What is the relevant uncertainty for climate change policy?

A number of people have climbed onto Twitter and outlined (correctly) how increased uncertainty about the impact of climate change increases the value of doing something about it.  There is downside risk, and of course we wish to buy insurance against that in the form of a more active climate change policy.  Still, that is not looking deeply enough.  I see some of the relevant uncertainties as embodied in the following scenario, which is more about policy means than climate change science:

Following a Trump debacle, finally the Democrats win all branches of government and pass a climate change bill.  There is a carbon tax, and further anti-coal measures, but it isn’t enough to shift energy regimes in a transformational sense (besides, truly transformational technologies require luck and “the right time” far more than price incentives).  Instead the United States becomes more like Western Europe, with higher levels of conservation but no ground-breaking new energy source.  Solar goes up by ten percentage points, and wind by two or three, given NIMBY opposition.  Fracking becomes more efficient yet, which nudges fossil fuels back a bit onto center stage.  Nuclear is closed down altogether, and hydroelectric also goes in reverse or stagnates.  China is as China does, and they slowly move away from their installed coal base, in the meantime taking steps to control their particulate matter but not so much their carbon, copying America in this regard.  India starts a shift from coal to natural gas but still has rising carbon emissions.  Africa and Vietnam exceed growth expectations, with a lot of solar power to be sure, but not enough to counteract their growing industrialization.  The carbon tax causes a mild recession in America, and environmentalism becomes less popular.  The global boost in temperature continues, unchecked.  The people who die each year from regular air pollution — six to seven million at last count — diminish in number with economic growth, but we react largely with indifference to that problem, because it doesn’t fit into domestic political struggles very neatly.

Now, to me something like that is the single most likely scenario, albeit with a lot of uncertainty.  I am still happy to try remedial policy measures, and to try them now, if only out of non-complacency or perhaps just desperation.  But come on, let’s be honest.  If all you are doing is trying to combat uncertainty about the science, you are unwilling to look the actual problem square in the eye, just like the climate deniers, the very people you so much decry.


Has anyone here hear of Bjorn Lomborg, the Danish scientist/economist?

He pointed out that the Paris Accord would cost us $100 trillion dollars and reduce temperatures by a thousandth of a degree Fahrenheit.

He also claims that acclimation to climate change is far, far more cost effective than trying to destroy our economy by attempting to reduce carbon emissions. Supposedly, it's better to move to more fertile areas with our advanced technology than to live in the stone age with a slightly colder planet.

My god, one trillion dollars in wages means paying one million workers $100,000 a year for ten years and that WILL KILL JOBS!!!

We must cut cost of energy by increasing the productivity of fossil fuel capital burning to cut the labor costs and workers in half to really create jobs.

Only by cutting labor costs to society can jobs be created. Ideally, labor costs will be reduced to zero with robots replacing all workers, thus ensuring full employment.

Straw man argument. No one is arguing that we should cut people in half. Even conservatives think that should be illegal.

Usually a "straw man argument" involves things that were actually said.

Are you delusional or a fraud?

I'm going to charitably assume that you are in on the joke with me.

Broken Window fallacy right there.

The point is that burning coal is cheap and easy, and leaves much more capital and labor for other sectors of the economy.

Building and using windfarms, hydroelectric dams, and solar panels diverts labor away from other potentially useful sectors in society (like building housing for the poor instead of windfarms for the middle class, or pushing Moore's Law past its limit instead of forcing semiconductor engineers to design and build solar panels).

Yeah I'm sure the alternative is building more housing for the poor. Look at all the great ideas coming out of this climate denying administration's HUD agency. False choice siren emoji.

The Trump administration denies there's a climate?

You're living in the past dude. Once upon a time we ignored the externalities of coal. You know, sick people and whatnot. Luckily our economics is better and our tech is better. Nukes and solar are the future, not coal. Just watch China over the next 10 years to see.

I would love nukes to be our future, but liberals are the ones who keep getting in the way.

As for solar, sure, they might be our future, but it came at the cost of billions upon billions of taxpayer dollars in the present. Which, of course, meant many many lost jobs and lower capital investment in ideas that could have had higher returns.

"The point is that burning coal is cheap and easy, and leaves much more capital and labor for other sectors of the economy."

The report yesterday from Apple yesterday said they have $257 billion in cash.

That is sufficient to build about 25 Gigafactories at their final size of the Nevada plant in 2020-2025 which would alone increase global battery production 25 times over total global production in 2016. (I'm doubling the cost of these capital assets from current estimates because Elon always increases production capacity as projects reach 50% of planned capacity.)

If you think nuclear is the way to go, Apple has the cash on hand to buy Westinghouse and build it's capacity to build nuclear power plants by building 25 nuclear reactors to perfect the manufacturing of nuclear reactors so they can then be built in volume at the rate of 10-20 per year at less than $2 billion.

I will note that Elon Musk has little trouble getting capital, so capital is not scarce at all. Tesla has sold new shares multiple times to raise cash to build factories while Apple is using cash to reduce outstanding shares of Apple stock because they find nothing they can build which generates their 20%? net profit margin criteria. Apple has reduced shares outstanding 20% in the past five years in buy backs.

And Apple is hardly alone in buying back shares because these firms have nothing to invest in but has too much cash to simply sit on. Microsoft has bought back 20% of its shares in the past decade because it can't find anything to invest in.

Other than energy production, where are shares being sold to build new capital assets in any significance? And which new energy capital assets will have value in a decade after built? Oil and gas wells?? Pipelines, yes. Wind farms, yes. Solar roofs, yes. Solar panel factories, yes. Battery factories, yes. Coal mines?? Tar sands?? Power lines, yes. Rail lines, yes. All energy capital assets basically need to recover costs in a decade or less, but fossil fuel mining investments have lost most of their value by the end of a decade, excluding transportation infrastructure.

As for building housing for the poor, which corporations are doing this? How much of your savings have you invested in housing for food workers because your do not want more factory workers and construction workers building energy production to be buying houses?

That's a lot of text for someone missing the bigger picture.

You mentioned Tesla, Microsoft, and Apple, but what about the millions of other businesses around the country? What about small businesses that are having trouble raising capital? What about all the great ideas that are having trouble getting venture capitalists to invest in them?

If clean, renewable energy was the most optimal place for us to invest our capital, then why wouldn't financial institutions invest in them from their own volition? Why must the government force these investments to happen through the full force of the law?

Disclosure: Denmark is a low elevation peninsula.

...but not *that* low. With sea levels rising a foot per century, most of Denmark has 2000+ years to rest easy.

...but we think the most valuable land is next to water. See prices.

...then build defences. 1/3rd of Netherlands is technically below sea level at present.

It's not a big deal for the high value city areas.

Defenses on the Netherlands are useless against storm tides on the other side of the Atlantic.

It's a bit like stating that malaria is not a problem in Congo because medication is available in the developed world.


The general point is that base sea level rises AND storm surges won't be anything that coastal defences can't comfortably handle for high-value land.

The business case is that it's much more cost-effective to build barrier defences for the high value land and let some low value land flood than to spend gazillions preventing the sea level rise / storm surge in the first place.

Yeah, Denmark is NOT in the crosshairs here. It's low lying poor countries with minimal carbon emissions that will get screwed the most.

Three Pacific countries are planning to relocate their populations. Kiribati, putting its money where its mouth is, has started buying land 2000km away. https://www.gizmodo.com.au/2015/12/how-three-countries-being-engulfed-by-the-ocean-may-relocate-to-survive/

The biggest issue facing Bangladesh in 2100: we need to change everything right now.

Color me skeptical. There are other much, much more significant estimates of the climate impact of the agreement.

Hush with that crazy cost-effective analysis talk; you'll get the economist folks here all riled up. We be wanting more feelz with our policy!

In short, Lomborg's analysis is useless because it doesn't take into account the cost of adapting to climate change. Here is an assessment of the two sides.


Well, thanks for trying to engage. But Lomborg's critique was explicitly about the opportunity costs of adaption compared to mitigation.

Anyway, you might not have read it, but Lomborg has a full reply in the comments where he is far more civil than Nuccitelli deserves. As a statistician, analyst and actuary, the following is my take-away from your attempt to persuade me:

1) I'm severely unimpressed with Nuccitelli's use of numbers and confounding of risk, uncertainty, and utility here.
2) The cost numbers used for climate damages are maximised (RCP 8.5? Really? Come on!) and policy costs are even more ludicrously minimised below even current rates. I'm happy to have these as outliers, but I demand a reasonable distribution of other outcomes! This just looks like an attempt to deceive, sorry.
3) 1 point of agreement: more and better cost and benefit distributions would be nice to inform the optimum mitigation-adaptation trade for various scenarios. I note with prejudice the lack of interest in certain quarters towards generating such data and the impetus for action in the absence of such, given information and decision costs involved.

Anyway, as Lomborg points out in comments, on the (limited) set of estimates we have (and Nuccitelli acknowledges) the mitigation argument fails horribly even with N's worst-case assumptions (and also please note the equally biased Stern report). Even at this level; it shows a return in the 1:3 region rather than the 3:1 where we _might_ start to take it seriously as a policy. Please remember that we can do anti-malarial work at >1:100 if you reply...

If you want to change my mind on this, give me a full model with a reasonable spread of risks on the costs and benefits. The current data is certainly inadequate, but at the moment these numbers are massively short of where you need them to be to sell this case.

Why does Lomborg consider paying workers to be harmful to a society of people who are mostly workers?

How do workers in the US and Denmark benefit from paying dictators and authoritarians in the Persian Gulf, Africa, the FSU high rents to burn natural capital to "save labor costs" - fossil fuel powered things are called "labor saving" because they eliminate paying workers, not because "labor saving" means old jobs like shoeing beasts of burden and scooping up manure in the streets are saved.

The industrial age used the majority of coal to produce capital assets that even today has more value than the coal plus iron ore to produce it before coal burning became 80% or more pure consumption, pure burning of capital with no residual value. For oil and gas, those were immediately 80% consumption, burning natural capital with no residual value. Oil and natural gas are inefficient in producing capital assets, but primarily make building capital assets with greater intensity that requires constant consumption of natural capital. US metro areas depend on burning natural capital today, with people like Lomborg arguing more of the same to increase the rate of burning natural capital.

Why? Because in his view, paying workers to build capital costs too much, so the lower wage workers devoted to a consumption economy need to pay the lowest price for consumption, and that comes from burning natural capital on the basis of natural capital being effectively infinite for all current generations. To Lomborg, the US or EU in the 22nd century does not exist, and thus never will.

This is in contrast to Jefferson who imagined in 1803 that the US would soon run out of natural capital so doubling the supply for $15 million was a wise investment. That was a $300 billion dollar cost in current dollars. Buying the rest of the West circa 1850 cost over $25 million, or about $700 billion today. Was spending a trillion dollars worth it, especially given it then increased the cost of government drastically to manage all that added natural capital?

Just to defend those trillion dollars purchases which tripled the US, the US pays 2/3rds of $600 billion annually consumed in defense spending. Was paying a trillion for something that costs more than $400 billion a year to just defend worth it. Wasn't it all just adding far too much cost to American taxpayers who get nothing back from all that cost.

The expansion of the US to the Pacific just adds $400 billion, more than $1000 per person in the US in costs, with absolutely no benefit to those taxpayers!!

At least by Lomborg's logic. We would be better off staying at 15 States because costs would be far lower.


"Why does Lomborg consider paying workers to be harmful to a society of people who are mostly workers?"

Opportunity cost, Mulp. Opportunity cost. The aim of all economic activity is goods for consumption; not wages.

But worse, Lomborg’s is disasterous if you need a good job. He is arguing that it costs too much to pay workers to produce productive capital assets. Ie, nothing new should be built to cut costs to society.

Mulp Smash!
Thanks for having the patience to even read him.

I remember a disciple of Lomborg's explaining to a college audience that there could be no such thing as pollution or environmental degradation (this was before 99.9% of us had even heard of climate science) because it was all just a "rearranging and shuffling of chemicals in the closed system of the atmosphere."

Saying the words "cost-effective analysis" does not make whatever state you wish upon the world to be true.

So, next time you use the words "cost-effective analysis", please do not communicate to us things to the effect of your being easily attracted by shiny things.

There's a good reason no one has heard from him.

Because anyone with an actual clue on either the science or economics of the question knows for a fact that he's a total fraud.
How to know? Because those numbers are horseshit.

No, I will not even waste my time to find where exactly the bullshit originates from in the methods.

Degrees in physics and economics here. How is Lomborg a total fraud again?

Bexcuse he argues workers should not be paid because paying workers costs too much, but he tells you this only if you agree to paying his excessive costly price to read or hear him talk his nonsense.

"Lomborg’s Copenhagen Consensus Center (CCC), though long associated with his native Denmark, actually registered as a US-based non-profit organization back in 2008. That’s how we know Lomborg walked away with a cool $775,000 in pay from the CCC in 2012."

Why doesn't he cut his cost to society and charge only $30,000-50,000 per year?

Thank you for that helpful non sequitur.

How does a degree in physics qualify you to speak about climate change?

(P.S. - bet you can't make the argument without defining the HOW of CO2 being a greenhouse gas.)

Also, impress us with your arguments and intellect, not remote anonymous claims of qualification, unless it helps to understand the specific arguments being made.

So, if you said "I have a degree in physics and economics", and then proceeded to say something which demonstrated knowledge beyond middle school level in either of those fields, that would be different.

Reread what you wrote: "Because anyone with an actual clue on either the science or economics of the question...."

I do have a couple of clues of what is in question.

For example, I know what error bars are, whereas you do not seem to. I know that almost all physicists have enough sense not to try to model something like the climate out to 2100.


Error bars are large therefore all results are invalid.

Welcome to failing grade 8 science. Mr PhD in physics .

You know Troll, a funny thing, as a simple heuristic, I've always found the side which was more casually abusive about its opponents to be the side usually in the wrong.

Another useful heuristic for error is the extent to which one side strawmans rather than steelmans it's opponents argument.

Another one is general lack of humour.

You know, Troll, I might be spotting a pattern...

"Another one is general lack of humour...."

Come now, he put the word Troll into his user name. You've got to give him half a point for humour. ;)

As heuristics go, this is a pretty good one. This is especially true of the strawman/steelman point.

Fraud is fraud.

If you find that abusive, be less fraudulent.

Yes. This is the issue. It isn't even about cutting carbon emissions, it is about appearing to do so.

A story. I installed a system in my home last fall. It cut my electrical consumption by approximately 1/3 compared to last winter, and if the winters were the same it probably would be half, we had a long hard winter that doesn't seem to be over yet. My electrical bills were the same.

The system didn't cost very much because I purchased and installed it myself. That isn't possible for most people, they would pay someone to install it. It will take 5 years for me to pay back the costs, for most people 8-10 years. The equipment will see a major repair during that time and likely need replacing. I very much doubt there is any lifecycle decrease in carbon emissions.

What is happening is people are choosing to burn wood. Provincial governments are falling as a result of exorbitant energy increases, we might see that happen in BC this month. Ontario will probably fall as well.

The EPA put out a regulation late last year, I suspect it is one of the ones overturned by Congress, which essentially would put 1/3 of the food service industry out of business, maybe 1/2. The costs and complexity could only be absorbed by companies who could pass the costs on to their customers. What is strange about the whole thing is that not only would it increase the costs of food, but it would probably do nothing to solve the problem, and any gains would be offset by the lifecycle carbon costs of refitting the entire installed base of equipment, as well as building an impossible to regulate grey market in products and food services. The end result would be a few firms who by size or visibility attract the regulator attention, but the majority of the industry would be ignoring the rules.

And in a stagnant economy with government having trouble funding their operations, the regulators are the first to go.

"It will take 5 years for me to pay back the costs, for most people 8-10 years."

Boy, you must have picked really bad capital equipment.

My propane forced hottest air system needs to be replaced because it's a cheap system from 30 years ago which was not the most efficient in 1985, but it has had only two problems in 30 years. The safety thermocouple for the pilot, and the induction motor starting relay or capacitor is unreliable so I have been starting it by hand with increasing frequency. A repair would be $250 and it would work for another ten years, but at higher operating costs.

HVAC pros: “As a consumer and professional, I expect furnaces to last 20 years,” said Tom Beaulieu, president of Bay Area Services Inc. in Green Bay, Wisconsin. “Air conditioning units, because they are outdoors and subject to the extremes of the weather, typically have shorter life expectancies of 15 years.
Brian Baker, president of Custom Vac Limited in Winnipeg, Canada, said he has many clients with original high-efficiency furnaces that are 30-33 years old and air conditioners that are 30-40 years old or older.

I do note that you side with those who believe the way to create jobs is to not pay the workers.

Ie, you created a job for yourself that paid nothing.

Now just go out and work full time cutting energy costs by working year round and full time for no pay.

I suppose I could have written myself a cheque for my labor.

Make sure you purchase an extended warranty on your new furnace. The new ones are not as reliable as the one you have; they were extremely simple pieces of equipment.

In my instance I installed a heat pump. The economics are marginal in our climate.

The point I was making isn't that energy efficiency isn't important, but that there is a limit to what people can and will afford, and the increasing of energy prices as an incentive to upgrade equipment will create a political furore once people figure out that it is simply more money out of their pockets for really nothing.

@derek: what other investment pays the costs in 5 years? Compare it to any business and it looks really sweet.

Not if the life cycle of the asset is only 10 years....

Sure. As long as you do the work yourself and buy at wholesale prices and can handle the warranty issues and maintenance. In the normal course of events the payback if marginal.

I think this is an illustration of stagnation. My commercial customers are doing the same thing. For example a customer was facing the necessity of replacing old equipment, they had to do something. They installed a system that uses less energy, requires less labor and cuts sales substantially, and in the end probably are more profitable on less volume. Luckily money is very cheap right now. The people employed in the upgrade endeavor are in extremely high demand, but the consumers and the wage workers lose.

This is moving beyond the finer points of economic policy into the realm of who gets put up against the wall come the revolution.

A sustainable harvest in a full-burn wood stove with particulate removal can be part of a carbon neutral approach, IF IF IF the wood is collected in non-clear cut ways. (If you clear cut, there will be lots of additional decomposition, at least in the shorter run.)

So, I imagine that a lot of wood going into Albertan wood stoves actually satisfy that (related to how much and where harvested), although the stoves themselves might not (maybe not all clean burn stoves).

Well, there's still some additional carbon costs with any biofuel, sustainable or not. You generally move carbon out of the soil/biomass into the atmosphere. Even when reconstituted into plant matter, it was still in the atmosphere for those intervening years.

This hypothesized development development is depressing. It outlines how we become more like Europe, meaning old sluggish and sick, as described by Peter Huber:


The switch to natural gas for thermal power plants is the ultimate destructive behavior, burning a relatively energy dense fuel that can be used for transportation, where coal of nuclear fission will do the job. Natural gas is a non renewable resource, and our descendants will hate us for squandering it on turning stationary turbines.

In regards to becoming more like Europe, have y'all noticed how costco, walmart and other stores are making their space increasingly crowded? Why are store managers doing their best to make the shopping experience unpleasant, crowding an increasing number of customers into a shrinking space, as they try to cram in more crap around checkout registers and formerly wide aisles? Back in Europe, real estate is at a premium, and there is often only enough room for a basket, but the America I remember from the nineties fielded spacious stores.

Sorry about double development in first sentence. Also 'coal of nuclear fission' should be 'coal or nuclear fission'. Will proofread better!

Maybe. But there are many ways to make CH4 which are much simpler than, say, making gasoline. For example, giant decomposition machines that collect the CH4 from the decomposition. (Additionally good to remove this CH4 from the atmosphere, because it's 20 times stronger of a greenhouse gas.)

"Natural gas is a non renewable resource, and our descendants will hate us for squandering it on turning stationary turbines."

Currently, the world consumes...~130 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. Current estimates of the resource potential of methane hydrates is approximately 200,000,000 trillion cubic feet. Or more than 1 million years at current consumption.

P.S. But mid-century or slightly after, the majority of global automobile passenger-miles will probably be by vehicles powered by batteries.

P.P.S. Walmart, Costco and all other brick-and-mortar stores are doomed. Within 30 years, 90+% of them will be shuttered or converted to other uses. They'll be killed by e-retail deliveries by fully autonomous vehicles.

If the shopping experience can be made sufficiently unpleasant, the complete atomization of society may be achieved for many. In an era of personalized media entertainment based on lifelong psychometric profiling.

"Black Mirror" said it could happen. Or something like that.

With all respect to Tyler, these conversations are useless without having some understanding of the science. The models have failed miserably. The moderate warming is very similar to previous warming - like the 1930s - and recent studies are increasingly downgrading the relationship between global temperature and CO2.

We're at this weird juncture where the empirical data is running away from the predictions, yet public policy is running toward increasingly hysterical prescriptions.

Meanwhile, following the recent El Niño, global temperatures are plunging again. The two decade pause is back.

There is nothing really weird about it- hysteria has well known causes in human psychology.

You're just making up fake science. It's a well-known fact that 97% of climate scientists agree that anthropogenic global warming is a real thing that threatens the survival of mankind. The ice caps will melt, the sea level will rise, and we'll all drown. Even the highest mountain peaks will be submerged under the deluge. Check it out on Google if you don't believe me.

And most of the other 3% don't disagree, they just aren't as worried about it.

The failure mode of clever is asshole.

What statistical test did you use to confirm a no-warming trend, over what range and why did you choose the range that you did? Show your work.

I don't think you can prove this using statistics, data is too noisy.

Properly speaking, trendlines are a first order model and treacherous in this kind of system.

Really, you need to show a statistical model of climate with good predictive power over both short and long spans (100+ years!) that isn't a curve fitting piece of c**p.

The General Climate Models fail miserably at this. I'm totally unimpressed as a statistician and modeller.

This is a good example of muddying the waters. The question is whether temperature is increasing over time or not. Nobody can precisely predict how much my stock portfolio will be 30 years from now and nobody needs to in order to simply tell me whether my investments have, on average, increased in value.

At any rate, the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature project assembled a team of statisticians, physicists and other scientists and they went over the temperature data with a fine-tooth comb and published all of their code before coming to the same conclusion as everyone else: that there is a warming trend in the data. You can write a rebuttal and become famous if you have such an amazing take-down of their work. Physics professor and one-time climate skeptic Richard Muller addresses the lack of statistical significance of the alleged "pause" here: http://static.berkeleyearth.org/memos/has-global-warming-stopped.pdf

No. Temperature increases and decreases, always has always will. The question is whether the changes are due to carbon emissions. The resolution of the data we have today is nice but in the end meaningless because there is no way to know whether it is on trend with past centuries.

It is a hard problem, extremely hard. All we know for sure is that an increase in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere changes an energy transfer constant in the equations.

From there it gets very complicated. Start from the assumption that the current prosperity which allows us to even consider this issue at all is due to the availability of cheap carbon based energy. Any 'solution' that changes that will fail, utterly and completely. We are already seeing that happen. Anyone who designs a regulatory system that in effect moves carbon intensive industrial activity off shore should be put up against a wall and shot. Regulatory capture, which is real and intense in this issue, has the potential of tearing society asunder. Technological improvements can make a difference; lighting has improved remarkably over the last decade.

I've seen environmental pushes turn 180 degrees. A problem turns political, the activists drive the agenda, the policies destroy the livelihoods of large numbers of people, the whole project gets dismantled. This one is too important to be left to the activists.


The record is NOT the model. The BEST dataset is not a model. It DOES NOT MATTER if I know the exact surface temperature record for the last 200 years. In itself this tells me NOTHING about:

(1) What is the temperature going to be in x years?
(2) What is the anthropogenic component?
(3) What are the cost-benefit functions of reducing CO2 emissions? etc.

For all of those things you have to have a MODEL which explain the current observations accurately in terms of a (much) reduced set of inputs and makes SKILLFULL predictions. And the current models are terrible and fail to do this.

Given the periodicity and noise in the climate system, I'd want over 200 years of good data to get even rough answers with low confidence.

Ah, the "I won't believe it until it's too late" perspective.


I can be persuaded. You can recruit me to your cause.

First: Get the GCMs working at a sufficient skill level over at least 50 years (including at least 10 years of predictions) I WILL accept historical validation if you can show a sufficiently high gain in information between inputs and outputs.
Second: Show that models with an anthropogenic component are statistically preferable to ones without. How much do you know about model selection and validation?
Third: Show the net costs of mitigation compare favourable with adaptation and make the policy case for action.

Currently, none of these conditions are met. What are your conditions for action?

As much as the models *may* be overestimating long term temp increases, they may also be underestimating it by just as much. It could get hotter and much faster than the median model shows.

Also, the recent trends are undeniable. Hotter than ever measured and getting worse all the time. Paired with all kinds of weather extremes we've never encountered before.

Hotter than the MWP?

Would you like to be specific about those "weather extremes"?

Hurricanes? Umm, no - https://www.gfdl.noaa.gov/historical-atlantic-hurricane-and-tropical-storm-records/

Tornados? No again - https://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/climate-information/extreme-events/us-tornado-climatology/trends

I'll admit that temperature increases, when they happen, result in more high temperatures...

Shall I unpack the precise nature of the bullshit you build from which few grains of sand, or count on people to think for themselves?

Nathan, bullying compliant Chinese students has not prepared you for rational debate with adults.

Do you know what it means for photons of one frequency to pass through a gas, but to be reflected at a different frequency?

Chinese middle school students do.

Greenhouse effect -> Communism and Low-Energy Lifestyle for everyone but me and people I like.


Thomas. Can you tell us about the refractive properties of CO2 gas, at light frequencies as compared to infrared frequencies?

That is what Chinese middle students know about.

Now go stick your finger in your ears and practice your "LA LA LA LA LA LA..." just as loud as you can.

(P.S. - this is what defines CO2 as a greenhouse gas.)

"The two decade pause is back."

Where is the pause?


If indeed human production of carbon dioxide (and other atmospheric releases) is a major contributor to an apparent recent warming trend of the planet and we are also entering a deepening glacial period as evidenced by the oxygen isotopes of the Vostok ice cores then it is serendipitous that have stumbled onto the solution accidentally. I argue for doing nothing and policy complacency out of desperation. We can always try upper atmosphere sulfur compounds later if it seems necessary.

I live in a valley that was carved out by kilometre-thick ice just over 10,000 years ago. The remnant of the glacier still sits on a nearby mountain, visible from town. And yet my kids are taught in school that the current mild warming - which is still less than most of the Holocene - is bad and that we must spend trillions to accelerate the arrival of the next inevitable ice age.

Meanwhile, the planet is greening, extreme weather events have waned and global temperatures remain very stable. And people are literally losing their minds.

You should start an ice age preppers club. You can take steps to protect your families from the effects of the next ice age brought on by misguided scientists. I'd watch the TV show.

??? we're entering into a glacial period?

This is feared due to changes in ocean salnity affecting turnover of water and thus reducing movement of energy via wing between equator and poles. But this is a theory.

What are you talking about? Ice cores only related to past data related to previous situations. How is there ice core data that tells us what a future situation will be? This might be possible, but I don't buy it.

I should have said "ice age" rather than "glacial period." Sorry for the slip of the fingertips.

It was not my intent to reference any thermohaline circulation theories but to merely observe the obvious temperature trend of the Pleistocene and to rejoice that humans may have found a way to avoid freezing our asses off (and concomitant starvation) by burning hydrocarbons.

I agree that past data by themselves lack predictive value. So do all the climate models of which I am aware. Please do highlight any in your awareness which make somewhat accurate predictions with regard to future temperatures as evidenced by their having done so previously.

"Please do highlight any in your awareness which make somewhat accurate predictions with regard to future temperatures"

1) There's some flaw in the logical presentation of this. Namely, I cannot prove what has not yet happened. But I understand what this can mean in the modelling.

2) The results appear to be getting better. For example, more accurate than the models of the 1970s. My understanding is that they have correctly identified the direction of change, but that assuming zero other things and based solely on past data (not incorporating theoretical understanding of climate into an actual climate model), one might use a simple statistical method to predict that there is still in the range of a 1% possibility that the higher temperatures in the last two decades are due completely to chance.

Of course, people who work on this stuff know that CO2 is a greenhouse gas. It's just that there's more than one moving part, so it's not easy.

Anyways, the bar you suggest is not a good one. Fitting past data to a model should not be attributed predictive value for the future. You can do this by machine training of some sort to just optimizep predictive accuracy, and you may as well be doing some stats 101 estimated by that point.

The estimate has to have been already made in the past. And among those, I believe all of them have correctly identified the DIRECTION of effect. Which is the bar applied for hypothesis testing.

It is different from zero. it is positive.

So stop with the quibling about decimal places. Unless you're a financier who wants to fund good research in order to profit from those decimal places.

I know gravity is an attractive force, but that is a pathetic model for landing a man on the moon or a collection of instruments on a comet. Therefore I will continue to quibble about the decimal places in climactic models being used (via policy) to attempt to hit unspecified targets. At least the moon is a relatively large target (even if the man arrives as jelly or plasma).

No one has a very good explanation for the perodicity shift in the Milankovitch cycles and we are left with an 8-10 kelvin unmodeled (possibly unstable) oscillation in global temperature. Since this dwarfs the existing model(s) predictions over the next couple centuries idgaf about the model predictions. Perhaps you do for inscrutable trollish raisins.

I am glad to see this post.

"just like the climate deniers."

Tyler, please describe what exactly is being denied. Is it that the world is warming, that we are primarily responsible, that the warming is harmful, that we can cost effectively do something?

No one denies the world has warmed, and many intelligent disagree on the others. So what do you mean exactly?

+1. The AGW crowd always strawman on the first 2 points and ignore the strongest objections of the latter 2.

Chip, in your post at 1:36 AM you said "global temperatures remain very stable".

In this post you say "no one denies the world has warmed".

No doubt there is a way to square these two statements, but it is not obvious to me.

"No one denies the world has warmed"

More lies conservatives told me. It is a multi volume book now.

1) Deny

2) Obfuscate

3) Say we always knew and it is boring.

Question: Does smoking cause cancer?

Climate science is more like second hand smoke. Studies 'prove' it's true, then turns out studies have no actual evidence of anything.

Other way around.

There's a smoking gun.

CO2 is a greenhouse gas. We are putting more into the atmosphere.

A has the molecular properties which define it as being one of those things that warms things up.

If you cannot see a smoking gun there, then I dunno ...

the problem is - uncertainty decreases with more observations.
So when low probability catastrophe can happen? after 2100
but by 2050 uncertainty will be much less, than now, and so more direct measures to counter warming might be used. Given even highest estimations of possible future warming ( so no uncertainty that is -just highest possible estimation ) - it won't be late in 50s to apply measures

now it is fine to exclude geoengineering if only to demonstrate stupidness and extreme desire to exercise in narrow set of formulas instead of trying to look a little broader.
but if geoengineering options are included - then not even low probability catastrophe can occur

I get your logic.

But carbon emitted today will still be having its effect in 100 years time.

Waiting to 2050 in order to enjoy reduced uncertainty is a bad strategy. Better to act in an uncertain situation than to NOTHING until conditions prove it to have been necessary 30 years previous.

You don't wait until Nazi Germany gets nuclear weapons to start the Manhattan Project. So, is it that extreme? Probably not. (Helpful note: Less extreme than Nazi Germany with nukes does not in and itself suggest "do nothing" is smart.)

it depends on how to wait.
one thing is to exercise 'carbon tax' and other fancy 'economic experiments', other - help develop mitigation strategies. The problem I notice is that economists (on this blog) do not like to get into engineering details as if they are granted to judge on issues only from economic point of view.
So what are options? Of cause one is nuclear power. It is claimed - that it will just disappear. But even in Ukraine and Belarus citizens do not object for new nuclear. So basically opposition to nuclear is a special artifact of some societies, which maybe could be resolved by popular economic bloggers. And while nuclear is slow to develop - in recent years there are quite a bit of developments ( even in old and tried water reactors ) - certainly it is possible to have cheaper, safer designs.
Now cost. One engineering blogger calculated how much it will take to move to nuclear overnight - that is just 5% GDP. Yes, he computed interest over age of nuclear reactors etc. So if the development is not overnight - but spread over some time - it is even less expensive.
There are other ways to stop Co2 production - which might or might not work, but there are dozens approaches in development - different oxyfuel combustion ( there are several approaches with just one way to solve - using supercritical co2 turbines ) - which uses coal or gas and is almost equal in costs with current energy ( so no penalties for carbon capture)
so - efficiently prepare for future possible overnight switch - when we know - it is time to move - is a way to go. And of cause such things should be done. The only thing is - no economic blogger will ever discuss and argue for those technical approaches - they will argue on taxes as if taxes in itself will produce technical solutions. No technical solutions will come to fruition if they are directly tried and developed. Given attitudes to technical solutions and geoengineering - in fact in the past, if there were popular economic bloggers who intentionally obscured things there will not be rockets 'who knows if they could fly, do not think about them, let's better tax' no planes 'who knows if plane could ever fly, do not think of it, let's tax'.

so the story short: there is no plausible way that humanity will drive into catastrophe - it can warm more than 2C - and might be quite unpleasant. But the 2C threshold date will be known decades before crossing https://www.nature.com/articles/srep18903 - and measures will be taken - that is for sure - while people are somewhat irrational - knowing for sure bad things - makes them move fast.
Again - there might be some application of geoengineering - which might not 'solve' problem - but will definitely ease it and also could contribute to gradual lowering of CO2 in future centuries.
Finally we know - earth had +8C over now in Paleocene–Eocene Thermal Maximum - that was bad, but not even a major extinction even, rather many new species appeared like monkeys, which turned into people.
So I think - it is better to keep risk in context, be prepared to act with certainty, rather than experiment out of desire to apply some dysfunctional economic 'cures'

The principle that people buy less of something when the price is higher is not experimental.

There are certain exceptions, referred to as "Giffen goods". For example, you buy less Kraft Dinner when your income goes up.

"We can't do nuclear because it's like, not orgaaaaaaaaaaanic, maaaaaaaaaaaan"

-Troll Me, who doesn't care at all about AGW if the solutions aren't communism and mandatory hippy lifestyles.

That's not what a giffen good is. A giffen good is a good with an upward sloping demand curve.

You're thinking of an inferior good, where when Income rises the demand for it falls as a consumer prefers higher price substitutes for perceived quality reasons.

Inferior goods imply income or wealth changes, giffen goods do not. Giffen goods relate to price and quantity demanded.

This is an economics blog


Did you understand what I intended to communicate?

Can we wait until there's an indication that YOU know what you intended to communicate?

It drives me crazy that we are led to believe that CO2 means The End of the World As We Know It, but nuclear power (unarguably carbonless) is beyond the pale because it seems to have rendered 0.000001 of the world's land area marginally less habitable for a decade or two, every thirty years or so. And we're of course completely unable to learn from errors to reduce even that number, as we have with our airliners.


A lot has been learned from Chernobyl and Three Mile Island. The accident at Fukushima was due to a poor placement of the back up power units after a 1 in 500 year tsunami crashed into the plants.

Airliners crash much less often per mile but they happen every year so the downward trend is easy to see. That isn't the case when you only have Chernobyl killing 50 people and Fukushima, which will kill no one as was the case with Three Mile Island.

There's consensus over a scale to rate the magnitude of nuclear accidents. Three Mile Island was a 5, Fukushima a 7.

Both had zero deaths from radiation and nobody will die from a cancer from radiation. (Maybe 25 workers have a lifetime 1% increase in getting cancer so if my chance one or two did get cancer, that would not occur until around 2035 when cancer is cured.)

It tells you all you need to know that the complete non-event of Three Mile Island was a 5 on the "Disaster Scale."

Well, that combined with the fact that the "AGW Will Kill Us All" crowd thinks nuclear is out of the question.

Science, people! This is all about science!!!

AGW is going to be a civilization-ending disaster. But not so much of a disaster that we should use nuclear power.

Human lives are important but dollars are a much better unit of measurement.

The Three Mile Island costs (decontamination, compensation for damages to individuals and governments, buying substitute energy to fulfill supply contracts) were estimated at 1 billion USD (year 2000) https://inis.iaea.org/search/search.aspx?orig_q=RN:30022174

Fukushima costs have been estimated at approx 190 billion USD (year 2016). http://www.reuters.com/article/us-tepco-fukushima-costs-idUSKBN13Y047

I'm lazy to look for inflation data between 2000 and 2016. A few billions more or less, Fukushima costs are two orders or magnitude larger than Three Mile Island. No human lives were lost is a poor solace for a 190 billion invoice.

True, but much of the $190 billion will be due to stupid policy as the Japanese government insists on reducing radiation levels to where they were rather than say 10 times higher, which is the radiation level in Denver or 20 times higher, which is the radiation level where 2 million Americans live.

How about I put a bunch of cyanide on 0.000001% of your body. Say, specifically, a small part of the tongue. Due to the small quantity of materials, I assure you that throughout the course of the experiment no more than 0.000001% of your surface area will be involved.

And then you can lecture us about how 0.000001% of the surface area of some specific thing is irrelevant, during the few seconds of life you have remaining.

The ld-50 for cyanode for an adult male is somewhere between a quarter and half a gram. The amount of cyanide you are talking about here is much less than a milligram. I'd be happy to volunteer just to show how stupidly innumerate you are.

It is true. 0.000001 is not 0.0000001.

Also, 1 is not 100.

You seriously don't understand the silliness of your analogy, do you?

I understand the analogy.

But I also know that underground water sources are also near to many proposed locations.

Which means that, like cyanide can go from your tongue to everywhere and result in your death, similarly, uranium waste which occupies 0.000001% of the surface could end up distributed in some way other than only on that exact 0.00001% of the surface.

I understand your "analogy". (I suggest consulting a dictionary on usage of the word.) Do you understand mine?

It doesn't *matter* that there are underground sources near the reactors. The radiation levels become extremely low very quickly away from the plant. A fukushima accident does kill "gaya" as a bit of cyanide will kill of a person.

This is seriously difficult for you??

Why don't you read up on technologies proposed for long-term nuclear waste storage and get back to us.

A recent example is from one of those queer Scandinavian countries, where they will put it way under an island out in the sea, in rock that should not crack and release stuff.

200,000 years is a long time for a barrel not to crack. The 0.000001% aspect will become clever just after someone figures out how to make sure it doesn't leak. Immobilization mixed with cement in deep mines is another option explored.

I agree with you on nuclear but so do other people who take climate change seriously. Obama's former Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz is on record as favoring nuclear power as part of efforts to reduce CO2 emissions. And here is an article from the much-despised (by resident right-wingers here) vox.com that is broadly sympathetic to nuclear power: https://www.vox.com/energy-and-environment/2017/3/27/15043522/nuclear-power-future-innovation

Is Nuclear part of a complete plan at this point, or is it a distancing mechanism? That is, if I say "well, you need to agree on nuclear" can I keep on with all of the carbon intensive things I do, guilt distracted? "It's not my 300 HP car, or my 30,000 annual airline miles, my A/C on 100 days per year, it's YOU with your bicycle and your hatred of nukes."

The A/C being on 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, would not be "carbon intensive" if powered by nuclear. Full replacement of coal with nuclear would cause a bigger reduction of global emissions than lifestyle changes that lowered global power consumption 80%, and be a hell of a lot more practical to implement to boot. If you advocate conservation of electricity over nuclearization, you are objectively pro-warming.

It's about the bike lanes and mass transit and locally sourced potatoes to these nutbags, not CO2 reduction.

So let's say an environmentalist, a true environmentalist, is willing to ride a bike, become a vegetarian, disconnect the A/C, give up on recreational jet travel, and do all the things necessary to live within a renewable energy footprint.

Would you say "that's not good enough, you need to accept nuclear because I'm not willing to do all those things?

Basically, what's in your driveway ..

The environmentalist should live at third world standards or support the only viable option to power even his first world, iPhone Hippy lifestyle.

1. "Solar goes up by ten percentage points, ..." Solar is currently 0.5% of U.S. When would it increase by 10 percentage points. I assume pretty quickly so by 2022. If so, then no, but solar is on an exponential curve so it isn't like there will be a sudden leap.

2. "China is as China does, and they slowly move away from their installed coal base, in the meantime taking steps to control their particulate matter but not so much their carbon, copying America in this regard."

China's air started to become cleaner from 2000. Its CO2 emissions are now flat and the U.S per capita emissions started to decline from around 2000.

3. "Africa and Vietnam exceed growth expectations, with a lot of solar power to be sure, but not enough to counteract their growing industrialization."

They don't factor in since such low CO2 emitters and by 2020s, not just much wider use of solar power will be in effect but autos, factories etc will emit far less CO2 than today.

4. " The global boost in temperature continues, unchecked."

It has been pretty flat for the past two decades. If a boost, then from what baseline?

4) your response is undeniably false.

Please explain why.

He won't; you are criticizing his Religion. You are either a True Believer, or an enemy.

I too wonder why all of the climate models have been utterly wrong for the last 20 years, and yet we are supposed to take their underlying assumptions as Scripture. And worse, keep using them to tell you what is going to happen in 2100. (!!)

But these people are as anti-science as you can get.

It's curious how convenient it that science denial is part and parcel to all other right wing beliefs. You believe X so you must also believe X and 99% of scientists who spend their lives doing this research can't convince you otherwise. I wish your grandchildren luck. They'll need it.

Look at the graph.

Then look at a graph with 5-year moving averages: https://data.giss.nasa.gov/gistemp/graphs_v3/

This will help you to understand why anyone with actual knowledge of statistics understands the use of 1998 as a point of reference is fraud.

Also, many years since 1998 have been warmer than 1998. So even the most fraudulent presentations on this question have been not only fraudulent, but outright false and complete lies since about 2005, after which point in time global average temperatures have actually been warmer than 1998.

So ... if you want to find out where you're getting misinformation from. Just find out where you're getting your ideas on this question. Because either a) they are knowingly peddling you trash in order to be able to manipulate you, or b) don't have a bloody clue themselves.

Troll Me, please look up "statistical error". And the only years that have been slightly warmer than 1998 have been 2015 and 2016.

Funny how the response to the warming pause was that 15 years was "not really very meaningful" (IPCC Fifth Assessment lead author, Dennis Hartman in 2014)

High water marks are an inappropriate point of reference when discussing changes in averages.

If that does not sound exceedingly obvious to you, and also a massive understatement, then, no respect intended, you don't have a fucking clue and probably never will.

Troll me, your worthless social science master's program probably included a "statistics for X" course requirement, you anti-science loon.

I observe that you require insulting comeback lines, but demonstrated no knowledge in the area you speak of.

I meant to type China CO2 emissions started to decline in 2015, not 2000.

The solution is quite simple. Anyone who opposes the construction of fourth-generation-or-later nuclear power facilities in geologically stable areas remote from the ocean is executed for attempted mass murder by means of a catastrophic runaway greenhouse effect. Stalin, Mao, and Pol Pot have showed us effective means to do so.

Then, with the opposition defeated, we go ahead and start building LFTR and PRISM reactors in geologically-stable areas well inland. I suggest the "brownfields" of Rust Belt cities as cheap, economically-distressed locations already local to existing power grids.

If I understand you correctly, you agree with the principle of taking responsibility for actions that will have negative consequences on third parties in the future.

I'm going to focus on that part.

Aren't people the putative cause of anthropogenic global warming? (The A in AGW.) So the cure isn't anything other than reducing the number of people. Any other solution just allows a larger population before we hit the limit, so it isn't a solution -- it just allows a higher, more crowded equilibrium.

What are the consequences of doing nothing? People die. But that's true with any other course of action. At some point, enough people die that carbon emissions are reduced and we reach an equilibrium. If we get there sooner rather than later, it will be a less crowded equilibrium. That's the "soft landing" scenario. Isn't that better than the "hard landing" scenario? If you want the former rather than the latter, the correct course of action is drill, baby, drill.

Not really. It isn't the absolute number of people but the amount of emissions they can generate. One person can start a forest fire.

The correct way to view this is to look at how reduced emissions affect GDP per capita. With a fixed technology and habits (energy intensity), a reduction in pollution necessarily results in a reduction of the standard of living. And since we know there is income inequality, it necessarily means we will either have to increase redistribution or suffer higher levels of poverty.

I bet you can fit both triangular and square objects through triangular and square holes.

Population cannot grow infinitely, of course.

So ... women who have opportunities in the labour market tend to have fewer kids ... how about stumping up some cash to promote education, and also labour rights for women, in the 3rd world?

I don't know about CO2 specifically but in general, ecological footprint does not correlate to population, but total GDP, and GDP per capita is a big factor there.

Stopped reading after “The carbon tax causes a mild recession in America, and environmentalism becomes less popular.“

Reality check, Tyler.

You think something is obvious here, but I can't even tell in which direction you think the statement is wrong.

It would take a 20% decline in our GDP to bring us back to an "acceptable" level of emissions. That's not a small recession. It's not worth reading after that point because intelligent people know nibbling when they hear it. You don't continue to listen to the used car salesman who does it. You put your hand in his face and tell him to shut up.

But what if the economy of 2020 is not the same as the economy of 2000?

What then?

Then your logic falls all apart.

Willits, where did Tyler claim the carbon tax would be large enough to be effective? He argues we will be like Western Europe, which to me means ineffective half-measures. A carbon tax that causes a small recession and does little to reduce emissions seems quite plausible to me.

My salary of 50k was ineffective at getting me to 100k.

Because it only got half way, therefore my income is $0, not $50,000

Request from someone more knowledgeable on this topic than I: What's the worst plausible case by 2100? That is some projection grounded in evidence at some level, and not just science fiction or eco-hysteria. (I.e. it would help assuage me if this scenario came from someone on public record as supporting GMOs)

plausible: that pause we had experienced indicates, that warming is not at 'worst' possible way, but rather middle case.

now, given that - we get current emissions ( at current rates doubling will happen in 60 years and rcp4.5 top margin in more than 100 years ),ongoing car electrification, coal plants moving to more efficient turbines etc - we 'naturally' arrive at rcp4.5 scenario even if nothing specifically is done. rcp4.5 at middle projects about ~2.5 C warming over preindustrial.

given that it is inevitable, that never nuclear designs will appear (new wind turbines will be equipped with active antinoise dumping - so less objection), etc - a plausible worst case warming will be below 2C.

Say, take the outside ranges, 95% or 99% confidence intervals, and call that a "worst plausible case".

GMOs have unknown risks. That's a dumb bar for seeing someone as credible. Most especially because the areas of specialization are completely different. Someone qualified to speak on GMOs, as an expert, is not qualified as an expert on climate science. And vice versa.

GMOs have unknown risks but AGW is a certainty and nuclear is unacceptably dangerous. If all of these statements are true than the only logical solution is a intensive regulatory regime that mandates low-energy hippy lifestyles and global communism, which is what you want anyway.

This is why people oppose AGW loons like yourself.

If black were white and white were black, then indeed things would be confusing.

Just because some hippies are as bad at science as you, doesn't mean the experts are wrong.

The experts say GMO and Nuclear are safe you third-rate clown.

Someone thinks A and B.

Anyone who disagrees with B, necessarily disagrees with A.

This is a symptom of black and white thinking. Because it IS black and white thinking.

Also, 1 is not 100.

I argue that there reasons for caution in both those areas.

You speak as though awareness of known and unknown risks is evidence of a non-scientific mind.

The main question should be if you yourself are truly that deluded, or if you are here for the purpose of deluding others.

Unknown risks compared to what?

The usual means of developing new crop strains for the last seventy years has been to take an existing plant, blast it with powerful mutagens -- usually artificial radiation, but there are a number of alternatives -- to randomly scramble the chromosomes, see if the descendants have any new, desirable features, and then hybridize the completely new genes into an existing strain of the crop.

The GMO method is to take a known gene of known effects, and insert it deliberately into a strain of the crop.

It is certainly possible that the GMO method could cause unforeseen side effects -- but by necessity, only a subset of those that could be caused by introducing completely random new genes by a completely uncontrolled method. Given that GMOs are then subjected to more-stringent safety checks by the USDA, FDA, and EPA than the usual method also means that such GMOs that actually make it to the supermarket are better-screened than those made by the methods more likely to have adverse consequences.

People who eat food, but oppose eating GMOs, are fully as rational as someone who rides a poorly-maintained Harley without a helmet refusing to get into a factory-new Volvo because it might get into a car accident.

The fact that genes could previously be altered to some specific end by that means is not evidence that other means of changing genes are therefore benign.

If there is so little risk, the GMO companies should take it upon themselves to better communicate about it.

If GMO is so safe, then why can consumers not choose for themselves? If GMO is so efficient, then can some small share of that efficiency be allocated to a few characters on each label indicating "GMO"?

So, I think anti-GMO people are not likely to be proven the most prescient on the matter .But the risks they talk about are mostly pretty real (more in the categoroies of known unknowns and unknown unknowns), and the sketchy avoidance strategies of the GMO companies do not build confidence.

I want GMO companies to have to make their case. To consumers. On markets. Who are able to access very basic information about the products they consume. I.e., one of the most basic and fundamental aspects of a free market. To know what the hell is in the can. And if you think telling the truth will drive me away, the bloody hell, I deserve to know what's in that can.

Trying to predict the global surface temperature out to 2100 has never made one iota of sense.

Think back to 1917 and ask from what you know about the world then:

1) How many Americans will die of tuberculous in 2000?
2) What will communications be like in 2000? (There were no radio stations in 1917.)
3) What will the divorce rate be in 2000?
4) What will be the destructive power of the largest bomb in 2000?

Did we need to know how many Americans would die of tuberculosis in 2000 to know that investing in public sanitation was a good idea in 1917?

Did we need to know what communications would be like in 2000 to know that stringing telephone wires was a good idea in 1917?

Etc, etc

Precise predictions are nice, but just having a rough idea of the direction suffices. In this case, very basic science tells us that an atmosphere with more CO2 will retain more heat than one with less CO2, other things equal. More complicated science indicates that the atmosphere has more CO2 than before and that global average temperatures are rising. There is no reason to think that either trend will reverse on its own, so its probably a good idea to do something.

"Precise predictions are nice, but just having a rough idea of the direction suffices."

No, it doesn't, and that is the point of the 1917 exercise.

The 1917 does not prove what you think it proves.

There were no precise predictions of TB incidence for 2000 in 1917. Nevertheless, the problem was greatly ameliorated, despite only having a rough epidemiological outline.

Once they identified a problem, they took action to solve it, instead of waiting until they had enough information to satisfy every isolated demand for rigor.

"The 1917 does not prove what you think it proves.
There were no precise predictions of TB incidence for 2000 in 1917."

Perhaps because doctors in 1917 thought such projections were meaningless? But dire predictions were made in the early 40s with respect to polio about how there needed to be a huge increase of iron lungs by the 1960s. Then the 1950s happened.

Only economists like Piketty and Gordon, climate modelers and Ray Kurzweil predicts out to 2100. The first two groups should leave century long forecasts to the professionals, like Uncle Ray.

100 years ago something could not be done.

Therefore its stupid to even try today.

Progress is around the corner folks!

"Trying to predict the global surface temperature out to 2100 has never made one iota of sense."

It makes a lot of sense. When the people of 2100 read that the predicted lower tropospheric warming from 1990 to 2100 (three-year average, centered around the years in question)was 1.2 degrees Celsius, and the warming from 1990 to 2100 turns out to be *exactly* 1.2 degrees Celsius:


...the people of 2100 will say, "That Mark Bahner was one brilliant mofo!" :-) (Or whatever the phrase of the day is in 2100.) All e-books on Nostradamus will be eliminated to allow more space for books on the prophet Mark Bahner. (Which will be bizarre, since the storage cost of the eliminated Nostradamus files will be 0.00000000000000000000000000000001 cent.)

P.S. Conversely, they will say, "I can't believe Science magazine published such ridiculous papers. It sure was over-rated!" ;-)

P.P.S. Of course, if the temperature rise is instead 0.81 degrees Celsius, like Michael Crichton predicted, that will be a real bummer. A science fiction writer! ;-)


if climate change policy means better energy efficiency, why not?

What are you waiting for? Higher oil prices, higher capital costs? Building things takes time. In an ideal case you'll know oil price will rise on October 23 2019, and then invest a year before in energy efficiency. However, in the real world you never know. When the price signal arrives it is already late to make the investment. The time between the price increase and the first day of operation of the new device is money lost not taken into account.

It used to be high status to prepare for bad times during good times :/

'if climate change policy means better energy efficiency, why not?'

Because it hurts the bottom line of those selling you energy. It really is that simple, at least in the U.S.

It hurts the bottom line of energy consumers, and I am an energy consumer. Plus, we all know this isn't going to get funded through broad-based payroll taxes, it's not going to get funded through social service cuts, and it's not going to get funded through military cuts. It's obviously not going to get funded from poor peasants in China or India.

So income taxpaying citizens in the US will be footing the bill, along with free heart-transplants for 90-year old geriatrics that will be dead in 5 years anyways, glamorous pensions for public workers who spent the last few decades failing to meet any productivity metric, post-graduate degrees for young adults who don't want to do any real work, free pre-K for parents who are too lazy to read to their kids or remember the absent father's name, stealth bombers to fight insurgents who barely have working AKs, bike lanes for morbidly obese people, and bailing out SS for people who blew all their money on SUVs and McMansions.

Hows'bout some of these other budget priorities get tossed and then we can talk about saving the world from 3 degree warming?

Can you please share some data with us on 90-year olds getting FREE heart TRANSPLANTS?

I don't think you have a very good touch on reality.

Weird. It's almost as though, in your world, we aren't using half the energy we used in 1975, per dollar of GDP.

That's a bit conspiracy paranoia.

There are simpler cultural explanations. In some groups, wasting money is a way to display wealth to others. In other groups, preparing for bad times is more important than showing off.

Authentic rich people doesn't have cut off consumption when crisis arrives. It's only the poor that like to show off that have to downscale from a large SUV to a cheaper car when bad times arrive. The new rich get drunk with "I don't have to read a price sticker anymore".

Not at all. Germany has a feed in tariff system, where the power companies are forced to buy power at a fixed rate. They hate it with a fierceness that has led to them losing billions and billions of euros, in large part as they assumed that they could use politics to overturn that structure and go back to being a fat and happy cartel, controlling the entire grid, from generation to transmission to rate setting.

By this point, a company like EnBW is losing money on every kilowatt generated using coal. And yet, Germany's wholesale electrical rates are lower than the U.S.'s, and the country is an exporter of electricity.

It is really quite interesting to see the Energiewende in action - 'For net electricity exports in 2015, Germany achieved a record foreign trade surplus of 2.07 billion euros, well exceeding Germany’s former record of 1.94 billion euros reached in 2013. A detailed data analysis showed that the average market price realized by Germany for electricity exports was on the same level as for its electricity imports in 2015. “The common argument that Germany is selling its surplus electricity to foreign countries at dumping prices cannot be confirmed according to these numbers,” sums up Prof. Bruno Burger at Fraunhofer ISE, who evaluates the data from the German Federal Statistical Office on a continual basis.

On the website www.energy-charts.de, scientists at the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE graphically display the German foreign trade data for electricity. The data show that Germany has generated over 13 billion euros in revenue from electricity exports over the last ten years. In 2015, Germany’s electricity export surplus amounted to 50 terawatt hours, also a new record. During 8074 of 8760 total hours in the year, or 92 percent of the time, electricity exports exceeded imports. On average, the amount of power exported was 5.7 GW, which corresponds to about four nuclear power plants. Germany exported the most electricity to the Netherlands, who sent some of it on to Belgium and Great Britain. Second in line was Switzerland, who sent nearly all of the electricity from Germany directly on to Italy. Most of Germany’s electricity imports came from France. Here Germany acted, for the most part, as a transit country, passing the electricity on to other countries.

Against the backdrop of Germany’s gradual withdrawal from nuclear power, the trend of increasing electricity exports persists since the amount of energy generated from renewables continues to increase at a fast pace. “As a result of increased power production from renewable energy sources, we were able to reduce our dependency on electricity from environmentally harmful lignite-fired plants faster. Even this year the first lignite-fired power plants are to be put out of service,” explains Burger. The largest increase in renewable energy production stems mostly from wind power. Production from onshore wind increased by ca. 20 TWh and offshore by ca. 7 TWh respectively.' https://www.ise.fraunhofer.de/en/press-media/news/2016/germanys-electricity-exports-surplus-brings-record-revenue-of-over-two-billion-euros.html

That renewables component tends not to be owned by any of the major utilities. About the only people suffering from the Energiewende, which also includes a major component involving forcing increased efficiency, are the utility companies. Germany is forcing ever higher efficiency through things like building codes (a newly built house is required to cover a minimum of 30% of its consumed energy through self-generated energy, for example) and Germans seem to have little problem with the idea that if a solar water heater which costs 3000 euros saves 500 euros a year, they come out ahead, to the tune of not needing to spend 500 euros a year, after waiting six years for the pay off. Of course, somebody is losing out on that unspent 500 euros a year, but sure that is only a conspiracy theory. American energy companies are just as capable as German ones when doing that math - the difference is that Germans used their political system to reduce the need to send money to those companies.

"About the only people suffering from the Energiewende, which also includes a major component involving forcing increased efficiency, are the utility companies. "

German domestic consumers have the highest electricity prices in Europe.

I also like how, in your world, people have to be forced to do things that are self-evidently in their own best interest, 'cos they're too stupid to pick up all the free gains the green bonanza creates.

I think you underestimate the impact of wind. Wind can be developed in combination with natural gas because natural gas plants can be powered up or down rapidly serving as a backup. Companies have figured out how to transmit larger windmills which have a lower average cost. Iowa is getting 36% of its power from wind. Most of the Great Plains states get 10% or more. While federal tax credits help economically generation mandates production have exceeded state mandates in places like Texas.

While NIMBY is always a problem I don't think it is insurmountable. Massachusetts, for example, just legalized offshore wind and also included a renewables mandate rather than approve a new natural gas pipeline so they should eb getting some soon.

Some information - 'Wind energy delivered over 30 percent of the electricity produced in Iowa and South Dakota in 2016. Kansas, Oklahoma, and North Dakota generated over 20 percent of their electricity from wind, while 20 states now produce more than 5 percent of their electricity from wind energy. ERCOT, the main grid operator for most of Texas, and SPP, which operates across parts of 14 states, competed for new wind power penetration records throughout 2016, both topping 50 percent wind energy on several occasions.' http://www.aweablog.org/top-11-wind-energy-trends-2016/

If it makes economic sense, then it doesn't require a tax credit.

It might not require a tax credit anymore. It is coming down the cost curve pretty rapidly. All the states that the previous poster, prior_test2, mentioned have electricity costs lower than the national average.


But even if it does so what? Wind does not generate the harmful emissions of coal or even natural gas. Certainly cleaner air is a public good that is a benefit.

Not necessarily.

If 100 million units are economically good, then good. But what if a $10 million subsidy could cause 200 million units to be produced, with a net social benefit of more than $10 million?

Because carbon issues are on a very long time frame that is not well suited to our psychology, it is very likely that on this subject there will be some handful of no-brainer do-the-subsidy kinds of situations.

The government should not be involved where it does not belong. But the fact that the market produces SOME of something should not be considered as evidence that intervention (positive or negative) is necessarily suboptimal.

Of course it does. You have to force people to pick up the free money created by the Green Economic Miracle. False consciousness and all that.

'and wind by two or three, given NIMBY opposition'

No, this is so wrong in terms of the U.S. that it is difficult to imagine someone wrote it. Wind is cheaper than solar, is more flexible in the sense that wind also blows at night, and if one even bothers to look at a map where the wind turbines are being installed in large numbers, one recognizes that the nearest 'neighbors' are very far away. Unless one thinks that Texas and the Plains are densely populated, of course.

And to think that only a few years ago Cowen was all in on the "uncertainty" explanation for the great recession, business not making investments in the future because government policy under Obama was "uncertain". If only government policy were "certain", all would be well across the land. Is "uncertainty" a friend or foe? I suppose it depends. Of course, the only "certainty" in life is death, which we can all look forward to. What else is at least a near "certainty"? Opposition to government policy that might cut into profits or increase taxes, both near "certainties". Another financial crisis triggered by the speculative boom in stocks and real estate is a near "certainty". If that weren't enough, I'll end with the Cowen Puzzler: the desire for "certainty" produces "complacency" which increases "uncertainty". Go figure.

On the specific issue of climate change, what's being promoted by some is a variation in the Cowen Puzzler: the proper response to the "uncertainty" regarding climate change should be "complacency" which will increase the "certainty" of climate change and eventual remedial action. The brain of an economist is conditioned to be counter-intuitive because for every action there is an opposite reaction, so by doing the opposite of what appears to be the proper action it will eventually result in the best reaction. Some might call this nonsense, while others call it Austrian economics.

Uncertainty means people can should "but maybe not! maybe the decimal places are wrong!", and all you can say is "uhh ... probably not, but I guess maybe".

Obfuscationists love uncertainty.

"Following a Trump debacle, finally the Democrats win all branches of government and pass a climate change bill. "

The anomaly Trump election and subsequent administration somehow makes the election of Democrat school board members and dog catchers a sure thing? It is to laugh. Even if 99% of climate scientists believe that there's runaway global warming the new Democrat super majority ushered in by Trump incompetence won't be able to decide on a response that doesn't factor in small gifts to its constituents and colossal opportunities for rent-seeking by its elites.

Yep. At this point, in the U.S. at least, climate change is inextricably bound with the rest of the progressive agenda. In Washington state, a revenue-neutral carbon tax was defeated by opponents on the left, notably the 'Alliance for Jobs and Clean Energy', which Slate described as

A coalition of Washington state environmental groups, social justice groups, labor groups, advocacy groups for communities of color, and Washington chapters of national environmental groups. Members of the alliance are well-funded, enjoying support from the likes of Tom Steyer and Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen. Their objection has been that I-732 “doesn’t do enough” to help poor people and misses opportunities to “invest” in clean energy.

The bottom line was that a revenue-neutral tax was unacceptable because it didn't provide any new money for all the various left-wing causes and interest groups.

Right. There were, of course, opponents on the right, but the failure of environmentalist groups on the left to support I-732 was a real disappointment. If the issue is that important, then a carbon tax like I-732 was a step in the right direction. (For opposing left-leaning command-and-control solutions, people who believe in climate change get called deniers. If we used the same standards, the groups that opposed I-732 would be called "deniers" as well.)

The failure of I-732 greatly decreases the chance that unified Democratic control would do anything that would significantly increase the price of carbon, instead of throwing some money around for research. A second factor not to be ignored is the still lingering bruises in Democratic memory about how the 1993 gas tax may have cost them in Congress. A huge percentage of the people who claim to favor action on climate change believe (because they want to believe) that action would be a free lunch, and only support action that doesn't cost them anything. They will easily flip to the inaction side when presented with a plan that actually does something meaningful.

Some people are able to think about two different things in the same day.

Republicans are famously deluded on questions of climate change. Middle school children in China can better explain the science of global warming than many Republican science students, the misinformation and misdirection on the question is so bad.

So... on the other side some people get more worked up maybe than necessary? That is not relevant to scientific analysis.

In this case of I-732, the issue is politics rather than science. The progressives in Washington rejected a revenue-neutral carbon tax because they're treating AGW as a crisis that's too precious to waste. They demonstrated that they are much more interested in using climate change as a means of advancing the broad leftist agenda than they are worried about climate change itself.

A few percent might be placed in roughly that category.

But I think it's more like that want what they wanted before, and now want something else too.

You and the rest of the GMO and Nuclear deniers can be placed in that category, Troll. Don't worry, you'd be in good company with around 100% of elected Democrats and your own manboy J.T.

"A few percent might be placed in roughly that category."

In Washington, it appears to have been more than just a few percent. The I-732 initiative lost by 18 points while, at the same time, Clinton beat Trump by 16.

Thomas, I do not suffer from your cognitive condition which involves the inability to see in shades other than black and white.

Note: Black and white thinking is strongly associated with vulnerability to brainwashing.

What is always left out of these discussions is that the uncertainty on climate change is two-sided. Just as much as skeptics may rightly point out that it may not be as bad as the experts say, one must also remember that it may get a lot hotter and faster than the experts' median protection. That risk is not properly factored into these discussions.

if it gets hotter at worst case - by 2030 there will be signs of that. it is just impossible that something is growing bad, but keeps it's manifestation to very last day. And this is not my opinion - but what I found on the net 'in worst case Netherlands will experience floods by 2030'

Now if that is detected, that worst case is coming - so no uncertainty.
and here goes - the complete solution to emissions is few trillion dollars problem. Given operation in Iraq took 1 trillion - US, Europe and China will solve that in few years.

so 'worst case' which no one observes is just not an issue - it is plainly impossible. Early detected worst case - will be resolved as no one will oppose the solution. No one wants to be fried in too hot climate.

So why that uncertainty is still debated? because it is nice scientific talk. 'long tails' etc. So good to speak about.

I wish I agreed with you on this, but I don't think that in <15 years we are likely to see an about face from deniers/skpetics on this topic--and I believe this is true almost no matter what happens with temperatures and the climate data. The financial and political interests are too strong now and they cannot change that fast. It is 1) money and 2) religion at this point. However, I do agree that we will probably be able to see confirmation that we are headed to worst case within the next couple decades. My question is whether that actually changes anything. By that time, it will be even easier to say "it's too late."

I was mostly persuaded of the warmist case in 1998-2001, but then slipped back to a lukewarmist because the GCM predictions simply didn't pan out. The more low and mid-case fits we have, the more the priors shift against the catastrophic scenarios.

Plus I learnt a lot more about the models and realised that I wouldn't trust them for my day job. When they can make genuinely skilful predictions, I'm available to be persuaded.

Over/under includes an over.

Yes, the right solution is better energy generation and storage technology that can be deployed across the globe. That should be the main point and we should be investing massively in it, both in a private and public sense. Policy, international agreements and pigovian taxes don't create value - they can only optimize things at the margins. People who don't understand technology like to talk about policy.

It's possible we dont come up with a much better energy generation technology in the next 100 yrs. If so, that will leave time for adaptation and migration to newly improved regional climates due to warming, geo-enginerring experimentation and enjoyment of our newly lush planet due to improved CO2 levels.

But please let's stop talking about the Paris accord and listening to the bumpersticker crowd as if politcal action will "save the planet."

The rules of the game determine how much CO2 is emitted.

If taxes are shifted onto carbon waste instead of taxing ingenuity and effort, then "political action will save the planet".

OK, I admit it. The world will not literally explode if 6C warmer happens. So ... political action is what is required.

>It’s possible we dont come up with a much better energy generation technology in the next 100 yrs. If so, that will leave time for adaptation and migration to newly improved regional climates due to warming, geo-enginerring experimentation and enjoyment of our newly lush planet due to improved CO2 levels.

Our lush, tropical planet will have sea levels rise substantially, displacing tens (hundreds?) of millions of people.

Given that we can't tolerate current levels of immigration (see Le Pen, Trump, Brexit, etc.), where is the political will going to come from to tolerate massively increased levels of immigration?

"But come on, let’s be honest. If all you are doing is trying to combat uncertainty about the science, you are unwilling to look the actual problem square in the eye, just like the climate deniers, the very people you so much decry."

At this point, hasn't everybody who's susceptible to this kind of social bullying ('You don't want to be associated with THOSE people do you?') already knuckled under? Or are there really more gains to be had for that strategy?

China isn't backing off coal at all. Haven't indicated any inclination to until 2030, a joke. In the meantime, they will open one old-dirty-tech coal power plant each week for the next ten years, India at least half that many. Not to mention Brazil, Indonesia, Philippines, Pakistan, Egypt . . . for most developing countries, coal is by far the cheapest energy source & they aren't going to sacrifice economic development to please the elites of nations who already have universal electric service. In the meantime, the US & Japan are already down to 1995 levels & EU is close. Any further reductions possible by these, at any cost, will pale beside what the rest of the world does.

Save the fevered hand-wringing for the gullible choir.

They've actually started decommissioning coal plants. I'd post links but I don't think it'd make a dent. Something or other globally recognized environmental organization (for which reason you'd pre-ignore it anyways).

Aren't they just decommissioning the oldest, least efficient plants?

The EIA projects that China's coal consumption will increase slightly through the late 2020s and then decline slightly putting the 2040 levels on par with current levels. They see coal consumption in non-China, non-OECD nations rising slowly till 2040 as well.

The current plans don't involve cutting emissions, we're moving towards a plateau.


Yes, Troll manages to miss this obvious point. It's like saying the US is scrapping private motor vehicles.

The difference is that the number of cars on US roads is increasing, whereas the number of coal plants in China is decreased.

Aside from that minor detail, excellent point of comparison!

But consumption of coal is increasing, aside from that minor detail....

Well, we're basically at the inflection point around-ish now. So there's no point in arguing that one or the other of us is particularly confidence if the number is up or down.

But none of this nonsense of "building a coal plant a week" kind of talk, eh?

Discussions of climate change need to differentiate between risk and uncertainty. The more uncertain our understanding is of the all the links in the causal chain between releasing co2 and climate-mediated effects on human society, the less motivated we should be to do something, despite acknowledging that this could result in more disastrous outcomes. The logic is the same that allows us to reject Pascal's wager.

If we are risk averse, then uncertainty should increase risk aversion action relative to post-facto observation, when the risk being evaluated isn't a $5 lotto ticket but instead is something like if the equatorial 20% of the planet will be basically uninhabitable in 100 years.

Radford below expands on the thinking behind my reference to Pascal's wager, which you haven't addressed.

I've never accepted the supposed distinction between "risk" (something like future dice throws) and "uncertainty" (something like whether or not Kennedy was assassinated by the CIA). Uncertainty is uncertainty, regardless of the source, and should be accounted for in decisions the same way.

The real problem is that uncertainty in open-ended questions like climate change is often not properly assessed. Running some simulation program with various plausible-looking input parameters and seeing that 1% of the time it leads to 600 degree temperatures on Earth should not lead one to conclude that there is a 1% chance that temperatures will reach 600 degrees. There is loads of common sense prior information, which may be vague, but which nevertheless ought to lead one to greatly reduce that probability. If you consistently fail to do that, you'll be desperately worried not just about climate change but about super volcanoes, influenza epidemics, asteroid impacts, global nuclear war, ...

And if you then spend money to address all these worries, you'll end up starving to death.

Sounds like we're on the same page.

Risk is quantifiable. Uncertainty is not.

It matters for anything where financial instruments might ultimately be involved. Because if you cannot quantify the risk, it is uncertain, and this changes everything.

Philosophically, I think there are many reasons that your approach to thinking it through can be both more interesting and maybe even more constructive, at least sometimes. But there is a very practical reason to have the distinction.

If risk can be quantified, climate mitigation securities can be traded.

If it is uncertain, the market can be limited and speculative at best.

Hence, the obfuscationists always try to paint the situation in ways which are similar to "uncertainty", as opposed to quantifiable "risk" which may be transformed into financial instruments. Very important distinction for that reason.

If you want to spend public money on it then have the decency to put a number on it and we can haggle. I won't accept "it's uncertain therefore please give it infinite weight".

As Radford says, there are a large number of other existential risks which don't run around pleading uncertainty as a way of accessing unlimited funds. Super volcanoes, comets, AI risk, nanotech, evil aliens and influenza epidemics etc etc...

That's the point.

If you want to prevent action, you try to convince everyone that it's "uncertain" as compared to a defined risk distribution.

So in order to prevent action, all that is to be done is to sow uncertainty. It's a really stupid way to work your way through an "optimal insurance policy" problem.

"Risk is quantifiable. Uncertainty is not."

That seems to be the standard line in economics and finance. But it makes no sense from the subjective Bayesian philosophical perspective. And it makes no sense to people who bet on lots of things that are "uncertain", who have obviously made a quantitative decision.

Of course, not everyone accepts the subjective Bayesian framework for probability and decision making, but it has a huge literature supporting it, so just saying "uncertainty is not quantifiable" over and over again isn't convincing.

I'm not saying it's not quantifiable.

I'm saying that the definition of the word does not refer to things which are presently quantified.

By definition, i.e., what the word means, if you're talking about things that can be quantified, then, by definition of what the word means, then we're talking about "risk "and not "uncertainty". The philosophical discussion might be interesting about uncertainty, but let's not redefine our words in disagreement with the dictionary as step 1.

I don't think common usage of the word "uncertain" carries the implication that the uncertainty has not been quantified. If it did, the last part of the previous sentence would read strangely, like "unmarried bachelor" reads strangely. And if it did, subjective Bayesians would never use the word, which empirically is not the case.

This meaning of "uncertainty" instead seems to be a technical usage in some fields, one which presupposes a theory of decision making that is rejected by subjective Bayesians.

On the subject of climate in ways that link with finance, it's worth insisting on the point.

So as to not facilitate the calculated dissemination of uncertainty for the purpose of exaggerating that uncertainty..

Spending billions to ineffectively address an imaginary problem certainly sounds like the way to go.

Do you want more Trump? Keep suggesting this, because that is how you get more Trump.

(More seriously, what should we do to prevent an invasion by lobsters from Neptune? Experts say they hate bike paths. We should ban those, or at LEAST levy a massive tax. Given all the uncertainty.)

Evidence of error in your reasoning.

1) Ineffective. You are relying on the principle that demand for wasteful fuels remains the same whne prices change. This voilates econ 101 in a context where no additional logic really supplements it. Beyond that, you have "just so" "logic".

2) "imaginary problem". Are you American Republican much?

"Spending billions to ineffectively address an imaginary problem certainly sounds like the way to go."

We fund public schools.

I'd have thought conservatives could get behind infrastructure over that. But I always forget, conservatives really are few.

What was it above - efforts to address climate change will redirect $ away from "building houses for poor people"? Where are they currently living?

"China isn’t backing off coal at all. Haven’t indicated any inclination to until 2030, a joke."

According to the IEA, China's coal consumption began to decline in 2013 and CO2 emissions have started to decrease since 2015.

Yeah, but let's look at what's coming down the pipeline....

Don't forget that coal plants are periodically decommissioned as well.

So when you read how many are being built, if this is not connected to information about how many are being decommissioned in the same period, this is when you can conclude that the information source is either fraudulent or otherwise low grade.

Say, you build 19 coal plants. But shut down 200 old and particularly inefficient ones.

Which is the same as closing down 180 coal plants, not opening 20.

"According to the IEA,"

There's your first malfunction.

You have a better source?

As for the expansion of coal, I'll wait until it happens.

I don't like the constant alarmism and poor predictions of the IEA, but I think they give a reasonable picture of the present.

NASA said there's a moon up there.

But I know it's just the man in the sky.

I'll wager that 99.9% of the people who believe in global warming have never read a peer-reviewed journal article on the topic, and couldn't understand it if they did.

I'll wager that 99.9% of them could not name five climate scientists and could not even name one of their papers.

I'll wager that more than 90% of them could not even identify the five most abundant greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

What we have here are millions of pseudo-intellectuals pretending that there is a rational and factual basis for their extraordinary beliefs. These beliefs support political and economic objectives having absolutely nothing to do with earth's climate.

The blood of the Greens runs red.

I'd wager that more than 99.9% of people have not read a single journal article on nearly every question that could possibly be specified.

Maybe not for climate change. Probably under 99%, which means more than 1% HAVE read such articles.

Among the deniers though, I'd better the number is much lower, but the level of delusion on the matter much higher, for having read junk science that some right wing con job outlet (to be differentiated from right wing outlets which are not con jobs) told them was from some journal (but not before completely reworking the content into saying other than what the journal article already said).

I won't take your wager because I agree with you that most people are completely ignorant about difficult scientific inquiry.

You're definitely wrong about what you call "deniers." Many of them HAVE read peer reviewed articles if for no reason other than to find holes in the research. Millions of such people regularly read Watts Up with That which has more than 320 million views.

Watt is a far better scientist than you are.

Please share one of these articles.

If it is to mention "carbon fertilization", please, not without a full discussion on "heat stress".

The second will outweigh the first in most places, which are also the same places that a) deserve it least because they didn't cause it and b) are otherwise least able to fix the situation or mitigate against negative effects

"a) deserve it least"

Global. Communism. Is. Your. Goal.

Thomas, under personal responsiblity, if you cause a problem, you are responsible to fix it.

And the person who suffered the negative consequence did not deserve it.

For example, if you hit a child with your car. You are responsible. And they did not deserve it.

Do you believe in responsibility?

...and I'll wager the same is true about 99.9% of people who don't believe in global warming.

Like abortion, gun rights, and so much else, it's become yet another partisan shibboleth for both sides cultivated by the political-media complex for the purposes of selling advertising and partisan fund-raising. Rational discussion of the actual science--caveats, probabilities, and all--isn't on the table and won't be for the foreseeable future.

That said, you're attributing an economic motive to the Greens. That's not it. It's eschatology. The climate apocalypse is their Revelation end times. The evil and unworthy (the technology-using masses and their sinister corporate overlords) will at last be judged and found wanting by the deity (Gaea/Mother Nature/the Goddess) for befouling the deity's creation and its proper order (nature). Meanwhile, the just and faithful (Greens and "purer", technologically undeveloped societies) will be rewarded by returning to the Garden and the true, innocent way of life that the deity intended for them (adopting a pre-industrial or even pre-agricultural lifestyle). They want it to happen.

Speaking as a staunch conservationist and opponent of pollution, the environmental movement went off the rails when it became anti-modern and let the Gaea worshippers in the door. I didn't fully appreciate it until I learned, for example, how absolutely batshit ballistic Greens go over space exploration and efforts like Elon Musk's Mars initiative. Previously, I'd never connected environmentalism and space exploration as issues at all yet Greens see them as mutually exclusive and in zero-sum competition for financial resources.

"Rational discussion of the actual science–caveats, probabilities, and all–isn’t on the table and won’t be for the foreseeable future?"

If it were up to you maybe.

Want to put something other than misdirection, obfuscation and insults on the table?

"Speaking as a staunch conservationist ... Gaea worshippers" .... you're a total fraud. Do you think there is some idiot on the planet who cannot see that? Please apologize to that idiot for the lack of respect you have for him.

Spend some time around American environmental activists. Or their oil lobby opponents. Lots of passion. Lots of ideology. Lots of dogma. No reason.

If it were up to me, political activists and lobbyists from either side wouldn't get any media time on the issue of climate change. Only accredited scientists in relevant hard science fields.

If he were a genuine conservationist, he would have found another way to dissociate himself from those types.

Ecosystem-based views of how the world works are not religious. Our ability to destroy all those ecosystems does not means that it is religious to bemoan this possibility.

Ones position on abortion, capital punishment or firearms hardly requires scientific research because those issues implicate strong normative values. For example, one can support or oppose abortion regardless of knowing when the first heartbeat occurs or when the fetus feels pain. There isn't a "correct" answer to these questions. At best that knowledge informs people's values and support or undermine useful tropes.

AGW is predicated almost entirely upon the belief in catastrophic environmental consequences from CO2 emissions, among others. The scientific evidence for the existence, cause, timing and magnitude of the effects is the sine qua non of the debate. We need no such evidence to debate abortion.


There is no amount of factual evidence that can convince climate change deniers such as yourself that AGW is a demonstrable phenomenon. Conversely, there is no amount of factual evidence that can convince climate change activists that their predictions are exaggerated, unreliable, or wrong.

Positions on the issue are determined chiefly by mood affiliation and partisan allegiance. Where one stands on the issue is an expression of partisan faith and loyalty. Facts and reason have no role, and thus productive debate and policy negotiation are not possible. Just as with abortion, guns, etc.

It is, in effect, a religious argument.

When 97% of experts agree on one position, and most of the other 3% are agnostic, taking the 50/50 position and calling both sides religious is a most dishonest (or previously manipulated) effort to pretend to non-bias.

You dishonest hack. 97% of climate scientists agree that there is warming and that there is some human component. Not that we should impose $100,000,000,000,000 costs running around making global communism, bike lanes, and blue hair to suit useless, ZMP MA hacks such as yourself.


Reducing waste will cost $100 trillion.

Because it's usually really expensive to waste less.

In which Tyler says "you," but he means me, China, and India.

I am the guilty billions.

Amusing that this Dem scenario eliminates nuclear and stagnates hydro. Limiting these two options is quite literally the dumbest thing you can do if you are trying to simultaneously limit carbon footprint AND maintain reliable power generation. Fossil fuels increase emissions. Solar and wind are unreliable generators (unless you want to cover the Mojave, Namib, Sahara and Central Asian deserts in solar panels. That will result in consistent power generation, but will also cause enviro heads to explode worldwide). Nuclear and hydro are the only two established technologies that both provide steady, reliable power and no practical carbon footprint.

And the Dems would be seen as limiting these options. No surprise.

I think you missed the point. Tyler looks at the world, and distances himself as an alien observer. When he says "you" he doesn't mean "you Democrats." He means "you Democrats, Republicans, independents, Chinese, Indian, French, German, Brazilians ..."

That intellectual distance could have been useful, if it would have been used to recognize a world-wide crowd-sourcing problem. When it is instead to pretend that it is just "you," with those emergent solutions as "your" choice, not so much.

Hydo tends to be limited by the lack of sites. For example I was in Pakistan and the country was suffering from blackouts. Pakistan has available hydro sites. The political opposition was from the subsistence farmers in the valleys that would be flooded out. These farmers were very poor but had some economic security due to the agricultural land they farmed, They were convinced that if the dams were built they would have to leave their homes and move to urban slums.

Nuclear is simply to expensive in mot mature economies. Nuclear plants have to have huge capacities to cover the fixed costs of construction and operation. In North America and Europe demand is basically stagnate so nuclear does not make sense. That is one reason that nuclear has not return to Japan. With a declining population demand decreases. Why spend the money if the lights are already working. I understand that abandoning nuclear is poor environmental policy.

Nuclear does make economic sense in locations with rapidly growing demand such as China wher the capacity can be quickly absorbed..

I don't understand the dogmatic view that carbon taxes will cause highly negative things to the economy.

A revenue neutral carbon tax could very plausibly be better for the economy.

Tax waste, not effort.

Cheap energy created the industrial revolution. At a foundation cheap energy is the source of all worker productivity, be that cloud servers or industrial machines. We can shave off inefficiency and gain a benefit at some ROI, but we can't dodge the fact that a carbon tax is an energy tax. It will reduce productive use of energy at the margin. That's true whether or not the tax is "balanced" somewhere else in the economy.

OK, that was 100 years ago. And, we know things now that we did not then.

Energy intensity in production has long been in decline. It's really not that important any more. Go to a country where it costs 40c a KWh because of infrastructure problems and all the rest? Different story. That's not the picture you're looking at.

No. Energy did not stop being the underlying source of all human productivity 100 years ago. It continues today.

Energy intensity has been in decline, because fossil fuels have become more expensive (mostly supply and demand rather than tax). That reduction in energy use was not a free lunch. Insulation costs money. Hybrid batteries cost money. And of course every business or personal plan canceled because energy costs were too high was a reduction to GDP.

A downward trend does not imply zero.

You must have skipped the math part about school or something.

Huh? You said "Energy intensity in production has long been in decline" and I agreed, applying some economics. Where does this new "zero" even come from?

We would be far better off, and our economy would be much bigger, if some energy source was found to be "clean, safe, too cheap to meter." We don't have that. So we constrain the economy for reason of negative externalities. That's a balance of positive and negative, not a free lunch.

"did not stop being the underlying source of all human productivity"

I did not say that it did stop being the source of ALL human productivity. You can literally look it up. Energy intensity in production. It's a few percent now.

"A few percent" of what? Some small share of the total economy?

"In 2015, total U.S. primary energy consumption was about 97.7 quadrillion (1015, or one thousand trillion) Btu."

Most of those 98 quadrillion Btu would be under a carbon tax.

There were also ten quadrillion quadrillion atoms in those BTUs. And if we started counting by quarks, we might be getting into numbers like 100,000,000,000,000,000,0000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 quarks. (Just guessing).

Energy intensity in production . The percentage of the cost of energy used as an input as a share of the total cost of producing something. Generally in the range of a few percent. So, literally doubling the price of energy would be like giving up a year or two of raises during the progression of a career (but that can be easily given back by reduced income taxes).

We keep throwing facts at each other and completely missing the point. Oren Cass and Bret Stephens are paving the path for Republicans to migrate from the hoax narrative to free market environmentalism. As a scientist, I appreciate their perspective and the discussions they have sparked. We need to grapple with climate change and leave the histrionics behind. Many forces both political and corporate have benefited from our complacency. The status quo is profitable, uncertainty not so much.
The larger questions Americans must consider around climate change are more localized:
What are the ramifications on an aging infrastructure? Public water systems in rural America that are ill-equipped to deal with microcystins or sewage overflow. Electrical grids that are stressed by unexpected demand. Aging dams and bridges that are compromised by heavy water flow.
Should we rethink how we fund a robust safety net for “natural disaster” relief? Farmers with flooded fields and crop/livestock destruction. Homeowners with flooded or destroyed homes.
What impact does climate change have on families and communities that lack the resources to effectively insulate themselves from harm? Poor, rural, disadvantaged.
If the 2016 election has taught us nothing else it should have made clear that the dominate narrative is not always the most important. Rural America has little impact on GDP. We are not worried about dystopian forecasts. The immediate challenges we face concern our communities. The longer the national debate focuses on semantics and abstract forecasts the further we are from solutions. Yeah, status quo!

If everyone else could be persuaded not to be too patronizing in the process, this might actually be possible.

Worry about temps rising is what amateurs worry about. There is much more to human impact than people realize. Spilling massive amounts of phosphates into river deltas is not doing the world a favor and is a classic "internalize that externality!" case. There are alternative models of growing crops (monoculture vs polyculture) that aren't cost effective because we legally allow the externalities to be passed on.

What we environmental types worry about is a potential runaway greenhouse effect. I put it at a low chance of happening, but anyone that keeps an aquarium knows that once things start dying they can cause other things to die. This can happen if the natural carbon sequestration process is stunted by rising acidity in the ocean, which will eventually lead to massive coral reef die offs. This would be a canary in the coal mine. Long run, the ecosystem will adjust but you can have some lengthy period where the global climate is disrupted. Its not made up stuff.

But what if maybe not?

(Sticking head in sand.)

Tyler, you've misused the statistical term "uncertainty". Uncertainty doesn't mean "anything could happen, from nothing much to the apocalypse" unless your model assumes such a range of outcomes. Remember that all probability is conditional; that all risk models predict the probabilities of various kinds of evidence and yet have nothing to say about whether the assumptions upon which they sit are true or even likely to be true given the available evidence. A climate model could have an enormous amount of uncertainty (basically a coin flip's worth) and yet predict a range of outcomes from "nothing much" to "barely annoying". Thus "uncertainty" detached from its model provides no justification for action.

Risk involves things that conditional probabilities can be attached to.

Uncertainty is when you don't know what those probabilities are, and hence cannot do normal risk analysis.

And then there are unknown unknowns ...

Nope. Uncertainty is what probabilities measure. No probabilities, no statistical uncertainty. Don't feel badly as you've merely fallen for what Gigerenzer calls "the permanent illusion". Remember, other than in the special case of deductive reasoning the absence of uncertainty isn't a state of certainty - it's a state of ignorance (in the non-pejorative sense).

This is how the terms are defined in finance.

And we're talking about a subject for which the relevant is the pricing of financial instruments (or others).

I'm right, you're wrong. Just so.

Troll is right, this one time.

Yes, that's the way "uncertainty" is defined in finance. And surely that should be the end of the matter, since no one could possibly think that people in finance might sometimes be wrong...

Uncertainties without models are undefined. Sorry.

Even if climate change doesn't exist, we still want to move away from fossil fuels.

Air pollution is a real thing. Mining, transporting and burning coal generates *massive* negative externalities. Vehicle emissions cause tens of thousands of premature deaths in the US every year.

In Baltimore, 130 out of every 100,000 residents likely die in a given year due to long-term exposure to air pollution. That's more than twice as high as the murder rate. Why don't we take this seriously?


I don't come at this from a green socialist "save the earth" prospective. I come at this as a conservative/libertarian who believes in property rights. YOUR pollution is damaging MY property.

That's reasonable. Negative externalities are real. But the particulate pollution costs are generally much, much larger than the putative CO2 effects.

Hence the big debate about carbon tax levels and Coase theorem...


Per kg, one kg of soot has more negative externalities than one kg of CO2.

Are kilogrammes the correct unit of analysis?

Like, there's gotta be some weighing for the effect. And quantity.

Like, soot has got to be a million times worse than CO2. But there's a billion times more CO2.

Yes, obviously, externality cost per unit mass.

But also obviously doesn't matter if you choose to price your externality in kilograms or tons, so long as you use the same units.

Which is to kind of agree with you that externality may be much greater from one source, even if that source is less harmful per unit.

But we normalise damage by quantity and apply the tax per unit mass, right?

All of which is to say that instituting a higher tax on fossil fuels might be entirely sensible public policy regardless of what happens with CO2.

Climate change could kill people in the distant future. Local air pollution kills real people, right now, every day.


Yes. It's entirely libertarian to support a carbon tax due to particulate effects alone, irrespective of one's position on AGW. Coal and diesel obviously get hit harder than petrol or natural gas.

Contrary to what I said earlier, I recall it may make more sense to tax on pollution per unit of energy rather than unit mass.

Separating between particulate pollution and CO2 emissions is important, because there can be major inefficiencies in optimizing for things other than what is targeted.

A famous example is when the sulfur rules came in. To have lower sulfur emissions PER UNIT, they just emitted more total air, which reduced the energy efficiency of the process and thus emitted more C02, which in net could reduce costs by evading the sulfur penalties.

So if particulate is the target, target particulate. If CO2 is the target, target CO2. In my opinion.

Both can be done separately. And these days the monitoring equipment is cheap as chips (similar physics principles are involved as those used in neural monitoring, namely that photons interact with something and leave a discernable pattern), so the cost argument is not so relevant.

Climate change exist. We have *independent* estimates of:

* surface land and ocean temperatures
* satellite estimates of the lower troposphere
* estimates of energy stored in oceans (first 700 meters)

If you take the latest data into account (i.e. including april 2017) all these data show the same pattern of relentless warming and the same magnitude of warming. Thus: our little planet shows, from 700 meters below sea level to quite a bit above it, consistent, relentless and significant warming. Again: these estimates are independent of each other. Uncertainty about global warming is, as of May 2017, lower than ever before.

The deniers idea that satellite data show less warming or that warming has stalled according to the measurements is simply: false. A little bit about this here https://rwer.wordpress.com/2017/05/01/deep-warming/

That was no increase between 1998 and 2015. If an unexplained 17 year pause doesn't cause head scratching, you are doing it wrong.

The pause may have ended; that is not the same as "simply: false".

You linked to a graph of the land based measurements, here is a link to a graph of the satellite data

Option value rises with uncertainty. Thus, the more uncertain is climate change, the more valuable is keeping our options open rather than investing immediately. This is like the more uncertain a stock's price, the more valuable it is a call option.

It is also true that if instead of certainty there is a small probability of disaster if we don't incur high costs immediately, then we should incur the high cost immediately despite it being wasted effort with high probability. That does not seem to be the case with global warming. There is a positive probability of disaster, but there aren't any steps that can and must be taken immediately that would prevent it, except perhaps to spend more on geoengineering research starting right away. No carbon reduction program that has ever been proposed is stringent enough to avoid the worst-case scenario--- it would require geoengineering. The worst-case scenario is that the temperature has already risen enough that it will continue to rise on its own even if we immediately halt human emission of carbon dioxide.

I am most concerned with climate change not because of effects in the next 100 years, but 10,000 years.


"I am most concerned with climate change not because of effects in the next 100 years, but 10,000 years."

This article in Nature simply illustrates how ridiculously unscientific the debate around climate change is. It demonstrates that climate change is a religious issue, not a scientific issue.

Here are some questions that I hope will alleviate your concern:

1) What do you think is the cost to remove a ton of CO2 from the ambient air, and sequester it underground in some form?

2) The current gross world product is approximately $80 trillion in nominal terms. What do you think the gross world product will be in (in 2017 dollars) in the year 2100? 2200?

1) I don't know, but it doesn't seem to be happening. Why not?
2) Wrong question. Maybe there will be spectacular scientific advances and the world product will be one quadrillion dollars. In that case, all bets are off and planning is pointless. But we can and should plan for the case where the future does resemble today. That could happen also.

recall one interesting thing: back in 60s there was a book to predict future: those hypothesized developments were predicted poorly, but ongoing developments ( communications, computing etc ) were predicted quite well.

So - probabilities to predict things which are already ongoing right are quite high. in this respect - we already have means to remove CO2 from air and the costs are not prohibitively high, so we could estimate - that there will be improvements and with higher income ( and economy is growing - so abrupt halt in this process is unlikely ) there will be more opportunities.
we also know about ongoing efforts in new reactor designs, which are more safe, cost less, produce less nuclear waster and are not limited by uranium reserves for million of years. We can say with high probability - that we can replace almost all energy use with nuclear energy and that will be affordable. There are other options which have less probability, but still are quite high and technically sound - like moon solar power for very low cost ( less than cent per kwh ) (google David Criswell ) - we now have revolution in driverless cars - the same technology will allow David Criswell idea of robotic construction of moon solar plants from moon materials.

So a probability that future will resemble today in terms of energy and emissions is really very low - and the confidence here is disproportionally higher than probability that we will keep emitting CO2 and have no means to capture previous emissions in effective way.

In fact a probability that humanity won't be able to stop global warming after there is certainty in extent of ranges - is zero. It just equals that humanity stops to exist before warming is really noticeable or that humanity is completely mad but then - why to discuss rational options at all? Mad humanity will have it's end anyway.

So - when we discuss uncertainty - only when the context is completely removed, then it makes sense to discuss that there is need to make something urgently before we know the exact numbers for future warming ( and we will have them in few decades - as we have more observations). If context is back - that in fact humanity has options ( not one, but multiple options ) and those options have relatively low cost in foreseeable future, then it makes no sense to be in rush.

"The global warming hiatus can describe the period between 1998 and 2015 in which there was (1) no discernable increase in global average temperature, (2) a dramatic slow-down in the increase warming from the prior late 20th century trend, and (3) a slower increase than projected by climate computer models."


The article concludes with:

"Basically, the researchers reconciled the hiatus controversy by lowering modeled temperature trends while raising the observational temperature trend. This is fascinating work and it will be interesting to see how it stands up to the test of time and data."

That seems to be a fundamental approach to a lot of Global Warming research.

Let's say that I'm a professional NBA basketball player for 10 seasons.

In season 1, my average is 20 points.

In season 2, my average is 35 points.

From seasons 3-6, my average is 33 points in every year.

Question 1: at the end of season 6, should I conclude that my average has risen through my career? Or reject this on the basis of the stellar performance in my second year?

From seasons 7-10, my average is 37 points in every year.

Question 2: at the end of season 10, should I conclude that my average has risen through my career?

If you can explain how the REASON is different for both questions, despite having the same answer, you probably have a at least a bachelor's degree in a STEM field, and took at least two courses in statistics during the degree.

Here's the point.

In 2005 or so, you could have gotten away with parroting the type of statistical fraud associated with the wrong answer to question 1.

But in 2017, the statistical fraud you are parroting is even more outrageously incorrect, similar to the incorrect answer to question 2. Not only is the previous high water mark the wrong point of references for changing averages over time, but there's a new high water mark, and there has been for some time

"In 2005 or so, you could have gotten away with parroting the type of statistical fraud associated with the wrong answer to question 1."

It amuses me that quoting a fact you find annoying leads to you attempting to disclaim it as "statistical fraud ". It's more amusing that the Climate scientists involved in the research recognize that the global warming hiatus was too long to be a statistical artifact. Instead, they make the case that the models were too high and the recorded data was too low.

There are idiots on both sides of this debate.

If you get a 20k bonus at work one year, and then continue with 2-3% annual raises, to you conclude that your income is not rising, just because of that spike?

The implicit assumption always seems to be that the carbon tax will do more economic damage than the benefits of the government doing something with that money. With politicians wanting that money for their retirements and benefits, this assumption is probably valid.

However, if the carbon tax revenue is used to decrease another tax which does, even more, economic damage per dollar such as payroll taxes do, a revenue neutral tax shift from payroll taxes to carbon taxes would be a net economic stimulus and a net benefit the economy. With fossil energy being very capital intensive and highly automated, it is highly inelastic relative to the average business. We just watched the industry go through a factor of 2 prices and revenue decreases with remarkedly little job loss, or drastic macroeconomic impacts beyond a few boomtowns.

Making a revenue neutral tax shift would be a net economic benefit and any solutions to the CO2 issue would be an "unintended consequence" of the payroll tax reduction. As in many other cases, unintended consequences The objective should be to eliminate the highly detrimental payroll taxes.

Yes! Exactly the point that I was going to make. Tyler's scenario is quite good except for this part:

"The carbon tax causes a mild recession in America"

Except for a few far left green types, every carbon tax proponent that I've read, including Mankiw/Feldstein/Schultz, combines the carbon tax with a CUT in other taxes. With arguably a net reduction in deadweight loss and net stimulative effect on the economy.

Tyler, if you regard what you have described is the most likely scenario - albeit with uncertainty, then I would say you can't have been paying attention to energy costs.

Australia is the world's largest exporter of coal. Indonesia had us beat for a while, but now we're number one again. One of the reasons we are beating Indonesia is we are a low cost producer. So Australia has a lot of coal, it produces it at a low cost, and the coal industry is immensely politically powerful. To help it out, the Coalition government, which is currently in power, has eliminated Australia's carbon price and cut its Renewable Energy Target by a third.

Despite all this, Australia will never build another new coal power station. This is because new renewable capacity is either cheaper or clearly will be before new coal power stations can turn a profit. This is the case even where coal deposits are stranded and unavailable for export and so cost just a few dollars a tonnes, as with Victoria's brown coal deposit's where one of the worlds most carbon intensive brown coal power stations was just recently permanently closed. New coal power stations can't compete with new wind and solar capacity on price and they can't obtain financing from banks. They also carry the risk that a carbon price will be (re)introduced in the future or that they will have to pay for health externalities.

If Australia is never going to build another coal power plant, then the question is, who is? Can we expect South Korea to keep importing Australian coal when they could follow Australia's lead and slap solar panels on top of existing structures and produce electricity for less? Solar PV will only produce three quarters as much in Seol as in Sydney, but they do have a lower cost of capital and a large portion of solar panels installed in Australia are produced by Korean companies, so its not as if they will have trouble getting their hands on them.

The same goes for India or any other country. Why build new coal capacity when other options are cheaper? Solar is already beating new coal on price in India and PV is not about to become more expensive.

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