Revkin and Lomborg

I was listening to a podcast hosted by Lex Fridman with guests Andy Revkin and Bjorn Lomborg. The podcast was billed as a Climate Debate, but it wasn’t really. It was mostly two guest who seemed to largely agree with each other. Also, if you want to know something about the podcast host, you could listen to this guruspod episode.

One of the things they seemed to focus on was that a key factor in determining the impact of some climate/weather event is the vulnerability of the region being impacted. Hence, one way to reduce the impact of a climate-related disaster is to increase resilience. They also highlighted that a focus on emissions can over-shadow the importance of developing resilience and can let local policy makers off the hook. I have written about this before and do agree with some of these issues.

However, it wasn’t simply a concern that a focus on emissions could over-shadow the importance of developing resilience and reducing vulnerabilities; they seemed largely dismissive of the importance of reducing emissions. It was this kind of attitude that motivated this earlier post, some of which I’ll repeat here.

Yes, of course vulnerabilities play a big role in how much a climate-related event impacts some region and it would, of course, be good to increase resilience to these types of events. However, global warming, and the resulting climate change, is cumulative and probably irreversible on human timescales. Global warming will continue until human-caused emissions get to (net) zero, and the level of warming – and the resulting climate change – will depend on how much is emitted in total before getting to (net) zero.

So, until human emissions get to (net) zero we will be developing resilience to an ever-changing climate. Also, the longer it takes to do so, the more the climate will move away from the kind of conditions human societies are used to. All else being equal, it would of course be better to be more resilient, rather than less, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t serious risks associated with substantially changing the planet’s climate, or that improving resilience will be sufficient to deal the future impacts of climate change.

I would like to say that I was surprised that a “debate” between Andrew Revkin and Bjorn Lomborg would mostly ignore the importance of limiting emissions, but I wasn’t. I should probably acknowledge that I didn’t listen to all of it, but it was 4 hours long and I did listen to more than 2 hours of it.

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71 Responses to Revkin and Lomborg

  1. dikranmarsupial says:

    If only it was possible to increase resilience and work on reducing emissions at the same time…

    ;o)

  2. Indeed. I realise that there will probably be trade-offs, but it’s not obvious – to me at least – that developing increased resilience implies doing less to reduce emissions. Of course, if you’re forced to use a much more expensive energy source to actually implement what would be needed to improve resilience, this might be the case, but it seems that many alternative energy sources are no longer much more expensive than fossil fuel-based equivalents.

  3. Bob Loblaw says:

    Well, when the likes of Lomborg continue to push against any kind of action to reduce emissions, then the only option left is to try to cover our a^H, er, I mean, build resilience to the $%^# that is going to come our way.

    I can’t think of Lomborg without thinking of this XKCD cartoon:

    https://xkcd.com/2368/

  4. I wish we were able to work on two things at the same time, but I have been convinced it can’t really work. We have to prioritize things correctly and get the big dog on a leash and the big dog is carbon emissions. We just need to dig in and drive the emissions down to net zero and then we can look around and see what needs attention next. I suspect that a lot of human beings will travel to more resilient locations as the planet warms and that migration can create issues, so the smart move is to push to net zero, so people will stay put and work on resilience in their spare time right in the spot where they currently reside. That mass migration things looks ugly to me.

    Cheers
    Mike

  5. dikranmarsupial says:

    “I wish we were able to work on two things at the same time, but I have been convinced it can’t really work.”

    not remotely true. I am dieting to reduce weight and I am going to the gym and running in order to get fit. Two related goals, not at all difficult to do both. There is a lot of rhetoric about which thing we should do, but they are almost always a false dichotomy – in the case of the climate often as a means of preventing progress on either course of action by polarising the debate to prevent agreement on anything.

    This doesn’t mean we don’t prioritise, just that it isn’t winner-takes-all and the highest priority completely dominates to the exclusion of all others.

    At the moment, anything we do to deal constructively with the problem is making some progress (e.g. if someone wants to work on reducing their carbon footprint – great! if someone wants to help increase resilliance – also great!). We need to do a variety of the things that are within our power.

  6. There is some anecdotal evidence that individuals can do more than one thing at a time, but in the case of this space for discussion of what we need to do about global warming, the folks who run this site have been clear that in this space, we need to accept that we address CO2 emissions. I used to bring up methane, but I have been persuaded that for the sake of discussions here, it simply makes no sense to suggest that we might discuss methane emission reductions because that discussion would reduce our focus on getting that big dog on the leash. You ran into the same pushback when you raised the idea of resilience. Like ATTP said, “developing increased resilience implies doing less to reduce emissions.”

    I am getting old and lots of blogs have dried up and blown away, including my own, but I do remember times and places where it was commonly accepted that our species might be able to mount multiple plans, like resilience, methane emission reduction, at the same time that we work to get to net zero. Clearly, pushing these secondary ideas implies doing less to reduce the CO2 emissions. It doesn’t make sense to push that message here. It’s like speaking kiswahili in Mobile, it’s not going to work. You need to go to Mogadishu to engage in a good discussion in kiswhali.

    Just my opinion. I could be wrong about all that. (but pretty sure I am right about Mogadishu). I still follow that African stuff a bit as I work to get travel papers issued to the wife of one of my african sons. That young person, Nyandeng, and her son Atem have been stuck in Kampala since the covid outbreak. The embassies shut down and stopped processing papers during covid. They have finally started up again and Nyandeng has an appt on Nov 21st and if things go well, she will have travel papers from this appointment. I have been hoping to live long enough to see Nyandeng and Atem move from Kampala to the PNW. Here is the gofundme site we set up for that: https://www.gofundme.com/f/e3998x-reunite-our-family?qid=59f80b3f251941fed0d0be4b5e70a04b We did get some help there, but I had to dig in to my pocket yesterday for the travel and shelter costs from Kampala to Nairobi. Luckily, I had enough in my pocket to make this happen. Nyandeng’s appt on the 21st at 6 am actually happens tonight sometime because of the whole time code thing. Everybody keep their fingers crossed. Getting through all the immigration processes has been some heavy lifting. I know this travel stuff has distracted me a bit over the past few years and it almost certainly means that my personal carbon footprint is bigger than it would have been had I kept my focus on just one thing: CO2 emission reduction. I don’t know what to say about all that. Everybody these days, likes that “it is what it is” statement. So, I guess it is what it is, right?

    I am really excited today and hoping from good news from Nairobi (where you can definitely engage in a discussion in kiswahili)

    Cheers
    Mike

  7. dikranmarsupial says:

    “but in the case of this space for discussion of what we need to do about global warming”

    my point was that this space for discussion contains people that try to polarise discussions to prevent any progress. One way of achieving this to argue over the “one true way” rather than everybody getting on and doing *something*. Just because people (like Lomborg) argue that there is a “one true way” does not mean it is true.

    ” the folks who run this site have been clear that in this space, we need to accept that we address CO2 emissions. ”

    they don’t appear to do so at the expense of arguing against other complementary approaches, in this case, explicitly so

    “Yes, of course vulnerabilities play a big role in how much a climate-related event impacts some region and it would, of course, be good to increase resilience to these types of events. ”

    You quote ATTP “developing increased resilience implies doing less to reduce emissions.”, however the context is important there:

    I realise that there will probably be trade-offs, but it’s not obvious – to me at least – that developing increased resilience implies doing less to reduce emissions.

    [emphasis mine]

    which seems the opposite of what you seem to imply it to mean, i.e. it is not a given that focussing on resillience implies doing less to reduce emissions. I don’t think it is a given either.

  8. dikranmarsupial says:

    For me the key problem with arguing for resilience is who is going to pay for it. The developed world is generally a lot more resilient than the developing world, and is more responsible for the historical and current emissions. The developing world generally doesn’t have the resources to make themselves resilient (perhaps not had their fair share of fossil fuel driven growth?), the developed world could pay for it, but won’t want to (in the U.K. we have a cost of living crisis already, and many of us who were once comfortably off no longer have the disposable income to do things to help with emissions or resilience for the developing world). So lets argue over strategy instead, which is free.

  9. russellseitz says:

    Watching, one is surprised by how well Revkin and Lomberg get along-

  10. Bob Loblaw says:

    …who is going to pay for it…

    For this, I always tend to think back to the summer I work as a student at a tennis club bar. There was one member that was always wanting to “borrow” a cigarette at the bar. (Hey, it was decades ago, when smokers smoked everywhere.) The bartender used to say that this fellow’s favorite brand of cigarettes was “Opies”. What he meant was “O.P.’s”, which was short for “Other People’s”.

    That’s the case with resilience. It’s fine as long as O.P pays for it.

  11. Ben McMillan says:

    Yep, real question is about who is going to pay. The people who are refusing to pay for mitigation aren’t going to pay for adaption either, especially in someone else’s country, and after they are long dead. Just kick the can down the road.

  12. Indeed, part of the reason why some regions have become more vulnerable is because we’ve simply built things in places we probably shouldn’t. Another is that it can be expensive to improve resilience. So, if a region has struggled to invest in improved resilience, it doesn’t seem likely that wealthier regions are suddenly going to start helping when the impacts of climate change become even more obvious.

    One factor is that there is a fundamental difference between the agreements that are required for mitigation versus those for adaptation. Ultimately, getting to (net) zero is going to need some kind of global agreement. Essentially all emissions will have to stop or be balanced by some kind of carbon dioxide removal technology. Adaptation doesn’t need this. You don’t need a global agreement to improve flood defenses, or decide that infrastructure shouldn’t be built in some part of a country.

    So, maybe a reason mitigation seems more prominent is because it needs this global consensus and, hence, is more prominent when we have COPs, while developing resilience doesn’t need these global agreements, even if it would help if wealthy regions started financing adaptation measures in less wealthy parts of the world.

  13. Hmm. A lot to unpack here.

    First, Revkin and Lomborg probably had their ‘debate’ because more committed members of the climate consensus wouldn’t debate them. Which might be a smart move, considering how committed members of the climate community have fared in past debates.

    Second, no-one is arguing (that I’m aware of) that we have to put all our eggs in either the mitigation or adaptation basket. Have you seen anyone, anywhere, saying ‘let’s stop supporting solar and wind and redirect that support to building sea walls?

    Third, the core of this particular debate is not scientific–it is ethical. Should we commit more resources to saving or bettering the lives of people living today or those in the future? People of sound mind and good will can and have taken different positions on this. AFAICT, a clear winner has yet to emerge.

    So much more to write, but this comment is already too long.

  14. The reason mitigation struggles to get more than lip service is the same reason adaptation is such an attractive option for many. Borders. China spending tens of billions on reducing emissions is just as likely to help the USA as their own situation. Adaptation is to local situations, with a clear cost benefit calculation.

  15. dikranmarsupial, I don’t believe many of your opponents in this ‘debate’ are arguing for a one size fits all solution. Rather the opposite.

    We need a portfolio approach to many aspects of the climate conundrum. From Paul Kelly’s door-to-door approach to Lomborg’s (and Pielke’s) emphasis on investing in innovation to national policies like Biden’s IRA, and yes, even to global initiatives.

    We need them all. Some to change policy. Some to change the political atmosphere. Some to compete with entrenched infrastructure.

    Arguments for a top-down approach seem to come from only one side of the debating squad.

  16. Tom,

    Second, no-one is arguing (that I’m aware of) that we have to put all our eggs in either the mitigation or adaptation basket. Have you seen anyone, anywhere, saying ‘let’s stop supporting solar and wind and redirect that support to building sea walls?

    Yes, there are few absolutists, but it seems clear that Lomborg’s narrative largely dismisses the importance of making substantial emission reductions very soon.

    Third, the core of this particular debate is not scientific–it is ethical. Should we commit more resources to saving or bettering the lives of people living today or those in the future? People of sound mind and good will can and have taken different positions on this. AFAICT, a clear winner has yet to emerge.

    It doesn’t have to be either or. Committing resources to saving, and bettering, the lives of people today will probably need investment in energy infrastructure. That infrastructure doesn’t need to be fossil-fuel based. Yes, there will be trade-offs and maybe there will be scenarios where either continued fossil fuel use, or investment in additional fossil fuel infrastructure, might be the optimal pathway.

    However, as far as I can see, there is no obvious reason why a lot of what is done to improve the lives of people today couldn’t be done using non-emitting technologies. Of course, there are also issues with how the resources required for these alternatives are extracted, and we should include this in any discussion of ethics, but this is not unique to the extraction of resources for alternative energy technologies.

  17. Hi ATTP, I largely agree. A portfolio approach can address both adaptation and mitigation–I think the present day argument is who gets the lion’s share of funding.

    I don’t quite agree on non-emitting technologies to address resource constraints in the developing world. I actually think that whatever gets people access to enough energy quickly is a good idea. If we built in a ‘planned obsolescence factor’ to insure that coal plants in South Africa did not become permanent fixtures.

    I’ve no doubt that that is a controversial statement. But my overall impression of development is that if you provide a population with adequate energy you are 90% of the way there in addressing their most pressing needs.

  18. Perhaps more importantly, a population with adequate access to energy can and historically has become problem solvers themselves, rather than a passive recipient of aid.

  19. If you have followed the Countdown series, you can’t help but be inspired by what has happened in Kenya and other places.

    https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=countdown+ted+talks

  20. Ben McMillan says:

    Adaptation vs suffering vs mitigation is not just an ethical argument, but also depends on the relative cost of these things. Roughly speaking, damages have tended to look worse as the science has improved, but mitigation looks cheaper than expected. i.e. compare Nordhaus’ original DICE versus modern analyses of the value of mitigation.

  21. Tom,

    I don’t quite agree on non-emitting technologies to address resource constraints in the developing world.

    I’m not quite sure what you’re disagreeing with. I was simply suggesting that investing in improving resilience will probably require investment in energy infrastructure, which doesn’t have to be based on fossil-fuel energy. It might be in some cases, but it’s not obvious that this has to be the norm.

  22. Ben,
    Indeed. It does seem as though the more serious impacts of climate change *may* be emerging sooner than expected, but that alternatives are ending up cheaper than has been expected.

  23. dikranmarsupial says:

    Thomas when people stop arguing about how best to solve the problem and get on and do something (or just stand back and applaud those who are doing something from the portfolio) we will make progress. However there is no shortage of politicians and “advisers” who are making the most of prolonging the discussion and delaying action (c.f. Luntz memo). For instance “committing” net zero one day and lifting the ban on fracking the next. The words and actions don’t always tell the same story. There is a dilemma, and denial/procrastination is one approach to it’s resolution.

    “Should we commit more resources to saving or bettering the lives of people living today or those in the future?”

    If only it was possible to better the lives of people living today and those in the future at the same time…

    ;o)

  24. dikranmarsupial, I for one think it is both possible and a moral imperative.

  25. Willard says:

    > no-one is arguing (that I’m aware of) that we have to put all our eggs in either the mitigation or adaptation basket

    Contrarians who argue we do not need to mitigate sometimes argue that we will need to adapt. Why mitigate if the future will be bright and there is no threat? Humans always adapted anyway. Etc.

    There are many other ways to minimize the need for mitigation. For instance, one could try to suggest it will cost too much. Here is Bjorn arguing that reducing 95% of emissions by 2050 would cost 12% of GDP:

    In late October Peng emailed Lomborg saying the modelling results for emissions cuts at 95% “was not well calibrated, and the cost number is likely to be off”.

    “I hope people won’t take the high mitigation cost out of context,” she told Lomborg.

    Victor said Lomborg’s use of the figure was “obscenely reckless” in the context of “serious scientific analysis” and wrote to him in early November.

    In that email, seen by this column, Victor asked Lomborg to “please correct the record and avoid any further misinformation on this front”.

    Temperature Check asked Lomborg why he had continued to use the figure after being contacted by the study’s authors. Lomborg defended his use of the figure, saying it had appeared in the supplementary section of the paper under a heading “Mitigation costs for 95% decarbonization” and that material in supplements was also peer reviewed.

    https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2021/dec/02/climate-cost-study-authors-accuse-bjrn-lomborg-of-misinterpreting-results

    One could also argue any specific effort won’t do much, e.g,:

    the IRA is of course a big bill in many ways, but it is a drop in the bucket for climate mitigation, even if its aggressive targets are hit.

    https://rogerpielkejr.substack.com/p/how-plausible-are-the-emissions-reduction

    Then we could segue to hurricane damages, sorry normalized costs, no I mean adjusted the Junior way and only this way.

    In both cases, raising concerns has been successful career choices.

  26. russellseitz says:

    CO2 emission mitigation by hydrogen is not limited to substituting fracked gas for coal. so great is the variability of the hydrogen to carbon ratio in solid fossil fuels that the global equivalent of half a wedge a year could be saved within coal-dependent economies like China, India and South Africa by mandating the preferential extraction of the highest hydrogen coal measures .

    This has already occurred to some degree in America and elsewhere, because high carbon Eastern metamorphic coals are more expensive to extract than the thickly bedded high hydrogen bituminous coal measures in regions like Wyoming. The possibilities this variability presents have been ignored to a degree that merits a ClimateBall square of its own: Because Moral Hazard

  27. Ben McMillan says:

    There is actually quite a lot of adaptation going on; e.g. planning and infrastructure building in the UK now accounts for quite significant climate impacts. Planning that accounts for climate impact has turned out to be quite controversial in places like Florida, apparently, so the idea that adaptation is politically easy is not necessarily true. It is only easy if it is hypothetical future adaptation as an alternative e.g. to real current-day mitigation.

  28. MarkR says:

    Adaptation will have local support and so will happen anyway IMO. It has many natural constituencies.

    Mitigation doesn’t, plus it’s generally more cost effective and should save more lives. Anyone who wants less suffering should be very pro mitigation IMO.

    For adaptation, some constituencies don’t have much political power. You can look at the Trump administration’s reaction to Puerto Rico getting hit by a hurricane to get a flavour of the “you can go die in a ditch” attitude these groups face. So if you really care about adaptation then I think you should be emphasising these groups. Is that what Lomborg and Revkin did?

  29. I used to post here that we should urge quicker and more radical action because it seemed to me that the impacts and progression of climate change were emerging sooner than expected, but that didn’t get a very warm reception. I think it was often seen as alarmist to mention those ideas or to talk about the fat tail impacts. I have met with less resistance and pushback since I stopped commenting on that possibility. I am much happier now that I have stopped attending to and sharing reports that suggested things may be happening faster than expected. That did me no good at all. As you mention, the alternatives are ending up to be cheaper than was expected, so the transition may be happening almost fast enough to help us avoid the worst of the possible outcomes. That seems pretty good to me. I love the fact that alternatives are happening cheaper and probably faster than expected. I think that is going to make it a lot easier to hit net zero and then start watching the CO2 needle start to fall. I think we may have it made now. I am now just wondering when we expect to hit net zero? We should just make a push and get to net zero, right? We don’t have to do it this week, or this year. We should just set a reasonable time frame and go for it. We can get a lot done in five years. Maybe five years to net zero?

    Cheers
    Mike

  30. jacksmith4tx says:

    Adaptation vs. Mitigation. So where is our technology leading us now, and by extension the earth’s biosphere? I doubt we have the morals and ethics to resist using synthetic bioengineering as a modern variant of the “Final Soultion” scheme. Concurrent with engineering the plant and animal[including the humans] genomes for economic and health reasons the accumulation of multiple emergent environmental crisis will compel us to turn the oceans into giant bioreactors sucking down gigatons of not just GHG emissions but also many of the other 250,000 man-made molecules polluting the biosphere.
    There was a point in time when Homo Sapiens were the apex predator. A few hundred years ago, propelled by technology breakthroughs, we began transitioning to the planet’s apex parasite. Maybe Aldous Huxley was on to something.

  31. I think it’s kind of a fence-straddle technique to mention a potential issue and then negate it softly. Or maybe it’s on the line of NLP, or something along the line of “don’t think of elephants.” It seems effective to me in some profound way. Your emphasis helps, but it’s very different from going to the 2 things at once statement: I believe we can develop increased resilience at the same time we reduce emissions.

    Some might say that the messaging and position are essentially the same, but that’s not obvious to me. In fact, the messaging in one seems very clear and the other seems slippery. I just believe we need to make sure that nothing diminishes our attention or distracts us from getting to the CO2 net zero status as fast as we can. If we can just set a target time to do this, maybe 5 years?, then we can circle back and hit the mitigation, adaptation questions at a moment when the crisis has been stopped.

    I see some of this going on with the COP process where I gather there was a lot of discussion and disagreement about money transfers between nations and I think that may have created a distraction from our primary global task which is getting to net zero.

    Maybe I am wrong about that? I appreciate the efforts to help me understand all this more completely. I think I don’t have the scientific background to really follow the whole discussion down into the weeds. If I miss something important, it may be best to just ignore me. Like Rodney King said, why can’t we all just get along? Excellent question, Rodney!

    Cheers
    Mike

  32. Willard says:

    Imagine that a Broker B* tells you:

    [B*] Mitigation and adaptation are both important and the IPCC WG2 did itself and us a huge disservice by adding mitigation to its focus.

    What function does the first clause serve? As I see it, it serves as plausible deniability. B* would not want to be portrayed as someone who minimizes the importance of mitigation. But but but adaptation is Very Important.

    Of course it is. The WG2 is called Impacts, Vulnerabilities, and Adaptation. Yet the need for mitigation follows what we know from WG1. To portray it as political is disingenuous at best.

    Any resemblance to what a real broker can have said may not be purely accidental.

  33. As far as I can tell, it is Pielke including both tactics while his opponents lambaste him for not concentrating on their preferred tactic. Mitigation is important. Governments, businesses and the citizenry have not only recognized it, they have committed vast resources to addressing it.

    Some of these resources have been effective–millions of solar panels and EV cars. Tens of thousands of wind turbines. Emission caps and carbon taxes in some locations.

    People are not ignoring mitigation.

    It is those begging for more resources for adaptation that get the cold shoulder. Or their own climate bingo card.

  34. the language thing is interesting to me. Take my communications with the US embassy in Nairobi this past week. On Friday, they send email that says, your interview appt is Monday at 6 am. We apologize for the short notice, but we are confident that you can make it to this appt. If you miss this appt, it may be a long time before we can get you on the schedule.

    That was better than the last appt letter we got in June that gave notice of an appt in May. They were confident about that appt as well, but we failed that time. 2 months to get that one on the schedule and completed.

    The language on its face says one thing unequivocally, the real message is quite different. I think it’s important to say what we mean to say with an awareness of the message underneath the language.

    The good news? Nyandeng made it to the appt and now I have to upload some documents that we have submitted earlier that the embassy can no longer locate in the record, and then she and baby Atem may be close to travel mode. This small task of getting Nyandeng and Atem from Kampala to the US has been at the top of my bucket list for a couple years now. So far, it has sometimes felt like Lucy holding the football for field goal, but sometimes it works as expected. There is an ebola outbreak that has moved out of DRC to Uganda, so it’s not obvious that travel will be allowed from Entebbe airport to PDX when travel papers are in hand, but I am feeling good about giving that a try.

    I know that my Dinka sons are all sending $$ back to family members in Africa. I get the impression that Africa does not have a nationalized health care system like the US set up in Iraq after we retired Saddam. Also, there seems to be a rain disruption thing going on over there that is driving food costs up. Not sure what all that is about, but I am happy that my boys can help their African families. Adopting Dinka sons did not turn out to be a profitable endeavor for us, but it is great to have larger group of lovely children and I am pleased that my daughters and grandchildren grew up in a large multi-racial globalized family.

    Best to all,

    Mike

  35. b fagan says:

    Bob Loblaw – instead of thinking of the xkcd cartoon, think about Lomborg’s “think tank” paying him a bit over $600,000 US dollars a year (averaged over the 2017-2020 tax filings online). Of course Lomborg found a chance for a bit of airtime during another COP meeting – it’s what he’s paid to do. Disappointing that Revkin thought it was worth providing the other side of the “debate”, but not completely surprising, unfortunately.

    Lomborg’s schtick is to stack up a bunch of different localized problems, set a dollar amount available to spend in total, and then slip in “or fix global climate change” and spin the money wheel. Then the false dismay that, yet again, climate change is just too costly to be a winner in this round of his game show. Cue the funny trombone Wah-wha-wha-whaaaaa as the loser trudges off again.

    Since his expertise is political science, he understands that the one who sounds cheerful and seems reasonable and appears concerned is the one the audience will want to believe. And to delay replacing fossil, he pretends doing so is all cost and no benefits, and that suggesting otherwise is a sign of not caring about people in need. The fossil industry does the same with their “energy poverty” scare tactics even if the problem people suffer from is high fuel costs.

    Tom, you note that others who understand climate risk fail to “debate” in places like the guy’s podcast. But podcast “debates” are just set up to reward whoever seems plausible and is likable, not to hammer out complex issues and prove them. Lomborg promoted good things (to hide the necessary other good thing of decarbonization) so how could Revkin attack good things and not seem unlikeable? Con men understand this always, and scientists trap themselves by bringing in awkward facts.

    Smallbluemike, regarding mitigate vs adapt, it’s not either/or, they’re two aspects of the same thing. Rebuilding is an opportunity to replace fossil dependencies at the same time, and locales with solar, storage and self-islanding grid ability will fare better after subsequent floods or fires.

    What if repairs to every fire or flood-gutted home in the US replaced wiring and HVAC systems so the house had a heat pump and an EV-ready, two-way power flow ready system? And in developing areas where the grid might not even be there yet, resiliency is enhanced if the local source of lighting and power (and internet via charged cell-phones) is from solar+battery systems.

  36. thanks for this, “regarding mitigate vs adapt, it’s not either/or, they’re two aspects of the same thing. Rebuilding is an opportunity to replace fossil dependencies at the same time, and locales with solar, storage and self-islanding grid ability will fare better after subsequent floods or fires.” I think maybe that could be right. My concern is about losing focus on reducing the CO2 emissions. It’s not obvious, but it might require that we lose some focus on the CO2 mission when we start splitting out attention and thinking about the mitigation/adaptation piece. Those are like the methane reduction thing. I think maybe we should set those aside and focus on the CO2 net zero project. Maybe we will eventually find that circumstances require that we do several things at a time, but for right now, I really hope we can avoid losing focus on CO2 reduction. That is the big dog and we need to drive that down to net zero pronto. Not like this week or last weekend, like the guy at the Guardian proposed. That’s ridiculous. But, I don’t know? Maybe within 5 years? I think it makes sense to be clear about our goals and have a time frame in mind. One thing at a time has a lot of appeal to me now. I really like the net zero thing. Let’s do that.
    Cheers
    Mike

  37. Bob Loblaw says:

    b Fagan: Lomborg’s schtick is to stack up a bunch of different localized problems, set a dollar amount available to spend in total, and then slip in “or fix global climate change” and spin the money wheel.

    Yes. And each “other problem” that is caused by climate change is compared one at a time to the cost of fixing climate, and never added up. Each “other problem” is cheaper to deal with after it happens – but when you add them all up,it is not cheaper than “fixing climate change”.

    If I did house maintenance this way, I’d conclude
    * Painting the bedroom ceiling is cheaper than fixing the roof leak.
    * Replacing a few patches of attic insulation is cheaper than fixing the roof leak.
    * Rewiring a ceiling light or two is cheaper than fixing the roof leak.
    * Replacing a rotten window frame is cheaper than fixing the roof leak.
    * Replacing the bedroom mattress is cheaper than fixing the roof leak.
    * Replacing the living room flooring is cheaper than fixing the roof leak.
    * Refinishing the walnut sideboard is cheaper than fixing the roof leak.

    …but overall, fixing the roof leak prevents all those other things from happening, and is cheaper in the long run. Only by a “divide and conquer” strategy do you get to argue that fixing the roof isn’t worth it.

  38. Tom,
    I always think it’s worth distinguishing between what people say they’re doing and what they’re actually doing. In particular, if someone has to regularly explicitly explain what it is they’re doing, maybe it’s not all that obvious that it is actually what they’re doing.

    It is those begging for more resources for adaptation that get the cold shoulder. Or their own climate bingo card.

    No they don’t, and no it isn’t.

  39. Ken Fabian says:

    b fagan – good comment. Dikran’s and MarkR’s too.

    Both mitigation and adaptation do better with foresight and planning but I suggest mitigation takes more foresight, including consideration of issues that are yet to cause problems, whereas adaptation tends to get done as problems emerge, in the expectation they will get worse and tends more to reactionary than cautionary.

    But I think most of us visiting this site understand that doing less early mitigation increases the costs and difficulties of adaptation and increases the likelihood that adaptation won’t be sufficient. The cumulative and irreversible nature of emissions driven global warming does make mitigation more urgent. Since I have grave doubts about the viability of CCS and/or DAC at scales that are significant – the need to become the largest industries in the world whilst funded by perpetual subsidies, ie a failure inducing situation – the importance of mitigation becomes all the greater again.

    Lomborg’s let the world get richer with fossil fuels then address the problem with better technological solutions later seems to be just dodging use of the solutions we have now. It is another iteration of holding out for the bar too high options and “oh, too bad, we have to keep using fossil fuels until then”. I include holding out for nuclear whilst opposing renewables and (IMO) holding out for hydrogen for transport whilst avoiding commitment to battery electric. And holding out for CO2 capture, including air capture that gives the illusion it is within our reach to bring down CO2 after, so we can keep raising them now.

  40. Willard says:

    Since AT likes the show and I interviewed Matt, here is where our decoders decode Lex « let me speak to Vlad and I will solve that invasion » Friedman:

    https://decoding-the-gurus.captivate.fm/episode/lex-fridman-jonathan-haidt-the-techno-monk-the-social-scientist

    Techno-monk sounds about right, and makes me feel jealuz a bit.

  41. Joshua says:

    In my exoerience, there are quite a few people that argue we don’t need to mitigate out of one side of their mouth, while arguing that we should adapt out of the other side of their mouth, while they argue that mitigation costs to much out of the other, other side of their mouth while they never explain how adaptation would be possible without government intervention which is something they consider theft/transfer from the producers to the takers and which they consider to be tyranny.

    The only thing they are consistent about without contradicting themselves is that hippies must be punched.

  42. dikranmarsupial says:

    “As far as I can tell, it is Pielke including both tactics while his opponents lambaste him for not concentrating on their preferred tactic”

    Funny, what I mostly see is people pointing out his misinterpretations of statistics etc. (difficult to assume these are out of ignorance as people have been pointing them out for years and he hasn’t corrected them) while posturing about the nature of the debate and “honest brokers” etc.

    Can you give a verifiable example of people lambasting him for not concentrating on their preferred tactic?

    “Arguments for a top-down approach seem to come from only one side of the debating squad.”

    Can you be specific about what side of the “debating squad” that is, and give a verifiable example? BTW the “us-v-them” polarisation stuff is doing you no favours.

    I suspect not and this is just yet more provocative rhetoric.

  43. DM said:

    “my point was that this space for discussion contains people that try to polarise discussions to prevent any progress.”

    The Google doodle yesterday was in honor of Marie Tharp.

    “If two land masses were moving apart, they’d split the ocean floor, forming a valley below. Tharp believed she had found evidence of continental drift, but her observations were dismissed as ‘girl talk’.”

  44. Random comment harvest for dikran

    If this is the case (that the recent floods, heatwaves and fires are global warming related), I said, well, then even more the reason to start talking serously about the need for adaptation. Tobis countered with the typical zero-sum talking point, that mitigation (curbing carbon emissions) has to take precedence over adaptation, and that in any event, adaptation was largely a local matter.

    The geographic characteristics are also completely different. Mitigating greenhouse gas emission will have global benefits regardless of where the actions themselves are taken. In case of co-benefits these will mostly be local. On the other hand the impacts of climate change on ecosystems and human systems will vary in severity from place to place. They will also vary with respect to the ability of the ecosystem or human community’s ability to cope (i.e. its adaptive capacity) with such adverse impacts. Some (but by no means all) the adverse impacts of climate change may be reduced by taking advance action (i.e. adaptations), but these will always be at a location-specific level. There is thus an inherent disjuncture between analysis of mitigation (local action but with global climatic benefits and local co- benefits) and adaptation (local in terms of both the action and its benefits/consequences)

    1. Adaptation responds to current losses.
    2. Mitigation responds to future losses
    3. Adaptation alone plus future costs is more expensive than mitigation,
    4. Adaptation without mitigation drives procrastination penalties to infinity.

    But to be fair, most of what I ran into looked like this:

    Let’s go back and look at one of the comments in a previous thread that prompted this current post. He writes: “Adaptation is crucial. It is necessary, but it is not sufficient.”

    In the next sentence, he says: “As Eli says, ‘no adaptation without mitigation.’”

    What does that mean? Well, further down in the same comment, we have some elaboration: “There is a cliche metaphor about adaptation without mitigation: deck chairs.”

    So, in full, I take Tobis to mean that adaptation is ultimately fruitless without mitigation. Fair enough?

    Now, in an earlier comment on that thread, I challenged Michael to think more realistically about the world’s reliance on fossil fuels and the global prospects for mitigation of co2 in the near term. He ignored that in the comment I quote from here and instead mouthed the mitigation mantra.

    So what I take away from this is a guy who is preachy about the future of humanity but less moved by the plight of humans living today. Now, maybe that’s an unfair assumption on my part, I will own up to that. But I’m just going by what he emphasizes in his blog and the moral framework he uses to discuss climate change.

    In fact, I made a more general assumption about climate advocates on the whole based on how little they discuss adaptation in the blogosphere. Given the latest proclamations of AGW-linked disasters, I find their continuing reluctance to talk about adaptation more than a little curious.

    Key takeaway from Michael Tobis: When we say “no adaptation without mitigation” we do not mean that no adaptation should begin before mitigation is agreed to. We mean that adaptation cannot succeed in the long run unless mitigation is agreed to.

    I more or less stand corrected.

    Glad that Keith Kloor has an archive.

  45. Tom,
    Some links would be useful. However, I think I largely agree with what I take MT to be saying. There are clearly benefits now to improving resilience (adapting) and that these are likely to mostly be local. However, if we don’t mitigate (reduce emissions) then global warming will continue and the climate will continue to change. Hence, we would run the risk that in some regions the impacts would exceed what we could realistically adapt to. Hence, even though we should be investing in adaptation measures and that this will have local benefits now, if we don’t pay serious attention to reducing emissions there will almost certainly be regions where these efforts are swamped by the increasingly severe impacts of climate change.

  46. Yes, ATTP–I was a bit surprised. I expected to find multiple rants against adaptation instead of mitigation. In fact, people were much more common sense about it.

  47. Tom Fuller says:

    Well, as that is also my position, I can only congratulate you on your perspicacity.

  48. Tom Fuller says:

    I guess where I get into trouble is when I note that the world has spent hundreds of billions of dollars on mitigation and not a heck of a lot on adaptation, and I think that that is a mistake.

  49. Willard says:

    One could argue that every penny put into infrastructures is a form of adaptation. Infrastructure Outlook estimates that the world invests 79T and that it needs to invest 94T:

    https://outlook.gihub.org/

    Let’s work with more conservative figures:

    The cost of adaptation in developing countries is expected to reach $300 billion per year by 2030. By contrast, global adaptation finance flows were only $46 billion in 2020, of which only $28.6 billion went to developing countries. This is insufficient.

    Developing countries are more seriously impacted by climate change. The world’s 55 most climate-vulnerable economies have already lost 20% of their GDP. There is a clear need for increased climate adaptation finance, especially in developing countries.

    The private sector can help meet this investment gap. Currently, only 1.6% of all adaptation funding comes from private investment — making climate adaptation an untapped opportunity.

    https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2022/11/climate-change-climate-adaptation-private-sector/

    The market could be worth $2 trillion per year by 2026.

  50. Infrastructure spend is normally thought of as bridges, roads, airports, gas and oil pipelines, high speed railroads and the like. The UN says that only 20% of funds dedicated to combat climate change went for adaptation (https://www.un.org/en/climatechange/raising-ambition/climate-finance). I think it should be much higher. Not that it should reduce money spent on mitigation–just that we need to kick in a lot more for adaptation.

  51. russellseitz says:

    Tom Fuller says:
    “the world has spent hundreds of billions of dollars on mitigation and not a heck of a lot on adaptation, and I think that that is a mistake.”

    Some theologians have long viewed Hell in much the same light.

  52. Willard says:

    That hundreds of billions of dollars on mitigation would certainly deserve due diligence, Russell.

    Any idea where our luckwarm fellow got that climate ballpark?

  53. Bob Loblaw says:

    To follow-up on Tom’s claim: ” I note that the world has spent hundreds of billions of dollars on mitigation and not a heck of a lot on adaptation”

    The IPCC produces a glossary, to help maintain consistency in definitions.

    [Source:] https://www.ipcc.ch/report/ar6/wg2/downloads/report/IPCC_AR6_WGII_Annex-II.pdf

    In that glossary:

    Adaptation
    In human systems, the process of adjustment to actual or expected climate and its effects, in order to moderate harm or exploit beneficial opportunities. In natural systems, the process of adjustment to actual climate and its effects; human intervention may facilitate adjustment to expected climate and its effects.

    I guess Mr. Fuller’s definition does not include all the money spent on recovering from climate disasters, beefing up building codes and construction practices to deal with weather and climate effects. zoning to reduce exposure in flood plains, etc.

    A strange world that Mr. Fuller lives in.

  54. dikranmarsupial says:

    “Random comment harvest for dikran

    So what I take away from this is a guy who is preachy about the future of humanity but less moved by the plight of humans living today. Now, maybe that’s an unfair assumption on my part, I will own up to that. But I’m just going by what he emphasizes in his blog and the moral framework he uses to discuss climate change.

    Personally I prefer my variant of Hanlon’s razor, which is that we should take what people say in the best light that is consistent with the observations. Uncharitable charicatures of your “opponents” only reinforce your own cognitive biases and stop you from hearing what they are actually saying. You are aware that similarly negative views could be taken of your own contributions to the debate? I am aware that they can of mine, which is why I like (my version of) Hanlon’s razor.

    Personally, I don’t think it matters whether he is “moved”, the question is whether he is right based on his “loss function”. The problem in the debate is that too few people will explicitly state the values on which the course of (in) action should be based.

    I more or less stand corrected.

    It seems a fairly reasonable stand to me as well.

    I guess where I get into trouble is when I note that the world has spent hundreds of billions of dollars on mitigation and not a heck of a lot on adaptation, and I think that that is a mistake.

    I wouldn’t mind some data on that claim. The Thames barrier is an example of adaption that wasn’t exactly cheap. To say that it is a mistake requires a detailed cost-benefit analysis IMHO.

  55. The annual global climate investment averaged a meager $632 billion per year over 2019 and 2020—15 percent of the $4.13 trillion target.
    https://meansandmatters.bankofthewest.com/article/sustainable-living/taking-action/who-funds-the-fight-against-climate-change/

  56. Chubbs says:

    To put Tom’s numbers in context. Global energy spend in 2022 is projected to be a record 13% of global GDP or roughly $13 trillion. Global energy capital investment is running $1.5 trillion per year. We are spending much more to burn fossil fuels than transitioning away. The energy transition will not be cheap, but once non-fossil infrastructure is in place, ongoing costs could be much smaller than today. That’s why so much investment is going into renewables/batteries.

    https://oilprice.com/Latest-Energy-News/World-News/Energy-Spending-To-Hit-Record-13-Of-Global-GDP-In-2022.html

  57. russellseitz says:

    Willard :
    A hundred billion dollars isn’t what it used to be. Sums once fit only to denominate the cost of world wars have morphed into the net worth of individuals and corporations. Hence the lack of alarm when Kerry committed us to another twelve figure addition to America’s national debt.

    But as surely as few billionaires pay their taxes, billions of peopleabroad in the world donate trillions annually in the name of faith. From tithes to zakat and t’zu chi donations, the world is awash in charitable cash, and there is no surely no object under heaven more universally deserving of it than conserving the climate of the globe.
    Environmental activists at their most secular mayimagine themselves as justified as Caesar in demanding climate taxation and reparations, but few have been so philistine or undiplomaticas to prod their religious allies to cough up.

    Think of all the moolah annually deposited in the world’s Salvation Army kettles, collection trays and begging bowls— the sum of all tithes must surely dwarf the annual budget of climate science, for the world’s full time climate scientists are handily outnumbered by its bishops, of whom there are 5,800 answerable to Rome alone.

  58. Tom Fuller says:

    Mr. Loblaw, yes, I believe the world I live in is strange–I’m fortunate to share it with 8 billion others. It brings me comfort. Just for future reference–is it not the same world you live in?

    As for definitions of adaptation, I did not bring one to this discussion. I used the UN’s. Feel free to take it up with them.

  59. Thomas Fuller says:

    Looking at recent comments–unless I’m sorely mistaken (always a possibility), it seems there is a general lack of awareness of funding totals and flows, for energy, for fighting climate change, for charity.

    The figures are not hard to find, so I might think it indicates it’s not of high interest to some. Given the intense interest in the question of mitigation and/or adaptation, I find that odd.

    Maybe I should revive one of my old blogs. I’m sure Susan Anderson (who I deeply respect) would rejoice–perhaps ATTP would breathe a sigh of relief as well.

    But what would willard do on the weekends?

  60. russellseitz says:

    Tom should consider kickstarting Willard’s campaign for Secretary of Climate Philosophy in President Trudeau’s regime. He ought to hurry, as international trade in used climate politicians is on the upswing.

    https://vvattsupwiththat.blogspot.com/2022/11/hailing-cop27-triumph-coptic-green.html

  61. Bob Loblaw says:

    “As for definitions of adaptation, I did not bring one to this discussion. I used the UN’s. Feel free to take it up with them.”

    I suspected you would take the Humpty Dumpty approach to this:

    “When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less.”
    “The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many different things.”
    “The question is,” said Humpty Dumpty, “which is to be master—that’s all.”

    Feel free to actually provide a link to the UN definition you are using, or quote it here, or explain how it is different from the IPCC one that I pointed to (and quoted).

    Otherwise, I will conclude that you are just playing word games.

  62. Willard says:

    Russell,

    How do you feel about the AC market share projections worldwide? You could buy reports with numbers ranging from 150B to 400B. I looked into the Voltas stock, a subsidiary of Tata. Recession has been hard on it. Perhaps we should subsidize Indian farmers to install one over their crops to adapt?

    And since luckwarm chaps prepare to cry about winter deaths, why not look into heat pumps. Market size projections look smaller, but still south of 100B. The IEA looks bullish on that tech:

    https://www.iea.org/reports/heat-pumps

    Would it count as adaptation or mitigation? Accountants around the world and professional concerns raisers want to know.

  63. russellseitz says:

    Here, to deter further wordgamesmanship by Bob, is UNEP’s “adaptation” definition from the COP27 website:

    “Adaptation refers to adjustments in ecological, social, or economic systems in response to actual or expected climatic stimuli and their effects or impacts. It refers to changes in processes, practices, and structures to moderate potential damages or to benefit from opportunities associated with climate change. In simple terms, countries and communities need to develop adaptation solution and implement action to respond to the impacts of climate change that are already happening, as well as prepare for future impacts.”

    https://unfccc.int/topics/adaptation-and-resilience/the-big-picture/what-do-adaptation-to-climate-change-and-climate-resilience-mean

  64. Willard says:

    Thanks:

    Acknowledging that loss and damage includes, and in some cases involves more than, that which can be reduced by adaptation, COP 19 established the Warsaw International Mechanism for Loss and Damage. Since then, it has been serving as the main catalyzer under the UNFCCC process for enhancing knowledge, coherence, action and support to avert, minimize and address loss and damage associated with climate change impacts in developing countries that are particularly vulnerable to the adverse effects of climate change.

    https://unfccc.int/topics/adaptation-and-resilience/the-big-picture/introduction-to-loss-and-damage

    And then there is the Glasgow Dialogue.

    It is heartwarming to see Junior suggesting we should invest more in adaptation right after Bjorn reassures us that there are other more expensive things to worry about than climate change. Next time they convene, they should either decide to coordinate their messaging, or if their double bind is just too profitable for their careers as concerns raisers.

  65. dikranmarsupial says:

    Looking at recent comments–unless I’m sorely mistaken (always a possibility), it seems there is a general lack of awareness of funding totals and flows, for energy, for fighting climate change, for charity.

    The figures are not hard to find, so I might think it indicates it’s not of high interest to some. Given the intense interest in the question of mitigation and/or adaptation, I find that odd.

    I feel like I am being lambasted not concentrating on Tom’s preferred focus. ;o)

  66. Well, Tom has an amazingly sophisticated read on things. It’s almost magical. It’s not just lambasting, you can also just baste yourself in it. He has done so much for us all on the problem of global warming. I am not sure how to thank him properly. Just saying, thanks, Tom! does not seem adequate.

  67. Bob Loblaw says:

    Here, to deter further wordgamesmanship by Bob

    Gee, Russell. That looks an awful lot like the definition of adaptation from the IPCC I quoted.

    Now, if Mr. Fuller will actually respond to the substantive comment I made (which is why I included a definition):

    I guess Mr. Fuller’s definition does not include all the money spent on recovering from climate disasters, beefing up building codes and construction practices to deal with weather and climate effects. zoning to reduce exposure in flood plains, etc.

    …but I expect I will just see more evasion on his part. He made a claim that not much was being spent on adaptation. So far, it seems that he can’t, or won’t, back up that claim with any sort of reasonable discussion.

  68. Willard says:

    I got to ask:

    A recent report from the consulting firm McKinsey and Company projected that biohacking could be a $1.3-trillion industry within the next two decades.

    https://torontolife.com/city/inside-the-weird-world-of-cryotherapy-biocharging-and-fecal-transplants

    Is this… adaptation?

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