How to invest to fight global warming

by on April 17, 2017 at 1:54 am in Current Affairs, Economics, Law, Science | Permalink

Here is a query from a loyal MR reader:

If you had net assets in the six figures, and were very concerned about global warming (some combination of wanting a good life for your children, and believing human civilization is valuable over a time horizon longer than your lifetime), how would you invest those assets?

Some thoughts I’ve had:

Invest in renewable energy companies: Extremely hard industry to figure out where your money would have most value added. Not easy to invest in Tesla.

Invest in water utilities: a lot of the problems with water are regulatory rather than investment.

Buy a house in an urban center: NIMBYism means that this likely just crowds out someone else, with unclear impact on carbon reduction

Housing ETF: Might have more political impact than personal purchase but difficult industry to figure out.

Give money to politicians: Does money actually impact political results?

Buy a house with access to water and a lot of guns: Not an ideal solution

Quit your job and become an activist: seems to have been moderately effective in recent years.

What non-complacent answers am I missing? How would your answer change if someone had 5 figure assets? 7 figures? 8 figures?

My answer is pretty simple: invest in fighting indoor air pollution in developing nations.  (Here are further research sources.)  The burning of wood indoors, for instance, leads to pretty significant carbon emissions, as does the burning of charcoal, dung, and plant residue.  These burnings are also harmful to human health, accounting for perhaps as many as four million (!) deaths last year, maybe more.  Some of the problem is inadequate ventilation, but also safer and cleaner gas stoves, among other technologies, represent a better and environmentally friendlier option for many of these households.  Pilot projects in India, Kenya, and China have shown positive results.

The nice thing about this target is that you can save lives even if global warming can’t really be stopped.  And rather than (implicitly or explicitly) taxing poor people in poor countries, you are helping them out.  The broad steps one wishes to take are consistent with these locales become wealthier rather than poorer regions.  Here is a paper on indoor air pollution and carbon emissions in Nigeria.

That said, I do not know which are the best non-profits or commercial projects in these areas — could any of you help out in the comments?

Another option would be to continue to apply pressure to Indonesia to limit the burning of their forests: “Indonesia’s carbon emissions from the 2015 forest fires were bigger than the daily emissions rate of the whole European Union, a study reveals.”  This would involve working through international organizations and perhaps NGOs in Indonesia itself, again your suggestions are welcome.

1 Mzungu wa China April 17, 2017 at 2:17 am

Random rich people dumping money into developing countries has mixed record at best. Use the knowledge you already have. Stay home and help out there. Other countries are different, you dont know what you are doing and outsourcing to an NGO is way, way, way, too complacent and probably wont work.


2 So Much For Subtlety April 17, 2017 at 4:51 am

It depends on what he means by “invest”. If he means spend money with no thought of return, then there are some things he can do. He could give money to people who provide oral rehydration therapy salts. The “bang-for-the-buck” factor is probably higher than anything else he might do. Less than a dollar can save a life.

If he wants a return, token or not, he ought to invest in companies making rehydration salts.

And there is a way of getting around the problems of dumping money on the Third World by giving it to people who may or may not be embezzling it. Give it to Mother Teresa’s Sisters of the Poor. They are conspicuously signalling they are not stealing the money or spending it on hookers and coke. They may or may not be doing anyone any good – and as far as I can see they are doing a great deal of good indeed – but they must be painfully sincere in their belief they are doing good rather than well.


3 byomtov April 17, 2017 at 3:28 pm

I second the oral rehydration suggestion.


4 GoneWithTheWind April 17, 2017 at 10:19 am

Invest in an education. We are being scammed by the biggest fraud in history. The warmies have found the perfect scam to allow them to seize power and money at a worldwide level. They will lie, make up data and cover up data to keep their scam alive. What’s next? A gulag for non-believers?


5 Troll Me April 17, 2017 at 12:52 pm

I agree. Political propagandists are much more believable than tenured professors with dozens or hundreds of published papers in their respective fields of expertise.

Also, 40 years ago someone working in that field made some error, therefore every single person in the field is a fraud.

Veritable, 1 is 100.

And black is white.


6 Troll Me April 17, 2017 at 12:55 pm

Maybe not a gulag. Maybe an income tax cut to balance out the small hike to costs of operating your gas guzzler.

But, you know, lifetime enslavement in a concentration camp is quite a lot like a tiny tiny shift in overall household income for those who do not have the mean share of income allocated to these fuel expenditures.

Like, shifting annoyance from the annual IRS exercise to the gas pump. That’s basically like life in prison under torturous circumstances.

Are you a brainwashed puppet or a paid propagandeer?


7 GoneWithTheWind April 17, 2017 at 8:44 pm

Have you noticed how every option the warmies provide to “fight” global warming is either more taxes or more restrictions of rights. This is the world’s biggest scam and the Warmies are either useful idiots or extortionists. Which are you?


8 Troll Me April 18, 2017 at 2:17 am

Well if you’re worried about taxes and restrictions fo rights, then why not legalize weed and find twenty thousand cops something more useful to do?

I choose the brown cookie. I don’t like pink cookies and I don’t like blue cookies. Brown cookie please. My choice.

9 Brian Slesinsky April 18, 2017 at 12:30 am

Yes, this is difficult to figure out on your own, but isn’t that what GiveWell is for? Backing charities with proven results (based on randomized controlled trials) is likely to get you more bang for the buck than a less-studied local charity.

Also, GiveDirectly’s approach should appeal to people who want to let locals decide for themselves how to spend the money.


10 Vangel April 23, 2017 at 8:30 am

What exactly is wrong with a warmer world? First, poor people burn wood and dung inside their homes because they are too cold and want the heat generated by the fire. If we look at mortality rates, we see that far more people die during colder periods than they do during the warmer periods, even in places that are usually warm like the tropics. Then there is the problem with using an aggregate number like average annual global temperature and pretending that it has a meaning when it doesn’t. Does anyone really think that it is harmful if cold winter nights warmed up significantly of if winters are milder and shorter?

From what I can see, this debate is mostly about virtue signaling by people who would rather feel than think. Doesn’t anyone question how ‘scientists’ can reference studies and papers that do not mention the words carbon or dioxide as evidence of consensus? The simple fact is that we are still in an icehouse era and the threat to humanity is still the return of glaciation rather than of the type of temperatures that make life on this planet thrive. Even when we compare our current temperatures to the more recent past we see nothing unusual. If we strip away the ‘adjustments’ and look at the temperatures measured in the 1930s we see that they were higher than the temperatures in the 2010s. Then there are inconvenient historical eras like the Medieval Warm Period or Roman Warm Period. When vineyards were found in areas that are too cold today it is not difficult to conclude that the MWP was warmer than today. When oranges were grown in areas that are hundreds of kilometers north of the current northernmost locations it is easy to conclude that the RWP was warmer.

We need to embrace rationality and stop wasting time and energy worrying about things that we have little control over.


11 GEG April 17, 2017 at 2:25 am

Living Goods does clean cookstoves. They are rated as a “standout charity” by GiveWell.


12 leppa April 17, 2017 at 2:30 am

A team at Lawrence labs/Berkeley helped develop the Darfur stove that has had good results.


13 Anonymous April 17, 2017 at 2:48 am

Global alliance for clean cookstoves:


14 Kyle Fitzgibbons April 17, 2017 at 3:00 am

This (short) book may help with framing some of the answers the commenter was interested in:

They explicitly mentioned indoor air pollution as a huge problem, but also note that there may be better alternatives for investing money.

I’ve also thought about this question a lot and wrote up what I feel is a very extensive analysis of where to spend our energy here:

It would seem things like trade/migration lobbying and/or reducing factory farming may have some of the biggest return and may turn out to also do most for generating solutions or alleviating the problem of climate change. Then again, you could simply donate more to organizations like GiveWell in order to get better answers to these types of questions.


15 Dave April 17, 2017 at 3:07 am

45% of greenhouse gas emissions stem from animal agriculture. If you want to help, go vegan and keep your money.


16 Widmerpool April 17, 2017 at 6:31 am

If the livestock farming is eliminated will the wild animals not return? There used to be 50 million buffalo, now there are 50 million cows, what’s the difference? Maybe we should become vegan and eliminate all other animal life.


17 Patrick April 17, 2017 at 8:23 am

I don’t think the density of animals in the wild is likely to be anywhere near the density of animals in controlled environments with plenty of excess food (ie farms).


18 Stuart April 17, 2017 at 11:06 am

@Widmerpool – I think it depends on the type of livestock. Concentrated Agricultural Feeding Operations (CAFOs) – relatively small plots of land that concentrate a huge number of pigs, chickens – closing down some of these wouldn’t necessarily lead to huge swaths of land where wild animals would likely return to in significant numbers.

Also, you write “There used to be 50 million buffalo, now there are 50 million cows”

I think that’s incorrect, and there used be 30m buffalo, and there are now 96m cows. So that is a big difference, rather than no difference. (cites to primary sources).


19 Geno April 18, 2017 at 1:04 am

It is interesting that from a standpoint of optimal usage of land CAFOs are the way to go. They reduce demand on forest to be cut down and allow farmers to cultivate land that would otherwise have been grasslands.

On the other hand the animals live in deplorable conditions, need insane amounts of antibiotics to ensure survival (something around 90% of antibiotics go to animals in the US), and create terrible water pollution problems when animal waste cesspools overflow.

Back to the debate about cows v buffalo, it depends on the diet of the cows. Cows that are fed corn based diets release more methane than cows fed grasses.


20 Troll Me April 17, 2017 at 1:01 pm

Similarly, the same acre of land for 100 cows can in perpetuity support 100 buffalo.

You’re a genius.


1) Key assumption: a 10:1 trophic ratio. I.e., 90% of energy is lost in transforming at each stage of the food cycle. So 100 units of plant energy becomes 10 units of cow energy becomes 1 unit of carnivore energy.

2) You have 100 acres. You can eat lentils or cows.

Option A: Lentils. You grow 10 acres of lentils, and leave 90 acres to forest.

Option B: Clear 100 acres of forest for grazing, and leave 0 acres as forest.

I.e., 90 acres of CO2 reducing trees, and also not having cows let out all the methane, which is about 20 times worse of a greenhouse gas compared to C02.

Please, if any of that sounds like nonsense to you, try to be specific in explaining which part and why.


21 Vangel April 23, 2017 at 8:31 am

What is wrong with greenhouse gas emissions? What is wrong with markets?


22 Anonymous April 17, 2017 at 3:09 am

Aren’t there more exigent things to worry about for one who wants a good life for his children, and believes human civilization is valuable over a time horizon longer than his lifetime, than unusually warm weather?


23 Ari April 17, 2017 at 3:55 am

Its a lot more than that, especially for developing countries.


24 Anonymous April 17, 2017 at 5:20 am

I am aware of that. Growing population pressure, however, tends to make any solutions infeasible, since any nascent capital (whether physical, human or social) that might have been applied to them is consumed in the effort to support the exploding numbers. It’s never a good idea to ignore Mr. Malthus.


25 Troll Me April 17, 2017 at 1:08 pm

Are you arguing that it doesn’t matter, or that there’s nothing we can do about it?

If you’re worried about population levels, I suggest getting involved in advancement of women’s rights in poor countries. Stuff like being allowed to keep the inheritance, or even own land, which makes it more advantageous for parents to invest resources into their daughters at an equal rate compared to the sons.

But then they might want a car instead of a third child. And then it will be clear to all what a hypocrite most who present arguments such as those made by yourself are.

Or perhaps you are in fact just observing some aspects of reality, and not saying “it’s not easy and it’s not obvious, therefore throw up your hands and do something”. But leading with the call to do nothing suggests to me that this is not the case.

Ever watered flowers at noon in 42C heat? Sorry for the inaccessibility of the scientific literature, but for Americans, that would be 108F. (And sorry to those more likely to perceive this as patronizing. If you feel patronized, I’m not talking to you.)


26 Anonymous April 18, 2017 at 4:34 am

You want to be a missionary, sell your possessions, go over there and preach the Good News advance women’s rights in poor countries. Don’t do it from an armchair here. As for me, I was observing some aspects of reality. I do not propose to tell people of very different cultures how to live their lives or manage their countries. They have to find a way for themselves. Do you think they’re incapable of evolving solutions, whether that be ideas about women’s rights or something else, without your generous help? Aren’t you then implicitly agreeing with the premise of American slavery? If they want to learn from us, let them. But if they all want to move into my home for a solution, I’m not going to like that much, and neither will you. I bet you’ve put your own children into a “good school”, or will when it comes to it.

27 Troll Me April 18, 2017 at 5:13 pm

You stated the problem.

I related one of the most highly effective known ways to address that problem. One with a great number of positive externalities.

You then portrayed me as a hypocrite unless I drop everything and commit my life to such things. I would like to suggest the possibility of some course of action between giving 100% and complete indifference – for example, when someone mentions a problem, to relate one of the most highly effective known ways to address it.

Should we discourage people from relating known effective approaches to stated problems?

28 Alistair April 18, 2017 at 9:59 pm

But nearly all the “extra” heat in the next century just goes into the northern hemisphere, winter, and nights. Doesn’t it? Those extra 1 or 2 degrees over the next century aren’t added to Abu Dhabi at midday. According to your precious general climate models that know the future entire….

Yeah, some of us luke-warmists read the literature and have a healthy sense of variation and not just means. Call me unimpressed if I ask, on an economics blog, for an altruistic rate of return on this climate change investment which is even on the same order of magnitude to malaria controls or rehydration salts.

29 Troll Me April 19, 2017 at 11:48 am

Yes Alistair, temperatures will warm up fastest where all the ice is.

You speak of this as though it’s a good thing by emphasizing that the temperature increases in the hottest places will be smaller than the temperature increases in the arctic.

30 Bob from Ohio April 17, 2017 at 9:50 am

“Its a lot more than that”

No, not really.

There were a parade of horrors that should have already happened, Yet, they did not.

Its unlikely that any of the other horrors will happen either.


31 dalton April 17, 2017 at 11:13 am

Some education is the very best investment to smite the “Global Warming” phantom..
Start with GW founder — Oceanographer Roger Revelle.

Revelle served with the USNavy in WWII and after the war became Director of the Scripps Oceanographic Institute. Revelle garnered major Navy funding from ocean research around the Pacific Atolls used atomic bomb tests. He greatly expanded the Scripps Institute’s areas of interest– and among others hired Hans Suess, a noted Chemist from the University of Chicago, who was very interested in the traces of carbon in the environment from the burning of fossil fuels. Revelle, seeing another government funding opportunity, tagged on to Suess studies and co-authored a paper with him in 1957. The paper raises the possibility that the carbon dioxide might be creating a greenhouse effect and causing atmospheric warming. That small starting point blossomed into the vast political/scientific scam and emotional alarmism we see today around the GW myth. Details of Revelle’s myth-making are quite enlightening to truth seekers.


32 Troll Me April 17, 2017 at 1:17 pm

What does some army guy from the 1950s know about a field that did not even exist until after he was dead?

Does he have some special expertise?

Have you ever taken courses in tobacco company diversion and manipulation tactics? There is some support behind application of criminal law against fraudsters who INTENTIONALLY aim to lead the public astray on such matters of global importance.

Of course, the fraudster in chief has not yet extinguished his daily course of verifiable lies (not even in the range of innuendo or being pretty misleading – I mean total flat out lies) … so relatively speaking, I guess you only look moderately fraudulent.

33 byomtov April 17, 2017 at 3:36 pm

And so you think that thousands of scientists swallowed the paper whole, without any attempt to analyze it, because they realized they could carry out a decades-long scam based on it. Is that what you think?

34 Ricardo April 17, 2017 at 3:46 pm

Exxon’s in-house scientists were researching AGW and publishing papers on the topic in the late 70s and 1980s.

35 T401 April 17, 2017 at 7:10 pm

yes indeed, thousands of “scientists” eagerly swallowed the whole AGW myth … with no serious analysis– because it fit in neatly with their political ideology … and there were billion$ in easy government grant money to “study” it… if one endorsed the theory.

Of course there are thousands of scientists who deny AGW Theory, but there’s no money or media interest in that point of view. Ideology fuels AGW– not carbon or science.

36 giovannidaprocida April 17, 2017 at 9:07 pm

The really amazing thing is that Revelle managed to propagate his “GW myth” over sixty years into the past, by getting Svante Arrhenius to publish on the effect of CO2 on Earth’s temperature in 1896 ( That Revelle! If only he’d left his time travelling secrets to the rest of us!

37 Troll Me April 18, 2017 at 2:37 am

Right. Scientists are in it for the money.

And that’s why people with IQ of 140++ are working as research directors in universities for salaries equivalent to a middling accountant.

Because they’re in it for the money.

“But this one guy who made a bunch of money one time, like not nearly as much as Trump’s “small loan from daddie” but still a totally ridiculous sum of money… OUTRAGEOUS”.

Also, Lying Clinton lied about it. Global warming was concocted by university professors who would rather spend their lives chasing small grants doing useless research.

The problem is this.

In the USA, there are people who actually believe such nonsense.

38 Anonymous April 18, 2017 at 4:18 am

Troll Me, re scientists accepting bad papers: you might want to look into the recently uncovered dietary fats debacle. Don’t think of scientists as saints, because they ain’t. Just humans like everybody else.

39 Troll Me April 18, 2017 at 5:17 pm

There are many many thousands of papers published every month. There will be mistakes.

Moreover, some error in some unrelated field of science is not relevant to the question of whether a 1/20,000 error rate in climate science research warrants trashing the entire field for good.

40 Vangel April 23, 2017 at 8:37 am

How ironic. Near the end of his life, Roger Revelle was not convinced that carbon dioxide was a significant greenhouse gas. He wrote letters to two Congress about his concerns and co-authored a report for Cosmos in which he made it clear that he was not convinced about global warming and urged a lot more debate, as well as a great deal of sound research, before government action of any kind could be justified. When Al Gore saw the report he argued that Revelle was senile at the time and that the original paper should stand as undisputed.

41 Anonymous April 17, 2017 at 3:13 am

Less harmful cookstoves!? That won’t help if the population of Africa doubles. (In fact, other things being equal it will conduce to such an outcome.) Geez, one might think there wasn’t ever any “Essay on the Principles of Population” or any “Limits to Growth”.


42 Gj April 17, 2017 at 6:44 am

How about putting your money in the prevention of unwanted/premature pregnancies, 40 pc of the world total, or basic education for girls? No idea how to do so with a non negative personal ROI at this stage though…


43 Horhe April 17, 2017 at 9:24 am

What do you mean by premature pregnancies? Is it where the mother is too young by our cultural standard? It is true that making women have their first child when they are older leads to a drop in total fertility rate, as we are learning to our ruin, but there might be resistance from the people with whom we would wish to share our misfortune, regardless of the fact that it will actually be good for them.


44 Ricardo April 17, 2017 at 12:09 pm

This is like saying we shouldn’t try to increase nutritional intake among poor people in poor countries because they might become obese. There is often a happy medium between two extremes and the two extremes here are Mali (TFR = ~6) and South Korea (TFR = 1.25). In poor countries, there aren’t even the resources to provide every pregnant woman and every newborn with minimally acceptable medical care and there aren’t enough classrooms to accommodate every child to a minimally acceptable level once they reach school age.


45 Gj April 17, 2017 at 1:05 pm

Having high TFR without minimal education and healthcare is an obvious poverty trap but far from the only one. The World Bank has been promoting the concept of demographic dividends to point out the need for differentiated demographic strategies.

46 Gj April 17, 2017 at 12:58 pm

Setting aside Western cultural standards, which can indeed be at odds with those that are prevalent in many high-fertility populations, though generally also of their local land’s carrying capacity (land fertility) as in Sahelian Niger (total fertility rate of 6.62), this is a major issue.

I used the word “premature” as in “young girls interrupting their studies because they have low access to sexual education and family planning, with lifetime consequences in terms of their health, that of their children, their education and earning potential” among other possible situations. An “estimated 10-14 % of young unmarried women around the world experience unwanted pregnancies” according to a report on Ethiopia ( that also points out that “over half of 19 million women who annually seek abortions in Ethiopia are under 18”. According to WHO, 38 % of pregnancies are unintended.

Meeting this unmet need for contraception is probably one of the most important ways we could avert future environmental crises. The Guttmacher Institute recently got quite some coverage for funding the development and testing of a new “pill for men”. Their factsheet on unintended pregnancies in the US ( is “self-recommending” and shows us that this is far from being another situation of the wealthy dictating what should be done to poor countries.


47 Horhe April 17, 2017 at 5:04 pm

Thank you for the explanation. There is, however, nothing in your toolbox for the social pressure that men in high fertility countries bring to bear on women to raise the fertility rate. They value large families and will resist attempts to bring it lower. The West dropped the ball when they de-emphasized family planning in Africa decades ago as a main recipient of aid effort.

48 Troll Me April 17, 2017 at 1:28 pm

It’s hard to finish middle school when you have a baby at the age of 12.

This is the pathway to 6 or 8 children per household. Whatever nature said before, Malthus says that 2.1 will eventually have to be the max on average.

Also, VERY IMPORTANT! Psychologically speaking (and never mind physical dominance aspects), a 12 year old girl is not in a position to make her own decisions when paired with a 20 year old or 30 year old man). So, she will end up having “too many children”, and is extremely likely to live in an abusive situation where for practical purposes will not be able to make many of her own choices. Especially about having children.

So, while it appears important to you to mention that many aspects of these standards are cultural, you should be aware that there are many extremely rational and good reasons to uphold a full psychological internalization that girls of that age are not to be viewed as sex objects or for their reproductive qualities. Because …. it just doesn’t add up for SO many reasons.

Consider a Marxian analysis of power relations, and then consider what accepting child bridges into modern practices would mean for a) the economy in aggregate, b) society in aggregate, and c) really, most especially this is the most important, for the life of that girl.


49 Horhe April 17, 2017 at 5:07 pm

Interesting thoughts. Thank you. Are there any conceivable policies for lowering the age of marriage for women in the West to promote higher birthrates? At least 2.1? Is there a statistic on how much fertility is likely to increase for every year of age that we reduce the average age of first birth?

50 Troll Me April 18, 2017 at 2:40 am

That’s effective when birth rates are 6 or 8 per mother and per capita income is $10 a week.

When it’s 1.5 and per capita income is $50,000 a year not $500 a year, how about paid maternity leave and easier access to child care, instead of looking for excuses to keep women from getting an education?

51 Anonymous April 18, 2017 at 4:47 am

> When it’s 1.5 and per capita income is $50,000 a year not $500 a year, how about paid maternity leave and easier access to child care
Doesn’t work. If you point me to Sweden and France for a counter-example, I know a couple more things that are peculiar to these two countries that explain their marginally higher birthrates.

52 Horhe April 18, 2017 at 11:33 am

@Troll Me:

While the overall development level is not very high, there is an experiment going on in Romania where the government offer 2 years paid maternity leave for every child, capped at 85% of the salary, which is a departure from the previous policy of capping it at around 700 euro, regardless of salary. It is still too early to tell, but a great deal of extra cost comes from just a few women, who are very highly paid, and there is no indication among the very educated and successful of deciding to have more babies, rather than simply finding it easier to have the first and only. Which shows that your fiscal and other incentives may be insufficient in the absence of cultural developments as well. Or even stronger incentives, but not of a fiscal nature.

53 Troll Me April 18, 2017 at 5:20 pm

If you take a poorly targeted and fiscally very inefficiency example as a point of reference, it is possible that this will lead to a biased view of the potential effectiveness of the policy.

The unreasonable societal burden of paying 85% of income to corporate executives during parental leave (700 euros is too low though, I think) does not constitute an argument against the use of wage insurance to cover the cost of parental leave or offering child care at a subsidized rate (e.g.$10 a day) that enables women to re-enter the workforce.

54 Mark Thorson April 17, 2017 at 9:06 pm

Or The Population Bomb.


55 BP April 17, 2017 at 3:34 am

This company has done some pretty good for-profit carbon reduction projects, including a couple with African cookstoves.


56 Ray Lopez April 17, 2017 at 3:49 am

I thought this was an AlexT post, from the misguided logic: TC makes a rare blunder?? While it’s true that a significant percent of Third World emissions is from wood burning, and it’s true this wood burning destroys old growth rain forests, the logical mistake made by TC is that this burning is a non-renewable energy source, like fossil fuels are. In fact, any wood burned is, if properly done, “carbon zero” since trees grow back, and suck any CO2 their predecessors emitted back out from the atmosphere. Of course, if Third World countries grow exponentially, it’s not really net carbon zero, since populations are increasing, but certainly wood burning is more carbon zero than fossil fuel burning, caeteris paribus.

Source: my extensive knowledge. And btw tapas taste better when cooked with charcoal rather than natural gas I’m told (I don’t really taste a big difference, but it’s noticeable).


57 Persa April 17, 2017 at 7:14 am

Not necessarily, you assume the trees just ‘grow back’, but that is a faulty assumption. Really, they don’t always grow back. Look at this for more details:–carbon-neutrality–debate-continues-to-divide-opinions/


58 Ray Lopez April 17, 2017 at 10:50 am

@Persa-thanks, according to the article there is a 10-20 year ‘lag time’ due to the fact young trees absorb CO2 slower than older trees, so initially biomass may in fact pump more CO2 than fossil fuels. But in the long run the former is more carbon neutral than the latter.


59 Benny Lava April 17, 2017 at 9:19 am

Good call on the authorship. Though I might recommend investing in vasgel for fighting global warming.


60 Daniel Weber April 17, 2017 at 10:49 am

There are often tradeoffs between CO2-pollution and non-CO2 pollution. America uses more gasoline than diesel, and in Europe it’s the opposite. Gasoline has worse CO2 emissions but is much better on particulates. Which is better?


61 Ray Lopez April 17, 2017 at 10:53 am

Catch cancer or save polar bears? That’s the issue. Also coal plants are nasty places for particulates, but only if you work there (their particulate filters are always getting clogged). Hence electric cars > gasoline cars > diesel cars. The worse however is marine fuel: if you ever go on a cruise ship or ferry and stand next to the funnel, it’s probably like smoking a pack of cigarettes from the downdraft, and the fuel they use is the worse oil you can find, for carcinogens and for CO2 emissions.


62 Troll Me April 17, 2017 at 1:34 pm

Fair point.

So that’s where the technical solutions can be relevant.

A more efficient burn is a cleaner burn, which has less overall greenhouse effect and less release of larger particles which are damaging to lung health. But if the design or usage is 99% efficient but people just don’t like it, then that’s not useful.


63 Alistair April 18, 2017 at 10:06 pm

Afraid you get this wrong, Ray.

Yes, they grow back. But in the meantime you have the CO2 in the general atmosphere before it is re-absorbed. So you get warming effect in the interim (several decades). You can easily compare two systems; one were you constantly cut and regrow trees and another where you leave the trees alone. The first system has higher atmospheric Co2.

Incidentally, this is why wood-fuelled power stations can be worse than coal in CO2 to atmosphere effects.


64 Troll Me April 19, 2017 at 11:50 am

Probably at least a few hundred years.

And most of that goes to ocean acidity. Which this year led to massive problems with coral bleaching at the Great Barrier Reef which could eventually lead to major losses which are unlikely to be recouped in our lifetime.


65 kimock April 17, 2017 at 4:16 am

I am surprised that climate engineering *research* has not been mentioned as a possible investment. See e.g.


66 Troll Me April 17, 2017 at 1:41 pm

If there is still debate about the weighting of future costs/benefits …

… it becomes difficult to substantiate the uncertain value of risky investments, themselves for mitigation of things with both uncertain and risky costs and benefits.

I do believe that it will eventually be desirable to have advanced knowledge of geoengineering, and that climate research will constitute the building blocks of that. Hopefully some time after we’ve figured out a way to not be so dumb about much simpler things (technically, yes, but I’m thinking especially politically – an international accord to reduce/increase temperature by 0.5C? between the years 5150AD and 5200AD?)


67 Alistair April 18, 2017 at 10:13 pm

Geo-engineering looks VERY cheaply priced. Or at least assessments of it are. After all, AGW proclaims we are doing geo-engineering successfully now (and we “control” future states to a high degree via CO2 emissions). So it’s a bit off to proclaim geo-engineering to be “risky and uncontrollable” when AGW is “certain and controllable”.

If you think the main weighted cost from AGW is a small but uncertain catastrophic risk, rather than the median cases, then large utility gains in buying cheap insurance are possible.


68 Troll Me April 19, 2017 at 11:53 am

Which geo-engineering?

If I understand correctly, what you assert is that AGW is true, and therefore we should do nothing now that we know we caused the problem?

“If we cause a problem we can fix it” sort of logic?

Some people think it’s better to mitigate problems before they happen. Do you buy the fire extinguisher before or after the fire?


69 Alistair April 19, 2017 at 12:41 pm

> Some people think it’s better to mitigate problems before they happen. Do you buy the fire extinguisher before or after the fire?

No, no….. please, come on, this is an econ blog. This is opportunity cost. If the expected cost of repair/compensation is LESS than mitigation/avoidance, then of course you take the repair/compensate option!

Even if the GCM’s are right entirely, the discounted damage forecasts simply don’t look anywhere near large enough to justify the mitigation spend. Business cases on IPCC projections all basically say “it’s better to take the money and then adapt to (any) damage”; especially when you look at other investment options for the money. The only possible driver might be the “uncertain catastrophic risk” argument….

70 Axa April 17, 2017 at 4:21 am

A not sexy but important issue: energy efficiency

Also, education. People taking decisions should be educated our at least informed.


71 Anonymous April 17, 2017 at 9:36 am

Efficiency (in wood burning cookstoves and electric water heaters) is vital, and often forgotten.

But one problem is that we live in a stubbornly ostentatious culture. There are many more 300+ HP cars on the road than I would have predicted in my youth.


72 Anonymous April 17, 2017 at 9:38 am

I mean, notice how far off the radar energy and carbon footprint are in discussion of Mar-A-Lago trips?


73 Troll Me April 17, 2017 at 1:47 pm

Trump may be an ingrate and a racist born with a silver spoon in his mouth, and a lying idiot with questionable touch with reality to boot. But he is not hypocrite on that front.


74 Anonymous April 17, 2017 at 2:08 pm

It’s not actually “hypocrisy” that changes the climate.


75 Troll Me April 17, 2017 at 2:49 pm

Technically true. But mostly I feel confused and distracted.

76 Ronald Brakels April 17, 2017 at 5:00 am

Here in Australia one of the most cost effective ways for households to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is to install rooftop solar. High retail electricity prices and low installation costs means it more than pays for itself. Before tax or subsidy the median system is currently installed here for under US $1.40 a watt. As one kilowatt-hour of solar electricity in Australia will reduce CO2 emissions by close to 1 kilogram and a 5 kilowatt rooftop solar system will generate an average of around 20 kilowatt-hours a day, such a system can reduce emissions by over 7 tonnes per year.

As most of the value of rooftop solar is from avoided grid electricity use rather than solar electricity sold to the grid, rooftop solar is less affected by the decline in midday electricity prices that results from expanding solar capacity. Also, by reducing electricity prices during the day it is more damaging to the economics of carbon intensive coal generation than gas, as natural gas generators find it much easier to shut down during times of low prices.

The return on rooftop solar in the US is not as good. This is because of lower retail electricity prices and higher cost of installation rather than differences in quantity of sunshine. While Australian deserts get plenty of sunshine, Australian cities are built in the cloudier parts of the continent. Despite its currently higher cost in the US, I suggest anyone wanting to reduce their carbon emissions look into it. US installation costs are coming down and apparently there can be incentives available depending on location.


77 So Much For Subtlety April 17, 2017 at 5:04 am

So tell us about how great renewables are working out in South Australia Ron.


78 Ronald Brakels April 17, 2017 at 5:47 am

Very well thank you.


79 So Much For Subtlety April 17, 2017 at 8:04 pm

You mean a struggling rust belt economy managed to cope with, what is it now?, two state-wide complete power shutdowns lasting several days with no adverse economic effects?


80 Ronald Brakels April 18, 2017 at 8:06 pm

I see what you are trying to do there, So Much For Subtlety. You are trying to suggest that because South Australia is mostly fossil fuel powered, fossil fuel generation is unreliable.

Well, let me tell you, when we had the state wide blackout in September it was the result of the largest storm of the century with multiple tornadoes that tore down power lines and bent over transmission towers. That stressed the entire grid and while every fossil fuel power plant shut down, all renewable generation did as well. So if fossil fuel energy is unreliable, so is renewable energy.

Like most South Australians, my power was only off for about 4 hours, and that’s all the power disruption I’ve experienced since September. Sure, some people lost power during storms in December and some lost power during a heatwave when there was a 100 megawatt shortfall and 250 megawatts of gas generation capacity was left idle at one power station and 120 megawatts at another power station strangely had to have maintenance done during the middle of a heatwave. And a relatively small number of people lost power for a while when the Heywood interconnector that was mostly supplying fossil fuel generated electricity broke down.

But to imply that fossil fuels are unreliable because of this rather than severe weather events stressing the system, combined with generating companies gaming the system to rise prices in an artificial market with too few players and incompetent grid management, is simply unreasonable.

81 Troll Me April 17, 2017 at 1:49 pm

Many areas of the USA could do very well with these approaches.

An especially low-tech and highly cost effective solution involves water heaters on the roof. And really, you don’t spend much time looking at your roof, do you?

But electric solar would be extremely practical for significantly expanded usage in many areas of the USA.


82 Michael S. April 17, 2017 at 5:26 am

An autocrat takes power in Turkey — the German word is “Machtergreifung” — and some people worry about the fine details of signalling. Yes, pretending that global warming will be our downfall, while the retreat of democracy is fine, IS signalling.

The main difference to 1933 is that Erdogan did the “Reichstagsbrand” and the “Gleichschaltung” first. That means we’re further down the process than you might think


83 Axa April 17, 2017 at 8:06 am

Indeed, Nazi’s had lebensraum, Erdogan has “hayat-alani”…….the same damned living space excuse for conquering neighbors.

The good thing is that Erdogan fired the intellectual Pan-Islamist Davutoglu and he’s on the way of becoming just another banana republic dictator.


84 Bob from Ohio April 17, 2017 at 9:46 am

The main difference to 1933 is that Turkey is not Germany.

Germany was a major industrial power in the heart of Europe. Turkey is a backwater.

What is Turkey going to do, invade Syria and Iraq? Greece?

Its a disaster for the minority of decent people in Turkey but that is all.


85 The Anti-Gnostic April 17, 2017 at 12:48 pm

Not very nice to refer to a fellow NATO member and nuclear weapons host as a backwater.


86 Axa April 17, 2017 at 1:23 pm

Well that backwater country has occupied half of Cyprus since the 70s. Greece spends billions in their navy because of fears of Turkey.

This qualititative research on Turkey is quite informative, they are expansionist-level crazy

In Davutoglu’s pan-Islamist imagination, Bosnia and Albania should be regarded as ‘natural allies of Turkey’, and the Muslim population of the Balkans are the ‘most important elements of Turkey’s Balkan policy’. Characterising Bosnia-Herzegovina as a ‘political, economic, and cultural outpost of Turkey in Central Europe’, Davutoglu boldly defines the societies of Bosnia and Albania as ‘the remnants of the Ottoman Empire whose fates are tied to Turkey’s regional power and hegemony’.

But his pan-Islamism particularly focuses on the Middle East, which he claims has a geopolitical potential that can only be realised by ending the separation of its nation-states.
According to Davutoglu, Turkey has an important role to play in this process of unification. Ankara has to cherish the Ottoman legacy in the region just as the Soviet Union did that of the Russian Empire, dominating Eastern Europe, the Caucasus and Central Asia. Contending that ‘geopolitical realities are not affected by ideological differences and regime changes’, Davutoglu states that ‘Turkey is now obliged to become a “political centre” that will fill the power vacuum which emerged after the liquidation of the Ottoman Empire’. He sees the core values of the Middle East as being the unity furnished by Islam and the historical legacy of the Ottoman Empire.


87 Troll Me April 17, 2017 at 1:51 pm

I’m pretty sure that humanity, in the collective sense, is more than able to take on more than one thing at a time.

Would two issues in the same generation be overwhelming?


88 Will April 17, 2017 at 5:32 am

What if you held the exact opposite view — where would you invest?


89 Todd K April 17, 2017 at 6:32 am

If trying to maximize hot air, your Representative seems like a good choice.


90 Jason Bayz April 17, 2017 at 9:53 am

Beachfront property in Malibu.

That is, if you believe that an event people believe will happen in fifty years will affect the price today.


91 Troll Me April 17, 2017 at 1:52 pm

Not “event” in the singular, but higher expected damage for most weather-related events.


92 Alistair April 18, 2017 at 10:21 pm

OK, so it’s You vs Warren Buffet. I know where my money is.


93 Troll Me April 19, 2017 at 11:54 am


That’s the side of the argument I just took.

94 TallDave April 17, 2017 at 3:35 pm

You could short carbon credit markets, except most of them have already collapsed.

You could try insuring against climate change, but that’s chancy because virtually anything can be attributed to climate change, and the politicians and courts may not side with you.

The best investment, of course, would be a well-defined and rigorous temperature or sea level prediction market, but no such markets yet exist, and for obvious reasons they probably never will.


95 Troll Me April 18, 2017 at 2:43 am

You could start a sea level prediction market tomorrow if you wanted to.


96 Bill April 17, 2017 at 5:45 am

Ag economist neighbor who travels the world has done work with improving and introducing solar ovens in Africa, with success, reducing the amount of wood harvesting in arid climates.

Right now he is doing work with ag mechanics on a solar power walk behind personal tractor, basically a high end roto tiller, fitted with a high torque electric motor.


97 Blaise April 17, 2017 at 6:12 am

I read somewhere that investments in girl education and family planning are the most cost effective ways to fight global warming. Nigeria would be a good candidate.

If you’re American, one good way to help I think would be to become an activist and try to change US attitudes to global warming. Given the size of the US and its influence, shifting US policy would be a big win. US public attitude to global warming is one of the major bottleneck.

Don’t invest in Tesla. They’re overrated and not the solution.


98 Commenter1 April 17, 2017 at 7:03 am

I’ve got a few ideas. Lobby for a carbon tax. Ask your local representative to consider road pricing or a congestion charge. To reduce your personal emissions as much as possible, walk or cycle to work and don’t fly. Obviously your personal impact will be limited at best.


99 Alex April 17, 2017 at 7:41 am

Lobbying for a carbon tax is pretty much my bet


100 Bryce April 17, 2017 at 9:52 am

+1 for carbon tax


101 Steve Sailer April 17, 2017 at 7:07 am

David Geffen sold his house on the beach in Malibu and bought a giant yacht.


102 Johannes Ackva April 17, 2017 at 7:07 am

I’ve addressed this question in the context of a presentation at Imperial College recently:

I would think that investing towards highly effective mitigation strategies that are neglected for political / ideological reasons seems most likely to be very effective.

From my analysis, these investments would fall into two groups:
a) Oppose energy tribalism: The green movement and much of our climate change and energy discussion is full of unconstructive conflict between adherents of different energy technologies. This could mean either supporting organizations that are explicitly calling for multi-technology solutions or for organizations that advocate for relatively neglected technologies — e.g. Weinberg Next Nuclear ( or the Center for Carbon Removal (

b) Support energy innovation. There’s a large danger of lock-in into current day low-carbon technologies given that technological innovation enjoys little support among many most concerned with climate change (“techno fix” is a derogative term) and that current-day low-carbon technologies profit from aggressive policies towards their increased deployment. That could mean supporting organizations focused on energy innovation, the above two would qualify but also organizations like the Energy Innovation Reform Project ( or the Breakthrough Institute ( or organizations focused on specific advanced techs that are neglected (could also be advanced biofuels if uncomfortable with nuclear and CCS; see e.g. here


103 Troll Me April 17, 2017 at 1:56 pm

Support low carbon by industry-wide incentives, not company-specific preferences.

That would feel like “little support” if we were to talk about your particular project. Because it’s also support for every single organization you compete with.


104 chuck martel April 17, 2017 at 7:10 am

I’m pretty upset with the evident lack of concern my own forebears had for the future of their children, as no doubt all of us are. Construction of carbon-spewing power plants and factories, steel mills, for instance, have degraded the standard of living of all of us through the years. Paving over vast acreages of the country so families could make their vacation trek from central Illinois to Disneyland and other non-essential travel has increased the earth’s temperature measurably. Just the parking lots surrounding a major shopping center absorb the heat of the sun that once provided the energy for the growth of daisies and dandelions. What were they thinking?


105 prior_test2 April 17, 2017 at 7:25 am

I’ve got mine, you are on your own?


106 Troll Me April 17, 2017 at 1:59 pm

If one piece of chocolate is good, why not a million pieces of chocolate?

If more widgets can be produced using old inefficient technologies, then why on earth use new and more efficient ways? After all, the old ways worked too.

The only alternative to SUVs at 10 miles to the gallon is to return to the wild and hunt with primitive spears.


107 JJ April 17, 2017 at 7:14 am

Is the real estate market structurally harder to short in the long run? And if so, would that explain my parents’ real estate values in coastal South Florida? My father brought it up while teasing me about economics during my Passover visit and it’s still gnawing at me.


108 Alex April 17, 2017 at 7:32 am

This misses the point. It’s like 80,000 Hours suggesting giving to Cool Earth. Global warming is a coordination problem. Individual actions don’t matter. Policy does.


109 derek April 17, 2017 at 7:36 am

Invest in fracking. The natural gas made available through this technology has had more real effect on carbon emissions than almost any other alternative.

There are real and hard technical difficulties to overcome. What technology would get people out of aircraft? How about buy up properties along routes where high speed rail could make a difference?

As for all those schemes for fixing something far away, remember that every time you fly over there to figure out how to fix things you are likely generating more emissions than you could reduce by your efforts.


110 ChrisA April 17, 2017 at 8:02 am

Exactly, also maybe LNG plants instead of fracking. Huges gains could be made by just moving away from coal.


111 The Other Jim April 17, 2017 at 9:23 am

The entire Global Warming Sham was created to get to you give money to Dem politicians and their donors.

So, if you’ve fallen for it, the best way to prove that you are Truly Concerned and not just another Useless Partisan Dope is to give your money to a hydraulic fracturing company.

I love it. It’s For The Children, after all!


112 Anonymous April 17, 2017 at 9:45 am

Or, the shoe could be completely on the other foot.


113 Troll Me April 17, 2017 at 2:01 pm

If you ignore that more energy is used at lower prices, then this is certain to be correct.

Maybe we’re just wasting stuff faster, but the stuff that is being wasted faster is emitting less CO2 per unit output.


114 AlexA April 17, 2017 at 8:05 am

Become involved in and donate to a political party that has a large supporter base and supports strong national and international action on climate change.
In the case of the UK, Australia or US this is unlikely to be a Green Party, but the centre left party moving to a more populist and working class Left
Next step, win the election.
Next step, implement large reduction targets, RE jobs programs, education programs on energy efficiency, stringent emissions standards in a range of industries, and funding for RE research and commercialisation.
Next step, win and repeat.


115 Troll Me April 17, 2017 at 2:02 pm

You’d think that conservatives would be more supportive of conserving things …


116 Celia April 17, 2017 at 8:20 am

The Copenhagen Consensus has published guides for spending, “comparing the amount of social, economic and environmental benefit per dollar spent on pursuing different targets”. Energy and Climate Change are included.


117 Tim Fitzgerald April 17, 2017 at 8:28 am

For people whose basic economic needs (water, food, clothing, shelter, etc.) are not being met, climate change is a non-problem. If you want the global poor to share your concern then you need to make thise people the global not-poor.

How to invest? If you want to make it a grant put all that money into KIVA. These micro-loans are effective, free from corruption, and are almost always paid back.

If you want to invest, buy a cheap emerging markets ETF like VWO or IEMG.

Save the world? Elevate the poor.


118 Troll Me April 17, 2017 at 2:06 pm

What if the 80% of your basic needs that you CAN satisfy rely on access to land that will be flooded in 20 years. And you live in a system of property rights where it will not be possible to access other land.

Or if you’re farming in an areas where summer heat stress events are now at 39C and will instead by at 40.5C?

Tell us how it doesn’t matter to these people.

The most vulnerable of the vulnerable.

The global poor are not living in downtown Metropia with their hand out. Very often, they live in places which imply for practical purposes that it is precisely the global poor, who do not have capital resources needed to adjust or move, who will face the brunt of costs of global warming.


119 Tim Fitzgerald April 17, 2017 at 3:57 pm

All the hyperbolic catastrophism in the world doesn’t change the calculus. 100 years on. Fifty years on. Next year. Next week. If you can’t feed yourself, your wife, your kids then climate change is an abstraction.

If you want people to look beyond the time horizon of their next meal then you need development and economic growth.


120 Troll Me April 18, 2017 at 2:47 am

So .. if you can feed your kids next week. And next year. And already have the college fund sorted out … (for example …)

Then why on earth is there such a thing as anyone having any possible need to lecture people that the people in the conditions you describe are often in a very bad position to make that happen.

And increased damages in the relevant regions certainly will not help with the capital accumulation needed for development processes that you allude to.


121 Joseph Teicher April 17, 2017 at 8:32 am

Why is it not easy to invest in Tesla?


122 Anonymous April 17, 2017 at 9:44 am

Tesla served a great purpose. Musk probably should get most of the credit for bringing back the electric car. But now that it’s a “next big thing” everyone is in on it, and I’d bet on established producers-at-scale, like Toyota or GM.

(Still, from a net carbon standpoint every family having a Prius is better than 10% having a Volt or Tesla. It does more to improve aggregate efficiency.)


123 Daniel Weber April 17, 2017 at 10:35 am

Every time someone bets that the traditional automakers would be able to outproduce Tesla, Tesla is still outproducing them. They have spots #1 and #4.

I wonder if Musk is someone producing at superhuman levels and the rest of us are human, or if he is producing at human levels and the rest of us are just complacent lumps.


124 Anonymous April 17, 2017 at 10:50 am

Tesla is not outproducing “them” in aggregate, only (barely) leading vs the Volt. And they are experiencing growing pains as they approach actual production volumes.

(My skepticism is reinforced by the kid’s report that their friend’s Tesla “is always in getting fixed.”)


125 TallDave April 17, 2017 at 3:23 pm

The correct question is: how profitable are they without subsidies?

126 Anonymous April 17, 2017 at 3:35 pm

That too.

127 Bob from Ohio April 17, 2017 at 9:48 am

I suggest flushing the money down the toilet for all the impact it will have.


128 Troll Me April 17, 2017 at 2:08 pm

Thanks for the solutionist thinking.


129 wiki April 17, 2017 at 10:24 am

Lobby against ineffective/counterproductive environmental rules at home (assuming the reader is in the developed world). This has two beneficial effects. One is that it stops what is de facto inefficient regulation of US/EU industry, thus promoting the imports of goods from countries that have worse records on the environment. Two, it raises economic prosperity in an environmentally friendly way, thus increasing our capacity to make future sacrifices to cope with any unanticipated problems in the environment.

Classic example of bad regulations hurting not helping are the various CAFE standards which are routinely criticized by experts on the left and the right. Others include the supports for corn based ethanol combined with tariffs/prohibitions on imported ethanol from Brazil, etc. Also, a lot of the recycling movement leads to waste being shipped to China for processing where it is reimported as low quality recycled paper and similar products. Whoever thinks that paying to transport garbage to China and have them sort and recycle the mess (given their famously “clean” standards) is good for the environment should have his/her head examined.

And of course, this avoids the problem of dealing with funds/orgs that have a very very mixed record (I’m being generous here) at promoting good in the Third World.


130 Troll Me April 17, 2017 at 2:12 pm

If not CAFE, then which regulatory approach to promote transportation efficiency in a country that will give up the keys to their gas guzzling personal vehicle on their deathbed?


131 Sandia April 17, 2017 at 10:32 am

Don’t have more than 2 kids, preferably none. Donate money to zero population growth organizations. Lots of benefits there besides the somewhat uncertain problem of carbon.


132 Daniel Weber April 17, 2017 at 10:36 am

I encourage this.

Not because I believe in it, but because the sooner the ZPG people are filtered out of the gene pool, the better.


133 Abdullah April 17, 2017 at 1:36 pm

I agree. Childlessness is against the will of Allah.


134 Jacob Kearns April 17, 2017 at 10:33 am

Start a company that develops renewable energy power sources or energy conservation products. Quit your job and work below market rate for a similar type company. There is a lot of low hanging emission cuts held up by regulation, ex corn ethanol, lobby against those things.


135 Chip April 17, 2017 at 11:03 am

Invest some time in researching the issue.

Start with Climate Audit. Steve McIntyre should be famous for his work dismantling the statistical foundations of Michael Mann and other climate scientists who have largely shaped public policy.


136 Troll Me April 17, 2017 at 2:18 pm

Among some 20,000 studies published in the last decade, one of them involved potentially intentional manipulation of data.

No special expertise is demonstrated by the fact of parroting concerns about the situation. The error is known and will not be repeated. Opportunists in line for tobacco-style diversion and manipulation funds are not a respectable source of perspective on the question.


137 Chip April 18, 2017 at 1:58 am

One? Potential?

And Michael Mann just testified before Congress as an expert.

Since shifting my views on climate and becoming bit of a hobbyist in the issue, one of the most striking things for me is how little the AGW activists know. It’s 99% fervour and 1% knowledge.


138 Troll Me April 18, 2017 at 2:49 am

Literally one. Yes.

Hard to believe, considering the kerfuffle.

If you have qualms about methods in some other papers, please write a paper about it and get your Nobel or something.


139 Stuart April 17, 2017 at 11:12 am

Why not heed Bill Gates’ example and invest in companies creating plant-based meats or cell-cultured meat? Memphis Meats, Impossible Foods, Hampton Creek, Beyond Meat. This would could greatly curb greenhouse gas emissions. Especially with the rise of meat-eating in China and India.

The co-founders of Twitter are also investing, I believe out of concern for climate change as well.

Here Gates talks about his reasoning here and how he had a “chicken” taco without being able to tell there was no chicken in it.


140 John April 17, 2017 at 11:38 am

Why should we fight global warming in the first place?


141 Troll Me April 17, 2017 at 2:23 pm

At least slow it down so we have more time to adjust without screwing over too many people.

Also, the people who are going to get most screwed are already usually the poorest and most vulnerable. So it’s really unfair to do nothing.

If you support AGW-specific immigration allowances, e.g., for historical emitters to take in coastal populations or island populations from countries where there will literally be no space for them (as opposed to your lame “first world problems” complaints you might bring to the conversation), then perhaps a “do nothing about AGW” could still be respectable?


142 Larry April 17, 2017 at 11:49 am

The only way to slow climate change is to come up with cheap, clean energy. The only serious answer there is some kind of nuclear power, preferably fusion. If we had that, the world would jump on it and stop burning things for power. Without it, there is no chance of stabilizing climate. Invest accordingly.


143 john April 17, 2017 at 12:10 pm

Invest in informing people that their lawnmowers (or those of their lawn maintenance service) is a greater source of pollution than their cars is these days. Invest in a company that makes CNG/LPG powered lawnmowers or conversion.


144 Troll Me April 17, 2017 at 12:31 pm

My understanding is that the main impediment on this front (in terms of what organized efforts there are) is that people are too focused on pushing a technically superior product that people simply don’t want to use instead of looking for solutions that are superior to those used at present and also technically better.

Also, if you want someone to use a cooking method that is more energetically efficient, it must take into consideration that they will need to be able to access the required fuel. Wood can be collected. Kerosene costs money, on markets, which requires market income, which they may not have.

It literally might be worth it to provide a $5 a month fuel giveaway in the millions or maybe even billions to help this move to more advanced and more efficient cooking methods. But instead we push solutions that are 2.2 times better which use fuels that require market income without wondering how they will get that market income, instead of solutions that are 1.5 times better or 2 times better which use fuels that they can access regardless of whether any market income was incoming this week or month.


145 Borjigid April 17, 2017 at 5:45 pm

Do you know if countries that currently or formerly subsidized fuel to an absurdly low price are less likely to burn wood indoors? I believe that both India did this until quite recently, and it is also one of the countries that Tyler mentions as needing to produce less indoor pollution.


146 Troll Me April 18, 2017 at 2:59 am

Maybe it’s a bad idea.

But if they save an few hours a week in wood collection time per household, maybe this would pay sufficient returns to afford the alternative in the long run?

I wasn’t thinking unit subsidies. I was thinking something like xL kerosone handouts per family in targeted regions. Different story from 30% discounts on gasoline consumption across the board nationally, which mostly benefits wealthier individuals.


147 Troll Me April 17, 2017 at 12:31 pm

1) Don’t try to beat the market and pick the right renewables winner. Get a fund which specializes in this.

2) If there is much demand for that, Shell and the other giants might see an interest to spin off or separate their renewables efforts in a manner that would allow them to attract capital which could not otherwise be attracted for their dirtier lines of business.

In the meantime, it remains impossible to put your money where your mouth is and get behind a proven long-term winner/survivor at the same time.

3) Housing: Why not condos?

4) GET A SMALLER CAR!!!! (And be less confused about why American cars are not welcome in many foreign markets which are less supportive of VOLUMINOUS waste in personal transportation habits.) (Note: It’s not even an investment a lot of the time. Very possibly, it will save you money, which you can invest in gree ETFs.)


148 Troll Me April 17, 2017 at 12:35 pm

On Indonesian forests: Apparently a relevant share is related to palm oil plantations.

So some recommend to not buy products with palm oil. Which is much different from coconut oi/butter, which is supposed to be quite healthy. Others promote boycotts of companies involved in this supply chain, for failure to enforce standards throughout their suply chain.


149 Butler Reynolds April 17, 2017 at 12:36 pm

I think that focusing on the 3rd and 2nd world is a losing approach. Instead of focusing on dirt poor people in Africa or Tuscaloosa, one should invest in practical green energy technologies for rich people that could actually make a difference if widely adopted. These products need to make the lives of rich people better or at least make them feel good about themselves.

Like the DVD player example, as rich people use buy them the technologies could become cheaper and more widespread.

A counter-example to this trickle-down approach to introducing technology might be Sear Toughskin jeans. I don’t think I ever saw rich kids in Toughskins.


150 Troll Me April 17, 2017 at 12:41 pm

Most future energy growth will come from those people.

Also, dollars for cents it’s a good return on investment.

The issue is that they simply do not use the technically superior methods even when the equipment is given to them for free and they know exactly how to use it. Call it dumb if you want, or be a little more sympathetic and realize you probably do a lot of the same things. Have you replaced all the incandescent light bulbs yet? Some people resisted vociferously. If you are one of these people, I think you can understand a preference to cook over fire than to use some newfangled contraption that only operates when filled with fuel that requires cash-money-market-goods (e.g., kerosene).


151 Troll Me April 17, 2017 at 12:38 pm

Maybe a $100 cash prize for the best solution, offered to one person in every single sub-provincial jurisdiction in Africa and India? Followed by a series of event-costs-covered runups leading to a patent, some venture capital and a team behind the person?

$100 per village

$1000 per province.

$10,000 per country

And an investor-backed support team for the winner.

Or get some Ivy league folks to worry about the decimal places in technical efficiency?


152 Bryan Willman April 17, 2017 at 1:46 pm

I have direct experience with clean cookstoves – as a founding shareholder, for a long time board member, and many times supporter in financial and physical ways, Burn Design Lab and Burn Manufacturing.
Making a stove that hugely reduces fuel consumption and therefore lowers CO2 burden is doable.
Making it cheap enough that the customer population (who are REALLY poor) can afford it, while not going bankrupt yourselves, is very hard.
But they are still at it. The two orgs linked below are separate, but have close historical ties.


153 jdm April 17, 2017 at 2:54 pm

These guys

claim that wood for cooking and heating account for 2% of global CO2 emissions. Does that sound pretty significant? Cleaner fuels and
stoves are a huge win for public health but are not going to do much to reduce carbon emissions.


154 Troll Me April 17, 2017 at 3:46 pm

2% of a big number is a big number.

There are also many externalities where solutions on this front are consistent with advancement in many others. For example lung health. Time savings from wood collecting. Many others ….


155 Alistair April 19, 2017 at 12:46 pm

With “wood cooking and heating”, health damage from indoor particulate pollution dominates the econ damage from CO2 effects.

Move to gas for home cooking. Fit proper wood stoves. Build coal power plants. Get rid of indoor biomass burning ASAP; it’s a public health disaster.


156 TallDave April 17, 2017 at 3:11 pm

According to the naive forecasts of temperature and sea level rise and the historical impact of similar trends, your best bet is to do nothing. As forecasting scientists and coastal planning engineers have pointed out in the peer-reviewed literature, the projections of climate models are not appropriate for long term planning and have a very poor track record.

As far as “believing human civilization is valuable over a time horizon longer than your lifetime,” you should invest in geoeingeering. Ultimately we’re going to need some control knobs to prolong the current interglacial, the end of which is the only serious existential threat in climate change.


157 TallDave April 17, 2017 at 3:43 pm

Keep in mind that in addition to stabilizing global temperature trends, over a 100-year planning horizon geoengineering could eventually present a lot of really useful climate/weather solutions: amelioration of droughts, floods and hurricanes, mitigation of extreme regional temperature variations, extended Arctic/Antarctic growing seasons, etc.


158 Troll Me April 18, 2017 at 3:04 am

I do not see special reasons to set things up in a way to burn energy stores as rapidly as the market can possibly accommodate.

Since the government kinda needs some taxes to operate anyways …

Tax on waste anyone? Like, duh, energy is used in making stuff. So don’t waste it!


159 Troll Me April 18, 2017 at 3:06 am

Unlike innovation, which there is less of tomorrow and in ten years time if you tax it more heavily.

Fossil fuel resources are the opposite.


160 Alistair April 19, 2017 at 12:47 pm

And +1 for actually doing a cost-benefit analysis. You’d think someone on a econ blog would be more concerned with that rather than all the virtue signalling.


161 Cyrus April 17, 2017 at 6:00 pm

Funding organizations that can credibly remove land from agricultural use for conservation use, or keep otherwise threatened conservation lands in conservation use, over multi-generational timelines, is likely to help.

However, this is hard. In the developed world, TNC has a good track record, but is questionably cost-effective.

Much of the developing world has a challenging legal environment that makes any claim to be able to limit land use over longer time spans questionable.


162 Ryan T April 17, 2017 at 7:25 pm

Interesting post. I hope “fighting global warming” as a topic will get more space on the blog. I find it disconcerting for economics that the field appears to have almost nothing useful to contribute to what might be the most important issue of the century.


163 Khalil April 17, 2017 at 7:52 pm

Re investment in renewable energy companies, look for the introduction of a subsidy or regulation that favours a particular technology or mode of distribution, pile in, then get out before the subsidy tap is turned off. I’ve worked with two investors who have followed this strategy in Spain and Australia. (Though this is a very different proposition investing in a company such as Tesla).

Re Indonesian forests, that’s a lot more complex than most people imagine. I spent nearly a decade working with both pulp and palm oil operators in Indonesia. Much of the burning comes is started by smallholder farmers who use fire to both clear land and establish land claims. The latter represents a massive failure of land titling and cadastral systems all over the country. The fires then spread to large plantations. And you’re talking areas where there are large numbers of semi-subsistence farmers, poor roads, basically no fire fighting capacity, and poor enforcement of regulations at multiple government levels that actually prohibit burning and land clearing.

Useful illustration: there’s a national park in Sumatra where an entire village has been established (which includes productive coffee plantations). The people who moved there had no idea that they were in the middle of a national park. This is a common story across the vast pulp/palm plantations in Sumatra. So, should governments or the private sector move these people on, and then get accused of forced evictions, even if these people might be causing fires?

The central Indonesian government knows it has a problem. There’s a multilateral agreement among ASEAN members to address it. The health problems created in the region and neighbouring ASEAN countries were horrible. I had three nieces/nephews in Kuala Lumpur hospitalised during the last haze event because of respiratory problems. You could potentially invest in the larger companies that are arguably doing more to prevent fires, but this could have a perverse outcome of reducing the welfare of the subsistence farmers.


164 JWatts April 17, 2017 at 9:07 pm

The US population gave roughly $360 Billion last year in charitable giving. The US Production Tax Credit (Federal tax credits primarily for wind and solar power) cost about $7 billion last year.

Start a charity to convince those who believe in Global Warming to donate their own money to add additional money to the PTC program. For just an extra $7 billion per year, you’d double the Federal PTC (which is being phase out). For $21 billion per year, you could vastly accelerate large scale solar and wind in the US.

Simple, easy and let’s those who believe in Global Warming contribute.


165 Troll Me April 18, 2017 at 3:12 am

Do you understand the concept of a “negative externality”?

How about “tragedy of the commons”?

Game theory?

I understand how that can make sense to people. But it cannot add up to the better way of thinking the problem through if you have good knowledge of what those three concepts represent in this context.

Imagine if people were to throw all their trash out into the road, saying “if you want it clean, then clean it”.


166 OldCurmudgeon April 18, 2017 at 10:31 am

The same criticisms apply to every charitable cause. And yet, “The US population gave roughly $360 Billion last year in charitable giving.”


167 guy April 17, 2017 at 9:28 pm

How about meat replacement firms like “beyond meat”? Animal based food production is a significant source of greenhouse gases. Additional benefits are pretty nice too


168 Annonymous April 17, 2017 at 9:52 pm

I worked on the ground with clean cookstoves in Asia, India and Africa for a few years. I’ll summarize by saying, while it is a cross-cutting issue (climate change, health, deforestation, women’s empowerment) with low hanging fruit in many ways, it’s also an incredibly complicated challenge. My first week in India someone said to me: “The hardest habits to change are cooking and shitting.” There are many, many improved and clean cookstoves on the market. Most of them suck. Developing a stove to replace the open fire or mudstove that is affordable, reduces emissions, and *one that people will actually use* has yet to be done as far as I know. I can’t tell you how many rural, village houses I walked in with a crumbled, unused government issued stove in the corner, or even a shiny, new-looking clean stove they bought still in the box because after 1-2 uses it doesn’t meet all the needs of the user, so they revert back to their traditional stove. The vast number of clean and improved cookstoves of all makes and models that I saw like this make me significantly discount any claims of CO2e emission reductions in the industry. It’s a difficult metric to track and an easy one to inflate. If there hasn’t been an expose written on the subject, I expect there will be (that said, the same or similar is true of kerosene/solar, toilets, etc).

There are many non-profits and private companies filled with brilliant, hardworking people trying to solve this problem (see, but like in the developed world, everyone aspires to a gas/LPG or induction/electric stove. And why shouldn’t they? I’m hopeful the best clean cookstoves out there can help serve as a bridge in the transition to gas and electric, but ultimately gas and electric are where efforts should be focused.


169 Khalil April 18, 2017 at 7:42 pm

This is a great example of the significance of culture in economic development. Did you read the ‘The Idealist’ by Nina Munk? It took a a critical eye to Sachs’ Millennium Villages projects. Many of the obstacles to implementation/success were cultural.


170 Solarinvestor April 18, 2017 at 4:25 am

You can invest in solar energy projects via


171 Prakash Chandrashekar April 18, 2017 at 5:03 am

If global warming is a concern, then following are some of the slightly weird things you can try.

1. Give money to Russ George. Iron fertilization may be the cheapest way of handling global warming, by far. Russ George is the one who has had most success with his “illegal” experiment and as a by product created a lot of cheap food as well.

2. Support one of the more promising fusion startups, one that is more free with sharing its data with others. Fusion if achieved will blow away most of the other power producing sources. Future generations will thank you.


172 OldCurmudgeon April 18, 2017 at 10:21 am

1) Last mile fiber optics / VR technology so that most people can work from home (also congestion)
2) Energy efficiency technology (universally desirable)
3) Energy transportation / storage technologies (peak shaving, etc)

As a bonus, none of their business cases really depend on global warming


173 LK Beland April 18, 2017 at 10:26 am

Another idea:
Buy older homes and apartments and make them energy-efficient. Then either sell or rent them.


174 Ricky Tylor April 18, 2017 at 9:12 pm

Unfortunately, it is not possible for us to help this thing; it is government and bigger parties to look into it. I only do trading and I trade with concentration and focus, it is not easy to do with the environment around, but due to Forex been 24/5 on, I can pick my own time. I also feel happy with broker like OctaFX in my side, as they support me massively to do with the outstanding deposit bonus which is up to 50% and can be used.


175 Jeff April 19, 2017 at 7:12 am

If you know of a water utility that’s not overvalued, I’d love to know about it….


176 Dots April 19, 2017 at 12:07 pm

Travel bans to OPEC countries

Get urban housing and sublet more plentifully than most would (bunk beds for people u trust)

Student loans for people going into low-carbon professions or seemingly committed to emissions reductions. Maybe nuke engineers


177 Benji C April 19, 2017 at 8:18 pm

I work at a company involved in air quality monitoring. Currently, our main focus is emissions and ambient outdoor air quality, but there has been talk of developing something like a thermostat for the indoor PM2.5 level. I don’t know how much I’m allowed to say, since this is still in its early stages, but if anyone is interested, I can find out what information is public and what information my company doesn’t want in the open quite yet.


178 Vangel April 23, 2017 at 8:55 am

How disappointing to see that Tyler’s readers are not as rational as I had thought. Here is my solution about ‘investing’ to deal with the AGW issue. You fund a formal televised debate between the most prominent skeptics and proponents of the AGW hypothesis. That means that each individual from each side has an equal opportunity to make their arguments known and an opportunity to ask the other side to answer specific questions. The rules would be those of a formal debate but I would add a panel that would ensure that specific questions were answered and that the answers were supported by facts.

Here is where I think that the alarmist side would have trouble.

1. Since when did consensus matter in science?

2. How is the talk of consensus justified when actual polls do not support the idea of consensus?

3. How can the alarmists talk about consensus about CO2 emissions when the papers cited (see Doran/Zimmerman as an example) do not even mention CO2?

4. If the last three interglacials were warmer, why is our current temperature level unusual?

5. If the MWP and RWP were warmer, why do we need to blame CO2 emissions for anything?

6. Didn’t scientists call the warm period around 10,000 years ago the Holocene Optimum because they believed that warmer meant better fom mankind? What changed?

7. Isn’t the CO2 that is given off by decay and ocean degassing much greater than the CO2 from human emissions?

8. If the mortality tables show that exposure to excess cold kills far more people in a given year than exposure to excess warmth, why do we worry about warming?

9. Shouldn’t rich people who emit massive amounts of CO2 stop telling poor people that they should not have washing machines and electric power?


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