Should climate scientists admit failure?

Hopefully my readers will recognise Betteridge’s Law. James Dyke highlighted an article on Twitter that suggested that [t]he climate crisis demands new ways of thinking – scientists should be first to admit failure and move on. The suggestion is that …

… in some strange way, and despite the warnings over the past decades of many individuals such as Roger Revelle, Jim Hansen, Kevin Anderson, to name but a few,–– it appears the latest generation of protesters, from Fridays for Future to Extinction Rebellion – have done far more to hammer home the real message that climate crisis cannot be taken lightly, and is urgently and ultimately a most horrifying question of life and death.

As much as the above seems to be true, it was never really the job of scientists to hammer home the real message that climate crisis cannot be taken lightly. It was always going to require some other group (which may also have included scientists) to do this. It’s maybe a pity that it’s taken this long, and a pity that we’re relying on school children, rather than stepping forward ourselves, but I don’t think this is really the fault of scientists.

Scientists have been speaking out for a long time, and there have been numerous reports highlighting the issue. In many respects, this has been remarkably successful; most countries of the world have accepted the science of climate change and the need to act. That this hasn’t produced any particularly meaningful action is hardly the fault of those who’ve been presenting the information.

I don’t, however, disagree with the article entirely. I’m sure there are things that could have been more effective. However, I suspect those are likely to have been marginal; I really don’t think the position we’re in today is because scientists didn’t speak out forcefully enough. I also think there is some pressure for scientists to rationalise things and to try to not sound alarmed or concerned. Some of this can be healthy scientific reticence, but maybe this does go too far in some cases.

I also broadly agree with the suggestion that we should rely more on the expertise of social anthropologists, historians, psychologists, and political and social activists. However, I don’t think that the reason we’re in the position we’re in today is because we haven’t done so sufficiently yet. Our lack of substantive action is not because we haven’t had a good idea of what we should do, it’s mostly – in my view – because we haven’t really wanted to do anything. I think it would be good to broaden the range of expertise involved in looking at this issue, but I don’t think this will be some kind of panacea.

Although I partly agree with the general suggestions that climate scientists shouldn’t be seen as having the superior expertise, I don’t think that this is why we have been so stunningly unable to react to climate change. That’s because of the powerful unfluences who have actively worked against climate action, and because of policy makers who were not really willing to take things as seriously as they probably should have. I think things are starting to change, but I do think we have to be really careful of suggesting that the reason we’ve reacted so poorly to climate change is because climate scientists have failed.

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196 Responses to Should climate scientists admit failure?

  1. ecoquant says:

    It’s possible, too, that many of us were naive regarding how rational people could collectively be. I, for one, many years ago simply believed the canonical that if something was explained clearly enough, and rhetorically well enough, an audience would be convinced. This is values system of standard debating practice. I did not know anything about Kahneman and Tversky, or how deeply affected judgment can be by emotion. Essentially, I did not know we weren’t at all sapiens or even rationabile.

    And, seriously, climate scientists have not “failed”. any more than Sunrise and the youth have “succeeded”. As much as it is maligned in this context, our social fabric often expresses failure at the individual level in financial failure, which is arguably a bit better than death to a maladapted individual. Accordingly, if Business As Usual is pursued, there’s every expectation that the first major outcome will be a global economic depression, brought on by a Minsky Moment where the true risk of climate disruption suddenly gets priced into markets.

    The post-depression world will value fossil fuel assets at near zero, although there will be financial dysfunction and there may not be easy means to aggregate capital to respond to crises.

    No one of course knows what might bring on such a realization. It could be sudden realization that coastal properties are uninsurable, with, say, the U.S. government and others finally abandoning them and their towns once devastation per year gets expensive enough (currently costing about US$25 billion per annum), it could be a collapse of a major re-insurer, it could be an explosion in food prices or sudden scarcity of food in a major OECD country, or it could even be a groundwell of political success for a movement like Sunrise in the United States, winning the Presidency and both houses of Congress.

  2. mt says:

    I feel that the entire system has failed and is continuing to fail. Pointing fingers at one group or another is not helpful, much though I like to blame journalism.

    Really, I am blaming the failure of something I wish journalism could be to exist, while others are blaming the absence of something they wish science could be. But what’s missing is missing. It doesn’t exist.

    The situation is unprecedented, so it’s little surprise that there’s a missing institution or two.

    But yes, collectively there is a profound failure, and it’s ongoing. I feel that I am part of it, and to be honest it causes me actual moral and emotional pain daily, and I wish I knew what to do. But like everybody else, I don’t really.

    I am not sure the future will forgive us our lack of imagination and courage, nor that it should.

  3. mt,

    Pointing fingers at one group or another is not helpful

    Yes, I agree.

    But yes, collectively there is a profound failure, and it’s ongoing. I feel that I am part of it,

    Indeed, I certainly don’t think I’m doing enough.

  4. mrkenfabian says:

    Pointing fingers at people who hold positions of high trust and responsibility – who have decades of consistent expert reports and studies before them as well as direct and unimpeded access to numerous means of checking veracity – seems quite reasonable to me. Essential even. That our principle purveyors of information to the voting public are part of an industry with a business model that is essentially amoral – seeking to get people to buy stuff they don’t need, by appeals to human psychological weaknesses, that bypass facts and reason – seems also deserving of having point fingers at.

    Climate science/climate responsibility denial is reprehensible, no matter how it is dressed up with alarmist fear of ideological extremism and economic disaster. Those engaging in it should be called out every time, all the time.

  5. Steven Mosher says:

    none of ya’ll were ready for your close up.

  6. Wolfgang Knorr says:

    As the title of my article suggests – scientists should be the first to admit failure and move on. It does not imply others shouldn’t do the same. But by the way we (meaning all of us) have been framing the problem of climate change, the world has been looking for answers from climate scientists, when – as you say yourself – this may not be the best place to look for them. I think you underestimate how deeply ingrained this view is in the very climate policy process. Why do mitigation strategies have to be included in the IPCC reports at all, where there is a clear hierarchy from the physical science base (this is Working Group 1, not 3) to the response of society, which keeps coming along as afterthought.

    Of course this arrangement suits those who are not interested in change, which tend to be those in power.

  7. Everett F Sargent says:

    Well, I ain’t a climate scientist. So there! :/

    From this ‘so called’ op-ed this is a run on sentence …

    “Most of the funding so far plunged into expert meetings, science conferences, computer resources, expeditions and lab work should now go towards building social capital and political trust, the facilitation of pertinent, open debate, and the establishment of global democratic institutions with capacity to deal with a global problem that – so far – has been impossible to tackle.”

    Who knew that this would be the answer? Words without actions mean nothing. What will Wolfgang Knorr do?

  8. Wolfgang,
    Thanks for the comment.

    Of course this arrangement suits those who are not interested in change, which tend to be those in power.

    I think this is essentially the issue, though. I agree that, collectively, we’ve failed. My concern is that by creating a narrative that climate scientists have failed, we will end up generating a scapegoat for our collective failure, especially given that many climate scientists have indeed tried speaking out quite strongly.

    I think you underestimate how deeply ingrained this view is in the very climate policy process.

    I’m not sure I do, but it might be that I’m misunderstanding who you’re describing as “climate scientists”. I was thinking of physical climate scientists (WGI), but it seems you might be including all researchers who work on climate. I agree that there are some entrenched views within policy researchers that may be unhelpful. I am slightly cautious of suggesting that they have failed, since I still think that the problem is more complex and is more of a collective failure, than something we can necessarily pin on one group of experts.

  9. dikranmarsupial says:

    If science did more than setting out what we know in a careful, rational manner, then it would fail because it could then be presented as political advocacy. Irrational rhetorical debate is an unwinnable game via rational means AFAICS, no amount of evidence will establish anything beyond unreasonable doubt.

    It is the public that has failed by wanting entertaining bullshit rather than competent political leadership.

  10. dikranmarsupial says:

    but that is nothing new – Panem et Circenses and all that.

  11. Everett F Sargent says:

    The Blame Game is just so juvenile IMHO …

  12. Wolfgang,
    Something I may not quite have expressed all that clearly in the post is a sense that until there is a collective recognition that this is a problem we need to address, it’s doesn’t necessarily matter which group of experts lead the discussion. Until the discussion clearly moves from “is it happening”, or “is it serious”, we will always have powerful people who question/dispute the need to do anything. What’s your view on that?

  13. Can you really blame the Scientist? Isn’t about time to blame the politician by still ignoring the signs on the wall?

  14. andrewm says:

    I think everything you say is right here. I remain and always will be extremely grateful to climate scientists, just for doing the science, and also for the extent that so many have in fact done their very best to “get the message across” and much more, often at their own personal expense. I also find myself, having left Twitter for some time and come back recently (if temporarily), experiencing some joy at how much the right and denialists, as powerful as they are, are still pretty much saying the same stupid and offensive things, and so on, while it seems to me that everyone else has moved on. Especially scientists. It’s been fascinating being the media and communications academic that I am to see how quickly scientists have become sophisticated communications people. … And yet .. I also think people, including media and comms people often, and maybe sometimes even due to media and comms people, many academics and the media industry both, don’t fully understand communication very well. Getting a message across so that something happens is great if you’re in a context in which this is all that is necessary, like in battle for example, in which the “noise” that is part of the classic engineering model of communication, really does need to be excluded, so that an order can go out to e.g. shoot down that plane before it kills us” etc. Paul N. Edwards wrote about this in his book A Closed World, the same Paul N. Edwards who wrote that excellent book on climate science, A Vast Machine. But it’s a very limited way to think of most situations involved communication, which often have very little to do with this “getting a message across”. I still think Bateson was very good on this, and that the anthropologist Peter Harries-Jones is good on Bateson on this. I’m trying to think through what he writes about climate and communication right now. But simply put, thinking in terms of message and orders and hierarchies is a part of exactly what Bateson thought would lead to environmental and social disaster. One needs to think of whether certain complex patterns of relations can withstand (he calls this a kind of “flexibility budget” or bioentropy … and I have no idea how “scientifically” sufficient that concept is … but it’s great for thinking media and communications) internal disturbance as these patterns shift, and/or adapt to shifts in patterns of relations it encounters. This is nothing that will surprise a climate scientist when it comes to climate or indeed to the complexities of climate science. However, it also applies to communications. Only one of many things this explains is that “identity” and even “trust”, which are both really important in climate communications, are really just shorthand for the much more complex patterns of relation that cannot easily be abandoned (by anyone really) if this threatens to undo the patterns of relation in which one is involved. So I think we still need quite a large paradigm shift in thinking through these issues, one ironically to do with thinking “more ecologically”. All that said, I just wanted to note how much I appreciate your work on this blog. 🙂

  15. Greg Robie says:

    To the degree that a majority of climate scientist are employed as academics, and the employing institutions of higher learning have not restructured their business model (collaboratively or otherwise) to rationally relate to/redress the existential threat the Anthropocene’s climate poses to our current trusted GREED-as-go[]d social paradigm, isn’t scapegoating – and a perceived need to duck ‘N run – indicative of a great success within failure?

    … Or a Kōan for today! 😉

    sNAILmALEnotHAIL …but pace’n myself

    life is for learning so all my failures must mean that I’m wicked smart


  16. Chubbs says:

    From google. 5 reasons to play the blame game:
    1) An excellent defense mechanism
    2) Blame is tool when in attack mode
    3) We are not good at figuring out the causes of other peoples behavior or even our own
    4) Its easier to blame someone else than accept responsibility
    5) People lie and blame others when they are at fault

  17. Wolfgang Knorr says:

    Thanks for your reply. I actually completely agree that we are talking about a collective failure of humanity – the reason I am singling out the climate scientists are (1) I am one of them and (2) their (i.e. our) role has been and still is pivotal. And our failure is not a failure to stop global heating, but a failure to provide a sober and honest view of the problem. There are exceptions, and I mention even some names, but collectively (this time meaning the scientists, not humanity), we have failed.

  18. Eventual_Horizon says:

    It’s not the job or even in the capabilities of climate scientists to change human nature. The simple fact is that we aren’t evolved to react strongly to slow-moving, complex, amorphous threats like climate change. And we are even less likely to take action that requires enormous sacrifice. A childlike “but why?” is always right beneath the surface.

    Whatever you might think of Al Gore, “an inconvenient truth” is a brilliantly concise way of framing the AGW predicament. Fossil fuels are the very oxygen of our civilization and the way of life we hold near and dear. It is supremely inconvenient to have to do away with them and rapidly that.

    Climate scientists are trying to sell a most unpalatable story of danger, necessary upheaval and sacrifice. Through no fault of their own it might be a bridge too far. We always resent those that wake us from beautiful dreams.

  19. Wolfgang,
    Fair enough. I tend to push back against this a bit because I also regularly see others blaming climate scientists for be too alarmist (damned if you do, damned if you don’t, essentially). There’s also the issue that those who’ve spoken out most strongly have also been attacked for doing so; it certainly takes a fair amount of courage to do so, and I suspect many scientists didn’t become researchers so as to end up fighting strong, vested interested for the survival of our civilisations.

    I also tend to think that any failure on the part of scientists is fairly minor when compared to the collective failure. It’s not as if the issue hasn’t been clear for quite some time. Maybe scientists could have tried to make it even more prominent, but I still doubt that that would have made much difference. I don’t think the problem was a lack of information.

  20. Wolfgang Knorr says:

    To your other question: I agree that there is still – unbelievably – a discussion out there whether climate change is a threat or not, or even if it is happening or real. My view on this is that we climate scientists, and in this case in particular the physical climate scientists – have contributed to this through scientific reticence. This is now well documented, see my post.

    Actually, the recent IPCC Special Report on Ocean and Crysophere, which came out after, again fails to sufficiently warn the public. See Josh Willis’ comment
    “Willis said people should be prepared for a rise in sea levels to be twice these IPCC projections.”
    and Jonathan Bamber here:
    “The IPCC considers the likely range of sea level rise but not the worst-case scenario”

    As long as that is the case, there should be no more dithering of the sort – well, there is this evidence and you can interpret the data that way and that way. All true. But in the face of danger, that’s not the issue. The issue is – could this happen, or can we with reasonable certainty exclude such a scenario?

    And yes, whoever leads this discussion should be well aware of this. Maybe it shouldn’t be us scientists, if we can’t give up our scientific snobbery.

  21. It will become clear in the coming years that the failure was in not treating climate change and natural resource depletion as equal players in transitioning to green energy. The subtlety is in how the media and power players are replacing an existential crisis (lack of cheap high-grade fossil fuels) with a mitigable crisis (slowing down global warming). They must realize that the result of the former is the Paris riots — those aren’t climate activists protesting but lots of people railing about the high cost of fuel.
    “The West could not shield itself from the long-range consequences of the unsustainability of the very postwar system it had nurtured since the Second World War: structural dependence on fossil fuels, a patchwork of alliances with regional despotic regimes, laying the groundwork for converging climate change, crude oil depletion and the resulting domino effect of food and economic crises.”

    This is a huge mistake glibly labeling the protesters as “climate change activists”

    This causes a huge backlash against climate science, IMO. Instead of climate science taking the full brunt of the backlash, you would think you can spread out some of the backlash to geology.

  22. Andrew Dessler says:

    I agree with the sentiments that scientists are blameless here. Scientists in the climate debate did exactly the same thing that they did for the ozone debate, but scientists are viewed as being quite effective in that debate. The difference between climate and ozone policy debates is that the forces of disinformation did a better job creating doubt, buying politicians, etc. The argument that “scientists should do better” is just a way for people like Pielke to kick the people he hates.

    BTW, Mosher, the apostrophe in y’all goes between the y and a. Your visa to visit TX is hereby revoked.

  23. They must realize that the result of the former is the Paris riots — those aren’t climate activists protesting but lots of people railing about the high cost of fuel.

    The yellow vests have no central organisation making clear what they are about. So everyone can claim what they like. The right-wing in Anglo-America has managed to push the narrative you repeat. The left-wing reminds people that just before the gasoline taxes neo-liberal Macron had reduced the taxes on the rich and claim the protests are about government forced inequality.

  24. ecoquant says:


    I like that. It’s congruent with economic ideas that the next financial collapse has its seeds planted by the measures taken to fix the previous one.

    Indeed, it’s inevitable that fossil fuels would be replaced, just as whale oil and horsepower were. The trouble is, not only is geology “responsible”, but geophysics: We’re operating on Nature’s clock here.

    Ecologists like David Suzuki point out that if they knew nothing but the physical size of people, the distribution of animal sizes on the planet, and the number of people, they could infer that something major was supporting us, simply because the number of people is well beyond a natural statistical carrying capacity.

    People complain about “overpopulation” but, facts are, the only reason we can have such a huge population is because of fossil fuels. I don’t exactly believe in cause-and-effect, so I’d say the quantity “population” and the input “burning of fossil fuels” are mutually linked in that the latter enables the former, but the former provides incentives for more of the latter.

    Trouble of course is fossil fuels aren’t the only prerequisite for a large, relatively healthy population.

  25. Wolfgang Knorr: “I actually completely agree that we are talking about a collective failure of humanity – the reason I am singling out the climate scientists are (1) I am one of them and (2) their (i.e. our) role has been and still is pivotal.

    The best thing that happened this year with respect to solving the problem is that scientists are no longer the dominant voice. That is a good thing.

    The last decades climate change was no longer a scientific problem, but a societal problem. The climate “sceptics” and their corporate allies did everything to keep up the impression that it still is a scientific problem.

  26. dikranmarsupial says:

    “And our failure is not a failure to stop global heating, but a failure to provide a sober and honest view of the problem.”

    The IPCC WG1 reports are both sober and honest AFAICS. If anything a little too sober. Perhaps the problem is more with WG2 (it is interesting that the WG2 report seems hardly mentioned in the public discussion of climate, which seems focussed on canards about the basic science)?

  27. ecoquant says:


    Anyone who has any doubt that scientists have long and hard been trying to reach the upper echelons of U.S. administration to act on climate change and the environment should have a look at the 1965 report, Restoring the quality of our environment, by the United States President’s Science Advisory Committee, Environmental Pollution Panel. I picked up a copy recently. It is amazing. The frontspiece was signed by LBJ. Appendix Y4, titled “Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide”, was authored by R. Revelle, W. Broecker, C. D. Keeling, H. Craig, and J. Smagorinsky and not only included “Possible effects of increased atmospheric Carbon Dioxide on climate”, but detailed calculations. They stated:

    We can arrive at a smaller melting time by supposing a change in the earth-wide radiation balance, part of which would be used to melt the ice. A 2% change could occur by the year 2000, when the atmospheric CO2 content will have increased perhaps by 25%. Since the average radiation at the earth’s surface is about 2 x 105 gram calories per square centimeter per year, a 2% change would amount to 2 x 1022 calories per year. If half this energy were concentrated in Antarctica and used to melt the ice, the process wold take 400 years.

  28. Willard says:

    > My view on this is that we climate scientists, and in this case in particular the physical climate scientists – have contributed to this through scientific reticence.

    If that’s the case, then the blame would extend to historians and sociologists. All those who studied how science never was a “let’s all sit down and calculate” business failed to sway science departments in letting go of their mythology. We should also reserve a special place in hell for philosophers – they’re the ones who invented skepticism.

    Alternatively, I think it’s more sensible to recall that hindsight is 20/20. One can do the best one can and still fail. Having high expectations is well and good as long as it does not lead to paralysis.

    Besides, to take back the visual argument:

    To infer from this that there’s no intelligence on Earth omits the possibility that it could have been worse without the scientists’ involvement.

    We need to fail better.

  29. ecoquant says:

    @Wolfgang Knorr,

    The late Martin Weitzman repeatedly made the point that planning for median values of any of these responses (SLR, ECS, inland rainfall, etc) was foolish, and some high tail quantile ought to be the yardstick.

  30. Chris says:

    The fact that we have been so stunningly unable to react to climate change may have to do with a failure to see precisely where the problem really resides and that the community of climate scientists have falsely assumed the position of superior expertise, where in fact it should have belonged to social anthropologists, historians, psychologists, and political and social activists. If this is so, it would explain the remarkable success of the latest protest movement, and the failure of the science and policy establishment.

    The fact that we have been “so stunningly unable” to react to climate change is surely because it’s a stunningly difficult problem and that getting from where we are to a state where our societies are fuelled by sustainable carbon-minimal energies cannot happen at the flick of a switch. As a non-climate scientist I would say that climate scientists have been stunningly successful in providing the information for rational decision-making on this crucial subject; however it’s not up to scientists to force things to happen (even though quite a bit has been happening in the way of development of alternative energy sources and infrastructure in response to the science).

    It’s wonderful that groups like Extinction Rebellion are taking a radical response to the implications highlighted by the science for their individual and collective futures and are raising a stink – I think that’s great.

    Incidentally, the first sentence of the excerpt from Dr Knorr’s text copied above doesn’t make much sense at all. Climate scientists obviously DO have superior expertise when it comes to the science on climate change and its implication for the physical world; but have they claimed “superior expertise” in terms of how to publicise and address the problem? Not really.

    At some point societies have to take responsibility for addressing issues raised by science – that happened in the case of scientific evidence on cigarette smoking and atmospheric CFC’s and is happening in fits and starts in response to science on feeding antibiotics to animals (for example) – it’s taking a lot longer on climate change but that’s a far more difficult problem.

    I really don’t see why climate scientists should consider they have failed (although one can bet that they are likely being lined up to have failure dumped upon them by those that are actually responsible for slow action!).

    And of course have Extinction Rebellion and the likes succeeded in anything yet?

  31. Ecoquant: “Anyone who has any doubt that scientists have long and hard been trying to reach the upper echelons of U.S. administration to act on climate change and the environment should have a look at the 1965 report

    I have no idea why you would think I would doubt that scientists have informed governments about the problem. That is a classical role of science.

    Anyone who thinks that providing information to governments is sufficient for the problem to be solved is slightly naive.

  32. Everett F Sargent says:

    The ‘so called’ reticence Wolfgang Knorr mentions is with regards to sea level rise as reported in the latest IPCC report.

    IMHO, I think that is his own opinion and not an established fact by any currently established metric that I know of.

    Turning an opinion into a catastrophic fact BEFORE the end of the 21th century is NOT helpful, unless you like premature scary big numbers.

    Scary isn’t the path forwards.

    We will have to wait until AR6 is released.

    As to the latest IPCC report the likely range is only 66% likely, so clearly there is included higher SLR numbers, as there should be, in any probabilistic projection. D’oh!

    Someone here, not yours truly, needs to fully understand what the IPCC reports actually say …

    “Figure 4.2: Projected sea-level rise until 2300. The inset shows an assessment of the likely range of the projections for RCP2.6 and RCP8.5 up to 2100 (medium confidence). Projections for longer time scales are highly uncertain but a range is provided (”

  33. Willard says:

    > I think that is his own opinion and not an established fact by any currently established metric that I know of.

    Someone, not yours truly, needs to understand what an editorial comment is.

  34. ecoquant says:


    I didn’t doubt you at all. Point is, they’ve been told time and time and time again, to no avail. There’s only so much one can do.

    As important as the cause is, you can’t really care about it more than the people who are responsible for caring about it.

    You can try. But that’s about it.

  35. Victor said:
    “The right-wing in Anglo-America has managed to push the narrative you repeat.”

    Yes, that’s why ATTP pushed this same narrative a few months ago, repeating Frank Luntz’s suggestions

    It’s also known as the No Regrets policy, described in the IPCC of course. This policy recommends to focus on solutions with multiple rationales — one representing AGW mitigation, another addressing FF depletion, and the third ecological degradation, e.g. China’s air pollution problem.

  36. A Thorpe says:

    Meanwhile, in the real scientific world, 500 scientists have signed this letter to the UN. The full list of signatories will be published in a few days.

    23 September 2019
    Sr. António Guterres, Secretary-General, United Nations, United Nations Headquarters, New York, NY 10017, United States of America. Ms.
    Patricia Espinosa Cantellano, Executive Secretary, United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, UNFCCC Secretariat, UN Campus, Platz der Vereinten Nationen 1, 53113 Bonn, Germany

    Your Excellencies,
    There is no climate emergency A global network of more than 500 knowledgeable and experienced scientists and professionals in climate and related fields have the honor to address to Your Excellencies the attached European Climate Declaration, for which the signatories to this letter are the national ambassadors. The general-circulation models of climate on which international policy is at present founded are unfit for their purpose. Therefore, it is cruel as well as imprudent to advocate the squandering of trillions of dollars on the basis of results from such immature models. Current climate policies pointlessly and grievously undermine the economic system, putting lives at risk in countries denied access to affordable, reliable electrical energy. We urge you to follow a climate policy based on sound science, realistic economics and genuine concern for those harmed by costly but unnecessary attempts at mitigation. We ask you to place the Declaration on the agenda of your imminent New York session. We also invite you to organize with us a constructive high-level meeting between world-class scientists on both sides of the climate debate early in 2020. Such a meeting would be consistent with the historically proven principles of sound science and natural justice that both sides should be fully and fairly heard. Audiatur et altera pars! Please let us know your thoughts how we bring about such a momentous joint meeting.
    Yours sincerely,
    Professor Guus Berkhout The Netherlands
    Professor Richard Lindzen USA
    Professor Reynald du Berger French Canada
    Professor Ingemar Nordin Sweden
    Terry Dunleavy New Zealand
    Jim O’Brien Irish Republic
    Viv Forbes Australia
    Professor Alberto Prestininzi Italy
    Professor Jeffrey Foss English Canada
    Professor Benoît Rittaud France
    Morten Jødal Norway
    Professor Fritz Vahrenholt Germany
    Rob Lemeire Belgium
    Monckton of Brenchley UK
    Ambassadors of the European Climate Declaration

    There is no climate emergency

    A global network of 500 scientists and professionals has prepared this urgent message. Climate science should be less political, while climate policies should be more scientific. Scientists should openly address the uncertainties and exaggerations in their predictions of global warming, while politicians should dispassionately count the real benefits as well as the imagined costs of adaptation to global warming, and the real costs as well as the imagined benefits of mitigation.

    Natural as well as anthropogenic factors cause warming
    The geological archive reveals that Earth’s climate has varied as long as the planet has existed, with natural cold and warm phases. The Little Ice Age ended as recently as 1850. Therefore, it is no surprise that we now are experiencing a period of warming.

    Warming is far slower than predicted
    The world has warmed at less than half the originally-predicted rate, and at less than half the rate to be expected on the basis of net anthropogenic forcing and radiative imbalance. It tells us that we are far from understanding climate change.

    Climate policy relies on inadequate models
    Climate models have many shortcomings and are not remotely plausible as policy tools. Moreover, they most likely exaggerate the effect of greenhouse gases such as CO2. In addition, they ignore the fact that enriching the atmosphere with CO2 is beneficial.

    CO2 is plant food, the basis of all life on Earth
    CO2 is not a pollutant. It is essential to all life on Earth. Photosynthesis is a blessing. More CO2 is beneficial for nature, greening the Earth: additional CO2 in the air has promoted growth in global plant biomass. It is also good for agriculture, increasing the yields of crops worldwide.

    Global warming has not increased natural disasters
    There is no statistical evidence that global warming is intensifying hurricanes, floods, droughts and suchlike natural disasters, or making them more frequent. However, CO2-mitigation measures are as damaging as they are costly. For instance, wind turbines kill birds and bats, and palm-oil plantations destroy the biodiversity of the rainforests.

    Climate policy must respect scientific and economic realities
    There is no climate emergency. Therefore, there is no cause for panic and alarm. We strongly oppose the harmful and unrealistic net-zero CO2 policy proposed for 2050. If better approaches emerge, we will have ample time to reflect and adapt. The aim of international policy should be to provide reliable and affordable energy at all times, and throughout the world.

  37. Willard says:

    > Yes, that’s why ATTP pushed this same narrative a few months ago

    You can’t even get the author right, Paul.

  38. Everett F Sargent says:

    A Thorpe sez …

    Yeah, I saw that one over a month ago when it was at 300+ deniers. Posted to the Watties, so as to collect even more deniers in one single list. Can’t seem to find the actual list of 500+ deniers though. 😦

  39. yes, I know that it was you that was the lead author of that ATTP blog post and not Ken Rice.

  40. Willard says:

    > I know that it was you that was the lead author

    There was only one author, Paul.

    Look. Drive-bys are fine. Peddling, not so much. This is not the place to refute your misleading claims about some “narrative.” Here would be mine:

    Wolfgang wrote a post. AT discussed it. This is where we are.

  41. dikranmarsupial says:

    A Thorpe would that be the Richard Lindzen that made a video for PragerU that uses misleadingly selective quotes from the IPCC to imply that the IPCC agree that climate models can’t predict future climate?

    I suspect you can find 500 scientists that think NASA faked the moon landings – so what?

    I suspect that is less than 0.04% of all scientists (thinking of a small percentage at random ;o)

  42. Everett F Sargent says:

    “Yours sincerely,
    Monckton of Brenchley UK”

    YES! I posted that denier list/link in a Monkers authored Watties thread. Specifically so that Monkers would see it. Can’t possibly claim full credit though.

    Makes one’s life just a bit simpler though, having a single list of deniers, that is.

    Note to self: Valentina Zharkova is also on that list (at least the 300+ denier version, under UK deniers, but Monkers was not on that list of UK deniers at that time).

  43. A Thorpe,
    Anyone who claims relevant expertise and then signs a petition with the argument that CO2 is plant food, should be embarassed. That CO2 is a key part of photosynthesis does not suddenly mean that more of it in the atmosphere is unarguably a good thing (it does much more than simply feed plants).

  44. Anyone who claims relevant expertise and then signs a petition with the argument that CO2 is plant food, should be embarassed.

    Anyone who signed that petition is incapable of feeling shame, like Trump.

  45. A Thorpe says:

    [#ButDenier, #But97, #ButConsensus, #ButCausation, and #ButComplexity. -W]

  46. Mitch says:

    If you have ever worked real time on a field program, you will know that it doesn’t do much good to spend your time worrying about what you missed, unless you can pick it up in the future.

    (1) Climate scientists did an adequate to very good job of warning about the problem. The IPCC reports have been very clear about the issues.
    (2) There has been a major shift about trusting science since Reagan came into power. Many of the right wing believe that science is all about pushing an agenda. Conspiracy theorists now abound.
    (3) Fossil fuel interests got much more effective about pushing their “no change” agenda
    (4) Unfortunately, being long term, it has been easy for governments to assign a low priority to the problem.

    So, there have been multiple failures. So what? The problem is still before the world and needs to be fixed. It is time to keep moving forward.

  47. Steven Mosher says:

    “CO2 is plant food, the basis of all life on Earth”

    huh? I learnt in school that most plants are autotrophic.
    Plants make their own food from the waste product c02.

  48. izen says:

    Scientists involved in developing human understanding of the climate and the role of our CO2 emission on it, deserve the most credit for any progress made in reducing them and the least blame for any failure to reduce them faster.

    To argue otherwise would be like asserting that the abolitionists were to blame for the perpetuation of slavery.

  49. izen says:

    @-“CO2 is plant food, the basis of all life on Earth”

    Is it needlessly pedantic to point out that there are a vast amount of lithotrophic bacteria that use sulphur? They are the basis for the megafauna that live around thermal vents.

  50. ecoquant says:

    Indeed, “CO2 is plant food” fails to admit the complexity of the Calvin Cycle, such as C3, C4, and CAM, as well as what might change if plants are exposed to higher CO2 concentrations and warmer temperatures. For example, there’s evidence under high CO2 concentrations, stomata get smaller because the capture rate of CO2 is higher per unit area, given higher concentrations, and making them smaller lets the plant control evapotranspiration. This is expected to be particular important during warmer temperatures.

    The point is that primary production of plants might or might not improve under higher CO2 levels. It is apparently true that Carbon sequestration does not increase with higher CO2 amounts, despite transient increases in soil Carbon capture, something which is a bit of a puzzle.

    I’m reading and studying a paper about this presently,

    Y. Zhang, C. Song, L. E. Band, G. Sun, (2019), “No proportional increase of terrestrial gross Carbon sequestration from the greening Earth“, Journal of Geophysical Research: Biogeosciences, 124. 10.1029/2018JG004917

    and will eventually report on this at my blog.

    Lindzen and company might get huffy if someone claimed to challenge them on geophysics and fluid dynamics, but being a fluids expert does not mean you are a botanical one.

  51. JCH says:

    There is this recent paper. It calls into question the future of CO2 fertilization and increased food production:

    Increased atmospheric vapor pressure deficit reduces global vegetation growth

    Our results support increased VPD being part of the drivers of the widespread drought-related forest mortality over the past decades, which has been observed in multiple biomes and on all vegetated con- tinents (28, 29). Increased VPD may trigger stomatal closure to avoid excess water loss due to the high evaporative demand of the air (12), leading to a negative carbon balance that depletes carbohydrate reserves and results in tissue-level carbohydrate starvation (28). In addition, re- duced soil water supply coupled with high evaporative demand causes xylem conduits and the rhizosphere to cavitate (become air-filled), stopping the flow of water, desiccating plant tissues, and leading to plant death (28). Previous studies reported that increased VPD explained 82% of the warm season drought stress in the southwestern United States, which correlated to changes of forest productivity and mortality (14). In addition, enhanced VPD limits tree growth even before soil moisture begins to be limiting (17, 30).
    We examined whether terrestrial ecosystem models can adequately capture the observed responses of vegetation growth to increased VPD after the late 1990s from 10 terrestrial ecosystem models. We found that the simulated GPP trends of most models did not match the GPP trends documented above (fig. S11). Only the CLASS (Canadian Land Surface Scheme) model showed a decreased GPP after the late 1990s in response to increased VPD, similar to satellite-based GPP estimates (fig. S11). The terrestrial ecosystem models showed lower GPP sensitivity to VPD than two satellite-based models (i.e., EC-LUE and MODIS) (Fig. 6B and table S2).
    Our results imply that most terrestrial ecosystem models cannot capture vegetation responses to VPD. Thus, problems reproducing the observed long-term vegetation responses to climate variability may challenge their ability to predict the future evolution of the carbon cycle. Earth system models (ESMs) participating in the CMIP5 (Coupled Model Intercomparison Project Phase 5) (table S5) project a continuous increase of VPD until the end of this century (Fig. 1). The globally averaged VPD is 0.12 kPa higher in 2090–2100 than in 1980–1999 (Fig. 1). The ESMs used in Fig. 1 showed good performance when reproducing historical variations of VPD (table S6), providing confidence in the projected increases of VPD during future decades. The results of our analysis suggest that this projected increased VPD might have a substantially negative impact on vegetation, which must be examined carefully when evaluating future carbon cycle responses.

  52. ecoquant says:


    Beerling does a nice job putting this in context: “Can plants help us avoid seeding a human‐made climate

  53. 1. Scientists did not organize.
    2. You did not recognize what game you were playing/war you were fighting / (insert analogy of choice.)
    3. You did not search for allies. When approached by those with parallel objectives, you rejected them.
    4. You labeled those who did not agree with you as enemies / deniers, thereby making reconciliation difficult if not impossible.
    5. You did not define either victory or defeat.
    6. You let NGOs and lobbyists draw lines in the sand (350 ppm, 2C, then 1.5C) that were not based in science.

    It was utterly predictable that scientists would bring spoons to a gunfight wearing cardboard instead of Kevlar. What wasn’t predictable was that you would refuse to change over a 20-year period.

    It wasn’t really your fight to lose. You’re not politicians. But you didn’t do your cause any favors, that’s for sure.

  54. Tom,
    Why should scientists necessarily change? As far as I can see, they’ve been largely right. What you seem to be suggesting is that if scientists had been nicer to those who’ve mostly turned out to be wrong, everything would be better. Seems an odd argument. How about suggesting that those who’ve been mostly wrong take some responsibility for their own views?

  55. It’s funny. You guys were largely right on all the areas of importance. What killed you in the struggle were your allies, not your enemies. Nobody takes Monckton or Morano seriously. (Except the Inhofes, and nobody takes them seriously.)

    Why should scientists necessarily change? Because what you did for 20 years did not advance your (nebulous, undefined even now) goals. Yeah–emitting CO2 is like mugging an old lady. Okay. Because your advocacy did not recruit the necessary numbers to affect / effect policy.

    You keep butting your heads into a brick wall. 20 years of that can get kind of old, can’t it?

  56. Tom,
    I realise that this is probably pointless, but why should those who’ve been largely right be the ones to change? (this is distinct from the suggesting that we should have a larger range of expertise involved in addressing this issue).

  57. verytallguy says:

    The whole “CO2 is plant food, therefore good” is weird from an ecosystems perspective.

    If true, it would imply a vast change already, given CO2 has already risen by ~50% and would see every ecosystem on the planet turned upside down with resultant mass extinctions etc.

  58. ecoquant says:


    I strongly disagree with your points. “Scientists” are not a monolithic organization or political party. They are joined, in their respective fields, by sharing a common methodology and agreed upon literature and educational track, but even different fields do not fully get along. Indeed, one of the remarkable things about the IPCC, even if it does and did have its faults, was to the degree to which basically unpaid volunteer scientists managed to slog through these huge reviews and metastudies to produce coherent pictures of where the climate stands.

    Scientists (as well as statisticians, and to some degree mathematicians) win in their careers by being brighter, sharper, deeper in thought, and more familiar with scholarship … That is, it is highly competitive.

    To turn your point on its head, and it’s really not clear you’ve made more than one, this is a society and a world culture which absolutely depends upon technology and engineering, for which science is the driver. Sure, the society can choose to abandon these, and there’s really nothing scientists can do to convince them otherwise, apart from suggesting it is unwise. Yet the society, particularly
    American society, has been moving away from a respect of science and mathematics, caring less about knowing fundamental things about it, leaving it to “the boffins”, and yet expecting to knowledgeably participate in policy-making involving these. The outcome clearly is that there will be fewer benefits from engineering and science. Ultimately, because our military has for many years depended upon these, we will lose a battle with a country which does respect these and continue to advance. It’s not that basic. Science is a not a sports club, or even several sports clubs.

    It is the responsibility of a scientist, engineer, or statistician to call out nonsense where they see it. Thresholds for call-outs vary among these practitioners, but nearly every one of the societies which champion these fields have ethical statements which at least in principle call upon their members to do this.

    Branscomb observed that “Scientists must understand that the officials being advised are not obligated to adopt policies based solely on the scientists’ technical analysis.” Yes, of course. Some values need to be applied to the results of analysis. But, policy flagrantly ignores scientific recommendation, pursuing such policy means embracing more risk than needed. Maybe they’ll get away with it. But the experience of poor gamblers suggests otherwise.

  59. ATTP, since when in the annals of recorded history has being right ever been enough?

  60. Tom,
    Maybe never, but this isn’t about it being enough, it’s about pandering to those who’ve been wrong.

  61. ecoquant says:


    You keep butting your heads into a brick wall. 20 years of that can get kind of old, can’t it?

    Actually, scientists have been trying to communicate with the U.S. federal executive about the dangers of climate disruption from at least 1965. And climate disruption, as a threat, has been well known since 1896, with hints before that, and it was re-affirmed in 1938, and in the 1950s.

    These were times well before the fossil fuel industry decided to launch its campaign of obfuscation.

  62. ecoquant says:

    By the way if you want to cut to the chase in the above, move to about 50 minutes.

  63. Willard says:

    > 1. Scientists did not organize.


    > 2. You did not recognize what game you were playing/war you were fighting

    Not really.

    > 3. You did not search for allies.

    Not even lukewarm.

    > 4. You labeled those who did not agree with you as enemies / deniers, thereby making reconciliation difficult if not impossible.

    #ButDenier. I predict shirt-ripping.

    > 5. You did not define either victory or defeat.


    > 6. You let NGOs and lobbyists draw lines in the sand

    Again, false.

  64. Joshua says:

    Anders +

    > Our lack of substantive action is not because we haven’t had a good idea of what we should do, it’s mostly – in my view – because we haven’t really wanted to do anything.

    I think that is a bit reductionist. It isn’t, imo, that we haven’t wanted to do anything, but that knowing what to do and how to do it is quite hard. Further, this is a particularly difficult sort of problem that our existing institutions of problem-solving are not well-suited to handle.

    Low probability, high damage risk that plays out over a very long time horizon and which requires global-level policy coordination in the face of powerful, organized opposition is an absolutely enormous task.

    That mitigation policies haven’t been implemented doesn’t, in itself, mean that there is a “reason” or a “failure” beyond the simple fact that this is an enormously complicated problem.

    I think that reductionist explanations that don’t directly incorporate the complicated nature of the problem, are ultimately, likely counter-productive. I understand the urge to find and explanation, but it not useful, imo, to force one onto the situation because somehow it feels less existentially threatening than saying that there is no actual explanation (or at least that we don’t know what it is) .

  65. Joshua says:

    > Why should scientists necessarily change? Because what you did for 20 years did not advance your (nebulous, undefined even now) goals. Yeah–emitting CO2 is like mugging an old lady. Okay. Because your advocacy did not recruit the necessary numbers to affect / effect policy.

    BTW, that is a far worse form of reductionism, because it is nakedly tribalisyic, malicious, and vindictive.

  66. Joshua says:

    > Scientists involved in developing human understanding of the climate and the role of our CO2 emission on it, deserve the most credit for any progress made in reducing them and the least blame for any failure to reduce them faster.

    There’s that, also. The situation isn’t what we want it to be. That doesn’t mean that it wouldn’t be worse if “scientists” hadn’t find what they have done.

    Perhaps, they might have been more effective. Newsflash, the world isn’t perfect. Blaming scientists for a lack of perfection is counterproductive.

  67. ATTP, I don’t believe I have ever advocated pandering to those who were wrong–not on this thread, not anywhere.

  68. Joshua says:

    Andrew –

    > The difference between climate and ozone policy debates is that the forces of disinformation did a better job creating doubt, buying politicians, etc.

    In addition to the differences in the scale and efficiency of the opposition, I think that the scale of the problem is different, the immediacy of the problem in terms of conceptualizing it, is different, the scale of the solutions needed to address the problem, is different, and the degree to which the “solution space” has been toxically politicized (perhaps a subset of the opposition aspect), is different.

  69. Joshua says:


    > It’s not the job or even in the capabilities of climate scientists to change human nature. The simple fact is that we aren’t evolved to react strongly to slow-moving, complex, amorphous threats like climate change. And we are even less likely to take action that requires enormous sacrifice. A childlike “but why?” is always right beneath the surface.

    I concur.

  70. Tom,
    That is certainly what it sounds like.

  71. ecoquant says:

    @Joshua, @thomaswfuller2,

    I didn’t used to agree with him, at least not strongly, but I see the wisdom in what Dr Neil deGrasse Tyson has long claimed, that when the wealthy people — or, heck, just the upper middle class — begin to lose their wealth to climate disruption, they’ll begin to pay attention, quick.

    There’s a point that Prof Rob Young makes, which is they probably would be paying more attention already if it weren’t for the fact that coastal and inland flood losses, and damages from wildfires, that is, risks for both their properties and towns are socialized, and the American taxpayer is presently paying a $25 billion per year charge.

    Of course, what people do not know — but would if they knew more about the science — that some of these rates of damage are irreversible no matter what we do. We can, by zeroing emissions, keep them from getting worse, but they won’t get better on any timescale which has meaning for people, let alone policy.

    This is why I think a Minsky Moment is coming when the markets price in the risk very quickly, and we end up with a climate depression. That’ll be convincing enough, won’t it Thomas?

  72. izen says:

    “It was utterly predictable that scientists would bring spoons to a gunfight wearing cardboard instead of Kevlar. ”

    I would agree that scientists grossly underestimated the size and strength of the forces on the other side of the fight.
    One early ally was UK prime minister Margaret Thatcher, her speech at the UN in 1989 still stand up. But even the Iron lady found that opposition from many organizations, like the miners union to BP constrained her policy choices.

    I would be most interested, given your dismissal or Monckton, Morano, the Inhofes, WHO you regard as the enemies who did bring ‘guns and kevlar’ to the fight.

    My own take would be that in all this individuals, even groups of individuals, whether scientists or politicians are largely powerless embedded as we all are in a socio-economic system that has evolved to be extremely stable and resistant to change. It will require radical, even revolutionary, change to significantly curtail our cumulative CO2 additions to the climate system. But the current ethos is that change, especially if radical or revolutionary, is a BAD thing.
    The shared concept that change is possible, and the system under which we live can be improved by it, has largely been lost since its peak in the 1950s.
    There are nascent signs that it may be re-emerging in youth movements, but I would be interested to hear your opinion on how, and by what agency, it has been suppressed for ~50 years.

  73. Joshua says:

    eco –

    > that when the wealthy people — or, heck, just the upper middle class — begin to lose their wealth to climate disruption, they’ll begin to pay attention, quick.

    I don’t think it’s a mere matter of wealth. Wealthy and upper middle class people are motivated by more than just money.

    People don’t feel an impact in their everyday lives that is clear and unambiguous. Even if extreme weather increases globally, the liklihood of that impacting a particular individual in a manner clearly attributable to climate change in their lifetime is still rather small (for many decades out). The impact of a few degrees change over a few decades is basically an abstraction. At eh point where people’s lives are unambiguously impacted, economicslky or otherwise, is the point where the dynamics significantly change. Imo. Of course, that may be to late, but “too late” is rather abstract, until it isn’t.

  74. ecoquant says:


    The first broad-based climate impact will be food shortages.

  75. Joshua says:

    eco –

    > There are nascent signs that it may be re-emerging in youth movements, but I would be interested to hear your opinion on how, and by what agency, it has been suppressed for ~50 years.

    I am reluctant to characterize society-wide trends. I think that doing so is very hard.

    Douglass Adams:

    > 1. Anything that is in the world when you’re born is normal and ordinary and is just a natural part of the way the world works.
    2. Anything that’s invented between when you’re fifteen and thirty-five is new and exciting and revolutionary and you can probably get a career in it.
    3. Anything invented after you’re thirty-five is against the natural order of things.


    Hasn’t it always been thus?

    But if say that if anything, the pace of change had been steadily increasing, even if that engenders a steadily increasing fear of change from those me entrenched in the status so. (most older people). That seems to me like a logical function of an increasingly rapid pace of change, as then older people are necessarily faced with adapting to a greater quantity of change. I’m not sure that’s an outgrowth of some societal structure so much as human nature.

  76. Joshua says:

    Sorry – that was for izen (even though my opinion wasn’t requested).

  77. Russell Seitz says:

    James Dyke’s life-changing, striking, poignant, reckless,utterly insane, hellishly dangerous and horrifying hook paragraph:

    Inarguably, one of the most significant and long-lasting legacies of the 50-year old Apollo programme was the life-changing experience its astronauts had upon viewing the earth from the vantage point of another celestial body. The vision they described of its fragile and delicate beauty is all the more striking and poignant at this moment in climate emergency.

    We, that is to say, humanity has this beautiful planet, home now to 7 billion people with nowhere else to go, and are running a reckless experiment, that has taken the Earth system right out of the mode of operation it has been running in for millions of years. Climate and earth scientists should be and should have been the first to see the utter insanity of this hellishly dangerous undertaking.

    But in some strange way, and despite the warnings over the past decades of many individuals such as Roger Revelle, Jim Hansen, Kevin Anderson, to name but a few,–– it appears the latest generation of protesters, from Fridays for Future to Extinction Rebellion – have done far more to hammer home the real message that climate crisis cannot be taken lightly, and is urgently and ultimately a most horrifying question of life and death.

    less recalls Betteridge’s First Law of Polemics than Murphy’s Second Law of Systems Modeiing Hyperbole:
    If everything must go wrong, don’t bet on it. ”

    The problem being that the iteration of worst-case parameter assumptions eventually leads to the Precautionary Principle becoming reflexive.

    Something similar may apply to recruiting journal editors to support bien pensant climate communication campaigns- once you sign up the first 100, those following are quite powerless to question either the playbook or the style manual.

  78. Everett F Sargent says:

    [Let’s not pile on, please. -W]

  79. izen says:

    “I am reluctant to characterize society-wide trends. I think that doing so is very hard.”

    And I would always defer to insights from Douglas Adams !

    But I am not entirely convince there HAS been an accelerating pace of change.
    In my own 15-35 period there was the rise of computers, but where are the flying cars, personal jet-packs and all the wonders I was shown in Kubricks ‘2001’ ?
    And since that period when the ‘White Heat’ of technology was going to revolutionise the world, we have had increasing inequality and a shrinkage in the diversity of social and economic systems. Globalisation of neo-liberal capitalism has imposed a material and cultural uniformity. The ‘Green’ revolution in agriculture has enabled a massive rise in population, with most living above the subsistence level, but at the expense of local and communal systems that enriched lives.

    There is a phrase, “it takes a village…” but the village I grew up in is now just part of the urban sprawl that extends out from the nearest towns. And the local food along with the social interaction at the village shop is now replaced with a multi-national company selling a uniform range from a warehouse sized supermarket.

    Okay, some of this is ‘grumpy old man’ syndrome, and I am not dismissing the advances in medicine, female autonomy, and tolerance of cultural diversity that have occurred.
    However I do observe a shift towards rejection of political and economic change where the fear has been largely manufactured, rather than as a result or response to actual change. It appears to be a homeostatic defence mechanism of the ‘free’ market, individualism that dominates the current social zeitgeist rather than a cogent response to endogenous progress.

    The opposition to policy action to deal with climate change seems to be part of this imposed ideological inertia rather than the ‘fault’ of scientists persisting with a failed strategy.

    @-“that was for izen (even though my opinion wasn’t requested).”

    Your (and all) opinions are always welcome, requested or not.
    without interaction, supportive or oppositional, how can we evolve and improve our own understanding ?!

  80. ecoquant says:

    Upon thinking on the title of this post, I have this feeling emerging that it’s just too binary …

    Should climate scientists admit failure.

    I’ve long been a believer in Cromwell’s Rule, and, in fact, distrust discrete categories, but perhaps that’s just a professional bias.

    [T]he use of prior probabilities of 1 (“the event will definitely occur”) or 0 (“the event will definitely not occur”) should be avoided, except when applied to statements that are logically true or false, such as 2+2 equaling 4 or 5.

  81. mrkenfabian says:

    Whilst everyone bears some responsibility in this I really do think there are people – and positions – that do have fiduciary obligations with far greater responsibility, that make turning aside from the expert advice or undermining public trust in it a serious kind of negligence rather than a human right to choose what they believe about it.

    To expect ordinary people to be well informed and competent to assess the validity of climate science and what it tells us of consequences and risks is unreasonable – we should expect those with those duties of care and fiduciary obligations, who hold great influence over popular opinion, to be held to a higher standard, but they are not.

    When Greta Thunberg called out world leaders I cheered. They absolutely deserve to be called out. It is unforgivable that they know better but chose to encourage apathy where not cultivating outright distrust of the science to support the very industries and activities that make the problem worse. There is no room in the towering stacks of science based studies and reports to claim scientists didn’t inform them properly. And no room in their job responsibilities to pass over and ignore that advice.

  82. ecoquant says:


    Sure, but for better or worse the individual voice is everywhere, even if in total it is a cacaphony. We have the potential of producing electricity at less than $1 per MEGA Watt Hour by early 2030s with zero Carbon, cars are nearly smart enough to drive themselves and save us from the stupidity of engaging in the most dangerous thing we do every day, rockets can land themselves upright, and the intelligence agencies of the world’s governments are about to be crushed by the emergence of quantum computing.

    It’s far from all bad.

  83. anoilman says:

    mrken… Greta said it most eloquently…

    “I am doing this because you adults are shitting on my future.”
    –> Greta Thunberg

  84. Joshua,

    > Our lack of substantive action is not because we haven’t had a good idea of what we should do, it’s mostly – in my view – because we haven’t really wanted to do anything.

    I think that is a bit reductionist. It isn’t, imo, that we haven’t wanted to do anything, but that knowing what to do and how to do it is quite hard. Further, this is a particularly difficult sort of problem that our existing institutions of problem-solving are not well-suited to handle.

    Yes, fair point. It is more complex than simply not wanting to do something.

  85. Joshua says:

    izen –

    I see your points…and maybe the one thing to consider is that there are different axes of change vs. resistance/opposition to change or a tendency to remain static. I think of how difficult it is now to bring about economic change versus when labor battled company thugs openly in the streets or when Black Panthers carried rifles openly at their food banks.

    But I’ve been wondering lately if young children today are growing up in a social context of which no one older than maybe 25 really has any deep understanding. No one over 25 understands at an experiential level, the developmental impact of social media, what it means to walk around with a computer in your pocket, seeing homosexuality or a non-gender binary frame as “normal,” etc. Those are fundamental changes. I grew up thinking people over 30 weren’t trustworthy, but at least I could find mentors who could offer me social advice based on their personal experience. I suspect that may be harder for today’s younger generation. The wisdom of age and experience may be becoming obsolete. Certainly we can see a longer-term, broader global trend that the value of “elders” to society is diminished (as western values predominate)? I think that maybe change across a generational lens may be greater these days.

    Maybe I’ve drifted too far off topic…

  86. I been biting my tongue – but it would be much much much more realistic to admit it is the science communicator who failed.

    Scientists did their jobs, we didn’t do ours ! ! !
    (excuse the presumption of including myself)

  87. izen says:

    “No one over 25 understands at an experiential level, the developmental impact of social media, what it means to walk around with a computer in your pocket”

    To continue the drift….
    Although I hope to connect back to the thread subject – somewhere.

    I would agree that social media on the computer in your pocket is a fundamental change in how those who have experienced and developed their view of the world. There is a basic need for humans as a social species to connect with others (unless your on the autism spectrum?), this is now mediated through messaging apps, Instagram and most prominently, Facebook.
    This alters the signs and symbols that people use to form communal groups. One aspect is the diminution of speech and the written word and increases the role of imagery and graphics. The ‘young’ who are experiencing their social life through this medium develop a ‘language’ in which imagery is a far more nuanced and important aspect of inter-personal communication than at any time in the past. It may be as radical a change as printing making the written word the common basis for the development of a person’s understanding of the world, and literacy as the measure of our engagement with the larger society.

    But… (there is always a but)
    The actual way this is expressed is the proliferation of emojis and kitty filters that can be added to a snap of your friends, or food to bond with your social group. All of this is mediated not by the user, but by a few almost monopoly businesses that facilitate this mode of communication for their own advantage.

    The ‘scandals’ of privacy violations by Facebook (and others) show that the real purpose of the businesses that the young are submerged in is maximising the revenue from participants as eyeballs that can be sold to advertisers.
    Meanwhile in more authoritarian societies the possibility of knowing what people are taking an interest in, where they are, and what they are saying to each other, facilitates all the worst aspects of the ‘Big Brother’ nightmares of 1984.

    There is an ongoing tension between the ability of individuals to use the medium of the computer in the pocket to communicate privately and the desire of business to access their interests for profit, or governments to monitor the actions and attitudes of their populations. This is behind the strong opposition to messaging Apps that enable end-to-end encryption, were the provider of the service and the state has no direct access to the communication. It is one of the reasons the Blackberry died. However encryption is so easy to implement that businesses have developed methods of meta-analysis (cambridge analytics?) to ‘guess’ what adverts might be best directed at the users of social media. And authoritarian governments, when faced with people using social media to organise opposition, simply close down the communications entirely. (Egypt, Hong Kong…)

    So in a strained attempt to relate this to the topic;
    The young may exploit the new media to develop an emerging opposition to the hegemony of indifferent acceptance or rejection of climate change and the economic forces that perpetuate it. But they are doing so via a medium that is provided and controlled by private business and government oversight that has a strong motivation to impede and resist any effective or radical change to the status quo. There may be overt attempts to remove the most egregious excesses of bigotry or climate denial, and the provision of ‘fact checking’ that purports to filter the worst offenders, But it is all within a system that is run in the interests of private profit and government oversight. The system inherently favours the prevailing socio-economic system and even the attempts to constrain its worst aspects become part of the inertia that pervades the public and political arena of debate over the required policy responses to problems like climate change.

    It facilitates your next purchase of the latest gadget, and a para-social relationship with the Kardasians with far more ‘enthusiasm’ than any encouragement to engage with Greta Thunberg or any less personalised interest in the impacts and scientific concepts around climate change.
    Or other fundamental problems of economic inequality, personal autonomy, and social structure that face the younger generation.

    In context of this view, blaming ‘scientists’ or even science communicators, looks to me to be targeting a component of the process in how we understand and act in the social and political world that is almost entirely shaped by the means of communication rather than a active and causative agency.
    In fact I would see it as a deliberate move to distract from the real processes that have impeded rational policy choices in the face of climate change by shifting blame to those least culpable.

  88. Everett F Sargent says:

    This is kind of OT (relevant to the petition post of one A Thorpe above), but what the heck.

    The originat petition was stillborn on May 10, 2019 from Rome, Italy.


    (it is in Italian and this version has a PDF date of 2019-05-15)

    The original seven names are:
    Uberto Crescenti
    Alberto Prestininzi
    Renato Angelo Ricci
    Franco Battaglia
    Mario Giaccio
    Enrico Miccadei
    Nicola Scafetta

    This petition started to morph into the current petition about 2019-08-06
    (in Norwegian)

    The English speaking MSM became aware of the petition in early September (about a couple days after I stumbled upon a PDF copy (AFAIK)) when the petition had 400+ names.

    I think I’ve saved all relevant nonsense to and/or

  89. izen says:

    If my previous Looong comment makes it through moderation, this may make sense.
    (with credit to Stewart Lee)

  90. David B. Benson says:

    aTTP — I greatly prefer the new format which you tried and have now abandoned. I would appreciate a return.

  91. Jeffh says:

    Ken, the problem is not that scientists have failed to get the message across, but that not enough of us have stepped outside of our universities or research institutes to forcefully spread the message. If there has been a failure, then it has been complacency. As an ecologist I have tried to do my part and I am still trying, despite the fact that I open myself to bitter attacks for doing so (you don’t know the half of it). If many more of us stepped forward, then by sheer critical mass we would have much more of an impact.

  92. David,
    I don’t know what you mean.

    Yes, I also think that if more scientists were out spreading the message, it could have had a bigger impact and it would have been more difficult to spread misinformation. As you say, though, it can have some unpleasant consequences for those who do so (although if there were more, we might be able to better support each other).

  93. David B. Benson says:

    aTTP — For a short while your blog was formatted, on my mobile device running Android, in the style exemplified by
    Energy Matters

    That style has many advantages for me.

  94. David,
    I’m not aware of having changed anything. I’ll have a look at the settings.

  95. izen says:

    @-David B. Benson

    The site you reference is using a wordpress template that restricts the maximum width to around 980 pixels. This limits the resolution of images and the area of screen available to show text because of the space taken up by the sidebar.

    This site, and many other wordpress templates use a maximum width of 1240 as this is often the resolution available on some laptops and phones.
    AFAIK wordpress does not have any inbuilt detection to scale the site to the resolution of the device used to view it but depending on the browser you are using they may have implemented such a system at some time.

    If your mobile device is a phone with a screen resolution of less than 1240 wide in ‘portrait’ orientation it may clip on larger sites.
    If it will display the site in ‘landscape’ mode, with the phone held so the horizontal width is longer you should be able to see the whole page, but a shorter section of it at a time.

  96. mrkenfabian says:

    Jeffh – if scientists have to forcefully communicate outside of their institutions for world leaders to take climate science seriously there is something wrong in the world leaders, not the scientists. Scientist going out of their institutions to convince the public, because our governments won’t take an issue this serious seriously unless forced to by public opinion, is an indictment on our governments, not our scientists. Throwing this back to the public is abrogation of responsibility, but blaming scientist for not telling them, or not telling them well enough is an utterly false and reprehensible slander on scientists.

    The way I see it elected governments – the people that are elected governments – have no excuse; having called on science agencies to inform them and having received a succession of clear and understandable advisements, they are only uninformed or misinformed by choice. In addition to the summaries moderately well educated people can comprehend, they have gotten pyramids of fractally stacked information that goes all the way down to the raw data. And even the specs on thermometers and thermocouples if they want it.

    Doing anything other than taking that abundance of consistent expert advice of a problem of this magnitude very seriously is dangerously irresponsible. People in government telling the public anything other than that it is very serious is irresponsibly dangerous. Greta Thunberg is right; her generation won’t ever forgive it – because they won’t have the option of forgetting it.

  97. David Benson,
    That’s just a mobile vs desktop setting. There’s a link for a “View Full Site” at the bottom. I am guessing that Euan Mearns didn’t configure his blog to recognize mobile clients so he generates the full site settings as the only option.

  98. ecoquant says:

    @mt, and all,

    From my personal perspective, thank you very for this interesting discussion. Highlighted by our UU services this morning, and in my personal opinion, I think it’s time to be unreasonable. No scientist — apart from the Richard Lindzens (*) of the world — is responsible for our situation. They, and including some of their most prominent, have repeatedly reached out to governments to understand the situation and to do something.

    But the facts are the present process and political structures and polity have known about this problem for at least 30 years. And, by any measures which matter, namely global greenhouse gas emissions or even global CO2 emissions, they have completely failed to do anything about it. Even the United States, which long and falsely touted its “emissions being flat” and “growth decoupled from emissions”, still hasn’t reduced them. (It’s false because they’ve simply exported manufacturing emissions to Asia, and are ever growing in their consumption per capita.) Sure, solar and PV are a thing in the USA now, but, frankly, that’s largely to Germany’s and China’s credit, showing you could scale this at cheap costs, whatever their other shortcomings.

    So, we’ve waited, and it is time to be unreasonable, as I began, beginning with the plans of groups like Extinction Rebellion to become highly inconvenient and annoying. That probably won’t go well at first, given that people who have simply brought food and water to people crossing the U.S. border are facing 10 years in prison. But I don’t have any better suggestions. And to the people who don’t want to be inconvenienced and annoyed, the answer is for them to come up, quickly with a means of dropping year over year emissions, globally.

    Not much more to say.

    (*) In all honesty, while I’m not a scientist, I do not understand the respect he is afforded by some of his colleagues at MIT, something which I witnessed first hand at a symposium. I’d say that’s just respect for his knowledge and contributions, but I’ve personally witnessed some of the same colleagues, not all from MIT, look down upon and make unjustified negative remarks about solid earth geologists and field oceanographers, even those at MIT. I witnessed that at a symposium, too, as people were walking through the geology and oceanography corridors between sections.

  99. David B. Benson says:

    Paul Pukite, thank you! Switching to Full Site mode provides what I prefer.

  100. Jeffh says:

    mrkenfabian, I am hearing you. Underneath all of this lies a rotten political system that is much too beholden to the power of the corporate lobby. We scientists are citizens too and we are on the front lines so to speak of the data and knowledge. Whether we speak out or not, those who deny the harmful effects of climate change or other anthropogenic stresses are far better organized, well funded and vocal than we are. The battle for hearts and minds is being waged through the social media and mainstream media; both are heaviliy weighted because of the current dominant political system under the guise of neoliberal capitalism to support the views of those who downplay global environmental change. The result is paralysis. This explains the frustration expressed by Greta Thunberg and her large and growing number of followers in Extinction Rebellion and other protest movements.

    The most important thing holding us back is that we are currently locked into a political system that is essentially sociopathetic. Despite their lofty rhetoric, leaders like Macron and Trudeau are as committed to it as those on the right. Therein lies the rub. We cannot have it both ways. I do not see an easy way out of the morasse into which we are now. Wholesale change is needed, and fast, before we well and truly go over the precipice.

  101. David B. Benson says:

    ecoquant, near the end of
    some informed criticisms of that CleanTechnica opinion piece can be found.

  102. verytallguy says:

    I went to an Extinction Rebellion meeting last night.

    Essentially it was split into two parts: Firstly a talk about the science and secondly about the aims and methods of Extinction Rebellion.

    The science talk was a bit ropey; whilst broadly correct there were lots of little errors and a few whoppers. The sense I had was that was more down to the speaker, who was not particularly knowledgeable, rather than an issue with XR’s position.

    The part about the organisation was more interesting, with an analysis that politics is unable to solve the problem we have, so disruptive civil disobedience is essential to drive change. They’re strictly non-violent and rather than campaigning for a particular set of policies, they want a people’s assembly set up to define policy in a democratic way. It was quite amusing for a *very* law abiding audience to be discussing the finer points of what is, and is not an arrestable offence! There’s a big event in London next week, and a bunch of protesters from their last event are due in court:

    An interesting evening, not sure that I‘d go back, but good to see the upwelling of concern and action.

    At the weekend I also went to a transition towns event, which guess is the opposite end of the grassroots climate change movement. Had a pleasant morning chopping apples from the community orchard for pressing into juice.

  103. vtg,
    Interesting. I’m giving my first public climate science talk at an event in a couple of weeks time. Hope it’s not as ropey as the talk in your XR event 🙂

  104. verytallguy says:

    I see yours is a flight free 2020. One of the founders of XR is currently charged with conspiracy for flying drones at Heathrow. I think conspiracy carries potentially quite long sentences.

    Hope the talk goes well.

  105. verytallguy says:

    [incidentally, typing this whilst listening in to a telecon on a meeting I’m supposed to have flown to really…]

  106. Joshua says:

    What’s ropey?

  107. verytallguy says:

    “What’s ropey?”

    Poor quality

  108. Joshua says:


  109. verytallguy says:

    No idea!

  110. ecoquant says:


    Well one thing to work on is taking back control of your energy supply. Centralizing energy supply may once have been a great idea, when capitalization was needed, but centralizing control of energy also centralizes political power and influence.

    It is also highly inefficient, both in terms of Sankey losses and in terms of grid rollout … Everyone on the grid receives the quality of power needed by the most demanding customer, whereas things like variable speed motors can tolerate a great deal of poorer quality power.

    Decentralization of power solves a lot of these things. While I’m principally speaking to electricity here, the same can be true of fossil fuel supplies to transport.

    See ILSR for some details.

  111. ecoquant says:

    @David B Benson,

    Looked at the critiques. I’ll say something about four:

    (1) “Since the scalable ‘renewables’ are massively unreliable, no feasible overbuild is going to get rid of periods of shortage.” I don’t know what you mean by “massively unreliable”. Do you mean they fail? Or do you mean they have intermittent and low capacity factors? If you mean the former, I want to see your evidence, because I just looked at 5 year reliability for wind (internationally) and it’s pretty damn good. If you mean the latter, I’d say (a) you are stuck in traditional utility thinking, and (b) you aren’t planning on using spatial decorrelation.

    (2) “Mechanical carbon capture and sequestration is a mostly dead end”. What’s the cost per captured and sequestered tonne CO2 of the Allam cycle? It had better be less than US$0.10 per tonne, or it’s as useless as the rest of the schemes for doing this are.

    (3) “Nuclear power is too slow to build and too expensive”, and “That’s because people like him have made it so.” No, the problem is that nuclear power was never turned into a replicable commodity, no matter where it was done by whatever country. It was always cost-plus. That was a business decision made early on. It needn’t be so, in principle, although I’ve read some experts on it who claim you just can’t commoditize it in units that are small enough to make it financially worthwhile. Besides, any New Way for nuclear power will take decades to turn around, and we don’t have the time.

    (4) The stuff about Australia … You need offshore wind farms far from land, and lots and lots more geographically distributed PV with some kind of storage (battery, compressed air, hydro, something). Or the demand needs to be matched to the load. At least one U.S. aluminum smelter no longer operates when there’s no sun. Simple as that.

    And, no, I’m not going to go discuss this on “proboards”.

  112. ecoquant says:

    Yeah, @verytallguy,

    You’ll find the level of scientific accuracy among environmental progressives to be pretty uneven. That’s why I offered a course this Summer called “Climate science for climate activists”. They need it.

  113. anoilman says:

    I came across this and was very unhappy;

    Shipping companies are scrubbing sulfur from their exhaust… and dumping the sulfur in the ocean.

  114. mrkenfabian says:

    Ecoquant – I think that, despite the ongoing failures of governance to date, the lengths the opponents and obstructors of strong climate policy go to looks like an indicator of the continuing potential for the politics on this to turn against them. The alternative seems to be a world so immersed in FUD that nothing can turn out well. I think that when the tipping point is passed governments with a mandate to act will also be more empowered to act – if denial loses it’s high level support base I think it’s influence could dissipate quite quickly.

    I found much to agree with in the CleanTechnica “Short list of climate actions” you linked to. I would add variable, time of use electricity pricing to that list in order to better build in the market incentives to moderate and adapt to intermittency and variability of supply from lots of wind and solar. By making the costs of backup/storage “firming” more explicit and direct those investing in it can better exploit the opportunities – and energy users can better assess the worth of opportunistically reducing their load versus paying higher prices and conversely schedule heavy energy use processes to take advantage of wind and solar oversupply. I expect more sophisticated predictions of supply and demand, including through integrating weather forecasting to become an essential tool for grid management, from both the supply and the demand sides. I don’t think this is a model that will suit nuclear.

    I would like to add gas backup that can transition to Hydrogen to the list of transitional options – and my understanding is a lot of gas plant should be able to run on H2, although I am not sure how it would compare cost wise to pumped hydro, grid scale batteries or aggregations of home and EV batteries. Or demand management.

    I do think Hydrogen has a lot of potential – even if I have doubts about it making big, early inroads in transport the industrial applications make it important to push ahead with; for one it appears to be the best low emissions iron and steel making option. I think that by using on-site production and storage and use in locations that, by their nature, have excellent grid connections (to draw upon wind and solar during periods of abundance) there are synergies that make Gas to Hydrogen worthwhile pursuing. If for no other reason that because it would be one kind of backup option that the blinkered thinkers can comprehend.

    David B Benson – my experiences of the old BNC blog did not make me keen to return. Admittedly I was being provocative with my non-standard views about climate science denial as a more serious problem for nuclear than anti-nuclear activism and that upset some of the resident climate science deniers there – enough for me to be told by Barry to shut up about it. I think nuclear-for-climate activism needs to clean it’s house of those resident deniers and lose the environmentalist blaming – if indeed winning pro-renewables environmentalist over is the intent of the relentless criticisms. As cause in common between nuclear supporters and climate science deniers the greenie bashing looks like a bridge that is better burned. The cause in common must be the transition to low emissions, ahead of any preferences for or against RE or Nuclear.

  115. ecoquant says:

    Thanks, Ken (@mrkenfabian).

    I’m not opposed to Hydrogen options either. I don’t know, but I suspect the tankage is too bulky to do airline engine replacements, although, for cargo and things that can take some time, the Varialift options look intriguing.

    I think the first things that need to go are direct and regulatory subsidies of fossil fuels, such as, for instance, the Natural Gas Act. At the stage of development zero Carbon energy sources are, I don’t believe fossil fuels can compete in an unsubsidized open marketplace any longer with zero Carbon sources, although I’d tip the scales in favor of zero Carbon for reasons of speed.

    A lot of the regulatory capture on the part of fossil is based upon standard themes like “when the sun don’t shine and the wind don’t blow”, which is silly, since any locale has seen one or more major fossil fuel (or nuclear) plants go inconveniently offline, too. There are two ways to deal with Intermittency. One is neutralizing by adequate spatial decorrelation, and by forcing ISOs and RTOs to cooperate beyond their natural regions. The other way is to begin to break up the ISO/RTO central utility model, and make small towns as independent of one another as possible, with power sharing arrangements, and insist big users of electrical and other energy secure their own sources, paying for them themselves. There’s a lot of free loading which industry and businesses do.

    In the second option, sure, there will, on net be more energy generated across the country than if it could be shuffled around. But shuffling doesn’t come for free, especially if it’s rapid, and demands a replacement to the grid. It also has the political cost of putting those in charge of it in a higher place of influence.

    Sadly, the Extinction Rebellion people don’t have strong scientific or engineering/quantitative chops. They focus upon “climate justice” and such things, but, in my book, simply shouting that stuff doesn’t get it done. I don’t think of government, at least in the United States, as being a particular effective vehicle for advancing these. Some corporations might be, but XR and Sunrise don’t tend to trust them either.

    So, in my personal life, I strongly push decentralized solar PV, and fight against limitations on it which local towns and their residents put either because of aesthetic objections or silly “it’s not natural arguments.” (We, for instance, can’t put more than 15 kW on our roof, even though we would love to do so, because of a stupid town bylaw.) I also push EVs. We don’t fly on vacations, generally. We sold our Disney Vacation Club membership (used the funds to buy a Tesla), because we couldn’t justify flying. I will be flying more because both my kids have moved to London. When I do, I purchase handsome offsets, by buying WRECs for a local land-based wind farm cooperative. And we purchase “gift” offsets for family who do travel.

    We’ve driven our Carbon emissions really low, but still far from zero. Just think there’s a lot people can do setting examples.

  116. David B. Benson says:

    mrkenfabian, there are no climate science deniers on the BNC Discussion Forum. You are certainly welcome there.

  117. mrkenfabian says:

    David – glad to hear the climate science deniers aren’t still lurking at BNC. Nonetheless, the overlap of climate science denial with nuclear advocacy continues strong; just look at just who pushed hardest for the Parliamentary Inquiry into nuclear energy in Australia. Hard to find a prominent supporter in Australia who is not, simultaneously and antithetically, a supporter of coal and gas who is opposed to strong climate action. With friends like that…

  118. David B. Benson says:

    mrkenfabian, I try to post to
    what I can find from the online news about the Australian grid. That includes the current inquiry regarding legalizing nuclear power in Australia. I don’t notice particular advocacy by the “bad guys”, but I am not Australian, having only visited there for most of a year.

    So kindly post whatever else you find that is relevant to that thread. Whatever, links are ordinarily expected.

  119. Ben McMillan says:

    I got pretty turned off the old BNC blog 15 years or so ago: indeed it seemed to be full of people who were very enthusiastic about nuclear power but many of whom were at best ambivalent about climate science. There was a lot of silly straw-manning about renewables. I did end up doing a minor research project with one of the guys there though, so I can’t complain too much.

    You would hope that the debate would move on from ‘but renewables don’t work all the time’ given that there are a whole bunch of papers explaining how to build a zero-carbon grid where most of the energy is generated by wind/solar. You do actually need a significant amount of dispatchable generation capacity.

    I think the evidence about what kinds of zero-carbon options are viable has changed a lot in the last 15 years, but many opinions have not. There is not a lot of ‘marking your beliefs to market’ going on.

  120. ecoquant says:

    Some decent good news, from FT today:

  121. mrkenfabian says:

    David – I’m afraid the overlapping of advocacy for nuclear and climate science denial is very real in Australia. The Minerals Council of Australia – prominent amongst those supporting this Parliamentary Inquiry into nuclear energy – supplied Scott Morrison with his famous lump of coal – “Don’t be afraid!”

    The MCA has been a relentless opponent of climate action and it’s support for the unrestricted growth of the use of fossil fuels is unwavering – if they were confident of sufficient support for new Nuclear they would probably have sufficient support for new Coal and I think they would not hesitate to push nuclear under a bus (preferably a Kombi bus in hippie colours) to get it. It has been rated amongst the top 10 influential opponents of meaningful climate action in the world and key government Offices in Australia – those making the relevant policies – are well stacked with people with the “right” attitude to fossil fuels drawn from the MCA. Any alleged support for nuclear energy as climate solution – to replace coal and gas – from this organisation is disingenuous anti-environmentalist (ie anti-climate activist) rhetoric at best.

    Meanwhile the BCA (Business Council of Australia) supports climate action and nuclear energy in principle but stripped of it’s rhetorical flourishes it only supports meaningful climate action if that is cheaper for Australian businesses than NOT supporting climate action. Despite it’s claim to support carbon pricing I fully expect any actual proposals to do so will be fiercely opposed by the BCA, not supported.

    MP Barnaby Joyce, who pushed hardest for this inquiry, is a hardened and brazen denier of climate science – a man who encouraged and supported the late Bob Carter organise lecture tours to spread BS through rural Australia about climate change.

    Note that his party (The Nationals) does NOT have a policy of addressing climate change using nuclear – which makes his “If you want zero emissions but you don’t want nuclear power, you should shut up” call look a tad insincere.

    Nuclear-for-climate advocacy in Australia cannot throw their lot in with these people – or turn aside from calling out their denial and obstruction – and expect to be taken seriously by people who want action on climate.

  122. ecoquant says:

    (This is written tongue-in-cheek) Can we use Australia as a testing ground for H2SO4 solar geoengineering? I hear it might destroy the Ozone Layer …

  123. mrkenfabian says:

    ecoquant – I understand burning high sulphur coal is an effective way to add that to the atmosphere, Australia has lots of it and our current government thinks every patriotic Australian should support coal mining but… please don’t!

  124. BBD says:

    It’s not nuclear that should be keeping you up at night; it’s the gas industry’s infiltration of the renewables sector. For example:

    [quote]A Renewable Energy Giant Makes a $1 Billion Bet on Natural Gas

    One of America’s biggest renewable-energy companies is making a bet on natural gas.
    NextEra Energy Partners LP agreed to buy Meade Pipeline Co., an owner of a pipeline that provides gas from Pennsylvania, in a deal valued at about $1.37 billion, according to a statement Monday.

    While NextEra Energy Partners already owns pipelines in Texas, it’s viewed by many investors as a wind and solar company, owning 5 gigawatts of renewables as of mid-June. The move to buy a pipeline comes as utilities and cities across the U.S. are pushing to drastically cut back on burning fossil fuel.

    “It is slightly surprising that NEP doubled-down on gas exposure,” Pavel Molchanov, an analyst at Raymond James, said in an interview Monday. “This is not what the company has generally been focused on.”

    Shares of NextEra Energy Partners gained as much as 1.7% Monday.

    NextEra Energy Partners expects the deal to yield a double-digit return. Plus, the pipeline will help balance any “potential resource volatility” in the company’s existing portfolio, Jim Robo, chairman and chief executive officer, said in the statement.

    “Listen, when we did the original IPO, now I guess more than 5 years ago, we said the focus was going to be on clean-energy assets — and I view gas pipelines as clean energy,” Robo said on a call with analysts. “Gas is an important bridge to a low- or zero-carbon future, 30 years out.”

    While gas-fired generators emit fewer emissions than coal plants, environmentalists and local governments are increasingly pushing to phase out fossil fuels altogether as part of their efforts to fight climate change. In July, Berkeley, California, became the first U.S. city to ban natural gas from most new buildings. Its Bay Area neighbor, San Jose, followed suit with a ban on gas in most residential buildings. Other cities — including San Francisco and Seattle — are considering the move.

    Even NextEra Energy Partners’s parent company — which Robo also runs — is pushing to cut greenhouse gases, saying it will reduce its carbon dioxide emissions 40% by 2025, while doubling electricity production. The company, NextEra Energy Inc., is already the biggest U.S. wind and solar owner.

    Meade owns a roughly 40% interest in the Central Penn Line, a 185-mile (298-kilometer) interstate pipeline that connects the Marcellus Shale basin in Pennsylvania to the mid-Atlantic and Southeast. The deal is expected to close within the next 60 days, and it includes a $90 million expansion project expected to be completed in mid-2022. The Marcellus is the biggest source of U.S. natural gas.

    NextEra’s existing seven gas pipelines include the NET Mexico system, which carries U.S. shale gas south of the border.

    “Those types of assets, combined with renewables, give you a very solid base,” Robo said on the call.[/quote]

    You will recall previous discussions about gas infrastructure and a potentially hamstrung decarbonisation of the electricity sector.

  125. anoilman says:

    BBD: Its also not surprising to see Gas companies doing this. If you live in a cooler region, you’re consuming less and less gas for heating.

    What’s a poor buggy whip company to do? Why sell electricity of course…

  126. ecoquant says:

    (What happened there? Please delete the above comment.)

    What’s a poor buggy whip company to do? Why sell electricity of course…

    If this is a means of transitioning a fossil fuel business to zero Carbon energy, I’m all for it!

  127. ecoquant says:

    By the way, all, the MIT symposium (first of six sessions) “Progress in Climate Science” has just begun, live streamed.

  128. BBD says:

    If this is a means of transitioning a fossil fuel business to zero Carbon energy, I’m all for it!

    It isn’t. It’s a means for the gas industry to keep itself going at the expense of effective decarbonisation. We’ve been through this before, so I don’t want to rehash it, but just watch the gas industry – carefully.

  129. “….watch the gas industry – carefully.”

    And politicians. Nord Stream 2 is almost done. They spent $10 billion on a pipeline expansion to Europe because they intend to use it. Germany didn’t waste money and political capital on it just to appease Russian corporations. It’s because people with real-world experience with renewables – like NextEra and Germany – realized that a renewable plan is a gas plan.

  130. ecoquant says:

    Hey, it means zero Carbon energy has arrived, @David B Benson, when the Mafia is interested in it!

    Frankly, while I’ll oppose any new natural gas infrastructure in Massachusetts, by voting and demonstrating where necessary, I’m not as concerned about it overall as I used to be. The projected cost curves for wind energy and especially solar PV are so awesome that eventually, buying zero Carbon energy will be the only financial choice that makes sense, including whatever additional technology or service you need to pay for to get over the intermittency. Personally, I like storage as a service models along with privately funded and controlled generation over wide regions, especially dynamic microgrids, at scale.

    One of the problems with a purely political solution is that the leadership can be effectively bought off, if not in brides or campaign contributions, with quid pro quos. Also centralizing energy is centralizing political power as I’ve mentioned many times before. I should also note that was true about the Reign of Terror, which was a “wonderful” people’s movement.

  131. anoilman says:

    ecoquant\BBD: Yeah… Natural Gas is sold as some sort of transition fuel, but its not. There’s many issues with it from fracking, to fugitive emissions, and finally consumption.

  132. ecoquant says:


    Dig it. I was down/depressed because after efforts to prohibit the West Roxbury Lateral (Spectra Energy), while we did turn explosive methane pipelines into the “third rail” of Massachusetts politics, no environmental group (in Massachusetts) would take up my strongly voiced suggestion to wage a campaign to discourage use of natural gas for (at least) new builds, particularly of commercial.

  133. David B. Benson says:
  134. Ben McMillan says:

    My grounds for thinking that ‘climate scientists warning everyone we ought to reduce emissions’ has actually been useful, is that things could be worse. Despite a continuing growth in world emissions, the technologies are now in place that could allow a transition to occur. It is hard to believe that most new electricity capacity would be renewables in a world where scientists had just shut up.

    In the counterfactual world where no-one cared about CO2, I can image a lot of coal-to-X going on.

    In the UK, coal usage has gone to pretty much zero over the last 20 years, and gas usage has sharply declined. The EU as a whole is reducing gas and coal usage over the long-term. So there are also places where some kind of progress appears to be being made, even if it is inadequate.

  135. Ben said:
    “In the UK, coal usage has gone to pretty much zero over the last 20 years, and gas usage has sharply declined.”

    Adding with a dash of sarcasm, you really have to wonder why this is the case. Could it be that the UK essentially exhausted all of their finitely extractable coal resources? Could it be that they are doing the same with their offshore NG and oil resources? Ever wonder why Thatcher’s policies were so popular? Now the UK is importing wood pellets from North Carolina to burn. I really don’t think it is as much a part of a renewable energy strategy as it is providing for energy needs by whatever works. I could be wrong.

  136. verytallguy says:


    In the UK, coal usage has gone to pretty much zero over the last 20 years, and gas usage has sharply declined.

    On gas, are you sure about that?

    this was the most recent could find, but I’m thinking you have a better reference?

  137. Ben McMillan says:

    “UK energy in brief” is a pretty good.

    Click to access UK_Energy_in_Brief_2018.pdf

    For gas, see figure on p25. Note most of the gas is not used for electricity production.

    For coal, figure on p18.

    None of the accounts I’ve read suggest depletion of coal reserves as the reason for decline in consumption: indeed there seem to be very large reserves remaining. Much of England still has metre-thick coal seams under it. Good luck getting a permit to mine it.

    Gas is another story, obviously.

  138. Ben said:

    “None of the accounts I’ve read suggest depletion of coal reserves as the reason for decline in consumption: indeed there seem to be very large reserves remaining. Much of England still has metre-thick coal seams under it. Good luck getting a permit to mine it.”

    Dave Rutledge from CalTech wrote:

    “For coal, we start with the United Kingdom. The British production cycle is nearly complete, and it is substantial, equivalent in energy content to the cumulative Saudi oil production. There are excellent production records back to 1854, and there is even a good cumulative production figure for 1853. The Victorians were outstanding geologists, and there are good reserve estimates back to 1864. British coal even had a Hubbert. His name was William Stanley Jevons, and he was an economist . . . Jevons wrote that even though the reserves-to-production (R/P) ratio was around 1,000 years, exponential growth would exhaust British coal in the 20th century. Jevons was right. In his time, there were more than 3,000 coal mines. Now the British are down to six major underground mines . . . .”

    Every finite non-renewable natural resource goes through this cycle, which is usually taught in earth sciences classes.

  139. anoilman says:

    I prefer to go to my happy place and consume large amounts of Hopium;

    Hawaii is implementing load shifting with electric water heaters. The benefits are positively massive for dealing with daily load shifting. The idea is that if you use an water heater.. you simply over heat the water when energy is cheap, and don’t use any electricity for water heating during peak demand. Under central control, this can really clean up and stabilize a grid, kinda like the Tesla Battery stabilizing predominantly fossil fuels issues in Australia.

    Click to access PLMA%20Steffes%20Presentation%2011-13-17.pdf

  140. ecoquant says:


    Indeed, our home hot water heater (heat pump) has this load shifting capability, conceivably controllable by a remote utility. Unfortunately, there are no programs in greater Boston taking advantage of these.

    I’ve also heard that load shifting in commercial buildings can help a lot, as well as using chillers rather than convention A/C and also variable speed fans, rather than bang-bang ones.

  141. izen says:

    Here is the latest instalment in the – ‘Renewables bad, Gas/Nuclear good.’ trope.

    The past secretary of the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality reports that Duke energy has found that the need to ramp up gas plants to cover the lack of night-time solar power causes more pollution than running them continuously. They also have to ramp Nuclear power up and down rather than running the reactors continuously which takes time so gas plants have to cover that gap as well.

    This apparently makes the cost of both gas and nuclear power generation more expensive because the plants are run intermittently and so less efficiently as well as increasing the pollution from the gas plants.

    Load-shifting to minimise demand at night by utilising all the possible solar power with more generation during the day with storage for that reduced demand is not mentioned.

  142. ecoquant says:


    The Duke Energy mindset is another example of how to turn ignorance — this time of how to properly manage zero Carbon energy — into an advantage.

    I imagine the gas plants which are more polluting are peakers, as they are typically available on short calls. They are needed to back up nuclear power plants, too, which can withdrawn massive amounts of generation on very short notice. True, these don’t vary as much as wind and solar. But, also true, if wind and solar are distributed widely enough, they won’t swing in unison, except, of course, for solar when the Sun sets.

    Peakers are also much less efficient and more polluting than combined gas generation, at least I believe that is still true. Perhaps someone on the benches can correct my knowledge which dates from about 5+ years ago.

  143. David B. Benson says:

    izen, thanks for the link to the van der Vaart piece in The Federalist. I added the link to the
    thread at the BNC Discussion Forum site.

  144. David B. Benson says:

    ecoquant, you should fault the regulatory commission, not Duke Energy, which just does what it is told to do.

    An open cycle gas turbines, often called a peaker, is basically a jet engine connected to a generator. It responds quickly but is quite inefficient as the hot exhaust is wasted, rejected in industry parlance. A CCGT, combined cycle gas turbine, uses the reject heat from the turbine to heat water for a Rankine cycle steam powered generator. It takes time to heat the water so a CCGT is only efficient if run for hours at a time. A typical use on a grid with little solar power is from before sun up until about 11 pm, supplying the intermediate load.

  145. ecoquant says:

    @David B Benson,

    Oh, and I think you should be more knowledgeable of the legal landscape, it’s all about regulatory capture:

    Click to access Introduction%20from%20Preventing%20Regulatory%20Capture.pdf

    But thanks for the detail about peakers. Yes, as evil as I thought. But, with a limited imagination and planning mindset, when rather than working expected returns, one either abandons planning altogether, or decides it’s too complicated and, besides, the participants are willing to contribute to one’s election campaign, responding to things as they happen seems to be the “best” approach.

    ERCOT began with a proper model,

    and, then, apparently, those worried non-fossil would be too great a success, wrested control away.

  146. anoilman says:

    izen: I didn’t really think there was anything news worthy in what they said there. You can sum it up with “We got problems that we need to look at.” And it notes that the cost of a paid off power plant is cheaper than a new one. Umm… Duh?

    That article is also looking at supply only. Why? Demand is far more variable, and would easily cause the same kind of problems. Everyone already knows this… Here’s a peak load offset for coal, pumped storage, built in 1959;

    That article is not doing a useful job of looking at other scenarios, like… what happens with regular use with conventional grid? If you use coal.. then what? Too much demand… you brown out? You turn it off? Or are those pesky peaker plants gonna do the same thing? (Yeah.)

    I’m of the opinion that where there has been serious deployment of renewables that the grid is in between where we want it, and where it was. Coal and natural gas are the batteries. That isn’t good but its better than burning coal and natural gas 24/7. It also means that we have a messy grid that’s kinda over priced while it tries to reduce emissions.

    (Sorry if I seem dour. I’m an engineer, and engineers talking about problems is a little like asking old people how they feel.)

    The SOD (Science Of Doom) painted a pretty bleak picture for a fully renewable grid, and its conclusion a few years back was that nuclear needed to be in the mix (JP Morgan Advises);

    However… times have changed and actual new tech is now available. Larger wind turbines have higher capacity factors which would dramatically reduced grid expansion costs. Time will tell.

  147. ecoquant says:


    And what I’m excited about is “the grid”. I’m increasingly pessimistic that that corresponds to the Grid we know today, because of many reasons, but, it seems, primarily, because (a) those who own pieces of it don’t really know how to cooperate and interoperate with the others that know pieces of it, except at extremely narrow interfaces, and (b) because if they need to change it out, they have no concept of doing that as an investment risk, but, rather, per the canonical utility model, expect to be paid for each and everything they do.

    So “the grid” of which I speak might be a decentralized one operated by third investment parties, either with the blessings of the local governance (state), or, in the case of their opposing it, finding out ways of being utilities without being actual legal utilities. And it has the opportunity of introducing gads of computing distributed among its components, sampling flow conditions at megahertz rates, and making judgments about routing and flows accordingly. I can see a lot of great opportunities for maths there, and for generalizations of the dynamic microgrid idea.

    Plus, when people speak of storage these days, they are also unimaginative. They think of pumped hydro, or batteries. There are lots of other options, like pumped fluids at depth under water (oceans, lakes), or thermal energy storage.

  148. Ben McMillan says:

    There are a lot of issues at the moment with power grids that are still designed and regulated on the assumption that the bulk of the power comes from spinning synchronous generators.

    The result is a bunch of fossil plants that could otherwise be turned off running at low load to provide enough inertia, as well as enough free capacity when another plant drops out. This, combined with financial incentives to do things like keep solar plant running when the wholesale price is negative, lead to various unfortunate outcomes.

    The grid stability/robustness issues make battery storage attractive: they can provide very rapid (millisecond-scale) ramping capacity for fault situations and provide synthetic inertia (behave on the grid as if they were a spinning synchronous generator).

    These kind of ‘grid services’ are actually what the Tesla big battery in South Australia makes most of its money out of, rather than time-shifting energy around. As a result looks like it will recoup the initial investment in a couple of years.

    As far as I can tell the grid has always been pretty ‘messy’ and complicated, but nobody paid much attention until recently.

  149. izen says:

    @-David B
    “you should fault the regulatory commission, not Duke Energy, which just does what it is told to do.”

    That presupposes the regulatory commission is making decisions independently from any ‘capture’ by Duke energy.

    As Oilman comments, the report looks at problems on the supply side with intermittent renewables while ignoring any issues with the management of the variability on the demand side.
    This may be ascribed to the old-fashioned assumption that the variations in demand are sacrosanct and the sole purpose of the supply grid is to meet that demand whatever it is, with minimal effort to modify it by differential costing or any local or remote adjustment. To some extent this because the current(!) grid is inflexible and unable to adapt or manage demand variation in any effective manner.
    Centralised and local storage may change this.

    But that apparent limitation is rooted in a much more basic aspect of power supply. The profit from providing energy comes from maximising demand and then for-filling it as cheaply as possible while charging a fixed rate to the user.
    Any attempt to manage demand that would decrease it, or even shift it from times when it is highly profitable to supply at a cost related to the production cost, will be resisted because it undermines the fundamental purpose of the business.
    To maximise demand and derive the most profit from doing so.

  150. David B. Benson says:

    izen, the regulatory commission is appointed by the governor. Other states have thereby taken more innovative approaches than North Carolina. For the most radical revision, learn about ERCOT Texas. Just an energy-only market for the generators.

    Learn about how that worked this past summer; at the end of

  151. Ben McMillan says:

    Paul: I haven’t seen any evidence of substantial supply-side issues in coal production in the UK in the 20th C (indeed, the price trends suggest the opposite up till 1970). All the histories I’ve seen discuss issues of demand (basically, I’m just noting that you and the other peak-oilers are contrarians). Roger Fouquet has written interesting stuff in this area.

    I wouldn’t normally engage on the peak-X stuff, but this is in fact a perfect example when society acted against appalling negative externalities (lethal pollution, pea-soupers) by effectively banning a kind of fossil fuel (via the clean air acts in the 50s). There were a lot of stranded assets in the form of coal mines, and lots of job losses.

    Maybe we could learn something from the 1950s? That people can and have made significant progress to cut pollution?

  152. izen says:

    @-David B
    “the regulatory commission is appointed by the governor. Other states have thereby taken more innovative approaches than North Carolina.”

    I’m shocked, shocked to find that corruption is going on there!
    And yet scientists get blamed for ‘communication failure’.

  153. Ben said:

    “when society acted against appalling negative externalities (lethal pollution, pea-soupers) by effectively banning a kind of fossil fuel (via the clean air acts in the 50s). “

    Nice try. Regulations against emitting dark smoke (London’s Clean Air Act of 1956). All one sees nowadays is the white smoke, which is largely water vapor. Thanks to scrubbers, etc. That was Clean Coal 1.0

  154. Ben McMillan says:

    Coal use in the UK was mostly not for electricity in the 50s-60s:

    The clean air act was largely responsible for the drop in consumption in domestic use. I think most people here probably know why the use of coal for transportation decreased in the 50s. The decline of steelmaking in the UK is more complicated.

    Clean coal 1.0 (coal power plants with scrubbers in the countryside) is certainly a lot better than dirty coal 0.0 (fireplaces in people’s homes and dirty factories).

  155. Ben, I am not sure why you find it so hard to believe that finite non-renewable resource will eventually get exhausted. The UK is not unique in this regard. It happens everywhere in the world.

    After the hard coal resources in Pennsylvania became depleted, the mining industry had to start blowing up mountaintops in West Virginia to get at what’s left.

    You have to be really naive to believe that if we had 10x as much easily extractable coal than nature allotted the UK that it wouldn’t still be exploited.

  156. izen says:

    As you link shows the other big use of coal in the UK was for Town gas, made by the gassification process of coal. That was replaced by natural gas from the North Sea between ~1966-1976.

    I miss the three gasometers at King Cross, they were … beautiful.

  157. BBD says:

    All fair comment from an historical perspective, but the ‘electrify everything’ strategy means that formerly FF powered stuff like heating, cooking, transport, industrial process etc, becomes electrified, which will require much more electricity generation capacity with a robust tolerance for demand peaks going forward. It looks ever more likely that gas + wind & solar is the preferred model for dealing with this, which as I have muttered darkly about before may be a structural, sunk investment obstacle to the kind of rapidly progressing decarbonisation of the electricity sector necessary to fend off the worst. As for TPE, well, there is the uncomfortable fact that *all* EU countries are net importers of energy at present…

  158. BBD says:

    To be clear, and OT, none of this is remotely the fault of climate scientists…

  159. Ben McMillan says:

    Izen: Yep, replacement of coal gas by natural gas was another major factor in coal’s decline in later years.

    BBD: I think EU countries producing lots more renewable power as they electrify cars/heat would go a long way to reducing import dependence. Also efficiency is helpful.

  160. ecoquant says:


    It is a challenge for sure, but I think the biggest part of that is in people’s attitudes and wasteful, uncaring habits. Some of those can be taken care of using engineering, but a real hump right now appears to be reckoning with the lower energy density of zero Carbon alternatives and, hence, the need to visibly occupy more surface area with them

    There are changes in mindset needed, particularly in business models.

    The biggest problem is we are continuing to build fossil fuel infrastructure, whether gas-heated homes or big commercial buildings which are not energy efficient and still use 20th means of cooling.

    People talk about Carbon Taxes, but as the MIT symposium of yesterday suggested, that won’t be enough. It might help to charge people directly for emissions, so differentiating between Hummers and Corollas, and efficient homes from ones which blast propane grills and swimming pools. I don’t think it’s likely these will pass the political hurdle. This is why only pointing fingers at XOM and the like is misguided, in my opinion.

  161. Everett F Sargent says:

    Paul sez … ”

    After the hard coal resources in Pennsylvania became depleted, the mining industry had to start blowing up mountaintops in West Virginia to get at what’s left.”

    Well according to someone on MSNBC last night, they stated that it was really due to automation and an attendant reduction of the total workforce (above ground giant shovels, giant conveyor belts and giant trucks).

    That is the main reason that coal mining jobs will never increase significantly. It is called economics of scale (which I’m quite sure that you are already well aware of) and the same concept is also widely used in the marine shipping industry (e. g. 20,000+ TEU containerships) …

  162. anoilman says:

    Decentralizing the grid gets messy since at this time someone is supposed to supply the 60 Hz.. Unless… some bright spark noticed that something else might be needed;

    There’s been a lot of roll outs of HVDC. With that anyone can supply.

    I live in a pretty cold climate, with hot summers, and solar isn’t that great. My carbon footprint is low (half average) yet for my to go off grid I’d need 5 roof tops of solar. That assumes that I get home geothermal (which use lots of electricity cycling pumps), and I use my house year round (seasonal variance). The worst issue here is that I have to pay $45cdn a month for the privilege of getting a bill. Most of my bill is for getting my bill, and not electricity.

  163. mrkenfabian says:

    Ecoquant – I think carbon pricing has to be aimed at the producers and industrial users, not so much the household consumers, ie to induce investments in low emissions energy production options. Which means it has to come with an enduring political commitment that resists being wound back (by the use of those well honed corporate tools for influencing politicians, policy and public opinion: Lobbying, PR, Advertising, Strategic Donating, Post Politics Inducements, Tactical Lawfare, Tankthink etc). I think it may still be the single most effective policy option we haven’t really used yet, whilst still insufficient by itself.

    Much more is possible but won’t happen because the big players in energy and industry don’t have to. That is surely the whole point of Doubt, Deny, Delay politicking. Like investing in transmission and storage to best accommodate large amounts of wind and solar (and usage adapting to it), it won’t happen until the key industries are convinced they have to – whereupon the real constraints rather than the (partisan) perceptions about them become the limits to their growth. I think those limits are a lot further out than the critics of RE insist on. Meanwhile all those tools for influence are being used, along with every possible objection and alarmist economic fear to ensure those perceptions persist – all so they don’t have to.

    But, yes, by itself carbon pricing is insufficient. Anything by itself is insufficient. Any policy that is enacted in isolation is more likely to be evidence of appeasement by appearances over commitment – and if it is political appeasement, for appearances, it will almost certainly come with loopholes and exceptions enough to undermine effectiveness. And we can be sure that very ineffectiveness will be used in turn to argue against carbon pricing rather than argue for closing the loopholes and exceptions.

    Foresight and planning based on deep and enduring political commitment – commitment that reflects the seriousness of the problem – would be most welcome!

    Anoilman – that gas has become so widely used is another reason to look hard at their potential for conversion to Hydrogen. My understanding is many existing gas generators can take elevated H2 concentration (many above 50% and up to 95% in some cases) but I’m not sure any not deliberately built for it will take 100%. Better than becoming stranded assets (at best) or protected assets, given priority irrespective of emissions.

    I am not convinced deep commitment to emissions reductions were the principal driver of new gas – rather, “less emissions than coal” has been used opportunistically by one arm of broader fossil fuel interests as greenwash to promote it – a tactic that weak and uninformed and opportunistic politicians helped give credibility to. Australia’s fracked gas, I would note, is all coal (that otherwise is uneconomic to exploit) by other means and is promoted in addition to, not in place of dug up coal – and our current government is perfectly okay with using climate change and that “less emissions than coal” line as a greenwash justification for removing all impediments to exploiting it.

    And yet that government position looks ever less credible and depth of voter concern keeps growing. Distraction and disinformation and alarmist economic fear can only do so much – although managing to win an election with no climate policy and absolute support for fossil fuels when the real world indicators of global warming are already in uncharted territory shows the power of the tools being used to guide and shape (enough) public opinion.

  164. ecoquant says:

    For some of the soft coal, south of Scranton/Wilks-Barre, there was over-tunneling and lack of coordination. A large section of mines flooded, and the cost of pumping out and turning them operational again was prohibitive.

    It’s ironic that some of the biggest automated shovels for mountaintop removal are you-guessed-it electric.

    As noted, decentralization can exploit when great power quality isn’t needed easier than a centralized.

  165. ecoquant says:


    Assuming your proposal, if targeting big users is where we want to be, we should be set for doing that expeditiously, since big banks are (finally?) looking at fossil fuels and climate risks systematically, aligning with re-insurers who have been doing it for years. Re-insurers have the problem that primary insurers don’t take it so seriously, since the biggest hits — flooding — are compensated by taxpayers.

    I think stripping away all public support for building in and living in a high climate risk area is needed as well, as unpopular as that might be. There might be some negotiation for insurers to offer coverage for these areas, but the premiums will need to be necessarily high. Since many low income people live in some of these places, there will be a need for some public support for them. But surely the wealthy coastal homes and commercial coastal oughtn’t get a dime, and see hedging risk as cost of living there.

  166. anoilman says:

    Everett: Yeah… One step forward two steps back. Anyone who thinks were aren’t trying to hit RCP 8.5 is not thinking clearly;

    The thing is that its hard to get mad at this since on the cr*p can’t leak or spill. Honestly… Why was that the LAST option for shipping tar?

    As for homes, I wonder why we can’t combine heating\cooling? I have a water heater, a clothes washer\drying, a furnace, and for giggles lets throw in the oven. Is there an easy way to combine all that? (no… but hopium)

    Combining heating and cooling is what Tesla does to conserve energy in their newest cars. I found this.. Skip in 15 to 19 minutes to get an idea about how Tesla combines battery heating, cooling, cabin heating cooling, and breaking electricity regeneration. Fossil cars are so inefficient they just toss all the excess energy out.

    Here’s that patent in case you’re curious;

    Personally I think it would be good if we had more discussions about renewable implementation issues. So technically this is all my fault. I’m an engineer and engineers haven’t solved the problem. 🙂 There are real solid challenges, and I don’t like the ultra happy “Solar works in California why not the arctic?” routine. Brits have real issues with their climate. Germany is butting up against the next step of going beyond 30% renewable capacity.

    I’m currently of the opinion that grids need a considerable amount of locally sourced power (roof top solar) before delving into supplying homes with power. I currently don’t see things working that well without a grid.

  167. anoilman says:

    mrkenfabian: Natural gas has hefty emissions even if you convert it to hydrogen. The issue is that we are fracking for it, and there are huge emissions when we complete the well. There’s no getting around that.

    Click to access f_EECT-61539-perspectives-on-air-emissions-of-methane-and-climatic-warmin_100815_27470.pdf

    You’d be better off using straight excess solar electricity to generate hydrogen from water. There are experiments doing this now. It would work to offset grid peak demand and possibly seasonal variance in solar\wind production.

  168. mrkenfabian says:

    Re the replacing power lines with solar and batteries – I am a householder that this could and probably should apply to. More is spent maintaining the string of poles and wires than the households connected along it could possibly earn – they could supply us with solar and batteries and maintain them for free and still save money. Recent bushfires added greatly to those costs, but just keeping trees growing under and over them controlled (fire risk) is a major cost. It is a business model that is able to simply add those costs plus a reliable profit margin onto the domestic customers at large.

    It is a holdover from a long running government supported egalitarian policy of providing electricity to as many households and businesses as possible and spreading the costs of that across the whole customer base. I suspect that providing on-site diesel gensets may have always been a cheaper option in many cases but irrespective of that, the option of providing on-site solar and batteries (with diesel backup included in the cited example) is clearly viable as well as cost reducing, even under an all customers pay the same price arrangement.

    Grids getting stronger, longer backbones whilst shrinking around the peripheries look sensible to me – inevitable even.

  169. ecoquant says:

    I currently don’t see things working that well without a grid.

    Yeah, but not a hub and spoke architecture. Rather a network of islands each of which is self-sufficient 70% of the time, and linked to other islands like knotweed across large distances.

  170. David B. Benson says:

    Off grid villages in India and in African countries are pleased when the grid comes in. However, the wire is often stolen in those localities. I don’t know of a solution.

  171. Ben McMillan says:

    Sorry, this continues to be off-topic, but things like: “Assessment of hydrogen direct reduction for fossil-free steelmaking”
    show significant potential in terms of decarbonisation. Since both steel and hydrogen can be stored, and these kind of steel plants run in batch production, this also provides a neat way of dealing with variable electricity production.

  172. The Wall Street J is reporting this:
    “Unlike several years ago, when shale production fell due to a global price collapse, the slowdown this year is driven partly by core operational issues, including wells producing less than expected after being drilled too close to one another, and sweet spots running out sooner than anticipated.

    The USA shale boom slows (especially in crude oil) and the implicit question is whether the fracking revolution will peak before it ever makes money, or even pays back close to all the debt that it has accumulated over the years. This is of course very predictable, just as with all finite non-renewable resources. The DeSmogBlog has been on top of this as well the last couple of years. with a more pessimistic take than the WSJ:
    “Instead, wells are declining faster, meaning the output of the wells drops off very quickly and leads to lower overall well production — and more losses for the increasingly financially insolvent companies.

    James West, a managing director at Investment bank Evercore ISI, assessed the situation for the Wall Street Journal. “We’re getting closer to peak production and we are reaching the peak of the general physics of these wells,” he said.”

  173. BBD says:

    Yeah, but not a hub and spoke architecture. Rather a network of islands each of which is self-sufficient 70% of the time, and linked to other islands like knotweed across large distances.

    The problems arise in a European context when there is a multi-day pan-European windspeed lull in winter. Local mini / micro grid battery reserves including vtg are quickly exhausted (~24hrs) and there is no export surplus available via interconnection because of the geographic area affected by the windspeed lull and the seasonal minimum yield from solar capacity. Any way you slice it, after a few days you are looking at a major pan-European electricity supply shortfall.

    Personally I think it would be good if we had more discussions about renewable implementation issues. So technically this is all my fault. I’m an engineer and engineers haven’t solved the problem. 🙂


  174. ecoquant says:


    Any idea what the insolation is like historically at these times? That is, does it decorrelate at all? On what spatial scale? This is independent of build-out.

  175. ecoquant says:


    Also, while this may have been discussed on ATTP before, the Jacobson, Delucchi, et al study includes Europe. While this was roundly criticized shortly after it appeared, a look at the subsequent literature indicates the criticisms were refuted by many others since the original publication of the critiques.

    These include Brown, et al (2018) and Gerbaulet, et al (2019).

    So, given your claim about

    The problems arise in a European context when there is a multi-day pan-European windspeed lull in winter.

    where did they fall down?

  176. Ben McMillan says:

    There’s UK wind and solar at which is useful for studying correlations etc.

    Articles like “Geophysical constraints on the reliability of solar and wind power in the United States”
    is that getting to 90% wind and solar, with ~12 hours storage, is maybe not too hard, but requires large back-up capacity when weather is unfavorable (at least 50% backup capacity). Going to exactly 100% wind and solar requires doubling the solar/wind buildout, or multi-day storage that most people think is unfeasible (if it is batteries or hydro).

    I’m firmly in the ‘just have large amounts of backup’ camp, especially since this already mostly exists, in the form of gas and conventional hydro generators.

  177. ecoquant says:

    @Ben McMillan,

    I’m curious … Given the plummeting costs per Wh of wind and solar, why avoid doubling the solar/wind buildout? So, take Lazard LCoE and double it. Eventually, it’s still low, although it might not be instantaneously attractive. Are people adverse to projecting that much? While I certainly know the dangers, it is striking that the R^{2} for an exponential fit to solar LCoE is about 0.95, and that’s unsubsidized.

  178. Ben McMillan says:

    Well, I also think that its plausible that solar and wind might get very cheap. Still, you would need more transmission and land. Even in that case, the last few percent are pretty ‘expensive’ so some other solution might be better, even though just doubling solar/wind might be economically feasible.

    I think that being able to make a case for something that will work, even with current technology and prices, is more convincing than needing to be optimistic.

    But in either case, the pathway over the next 10-20 years looks pretty similar. So you just go down that path and see what looks like the best option.

    Actually that “geophysical constraints” paper also has some nice graphs quantifying how much difference the size of the grid makes to reliability, too.

  179. ecoquant says:

    @Ben McMillan,

    The thing of it is, I know a good grid would be great. However, I have read about and attended seminars, webinars, and lectures where some people claim that revising the grid in the manner that Jacobson, et al want, or that’s needed for true transport of energy to where it’s needed is a US$1 trillion investment, in present day dollars.

    Now, that’s just an estimate, and I do not know what kinds of things they assume coming up with that number. Do they assume this is done using the cost-plus model at present, with public utility commissions doing the directing, and the usual fights over pathways for transmission lines? Do they assume ripping out the existing grid and replacing? Do they assume placement of wind + solar on land (say) is subject to the usual fights about eyesores and, so, must be located farther away? Do they assume that federal policy is declared to override local, as happened (at least initially) in Germany with their Energiewende?

    It’s possible that the existing grid could be left in place and rather than trying to upgrade it, there could be a move to massively reform the energy markets, so small grids could compete with the entrenched players. No doubt The Entrenched would have a few things to say about that, and scream how this would be unfair to the poor, a disaster, that they can’t compete because they are shackled by regulations, etc. But, on the other hand, isn’t there a parallel with how wireless telephony is eating away at land line telephony?

    I still think my favorite eventual model is the knotweed one, with the interconnections being based upon automated negotiations between computing centers which are aware of local and global prices for power, and very dynamic markets.

    Still, I agree, I do not know how to replace the present setup with such a thing.

    I think just allowing local regions and towns to take care of their own energy without having to go through a state regulatory might be a big step forward, modeling on municipal energy plans.

  180. BBD and others:
    Regarding wind speed characterization, here’s an on-topic arXiv article that will be published eventually :

    Agree that it’s an important issue.

  181. Ben McMillan says:

    Well, the estimate I’ve seen is the US grid (poles/wires/substations) would cost US$5 trillion to replace. Most of that is probably last-mile costs. Your $1 trillion spread over 400 million people is $2500 each, and over 30 years, adds up to $100 a year. The revenue of the US electric power sector is $400 billion.

    No doubt there will be stupid fights over rights of way for new transmission. Actually though the total number of miles of extra continent-spanning transmission lines required is not that large (compared to existing) and HVDC can carry much more power per tower.

    I don’t see how dynamic connections would work (I think I’m not really sure what you are talking about): the power itself has to be transmitted by physical infrastructure that has a multi-decade lifespan.

    From the UK perspective, it looks as though much of the power is going to be offshore wind turbines, which is national-scale infrastructure, rather that locally-owned community level-stuff.

  182. David B. Benson says:

    The only long distance HVDC transmission line that I know of which is still being promoted is from Wyoming wind to Las Vegas. The route is largely over BLM land so the lease is easy to acquire. The problem is finance: nobody is willing to buy the bonds.

    What Wyoming wind power doesn’t go east and south to the Colorado front range cities appears likely to be wheeled west in the direction of Boise, Idaho, where Idaho Power needs more so-called renewable generation. Idaho Power cannot afford to build the AC transmission line all in one go; it will be constructed a stage at a time to and then across the Snake River plain.

    There might be projects in ERCOT Texas that I don’t know about.

  183. Ben McMillan says:

    The continent-spanning HVDC I suggested is only useful in the late stages of the transition to a dominantly-renewables power grid. It isn’t exactly low-hanging fruit, which probably explains why there isn’t financial support (for even the smaller scale stuff). I’m not suggesting there are plans afoot to build a continent-wide HVDC grid any time soon, but it tends to feature in ‘grand vision’ long term plans.

    In the near term, finding smart ways to strengthen smaller scale grids (eg by improving stability constraints) and just building lots of renewable capacity are more cost-effective steps to take.

  184. izen says:

    Disruptive technologies…

    It may be that ‘room temp’ superconductors are 20 years off. Like fusion power has been for the last 50 years.
    But any skim of recent materials tech research shows that progress is being made on both the practical and theoretical front.

  185. David B. Benson says:

    This helps explain why Califonia, that includes both Nevada and Arizona, don’t need more power brought long distances via HVDC transmission lines:

  186. BBD says:

    This helps explain why Califonia, that includes both Nevada and Arizona, don’t need more power brought long distances via HVDC transmission lines:

    I was under the impression that the proposed future HVDC lines were for exporting excess solar generation from California and the SW eastwards across CONUS.

  187. anoilman says:

    ecoquant: Thanks for that. That’s what needs to happen. They need to integrate further East North and South, but its good to know that excess is getting used.

    Its an odd geopolitical issue though. I know my province is forbidden from getting electricity from other Canadian provinces except in emergencies. Its barriers like that which make the grid less stable.

  188. ecoquant says:

    Big and importance article in Science today regarding challenges in wind energy.

  189. BBD says:

    Much more gas on the way in India:

    NEW DELHI: India is investing over USD 60 billion in developing natural supply and distribution infrastructure as it chases the target of more than doubling the share of natural gas in its energy base to 15 per cent by 2030, Oil Minister Dharmendra Pradhan said on Sunday.

    Natural gas currently constitutes 6.2 per cent of all energy consumption in the country. Stating that the government has laid emphasis on developing a gas-based economy, he said natural gas is gradually becoming a bridging fuel for low carbon economy in India.

  190. Devi T. says:

    great post! I’m fairly new to the physics world myself. I would love it if you could see my introductory post a see what you think! 🙂

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