Debate about communicating tipping points

The new book about Contemporary Climate Change Debates, that I discussed in this post, includes a debate about whether or not ‘tipping point[s]’ [are] helpful for describing and communicating possible climate futures? James Annan suggests that the answer is “no”, while Michel Crucifix suggests that it’s “yes”.

James discusses his essay briefly in this post and you can download a copy of his essay here. I have read Michel’s essay, but I don’t have a copy that I can post publicly. I think James is right that they were somewhat talking past each other.

I share some of James’ concerns about introducting tipping points into the public narrative. People do sometimes seem to confuse tipping points and a runaway, which is what motivated me to write this post. For clarity, a tipping point is a threshold beyond which some part of the climate system changes (tips), irreversibly, into a new state. A runaway, on the other hand, is a state where the outgoing flux is limited, resulting in substantial surface warming, with the system only returning to energy balance when the temperature has increased by 100s of K. The latter is simply not possible in our current state.

Another issue with tipping points is that we don’t know if they are truly irreversible; if we could start to artificially draw down atmospheric CO2 might some then reverse? Additionally, the timescale over which they manifest themselves is typically long, in many cases centuries. Hence, they don’t necessarily imply a need for urgent action.

Credit: Schellnhuber et al. (2016)

However, it is certainly the case that there are thresholds beyond which certain systems may start to undergo changes that might prove very difficult to reverse. As the figure on the right (from Schellnhuber et al. 2016) illustrates, it may already be too late to avoid the death of most tropical coral reefs. Similarly, we may already be close to the point where the Greenland and West Antarctic ice sheets start to melt irreversibly, and where we may lose the summer Arctic sea ice and Alpine glaciers.

If we warm as much as 4C, then we risk the loss of the Amazon and Boreal forests and could irreversible change weather patters in the Sahel. Beyond 4C, we risk the irreversible loss of permafrost, the East Antartic ice sheet may start irreversibly melting, and we could lose winter Arctic sea ice.

So, some may be triggered relatively soon, while others are unlikely to be triggered unless climate sensitivity is much higher than we expect, or we end up emitting much more than currently seems likely. Therefore, we do have to be careful of how we introduce these into the public narrative, but I see no real reason why we shouldn’t do so.

We typically motivate climate action on the basis of warming leading to climate impacts that will become increasingly severe if we fail to limit our emissions. I don’t think the existence of possible tipping points specifically changes what we should do; it is simply a further indication that we should be doing our best to limit how much we emit. Although the impact of crossing a tipping point may only manifest itself on long timescales, it does seem clear that if we do cross some of these thresholds, reversing these changes will be extremely difficult. Just like we may want to give ourselves a reasonable chance of avoiding the impacts of, for example, >2C of warming, we may also want to avoid discovering if this level of warming could also trigger irreversible changes in some parts of the climate system.

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340 Responses to Debate about communicating tipping points

  1. This discussion would be more comprehensible if you were to list say half a dozen “climate tipping points”, and explain how many of them were detectable in advance even in theory. I find the whole subject to be filled with much more theory and passion than actual examples.

    I mean, clearly the earth shifts on a relatively regular basis from ~ 100 kyr glacial to ~20 kyr interglacial … I suppose you could call those “tipping points”, although I’d describe it as a “bistable state”. But in either case, we haven’t been able to say when the next shift might occur.

    Other than that, what examples do we have of said “climate tipping points”?

    Best regards,

    w.

  2. dikranmarsupial says:

    “and explain how many of them were detectable in advance even in theory.”

    I have a strange sense of deja vu. One wonders how a tipping point could be *detected” before it happened…

    Can you explain *why* that is relevant?

  3. My take is that your are far too relaxed about the tipping points, potential reversibility, impacts etc than is prudent. Which is to say, I think your approach is imprudent.

    Are you seriously suggesting that our situation wrt to ghg accumulation in the atmosphere and ocean does not require urgent action? (I am looking at paragraph 4)

    Do you have any concerns about the way that our present day decisions will make the world a more difficult place for our children and grandchildren?

    Cheers,

    Mike

  4. Is anyone seeing any indication that our species is over-reacting to the risks of climate change and is altering our way of living too quickly? Can anyone point to works on the ground that show that any false sense of urgency regarding global warming is producing changes in our pathway that are too much or too fast?

  5. morpheusonacid says:

    Not more of this time wasting nonsense. You want a tipping point or runaway, then look no further than the creation of the solar system and its final destruction when the sun becomes a red giant. What has happened in between is just a natural process and there is nothing we can do about any of it. The earth is not here for us or maintaining a specific climate for us or any other life. We have evolved because of certain conditions and we will die when we cannot survive them. The biggest threat to humanity now is not the climate, but human stupidity. The corals are not dying as presented here, it is just more lies being spread by alarmists. The ice sheets and glaciers were not here before the earth entered it present ice age. There is nothing normal about any of it. Just be grateful for the gradual warming over the last 10,000 years or so because without it we would not have the good life that most of us have today. A bit more warming might happen but we have no influence over it. It is the next ice age that we need to fear if the past temperature history from ice cores continues. There’s nothing like ignoring the big issues and concentrating on the trivia created by the crazy human mind.

  6. I guess MOA agrees with ATTP: no reason for any big concern or urgency about tipping points.

  7. dikranmarsupial says:

    February 23, 2020 at 5:03 pm

    “and explain how many of them were detectable in advance even in theory.”

    I have a strange sense of deja vu. One wonders how a tipping point could be *detected” before it happened…

    Can you explain *why* that is relevant?

    Thanks, Dikran. It’s relevant because people keep hysterically warning us about how we’re approaching some mythical “climate tipping point” that they assure us will have horrible effects, without a) giving any examples of just what a “climate tipping point” might be, or b) explaining how they know in advance that we are approaching such a creature.

    So I’m just trying to figure out what it is they’re talking about.

    w.

  8. Corey says:

    “There’s nothing like ignoring the big issues and concentrating on the trivia created by the crazy human mind.”

    Irony is dead.

  9. Joshua says:

    > So I’m just trying to figure out what it is they’re talking about.

    I call bullshit. You’re doing no such thing. You’ve made your opinion about tipping points clear. Don’t be so disingenuous.

  10. Joshua says:

    February 23, 2020 at 6:04 pm

    > So I’m just trying to figure out what it is they’re talking about.

    I call bullshit. You’re doing no such thing. You’ve made your opinion about tipping points clear. Don’t be so disingenuous.

    Joshua, all I’ve done is ASK FOR EXAMPLES. If you don’t have the balls or the knowledge to provide them, get out of the way and stop whining.

    w.

  11. dikranmarsupial says:

    “Thanks, Dikran. It’s relevant because people keep hysterically warning us about how we’re approaching some mythical “climate tipping point” that they assure us will have horrible effects, without a) giving any examples of just what a “climate tipping point” might be, or b) explaining how they know in advance that we are approaching such a creature.

    So I’m just trying to figure out what it is they’re talking about.”

    (a) the article DID give examples:

    As the figure on the right (from Shellnhuber et al. 2016) illustrates, it may already be too late to avoid the death of most tropical coral reefs [1]. Similarly, we may already be close to the point where the Greenland [2] and West Antarctic ice [3] sheets starts to melt irreversibly, and where we may lose the summer Arctic sea ice [4] and Alpine glaciers [5].

    If we warm as much as 4C, then we risk the loss of the Amazon [6] and Boreal [7] forests and could irreversible change weather patters in the Sahel. Beyond 4C, we risk the irreversible loss of permafrost [8], the East Antartic ice sheet may start irreversibly melting [9], and we could lose winter Arctic sea ice [10].

    [annotations] mine.

    (b) ah, so we only need to be able to detect the approach of a tipping point, that is much easier (i.e. possible). For example, Arctic sea ice:

    For others, you could try googling.

    The concept of a tipping point is not all that complicated, provided you use some common sense, rather than adversarial rhetorical pedantry.

  12. Joshua says:

    Anders –

    Seems to me that the point about tipping points is that they represent low probability but high damage risk.

    We need to create policy in the face of uncertainty.

    Specifying tipping points seems to me to kind of miss the point. It’s trying to limit uncertainty, under the belief that will make policy-development easier.

    But I don’t think that will work. Time is better spent, imo, talking about how we to create policy in the face of (despite) uncertainty.

  13. Joshua says:

    Willis –

    You’re full of shit.

  14. Joshua says:

    Willis –

    As I’ve said, you’ve made your opinion about tipping pints clear. You aren’t trying to understand what people are talking about. You’re trying to refute what people are talking about, or to argue that they don’t know what they’re taking about.

    That us all very obvious. If you want to argue the science, have at it. But stop bullshitting. It’s completely transparent. Just be honest.

  15. dikranmarsupial says:

    Willis “Joshua, all I’ve done is ASK FOR EXAMPLES.”

    plenty of examples were listed in the article. Can you acknowledge that, yes or no?

  16. Joshua says:

    FWIW, in my view, tipping pints is much preferable to tipping points.

  17. dikranmarsupial says:

    February 23, 2020 at 6:22 pm
    Willis “Joshua, all I’ve done is ASK FOR EXAMPLES.”

    plenty of examples were listed in the article. Can you acknowledge that, yes or no?

    Absolutely no. Here’s what you claim are “examples”. Not one of them has actually happened.

    As the figure on the right (from Shellnhuber et al. 2016) illustrates, it may already be too late to avoid the death of most tropical coral reefs [1]. Similarly, we may already be close to the point where the Greenland [2] and West Antarctic ice [3] sheets starts to melt irreversibly, and where we may lose the summer Arctic sea ice [4] and Alpine glaciers [5].

    If we warm as much as 4C, then we risk the loss of the Amazon [6] and Boreal [7] forests and could irreversible change weather patters in the Sahel. Beyond 4C, we risk the irreversible loss of permafrost [8], the East Antartic ice sheet may start irreversibly melting [9], and we could lose winter Arctic sea ice [10].

    Those are merely claims that “it MAY be too late”, that we “MAY already be close”, we “MAY risk the loss”, we “MAY start irreversibly”, we “COULD lose”. In other words, it’s just speculation.

    I’m sorry, but on my planet, things that have not yet happened are not examples of anything.

    w.

  18. dikranmarsupial says:

    As it happens, VTG provided Willis with a good definition of a tipping point on the previous thread on this topic:

    Happily the IPCC (AR5 Glossary) provides:

    Tipping point
    A level of change in system properties beyond which a system reorganizes, often abruptly, and does not return to the initial state even if the drivers of the change are abated. For the climate system, it refers to a critical threshold when global or regional climate changes from one stable state to another stable state. The tipping point event may be irreversible. See also Irreversibility. {WGI, II, III}

    to which Willis responded with the usual adversarial pedantry trick:

    I’m sorry, but if the process is “irreversible” then the ice sheet could never have formed. This is the type of hysteria surrounding “tipping points” that I am protesting against.

    Of course common sense ought to tell willis that “irreversible” means “irreversibility on human-relevant timescales”. Had Willis followed the reference to “Irreversibility” he would have found that it is defined for a “given timescale”, rather than absolute irreversibility.

    So clearly Willis isn’t really interested in understanding what tipping points are, just preventing productive discussion of the issue. I’d agree this is somewhat Frankfurtery in nature.

  19. Joshua says:

    February 23, 2020 at 6:26 pm
    FWIW, in my view, tipping pints is much preferable to tipping points.

    Now there, we’re in complete agreement.

    w.

  20. This tipping point and runaway thing really seems like a burr under the saddle for some folks. The impacts and consequences of our emission is quite clear. Every ton we emit now costs us a lot of money down the road. Even if we ignore the injustice aspects of who creates emissions and who will suffer the consequence, delay on reducing emissions does not pencil out.

    I think that is what we should be talking about instead of endless wrangling over tipping points. (let’s just throw runaway off the discussion as it is defined with absence of liquid water at planet surface).

    Look at the numbers for the cost of today’s emissions and let’s focus on that. Look at the time frames and number for removing ghg emissions once they are in the atmosphere and oceans and get real about how difficult/costly it is going to be to remove the emission when compared to reducing emissions immediately. Immediately. That sound kind of urgent, does it not? And not just nickel and dime reductions, it requires a plan to get to netzero very quickly. As fast as possible, faster than possible to reduce impacts already being felt.

    https://blogs.ei.columbia.edu/2018/11/27/carbon-dioxide-removal-climate-change/

  21. dikranmarsupial says:

    “Absolutely no. Here’s what you claim are “examples”. Not one of them has actually happened.”

    It is obviously unreasonable to have to have an example of a tipping point that we have already passed for us to discuss what a tipping point is. You should be ashamed of such transparent evasion.

  22. dikranmarsupial says:
    February 23, 2020 at 6:34 pm

    As it happens, VTG provided Willis with a good definition of a tipping point on the previous thread on this topic:

    Dikran, I’ve asked for EXAMPLES, not definitions.

    w.

  23. dikranmarsupial says:

    Willis, I was pointing out your pathetic evasion of the definition on the previous thread as an example of your bullshit. The same evasive bullshit you are using here about examples.

    Do you need to have an example of time-travel in order to understand the concept of time-travel? Of course not. Requiring an example of a tipping point that we predicted in advance and which has already happened is an example of an “impossible expectation”, which is a common rhetorical device used by skeptics to evade productive discussion of the science.

    There have been tipping points in paleoclimate that (for obvious reasons we didn’t predict), would that be acceptable (e.g. the Sahara hasn’t always been a desert).

  24. dikranmarsupial says:
    February 23, 2020 at 6:36 pm

    “Absolutely no. Here’s what you claim are “examples”. Not one of them has actually happened.”

    It is obviously unreasonable to have to have an example of a tipping point that we have already passed for us to discuss what a tipping point is. You should be ashamed of such transparent evasion.

    I see. You claim that there are examples in the text. I point out that they are just fears, not examples. But rather than saying “Oops, I was wrong, I guess those weren’t examples after all”, you now shift the goalposts and say it is wrong to ask for examples.

    In other words, you can’t come up with even one “tipping point” example, so instead you claim I’m the one being “unreasonable” to ask for one. YOU are the one guilty of “transparent evasion”.

    This is like you saying something like “You should be very afraid of dragons, they could kill us all”, and when I ask for an example of such a dragon, you say “How can I give an such an example, obviously if such an example existed we’d all be dead!”. Then you accuse me of “transparent evasion” and continue to argue that we should be afraid of dragons …

    Man, who knew that merely asking for historical examples of what you are claiming is a huge danger would cause y’all’s hair to spontaneously combust …

    w.

  25. dikranmarsupial says:
    February 23, 2020 at 6:42 pm

    Do you need to have an example of time-travel in order to understand the concept of time-travel? Of course not.

    You’re right, of course I don’t need an example to understand the concept.

    On the other hand, if you were to claim that we should be very afraid that time-travelers might come tomorrow and cause immense destruction, I’d be justified in asking for examples of when that happened in the past … and if you couldn’t come up with any, I’d be justified in discounting your fears.

    w.

  26. dikranmarsupial says:

    ” You claim that there are examples in the text.”

    There are examples of tipping points in the article, they are just tipping points we have not yet reached.

    “But rather than saying “Oops, I was wrong, I guess those weren’t examples after all”, you now shift the goalposts and say it is wrong to ask for examples.”

    Pathetic misrepresentation. I didn’t say it is wrong to ask for examples, asking for examples is a good idea; it is just that it is obvious bullshit to ask for examples that you know don’t exist. Given we have only been seriously changing the climate for a century or so, to require an example that we have both seen and predicted in advance is obviously unreasonable.

    Sorry your bullshit may fool you, but it doesn’t fool me.

  27. Joshua says:

    Willis –

    Here’s an example of where someone describes a tipping point. Look familiar?:

    > > So … would it not be truly ironic if pollution, in the form of soot and brown carbon, were all that has been holding off another ice age? And wouldn’t it be a cosmic joke if our efforts to clean up soot and brown carbon pollution were the straw that broke the back of the Holocene, and ushered in the new ice age?

    > The idea is one of piling an extreme burden on a camel, until the weight of one, final piece of straw becomes the tipping point that causes the camel to collapse. References to the proverb of the straw that broke the camel’s back may be found at the turn of the nineteenth century.

    https://grammarist.com/idiom/straw-that-broke-the-camels-back-and-the-last-straw/

  28. Ed Davies says:

    Willis Eschenbach says: “I suppose you could call those “tipping points”, although I’d describe it as a “bistable state””

    Aren’t tipping points just part of a having bistable states? The difference between a direct effect of an increase in CO₂ and the effect of passing a tipping point is that you could, in principle, reverse the direct effect by bringing the CO₂ level back down below the level at which the effect started whereas for a tipping point there’s hysteresis such that to reverse the effect you have to bring the level down lower before it’s undone.

    With a bistable system there are two tipping points: one higher to flip from state A to state B and another lower one to go from B to A. E.g., the amount of CO₂ needed to get out of a snowball Earth is much higher than the recent levels which keep us out (and have done so for a very long time).

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Snowball_Earth#Breaking_out_of_global_glaciation

  29. Joshua says:

    Comment in mod. Tia

  30. Regarding the Sahara I find:

    The great desert was born some 7 million years ago, as remnants of a vast sea called Tethys closed up. The movement of tectonic plates that created the Mediterranean Sea and the Alps also sparked the drying of the Sahara some 7 million years ago, according to the latest computer simulations of Earth’s ancient climate.

    So when continents shift, new seas and mountains are born, and of course, the climate changes. No surprise. Let me know when that’s slated to happen again.

    However, what you’re talking about is not that. You’re saying that the climate itself reaches such a state that, without shifting continents or Milankovich cycles, it initiates an irreversible “tipping point” all by itself.

    So I’m still waiting for even one example of that happening.

    w.

  31. dikranmarsupial says:

    “On the other hand, if you were to claim that we should be very afraid that time-travelers might come tomorrow and cause immense destruction, I’d be justified in asking for examples of when that happened in the past … and if you couldn’t come up with any, I’d be justified in discounting your fears.”

    Another rhetorical ploy (extending an analogy beyond the point it was intended to make to the point of absurdity).

    How about this one. Would you need to have observed a supernova in the Suns stella neighbourhood to be worried about a star in the suns solar neighbourhood (if there were one) that was about to go nova?

    No. Why? Because science. We don’t have to see things to have knowledge about them.

  32. dikranmarsupial says:

    “So when continents shift, new seas and mountains are born, and of course, the climate changes. No surprise. Let me know when that’s slated to happen again.”

    Do you agree that it is an example of a tipping point? yes or no?

  33. Willis,

    This discussion would be more comprehensible if you were to list say half a dozen “climate tipping points”, and explain how many of them were detectable in advance even in theory. I find the whole subject to be filled with much more theory and passion than actual examples.

    How would we do this? We are talking about a situation that is relatively unprecedented, so how would we present of this having happened before? Also, a key thing about a tipping point is that there isn’t much indication beforehand; we cross a threshold where the system will start to change in ways that are difficult to reverse. It seems clear that we are damaging tropical coral reefs and could be close to a threshold where they would be irreversibly damaged. Similarly for Alpine glaciers. What are you actually looking for?

  34. dikranmarsupial says:
    February 23, 2020 at 6:49 pm

    ” You claim that there are examples in the text.”

    There are examples of tipping points in the article, they are just tipping points we have not yet reached.

    So we have examples, but they’re examples of things that don’t exist? Really? That’s your claim?

    “But rather than saying “Oops, I was wrong, I guess those weren’t examples after all”, you now shift the goalposts and say it is wrong to ask for examples.”

    Pathetic misrepresentation. I didn’t say it is wrong to ask for examples, asking for examples is a good idea; it is just that it is obvious bullshit to ask for examples that you know don’t exist.

    OK, we’re finally at the end of the dispute. You admit that there are no examples of tipping points. You could have started with that and avoided all of this back-and-forth.

    I’m done here. You can be very afraid of something that in the long history of the planet has never happened. Me, I’ve got better things to do than indulge in inchoate fear.

    w.

  35. dikranmarsupial says:

    “However, what you’re talking about is not that. You’re saying that the climate itself reaches such a state that, without shifting continents or Milankovich cycles, it initiates an irreversible “tipping point” all by itself.”

    Hilarious, Willis is O.K. with the idea of relatively weak Milankovic forcing initiating tipping points, but not greenhouse gasses, despite the fact that GHG feedback has amplified Milankovic forcing in the past.

  36. dikranmarsupial says:

    “So we have examples, but they’re examples of things that don’t exist? Really? That’s your claim?”

    more adversarial misrepresentation. We have examples of tipping points, but they are tipping points that we have yet to reach. It isn’t complicated.

  37. dikranmarsupial says:

    ” You can be very afraid of something that in the long history of the planet has never happened. Me, I’ve got better things to do than indulge in inchoate fear.”

    Have I said *anything* about being frightened? No, because my understanding or acceptance of science doesn’t depend on my emotional state or political biases.

  38. Joshua,

    Seems to me that the point about tipping points is that they represent low probability but high damage risk.

    Don’t quite agree. There are clearly thresholds beyond which these outcomes become quite likely. I think tipping points are, in an uncertainty sense, different to – for example – climate sensitivity turning out to be very high.

    Specifying tipping points seems to me to kind of miss the point. It’s trying to limit uncertainty, under the belief that will make policy-development easier.

    But I don’t think that will work. Time is better spent, imo, talking about how we to create policy in the face of (despite) uncertainty.

    In my view, the relevance of tipping points is that they simply add to the reasons why we might want to consider limiting our emissions. I don’t think they specifically change what we would do. In some sense, the 2C target was partly based on avoiding some tipping points. I don’t really see how introducing tipping points somehow reduces uncertainty, but they do provide extra information that might strengthen the need for policy.

  39. Joshua says:

    Willis –

    Before you leave, would you comment on thus fear-mongering about a theoretical climatic tipping point that has been put forth by an alarmist?

    > > So … would it not be truly ironic if pollution, in the form of soot and brown carbon, were all that has been holding off another ice age? And wouldn’t it be a cosmic joke if our efforts to clean up soot and brown carbon pollution were the straw that broke the back of the Holocene, and ushered in the new ice age?

    C’mon Willis. Be a sport. This will be fun.

  40. dikranmarsupial says:

    I think the chances of seeing [to all intents and purposes] ice free Septembers in the Arctic is far from “low probability”.

  41. dikranmarsupial says:

    As to dangers. Say Betelgeuse were six light years away rather than six hundred and actually about to go supernova. Would we have to have an example of the effects of a supernova that we predicted and observed in order for us to be concerned about the effects of Betegeuse going nova?

    No, because of physics. We understand the physics well enough to have a pretty good idea what would happen, just as we have a good enough understanding of climate physics to have a pretty good idea what would happen if we doubled the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere.

  42. Joshua says:

    Anders –

    > There are clearly thresholds beyond which these outcomes become quite likely.

    But isn’t there compounded uncertainty associated with whether we will cross those thresholds into high likelihood?

    At any rate, maybe I need to retool my understanding. How is the likelihood of tipping points quantified?

    > I don’t really see how introducing tipping points somehow reduces uncertainty, but they do provide extra information that might strengthen the need for policy.

    I think that rhetorically, perhaps more at the fringes of the science and more in the realm of policy advocacy, the notion of tipping points are used to make the need for mitigation policies more certain (reduce uncertainty). That seems to me like a losing strategy. Climate tipping points are, basically, abstract. IMO, the need for action will only become certain if people (in wealthy countries) experience dramatic impact from climate change in their daily lives. I tend to think that abstractions will not motivate people strongly enough. Therefore, my view is that we should work on how people approach the risk of climate change in the face of uncertainty – rather than use abstractions to spur people to be more certain.

  43. Joshua,

    But isn’t there compounded uncertainty associated with whether we will cross those thresholds into high likelihood?

    I’m not quite sure what you mean here. What I mean, for example, is that if we warm by 2C we will almost certainly lose the tropical coral reefs – it’s not longer a low probability outcome. Similarly, if we warm by 3C, we will almost certainly no longer have summer Arctic sea ice or Alpine glaciers. Of course, we may not warm this much, but our current trajectory is taking us there.

    I think that rhetorically, perhaps more at the fringes of the science and more in the realm of policy advocacy, the notion of tipping points are used to make the need for mitigation policies more certain (reduce uncertainty).

    Possibly, but I would argue that they simply add an extra reason for climate policy.

    That seems to me like a losing strategy. Climate tipping points are, basically, abstract.

    Could be, but I’m not sure we’ve yet identified the winning strategy 🙂

    Therefore, my view is that we should work on how people approach the risk of climate change in the face of uncertainty – rather than use abstractions to spur people to be more certain.

    Sure, thinking about how to approach this in the face of uncertainty is important. However, I’m not convinced that these are all abstractions. The Great Barrier certainly isn’t, nor is the Amazon rain forest. We do have to be careful of how we introduce these into the dialogue, but they do seem to be things that many regard as important ecosystems.

  44. Joshua says:

    Dikran –

    > I think the chances of seeing [to all intents and purposes] ice free Septembers in the Arctic is far from “low probability”.

    I guess “low probability” has a fairly wide range – but would you say that above you suggested low probability within the next 20 years or so? And only likely for people under about 30 or so to ever see it?

  45. Joshua says:
    February 23, 2020 at 7:04 pm

    Willis –

    Before you leave, would you comment on thus fear-mongering about a theoretical climatic tipping point that has been put forth by an alarmist?

    > > So … would it not be truly ironic if pollution, in the form of soot and brown carbon, were all that has been holding off another ice age? And wouldn’t it be a cosmic joke if our efforts to clean up soot and brown carbon pollution were the straw that broke the back of the Holocene, and ushered in the new ice age?

    C’mon Willis. Be a sport. This will be fun.

    I’m reluctant to, but since you insist, sure.

    That was me, taking the piss out of fools like you who think that we’re at the edge of some vague “tipping point”.

    Any other questions?

    w.

  46. Joshua says:

    Anders –

    > Of course, we may not warm this much….

    That’s what I meant when referring to compounded uncertainty… There’s that uncertainty and then any uncertainty associated with the mechanics of tipping points.

    > However, I’m not convinced that these are all abstractions. The Great Barrier certainly isn’t, nor is the Amazon rain forest.

    I think that a projection of losing those resources from some decades of future warming is necessarily an abstraction. Even more so would be the impact of those losses to people who live a long distance away. I just think that is a structural reality of climate policy development to target what are, for now at least, mostly abstract outcomes. I have a concrete sense of what it means to live on a planet with the Amazon rain forest. I have to abstract an understanding of what it would mean to live on a planet without it.

  47. Willis,
    It’s good to have you remind me how charming you are.

    Joshua,

    That’s what I meant when referring to compounded uncertainty… There’s that uncertainty and then any uncertainty associated with the mechanics of tipping points.

    Yes, but how much we warm depends on how much we emit, and how much we emit depends primarily on what we choose to do. It’s uncertain, but not in the same way that climate sensitivity is uncertain (our choices can’t influence this). So, if there is a good chance of crossing some tipping points if we warm by ~3C, then it doesn’t seem unreasonable to use this to influence that choices that we might make that would then influence how much we warm.

    Doesn’t you latter paragraph apply to many aspects of this issue? None of use have ever lived on a planet >2C warmer than pre-industrial, so describing the potential impacts of this level of warming is always going to be somewhat abstract.

  48. verytallguy says:

    Please ignore Willis.

    James Annan’s essay is interesting and worthy of discussion.

  49. Joshua says:

    Willis –

    > Any other questions?

    Yeah.

    Why are you so consistently disingenuous?

    That was you, as a self-styled citizen scientist and “wordsmith” who takes his posts at WUWT very seriously as the product of his science, writing about a theoretical tipping point.

    Which is what makes it so obvious that you’re full of it when you write of not understanding what people are taking about when they talk about potential tipping points.

    Again, if you want to argue the validity underlying the science about tipping points, have at it. But don’t hope to fool anyone that you’re ‘just asking questions” to “figure out” what people are talking about. That’s transparently not true.

    Not to mention pathetic.

  50. dikranmarsupial says:

    Joshua the probability of a tipping point doesn’t depend on who will see the outcome or how severely it will impact them. It is a matter of physics, not economics or politics.

  51. Joshua says:

    VTG –

    Done. (We did a pretty good job with morpheus. Can’t expect perfection).

  52. dikranmarsupial says:

    VTG you are, of course, quite correct.

  53. verytallguy says:

    James seems to make two points, one political and the other scientific.

    (1) Politics. “Tipping points” has a different, much more rapid and catastrophic implication to the public than to the scientific community. Thus, either deliberately, or inadvertently, scientists risk misleading the public by using the term, potentially causing a counterproductive backlash to the message on emissions reduction.

    (2) Scientific. The tipping points identified have sufficiently slow mechanisms as to not be meaningful; the potential future changes in forcing from GHGs are such as to render the positive feedbacks from tipping point mechanisms moot.

    At least, that’s how I read it.

  54. verytallguy says:

    Anyone read Annan’s piece differently?

    I’d be interested to see the counter essay. I expect someone will be along soon with a link.

  55. Joshua says:

    Anders –

    > So, if there is a good chance of crossing some tipping points if we warm by ~3C, then it doesn’t seem unreasonable to use this to influence that choices that we might make that would then influence how much we warm.

    I agree that it isn’t unreasonable to use it as an influence in how people make choices.

    > Doesn’t you latter paragraph apply to many aspects of this issue? None of use have ever lived on a planet >2C warmer than pre-industrial, so describing the potential impacts of this level of warming is always going to be somewhat abstract.

    Sure. I think that’s part of the structural problem with climate change policy development. If course, it’s true of policy in a lot of realms, but I think the effect is more pronounced with climate policy than most other realms.

  56. vtg,
    Yes, I think (1) is one of the arguments. However, I wasn’t entirely sure how to interpret the scientific aspect of James’ essay. I realise that some of the changes might be slow, but the point behind tipping points is that these potentially become irreversible once triggered (so our near term future could still be relevant). I realise that some may indeed be reversible, but this isn’t obviously always the case. For example, once Greenland starts melting you expose the surface to ever increasing temperatures as it moves down the lapse. This could mean that even if we could artificially extract CO2 and cool the surface, it may still continue melting.

    So, I agree with the general idea that it is often confused in the public discourse, but it’s not clear that this is an argument for it not being included, or it being made clearer.

  57. dikranmarsupial says:

    It is a bit “we have thousands of years to adapt, so it it’s fine for the Greenland ice sheet to collapse”. I have to say, I don’t really agree with that.

  58. verytallguy says:

    It is a bit “we have thousands of years to adapt, so it it’s fine for the Greenland ice sheet to collapse”. I have to say, I don’t really agree with that.

    Yes, that was my initial reaction.

    But I think it’s more “how much and how fast we emit will make far more difference than whether we go through a tipping point or not, so whilst scientifically valid they’re not policy relevant”

    I guess in the context of Greenland, how rapidly we are inundated with a 7m sea level rise depends little on whether the rise is irreversible or not, it’s mainly the driving force which is predominantly the forcing from GHGs rather than the altitude drop from melting.

    So the message for policy is that incremental GHG emissions matter, and the rhetoric of tipping points distracts from that.

    At least that’s how I’ve understood it.

  59. I guess Mad Mike Hughes met an untimely end working on his project to prove the earth is flat. https://www.cnn.com/2020/02/22/us/science-channel-mike-hughes-dead/index.html
    Science in action. Rest in peace.

  60. dikranmarsupial says:

    I don’t think presenting the best available understanding of the science is what is distracting, it is more the rhetorical exploitation that is the distraction (c.f. Willis on this thread).

  61. vtg,

    So the message for policy is that incremental GHG emissions matter, and the rhetoric of tipping points distracts from that.

    Yes, and I can see that tipping points may not be all that policy relevant (although I think the 2C target was – IIRC – partly motivated by keeping warming below the level where most tipping points might be triggered). However, there is a difference between what might be directly policy relevant and what might be incporated into public communication strategies. I agree with the general concern that the concept of tipping points is often confused in the public narrative, and we should be careful to avoid this. Doesn’t mean, though, that we should avoid discussing these (IMO, at least).

  62. Schellnhuber, not “Shellnhuber”.

  63. Rust, thanks, I’ll fix that when I get back to my laptop.

  64. Willis is asking for examples of recorded tipping points. I can provide hundreds of examples of species extinction, each of which is a “no return” example of a tipping point.

    The very sad aspect of this is that Willis actually wrote a paper on the topic of extinctions, LOL

    Loehle, C. and W. Eschenbach. 2011. Historical Continental Bird and Mammal Extinction Rates. Diversity & Distributions DOI: 10.1111/j.1472-4642.2011.00856.x

    Of course Willis might provide a comeback with the idea that these species can be restored via their DNA, or they are not related to climate change per se. .

  65. Willard says:

    I think that scientists would save time by using every opportunity to move their own ball forward. If it’s that we need to act ASAP, that should be the ball to move forward.

    The Internet is too big of a hall to monitor. Tipping points are here to stay.

  66. izen says:

    Just a correction to Willis about the tipping point in the Sahara. It was not 7 million years ago when the Tethys ocean dried up, it was ~5500 years ago when the monsoon rains that had kept the area as a lush forest/Savannah failed. This tipping point happened after the end of the last ice-age, during the Holocene.

    https://www.researchgate.net/publication/236260046_Varved_sediments_of_Lake_Yoa_Ounianga_Kebir_Chad_reveal_progressive_drying_of_the_Sahara_during_the_last_6100_years

    9,000 to 7,300 years ago: Continued rains, vegetation growth, and animal migrations lead to well established human settlements, including the introduction of domesticated livestock such as sheep and goats.
    7,300 to 5,500 years ago: Retreating monsoonal rains initiate desiccation in the Egyptian Sahara, prompting humans to move to remaining habitable niches in Sudanese Sahara. The end of the rains and return of desert conditions throughout the Sahara after 5,500 coincides with population return to the Nile Valley and the beginning of pharaonic society.

  67. Paul Pukite 🌏 (@WHUT) says:

    February 23, 2020 at 10:42 pm
    Willis is asking for examples of recorded tipping points. I can provide hundreds of examples of species extinction, each of which is a “no return” example of a tipping point.

    Paul, that’s more of your usual bullshit. What I actuall asked was:

    This discussion would be more comprehensible if you were to list say half a dozen “climate tipping points”, …

    Learn to read.

    w.

  68. on species extinction and dna: per WE “Willis might provide a comeback with the idea that these species can be restored via their DNA…”

    I think that also fits with ATTP’s nuanced position as to whether/which tipping points are truly reversible, so it’s not just WE that might make this kind of distinction. Even if the extinction of a certain species took a long time or the extinction status had been established for a relatively long period of time, if DNA is available, that “tipping point” is theoretically and actually reversible, is it not?

    Unless and until ATTP comes out for something as urgent and really important, then I guess it’s really not that big a deal.

  69. mrkenfabian says:

    Such an abundance of things that are important and urgent that commitment to act should not have to wait for widespread understanding of tipping points. Isn’t it just one more aspect of the widely promoted notion that anything not understood and accepted personally can be dismissed as probably false and certainly unimportant?

    There really is something fundamentally wrong – a whole host of fundamentally wrongs – within governance, within education, within “Fourth Estate” informing and holding to account, that we are 3 decades on from achieving science with high confidence on the issue of climate change that we still have governments that refuse to commit and media that refuse to inform or hold misinformers to account and our ability to manage the climate problem to our best ability is denied.

  70. mrken,
    I don’t think the argument is that we should wait till we better understand tipping points. Certainly the argument in James’ essay is that it doesn’t really change what we should do (limit emissions).

  71. dikranmarsupial says:

    Willis wrote “Paul, that’s more of your usual bullshit. What I actuall asked was:”

    Oh, the irony!

  72. dikranmarsupial says:

    small blue mike “I think that also fits with ATTP’s nuanced position as to whether/which tipping points are truly reversible, so it’s not just WE that might make this kind of distinction”

    The IPCC definition of a tipping-point makes it clear that it is irreversible on a given timescale. Of course that won’t stop adversarial misrepresentation or pedantry about the meaning of “irreversible”.

  73. David B. Benson says:

    An example of a so-called tipping point long since past is the melting of the Laurentide Ice Sheet.

  74. Ben McMillan says:

    From a ‘damage function’ point of view, the existence of tipping points brings in path-dependence to the problem. The current ‘damage’ depends on time-history, not just the current concentration of CO2: if you peak at RCP8.5 in 2100, then bring back concentrations to pre-industrial levels, people are still substantially and (effectively) permanently worse off.

    Not that this would matter at all in a IAM with an effective discount rate of 4% because you only care about the next 20 years anyway.

    But I would say there is a moral difference between making the next couple of generations suffer as they work to reduce CO2 levels to acceptable values and doing permanent damage that at best can only be partially repaired at great cost. So in my mind at least it makes the problem slightly more urgent.

  75. graemeu says:

    The thing about tipping points is that there is a pressure state that pushes a thing to the tipping point. It can hover there for a long time until it gets that extra nudge from either the main pressure state or another, perhaps even a stochastic event, the latter is often the case with the flipping of freshwater lakes. Once tipped it’s condition is in freefall until the new stable state is reached. I’ve seen this a few times now with glaciers that were once considered to be ablating due to an upward shift in the permanent snowline, but once they became ungrounded rapidly retreated to leave a lake behind. It will take a lot more than a little cooling or an increase in snowfall to have the glacier reoccupy the lake basin.
    ATTP I don’t think tipping points are that difficult a concept to grasp and are important for society to understand. Even if, as VTG implies, it won’t change the outcome in the long run if the break up of the West Antarctic icesheet can be delayed that will be a big benefit in allowing adaptation to rising sea levels. And WE tipping points in the form of what happens when a glacier ceases to be grounded have been demonstrated numerous times.

  76. Ben,

    But I would say there is a moral difference between making the next couple of generations suffer as they work to reduce CO2 levels to acceptable values and doing permanent damage that at best can only be partially repaired at great cost. So in my mind at least it makes the problem slightly more urgent.

    In some sense, I agree. On the other hand, we’ve left things so late that it’s not obvious that incorporating things about tipping points substantively changes the urgency. Whether we consider the impact of simply continuing to warm, versus the impact of potentially crossing a tipping point, the message is broadly the same; peak emissions soon, and get to net zero as soon as we can. The complication, of course, is doing so in a way that is fair (i.e., how do we share the emission cuts between the developed, and developing, world) and doesn’t do more harm than good (i.e., we can’t simply turn everything off).

  77. graemu,

    ATTP I don’t think tipping points are that difficult a concept to grasp and are important for society to understand.

    I agree, but people do seem to still confuse tipping points and some kind of runaway. I think this is why some are reluctant to highlight them in the public discourse. However, I see no reason why we can’t try to do so in a way that makes clear that crossing a tipping point doesn’t mean we undergo some kind of unstoppable runaway, but does mean that we may have irreversibly damaged some part of the climate system (including ecosystems).

  78. tipping points lead to runaway
    runaway leads to a new state that is irrelevant to humans on earth
    tipping points leading runaway mass extinction do not recover for millions of years
    *Cradle To Grave Academic Fraud*
    https://lokisrevengeblog.wordpress.com/ecological-collapse/
    *All your climate and energy charts on one single page*
    https://lokisrevengeblog.wordpress.com/collpase-charts/

  79. Dave_Geologist says:

    So I’m just trying to figure out what it is they’re talking about.

    You could always start by reading the paper referenced in the OP, Willis. Then demonstrate understanding of it. Then we might be able to have a useful discussion. Assuming, of course, that you’re acting in good faith, and are capable of understanding.

  80. Ben McMillan says:

    Hmm, I guess I see the ‘harm’ we are doing as being dominated by ecosystem and species extinction. After the 100 years of destruction, there are 1000s of years of aftermath. So we are condemning future generations to live in a radically impoverished and disrupted natural environment, even if you take the view that we owe nothing to the natural world itself, and it only has value through our appreciation of it.

    I think that kind of perspective has a very different view of what kinds of actions might cause ‘more harm than good’ than Nordhaus-style analysis. But sure, either of these will tell you that we aren’t doing enough.

    Also, the idea that we are causing irreparable harm to ecosystems has narrative power. Call to mind a burning forest, a bleached reef. Talking about generic tipping points on the other hand is rather abstract and mostly informative for the subset of people interested in nonlinear dynamical systems.

  81. lokis,

    tipping points lead to runaway

    Technically, this is not correct. Formally, the definition of a runaway is a state where the atmosphere is so water vapour rich (and there is a source of additional water vapour on the surface) that the outgoing flux saturates. If the incoming flux exceeds this, then energy continues to accumulate and the surface warms until either the water has all evaporated and been lost, or we reach temperatures where the atmosphere is no longer opaque at the wavelengths where the emission is occuring. This is simply not possible in our current state (the incoming energy from the Sun is too low).

    However, there are components of the climate system that could start to undergo largely irreversible changes if we were to pass certain thresholds. The impact of this could well be severely negative, but this is not the same as us having undergone a runaway.

  82. Chubbs says:

    My swag – for a general audience “tipping points” adds a level of abstraction that probably doesn’t aid in communication. Climate change is gradual, and therefore hard to notice for many, but once set in motion, climate change is very difficult to slow down, and even harder to reverse. As slowly as the climate crisis has developed, its going to be much, much slower to recede.

  83. Steven Mosher says:

    willis

    here are your words

    “This discussion would be more comprehensible if you were to list say half a dozen “climate tipping points”, and explain how many of them were detectable in advance even in theory. I find the whole subject to be filled with much more theory and passion than actual examples.

    I mean, clearly the earth shifts on a relatively regular basis from ~ 100 kyr glacial to ~20 kyr interglacial … I suppose you could call those “tipping points”, although I’d describe it as a “bistable state”. But in either case, we haven’t been able to say when the next shift might occur.

    Other than that, what examples do we have of said “climate tipping points”?

    There are two questions you may be asking
    1. Have we been able to predict any PAST tipping point from the advent of climate science
    prediction ( say 1896 ) and the present.
    Answer: No, none have happened, the predictions are all about the future.
    2. Are we able to predict future tipping points
    Answer yes.

    examples: if the temperature of the earth goes to 40C, globally, can you predict what
    will happen to arctic ice?

    next
    “This discussion would be more comprehensible if you were to list say half a dozen “climate tipping points”, …”

    Before you get your list, first some clarification about what a tipping point IS

    https://www.carbonbrief.org/explainer-nine-tipping-points-that-could-be-triggered-by-climate-change

    ““A climate tipping point, or any tipping point in any complex system, is where a small change makes a big difference and changes the state or the fate of a system.”

    ““As you approach the edge of the cliff, a small random gust of wind is more likely to blow you over the edge. This is more prevalent in biological systems. A strong marine heatwave in one year can wipe out a large coral ecosystem for many decades – or, perhaps, even permanently. The heatwave is a result of natural fluctuations, but becomes more likely and more extreme with an increasing average trend.”

    ““We define abrupt climate change as a large-scale change in the climate system that takes place over a few decades or less, persists (or is anticipated to persist) for at least a few decades, and causes substantial disruptions in human and natural systems.”

    ““In some cases, there is evidence that once the system has jumped to a different state, then if you remove the climate forcing, the climate system doesn’t just jump back to the original state – it stays in its changed state for some considerable time, or possibly even permanently.”

    Now the list of FUTURE TIPPING POINTS

    Shutdown of the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation
    West Antarctic ice sheet disintegration
    Amazon rainforest dieback
    West African monsoon shift
    Permafrost and methane hydrates
    Coral reef die-off
    Greenland ice sheet disintegration
    Indian monsoon shift
    Boreal forest shift

    The nine tipping points described above do not constitute an exhaustive list – indeed there are a number of other parts of the Earth system that have the potential to display tipping point behaviour.

    Some examples include: shutdown of Antarctic bottom water formation; loss of alpine glaciers; a climate change-induced hole in the ozone layer above the Arctic; ocean anoxia (where areas of the ocean see a dramatic decline in oxygen); and a change in the frequency and/or strength of El Niño events.

    Another example that is often cited is the decline of Arctic sea ice.

  84. Willis said:
    “Learn to read”

    I did skim through Willis’ paper on extinctions, and his claim was that extinctions would be more likely on island populations. I don’t think there’s any doubt that low-elevation island species will be more susceptible to the extinction tipping-point of sea-level change than continental populations. Telling that Willis could not figure that out on his own.

  85. Steven Mosher says:
    February 24, 2020 at 3:58 pm

    There are two questions you may be asking
    1. Have we been able to predict any PAST tipping point from the advent of climate science
    prediction ( say 1896 ) and the present?
    Answer: No, none have happened, the predictions are all about the future.

    Thanks for that clear answer, Mosh.

    2. Are we able to predict future tipping points?
    Answer yes.

    examples: if the temperature of the earth goes to 40C, globally, can you predict what
    will happen to arctic ice?

    Thanks, Steve. We can also say that if we leave a glass of water and ice out on the table the ice will melt … but I’m not seeing how that involves any irreversible “tipping point”.

    ““A climate tipping point, or any tipping point in any complex system, is where a small change makes a big difference and changes the state or the fate of a system.”

    ““As you approach the edge of the cliff, a small random gust of wind is more likely to blow you over the edge. This is more prevalent in biological systems. A strong marine heatwave in one year can wipe out a large coral ecosystem for many decades – or, perhaps, even permanently. The heatwave is a result of natural fluctuations, but becomes more likely and more extreme with an increasing average trend.”

    As usual, there’s more heat than light … I know of no instance of coral bleaching “wiping out” a coral ecosystem for decades or permanently. That’s just alarmism, which is a permanent problem in climate science and is omnipresent in the tipping point industry. It’s always about “If you don’t reform your evil ways, something really, really bad is going to happen to you without warning.” Look, I’m a diver, qualified for sport, commercial, and rescue. I’ve watched coral reefs bleach, and I’ve watched them recover, and I can assure you that it doesn’t take decades and it’s not permanent. That’s the same bullshit that Peter Ridd exposed about the GBR, was fired for, and then was reinstated by court order.

    Finally, you list POSSIBLE tipping points:

    Shutdown of the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation
    West Antarctic ice sheet disintegration
    Amazon rainforest dieback
    West African monsoon shift
    Permafrost and methane hydrates
    Coral reef die-off
    Greenland ice sheet disintegration
    Indian monsoon shift
    Boreal forest shift

    “Rainforest dieback”? “Coral reef dieoff”? This is the problem I have. I could list fifty things that MIGHT POSSIBLY IN SOME SCENARIO OR OTHER change in some manner. The Indian monsoon is constantly shifting, every year, as does the West African monsoon. Y’all have NO IDEA whether either of those monsoons is near or far from some “tipping point”. You have no clue what such a tipping point might involve, what it might look like, or what it might do. You have no idea whether any such change would be fast, slow, reversible, or irreversible. But despite that total lack of knowledge … you’re happy to warn people about monsoon “tipping points”.

    As Mosh said above, nobody has ever successfully predicted a tipping point … but despite knowing sweet Fanny Adams about predicting tipping points, folks are still more than happy to frighten laypeople with claims that horrible outcomes are around the corner.

    But sure, guys, carry on with scaring people. I mean, it’s worked so well for you so far … not. Everyone but y’all has already noticed that you’re crying wolf. Prince Charles has just issued his biannual “WE ONLY HAVE TEN YEARS” claim. Greta constantly says the same, and Al Gore got mad, saying “You stole that “ten years” line from me, I’ve been using it for thirty years.”

    How many times have we been told that the Arctic ice has already gone past the mythical tipping point and we’d see an ice-free arctic by 1998 … wait, I meant to say 2008 … no, actually I meant 2018 … but now, they’re absolutely positive the tipping point will happen by 2028.

    Bad news. Your debate today about tipping points is only about thirty years too late. The credibility of people making such predictions of things, things that as Mosh said nobody has EVER been able to successfully predict, went into the crapper after the six or seven … teenth cratered doomcast. You can sit around and discuss it now … but nobody’s paying attention.

    I can only repeat my advice, you’re free to ignore it. I think that climate scientists should declare a moratorium on trying vainly to predict the future until the past can be successfully explained. Nobody knows why the world went into the Little Ice Age. Nobody knows why it didn’t continue into full-on glaciation, the Milankovich cycles were ripe for that. Nobody knows why the earth didn’t just stay cold, and instead started warming out of the LIA. Nobody knows why the warming from the LIA started when it did and not a century earlier or later.

    But boy, plenty of people are rushing to warn us of impending Thermageddon, to solemnly tell us what will happen in the year 2100, and to scare us about “tipping points” galore … sorry, you’re too late. That dog won’t hunt. People took a look behind the curtain, and the Great Wizard of Oz was nowhere to be found …

    Mosh, thanks as always for a clear answer. Stay healthy over there.

    w.

  86. Willard says:

    > James Annan’s essay is interesting and worthy of discussion.

    It’s also coincidentally the topic of the post.

    ***

    > Please ignore Willis.

    That’s now policy.

    Thanks everyone.

  87. izen says:

    There are (at least) two aspects to the discussion of ‘tipping points’ in the debate about climate change.

    One is technical, whether they exist in some form, what their impact and timescale might be, and how they can be predicted or detected.

    The other is as a communication tactic. In general parlance a tipping point is a small input that has a sudden effect significantly changing the state of a system. The ‘straw that broke the camels’ back’. The grain of sand that triggers the avalanche in a sand pile or slope. As such raising the potential threat of tipping points within the climate system undermines the luckwarmer narrative the AGW is a slow gradual process to which we can easily adapt. Or implicitly, less overtly, a process that we can ignore because nothing significant will happen before the end of the lifetime of those involved in the discussion.

    This why the luckwarmer contingent push back so vehemently against the concept of climate tipping points, and label it alarmist. It subverts their strongest implicit claim that nothing bad will happen before you die. It raises the spectre of doom in the near future and during the life og those engaged in the dispute over the correct response to the threats of AGW.

    It is a matter of taste, or opinion, whether it is legitimate to use the concept of tipping points in the second sense to rhetorically oppose the luckwarmer distortions of the issue, irrespective of the technical aspects of the process. YMMV.

  88. Steven Mosher says:

    “There are (at least) two aspects to the discussion of ‘tipping points’ in the debate about climate change.

    One is technical, whether they exist in some form, what their impact and timescale might be, and how they can be predicted or detected.

    The other is as a communication tactic. In general parlance a tipping point is a small input that has a sudden effect significantly changing the state of a system.”

    yes two topics.

    On the first one if you look at all the various definitions of tipping points you can see that it’s hard to pin down specifically. we can point to some exemplars which is good. we can also see that
    irreversibility is a squishy issue. And we can see that they look to be rather hard to predict.
    Not impossible, hard. They dont come along every day in the climate. so its hard to get better
    at predicting them.

    Summary: you have a phenomena that is relatively hard ( compared to other things) to define precisely and inherently hard to predict with accuracy. Given that science aims at defining things precisely and predicting them with increasing accuracy over time. ya gots a dilemma when it comes to comms.

    From a comms perspective if I want the full throwweight of science I want to hit with my hardest
    epistemic punch. I’m science, I predict things accurately. here is what will happen.
    Problem is the things we can predict the BEST about climate ain’t that scary. winter will be colder
    than summer in the NH. Alternatively, from a comms perspective if I want to drive action, then
    I want to focus on impacts, ya tipping points. extreme events.. which is not leading with my best epistemic shot.

    In a sane world scientists could just lay out the facts and uncertainties and complications of analysis and we would all come to the same risk assessment. In a sane world.

    It’s interesting to watch people predict pandemics

  89. David B. Benson says:

    Willis Eschenbach — The Little Ice Age, so-called, was but a North Atlantic phenomenon, not global despite much of the older literature making it appear so.
    As for orbital forcing leading into a stade, i.e., massive ice sheets, there is a substantial literature. For the amount of orbital forcing over long intervals of time both past and future, see papers co-authored by Ganapolski, especially Ganapolski & Archer. For a popular account of what the future may well hold, read “The Long Thaw” by David Archer.

  90. Ben McMillan says:

    The problem with “irreversible” is the same as the problem with “data manipulation”: it means something specific and clear in a technical context but something different to the man on the street.

    If you tip over a coke can, it takes more force to tip it back upright again than it did to knock it over. You can ‘reverse the process’ but it has various kinds of irreversability built in (in a thermodynamic and dynamical systems sense).

  91. Ben,
    Indeed, which is why we do have to be careful of how we present this. I do think, though, that many understand that system can reach thresholds where even if we can reverse the subsequent changes, it would be very challenging to do so.

  92. David B. Benson says:

    Ben McMillan & aTTP — which is why I don’t care for “irreversible”. Better might be “reversible at great expense”, like fixing a dinged auto fender.

  93. mrkenfabian says:

    Seems to me the climate problem itself resembles a tipping point – a constantly moving tipping point that is like a thermostat with a ratchet mechanism and, whilst we can stop turning it up further it cannot be turned back down, except, I suppose, at great expense.

  94. Chubbs says:

    I don’t like reversible as a qualifier either. On a long enough time scale, all man-made climate impacts are potentially reversible, even sluggish ice sheets could eventually regrow. On a shorter human time scale, it will be hard slog to reverse any climate impact, even with massive CO2 removal.

  95. I like what Izen had to say about the tipping points. It illustrates why it can appear that ATTP has shifted to a luckwarmer position with a focus on discounting/disputing tipping points. Unless the lead position/paragraph of any discussion that discounts tipping points states clearly that there is an urgent need to reduce emission, as fast as possible or faster, then the discussion of tipping points in either of the two contexts is a slippery slope.

    I read today that about 20% of Australia’s total forested area burned in the 2019-2020 fire season which is considerably more than has been seen in the past. The past figure for burns was in the 4-5% range.

    http://click.revue.email/mps2/c/2gA/cM9xAA/t.2zk/eovDE7cNQTi_DwzuNCLcwQ/h7/9HqbXzCzK6nR4SPruylVDy7U8j2yj02DuS5OYvZVrXkfwAtQTM1yad-2BeF3zVRAkYXeDgSNOi3UoxY0YVy0Ude3unCEt0xOgUa8sbLoTgsab9tw4LDb0brEbGX-2B6fmimjO9mI9xDdzEY762Dy6BZzCZAFzWn4EGEK1-2FdsAtxqtjwG3sD9oEClcuqTuTqwPbmzwL0or80I7p7akHgXEqOm9Q-3D-3D/yO_M

    We can argue over whether this is a tipping point or we can focus on the underlying truth which is that we desperately and urgently need to reduce emissions and we are failing to do that. Coronavirus has done more this year to reduce emissions than any governmental policy on the planet. What does that tell you?

    ATTP: if you believe it is true and correct that we urgently/desperately need to reduce emissions and we are failing to do that, then please state that clearly and repeatedly during discussions of arcane definitional arguments regarding tipping points or runaways. Don’t bury the headline.

  96. Steven Mosher says:

    I have to take some time to vent. After leaving the hotzone of china last month
    I thought Korea would be a cool zone or a luckwarm zone.
    OPPS. frying pan: fire.
    This is getting exhausting.

    here in South Korea the government is telling us that we are approaching a turning point.
    maybe that’s better language than tipping point, because it hints at agency. we have to turn.
    we have to turn or the bug is just gunna do what bugs gunna do. exponentially.

    we will either take the necessary steps to slow and eventually stop the spread, or the math
    is INEXORABLE and this critter ain’t no flu.

    Turning point, not tipping point.

    So steps are being taken. Singapore too is being vigilant and transparent.
    beijing has turned the corner on corona. But life won’t be the same I bet.
    my bet is most western democracies don’t have the stones to do what it takes.
    Meh, darwin awards.

    now how about the french?

    ““We don’t close borders because we would not be able to, we don’t do it because it would be meaningless,” he said on French radio RTL. “Should we ban gatherings? Should we stop the Fashion Week? Should we suspend matches? Should we close universities? The answer is no.”

    How philosophical. It would be meaningless!

    Post normal science
    1. facts are uncertain.
    2. Values are in conflict. FASHION WEEK!!!
    3 stakes are high
    4. decisions are urgent

    It is interesting to watch some “skeptics” go all alarmist and prepper.
    Meanwhile, fashion week!, right up there with driving my SUV.
    So I wonder how much longer folks in iran will greet each other with a kiss on the cheek.
    Kinda funny. In a globalized world it’s hard to be isolated. wash your damn hands.

  97. dikranmarsupial says:

    “I don’t like reversible as a qualifier either.”

    I’m O.K. with the IPCC definition, which makes it clear that it is irreversible on some given timescale. Seems reasonable to me (but perhaps only me ;o).

  98. Dave_Geologist says:

    Coincidentally, a just-published review of one of those tipping points. Carbon release through abrupt permafrost thaw. The devil is in the detail. And current models don’t have enough detail. Basically it’s about collapses, scars, pingos, melt-lakes etc. which physically change the geometry and expose deep permafrost and change the water table/oxygen penetration, vs. simple top-down slab thawing. You can guess which is easier to model. And which is harder to map and monitor – effectively point sources.

    Abrupt thaw processes such as thermokarst have long been recognized as influential but are complex and understudied, and thus are insufficiently represented in coupled models. While gradual thaw slowly affects soil by centimetres over decades, abrupt thaw can affect many metres of permafrost soil in periods of days to several years. … In upland areas, abrupt thaw occurs as thaw slumps, gullies and active layer detachments, while in poorly drained areas abrupt thaw creates collapse scar wetlands and thermokarst lakes.

    From 2000–2300, newly formed hillslope erosional features increase in area from 0.1–3% of abrupt thaw terrain, but these active features have the potential to emit around one-third of abrupt thaw carbon losses. … While CH4 accounted for only ~20% of carbon emissions, because of its strong atmospheric radiative forcing, it constituted 50% of the radiative forcing from abrupt thaw. Considering CO2 and CH4 emissions together, gradual thaw emissions ranged from 613–802 TgCO2e yr−1 from 2000–2100. During the same time period, our simulations showed that abrupt thaw could release 624 TgCO2e yr−1, increasing to 960 TgCO2e yr−1 from 2100–2300. Thus, emissions from 2.5 million km2 of abrupt thaw-impacted land could provide a similar positive feedback to climate warming as emissions associated with gradual thaw across the 18 million km2 permafrost region … The main scenario used in our simulations was based on starting thaw rates bound by historical observations of abrupt thaw expansion rates (Supplementary Information). Several recent studies suggest that ongoing hillslope thaw is exceeding these historical bounds.

    Roughly speaking, abrupt thaw could double the permafrost CO2e contribution in the medium term and increase cumulative permafrost CO2e to 2300 by 40% relative to gradual thaw alone (not dug into the detail yet, but the less than doubling appears to be partly due to some of those features stabilising, e.g. new lakes becoming vegetated and net sinks, and partly due to the atmospheric lifetime of CH4 being well short of 300 years).

    Per the previous discussion, this study used RCP8.5. This is an example of why we should keep it: not because we want something scary, but because it’s easier to elucidate differential behaviour under a strong forcing. And of course there are other ways to get to a particular concentration pathway than burning coal. Thawing permafrost for example, with CH4 expressed as CO2e.

  99. Chubbs says:

    I was thinking mainly about non-technical communication. No problem with use of reversible in an IPCC document, or elsewhere, if there is enough context for the target audience.

  100. dikranmarsupial says:

    I’m alright with it in non-technical settings, as long as you say something like … irreversible on human-relevant timescales …

    However, part of the problem with non-technical communication on this particular topic is that it tends to be dominated by adversarial misinterpretation as people would rather argue about the meaning of words so that that can avoid discussing the actual science.

  101. “It is interesting to watch some “skeptics” go all alarmist and prepper.”
    It’s interesting to watch the people concerned about Corona focus on the actual virus wherever it is.

    Is the global plan to deal with this urgent issue similar to the urgent issue of climate change- total eradication in western nations immediately at any cost, with a gradual reduction of cases in China and India beginning some time in 2030?

    “In a globalized world it’s hard to be isolated.”
    Yep.

  102. The (practical) irreversibility(s) that concern me most have to do with ice sheets and sea ice (and to a lesser degree, glaciers, although they would also be practically irreversible).

    If we warm the planet enough to significantly melt the ice, then we change the state of the system were ever to succeed in later reducing ghg’s and temperature. The albedo of the earth system is reduced and so is the elevation of the ice sheets. So the conditions at which the ice melts at, say, 1.8°C on our way to, say, 2.2°C, are not the same if we later return the temperature to 1.8°C. You would have to get the system well below that temperature to subsequently restore the ice.

    I am going to include a (not entirely ideal) schematic, which comes from a fairly subtle point Myles Allen was making (now almost 11 years ago), when he was arguing against James Hansen’s prescription of 350ppm (which is a longer argument, but not really what I am using the schematic for).

    So, you start in the bottom left (green dot) – 280 ppm CO₂ and pre-industrial temps) and start adding ghg’s and moving along, say, a 3°C equilibrium climate sensitivity. But if you stay at elevated temperatures for long enough to trigger significant loss of the ice caps, then you start to wobble towards a shifted higher sensitivity curve.

    It is still a 3°C sensitivity curve (same slope), but it is operative in a changed state with respect to albedo and ice elevation. And if you then start to drawdown atmospheric concentrations, i.e. start to retrace from right to left on the higher curve, you still stay on the upper curve and do no recover the ice (not until you get much cooler, and perhaps wobble back to the initial curve).

    So, technically it is not absolutely “irreversible”, but you might have to get concentrations way, way down. Which creates, um, other problems.

    (And of course, this is all leaving aside triggering potential MICI and MISI mechanical loss of ice, irrespective of temperature).

    By the way, speaking of “irreversible”, John Schellnhuber at the same conference, talked about research out of PIK, looking at what would be required to meaningfully reverse ocean acidification (pH), There are some truly scary results there, suggesting that we would have to undertake staggeringly massive carbon dioxide removal (CDR) to move the pH needle. Like at least 80 GtCO₂/annum until we got atmospheric concentrations well below pre-industrial. 😳 … i.e. below agricultural revolution levels, etc. 😳

    So, again, technically reversible, practically no.

    And I don’t offer this as hysteria or doomerism on tipping element, but just pointing ou that some fairly well-understood earth system processes are not likely going to “cooperate” if we after-the-tipping-fact decide we need to retreat (reverse) to a prior state.

  103. at RNS: I think on reversibility you are supported by what ATTP says about the tipping points: “Another issue with tipping points is that we don’t know if they are truly irreversible; if we could start to artificially draw down atmospheric CO2 might some then reverse? Additionally, the timescale over which they manifest themselves is typically long, in many cases centuries. Hence, they don’t necessarily imply a need for urgent action.”

    and if ATTP is correct that we will typically have long timeframes, even centuries, to persuade earth system processes to cooperate and reverse, so tipping points don’t necessarily imply the need for urgent action. Does that sound right to everyone?

    As ATTP said: We just need to do our best to limit how much we emit. Who can argue with that? I think the cruise ship and coal generation industries are working on that exact problem. Here is an article about how the cruise ship industry is working to do their best to limit emissions: https://fortune.com/2019/10/29/cruise-ship-green-technology-emissions-pollution/

    Cheers

    Mike

  104. Think you are missing my point, smb…

    I am saying that for certain impacts/tipping elements we may need to *more than* reverse the (ghg, etc.) forcings that initially brought us to the new state in order to restore the initial physical state…

    That’s a *BIG* deal… how would we feasibly get *MORE*, say, carbon out of the active (atmosphere, oceans, biosphere) system than we’ve cumulatively added from the lithosphere? You start looking at it from an energetics, thermodynamics, entropy, reversible process basis, etc., and this just seems 😳😳😳

    “Time frames” are a consideration, but that’s (somewhat) secondary to my basic point… so, again, technically reversible, but practically???

    Hopefully someone can tease it out better than I did…

    (also, pro-tip, careful putting words &/or worldviews onto some other thread participants (not me)… just saying…)

  105. The Very Reverend Jebediah Hypotenuse says:


    and if ATTP is correct that we will typically have long timeframes, even centuries, to persuade earth system processes to cooperate and reverse, so tipping points don’t necessarily imply the need for urgent action. Does that sound right to everyone?

    No.

    In principle, at least: ice can reform, CO2 can be sequestered, ocean pH can be raised.

    You know what is never going to “cooperate and reverse”?


    While many species were able to tolerate a moderate increase in maximum temperatures, 50% of the species had local extinctions if maximum temperatures increased by more than 0.5 degrees Celsius. That number rose to 95% if temperatures increased by more than 2.9 degrees Celsius.

    https://www.pnas.org/content/117/8/4211

    Extinctions are the ultimate tipping points. There ain’t no cure for ‘dead’.

  106. Yes, yes, I get that it may take more than a equal reversal of the forcing. I don’t think ATTP suggested that there was anything linear about the possibility of reversal, just that when folks talk about irreversible changes, they may need to be more careful because some/possibly many, tipping points are likely to be reversible if we are willing to commit enough energy to the project. A time machine does not seem to be on the horizon so far, but certainly crispr and dna rebirth seems to suggest a reversal of a species extinction. Again, this might be only technically possible, and not-so-much practically possible, so that brings us back to a comfortable platitude about doing our best to reduce our emissions and to squelch discussions with technical inaccuracies that might convey a sense of great urgency to emission reduction.

    Personally, I think it is smart to load all emission reduction discussions with a large amount of urgency based on the specifics of our current situation and what we know about how the climate is likely to behave as we continue to increase CO2 and CO2e saturations. In fact, my own personal sense of urgency on these matters leaves no room for additional urgency to arise as a result of discussion, technically flawed or otherwise, of things like tipping points and runaways.

    At the end of thinking this through, I think I simply disagree with ATTP’s suggestion that we need to be careful about discussion of tipping points. I think it makes sense to be as accurate and thoughtful as possible in discussion of these matters, but I think we have been sufficiently careless with regard to our historic emissions, that conveying too much urgency in addressing global warming is really not a problem that we need to be concerned with.

    But, hey, that’s just me. YMMV. Got told yesterday that I may become a great grandfather later this year. I love children, grandchildren etc., so I am excited and also a little concerned. Everything in its own sweet time, I guess.

    Cheers

    Mike

  107. well smb, you still seem to be conflating the three points made in the OP…

    essentially,
    i) how close are we (or have we) initiated any “tipping points”?
    ii) are (would) they then be “runaway”?
    iii) are they “reversible”

    My meagre contribution here was about what “reversibility” might physically entail post-a-tip… Point 3, quite specifically… (and the implication of the importance of staying on the “lower curve” above… or implications (from a “reversibility” POV) of not tipping…

    You seem to be focusing on 1 and 2, fair enough… and the point that we have already – or very soon – have flipped/tipped to a new state… That is a far weaker case – albeit frightening – proposition, scientifically…

    Cheers, be brief.

  108. fwiw, “Cheers, be brief.” should read “not that interested, but if you do, stay on point”

  109. Willard says:

    > There ain’t no cure for ‘dead’.

    Well, actually:

    In a landmark paper published in 1982, Jack Sepkoski and David M. Raup identified five mass extinctions. They were originally identified as outliers to a general trend of decreasing extinction rates during the Phanerozoic, but as more stringent statistical tests have been applied to the accumulating data, it has been established that multicellular animal life has experienced five major and many minor mass extinctions. The “Big Five” cannot be so clearly defined, but rather appear to represent the largest (or some of the largest) of a relatively smooth continuum of extinction events.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Extinction_event#Major_extinction_events

  110. Steven Mosher says:

    Nice paper rev!

    “Climatic Data. We obtained climatic data from georeferenced localities using
    the CRU TS 3.22 (Climate Research Unit Time Series) dataset (34). Climatic
    variables were downscaled to ∼1 km based on WorldClim raster files (35–37).
    The resulting dataset included high-resolution climatic data (∼1 km) for
    each year from 1901 to 2013. When sampling was conducted over multiple
    years, we selected the oldest year for the historical survey, and the most
    recent date for the resurvey (SI Appendix, Text S1.3).”

    Opps.

    CRU TS is not suitable for long term Climate studies. (non homogenized)
    and downscaling with my buddies product (worldclim at 1km)
    is… how should I say.. not exactly kosher.

    But ya, extinction is an irreversible problem.

  111. Just to clarify what I was trying to get at in the post, these so-called tipping points may manifest over long timescale, but giving ourselves a good chance of avoiding would require urgent action, similar to what we would need to do to achieve some of our other targets (i.e., limiting warming to, for example, 1.5C). I don’t think these tipping points substantively change what we should do, but they may add an extra reason for doing so.

  112. izen says:

    @-SM
    ” extinction is an irreversible problem.”

    But it may not be a good example of a tipping point.
    It would appear that waves of diversification and subsequent extinction are a inherent component of evolving systems.
    A similar process can be observed in business activity as in biological ecologies.

    When the new (technology) niche of railroads, telephones, and computers opened up there was a rapid growth and diversity of companies exploiting these new opportunities. But that rise in entities exploiting the new environment changed the environment they were operating in. What had been an ‘open goal’ of a chance to succeed in railroads, telephones or computers rapidly became a packed marketplace of intense competition. What followed was the extinction of many of the smaller businesses and the consolidation of the species of companies to a few major players. In some cases government stepped in a nationalised or regulated the environment to ensure a stable pattern of supply and demand.

    The start of the ice-age ~3million years ago triggered a similar explosion in new species exploiting the new environments. Many of the grazing animals and their predators we see today owe their evolutionary existence to that diversification into savannas and tundra. Including hominids, and us.
    But the same pattern is in play. Consider the elephant. Once upon a time there were many species from woolly mammoths to island pigmys. Now there are African and Asian elephants with a few subspecies variation in the Asian form. There has been a similar pattern of rapid species diversification and subsequent extinction in grazing ungulates, and of course hominids.

    It is part of a common pattern in such systems, characterising the extinctions as tipping points may be as inaccurate as describing the proliferation of species, or entrepreneurial diversity, at the start of such a cycle, as a tipping point.

  113. Joshua says:

    Anders –

    >… but they may add an extra reason for doing so.

    Maybe. But given the deficit in the deficit modelg, and the reality of the politics of climate change, and the disinformation magnification effect of the interwebs, I am skeptical as to how that reason translates into policy development.

    Of course, that also runs both ways. IOW, I’m also quite skeptical of the blowback effect we often see theorized, such as what we see in James’ piece.

    Methinks there are other, more explanatory forces in play.

  114. Ben McMillan says:

    I think there is a fair bit of dancing back and forth about whether people are talking about tipping points of the whole climate system, or of subsystems. As James was arguing, there isn’t much evidence that the whole climate system will reach a tipping point where it suddenly transitions to a much warmer climate, for plausible future forcings. There’s a significant risk that carbon sinks become weaker, and land/sea methane emissions become unhelpful, but probably not enough to cause a tipping point as such.

    But things like marine ice sheet instability, for example, seem like a plausible way to suddenly get quite a lot of essentially irreversible sea level rise. And species extinction and ecosystem destruction are pretty irreversible. So the potential “impact tipping points” are definitely important and, in my opinion, the main thing motivating the 1.5C targets (they are a big part of the tail risk).

    The kind of boring non-tippy stuff that goes into DICE would normally suggest something more like a 2.5C target.

  115. Steven Mosher says:

    “The kind of boring non-tippy stuff that goes into DICE would normally suggest something more like a 2.5C target.”

    dont say that loudly you’ll destroy the narrative.

    in a rational world we would start to adapt now to a 3C type world ( WRT coastal development for example)
    and we would plan a rational switch in energy infrastructure that gave us a 50/50 chance at 2C.
    prolly ending up at 2.5C.

    come to think of it, that’s what we will probably end up doing by mistake, except for the adaptation part.

  116. The kind of boring non-tippy stuff that goes into DICE would normally suggest something more like a 2.5C target.

    Actually, Nordhaus has begun adding “tippy stuff” into DICE – like, oh, say, the complete collapse of the Greenland Ice Sheet (GIS) – and finds, yawn, it essentially makes no difference…

    ymmv

    Economics of the disintegration of the Greenland ice sheet

  117. thank you. Urgent action needed. We should all remember to mention that prominently if we believe it is true. This is like “it’s the economy, stupid” meme for global warming and all the related science and public policy discussion.

  118. Joshua,
    Indeed, but I still maintain my rather naive attitude that there are things that are worth are least trying to explain, even if people don’t always get the subleties and even if it doesn’t have much impact on the policy process.

  119. Steven,
    What you describe is roughly where I stand at the moment. Unless we do something really stupid in the next couple of decades (like finding clever ways to extract unconventional fossil fuels) or aspect of the climate are much more sensitive than we expect (climate sensitivity itself, or carbon cycle feedbacks) then we’re probably currently heading for around 3C, but will probably do somewhat better.

  120. Joshua says:

    Anders –

    > Indeed, but I still maintain my rather naive attitude that there are things that are worth are least trying to explain, even if people don’t always get the subleties and even if it doesn’t have much impact on the policy process.

    Well, I think it prolly doesn’t hurt. I have seen little empirical evidence to show that it does hurt. But I see lots o’ speculation that it does hurt.

    A whole lot.

    So what explains that juxtaposition (if I’m right about the disparity between the amount of speculation that it hurts and the amount of supporting evidence that it hurts)?

    I can understand the logic of that speculation, but logic can take us in other directions as well.

    I guess it’s just hard to grasp why talking about potential large scale risk doesn’t result in basic policy adaptation. But people really want to have an explanation. So I think that the tendency is to blame otters. That can take the form of blaming “skeptics,” or complacency or self-centerdness among the unconvinced, or the communication tactics of people who advocate for mitigation policies.

    But I think the explanation lies more in basic human psychology. And more “cognitive empathy” can help with the difficult in understanding the mechanisms of how people approach risk.

    FWIW.

  121. Joshua says:

    Anders –

    >… then we’re probably currently heading for around 3C, but will probably do somewhat better.

    Per doubling of pre-industrial?
    By a certain date?

  122. I think extinction is practically an irreversible problem. It’s like ice sheet melting and a host of other impacts that could likely be reversed through great expense and technology, but which involve projects that our species is unlikely capable of seeing through to completion and return to a previous state. Maybe these items fit in the class of subtleties that may be worth trying to explain even if people don’t always get them and even if they don’t have impact on public policy? They are nonetheless more accurate imo. Given a long enough time frame in the form of a project that will take centuries or more, these projects start to take on a healthy, rosy hue.

    I do have a concern that too much focus on these subtleties can be pedantic, that we can get lost in the weeds, so there’s that. Don’t forget, in any case, urgent action is needed to prevent bad, really bad, outcomes and impacts in the near and long term. That should be the headline and the takeaway.

  123. Ben McMillan says:

    Yeah, I don’t think Nordhaus really needed a full length science paper to show that an economics optimisation with a 20-year horizon period (~4% effective discount rate) doesn’t care about a process that happens over 1000s of years.

    I think it is a nice demonstration of why IAMs are silly over that kind of time period.

    The more worrying tipping points are the ones that happen over decades, with little warning, so it is too late to do much about it by the time you realise. e.g., could some of the Antarctic ice shelves melt out quickly?

  124. Willard says:

    > I think it is a nice demonstration of why IAMs are silly over that kind of time period.

    In other news, ML is now onto IAMs, e.g.:

    One day ML will realize that he’s nitpicking while ignoring that RCPs ain’t IAMs.

  125. One day ML will realize

    I have a feeling that day is going to be a long time coming.

    I wonder if he even realises that there is more than one kind of IAM?

  126. The Very Revereend Jebediah Hypotenuse says:


    Unless we do something really stupid in the next couple of decades (like finding clever ways to extract unconventional fossil fuels) or aspect of the climate are much more sensitive than we expect (climate sensitivity itself, or carbon cycle feedbacks) then we’re probably currently heading for around 3C, but will probably do somewhat better.

    What’s to stop us from being really stupid AND the climate from being more sensitive than we expect?

    And: Time will not stop at year 2100.

    It’s not only the number of degrees C that matters – it’s also the rate of change.

    It still surprises me that most people are so confident that we have a good grasp of what is to come. By 2100 – let alone afterwards. The annual rate of increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide over the past 50 years is over 100 times faster than previous natural increases, such as those that occurred at the end of the last ice age. Other than during super-volcanic eruptions, with their attendant extinction events, this has never happened before in the history of the Earth.

    I am not confident that we “will probably do somewhat better than 3 C”.

    Besides which – “Only” 2 C will result in an ice-free Arctic, tens of meters of sea-level rise, increased desertification, changes in regional weather patterns, and massive disruption of land and marine ecosystems.

    Toss in ocean acidification, habitat destruction, and pollution – and you’ve got (as James Hansen put it so many years ago) “a recipe for disaster”.

    Yes – of course – life will go on.
    But your kids’ kids are not going to be living in the good ol’ Holocene epoch.
    That will be history.

  127. Joshua,

    Per doubling of pre-industrial?
    By a certain date?

    I was meaning that we may well be in a position where we could get emissions to ~zero in time to limit warming to something like ~3C. I may be being a bit over-confident.

    The Very,

    What’s to stop us from being really stupid AND the climate from being more sensitive than we expect?

    Nothing, so this is indeed another possible issue.

    And: Time will not stop at year 2100.

    Indeed, we’ll keep warming until emissions get to zero.

  128. Willard says:

    > your kids’ kids are not going to be living in the good ol’ Holocene epoch. That will be history.

    We should also emphasize that there will be more kids than there ever was:

    https://ourworldindata.org/future-population-growth

    Most of these kids live near the thermal equator.

    That’s a lot of suffering even by mere utilitarian standards.

    Why Standard & Poor never dropped their name may always remain a mystery to me.

  129. This phrase has been bandied about:
    ” Urgent action needed”

    Yet there’s this wakeup call which I am waiting clarification on:
    A fiery wake-up call for climate science

  130. We should also emphasize that there will be more kids than there ever was:

    Not really. Just saying…

  131. Willard says:

    From the source’s mouth:

    In fact the number of children will rise only very slowly and will barely increase at all over the coming century. The UN expects the number of children to peak in 2057 at 2.09 billion children and by the end of the century the number of children will be basically the same as today (just below 2 billion in the UN forecast).

    Since the middle of the 20th century the number of school-age-children increased by 125%. From today to the peak number of children, the number of children will only increase by 7%.

    I’d take a 7% return any day, more so as a covered call.

    Also, compare that 7% to the overall 1.8% population growth in 2019.

    For more on the UN’s assumptions and its overall performance:

    The forecasting performance of the probabilistic projection method was validated by an out-of-sample test in which data from 1950–1990 were used to predict 1990–2010. In that exercise, the method provided reasonably accurate and well-calibrated probabilistic projections for the 1990–2010 period (Raftery and colleagues, 2012).

    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4662414/

  132. Willard says:

    Besides, with the statement:

    [KID’S] your kids’ kids are not going to be living in the good ol’ Holocene epoch

    I don’t take Very Tall to speak about school-age children only.

    The same applies to Jim’s grand-children. They won’t stop being his grandchildren at 15.

  133. Steven Mosher says:
    February 26, 2020 at 5:03 am

    I just checked CRU TS4 versus Berkeley Earth Land Only, global data.

    R^2 = 0.919
    SD Residuals = 0.13°C
    Trend Difference, 1901 – 2017 = 0.02°C/decade
    Trend Difference, 1950 – 2017 = 0.001°C/decade

    Why do you say it’s “not suitable for long-term climate studies”?

  134. Steve, not sure what happened to what you’d said. I’d quoted you saying that the CRU TS was not suitable for long term climate studies. That disappeared, and what I wrote got italicized … go figure.

    w.

  135. thanks to the Rev for providing the context of misery that accompanies anything like 2.5 to 3 degrees of warming. I also appreciate ATTP’s clarification that he is thinking we might end up at net zero emissions at something in this temp increase range as a maximum It is really helpful to have this spelled out rather than having it float without the context that it is the ceiling that you think we will hit.

    I think that long before we hit that point, it will become apparent that 2.5 degrees of warming will cause the wheels to come off for human civilization. I don’t need to argue this here. I hope I am wrong. The idea that the urgent action needed is sufficient if it contains the increase at 2.5 to 3 degrees seems quite deluded, but we are now in the realm of quantifying human suffering and that is very subjective, so I think it makes no sense to argue about this particular aspect of our species’ future. I don’t think I will be around to see it, but I want my grandchildren to know that I thought that amount of warming was unconscionable. I want my grandkids to know I was on the record saying this is not acceptable even though a lot of smart people thought it would be ok.

  136. Steven Mosher says:

    “Why do you say it’s “not suitable for long-term climate studies”?”
    because that is what the dataset creators said.

    I should have been more precise. its a LOCAL climate versus GLOBAL climate issue

    Now for GLOBAL metrics —which you calculated it may be.
    But for LOCAL metrics, it’s an open question.
    Same for Berkely earth. In fact it’s one of the common criticisms.
    All the GLOBAL metrics get the same GLOBAL answer,
    BUT, LOCALLY, grid square by grid square they are all DIFFERENT

    The studies used it for LOCAL metrics, and then Downscaled it to 1sqkm.
    Downscaling from 1deq to 1sqkm? Been there done that long long ago
    we had a 1sq km grid. How accurate are they? meh. I’d use reanalysis first.

  137. Steven Mosher says:

    not sure what happened to my comment

    Issue is Local skill versus global

    http://static.berkeleyearth.org/posters/agu-2013-poster-1.pdf.

  138. David B. Benson says:

    Here is an excellent example of hysteresis in an ecosystem:
    https://m.phys.org/news/2020-02-complex-local-conditions-fields-dunes.html

  139. Dave_Geologist says:

    Ben: “The more worrying tipping points are the ones that happen over decades, with little warning, so it is too late to do much about it by the time you realise. e.g., could some of the Antarctic ice shelves melt out quickly?”

    Or this one (a bit dated, 2014, but data doesn’t change). Rapid Reductions in North Atlantic Deep Water During the Peak of the Last Interglacial Period. Needless to say, we wouldn’t see it coming.

    These NADW transients occurred during periods of increased ice rafting and southward expansions of polar water influence, suggesting that a buoyancy threshold for convective instability was triggered by freshwater and circum-Arctic cryosphere changes.

    Although transient in nature, large interglacial anomalies in deep ventilation may still be of particular concern. If triggered, they could alter regional climate and CO2 sequestration pathways and in the most extreme cases would as much as double the sea-level increases projected by 2100 CE for densely populated circum–North Atlantic regions. Our results suggest that past interglacial NADW reductions were abruptly initiated, persisted for centuries, and were concentrated around periods of North Atlantic warmth and freshwater addition, both of which are expected in the future.

    The Day After Tomorrow tipping point has been somewhat discounted on the basis that the NADW circulation continued through the last interglacial. Except it didn’t, not quite. It was interrupted by sudden-onset, centuries-long hiatuses triggered by a surge in export of Arctic freshwater and icebergs. That’s not a permanent tipping point – the circulation returned to normal after a few hundred years (the Mark I Eyeball suggests about 400 years, although there was one 800-year event with a failed recovery in the middle, so it looks to have an inherent cycle length). But from a civilisation-impact POV, 400 years might as well be permanent. And of course against a rising background temperature trend, it might indeed become permanent (or at least until the Arctic ice was exhausted).

    Come to think of it, the movie should have been a good way to communicate tipping points. Trouble is what it mostly communicated, IIRC, was that global warming is a Chinese hoax.

    Stefan Rahmstorf did warn against complacency back in 1997:

    There are several caveats here … a much faster circulation change (such as those seen in the ice-age climate records) may be possible through a different, convective type of instability, which has its own critical thresholds and depends on regional detail poorly represented in present climate models.

  140. Dave_Geologist says:

    Coincidentally David, I just came across the primary paper for that dune article. It reminds me of an episode 20 years ago in the southern Sahara (OMG 25-30 years ago, time flies!). In the course of field work we were using a primitive GPS kit (the size of a small suitcase) to opportunistically survey in old exploration well locations which were often badly mispositioned. We thought it would be hard to find them with the wellhead plugged and abandoned – but we just had to look for the rubbish piles (cement bags, coils of wire, sheets of plasterboard, all sorts). The Sonatrach people guiding us were surprised. They admitted they left the rubbish behind, and just stuffed anything that could blow around into a crevice. But they said that come the first sandstorm, a dune would form around the obstruction, stabilise, and hide it. To which the answer, clearly, was yes but not for decades.

  141. It’s interesting that you mention Stefan Rahmstorf and “The Day After Tomorrow”.

    I was just watching this video of Stefan speaking last October, and he actually highlights a scene from the movie where Dennis Quaid is talking about “a critical desalinization* point”, and Rahmstorf says that contrary to much of the movie, this is “a rather realistic scene”… and – surprising to me – that even today most models do no incorporate freshwater melting from the GIS 😳…. (this is Rahmstorf saying this…)

    It is interesting that the two potential tipping points Rahmstorf chooses to highlight are the Atlantic circulation slowing… and the ice-elevation feedback, which he characterizes as “highly non-linear”.

    He does provide the caveat that we don’t know how close we are to these tipping points “but we know we are moving towards them. It is like running through the fog towards a cliff and you don’t know where that cliff is…”

    Rahmstorf and Schellnhuber have the calmest, almost soothing presention styles, as they talk about scenarios that are genuinely alarming.

    A whopping 3,500 YouTube views. Antje Boetius** who follows with a discussion on Arctic ecosytem tipping points (and offers a specific definition for “ecological tipping points”), and has all of 417 views.

    Which may, I guess, speak to how much “tipping points” are more broadly relevant/salient to public discussion and policy.

    * had to “force” spellcheck to spell it as Quaid says it, rather than “desalination”…
    ** by the way, Boetius mentions Julienne Stroeve, who is giving us a lecture at University of Toronto in April. I had not realized that Dr. Strove now has a research chair at University of Manitoba!👍

  142. Willard says:

    > not sure what happened to my comment

    Me neither.

  143. Yikes, that “chair” comes with $34 million in funding!

  144. I like Rahmstorf’s take on our situation with regard to tipping points: He does provide the caveat that we don’t know how close we are to these tipping points “but we know we are moving towards them. It is like running through the fog towards a cliff and you don’t know where that cliff is…”

    If you want to urge caution and care in this situation, I suggest that caution and care should be directed to doing whatever it takes to help our species stop running through the fog. There is sufficient evidence of risks associated with the emissions we are adding to the atmosphere and oceans to be quite concerned. A big thank you to all of you who have weighed in with cautionary comments on potential tipping points.

  145. Dave_Geologist says:

    We seem to be on a roll ATM with self-limiting NADW tipping points: Sea level fingerprinting of the Bering Strait flooding history detects the source of the Younger Dryas climate event

    Our inferred ice-melting scenarios source substantial meltwater from the retreat between the CIS and LIS from 13 to 11.5 ka ago in the region west of 110°W, potentially initiated by marine retreat of the ice sheet (fig. S16 [actually S17]). Part of the freshwater flux from this ice-mass loss (0.11 Sv over the period 13 to 11.5 ka ago) would have freshened the subpolar North Atlantic and may have been sufficient to suppress deepwater convection and thereby initiate Younger Dryas cooling). The end of the meltwater flux may have also had a role in terminating the anomalous Younger Dryas cooling and triggering the onset of early Holocene warmth.

    Although related in mechanism, this would be distinct from the last-interglacial ones where only Greenland had large continental ice sheets, perhaps making them a better analogue for The Day After Tomorrow than the Younger Dryas. There’s also a warning flag there about marine ice sheet instability:

    Fig. S17. … Shaded regions show ice margin at 11.5 ka. Region with reverse bedrock slope (1m/km) is highlighted by black arrow. This region of ice may have been subject to a marine ice sheet instability, where water at the base of the ice sheet induces melting, causing a rapidly retreating grounding line to induce a large mass loss in this region.

    It goes without saying that I’m using the deficit model of communication 😉

  146. Willard says:

    Speaking of deficit modulz:

    ***

    > If we warm as much as 4C, then we risk the loss of the Amazon and Boreal forests and could irreversible change weather patters in the Sahel. Beyond 4C, we risk the irreversible loss of permafrost, the East Antartic ice sheet may start irreversibly melting, and we could lose winter Arctic sea ice.

    A list of consequences by half celcius increase would be nice – what the world loses at 1.5, 2, 2.5, 3,3.5, etc.

    With artful visuals, that’d be great.

  147. Willard,
    That’s largely what the figure in the post illustrates (with ranges, because we can’t precisely determine when we might start to lose these systems). I’ve also been sent an updated version of the figure with some more details. It’s a slightly different form of one in this German article by Stefan Rahmstorf.

  148. Willard says:

    > That’s largely what the figure in the post illustrates

    Nice graph.

    What I’d like to see is an illustrated list of consequences following from these. Take losing Greenland glaciers. That sounds abstract. What would be consequences: sea level rises, extreme events, insurance premiums, etc.

    Knowing these would among other things help counter “but Vikings.”

  149. I see. I think that is one of the hardest parts of this topic. The physical science is reasonably straightforward (add greenhouse gases, global warming, increase in frequency and intensity of extreme events, sea level rise, start to lose ice sheets, glaciers, rainforests, etc). Going from that to the actual impact on other ecosystems and ourselves is quite difficult to articulate. I think this is partly because it’s simply complicated, but partly because it can depend a lot on how we respond (do we help developing nations who have suffered from some climate related tragedy, or do we decide we can’t afford to? Do we invest in resilience, or not? etc).

  150. There are also presentations like this, which try to convey at what temperature ranges certain elements might “tip”, but also postulates how the elements themselves might further interacyt with other elements. So, not quantified impacts (“x metres of SLR from GIS”, etc.), but some speculated, qualitative teleconnections.

    This is via Rahmstorf, but I think similar graphics are in Lenton’s work.

  151. Willard says:

    Thanks, Rust!

    Way simpler than that kind of boxology:

  152. I think almost everything about this situation with global warming is hard except the communication issue. The situation with communication is plain as day: we are creating a terrible situation that will unfold with much pain and suffering. We need to act urgently to reduce emissions and get to net zero as fast as possible or faster. As for the “but vikings” crowd or the tools and bots who want to play climate ball, well… I think F them. They are so wrong it makes no sense to waste energy on them. But, maybe that’s just where I am… If you want to play, go for it, I guess.

    when ATTP says ” Going from that to the actual impact on other ecosystems and ourselves is quite difficult to articulate.” I think, well, maybe it is for a physicist, but probably less for an ecosystem biologist whose training enables them to see the sixth extinction rolling toward us from the horizon and they have less trouble understanding the implications of things like the disappearance of so many insects and other beings.

    Most of the time, these days, I just try to shine it on and not get too worked up. Failed on that this time. I feel pretty worked up by what I see as misplaced caution.

    All that said, I wish you all the best. It’s hard work being alive and sorting stuff out. It makes sense for us to be kind with each other whenever we can muster that generosity of spirit.

  153. Willard says:

    > If you want to play, go for it, I guess.

    You’re here, mike. Venting. Throwing peanuts from the gallery.

    That counts as ClimateBall in my book.

  154. Yes, Willard, maybe venting here from the gallery is climate ball. The distinction I make is that I won’t bother to take part in any give and take with the folks who I believe are posting in bad faith. Why bother with folks like that? You can’t change their minds because for the most part they either don’t believe their position is true and correct or they don’t care. My venting here has been directed at smart folks who I believe post in good faith, but may have missed the mark a bit. Climate ball to me is the purely rhetorical back and forth where a meeting of the minds is not desired, no new understandings are sought. That may be just another subtlety in a field of discussion that has many nuances and subtleties. All of the good faith discussion and back and forth interests me, gotcha debating games do not interest me. Best to you

  155. Ben McMillan says:

    I’m still not sure I understand ATTPs view (if I’m representing it correctly) that the most important impacts due to unmitigated climate change are something other than tipping points/irreversible damage. Or is it that we should focus on communicating only the stuff that is pretty much a dead certainty?

    The yellow/red bars all look like things that one would very much want to avoid (some worse that others), and they don’t need RCP8.5 to trigger. Ocean circulation changing significantly (that DG talked about) would definitely compound climate change in some places.

    It seems like the current view is that the west Antarctic ice shelf is already probably collapsing. It doesn’t look like there is much agreement on how fast it will do that though. Hope we get lucky and it isn’t a meter of sea level rise per century.

    By the way, I think the paper ML linked to (on learning rates for new technology) actually had some interesting ideas. It definitely looks like we’ll now get some decarbonisation ‘for free’ given that renewables outcompete fossils at least some of the time.

  156. Willard says:

    > Why bother with folks like that?

    Good question. For many reasons:

    It’s fun, or at least it ought to be.

    They make my own arguments better. I’m here for the argument.

    There’s a challenge, as it’s easier to dismiss talking points than to counter them.

    Countering them properly makes me move my own ball forward. It also tests my understanding.

    Other people are watching and listening, and framing issues is how we get the undecided.

    Persuasion is secondary to connecting. In the end it is up to us to persuade ourselves.

    We are all in it together. I feel it’s my responsibility to do what I do best.

    That’s the answer I got for now.

  157. Willard says:

    > It definitely looks like we’ll now get some decarbonisation ‘for free’ given that renewables outcompete fossils at least some of the time.

    We will, but then ML is stuck with proprietary databases, something that fans of open science should frown upon. Since he’s selling renewables to a conservative audience he usually discounts the small share they have in the global energy market. Even if solar can beat coal prices, unless and until we can produce as much energy as we already do and more with them fossil fuels are here to stay.

    The implicit premise ML presumes is that price alone drives consumption. This hasn’t worked in the 70s. It won’t work in a world that craves for more energy.

    Hence ML’s nitpicking.

    If we’re serious about AGW to the point it would require a war effort, why not start with military expenditures:

  158. As a follow-on, Michael Mann thinks that explaining that it may be challenging to distinguish between extremes due to natural variation versus that due to climate change is bad science communication technique

    The lead author of the Nature Climate Change paper is from NCAR and he ends with this plea:

  159. Ben,

    I’m still not sure I understand ATTPs view (if I’m representing it correctly) that the most important impacts due to unmitigated climate change are something other than tipping points/irreversible damage. Or is it that we should focus on communicating only the stuff that is pretty much a dead certainty?

    I think we should feel free to communicate everything, but should recognise that we’re more confident about some outcomes than others. My only other point is that it’s not clear that the information about tipping points should change we would do. We’ve left things so late that it seems that whether we incorporate potential tipping points, or not, the goal should be to peak emissions as soon as possible, and reduce emissions as fast as we can.

  160. Ben McMillan says:

    I’ll just note in passing that I think ML’s approach is generally wrongheaded. But at least DICE results are closer to being a prediction than the RCPs, so it isn’t quite as crazy to attack them.

    The issue with using a time-constant abatement cost in DICE is that abatement cost is now much lower than it was 20 years ago, and it will probably be considerably cheaper 20 years in the future. So you get the wrong answer. Grubb and Wieners suggest possibly 2C optimal rather than 3C in current DICE (DICE started out at “optimal” of 4C).

    https://www.ineteconomics.org/research/research-papers/modeling-myths-on-the-need-for-dynamic-realism-in-dice-and-other-equilibrium-models-of-global-climate-mitigation

    This is part of a pattern: the same thing happened with the Montreal protocol: there was a lot of wailing (mostly from existing polluting industries and the usual anti-regulationists) that everyone would be doomed if regulations changed, but it turned out not to be so expensive. Most of the costs were in the transition.

    And this is important because the optimal strategy changes a lot if the costs are transition costs: you need a big push to get ‘over the bump’ or you’ll be stuck in a local optima. Mandating the rollout of the needed technology might help more than a small carbon tax acting as a nudge.

  161. Jon Kirwan says:

    @ATTP: “We’ve left things so late that it seems that whether we incorporate potential tipping points, or not, the goal should be to peak emissions as soon as possible, and reduce emissions as fast as we can.”

    I think that statement keeps things as simple as possible for discussions amongst the laity. (Which means most of us.)

    For the navel-gazing types amongst us, I think Gilmore’s “Catastrophe theory for scientists and engineers,” cited about 2000 times in the scholarly literature, is worth reading. The following short PDF read gives a quick application illustrating some points from Gilmore:

    Click to access 116_maasmolenaarpsychrev92.pdf

    I personally think, at some point hopefully, we’ll be able to apply some of these ideas to climate science and even to life science. (So far, I don’t think we know enough. But I do think the concepts are applicable.)

  162. Ben,
    As an illustration of ML’s confusion, he seems to be criticising Nico Bauer’s work which involves IAMs that actually try to model future energy pathways while appearing to then confuse that with DICE, which is a cost benefit IAM. The latter, as far as I’m aware, doesn’t specifically model the future energy pathway, it simply has some damage function (that depends on warming) and can then either estimate the social cost of carbon, or can be used to determine some kind of optimal pathway (by adjusting an imposed carbon tax until you get the pathway where the damages avoided match the imposed carbon tax – I think).

  163. Ben McMillan says:

    ATTP: although hopefully this is obvious, I didn’t actually want to discuss/endorse ML’s views at all. Attacking RCP8.5 is a pretty clear sign that you’ve gone wrong somewhere. DICE indeed doesn’t do fine-detail things like worrying about what kind of energy you are using, there is just an assumed emissions intensity, and some cost to ‘abate’ those emissions.

    On the tipping points thing: I feel that “as fast and deep as possible” (which I would see as a war-footing type response) is only really justifiable if we are worried about sudden bad stuff happening. But this is so far from current policy settings that it is pretty irrelevant quibbling. Not much point arguing whether the policy dial should be turned up to 10 or 11 when it is currently on 2.

  164. Dave_Geologist says:

    David, the phys.org article is about the paper I linked to above. But since we’re on the topic of communication, it’s good to have a layman’s version too 🙂 . Of course, the readership of phys.org is not your average lay man or woman 😦 . It’s also interesting that the article takes the slant of the flooding of the Bering land bridge, even though the paper is mostly about the impact on NADW and climate. Suggesting perhaps that even the phys.org readership is more interested in mammoths and bison and the settlement of North America than it is in abstruse details of ocean hydrodynamics.

    Ben, it’s a vintage year for ice-sheet instabilities: Deep glacial troughs and stabilizing ridges unveiled beneath the margins of the Antarctic ice sheet.

    This transformative description of bed topography redefines the high- and lower-risk sectors for rapid sea level rise from Antarctica; it will also significantly impact model projections of sea level rise from Antarctica in the coming centuries.

  165. Dave_Geologist says:

    I just noticed the interesting choice of words there: “high- and lower-risk sectors”. Not high- and low-. There is no low.

  166. Ben,

    On the tipping points thing: I feel that “as fast and deep as possible” (which I would see as a war-footing type response) is only really justifiable if we are worried about sudden bad stuff happening.

    I should probably have been clearer. When I saw “as fast as possible” I don’t mean as fast as is physically possible, I mean as fast as is possible given political and societal reality. Clearly we need to consider things like how can reduce emissions, while still maintaining what we have in the developed world and also allowing the developing world to continue developing. Also, how do we do this in a way that is fair – should (as I think) the developed world be willing to make some sacrifices so as to help the developing world. This is clearly very complicated and I probably haven’t expressed it all that clearly. Given all these constraints, it’s not clear to me that introducing possible tipping points is going to substantively change what we would do.

    Not much point arguing whether the policy dial should be turned up to 10 or 11 when it is currently on 2.

    Yes, a good way of putting it.

  167. David B. Benson says:

    Dave_Geologist — yes, two accounts of the same research. The point here is the work describes a tipping period from long ago which is well studied. So dramatic transitions of the climate are known to have occurred.

  168. Chubbs says:

    Came across a 2015 Richard Alley video on West Antarctica yesterday. Important point relevant to this thread: due to tipping point behavior, WAIS could destabilize and collapse in a relatively short period of time (decades). This caused me to re-think my position on communicating tipping points. Worthwhile to communicate that climate change may come much faster we expect based on our stable climate experience.

  169. I think when we talk about reducing emissions as fast as possible, we are probably dawdling and failing. Look at the current reduction in Chinese economy emissions for an example of how it is possible for emissions to fall faster than possible. By that, I mean: no one would have suggested that it was possible to slow the chinese economy as much as the coronavirus has done and yet, the virus has done what was not possible as a response to global warming.

    “Not much point arguing whether the policy dial should be turned up to 10 or 11 when it is currently on 2.” Quite right. We should be clear that our policy dial should be 10. The coronavirus is probably 11, but no country would choose that level of reductions to reduce suffering that will occur beyond the next election or business cycle.

    I appreciate the serious tone that has taken over here. Set the dial to 10 or 11. That’s the urgent and important message.

  170. thank you, Dave, for noticing and asserting that there are no low risk sectors. I believe you are correct. I also think that the global discussion about the risk is riddled with this kind of erroneous phrasing which can only act to slow the pace at which our species will choose emission reductions.

    I think ATTP, btw, is wrong to suggest that it makes no sense to mention tipping points when the underlying situation is so urgent. It should be the addendum: Our situation is dire. Urgent action is needed to reduce harm. Harm will ramp up significantly if we happen to unknowingly pass a tipping point.

    We are running in the fog and we think a cliff is nearby.

  171. The Very Reverend Jebediah Hypotenuse says:


    If we’re serious about AGW to the point it would require a war effort, why not start with military expenditures

    The UN estimates that for a $US 300 billion investment we could at least stop the rise in greenhouse gases and buy up to 20 years of time to prepare for the “locked in” warming.

    That’s about the GDP of Bangladesh or Chile or Pakistan.

    Or the cost of about 150 B2 stealth bombers.

    Or global military expenditures for TWO MONTHS.

    Of course, there is a good economic case to be made that spending this kind of money fighting climate disruption would save much more money in the long run.

    Just for the USA:

    Extreme weather, made worse by climate change, along with the health impacts of burning fossil fuels, has cost the U.S. economy at least $240 billion a year over the past ten years, a new report has found.

    https://feu-us.org/case-for-climate-action-us/

    Could it be that we’re just not that serious about AGW…?

  172. Great link on catastrophe theory, JK! I think it’s worth quoting some of the intro: “Suppose that a team of developmental researches stumbled upon a genuine stage in the development of some behavior. Would they be able to detect the stage that was right there in front of them? If they did notice it, how would they know what they had found? How would they be able to tell that it was a stage? What pattern of results would they look for?”

    I believe there is no question that some of the tipping points will have stages of development. Think about the questions that Maas and Molenaar posed in the intro. As we continue to run in the fog, can we detect and identify any of the stages of development that we might expect with the various tipping points that we are discussing? Would we know them as stages if we did notice something?

    Set the public policy dial to 10. Next question? You want to argue about or consider tipping points? Set the dial to 11.

  173. David B. Benson says:

    Yes, set the public policy dial up to a minimum of 10!

  174. Jon Kirwan says:

    @smallbluemike says: “I think ATTP, btw, is wrong to suggest that it makes no sense to mention tipping points when the underlying situation is so urgent. It should be the addendum: Our situation is dire. Urgent action is needed to reduce harm. Harm will ramp up significantly if we happen to unknowingly pass a tipping point.”

    My thoughts are that the public just doesn’t get “tipping points” very well. I have math, physics, electronics design, complex analysis, and control systems backgrounds, so I have a truly fearful sense of feedbacks and rapidity with which systems can show sudden changes to new points of “stability.” But I don’t think anyone will ever get that across the laity. They’ll more likely imagine it as propaganda-like “technobabble” and treat it like they do other propaganda they perceive. So that’s why I lean more towards “keep things as simple as possible for discussions with the laity.” Otherwise, they just think others are trying to dominate them with their fancy words.

    That doesn’t change the fact that many will need to make IMMEDIATE and RADICAL changes and, I think, we’ll even more importantly also need to DIRECTLY address population. I just don’t think most are going to listen well to stuff like “non-linear” and “Barkhausen stability criterion.” So there’s no point going that direction. It just makes you sound like Jack Lemon’s “speech to the public” in the movie, “The China Syndrome.”

  175. Jon Kirwan says:

    @smallbluemike says: “Great link on catastrophe theory, JK!”

    Thanks. Let me paraphrase something from the early pages of Gilmore’s book:

    Imagine here a system state governed by a potential, V(x;c), described by point x, an
    element of field R^n, which minimizes that potential. Changing external conditions
    change the values of the control parameters c; but changing c in turn changes the
    shape of the potential V(x;c) and as that shape changes then the original (mostly)
    global minimum in which the system state sits may become a metastable local minima
    (or may even disappear) while some ‘faraway’ minimum now assumes a still lower value.

    I’m thinking about the Delay and Maxwell conventions, too. Anyway, I think that climate dynamics can be brought into play by introducing time derivatives.

    Unfortunately, I don’t think climate scientists are exposed to this subject matter so they are not able, yet, to cross-pollinate it into their own field. It will probably take someone who specializes in this area for a while who then decides to enter into the climate field before we’ll see if it can brought into the field. I’m not sufficiently prepared in both areas — being only a mere hobbyist in each. But my gut tells me these need to be brought into a new state of consilience.

  176. It is possible to explain to the general public that we sometimes learn things the hard way. Like the way the engineering of a beautiful bridge in Tacoma taught everyone about feedbacks and harmonics with suspension bridges. Some of this was caught on camera. So, you can always say simply, let me show you a catastrophe that we did not understand until it hit us:

  177. If “think of (look at) the Tacoma Bridge!” is how we get public mitigation traction, then I think that strengthens ATTP’s case of the disutility of “but teh tipping points!”…

    I’m not saying what’s “right”, but the public is – courtesy of human cognition and biases – pretty much programmed to be inured to historical events… Katrina, Sandy, Harvey, Paradise fire, Australia, etc.

    We need to communicate future damages and tipping risks, but insurance rates, carbon prices, travel bans get the attention and behaviour change…

  178. izen says:

    It looks likely the public will get a real time lesson in tipping points very soon.
    If the early indications of the transmission of CORVID-19 are correct then the approach of isolation and quarantine is only going to slow the initiation of an exponential increase in numbers.

    When it goes from ‘DON’T PANIC’ media reports of a few hundred cases in the country to everyone knowing a friend or family member with the illness, the concept of how something can go from a small, isolated problem to a global and personal threat will be inescapable.

    Of course, theoretically it could by some miracle all be over by April with no significant impact. (D.T)

  179. Steven Mosher says:

    “I should probably have been clearer. When I saw “as fast as possible” I don’t mean as fast as is physically possible, I mean as fast as is possible given political and societal reality.”

    is that an iron law

    “In The Climate Fix, I discuss an empirical reality that I summarize as the “iron law” of climate policy. The “iron law” simply states that while people are often willing to pay some price for achieving environmental objectives, that willingness has its limits. Such limits may fall at different thresholds for different places at at different times. The iron law seems so common sense that I am always surprised when I hear objections to it.”

  180. But would it?
    Spanish flu, the black plague, etc.
    Relatively ephemeral, reversible w.r.t. some of the postulated climatic/earth systems “tipping elements”…
    I mean, I think many are in for a big, rapid learning curve on infectious disease, but still…

  181. Pielke’s “iron law” was/is about pointlessness of advocating for mitigation, “iron law über alles”…

    c’mon, you know this… less dumb persona, please, better luckwarmers, please…

  182. Steven Mosher says:

    “Yes, Willard, maybe venting here from the gallery is climate ball. The distinction I make is that I won’t bother to take part in any give and take with the folks who I believe are posting in bad faith. Why bother with folks like that?”

    ““I should probably have been clearer. When I saw “as fast as possible” I don’t mean as fast as is physically possible, I mean as fast as is possible given political and societal reality.”

    well, why bother with folks like that? why? Political and societal reality.

    Folks mentioned the China shutdown, which is instructive. The world can thank the chinese people for being willing to accept severe restrictions on their lives. They gave you all time to prepare. As my friends in Beijing see it : “China closed whole country , to save whole world …but they didn’t take it serious”

    Other countries can’t do what China did and is doing. Take Korea as an example.
    We are about half way toward a china level response. People see what a 10 or 11 response looks like and they judge that their society will accept a “5” level response. And some places?

    French health minister Olivier Veran: 3 days ago.

    “““We don’t close borders because we would not be able to, we don’t do it because it would be meaningless,” he said on French radio RTL. “Should we ban gatherings? Should we stop the Fashion Week? Should we suspend matches? Should we close universities? The answer is no.”

    Why bother with people like that? well, in the end, you can only implement a policy effectively if people A) agree with it. or B) dont care about it since it doesn’t impact them. or C) you have the power and systems to enforce it if they dissent and have the willingness to crush them if they refuse.

    You want to control human behavior?, you got words or force or both. And in the end never forget that. You are trying to control human behavior. Best start by using your words because in the end all you have left is force.

    So raise your hand if you have given up on words and want to move to force? Language,
    –who said this?– is a social art. And folks on the other side get it. They really do get it. They get it when the language changes from the waltz of debate to the mosh pit of insult, or worse being ignored. They know exactly where that leads.

    to be fair, you personally do not have to deal with “people like that”. you can just smile politely and thank them for their concerns. Other folks will have to deal with them. Two tools: words or force.
    I hate to make it that simplistic, but it is. There are only two tools you have to change human behavior: words or force. choose your weapon wisely and train.

  183. Steven Mosher says:

    weirdly rust I quoted Roger, you did not

  184. “I quoted Roger”

    😅😜😅

  185. Steven Mosher says:

    “pointlessness of advocating for mitigation”

    I’m not finding that phrase in Peilke

    I find

    ‘Opinions polls show that the public is indeed willing to pay some amount for attaining environmental goals, just as it is with respect to other societal goals. However, the public has its limits as to how much it is willing to pay. What this means is that climate policy must be made compatible with economic growth as a precondition for their success.”

    even some framings of the GND get this. Hey green new jobs!!

    as stated the iron law is pretty vague

    try this:

    “The public has no limits as to how much it is willing to pay. What this means is that climate policy can be made incompatible with economic growth and everyone will endorse it and willingly comply.”

    this is the brass axiom of ER

  186. David B. Benson says:

    The original Tacoma Narrows bridge footage was shot in black & white. Somebody subsequently added color.

  187. Steven,

    is that an iron law

    No, I don’t think I’m suggesting an iron law. My problem with the iron law is that it’s clearly not true (Brexit) and there must be circumstances where we need to find ways to do things that might be seen as inconvenient.

  188. dikranmarsupial says:

    The problem with the iron law is that it is cheap rhetoric that seeks to convince people an assertion is true by giving it a catchy name. The fact that Prof. Pielke Jr will not discuss counter-examples, e.g. BREXIT, suggests that it is nothing more than an assertion.

  189. Steven Mosher says:

    Click to access who-china-joint-mission-on-covid-19-final-report.pdf

    “Achieving China’s exceptional coverage with and adherence to these containment
    measures has only been possible due to the deep commitment of the Chinese people
    to collective action in the face of this common threat. At a community level this is
    reflected in the remarkable solidarity of provinces and cities in support of the most
    vulnerable populations and communities. Despite ongoing outbreaks in their own
    areas, Governors and Mayors have continued to send thousands of health care
    workers and tons of vital PPE supplies into Hubei province and Wuhan city

  190. dikranmarsupial says:

    Having said which, stated in the form

    “In The Climate Fix, I discuss an empirical reality that I summarize as the “iron law” of climate policy. The “iron law” simply states that while people are often willing to pay some price for achieving environmental objectives, that willingness has its limits. Such limits may fall at different thresholds for different places at at different times. The iron law seems so common sense that I am always surprised when I hear objections to it.”

    It is just a statement of the bleeding obvious (it is a cost-benefit issue and people will have different views of the costs and benefits), and hardly an “iron” law if it is a statement of peoples flexibility. “spring steel law” perhaps?

    Of course Prof. Pielke Jr doesn’t always present it in such an anodyne form, which perhaps explains why he often sees objections to it.

  191. Steven Mosher says:

    “No, I don’t think I’m suggesting an iron law. My problem with the iron law is that it’s clearly not true (Brexit) and there must be circumstances where we need to find ways to do things that might be seen as inconvenient.”

    Huh, brexit is the perfect example of it working as some. The iron law states (with regard to ENVIRONMENTAL POLICY ) that policies must be compatible with growth

    Brexit and growth? well some would argue it was an open question
    Minford.
    https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/twec.12771
    of course most others disagreed.

    But note Brexiters did not promote the policy because they thought the policy would reduce growth.
    They did not target growth as a bad thing. They did not argue. “Growth is bad, Bexit will reduce growth, therefore brexit.”

    contrast that with some enviro arguments.

    Running against growth is a bad move. So take a lesson from brexiters and fib or divert.
    because they observed the iron law in practice and didnt sell their proposition on the growth bad trope.

  192. Steven,
    I don’t want to start a Brexit thread :-). but my point was that it seems likely that people have voted for something that may end up negatively impacting growth. Of course, you’re right that they didn’t specifically vote for this, but there are certainly some who explicitly say that they are pro-Brexit even if it negatively impacts growth.

  193. dikranmarsupial says:

    “Of course, you’re right that they didn’t specifically vote for this”

    that is rather the point isn’t it, growth was not even a relevant issue for most of those who voted for brexit, which directly contradicts the “iron law”?

  194. Chubbs says:

    When it comes to politics, the bull**** law seems to be the most important, certainly is flying here in Pielkeland

  195. David B. Benson says:

    About elephants:
    http://jonlieffmd.com/blog/elephant-culture

    who are having a hard time.

  196. Ben McMillan says:

    People have spent quite a lot of time and money fixing significant environmental problems. For example, installing and running sewerage is expensive, but London eventually got its act together and installed an effective system a few centuries ago. In the UK you pay quite a bit yearly for a functioning sewer system.

    Smog was a difficult problem to solve, and it wasn’t until everyone’s open coal fires were replaced by oil and gas central heating that mid-20th century London became breathable. The cost per household for installation was something like £2000-£6000 (current day money) depending on whether they already had central heating installed, not including the infrastructure cost of gas storage and delivery (probably of order a few 1000 quid).

    https://pbs.twimg.com/media/ERoBX8FWoAA90OU?format=png&name=large

    No doubt some people at the time were whining about growth and “what about the poor people?” and so on.

    People continue to pay substantial amounts for environmental issues: regulations on car emissions probably increase the cost of new cars by a thousand pounds or so, and refining petrol to a decent standard is expensive.

    The question is how much people are prepared to pay to fix this particular problem. It looks like the costs of mitigating CO2 emissions are comparable to yearly amounts already paid to fix local pollution issues, rather than in the territory of growth-dooming mega-taxes.

  197. Chubbs says:

    Ben

    Yes, and costs for pollution control ended-up much lower than initial estimates, with no discernible impact on economic growth. Many climate steps would cost little if anything: 1) increased efficiency for new products, 2) factoring fuel carbon content in economic decisions, 3) pushing already advantaged technologies faster (wind, solar, batteries, LED, etc), shifting consumption from high–>low carbon content products. Not pursuing these is like shooting yourself in the foot.

  198. this from Chuck at UV threat at real climate:

    https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/jan/15/insect-collapse-we-are-destroying-our-life-support-systems

    “We knew that something was amiss in the first couple days,” said Brad Lister. “We were driving into the forest and at the same time both Andres and I said: ‘Where are all the birds?’ There was nothing.”

    His return to the Luquillo rainforest in Puerto Rico after 35 years was to reveal an appalling discovery. The insect population that once provided plentiful food for birds throughout the mountainous national park had collapsed. On the ground, 98% had gone. Up in the leafy canopy, 80% had vanished. The most likely culprit by far is global warming.

    “It was just astonishing,” Lister said. “Before, both the sticky ground plates and canopy plates would be covered with insects. You’d be there for hours picking them off the plates at night. But now the plates would come down after 12 hours in the tropical forest with a couple of lonely insects trapped or none at all.”

    “It was a true collapse of the insect populations in that rain forest,” he said. “We began to realise this is terrible – a very, very disturbing result.”

    Did we blow by a tipping point in this ecosystem? My thought is that we probably did, but I am not certain. I think geologic, ice sheet, ocean scale changes will likely happen more slowly than tipping points in biological systems. This seems to fit with the questions raised in the catastrophe theory link: Would we know what we are seeing as a stage in development of a larger process?

  199. David B. Benson says:

    smallbluemike, I strongly suspect insecticides.

  200. Steven Mosher says:

    “The problem with the iron law is that it is cheap rhetoric that seeks to convince people an assertion is true by giving it a catchy name. The fact that Prof. Pielke Jr will not discuss counter-examples, e.g. BREXIT, suggests that it is nothing more than an assertion.”

    since the iron law is specifically about ENVIRONMENTAL policy I can see why he wouldn’t discuss it. because it’s not a counter example.

  201. Steven Mosher says:

    “Steven,
    I don’t want to start a Brexit thread :-). but my point was that it seems likely that people have voted for something that may end up negatively impacting growth. Of course, you’re right that they didn’t specifically vote for this, but there are certainly some who explicitly say that they are pro-Brexit even if it negatively impacts growth.”

    yes, no brexit thread. if I were rodger I would argue that the iron law was specifically about environmental policy. Kinda because he wrote it that way. And yes, there are something that people value more than growth in certain circumstances. Question is will they value “the planet” more than growth.

    my sense is people will be reluctant to accept a policy that promotes degrowth.
    Like I said even the GND folks get this with their “create millions of new jobs”
    approach.

    its interesting to watch people struggle with travel shutdowns.

  202. Steven,
    Okay, if you make the iron law about environmental issues it makes a bit more sense (although I’m pretty sure I’ve seen Roger use any example of a reluctance to pay for any kind of policy as evidence for his iron law). The problem, though, is that surely one role of policy experts is to help us understand how to deal with complex environmental issues, especially those where there may not be any immediate, short-term benefit. Promoting some kind of iron law that essentially says that there is a limit to what people would be willing to spend and that there should be short-term benefits seems somewhat unhelpful.

  203. Ben McMillan says:

    Chubbs: Yep, there is a lot of zero-cost stuff to be done.

    Noting that there is a limit to how much people are prepared to pay isn’t much use. The key is to figure out how much it is. People are prepared to go fight and potentially die on the other side of the world in wars that will never affect them, so I think the claim that people are only interested in short term personal benefit is very wrong in general. I don’t know why it would apply for environmental issues when it clearly isn’t true for anything else.

    It is one of the interesting things about humans that they are actually quite good at mass cooperation and collective action in the face of their own short-term personal interests. Something that economics can’t easily capture and thus has a tendency to ignore.

    The Montreal protocol is a pretty good example of environmental regulation that doesn’t have much of a short term local benefit.

  204. Willard says:

    The Iron Law in action:

  205. Joshua says:

    Steven –

    > my sense is people will be reluctant to accept a policy that promotes degrowth.

    Sounds rather qualified. Quite different from an “iron law” – which is decontextuslized from considerations such as risk.

    The idea of an “iron law” seems rather unsophisticated to me. “Degrowth” is a pretty nebulous term. Is it “degrowth” to regulate an industry that is clearly causing harm to a community’s health even if it has a negative impact on that industry (while possibly enhancing the prospects of other industries)?

    Most people (imo) wouldn’t first think to ask themselves “Will this cause a slightly slower rate of GDP growth?” if asked to consider the impact of regulations on an industry that is clearly and dangerously polluting their water.

    The notion of “degrowth” needs context – for example the context of associated externalities (shocker, I know, that I’d use that term).

    “Growth” or “degrowth” are pretty meaningless without context. And the “laws” regulating how people prioritize “growth” and “degrowth” are largely a function of factors like risk. People don’t prioritize “growth” independent of the risks associated with that “growth.”

    For example, if substantial risks of climate change became unambiguous in the every day lives of people in a wealthy country, the “laws” of policy support mechanics would take a completely different shape than for people in a developing country who would more heavily prioritize basic survival requirements.

  206. At DBB: Yes, insecticides are bad and hard on insects generally, but you should read the article before you jump to insecticides to explain insect population collapse in the Luquillo rainforest. From the article:

    “… scientists had predicted that tropical insects, having evolved in a very stable climate, would be much more sensitive to climate warming. “If you go a little bit past the thermal optimum for tropical insects, their fitness just plummets,” he said.

    As the data came in, the predictions were confirmed in startling fashion. “The number of hot spells, temperatures above 29C, have increased tremendously,” he said. “It went from zero in the 1970s up to something like 44% of the days.” Factors important elsewhere in the world, such as destruction of habitat and pesticide use, could not explain the plummeting insect populations in Luquillo, which has long been a protected area.”

  207. David B. Benson says:

    smallbluemike, maybe so, but insecticides spread far & wide.

  208. Steven Mosher says:

    “The idea of an “iron law” seems rather unsophisticated to me. “Degrowth” is a pretty nebulous term. Is it “degrowth” to regulate an industry that is clearly causing harm to a community’s health even if it has a negative impact on that industry (while possibly enhancing the prospects of other industries)?

    who knew sophistication was a criteria for being correct! ya learn something every day. Thanks!

  209. At DBB: it’s not an either or situation generally, it’s probably both and problem, but for Luquillo, the scientists appear to have homed in on increased temp and the way that stable rainforest niche may be especially susceptible to the temp rise that has already occurred and the increase in days with temps above 29C.

    I think this back and forth illustrates the question listed in the article on catastrophe theory: would we know what we are seeing as developmental stages?

    Our collective and individual tunnel vision may make it very hard for us to see something happening right in front of us and to know it for what it is. In this case, I think the study and work of the scientists at Luquillo might suggest that we consider and study whether all rainforests of this type around the globe are showing the same amount of insect population decrease and whether it is clearly linked to temp rather than pesticides or habitat destruction. If that was shown to be the case, then it would make sense to wonder and study the long term impacts to these ecosystems and larger/connected ecosystems from this temp-related collapse of insect population.

    I think it’s too easy to jump to pesticides and a willingness to do that may prevent us from seeing a stage of ecosystem collapse that is primarily temperature related (again, back to the Maas Molenaar link that John Kirwan provided above)

    Take a look at bumblebee population collapse as another example of what might be happening in front of us because of temperature increase that could too easily be misunderstood as an effect of insecticides rather than global warming:

    https://science.sciencemag.org/content/367/6478/685

    This whole discussion appears to be consistent with my view that discussion and consideration of tipping points is important in discussing global warming. Life science knowledge and studies deserve to be taken seriously and read carefully by scientists, engineers, physicists etc. (non-life science scientists, if you follow my meaning)

    Cheers

    Mike

  210. Willard says:

    Perhaps Junior should have called it the Ironic Law:

  211. Joshua says:

    > who knew sophistication was a criteria for being correct! ya learn something every day. Thanks!

    First, that isn’t what I said. Try reading harder. Or try reading in good faith.

    Second, sophistication can have a relationship with “correctness.”

    The reason why Roger’s “iron law” isn’t correct is because it’s too simplistic. It tries to draw a general “law” around mechanics that vary by context.

    The “thanks” gambit is gratuitous. Why not just leave that crap out and have a good faith discussion?

  212. Joshua says:

    Steven –

    Here – since I seem to trigger your sarcasm, just read what Ben said. He said it better and more succinctly.

    https://andthentheresphysics.wordpress.com/2020/02/23/debate-about-communicating-tipping-points/#comment-171855

  213. mrkenfabian says:

    If you are being told – and your choose to accept – that global warming is not really a serious problem then willingness to support spending at government level or within your workplace or personally will not merely be limited it will be opposed.

    It is not an iron law preventing adequate responses, it is well targeted misinformation, tolerated if not endorsed and promoted by people holding positions of high trust and responsibility – people who should and almost certainly do know better – to prevent a “burden” of responsibility and accountability from impacting the costs, competitiveness and profitability of otherwise profitable activities.

    Doubt, Deny, Delay politicking is a scourge. Unchecked global warming is the cost we are going to keep paying, beyond the lifetimes of anyone now living, of unchecked political corruption institutionalising cheating as the principle response to understanding that excessive fossil fuel burning has enduring consequences.

  214. Willard says:

    Moore’s Law is sturdier than the Ironic Law, and yet:

  215. I agree with you, Joshua. I find it irritating to engage with folks who I feel read in something less than good faith and may be playing gotcha instead of sharing information and and increasing understanding.

    I understand that others here feel like the give and take with folks who may not read in good faith hones their skills or something like that and that’s fine, but I am not interested in that. Go for that if you are interested.

    I use the killfile add on for Firefox and I can “hush” folks and avoid even having to skim their comments. I do sometimes run across some of the thoughts of these folks as people engage with them, but that has generally only reinforced my decision to avoid engagement.
    Here is info about killfile: https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/blog-comment-killfile/kpoilnkelonbaapoapibddjaojohnpjf?hl=en-US

    Apparently, it also works with google chrome. I like it.

    Cheers

    Mike

  216. Joshua says:

    sbm –

    I think that engaging with annoying folks is just part of this whole activity. I try to encourage people to engage in good faith, and I try to do so myself, but I’m not particularly bothered if people engage in bad faith. If it did bother me much, I wouldn’t spend time on the interwebs comment pages – as it’s pretty endemic. There is some value in digging into to opposing viewpoints – but I generally find that doing so with people who engage in good faith to be more productive.

    Thanks for the suggestion, but if I don’t want to read someone’s comment, I find that just scrolling past it works quite fine. And to be honest, I find complaining about people who engage in poor faith on the interwebs to be pretty pointless. Haters gonna hate. I hope I wasn’t complaining about Steve, but suggesting that he try another brand of engagement.

    My Magic 8-ball says “Outlook not so good,” but the door to good faith engagement remains open.

  217. That sounds like a good plan for you. I am personally checking in here and elsewhere to keep up on current science affairs, state of climate science, the news and studies etc. I am a social scientist by training, so my ability to make sense of some of the arcane info presented here is limited, but I can try. Also, as a social scientist with a long term interest in effective communication as a therapeutic tool and a means to drive change, I may have a little more resistance and repulsion at the communication games that I sense driving parts of the back and forth because I have run into so much of this in my lifetime doing work to help folks stop reacting and spend more effort in absorbing, engaging and growing. I found in the therapeutic relationship that sometimes you may pull the other party to you by pulling back and creating space instead of engaging more and trying to make the other party join you through the close quarters of intensive persuasion and argument.

  218. Joshua says:

    sbm

    > because I have run into so much of this in my lifetime doing work to help folks stop reacting and spend more effort in absorbing, engaging and growing.

    What I find is that I can use even these poor faith exchanges as a kind of relatively low-cost and experimental learning platform for how to understand my interpersonal communication patterns in real life, and to better understand the patterns in how others relate. For example, my understanding of my own tendency towards motivated reasoning in real life has grown from observing my own reactions in online forums, and in observing the “motivated” process in others.

    When someone misunderstands what I’ve written in these exchanges, in ways that are likely examples of poor faith – I think that often it isn’t actually an intent towards bad faith even if bad faith has been manifest. An example would be when I observe a libertarian amusingly conclude that I”m a “statist.” I know how wrong they are – but then how could they be so convinced that they’re right? Sometimes its because I haven’t communicated clearly or sometimes it’s because I’ve “motivated” them by demonstrating poor faith towards them. But often it’s because of their biases that filter how they attach incorrect meaning to what they’ve read. Some people, in particular, are useful as a kind of object lesson in that regard.

    Even if I don’t respond well when that happens, it registers in my mind as another example of where someone’s biases affected their reasoning so as to make them completely certain of a totally wrong conclusion. I can then use watching that pattern take place as a kind of object lesson for when it become apparent that I’ve interpreted someone else’s meaning in a way that differed from their intent – or from a way that is effectively just a product of my own biases or wrongful thinking.

    > I have run into so much of this in my lifetime doing work to help folks stop reacting and spend more effort in absorbing, engaging and growing.

    As incongruous as it might seem, I have found over the years that running into [this] so frequently online has actually increased my sensitivity to the phenomenon – if not necessarily in the online world, then in real life. Of that I’m quite certain. And to the extent that I can not take it personally, and stop reacting and spend more time observing and growing (sometimes engaging and hopefully absorbing in a positive and not negative way), it can be (marginally) useful. Of course, the balance isn’t equal. Of course, there are certainly more effective ways to achieve that kind of growth (i.e., meditating more) and certainly for very drop of positiveness I’ve collected there is a relative ocean of negativity energy and tons o’ wasted time – but I think that much development in life follows such a negatively balanced ratio, and the trick is to learn how to let the negativity go..

    > I found in the therapeutic relationship that sometimes you may pull the other party to you by pulling back and creating space instead of engaging more and trying to make the other party join you through the close quarters of intensive persuasion and argument.

    But this isn’t a therapeutic environment. My goal isn’t to pull someone else along, or to pull them to me. I’m content that they will gain value in exchange with me if they choose to do so – if only because they would find a kind of object lesson in observing me. If I can experiment a bit in this low cost space, I can maybe put a little bit that I’ve learned into practice in a meaningful real life exchange. After quite a few years of this, I’ve seen that persuasion is almost always a futile (direct) goal for online exchanges (at least with people who demonstrate poor faith). Perhaps there is some persuasion that takes place indirectly over a longer period of time, but people usually seem to hide any such effect out of a defensive posture. Even if in the moment persuasion feels to me like it is my intent, what I’ve learned is that my goal is to learn, or to to fight with my own fears and uncertainties, which can be turned into something positive if I observe openly.

  219. David B. Benson says:

    smallbluemike, ok, I understood the bumblebee abstract. Thank you.

  220. dikranmarsupial says:

    “since the iron law is specifically about ENVIRONMENTAL policy I can see why he wouldn’t discuss it. because it’s not a counter example.”

    In that case it isn’t a law (i.e. a general principle). If the electorate can put other things ahead of growth, then there is no reason why environmental policy should be any different, public attitudes to things change over time (and the US is not representative of global attitudes).

    As I said, it is cheap rhetoric, nothing more.

  221. dikranmarsupial says:

    SM “my sense is people will be reluctant to accept a policy that promotes degrowth.”

    bit of a statement of the bleedin’ obvious! ;o) However the “iron law” suggests that they are not merely reluctant, but completely unwilling. Otherwise it isn’t a law, and certainly not an iron one.

    There is an old stats joke “statisticians are like artists; they tend to fall in love with their models”. It applies to all academics – it is human nature. The problem is that if you adopt hyperbolic rhetoric about your academic position (e.g. referring to your hypothesis as an “iron law”), then that is the road to “going emeritus”, and probably best avoided. Likewise being resistant to criticism/correction.

  222. Dave_Geologist says:

    Re the bumblebees (and statements of the bleedin’ obvious): Configuration of the thermal landscape determines thermoregulatory performance of ectotherms. It’s not just how warm or cold it is, but whether you can find a nice sunny spot to warm up in, or a nice shady spot or a cool breeze. Same with humans. IIRC the heat-wave fatalities in Europe were as much about night-time temperatures, and being unable to cool down after the hot days (in countries where most homes don’t have aircon).

    So there could be synergistic effects: industrial-scale fields reducing variety of vegetation cover so you have to travel further to find shade or water; pesticide or herbicide application making those shady nooks chemical death-traps.

  223. I think you are correct, DG. There probably are synergistic effects contributing to the sixth extinction when we look at specific locales. In the global sense, habitat destruction, pollution and global warming are all related. I converted my urban lawn to bug and butterfly habitat twenty plus years ago with the long term goal of creating bird habitat. That has worked on the tiny patch of ground on the planet that is largely under my control. I have bumblebees, butterflies, birds and squirrels and I am happy to have them cohabit with us. My urban gardening friends talk about creating urban oases for a myriad of species. By planting lots of grapes, kiwis and hops, I have a bit more damp and cool spots throughout the property than I would otherwise have. Snakes and amphibians have not maintained their populations at the level I hoped for. In fact, I see fewer and fewer of these species as time goes by, no matter what I do.

    In certain habitats, like Luquillo, I think it is likely that the insect population collapse is primarily about temperature and humidity. We can learn by observing, thinking hard about what we are seeing and talking with other folks who are interested in the same topics.

  224. Steven Mosher says:

    “The reason why Roger’s “iron law” isn’t correct is because it’s too simplistic. It tries to draw a general “law” around mechanics that vary by context.”

    who knew being complex was a criteria for correctness.

    Let’s just recap.

    iron Law. Well, its not a physical law or logical law , as DK points out. who knew!
    If it was we would call it a universal law or something like that. the hazard of metaphors.

    But what is this “law” and what data support it?

    ‘Opinions polls show that the public is indeed willing to pay some amount for attaining environmental goals, just as it is with respect to other societal goals. However, the public has its limits as to how much it is willing to pay. What this means is that climate policy must be made compatible with economic growth as a precondition for their success.”

    I see two logical ways of attacking this. neither has anything to do with arguably
    non measureable things like “simplicity, sophistication, complexity ect which
    are just hand wavy.

    1. Present an opinion poll showing the public has no limits on what it is willing to pay.
    2. Challenge his INTERPRETATION of the “meaning” of the data

    You see if you forget that its roger and just break it down, you will think better.
    You have a history with him. Maybe you go off half cocked.

    here. break it down
    A) he makes a claim about opinion polls. you can challenge those number . go ahead.
    B) he INTERPRETS that this means policy must be compatible with Growth as a precondition.
    write this out in logical notation, or think logically, your choice.

    The key word in B is precondition: They come in two varieties, which he hides: necessary
    and sufficient. The data may support growth as a sufficient condition, but they don’t support
    the argument that it is a necessary condition.

    simply his data doesnt support the notion that growth is a necessary precondition of Epolicy
    Your task is easy: find an environmental policy that clearly disclosed its negative impact on
    growth that was acceptable to policy makers and the governed. show that QED, bobs your uncle.

    It’s not enough to argue that a negative growth environmental policy “might be” acceptable. heck global warming might be due to unicorns, ya never know.

    My preferred way of interpreting the iron law might be this. There isn’t much data on whether
    negative growth E policies will or will not be acceptable. So, Pick your fights since political capital is limited. However, we are pretty confident that policies
    compatible with growth can be acceptable. Since every ton matters, get started where we can
    agree, with policies that are consistent with growth. Meanwhile some folks could field test
    policies with negative growth outcomes and test the iron law. I suggest Your state experiment with
    an end to flying for example.

  225. Steven Mosher says:

    Joshua

    I read what ben said

    ‘Noting that there is a limit to how much people are prepared to pay isn’t much use. The key is to figure out how much it is. People are prepared to go fight and potentially die on the other side of the world in wars that will never affect them, so I think the claim that people are only interested in short term personal benefit is very wrong in general. I don’t know why it would apply for environmental issues when it clearly isn’t true for anything else.”

    well the polls gave you an idea of how much they would pay, I presume. I suspect they may pay slightly more in reality than they admit to in polls. Thats a good question.

    next the Iron claim doesn’t say anything about short term interests. It’s about growth which last time I looked was a LONG TERM interest. Hey someday I will live on Social security. you think
    my interest in growth is a short term one? BZZZNT. You think I want degrowth for my kids or your kids? .

    So he miscontrues what the iron law is about because he did not read it clearly or try to break it down.

    Much easier to raise concerns after you do that.

  226. Steven Mosher says:

    “Moore’s Law is sturdier than the Ironic Law, and yet:”

    and yet you didn’t read the article.

    ‘But Keller found ample technical opportunities for advances. He points out that there are probably more than a hundred variables involved in keeping Moore’s Law going, each of which provides different benefits and faces its own limits. It means there are many ways to keep doubling the number of devices on a chip—innovations such as 3D architectures and new transistor designs.”

    lets see, two years ago we did 16nm
    now this. which I can neither confirm nor deny.

    https://wccftech.com/tsmc-producing-5nm-asics-for-both-bitmain-and-canaan-in-2020/

    just anecdotally we crushed moores law from 2017 to today, like 10x improvement. crushed it.

    In Moore’s law we eventually will hit the limits of physics. Chip performance can slow or plateau
    and then there are 100 other things you can optimize to deliver more performance.

    It policy there are likewise limits. harder to find and define but limits nonetheless.

  227. Steven Mosher says:

    “I agree with you, Joshua. I find it irritating to engage with folks who I feel read in something less than good faith and may be playing gotcha instead of sharing information and and increasing understanding.”

    worst of all are folks who mind read about people’s intentions–the ultimate form of bad faith .
    Bottom line, if you want a policy that is acceptable to enough people you will have to put up
    with various gray levels of “faith” since there isn’t just “good” faith and “bad” faith.
    Ask Joshua, he will tell you to avoid binary thought.

  228. Steven Mosher says:

    dk

    ‘bit of a statement of the bleedin’ obvious! ;o) However the “iron law” suggests that they are not merely reluctant, but completely unwilling. Otherwise it isn’t a law, and certainly not an iron one.”

    well Roger used a metaphor. Good faith would suggest that you not literalize his metaphor.

    what I see.
    1. Roger used a metaphor to express a position about the preconditions of acceptable
    environmental policy.
    2. A bunch of folks use bad faith methods of reading to deconstruct it.

    This includes
    A) literalizing metaphors
    B) Ignoring the specificity of his statement
    C) flat out misreading the argument (it’s not about short term interests)
    D) failing to consider its strongest form

    here If you read nothing else in life read this essay by my old friend from Northwestern

    https://legacy.earlham.edu/~peters/courses/inflogic/clinical.htm

    or start here
    https://legacy.earlham.edu/~peters/courses/inflogic/inflhome.htm

    this is a good guide
    https://legacy.earlham.edu/~peters/courses/inflogic/inflex.htm

    peter is very cool. His Phd Director was my Honors Director so we shared a lot
    of war stories about being delightfully destroyed during our directors office hours.

    https://cyber.harvard.edu/~psuber/wiki/Peter_Suber

  229. dikranmarsupial says:

    “well Roger used a metaphor. Good faith would suggest that you not literalize his metaphor.”

    Err, no. It clearly isn’t a metaphor. He clearly does mean it literally.

  230. dikranmarsupial says:

    To be clear, it isn’t rocket science to suggest that people don’t want to sacrifice their standard of living (which is currently based on growth AFAICS) in order to benefit other people (either distant in space or in time). That is human nature, and if it were not for that there would be no dilemma and no denial of the science. It is also clear that peoples resistance to “degrowth” is not uniform across the globe and the US is an example of a country which, for historical/cultural reasons appears more resistant than most.

    The problem with calling it an “iron law” is that it is seeking to shut down a policy direction entirely and also a bit of a self-fulfilling policy (if you tell people that it is an iron law, then they will use it to avoid making sacrifices in their personal lifestyle because they “know” that others won’t so their sacrifice is a pointless gesture). But there is little or no evidence to back up his use of “iron law”. Your hyperbole-free summary was perfectly reasonable and much more persuasive because of its lack of hyperbole.

    It is hyperbolic rhetoric, and I’ve had enough discussions with Prof. Pielke Jr to know that is what it is. It is also somewhat ironic that you accuse me of bad faith argument, given the “discussions” I have *tried* to have with Prof. Pielke Jr on Twitter, which shows I have been willing to make the effort (and have been willing to agree with him and try and see his side of the story), whereas Prof. Pielke Jr was not (e.g. complaining about the SkS list everytime the going got tough, or ignoring my criticisims and then suggesting that there had not been any etc. etc.).

    So please, less rhetoric. I’ve read e.g. Schopenhauer’s “The Art of Being Right” – I can recognise the strategems when I see them.

  231. dikranmarsupial says:

    From SM’s first link (which I will read):

    “Be willing to recognize strength in arguments whose conclusions you reject and weakness in arguments whose conclusions you accept. ”

    This is a good example of what I mean. I have made it clear that I do accept the strength in “the iron law” and that I do agree that people will be reluctant to sacrifice growth for environmental concerns, to the point of acknowledging that it was a “statement of the bleedin’ obvious”. The only thing I reject is the hyperbole of calling this an “iron law”. And you question whether *I* am discussing this in good faith?

  232. The problem I have (as I think others have said) is the idea that it’s some kind of “law”. It’s not a huge surprise that people are reluctant to pay for something if they don’t think they’ll see some benefit, but there’s no real reason why it’s impossible to do this. As far as I can tell, it’s mostly political will. If policy makers were convinced we needed to prioritise dealing with environmental issues, then they would probably generate some narrative that highlighted the importance of this, and we’d get on with it.

  233. Ben McMillan says:

    I guess I’m trying to critique a stronger version of the ‘iron law’ argument, where the proponent hasn’t just conflated short term costs with reduction in long-term growth. In more serious analysis, the question of how much environmental policy is worthwhile hinges heavily on trading off short-term versus long term goals (things like DICE, despite their flaws, are still better than this kind of rhetorical posturing).

    But regardless of that, people are currently incurring significant costs to mitigate environmental problems (ie whether or not these costs translate into significant long-term reduction in growth).

  234. dikranmarsupial says:

    “In more serious analysis, the question of how much environmental policy is worthwhile hinges heavily on trading off short-term versus long term goals (things like DICE, despite their flaws, are still better than this kind of rhetorical posturing).”

    This summarises my objection. We need serious analysis of the trade-offs involved and hyperbolic rhetoric (from either side – I don’t much care for “panic” messaging either) is exactly what we don’t want when attempting serious analysis.

  235. A comment I think I may have made before is that surely one goal of political science is to tell us how to break these “iron laws” rather than to simply tell us that they exist. Clearly there are cases where we need to accept that we will pay for something that only has a long-term benefit. We must be capable of making such decisions, even if we’d really rather not do so.

  236. David B. Benson says:

    Does this qualify as a tipping point?
    https://news.mongabay.com/2020/03/in-chile-scientists-seek-the-cause-of-blue-whales-mystery-skin-lesions/
    Maybe smallbluemike is right about farmed salmon …

  237. dikranmarsupial says:

    “Clearly there are cases where we need to accept that we will pay for something that only has a long-term benefit. ”

    Indeed, this is the perennial problem for representative democracies; we need a government that will take the long term view when the electorate doesn’t want to, but they also want to be in power, so have a strong incentive to promise what the electorate wants in the short term. It’s the best system we have come up with so far, but it isn’t well suited to dealing with long term problems.

  238. David B. Benson says:

    dikanmarsupial, yet capable of providing dams as well as nuclear power plants, both of which last for a long time. Also, land setasides, monuments, …

  239. dikranmarsupial says:

    But most of those have short-medium term benefits that will accrue for the electorate that is voting for the politicians. The problem with climate change is that often we need to sacrifice our standard of living for the benefit of someone else (often in a different country). I agree with ATTP that this should not be an insoluble problem, but it is worth recognising that there are features of our political system that make this more difficult. Effectively the politicians need to convince the electorate that we need to do this because it is in our best interests, even if it isn’t to our personal advantage.

  240. “A comment I think I may have made before is that surely one goal of political science is to tell us how to break these “iron laws” rather than to simply tell us that they exist.”

    Political science has done this. At the risk of summoning Willard, the entire world is well aware that there are emissions-free options for energy other than windmills, solar panels and retrofitting every building on the planet. Those options are already proven to be compatible with growth by multiple countries.
    Therefore there is an additional part to the iron law- 1. countries will not sacrifice economic growth for environmental policy and, part 2, especially if they know they don’t have to in order to achieve the environmental policy.

  241. Willard says:

    > Those options are already proven to be compatible with growth by multiple countries.

    Repeating this untruth turns it into a lie, JeffN. More so if you extend the Ironic Law to GRRRRROWTH, for nukes can’t compete in the Western world. Nukes will increase energy prices. New plants won’t hit production soon enough. They will imply regulations, something Freedom Fighters usually frown upon.

    You got nothing against that.

    Let’s call this JeffN’s Law of Nuclear Peddling.

  242. Joshua says:

    Steven –

    > well the polls gave you an idea of how much they would pay, I presume.

    How much they would pay at present I presume, with the current perception of risk, with the current state of the economy, with the current state of “weather” phenomena (as distinguished from perceptions of risk from climate change).

    There is a fairly extensive literature that shows that levels of willingness to incur costs for protecting the environment are associated with the state of the economy. Of course, that literature may be wrong – but I presume that literature remains totally unaccounted for in the simplistic assertion of an “iron law.” That wouldn’t be surprising, as often we see in these discussions where people asert such sweeping and completely certain opinions without actually researching the relevant literature.

    > next the Iron claim doesn’t say anything about short term interests.

    Precisely. It says nothing about a very relevant factor – on what scale are you assessing “growth?” A simplistic assumption that a distinction between growth on the short and long term scales can be swept under an iron law rug seems questionable to me. As such, I think that RPJr’ “iron law” is rather useless, except to stress the bleedin’ obvious, which I’ll admit can sometimes not be appropriately acknowledged, that people’s perception of issues such as their economic health need to be taken into consideration by policy advocates.

    > It’s about growth which last time I looked was a LONG TERM interest.

    This is problematic along similar lines. The distinction between short and long term growth, unless specified and justified scientifically, is vague at best, and arbitrary at worst. The very notion of “growth” suffers from the same simplisticness in RPJr.’s “iron law.” For example, are long term externalities taken into consideration when “growth” is defined? What are the sacrifices being made for growth? In a particular context, what are immediate needs that might need to be balanced against “growth?”

    > Hey someday I will live on Social security. you think
    my interest in growth is a short term one?

    There is a ton of evidence that people balance the cost of long term benefits against short-term factors. Great that you used that example – as we can see tons o’ evidence in daily politics that people balance the long-term viability of social security against their short-term pain of paying higher taxes or waiting longer to collect benefits.

    > So he miscontrues what the iron law is about because he did not read it clearly or try to break it down.

    I disagree. I think he pointed to the inadequacies of the “iron law” as a meaningful concept. Actually, imo he was trying to “break it down,” Iow, to test its viability against a variety of conditions. That is exactly what I’d expect someone to do when they’re assessing the viability of a “law” being proclaimed.

    >Much easier to raise concerns after you do that.

    I don’t think that what’s “easier” is a worthwhile aim here.

  243. I suspect that lots of folks are willing to make sacrifices to make a better life for their children and grandchildren. That really is not a very hard sell.

  244. “Repeating this untruth turns it into a lie.”
    Yah? France had no growth, has energy that’s more expensive than Germany?

    Nuclear is more expensive than natural gas and coal. Nothing is more expensive than renewables. You know that. You’ve even cited the studies. Every nation knows this, which is why 30-years into this “debate” there isn’t a single nation powered by wind and solar. If Germany wanted emissions-free energy, it would be less expensive to keep and expand nuclear than build islands in the ocean for windmills.

  245. Joshua says:

    sbm –

    > I suspect that lots of folks are willing to make sacrifices to make a better life for their children and grandchildren. That really is not a very hard sell.

    I would think that that different people tend to differently balance short term sacrifice against long term impact on children and grandchildren.
    And if course, some people don’t even have children and grandchildren. Perhaps you could find a signal there associated with views on short term sacrifice relevant to climate change.

    But I’d suggest there are other vectors of relevance as well – for example, the perception of level of risk. I’d say that a given individual tends to vary in their balance of sacrifice to hedge against harm to their children and grandchildren in alignment with their perception of risk.

    I think it’s important to assess how differences among people balances against different perceptions of in-common influences, when trying to understand why people have different policy preferences. Sometimes different policy preferences might reflect differences in values – but I think that often, what looks like a situation where differences in values is a predictor of outcomes, it’s a situation where differences in perceptions are significantly explanatory.

  246. Joshua says:

    Jeff

    > Nothing is more expensive than renewable.

    As long as you ignore externalities. Which is why people who are pushing a rightwing agenda invariably ignore them. Ignoring externalities justifies hippie-punching and lob-hating.

  247. mrkenfabian says:

    “I suspect that lots of folks are willing to make sacrifices to make a better life for their children and grandchildren. That really is not a very hard sell.”

    When they are also told insistently and incessantly, by people who know what emotive buttons to press, that the problem isn’t that serious and that their sacrifices will be pointless – or worse than pointless ie it is the solutions and those pushing for them that are seriously harmful (you’ll lose your job, lose your industry, lose your financial security!)… then, yes, it is a hard sell.

  248. Willard says:

    > Nothing is more expensive than renewables. You know that. You’ve even cited the studies.

    You’re pushing the limits of justified disingenuousness a tad too far, JeffN:

    Basically studies like the MIT+Lazard ones show renewables and gas as the cheapest form of new generation, which is a big reason why these comprise pretty much all the new power stations in the West. Also no-one will build coal in places that take reducing carbon emissions seriously. Of course, running old nuclear power stations (eg France) has a low marginal cost, but they don’t last forever.

    https://andthentheresphysics.wordpress.com/2017/11/29/going-nuclear/#comment-157105

    Enough peddling. You offer nothing. You make otters work for you.

  249. [Moving the goalposts won’t work, JeffN. -W]

    Joshua: “As long as you ignore externalities”
    The basic thrust of the “iron law” is that externalities are, indeed, ignored by decision makers- even in non-“right-wing” nations. Externalities are a good way to justify a high cost – a sales pitch if you will – but nobody has accepted the cost and the “iron law” is Pilke;s explanation for this fact. And yes, I mean that- externalities are a good way to justify a higher cost. That applies to all options, some of which mitigate the externalities cost at a lower out of pocket price than others.

  250. Joshua says:

    Jeff –

    > And yes, I mean that- externalities are a good way to justify a higher cost.

    So there we agree.

    My point is that by ignoring externalities, be it through a simple failure to to do due diligence, as a function of a short-term profit motive, or as a result of selective reasoning motivated by an underlying agenda, in fact the “iron law” isn’t a law at all. It’s an abstraction thst may or may not bear much relationship to reality depending on context.

    And externalities is only one of the ways in which RPJr.’s “iron law” is of limited value outside of serving as a tool for “stealth advocacy.”

  251. Joshua says:

    That said, I will acknowledge that when I first heard RPJr. talking about the importance of factoring in economic growth into climate change policy, I found it to be quite useful in making my views on the topic more comprehensive. I don’t dismiss the importance of taking a comprehensive view of the relationship between emissions mitigation and growth.

    So in a sense I think that the “iron law” can serve a purpose, as long as you don’t take it too literally, don’t get too fixed on its value, and use it as a frame of reference for basing a more nuanced engagement that introduces relevant context.

  252. Steven Mosher says:

    “So in a sense I think that the “iron law” can serve a purpose, as long as you don’t take it too literally, don’t get too fixed on its value, and use it as a frame of reference for basing a more nuanced engagement that introduces relevant context.”

    100% agree

  253. Steven Mosher says:

    “I suspect that lots of folks are willing to make sacrifices to make a better life for their children and grandchildren. That really is not a very hard sell.”

    the hard sell is me sacrificing for your grandkids, or some grand kid in india or China.

    In china parents will sacrifice for their kids because they know their kids are required to care for
    them in their old age. confucian thing. They are shocked when they hear about “old age” homes.

    so In china I want my kids to do well now because I know they will take care of me when I am old.
    in the USA I want my kids to do well now, so I won’t have to take care of them in the future.

    point being, the appeal to children is culturally dependent, or rather has cultural nuance

  254. Steven Mosher says:

    “A comment I think I may have made before is that surely one goal of political science is to tell us how to break these “iron laws” rather than to simply tell us that they exist. Clearly there are cases where we need to accept that we will pay for something that only has a long-term benefit. We must be capable of making such decisions, even if we’d really rather not do so.”

    I think the virus may wake a certain class of people up about being prepared ( adaptation)
    hint. the strategic reserves of PPE for medical staff is about 10% of what is needed.

  255. Steven Mosher says:

    “How much they would pay at present I presume, with the current perception of risk, with the current state of the economy, with the current state of “weather” phenomena (as distinguished from perceptions of risk from climate change).”

    Lets see, what would I be willing to pay and why?
    Not more than 1000 per month, because thats what my health insurance costs.
    Not gunna pay more than what I pay to manage my short term risk
    Not more than 300 per month, that’s a typical phone bill ( all international calling)
    100 bucks? ok. no problem. sold.
    thats 10x of this

    https://www.vox.com/energy-and-environment/2017/10/13/16468318/americans-willing-to-pay-climate-change

    But here is the real question.
    when I pay that 1000 I know what I am getting
    when I pay that 300 I know what I am getting.

    So, for $100 bucks a month, what kinda future do I get?
    what I see is this. Zero agreement on how this money will be spent.

    will I pay 100 bucks a month to force folks into a vegan diet? nope
    will I pay that to kill air travel? nope
    will I pay it bring more nukes online? yup, 200 a month if you wanna do that
    will I pay that to kill coal? yup
    will I pay that to kill fracking? nope.

  256. dikranmarsupial says:

    SM “100% agree”

    I 100% agree that we need to properly consider economic issues (including growth) in planning the best course of action regarding climate change (another “statement of the beleedin’ obvious”!)

    I 100% disagree that we (especially academics) should do so using hyperbolic rhetoric (such as the “iron law”). All that is likely to do is to sharpen partisan divides and make it more difficult to have a rational discussion about anything.

  257. dikranmarsupial says:

    … but maybe that is a feature rather than a bug.

  258. Ben McMillan says:

    The kind of amount people are prepared to pay for mitigation in the Vox survey (~$200 per person per year) is not actually that far off mitigation spending suggested by optimal response in typical economic analysis. That is already enough to drive substantial decarbonisation if it is direct spending on low carbon infrastructure (which is what people mostly want).

    Most estimates put the mitigation spending needed at well below 1% of GDP (if you implement this using a carbon tax, the transfers are somewhat higher), for staying below ~2.5C.

  259. David B. Benson says:

    jeffnsail850 — Most unsure what point you might be attempting to make but
    https://bravenewclimate.proboards.com/thread/697/power-world?page=4
    offers a variety of links to the ‘how to power the world’ without any carbon dioxide emissions. Well, very little.

  260. David B. Benson says:

    Ben McMillan — If truly so little then push for 2% of GNP to keep global warming to quite small. And if you underestimated, then double the above.

  261. Joshua: “So in a sense I think that the “iron law” can serve a purpose, as long as you don’t take it too literally, don’t get too fixed on its value, and use it as a frame of reference for basing a more nuanced engagement that introduces relevant context.”

    So, some pushback on this, but not much. Out of pocket cost matters. One way of looking at the “iron law” is to say that the task at hand is to lower the cost of alternatives. Externalities can get people to move to their ceiling of expense, but they will still be cost conscious of the plan.
    The externalities cost of eating $5 greasy hamburgers every day is $1 million in health care. Yummy salad A costs $7, yummy salad B costs $12 and your max acceptable budget is $6. The iron law says the externality costs will make you eat some combination of yummy salads and hamburgers that results in an average price of $6 or less and hope the externality cost goes down. And yummy B just means eating more hamburgers to hit the average.
    I think people get overly frustrated with Roger because he’s right- you have to get the price of salad to six bucks or less to significantly impact the externality.

  262. Willard says:

    > I think people get overly frustrated with [Junior] because he’s right

    Junior can only be right if his Ironic Law is constructed as a motte-and-bailey:

    [Junior’s Motte] Here is an empirical claim.

    [Junior’s Bailey] No, no, I meant it as a definitional equivalence.

    The empirical part is false. The definitional part is not worth a law. It’s really that simple.

    I think that having to counter this overly simplistic blunder for years warrants being frustrated a little.

    It’s about time we have better contrarians, don’t you think?

  263. “It’s about time we have better contrarians, don’t you think?”

    Wherein Willard proves that junior is obviously wrong, everyone switched to salad. But the contrarians won’t admit it.

  264. Willard says:

    > everyone switched to salad

    Who’s these “everyone,” JeffN.

    I’m tempted to write a post on thought experiments just for you.

  265. The Very Reverend Jebediah Hypotenuse says:


    I think that having to counter this overly simplistic blunder for years warrants being frustrated a little.

    Better put it on the bingo board…
    Between #but_Second_Law, and #but_CO2_saturation.
    Just below #but_Salby_wow!


    It’s about time we have better contrarians, don’t you think?

    We’ve already seen peak-contrarianism.
    Even if his thought experiments live on, Dyson himself is dead.
    It only gets worse from here.

  266. Willard says:

    > Better put it on the bingo board…

    Nah. The Ironic Law goes directly into the ClimateBall playbook, right next to the Law of Psychological Inertia.

  267. “I’m tempted to write a post on thought experiments just for you.”

    I’m looking forward to it. 🙂

  268. Joshua says:

    Jeff –

    > The externalities cost of eating $5 greasy hamburgers every day is $1 million in health care. Yummy salad A costs $7, yummy salad B costs $12 and your max acceptable budget is $6.

    The problem here is one that I’ve talked about before. Your logic is that cost and price are one and the same. In such logic, externalities get removed from the equation.. Seems to me that externalities is what makes it problematic to equate cost and price.

    The price of salad A is $7, but the “cost” should reflect the relatively low lower healthcare cost compared to the hamburger, or the price of the hamburger should reflect the associated costs of eating all that grease.

    Now obviously, properly internalizing costs is very tricky. We often don’t do it, and for example consider the costs of the healthcare to society as an entirely different matter – even as we believe that no one should be turned away from needed healthcare – and so in the US we have co-pays and insurance premiums or pay taxes to cover healthcare costs of those who can’t afford it otherwise .

    But when we’re speaking theoretically about things such as “laws,” that’s the time to attempt to be comprehensive. Thus, we shouldn’t just equate cost and price and we shouldn’t just sweep the importance of context under some vague frame such as an “iron law.”

    Othwewise, we open the door to fallacious use of our theories for agenda-pushing, by people who are looking to exploit simplistic assertions.

    > I think people get overly frustrated with Roger because he’s right…

    I get frustrated (how do we determine “overly?”) with RPJr. because he pollutes the space where we can profitably discuss complicated issues. He poisons the well and then complains that the water has been poisoned. I consider that frustrating in part because I do think he contributes analyses that are worthwhile to evaluate. RPJr., often lacks accountability – he personalizes arguments and then decries the personalization of science, he leaves big fat curveballs out there for :”skeptics” to hit in entirely predictable ways, and then hides under a cloak of plausible deniability.

    Playing the victim and then acting as if he’s the victim is counterproductive. It is essentially stealh advocacy. He’s not the only one. It’s samold sameold. But it’s frustrating, to me. .

  269. Steven Mosher says:

    “I think people get overly frustrated with Roger because he’s right”
    Nope.

    ‘He poisons the well and then complains that the water has been poisoned. ”
    Yup

  270. Steven Mosher says:

    “I 100% disagree that we (especially academics) should do so using hyperbolic rhetoric (such as the “iron law”). All that is likely to do is to sharpen partisan divides and make it more difficult to have a rational discussion about anything.”

    ban all adjectives is my hyperbole.

    The issue may be that facts dont make good arguments. narratives do. and so it’s hard
    to dispense with rhetoric.

    i would even make a stronger defense of rhetoric.

    stole from my old prof, dick lanham

    ‘In The Electronic Word: Democracy, Technology and the Arts, Lanham engages what he calls the “‘Q’ question in honor of its most famous nonanswerer” Quintilian (155). The Q question is this: does education in discourse lead to virtue more than vice? Are good rhetors good people?

    Lanham identifies two defenses of the morality of rhetoric. The so-called weak defense (which Quintilian makes as well as Ramus) suggests that rhetoric is separate from philosophy and one first becomes a good person and then can add good speaking on top (158). More modern (and postmodern) theories contribute to Lanham’s “Strong Defense” which “argues that, since truth comes to humankind in so many diverse and disagreeing forms, we cannot base a polity upon it. We must, instead, devise some system by which we can agree on a series of contingent operating premises” (187-8). The Strong Defense opposes the universal rational truth and suggests that “what links virtuosity, the love of form, and virtue, is virtu. power ” (189).[1]”

  271. dikranmarsupial says:

    Steven wrote: “The issue may be that facts dont make good arguments.”

    No, quite the opposite – facts make excellent arguments, but many people are not convinced by good arguments, which is not the same thing. People are a mass of cognitive biases and so often reject good arguments that are logically consistent and based on sound evidence; it is those same cognitive biases that are exploited by rhetoric.

    In politics, where people must be motivated to do things, then rhetoric is often necessary in practice, that is the reality of it. However, in academia good arguments should prevail and there is little place for rhetoric. If your arguments cannot stand up to scrutiny, then you should let them fall until you do the work required for them to stand. If you need to use rhetoric to bolster them, then that is a recipe for self-delusion and misleading yourself. This is particularly the case in science (including social and political) and engineering, but I don’t immediately see why it doesn’t also apply to the arts as well.

    *Prof.* Pielke Jr is an academic, and he is using hyperbolic rhetoric to forward his own academic agenda. That is a bad idea.

    “does education in discourse lead to virtue more than vice?”

    In academia it leads to more vice than virtue, as it is antithetical to self-skepticism. Academics best pursue their subject as a chess-player plays chess – don’t play the strongest move available to you – assume best play from your “opponent” and play the strongest move for which your “opponent’s” best response is thw weakest. At least if you want to minimise the classic “reviewer #3” problem (be your own “reviewer #3” fisrt).

    “Are good rhetors good people?”

    Q was right to ignore this question, good people tend to use rhetoric to good ends, bad people tend to use rhetoric to bad ones. News at 11!

    “since truth comes to humankind in so many diverse and disagreeing forms, we cannot base a polity upon it. ”

    That seems to be faulty logic to me. We can always base policy on truth – “truths” that disagree are not all truths. The real reason we can’t base polity upon truth is because we are full of cognitive biases. I suspect Vulcans (should they exist) would find it rather natural.

  272. dikranmarsupial says:

    ” The Strong Defense opposes the universal rational truth ”

    This seems somewhat specious to me as well. There may not be a universal rational truth, but that doesn’t mean that there are not specific things that are rational truths, or that rational argument is not better than rhetorical appeals to cognitive biases.

    “what links virtuosity, the love of form, and virtue, is virtu. power ”

    nice rhetoric though.

  273. David B. Benson says:

    Lakes may rapidly change state:
    https://bravenewclimate.proboards.com/thread/159/climate-change-emergency?page=5#post-6351

    I suppose that this could be called a tipping point.

  274. ‘He poisons the well and then complains that the water has been poisoned. ”
    Yup

    He certainly tosses poison into the well, but would probably argue it’s not a well, it’s your cess pit.
    Arguing against hyperbole is easy, arguing against the obvious but inconvenient is frustrating. Activists have been beating the “decarbonize now” for 30 years and nobody is close to doing it. Why? Roger says its because your available options cost more than people are willing to pay. Plus the warm still want the most expensive of all available options.
    Action has proceeded to the wall of acceptable cost and no further. You can debate whether that wall is truly made of “iron”, but it’s obviously holding. And that is the inconvenient fact driving the frustration and the hyperbole.

  275. Joshua:
    “The price of salad A is $7, but the “cost” should reflect the relatively low lower healthcare cost compared to the hamburger, or the price of the hamburger should reflect the associated costs of eating all that grease.”
    The externality isn’t lost. It drives people to increase the amount they are willing to pay in order to avoid the externality. The “iron law” proposes a limit to that increase, observations of global efforts confirm it.
    The pushback on this limit also raises a couple of pointed questions for policymakers- is it really impossible to produce a $6 salad and what’s the reasoning behind the claim that the medical and culinary sciences are utterly incapable of producing hamburgers that people can enjoy occasionally without $1 million in externalities?

  276. Willard says:

    For the nth time:

    Climate policy, they say, requires sacrifice, as economic growth and environmental progress are necessarily incompatible with one another. This perspective has even been built into the scenarios of the IPCC. However, experience shows quite clearly that when environmental and economic objectives are placed into opposition with one another in public or political forums, the economic goals win out. I call this the iron law of climate policy. Opinion polls show that the public is indeed willing to pay some amount for attaining environmental goals, just as it is with respect to other societal goals. However, the public has its limits as to how much it is willing to pay.

    Click to access 2010.47.pdf

    Compare and contrast:

    [1] when environmental and economic objectives are placed into opposition with one another in public or political forums, the economic goals win out

    [2] the public has its limits as to how much it is willing to pay

    If [2] is read as an empirical claim, it refutes [1]. So it’s read as a “law.” Since we are not living in a world of infinite resources, it’s trivially true. Junior has just found another way to aggress the IPCC passively.

    As our contrarians’ lulzing clearly indicates, the Iron Law is just a way to put in academese James Inhofe’s “we won, you lost, get over it.” One problem with that trick: it works until it does not. (Hint: Montreal Protocol.) One big advantage with it: you can always make it work.

  277. Steven Mosher says:

    “He certainly tosses poison into the well, but would probably argue it’s not a well, it’s your cess pit.”

    touche`

    language is not a social art, it’s fencing.

  278. “He certainly tosses poison into the well, but would probably argue it’s not a well, it’s your cess pit.”

    If this is a fair reflection of what is thought, then it’s hard to see why are surprised by some of the responses. It’s not as if “I might have been highly critical of what you and your colleagues are doing, but that’s jusified because you all essentially live in a cess pit” would be taken well.

  279. Ben McMillan says:

    On the link between spending on mitigation and reduced growth (the claim that, in some unquantified fashion, spending on mitigation will “sacrifice growth”). Sometimes people try to make the usual austerity argument, that “government spending” will lead to debt, and this will spook financiers, leading to inability to sustain the investments that lead to growth.

    But this is obviously hard to study and growth is not well understood. The main empirical evidence for the link was just “Excel spreadsheet error”:
    http://theconversation.com/the-reinhart-rogoff-error-or-how-not-to-excel-at-economics-13646

    Basically, the claim that imposing X regulation, or increasing tax etc “will kill growth” is regularly made, but almost never with any kind of empirical evidence or quantification. Its a sort of all-purpose talking point against almost anything. If people want to claim something will impact growth, but they can’t quantify how much, it is hard to take them very seriously.

  280. dikranmarsupial says:

    “Roger says its because your available options cost more than people are willing to pay.”

    The trouble is that is not all that Roger says. What sets peoples willingness to pay? I’d argue that calling it an “Iron Law” is encouraging the perception that people are completely unwilling to pay if it is at the expense of growth. I don’t think that is actually true, but you can be certain that those who are against action to mitigate against climate change with exploit it to the full. Rhetoric is like that.

  281. Joshua says:

    Jeff –

    > He certainly tosses poison into the well, but would probably argue it’s not a well, it’s your cess pit.

    In my view, “Mommy they do it too.” and “Mommy they did it first.” are uniformly unproductive gambits – if your goal is productive dialog.

    That is precisely the reason why I criticize RPJr. for poisoning the well and then complaining that the water had been poisoned.

    Not because he’s doing something that other people aren’t doing.

    [Not -W] because he couldn’t justify throwing poison in the well on the argument that other people are doing it too/did it first.

    No, if people want to rely on the reasoning of middle-schoolers trying to get out of being punished for throwing jello in the lunchroom, they are free to do so. Within a limited framework, there is a logic to that argument.

    But imo, it is unproductive. And what makes it worse for me are that (1) I think that without employing that gambit, the value of Roger’s input could be magnified and, (2) it’s annoying that he uses that kind of logic and then plays the victim. It’s annoying becsuee he wastes (imo) so much wasted energy on playing the victim. If you want to be a shithead, just go ahead and be a shithead. Don’t waste energy saying “If only these shitheads would stop calling me a shithead we could get beyond personalizing the science.”

    > Arguing against hyperbole is easy,

    I disagree. I think it is extremely easy. It just requires that you use the lessons you learned after middle school.

    > Activists have been beating the “decarbonize now” for 30 years and nobody is close to doing it. Why? Roger says its because your available options cost more than people are willing to pay.

    OK. This is terribly flawed, logically.

    First of all, there has been progress made in decsebinizariin.. Next, there are obviously many reasons why we haven’t made more progress, and finally, we can’t even actually measure the progress because it rests in a counterfactuals. Where would we be on carbon emissions if people had not been advocating for decarbonization? I say we have no real idea.

    So again I go back to let’s have a more sophisticated argument. If you want to point out that there is potentially a direct tension between decarbonization and the benefits of growth * that’s fine. As I said above, listening to RPJr., despite his rhetorical overreach, has gotten me to look at thst issue more seriously. If my experience is generalizable, then in a sense, his rhetorical overreach may have some benefit in spite of its demerits. But there is a lot of opportunity cost there, imo. And the potential benefits of rhetorical overreach in no way, imo, suffice for a justification of that overreach. Except if you just want to revel in the satisfaction of seeing jello on the face of an 11 year-old.

    > Action has proceeded to the wall of acceptable cost and no further.

    Again, your logic ignores the distinction between price and cost. We can’t go further in this discussion until you discuss thst issue. We can’t go further until you add context to a religious faith in a law which only works if it is stripped from any context.

    > You can debate whether that wall is truly made of “iron”, but it’s obviously holding. And that is the inconvenient fact driving the frustration and the hyperbole.

    You can just repeat your assertions about why other people are frustrated, but you should try considering that getting into other people’s heads to determine why they feel the way they feel is almost invariably a mistake. It mostly just winds up as a form of projection.

  282. Joshua says:

    Jeff –

    > “The price of salad A is $7, but the “cost” should reflect the relatively low lower healthcare cost compared to the hamburger, or the price of the hamburger should reflect the associated costs of eating all that grease.”

    >> The externality isn’t lost. It drives people to increase the amount they are willing to pay in order to avoid the externality.

    I’ll try again. The externality is lost in the price of the hamburger. That’s why it is an externality. It surfaces elsewhere, in a sense, such as in the taxes people pay to provide healthcare for people who can’t afford it. Or it surfaces in insurance rates due to increases in medical costs due to high rates of default on medical bills.

    > The “iron law” proposes a limit to that increase, observations of global efforts confirm it.

    I propose there is a limit to the extent to which I can ask you to dig deeper beneath backwards engineering to reach a desired conclusion. As nears as I can tell, you are starting with a conclusion and then fitting the facts on the ground to confirm that conclusion. Imo, there are obviously MANY factors that influence the PRICE that people pay for energy. Indeed, one of the factors, and one that deserves consideration, is the short-term benefit people receive from cheap energy when they can disconnect the external costs from thst price. The broad tension that RPJr.’s “iron law” points to worthy of discussion. Taking that law literally, without context and nuance, and just using it as a function to output a desired conclusion is valueless. IMO. I will request that in future discussions with me you me you at least try to refrain from doing so.

  283. Joshua says:

    Willard –

    > However, experience shows quite clearly that when environmental and economic objectives are placed into opposition with one another in public or political forums, the economic goals win out. I call this the iron law of climate policy. Opinion polls show that the public is indeed willing to pay some amount for attaining environmental goals, just as it is with respect to other societal goals. However, the public has its limits as to how much it is willing to pay.

    Thanks for that. It’s really quite remarkable. I don’t even really need to make any of the arguments I’ve been making. RPJr. makes them himself right there. Becsuee I have a bit of trouble following your explanation…

    Let me try

    Economic factors always win out. Except when they don’t. That’s why I say there’s a law that economic factors always win out.

  284. Ben McMillan says:

    Also, what Willard and Joshua said. RP is trying to slide between a claim that people will only pay some limited amount for climate action and a claim that they are are effectively not willing to make any sacrifices at all.

    Montreal Protocol. CLRTAP.

    Interestingly, willingness to pay is very different (and much smaller) in the studies quoted in RP’s opinion piece than in the Vox survey: almost as if this depends on how you ask, or participants’ views can change.

  285. Willard says:

    > Economic factors always win out. Except when they don’t. That’s why I say there’s a law that economic factors always win out.

    In a formal dialogue:

    [Vlad] The externalities cost of eating $5 greasy hamburgers every day is $1 million in health care. Yummy salad A costs $7, yummy salad B costs $12 and your max acceptable budget is $6. The iron law says the externality costs will make you eat some combination of yummy salads and hamburgers that results in an average price of $6 or less and hope the externality cost goes down. And yummy B just means eating more hamburgers to hit the average.

    [Estr] The price of salad A is $7, but the “cost” should reflect the relatively low lower healthcare cost compared to the hamburger, or the price of the hamburger should reflect the associated costs of eating all that grease.

    [Vlad] The externality isn’t lost. It drives people to increase the amount they are willing to pay in order to avoid the externality. The “iron law” proposes a limit to that increase, observations of global efforts confirm it.

    [Estr] I’ll try again. The externality is lost in the price of the hamburger. That’s why it is an externality. It surfaces elsewhere, in a sense, such as in the taxes people pay to provide healthcare for people who can’t afford it. Or it surfaces in insurance rates due to increases in medical costs due to high rates of default on medical bills.

    When cornered by the fact that externalities may surpass the price people are prepared to pay, the exchange usually switches to Yellow Vests. I’m surprised Vladimir hasn’t mentioned Yellow Vests. Perhaps because the current ones are not yellow:

  286. Steven Mosher says:

    “However, experience shows quite clearly that when environmental and economic objectives are placed into opposition with one another in public or political forums, the economic goals win out. ”

    ya’ll might want to take more care in explicating this word by word.

    then ask yourself how some people are pitching the GND.

    go ahead, write up a few samples where you place environmental goals and economic objectives in opposition.

    It’s funny watching folks get bent out of shape over something that is trivially true.

    in the end
    decide what you sell: sacrifice to save the planet or the GND transformation.
    choice
    of mascots: christ or robin hood

  287. Willard says:

    > ya’ll might want to take more care in explicating this word by word.

    Y tho. They’re Junior words.

    The endgame is really simple. It’s the same as with nukes. Energy will cost more, and there will be a floor price. Insurance premiums will be lower, airplane tickets will be higher.

    Habits will change. Markets will be created, others will be destroyed. Expected losers resist. Normal.

  288. “[Estr] I’ll try again. The externality is lost in the price of the hamburger. That’s why it is an externality. It surfaces elsewhere, in a sense, such as in the taxes people pay to provide healthcare for people who can’t afford it. Or it surfaces in insurance rates due to increases in medical costs due to high rates of default on medical bills.”

    I’m Vlad now? Poison, wells, sigh.
    Anyhow.
    [Vlad] I’ll try again. Absent any information on externalities, people will continue paying $5 for lunch and will eat burgers. Oops, here’s a big, scary externality for eating burgers, better do something! Okay, I’ll go up to $6 per lunch to mitigate that externality, but that’s my ceiling. I will sacrifice an additional dollar. I’ll eat more salads. And I’ll eat an all salad diet if you get the price down to $6.
    [Estr] No, no, no! There is an externality! Obviously you’d pay $12 a salad. Ceilings on sacrifices do not exist.
    [Vlad] nobody has switched to $12 salads or $7 ones, so there sure looks like a ceiling
    [PM Corbyn] Logically the suggestion of an unwillingness to sacrifice is refuted by the empirical statement that people are unwilling to sacrifice or that there is some limit to this sacrifice. Hence, clearly, for the thousandth time, the path to 10 Downing Street is to require greater sacrifice.

    ATTP- certainly. Roger’s slung his share of mud and, as a result is a fair target for return fire. Not sure it accomplishes anything. Or disprove the notion that there is a limit to sacrifice.

  289. Willard says:

    I’ll point at

    [JeffN 1] I’m Vlad now? Poison, wells, sigh.

    and

    [JeffN 1] [PM Corbyn]

    that is all.

  290. Willard says:

    What the hell. This:

    > Or disprove the notion that there is a limit to sacrifice.

    presumes we’d need to refute what appears to be a truism.

    Nobody owns truisms. They belong to everyone. Why Junior would insist in branding a truism is what matters.

  291. “that is all”

    “If this is a fair reflection of what is thought, then it’s hard to see why are surprised by some of the responses.”

    “presumes we’d need to…”
    succeed at policy making

    That is all.

  292. Willard says:

    > succeed at policy making

    To repeat, the Iron Law is just a way to put in academese James Inhofe’s “we won, you lost, get over it.” One problem with that trick: it works until it does not. (Hint: Montreal Protocol.) One big advantage with it: you can always make it work.

  293. “To repeat, the Iron Law is just a way to put in academese James Inhofe’s “we won, you lost, get over it.”

    I don’t buy this line of thought, sorry. If you want to get into politics, the better example is Pres. Obama’s pledge to reduce emissions, while his administration doubled domestic oil and gas production and permitted export of oil and gas. When an opportunity to sacrifice met an opportunity for economic growth….
    Then there’s the Climate Chancellor who spent money and political capital on Nordstream 2 because there are limits to sacrifice and yummy salad B has always been a $12 salad that will be available some time in the future.

  294. Joshua says:

    > I don’t buy this line of thought, sorry.

    Why bother with the idea of multivariate causality when there are hippies to be punched?

  295. Willard says:

    > If you want to get into politics

    No need, JeffN. You lost the point. You already burned down your “but nukes.” All you got is a food fight.

    Wait for another thread to try to poison AT’s.

  296. Ben McMillan says:

    Agree again with Willard: could find a way to parse RJ’s words so they aren’t both contradictory and clearly wrong, or could have a discussion about trade-offs between current consumption and future wellbeing.

    The previous generations saved us from pea-soupers and acid rain and helped stop the ozone layer getting much worse. Maybe we should pay it forward?

  297. Steven Mosher says:

    ““To repeat, the Iron Law is just a way to put in academese James Inhofe’s “we won, you lost, get over it.”

    extremely good faith reading.

  298. Willard says:

    > extremely good faith reading

    I do not always police good faith, but when I do Inhofe is mentioned.

    Look. Everybody knows that to stop dumping carbon in the atmosphere like there’s no tomorrow is a hard sell. No need for silly laws to get that.

    The Ironic Law may very well be in the not-even-wrong territory. We know that how people value taxation schemes is shaky at best. Not only it swings in time and place, but it varies at the same time and at the same place. That is, people are willing to pay a sum S, but they refuse that S presented otherwise.

    None of that gets us very far in theorical terms. Mostly useless. So what remains is the branding.

    Why promote Junior’s branding exactly?

  299. Steven Mosher says:

    “However, experience shows quite clearly that when environmental and economic objectives are placed into opposition with one another in public or political forums, the economic goals win out. ‘

    That’s why folks pitching the GND talk about all the new green jobs. They are following the iron law and NOT placing economic objectives ( job growth) in opposition to enviro goals.
    That’s why folks opposing any climate action, talk about the harm to growth. They are following
    the iron law.

    The only people not following the iron law are de growthers.

    As for luke growthers– we will have to grow slower, some will have to grow slower, growth will eventually end — they suffer from a lack of vision. rather they have an amorphous vision–
    “we have to do all we can”, “people might be willing to pay more. ”

    it might be fun to do a matrix for luke growthers, or even a series like
    ButGini
    ButExternalilties
    ButHappinnessIndex
    ButMontreal
    ButBrexit
    ButRogerIsMean

    If you think you think for yourself, think again.

  300. Willard says:

    > ButRogerIsMean

    You’re the one who keeps pushing for Junior’s crap here, Mosh. That “but” isn’t mine. At least own that.

    And Junior isn’t mean. His branding is silly. Why push silly branding?

  301. Steven Mosher says:

    “You’re the one who keeps pushing for Junior’s crap here, Mosh. That “but” isn’t mine. At least own that.”

    pushing? no. I’d say folks have failed the basic charitable reading test.
    Not all the but’s are yours. in fact I think none of them are..I’ll add one

    ButTriviallyTrue

    which is akin to “the climate always changes” !!!

    there are no original moves in the game.

    His branding, silly? hm. I’d say its overreaching, like all things taken from Goethe.

  302. Steven Mosher says:

    “Y tho. They’re Junior words.”

    It’s trivially true that these are words he choose.
    The question is, how do you explicate them? can you put the argument in your own words?

    “‘“However, experience shows quite clearly that when environmental and economic objectives are placed into opposition with one another in public or political forums, the economic goals win out. ‘

  303. Joshua says:

    You forgot the next sentence.

  304. Joshua says:

    And the one after that.

  305. Steven Mosher says:

    Joshua

    ‘Economic factors always win out. Except when they don’t. That’s why I say there’s a law that economic factors always win out.”

    except he didnt argue about economic factors and didnt argue that they always win out.
    He talked about economic goals and when they win out.

    His argument, “experience shows”:
    1. if you OPPOSE economic GOALS to environmental GOALS in a public forum
    the economic will win out
    2. if you OPPOSE economic GOALS to environmental GOALS in a political forum
    the economic will win out

    Like I said, even GND folks get this.

  306. Willard says:

    > The question is, how do you explicate them? can you put the argument in your own words?

    I already did. Twice. Talk about good faith.

    Enough spamming.

  307. Joshua says:

    Economic objectives/goals always win out. Except when they don’t.

    Like when people have different perspectives on economic objexrives/goals.

    Or like when people have mixed feelings about economic objectives/goals.

    Or like when ecomimc objectives/goals come at CLEAR external costs.

    Or like when people don’t ignore the external costs of economic objectives/goals, due to ideological “motivations.”

    Or like when etc.

    That’s why I call it a law.

  308. Joshua says:

    Sorry- if forgot the leading part….

    [if you OPPOSE economic GOALS to environmental GOALS in a public forum]…

    Economic objectives/goals always win out.

    Except when they don’t.

    Like when people have different perspectives on economic objexrives/goals.

  309. dikranmarsupial says:

    Steven Mosher wrote: “I’d say folks have failed the basic charitable reading test.”

    somewhat ironic! ;o)

  310. Steven,

    I’d say folks have failed the basic charitable reading test.

    A problem I have with Roger’s approach is that he is political scientist who has an association with Science and Technology Studies who doesn’t seem to understand why he gets the responses that he does.

  311. dikranmarsupial says:

    Prof. Pielke Jrs charitable reading test results are also, at best, “mixed”

    If he wants to understand why he gets the responses that he does, perhaps some introspection may help, rather than seeking fault in others.

  312. dikranmarsupial says:

    Steven Mosher wrote “I’d say its [his branding] overreaching,”

    “hyperbolic” perhaps? ;o)

  313. JCH says:

    OT:

    Satellite sea level data updated to 12/21/2019 breaks through the 3.3’s, but it is apparently extremely important on the information super highway to claim the rate of sea level rise is not accelerating, so it’s not apparently accelerating:

    era rate – 3.40 mm/yr
    25-year rate – 3.44 mm/yr
    20-year rate – 3.56 mm/yr
    15-year rate – 3.91 mm/yr
    10-year rate – 4.57 mm/yr
    5-year rate – 3.75 mm/yr

  314. Joshua says:

    Anders –

    > A problem I have with Roger’s approach is that he is political scientist who has an association with Science and Technology Studies who doesn’t seem to understand why he gets the responses that he does.

    On the one hand, I’ll agree. It’s annoying when RPJr. attacks from beneath a vail of plausible denisbility and then offers self-justification in the form of victim-whining.

    On the other hand. I’ll say that it may be a problem when both sides say that.

    On the third hand, I will say that charitable reading is important (and in short supply).

    On the fourth hand (never reached four hands before), I’ll say that defensive rationalizations against accurate readings are sub-sub optimal.

  315. Joshua,

    On the other hand. I’ll say that it may be a problem when both sides say that.

    On the third hand, I will say that charitable reading is important (and in short supply).

    On the fourth hand (never reached four hands before), I’ll say that defensive rationalizations against accurate readings are sub-sub optimal.

    Indeed, I agree. My point was intended to be slightly subtler, but I think I failed. If someone doesn’t even get something that should be obvious, given their expertise, why should I bother paying much attention to the rest of what they say?

  316. dikranmarsupial says:

    Everyone should watch Rashomon (IMHO ;o)

  317. Joshua says:

    > Indeed, I agree. My point was intended to be slightly subtler, but I think I failed

    Or I failed to read charitably.

    > why should I bother paying much attention to the rest of what they say?

    I’d go subtler still. It’s not a good sign, but it isn’t negatively dispositive.

    But it certainly doesn’t help when someone aggressively doesn’t get things.

  318. Chubbs says:

    JCH,

    Yes, acceleration is obvious. Which is a good lead to the following. I don’t hear denier, skeptic, lukewarmer, or politician starting their spiel with: “I am not going to pay or society shouldn’t pay to avoid the climate change that is coming”. No, the leading argument is misinformed science of one kind or another. Hard to evaluate the iron law when the public and even informed “skeptics” don’t understand what they are paying for.

  319. Joshua says:

    JCH/Chubbs –

    I have to admit it isn’t obvious to me (e.g,, looking at the 10 year rate compared to the 5, and 15)

    What is the rationale upon which to choose the comparison time period for evaluating acceleration? Is the point that the other rates are ALL higher than the 25 year rate?

  320. on acceleration: ask the right question. Had the rise in X stopped (temp, slr, CO2 ppm, ocean acidification)? Don’t allow yourself to be dragged into the complicated question of acceleration. The answer is, No, the rise has not stopped. The rise may even be accelerating.

    Eyes on the prize, folks. We need to stop the rise. When we figure out how to stop the rise, we can start applying those lessons to pushing the needle in the right direction, which is down.

    The argument about acceleration will read like more climate uncertainty to a lot of voters. It should be an aside in the discussion about the continued rise.

  321. should have read “has the rise in X stopped”

  322. came across this one: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs10584-020-02687-5?utm_campaign=Carbon%20Brief%20Daily%20Briefing&utm_medium=email&utm_source=Revue%20newsletter
    Are reptiles toast? A worldwide evaluation of Lepidosauria vulnerability to climate change

    Insects, reptiles, whales, etc. – the story appears to be quite similar: We may have passed or be near some perfect storm of toxicity, climate change and ecosystem destruction that is a tipping point for certain types of earthlings. Is extinction accelerating? Survey says, YES: https://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/blog/2019/05/nature-decline-unprecedented-report/

    President Trump, RP, JC et al and their various spokespersons will argue otherwise. Who should we believe? Let’s talk about what is important and almost certainly true. The audience we want to reach is not necessarily very sophisticated on the scientific questions. Keep it simple if you want that audience to understand the situation accurately.

  323. David B. Benson says:

    Here’s another tipping point:
    https://bravenewclimate.proboards.com/thread/676/foibles-renewables?page=1#post-6369

    Lengthy wind stalls increasing.

  324. Joshua says:

    Speaking of tipping points…not exactly a climate tipping point, but one that is a second-order effect of a changing climate.

    Oddly enough I cam across it at the Fox News website;

    > The world’s tropical forests are losing their capacity to absorb carbon dioxide, according to a new environmental study, raising alarms about the prospect of accelerating climate breakdown.

    The study, which was published Wednesday in the scientific journal Nature, found that tropical rainforests around the world that have been untouched by logging or other harmful human activity are losing their ability to absorb carbon.

    https://www.foxnews.com/science/tropical-forests-losing-ability-absorb-carbon

    Link to Nature article:

    https://www.nature.com/articles/s41586-020-2035-0

  325. Jon Kirwan says:

    @Joshua: “Economic objectives/goals always win out. Except when they don’t.”

    (I still have no clues about how to write “replies” vs “just posting.” Or how to use any special codes here to highlight text, etc. I’m just totally ignorant for now.)

    Hi. Just curious. Have you ever gotten hold of a copy of Elinor Ostrom’s “Governing the Commons: The Evolution of Institutions for Collective Action?” (She and her husband, Vincent, made a lifetime study in this area of the governance of natural resources and the book is a summary of their publications and work over the years. Worth reading, if you haven’t.) Some of the discussions here (including some of your contributions) make me wish more have read her book.

  326. Joshua says:

    Jon –

    I have a passing familiarity with her work, which I find as compelling – even as it is in some ways challenging to my political views.

    What is the link you’re making to that comment you quoted?

  327. Jon Kirwan says:

    @Joshua

    I didn’t quote any of the book’s text above. I only quoted the book title.

    My original interest in her work came from a need I have — to create a lasting community for my profoundly autistic daughter. That need has also morphed into a need for myself and my wife and, because of climate change and population pressures, into a means by which to lighten the load we present on Earth’s systems.

    Part of her work was to find those human collectives that survived 800 years or more, through changes experienced over such longer spans, and to elicit out what it was about them that helped them succeed over such long, or longer, periods of time. I’m in need of learning as much as I can about what works and what doesn’t work. (I’ve also been interviewing organization executives here in my area in cases where they’ve managed very low turnover rates in employees/participants, as well, to see what systems and practices they have which they feel has helped them in that regard.)

    My early motivation has come from the needs I have for my profoundly autistic daughter, who also suffers from grand mal seizures and my experiences here with existing (poor) group homes and foster homes. After statistically removing the effects of various medical conditions, their median lifespan is 25 years less than the population at large for “affectable causes” — which means for failures in the care system itself that could be improved (mostly by allowing caregivers to make a reasonable career out of that activity — which currently isn’t possible.) I need to build up a community structure, with a board of directors and a market by which people can be fairly bought out, where needed, that will survive over the long haul. In the process of thinking through the business issues, both charitable and for-profit aspects, I’ve found that this is also something that I need, my wife needs, and as I’ve talked with various professionals (doctors, lawyers, etc) they also find they want and need. I’ve got a few good people working with me, now.

    The other facet is that, in finding a way to hopefully succeed (if we can survive the first 3-5 years, my guess is that we can make it much longer), it also greatly reduces the burdens on Earth. Broken down into the smallest viable unit, the single family, also “maximally consumes.” This is great for a capitalist economic system and it keeps people with the least amount of individual political power, as well. It works well for the elite and wealthy. Finding a way to re-collect into groups of 15 to 20 family units can make significant differences in the external burdens, increase political power, and provide a safe system for my daughter so that my wife and I can die in peace. It solves many problems, though it also creates some significant ones, as well.

    In Chapter 1 of her book, she lays out some interesting thoughts and applies some reasoned logic that I was curious if you’d had a chance to read. (Actually, the first three chapters are worth reading, at a minimum.)

  328. Joshua says:

    Thanks Jon –

    I wish you the best with that endeavor. As difficult as it may be, I’m sure that it islso quite rewarding at a very deep level.

    I cared for a mentally ill brother for a couple of decades before he died. I looked for a supportive community and the pickings were slim. Ultimately I couldn’t I find any, that really worked, and just took care of him myself with support of family and friends. (He actually had a large community that supported him spiritually: he was an artist whose work was supported and collected by dozens and dozens of people who encountered and spent time with him in his hangouts in center city Philadelphia).

    But…I did find one community which I think serves as an a inspirational model.

    https://www.camphillkimberton.org/

    The people there are really amazing. I don’t think their model would provide the level of support you would want for your daughter – but you might want to check them out, particularly because of their ecological orientation.

    I’ll take a look at Ostrom’s book. I’ve been wanting to read more of her for a long time.

  329. Jon Kirwan says:

    @joshua

    Thanks for the kind words.

    Partly, this has to fit within the existing laws imposed upon me by the society I’m immersed within. By this, I mean that we are exposed to all of the possible torts that anyone can be and, if deeper pockets exist, then we are a bigger target. We also have to deal with the tax laws, severe restrictions on barter, land use, etc. And so it also makes sense that we need to use the corporation as a means of limiting our liability but also in extending the lifetime (to infinity, one could hope.)

    People may wish to bring in assets that we can all use to advantage and that represents a contributed value and must be reflected in ownership. But so must help and work in adding to, or maintaining, structures, improvements to the land, etc. Nothing is perfect and, at times, people need to also leave (for a variety of reasons spanning from “not getting along with someone” to “family issues elsewhere.”) We have to make fair compensation, but without breaking the community, and this means we need to create a fund sufficient for the risks involved so that we can make that a mutually acceptable arrangement when it happens. This is “making a market” and that has to be achieved sooner than later.

    I want and need all types, young and old, professional and labor, etc. And we need to incorporate supports to the outside community: working with universities to provide field experience as part of degree programs, providing quarterly dental services which include general anesthesia, as necessary, and a recovery room; and summer high-intensity training programs for embedded instrumentation design and programming (one of my specialties, which corporations currently pay good money for), among other things. The more diverse the income sources, the better. Fees will probably need to be paid into the organization for its maintenance needs. But members will also keep what they can. Paying in maintains the value and the property and buildings will be improving the value over time, anyway. So it’s a good investment. Younger folks with less to contribute can use the hours they supply as a way to gain more ownership over time.

    If someone is interested in “taking a chance” at some business idea, I’m pretty sure we’ll all want to invest in it (time or money.) For example, if someone is part of a band and they want to take a tour to see if they can “make it,” then I’m sure we’d take care of their animals (if any) and take care of any other necessities while they are gone. We’d likely fund what they need, too. If they succeed, it would lift all our boats. But if they fail, then it’s back to the grind to get better until they can succeed. This allows people to take chances and learn and eventually succeed. There will be limitations — the board will probably review these for expenses and risks and so on. But we will all want the best from each of us and will want to do what we can to help improve the chances for success in whatever people want to achieve for themselves. We all gain from that.

    The basic sketch is a commercial kitchen building (about 3k sq ft) with walk in refrigerator and freezer storage and bermed cold storage area, surrounded by homes. The individual kitchens within the homes don’t need to be as large as normal, as there is a professional staff handling the community kitchen and making custom dietary foods for families where possible. If someone doesn’t feel like “seeing people” they can stay in their small kitchen and just simmer there, I suppose. But if they feel up to it, then the main kitchen area is available and they can eat and talk before going off to do whatever it is they do. A local garden will grow what we can achieve and the produce will be canned or pickled or otherwise prepared for round-the-year use when the produce can’t be grown outside anymore. (Just like the old days and *not* like today where foods are “fixed” through “good living through chemistry” to be available all year around — such as the addition of propylene glycols and other techniques.) Local farm contacts for the rest, their produce also stored for use over the year. (No purchases of processed foods, where possible.)

    This has to be mutual for everyone. So working out the details is… tricky… and is occupying much of my time in talking with people, working through the problems to come up with solution approaches, etc. But I think it can be done and I think it will offer some things that single family arrangements simply cannot come close to achieving, while at the same time creating new difficulties. But the “new difficulties” are really just old ones that used to exist prior to “free energy – – via oil” — in short, for most of human history. So I have a lot to examine in working through how to make all that work well. (It’s only this last century or so that we’ve had the advent of a radical change in social systems.)

    Personally, I think this is a necessary step for all industrialized countries to face in order to reduce consumption and their burdens on the environment and to buy a little time to deal with population and other pressures. It’s not a solution by itself. But it is something that can yield a good life while at the same time consuming substantially less, almost right away.

  330. How is the Iron Law doing this week?

    Where current economic interests are favoured over collective/individual action against a collective threat.

  331. Oh wait.
    It’s not an “environmental” issue. What was I thinking.

  332. Zero interest rates…. 1.5% on 30yr treasuries…

    What do the IAM’s “optimize” for with rates this low? What theoretical justification is there for using anything higher?

  333. March Madness, on and on, it’s just “IRON LAW” everywhere you look!!!!!!

    Oh, wait, not “environment”… what was I thinking…

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