## It’s complicated, and it’s coupled

Matt Ridley, whose writings I’ve discussed before, has a new article in The Times called we are more than a match for hurricanes, that essentially argues that

[w]hether or not tropical storms are becoming fiercer, our growing wealth and ingenuity helps us to survive them

and that

[a]daptation is and always will be the way to survive storms.

In some sense the above is simplistically true; it would seem easier to deal with extreme weather if you’re wealthier, than if you’re poor, and these storms will always happen, so some amount of adaptation is inevitable. However, the basic premise of the article (adaptation policies [have] benefits over carbon-reduction policies) seems horribly flawed.

The one obvious issue is that it’s not just about surviving extreme storms, it’s also about dealing with things like increases in the frequency and intensity of heatwaves and extreme precipitation events, continued and accelerating sea level rise, ocean acidification, and expansion of the Hadley Cells, which determine the locations of the tropical rain-belts and where we find deserts. These are all essentially linked and so that we might be able to deal with some of the changes more easily than others isn’t really a very good argument for largely ignoring climate change and just aiming to get richer.

There’s however, in my view, a bigger issue with Ridley’s argument. It essentially seems to be that we should mostly ignore climate change, just get richer, and that fossil fuels are mostly better than any alternative. The problem is that if we drive economic growth through burning more and more fossil fuels and pumping more and more CO2 into the atmosphere, then the climate will continue to change and the impacts will get more and more severe.

If we were confident that economic growth would always outpace climate damages, then this might be a reasonable suggestion (although, maybe don’t suggest it right now to those who live on Caribbean islands). However, this is almost certainly not going to be the case. There is almost certainly a level of warming above which the impacts would be utterly catastrophic. We may not be able to define it precisely, but it is almost certainly within reach, either because we simply pump all the CO2 we can into the atmosphere, or because our climate is sensitive enough that we get there even if we don’t emit as much CO2 as we possibly could.

Given this, there must be an even lower level of warming at which cimate damages start outpacing economic growth. So, suggesting that we can just grow our way out of trouble simply seems wrong. If people don’t like the current policy then the solution (in my view) is not to argue that we should essentially ignore climate change and simply grow, but to argue for something like a carbon tax.

The idea behind a carbon tax is to properly price CO2 emissions (future damages discounted to today) so that the market can determine the optimal pathway. In a sense arguing that we should mostly ignore climate change and simply grow, is potentially arguing for a future pathway that is not only less efficient than one in which we take climate change into account, but one that potentially guarantees that we face the worst possible climate impacts. The argument seems so obviously flawed, that I’m still amazed that people who regard themselves as intellectuals actually have the gall to make it.

There’s always the chance that I’ve somehow misunderstood the general argument that Ridley is making (if so, it would seem pretty easy to misunderstand) but this is essentially pretty standard Ridley schtick (everything will be fine, just grow) so that does seem rather unlikely.

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### 192 Responses to It’s complicated, and it’s coupled

1. @ATTP,

A conceptual problem I see the public, journalists, and policy people having is an understanding of controls and lags. That is, if we dump $A_{0}$ amount of CO2 into atmosphere by time $t_{0}$, realizing the impact of that in climate will take until $t_{0}+\delta{}t$. If we immediately dump an additional $\delta{}A$ into atmosphere after $t_{0}$, that will still take (to first order) that additional $\delta{}t$ to realize its impact. Accordingly, what we are observing today is our effect on climate $t_{now} - \delta{}t$. People have a hard time understand you need to lead the skeet to hit it. It certainly is certainly true that allocating resources “to adapt” in accordance with what’s already been observed is embracing a bunch of damage that could be mitigated. Is it worth failing to spend the increment needed to protect against that additional damage?

I don’t know, but I do know it depends upon how many times you need to replace a few Houstons or Jersey Shores or Bostons. What is the loss to GDP from people not being able to staff the local companies, even if the companies themselves are up and running? And I can’t see how Ridley can really claim anything until we know, via Munch Re and the like, what the tally for the hurricane season is.

2. Listened to an interview with two American economists on grrrrrowth. They were arguing that the degradation of tradesmen to factory workers was painful and that the adjustments due to trading with China were hard, but that we should remember how good we have it now due to the hardships of our ancestors in the industrial age and that the people who became unemployed due to “free” trade agreements should think of how great their grand kids will have it.

)

Somehow the same demographic does not use the same line of argument when it comes to environmental problems. That an investment now will bring much better health and more long-term growth in the future. Even Björn Lomborg admits that every dollar spend on reducing greenhouse gasses brings 16 dollars in reduced damages, if I remember the number correctly. The real profit is probably a lot higher.

Maybe it is about something else.

3. John Hartz says:

A large dollop of reality from our side of the pond…

First Harvey, then Irma, and the hurricane season isn’t over. This is the year that repeated, dire predictions about the fiscal risks of climate change—its increasingly heavy burden on the federal budget—are coming true.

The hurricanes’ successive blows may cost taxpayers more than they spent on relief and recovery in any previous year. And that doesn’t factor in the price for this year’s other disasters—heat waves, droughts, fires and floods—that are among the hallmarks of global warming.

“The magnitude of the damage is getting bigger,” said Adam Rose, a research professor with the University of Southern California’s Price School of Public Policy and an expert in the economics of natural disasters. “What does it mean for the federal treasury? It means we’re likely to see a greater burden on federal and state governments to help people. You can’t just leave people who’ve suffered a disaster. You can’t abandon them.”

For the past decade, the government’s fiscal watchdogs have warned that these costs were bound to increase as the effects of climate change arrive.

Hurricanes Irma, Harvey Damages Will Hit U.S. Taxpayers Hard by Georgina Gustin, InsideClimate News, Sep 11, 2017

4. akanaja says:

Not that Ridley’s record on proper risk management and foreseeing the coming catastrophe are that stellar although he seems to have come out of it fine.

5. Ragnaar says:

Since about 1850 in the United States, we’ve had a contest between us changing the climate and then adapting to that change plus natural change. Our success in doing that continues through this day, except for some of those with lower incomes.

To have a problem of the magnitude suggested, our adaptation skills supported by our wealth would have to lose to both natural and AGW changes.

The fuel for either mitigation or adaptation is wealth. A material contribution to our resources available for either strategy has been fossil fuels. Mitigation cuts this resource. For instance, step one, buy a wind turbine and deal with all its problems. Step two, with less resources because of the first wind turbine, buy the second wind turbine. We move towards a dead end.

The Boston Matrix suggests we use the cash cows of fossil fuel to allow us to develop the stars of adaptation and innovative energy sources.

An interpretation of this happening is the extent that renewables have freeloaded off the conventional grid. But their development into stars is questionable for a number of reasons including the lack of affordable batteries.

6. Eli Rabett says:

The short answer to Matt King Coal is Galveston. Before the 1900 hurricane, Galveston was the largest and most prosperous city on the TX shore. After it was matchsticks, and though partially rebuilt, most development moved to the other side of the bay, aka Houston.

So no, we don’t always rebuild, and like Pompeii sometimes not at all.

7. firstdano says:

This is the same lather, rinse, repeat argument they recycle every…every…what is the period for this particular talking point? 18 months?

Best,

D

8. verytallguy says:

Ridley. Again. On risk management.

That he has a platform is an indictment of the Times.

It’s like reading Genghis Khan on mediation.

9. JCH says:

It is not our wealth; it’s luck. Harvey missed the bullseye. Irma missed the bullseye.

10. Willard says:

Leo for the win:

Both Ridley and Ragnaar use ‘we’ to conceal 10,000 years of class conflict. Is global wealth any more equally distributed now than at any other time in history?

The argument that ‘we’ will adapt to AGW by getting wealthier, actually means that some individuals will get wealthier, and use their wealth to adapt themselves to climate change; while others will find any hypothetical wealth arriving too little and too late, and will adapt to climate change by fleeing their homes with everything they own in a cardboard suitcase and/or dying.

Objecting to carbon pricing on the grounds that the poor will suffer energy poverty from internalizing the marginal climate change costs of fossil fuels, and that instead we should help them get rich directly, is mere pious deflection. Doing both is hardly ruled out for lack of aggregate resources, but there’s little support in the US for either CF&D-BAT or spending existing tax money on massive aid to third world countries for climate adaptation. Maybe there is in the UK.

12. Ragnaar says:

The IPCC’s first draft of the Summary for Policymakers did focus on development according to Tol, as a solution for the poor in other countries. This was during an interview by the Carbon Brief.

What I find odd is that we would find hundreds of wind turbines in Minnesota and then suggest that is helping some poor person in Africa living under a corrupt government. When we list all their problems, we scratch off, We ruined their climate.

Not sure I agree with a description of class conflict. But is isn’t helping worth counting, to have the climate change by only a third as much as it would have changed. If we want to highlight different camps, we might consider what types of energy we are promoting for poor countries. As we have our reliable grid and affordable energy prices.

13. There was a 10-year retrospective on the fall of Northern Rock tonight, on Newsnight (BBC). At the end Evan Davies announced they’d contacted Ridley for a comment but he didn’t want to say anything. What a surprise. As far as I’m concerned, Ridley has forfeited any right to make his opinions public. The Times should be ashamed.

14. @JCH,

It is not our wealth; it’s luck. Harvey missed the bullseye. Irma missed the bullseye.

I’d rather wait and see what the tally is before declaring victory on Houston and Florida. Surely, the cost must be at least the amount which will be paid out for National Flood Insurance, Florida Flood Insurance, and through the Stafford Act. Whether or not the hurricanes developed the dramatic actions media’s field journalists hoped they would is only a proxy for actual damage. It’s always been true that for most any land-falling tropical storm, most of the monetary damage occurs from rains after landfall, not drama at the coast. Moreover, people inland, as where I live, think of hurricanes as the problem of coastal towns, which is a big mistake.

The argument that ‘we’ will adapt to AGW by getting wealthier, actually means that some individuals will get wealthier, and use their wealth to adapt themselves to climate change; while others will find any hypothetical wealth arriving too little and too late, and will adapt to climate change by fleeing their homes with everything they own in a cardboard suitcase and/or dying.

Objecting to carbon pricing on the grounds that the poor will suffer energy poverty from internalizing the marginal climate change costs of fossil fuels, and that instead we should help them get rich directly, is mere pious deflection

It could also be wishful thinking. Not a few of the wealthy sort have quietly begun supporting the idea of a basic annual income, some because they see it as a more economically efficient way of getting done what’s going to be done anyway, some because they’d really rather not live through another Reign of Terror.

16. @Ragnaar,

… As we have our reliable grid and affordable energy prices.

And the contribution to our GDP of continuing to sell cigare…., er, fossil fuels to developing nations as the means by which they can become great, using our suppliers, our construction companies, and our operations. All the while we’ll wrap ourselves in Earth Day flags.

17. Willard says:

Matt King Coal ought to bow to teh Donald in matters of risk management:

Auditors will send FOIAs ASAP.

18. Magma says:

Lomborg, Lawson, Ridley, & Tol
Could be the name of a PR firm from hell.

19. verytallguy says:

The four dissemblers of the apocalypse?

20. Ridley’s argument is Schelling’s: What will reduce hurricane damages more quickly, more cheaply, more effectively? Greenhouse gas emission reduction, or adaptation? As we grow richer, will the extra emissions increase hurricane damages more than our additional capacity to adapt reduces those damages?

21. Richard,
Yes, that does seem to be his argument. However, it would appear to ignore a great many other impacts of climate change. My understanding is that there is only limited support for Schelling’s conjecture in the context of climate change impacts.

22. Willard says:

> What will reduce hurricane damages more quickly, more cheaply, more effectively?

23. @willard
Indeed.

@wotts
Sure. A seawall does not protect against malaria.

24. verytallguy says:

Ridley’s argument is Schelling’s

No. Ridley’s argument is that of Dr Pangloss.

https://www.shmoop.com/candide/dr-pangloss.html

25. verytallguy says:

I’ve posted this before, but I think it’s important that Ridley’s history is understood. Please delete if you find it repetitive.

1. Ridley is a member of the House of Lords and is entitled to vote on the laws of his country through a nepotistic hangover from feudal times.

He was “elected” to do this by dint of the extraordinary process of a by-election of hereditary peers belonging to the conservative party. This is perhaps the most openly gerrymandered electoral process in the world and can result in a legislator being “elected” by as few as three people. Britain claims to be a democracy, but there is absolutely no way Ridley would ever have been voted into his position in parliament as…

2. Ridley was Chairman of Northern Rock, the UK bank which suffered the first run of the financial crisis and the first on a UK bank for 150 years. Ridley gained this position through nepotism, his father having held the position before him.

Under Ridley, Northern Rock pursued an aggressive business model, taking more risks than other similar institutions with disastrous consequences.

3. His sister is married to Owen Paterson, climate change denier recently removed as environment minister for the UK and a one time presenter of the annual lecture to the denier PR organisation the GWPF. He went to Eton school along with David Cameron, Boris Johnson and several other cabinet ministers.

4. Ridley’s political philosophy appears to be the very epitome of laissez faire economics: “I believe that economic liberty leads to greater opportunities for the poor to become less poor, which is why I am in favour of it. Market liberalism and social liberalism go hand in hand in my view”. These opinions have famously been shown to be associated with climate change denial by Lewandowsky: “endorsement of a laissez-faire conception of free-market economics predicts rejection of climate science”. The irony of espousing these views whilst in receipt of an inherited fortune seems lost on Ridley.

5. Ridley is paid to promote climate change denial syndicated to a political lobby group promoting climate change denial in a newspaper owned by a climate change denier

6. In a cartoon villain like twist, Ridley makes money through coal mining on the land he inherited.

In summary, Ridley gained his position through nepotism and gerrymandering. His social network includes other prominent climate change deniers and right wing politicians. Political conviction rather than facts appear to drive his views on climate change. Despite being disgraced when in a position of power in charge of risk management he continues with amazing chutzpah to lecture others on the greatest risk management issue of our age.

26. Clive Best says:

How would you impose a global carbon tax?
Otherwise carbon intensive industry simply moves to developing countries.

27. Clive,
I don’t know the answer to that (maybe Richard Tol has some views). I’m not sure it’s all that relevant to the point, though. Without a carbon tax we’re not paying the full price of emitting CO2 into the atmosphere and the market solution will (as I understand the general idea) be less efficient than if we were to impose a suitable carbon tax. I’m not convinced it’s necessarily quite that simple or suggesting that doing so is easy, but that’s my understanding of the principle behind a carbon tax.

28. Marco says:

To me, and I admit my economic understanding is limited, it would appear that it doesn’t matter where the industry is located if you apply a carbon tax on the final product. As an alternative, you can impose import taxes for products that are produced in countries that do not have the same carbon tax to level the playing field. I am aware that it is likely more problematic to determine how much CO2e is produced by the foreign producers.

29. Willard says:

­> Indeed.

Seawalls prove that Schelling’s conjecture is ill-posed, Richie. It rests on a false alternative.

***

­> A seawall does not protect against malaria.

Neither does GRRRRROWTH, a doctrine arguably driven by the economists’ ethos:

How would you impose a global carbon tax?
Otherwise carbon intensive industry simply moves to developing countries.

You’d call it a Border Adjustment Tariff. A unilateral US CF&D with Border Adjustment Tariff on embodied carbon in imported goods, would discourage US industry from moving offshore, and would internalize our trading partners’ climate change costs. The BAT leverages our global buying power, to the extent that the US is still the world’s largest (or second largest as of 2015) economy. If we wait too long, though, that window may close.

31. Chubbs says:

Clive – You tax the carbon content of imports from areas with no carbon tax. Once a couple of key economic regions adopted the others would be forced to fall in line.

32. Chubbs says:

At $35 per ton current rough social cost of carbon, fossil fuels are getting by without paying for roughly one trillion per year in damages. Not the best way to ensure we will have enough wealth to deal with the storms of the future. 33. @willard A high income is an excellent medicine against malaria. @clive Taxation is largely a matter for national governments, decentralized countries excepted. There will not be global carbon tax. If a country imposes a carbon tax, part of its economic activity and the associated emissions will relocate to countries that have no, or a lower carbon tax. Estimates of this so-called leakage effect vary widely; 20% is a reasonable ballpark. In other words, if Canada would cut its emissions by 100, emissions in the US, Mexico and China would go up by 20. 34. JCH says: The Galveston sea wall was built in phases after the 1900 flood. It’s something like 17-feet tall. After 2008’s Hurricane Ike they said two rather odd things: first, they were emphatic that the sea wall did its job; second, they said Hurricane Ike had rendered the city of Galveston uninhabitable. Ike’s storm surge was initially forecast to be around 20 feet. It came in much lower than that. The proposed storm-surge barrier for the Houston region is around 17 billion and counting. Once it’s finished they will get 60 inches of rain in four days from a slow rolling thunderstorm and flood 200,000 structures. 35. danialcblog says: Never mind the quality, feel the width. 36. @RichardTol, I feel like there’s a straw man here. First, is anyone seriously suggesting reducing GHG emissions as a counter-hurricane strategy? Second, aren’t extensive and, no doubt, expensive coastal and hydrological and zoning adaptations a more direct response? And, third, why is it a tradeoff against reducing GHG emissions? Besides, there’s also an element of a red herring here: The problem is people are continuing to rebuild where the damage is, and they are not doing it with their own wealth. They are socializing the risk. 37. libertador says: The biggest problem I see with the promise of growth against damages is justice. Will the growth be distributed in a way to prevent damage from the persons concerned. E. g.: Will economic damages be prevented in Bangladesh or the Carribean Islands by economic growths? How would interventions to guarantee this look like? This comes essentially down, to the question, who is the “we” in this quote from Richard above. “As we grow richer, will the extra emissions increase hurricane damages more than our additional capacity to adapt reduces those damages?”(Richard) Will the ones who profit from the capacity for adapting be thevulnerable ones? Will the capacity be used to prevent such harm globally? I am sceptical about this. Therefore, I think that the economic analyses have to include the distribution of wealth and harm into consideration. This should not only be done intergenerational by discounting future generations for there wealth, but also globally by discounting the contemporary rich in relation to contemporary poor. 38. @Clive Best, Global carbon tax would go like this, assuming countries were reasonable: * U.S. and EU impose a Carbon Tax on all new introductions of Carbon into their economies in any form, whether extracted from ground or imported. Begins at$35/tonne and, at the end of the slide, ends at $200+/tonne Carbon. This is a fee-and-dividend system. Individual residents receive reimbursements per person per household, flat, irrespective of how much Carbon they bought. Companies and corporations do not, for the same reason, as the argument goes, that “corporations don’t pay taxes, they just pass it on to their customers.” * New introductions of Carbon are assessed at country borders in a calculation which depends upon the total upstream emissions and consumption of Carbon used to make the product being imported. Providing documentation of such manufacture is a condition of import, and needs to be supplied by all subcontractors which participated in its manufacture. Failure to provide means no important and misrepresentation, if discovered, means that, like fraud in military expenditure, the importer is proscribed from importing for 10 years. * The Carbon Tax calculations make allowances for the degree to which the sourcing countries or subcontractor sourcing companies have paid Carbon Taxes, also documented, to the degree to which they are consistent with the current rate schedule. If they have paid more, they are eligbile for reimbursement. * Regulations are imposed over a 10 year period, starting with Tax being assessed based upon Carbon assay of contents and a schedule which is based upon averages of upstream emissions from World Bank and IMF, and IEA, to full documentation. * All cap-and-trade plans are ruled illegal, including offsets. * Transport emissions are paid at the destination ports. That is, if an aircraft has emitted X tonnes of Carbon en route to a destination, like EU or USA, they pay the tax on such emissions upon landing. Ditto ships, trains. 39. The Very Reverend Jebediah Hypotenuse says: [w]hether or not tropical storms are becoming fiercer, our growing wealth and ingenuity helps us to survive them [a]daptation is and always will be the way to survive storms. Ridley seems to be suggesting that an appropriate metric for assessing hurricanes is survival. While survival is surely relevant to quality-of-life, as a metric, it does leave out a few details. Ridley uses “us”. Tol drops by to deploy “we”. “We” – as in “humans” – are very likely to survive hurricanes. Of course, that is little comfort to the dead, maimed, and now-homeless. If “we” can survive regional extreme events, then there can be no existential threat, right? Surely The Times could do better than the Irrational Pronoiast. 40. izen says: In the event a carbon tax is enacted there would be businesses and governments who would rapidly establish administrative areas, or off-shore proxies that would find loop-holes, or exploits of the tax system. It is a pity Money is no longer a real physical entity. I suspect if it was, all of it that ‘resides’ in the British Virgin Islands would have been better protected than the inhabitants were. Wealth only protects when it is collective, social wealth. Individual wealth has little protective effect. As with Malaria it might help after the event, better treatment/reconstruction. But for protection or prevention, communal wealth is required with government oversight. No individual can establish herd immunity or build their own sea wall. 41. The Very Reverend Jebediah Hypotenuse says: Tol: If a country imposes a carbon tax, part of its economic activity and the associated emissions will relocate to countries that have no, or a lower carbon tax. Or we could allow for the distinct possibility that said economic activity can transition to low-carbon sources of energy… Because: Treating carbon emissions as a zero-sum game really ought to be avoided by all smart economists. 42. Willard says: We shouldn’t have any income tax, otherwise people will all move in Sierra Leone. 43. Willard says: > A high income is an excellent medicine against malaria. An income ain’t a medecine, Richie, at least until we use vaccines as currency. By the same token, once you built a sea wall, you’re poorer than you were. So strictly speaking Schelling’s conjecture is simply false. Every time you buy insurance, you lose money. (That’s not the case for securities.) In exchange, you don’t lose lots of money. That’s why it’s sometimes a good deal. Same with sea walls and malaria vaccines. There’s no way one can conceptualize these as assets. Since modern society is based on insurance, I’d rather leave Schelling’s conjecture to Freedom Fighters. 44. John Hartz says: As documented in the article cited below, the U.S. has a humongous backlog of unmet infrastructure needs just to bring its infrastructure up to standards to say nothing about the huge investments that would be needed to adapt to future severe weather events such as hurricanes, The creation of the Tea Party movement by the Koch brothers and their ilk brought increases to public investment in infrastructure to a screeching halt. If Trump and the Republican/Tea Party controlled Congress has their way, the bulk of increased wealth in the U.S. will disproportionately accrue to the super rich. It will not be invested in infrastructure as Ridley suggests. The United States’ roads, bridges, and levees are in need of massive restoration. The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) said the US will need to invest$4.59 trillion by 2025 to improve the nation’s infrastructure in its Infrastructure Report Card, an assessment of the nation’s infrastructure that comes out every 4 years. The ASCE gave the US’ infrastructure an overall grade of D+, the same score it received in 2013.

The ASCE said the government and private sector will need to increase its investment in the nation’s infrastructure from 2.5% to 3.5% of GDP by 2025 to raise its overall infrastructure score.

The US will need to invest more than $4.5 trillion by 2025 to fix its failing infrastructure by Danielle Muoio, Business Insider, Mar 9, 2017 45. izen says: The adaption Ridley advocates, and the protection that wealth and Grrrrowth can confer require government regulation and capital spending. Building and infrastructure codes in Florida reduced the amount of damgae to modern buildings, (but not the trailer homes that are exempt) so there was much less flying debris in the urban centers. The power and water systems failed incrementally and defensively. While damage is extensive it is impressive how resilient power was during landfall. Wires were blown down, but the recent poles stayed up and will just need re-stringing. They displayed a degree of designed in, and imposed, resilience. People were able to upload video of the peak eyewall winds from modern houses and condos which were safe in those conditions. All these adaptions are the work of central regulation and governence. Not increases in the wealth of individuals. Economic liberalism, (Small government, minimal regulation) is not compatible with the sort of effective adaption to climate change Ridley seems to advocate. I suspect that while calling for adaption, he would oppose building codes, or regulations that would ensure effective protection and resilience of the communal infrastructure. 46. Hyperactive Hydrologist says: If, according to Ridley, climate models are not fit for purpose then what do we use to inform adaptation design? Current economic appraisal of adaption solution usually assumes that the worst impact of climate change will occur decades in the future. Therefore these impacts and associated present day costs are heavily discounted resulting in adaptation that is capable of managing future risk being too expensive. 47. verytallguy says: I feel obliged to continue repeating things. This from Izen above: All these adaptions are the work of central regulation and governence. Not increases in the wealth of individuals… …Economic liberalism, (Small government, minimal regulation) is not compatible with the sort of effective adaption to climate change Ridley seems to advocate Nail, meet head. 48. Willard says: We really ought to increase our GRRRROWTH instead of wasting our money in malaria vaccines. Let’s get richer and richer, and richer and richer. Let’s converge toward GRRRROWTH. Let’s try to reach GRRRROWTH’s optimum. Only then we’ll have enough money for malaria vaccines. Before that, let’s not squander our money in silly malaria vaccines. Because, conjecture. Thank you. 49. verytallguy says: And continuing, with thanks to Hydro, If, according to Ridley, climate models are not fit for purpose then what do we use to inform adaptation design? Well quite. The logic seems as follows (and Ridley is far from alone in applying it): We cannot be certain how bad climate change will be, so rather than potentially waste money on mitigation, we should invest in adaptation, as there is happily no uncertainty in what to adapt to. 50. John Hartz says: Speaking of insurance, here’s a nice primer… Hurricane Harvey: Economic Impacts and Insurance by Climate Nexus 51. The Very Reverend Jebediah Hypotenuse says: (That’s not the case for securities.) Unless you bought the securities from Northern Rock prior to September 2007, in which case you may be broken-hearted. Since modern society is based on insurance… All your policies becomes worthless when everyone makes a claim. 52. John Hartz says: In case you were wondering… The White House said Monday that President Donald Trump has not altered his views on climate change, despite scientists’ warnings that Hurricanes Irma and Harvey, which recently ravaged portions of the United States, are evidence the warming global climate is making extreme weather worse. “I don’t think think that’s changed,” White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters Monday at the daily presidential briefing. No, Trump Still Hasn’t Changed His Mind About Climate Change After Hurricane Irma and Harvey by Alana Abramson, Time, Sep 11, 2017 53. The Very Reverend Jebediah Hypotenuse says: Before that, let’s not squander our money in silly malaria vaccines. Whether or not infectious diseases are becoming fiercer, our growing wealth and ingenuity helps us to survive them. Adaptation is and always will be the way to survive infectious diseases. 54. Willard says: Malaria walls. Malaria walls everywhere. 55. Ragnaar says: JCH: Seawalls go both ways. Once the storm is over, the water can’t get back out. We build one huge unbroken seawall. We build modular circular seawalls with gaps between them. This involves trade-offs and opportunties such as natural land mixed in with developed land. Sea side marshes. Good for Mother Earth. 56. Ragnaar says: One can buy home rain gutters for the first time. They have less money afterwards. This is offset by future savings on basement floods. My city can add a storm water surcharge to my water bill. In theory we get better lake water quality and less backed up basements. Gremlins cause rainfall to get into the sewer system. It rains 6 inches, the sewer system in spots is overwhelmed. 57. @hypergeo There are plenty of people who cite Harvey and Irma as reasons to reduce greenhouse gases. @willard Doucouliagos et al. (2014) show that for every 1% increase in income, malaria mortality falls by 0.55%. This is a reduced form relationship, of course. Surfaces, mosquito control, preventative health care, and access to medicine all improve with income. 58. Malaria walls. Malaria walls everywhere. They’re called bed nets. Oddly enough climate change deniers overlap with DDT deniers, who are for the use of DDt and don’t care about encouraging the use of bed nets, even although they work and are cheap, they’d rather everyone used DDT even although it’s expensive and doesn’t work and is bad for the environment. 59. Richard, There are plenty of people who cite Harvey and Irma as reasons to reduce greenhouse gases. What hyper actually said was First, is anyone seriously suggesting reducing GHG emissions as a counter-hurricane strategy? Maybe some have suggested the above, but I don’t think there are plenty who are arguing that reducing GHGs will somehow act to counter hurricanes. 60. @wotts I admit that I do not always fully understand the green mind, but if you argue that we should reduce greenhouse gas emissions because climate change intensifies hurricanes, then you argue that emission reduction would deintensify hurricanes, no? 61. Richard, I admit that I do not always fully understand the green mind Maybe you need to find a green mind (whatever that might be) and ask them/it? For clarity, I don’t think anyone is suggesting that reducing GHGs will somehow actually counter hurricanes, which is what hyper suggested was a strawman. Of course, there are those who are using TCs as an example of something that can exaccerbated by climate change and, hence, using this as an argument for reducing GHGs. Whether you agree with this, or not, they’re certainly not suggesting (at least, I don’t think they are) that reducing GHGs will somehow counter hurricanes. 62. @Very Rev, Yes, well, it’s always easier to think about things in terms of disjoint, neat categories. (In fact, I believe there are neurophysiological experiments which show that. No refs handy, though.) Nonetheless, that isn’t the best way of thinking of effects and responses. Indeed, it can be shown that premature dichotomization or categorization results in a loss of statistical power to detect. One measure of Houston or Miami or Key West might be when businesses are up and operating. But another measure of, at least, Houston, in the long run is excess cancers over the next decade, or skin irritation and other ailments in the short run due to release of toxics from nearby plants. 63. @RichardTol, @wotts I admit that I do not always fully understand the green mind, but if you argue that we should reduce greenhouse gas emissions because climate change intensifies hurricanes, then you argue that emission reduction would deintensify hurricanes, no? Actually, no. And therein demonstrates a lack of understanding. Forcing is a result of cumulative emissions, not emissions intensity, because the rate of scrubbing of CO2 from atmosphere is so slow by natural processes. Everyone has every reason to expect that no matter what we do on emissions, hurricanes and sea level rise will continue to get steadily worse. Moreover, because there is a lag in climate, even if emissions were someday zeroed, things would continue to get worse for a time, different processes at different lags. Judging by things he wrote in his book, Nordhaus doesn’t — or didn’t — understand this either. It was pretty clear he was thinking of Carbon emissions in the same way people do other pollutants or CFCs. I wrote him about it, but he never replied back. This is, in fact, the entire basis for the idea that we’ll need negative emissions to counteract our foolishness … That and the fact that it’s not clear how we do global agriculture without emitting 2-3 GtC per annum even if all parts of harvesting, processing, and transport and the like have been zeroed in their emissions. And some other crazies think negative emissions exist to allow people to continue to use fossil fuels. Ever had a serious look at what negative emission technology costs, even assuming there are no hidden costs to scale? 64. izen says: @- “but if you argue that we should reduce greenhouse gas emissions because climate change intensifies hurricanes, then you argue that emission reduction would deintensify hurricanes, no?” No. Emission reduction will not reduce ocean heat content, only slow its increase. The argument is reducing emissions (:. further SST rise) may prevent hurricanes becoming even more intense than they are at present. @-“Doucouliagos et al. (2014) show that for every 1% increase in income, malaria mortality falls by 0.55%.” The effectiveness of malaria prevention scales to government investment much more closely than income. Cheap programs imposed by central governance can be more effective than individuals wealthy enough to by their own medicine. Even if they are Bill and Melinda. The places and times that malaria has been or is hoped to be eliminated do not rank by wealth. Cuba eliminated malaria earlier, and far more cheaply, than Portugal. http://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/10665/205565/1/WHO_HTM_GMP_2016.3_eng.pdf As the report states, “Countries are situated at different points along the road to elimination. The rate of progress will depend on the strength of the national health system, the level of investment in malaria control and a number of other factors, including biological determinants; the environment; and the social, demographic, political and economic realities of a particular country.” Wealth is not a primary determinant. 65. @izen, Few pretend that a Carbon Tax hasn’t a bunch of problems. I see several. Moreover, while some see it as a Golden Ring, for the problems at hand, it is way too slow. Other problems are (a) it is not likely to be steep enough, ever, to effect significant behavior change, due to inelasticity, and (b) it is now incentivizing people who receive the Carbon Tax dole to support continuing emissions even if there has been a success with reducing the amount of emissions. Given human behavior, I’m inclined to emphasize the need to remove the moral hazard of people continuing to build/live/work in risk prone areas, and conduct activities upon which society depends which are exposed to similar risk. Beyond that, I increasingly believe that damage from storms and high temperatures should be allowed to happen, and that the infrastructure and livelihoods entailed should be considered stranded assets. I also think that, as rapidly as is possible, private enterprise should seek means of engineering and scaling up negative emissions technology for the day when the foolishness of this emissions exercise is convincing enough to pursue it. Meanwhile, companies which do pursue zero Carbon energy will inevitably have big competitive advantages whether or not there are government subsidies. My only proposal for the social cost of all this is something which I think is needed and necessary anyway, and that is a guaranteed annual income, funding by a large tax on the wealthiest (Americans), along with confiscatory currency export restrictions on them. I suspect that would all not be popular, but at some point it’s not going to be my problem any longer. 66. verytallguy says: It’s interesting to observe Tol arguing for an increase in income as a way to reduce disease. We know this is not necessarily true of national income, as we see in the case of hookworm that this is ineffective. https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/sep/05/hookworm-lowndes-county-alabama-water-waste-treatment-poverty So. Tol must therefore be in favour of redistribution of income as a way to counter disease. Please can you tell us your proposed mechanism for income redistribution. 67. The Very Reverend Jebediah Hypotenuse says: Speaking of premature dichotomization, stranded assets, and it’s not going to be my problem, did you know that the area around Chernobyl is thriving – because all the humans left? 68. @Very Rev, Now that offers point evidence for the 6th Great Extinction idea! 69. @vtg Indeed. Making Putin richer does not reduce malaria. 70. Willard says: Speaking of correlations and vaccines: A substantial proportion of the US measles cases in the era after elimination were intentionally unvaccinated. The phenomenon of vaccine refusal was associated with an increased risk for measles among people who refuse vaccines and among fully vaccinated individuals. Although pertussis resurgence has been attributed to waning immunity and other factors, vaccine refusal was still associated with an increased risk for pertussis in some populations. http://jama.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=2503179 71. izen says: @- hypergeometric “for the problems at hand, it is way too slow. Other problems are (a) it is not likely to be steep enough, ever, to effect significant behavior change, due to inelasticity, …” Yes, I would have more confidence in a Carbon tax if there was a Sugar tax that did more than nibble at the edges of the problem. @- “Beyond that, I increasingly believe that damage from storms and high temperatures should be allowed to happen, and that the infrastructure and livelihoods entailed should be considered stranded assets.” It is not inevitable. After Katrina, Sandy, and Harvey there has been talk of consulting Dutch experts on flooding. I expect it will follow Irma, although some of the resilience shown by infrastructure in Florida is the result of wiser choices. However the problem is not that the Dutch responses to flooding are impossible or expensive in engineering terms. It is that there is not the social infrastructure to enable the Dutch approach to be followed. https://www.curbed.com/2017/3/21/15014266/miami-dutch-sea-level-rise-climate-change-flooding “How are you tackling the issue of sea level rise differently in the Netherlands? “We looked towards the future, and as a result, built a nation that prepares and is resilient. Future shocks and stresses are dealt with because the system is robust, redundant, and ready to bounce back. It’s both infrastructure and governance. We have a 100 year planning and design process built in, and 15 years of funding to build out and maintain the system.” “In the United States and many other places, comprehensiveness is lacking. Nobody is connecting the dots. The planning process isn’t long enough, and there isn’t a systems approach.” Income inequality is a very rough, and probably indirect indicator for how effective a society may be in protecting its citizens from the impacts of extreme events. It is becoming increasing clear what type of nation it is safer to live in on the average income, and which are less benign. 72. Ragnaar says: “…as there is happily no uncertainty in what to adapt to.” Call it adapting to floods, of any kind. In Houston there was a flood. So attempts can be made to reduce flooding while accomplishing other things. Improved nearby ocean water quality. Habitat for wildlife including game species such as ducks. New ponds and marshes as part of the watershed should improve it. 73. izen says: @-W “Speaking of correlations and vaccines:” What that jama article omits is that nearly all the case of measles of unvaccinated children where NOT New-Age Woo anti-vaxers, but somali refugees. What the sudden refusal to vaccinate did correlate with was the three public meetings Andrew Wakefield held with the group. 74. Willard says: > What that jama article omits is that nearly all the case of measles of unvaccinated children where NOT New-Age Woo anti-vaxers, but somali refugees. Here’s what the article doesn’t omit: Of the 970 measles cases with detailed vaccination data, 574 cases were unvaccinated despite being vaccine eligible and 405 (70.6%) of these had nonmedical exemptions (eg, exemptions for religious or philosophical reasons, as opposed to medical contraindications; 41.8% of total). I don’t mind much if these are vaxxers or not, as long as we agree that between measles and income, there’s a thing called vaccination. 75. izen says: @-W “I don’t mind much if these are vaxxers or not, as long as we agree that between measles and income, there’s a thing called vaccination. Which is usually free to the recipient so individual income is not a factor. Like mosquito nets for malaria, it works best when the uptake and cost is promoted and covered by government, not the individual. Effective action however can be delayed by a self proclaimed expert disseminating scientific misinformation. With the only obvious motivation one of personal financial gain. Or is that too extreme an attempt to refer back to the thread subject? 76. Willard says: > Or is that too extreme an attempt to refer back to the thread subject? http://khaaan.com/ 77. BTW, all, the consideration of hurricane-related records are beginning trickle in. One that caught my eye about this hurricane season (which we are only about halfway through) is that the accumulated ACE is a record. Villarini and Vecchi in a 2011 paper discuss these. (I like it that they use a GAM!) V&V also investigation Emanuel’s PDI. More on PDI here. 78. Ken Fabian says: Willard – “Sea Walls”. Keeps out storm surge but holds back flood water. Pumps would be essential. Very, very big pumps. 79. Ken Fabian says: PS to prior – During combined storm surge and flooding events I should say; gates can be opened if sea levels are lower than the flood levels. 80. Willard says: 81. Ragnaar says: “…confiscatory currency export restrictions…” Land of the free, home of the brave and if you don’t like it, you can leave but your money stays here. 82. @Ragnaar, Under normal circumstances, that would be a bad idea. But, in this case, given the triumph of individualism over patriotism or Just Being A Nice Guy, this door needs to be slammed shut. 83. angech says: Willard “Speaking of correlations and vaccines: “The phenomenon of vaccine refusal was associated with an increased risk for measles among people who refuse vaccines and among fully vaccinated individuals.” Not logical. “vaccine refusal was still associated with an increased risk for pertussis in some (mostly vaccinated) populations.” Hence vaccine refusal was associated with a decreased risk in other ( mostly vaccinated) populations ?. Which correlation was meant? 84. Mal Adapted says: did you know that the area around Chernobyl is thriving – because all the humans left? A similar condition prevails on the Hanford Reach National Monument in SE Washington, on the Columbia River. It’s now under the administration of the US Fish and Wildlife Service. The better parcels were irrigated farmland before the Army bought everybody out in 1943, and prohibited all access to the surrounding 586 square miles while they made plutonium for Fat Man. The fenced-off area has flourished undisturbed ever since, and is now inhabited by cougars and herds of elk, with giant Chinook salmon breeding in the fist-sized river gravels. There are a few small radioactive hot spots on the ground, but they don’t appear to have affected the wildlife much. 85. Willard says: > Not logical. Why? 86. Mal Adapted says: Land of the free, home of the brave and if you don’t like it, you can leave but your money stays here. You do realize that AGW is the result of the ‘freedom’ we enjoy in our land to privatize the full benefit of the energy in fossil fuels while socializing the climate-change cost, don’t you? Isn’t it braver to take responsibility for our full costs, by taxing ourselves to cap the costs of further warming? Taking ‘your’ money and running is for cowards. Where can you run to, that AGW won’t affect you one way or another? [soapbox]Only collective action will cap the warming. Every collective action traverses one slippery slope or another, but we still have to get to the other side. Rejecting collective action because people in government are untrustworthy is abdicating your duty as a citizen of our republic. It’s up to you and me to keep our feet, and write a less-than-globally-tragic ending to the Drama of the Climate Commons.[/soapbox] 87. John Hartz says: An excellent antidote to Ridley’s opinion piece… Irma Won’t “Wake Up” Climate Change-Denying Republicans. Their Whole Ideology Is On The Line.by Naomi Klein, The Intercept, Sep 11, 2017 Perhaps Kein’s article could be the topic of ATTP’s next OP. 88. @angech, I don’t recall the details, but I thought I read that in the case of the pertussis vaccine the response of the anti-vaccinators was in part due to their inability to understand or perhaps even realize an instance of Simpson’s paradox, usually phrased What’s good for the group is bad for every subgroup. 89. @Mal Adapted, Equivalently, people need to understand that, economically speaking, there is such a thing as a price of anarchy. I’ve always found it ironic that the patriotic lament Freedom is not free is truer than the usual complainers understand, and in a way they would not appreciate. It’s true that excessive control isn’t free either, but it’s easiest to see in the case of central planning being completely absent, putting things like refineries and oil sources in the harms way of sea level rise and storms. 90. Mal Adapted says: Habitat for wildlife including game species such as ducks. New ponds and marshes as part of the watershed should improve it. Oh sure. That watershed sat there for uncounted millennia, waiting for us to come along and ‘improve’ it. Jeezus. 91. Everett F Sargent says: “One that caught my eye about this hurricane season (which we are only about halfway through) is that the accumulated ACE is a record.” Really? Link please. TIA 😦 2005 = 250 2017 = 126.3 (so far) I’d say something else but I’m playing nice, mkay. Signed, Formally of the USACE ERDC CHL (Coastal and Hydraulics Laboratory) 92. Ragnaar says: The antidote – Naomi Klein “Here is what we need to understand in a hurry: Climate change, especially at this late date, can only be dealt with through collective action that sharply curtails the behavior of corporations, such as Exxon Mobil and Goldman Sachs (both so lavishly represented at Trump’s cabinet meeting). Climate action demands investments in the public sphere — in new energy grids, public transit and light rail, and energy efficiency — on a scale not seen since World War II. And that can only happen by raising taxes on the wealthy and on corporations, the very people Trump is determined to shower with the most generous tax cuts, loopholes, and regulatory breaks.” “In short, climate change detonates the ideological scaffolding on which contemporary conservatism rests.” Not to mention the behavior of those filling up their cars with gasoline and traveling on passenger jets at Christmas time. I wonder what Goldman Sachs has to say about climate change and it wasn’t President Trump that bailed them and their experts out. Sounds like a war on climate change to me. Maybe we need to bring back the draft and add a branch to the military, the Climate Corps. The could drive around in electric cars and change everyone over the LED light bulbs. Inspect our trash for recyclables. “Property-related questions impacted Americans’ civil liberties during the war. The War Powers Acts of 1941 and 1942, plus the Emergency Price Control Act of 1942, gave the president unprecedented powers to regulate and control the nation’s economy. In addition to permitting wartime censorship, the statutes authorized wage, price, and rent controls, rationing, and bans on trading with the enemy, to be administered by new agencies with final appeal only to a special court created ad hoc for that purpose, the Emergency Court of Appeals.” The wealthy certainly is not us but the corporations are. And no, they will not flee to Asia and take their jobs there. In any case the wealth are always good for a rip. Most of them just hang at the country club and drink. Now we have a scaffolding. Not a house or government building. The detonation vulnerable structure that the conservatives with all their money decided was the way to go. A house of cards. Who rests on scaffolding? A few workers. Next time the conservatives should build castles with moats and draw bridges. Or they may want to build on the Constitution. The rule of law and democracy. A few rights here and there. And success too. Build on that. Maybe the reference to scaffolding is this. Useful for attacking fortifications. And Klein sees the conservatives coming up the wall about to breach the defenses. Time to start doing something about that. 93. Ragnaar says: Mal Adapted: We could admit that mistakes were made. https://tcwp.tamu.edu/wetland-restoration-2/ We can say we have hindered things materially. Now to go back some, to make things better. 94. Ragnaar says: Mal Adapted: I was remarking on this: …confiscatory currency export restrictions… That seems to me to be an overreaction. Yes we did whatever that is, that is still ill-defined, about 1/6 of it I think. And these corporations decided to sell a product like gasoline. What should they have been selling? Ford decided to sell pick-up trucks. What should they have been selling? Congress gave bonus depreciation to vehicles with more than 6000 pound GVW. Many bought all these things and the blame is not squarely on the sellers, the corporations or the rich people or any combination of these three. The war is not on the corporations but on your fellow consumers driving pick-ups for no good reason. It’s people commuting 30 miles to work in an auto by themselves. Here’s courage. Not saying, I was stupid and duped by a corporation and so were the great majority of people, and it’s not our fault. Here’s what I do. I buy these corporations stock along with a lot of other middle class people, for instance the Teachers Retirement Administration of Minnesota, and believe me, they lean liberal. So when I point to corporation, I say that’s me, that’s many of us. And I don’t hate them. 95. @Everrett F Sargent, You should drop that “arch&” parameter out of your URL to get http://tropical.atmos.colostate.edu/Realtime/index.php?loc=northatlantic I include the graph there below.(I hope this works.) [Add “http://pubclimate.ch.mm.st/ICE_2017-09-12_230057.png” on a line, WP will do the rest. – Willard] That trendline upwards is telling. We are midway. 96. @Ragnaar, The confiscatory currency thing was in connection with guaranteed annual income. Yes, it is extreme, but, given the propensity for the money sources to bolt, I think necessary. Regarding The war is not on the corporations but on your fellow consumers driving pick-ups for no good reason. It’s people commuting 30 miles to work in an auto by themselves. Here’s courage. Not saying, I was stupid and duped by a corporation and so were the great majority of people, and it’s not our fault. I, like you and many, believe, unlike Klein, that the problem is not corporatocracy and lands squarely in the laps of consumer behavior. While some corporations are effectively evil, or self-interested despite the consequences, which is the same thing, others are trying. All I know is that (a) governments are feeble on this matter, (b) publics don’t like to sacrifice anything, even the remote possibility of a hit to their property values if a solar farm locates nearby, even if it is out of sight, and (c) we are going to need corporations to help solve this problem, because we otherwise won’t have the organizational skills nor the capital to do it. In fact, my hope is enough corporations will see the risks to their businesses and work collectively to solve the problem. I can even see a day when these corporations mount a class action suit against fossil fuel companies for selling products which ultimately do damage to their bottom lines. I am happy to see companies wanting to further the Energy Revolution, and pursue things like all-year-round vertical factory farms near cities. And we will certainly need large corporations to roll out systems for free air capture and sequestration of carbon dioxide. 97. angech says: Everett F Sargent “One that caught my eye about this hurricane season (which we are only about halfway through) is that the accumulated ACE is a record.” Simpson’s paradox at work? The claim for the half year and the claim for the full year may not add up to being right for either. Nearly halfway through the season 2005 = 250 2017 = 126.3 (so far). Speculation is all you have so far. It is potentially half a record for the years it has been measured only. Who knows at this time of the season whether one of the earlier, recorded years had a greater ACE at the halfway mark and then went quiet? Who knows if this year might just blow itself out and end up well under 250? I don’t feel like playing nice with this sort of claim. It is potentially exaggerated and alarming but might end up as fake news. It is a large amount. It may be a record for the date shown but you have not shown this yet. Please show the data that proves the claim for the year to date if you have it. 98. @izen Exactly. Dutch-style coastal protection requires a strong, rich, centralised, paternalistic, technocratic government, with integrated coastal zone management, land use planning, R&D, and export promotion. That’s not the American way. 99. Everett F Sargent says: angech, Go back and read the quote that I did NOT make. I quoted someone else. Oops! 😦 The HURDAT 2 dataset (through 2016) is here … http://www.aoml.noaa.gov/hrd/hurdat/Data_Storm.html Up thread is the link to the 2017 season numbers. Kind of trivial to do the calculation. I have absolutely no idea what the final 2017 number will be, in fact, I could care less what the final 2017 number will be. 100. Everett F Sargent says: “That’s not the American way.” The American way is to throw more sand on the beach. James R Houston is the Corps most famous Sand Engineer. They even built a sand statue to honor him. 101. @everett The Dutch throw sand on the beach too, albeit only to please the tourists. If you want to protect your coast, you throw sand in front of the beach. 102. Everett F Sargent says: RT, I take it that you know Pier Vellinga? If so, I met him back in 1983 at the USACE FRF. I wrote an instruction report based on his work in the (now old or previous) Delft Delta Flume … Application of the Dutch method for estimating storm-induced dune erosion https://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/102111188 103. @everett Pier was one of the advisers on my PhD. 104. Chubbs says: Hyper – Not sure why a carbon tax would be any slower than other policy approaches. The high tax needed to hit 2C just reflects how difficult the target has become due to inaction. It is also possible to pair a carbon tax with other measures, if needed to speed things up. I think people would be surprised how fast progress could be made if market economics were brought to bear effectively. A carbon tax is not a panacea but it is much better than our current system which doesn’t price fossil fuels properly. 105. @Chubbs, The Province of Quebec noted in a exhibit that when oil was US$100+/bbl popular rekative preference for small, energy saving cars was under 10% higher. They concluded that the suze of the Carbon tax needed to make that 40%-50% was accordingly higher.

106. Wealth has very little to do with preventing malaria and other diseases. Knowledge and understanding beat wealth every time in the fight for world health. That’s not to say funding doesn’t play any part. But it’s relatively small when compared with, say, countries buying military hardware, or individuals, large SUVs.

Knowledge and understanding by the worlds’ population would go a hell of a way to solving climate change—a lot further than if we all get really wealthy but continue to shun science and deny the bleeding obvious.

107. JCH says:

Hurricane ike happened in 2008 during Professor Curry’s hurricane drought. It caused 30 billion in damages to the Houston region, and left the city of Galveston “uninhabitable”. Two solutions requiring wealth were proposed. One was an extensive coastal network barrier of duck ponds. Scientists said it would do virtually no good at all. The other was a Dutch-ilke dike called the Ike Dike. So it’s 2017 and wealthy Houston has largely dodged yet another devastating storm, Harvey, and there still ain’t no dike.

Because Texas politicians who deny there is a problem have largely won the elections and they determine the message to Texas citizens. So there ain’t gonna be no duck ponds, and there ain’t gonna be no dikes.

Supposedly history repeats. Just before 1900 a coastal Texas town disappeared when a hurricane hit it. The wealthy in Galveston sobered up for a moment and openly discussed building a seawall. They never got around to it. In 1900 they got hit. Then they built a seawall.

Maybe someday Texas will experience another Galveston flood:

108. angech says:

Sorry Everett.
I do get carried away.
Thank you for the extra link.

109. Everett said:
“angech,

Go back and read the quote that I did NOT make. I quoted someone else. Oops! “

angech has been around for a long time as a commenter at Curry’s blog and has never cleaned up his/her act, remaining as sloppy as ever.

BTW, were you at the ERDC in Vicksburg ? They have so much computing horsepower there that they don’t know what to do with it.

We can say we have hindered things materially. Now to go back some, to make things better.

Please accept my muttered apology, Ragnaar, I did misinterpret you.

I certainly agree that mistakes were made in attempts to ‘improve’ nature, and I’m in favor of ecological restoration as a concept and a social movement, as well as an absorbing hobby. WRT AGW, however, my focus is on capping the costs of future warming as quickly as feasible. We, individually if not collectively, have no choice but to adapt to the warming to date; if our efforts fail, we’ll ‘adapt’ by dying. But adaptation is strictly a Red Queen race until we decarbonize the US economy. That requires rational, collective action. IMO it’s the most serious challenge we face as citizens of the USA.

The war is not on the corporations but on your fellow consumers driving pick-ups for no good reason. It’s people commuting 30 miles to work in an auto by themselves. Here’s courage. Not saying, I was stupid and duped by a corporation and so were the great majority of people, and it’s not our fault.

Ragnaar, I’ll make a better effort to read your comments in their entirety, so as not to criticize things you didn’t say 8^}. I appreciate your measured responses.

I’m in complete agreement about putting the blame for AGW on consumers. It’s a Tragedy of the Commons, however, only because the energy market is ‘free’. Our marginal climate-change costs are socialized at the point of sale, i.e. during the transaction between producer and consumer. So let’s not let producers off the hook. Corporations aren’t people, and aren’t motivated by morality or pride. Their officers and directors, however, are the individuals who actually carry out the large-scale transfer of fossil carbon to the climatically active pool. They directly cause the stuff to be dug out of geologic sequestration, and sell it for as much profit as the traffic will bear, happily socializing the climate change it causes out of their private revenue streams. As a consequence, some individuals and families enjoy wealth ‘beyond the dreams of avarice’.

Fortunately there’s no need to judge culpability. We need only acknowledge that ‘free’ markets allow both producer and consumer to externalize every cost they can get away with. You’ve heard the market-oriented argument for a carbon tax: taxing producers per tonne of fossil carbon at the source, and letting them decide how much to raise their prices, means both producers and consumer pay more per transaction; but as always, neither pays more than is cost-effective relative to other uses for their money. Everyone not party to the transaction pays, in aggregate, that much less.

A carbon tax need not be punitive! It need only be high enough to eliminate the unfair price advantage FFs currently have over carbon-neutral energy sources for which the full marginal costs are internalized. A lower-bound estimate of marginal climate-change costs by carbon content of fuels will be enough to drive the build out of the carbon-neutral economy with optimum ‘efficiency’ and without recrimination. At that point there are no further losses to the global economy, only a redistribution of costs and benefits, all done by the ‘invisible hand’.

Here’s what I do. I buy these corporations stock along with a lot of other middle class people, for instance the Teachers Retirement Administration of Minnesota, and believe me, they lean liberal. So when I point to corporation, I say that’s me, that’s many of us. And I don’t hate them.

My retirement savings are in mutual funds, and I’m sure they contain FF-related securities. I’m also sure my tiny share of each isn’t enough to influence the management of those enterprises. My hopes for a world that remains habitable after my death rest on collective action at the national level, not on self-sacrificing individual volunteers.

My retirement savings are in mutual funds, and I’m sure they contain FF-related securities.

I am no investment advisor, so YMMV, but I have retirement savings, too, and a bunch is in the SPYX ETF (q.v.).

113. Everett F Sargent says:

Geo,

RE: ERDC@Vicksburg? Yes.

Published today as a Nature Comment online, Insurance companies should collect a carbon levy:

Here we propose that insurers collect a levy from energy producers according to the carbon intensity of their products. The funds generated should be invested in climate adaptation and low-carbon energy. This would be fair — polluters should redress the problems they create. The biggest beneficiaries of fossil fuels would then pay for the benefits they have derived at the expense of others, including future generations.

Insurance payouts for AGW-related damages give insurers incentive to hold FF producers responsible. It would have the same effect as a carbon tax, but motivated and managed by private interest. The idea apparently has some history in the insurance industry. No harm in talking about, I suppose.

I very much like private interest solutions to these things. The public interest versions have accomplished zero in sixteen years. Although I have no connection with the process, I think the IPCC process of the UNFCCC, while perhaps initially worthwhile has (a) at least run its course in usefulness, and (b) demonstrated, among other things, that the governing bodies of the world are less interested in solving problems than looking like Good Green Persons. Witness: The ability to water down the statement for policymakers. Witness: The championing of solutions when the INDCs aren’t really in the house yet. Witness: The building in of a significant negative emissions component to “achieve” +2C.

This is not to say that, however blemished, any world government, particularly a significant one, should withdraw from the process. And on the environmental NGO side and the Klein-like side, people are remiss in understanding the capability and interest of corporations to do something about this problem.

116. John Hartz says:

Monbiot responds to Ridley…

A lesson from Hurricane Irma: capitalism can’t save the planet – it can only destroy it, Opinion by
George Monbiot, Guardian, Sep 13, 2017

117. @John Hartz,

Regarding Monbiot, I read it, superficially. I think the title overstates the claim in the article. The claim is that if economics is synonymous with exponential growth, it won’t work. Clap, clap. Deep insight there. (*Sarcasm tag*)

But it is not at all clear that all forms of capitalism depend upon exponential growth of the kind envisioned. I think this gets pretty deep into capitalist fundamentals, including the criticisms which Marx or somewhat levied against it, that value should not be created simply by owning property in the right location. Whatever. Whichever.

Crafting a sustainable capitalism is a challenge. Trouble is, at least thus far, pursuing an exploitative capitalism has been far easier, and so that’s why it is done.

But the worst part of Monbiot’s op-ed, and what I would present him as a question if I could, is how does he propose given the current state of affairs to save the planet without capitalism and its most maligned representatives, corporations? Does he plan to just sit around Kumbaya while the planet overheats on its own, knowing he and like-minded are spiritually pure?

Like it or not, Mr Monbiot, the problem ahead demands engineering and capital. Sure, confiscate fossil fuel assets if you want. You won’t get opposition from this corner, given what they and their allies did, and how they misled. (One teacher I had defined the fundamental authority of government is that it can confiscate assets by force.) But you cannot mount a clear air capture of CO2 campaign without capital and corporations.

That much of capitalist practice is enshrined in law and such is a problem for, well, the law and such. There’s a lot of non-capitalism similarly enshrined, from prohibitions on free flow of labor to favoritism towards certain ways of doing things because this aligns with certain corporations’ business models. Not really my problem.

Fixing the planet is.

And if Mr Monbiot doesn’t see this, I relegate him to my category of liberal climate denier, because while, on the one hand he acknowledges the problem and its urgency, on the other, he’s not willing to do all the things needed to survive, and wants, probably, to solve poverty and inequities along the way. It’s hard enough to solve climate. Poverty and inequities need solving, as well as racism. But not when the house is burning down.

Would the IRS not be better placed to levy a carbon tax?

119. One of the ‘benefits’ of increased atmospheric CO2 often cited is increased plant growth. This may not be the benefit they think it is. The agricultural community is just now becoming aware of CO2-driven nutrient depletion.

120. @oneillsinwisconsin,

It helps growth to a point and, as you mention, there are ancillary nutrients which limit growth. Then crop yields fall, at least with increasing temperatures</a..

121. Steven Mosher says:

“Knowledge and understanding by the worlds’ population would go a hell of a way to solving climate change”

We are not prepared for the weather of the past.
We are not prepared for the irreversible warming in the pipeline.
We will have to both Adapt and Mitigate.
Having less wealth doesnt help with either of those.

Figuring out how much to spend on research and growth,
and how much to spend on adaptation and resilience
and how much to spend on mitigation
is not a science.

Its largely guesswork with numbers attached.

122. Steven Mosher says:

“But adaptation is strictly a Red Queen race until we decarbonize the US economy. That requires rational, collective action. IMO it’s the most serious challenge we face as citizens of the USA.”

want to go faster? hustle up a coalition of the willing and buy up coal companies and stop selling it and mining it. Planets at stake, take action.

123. Steven Mosher says:

“Wealth has very little to do with preventing malaria and other diseases. Knowledge and understanding beat wealth every time in the fight for world health.”

Hmm. who knew knowledge came for free! No more money for colleges and science.

124. I think such a ‘coalition of the willing’ is a great idea but should instead provide capital to construct solar PV and storage for free any where they can. Indeed, IMO Sierra, Greenpeace, and 350.org couldn’t do better than contribute as much of their annual membership donation proceeds to the effort.

The idea is to strand coal, oil, and natural gas as quickly as possibly. And if the grid won’t cooperate in a locale, build a disconnected microgrid. Coordination would be nice, but not at the price of slowing things down. If a utility doesn’t want to play or a public utilities commission, ignore them and go around them.

“God Parity”, as Tony Seba calls it, will be here soon.

125. We will have to both Adapt and Mitigate.

This seems obvious. One issue, I think, is that mitigation refers to emissions reductions which would seem to require some kind of global approach/agreement. Adaptation, however, does not. We, therefore, probably hear more about the former than the latter. It doesn’t, however, make the latter less important.

126. John Hartz says:

hypergeometric: Monbiot could not possibly address all of the isues that you have raised in a single opinion piece.

127. @John Hartz,

Should Monbiot then bother us with an oversimplified miss?

128. John Hartz says:

The below article suggests that the US body politic has a long way to go before the country implements climate change adaption and mitigation measures on the scale and timeframe required.

Harrowing Storms May Move Climate Debate, if Not G.O.P. Leaders by Alexander Burns, New York Times, Sep 14, 2017

129. @Steven Mosher

You missed off the second half of my comment to make your point.
I went on to say, “That’s not to say funding doesn’t play any part. But it’s relatively small when compared with, say, countries buying military hardware, or individuals, large SUVs.”

Just to clarify; I was not suggesting that increasing wealth in the general population is a bad thing per se. Just that increasing wealth does not correlate necessarily with a knowledgeable and informed society.

130. Eli Rabett says:

As usual late to the party, but Eli had the solution in 2007 http://rabett.blogspot.com/2007/12/rabetts-simple-plan-for-saving-world-un.html

Nations wishing to make major progress on decreasing greenhouse gas emissions should introduce emission taxes on all products. These taxes should be levied on imports as well as domestic goods at the point of sale, and should displace other taxes, such as VAT, sales taxes, and payroll (e.g. social security, health care) in such a way that tax revenues are constant, and distributed equitably.

These should be introduced as an Emissions Added Levy (avoiding the bad jokes). EAL would be imposed on sale for emissions added in the preceding step and inherent to the consumption of the product, as would be the case for heating oil and gasoline. Manufacturers would pay the EAL on electricity they bought, and incorporate this and the levy on emissions they created into the price of the product they sell.

Imports from countries that do not have an EAL would have the full EAL imposed at the time of import. The base rate would be generic EALs based on worst previous practices in the countries that do have EALs, which would be reduced on presenting proof that the actual emissions were lower.

All countries with EAL systems would reserve a portion (say 5%) for assisting developing countries with adaptations (why not use acclimations?) and mitigating programs.

By basing the levy on emissions rather than carbon all greenhouse gases stand on a common level, sequestration is strongly encouraged as well as such simple things as capturing methane from oil wells and garbage dumps (that gets built into the cost of disposal). The multipliers would come from CO2 equivalents on a 10 year basis.

131. Eli Rabett says:

Richard Tol said:

“Ridley’s argument is Schelling’s: What will reduce hurricane damages more quickly, more cheaply, more effectively? Greenhouse gas emission reduction, or adaptation? As we grow richer, will the extra emissions increase hurricane damages more than our additional capacity to adapt reduces those damages?”

The answer being what is your time horizon. Short time horizons favor adaptation, longer ones greenhouse gas emission reduction. Procrastination penalties for not mitigating approach infinity.

132. Eli Rabett says:

Richard Tol said

“Exactly. Dutch-style coastal protection requires a strong, rich, centralised, paternalistic, technocratic government, with integrated coastal zone management, land use planning, R&D, and export promotion. That’s not the American way.”

California is richer and bigger and has more people than the Netherlands.

133. John Hartz says:

The corrosiveness of coastal capitalism in the US are laid bare in this excellent analysis.

As Hurricane Irma bore down on South Florida, hundreds of thousands of people in Miami evacuated, fleeing a storm that, had it struck the city squarely, would have devastated what is now the fourth-largest urban area in America. Even though the storm slipped to the Gulf Coast side of the state, the hurricane flooded streets, shattered windows and sent giant cranes crashing into half-built high-rises.

Those cranes, a permanent feature of the rapidly expanding skyline, are symbols of the city’s ability to bounce back. But their skeletal fragments following the storm also serve as a warning: The longtime predatory practices of developers (and their partners in local government) in coastal communities like Miami have fueled racial discrimination and environmental destruction, as well as exacerbated the devastation wrought by storms like Irma and last month’s Hurricane Harvey.

Coastal communities should have heeded this warning a century ago.

The cost of coastal capitalism: How greedy developers left Miami ripe for destruction by Andrew W. Kahrl, Washington Post, Sep 12, 2017

134. Ragnaar says:

I enjoy your comments. Someone mentioned, skeptics don’t have any answers or perhaps it was, ideas to try to turn into policy. Watershed improvements, urban and rural are one avenue. As is carbon soil sequestration. Estimates vary, but a ton an acre per year seems possible while increasing the value of carbon played out farmland, with the benefit of grazing organic cattle. I imagine spin-off benefits and ways to get agreements from both sides. And strategically for Republicans to lose some of their monster status. The Midwest farmers tend to vote red. Rather than argue with them, partner with them.

I am for my kind of carbon tax. An immediate 5 cent per gallon increase in the Federal gas tax. Road infrastructure needs alone are enough to argue for it.

Pretty sure I read this somewhere, I like a carbon tax if you get rid of wind and solar subsidies. When you subsidize them, you get them, when something else might be better. If you subsidize golf carts, you get them. Whether that is the efficient use of scarce resources doesn’t matter. It’s a bit more complicated then I said. When a subsidy is large enough, the efficient use of resource is less important. Subsidy high, efficient use of resources low, all other things being equal.

135. Ragnaar says:

Richard Tol:
“Would the IRS not be better placed to levy a carbon tax?”

The least cost way to collect a carbon tax.
On the fuel is one option. Gasoline and diesel taxes exist. A small increase would blunt some criticism of fossil fuels.
Then we tax the inputs for electricity generation and home and commercial heating fuels.

Such taxes would allow small cuts elsewhere. Perhaps pay down the national debt or make it not grow so much.

136. Ragnaar says:

Eli Rabett:

Our nation’s budget is political. They use things like short term returns. To fund something you need revenues. They consider spending so many years out as well as revenues so many years out. They sunset things and then sometimes renew them. They can’t just make them permanent as the budget may not balance. I believe something to do with the debt ceiling extended by 3 months. They are worse than the corporations who are blamed by liberals for not having a long term view. Vision in fiscal matters is rare in Congress. The current system favors the short term and the us here who vote. This situation may sometimes be attributed to deniers who are the problem to getting things done. It’s probably more so the system we have. Even the swamp. If you want big things, maybe a little more love for 3rd parties. Sanders was amazing. I give him that. I didn’t agree so much, but he got the young, the future.

137. @Ragnaar,

Pretty sure I read this somewhere, I like a carbon tax if you get rid of wind and solar subsidies.

It soon it will not matter if there are any kind of subsidies for solar or storage. I can’t speak to wind. The smart money is already going there.

What’s sad to me is what I consider the wrong-sided objection to large scale solar PV (farms) due to hitherto unanticipated ecosystem or specific species impacts. I think these students of the problem haven’t studied its quantitative aspects. I could be wrong, but it is better to think that, than to think, cynically, these arguments are just greenwashing for simply not wanting a solar farm in a neighborhood due to concern about property values. Of all the energy generating systems in the world, a passive PV solar farm seems the most innocuous. And the people who object really don’t understand the challenge facing us. Imagine how they would object if we wanted to scale up Prof Klaus Lackner’s proposals on free air carbon capture and local sequestration? Oh, what will be the environmental effects on arid land of all those carbon-containing salts!

138. @Ragnaar,

The least cost way to collect a carbon tax.

That’s an assertion, not even a sentence, but an assertion. You haven’t linked any evidence. I suggest that the private sphere has (amazing, sometimes outlandish) ways of doing things which government cannot. A quote I recently read at Matt Levine’s Bloomberg column was

a company is just a set of legal instructions for apportioning money.

I recommend Levine. Something to learn every third column or so, but always entertaining.

139. BBD says:

Aside from the problem of utility-scale battery storage, or rather the fact that it is still basically vapourware, the problem with scaling up solar is that it eats its own lunch.

140. @hyper, ragnar
The least cost way to collect a carbon tax is as an excise of energy use. The reason is simple: We already have such excises. We just need to change the rate.

141. BBD – I’d consider Tesla’s Powerpacks to be utility-scale. They’re already in use – so hardly vaporware.

142. BBD says:

oneillsinwisconsin

BBD – I’d consider Tesla’s Powerpacks to be utility-scale. They’re already in use – so hardly vaporware.

Powerpacks are for domestic, not utility-scale application. LiION is not suitable for the latter as it has a charge cycle lifetime limitation which necessitates unit replacement at a non-economic rate.

143. BBD – Powerwalls are for domestic use. Powerpacks are currently used for large office buildings, retail stores, and smaller utility-scale. operations. https://www.tesla.com/powerpack

Tesla claims they’re infinitely scalable.

144. BBD says:

LiION isn’t suitable for utility-scale deployment for the reason stated (not to mention safety issues). You can *easily* verify this yourself – but not by reading Tesla’s self-promotion.

145. BBD says:

There’s a short, accessible summary here.

146. BBD – Tesla put an 80MW storage facility in operation earlier this year for ConEdison in California and is expected to complete a 130MW storage facility for a windfarm in Australia before the end of the year. Apparently your literature hasn’t kept up with the news.

147. @BBD,

1) The “eating their own lunch thing” assumes investments in solar (or wind) are being pursued with the same mindset of an owner of, say, a natural gas electrical plant. They may not. In fact, there is a growing movement to raise capital — in an oversized crowdfunding effort — to install solar for free for people and communities.

2) While revenue may head towards zero with greater penetration, so will cost per unit of generation. Indeed, right now, for residential PV, cost of panels is much less than half the cost of installation.

3) Like the myth of rare earth metals being needed for wind turbines or for solar panels (they aren’t for turbines, and increasingly not for panels; solar panels aren’t transitors), the indefinite need for Lithium for batteries is also a myth. Indeed, at scale, organic batteries are looking attractive, e.g., organic aqueous flow, because of their relatively low cost. Moreover, there are other means of energy storage, although these might incur greater conversion losses than batteries.

148. @RichardTol,

That may be the cheapest way to collect, but it is not if the public and their representatives don’t want it. The private sector does not need a majority in Congress. Chalk up the inability of the public sector to decide this as another price of anarchy.

149. BBD says:

hyper

Domestic electricity demand is between 30 – 40% of the total sector for industrialised economies. So it’s hard to see how solar isn’t going to stall at *way* below the level required for deep decarbonisation.

This isn’t to say that crowdfunding residential PV isn’t a great idea – I love it – but it’s not going to get us where we need to go.

As for the myth that variable renewable energy doesn’t need utility-scale storage, I hear it too often.

150. BBD says:

BBD – Tesla put an 80MW storage facility in operation earlier this year for ConEdison in California and is expected to complete a 130MW storage facility for a windfarm in Australia before the end of the year. Apparently your literature hasn’t kept up with the news.

These are tiny to the point of insignificance. Have a look at Jenkins & Thernstrom (2017) Deep decarbonisation of the electric power sector – insights from recent literature for a perspective on just how much storage will be required.

151. Mitch says:

BBD: I would be suspicious of your Jenkins and Thernstrom source. The Energy Innovation Reform Project doesn’t seem to have a statement of purpose. The director has ties to the American Enterprise Institute, so it appears that this is yet another front organization to drive an agenda. They are registered as a nonprofit, but list no funding. They also seem to be pushing nuclear.

152. @BBD,

Domestic electricity demand is between 30 – 40% of the total sector for industrialised economies. So it’s hard to see how solar isn’t going to stall at *way* below the level required for deep decarbonisation.

As for the myth that variable renewable energy doesn’t need utility-scale storage, I hear it too often.

I didn’t say it did not need storage, at least not solar. But I take it you don’t buy that a sufficiently agile grid can be constructed, complete with computing controls, that does the day-ahead-prediction-and-supply dance, with variable renewables sufficiently overbuilt to offset capacity factors. True?

153. @BBD, and all,

Deep carbonization needs to come, but, these days, in addition to supporting solar kickstarters, I’m also contributing to Lackner’s work, since no one is doing that, talking about it, and it’s clearly something that’s needed.

154. BBD says:

@ Mitch

J&T is a literature review. Please play the ball.

155. BBD says:

hyper

Reducing domestic demand isn’t going to reduce total national demand significantly. I thought this was self-explanatory. Sorry.

156. BBD says:

I didn’t say it did not need storage, at least not solar.

But I take it you don’t buy that a sufficiently agile grid can be constructed, complete with computing controls, that does the day-ahead-prediction-and-supply dance, with variable renewables sufficiently overbuilt to offset capacity factors. True?

Yes. It’s all too hand-wavey.

157. BBD says:

And let’s quantify ‘sufficiently overbuilt’ while we’re at it…

158. @BBD,

Yes. It’s all too hand-wavey.

Well, I’m expecting that existing grids — along with utilities married to it — will become stranded assets. I think this is one of those things where replacement is easier than devising a path to convert. But, nevertheless, I read about this kind of stuff all the time, being an IEEE member, engineer (as well as quant and statistician), and member of that society. Technical too. And I like this one.

And there is an IEEE Smart Grid Vision document, from the Standards group. Chapter 4 discusses the “Control-enabled Smart Grid” and basically concludes the existing grid is incapable of dealing with the response time needed to manage a grid, whether renewable or not, having electrification of transportation, empowered consumers, hundreds of millions of active end points, millions of individual and institutional agents, and completely new business models, such as storage as a service. Add to that the variability of renewable energy, and there’s no role for a conventional grid.

I would say that society has an overriding need for complete decarbonization of the energy system and, to me, if an engineer says they don’t know how to do that, they are saying to me they don’t know how to do their job.

159. @BBD,

… sufficiently overbuilt …

One simple one, but I wouldn’t make a business proposal based on it: If there’s a peak demand of $P$ and a median capacity factor of $\bar{f}$, then define the minimum amount of renewable generation needed as $\frac{P}{\bar{f}}$. Overbuilt means building instead $k \frac{P}{\bar{f}}$ where $k > 1$, and probably $10 > k >> 1$, considering spatial and meteorological coupling of instantaneous capacity factors, spatial shading of wind resources, and so on, constrained by availability of always on sources, like deep ocean wind near coasts. This game is only a winner if the capital costs for additional generation are very low at scale, which I believe the evidence is they will be. The prediction-and-supply dance is a question of what fraction of the overbuilt capacity needs to be made available and where to support load, something which is probably going to be entrusted to a control loop, and the rest of the generation devoted to energy storage in any of many creative forms. We do energy storage right now in our home, without batteries, because we sync the heating of out air source heat pump hot water heater to solar PV generation. I can see there being good days to smelt and bad (expensive) days.

160. BBD – you’re moving the goalposts 🙂

Supplying electricity storage for a wind farm servicing 30,000 customers is *utility-scale*. And Powerpacks are storage solutions in operation today – not vapourware. If Tesla says the Powerpack is infinitely scalable, then you need to do more than point me to some outdated article about Powerwalls (the residential battery) to convince me they’re lying.

161. BBD says:

BBD – you’re moving the goalposts

No, I’m not. Nor have you apparently read any of the links I provided, which precludes sensible discussion.

162. BBD says:

hyper

It matters very little how smart the grid is if there isn’t enough energy to meet (managed) demand. And nothing you have said as yet addresses that. So far you have brushed aside a serious potential issue with the economics of scaling W&S and ignored the magnitude of the storage problem and frankly, continued to wave your hands.

Since these type of discussions are pointless (you aren’t listening and I’m not really in the mood to be polite about that), let’s leave it there.

163. hyper – The 110MW Crescent Dunes concentrating solar power plant in NV is using molten salt as a storage solution.
Among the benefits they cite are:

♦The molten salt never needs replacing or topping up for the entire 30+ year life of the plant
♦Heat loss is only 1⁰F per day
♦The salt, an environmentally friendly mixture of sodium nitrate and potassium nitrate, is able to be utilized as high grade fertilizer when the plant is eventually decommissioned

http://www.solarreserve.com/en/technology/molten-salt-energy-storage

164. Vinny Burgoo says:

You lot might enjoy this 1988 New Scientist editorial sticking up for Greenpeace’s opposition to Hinkley C. (Yes, that Hinkley C. It has been mooted – and blocked by activists – since the 1970s.)

Very similar arguments are made today, though not perhaps by the same players. For example, I doubt that today’s Greenpeace would invent numbers to *minimize* the role of CO2, as they did back then.

The last paragraph still seems sensible: ‘nothing on its own will work’.

(Note for youngsters: Nicholas Ridley was Matt’s uncle.)

165. BBD you wrote:

BBD says:
September 15, 2017 at 7:10 am
Aside from the problem of utility-scale battery storage, or rather the fact that it is still basically vapourware, the problem with scaling up solar is that it eats its own lunch.

Which says almost nothing about storage. Mentioned in one paragraph.

and then you wrote

BBD says:
September 15, 2017 at 9:48 am
There’s a short, accessible summary here.

Well, obviously I must have followed the ‘accessible’ link because I pointed out that it was only discussing *Powerwalls* – the residential battery, and that it was outdated (written in 2016) and that Tesla has put together utility-scale projects *this* year. So spew your attitude on someone else.

You’re right. There’s little point in continuing. I don’t like being patronized by someone that is verifiably wrong.

166. @BBD,

No, the hand-waviness you accused me of pertained the grid control and management. I believe I answered that well.

If you wanted to know how much energy renewables can produce, the standard reference is Mark Jacobson and company from Stanford, but, despite your never having said anything specific about that, I’m betting, given your attitude, that you look poorly at that work.

Nevertheless, basic calculations show that, with oversupply, no more than 2% of U.S. land area is needed to provide all electrical energy using just solar PV. Onshore wind requires more land per kW, but, except for locations far away from energy consumers, it is more constrained by public perception and policy. That’s a shame, because onshore wind is today the cheapest renewable energy source in capital costs, and is competitive with natural gas generation. (It’s important to use up-to-date figures here. For example, there is a table offered by the EIA which dates from 2013 which has grossly exaggerated capital costs for wind and solar in all its forms.)

Doing a simple, if simplistic calculation, since electricity today is 40% of U.S. energy, 5% of U.S. land area or near shore would suffice for solar PV by extrapolation. Near shore sitings of PV on barges are also feasible.

Tufts has a nice summary of these considerations, even if it dates from 2014, and, so, has old numbers which have proved unduly pessimistic. (See especially the trends chart at Lazard.)

I still have discussions with people about whether or not baseload generation is needed. No doubt @BBD is one of those who think it is. I don’t. That is less, from what I’ve seen, a difference in calculation or fact than it is a difference in imagination on how things could be run differently than they are now.

And since @BBD seems to want to end this, let me just say that the empowerment of the small which renewables, particularly solar + storage, offer, is a challenge which, from what I have heard and read, traditional energy analysts don’t know how to assess. We are poised on the cliff edge of seeing mobile and smart phones get introduced in a world of land lines. Energy analysts aren’t used to dealing with product diffusion curves and models. These are not energy sources as much as they are energy technologies. Using computing as the paradigm, if and when big players try to block such innovation, usually the market figures out a way of going around them. I don’t see anything to suggest energy will be any different. An aluminum smelter will have plenty of choice for energy in the future. Sure, they might like a natural gas-powered source today. But, as people abandon the grid for microgrids and home generation, that natural gas-powered grid source is going to cost the smelter dearly. They might want to reconsider.

167. BBD says:

oneillsinwisconsin

Well, obviously I must have followed the ‘accessible’ link because I pointed out that it was only discussing *Powerwalls*

Well, not really. AFAIK the 2170 cells in the Powerpack are tweaked versions of the 18650 cells in the Powerwall, not prismatics. So life cycle constraints will presumably still apply and the article title holds true: Here’s Why Lithium-Ion Batteries Probably Aren’t the Future of Stationary Energy Storage.

And I have to say that ‘infinitely scaleable’ doesn’t mean ‘ideally suited for utility storage projects’. It just means you can keep on plugging in batteries until your money runs out. Beware marketing-speak.

168. BBD says:

hyper

I know I said I’d leave it, but since I’m not being grumpy or rude, I will venture this:

If you wanted to know how much energy renewables can produce, the standard reference is Mark Jacobson and company from Stanford, but, despite your never having said anything specific about that, I’m betting, given your attitude, that you look poorly at that work.

Perhaps I have, but you don’t need to rely on my patchy reading of J&D. There’s Clack et al. (2017) (21 authors; published in PNAS) Evaluation of a proposal for reliable low-cost grid power with 100% wind, water, and solar:

A number of analyses, meta-analyses, and assessments, including those performed by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and the International Energy Agency, have concluded that deployment of a diverse portfolio of clean energy technologies makes a transition to a low-carbon-emission energy system both more feasible and less costly than other pathways. In contrast, Jacobson et al. [Jacobson MZ, Delucchi MA, Cameron MA, Frew BA (2015) Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 112(49):15060–15065] argue that it is feasible to provide “low-cost solutions to the grid reliability problem with 100% penetration of WWS [wind, water and solar power] across all energy sectors in the continental United States between 2050 and 2055”, with only electricity and hydrogen as energy carriers. In this paper, we evaluate that study and find significant shortcomings in the analysis. In particular, we point out that this work used invalid modeling tools, contained modeling errors, and made implausible and inadequately supported assumptions. Policy makers should treat with caution any visions of a rapid, reliable, and low-cost transition to entire energy systems that relies almost exclusively on wind, solar, and hydroelectric power.

169. Steven Mosher says:

“Doing a simple, if simplistic calculation, since electricity today is 40% of U.S. energy, 5% of U.S. land area or near shore would suffice for solar PV by extrapolation. Near shore sitings of PV on barges are also feasible.”

This place is starting to eclipse WUWT .

170. Eli Rabett says:

Part of the problem is that demand is modeled as demand based on fossil fuel generation. Some smart bunnies out there are looking at the excess power generated by wind and solar at irregular times and figuring out how their automated plant could use that stuff for 0 cents on the dime. In their dreams they even see the electric companies paying to have them haul those electrons away. Might even pay them in Bitcoin.

171. BBD says:

Steven

This place is starting to eclipse WUWT .

As an equal opportunity hyperbole disser, I have to object.

172. BBD says:

Eli

Part of the problem is that demand is modeled as demand based on fossil fuel generation.

While i grok this, I have to mutter about decarbonisation through increased electrification. The goalposts do move.

173. @BBD,

The Jacobson, et al vs Clack et al is old news. And you didn’t even have the simple courtesy to link the rejoinder.

@Steven Mosher,

The comment

This place is starting to eclipse WUWT.

is devoid of substance or even meaning. Accordingly, it is not possible to respond, and so I won’t.

@Eli, but more of an amplification regarding:

Part of the problem is that demand is modeled as demand based on fossil fuel generation.

Not only is demand modeled based upon burning of Buried Sunlight, but because renewables are different technology, unfair comparisons of costs are often made. For example, the Tufts report I linked above contains a table which displays required capital (circa 2013) for various energy types per kWh and per unit installed. Natural gas combined cycle comes in low. It looks bad for renewables. While a replacement of an existing energy system with a new one is bound to require a lot of capital, this particular comparison is misleading to the point of almost being fraud. Natural gas combined cycle plants don’t pull their fuel out of the air. Accordingly, to be fair, some of the capital cost of the pipelines and infrastructure which mines the fuel and delivers it, and needs to be maintained, and the regulatory subsidies implicit in eminent domain possession of pipeline routes (silly? ask Amtrak) are excluded from the capital cost of the natural gas plant. They give the cost of the plant, period. Without that, the books are being cooked in favor of Buried Sunlight.

174. Ragnaar says:

More on subsidies versus taxes. A tax says, don’t do something while the subsidy says do something. In some cases something specific as homeowners install their solar panels.

What do we agree on? CO2 is too high. Is the answer home solar? We disagree. The more agreeable thing is CO2 is too high. Don’t do that.

Risks: A bunch of wind and solar that doesn’t work well.
Having a bunch of money from the taxes collected is a risk only so much as any revenue is at risk of being spent unwisely.
We want to avoid picking solutions and encourage people to find solutions while having a lot of flexibility.
We don’t want to tell them through policy, existing wind and solar is the solution.

175. Ragnaar says:

“Not only is demand modeled based upon burning of Buried Sunlight, but because renewables are different technology, unfair comparisons of costs are often made.”

And I see it as, wind and solar have aspects of being incompatible with our conventional grid. It was an arranged marriage.
We have our monster grid. Then we have what is suggested as many decentralized grids or something like that without getting hung up on semantics. We have this decentralization, in the future, because wind and solar are different.
Where it may be fair to judge costs is on islands without access to a monster grid. They have the situation where diesel is expensive to ship, and renewables not so much.
If it works there, it works. If is doesn’t work, we still don’t know as it might be foggy all the time or they live too close to the poles. If they work, they don’t need to be subsidized.

176. Steven Mosher says:

Fair play

177. @Ragnaar,

I agree renewables don’t need to be subsidized, and I will further stipulate many of their supporters including colleagues and friends don’t agree with that. However, while we are worrying about efficient use of taxes, I simply further insist that Schumpeterian forces be allowed full play, and no additional regulatory or price supports be enlisted to maintain “grid stability” or the financial viability of incumbents. Coming with that is the insistence that incumbent utilities must accept renewable generation whenever and wherever it is constructed. That’s part of their job and existing contract under which they are allowed to operate as monopolies. (Net neutrality for the power grid.) Play efficientt markets all you want but I’ll not be party to cheating.

And, as indicated before, ultimately it doesn’t matter. Renewables are an unstoppable economic force. It is the deliberate choice of government and public utility commissions whether they end up wirh a grid that makes some kind of sense, or they end up wuth a fragmented dying mess, abandoned by people who pursue the economic advantages of renewables for personal, commercial, and industrial advantage ignoring commission goals, wishes, and incentives.

178. Everett F Sargent says:

“The Jacobson, et al vs Clack et al is old news. And you didn’t even have the simple courtesy to link the rejoinder.”

Note to self: That “so called” Jacobson rejoiner looks like something that WTFUWT? would have written (this shall be known as a pejorative statement).

That’s the unofficial online rejoiner, you need to collect the entire series (Jacobson PNAS, Clack PNAS, your rejoiner link, Jacobson PNAS rejoiner and Clack online rejoiners).

New paper says a wider range of technologies are better for tackling climate change
Summary of flaws in the analysis of 100% renewable scenario by Jacobson et al. (Jacobson, 2015) identified in Clack et al. “Evaluation of a proposal for reliable low-cost grid power with 100% wind, water, and solar” (Clack, 2017)
RESPONSE TO JACOBSON ET AL. CLAIM THAT THERE ARE MANY 100% RE STUDIES THAT BACK UP THEIR CLAIM TO RELY ALMOST ENTIRELY ON WIND, SOLAR, AND HYDRO
Response to Jacobson et al. (June 2017)

Jacobson is purposefully boxing himself in by proclaiming 100% by 2030 or 100% by 2050 in NYC or NY or USA or World. It is a blatant and empty rhetorical device. Simply impossible to achieve in the real world (do the build out calculations, as I have done, elsewhere’s on these internets). Easier said than done. Jacobson as cliche! 😦

179. I have to admit that this is one of these discussions that I have no idea how to moderate, because I don’t really know what is right, or what isn’t. I followed some of the Jacobson vs Clack debate and it was interesting, but also rather unfortunate, because I don’t think either group behaved in a way that instilled confidence. I might write a post about this general issue; how do you try to determine what is credible, and what isn’t, when those involved in a discussion all appear to have relevant expertise and when it doesn’t appear as though there is some kind of consensus position that is easy to identify?

180. Everett F Sargent says:
181. Everett F Sargent says:

ATTP,

Go right ahead. It will be contentious to be sure. As with most things, there currently is no right answer. I have three degrees in Civil and Environmental Engineering (same general school as Jacobson’s although he was not formally trained as a civil engineer, thank the almighty). I have actually built real physical stuff, Jacobson, well not so much, if any. To him, it is turtles all the way down

You need a prototype demonstration (6.3 monies in military lingo) and you need a NAS/NAE panel to opine on such matters. Neither of which have been done to date. I’ve already said as much over at RR. I’m very comfortable in saying that I believe that Jacobson’s works would be the true outlier. In other words, Jacobson is a rhetorical one trick pony. 😉

182. Steven Mosher says:

Everett

‘In other words, Jacobson is a rhetorical one trick pony”

It’s amazing that people even discuss his crap

183. Steven Mosher says:

“is devoid of substance or even meaning. Accordingly, it is not possible to respond, and so I won’t.”
No it’s not.

184. Go right ahead. It will be contentious to be sure.

That’s why I’ve been mostly avoiding it 🙂

185. @Everett F Sargent,

Simply impossible to achieve in the real world (do the build out calculations, as I have done, elsewhere’s on these internets). Easier said than done. Jacobson as cliche!

And I can barely curb my enthusiasm for seeing your tit for tat on:

Y. Xu, V. Ramanathan, “Well below 2 °C: Mitigation strategies for avoiding
dangerous to catastrophic climate changes
”, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, August 2017.

As way out as Prof Guy McPherson seems, maybe he’s not entirely standing on a position without probability mass on it. Your challenge, should you decide to accept it, is coming up with a proposal to solve the wee problem that actual global emissions, corroborated by satellite, are tracking higher than RCP 8.5.

I like, at least, as someone in this thread or another pointed out, that at least when humans abandon a spot, like Chernobyl, on balance it seems better for Nature and local ecosystems.

186. Ragnaar says:

I wonder what he thought about the climate?

“Schumpeter’s arguments sharply deviated from the dominant tradition in many other respects. First, he highlighted the fact that markets do not passively tend toward equilibrium until profit margins are wiped out. Instead, entrepreneurial innovation and experimentation constantly destroy the old and introduce new equilibria, making possible higher standards of living.”

Economists will advise governments that it’s not too complicated, we can tax this thing, things will not change much in the intermediate term and everything will be fine. Then corporations relocate to Ireland which has a lower tax rate. It’s not smooth and gradual, it’s abrupt. It’s both really. Medtronic pays its taxes here, until those are materially reduced.

I want to agree that wind and solar are different from the conventional grid. Non-utility wind and solar can be granted access, but on market terms. For instance, 1 cent a kilowatt on sunny days between 11-3 pm. They could buy batteries and sell their output later in the day for a higher price. I feel they have been granted player status without being able to provide as players do. I think Schumpeter would agree, you need market pricing. Without it, you are propping up what doesn’t work.

It seems we can take liberties with monopolies. Take that status away. Governments can favor monopolies, as they can then argue, they can tell them what to do, for instance renewable mandates. Governments will often feel, they need to jump into the capitalist driver’s seat as they are a bunch of good things.

187. Everett F Sargent says:

hypergeometric,

Look a squirrel routine?

I don’t have an answer to your question. Humanity is somewhat constrained on a foolproof solution as long as humanity continues to behave like fools. 😦

188. Steven Mosher says:

In their dreams they even see the electric companies paying to have them haul those electrons away. Might even pay them in Bitcoin.”

Allready ahead of you. Issue is cycling up machines. And the scale required to buffer.

First they have to be lower than a 2cents a kw.

189. BBD says:

ATTP

I have to admit that this is one of these discussions that I have no idea how to moderate

I didn’t respond to hyper’s waving around of the Jacobsen response as I could’t think of a polite way of voicing my view on it and didn’t want to roil the sediment. But thanks to EFS, I needn’t have worried 🙂