Beyond Catastrophe

Since some commenters on my previous post have mentioned this, I though I might comment on David Wallace-Wells’ recent article in the New York Times. It’s called Beyond Catastrophe, and argues that

Thanks to astonishing declines in the price of renewables, a truly global political mobilization, a clearer picture of the energy future and serious policy focus from world leaders, we have cut expected warming almost in half in just five years

which I think this is broadly true. Various factors over the last 5 – 10 years have meant that the worst case scenarios that might have seemed plausible, no longer really are and the trajectory that we are now on is taking us to a world that will not end up as warm as might have been the case.

However, as the article highlights, this doesn’t mean that everything is now over. It is still possible for things to end up worse than where we appear to be heading, either because we’re unlucky, or because some of the gains are reversed. Similarly, it could be better, both because of luck or because society takes active steps to make it so. In addition, none of this means that we shouldn’t still be committing to developing resilience and reducing vulnerabilities.

The article also mentioned the dreaded RCP8.5 debate that took place on Twitter in around 2019. I was involved in this and wrote some posts about it. It was a very unpleasant discussion and I lost a great deal of respect for some people I had previously respected (not Zeke, obviously). One issue that some of us were trying to point out was that it was worth being careful of generating a narrative that might play into the hands of those who’ve never regarded climate change as a serious issue, and I think we’re starting to see that develop.

Some of the responses to the David Wallace-Wells article are already arguing that rather than having avoided the worst case scenarios, that they were never really plausible. Essentially suggesting that climate change was never the serious problem that others have suggested and that those who’ve been pointing this out for years have now been proven right. The obvious problem with this is that anytime there is a serious problem that some are dismissing, they can always claim to have been right if society ends up doing enough to avoid the outcome that some were warning about.

On the other hand, maybe it’s good that some of those who were dismissive are at least engaging with a more optimistic message. Maybe it’s a small step in the right direction and we should cautiously embrace it. However, there is a real risk of this going too far and people claiming that there is no longer any reason to be concerned. Even if we do end up following the trajectory that is currently expected, the impacts could still be severely disruptive and many people could still suffer and, unfortunately, probably will.

Also, it’s extremely frustrating to watch people who’ve mostly been wrong, now claiming that they were right all along and that their views have been vindicated. Maybe it’s a small price to pay for progress, even if it is a bitter pill to swallow. However, it also seems to be an unfortunate illustration of how easy it is to promote a simple message about a complex topic. It would seem much better if people were willing to acknowledge nuance, but it’s clearly not as compelling.

This entry was posted in Climate change, ClimateBall, Global warming, Roger Pielke Jr and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

149 Responses to Beyond Catastrophe

  1. Something I meant to add is that all this optimism is happening despite emissions having not yet peaked. There are indications that they might have been flat for a number of years, and it may be that per capita emissions have peaked, but there are certainly some analyses suggesting that emissions will keep rising this decade. Of course, this doesn’t mean that they are not lower than they might otherwise have been, but to stop global warming will require emissions peaking and then dropping to (net) zero, and the longer this takes, the greater the level of global warming and the more climate change societies will have to deal with.

  2. Tom Fuller says:

    I am one of those who strongly feel that some of the worst case scenarios are not plausible. However, I agree with your perception (?) or fear (?) that emissions have not peaked.

    They probably have in the developed world. They most certainly have not in the rest of the world. China’s emissions will probably peak sometime in the next 30 years. Just as India’s take off.

    It’s that old 3000 quads thingy. Which is why configuring a greener fuel portfolio is so damn important.

  3. Tom,
    Can you define why you regard them as not plausible? I’m not trying to catch you out, but if often seems that people are making different assumptions when they make such claims.

  4. Chubbs says:

    Lukewarm world looking more likely, but don’t thank Lukewarmers. ECS isn’t “low”; but luckily, renewables are out-performing fossil fuels.

  5. Tom Fuller says:

    Hi ATTP,

    Well, okay. In brief, as we’ve often discussed, what evidence I have examined to date reinforces the intuition I had 12 years ago, that ECS is most likely at the low end of the IPCC range of estimates. I think it is roughly around 2.0.

    (That definitely will cause serious problems, as a global estimate is an accounting fiction and temperature, precipitation and sea level rise will be worse in some areas than others. I think it is a serious issue and one we should redouble our efforts to address.)

    But I’m sure you’ve seen me write this and similar things here and elsewhere. When I read reports of studies on global ice slippage from any or all of the great ice sheets, I see again the disconnect between what academic papers actually say and what the media reports. Usually it’s the lack of a realistic time frame for melt.

    I see the same thing in other areas. Here in the states people have been worrying about the Colorado river and the sinking levels of water in Lake Mead, which is uncovering old cars and dead bodies at a distressing rate. Media reports say climate change is drying up the river. But the various inputs to the Colorado river are at normal levels and it is clear that it is the population increase in the areas served by the Colorado that are the cause of reduced flows.

    And so on. The IPCC projected impacts of climate change are serious. They should be taken seriously (and not exaggerated). But they are not, if I may use the word, ‘catastrophic.’ They paint a picture of a world where the poor living in the most vulnerable areas will suffer immensely. But despite the AR6 report on impacts using the ‘C’ word 116 times in its report, they don’t project a ‘C’ outcome.

    Have you read the Impact report, ATTP?

  6. Tom,
    Okay, by worst case I had thought you were referring to the worst case emission pathways, rather than possible catastrophic outcomes, but I think your response still illustrates my point. Your views about catastrophic impact are influenced by judgements you’re choosing to make about climate sensitivity (i.e., that it will probably be lower than mainstream researcher think is likely).

    I think this is true for most assessment of plausibility. People make judgements about how, for example, society will respond (either in terms of emission reductions or developing resilience) and this then strongly influences their views about plausibility.

    Nothing wrong with this, but it seems clear that there isn’t an objectively correct way to assess this and it might be nice if people were much clearer about what is influencing their views.

  7. Joshua says:

    > Also, it’s extremely frustrating to watch people who’ve mostly been wrong, now claiming that they were right all along and that their views have been vindicated. Maybe it’s a small price to pay for progress, even if it is a bitter pill to swallow.

    It doesn’t have to be bitter.

    At the mature level we can know that the focus on who was and “right” who was “wrong” is irrelevant. At the tribal level we can know that “we” (meaning some of “us”) have the integrity not to exploit progress for the petty purpose of settling scores.

    Maybe the lesson to take forward is that pursuing tribal agendas is always, ultimately unsatisfying.

  8. dikranmarsupial says:

    “I am one of those who strongly feel that some of the worst case scenarios are not plausible.”

    They are more plausible than some of the best case scenarios. When people care about the plausibility of RCP 2.6 as well as RCP 8.5 then we will know that this is genuinely about the plausibility of the climate outcome rather than about the policy outcome.

    Alternatively we should just perform a Bayesian risk analysis approach and consider the loss weighted by the plausibility of the outcome that caused it. Which properly includes both best and worst cases. Unfortunately for the “luckwarmers” the worst case dominates the best case in that approach.

  9. Joshua says:

    Anders –

    I’m kinda more interested in what people have to say about the Stephens article. That, it seems to me, might offer more hope of something other than same old.

  10. Joshua says:

    > I have examined to date reinforces the intuition I had 12 years ago…


    Grievance agenda. Never seen that before!

  11. Joshua,
    I largely agree that the only person’s behaviour we can influence is our own. It’s one reason why I don’t really like the idea of putting a great deal of effort into fighting against the narrative being promoted by the likes of Ridely & Co.; it won’t achieve much and it just ends up being the same ol’ same ol’. Doesn’t mean that I don’t find these narratives irritating, though 🙂

    I’m kinda more interested in what people have to say about the Stephens article. That, it seems to me, might offer more hope of something other than same old.

    I haven’t read it yet, because it seems I used up my free NYT views before I got to it. I was trying to access it through the university library, but it doesn’t seem to be available yet. My impression, though, is that it has not been well received by some.

  12. To follow up a bit more on the above comment about tribalism, one of the reasons I found the RCP8.5 discussion so frustrating was that there did seem to quite a lot of common ground that some seemed reluctant to acknowledge and, instead, seemed to want to be more tribal. I realise that in saying that I’m implying that I wasn’t one of them, so I should acknowledge that it’s not easy to objectively judge yourself.

  13. ATTP, you’re correct–I think emission pathways will run along a high track, due to my analysis of energy demand over the course of the century. And yes, of course my estimate/belief/SWAG on ECS is subjective–but I think that is true of most estimators/believers SWAGers as well.

    I would submit, however, that my projections of energy demand are not subjective–they may not be correct, but they are the result of analysis.

  14. Tom,

    my projections of energy demand are not subjective–they may not be correct, but they are the result of analysis.

    Don’t you mean *are* subjective.

  15. dikranmarsupial says:

    “ATTP, you’re correct–I think emission pathways will run along a high track, due to my analysis of energy demand over the course of the century.”

    The concentration “pathway” is what affects climate though, and the emission pathway is only one component of that. Have you considered the other elements in your assessment of plausibility?

  16. What is intrigiung is it is specifically the emission pathways that are being called implausible by some, mostly people who I think Tom would generally agree with. And yet, Tom’s reason for thinking climate change is not going to be catastrophic is because he seems to think climate sensitivity will be low, not because he thinks we’ve shifted a long way away from the high emission pathways.

  17. Willard says:

    TS.B.1.3 –

    Climate-induced extinctions, including mass extinctions, are common in the palaeo record, underlining the potential of climate change to have catastrophic impacts on species and ecosystems (high confidence).

    As the meme goes, is this… alarmism?

  18. I think that’s correct, ATTP. Perhaps you think that because I am kinder to people on the other side of the fence that I agree with them. Often I do not. I would think that is clear just from this thread.

  19. Willard says:

    TS.B.4.4 –

    Recent heavy rainfall events that have led to catastrophic flooding were made more likely by anthropogenic climate change (high confidence).

    Not a projection.

  20. Willard says:

    TS.D.4.5 –

    Restoring natural vegetation cover and wildfire regimes can reduce risks to people from catastrophic fires.

    Perhaps there’d be less chance of fires if there was nothing to burn.

  21. Willard says:

    Interestingly, the “But CAGW” meme is evoked in 1.2.2 without mentioning the C word:

    There is also a critical literature on the use of narratives and storylines based on projected scenarios, which points out the conservative character of these concepts whose performative effect tends to preserve the status quo and the current socioeconomic relationships.

    The expression “critical literature” is euphemism for POMO. Many citations are in French. I can provide a summary if there’s interest. The main argument seems to be something like let’s not go full Nazi.

  22. Joshua says:

    Anders –

    It used to be that if you accessed a NYTimes article though Google it takes you around the paywall. Don’t know if that’s still the case.

    The thing I found interesting in the Stephens article is not so much what’s in it about the science, but the parts that are about the discussion of climate change and the science/policy interaction.

    (It’s particularly ironic in that contrary to the facile Ridley nonsense, it’s about someone welding the NYTimes imprimatur to talk about in a sense moving from the “lukewarmer” camp towards the “consensus” camp.)

    I think I see that article as a sign of progress on the policy side of the debate – although like you I have seen where it wasn’t well-received.

    To a large degree, I see it as suggestive that we might be able move from tribalized bickering about the science (and the accompanying grievance agendas like with our friend here) to finding synergistic solutions for policy.

  23. TWF asserts without providing any links or evidence: “Media reports say climate change is drying up the river. But the various inputs to the Colorado river are at normal levels and it is clear that it is the population increase in the areas served by the Colorado that are the cause of reduced flows.”


    Overuse is part of the problem along with an apparent 100 year old miscalculation about how much water was available for human usage has led us to a bad spot.,made%20worse%20by%20climate%20change.

    I keep wondering when, if ever, TWF will decide he has done enough harm to our collective efforts to address the challenge of global warming. It is appalling to read this guy expressing concern that “the poor living in the most vulnerable areas will suffer immensely.” It’s not unlike reading what the maga idiots have to say about protecting the sanctity and security of US elections.

    Matthew 7:16 for those of you who follow such sources.


  24. Joshua,
    As I understand it, the criticism is that he’s claiming to now accept that climate change has risks, but that we shouldn’t really do anything other than let the market somehow solve it. Of course, if he’s suggesting doing this through some kind of carbon tax, or an incentive that motivates the marker to do so, that may be a reasonable argument, but I haven’t read it yet, so am not sure.

  25. I think DWW might have been a little over the top with his uninhabitable earth piece a few years ago. I think he might be similarly a little over the top now with the beyond catastrophe piece.

    I think it is clear that our current level of warming is creating challenges. River water levels are falling.,but%20much%20of%20the%20globe.
    Lake water levels are falling.
    Heat waves are already causing rather large excess death numbers.
    And these things are happening with our current level of warming of approximately 1.2 degrees. I think we ought to just continue our magnificent strides to reach net zero, check the level of warming we have accumulated along the way at that point, and then take a look around to see what conditions are like before we start considering whether we are on the catastrophe scale.

    Current level of yoy increase of CO2 to the atmosphere was 2.65 ppm for the month of September. Here are some decadal increase numbers:
    2011 – 2020 2.43
    2001 – 2010 2.04
    1991 – 2000 1.55
    1981 – 1990 1.56
    1971 – 1980 1.35
    1961 – 1970 0.91


    I love to hear that green energy is rolling out at high levels. That is fabulous. It’s very encouraging. I don’t want to say the atmospheric levels of CO2 increase are not encouraging, but the number continues to rise. I am very excited about the possibility that we can achieve a net zero condition. How are we doing on that so far? What year will we hit that milestone? What will our CO2E number be at that point? Will global temp stop rising when we hit net zero? I hear that it will. Let’s go gather some evidence from our large global field on that expectation.



  26. Ben McMillan says:

    I think it is important, as ATTP is doing here, and DWW did in the article, to emphasise the aspect of choice.

    The stuff that makes a pathway to a less bad future possible didn’t “just happen”. For example, PV technology got cheap to a large extent because Germany decided to pile huge subsidies on it and thus produce a manufacturing revolution. The vast majority of new electrical generating capacity installed worldwide last year was low-carbon, and this is as a direct result of choices made to reduce climate impacts.

    And we are aiming to avoid the worst (and second and third worst) high end scenarios precisely because we looked at them, and went “nope”. Once we’ve actually turned away from that path, quibbling about the details in the worst-case scenario seems a little irrelevant.

  27. Joshua says:

    Anders –

    > but that we shouldn’t really do anything other than let the market somehow solve it.

    I actually just had this discussion briefly with a friend.

    From a rhetorical angle it does look like he’s saying “Just let the market take care of it.”

    But I think from a practical/policy framework whether that’s what he says doesn’t really matter. I think what he’s clearly saying is that irrespective of details regarding the science argument, the big picture is that this is a matter of policy development in high damage function, low probability risk context. That’s a change for him and I think it’s not impossible that other conservatives might come to a similar perspective. I doubt he has much influence over conservatives in a Trump world, but I see his conversion and acceptance of risk as a hopeful sign that *can* happen more broadly.

    Mutual agreement on that context is, imo, a prerequisite for ownership of stakeholder, policy dialog. One alternative option is to hope to overpower opposition, but that doesn’t seem to me like a very realistically effective strategy.

    I think we can sustain progress that conservatives might call a “market solution” and I might call “providing good jobs” and “ensuring smart growth” and “building needed infrastructure” “climate justice” and we can both walk away happy.

    If you get to read it I’ll be curious to see your thoughts.

  28. Joshua,
    I have now managed to read it. It is more nuanced that a simple “let markets fix it”. I thought parts of it were quite good. It does seem to acknowledge many of the risks. Parts were poor (quoting Koonin, for example). I did find the final parts a bit irritating (the “here’s what we should do” section, at the end) but it does seem to be a bit of a shift, which maybe we should cautiously embrace.

    I do get the argument about not doing anything too drastic, recognising the value of economic growth and allowing the markets to respond to various incentives, or signals. However, I still often think that this dismisses the possibility that maybe there are situations where this isn’t sufficient and that we do need to do more than just nudge the system and hope it responds. Maybe we’ll be lucky and climate change will turn out to not be one of those situations, but maybe we won’t.

  29. Chris Smaje says:

    I’m not a climate change expert, but I’m a bit puzzled by the upbeat claims here. Maybe it’s true that the worst-case climate scenarios are now less likely, but fossil fuel usage and emissions from the energy sector are continuing on their merry way, so I wonder if someone could elucidate for me how it can be that things now look so much rosier?

    The BP Statistical Review of World Energy shows that in 2021 global oil consumption was at 96% of its all-time peak in 2019, coal consumption was at 98% of its all-time peak in 2014 and gas consumption was 3% higher than its previous all-time peak in 2019. Consumption of solar and wind energy was more than 5 times higher in 2021 than in 2011, but in absolute terms the increase of 22 EJ was only about half the increase in fossil fuel consumption in 2021 compared to 2011. 2021 was the third highest year ever in terms of CO2 emissions from the energy sector, which stood at 99.2% of the all-time high in 2018.

    There seems to be little evidence of a transition out of fossil fuels or a reduction in emissions from the energy sector. So if the point is that fossil fuel use and emissions are lower than previous projections, then those previous projections must have been pretty dismal. In present absolute terms emissions are pretty much as high as they’ve ever been and the global economy still has deep structural dependence on fossil fuels. So what am I getting wrong, and where’s the silver lining? There doesn’t seem to be much evidence globally of a shift out of fossil fuels associated with renewables.

  30. Chris,
    I don’t think you’re getting much wrong. You’re quite right that this optimism is mostly based on an assessment that we’ve avoided some of the worst case outcomes, but this doesn’t mean that it’s suddenly all good and that there’s nothing to worry about. As you highlight, it is still a fossil-fuel dominated energy system and there are indications that emissions may keep rising till ~2030. So, we still haven’t peaked emissions, let alone managed to get them to start coming down.

    So, I do find this a tricky balance. It is good that there is progress and we should acknowledge that. However, I do also worry that this could lead to complacency and to a slower transition than might be the case. It’s also possible that we’re under-estimating the impact of the warming that we’re currently heading towards; we don’t need to follow a high-emission pathway for climate change to be highly disruptive and for many people to still suffer.

    A lot of this is about framing. Do we keep highlighting how bad things could be, but run the risk of people getting despondent, or do we highlight the positives and try to be optimistic, but run the risk of people getting complacent? I don’t have a good answer.

  31. Joshua says:

    Anders –

    My take on the Stephens piece is similar to yours.

    My main issue was a lack of considering negative externalities with fossil fuels (outside of risk from climate change).

    That’s pet peeve of mine. But that’s outweighed by finally seeing a conservative actually address the low probability high damage risk aspect. Maybe in the future a conservative like Stephens might see his/her way to addressing those non-directly climate-related negative externalities

  32. Ben McMillan says:

    I guess the reason I have a somewhat positive take on the current state of affairs is that 12 years ago it was unclear that there was any cost-effective, scalable source of clean energy, and without that it is game over; onshore wind was doing reasonably well, but only works in some locations, PV was just taking off, and nuclear was in a pretty grim state.

    Now, on the other hand, just keeping wind/solar energy growth at current levels (i.e. last couple of years, which is about double the last decade’s average) is probably enough to keep emissions flat. Doubling it gets you somewhere in the neighbourhood of 2C pathways.

  33. “we have cut expected warming almost in half in just five years”

    Ah, a definitive NO! to that bullshit, so I will call shenanigans on that BIG LIE. Proof? Oh wait, this is all about pathways on paper even, so maybe we have cut warming by 90% in just minus five years even. :/ 😦

    RCP 8.5 was always the WORST case scenario, not some middle of the road MOST PROBABLE outcome. If we reach 3C warming by 2100 we have NOT cut expected warming in half in the remaining 78 years even. RCP 8.5 was not a 6C pathway by 2100 as far as I know.

    So crossing RCP 8.5 off of the list is a classic non sequiter as nothing has actually happened yet. See for example WMO Greenhouse Gas Bulletin …

    “In yet another ominous warning for the future of our planet, atmospheric levels of the three main greenhouse gases – carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide all reached new record highs in 2021”

    Channeling Obama with your hopey changey thing is an interesting change in tact for you all though.

  34. EFS,
    Yes, I also agree that the “cut expected warming in half” is slightly nonsensical. As you say, we weren’t really expecting to head along RCP8.5, even if it seemed we were tracking it for a while. It always was the worst case scenario. I do think that the last decade has seen progress, but I don’t think it’s really cut expected warming in half.

  35. angech says:

    “we weren’t really expecting to head along RCP8.5, even if it seemed we were tracking it for a while.”

    I have been commentating for 5 years here.
    It did seem like you were tracking it for most of that time.
    You do have a number of posts on the issue

    Now you say
    “It always was the worst case scenario“

    It was a scenario.
    It was the worst of the posited scenarios.
    That it a totally different case to it being the worst case scenario that could exist

    I think you should own your previous comments and if your views have changed explain why.

  36. angech,
    I don’t think I really need to do anything, especially given that your suggestion that I’ve been tracking RCP8.5 for most of the time, doesn’t actually make any sense.

  37. notabilia says:

    How about you chuck the preposterous, insulting, and patronizing attempt to highlight “framing” and aim for the actual truth as we best know it? Some people, like Chris Smaje, aren’t idiots, and can handle living in a world of accelerating bad news.

  38. notabilia,

    How about you chuck the preposterous, insulting, and patronizing

    Were you *trying* to illustrate this, or was it unintentional?

  39. Joshua says:

    angech –

    >I think you should own your previous comments and if your views have changed explain why.

    Given your track record of ducking any accountability for things you’ve said….

    But it’s not too late. Step up to the accountability plate You can do it. It will be less painful than you think.

  40. Chubbs says:

    A couple of thoughts:

    1) Renewables/batteries/EV didn’t just happen. They were subsidized/incentivized for decades. They have flourished under the kind of weak, low-cost climate policy that could be supported. More expensive climate options like nuclear and CCS have languished and won’t provide much as short-term policy options.

    2) Renewables/EV have grown rapidly from a small base and are just now gaining enough scale to have a significant impact on emissions. Their future contribution depends on how long the growth/improvement phase continues. Currently renewables are taking most of energy demand growth, leaving fossil fuel emissions stable/slowly increasing. Will take one or two more installation doublings to significantly turn down CO2 emissions.

    3) I expect renewables/EV to continue to improve vs fossil fuels and increase installations even in the absence of supportive policy. Moreover I also expect policy to become more supportive, as the increasing competitive advantage vs fossil fuels makes it easier and easier to gain support for net-zero policy.

    4) There will still be increasing climate impacts, 1.5C is impossible and 2C will be a struggle. But increasing climate impacts will make use of fossil fuels more unattractive. Don’t think we will be able to get completely off fossil fuels until climate tipping points become more obvious to “non-alarmists”.

  41. izen says:

    “The IPCC projected impacts of climate change are serious. They should be taken seriously (and not exaggerated). But they are not, if I may use the word, ‘catastrophic.’ They paint a picture of a world where the poor living in the most vulnerable areas will suffer immensely.”

    Good to know that the poor living in the most vulnerable areas will suffer immensely but this is not ‘catastrophic’.

    The reduction in parochial tribalism evidenced by an article in the NYT does not seem to adequately offset the holding of such beliefs. When faced with injustice the ‘poor’ have a habit of objecting to ‘non-catastrophic’ events. Or at least reacting to them in unpalatable ways.
    Markets get pushed by whatever is profitable in a socially acceptable manner. If that includes low carbon then good.
    But mobs, large crowds of people with a common problem, and many solutions, can alter society by migration. The belief that climate migration is not already happening is supported only by a faith in the failure of governments of Southern poorer nations. A faith required not by a lack of knowledge, but by the necessity to avoiding asking why they have ‘failed’.

  42. dikranmarsupial says:

    “Good to know that the poor living in the most vulnerable areas will suffer immensely but this is not ‘catastrophic’.”

    At least TW is explicitly stating his values.

  43. dikranmarsupial says:

    “I have been commentating for 5 years here.
    It did seem like you were tracking it for most of that time.”

    Did you try and see if your memory was correct by going back and actually checking before making the accusation? The posts are still there, so you ought to be able to find quotes.

  44. I think this is my earliest post that discusses RCP8.5. It was written almost 7 years ago. My views have probably evolved a little, but I don’t think they’re wildly different to what they are now.

    RCPs as scenarios

  45. dikranmarsupial says:

    Ironically, that post seems to support the last line of Angech’s

    It was a scenario.
    It was the worst of the posited scenarios.
    That it a totally different case to it being the worst case scenario that could exist

    RCP8.5 is indeed not the worst case scenario, if warming causes methane clathrates to escape in large quantities, things could be a lot worse than RCP8.5? ;o)

  46. Willard says:

    Climateball here, at Judy’s, with a peanut gallery at Lucia’s. Those were the days.

    I might as well plug:

    But RCPs

  47. dikranmarsupial says:

    This section

    Also, the chance of following a particular pathway probably changes with time. It’s clearly becoming more and more difficult to follow a low emission pathway, given what we’ve already emitted. It may also be getting more and more unlikely that we’ll follow a high emission pathway, given our current understanding.

    [emphasis mine]

    seems to directly refute Angech’s claim from the first post, it is clearly fully consistent with…

    ““we weren’t really expecting to head along RCP8.5, even if it seemed we were tracking it for a while.”

    … to the extent of predicting it.

  48. Joshua says:

    Looking back at that thread is interesting.

    I got into a long discussion with – 1 about whether “a lot” of people were misled by references to, or assumptions of, RCP 8.5 as business as usual.

    Aside from the bad faith mode of – 1’s engagement, from a perspective of looking back I see things differently now than I did then.

    I recently had a discussion with someone about future impact of aco2 emissions and he sent me a link about projections based on RCP 8. 5 – without any awareness of the questions about the representativeness of that pathway.

    Of course, the passage of time is relevant as that has changed how much referring to RCP 8. 5 as representative might be misleading, but in balance I think his argument has more merit than I thought at the time.

  49. Joshua,
    I think my view has certainly shifted somewhat. I still think that much of the “but RCP8.5” arguments are made in bad faith, even if there is some validity to the basic point. I do agree with the general point that more care should be taken about how the results of some of the analyses are presented publicly, and maybe we should be more careful about the use of the term BAU, even if my general view is still that I care more about what people mean when they use some terminology, rather than some pedantic definition of that term.

    On the other hand, emissions have yet to peak, let alone start to come down, so it doesn’t seem unreasonable to be seriously concerned about what might happen if emissions keep on rising, or don’t peak and start falling soon enough. A lot of this debate is about what will happen in the future, and I don’t think anyone can really make reliable, multi-decade predictions about these socio-economic systems.

    An issue with this whole debate is that – in a simple sense – it seems to involve a group who think the worst case was never, ever plausible, and another who were worried that it might be and, hence, that we should try to make sure that it doesn’t materialise. When it becomes clear that it isn’t going to materialise, how do you even really begin to decide who was right? It seems a little like some of the debates taking place now about lockdowns.

  50. Willard says:

    The luckwarm concern about RCPs often comes with infomercials about observation-based measurements of sensitivity. If we only look at the observation-part of the RCPs, it would be hard to dismiss higher end scenarios, as PaulS remarked so many times already. Perhaps we should not overanalyze what is actually going on in these exchanges.

  51. Joshua says:

    Anders –

    > An issue with this whole debate is that – in a simple sense – it seems to involve a group who think the worst case was never, ever plausible, and another who were worried that it might be and, hence, that we should try to make sure that it doesn’t materialise.

    That’s what I found most interesting about the Stephens article. He’s explicitly acknowledging that policy ahoolks address the low probability high damage risk. Going from “skeptic” to that is a seismic shift, IMO, even though it might se like a subtle change.

  52. russellseitz says:

    “But mobs, large crowds of people with a common problem, and many solutions, can alter society by migration. ”

    In some circles this is known as history, and notable examples of anthropogenic environmental change arising from it include partial or complete megafaunal extinctions in Asia, Australia and North America.

    “The belief that climate migration is not already happening is supported only by a faith in the failure of governments of Southern poorer nations. ”

    Now , as in the Neolithic, immobility remains the sincerest form of poverty, but it remains to be seen if , given the rising affluence of recent centuries, and the relative wealth of postmodern nations, populations will stop reacting to climate change by moving to inhabit what they reckon better climes

  53. Chubbs says:


    Yes, staying on the scenario path through 2, 3, and 4C of warming, without any attempt to do better, that is the most unrealistic aspect of rcp85.

  54. dikranmarsupial says:

    Yes, the definition of “business as usual” has drifted a bit over the years. Probably not as far as it should. The whole purpose of the IPCC reports and the scenarios was so society could make informed choices about that sort of thing – the reason we has A1FI was the hope that it wouldn’t happen*.

    ISTR that A1FI was requested by politicians rather than the scientists, but last time I looked I couldn’t find anything providing evidence of that.

  55. angech says:

    RCP 8.5 has been causing waves for many years.
    It has been used as a lever as an example of severe global warming effects following a BAU scenario.
    When used as a headline and discussion point for over 7 years there is some ownership involved when it is mentioned and headlined in a blog on numerous occasions.

    I accept ATTP’s points (and many others) that it is only a projection and true to its parameters.
    I feel though that publishing the scenarios and speculating on them while at the same time downplaying the fact that this is important for some people as a wolf whistle and scare tactic for climate change action is not in correct taste.
    But tHat is just me.

    I noticed that many of the commentators back then minus one who was upsetting ATTP are still here and still fairly steadfast to their past views which is commendable.
    I would like to let Joshua know that if he is giving up hippy bashing I will happily become a hippie!
    Thanks for the link to 2015 DM.
    I must have been just looking at that embryonic stage as I could not find a link or maybe I just did not understand RCP enough.
    Willard, thank you for your link as well..

  56. Some of the discussion about scenarios reminds me of this.

  57. dikranmarsupial says:

    I wonder if Machine Learning could be used to detect purely eristic arguments on the WWW and automatically mute them for me. Might be somewhat quiet though ;o)

  58. Mark B says:

    Regarding the Bret Stephens NY Times op-ed (

    0) By clicking on the “X” icon during page reload, one can usually defeat the article limit. I say this as one who has a paid electronic subscription, but views often enough on devices that aren’t logged into the account.

    1) It’s progress that persons who have bought the mitigation skeptic talking points buy into fewer of the mitigation skeptic talking points.

    2) Stephens’ change of heart is alleged to be due to someone willing to “engage with critics” rather than using “insults and stridency”. Certainly there is no shortage of insults and stridency over the past decades, but if he hadn’t previously found someone willing to engage within the uncertainty bounds of reasonable science and economics, he didn’t try very hard. This points to the very real problem that parties who benefit from inaction can achieve it by not engaging in good faith and via divisive politics.

    3) In economics terminology global warming due to CO2 emissions is fundamentally a negative externality issue and by classic economics would be most efficiently addressed by a pigovian tax on emissions to fix this mode of “market failure”. Stephens argues against a carbon tax on the grounds that it would be deeply unpopular with voters which is likely true. He goes on to argue that market economics will resolve the eventually issue. It’s not clear how recognizing an unaddressed case of market failure is consistent with expecting a market solution without a serious overshoot of climate unpleasantry.

    4) He seems to advocate for nuclear, again sensibly, but is skeptical of big government statist intervention. Realistically it’s hard to see one happening without the other even on the multi-decade timelines that are plausible for a major expansion in nuclear power.

  59. Mark,
    Indeed, I thought the same as your point 3. It’s hard to see how the market is going to fix this if it isn’t possible to implement what most economics would probably regard as the optimal way to fix a market failure.

  60. Mal Adapted says:

    Yes, that was my takeaway from Bret Stephens – he seems uninformed about tragedies of the commons. Doesn’t he realize that the “free” market always socializes every private cost it can get away with? The standard Libertarian response to common-pool resource problems is to privatize the resource. Earth’s atmosphere clearly can’t be privatized, so only collective intervention in the energy market (e.g. carbon taxes, incentives for renewables, bans on coal-fired electricity) can mitigate climate tragedy. And Stephens brought up the Yellow Vest protests to illustrate the public’s negative reaction to carbon taxes, but said nothing about carbon fee and dividend with border adjustment tariff, which has the support of economists across the political spectrum.

  61. Joshua says:

    Stephens says:

    There’s a reason Barack Obama rejected a carbon tax, knowing it could be deeply unpopular among voters, and why France’s carbon tax sparked the “yellow vest” public revolt that has energized the far right.

    I don’t think he’s necessarily wrong in that paragraph. Yes, if he’s making a dispositive argument there that no publics will accept a carbon tax then his argument is clearly wrong. And his argument lacks the sophistication we might hope for from someone tackling these issues. But certainly there is large public resistance in some contexts to carbon taxes and there is the question of the potential for being regressive (which he mentions)…

    I don’t have to think that Stephens article is totally correct, or even mostly correct, to see some value in it as a potentially positive signpost in the dialog over climate change. And I think that despite my disagreements, it’s worthwhile to really control against reflexive rejection.

    So for example here,

    In the long run, we are likelier to make progress when we adopt partial solutions that work with the grain of human nature, not big ones that work against it. Sometimes those solutions will be legislative — at least when they nudge, rather than force, the private sector to move in the right direction.

    Ok, I don’t really like the caveats but he actually is arguing for a mix of “market” and legislative solutions and I’m not in total disagreement about that even if is prefer a far ratio, respectively.

    But more often they will come from the bottom up, in the form of innovations and practices tested in markets, adopted by consumers and continually refined by use.

    Again, seems rather too binary and pie in the sky for me, but I see a lot to work with there in that innovation and market – driven initiatives can produce change, build infrastructure, and provide jobs.

    They may not be directly related to climate change but can nonetheless have a positive impact on it.

    I am always struggling with the issue of whether well make more progress by foregrounding climate change or foregrounding economic policies as a way to gain support for policies that will address climate change.

    Elsewhere in the article Stephens argues favorably roe regulation.

    I guess that for me the article fits with my preference for an approach that elevates looking for synergy in interests over struggling for positions. I’m not entirely sure that’s a better approach but stylistically I favor it.

  62. Susan Anderson says:

    Matt Ridley, Pielke Jr., and Ryan Maue? What a combo!

    Stephens makes his living as a Republican pundit, so he was bound to fail to notice his own shortcomings, especially in public. But we are sick and tired of his havering. If he can support wealth and power and attack anything “the left” supports (according to him, complete with bothsiderism about the growing violence and lies), he will.

    He’s adopted Vaclav Smil – afaik he was previously relying on the likes of Pielke Jr. and Lomborg to support the magic thinking let’s all get rich and fix it later stuff, along with the unknown tech miracle that’s bound to eventuate (god knows how).

    Changing the subject, here’s a cute little bit of time travel which makes some good points. First Dog on the Moon is particularly good on Musk/Twitter in his most recent Guardian cartoon (not linked, too much wandering from the point even for me).

  63. Mal Adapted says:

    Susan Anderson:

    Stephens makes his living as a Republican pundit, so he was bound to fail to notice his own shortcomings, especially in public. But we are sick and tired of his havering. If he can support wealth and power and attack anything “the left” supports (according to him, complete with bothsiderism about the growing violence and lies), he will.

    I’m with you, Susan. Stephens:

    FOR YEARS, I saw myself not as a global-warming denier (a loaded term with its tendentious echo of Holocaust denial) but rather as an agnostic on the causes of climate change and a scoffer at the idea that it was a catastrophic threat to the future of humanity.

    Oh, for – whether or not he was a holocaust denier, he admits he denied climate science (‘agnostic’, my butt). I do credit him with finally changing his mind, but as Mark B. says:

    …if he hadn’t previously found someone willing to engage within the uncertainty bounds of reasonable science and economics, he didn’t try very hard.

    Stephens as good as admits his previous ‘skepticism’ was motivated by his conservative ideology. I suppose we shouldn’t expect him to turn away from conservatism, since that’s how he makes his living. OTOH, when Jerry Taylor, a former VP at the libertarian Cato Institute, changed his mind about AGW after talking to economists he trusted, he said this about his former aggressive denialism:

    I regret a lot of it. I wish I had taken more care and done more due diligence on the arguments I had been forwarding. I also introduced one of my brothers, James Taylor, to the folks at the Heartland Institute. Heartland’s rise to dominate market share in climate denialism largely occurred under my brother. Boy do I regret that.

    Taylor subsequently abandoned Libertarianism altogether, saying:

    Ideology = Motivated Cognition

    One wishes for that kind of clear-eyed realism from every pundit.

  64. Mal Adapted says:

    [Twas in spam, Mal. Also, fixed. -W]

  65. It’s wonderful that some denier types (Taylor and others?) eventually reach a time when they recognize that they have been consistently wrong and admit it. I think it’s a good bet that their denier type positions were actually proposed in good faith and that over time, they could follow the science and the data, recognize their error and speak about their changed position and how it happened. That shows a lot of integrity in my opinion. I am pleased that these folks of integrity will no longer be muddying the waters about climate science. As to the talking heads who are employed directly or indirectly by the fossil fuel industry, I think Mark Twain covered that situation accurately.

  66. Mal Adapted says:

    Profuse thanks, Willard!

  67. Mal Adapted says:

    Most noteworthy IMO, Taylor showed his deep understanding of the driving motive for professional denialism:

    S[haron]L[erner]: And the economic case eventually crumbled, too?

    JT: The first blow in that argument was offered by my friend Jonathan Adler, who was at the Competitive Enterprise Institute. Jon wrote a very interesting paper in which he argued that even if the skeptic narratives are correct, the old narratives I was telling wasn’t an argument against climate action. Just because the costs and the benefits are more or less going to be a wash, he said, that doesn’t mean that the losers in climate change are just going to have to suck it up so Exxon and Koch Industries can make a good chunk of money.

    Any lukewarmers want to dispute Taylor’s analysis?

  68. markusvic says:

    Are atmospheric CO2 levels stable or declining? Nope!
    Have they stopped increasing? Nope!
    Has the rate of increase at least stabilized or slowed? Possibly. A few more years of data may show this conclusively.

    Excuse me if I hold off dancing in the street celebrating our successful avoidance of climate catastrophe.

  69. Willard says:

    Humans danced before they thought they could avoid possibilities. Perhaps they did because they could rule some of them as impossible. We ought to know better by now and dance nevertheless, more so in a Climateball room.

    Radiolab’s latest episode features the meteorologist who invented private weather forecasting services. And yes, he was not exactly humble:

    Meteorologists are as common as the clouds these days. Rolling onto the airwaves at morning, noon and night they tell us what to wear and where to plan our picnics. They’re local celebrities with an outsized influence. But in the 1940s, there was really only one of them: Irving P. Krick. He was suave and dapper, with the charm of a sunbeam and the boldness of a thunderclap. He was a salesman who turned the weather into a product.

    Turns out he wasn’t exactly truthful either.

    At the end there is also a little history of why the State of Florida has become an insurer of last resort. And in between there’s a vignette on how Hurricane Andrew taught reinsurers an expensive lesson. The last two bits might be connected.

  70. I think you are right about the atmospheric CO2 levels, markusvic. We need to keep up our good work to reduce the CO2 level. It has been said that warming will stop when we hit net zero. That kind of talk is pretty new.

    “Less than a decade ago, the idea of reaching net zero emissions was a concept used mostly by scientific researchers and seen as radical by politicians. In 2015, it got an indirect mention in the final text of the Paris Accord, the international climate treaty agreed at COP21. In 2017, Sweden legally adopted net zero as a target for 2045 and then in 2019 a clutch of other countries followed, including the U.K. and France, which set 2050 goals in law. As of Nov. 3, (2021) 139 nations have taken up a net zero emissions target, including some of those who have previously been most resistant to climate action.”

    I think the talk about netzero is completely serious and it is building momentum. I don’t know if we should dance in the street about it, but I am generally in favor of street dancing, so why not?

    We also have scientists and engineers working at full time jobs all over the world looking at how to remove CO2 directly from the air or from the oceans. We haven’t seen this technology really roll out yet, but it’s coming. That is very good news.

    It’s really important that we recognize and talk about how much progress is being made on several fronts because people can get despondent if they hear too much bad news. And, really, this is a glass half empty or glass half full situation. CO2 in the atmosphere was 415.95 ppm in September. That’s not bad and it’s not good, it just is the number we are looking at right now. I think we can dance in the street anytime now if we have the impulse. We should walk or bike to the street dance to keep things moving in the right direction.

    It’s important to stay cheerful and positive about our progress.



  71. markusvic says:

    “We should walk or bike to the street dance to keep things moving in the right direction.”

    Can’t argue with that!

  72. Tom Fuller says:

    Another quote from Mr. Taylor that is worth republishing:

    “JT: If you talk about the need to transform civilization and to engage in the functional equivalent of World War III, you may as well just forget it. To most conservatives, that’s just nails on a chalkboard. Or if you say, you’re corrupted and a shill and ignorant. That’s no way to convince anybody of anything. What are the chances they’re going to say, Gee, you’re right? All that does is entrench someone in their own position.”

  73. dikranmarsupial says:

    “T: If you talk about the need to transform civilization and to engage in the functional equivalent of World War III, you may as well just forget it. To most conservatives, that’s just nails on a chalkboard. ”

    Bad luck if civilization actually requires some transformation if you want to act according to your values (e.g. if those values don’t include severe hardship to millions in the developing world”

    “All that does is entrench someone in their own position.”

    Yes, we *ALL* know that already.

    The question is how do we get people to accept change if it is rationally justified according to their values, even when it conflicts with political beliefs.

  74. Susan Anderson says:

    MalA, thanks for the Mark Twain clip. It is increasingly difficult not to rage against humanity’s mechanical descent into chaos. The Taylor story is also good, and at least he offered a real mea culpa.

    dikranm, quite right. But it’s a tightrope walk since conceding to those who have it wrong is both necessary and won’t work.

    In general, Guardian cartoons are too extreme for me, but this one is a bullseye,

  75. Mal Adapted says:

    Susan, you are welcome for the Taylor story, but the Twain clip must be credited to sbm.

  76. dikranmarsupial says:

    “But it’s a tightrope walk since conceding to those who have it wrong is both necessary and won’t work. ”

    as always, the science/technology is the easy bit 😦

  77. izen says:

    ” think the talk about netzero is completely serious and it is building momentum. …
    We also have scientists and engineers working at full time jobs all over the world looking at how to remove CO2 directly from the air or from the oceans. We haven’t seen this technology really roll out yet, but it’s coming. …
    I think we can dance in the street anytime now if we have the impulse. …
    It’s important to stay cheerful and positive about our progress.”

    Do you have completly serious evidence that a lot of the governmental net-zero talk is NOT green-washing ?
    There are media reports of CO2 directly removed from the air and oceans, but the scientific reports make clear that scaling any of these methods up to a significant level would require much more money and renewable energy.
    You seem to be taking a very Panglossian view of the climate impacts of industrialisation. What have you done with the previous version of sbm who had a rather more Rabelaisian attitude to the future ?

  78. I read in the Guardian that Europe’s global warming is increasing at twice the global average. I think that has to be good news because Great Britain and the EU have the resources to maximize the benefits of the additional warmth and to show the rest of the world the best ways to reduce any harm that comes along with a little more heat.

    “Temperatures in Europe have increased at more than twice the global average in the last 30 years, according to a report from the World Meteorological Organization (WMO).

    The effects of this warming are already being seen, with droughts, wildfires and ice melts taking place across the continent. The European State of the Climate report, produced with the EU’s Copernicus service, warns that as the warming trend continues, exceptional heat, wildfires, floods and other climate breakdown outcomes will affect society, economies and ecosystems.”

    This piece has too much focus on the downside that comes along with gaining this edge in the global warming contest. Less snow shovel work? Plants growing better? I recognize there are real downsides to the warming, but it’s not all downside. We need to balance these kind of stories with some good news. I didn’t read it closely yet, but I am not sure that it covers the great news that a lot of folks expect warming to just stop once we reach net zero. I think we can all get used to the idea of a couple degrees of global warming. As TWF has noted, some folks will suffer, but not everyone. All in all, it seems like a great thing for the warming to double in EU and Great Britain because that will spur more aggressive action on reducing the atmospheric CO2 load.

    A lot of island nations have been whining about the impacts they face, but I don’t think they are facing double the global rate of warming, just rising ocean levels. I think temperate climate is one of the hallmarks of island nations, is it not? Get busy building what you need for the amazingly slow rise of sea level.

    Future is bright! Lead the way, EU! Strut your stuff!



  79. Willard says:

    > You seem to be taking a very Panglossian view

    Mike is rediscovering Russell’s trick, izen. Sardonicism is hard to dose properly. Give it time.

  80. russellseitz says:

    W:”Mike is rediscovering Russell’s trick, izen. Sardonicism is hard to dose properly. Give it time.”

    It took a while , but Taylor eventually got the message. The trick in this case was eliding his nefarious bother with his elevator music namesake.

  81. UN guy Guteres is definitely pitching the gloom and doom. Look at this craziness: “Rich countries must sign a “historic pact” with the poor on the climate, or “we will be doomed”, the UN secretary-general, António Guterres, has warned, as a deepening gulf between the developed and developing world has put climate talks on the brink.”

    Meanwhile, I read at Carbon Brief that fossil fuel usage is likely to peak within 5 years as a result of the Russia Ukraine Nato conflict. I am not pro conflict, but I think it would be amazing to see a fossil fuel peak in the next five years. Once we hit the peak, we just start turning it down some more and cruise to our happy place at net zero.

    I suppose Guteres thinks he can motivate folks by using the D word. Why does he think that would work? Alarmist claptrap, right? Maybe he needs to sit down with TWF and cool his jets a bit.

    Atmospheric CO2 levels continue to stay well below 420 ppm.

    Daily CO2

    Nov. 3, 2022 = 416.67 ppm
    Nov. 3, 2021 = 414.36 ppm

    Methane (who cares, right?): I don’t know, probably well under 2,000 ppb. All we have to do is figure how to suck that out of the atmosphere or permafrost or clathrates and then we can sell it as fuel, so that’s a problem where the solution pays for itself. Plus, methane is probably easier to suck out of the atmosphere as the concentration rises, so it might be like the Russia Ukraine Nato conflict: it looks pretty bad at first, but probably contains some long term benefits.



  82. fgsjr2015 says:

    Considering the awe experienced by astronauts for Earth below, one wonders whether a large portion of the planet’s most freely-polluting corporate CEOs, governing leaders and over-consuming/disposing individuals rocketed far enough above the earth for a day’s (or more) orbit, while looking down, would have a sufficiently profound effect on them to change their apparently unconditional political/financial support of Big Fossil Fuel?

    We do know that industry and fossil-fuel friendly governments can tell when a very large portion of the populace has been too tired and worried about feeding/housing themselves or their family, and the continuing COVID-19 virus-variant concerns — all while on insufficient income — to criticize them for whatever environmental damage their policies cause/allow, particularly when not immediately observable.

    We also know that global mass-addiction to fossil fuel products undoubtedly helps keep the average consumer quiet about the planet’s greatest polluter, lest they feel and/or be publicly deemed hypocritical.

  83. fgsjr2015 says:

    According to an October 29, 2022, Canadian Press story, “The federal environment minister is calling out Canada’s oil companies for failing to put cash behind their promises to tackle climate change. Steven Guilbeault says the country’s major oil players have promised to do something about greenhouse gas emissions, but instead have funnelled most of their record-breaking profits to shareholders.”

    When it comes to unhindered capitalism, I can see corporate CEOs shrugging their shoulders and defensively saying that their job is to protect shareholders’ bottom-line interests. The shareholders meanwhile shrug their shoulders while defensively stating that they just collect the dividends and that the CEOs are the ones to make the moral and/or ethical decisions.

    Regardless, while assuming fossil fuel industry CEOs are not foolish enough to actually believe that their descendants will somehow always evade the health repercussions related to their industry’s environmentally reckless decisions, one wonders whether the unlimited-profit objective/nature is somehow irresistible to those businesspeople, including the willingness to simultaneously allow an already threatened consumer base to continue so, if not be threatened even further?

    It brings to mind the allegorical fox stung by the instinct-abiding scorpion while ferrying it across the river, leaving both to drown.

  84. I appreciate the way this blog has helped me relax about climate change. All we have to do is focus on CO2 and get to net zero and the warming will stop. I used to think it was really critical that we reduce emissions in a manner that only appealed to alarmists. I didn’t even want to think about the idea of net zero because I felt like we might not have time to waste on a decade of arguing over the exact definition and status of all the conditions that might arise and be called net zero because I thought that maybe 350 ppm might be our actual, safe target. I used to have concerns that feedbacks and tipping points might make net zero status at some level above 350 ppm might actually continue to produce disastrous results for a lot of species on the planet, including the hominids.

    I thought for a while that if I brought up these concerns that it might be possible to ramp up the level of concern among the hard science types who come and go here, but I came to realize that such a thing was never going to happen because most of the hard science and physicist types were immune to the hysteria that I would encounter elsewhere. It is great to have embraced common sense and to have gained the perspective needed to laugh off the “bad news” that dominates many global warming discussion groups.

    I read this today: “Even if planet-heating emissions are radically cut, the world’s vast ice sheets at the poles will continue to melt away for hundreds of years, causing up to three metres of sea level rise that will imperil coastal cities, the report states. The “terminal” loss of sea ice from the Arctic during summers could arrive within a decade and now cannot be avoided, it adds.”

    I know hysterical nonsense when I see it now. This isn’t going to happen. Even if it was going to happen, it would take hundreds of years. Anything to sell papers, I guess.

    I feel like we are doing great. We can refreeze the poles if that is needed. We have the science ready to go. We just have to commit to the airflights needed to make it happen. If we develop electric planes to do the airflights there won’t even be a big carbon footprint to refreezing the poles.

    A guy from Yale (double smart!) came up with a lot of this.

    No worries. We continue our heroic work to reach net zero, then it’s time for victory lap or two over the poles.

    It is critical that we tamp down the alarm because scaring people about global warming might make folks give up. We have nothing to fear. Net zero, baby! Engage!

    CO2? Jammed up well below 420 ppm. I think it might be stuck around 416 ppm.



  85. “1. Our planet is undeniably in crisis

    So far, Earth has warmed just over 1℃ relative to pre-industrial levels, meaning we’ve already damaged the climate system. Our greenhouse gas emissions have already caused sea level to rise, sea ice to shrink and the ocean to become more acidic.”

    Utter nonsense. The author is definitely a half glass empty alarmist. The author repeats the usual warnings that we are close to dangerous tipping points.

    Like DWW says, we have probably cut expected warming in half in five years. Alarmists like to point to the rising atmospheric CO2 levels that like that should tell us how we are doing. Nonsense, we have cut expected warming in half in five years. Five more years like the last five and we will have cut the expecting warming to zero. I don’t even think we broke a sweat in the last five years to cut the warming in half. It almost felt like we were doing nothing as CO2 kept rising, but DWW has this all sorted out.

    I feel very optimistic about things. CO2 remains stuff well under 420 ppm in the atmosphere. Warming is probably well under 1.2 degrees and some brilliant scientists that I follow report that ECS is probably going to prove to be on the very low end of the scale. Can you say, much ado about nothing?

    So much good news. Plus, this thing about the octopus!



  86. lerpo says:

    @Tom Fuller,

    Regarding ECS being roughly 2C.

    If I plot a scatter chart with temp on the Y axis vs log2(co2/co2_0) on the X, I get a slope of T = 2.7086x. (Using BEST and Keeling).

    Shouldn’t ECS be somewhere north of that as a rough estimate of TCS + fast feedbacks?

  87. Tom Fuller says:

    Hi lerpo,

    I don’t know. Perhaps others can help you. I based my SWAG (for that is all it is) on historical performance in the past few decades. The sluggish response of climate systems to a massive bolus of greenhouse gas emissions was a large part of my–I know it’s a guess but I actually did some–calculations.

    Guess we’ll all see, won’t we?

  88. Tom,
    I know we’ve had these kind of discussions before, but the observed warming in response to a massive injection of greenhouse gases is entirely consistent with an ECS of ~3C, or maybe even higher.

  89. I am reading along with Biden’s speech at the COP. Very inspiring.

    I think he is saying almost all the right things. He strayed off in to the need to reduce methane emissions for a minute, but then got back on track. Methane is a distraction and a flow gas. He should know this.

    I like this quote ““Young people feel the urgency of the climate crisis and feel it deeply. They won’t allow us to fail.” There is it. We can’t fail. Young folks won’t allow it. We just have to focus on getting CO2 to the net zero thing and then take a victory lap.

    Guardian has a piece saying we are building too many petrol and diesel cars.

    I think the guardian writers enjoy pushing the doom and gloom story. It probably sells papers. I figure this could be wildly wrong if the ECS turns out to be way down on the low end of the scale, as it very well might. I hear this idea repeated over and over by knowledgeable folks and it seems like it never gets truly considered as a real possibility. Even if we build too many petrol/diesel cars, we can probably retrofit them with CO2 scrubbers later if we need to. I think that kind of thing already is in use in most of the clean coal plants, so we just need to upgrade the converters on the cars to scrub CO2 in addition to the way they already scrub the nitrous oxides and the other stuff.

    Biden talk is over. Very inspiring: Biden is winding up now. “Let’s reach out and take the future in our hands. A planet preserved, a more equitable, prosperous world for our children, that is why we are here, that is what we are working towards. I’m confident we can do it. Thank you, and may God bless you all.”

    Lots of countries are pledging millions of dollars to help less-developed countries with losses. I think it’s over 244 million dollars pledged so far. I am almost overcome when I think about how many good can be accomplished with this level of funding.

    I have been reading some criticism about the US funding to help win the war with global warming. That seems kinda nutty when the US already does so much good and is so generous with less fortunate countries. Also, climate is not the only global concern, right? The US is giving huge amounts of money to Ukraine right now to support that fledgling democracy. I am reluctant to toot the american horn too loudly about this, but the truth is that without american support, it seems likely that Ukraine might have become a satellite state of Moscow by now. Instead, Ukraine seems to be winning the war now and I think some americans are talking about statehood.

    I dreamt last night that ECS turned out to be only 1.4 degrees. Think about that!



  90. Willard says:

    > without American support

    Not really, Mike. You do not know that. In fact your country’s experience in Viet-Nam and Afghanistan should tell you otherwise. It is really hard to win against a country whose whole population becomes the guerilla.

    And nay not worry, most of the help Ukraine receives are loans through lend-lease contracts:

    It would be illegal for the USA to do otherwise. It would also mean it enters the war. Nobody wants that. We all know what this would imply.

    In any event it becomes debt, and debt is debt. To give you an idea, the Brits finished paying theirs from the WWII in the 2000s. If you want to have a docile ally, what better way but to have it as a debtor? The terms are favorable, but they cannot pay the one they already have.

    The alternative was worse, I agree. Instead of touting any horn, we should recall that the Ukrainian people will still suffer and lots of corporations will make a killing. At least the markets expect so. To give you an idea, the DFEN stock (a bullish ETF with Defense companies) gained 43% since last month. Even after it tanked up a bit after good inflation numbers and ambiguous election results. Pun intended.

  91. dikranmarsupial says:

    “Scientific wild-ass guess (SWAG) is an American English slang term meaning a rough estimate made by an expert in the field”

    YMMV on definitions of “expert”.

    Beyond equilibrium climate sensitivity

    Reto Knutti, Maria A. A. Rugenstein & Gabriele C. Hegerl

    Nature Geoscience volume 10, pages 727–736 (2017)Cite this article


    Equilibrium climate sensitivity characterizes the Earth’s long-term global temperature response to increased atmospheric CO2 concentration. It has reached almost iconic status as the single number that describes how severe climate change will be. The consensus on the ‘likely’ range for climate sensitivity of 1.5 °C to 4.5 °C today is the same as given by Jule Charney in 1979, but now it is based on quantitative evidence from across the climate system and throughout climate history. The quest to constrain climate sensitivity has revealed important insights into the timescales of the climate system response, natural variability and limitations in observations and climate models, but also concerns about the simple concepts underlying climate sensitivity and radiative forcing, which opens avenues to better understand and constrain the climate response to forcing. Estimates of the transient climate response are better constrained by observed warming and are more relevant for predicting warming over the next decades. Newer metrics relating global warming directly to the total emitted CO2 show that in order to keep warming to within 2 °C, future CO2 emissions have to remain strongly limited, irrespective of climate sensitivity being at the high or low end.

    Note that not all of the results in that survey are from experts, but at least they have models rather than guesses and hence the assumptions are open to scrutiny. I know which I prefer. An ECS of 2C is very much a low estimate, see Figure 2. Also, as I have pointed out repeatedly, evidence to suggest that ECS is low (e.g. 2C) is not as reassuring as evidence to rule out ECS being high – the error bars are important and should not be ignored, even in guesses expert or otherwise.

  92. You might be right about some of that, Willard. I know that many americans believe the the US won the vietnam and afghanistan conflicts decisively because the opposing military foces never defeated the US forces in any battle. The guerilla resistance can not be rooted out without great loss of life and the US values life too much to stamp out a guerilla resistance. I am not a student of military history, but it does seem like the US can overcome its military opponents whenever it want. I am more realistic about US military success than many americans, but I think we probably could have won those wars, but we settled for a draw both times to avoid unnecessary suffering.

    I am optimistic that the US will continue to lead the way when it comes to the war on global warming. We are willing to spend millions and millions of dollars to keep the world from accumulating too much heat. I don’t think anyone in their right mind will deny that fact. This article says we might be committing 369 billion dollars to solving the global warming problem. I can’t wrap my head around a number that large. It’s easier for me to understand the programs and efforts that cost millions or tens of millions. That’s a big pile of money any way you stack it.

    Look at what President Biden said earlier today “If we are to win this fight, we can no longer plead ignorance to consequence of actions and repeat our mistakes,” Biden tells Cop27.

    “If we can accelerate actions on these gamechangers, we can reach our goal. But to permanently bend [the] emissions curve, every nation must step up. The US has acted, everyone has to act, it’s a duty and responsibility of global leadership.”

    Like he says, the US has already acted. Everyone has to act. Everyone needs to be patient and realistic about what can be done. The doomy gloomy stuff is not helpful.

    And I know it was just a dream, but what if the ECS actually turns out to be 1.4 degrees? I haven’t plotted any data and I know 1.4 is on the low end, but I think it is possible that ECS could end up in that ballpark.


  93. dikranmarsupial says:

    ‘The doomy gloomy stuff is not helpful.’

    If it were correct, it ought to be helpful. The fact that whether information is considered “useful” depends on political perspective rather than on whether it is true is the greatest reason for doom and gloom there is because it means we are incapable of dealing with problems rationally.

    It is possible (but extremely unlikely) that ECS is 1.4, but it is also possible that it is 4.6. So what? The rational course of action requires we consider all plausible values and their consequences.

  94. I think you are missing the point with the doomy gloomy stuff, dikran. The point that has been explained to me numerous times is that doom and gloom can cause average humans to become despondent and stop doing the little things that each of us can do to address the problems. Even if it is correct, in that scenario, the doom and gloom discussion causes harm to our collective efforts. We need to stay upbeat and spread good news and keep everyone motivated to continue our relentless march to net zero with CO2. If ECS is 4.6 we are in big trouble and again, people might get discouraged and give up. That’s the so what.

    As to rationality, that seems like a long shot. Justin E H Smith says people “are hardly rational, and in fact, irrationality has defined much of human life and history. And the point is not merely academic. “The desire to impose rationality, to make people or society more rational,” he writes, “mutates … into spectacular outbursts of irrationality.”

    I think individuals can be rational. You seem to fit in to that category and I find that to be very impressive, but I don’t think it is our natural or common state. If people were rational we would have greatly reduced our CO2 emissions by now. I think it makes sense to be persuasive through irrational means at this point. Rationality has failed rather miserably with the problem of global warming.


  95. dikranmarsupial says:

    “We need to stay upbeat and spread good news ”

    I disagree. What we need is to want to see things as they actually are rather than be happy with an upbeat delusion. Being rational is a choice. It isn’t what comes natural to us because of our evolutionary inheritance. But sometimes when we are faced with a problem we need to choose to suppress our cognitive biases and weigh up the pros and cons. There are problems that are large enough that doing anything but the rational best course of action will have severe consequences, and the longer we delay action, the more important it becomes that we act rationally.

    As I said, that is the real cause for doom and gloom. We are (as a society) incapable of what needs to be done. So some will suffer, especially in the developed world, because we are incapable of acting according to our stated values. Well done us!

  96. dikranmarsupial says:

    ” If ECS is 4.6 we are in big trouble and again, people might get discouraged and give up. That’s the so what. ”

    Equally there are those (e.g. “luckwarmers”) that take the “good news” that ECS *might* be 1.4 and decide we don’t need to do anything. We are not homogeneous in our responses to good and bad news. The common denominator is that both paths lead to “do nothing” because that is what our cognitive biases want (we don’t want to forego our standard of living) so we find a post-hoc justification for following our animal instincts. The “fast” in “thinking fast and slow”. Where “fast thinking” is a bad idea, guess what? The solution is “thinking slow”, i.e. trying to be rational.

    Putting more emphasis on 1.4C when the losses from 4.6C dominate the cost-benefit analysis is deeply irrational and justifies inaction.

    As I said, I don’t find climate change alarming (because of my nature) but I do find societies distaste for rational behaviour, and the pandering to it much more alarming.

  97. we will have to agree to disagree, DM. We can choose to be rational as you state, and we can choose to do what needs to be done wrt global warming. I find this position to be way too doomy: “We are (as a society) incapable of what needs to be done. So some will suffer, especially in the developed world, because we are incapable of acting according to our stated values. Well done us!”

    If that is true, then we might as well give up. We are capable of doing what needs to be done. If you don’t believe that, then it’s time to throw in the towel and just eat, drink and be happy and let the CO2 rip. Even when I was feeling great alarm about our situation, I never believed that we were incapable of acting to change our trajectory. In those days, I used to state my alarm with the idea that alarm might spur action. It was not that long ago that I asked if others here were alarmed, and you said you were not alarmed. Now you say we are incapable as a society of doing what needs to be done. Beyond alarm and embracing defeat. I encourage you to reconsider and adopt a brighter perspective. What can it hurt?

    Even if it turns out as dark as you state, and our society is incapable of doing what needs to be done, there is the still the remnant of humanity that can not be take away from us. As Victor Frankl said, “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”


  98. dikranmarsupial says:

    “Rationality has failed rather miserably with the problem of global warming.”

    society and politics is yet to give it a try, so I think it is a bit early to say that it has failed miserably. It has been working fairly well in the scientific community for some time.

    (of course scientists are not always rational, everybody has cognitive biases, and I suspect even most climate scientists have cognitive biases towards maintaining their standard of living – they are human beings just like everybody else)

  99. dikranmarsupial says:

    “If that is true, then we might as well give up.”

    No, you are just being irrational. Everything that can be done now will reduce the suffering later, even if it doesn’t eliminate it. Just because we can’t act rationally enough to solve the problem, even when it is in our power to do so, is not a reason to reject a sub-optimal approach.

    “If you don’t believe that, then it’s time to throw in the towel and just eat, drink and be happy and let the CO2 rip.”

    No, that would be against my values as it would be mostly causing suffering to others and benefitting me. Again, that sounds like the cognitive bias towards maintaining ones own standard of living that is at the heart of the problem.

    The point I am making is that we need to understand that we pretty much all have a cognitive bias towards inaction, and all attempts to pander to emotional responses is likely to end up feeding that bias in some sections of society. IMHO the best approach is to tell the truth, so that people can at least make an informed choice according to their values. There will be a section of society where that will “work”, and another where it won’t, just like EVERY other approach. This approach has the value of being honest and rational.

    “Victor Frankl said, “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” ”

    I’m not so sure of that (c.f. advertising, political propaganda). I’m fairly sure that I am not completely robust to that sort of manipulation. Do you think that everybody’s SWAG estimate of ECS is their own choice and isn’t swayed by pressure from their political community?

  100. Willard says:

    > we settled for a draw both times to avoid unnecessary suffering

    I would agree if by suffering you mean debt:


    As for the other war:

    The Vietnam War cost $168 billion, or $1 trillion in today’s dollars. That included $111 billion in military operations and $28.5 billion in aid to South Vietnam.

    Compensation benefits for Vietnam veterans and families still cost $22 billion per year.21 Surviving spouses qualify for lifetime benefits if the veteran died from war wounds. Veterans’ children receive benefits until age 18. If the children are disabled, they receive lifetime benefits. Since 1970, the post-war benefits for veterans and families have cost $270 billion.

    While the war effort helped out of the recession, it did not help inflation. Wars are basically subsidies for the industrial and the energy sectors. If we want to electrify both sectors, a war is not the way to go. That’s one side-effect of the ZZ policy: Vlad might be pulling the same stunt as Johnson.

  101. russellseitz says:

    “your country’s experience in Viet-Nam and Afghanistan should tell you otherwise. ”

    Britain’s several Afghan Wars spanned a century, and America’s policy experience in the region ranged from triumph to tragedy. In 1979 America took the side of the Afghan majority after the Russian invasion in support of the small minority of Khalq and other Marxists who deposed Mohammad Daoud Khan, who established the Afghan republic after overthrowing his cousin King Zahir in 1973.

    The outcome of that high tech proxy war – the retreat that prefigured the collapse of the Soviet Empire ,was nothing less than astonishing , and Putin’s failure to learn its lessons and apply them to Ukraine has imperiled his regime much as the original events did Gorbachev’s

  102. David B Benson says:

    The first post in
    contains a link to Tamino’s computation of the correlation between the observed global temperature increase and the logarithmic forcing function standardly attributed to action of CO2.

    There is then a discussion of why in then follows that ECS is most likely about 4 K.

  103. Ben McMillan says:

    New social cost of carbon, CH4, N2O estimates from the EPA

  104. lerpo says:

    @DBB, Great find. Using the same method Tamino describes, and with data from 1880, I get the following for each dataset:
    BEST: 2.6C/doubling
    CRU4: 2.1C/doubling
    GISS: 2.4C/doubling
    RSS: 3.0C/doubling
    UAH5: 2.3C/doubling
    UAH6: 1.8C/doubling.

    It seems likely that TCR + fast feedbacks is somewhere around of 2.4C. It would be hard to justify an ECS lower than what we’re observing for TCS.

  105. Richard Arrett says:


    Well said. I am also optimistic and not alarmed. Sure nobody knows what ECS is (or TCR). Even if science shows what ECS is, it will not be accepted. But who cares! Summer is still quite nice and summer is better than winter (I live in Minnesota). So life is good!

    I am sure if the climate changes for the worse, in a way which most people can actually see and believe – instead of a bunch of people forecasting the future and always being wrong – people will solve this problem quickly.

    The world could easily quadruple nuclear power and solve this problem in five years or less – if it wanted to. Currently, even though we know what would work, not enough people accept it. So instead the alarmists push 100% renewable – which we know cannot work. But that is ok! Eventually enough people will figure it out and the problem will be solved. Or we will find out CO2 will not warm the Earth as much as the consensus says – and if it does – well nuclear will still be available to solve the problem when people are ready for the real solution and give up on the imaginary solution.

    Until then – be happy and don’t worry.

  106. russellseitz says:

    With one emoji & cringe worthy encomium: ” be happy and don’t worry,” Richard has made the short list for the Rastafarian delegation to COP-28.

  107. dikranmarsupial says:

    “Sure nobody knows what ECS is (or TCR).”

    We do have a good idea of the plausible range of ECS, which is more than enough to inform policy. Nobody knows the *exact* value of the gravitational constant, but does that matter? No.

    ” Summer is still quite nice and summer is better than winter (I live in Minnesota). So life is good!”

    I’m sure Bangladesh is happy that Minnesota is fine.

    “I am sure if the climate changes for the worse, in a way which most people can actually see and believe – instead of a bunch of people forecasting the future and always being wrong – people will solve this problem quickly.”

    By the time that happens in Minnesota, it will be way too late for Bangladesh.

    Discounting is the problem.

  108. Willard says:

    > alarmists

    You keep using that word, Richard. It may not mean what you make it mean. In return to your But Nukes drive-by, here is Claudia Kemfert, an energy economist explaining Energiewende:

    She notes the connection between the Christian Dems (not, not real dems, a right-wing, conservative party) and coal workers unions.

    Coal. The four letter word Freedom Fighters hide behind their renewable bashing.

  109. Richard Arrett says:

    Thank you Willard for the link. I am listening to it now. I pause to note that Claudia Kemfert does agree that it was a mistake to phase out nuclear in Germany before coal, and that it would have been better to be running all their nuclear in order to lower the amount of coal they needed (and need). I will keep listening – but I totally agree with her so far. Colossal mistake to phase out existing nuclear – especially now that Russia has cut off natural gas supplies (meaning even more coal will be burned).

    In my simplistic view, renewable up to 30% of total electricity is good, nuclear is good and better than natural gas and natural gas is better than coal and oil. To much renewable (more than about 30%) is bad because you end up needing your backup (which is usually coal) when it is dark and not windy (which turns out to be a lot of the time). Better to build more nuclear than two systems (renewable plus backup), because nuclear is baseload, takes less space, has higher energy density, requires less mining and less transportation costs and the waste can be reprocessed multiple times for more energy production and to lower the half life of the waste.

    I will keep listening to your link now.

  110. russellseitz says:

    The alarming news from the Hottingist Place On Earth is that it just got hottinger

  111. Richard Arrett says:

    I am about 1/2 way through and Claudia did say that they do need to increase their storage capacity for when it is dark and not windy. However, you would need to invent storage solutions which could power the whole country for weeks and we only have storage solutions for like a few minutes.

    Again – I don’t understand the reluctance to use nuclear for the backup solution, instead of fossil fuels. It just makes sense to have a non-carbon emitting baseload power source for backup. In fact, one doesn’t even need renewable with a non-carbon emitting baseload power source like nuclear – but ok – go renewable and use nuclear as the backup. Sure you will probably end up using the backup more than 50% of the time – but that is ok because you are not pumping co2 into the air.

    Oh well – back to listening.

  112. Willard says:

    > Claudia Kemfert does agree that it was a mistake to phase out nuclear in Germany before coal

    That’s not what you keep saying tho, Richard. Is it? It’s more like what your interlocutors keep saying, e.g.:

    We have seen that renewables don’t really cut carbon emissions (see Germany and California). The backup power (when it is dark and not windy) is usually coal or natural gas, and we end up emitting more carbon emissions than just biting the bullet and tripling our reliance on nuclear power.

    You do have to be careful here. A partial renewables system that relies on backup fossil fuels will probably emit more than some alternative that didn’t rely on fossil fuel backup. It will, however, probably emit less than having maintained and expanded a fossil fuel system. We should be careful of letting the perfect be the enemy of the good.


    Claudia mentions the risk of building gas infrastructures for a longer horizon than we might need them, especially in the light of Nordstrom 2.

    Sure, they could be retrofitted. We could for instance use them as a water park. Or we could use them to send vegan food:

    A study recently carried out by researchers at Cambridge University has revealed that if Catholics returned to the tradition of not eating meat on a Friday, the change would mitigate millions of metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions annually.

    As promised 😉

  113. Richard Arrett says:

    True. I advocate 80% nuclear and 20% renewable. But I do advocate nuclear instead of coal (like Claudia). It is just that I see nuclear as the main source of electricity and renewable as a small part – rather than trying 100% renewable and then using your backup 50% of the time. If your backup is fossil fuel based – are you really solving the problem? If everybody is driving an EV, but 50% of the power charging the EV comes from fossil fuels – is that really a solution? I don’t think so.

    Without grid level storage which can function for the whole grid for weeks at a time, 100% renewable isn’t possible. We haven’t invented that yet.

    I also note Claudia isn’t in favor of delaying phase out of the remaining nuclear in Germany. That seems shortsighted to me.

    But Germany can do whatever it wants – just as the USA has also decided not to increase its share of nuclear.

    Such is life. Thanks for the food link. In the meantime, I will just wait for the people to wise up and go nuclear. And if we don’t go nuclear to stop emitting carbon – and if we continue to emit carbon until we hit 560 ppm (and higher) – well that is what the people chose. I am only a single vote.

  114. I think terminating existing nuclear before coal generation is a terrible idea. I think it is probably mostly an over-reaction to the Japanese nuclear accident. There is a lot of irrational/emotional rejection of nuclear stuff because of Nagasaki, Hiroshima, then TMI, Chernobyl etc. That just never seems to go away. Hard to unring those bells.

    I am not sure about baseload generation, but I think we will be seeing a largish chunk of battery storage arriving and plugging right in to grid as our pov electric vehicle fleet is deployed to phase out the fossil fuel pov fleet. I don’t know the numbers, but it might be a significant chunk of storage. I think it would probably be a minor matter to upgrade the grid to identify that storage system and make good use of it.

    I am much more excited about new grid storage and generation tech and how it will develop than I am about extending the life of old tech like coal and fossil fuel burning. Or overbuilding the gas infrastructure as Willard passed on from Claudia.

    There are a lot of advances coming on the battery front.

    I read that the major car companies have production plans for petrol/diesel cars that will take us beyond the 1.5 degree magic number.

    It’s from greenpeace, so take that with a grain of salt. And, as you say, 1.5 degrees warmer might turn out to nice in places like Minnesota, where winters can be harsh. There is a bright side to all this if you look hard for it.

    I also read from the COP thing that we have 6 years to hit the net zero sweetspot and we can do a lot of stuff in six years if we stop harshing everyone’s chill with talk about catastrophe and doom. ATTP has convinced me over the past few years that we just need to focus on the CO2 netzero thing and I have gotten the message. Everybody chill and get on the Net Zero Express. Six Years to Net Zero!

    I am working on a deal to print bumper stickers for Six Years to Net Zero! How hard could that be? Let’s do it!


  115. Willard says:


    We may not have heard the same show, for Claudia is in favour of renewables. She would have preferred to keep the current power plants up, but these competed with coal and gas, not renewables. It is too late now to go all in with nuclear like you would dream.

    And you still oppose nukes with renewables. The alpha is coal. The next in line are gas and petrol. It should not be overly complex.

    She proposes three ways to help reduce Germany’s reliance on fossil fuel. What are they again? I need to walk the dog.

  116. Ben McMillan says:

    The obsessive focus on “whether or not Germany could have kept some reactors running for another 10 years” is a distraction from talking about anything that might make a substantial difference going forward. Of course, throwing the conversation off course, and punching foreign hippies, is the whole point.
    What Germany did do is prove that over 15 years or so, you can replace close to half your grid with renewables, and they managed most of that when things like solar were still expensive. Also, the reduction in solar cost worldwide was to a large extent a direct consequence of the massive German uptake of PV panels.

  117. Richard Arrett says:

    Claudia said to reduce reliance on fossil fuel they should build more renewable, they should insulate buildings and they should develop power storage (for when it is dark and windy). That is what I heard anyway.

    Of course the problem is that at 50% renewable they are still burning a lot of fossil fuels for backup power when it is dark and not windy. While their co2 emissions did drop until 2020, they went up in 2021 and will probably rise again in 2022. Why? Because more coal and less Russian natural gas. But both are fossil fuels, even though gas is better than coal.

    Obviously it would be better to use a non-carbon energy supply for backup to renewable, i.e. nuclear. Maybe one day they will revisit the issue of nuclear. Perhaps as their need for electricity rises and they find they keep emitting more and more co2 because of their backup power usage. Charging all those vehicles will take a lot of electricity – as will heating all those homes with electricity. Just means more co2 when it is dark and not windy – unless they go nuclear.

    Just one person’s opinion of course.

  118. Richard Arrett says:


    Only a couple of things will make a substantial difference going forward.

    1. Build a lot of nuclear power.
    2. Or if you don’t like that, invent grid level power storage that can store enough power for several weeks of dark and not windy conditions. Somebody should get on that.
    3. Or if you don’t like either of those, somebody needs to invent a working fusion reactor. That is still 50 years away (I hear). It is always 50 years away. But maybe we will get it done.

    Without #2 100% renewable is impossible.

  119. Ben McMillan says:

    90% wind and solar would make a very big difference indeed to emissions (if you had to wait 50 years for e.g. fusion), and that doesn’t need huge amounts of storage at all (Caldeira has some neat articles on this). Most credible plans are basically ‘do something else for the last 10%’.
    I’d personally be quite happy if a lot of nuclear power got built, FWIW. Would probably take a socialist big-government program like what France had back in the day.

  120. Willard says:


    Renewables are team players. Solar, wind, biomass, geothermal and all the others need to be combined. We need all of them, and we need plenty of them. In Germany and everywhere else.

    We do need more storage. Batteries, but also something like green hydrogen. And we also need smarter grids. Decentralized, digitalized, demand-side management, and that applies in general, independent of the energy mix. The choice of the specific tools will depend on the kind of management we will choose:

    Based on these results, the electricity system for the German regions is optimized to achieve great regional detail to analyse spatial effects. The model allows a comparison between a stylized central scenario with high amounts of wind offshore deployed, and a decentral scenario using mainly the existing grid, and thus relying more on local capacities. The results reveal that the cost for the second optimization of these two scenarios are about the same: The central scenario is characterized by network expansion in order to transport the electricity from the wind offshore sites, whereas the decentral scenario leads to more photovoltaic and battery deployment closer to the areas with a high demand for energy. A scenarios with higher energy efficiency and lower demand projections lead to a significant reduction of investment requirements, and to different localizations thereof.

    Political stability ought to help.

    We need all of this now. What we do not need is a nuculear “breakthrough” in 20 years, the same technopoptimists promised since before I started playing Climateball. And that was in 2009.

    “But Nukes” does not counter any of that.

  121. Ken Fabian says:

    Nuclear energy – the most expensive and most unpopular option we have – is the preferred emissions reduction option for people who don’t think global warming is all that serious. Why? I think it more about holding up a bar too high and “oh, too bad, we have to keep burning fossil fuels until then” than doing emissions reductions better.

    Back to catastrophes – I’m inclined to think what is playing out now in Australia highlights the potential for an accumulation of climate related disasters with less recovery time between to be seriously problematic. That may be a pointer to the way the climate problem will play out. Each may not be a catastrophe by itself or even be a greater disaster than the un-enhanced natural sorts that have gone before (although it looks like they increasingly are) but if they happen more often and economies struggle to get any enduring return to normal it might as well be a catastrophe. Some of the economic metrics seem to count post disaster recoveries as strong economic growth but I think those are misleading.

    Basing the recoveries on advice from the fossil fuel industry – drill a lot more gas and oil to bring energy costs down – really is like shooting self in foot to keep the medical industry solvent – but a sense of urgent crisis is being used by them just like that.

  122. russellseitz says:

    ‘What we do not need is a nuculear “breakthrough” in 20 years, the same technopoptimists promised since before I started playing Climateball”

    The Presidential pronunciation of nuclear is forgiven, Willard, but since France is a thing, I have a problem with “But France” bingo.

    Brazil may remain the country of the future for another ten generations, but France already has a track record as a prior for real deal on energy policy.

    If Ponts et Chaussées seizes the helm from the Gillets Vertes and Latourards at Sciences Po anytime this century, Paris might put forth some post-POMO nuclear polemics

  123. Ben McMillan says:

    It takes a while to ramp up anything, so expect the things dominating the last few bars to keep dominating for quite some time. Everything else is an R+D problem that won’t be relevant in the near-term.

  124. Willard says:

    I would not mind an Électricité des États-Unis, Russell. How about you?

    Here would be a thing to consider:

    As of 21 February 2022, S&P Global Ratings and Moody’s downgraded the credit rating of EDF citing the technical issues at its nuclear power plants. In July 2022 the French government announced its plans to fully nationalize EDF [Électricité de France].

    As of early September 2022, 32 of France’s 56 nuclear reactors were shut down due to maintenance or technical problems. In 2022, Europe’s driest summer in 500 years had serious consequences for power plant cooling systems, as the drought reduced the amount of river water available for cooling.

    Without enough cold water, it is hard to cool down a nuclear power plant.

    One of the technical problems involved falsification of documents by Areva at Le Creuset Forge for decades:

    This may not be as explosive as the Wolkswagen scandal, but it has more radioactive potential.

  125. russellseitz says:

    Now that’s a climate feedback! Serves me right for not keeping up with Le Monde Diplo. Parallel problems struck home here in the hot water state, hence my interest in brightening reservoirs and cooling ponds to keep the sun from nibbling on their delta T efficiency. and, oddly, in salt water Long Island Sound, whereregulators dialed back the reactors when the SST got to an unprecedented 75F some summers ago.

  126. Willard says:


    That would be a great improvement, since that problem may extend beyond nuclear. Other kinds of power plants may use water to cool themselves. And there are ecological costs to warming rivers.

    This reminds me of this story:

    Some of the current concerns about climate change are related to safety—and the sector has started making some moves to address them. After the Fukushima disaster in Japan, caused by the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami in 2011, the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) began drafting new rules to harden existing plants to climate threats, such as storms and sea level rise. The process identified dozens of facilities that could face flooding problems under extreme conditions. But in 2019 those plans were largely scuttled by the Republican-led leadership, who argued the costs were too high for the nuclear industry to adopt for such low-probability events. (“This decision is nonsensical,” Democrat-appointed commissioner Jeff Baran wrote in a dissent at the time.)

    That’s what happens when Freedom Fighters have to go for nukes for real. Now, imagine if Pakistan officials wanted to build nukes and argued the same way. And then we wonder why nukes has a PR problem.

  127. these little nukes look pretty good:
    I expect they will be spendy, but what do you expect, they are from Rolls Royce!

    I read that half of the french nuke reactors are shut down and everybody is acting like that is bad news. In the first place, that means half of the french nuke reactors are up and running. Second point: it shows that the people running these things are being cautious and watching things closely so that things don’t go wrong. And, they seldom actually go wrong. All the years these have been running and making our lives better and only a few major accidents. That’s a pretty good record. Same thing with nuclear weapons. Lots of folks want to get rid of them, but they have been keeping us all safe since they were invented and they have almost never actually been used to actually hurt people.

    Cheer up, folks! We have 6 years or more to get our emissions down and our carbon capture up, then we hit net zero on carbon emissions and we should be on easy street. Some countries or areas or states may suffer. Others, like Minnesota, will probably be more hospitable with a little warming. Way beyond catastrophe. We hit net zero carbon emissions and we are in the catbird seat!

    I am reluctant to mention this, but I want to share this anyway: I had a second dream where the ECS turned out to be 1.4 degrees. That’s got to mean something. Is anyone else having that dream?


  128. russellseitz says:

    “there are ecological costs to warming rivers.”

    Is a recurring theme in my ‘Bright Water ‘ presentations: most of the water in the Ohio River runs through a power plant cooling loop on its way downsteam.
    The cumulative effect is long stretches in which diversity dwindles down to little more than gizzard shad.

  129. David B Benson says:

    The Rankine steam turbine cycle requires some means to dispose of the reject heat at the bottom of the cycle, so that the water condenses back into liquid form. This is independent of the source of the heat: coal, natural gas, wood, concentrated sunlight, nuclear reactor are all common enough sources of the heat. Evaporative water cooling is common, but once-through river, lake or ocean water is also used. If the atmosphere is cold enough, air cooling can be used.

  130. I wonder if sand batteries could be used to cool the reactor water and reduce the river heating? Is there anyway to stack or reuse the recovered heat?

    saw this on twitter this am: “Progressives like to be factually right (and have established a culture that celebrates this) – even if that inadvertently acts like a megaphone to the debunked conservative arguments, giving them more eyeballs. Win the battle, lose the war.”

    I think scientists are inclined to argue like progressives and produce a similar outcome.

    Also spotted this bit of foolishness:×4096

    Some un-schooled people insist on talking about methane without regard to the fact that methane is a flow gas and a distraction to our real task which is driving CO2 emissions to net zero. CO2 is a stock gas. That’s important. That got zero mention.



  131. David B Benson says:

    The reject heat from the Rankine cycle is right at 100 *C. It is suitable for district heating, often so used in Europe.

  132. Willard says:

    > Some un-schooled people insist on talking about methane without regard to the fact that methane is a flow gas and a distraction

    Thanks, Mike:

  133. David Wallace-Wells quote:

    Thanks to astonishing declines in the price of renewables, a truly global political mobilization, a clearer picture of the energy future and serious policy focus from world leaders, we have cut expected warming almost in half in just five years

    I think there may be new information about the CO2 emissions released in making all those renewables. I’ll bet all those calculations of the energy inputs used to make all this renewable stuff don’t take into account the diesel fuel used to mine all the materials (they can be an order of magnitude above conventional energy) … or all the fossil fueled industrial heat used to make all that diesel fuel. I strongly recommend checking out the Twitter threads of B.F. Randall (@Mining_Atoms) and his interview with Chris Keefer:


  134. [Playing the ref- W]

  135. russellseitz says:

    Thanks to astonishing declines in the price of renewables…

    Have they been subsidized by COP’s catering company ?

  136. jacksmith4tx says:

    I installed my 14% efficient 6.7KW solar panels in early 2012. My panels have generated of 104MWh so far and if I can make it to 25 years they should generate well over 220MWh total (lifetime costs of less than 6 cents per kilowatt hour). Plenty to offset the CO2 produced during manufacturing. Recent analysis by NREL has revised earlier projection of 20-15 years to 30+ years at 80% of original production.

    The industry is already producing PV with over 22% efficiency now and should be over 30% by 2030.

  137. Richard Arrett says:


    Do you net meter? Over the 10 years you have had the panels, what was your total power usage, net? I assume you need power when it is dark? Or do you have batteries for nighttime? Just curious.

  138. jacksmith4tx says:

    I do use net metering. I have generated 104MWh so far and have self-consumed about a third of my production and exported the rest. I use the grid at night or when its cloudy. I have a Chevy Volt with a 14KWh battery and use a 2KW DC->AC pure sine wave inverter to power my house when the grid is down. I plan for my next car to have a built-in full Vehicle-to-Home inverter with at least a 100KWh battery. At that point I will be grid agnostic.

    Two things I really like about solar is they are really maintenace free having no moving parts and they don’t need water to operate (maybe a rinse off twice a year).

    *click on my username to see my public solar profile or go to

  139. jacksmith4tx says:

    Correction! I have used two thirds of my generation and exported about 1/3 back to the grid.

  140. Richard Arrett says:


    Nice! Very impressive.

    I live in Minnesota and have a heat pump with four wells which use a closed water circulation system. The heat pump, water heater and basement in floor heat pump are on an off peak electric meter and the rest of the house is on regular meter. So I basically use electricity to heat my home. Last year I used about 28,985 Kw of electricity, which is about 79.35 kw per day. So I was just curious what percentage of your total power usage was supplied by your panels (over the course of an entire year).

    Anyway – sounds like solar is a good investment in Texas. Not sure that would work so well in Minnesota.

  141. Willard says:

    > I’ll bet all those calculations of the energy inputs used to make all this renewable stuff don’t take into account the diesel fuel

    Which calculations, Mike, and what odds would you give me?

    Drive-by done, and next time you don’t put a “source” in front of the stuff you peddle it goes right into spam.

  142. jacksmith4tx says:


    You use a lot of electricity! My 10 year daily average is 26KWh a day.
    I love heat pumps but the biggest energy savings I got was converting my house to zoned heat and cooling (fireplace insert cuts my winter demand). The second biggest saving came from putting my water heater on a timer.

    There is a old saying “what gets measured gets managed”. If you really want to match you demand to supply you might consider an energy monitor:
    Or go all out with a smart panel:

  143. Richard Arrett says:


    My regular meter is about 40 kw per day (average over year). So yeah – my geothermal heat pump, basement in-floor heat pump and water heater use about 40 kw per day to heat stuff in the winter and run air conditioning in the summer. I use much more electricity for heating than for air conditioning (being in Minnesota).

    I thought about solar – but we only have about 4 hours of good sun per day (on average) in Minnesota and then there is the snow on the panels issue. I built in 2007 and thought natural gas was going to go up and electricity go down. Nope – the exact opposite happened. Oh well – that is life. Thanks for the info.

  144. jacksmith4tx says:

    Goto and put in your zip code to calculate how much solar energy in available at your location. Lots of options to tune the results to your needs. Just a 10 degree change in my panels tilt from my roof’s angle gave me 28MW more total lifetime power production and that convinced me to install a ground mount system. Ground mounted systems also avoid the downside of having to remove the panels if your roof needs to be replaced.

  145. I appreciate your efforts, Jack to raise awareness about the benefits of grid tie and off-grid solar arrays. Mine is about 4 MW and I love it. Also installed around 2102 and has passed its payback period and is now just producing free electricity to me. It’s about a third of my power consumption. My average usage is a bit under 1600 mw hours per month for a few years. I think that is the amount that I buy from my pud, I think I would have to work a bit to figure how many mw my array has produced since it came online. I don’t need or want to do that work, I know the system works and it might continue to produce electricity for 80 years from install date according to the manufacturer (who is no longer in business). Solar energy is a clear winner in my opinion. It’s a distributed generation grid and once set up and brought online, it justs sits there and turns sunshine into electricity and creates a lovely partly shaded cover over my front porch. I wanted to put in a system before 2012 but the cost per panel kept dropping and I delayed for a while so I could have more panels installed for the same price, but I got tired of waiting and started turning sunshine to electricity in 2012. No regrets here.

  146. “Minnesotans can tap into solar energy

    Minnesotans are often surprised to learn that our state has annual solar resources similar to areas of Florida and Texas. As consumers learn more about solar potential in Minnesota, demand will continue to rise.

    Advances in technology, declining equipment costs, and financial assistance in the form of tax credits and incentives make solar an attractive clean energy option.”

    “Solar power still accounts for less than 4 percent of electricity generated in Minnesota, but it’s growing fast as a way to reduce carbon emissions from burning fossil fuels. Utility companies in the state are on track to get 10 percent of their electricity from this renewable source by 2030.

    But there are still challenges to developing solar, including connecting far-flung solar arrays to the electrical grid and tariffs that boost the cost of importing solar panels manufactured overseas.”

    There are always challenges. Making and sharing electricity is a complicated social endeavor. Solar energy installations can work even in Minnesota if a person looks into the particulars and is willing to take on the challenges. I always heard that solar would not work in Cascadia because of rain and cloud cover. That turned out to be untrue.

    I am interested and supportive of the idea of the small nuclear reactor idea. My PUD is not willing to even give me a permit to install one here. There is always lots of resistance to change. I think I could operate a small nuclear installation. I already have experience with the solar array.


  147. Willard says:

    Right above Montana, a state that attracted attention at Judy’s recently, Saskatchewan has the best solar potential of all Canuckistan. Here is a small project for a small indigenous community:

    Saskpower has a net metering program:

    I did not know you were a geothermal fan, Richard!

  148. Ken Fabian says:

    I thought the Drake Landing Solar Community in Alberta providing above 90% of Winter heating in a cold climate from Summer solar and borehole geothermal inter-seasonal storage was clever.

    I’m not sure what it would take to achieve 100%. The PV and heat pump combination has emerged as an option now but I don’t know if it would deliver more heat than the direct thermal solar water collectors (on the garages of participating homes) or how costs would compare. The borehole system has high up front costs with drilling the holes a big expense – but having a long service life.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.