What bothers, and confuses, me about climate change

Since this blog is mainly a place for me to express my views, I thought I would try explain something that bothers, and confuses, me about the whole climate change issue. Maybe others feel the same as I do, maybe some can help to clarify my thinking, or explain where I’m going wrong, or – as is maybe most likely – I’ll remain bothered and confused.

So, what do I think is the most likely outcome? I expect that – for various reasons – we will avoid a high emissions pathway. We probably won’t stay below 1.5oC, or even 2oC, but may stay below 3oC, or close. I think that those in the developed world, in particular the wealthy, will find ways to adapt, and deal with this. However, I do expect that some regions, and the people in these regions, will suffer, potentially quite substantially. This will probably mostly be in regions that contributed least to anthropogenically-driven climate change. I also think that there will be quite a lot of ecological damage (ocean acidification, for example). I should stress that this is what I think is likely; it could be much worse or, potentially, somewhat better (although I do think the latter is less likely than the former).

What I expect we will do is to normalise this outcome in some way. In fact, some economic models suggest that warming of around 3oC is the optimal pathway. This is what bothers me; I think we will simply accept, and normalise, substantial harm to some people in the world because many people were simply not willing to make sacrifices of their own in order to avoid this. I find this morally repugnant.

So, you might say that we should simply do more, but this is where I get confused. If we really want to do enough to keep warming at close to 2oC, rather than around 3oC, how do we do so in ways that don’t end up adversely affecting those who might be most significantly impacted by climate change anyway? How do we do so without imposing constraints on those least able to manage these changes? Essentially, how do we do so without doing more harm than good?

I’m sure there must be ways to address climate change in ways that are both effective and take into account how doing so might affect those who are least able to deal with the changes (both economic and climatic). I’m also aware that many people do indeed think about exactly this. Maybe there are straightforward, and politically feasible, ways to both address climate change and avoid negatively impacting those who are least able to cope, but I don’t have a good sense of what these are.

Maybe I’ve mostly demonstrated my ignorance, but it certainly bothers me that I think we’re heading towards an outcome that will be severely negative for a large number of people and we don’t seem to be willing to do much to avoid this. However, I’m also confused about how we deal with this in ways that don’t also negatively impact those who are less able to cope with what is required to avoid this outcome. You might think that after writing about this topic for almost 6 years I’d have a better grasp of this, but – embarassingly, maybe – I don’t. I’ll stop here. If anyone has any thoughts, I’d be happy to hear them.

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277 Responses to What bothers, and confuses, me about climate change

  1. udoli says:

    My opinion is that the principal problem of dealing with climate change is the inability of climatologists to popularize the ways how they arrived to their dark forecasts. There are several physicists who are good at explaining the physics of climate change on the part of denialists. If IPCC is be able to explain in detail how their simulations are tuned and how they arrive to their results, for many people it will be easier to accept their recommendations.

  2. I think it might be helpful to think about the climate impacts over time, even more than about the impacts as they differ around the globe. In almost all cases, the impacts over time are going to make things harder for people in the future. When you extend this thinking to 30 to 50 year time frames you are talking about generations of beings who will collectively suffer more because of choices this generation of human beings is making. I think what you say is true regarding severe impacts being felt unequally and quite unfairly in terms of causation, but the whole question fo equalizing security is fraught imho. Why are we unable to stop the suffering in Yemen right now? Why are “we” treating a humanitarian crisis in that region in geopolitical/geomilitary realm instead of responding to a humanitarian crisis? Very hard questions to resolve, so I think it is easier to work in ways that create generational justice, that reduce impact on all beings that will be suffering in the future for every change that we delay today.
    My $.02
    Thanks, as always for your work here,
    Mike

  3. RickA says:

    I think the problem is that any solution which makes power more expensive is going to hurt everybody, but poor people the most.

    Not burning carbon makes power more expensive – period.

    A carbon tax will make power more expensive.

    65% of the power is based on fossil fuels and renewables simply cannot replace that portion of the power generation (yet). The more renewables, the more fossil fuel backup power we burn.

    Most people refuse to consider nuclear power.

    In my opinion Nuclear power is the solution.

    It is baseload, non-carbon producing and we have the technology right now to double or triple or even quadruple the amount of power we generate with nuclear – if we wanted to.

    Nuclear power would reduce carbon emissions and would solve the problem, or at least put a large dent in it.

    Of course, it is slightly more expensive than fossil fuels and we would have to deal with the nuclear waste (which we just leave on site right now because we haven’t fully grappled with that issue yet).

    We should be reprocessing all the waste, which vastly reduces both the quantity and radioactivity of the waste. Plus it is free and just sitting there producing heat and we are just wasting it.

    If the world heats to the point which people actually recognize a problem (I don’t think we have reached this point yet) – than and only then will resistance to the one solution we can actually implement right now be reduced.

    The other solution would be to invent a non-carbon producing power source which is actually cheaper than fossil fuel – but that is pie in the sky because we haven’t been able to do it yet and there is no guarantee that we will be able to do it in the near term (or ever). If that happens, great – problem solved. However, in the meantime, we should be doubling our nuclear power in the USA and building thorium reactors in places where people are worried about nuclear bomb proliferation. Then double it again. Then double it again. We could double our nuclear % in five years easily – from a technical standpoint anyway.

    Even the nuclear solution is going to hurt people – because it is more expensive than what we are doing right now. But if we phase out coal as those plants reach end-of-life and build nuclear plants to replace them, and standardize and lower regulations to ease the construction of nuclear power plants, it is totally doable. We have the technology – we just lake the will to use it.

    Maybe we will get closer in 2019.

    We have 100 nuclear power plants in the USA. Lets build 100 more over the next five years and lets build 8 or so regional reprocessing plants and ship all the spent waste which is sitting around and reprocess it. Than reprocess it again, and so on until we can bury what is left over. The actual quantity is actually very very small. People are making a mountain out of a mole hill.

    Anyway – that is my two cents (from a USA perspective).

  4. udoli,
    I can’t quite tell if you’re approaching this from the perspective of someone who agrees with mainstream climate science, or as someone who mostly disagrees. A couple of comments. It is well known that simply filling in some knowledge deficit is not an effective way to get people to accept some kind of policy option. Also, if you’re not constrained by actual evidence, it is indeed often easier to make what appears to be a convincing argument. You can sound far more certain than the evidence actually indicates. You can also make it seem more uncertain than the evidence indicates. I really don’t think that the problem is that climate scientists don’t know how to explain this well; there are many examples of climate scientists who are excellent science communicators.

  5. BBD says:

    In my opinion Nuclear power is the solution.

    But you have had the reasons why this opinion of yours is wrong explained on numerous occasions, so why you are repeating it – yet again – is mystifying.

    Anyway – that is my two cents (from a USA perspective).

    But the US is not the world.

  6. BBD says:

    What I expect we will do is to normalise this outcome in some way. In fact, some economic models suggest that warming of around 3oC is the optimal pathway. This is what bothers me; I think we will simply accept, and normalise, substantial harm to some people in the world because many people were simply not willing to make sacrifices of their own in order to avoid this. I find this morally repugnant.

    Given the fact that we are going to apply the current energy economics model to the problem and that this guarantees suboptimal results, I think the ~3C warming is simply unavoidable. The recent discussion about why we ‘cannot’ build PHES and ‘must’ have gas were painfully illustrative of why we are not going to keep warming below 3C. People are refusing to recognise that the current energy economics model is not capable of driving the kind of decarbonisation necessary to avoid something like a 3C outcome.

  7. BBD,

    People are refusing to recognise that the current energy economics model is not capable of driving the kind of decarbonisation necessary to avoid something like a 3C outcome.

    Unfortunately, I agree with this. Maybe there will be some breakthroughs in the near future, but it does seem as though we are unlikely to keep warming below 3oC.

  8. Mal Adapted says:

    OP:

    This is what bothers me; I think we will simply accept, and normalise, substantial harm to some people in the world because many people were simply not willing to make sacrifices of their own in order to avoid this. I find this morally repugnant.

    I think most people of today’s world, myself included, would agree that it’s repugnant. Yet consider that today’s world is the outcome of human history: namely, millennia of harm to some people in the world because many people were simply not willing to make sacrifices of their own in order to avoid it. We all have winners and losers in our ancestry. Where does justice finally lie? And why should we expect to escape the drivers of history, whatever those might be? At my age, I fully expect to see at least 2 degrees C of warming. I can normalize it, keep up my ineffectual flailing at it or kill myself, but I seriously doubt I can do anything personally to avert it. What hopes I hold, depend on the votes of my fellow US citizens.

    The next 30 years will be a rough ride.

  9. John Hartz says:

    ATTP: Your assumption that developed countiries will somehow be able to adapt their way out of the impacts of climate change is ftally flawed in my opinion.: “A rsing tide lifts all ships.”

  10. JCH says:

    If nuclear power becomes the answer, the USA will be sacrificing a whole bunch. The stuff is priced like gold.

  11. verytallguy says:

    My perspective: What bothers me most is the unreality of the debate.

    Climate change is real; *and* fossil fuels are finite.

    The higher the rate we burn them at, the greater harm from their inevitable eventual removal, climate change regardless.

    The idea of an optimum economic path leading through three degrees of warming, even if true, assumes infinite availability of a finite resource.

    There may be enough fossil fuels to fry the planet, but there are not enough to sustain human civilisation.

    The economic inertia to move away is very long; human infrastructure has a lifetime of decades to centuries. We need action now.

  12. verytallguy says:

    And a plea to everyone not to derail this into yet another “hippies need to live nuclear” thread.

  13. vtg,
    Yes, I agree. The economic viability of continuing to rely on fossil fuel based energy sources seems to be mostly ignored. It seems that whether we’re considering climate change, or the supply of fossil fuels, we’ll need to find alternative energy sources. The longer we wait to implement these alternatives, the more drastic the changes are likely to be.

  14. Everett F Sargent says:

    “This is what bothers me; I think we will simply accept, and normalise, substantial harm to some people in the world because many people were simply not willing to make sacrifices of their own in order to avoid this.”

    Some would say that humanity has always normalized harm to others. I can’t think of a time or era where this has not happened.

    What exactly makes you think this will somehow change in the next ~80 years with global population expected to reach 11 billion?

    Climate change is chump change with respect to the harm that some humans will inflict on other humans. Most humans don’t even care as long as it is NIMBY. :/

    Creepy normality …
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Creeping_normality
    Global issues …
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Global_issue

  15. EFS,
    A fair point, unfortunately.

  16. JCH says:

    From the fossil-fuel company perspective, they already know that. The problem is having a reliable government partner. Take oft-targeted ExxonMobil. In the 1970s they made significant renewable and nuclear investments. Then Reagan pulled the plug. It was Republican vengeance, and they will do it again.

  17. This really is just the tragedy of the commons writ large, privatizing of benefits and socializing of damages.

    If *I* emit a few tonnes of CO2 on a transatlantic flight, all the benefits are mine – weeks of travel time saved versus boat, the personal value of whatever/whomever I travelled to see, etc. – and the damages to me and others, now and in the future, are so diffuse as to be effectively zero. Ergo, if I am rationally “maximizing my utility”, I take the flight and my conscience is free.

    It’s only when I can shift my perspective to understand aggregate damages as the integral of all those individual actions (and possibly even recognize that I might even be on the receiving end of said damages) can I, homo economicus, even begin to entertain the idea that I am maybe being morally repugnant.

    And this compounds as we go up the scale of competing firms, nations, etc.

    The “solution”, of course, is to account for externalities, but it is notable that the economic prescription is no, not to think that people will “do the right thing” but they must be incented by personal gain to do so (i.e. avoiding costs, etc.)

    By the way, one of the things that bothers/confuses me most about the date is the way that the Social Cost of Carbon (SCC) is assumed to increase over time. Yes, I get that there is some time preference and implied discount rate at play – and maybe even a tiny bit of assumed technological progress in terms of decarbonization over time – but still… If I think of it at the level of an individual agent – say, *me* – why is it that the social “cost” of my personal emissions today are assumed to be less than the same emissions (from the same activity, even) tomorrow? Or a week from now? Or two years from now?

    From the perspective of the future, from the perspective of physics, the damages from my (and everyone else’s) emissions are completely unrelated to time sequence in which they occurred. So why are they assumed to be less costly today than tomorrow? I know, this is a sort of reductio ad absurdum, but the answer always seems to be, essentially, “but discounting!”. Something about it all doesn’t ring true…

  18. rust,
    As I understand it, the reason the SCC increases with time is, for example, because the emission of 1 tonne of CO2 into an atmosphere with a CO2 concentration of 400ppm does less damage than the emission of the same amount of CO2 into an atmosphere with a CO2 concentration of 420ppm.

  19. Again, that doesn’t seem to make physical sense.

    For starters, the tonne at 400ppm is making a relatively larger contribution relative to the base atmospheric stock, and the associated radiative forcing increase is larger as well at lower concentrations.

    Yes, I know that damages are assumed to increasing non-linearly with temperature, but in terms of the underlying *cause*, if anything the earlier emitted tonnes are *more* damaging…

  20. Rust,
    It’s a long time since I’ve looked at this, but my understanding is that even though the radiative forcing depends logarithmically on concentration, the amount of warming depends roughly linearly on emissions. Also, the warming due to a pulse of emission peaks after about a decade. So, the damage associated with emission today would be due to the small amount of warming that happens in the next decade. The same amount of emission in the future would produce about the same amount of warming but in an already warmer world and, hence, would do more damage. That’s the idea, at least.

  21. Yes, thanks, and I am already largely aware of all that.

    Still, it is not really convincing me that the emissions I cause by, say, having a steak today somehow matter less than the emissions of doing the same a year or two from now.

    If anything, it is sending the wrong signal to even suggest this. “I should emit more now, because to do so later would be both more expensive and more damaging”.

    Colour me skeptical.

  22. Willard says:

    > And a plea to everyone not to derail this into yet another “hippies need to live nuclear” thread.

    Good idea.

  23. VTG
    If civilization needs more enegy than fossil fuels can provide, developing and deploying high energy density alternatives should be viewed as an existential necessity in its own right.

  24. Anders Wijkman says:
    Many thanks for a very thoughtful piece. Many of the comments have been good as well.
    What I miss however are at least two dimensions.
    Firstly, the resistance by all the incumbents including the risk of stranded assets. There are clear losers when transforming not only the energy system but as well conventional agriculture, basic materials and infrastructure etc Governments have not started discussing how to assist the losers and how to deal with stranded assets.
    Secondly, the fact that learning curves prove that alternatives to fossil fuels and fossil-based materials are developing far better than expected, with costs coming down very fast. So the notion that there are no alternatives – or that nuclear is the only alternative – is simply not true.
    Final comment. I do agree that the moral problem is at the core of the whole debate. Both in the sense that some regions – mostly low-income countries – will be hardest hit even with relatively modest levels of warming and in the sense that they will have to pay more for energy – at least in the short term – than industrialized countries did and hence modernisation of their economies will be more expensive. On the other hand, the health benefits by not getting stuck in the carbon economy are obvious!

  25. verytallguy says:

    Russell,

    If civilization needs more enegy than fossil fuels can provide, developing and deploying high energy density alternatives should be viewed as an existential necessity in its own right.

    Well, I’m not sure that the energy density is the only issue for alternatives, more the sustainability, and economics, though these things are linked.

    And of course, designing our infrastructure and economy to reduce the amount of energy needed is also vital. There are large differences already in per capita energy usage between developed societies.

  26. Joshua says:

    Anders –

    many people were simply not willing to make sacrifices of their own in order to avoid this.

    I don’t think it is that simple. People don’t perceive it merely to be a matter of sacrifice for a clear gain.

  27. Joshua says:

    RickA –

    I think the problem is that any solution which makes power more expensive is going to hurt everybody, but poor people the most.

    Are you respecting uncertainty? Please show your calculations w/r/t externalities.

  28. Mal Adapted says:

    Quoth Kate Marvel on December 25th:

    It’s true that we’re not going to get utopia. The planet has already warmed by one degree Celsius. Most of the coral reefs are going to die, and many of the glaciers will melt. Climate change is here, leaving grubby human fingerprints on parched, burned, flooded and melted landscapes. But we don’t have to settle for dystopia. It’s going to be worse, but it doesn’t have to be bleak. We can have a “topia,” an ordinary future where we go about ordinary lives in cities on stilts, missing what we’ve lost but looking forward to better things. There is light in the future that doesn’t come from burning.

    Dr. Marvel’s “topia” will be normal, if not normalized, for most of us.

    My current, bourgeois circumstances seem “normal” to me, but I’m acutely conscious of the 6th Great Extinction that’s been underway since long before I was born, and is accelerating with AGW. One can hope for no more than to slow down the inexorable loss, yet even that would be worth a substantial carbon tax to me.

  29. KiwiGriff says:

    Those poor pesky humans that are negatively effected will not just die nicely and quietly on their own patch of earth.
    The buggers will be heading to our nice rich places in ever larger numbers.
    The resent political change from a few millions displaced due to wars here and there will pale into insignificance.

    Then you have the increasing costs of catastrophic events.
    Here in NZ we had a big boost to GDP from a natural disaster. We lost most of our 4th biggest city in a few shakes. Is it sustainable growth in GDP when its based on fixing what you already had?
    At what point do you start going backwards despite spending more on replacing damage infrastructure?

  30. Chubbs says:

    A few thoughts: 1) A carbon tax helps allocate costs to those receiving the most benefits from fossil fuels and it is possible to direct some of the funds from a carbon tax to those most impacted by climate change or by transitions to new energy sources, 2) Anders W has a good point. Solar/wind/batteries are all getting cheaper on well established learning curves, so pushing them faster is going to reduce energy costs in the long run particularly in the undeveloped world where existing energy infrastructure is limited. Countries that have helped reduce the cost of renewable energy are doing everyone a favor.

  31. David B. Benson says:

    aTTP —- I don’t see sufficient sign of any action costing us now with the expectation of assisting remote descendents.

    Just one of many examples: China is turning off coal burners to stop the harm to the current population. They were going to build lots of nuclear power plants as replacements but have terminated starting new projects. Instead they are burning natural gas and plan to use much more.

  32. verytallguy says:

    “Climate change is real; *and* fossil fuels are finite.”

    Climate change provides a convenient excuse to not discuss the latter as it defers thoughts of an existential crisis.
    https://www.insidehighered.com/views/2015/11/04/review-matthew-schneider-mayerson-peak-oil-apocalyptic-environmentalism-and
    I’ve not seen an adequate response to this comment yet:
    “If you think about it “Peakist” and Climate Change activist are really pursuing the same goal – elimination of fossil fuels. What if Climate Change is a code word for Peak Oil. In order for society to make tremendous lifestyle changes w/o causing a panic.”
    Raymond Pierrehumbert thinks the causal nexus of CC/PO is Green River shale at 15 gallons equivalent oil per ton of rock.

  33. AndyM says:

    No place on this earth will escape the consequences: billions of climate refugees will cause the collapse of society across the globe. New Zealand is being chosen by the super rich as the bolt hole of choice because of its geographic isolation, so I guess that place has the best chance of escaping total collapse.

  34. dikranmarsupial says:

    Me too 😦

    This is what bothers me; I think we will simply accept, and normalise, substantial harm to some people in the world because many people were simply not willing to make sacrifices of their own in order to avoid this. I find this morally repugnant.

    This is why (IMHO) we end up with science denial. Many of those who don’t accept climate science would find that morally repugnant as well, but don’t want to sacrifice their lifestyles either. While some scientists support the idea that climate science is too uncertain to make any decisions, there is always a means of resolving this conflict by refusing to believe that it exists. Sadly, as others have already pointed out, this is human nature and unlikely to change any time soon. However, it definitely wont change if there is no pressure to do so, e.g. by explaining why the skeptic arguments are incorrect.

  35. Clive Best says:

    @dikranmarsupial “However, it definitely wont change if there is no pressure to do so, e.g. by explaining why the skeptic arguments are incorrect.”

    That is what Richard Black’s book ‘Denied’ tries to do. http://clivebest.com/blog/?p=8740

    Convincing sceptics that they are wrong though doesn’t really solve climate change either. The danger is that if everyone on earth believes that a global disaster is looming, then the world could descend into in-fighting and anarchy. The only approach that might work is to be to be positive about the future, and invest massively in new energy sources. eg.

    https://terrapower.com/
    https://www.tokamakenergy.co.uk/

  36. Clive,

    The only approach that might work is to be to be positive about the future, and invest massively in new energy sources. eg.

    There is, however, a difference between being positive about our ability to deal with potential problems, and pretending there isn’t really anything to deal with. I feel we’re more doing the latter, than the former.

  37. dikranmarsupial says:

    “Convincing sceptics that they are wrong though doesn’t really solve climate change either. ”

    Nobody said it did. It is just one of the many things that needs doing. Spreading misinformation, or disrupting attempts to refute myths with absurd pedantry doesn’t solve it either, in fact it makes the problem worse.

    “The only approach that might work is to be to be positive about the future,”

    This is nonsense. The approach that is most likely to work is for people to see things how they actually are and to rationally consider what steps maximise the outcome in terms of their values.

  38. bostonblorp says:

    The implication that AGW will gradually taper off around 2-3C strikes me as optimistic. The climate system is likely to be non-linear in its response to CO2 concentrations. We may find there’s a pre-greased slope from 2 to 4C.

    We are past the point of finding a glide path from fossil fuels to renewables in a time frame that will prevent 2+ warming. But we still don’t want to make the hard choices necessary because we very much like our modern lifestyle and a great many people are resistant to having the rules of the game changed. Try explaining to people that the purchasing power of their pensions, savings, etc, is going to be cut in half or more. Try explaining that in a democracy.

    We’re still playing silly games on the political level. In the end our ability to handle AGW is as much about sociology as it is about technology or atmospheric chemistry. If we could get people to have just one child we’d be on the right path. Can’t do that globally. If we could dramatically reduce the world’s militaries and put that energy towards CCS or something useful we might have a chance. But that’s laughable. We still dither on any form of a carbon tax much less a necessarily punishing one because it would negatively affect our wholly fossil-fuel dependent economies.

    > “However, I’m also confused about how we deal with this in ways that don’t also negatively impact those who are less able to cope with what is required to avoid this outcome.”

    Maybe it’s a total fantasy to imagine there’s such a path.

  39. boston,

    The implication that AGW will gradually taper off around 2-3C strikes me as optimistic. The climate system is likely to be non-linear in its response to CO2 concentrations. We may find there’s a pre-greased slope from 2 to 4C.

    I don’t think there is much evidence to support this. The radiative response to increasing atmospheric CO2 is actually logarithmic (i.e., the same change in atmospheric CO2 produces a smaller response if the baseline concentration is higher). However, due to the carbon cycle, it turns out that the temperature response is probably linearly dependent on emissions (i.e., how much we will warm for a given emission today is about the same as it will be in the future).

    What this basically means is that if we emit less, we will warm (on average) less and that stabilising temperatures will require getting emissions to about zero.

    We are past the point of finding a glide path from fossil fuels to renewables in a time frame that will prevent 2+ warming.

    Yes, this is probably true. There does not appear to be a simple, smooth, easy pathway that will keep us below 2C.

  40. Canman says:

    ATTP:

    This is what bothers me; I think we will simply accept, and normalise, substantial harm to some people in the world because many people were simply not willing to make sacrifices of their own in order to avoid this. I find this morally repugnant.

    The “lack of willingness to make sacrifices” is found not to be merely wrong, uninformed, delusional, … , but, “morally repugnant”! I think people can have perfectly good faith, intellectual reasons to resist these sacrifices. It’s far from clear, on this complex topic, what the best courses of action are. If someone’s reasons are faulty, they should be debunked and even ridiculed. But I suppose it’s more fun to get all full of yourself and demonize them.

  41. Canman,

    But I suppose it’s more fun to get all full of yourself and demonize them.

    What do you mean by “them”?

  42. Canman says:

    I see “them” could refer to either people with allegedly faulty arguments or the arguments themselves. I was refering to people, which would probably include me.

  43. Canman,
    I wasn’t really suggesting that there is a “them” who are doing bad things and an “us” who are not. It’s really all of us.

  44. bostonblorp says:

    > “The radiative response to increasing atmospheric CO2 is actually logarithmic … how much we will warm for a given emission today is about the same as it will be in the future”

    Sure but the climate system is not tidily governed by just the radiative response of CO2. Albedo loss alone is huge and could have a warming effect equal to 1/4 of all CO2 emissions thus far (see “Observational determination of albedo decrease caused by vanishing Arctic sea ice,” Pistone et al).

    Self-reinforcing feedbacks from CO2 and CH4 outgassing vary in projection from troublesome to apocalyptic. There’s a whole slew of possible loops in “Trajectories of the Earth System in the Anthropocene”

  45. boston,
    Sure, that’s all possible, but it currently appears as though the response is roughly linear. It could indeed become non-linear which becomes more likely, the more we warm.

  46. I agree with Boston Blorpie: I think the impact of the feedback loops (albedo decrease is a big one, but not the only one. dare I mention methane release from warmed planet?) should give us pause. We are like the person who has stumbled into a minefield. We are quite a distance into the minefield and we have stepped directly onto a mine yet. A smart person would stop very quickly and then figure out how to step back slowly and carefully to exit the minefield in one piece.

    Your confidence in predictable future warming in changed conditions seems unrealistic to me. But, hey, what do I know?

    Cheers,

    Mike

  47. I hope you are right about linear warming, ATTP. I also hope to not live long enough to find out if you are wrong.

  48. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting that it couldn’t become non-linear. My understanding is that it is unlikely to become strongly non-linear if we perturb the system by a few oC. If we go beyond that (as we might) then all bets are probably off.

  49. verytallguy says:

    Non-linearity could go either way of course: non-linear warming is non synonymous with more warming.

    Physical processes can easily be postulated which slow down warming as temperature increases eg reduced sea ice cover leads to increased radiative heat loss in winter.

  50. I’m with bostonblorp on unintended and unforeseen consequences. When I looked at this yesterday I thought I’d better just shut up, since I find the idea we well be able to stop things at 3C (as horrid as that is) unlikely at best. We will have geoengineering too, and that will makes things worse, since it will mask the problem and be unsustainable in the long run, resulting in redoubled problems when we lose control, which we will.

    What I find disturbing is that most people are headed towards more waste, more envy and admiration of high-end materialism, more unconsciousness about the daily things we all do. Without a major retune to a more circular economy, I don’t see it. For example, the flyovers and fireworks and rock concerts for every celebration: are they not competing to get worse? Of course, in the US we are going very backwards, and I’m past apologizing for not defeating the monster and his minions in the White House and Congress. But there too we have a lot of people like the gilets jaunes, who only see the price at the gas pump, and only care about that. And there’s Brexit, which is another cuttting off nose to spite face thing. Far too many people are easily enraged and happy to find somebody to blame.

    Dealing with the community of humanity with compassion and collaboration may feel possible and even likely in an academic intellectual setting, but the seething of the majority, encouraged by trolling at the highest level (not to mention advertising profits), only stops for the daily business of survival, not for intelligent planning and execution.

    It’s one thing to know we have to do something, and quite another to do it. Here’s another baddie: Bolsonaro and the Amazon rainforest. And the far east is also losing rainforest to profits. How many of us read labels and eschew palm oil?

    I’m not saying people are not good in general, but the everpresent distractions mean very few people have the time, energy, or inclination to check their materialism where it starts. All too often, success is defined by ruthlessness, aka sociopathy.

  51. BBD says:

    And the far east is also losing rainforest to profits. How many of us read labels and eschew palm oil?

    A difficult problem. Sustainable palm oil is a much better bet wrt deforestation than alternatives because palm oil has such a high yield per unit area compared to other oil crops. So boycotting palm oil can actually increase deforestation by shifting demand away from palm oil onto things like soybean oil – which means yet more Amazon deforestation.

  52. It’s a little discouraging isn’t it. You covered so many of my concerns with this response. I am on several “stop growth” listservs. A big chunk of discussion the past few days was about which hawaiian island should be visited, what to see and do. Very little concern stated about the carbon footprint except for one person who suggested buying carbon offsets for the trip. The carbon offset purchase did not produce any discussion. It was polite request and was received politely and quietly by a bunch of mostly highly privileged white folks who want to stop growth, protect the Salish Sea and the Southern Orca Pod, etc. These are very nice folks who are willing to do almost anything to protect the environment, except change the way they live. Lots of prius, leaf, volt owners with rooftop solar installations. It’s not like they are doing nothing, far from it… but in the winter in the NW there comes a time when you really need to jump on a plane to a region where there is warmth and sunshine. I get it. I don’t think it ends well.
    Got to keep our spirits up somehow. Warm regards to you, Susan.
    Mike

  53. As I pointed out on a recent thread, the IPCC has projected probable impacts for a temperature rise similar to what you point out. It is here: https://www.ipcc.ch/report/ar5/wg2/ I do not believe those impacts are dire–your mileage may differ.

    I completely agree with your assessment that those impacts are more likely to affect those less likely to be able to afford the adaptation needed–hence my agreement with those advocating mitigation early. (I also strongly advocate ‘pre-adaptation’ of new and existing development.)

    Mitigation is best served (IMO–but also the opinion of many with much more respectable qualifications) by a carbon tax. I believe a carbon tax should be introduced at a low level and raised gradually, using benchmark metrics as automated triggers. I believe that to get conservative support for a carbon tax it must be revenue neutral–all (yes, 100%) of the revenues would need to be rebated through the lowering of other taxes, hopefully on employment taxes such as Social Security in the US.

    As we are strikingly vulnerable to the weather of the present, I think we should invest heavily in storm / flood resistant infrastructure and build in a margin to protect from projected climate change impacts. We should have started this 30 years ago. We should do it now.

    I believe that upgrading infrastructure with a safety margin and introduction of a revenue neutral carbon tax are sufficient for the moment. I would be happy for subsidized investment of energy storage and other relevant technologies to be increased. Finally, I believe adjusting the incentives for development in threatened zones would reduce the outlays needed for disaster remediation.

  54. Willard says:

    > I think people can have perfectly good faith, intellectual reasons to resist these sacrifices.

    It still could be morally repugnant.

    We really need better contrarians.

  55. 24SevKev says:

    I agree that it sucks how much harm will likely be done to people. There’s a lot of variables in the equation, for example how bad things will get at a 3 Celsius warming, and what kind of political changes will occur. Certainly history suggests the possibility for ugly outcomes.

    In terms of the rich benefiting more, I’m not 100% convinced that is true. If there were serious agricultural disruptions and social upheavals in Western countries, they may be in for a rough time as well. Certainly the French Revolution is one example to look at. Also look at Teotihuacan in Mexico, where a famine led to the residences of the elite being burned down. As a final point, look at how divided and anti-elite our society has already become without the climate being a huge factor yet.

    The rich countries also have more to lose in some respects. Maybe this is a wacked perspective, but someone in a rich country with access to healthcare, nutritious food, etc. is doing better than someone in an Ebola infested Warzone in the Congo. Climate Change could be a factor in re-introducing a more dangerous and less stable life in the West, whereas in those locations, things will get worse but they are already bad.

  56. but in the winter in the NW there comes a time when you really need to jump on a plane to a region where there is warmth and sunshine. I get it.

    Just going back to the original post and the suggestion of how facilely we normalise things. Commercial jet aviation is remarkably recent. Before then, it used to be newsreel-worthy to see movie stars, royalty and heads of state/diplomats on the tarmac heading off to or arriving from far away. I grew up one of four kids of a specialist physician and nurse in northwestern Ontario. We never vacationed south in the winters and I was unaware if any other families were. Now? Just decades later, it really does seem as if you live a truly impoverished life if you don’t. Just check Facebook.

    I believe that to get conservative support for a carbon tax it must be revenue neutral–all (yes, 100%) of the revenues would need to be rebated

    Probably, but I am highlighting this because liberal advocates of a revenue neutral carbon price should be far more frank that the reason for revenue neutrality is almost entirely about vote-getting and vote-keeping.

    It remains mute on where the money for investment in renewables, transmission, CCS and on and on comes from. For instance, above, the very next like-to-have after a revenue-neutral carbon price is:

    I think we should invest heavily in storm / flood resistant infrastructure… I would be happy for subsidized investment of energy storage and other relevant technologies to be increased. Finally, I believe adjusting the incentives for development…

    Fair enough, but if you have already rebated the carbon price money to the public, you need to find the funds for these things somewhere elsewhere. Which still costs money.

    And given the tight timelines for emission path trajectories to meet 1.5C, 2.0C, 2.5C, etc. – and the fact that delays in emission reductions are cumulative – the carbon price needs to ramp up to something quite stiff to make a dent in the major emission sources to the right of this curve (McKinsey, 2009, v.2)

    Which itself seems very optimistic considering all the things to the left of the curve that we are apparently obliviously failing to do that are either “free money” or pure inefficiencies.

    I know the argument is that both ozone and acid rain were mitigated at lower than anticipated costs. But those were largely homogeneous, single problems to solve. It’s not clear at all that substitutions, technology are going to smoothly deal with iron and steel, say. And note well that the McKinsey analysis itself is mute on, oh, aviation, long-haul transport, etc. Some of these might require an astonishingly high carbon price to get a meaningful response (and are probably going to need to be dealt with via different policy levers long before any “low and gently rising!” carbon price gets there…)

  57. entropicman says:

    Dont put too much faith in the logarithmic effect.
    If the first CO2 doubling from 280ppm to 560ppm produces 3C warming, the second doubling to 1120ppm will add another 3C.
    The good news is that if the first 280ppm added produces 3C warming, the second 280ppm would only add another 2.4C.

    The logarithmic effect helps a little, but it wont save us.

  58. > And a plea to everyone not to derail this into yet another “hippies need to live nuclear” thread.

    Okay. Presumably we can also plea that this not be derailed into yet another “conservatives need to run factories and steel mills with windmills and solar panels” thread as well.

    If you really believe the world will not sacrifice to mitigate emissions, the least morally repugnant path is to seek alternatives with the lowest emissions and lowest cost. That has the added benefit that you won’t electrify transportation without low cost, abundant, stable electricity production.
    If you add in the goal of fast adoption, you’re looking at gas, burning wood, damming more rivers, and nuclear.

    “Please show your calculations w/r/t externalities.”
    Time to face the fact that “externalities” are the reasons why you want to charge more for electricity, they don’t change the fact that you are, in fact, charging more for electricity. The President of France recently had a nice little reminder of this. If you start off any discussion with “we must charge more for electricity” it is perfectly rational for people to choose the least expensive, most effective alternatives. But… the “hippies”! Well, we all need to sacrifice.

  59. jeff,

    Presumably we can also plea that this not be derailed into yet another “conservatives need to run factories and steel mills with windmills and solar panels” thread as well.

    I don’t recall ever having had one of those.

    Time to face the fact that “externalities” are the reasons why you want to charge more for electricity, they don’t change the fact that you are, in fact, charging more for electricity.

    The point about pricing externalities is that it attempts to include all the costs, so that something is properly priced, and the market can operate efficiently. In this case, it’s not about charging more for electricity, but charging more for emitting CO2 into the atmosphere. If we’re not doing this, then – in principle – the market won’t operate efficiently, and we’ll be passing on costs to people in the future.

    Of course, if we do add a carbon price, then the cost of energy will go up today. This is indeed politically difficult. I do think, however, that we should at least be willing to be honest that we’re reluctant to do this and that a consequence of doing so will be people paying a price in the future. In many cases, the people paying the price will not be associate with those who benefitted from the original emissions.

  60. Willard says:

    > Presumably we can also plea

    Presumably not.

  61. Joshua says:

    Jeff –

    Time to face the fact that “externalities” are the reasons why you want to charge more for electricity, they don’t change the fact that you are, in fact, charging more for electricity.

    Anders pretty much covered this, but my point is that perhaps, the true cost of electricity is not reflected in the price of electricity. My understanding is that the issue of factoring the costs of externalities into price is a pretty fundamental component of economics – not some kind of exotic notion. Please consider the relationship between price and cost.

    Along with that, part of my point is that I often see “skeptics” who (correctly, IMO) talk about the importance of incorporating uncertainties into policy prescriptions, and who (correctly, IMO) talk about the dangers of relying on invalidated or unverified models for projecting future outcomes, taking with great certainty about the “costs” going forward of mitigating emissions, despite the related uncertainties, and by virtue of relying on unvalidated and unverified economic modeling.

  62. Joshua says:

    Jeff –

    Why do you put externalities in quotes? Do you think that “skeptics” should use quotations when they talk of the benefits of access to cheap energy?

  63. BBD says:

    Jeff, why do you think Nicholas Stern called AGW the greatest market failure of all time?

  64. RICKA says:

    If your electric bill was $130 USD last month, than that is your “cost” for electricity. Economic decisions are based on actual costs, not imaginary ones. There is no uncertainty about your cost of electricity – just add up the bills.

    Sure, if you could get a tax added to the electric bill for fossil fuel burned, it would be taken into consideration by consumers and businesses, and behavior might change. Until then, nobody will pay any attention to externalities.

    The reason being nobody knows what they are, how much of them there is or what price to put on them. People will simply argue about the price and reasonable minds will disagree and it will be political and the price will change willy nilly depending on who is in power.

    If you do a cost benefit analysis and burning fossil fuels is net beneficial up to 2.5C over industrial do you lower the cost of burning fossil fuels?

    The reason fossil fuel electricity is the cheapest is because of actual costs – which is why people want to take on imaginary ones (externalities).

    All I can say is good luck with that!

    You might as well try to price in the externality of drunk driving and alcoholism into the price of a bottle of rum. Maybe you think the sin taxes already cover that?

    Anyway, if you price in these imaginary externalities, nuclear just gets relatively cheaper. Unless you think nuclear waste is a worse problem than global warming (and maybe you do). In which case maybe killing birds should make wind more expensive and fires from solar panels should make solar more expensive? Were does it stop? Probably when all power is too expensive and we all die – which I am personally against.

    I say just look at actual costs and leave the imaginary ones out of it.

    That is my 2 cents.

  65. Rick,

    Sure, if you could get a tax added to the electric bill for fossil fuel burned, it would be taken into consideration by consumers and businesses, and behavior might change. Until then, nobody will pay any attention to externalities.

    Yes, people mostly won’t consider externalities until you actually increase the cost.

    You might as well try to price in the externality of drunk driving and alcoholism into the price of a bottle of rum. Maybe you think the sin taxes already cover that?

    Yes, I think that is one of the motivations behind these taxes.

  66. RICKA says:

    ATTP:

    I respectfully disagree about the sin taxes. If the government were collecting taxes to cover the cost of alcoholism and drunk driving we would have the government paying for AAA meetings and there would be no reason for lawsuits to recover for damages from drunk driving (there would be payouts from the government). While I could be wrong, I believe that these externalities are not built into the cost of booze. I don’t believe externalities are built into the cost of anything.

    It is just something for people to argue about because coal is cheaper than renewable (actually costs I mean).

  67. Rick,
    You may be thinking a bit to US-centrically again. In the UK, at least, many healthcare-related resources are provided via taxation and so cigarette/alcohol taxes almost certainly contribute towards this in some way.

  68. “In this case, it’s not about charging more for electricity, but charging more for emitting CO2 into the atmosphere.”
    Yes, this is true. It is also an argument that you are making to people who are passing off the cost of their current governments to their grandchildren because they don’t want to pay the true cost in higher taxes.

    I appreciate all the replies, but this is not a controversial point. You believe (with good reason) that people are paying less than the real cost of electricity today. You wish for them to pay the real cost, which would require substantially increasing the amount they pay for electricity.
    Further, you’ve asked for comments on your concern (with good reason) that people won’t make that sacrifice (pay more or use less) and therefore bad things will happen.

    This means three things IMO:
    1. If they won’t pay more, it doesn’t matter if you put the word “externalities” in quotes or not because they ain’t gonna pay it, so you need the least emissions at the lowest cost.
    2. The true cost of fossil fuels is debatable- the higher the electricity bill, the more people will question it. The solution again is least cost, lowest emissions alternatives.
    3. Crying “market failure” falls apart once you notice that all the non-capitalist nations today and in history also use fossil fuels. Which drives home the real point- it’s a big, competitive world where sacrifice by one group and not the other compounds the level of sacrifice exponentially.

    ATTP- I suggest we amend your original concern a bit: western nations will not sacrifice while developing nations (including China) grow their emissions resulting in no change – or growth – in global emissions, therefore bad things will happen. Solution, least-cost, lowest emissions alternatives globally.

    One footnote- IMO if mitigation needs are truly urgent then you need to acknowledge that renewables are not up to snuff today. So you need to put your money on something else. Right now everyone’s from China to Germany to the US is putting their money on natural gas. Fine with me. Nuclear is too.

  69. Jeff,

    You believe (with good reason) that people are paying less than the real cost of electricity today. You wish for them to pay the real cost, which would require substantially increasing the amount they pay for electricity.

    Yes, I think we’re not paying the full price of emitting CO2 into the atmosphere. However, I don’t wish for them to pay the real cost because I’m aware of how this might impact some people. However, I’m also aware that if we don’t do something like this there will also be negative impacts on people due to climate change. This is essentially the conundrum.

  70. Willard says:

    > Crying “market failure” falls apart once you notice that all the non-capitalist nations today and in history also use fossil fuels.

    Having a list of those “non-capitalist nations” would be nice. Depending on what we mean by “non-capitalist nations,” we may find that these are the ones who can afford to go nuclear. Perhaps in the end it’s just a vocabulary thing.

    Also note that consumers already for pay fossil fuel subsidies. Those who cry “but the Iron Law!” tend to forget that fact.

  71. RICKA says:

    ATTP:

    Yes – I am thinking US-centrically.

    That is because I live in the US. Since each electricity user will be influenced by their particular electricity bill – which depends on where they live, I think each person will be thinking wherever they live – centrically. As far as I know, nobody in the UK or the US or anywhere else is paying for externalities yet (for electricity or anything else).

    Do people pay for car insurance in the UK? In the US that covers medical costs and those costs are born by the insurance payers. The government (in the US) does pick up the tab for uninsured drivers medical costs.

  72. Rick,
    I think that a sin tax is essentially a way to internalise externalities. For example, here it says

    A sin tax is a type of Pigovian tax, which is levied on companies which create negative externalities with their business practices.

    As I understand it, even if the tax revenue is not directly used to pay these external costs, the tax can still be regarded as a form of internalising externalities.

  73. RICKA said:

    “It is just something for people to argue about because coal is cheaper than renewable (actually costs I mean).”

    I really don’t understand why you can’t just tell RICKA that there is essentially no coal left in the UK. The coal mines gradually closed as reserves depleted:

    Strange dance you have going on here.

  74. RICKA says:

    Willard says “Also note that consumers already for pay fossil fuel subsidies.”

    I don’t understand this.

    Consumers pay for all subsidies, whether fossil fuel or renewable. Consumers pay for everything since business passes all expenses along to consumers.

    Consumers don’t pay cash for any externalities (that I am aware of).

    So what?

    I still don’t know what to add to the electric bill and I suspect nobody else does either.

  75. Joshua says:

    Jeff –

    Further, you’ve asked for comments on your concern (with good reason) that people won’t make that sacrifice (pay more or use.

    FWIW, I don’t really agree with Anders about that. I think that for the most part, people don’t evaluate this as a trade-off of short-term cost for long-term benefit. As difficult as it might be for people to make such a trade-off, they have to perceive it in that way for it even to be a possibility. At the point we’re people are convinced such a trade-off exists, I would guess their approach would be markedly different.

    Consider the level of sacrifice that Koreans made, for years, within such a trade-off paradigm. Or the trade-offs Americans made during the war effort during WWII.

  76. Joshua,
    If you’re suggesting that people are – in some cases – willing to make a sacrifice for some benefit that might be long-term, or even that they may not even see, then I agree. However, I think that in most cases they need to be very conscious/aware of the reason why they’re making the sacrifice. As I think I may have said this before, the problem with climate change is that its slow enough that we can feel as though we can put off doing anything for the moment, but fast enough that it will eventually become obvious to most.

  77. Joshua says:

    Anders –

    So then I think we are in close agreement. There are a number of reasons why, IMO, climate change is a tough set-up for a sacrifice scenario, and indeed, the long time horizon is an important one. The interaction with political identity is another. The fact that we’re dealing with the interaction between people’s observations of “weather” and the notion of “climate” (e.g., it was cold today/this winter so how could the climate be changing?) is another. But perhaps most relevant, IMO, for the sacrifice question is the issue of how difficult it is for people to grasp low probability high damage function risks. Climate change is hardly unique in that regard.

  78. Joshua says:

    Jeff –

    If they won’t pay more, it doesn’t matter if you put the word “externalities” in quotes or not because they ain’t gonna pay it, so you need the least emissions at the lowest cost.

    This seems like a rather unfortunate straw man form of argument. I wasn’t suggesting that merely by putting the word externalities in or outside of quotes will determine whether people people pay a higher price for energy for the purpose of helping to mitigate climate change.

    My point was related to the weakness of a variety of arguments I read from “skeptics.” More specifically, directed towards your comment, was a conflation of “cost” and “price” – which actually are quite different.

    2. The true cost of fossil fuels is debatable- the higher the electricity bill, the more people will question it. The solution again is least cost, lowest emissions alternatives.

    This is debatable, IMO, and should not be stated as an “iron law,” as you have done.. But one step towards that debate is to use terminology clearly. Cost ≠ price. Indeed, part of the complication is that people tend to conflate the two.

  79. Joshua says:

    RickA –

    If your electric bill was $130 USD last month, than that is your “cost” for electricity.

    I think that statement is full of errors. Price and cost are not the same thing. There are a variety of “costs” associated with energy consumption that may or may not be directly reflected in the price. For example, Americans pay taxes to support the military and support infractrue, some portion of which are effectively is spent to keep fossil fuels flowing and ensure access to fossil fuels.

    Economic decisions are based on actual costs, not imaginary ones. There is no uncertainty about your cost of electricity – just add up the bills.

    Taxes are part of what factors into economic decisions. That something is not explicitly recognized when people are making decisions doesn’t make it “imaginary.”

    What I am pointing to are the inconsistencies I see in how many “skeptics” approach this issue. I was pointing more specifically to problems with your comment – specifically with reference to your expressed certainty about the “cost” (right now, and to future society) of mitigating ACO2 emissions.

    I will refer you back to my follow on comment:

    https://andthentheresphysics.wordpress.com/2019/01/06/what-bothers-and-confuses-me-about-climate-change/#comment-135354

    Perhaps you will deal directly with what I was saying, rather than offering an example which effectively ignores the points I made? If so, we might have something to discuss further.

  80. RICKA says:

    Paul says “I really don’t understand why you can’t just tell RICKA that there is essentially no coal left in the UK. The coal mines gradually closed as reserves depleted:”

    It doesn’t matter. If you are talking UK than 8.6% of your power is from coal and 40% is from natural gas and 7 ish is from oil. Still all cheaper than renewable sources, which is why 55% of your power is fossil fuel based.

    Of course I am talking actual pounds – not imaginary ones (I think you understand that however).

  81. Joshua says:

    RickA –

    Consumers don’t pay cash for any externalities (that I am aware of).

    There are many cases when we do. When we pay taxes that support health care for people that are negatively impacted by pollution, we are, in part, paying “cash” for externallities.

    The fact that the payment of cash for externalities is not explicit is important, but it doesn’t mean that we aren’t paying cash for externalities.

    Of course, the same mechanics effectively apply towards positive externalities. What I’m asking you to address is that, at least in my pobservation (1) “skeptics” often talk about the positive externalities associated with fossil fuels but almost uniformly neglect to address the negative externalities and, (2) “skeptics” talk confidently about the “cost” of various energy sources (indeed, as you did above) without addressing negative externalities (which are a cost).. If you showed your calculations for how your determine the relative magnitudes of positive vs. negative externalities, I would appreciate it.

  82. RICKA said

    “It doesn’t matter. If you are talking UK than 8.6% of your power is from coal and 40% is from natural gas and 7 ish is from oil. Still all cheaper than renewable sources, which is why 55% of your power is fossil fuel based.”

    Are you mathematically challenged? Can you not read that chart of coal decline? BTW, it’s similar for North Sea oil and NG, only delayed as the extraction started much later than for coal.

    (and this is not piling on the cornucopian, as I seem to be the only one with this rational outlook)

  83. RICKA says:

    Joshua:

    I am not sure what you are talking about.

    I think you are getting me mixed up with someone else, because I don’t recall making a comment about the costs of mitigation.

    My overall 2 cents was go nuclear.

  84. Joshua says:

    RickA –

    You say this:

    because I don’t recall making a comment about the costs of mitigation.

    After saying this:

    I think the problem is that any solution which makes power more expensive is going to hurt everybody, but poor people the most.

    If you don’t see how those two questions are inextricably linked, then indeed, our discussion can’t go anywhere. Please carry on, I won’t interfere.

  85. RICKA says:

    Paul asks if I am mathematically challenged.

    I don’t think so.

    If you make fossil fuel electricity MORE expensive by adding in a price for externalities, will the costs of nuclear not become relatively cheaper? That was my point.

    Another point I would make is if you go to externalities, you have to price them in for all power sources (in my opinion), so you can compare the costs.

    Fossil fuels have external costs from CO2, particulate, change in albedo . . .
    Nuclear has external costs from waste.
    Wind has external costs from killing birds, bats, noise causing harm to humans, changing wind speed over time . . .
    Solar has external costs from mining rare earth metals, fires, waste, CO2 from manufacturing . . .
    Hydro prevents fish from spawning . . .

    And so on.

    Not an easy calculation for any source – but if you do it for one source don’t you have to do it for all?

    This is why I would avoid the whole externality thing and just compare actual costs.(by which I mean costs without resorting to externalities).

    My 2 cents.

  86. RICKA says:

    I should have added in more external costs for nuclear – namely mining and CO2 emitted from manufacturing. My apologies.

  87. RICKA says:

    Joshua:

    Yes – I did say that and I said it before you said your stuff.

    Perhaps if you had engaged me directly with direct reference to my words we wouldn’t be so confused.

    I never directly engaged you and then you dinged me for not responding to you directly with your words.

    Ironic.

  88. Willard: “Having a list of those “non-capitalist nations” would be nice. Depending on what we mean by “non-capitalist nations,” we may find that these are the ones who can afford to go nuclear. Perhaps in the end it’s just a vocabulary thing.”

    Cuba has no oil or coal, mountains by the sea for pumped hydro, abundant sunshine and trade winds, nary a capitalist in sight for 60 years. Burns imported oil for electricity. Because it’s obviously cheaper to use wind and solar, yah? But.. Exxon and sad hippies! Too bad there isn’t a brother communist nation that makes windmills and solar panels who could work with them in fraternal socialism. Like, say, China- the world’s largest emitter of fossil fuel CO2 and growing. Trump should say his trade war with China is just charging them for the externalities of coal. You got me on one- Venezuela is abandoning fossil fuels, not that they want to.

    Joshua- you guys have been saying people are ready to sacrifice for climate change since the Rio Summit almost 30 years ago. Al Gore said wind/solar were cheap, effective and ready 19 years ago. There isn’t a nation that’s substantially renewable today, there isn’t one on path to do it, and global emissions are continuing to rise. It’s time to bang a different drum. If you think there is urgency.
    Least cost (compared to todays actual cost) lowest emissions.

  89. confrontingsciencecontrarians says:

    https://confrontingsciencecontrarians.blogspot.com/2018/12/the-missing-key-gould.html
    OP: “I’m sure there must be ways to address climate change in ways that are both effective and take into account . . .”

    Seems to me Mal Adapted’s response at 1/6/19 summarized it best:
    “… (recognize historic momentum) And why should we expect to escape the drivers of history, whatever those might be? …”

    Seems to me much of this discussion, as the comments reflect, is constrained within our individual personal subjective views. Which are a product of our needs and focus. Nothing bad about that, it’s how we learned to survive our day to days and raise families. Perhaps that’s the best we are capable of.

    The point? I think the interpretation of science and our narratives are too ego-centric, too insular, too good at categorizing and isolating, too caught up in our own day to days. We are too busy conceptualizing everything with neat definitions – to fully appreciate many subtle interconnections and interdependencies unfolding upon our planet (heck the history of science is one of ever learning about new unimagined complexities and it keep on going.)

    I think it would be good if we spent a bit more time thinking about our own understanding of this Earth which is embed within our individual “Human Mindscapes” – as opposed to Earth’s actual “Physical Reality” and her ways and means which will dictate our future regardless of what any of us thinks. There is a difference and it’s too rarely acknowledged.

  90. Joshua says:

    Jeff –

    Joshua- you guys…

    I’m not speaking for anyone else.

  91. Joshua says:

    RickA –

    Perhaps if you had engaged me directly with direct reference to my words we wouldn’t be so confused.

    I thought I did.

    https://andthentheresphysics.wordpress.com/2019/01/06/what-bothers-and-confuses-me-about-climate-change/#comment-135273

  92. Notice how RICKA flees from talk of FF decline in the UK and so starts discussing nuclear and this stuff about cost externalities. Costs don’t matter when the coal no longer exists.

    And jeffnsails850 says “Cuba has no oil or coal” with no hint of self-awareness or what that entails.

  93. Willard says:

    > Consumers pay for all subsidies, whether fossil fuel or renewable. Consumers pay for everything since business passes all expenses along to consumers.

    “Paying” as in “paying at the pump,” RickA. Your gas is cheap because it’s subsidized. Those who do not own cars are thus paying for you.

    Consumers don’t care much about real prices. They barely care about the erosion of their purchasing power, which compounds AT’s conundrum, e.g.:

    Our democracies still fall for reactionary populism, thanks in part to Freedom Fighters fighting for freedom. Which in turn plays into corporations’ hands.

    It’s not that complex.

  94. Willard says:

    > Cuba […] China […] Venezuela

    It’d be hard to argue that China is non-capitalist:

  95. Francis says:

    Dear attp: Both India and Pakistan are nuclear powers. They also are two nations most likely be hit very hard (drought, heat deaths, crop failures, etc) by warming over 2C. So I think the near future risks being very dangerous even for Americans.

  96. Mircea Dochia says:

    1. “Morally repugnant” – this is a subjective notion. What is repugnant for one can be desirable for another function of their system of moral values. For a christian it is indeed “morally repugnant” to let others starve/die with no care or help… but it is not very clear why this would be repugnant for an atheist (natural evolution, eat or be eaten, survival of the fittest, etc). Thanos from “Infinity Wars” is moral even if his morality doesn’t match yours.
    So…. morally repugnant in what system of values? And then… How do you determine which system of values is better in this present post-modernism? Who is to say?

    Scientifically, egoism is one of my best strategy to transmit my genes forward (egoism and good guns against undesirable immigrants).

  97. dikranmarsupial says:

    Mircea Dochia says “I have little understanding of ethics or evolutionary biology” (or words to that effect).

    Atheists are just as capable of morality as anyone else, and there is a long tradition of secular moral philosophy (probably not the right term), e.g. the “enlightenment”. The basic principles are not hard to understand, begin with the “golden rule” (i.e. an appeal to non-hypocrisy).

    Scientifically, that is not a good strategy if those of the opposite sex find that behaviour “morally repugnant”, which seems increasingly likely as the world become more civilised (which it demonstrably has). Altrusim is common in nature, probably because it is a good evolutionary strategy, especially for social animals.

  98. BBD says:

    My overall 2 cents was go nuclear.

    Nuclear is not even close to a global-scale solution to decarbonisation, as has been pointed out on multiple occasions. At best, it might get to about 30% of global electricity supply by mid-century. As has been pointed out on multiple occasions.

    So why are you still peddling ‘go nuclear’ when you know – unless you don’t read other comments – that it is *not* a solution?

    This is why I would avoid the whole externality thing and just compare actual costs.(by which I mean costs without resorting to externalities).

    You are being disingenuous. The real reason you want to ignore ‘the whole externality thing’ is that the externalities of unconstrained FF use are arguably incalculably vast.

  99. Marco says:

    Thanks, Dikran, I was about to respond to Mircea about his comment, too.

    I agree with him that morals are subjective. It is also therefore that I do not agree with him that for a christian letting others starve/die without help would be morally repugnant per sé. History is filled with examples of christians morally justifying their harsh treatment of others based on this supposed christian morality. History is also filled with others christians disagreeing. Christian morality is as subjective as any morality.

  100. BBD says:

    Jeffn

    Like, say, China- the world’s largest emitter of fossil fuel CO2 and growing.

    China’s emissions grow because it is the workshop of the world, producing cheap exports that do not include the external costs of FFs used in their production.

    Why did Nicholas Stern say that climate change was the greatest market failure ever seen?

    No evasions this time, please.

  101. verytallguy says:

    This is why I would avoid the whole externality thing and just compare actual costs.(by which I mean costs without resorting to externalities).

    By this rhetoric, we should not tax or regulate externalities at all. It’s an absolutist libertarian argument. The only justification for it is if externalities are sufficiently small as to be negligible. That’s not the case.

  102. BBD says:

    History is filled with examples of christians morally justifying their harsh treatment of others based on this supposed christian morality

    Too true. “Caedite eos. Novit enim Dominus qui sunt eius” doesn’t square with “Thou shalt not kill”. And even if the first quote was apocryphal, the the massacre at Béziers most certainly wasn’t.

  103. Dave_Geologist says:

    Mircea, as per dikran, Atheists can be moral. Indeed, I would regard a moral atheist in a religiously-dominated country as more moral than a moral Christian, Jew, Muslim, Hindu etc. The moral atheist is doing it because it’s the right thing to do. The moral religious person may be doing it because of fear of going to Hell, fear of being reincarnated as a slug, fear of being socially ostracised, fear of going to jail, or fear of having his hands or head chopped off.

  104. dikranmarsupial says:

    Dave_Geologist I think it is best to avoid caricaturing people. There are plenty of Christians who are Christians because they think it is the “right thing to do”, rather than the reasons you suggest. I am one of them. I suspect the same is true of Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs, Bhuddists etc. I don’t think any of us are mind readers, most of us don’t even really understand own own actual motivations (c.f. Montaigne).

  105. Dave_Geologist says:

    Hence my “may be”, dikran 😉 . But I should also have said “potentially more moral”.

  106. Mircea Dochia says:

    dikranmarsupial, Dave_Geologist, Marco – My comment was pin-pointing that morality is not at all self-evident… I gave some (extreme) examples to illustrate my point. My question remains unanswered: Who is to say which system of values are better? In a religious system of values there is the dogma who is absolute and excludes any other moral system. The dogma is guarded by the priests.
    But once one gets out of religion there are no more absolutes… relativity reigns.

  107. dikranmarsupial says:

    “In a religious system of values there is the dogma who is absolute and excludes any other moral system.”

    so you know next to nothing about religion as well.

    “My comment was pin-pointing that morality is not at all self-evident”

    you don’t say? Given that ATTP merely stated his moral position that is entirely irrelevant.

  108. Mircea,
    But do you agree that there are things that we would agree are objectionable? Maybe note that what I said in the post was “I find this morally repugnant”.

  109. dikranmarsupial says:

    “Who is to say which system of values are better?”

    This is also entirely irrelevant. The point is that too many are using science denial to reconcile acting in a way that is inconsistent with their stated values whilst maintaining their own personal standard of living. Someone that is self-centered and genuinely doesn’t care about the harm they cause to others don’t need to reject the science in order to justify inaction. However, most people don’t want to admit to being that sort of an arsehole.

  110. Mircea Dochia says:

    ATTP: I agree that are things that we would agree are objectionable. But many other people can find these things as good. Are we allowed to blame them or not ? They are still moral even if their morality is different from ours… Is there an objective method to decide? I dare say that there is not …

  111. Mircea Dochia says:

    dikranmarsupial – I raised the question exactly to show that your type of discourse might sound strange and wrong to someone that doesn’t share your exact moral values. They live in another system where they are the moral ones and you are the immoral. How do you talk with them? How do you convince them that your system of values is the good one?

  112. Mircea,
    Firstly, I was simply expressing my own view. I think this is a difficult issue. We all live in societies where it is perfectly normal to use energy that is produced via the burning of fossil fuels and that emits CO2 into the atmosphere. This whole process has done a lot of good and society has, by and large, benefitted from this. So, it’s clearly not intrinsically a bad thing and it’s not a bad thing that people continue to use this resource.

    However, we’re now aware of some side effects that are likely to be substantially negative. We have ways to deal with this and to avoid some of these impacts from materialising, but we’re doing little to actually achieve this. I think we’ll look back and say that we should have done more, but I think it’s very difficult – in my view – to really assign blame. I would like to think that those who publicly dismissed the risks associated with emitting CO2 into the atmosphere would acknowledge that they were wrong, but I doubt this will happen. I suspect many who have expressed these views will simply find reasons to blame others (Michael Mann was mean on Twitter, climate scientists didn’t always behave impeccably, Al Gore, etc.).

  113. Mircea Dochia says:

    ATTP: I totally agree with your last comment. It is indeed a difficult issue.

  114. BBD says:

    ATTP: I agree that are things that we would agree are objectionable. But many other people can find these things as good. Are we allowed to blame them or not ? They are still moral even if their morality is different from ours… Is there an objective method to decide? I dare say that there is not …

    Many other people? Which other people?

    Which religious or moral belief system endorses persisting in an action which you know will increasingly cause harm to others?

  115. angech says:

    “”We probably won’t stay below 1.5oC, or even 2oC, but may stay below 3oC, or close.”
    “So, what do I think is the most likely outcome? I should stress that this is what I think is likely; it could be much worse”
    Not buying this.
    If you really believe that the worst that can happen is a mere 3C, and reading these columns for several years now I do not think this is likely. then we could all pack up and go home. Everyone can live with only a 3C max outcome.
    If you believe in BAU that 3 C is only the start and will be here in 80 years. I feel you could be way more up front with your expectations inline with your beliefs.
    As for morals they are always what we want and expect other people to do, rather than respecting their right to have alternate views. Hm, perhaps I need to think about that one a bit more myself. Ouch.

  116. dikranmarsupial says:

    “dikranmarsupial – I raised the question exactly to show that your type of discourse might sound strange and wrong to someone that doesn’t share your exact moral values. “

    This is nonsense. I am perfectly capable of understanding why someone might have values different from mine, without finding it strange. I’m a computer scientist (a group not exactly renowned for their empathy/social insight) so I would have thought most people are capable of that. ;o)

    “How do you talk with them? How do you convince them that your system of values is the good one?”

    I personally don’t. The thing that bothers me is (as I said) people refusing to accept the science as a means of avoiding exposing the values that a lack of action would imply. The thing I want is for rational decision making, based on peoples (and by extension societies) actual values.

  117. Joshua says:

    The real reason you want to ignore ‘the whole externality thing’ is that the externalities of unconstrained FF use are arguably incalculably vast.

    A bit of a nitpick, but I suspect a slightly different mechanism might be in play, at least for some “skeptics.”

    Some “skeptics,” despite their appeals to uncertainty, rely on an absolute certainty about the crippling “cost” of mitigation, to align their views on renewable energy with their ideological predispositions. A major assumption, functioning as a correlary belief, is that fossil fuels are the primary cause of societal progress and economic growth.

    A problem, however is that they actually haven’t integrated a calculation of the ratio of positive/negative externalities resulting from fossil fuels into their certainty. It isn’t that they know that the ratio is overwhelmingly negative (or positive), but that they would have to acknowledge that their CERTAINTY (of a positive ratio) is unfounded. They can’t reconcile their certainty about the “cost” of mitigation with their appeals to uncertainty if they accept that it’s important to ascertain whether the positive/negative externality ratio is positive or negative, because they have no idea whether it is positive or negative.

    A similar pattern plays out with their treatment of climate modeling vs. economic modeling, where concerns about the limitations of the former don’t translate into similar concerns about the limitations of the latter.

  118. dikranmarsupial says:

    ATTP wrote “I think we’ll look back and say that we should have done more, but I think it’s very difficult – in my view – to really assign blame.”

    If we want to avoid this sort of regret, we need to act rationally according to our actual values. Being in denial about the science because we don’t want to face up to the problem and endanger our standard of living in order to mitigate the effect it has on others seems to me a recipe for regret.

    Of course those experiencing the effects of our fossil fuel supported lifestyles, but who enjoyed rather less of its benefits themselves, might have a tad more to worry about than mere regret.

  119. Joshua says:

    Mircea –

    Do you think that atheists can’t have an internally consistent view of morality?

  120. Joshua says:

    Mircea –

    I raised the question exactly to show that your type of discourse might sound strange and wrong to someone that doesn’t share your exact moral values. They live in another system where they are the moral ones and you are the immoral. How do you talk with them? How do you convince them that your system of values is the good one?

    I view this somewhat differently. I think that people who often have a very similar underlying moral view nonetheless differentiate themselves from others by drawing (IMO, invalid) moral distinctions from others, often primarily based on mistaken perceptions of others morality.

  121. Joshua says:

    angech –

    If you really believe that the worst that can happen is a mere 3C…

    Who has that belief?

  122. dikranmarsupial says:

    angech wrote “Everyone can live with only a 3C max outcome.”

    (i) Nobody said 3C max
    (ii) An increase of 3C in GMSTs doesn’t mean an increase of 3c everywhere.
    (iii) Being able to live with 3C does not mean that they can live without (possibly severe) hardship.

    Apart from that, the sentence was fine AFAICS.

  123. Joshua says:

    Also, being “able to live with” may not be the optimal standard of judgement.

  124. BBD says:

    “Mere” 3C?

    Some assumptions (and BS) need unpacking there. Let’s start with these:

    1/ Global average temperature is substantially influenced by SST. As the oceans cover ~70% of the surface area, land surface temperatures will be significantly higher for any given global average – think ~4C for GAT of 3C. “Merely” 4C sounds even more self-servingly deranged than “merely” 3C.

    2/ The rapidity of warming and all associated environmental changes (including ocean pH shift) is more ecologically damaging in the short term than the absolute magnitude. Anthropogenic warming is occurring with unprecedented rapidity.

    3/ Nobody bar “sceptics” thinks even 2C is ‘safe’, so the use of “mere” is grossly self-serving rhetoric.

  125. Willard says:

    > Thanos from “Infinity Wars” is moral even if his morality doesn’t match yours.

    If Thanos can be considered moral, than anyone can, including Charles Manson. If that’s the case, then no one can truly be said to be immoral. Morality and amorality collide, absolute relativism wins.

    Freedom Fighters punch hippies for less.

  126. Paul Pukite: “And jeffnsails850 says “Cuba has no oil or coal” with no hint of self-awareness or what that entails.”
    I also pointed out that Cuba burns oil for electricity. Energy is a global market. People who tell us renewables will work because the wind blows somewhere should be cautious about saying nobody could possibly use coal without their own mine next door to the power plant. I can see the coal trains pulling into the port here in Virginia and, if you don’t like US-centric evidence, Google Australia coal exports for more.

    BBD “Why did Nicholas Stern say that climate change was the greatest market failure ever seen?
    No evasions this time, please.”
    I think Nicholas Stern is wrong. I also think many on this thread would agree with me, though they would be loath to admit it. I believe this because in that speech, Nicholas Stern also insisted that Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) on coal-fired power plants is the solution:

    >”For $5bn a year, in terms of feed-in tariffs (which could be reduced as carbon prices rise), it should be possible to create 30 commercial scale coal-fired CCS stations within seven or eight years. Unless the rich world demonstrates, and quickly, that CCS works, developing countries cannot be expected to commit to this technology.”

    Please raise your hand if you think the urgent need is CCS, the investment only $5billion a year, and that this could all be accomplished in seven or eight years despite the fact that we’ve been hearing about CCS for decades. That was the decision in Poland, right? Dump windmills, full speed ahead on coal that Paul says we don’t have, and invent a new technology now to make coal clean.

    Markets “fail” better than magical thinking ever performs. This is why we keep coming back to them.

  127. Dave_Geologist says:

    Mircea, if you don’t have a Book to go by, the Golden Rule is a good place to start

  128. dikranmarsupial says:

    And if you want a book, try “The Golden Rule” by Jeffrey Wattles (Oxford University Press, 1997. ISBN: 9780195110364).

  129. Willard says:

    > I also pointed out that Cuba burns oil for electricity.

    This was supposed to pad your Crying “market failure” falls apart once you notice that all the non-capitalist nations today and in history also use fossil fuels, JeffN. I’m not sure how does, but I’m now quite sure your peddling is stretching the bounds of justified disingenuousness. There’s no need to point at an island in the Caribbeans that an embargo helped brought on the brink of insolvency to argue that anti-democratic forces are not helping:

  130. jeffnsails850 thinks that markets will work even without the natural resources that they may be dependent on. That’s the well known problem with economic theories, in that they often start with an invalid premise.

    We would really be in deep straits with regards to the climate crisis if the first hints of resource exhaustion didn’t occur in the late 1960’s. Oil consumption was going straight through the roof with no moderation in production in sight. We could have been at 200 million barrels a day by now.

  131. BBD says:

    Jeffn

    I think Nicholas Stern is wrong. I also think many on this thread would agree with me, though they would be loath to admit it.

    You aren’t a telepath, so this is an evasion.

    I believe this because in that speech, Nicholas Stern also insisted that Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) on coal-fired power plants is the solution:

    And this is a non sequitur so *another* evasion.

    So, why did NS describe climate change as the biggest market failure the world has ever seen?

    Try again, without the evasions, please.

  132. “Try again, without the evasions, please.”

    In the speech you reference, Nicholas Stern said climate change is the biggest market failure the world has ever seen and then gave as evidence for this failure that the world didn’t throw all it’s money at CCS. There is no good reason at all for a purely market economy to favor CCS for a host of reasons- not the least of which is the fact that it doesn’t exist. If anybody thinks Paul Pukite is even partly right, then a market economy would flee CCS.

    If CCS were viable, government intervention in markets- favoring wind, solar and wood burning as alternatives to fossil fuels – are every bit at fault for preventing CCS adoption as “market failure.” When the entire Western world is subsidizing something other than CCS, it’s ridiculous to say the failure to adopt CCS is market driven. President Obama famously vowed to make coal too expensive for anyone to use- yet good ol’ Sir Nick thinks it was “market failure” for investors to put their money elsewhere.

    <jeffnsails850 thinks that markets will work even without the natural resources that they may be dependent on."
    Take this up with BBD, he's the one who agrees with Nicholas Stern that coal is the answer and we need to dump all our efforts into CCS.
    Me? I've already said what I think will happen in another thread. Some combination of nuclear and natural gas will provide grids in Western nations that are stable, larger than today, and cost effective resulting in electrification of automobiles. We won't cut 80% of emissions. Global energy markets will drive the cost of coal and gas up and the demand for energy up, putting market pressure toward nuclear adoption. At the end of the life span of this cost-effective grid, wind and solar will either be ready to take over or they won't. If you're worried about the future of gas availability (a reasonable worry) then you should favor R&D on, and the removal of artificial regulatory barriers on nuclear now to preserve gas for the future.

  133. Willard says:

    > Nicholas Stern said climate change is the biggest market failure the world has ever seen and then gave as evidence for this failure that the world didn’t throw all it’s money at CCS.

    You made me look:

    A quote might thus be nice.

  134. Nicholas Stern’s report was not as useful as it could have been, primarily because it assumed a peak population of 15 billion. He could have provided different scenarios for different population levels, including perhaps some realistic ones. He also could have provided different scenarios based on choice of discount rate and sensitivity of the atmosphere to a doubling of concentrations of CO2(e).

  135. BBD says:

    In the speech you reference, Nicholas Stern said climate change is the biggest market failure the world has ever seen and then gave as evidence for this failure that the world didn’t throw all it’s money at CCS.

    False claim.

    Take this up with BBD, he’s the one who agrees with Nicholas Stern that coal is the answer and we need to dump all our efforts into CCS.

    False claim.

    Try again, without the evasions and false claims this time.

  136. BBD says:

    Nicholas Stern’s report was not as useful as it could have been

    Why not just answer the question, Tom: why did NS describe CC as the greatest market failure the world has ever seen?

    C’mon, you know the answer. Help out your new chum Jeffn.

  137. Willard says:

    > Help out your new chum

    Alternatively:

    Next time you go back there, just change the subject. Don’t get banned for intransigence.

    https://scienceblogs.com/stoat/2017/08/10/economic-denialism#comment-1790250

  138. < "false claim"
    <"made me look"

    https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2007/nov/29/climatechange.carbonemissions
    headline: "Stern: Climate change a 'market failure'"
    Text: "There also needs to be urgent promotion of rapid technological advance for climate change mitigation, said Sir Nicholas.
    Carbon capture and storage (CCS) for coal is particularly urgent since coal-fired electric power is currently the dominant technology round the world and emerging nations will be investing heavily in these technologies, he said."

    The failure to adopt Sir Nicholas' solution of CCS is not a "market failure." Emerging markets "will be investing heavily in these technologies" because climate warriors' preferred alternatives don't meet energy demand. As they invest heavily in coal, the global market for coal will see price increases. Those price increases and increasing global energy demand, will create market pressure for alternatives that meet energy demand, which will still rule out climate warriors' preferred alternatives.
    The argument against me seems to be that the market failure at issue is this weird desire of emerging markets to obtain energy.
    Emerging and mature markets will demand energy. it is a good idea to address this.

  139. BBD says:

    Misrepresentations of Stern. Doubling down on same, evasions and false claims.

    Not exactly impressive, is it, Jeffn?

    The problem of climate change involves a fundamental failure of markets: those who damage others by emitting greenhouse gases generally do not pay

    The failure of markets to price externalities of fossil fuels is the greatest market failure the world has ever seen.

    Sir Nicholas used the RES lecture – entitled, Climate Change, Ethics and the Economics of the Global Deal – to set out a six-point global deal for tackling climate change.

    Six points. Count ’em. CCS comes in at #5 on the list.

    The first involves rich countries reducing their greenhouse emissions by at least 80% – either directly or through trading schemes – in order that the overall 50% reduction in global emissions by 2050 is met.

    Secondly he called for substantial trade between countries, including rich and poor countries, in greenhouse gas emissions.

    The third point requires a major reform of the clean development mechanism, a Kyoto protocol mechanism that allows developing countries to sell emission reductions, but does not penalise them for emissions themselves, making it a “one-sided trade mechanism”, said Sir Nicholas.

    He also argued for an international programme to combat deforestation, which contributes 15-20% of greenhouse gas emissions.

    “For $10-15bn (£4.8-7.2bn) per year, a programme could be constructed that could stop up to half the deforestation,” he said.

    There also needs to be urgent promotion of rapid technological advance for climate change mitigation, said Sir Nicholas.

    Now – and only now, do we get to CCS:

    Carbon capture and storage (CCS) for coal is particularly urgent since coal-fired electric power is currently the dominant technology round the world and emerging nations will be investing heavily in these technologies, he said.

    “For $5bn a year, in terms of feed-in tariffs (which could be reduced as carbon prices rise), it should be possible to create 30 commercial scale coal-fired CCS stations within seven or eight years. Unless the rich world demonstrates, and quickly, that CCS works, developing countries cannot be expected to commit to this technology.”

    The final plank in Sir Nicholas’s action plan is for rich countries to honour their commitments to 0.7% of GDP in aid by 2015. This would yield increases in flows of $150-200bn per year. The extra costs developing countries face as a result of climate change are likely to be upwards of $80bn per year and it is vital that extra resources are available for new initiatives.

  140. Willard says:

    Here’s what a quote looks like, JeffN:

    For $5bn a year, in terms of feed-in tariffs (which could be reduced as carbon prices rise), it should be possible to create 30 commercial scale coal-fired CCS stations within seven or eight years. Unless the rich world demonstrates, and quickly, that CCS works, developing countries cannot be expected to commit to this technology.

    https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2007/nov/29/climatechange.carbonemissions

    I don’t think 5bn a year can be translated as “all it’s [sic] money.”

    There’s no need for any “argument against you.” Your own is barely coherent.

  141. BBD says:

    I don’t think 5bn a year can be translated as “all it’s [sic] money.”

    Perhaps Jeffn is numerically challenged. Or perhaps he is misrepresenting Stern:

    “For $10-15bn (£4.8-7.2bn) per year, a programme could be constructed that could stop up to half the deforestation,” he said.

    But either way, I agree that he is not coherent.

  142. RICKA says:

    Joshua:

    The comment you first linked to was a different comment that the last one you linked to, so I didn’t understand you were referring all the way back to this:

    Are you respecting uncertainty? Please show your calculations w/r/t externalities.

    Now that I understand what you are asking, I say this:

    My opinion was based on actual costs, not imaginary ones. I believe I made that point several times later in the thread.

    But in my opinion fossil fuels have been net beneficial to humanity, even taking externalities into account, so a proper calculation would show that. In my opinion a proper calculation of externalities compares the benefits with the drawbacks, and the benefits of fossil fuels outweigh the drawbacks.

    I think this is self-evident.

    But lets do a thought experiment.

    What if starting today, no more fossil fuels were taken out of the ground?

    What would happen?

    Would it be net beneficial or net harmful to humanity over 1 year, 10 years, 100 years?

    In my opinion, over at least 1 and 10 years, it would be net harmful.

    Maybe by 100 years, the small number of people left alive would learn to live without fossil fuels – that is possible.

    That is my evidence that actual costs are better to use than imaginary ones, and even if you took externalities into account, a proper analysis would result in lowering the actual price, based on the net benefits to humanity.

    There are also science papers which show that fossil fuels are net beneficial up to some temperature higher than today (I cannot recall the breakpoint).

    I hope that answers your question.

  143. Willard says:

    Perhaps it’d be better to say why I think the argument isn’t coherent.

    Without assuming any precision or accuracy, assume that Stern’s model gives us a window of opportunity. Its most important results is that AGW will cost us money. The more we wait, the more we’ll pay.

    If we convert that sum into CCS, that means the more we wait, the more CCS we’ll need. In other words, it is not investing now in CCS that will cost us more in CCS overall.

    Under that light, mitigation might even be cheap.

  144. BBD says:

    Stern also demonstrates that the invisible hand is, on occasion, non-existent as well.

  145. Joshua says:

    RickA –

    I’m not talking about imaginary costs.

    When you make your assessment of the ratio of positive to negative externalities with fossil fuels, which negative externalities are you considering?

  146. izen says:

    Finding that human society is apparently incapable of acting to mitigate the negative consequences that would arise in the future from the use of fossil fuels might elicit confusion and botherment if there was a solid history of society acting to prevent future external costs of resource use in other cases.

    There are plenty of examples of government reacting AFTER external costs become serious. Since the beginnings of a market economy (Hanseatic league?) medieval governments found it necessary to regulate that trade to prevent harms. The Clean Air acts, mining rehabilitation bonds and clean water controls all had to put in place as a response to extant problems. And regulatory capture often delayed and then diluted the effective implementation of these actions.
    I know the differences may be greater than the parallels, but the regulation of slavery was vigorously opposed because people lived in societies where it was perfectly normal to use energy that is produced via the exploitation of slaves. The whole process had done a lot of good and society had, by and large, benefited from this. The Christian church defended the morality of the slave trade as a moral action ordained by theological legitimacy. It was abandoned less because of any future harms foreseen by rational analysis, or moral objections, but by the ferocity of slave revolts, and the extreme measures that had to be taken to prevent them or suppress them. As well as competing production methods that could compete with slavery in a free market.

    Examples of government action taken for the benefit of future generations is rather sparse.
    Other than the banning of CFC’s (where the problem was already detectable) the only example I can think of is the Chinese 1 child policy, enacted on the basis that is there was less of the next generation they would individually be richer. Liberals and libertarians alike denounced this as a gross violation of human freedom, and immoral.
    Now that the Chinese government has removed this restriction, and is even encouraging larger families for demographic reasons, they are finding that couples have become quite keen on a one child policy, many are electing to remain childless because they do not want to dilute the wealth they have gained. It also turns of that women, given the education and opportunity are much more prepared to control and moderate their own fertility than the male of the species.

    A good historical example of such and approach might at least give and indication that it CAN be done, and how.
    Can anyone think of other examples of government action, regulation or restrictions imposed, not re-actively because of a past or ongoing cost, but explicitly to prevent or mitigate a future problem of uncertain magnitude and indeterminate timescale?

  147. Joshua says:

    izen –

    Examples of government action taken for the benefit of future generations is rather sparse.

    I think that framing the question as one where there is a distinct line between current costs and future costs is problematic. I think it would be rare for a bright line to exist. So, I’m not sure how useful that construct is to inform our understanding of the messy real world.

    For example, where is the line to be drawn with respect to future versus current negative external costs resulting from our use of fossil fuels?

  148. izen says:

    @-Joshua
    “For example, where is the line to be drawn with respect to future versus current negative external costs resulting from our use of fossil fuels?”

    I am pessimistic about where the line can be drawn, but it can only be drawn by mitigation.

  149. BBD- quoting Stern accurately is false?

    [Etc. No – misrepresenting Stern is suboptimal. No more peddling, pretty please with sugar on it. -W]

  150. Hyperactive Hydrologist says:

    Carbon is a proxy energy, materials and ultimately cost. Companies who actively try to reduce carbon reduce cost and become more competitive. Companies who don’t realise this will soon get left behind.

    There are also opportunities in the infrastructure and consultancy sectors to anticipate and manage future trends. The company I work for has secured 200-300million of additional work by ensuring our planning and designs of developments and infrastructure are “future ready”. Climate change is just one of the aspects we consider.

    I think a positive message is needed that highlights the opportunities and benefits that go beyond just managing climate change and have a positive impact on society and the environment.

  151. Joshua says:

    I note with interest that the set of Americans who are certain that there is no reason to be concerned about the effects of emitting ACO2 at current rates, and further, who categorize those Americans who are concerned that ACO2 emissions pose a risk (let alone those who are certain that damage will be catastrophic) with pejoratives such as “alarmist,” largely overlaps with the set of Americans who are quite certain that “illegal immigration” is a national emergency..

  152. Joshua says:

    RickA –

    FYI, I am rather skeptical that anyone, including you, can accurately calculate the ratio of positive to negative externalities resulting from our use of fossil fuels, currently or projecting into the future.

    As such, I think that we are confronted with making decisions in the face of uncertainty about the balance of that ratio. As such, I thin kwe should be making policy decisions that incorporate the possibility that the ratio runs in either direction, that integrate the potential of high damage/low probability risks, that takes into account the very certain externalities such as benefits from access to energy (along with consideration of trade-offs associated with different energy resource pathways), that takes into account the known costs such as pollution and environmental damage or the need for entirely new infractructure (which, unlike many of the benefits from energy source alternatives – e.g,.low cost – tend to be effectively exclusively a function of the particular choice of energy source rather than distributed relatively)

    What I am critical of is those who simply whistle past the uncertainties, while hand-waving at the importance of uncertainty, as they claim certainty about the “cost” of various policies options, when they haven’t even attempted to calculate a positive/negative ratio, let alone make a robust, detailed, and comprehensive argument one way or the other.

    But in my opinion fossil fuels have been net beneficial to humanity, even taking externalities into account, so a proper calculation would show that.

    As such, I don’t understand why do you have such a certain opinion if you don’t explain, in any detailed fashion at all, how you have made your calculations.

    Describing which negative externalities you have considered when formulating your opinion would be a good place to start to help me to understand.

  153. RICKA says:

    Joshua:

    First, I am not making a calculation.

    I am offering you my opinion of what the sign is of my own weighing of the net of negative and positive externalities for CO2.

    Despite all the bad things I am aware of from coal, natural gas and oil (warming, sea level rise, particulate, etc.), there are more people today than pre-industrial and they live longer on average. This is due to energy, and mainly fossil fuels. More people have access to electricity today than pre-industrial. More people have access to air conditioning than pre-industrial. Better transportation, better health care, more food, etc. All due to fossil fuels. So when I weigh the plus and minus, my own personal weighing mind you – my opinion is fossil fuels are net beneficial.

    If we turned off all coal, natural gas and oil today, it would be very very bad. This supports my weighting. I believe 60 or 65% of all energy is still generated from fossil fuels, so obviously they are still very very important and we need that energy, so that supports my weighing.

    Finally, papers such as from Tol (and I believe others) find warming beneficial up to some higher temperature than present (I cannot remember how much higher).

    So if you take only negative externalities into account, electricity from fossil fuels would be more expensive (I concede that). However, if you take both positive and negative externalities into account, my opinion is it would make electricity from fossil fuels less expensive, because the net is beneficial (in my opinion).

    I hope that helps you understand what my opinion is based on.

    You don’t have to agree with my opinion. After all, reasonable minds can differ.

  154. Joshua says:

    RickA –

    First, I am not making a calculation.

    Actually, IMO, you most certainly are.

    But in doing so you’re assuming that the calculation would fall out in a particular direction, without actually having a way to quantify the relevant factors.

    That’s my point.

    Despite all the bad things I am aware of from coal, natural gas and oil (warming, sea level rise, particulate, etc.), there are more people today than pre-industrial and they live longer on average. This is due to energy, and mainly fossil fuels.

    This is highly problematic (e.g., how to you account for the impact of antibiotics, for the impact of improvements in obstetrics, increased access to voting rights, increases in access to education, reductions in overt discrimination, reductions in slavery, increased representation in institutions of civil society? Please note, the discrepancies in life expectancy and standards of living in association with those factors in various countries).

    Once again, it seems to me that logically, the first place to explain how you reach your certain conclusions (opinion) is to tell me what negative externalities you are considering when you attribute a higher value for positive externalities.

    Anyway, we’re getting no where here. It seems to me that you will never actually address the points that I’ve made. Time to move on (if only to save Willard’s sanity).

  155. Rick,

    So if you take only negative externalities into account, electricity from fossil fuels would be more expensive (I concede that). However, if you take both positive and negative externalities into account, my opinion is it would make electricity from fossil fuels less expensive, because the net is beneficial (in my opinion).

    I don’t think this is correct. Energy is simply a product that costs something to generate. We then use that energy and benefit from doing so. Whether we use some, or not, will depend on whether we regard the benefit as being worth the cost of that energy. In an ideal market sense, we would like what we pay to reflect the actual cost. In the case of using fossil fuels, there are future costs that are not included, therefore we pay less than we probably should. You can’t really say that the benefit of using fossil fuels somehow cancels out this cost, because that would be an incorrect way to do the cost-benefit assessment. What we would like is for all of the costs associated with generating that energy to be included in the price so that we then only use this energy if it is beneficial to do so.

  156. verytallguy says:

    ♧there are more people today than pre-industrial and they live longer on average. This is due to energy, and mainly fossil fuels. More people have access to electricity today than pre-industrial. More people have access to air conditioning than pre-industrial. Better transportation, better health care, more food, etc. All due to fossil fuels. So when I weigh the plus and minus, my own personal weighing mind you – my opinion is fossil fuels are net beneficial.

    These are not externalities. You have entirely misunderstood the terminology, and missed the point.

    https://wiki.mises.org/wiki/Externality

  157. izen says:

    @-Rick_A
    “If we turned off all coal, natural gas and oil today, it would be very very bad. This supports my weighting. I believe 60 or 65% of all energy is still generated from fossil fuels, so obviously they are still very very important and we need that energy, so that supports my weighing.”

    This looks very like the argument made for perpetuating slavery.

    http://www.bl.uk/learning/images/makeanimpact/transcript9683.html
    ” Are you prepared with a fund to make up a compensation to the planters, merchants, and thousands of annuitants, whose daily bread depends on the produce of this beneficial commerce with the West India Islands? – You mistakingly treat this business as though you yourselves were not concerned in the event; short sighted must that man be who is so deluded. I have good reason to believe, that nearly one third of the commerce of this kingdom depends on the African trade, directly or collaterally.”

  158. Joshua says:

    VTG –

    Why wouldn’t increase in life span, to the extent that it can be attributed directly to access to fossil fuels, and not the myriad associated factors inextricably linked to that access (a huge-assed …to the extent..) be considered a positive externality? Sure, to some degree, that benefit is incorporated into the price paid, but not completely so, I’d say.

  159. Joshua says:

    Anders –

    In the case of using fossil fuels, there are future costs that are not included, therefore we pay less than we probably should.

    But there are current costs, as well, which aren’t included in the “price” paid – most obviously pollution (perhaps some $5 trillion yearly world wide, most of which could be attributed to burning fossil fuels).

  160. Mal Adapted says:

    Joshua:

    Why wouldn’t increase in life span, to the extent that it can be attributed directly to access to fossil fuels, and not the myriad associated factors inextricably linked to that access (a huge-assed …to the extent..) be considered a positive externality? Sure, to some degree, that benefit is incorporated into the price paid, but not completely so, I’d say.

    I think you’re right, Joshua, however one salient factor is that the associated social benefits are those for energy from any source, whereas global warming is specifically a cost of obtaining energy from fossil carbon. The positive externalities of fossil-fuel-driven economic development will still be obtained when the transition to carbon-neutrality is complete, and the relative price of energy is more or less the same as today’s.

  161. Joshua says:

    Mal –

    Joshua, however one salient factor is that the associated social benefits are those for energy from any source,

    Yup. IMO, key is to determine which positive externalities are a product of fossil fuel energy exclusively, and wouldn’t similarly result from energy from other sources.

    And so then (it seems to me) the question is whether the increased access to energy because of the relatively lower price of fossil fuel energy justifies the costs which are exclusive to fossil fuel energy (e.g., pollution and environmental damage and the geopolitical costs of keeping oil flowing are pretty good examples; pollution, and environmental damage, and empowering autocratic and cruel dictators who keep women uneducated aren’t negative externalities exclusive to fossil fuels, but it’s probably pretty close), minus the costs that are exclusive to other particular energy sources (like a need to build brand new infrastructure).

    And of course, given the intense concern about poor kids in Africa expressed by “skeptics” who reside in rich countries, I’m sure that they’re ready to sign on to help subsidize energy access for poor kinds in Africa – in which case those poor children can get all the benefits of access to energy without any of the costs exclusive to fossil fuel energy.

  162. Ken Fabian says:

    I think we can still see major shifts in the politics. I think we will see climate science denial lose it’s political influence and real concern about accumulation of future climate costs will grow to the point where it exceeds the short term, self interested urge to continue cheating on the externalities by pretending they don’t count. We will see more and more serious real world impacts of global warming and, with significantly diminished Doubt, Deny, Delay polticking, will be used to get people used to the idea that cheating on emissions leaves an accumulating burden of costs and cheating doesn’t pay. I think it is possible to get acceptance and support for action over inaction – even difficult and costly action.

    I think we ARE capable of making and accepting sacrifices for the sake of our long term future; doing so to regain climate stability for the good of our descendants only appears outside the realms of possibility because of supremely unethical political efforts to prevent it – to institutionalise cheating on energy costs. Take the denial out of the politics and I think a lot of things that look difficult get a lot easier and what looks impossible can become achievable.

  163. Mal Adapted says:

    rustneversleeps:

    …liberal advocates of a revenue neutral carbon price should be far more frank that the reason for revenue neutrality is almost entirely about vote-getting and vote-keeping.

    It remains mute on where the money for investment in renewables, transmission, CCS and on and on comes from.

    rust, under CF&D with BAT, the money for investment in renewables goes back into the hands of consumers, at least some of whom will invest part of their net (i.e. dividend minus what they spent on FFs) on migrating away from FFs: e.g. by trading their IC-only cars in for hybrids or plugins, seeking competitively-priced carbon-neutral utility power, or installing rooftop solar. Initially, they will most likely be the people who are already paying a lot for FFs. As the market responds, more and more consumers will find it cost-effective to switch.

    The money for investment will also come from entrepreneurs, who see an opportunity to profit by R&D and buildout of carbon-neutral sources and infrastructure. And with the USA’s buying power, the BAT encourages similar investment offshore. See this Carbon Tax Center page for how a BAT is supposed to work.

    Note: IANAE. I do not say that CF&D with BAT is certain to work as proposed, but I do think it will result in long-term decline of fossil carbon emissions, potentially to zero, with minimal net aggregate cost. If you have a differing view, please argue with CCL and CTC, not me. I’ll go limp on you ;^).

  164. @Mal Adapted
    If you talk to the CCL general membership, yes, they will suggest that “some of” the dividend will be spent on EV’s, rooftop solar. And the suggestion is it that “some of” will be quite a bit.

    But it would almost certainly be roughly the same % if the “C” in CF&D stood for Chocolate or Chicken or Cannabis or Comic Books.

    You deposit a cheque for, say, $250 a quarter into everyone’s bank accounts, and want a decent prediction how it will be spent? Same way the last marginal $250 got spent. Kids’ piano lessons and braces, beer, restaurant, etc. Would “some” get spent on rooftop solar. Yeah, a little, about the same % as today. This is ECON101 stuff.

    CCL’s own studies indicate that the vast, vast majority of of the divided will be spent on healthcare, hospitality, entertainment, etc. Again, ECON101. But the membership seems unaware of their own studies…

    Which is why I say that the funding for decarbonization remains unexplained.

    By the way, I am certain that David Roberts at Vox has covered the polling finding that using the funds from a carbon price to invest in renewables, transmission, public transit, etc. is far, far more popular with the public than recycling it as a dividend. But the deep thinkers have bought into the idea – for the sake of illusory support from the right – that for electoral support, revenue neutrality is the only way forward.

  165. RNS, at least in the US, the people who must pass the legislation include a large number of conservatives. If they vote for a tax increase they will lose their jobs. I thought that really didn’t need explaining.

  166. Joshua,

    But there are current costs, as well, which aren’t included in the “price” paid – most obviously pollution (perhaps some $5 trillion yearly world wide, most of which could be attributed to burning fossil fuels).

    Sure, I wasn’t meaning to suggest that the only accounted for costs were in the future. I’m simply suggesting that all costs should be included in the price.

  167. Joshua,

    Why wouldn’t increase in life span, to the extent that it can be attributed directly to access to fossil fuels, and not the myriad associated factors inextricably linked to that access (a huge-assed …to the extent..) be considered a positive externality? Sure, to some degree, that benefit is incorporated into the price paid, but not completely so, I’d say.

    You could incentivise the use of something if there was some benefit that went beyond the immediate benefit of the produce (some overall societal). As I think someone already said, this is more the use of energy, than the specific use of fossil fuels, so you could argue that this is essentially the same for all energy sources and so doesn’t need to be explicitly added.

  168. verytallguy says:

    Why wouldn’t increase in life span, to the extent that it can be attributed directly to access to fossil fuels, and not the myriad associated factors inextricably linked to that access (a huge-assed …to the extent..) be considered a positive externality? Sure, to some degree, that benefit is incorporated into the price paid, but not completely so, I’d say.

    The part of the provision of these benefits down to the fossil fuel element is costed in.

    A positive externality could be, for instance, that a highway was built to allow access to oilfields. That highway enabled cheaper transport for other purposes – they got a benefit external to the transaction.

  169. Joshua says:

    VTG –

    That highway enabled cheaper transport for other purposes – they got a benefit external to the transaction.

    Yes, clearly a positive externality…but I would speculate that there are some that aren’t quite so clear cutl.

    …to the extent that…

    Let’s imagine that due to the low lost cost and added convenience of fossil fuels relative to other energy sources, I’m able to afford to heat my house better and keep the lights on longer, and as a result, my daughter can study better and longer, and as a result she invents a cure for cancer. So, to some extent, we might have an external benefit from fossil fuels, and I would guess that …to some extent…that benefit is not fully priced in.

    Of course, to meaningfully quantify that external benefit, we’d have to factor all the reasons why the fossil fuels were relatively cheap and convenient, and into that we’d have to consider the outsized political influence of the fossil fuel industry, which enables them to convince governments to grant them cheap access to land, and provide them with tax breaks, and to build weapons and pay for a military which – to some degree – are directed towards keeping oil flowing. And we’d have to create another side of the ledger where we add up factors such as the contamination of water from run off from strip mining, or the cost of providing healthcare for minors suffering from black lung….

    So I’m willing to speculate that there is some positive benefit from fossil fuels, relative to other energy sources, that isn’t completely priced in to the cost of fossil fuels…. and I’m willing to speculate that those positive externalities are not insignificant in magnitude….but it seems to me that quantifying the ratio of positive to negative externalities is hugely complicated. I don’t know that it’s impossible to do, but I sure know that I wouldn’t be able to do so, and I tend to doubt that anyone has done a particularly good job of doing so (at least I haven’t seen evidence of such) …

    As such, I think we’re in a position of having to make policy decisions in the face of uncertainty. And I know that’s a difficult thing to do, which, IMO, is why people feel very certain in the way that RickA has expressed, even when they are lacking sufficient evidence upon which to ground their certainty.

  170. Joshua says:

    To paraphrase Trumo…

    minors and miners..

  171. verytallguy says:

    Joshua,

    the same benefits would accrue from any energy source. As I understand it, they’re defined internal to the transaction to purchase the energy. It would only be external if by dint of the fossil-fuelledness of the energy source, a third party benefited. I can’t off the top of my head think of any obvious beneficiaries.

  172. Ben McMillan says:

    Most of these economic concepts are really meant to be applied in the sense of marginal changes: “what is the impact of a particular person’s choice to drive between two places in a fossil fueled vehicle?”, not “what is the impact of society abandoning mechanised transport?”.

    So in that sense a marginal change in the number of cars on the road has little impact on whether roads between places are built, since mostly these roads already exist. Maybe you widen roads.

    Then the question of externalities is easier to define, and the counterfactual is clear (the person either drives or doesn’t).

  173. RICKA says:

    In my opinion it is not currently possible to eliminate fossil fuels and still provide the same amount of energy, using just renewables or hydro. Cannot be done.

    And people reject nuclear.

    Given that, I see the externalities a bit differently than perhaps you do – especially the benefits.

    To me we are looking at a choice between heating a home with natural gas, coal and oil or freezing to death.

    This is because it is not possible to heat all the homes in the world (or just the USA) with renewable energy.

    Lets say we made everybody buy a heat pump and used geothermal to heat all homes (say in the USA). That uses way more electricity than we currently produce and if we assume that electricity cannot be sourced from fossil fuels – how do we produce it? We cannot (unless we use nuclear).

    So I don’t really accept the argument that all of the benefits that energy provide are not a factor because you get those benefits no matter what source is used. And that is because we are assuming that fossil fuels go away (mitigation).

    We are talking about not using an energy source which provides well over 1/2 of all energy, without being able to replace it. This is because nuclear is rejected as a replacement for fossil and renewable simply cannot replace fossil without grid level power storage (which is not invented yet).

    Shutting down fossil fuels would be a disaster – and that is why fossil fuels are net beneficial and all of those benefits do count in the externality analysis. Now if you told me you were willing to bump renewable up to 35% and provide the rest with existing hydro and build enough new nuclear to take care of the rest than I would agree that energy is energy and all those benefits would still exist.

    But we are talking about leaving fossil fuels in the ground in order to mitigate and therefore having less energy available.

    We can mitigate with nuclear power – say 65% nuclear and 35% renewable. Any more than 35% renewable and the grid crashes (no grid level battery invented yet). I am not aware of any other way to produce the amount of energy we need without massively building new nuclear.

  174. verytallguy says:

    Rick, whether you’re right or not, these issues are not “externalities”.

  175. Indeed, if Rick is right, that would imply that fossil fuel would still dominate in the marketplace. They don’t need some additional price advantage. As vtg says, I don’t think this is a valid example of a positive externality.

  176. RICKA says:

    verytallguy:

    I am not sure I agree.

    Freezing to death because you are not allowed to use fossil fuels to heat your home means you are outside the transaction, and therefore would seem to fall into an externality (a negative one). If you mitigate away from fossil fuels and have 1/2 the energy you had before, everybody in the 1/2 that no longer exists is outside the transaction and is suffering from a negative externality.

    We are not just rearranging the chairs – we are taking chairs away without being able to replace them.

    ATTP – fossil fuel still does dominate the marketplace. More than 1/2 the energy produced worldwide (and in the USA and in the UK) is created using fossil fuels.

    Until we can produce the amount of energy we currently produce (really a whole bunch more for the increased electricity for heating homes and running cars) – we cannot mitigate.

    That is without using nuclear.

    Just my 2 cents.

  177. Willard says:

    > my daughter can study better and longer, and as a result she invents a cure for cancer. So, to some extent, we might have an external benefit from fossil fuels, and I would guess that …to some extent…that benefit is not fully priced in.

    Pushing this idea to its limits:

    You should have kids. Not because it’s fun, or rewarding, or in your evolutionary self-interest. You should have kids because it’s your moral duty to do so.

    My argument is simple. Most people live lives that are, on net, happy. For them to never exist, then, would be to deny them that happiness. And because I think we have a moral duty to maximize the amount of happiness in the world, that means that we all have an obligation to make the world as populated as can be.

    https://gawker.com/heres-the-philosophy-essay-vox-found-too-upsetting-to-p-1727243459

  178. Willard says:

    > Just my 2 cents.

    One does not simply keep hammering the same talking points over and over again categorically and then add “just my 2 cents,” RickA. We’ve been over this already:

    Also note, vintage less than two months ago:

    RickA,

    Look.

    Not.

    Again.

    The.

    Sloganeering.

    With.

    One.

    Sentence.

    Followed.

    By.

    Two.

    Carriage.

    Returns.

    OK?

    Please.

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

    https://andthentheresphysics.wordpress.com/2017/04/01/its-okay-to-lie/#comment-93770

  179. RICKA says:

    Ok Williard. I will try to run everything together so it is harder to read (for you).

  180. verytallguy says:

    Sure Rick, but these are nor externalities. Being important is not the same as being an externality.

  181. Mal Adapted says:

    rustneversleeps:

    CCL’s own studies indicate that the vast, vast majority of of the divided will be spent on healthcare, hospitality, entertainment, etc. Again, ECON101. But the membership seems unaware of their own studies…

    If you’re referring to the CCL Household impact study, it examines only the short-term impacts of a single, low carbon price:

    Of course, this study only considers the impacts of a single carbon price, $15 per ton of CO2, whereas the CCL proposal increases over time. However, this is perhaps better described as a limitation of the model than a difference, since it is designed to assess only the short-term effect of the policy.

    I’m focused on the long term effect of internalizing a substantial fraction of the marginal climate-change cost of fossil fuels in their price. Again, IANAE: yet having taken ECON101 and beyond, I’m as confident as I need to be that legislation similar to CCL’s proposal would nudge the global energy market toward carbon-neutral buildout over a few decades. It would harness consumers’ impulse for thrift, and the lure of profit for producers, to drive investment decisions throughout the global economy while minimizing the net aggregate cost of the transition.

    I’m aware that revenue-neutrality is partly intended to bring anti-tax conservatives on board. That’s essential for enacting any kind of effective national climate policy, after all. CF&D/BAT should also appeal to liberals, because the dividend results in a net downward income transfer. Whatever: of any proposal I’ve heard that requires the consent of the governed, I think CCL’s CF&D/BAT would give us the biggest bang for the buck in the time we have. CF&D/BAT is independent of any other legislation, and doesn’t preclude using other tax money to address climate change. It’s revenue-neutral: unlike, say, income tax rollbacks, existing government revenues aren’t linked to it. Returning 100% of the fee and tariff revenue as a periodic dividend satisfies the KISS principle: it makes the program simple to understand and implement, self-contained and independent, and minimizes the potential for gaming because there’s no new pot of public money to be misappropriated. Revenues and distributions would be easily audited. There’s not much to go wrong!

    IMHO, under ECON101 the CCL proposal is sound. While it may be true that polls don’t currently show much support for revenue-neutrality, I regard that as something for political strategy to overcome. I’m not especially confident that will succeed (hey, I didn’t think Trump could become POTUS either), but it seems worth the trouble to me.

  182. As has been pointed out, energy can be viewed as fungible, in that the benefits we reap come from a plug in the wall that is blind to the source of power.

    Perhaps we can profit from the considerable study of the social cost of carbon by adding to the existing work a few studies of the social costs of removing carbon.

  183. Willard says:

    > I will try to run everything together so it is harder to read (for you).

    Pseudo-paragraphs are only symptomatic, RickA. The main problem is the sloganeering. In this specific instance, peddling “but we’ll freeze to death,” “but iron law,” and “but nukes” while piggybacking on a misconception of what is an externality, followed by “it’s just my opinion, man.”

    A simple counterexample to the Iron Law is to reduce meat consumption. So here’s the deal: every time you’ll be peddling, I’ll mention a vegan factoid. After one or two iterations, I’ll start to snip.

  184. Tom,
    I’m sure we’ve had this discussion before.

  185. Tom,
    I think we briefly discussed your issue about the cost of removing carbon on this Stoat post (I ended up becoming anonymous).

  186. Ken Fabian says:

    Surely it is the investment choices of energy generators rather than choices of consumers where carbon pricing should have it’s impact – the former would not result in immediate consumer choice to shift their energy purchase patterns, but should lead to energy providers offering lower prices at retail level for low emissions energy as the investments in low emissions comes on line. Whilst existing low emissions choices at the retail level would benefit and consumers would choose them, the supply of those is limited; that is the point of giving incentive to underlying investment choices.

    I really think the results of carbon pricing can’t be expected to be immediate – if the full results in emissions terms flow through in less than a decade I would be surprised. Given the technology being displaced will have multi-decade working life, it must run long term, with a strong level of confidence that such policy will not be weakened or reversed along the way. Political Will and commitment is vital.

    I don’t think any carbon pricing scheme has run long enough to declare success or failure – but if it is long running I see no reason it would not cause investment choices to shift.

    Locking those revenues out of the greater tax pool by specifying what it must be used for (or must not be used for) would not be my first choice – and I too think it is primarily to make it appear more palatable, not function best. Keeping revenue out of the hands of governments is populist and popular but getting the overall tax balance right is a matter for constant vigilance, not proscription.

  187. Mal Adapted says:

    Willard:

    So here’s the deal: every time you’ll be peddling, I’ll mention a vegan factoid. After one or two iterations, I’ll start to snip.

    Heh. You could automate that 8^).

    But seriously: thank you for the apt moderation, esteemed moderator!

  188. RICKA says:

    So riddle me this – where does the energy come from in a post-mitigation world?

    What is the plan to replace fossil fuel energy?

  189. Joshua says:

    VTG –

    the same benefits would accrue from any energy source.

    I’m suggesting that by virtue of a greater efficiency, there might be some marginal positive externality to energy derived from fossil fuel (assuming that it more than balances any marginal negative externalities).

  190. Joshua says:

    Willard –

    Pushing this idea to its limits:

    Not sure I follow, but let me try…

    Are you saying that my daughter might also be a terrorist who learned how to create a biological weapon while reading in the extra light I could afford from fossil fuels, as opposed to relying on other energy sources?

  191. Rick,

    What is the plan to replace fossil fuel energy?

    There’s not going to be one, single, simple solution. One of the reasons for a carbon tax is that it potentially avoids having to choose winners. Properly price carbon emissions and let the market determine the optimal energy mixture. If fossil fuels remain the most economical, they will dominate. If some alternative becomes more economical, it will start to dominate.

  192. ATTP, that is surely the most succinct (and to my mind accurate) explanation of both the situation and the role of a carbon tax that I have seen.

  193. No, @mal_adjusted, I refer to the CCL REMI Report.

    Note well – and again – in the full report where the expected spending and job creation from the fee & dividend occur: healthcare, retail, public admin, hospitality and leisure, etc. Very, very little in energy, etc.

    Again, this is what is expected from EVERY redistributive tax/income shift like this. Like I said, it would be close to the same if it was chocolate-fee-and-dividend or caviar-fee-and-dividend. It is not a bug, it is a feature. Which the CCL’s own studies find – and every ECON101 course would predict as well.

    I am not down on this. I am just aware of and pragmatic about how this works.

    And it still leaves open where the required *EXTRA* 2-3% of GDP of NET NEW capital investment for decarbonization is to come from, year by year. This is a truly staggering large number, since “only” about 20% of GDP currently goes towards capital investment. So, it either means 2-3% of government (healthcare, education, defense, police, fire, etc.) and/or consumer spending needs to shift to capital investment – a huge, huge structural shift. OR, via subsidies or other incentives, effectively 10-15% of current capital investment decisions needs to sharply shift towards decarbonization. Again, a seismic change.

    The carbon price part of CF&D eventually gets to 2-3% of GDP. But if the revenue is recycled away as dividends, you are still left with finding another source for those investment funds.

    People seem to think the CF&D has unique economic abilities that it doesn’t and can’t add up.

    It is necessary, but nowhere, nowhere near sufficient. (and I will just mention again, the “&D” part is mostly for electoral success… There’s quite a robust literature on the revenue recycling options. “Dividends” are “meh” on decarbonization efficacy, but some favour them for vote-getting…)

  194. Willard says:

    > Are you saying that my daughter might also be a terrorist who learned how to create a biological weapon while reading in the extra light I could afford from fossil fuels, as opposed to relying on other energy sources?

    I’m saying that if we extend the concept of externality to include any potentially positive happenstance, we might as well argue that being alive carries an infinite amount of positive externality compared to not living.

  195. izen says:

    @-RICKA
    “We can mitigate with nuclear power – say 65% nuclear and 35% renewable. Any more than 35% renewable and the grid crashes (no grid level battery invented yet). I am not aware of any other way to produce the amount of energy we need without massively building new nuclear.”

    At a rough calculation the State of Wyoming would need about 40 nuclear power stations just to replace the oil and gas used in residential heating. (its a cold State)
    It would need more than ten times that number to generate 65% the electricity it now generates with coal.
    It already generates around 10% of its electricity from wind, with the potential for much more, (it is a windy State), so increasing that to >35% would be much easier

    It has abundant supplies of coal, gas, uranium and wind.
    However it is difficult to see any possibility that the State would build 40 nuclear power stations.
    The State legislature recently tried to remove any further wind electricity generation by requiring electricity companies to only use ‘eligible’ sources of generation. That included coal but NOT wind.

    By the way, your claim that grids crash with anything more than 35% renewables seems to be contradicted by the many grids that are already using more than this most of the time.
    (Iceland, Norway, Denmark, Spain, Italy, Canada, Switzerland, Sweden, Portugal… )

  196. Joshua says:

    Ok, it was a bad theoretical example, in the sense that a future event might be happenstance.

    So going back to vrg’s point about positive externalities….

    I still wonder, however, that there may well be marginal positive externalities (not exactly factored into price) resulting from the intrinsic properties of fossil fuels that wouldn’t accrue from other energy sources. But of course, their existence is no small matter and shouldn’t be taken lightly. They certainly should be confidently assumed lacking persuasive evidence. They should be balanced against the positive externalities accruing due to the intrinsic properties of other energy sources. And someone making such assumptions should pay due diligence to externalities thst might fall on the other side of the ledger.

    Lots o’ speculation. Your thoughts would be appreciated.

  197. Joshua,
    I must admit that I can’t seem to think of some positive externality that would be specific to fossil fuel energy. I can see that there would be some societal benefit to energy use (people can be healthier because they can heat their homes, for example) but I can’t see a reason why these would be particular to fossil fuel energy sources.

  198. izen says:

    @-Joshua

    One example of the positive externalities in the use of fossil fuel can be seen in Wyoming, and is probably the reason the State legislature is trying to block wind.

    With 90% of its electricity generated from coal, half of which is exported to other States via grid interlinks, and a large coal export business, the economy of the State is largely dependent on coal extraction. Any large reduction in that business would destroy jobs and the basis of the States’ economy.

    If Powder River basin coal became a stranded asset without an equally lucrative source of income, most citizens in Wyoming would be much poorer, short of power, and probably resentful that they were unable to exploit all that potential wealth just lying there ready for the taking…

  199. Joshua says:

    Anders –

    Maybe not. But I’m wondering if there might be what I’m calling “marginal positive externalities” due to intrinsic efficiencies associated with fossil fuels relative to other energy sources.

  200. Joshua,
    I think izen has given a good example. There will be situations in which some region may be benefitting from some industry associated with fossil fuels, but not directly associated with its energy generation. However, I guess the same could be true for a different energy source that was based in some other region.

  201. yabbut, externalities tend to consider a pretty large tent.

    “Private gain for Wyoming, socialized costs for the rest of the planet” is not what would be considered a positive externality. Quite the opposite.

  202. Since we are discussing things like negative externalities – which all the giants of conservative economic thought like Milton Friedman, Friedrich Hayek, on and on, felt needed to be taxed by government – we had better not be confusing another concept beloved by the putative right-wing – Schumpeter’s “creative destruction” with “negative externality”.

  203. izen says:

    @-rustneversleeps
    ““Private gain for Wyoming, socialized costs for the rest of the planet” is not what would be considered a positive externality. Quite the opposite.”

    Agreed.
    But it IS the defining characteristic of a tragedy of the Commons.
    I am still searching for an examples of governance taking action to prevent such processes when the uncertain future impact is greater than any present observed damage.

  204. Mal Adapted says:

    Good comment Ken, except maybe for:

    Keeping revenue out of the hands of governments is populist and popular but getting the overall tax balance right is a matter for constant vigilance, not proscription.

    Admittedly, I’m giving credence to the ‘free market’ paradigm that price influences decisions on the margin by both buyers and sellers. With CF&D/BAT the ol’ invisible hand drives the critical transition, by issuing a clear signal to the economy: disinvest in fossil carbon, invest in carbon-neutrality, at a rate partially determined by the size of the fee/tariff. CF&D/BAT seems to me like the minimal collective intervention with a chance of substantially reducing carbon emissions in the short decades available to do that. I’m not ideologically opposed to more active interventions, but intuitively, minimal should easier to sell politically. Perhaps I’m naive, however.

  205. RICKA says:

    “So riddle me this – where does the energy come from in a post-mitigation world?
    What is the plan to replace fossil fuel energy?”

    You should have figured this out before the crude oil started to deplete so rapidly.

  206. Mal Adapted says:

    izen:

    If Powder River basin coal became a stranded asset without an equally lucrative source of income, most citizens in Wyoming would be much poorer, short of power, and probably resentful that they were unable to exploit all that potential wealth just lying there ready for the taking…

    I’m inclined to sympathy for Wyoming coal boomers, but their numbers are few after all. izen is correct, AGW is a tragedy of the Commons. Yes, there will be relative winners and losers during the essential transition to a carbon-neutral economy. The pain vote will be counted by the politicians, even as lobbyists are spinning it. That’s how collective decisions are made in the US, for better or for worse. Action must be taken collectively against AGW, regardless.

  207. Frankly, from an efficacy point of view, even the idea of a national- or state-level CF&D/BAT gets dodgy.

    For instance, you get the bizarre situation where taxes which have their highest incidence on extremely high-emitters are recycled mostly to people who have – on relative global scales – very high-emitters.

    In the US, I think the calculation is that if you were homeless and ate at the soup kitchen every day and that was basically it, your CO2 footprint is about 8 tonnes of CO2/year. Which accounts for your pro-rata share of the fire, police, ambulance, border patrol, homeless shelter heat cooling and power, food for the soup kitchen, etc. (Again, although I did not intend to go here, this is why we do not expect these individuals to use their carbon dividends to buy a solar roof… maybe some lottery tickets, though…) 8 tonnes/annum is way, way above the AVERAGE emissions of someone in France, the UK, Spain, etc.

    So all of this money keeps getting recycled amongst an economy that is already way, way in overshoot, and the lowest emitters amongst them are actually made better off and almost certainly (ECON101 again!) to *increase* their emissions, at least at the margin of their spending…

    I know that I drift into “Don’t let perfect be the enemy of the good.”-territory here, but I mention it because the generally very white, very > middle-class, very “took an economics class at university-way-back” make-up of CCL is a bit naive about how this all works – except they certainly do strongly believe in the invisible hand and populism. That is clear for sure.

    I will state with pretty much iron-clad assurance that I am way, way more familiar with and have way, way more history with CCL and the details of their policy than anyone else on the thread…

  208. Willard says:

    > I will state with pretty much iron-clad assurance that I am way, way more familiar with and have way, way more history with CCL and the details of their policy than anyone else on the thread…

    From great pseudonyms come greater bragging responsibility.

  209. RickA says:

    Izen:

    I think there might be something wrong with your calculation about Wyoming. Minnesota has almost 10 times the population as Wyoming (5519952 versus 585501 as of 2016) and 2 nuclear power plants provide 20% of the electricity for the state. So the way I figure it, just 10 nuclear power plants could provide all the electricity for the entire state of Minnesota and therefore almost enough for 10 Wyoming’s.

  210. > Riddle me.

    Here you go:

    The new research, published in the journal Nature, is the most thorough to date and combined data from every country to assess the impact of food production on the global environment. It then looked at what could be done to stop the looming food crisis.

    “There is no magic bullet,” said Springmann. “But dietary and technological change [on farms] are the two essential things, and hopefully they can be complemented by reduction in food loss and waste.” About a third of food produced today never reaches the table.

    The researchers found a global shift to a “flexitarian” diet was needed to keep climate change even under 2C, let alone 1.5C. This flexitarian diet means the average world citizen needs to eat 75% less beef, 90% less pork and half the number of eggs, while tripling consumption of beans and pulses and quadrupling nuts and seeds. This would halve emissions from livestock and better management of manure would enable further cuts.

    https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/oct/10/huge-reduction-in-meat-eating-essential-to-avoid-climate-breakdown

    The iron law is either trivial or false. It’s not really a law anyway.

  211. izen says:

    @-RICKA
    “I think there might be something wrong with your calculation about Wyoming.”

    That is possible, converting/comparing between btu’s and MW is always dicey.
    But Wyoming and Minnesota are very different in their energy production and use.
    Wyoming ranks 3rd in US total energy production.
    Minnesota is ranked 32nd.
    Wyoming produces well over twice as much power per capita as Minnesota. (some is exported)

    The Minnesota nuclear power is rated at ~1.5GW which is 10% of their electricity generation. (40% is from imported Wyoming coal)
    https://www.eia.gov/nuclear/state/archive/2010/minnesota/

    Wyoming wind is rated at ~3.8GW which is <10% of their electricity production.
    Minnesota wind is rated at ~3.4GW which is around 18% of their electricity production.

    So the Minnesota 1970s nuclear plants produce about half as much as wind in the State.
    The present day costs of building 2 new nuclear plants would be over a Billion $.
    To build enough nuclear for 65% of Minnesota's electricity production (20 plants?)would cost more than Trumps wall, and probably be more controversial. Building enough nuclear to replace Wyoming coal may need MORE than 40 plants.

    Will you be modifying your claim that 35% renewables is an upper grid limit given the fact that many countries already have much a greater percentage than this in use ?

  212. izen says:

    There is an additional constraint on using nuclear power in Wyoming and Minnesota. As land-locked States they have to use river water (Mississippi) for cooling. This limits the amount of power any plant can generate without heating the river beyond its ecological limits.
    The Monticello plant has to limit its summer generation and use additional cooling methods during the warmer months.
    That extra expense and infrastructure would be even more necessary as temperatures rise, and imposes greater limits on nuclear in warmer regions.

  213. BBD says:

    Nuclear is constrained by many factors, RickA. It is not a silver bullet. Constantly and tediously asserting that it is will not change the facts. It just irritates people.

    Here, again, is the optimistic assessment of nuclear potential by its own trade body, the WNA. And please remember, America is not the world.

    My bold:

    World Nuclear Association Harmony programme

    The World Nuclear Association has published its Harmony vision for the future of electricity, developed from the International Energy Agency’s ‘2°C Scenario’ (2DS) in reducing CO2 emissions*. This IEA scenario adds 680 GWe of nuclear capacity by 2050, giving 930 GWe then (after 150 GWe retirements from 2014’s 396 GWe), providing 17% of world electricity. Harmony sets a further goal for the nuclear industry, drawing on the experience of nuclear construction in the 1980s.

    * See section above on the 2015 edition of the International Energy Agency’s Energy Technology Perspectives.

    The Harmony goal is for the nuclear industry to provide 25% of global electricity and build 1000 GWe of new nuclear capacity by 2050. The World Nuclear Association says this requires an economic and technological level playing field, harmonised regulatory processes to streamline nuclear construction, and an effective safety paradigm which focuses safety efforts on measures that make the most difference to public wellbeing. The build schedule would involve adding 10 GWe per year to 2020, 25 GWe per year to 2025, and 33 GWe per year from then. This rate compares with 31 GWe per year in the mid-1980s. The Harmony goal is put forward at a time when the limitations, costs and unreliability of other low-carbon sources of electricity are becoming politically high-profile in several countries.

    Source: WNA

    NB RickA, that’s 25% of global electricity generation by 2050, under favourable assumptions.

    25% is not a silver bullet. It’s 25%. At the very best.

    Perhaps we can move on from this now.

  214. BBD says:

    I seem not to have closed the bold tag after “25% of global electricity”, sorry.

    [Mod: fixed]

  215. verytallguy says:

    Joshua

    But I’m wondering if there might be what I’m calling “marginal positive externalities” due to intrinsic efficiencies associated with fossil fuels relative to other energy sources.

    Please
    (1) Name an “intrinsic efficiency” associated with fossil fuels
    (2) Suggest a benefit *external* to those involved in the transaction of buying the fossil fuel resulting from this “intrinsic efficiency”

  216. BBD says:

    Thanks for the tag fix 🙂

  217. izen says:

    A caveat.

    In comparing different sources of energy I have been looking at several sources for the numbers and percentages. Unfortunately they all disagree and tend to cover different time periods making comparisons very uncertain.
    The main site I used is the US Energy Information Administration.
    https://www.eia.gov/

    However while it claims to have updated the information for 2017, much of the data is still for 2010 and some of the ‘new’ pages are unavailable due to the government shutdown(?).

    There are also contradictions within the data, it claims that the 2 nuclear plants with 1.5GW max output provide Minnesota with 23% of the elecrtical power, but claims that wind with a capacity between 2-4GW only provides 8-12% of the power.

    It proves difficult to obtain current information that can pin down energy sources to much more than an order of magnitude of their contribution to electricity, residential heating and industrial energy use.

  218. izen says:

    @-vtg
    “(1) Name an “intrinsic efficiency” associated with fossil fuels”

    They are by far the most concentrated source in terms of Joules/Kg and are safer and easier to transport than all the alternatives.

  219. verytallguy says:

    Izen,

    capacity factor for wind is typically of the order of 30%, but output is normally quoted as nameplate, so the figures are reasonably consistent.

  220. verytallguy says:

    Izen,

    I’m not sure “efficiency” is at all the right word for those attributes, but I’d agree they are advantages. In what way are they external to the transaction?

  221. angech says:

    “By the way, your claim that grids crash with anything more than 35% renewables seems to be contradicted by the many grids that are already using more than this most of the time.
    (Iceland, Norway, Denmark, Spain, Italy, Canada, Switzerland, Sweden, Portugal… )“

    Big claim Izen, many grids using more than 35% most of the time.
    Would love it to be true.
    Some grids may have > 35% input, Denmark and Spain have huge wind power production, but the rest? Colour me unimpressed but willing to be proven wrong.
    I hope you are not using figures along the lines of peak predicted capacity* and you are not adding in energy produced in other countries but claimed to be in the grid on the basis of renewable certificates, not real energy.
    Switzerland would have to be hydro I guesss?
    Italy was very dependent on Libyan then Turkish or Iranian oil and would get some input from Swiss hydro and French nuclear but does have huge windmills centrally.
    Since many grids are interconnected they are hard to define and do have a lot of of fossil power in the grids.
    I do not think you can limit your “grids” as easily as you may want, a grid is not a country.
    Grids may crash due to the frequency of renewable energy not matching the synergistic frequencies created by fossil fuel power plants do 35% seems a reasonable claim for normal circumstances but I am sure that some systems could be designed to run on 100% renewable energy, just not for long distances.
    Where do you get your claims from?

  222. izen says:

    @-vtg
    “In what way are they external to the transaction?”

    They reduce the scale, impact, and severity of transport, storage, and danger of energy use for all, not just the direct purchaser.?

  223. angech says:

    “Norway is a heavy producer of renewable energy because of hydropower. Over 99% of the electricity production in mainland Norway is from hydropower plants”
    Here the energy produced is capable of being set at a frequency and does not have any wind or solar variability, the type that can cause crashes when mixed with fossil or hydro power. Hydro power of course is a renewable that does not cause crashes as it can be set at usable frequencies.
    Using it as an example is taking out of context totally the claim that renewables caus3 grids to crash. This refers to including solar and wind renewable energy only as one would hope you realise.

  224. angech says:

    Iceland is the only country in the world which obtains 100% of its electricity and heat from renewable sources. 87% of its electricity comes from hydro-power, and the remaining 13% from geothermalpower. Oil-powered fossil fuel power stations are only used as backups to the renewable sources.”
    Izen Italy, Spain,Norway, Denmark and Iceland all > 35% renewables but as said the argument on adding renewables to the grid refers to solar and wind, not renewables that work in the same way as fossil fuels in providing electrical energy at set usable frequencies.
    Iceland off limits as well as Norway.

  225. verytallguy says:

    Izen,

    you need to help me by being more specific.

    Scale: How so?
    Impact: How so?
    Severity: Don’t know what you mean
    Storage: Don’t agree https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Buncefield_fire
    Danger: See storage

  226. izen says:

    @-vtg

    The TESLA powerwall 2 and a 1L bottle of oil (diesel or peanut!) contain about the same amount of energy, they can both heat your house the same amount. (see the cheap Chinese fuel/fan burners for an efficient way to do this)

    The powerwall is guaranteed for around 3000 recharges and cost ~$3000 to install.
    The bottle of oil cost around $1.

    The Buncefield storage site had 270 Million litres of fuel, the energy equivalent of about 60 Hiroshima bombs. Given the amount of energy available the impact was minimal.

  227. verytallguy says:

    Izen,

    (yet) again, in what way are these externalities?

    Buncefield was an externality – people entirely outside of the transaction to set it up were affected by it.

    The pros and cons of different energy sources *to the user* are not an “externality”. They are internal to the transaction, and are very visible to the user.

    The CO2 from burning the oil, or big hole in the ground from mining lithium salts are examples of externalities.

    [I have the feeling that I’m struggling to explain this!]

  228. izen says:

    @-angtech
    “the argument on adding renewables to the grid refers to solar and wind, not renewables that work in the same way as fossil fuels in providing electrical energy at set usable frequencies.”

    Fair point, although hydro has its own problems with maintaining adequate water levels to sustain generation if demand is high. Or you are trying to conserve water for irrigation during summer droughts as well as generate power.

    If grid intermittentcy becomes a real problem, and the methods of covering it become expensive or regarded as too polluting, then demand management becomes the cheaper way to solve it. If electricity is supplied at a variable cost dependent on supply/demand then many appliances, lights, houses/cars will incorporate a powerbank that can charge up on the cheap stuff and use that when the cost rises because demand exceeds an variable supply.

  229. izen says:

    @-vtg
    “[I have the feeling that I’m struggling to explain this!]”

    (grin)
    Possibly because I am struggling to back up Joshua’s idea that there may be positive externalities to FF !
    But I may also have a slightly different take on positive externalities.

    In Healthcare treating, and hopefully curing the patient is obviously a positive for the patient.
    But the social justification for Healthcare is that because of the strong network of interactions between individuals, (family, friends, job…) any benefit to the individual is also considered to be a net social benefit to all.

  230. Joshua says:

    Possibly because I am struggling to back up Joshua’s idea that there may be positive externalities to FF !

    [grin]

    You’ve touched on what I was thinking as to the “efficiencies.”

    As to whether there are “externalities,” my thinking touches on what Anders was saying also. By virtue of marginal efficiencies, there are advantages accrued by society (relative to other energy sources,again, marginally) more generally,that I’m not convinced are fully reflected in the price.

    I’m not so much arguing that there are, as speculating that there might be. It makes a certain amount of sense to me to say that there is something of a relationship between economic growth and the “efficiencies” of fossil fuels relative to other energy sources – even if I think that “skeptics” often make extremely facile assumptions in that regard. I don’t know that those (marginal) benefits (that I’m theorizing about) compensate for, overwhelm, or don’t come close to matching the negative externalities.

    I’m open to arguments from smarter, more informed people to convince me that I’m effectively on a snark hunt for positive externalities.

  231. BBD says:

    Buncefield was an externality – people entirely outside of the transaction to set it up were affected by it.

    I remember it vividly. Driving along the Hogsback (A31) on the way to Guildford, the whole sky off to the north was disfigured with the smoke. It looked like Mordor. Never seen anything like it.

  232. Joshua says:

    Btw –

    IIRC, back in the day over at Judith’s, before I started being CENSORED!!!!1!!!11! (someone call a wahmbulance), when I was rambling on about externalities, Mr. Mosher criticized me for cherry-picking by only speaking of negative externalities.

    If my recollection is correct, maybe he has a clearer example of positive externalities.

  233. verytallguy says:

    There are many examples of positive externalities. For instance, herd effect in vaccination, where benefits accrue to the overall population, not just the individuals vaccinated.

    But it’s pretty hard to think of any for fossil fuels.

    Ah, here’s one: using infrastructure for offshore oil development to build offshore wind farms cheaper than would otherwise be possible.

    But seriously, it’s hard to think of many, and teh Google doesn’t reveal any to me either.

    All the (very real) benefits of fossil fuels such as easy storage which accrue to the consumer **are not external**!!!

  234. Controlling oil fields can help cover up the killing of american journalists. I think that counts as a positive externality. Anything related to power seems to include positive externalities.

    Here would be an interesting quandary for economically-minded readers. If you plant trees to create a park on public land, one positive externality is that it stores carbon. If you plant trees to store carbon on public land, one positive externality is that the tree farm could become a park.

    Money attracts money. Power attracts power. Positive people attract positive people. GRRRRROWTH attracts GRRRRROWTH.

    Must be some kind of Secret.

  235. Joshua says:

    There are many examples of positive externalities.

    Yes, we’ll, I meant positive externalities from fossil fuels….

    For instance, herd effect in vaccination, where benefits accrue to the overall population, not just the individuals vaccinated.

    I’m suggesting a kind of parallel. My idea is that by being marginally more “efficient,” fossil fuels accrue marginally greater benefits to the overall population, that are not fully priced in. We pay for the obvious, proximal benefits to the individual consumer, the more indirect, synergystic benefits to society more generally, perhaps not.

  236. One quandary in considering “positive” externalities for fossil fuels.

    Whatever they might be, if they exist then they imply that we are producing and using too little of them. Producers and or users of the fuels would in some way be unable to monetize the benefit*(s) they are conveying on third parties. This is the textbook criteria for something to be an externality – positive or negative.

    But given what science is telling us about the potentially very negative consequences of continuing even current levels of fossil fuel use, let alone literally stepping on the gas to burn more, it seems to me that any positive externalities must be bounded at some point – and ultimately dominated – by the negative externalities. At which point it is basically just academic as to whether any positive externalities exist or not.

    *By the way, I think CO2 fertilization/greening of the terrestrial biosphere might fit the criteria of a positive externality. That is, if you overlook the evidence about how the same phenomenon appears to reduce the nutritional value of crops, etc.

  237. verytallguy says:

    Joshua,

    I’m currently banned from Judith’s for pointing out that her moderation policy allows Jim Hansen to be called a “jew hater”.

    Alas, her moderation policy does *not* allow me to point out that her moderation policy allows Jim Hansen to be called a “jew hater”.

    Best avoided TBH.

    The comment is still there, remarkably.

    https://judithcurry.com/2018/07/03/the-hansen-forecasts-30-years-later/#comment-876233

  238. verytallguy says:

    *By the way, I think CO2 fertilization/greening of the terrestrial biosphere might fit the criteria of a positive externality.

    I am extremely sceptical that this externality is positive. If it’s real (and it does seem to be), it implies a huge step change imposed on ecosystems. That’s likely to have many negative effects.

  239. dikranmarsupial says:

    VTG astonishing that should be left as it, after being pointed out.

  240. verytallguy says:

    Indeed Dikran. I found it astonishing at the time that no-one reacted to it. It shows the level of “debate” there – someone throwing “jew hater” into the mix is just normal.

    I did at the time try to alert Judith in a later comment but nothing happened – I don’t know if she saw that or not.

  241. I am extremely sceptical that this externality is positive. If it’s real (and it does seem to be), it implies a huge step change imposed on ecosystems. That’s likely to have many negative effects.

    Oh, I am well aware of that, was just noting that it *could* fit the bill as a positive externality (if it itself did not appear to actually be a negative externality…)

    Increasing carbon dioxide levels may be making milkweed—the only food monarch caterpillars will eat—too toxic for the monarchs to tolerate.

  242. As for positive externalities of fossil fuels, it’s pretty easy to note at the very least the source of their competitive advantages in the market–density and price, ubiquity (to date) and varied formulations.

    So the positive externalities would seem to be availability, affordability, portability (couldn’t find an appropriate A, dammit) and accessibility. Not enough to make us want to stick with them if greener alternatives can approach them on these issues, but nothing to sneeze at either.

  243. verytallguy says:

    So the positive externalities would seem to be availability, affordability, portability (couldn’t find an appropriate A, dammit) and accessibility. Not enough to make us want to stick with them if greener alternatives can approach them on these issues, but nothing to sneeze at either.

    These are not externalities. They are part of the transaction. They are advantages.

  244. verytallguy says:

    An economist to do a guest post on externalities, for the love of God!

  245. Yes, please.

    And maybe a bit on the concepts of “Consumer Surplus” (and producer surplus as well).

    A lot of the thread claims for “positive externalities” for fossil fuels are a hot mess. Nothing to do with externalities.

  246. > Producers and or users of the fuels would in some way be unable to monetize the benefit*(s) they are conveying on third parties.

    Going for “would” seems too general – farmers profit from a neighbor who rents bees without charging them. That externality can be priced in part if the farmers enter some collective agreement to take renting turns, or if they each give a sum to the renting farmer.

    Each human activity carries an infinity of consequences, good and bad. What we consider as an externality needs to be constrained by what we think *should* be included in a pricing scheme. Once we get into externality issues, there’s no way out of the normative.

    One problem is that economists usually shriek away from anything that portrays their field as normative. Heck, they’re still arguing over what banking is as we speak, e.g.:

  247. Joshua says:

    VTG –

    I am permanently in moderation at Judith’s. I believe I am one of a very select few who have thst distinction

    Anyway, to add a touch of irony…. I once had acomment deleted where I criticized Linden, for a sceeed/essay where he argues that environmentalists and Eugenicists = same/same. because someone thought my criticism of Linden = antisemiticism (no matter that I’m a member of the tribe).

    It was all very weird.

    I also was also called a self-hating jew in a comment which didn’t meet Judith’s moderation criteria.

    Just recently Judith wouldn’t pass through moderation a comment where I asked TonyB, who was concerned abut the use of “denier,” whether he had any concerns about “alarmist” and “warmunist” and other pejoratives.

    Good thing that Judith has no biases, or someone might think that her moderation might be a touch capricious.

  248. izen says:

    As Willard suggests, there are definitional problems with the concept of positive externalities.

    So lets call these benefits from FF use indirect advantages.
    Any increase in energy production and/or decrease in price drives technological innovation and development.
    But FF have specific advantages.

    With enough energy and methane you can make NH2 (Haber process) which increases food production.
    (And destroys the guano industry.)

    Oil was first extracted for lighting (saving the Whales), when electric light arrived (powered by coal) it was saved by the development of the ICE and developments in organic chemistry.

    I recognise these technological advances are not always definable as positive externals, and have their own negative impacts, but the advantages of FF are not confined to just being a convenient energy source.

    Perhaps the most obvious benefit from FF which it is not reflected in the purchase price is the development of plastics.

  249. > Perhaps the most obvious benefit from FF which it is not reflected in the purchase price is the development of plastics.

    You’re stealing the thunder from my next comment, izen. Burning fossil fuels comes at the expense of producing plastics. We may need plastics for a while. Wooden computers might be possible, but it’ll be niche for the time to come, and it means we’ll need lots of bamboo farms.

  250. verytallguy says:

    Willard, you’re enjoying yourself.

    Estragon: We always find something, eh Didi, to give us the impression externalities exist?

    Vladimir: Yes, yes, we’re magicians.

  251. izen says:

    @-W
    “You’re stealing the thunder from my next comment, izen. Burning fossil fuels comes at the expense of producing plastics. We may need plastics for a while. ”

    Sorry, (Grin)

    I have sometimes wondered whether future generations may view us as a idiots for climate change, but REALLY hate us for burning(!) the best feedstock for manufacture of synthetic materials on the planet.

  252. In response to the cornucopians RICKA and JeffSails, as we have long been pointing out, the fracked oil wells in the USA aren’t panning out nearly as well as originally planned. They are in a Red Queen race, as they are depleting as fast as new wells are being drilled.

    https://www.desmogblog.com/2019/01/10/fracking-shale-oil-wells-drying-faster-predicted-wall-street-journal

    “And while over the past decade, Wall Street and other investors poured billions into fracking — the Wall Street Journal tallied $112 billion more spent than earned from production at 29 major drillers — the U.S. more broadly has failed to seriously invest in a rapid transition away from climate-changing fossil fuels.

    That leaves the U.S. at risk of being left behind as the rest of the world focuses its efforts to innovate on renewable energy prospects that don’t dry up like oil wells.”

  253. The fact that fossil fuels can make plastics is not an “externality”.

  254. verytallguy says:

    The fact that fossil fuels can make plastics is not an “externality”.

    Vladimir: I don’t understand.
    Estragon: Use your intelligence, can’t you?
    Vladimir uses his intelligence.
    Vladimir: (finally) I remain in the dark.

  255. Willard says:

    > The fact that fossil fuels can make plastics is not an “externality”.

    No, and nobody said so. I’d put it more as a opportunity cost. Accounting is a misunderestimated art.

    Come to think of it, here would be a positive externality of fossil fuels that may be able to convince ze Moshpit:

    Richard and Elizabeth Muller have come up with one of the more unusual father-daughter businesses in recent memory. On March 20 they announced a startup called Deep Isolation that aims to store nuclear waste much more safely and cheaply than existing methods. The key to the technology, according to the Mullers, is to take advantage of fracking techniques to place nuclear waste in 2-mile-long tunnels, much deeper than they’ve been before—a mile below the Earth’s surface, where they’ll be surrounded by shale. “We’re using a technique that’s been made cheap over the last 20 years,” says Richard, a famed physicist and climate change expert. “We could begin putting this waste underground right away.”

    https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-03-20/this-father-daughter-team-says-it-has-a-cheaper-safer-way-to-bury-nuclear-waste

    The more shale holes we dig, the more nuclear waste we bury.

    What’s not to like?

  256. RICKA says:

    Fire department buys a tank of gas and is able to drive to my house to put out a fire. I am not part of that transaction, but I benefit indirectly from their purchase of gas. Is that an example of a positive externality? Ambulance transports me to hospital – I indirectly benefit. Helicopter transports me to hospital – I indirectly benefit.

    Sure – you could posit electric fire trucks and ambulances – but have they been built yet?

    How many more electric plants do we need if we have to charge up all cars and trucks? Is that positive or negative?

    What about all the extra batteries I need? Do I burn fossil fuels mining, transporting and building them? Positive or negative?

    Where does the power come from (without burning more fossil fuels) that the extra plants produce for the all electric fleet. If you end up burning more fossil fuels – is that positive or negative?

    This positive and negative stuff is hard – which is why it makes sense to me to just look at actual costs.

  257. Rick,
    None of what you mention fall (as I understand it) into what one would call a positive externality. A positive externality would be some benefit that we might want to incentivise. It’s not simply some benefit we can get through directly using some product.

  258. verytallguy says:

    RickA

    I refer you to Estragon

  259. Willard says:

    Just looking at actual costs makes sense to me too. But where are we looking for these? What is a cost exactly? More importantly, what is the currency we should be looking at? If we take seriously the idea of a carbon budget, then we need to accept that our choices have CO2 costs, e.g.:

    Beef requires 23.9 kilograms of CO2 to produce 200 kcal of food, but plant-based alternatives like beans, insects, and nuts emit only 1 kilogram or less of CO2 for the same amount of nutrition. Overall, beef production accounts for around 25% of total food-related greenhouse gas emissions, and swapping out red meat for plant-based alternatives could conversely reduce emissions from food by nearly 25%. This is an instance in which the report authors feel lab-grown beef has real potential. While current production methods are still fairly energy-intensive, as the process scales and becomes more efficient, energy savings will also increase.

    […]

    The WEF suggests that the plant-based protein industry could benefit from public-sector investment, in the same way the renewable energy industry has done, to help bring prices down. And on top of that, the agriculture industry has something to learn from the energy sector in how to manage the transition from factory-farmed meat to more plant-based alternatives. Governments could fund farmers to switch to growing protein-rich plants, or help them transition to other jobs in sustainable agriculture.

    https://www.fastcompany.com/90287838/swapping-beef-for-plant-based-protein-could-literally-save-lives

    Should this public-sector investment be included in the actual cost?

    So many questions, so little time.

  260. Joshua says:

    RickA –

    which is why it makes sense to me to just look at actual costs.

    Despite your mention of “imaginary costs, ” negative externalities are “actual costs”

    For example, pollution from burning fossil fuels results in “actual costs.”There is nothing “imaginary” about those costs – although they aren’t factored in to the price.

  261. RICKA says:

    Joshua:

    Ok – they are not imaginary. They are just really really hard to put a price on.

    For example, what is the “cost” of 1 inch of sea level rise, which is spread out over a decade?

  262. Willard says:

    Not sure how “inches of sea level rise” is a good unit for cost, RickA.

    Here’s a better candidate:

  263. angech says:

    Willard
    “Beef requires 23.9 kilograms of CO2 to produce 200 kcal of food, but plant-based alternatives like beans, insects, and nuts emit only 1 kilogram or less of CO2 for the same amount of nutrition. Overall, beef production accounts for around 25% of total food-related greenhouse gas emissions, and swapping out red meat for plant-based alternatives could conversely reduce emissions from food by nearly 25%.”
    Be that as it may I do not quite get your beef.
    The plants required to feed the 23.9 kg of CO2 would still exist, eaten or not, decay and release the same amount of CO2 annually albeit a bit slower.
    Re positives.
    Not just plastics and polymers, refrigerants, paints, varnishes,medications,moisturisers we have to consider the tarmac in the roads themselves how they stop the roads from being overgrown and allow us to travel around easily.

  264. BBD says:

    No, and nobody said so. I’d put it more as a opportunity cost. Accounting is a misunderestimated art.

    I’d agree – use of a resource for one purpose as opposed to another = opportunity cost.

  265. BBD says:

    If CO2-forced warming and CO2 fertilisation eventually causes an increase in the area of boreal forest*, reducing albedo, this would be a positive feedback to the forcing and – presumably – a negative externality of FF use.

    *IIRC there’s no clear evidence that this is happening yet, but palaeo studies suggest that it might have been an element in the deglaciation process.

  266. BBD says:

    For example, what is the “cost” of 1 inch of sea level rise, which is spread out over a decade?

    Minimisation is so small-minded, don’t you think?

  267. verytallguy says:

    Minimisation is so small-minded, don’t you think?

    Vladimir: That passed the time.
    Estragon: It would have passed in any case.
    Vladimir: Yes, but not so rapidly.

  268. Steven Mosher says:

    “If my recollection is correct, maybe he has a clearer example of positive externalities.

    Postive externality for fossil fuels?

    easy.

    Planet greening

    Other positive? hmm maybe Aerosols that delayed warming.

  269. Steven Mosher says:

    “If we take seriously the idea of a carbon budget, then we need to accept that our choices have CO2 costs, e.g.:”

    If I have to choose between Korean BBQ and the planet you dont want to know my choice

  270. BBD says:

    Postive externality for fossil fuels?

    easy.

    Planet greening

    Not really. You must have read stuff about how CO2 fertilisation results in less nutrition value in crops. And then there’s albedo change (just look up a couple of comments).

    Other positive? hmm maybe Aerosols that delayed warming.

    But particulates also kill people. You pays your money…

  271. Turns out that we need about 2% of GDP annually directed to net new investments in decarbonization. Where is that investment going to come from?

    Well. Turns out as well that the public doesn’t favour a dividend from any revenue a carbon tax raises. They want it invested in decarbonization.

  272. People get bored of facts and knowledge. We are now living in an age of stories and narrative and we need to put this trend into educating people about the changes taking place

  273. It so happens that I too think these thoughts as well so thanks for putting this out there;
    it’s interesting to see

  274. Small Change says:

    Great piece articulating what a lot of us were probably thinking. We have such a high mountain to climb to prevent the catastrophic effects you were talking about. One way we might be able to mitigate the effects of climate change is by increasing carbon taxes and lowering the ‘cap’ of cap and trade schemes. I just released an article on it today if you’re interested. Thanks again for the great read 🙂 https://adambolandblog.com/2019/03/21/exxonmobil-vs-the-state-how-governments-can-lower-corporate-co2-emissions/

  275. How is government going to change things when the people still aren’t on board with recognizing or understanding what’s happening to our global climate system and biosphere for that matter?

    Consider the amount of money spent on garbage like sporting events, car races, fashion, coffee, hollyworld fantasy, hell computer games are a billion dollar industry with hundreds of millions coming from people watching other’s playing computer games. And scientist are left begging for a few million and receiving a few 100G.s instead.

    We want our jollies, but refuse to do housekeeping to keep our show going. Heck we can’t even bring ourselves to maintain the infrastructure previous generations worked so hard to achieve.(anyone here ever visit the undersides of bridges?)

    First the radical change in human awareness – then solutions will following.

    It’ll never happen the other way around as the past half century has so eloquently demonstrated.

    What would radical change look like? – Well, first an honest deep realistic appreciation for our biosphere and how it operates, I have the feeling the rest would fall into place. Although with a half century of wasted runway behind us, excuse me for not being more enthusiastic about our collective future.

  276. Small Change says:

    Thanks for the reply. It is a very good point that we need to change people’s viewpoint on climate change. I do think, however, that given the time-span that we are forced to operate under, we have no choice but to get started on solutions before this social shift has occurred.
    The implementation of carbon taxes/cap and trade schemes does not require that we stop trying to change people’s minds. These things can happen simultaneously.
    I think the crux of the matter is that we have already waited too long. We are out of time. We need to explore and develop possible strategies for combating climate change right now, not whenever people come around to the fact that it is necessary. That can happen along the way.
    I fully see where you are coming from, though. It does seem like people are far more ready to spend money on entertainment and luxuries than they are on the future of the planet. Pessimism is natural when it comes to climate change because of the huge mountain we have to climb to fix the problem.
    My issue with this line of reasoning, however, is that it may turn out to be a self-fulfilling prophecy. If we are all fatalists about climate change (as many people are), then of course we can’t turn things around. What I am saying is that maybe you are not pessimistic because nothing can be done. Rather, nothing can be done because everyone is too damn pessimistic.
    Yes, it is a huge undertaking. But what choice do we have? We only have a decade or so to make real gains. After that, if we have failed, THEN we can accept that everything’s fucked. Right now, however, we have no choice but to get stuck in trying to fix things.
    Thanks again for the reply!

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