Thursday, May 22, 2008


Eli is being held prisoner by Ms. Rabett. Have briefly escaped to send this message. Will return June 2

Friday, May 16, 2008

We hardly noticed

A somewhat recent, but hardly noticed paper (open link) has appeared in Energy and Environment 18 (5) 2007 emitted by William Nierneberg’s accomplice in killing off early, and less expensive action on climate change, Gary Yohe, Eli’s old friend Richard Tol who thought Nicholas Stern should be stood up against the wall and striped of his economic stripes,

Really, climate policy would have been in a better place without Nick Stern.
and Dean Murphy, who for now will remain glissless. The conclusions are extraordinary given the source
The Stern Review and the Fourth Assessment Report of the IPCC together seem to have silenced the public debate on the reality of the risks of climate change. We do not know which contributed more, but the Stern Review clearly put the economics of climate change in the public attention.
Not that anyone noticed over here, or over here, or over there or even in never never take action land and certainly not anywhere near the wizard of denial and his acolytes.
On the one hand, this is a good thing. Economists have a technocratic streak, and public scrutiny of their policy advice is absolutely necessary (Funtowicz and Ravetz, 1994; Funtowicz et al., 1998). On the other hand, successful emission reduction will require a global, century-long effort.
On the one hand is required in every paper written by an economist. FDR was rumored to have a standing reward of a thousand dollars for a one handed economist. But then dear bunnies, come the kids who killed their parents to plea for mercy on the grounds they are orphans
The Stern Review enflamed rather than enlightened the discussion from which the effort will emerge. Where consensus is needed, controversy was flamed. This was true for the immediate aftermath of the publication of the Stern Review, and it may still be true.
Eli is inclined to be not very nice on this point, as those who stirred the flames now find that they were wrong, as we shall see, not for the right reasons. Still they did get there, and publication in E&E brings this point home. The bottom line is the place Eli has been since he came up with Eli Rabett’s Simple Plan to Save the World.
Let us hope that this is not the case for the future. Let us hope that Leonardt’s (2007) final observation from his day at Yale carries the day now that the dust is settling: “In other words, it’s time for a tax on carbon emissions”.Here is the beginning of my post.
Yohe, Tol and Murphy (YTM) argue that of the two possible choices, cap and trade and taxing emissions, taxing emissions is the best. Eli agrees, with the caveat that the tax has to deal with the free rider problem, something not considered in this paper. With the nice nice out of the way readers can now proceed to the snark. The purpose of this paper appears to be to provide cover to the authors for their previous nasty nasty about Stern. The bottom line is that Stern was right, but the report was not written as they would have liked, and that all misunderstandings were caused by Nick Stern not providing them with a personal explanation and writing a report that was not crystal clear to every idiot on the street. For the last, Eli will take their word. As YTM put it
The numerical results reported in the Review are controversial and value-laden, but that is the nature of the economic science. In some instances, the controversy has been created by people who want to undermine confidence in the Review’s fundamental conclusion - the economics of climate policy tells us unambiguously that it is time to act.
A very important point, which needs to be driven home

YTM go on to say
In other instances, the controversy can be attributed to economists being economists – arguing over every point to make sure that this fundamental conclusion is built on solid analytical and empirical ground. In both cases, unusually harsh words have been said about the Stern Review. We have participated in this discussion in large measure because we are convinced that the Review provides sufficient evidence to support its fundamental conclusion with very high confidence. We are, though, concerned that this confidence may not have been as influential as it could have been because the Review may be right for reasons for the wrong reasons.
It is amusing to troll through the net searching for the kind words that YTM said about the Stern report when it was issued, especially in the light of this paper being written only four months afterwards.

YTM provide a list of conclusions from Stern and the IPCC AR4 report which should drive policy responses
a. Climate is changing faster than was anticipated only 5 years ago in the Third Assessment Report of the IPCC (2001); indeed, the signs of human-induced climate change are now being observed.

b. Significant climate impacts have been calibrated in terms of multiple metrics, and the thresholds of associated climate risk have been identified in terms of changes in global mean temperature; some of these metrics are economic, but many of them are not.

c. Many of the temperature thresholds for critical impacts are, regardless of the metric, now thought to be lower than anticipated only 5 years ago; it follows that we are approaching them more quickly than we thought, and so we will reach them sooner than we thought.
The sharpening of the AR4 on these points with respect to the TAR and the Stern report answer Stoat’s question about why the AR4 makes Stern even more pessimistic about climate change then he was in Fall 2006.

The next point is one the Pielke Jr. does not get, although it has been explained to him multiple times by multiple people, some even nicely, at least the first few times.
d. Achieving any concentration threshold cannot guarantee that we will be able to keep increases in global mean temperature below any specific target; in fact, achieving a concentration target can only reduce the likelihood of keeping temperature increases below any target at any point in time in the future.

e. Achieving any concentration threshold may, therefore, only delay inevitable increases in temperature unless persistent policy intervention over the entire century and perhaps beyond is undertaken.
They refer to the chart of damages in the Stern Report (and by inference in the AR4) loosely relating greenhouse gas concentrations, which
. . . in terms of warming, are the basis for believing that the debate over the science of whether or not there is climate risk is over. To be more precise, while none of these thresholds is known with certainty, it is now impossible to argue that all of them are completely implausible. . . . While one may quibble about the precise numbers, their order of magnitude is not disputed.
Of course, we have heard the roar of quibble from the denialist side.

Our orphan ecomists, then make their argument for absolution without acknowledging their role aiding and abetting, even in stirring up.
The Stern Review’s estimates of economic damages and the cost of mitigation have been controversial within the economics research community in part because they are difficult to understand
YTM, Nordhaus and Co, are paid the big bucks supposedly because they are supposed to understand such things and explain them to us. They then, as usual attempt to place the blame elsewhere,
It is important to note in passing, however, that much of the controversy might have been avoided if the Review had been subject to a proper peer review before its release. This point was made by William Nordhaus at what was, in effect, a day long, public, and ex post peer review hosted by Yale University on February 15, 2007. The Stern author team admitted as much during that event, but they expressed concern that pre-publication review would have meant that bits of the Review would have been inappropriately leaked to the press.
OTOH, perhaps YTM, N and others could have held their tongues until they understood what the Stern Report said. Eli is a dreamer. But enough of this, let us summarize the policy that YTM recommend because of climate risk, policy makers should focus on
“buying insurance” against economic consequences of climate change and the economic consequences of rapidly ramping-up climate policy in the future. As soon they recognize that some sort of policy will be required . . .simple economics says that taking the least cost approach means starting now.

This conclusion is true in large measure because atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases depend on cumulative emissions over time. As a result, achieving any targeted concentration limit (and thus a corresponding range of possible temperature increases and associated climate risks) is fundamentally an exhaustible resource problem.
Such issues have known policy solutions where one starts by specifying
an initial price of carbon (or perhaps setting targeted permit price for a cap and trade system). This price should be designed to get the attention of the business community and to show political leadership in the face of a serious problem. It need not, however, be set so high that it would cause undue economic harm in the short-run. Allowing the carbon price to increase at the rate of interest year after year (following Hotelling) and acknowledging that adjustments for new knowledge about performance and risk will have to be accommodated over time will give the policy traction.
Evidently, YTM have read J. Willard Rabett’s dicta about climate change, that there are infinite procrastination penalties, and that the world has to start addressing the man made climate change issue now, things that adaptation does not address
Because the expected costs of adjusting to more pessimistic climate news sometime in the future if we delay taking action are higher than the expected costs of doing too much too soon (even with discounting at the market rate of interest).

. . . Since no policy created in 2007 will “solve the climate problem”, it is perhaps even desirable to step out from under that burden to confront a more manageable near-term problem while still making progress towards an ultimate response to an evolving understanding of climate risk. The answer to “What to do in the near-term?” is to design something that will (1) discourage long-term investments in energy, transportation, and construction that would lock in high carbon intensities for decades to come and (2) encourage development of alternative energy sources, carbon sequestration technologies and efficiency.
An example is provided where emissions can be cut by encouraging a change over to natural gas
Because natural gas is a considerably more expensive fuel than coal, it takes a substantial CO2 cost to overcome this fuel cost disadvantage – about $30/ton, on current fuel price expectations in the U.S. On the other hand, consider pending investments to add new generating capacity in the United States over the next few decades. Much of this capacity is currently planned as conventional coal-fired technology. What would it take, in terms of CO2 price, to make it economic to install new gas-fired capacity instead, thereby cutting by half the carbon emissions from this new capacity? On current gas price expectations, a CO2 price of only $5 per ton would be sufficient to make new gas-fired generators as economical as new coal-fired plants, based on the present value of fixed and variable costs. This number is much lower for new plants than the $30/ton seen above for existing plants because the lower cost of building a new gas plant compensates for some of its higher fuel cost.
Providing a floor price of carbon to safeguard and encourage investments in lower emission technologies is a key and often lost point. Carbon taxes and cap and trade regimes are not punitive but mechanisms to drive investment toward lower emissions and eventually a carbon neutral economy. They make explicit the costs to the world of high carbon emissions.

Eli is greatly encouraged that the world´s best economists have finally caught up to a stuffed bunny. He is sure they will agree but only after accusing him of being obtuse

Monday, May 12, 2008

Roger Revelle sees the future

In 1983 Scripps dedicated a new building, Ritter Hall, and invited folks to contribute to a twenty year time capsule. The sensible, and Roger Revelle was a very sensible man, view such exercises as opportunities. Revelle wrote

Time has passed so quickly that October 13, 1983 seems almost like yesterday. Yet higher education has been revolutionized during these 20 years. From being one of the most labor-intensive of human activities it has become a capital intensive industry.

The revolution in higher education didn't just happen, it came from computers. It began with IBM's development of a computer that could read handwriting - any kind of handwriting, no matter how strange - and could translate half-formed, ungrammatical sentences and misspelled words into good English. Some innovative faculty members immediately thought of using one of these machines to grade blue books. It turned out that the machine could do the job more rapidly and much more cheaply than graduate teaching assistants, many of whom were promptly terminated.

The next step came from the talking and listening, gully interactive computer developed by CDC for its PLATO programs early in 1992. This apparatus could give lectures and answer verbal questions from students; moreover, it could improvise professor type jokes during the lectures. It could also write equations and draw diagrams to illustrate what it was saying. Every now and ten, it would shoot a piece of chalk at a sleeping student. One enterprising chancellor - I believe he was at U.C. Irving - decided to appoint half a dozen of these machines to fill six faculty FTEs/ They were so successful and so inexpensive compared with faculty salaries (even though the initial cost was high) that soon every campus in the UC system had followed Irvine's lead.

Of course there was a little trouble with the Academic Senate. The Committees on Academic Personnel refused to recommend several machines for promotion to tenure, but they were quickly overriden in the name of economy by the vice chancellors - except in UC Santa Cruz. During the past 10 years, the new machines have replaced all assistant professors. As tenured professors and associate professors retire, they too are being replaced by machines. The financial savings are enormous.

In the last few years, an alarming new tendency has become evident. The students are also being replaced by machines. At first there was some question about whether machines could meet the admission requirements of the University of California, since none of them were high school graduates. But a few were admitted on an experimental basis, and all but one achieved a 4.0 grade point average. The one that didn't, turned out to be a defective Apple. "We mustn't let one bad Apple spoil the whole barrel," said the vice chancellor for Marine Affairs, as he threw the defective computer from the roof of Ritter Hall.
Defenestratiing computers is something we all yearn for too frequently.

There were other interesting and earnest contributions, including one from Walter Munk and William Nierenberg who wite that:
Climate predictions shall have made great progress . . .(insert advertisement for Scripps) short term climate predictions shall become as much a part of society's operations as weather prediction is today. . . .

Rational approaches to protection of the environment will continue to deveop using the increasing scientific knowledge deriving from our efforts. In particular, we will ahve a sharper understanding of the carbon dioxide problem and more precise recommendations as to actions needed to combat perceived adverse effects


To be honest, Eli can accept people becoming a bit short with him, after all, he can be a mighty snarky bunny. OTOH Roger and his act like a two year old act and then do the whining for control bit has managed to light James Annan's fuse.

Yet, to answer but another question, if we look at ye old 1988 Hansen graph, you know, the one that got the 1998 El Nino right, we see between 1973 and 1984 a flat eleven year period in Scenario B

So what more do the denialists want, good predictions of El Nino, flat decades and more out of a twenty year old model that you can run on a PC.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Dear Jon

Jon has been driving Roger Jr. nuts by pointing out that the latter ain't got a clue wrt Keenlyside, et al. Roger has now thrown down the gauntlet

What observations of the climate system to 2020 would be inconsistent (lets say at the 95% level of certainty) with the climate model projections of the IPCC AR4? It is a simple question. use global average surface temps from UKMET as the variable of interest if you'd like, since that is what we've been discussing, or use a different one.

I'll be happy to post up your answer as a main entry of the blog.

Would someone please ask what he is willing to pay per observation before we waste time.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

This has been another simple answer to a simple question

Air capture is the Nigerian scam letter of climate policy and about the last thing to invest anything but the buck you buy the odd lottery ticket with. Anyone who understands about entropy knows that you want to extract CO2 from places where it is a lot more concentrated. Just about nothing else would cost so much and do so little, so the bunnies have asked Eli why Roger and the Breakers are doubling down

CO2 capture at the source (fossil fuel power plants, cement kilns) imposes a cost on the fossil fuel industry. Air capture is another Treasury Raid (as well as silly, work out the energy and materials cost). It also holds out hope that we don't have to do anything now, but that in 50-100 years air capture will save the world.

This has been another simple answer to a simple question

SORT OF AN UPDATE: It's even worse. If you don the air capture true believer togs, then air capture makes even less sense because you could do better with less by picking off all the CO2 coming out of fossil fuel power plants and other fixed installations which, by itself would go a huge way, if not all the way to solving the problem.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

It's all so hummy. . .

And if you ever had to clean up after a sick bunny you will know that it takes a lot to make Tonstant Wabbit fwow up. Roger Jr is being all too twee again. Michael Tobis linked to the latest, and to give Benny Peiser his due, even Benny could not stomach the act.

It's hard to know where to start, so Eli will start at the beginning. Roger leads off with the usual, which Michael also notes, that we gotta adapt, but he slips in the sly one

And by adaptation I don’t simply mean adaptation to the marginal impacts of human-caused climate change. . . I mean adaptation to climate, and as such, a concept much more closely related to the original notion of sustainable development.
which basically means he doesn't think that man made climate change is gonna be very much or very bad, but we gotta adapt. To what is not quite clear
Unrestrained emissions of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere will no doubt have effects on the global earth system, including the oceans, atmosphere, and land surface. There is a chance that these effects could be relatively benign, but there is also a chance that the effects could be quite severe. I personally lean toward the latter view, but I recognize that there is ample scientific knowledge available for people to selectively construct any position they’d like along this spectrum. I have little expectation that climate scientists, despite their notable work alerting the world to the risks associated with unmitigated emissions, have much prospect for accurately predicting the evolution of the global climate system (and especially its regional manifestations) on the time scale on which decisions related to mitigation and adaptation need to be made. In fact, I think there is a very good chance that some enthusiastic climate modelers will overstretch their claims and hurt their own cause. Even so, I have concluded that it is only prudent to establish some cost to emitting carbon (a global carbon tax is the theoretical ideal).
This paragraph is a huge ball of internal contradictions, but never mind. Clearly Roger doesn't agree with the IPCC reports, all three of them, which forecast that man is significantly affecting climate (WGI), that these changes are going to have very bad effects (WGII) and what is necessary to deal with this situation (WGIII).

Benny pointed out that the cost of adaptation is not zero but at least 150 billion/year and that Roger is handwaving. But Roger is doing more than handwaving he is showcasing a basic denialist position (we don't really know enough to be certain of anything and certainly not enough to take action) while putting a fig leaf in place to defend himself later. The only reason he thinks taking action is necessary is because he personally thinks the effect of man made climate change could be severe, but in the preceding paragraph he said that the effects of man made climate change would be marginal. What is Roger adapting to?

The dear lad has certainly changed his tune from just a year ago

Eli: 3. Do you believe that any level of GHG CO2 equivalent mixing ratios would be so dangerous/costly as to be avoided through serious mitigation. If so where (My answer is 550-600 ppm, although to avoid that action will have to be taken almost immediately. In this I differ significantly with Tol and Nordhaus on when we have to start although not the end point.)

Roger:450, though likely not in the cards. 550-600 also unlikely. As you know I don’t think that this is the best way to frame the problem or think about action. It is a little like saying, would you prefer a poverty rate of 10% or 8%? Well, lower is better, the question is how do you get there? Not by arguing about ideal poverty rates I’d say. The stabilization rate we get will be the result of many individual policies justified on their own merits, not a top down target, which is exactly as policies are in fact developing around the US and elsewhere.
The relax and enjoy it version of climate science **.
Eli 4. What level of GHG mixing ratios can be dealt with through adaptation? (My answer is 450-500 at most but there will have to be mitigation to prevent the mixing ratio from rising above this. )
4) Poorly posed — adaptation will occur whatever the level of CO2 is - 950? Yes. 1500? Yes. Much adaptation is needed at 380 ppm. Adaptation and mitigation are not trade-offs but complements. Adaptation is needed at any levels of GHG concentrations. See our recent Nature piece.
UPDATE: In the comments, Roger Pielke Jr. writes:
To answer your last question - at _no level_ is only adaptation sufficient. Clear enough?

Now go stalk a carrot for a while.
Which was as clear a statement on this issue as could be wished.

Eli took a lot of abuse on your behalf, dear readers, to nail the liver mousse to the wall. Recently, Jon did the same. There's a lot of bluster in Boulder. When will this sink in?

Sunday, May 04, 2008

The Manchurian Senior Fellow?

Ethon has been wondering about the recent push for more research before taking action on climate change. Of course, this is being lead by his favorite bag of munchies, Roger Pielke Jr. who insists, insists Eli tells you, that right now there is nothing we can do (well until paragraph 23) and blames the reporter for listening to him, gets the science all wrong on a paper in Nature to conclude that it's gonna get cold man, blames learning his science from newspapers, and generally has been trying to discredit anyone who thinks that climate change may be a major problem. Other players in the let's lie back enjoy it while paying for a lot of research that may or may not do anything school are our new friends from the Breakthrough Institute, Ted Nordhaus and Michael Schellenberger who are also playing the press like a squeeze box.

As devoted readers of this blog and Naiomi Oreskes may know, this was exactly the tactic used by William Nierenberg in the 1980s to delay action on climate change. Nierenberg, Fred Seitz and Robert Jastrow founded the Marshall Institute at about that time, and all three were hip deep in driving climate change denialism. Nierenberg recruited a bunch of economist accomplices, William Nordhaus (Ted's uncle), Gary Yohe and Thomas Schelling. They minimized the threat, assumed the most favorable case and used the miracle of compound interest to set US policy as research but no action.

John Mashey, has found the missing link between the past and present, Martin Hoffert, one of the emeriti from NYU and a great advocate of space based power, a senior fellow of the Breakthrough Institute and a Marshall Institute "expert". This is quite in keeping with the Marshall Institute's childish infatuation with space based missile defense

Now Eli fully expects a great harumphing to emerge from the Breakthrough Institute/ Roger Pielke Jr./ Marshall Institute nexus, pointing to 23rd paragraphs where they say they really didn't mean it.

They do.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Moles whacked

About a month ago Eli reported on attempts to force construction of coal powered electrical generating plants in Kansas. The KS Department of Health and the Environment had refused to issue a permit and Sunflower Electric was trying to get the legislature to over-ride. The leg performed to spec, but the governor, Kathleen Sebelius vetoed. Yesterday, the House failed to beat back the veto and 80 - 45 vote (needed were 84). One of the Republican members who voted to uphold the veto Pat Colloton, said that here constituents won her over

“I’m amazed at how well-educated many Kansans are on issues about the environment and energy,” she said.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Ethon revs up the transport module

As you may recall, Eli has a bet with Stoat on 2008 setting a new record for minimum Arctic sea ice. A small birdie who munches adaptive liver out in Boulder has passed the word that the odds are shifting in the Rabett's favor.

New University of Colorado at Boulder calculations indicate the record low minimum extent of sea ice across the Arctic last September has a three-in-five chance of being shattered again in 2008 because of continued warming temperatures and a preponderance of younger, thinner ice.

The forecast by researchers at CU-Boulder's Colorado Center for Astrodynamics Research is based on satellite data and temperature records and indicates there is a 59 percent chance the annual minimum sea ice record will be broken this fall for the third time in five years. Arctic sea ice declined by roughly 10 percent in the past decade, culminating in a record 2007 minimum ice cover of 1.59 million square miles. That broke the 2005 record by 460,000 miles -- an area the size of Texas and California combined.

"The current Arctic ice cover is thinner and younger than at any previous time in our recorded history, and this sets the stage for rapid melt and a new record low," said Research Associate Sheldon Drobot, who leads CCAR's Arctic Regional Ice Forecasting System group in CU-Boulder's aerospace engineering sciences department. Overall, 63 percent of the Arctic ice cover is younger than average, and only 2 percent is older than average, according to Drobot.

The National Snow and Ice Data Center has an interesting map of the height of ice and snow above the sea surface from satellite measurements. This is roughly proportional to ice thickness.