    He’ll pay a portion of that incremental warming cost himself, when the Miami Beach office building he bought as an investment is condemned on account of repeated sunny-day flooding. Whatever portion of the warming cost he does not pay, gets paid by a guy who lives with his extended family on a leaky sampan tied up to the waterfront of a third-world slum, in the path of the first cat-5 typhoon on record to hit that waterfront.

    How hard can this be to comprehend, for the love of dog?

  195. Willard says:

    > And active scientists hold all the trump cards here.

    Depends on the deck:

    Because there was a lot of money in it for various hucksters and moguls and authors and politicians, the conservative movement spent decades building up an entire sector of the economy dedicated to scaring and lying to older white men. For millions of members of that demographic, this parallel media dedicated to lying to them has totally supplanted the “mainstream” media. Now they, and we, are at the mercy of the results of that project. The inmates are running the asylum, if there is a kind of asylum that takes in many mostly sane people and then gradually, over many years, drives one subset of its inmates insane, and also this asylum has the largest military in the world.

    http://fusion.net/the-long-lucrative-right-wing-grift-is-blowing-up-in-t-1793944216

  196. Marco says:

    “That gallon of gasoline also drives an ambulance to the hospital to save a life.”

    Allow me to then also state
    “That gallon of gasoline is also the cause of the traffic accident that made it necessary to drive an ambulance to the hospital to save a life”.

    Now explain why we should not count *that* as the cost of fossil fuels!

  197. John Hartz says:

    Marco et al: What did you guys put into that gallon of gasoline to make it go so far? 🙂

  198. John Hartz says:

    When they stick their individual and collective heads in the sand, the folk in Deniersville effectively lie about the looming migration crises that will be coming at us as a result of manmade climate change. It’s not okay to lie — either to oneself, or to others!

    People who are driven to migrate by floods, droughts and other disasters linked to climate change come overwhelmingly from middle-income countries, not the poorest parts of the world, as is commonly believed, new research finds.

    And those who move abroad due to natural disasters are likely to be highly educated, suggesting climate change could exacerbate “brain drain” from developing countries, according to Linguere Mously Mbaye, a consultant for the African Development Bank.

    Very poor people cannot afford to migrate and the richest have other ways of coping such as accessing social services in the wake of disasters, she found.

    There are no reliable estimates of the number of people who have migrated or will do so due to environmental changes. But forecasts range from 25 million to 1 billion globally by 2050, according to the International Organization for Migration.

    Climate change could spur “brain drain” from developing world – researcher by Nellie Peyton, Thomson Reuters Foundation, Apr 7. 2017

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