Thursday, November 24, 2016


A couple of good things.

First, Steve Easterbrook on the sand in the wheels, why it is so hard to get anything done

The second, a commentary in Nature Climate Change by Kevin Trenberth, Melinda Marquis and Stephan Zebiak, setting forth the need for better systems to convey climate information to the public and policy makers.  They also start by pointing out the physical inertia in the system makes it difficult to deal with for the public and policy makers
A major concern of scientists,
not adequately appreciated by the public
and politicians, is that evidence of dangers
warranting policy responses may be delayed
or muted by the tremendous inertia in the
climate system, so that by the time problems
are abundantly clear it may be too late to do
anything about them
A major concern of scientists not adequately appreciated by the public and politicians is that evidence of dangers warranting policy responses may be delayed or muted by the tremendous inertia in the climate system so that by the time problems are abundantly clear it may be too late to do anything about them.
They advocate establishment of a Climate Information System as a "near real time version of IPCC Assessment Reports" to inform the public and policy makers and help guide adaptation and mitigation efforts.  Worth reading for how the links they describe between data and action would function in the best of all possible worlds.

Unfortunately, as recent events have shown, for acceptance of science at all levels, not only climate science, this is not the best of all possible worlds.  IEHO this is very much a physical  scientists' answer.  It does not really affect the bottom half of Easterbrook's oval, not that it is a bad thing, not that real time organization of climate information is a bad thing, but that it would run headlong into the same political barriers that action currently faces.


Fernando Leanme said...

Did you notice CO2 emissions are barely growing? I wonder if that information is widely disseminated?

Tom said...

Carbon emissions from the United States have been dropping since the year 2000, more than on-track to meet a target for the year 2020.

We'll see.

EliRabett said...

Three drivers:

1. Move to natural gas away from coal

2. Efficiency Energy cost of a $GDP gone down by 15%

3. Improved auto and truck fleet mileage

As well as a concentrated set of new US government regulations

Anonymous said...

Why am I not surprised that very few so called scientists are on board with the necessary and urgent negative emissions and atmospheric carbon dioxide drawdown? Convervation of energy got you down, or what? It can't be available solar insolationo and irradiance. Or are you all just waiting for axion manipulation of gravitational field and field energy? It's going to be a while before flying carpets make it into Walmart.


I for one do not welcome Steve's communitarian desire to govern the world in the name of posterity by compounding the rate of erosion of liberty - the following passage seems dark and scary in the light of what all manner of bien pensant folks hve done in the last century ,

"Even then, public concern doesn’t immediately translate into effective action because of:

A frequent response to discussions on climate change is to encourage people to make personal changes in their lives: change your lightbulbs, drive a little less, fly a little less. While these things are important in the process of personal discovery, by helping us understanding our individual impact on the world, they are a form of voluntary action only available to the privileged, and hence do not constitute a systemic solution to climate change.

When the systems we live in drive us towards certain consumption patterns, it takes a lot of time and effort to choose a low-carbon lifestyle. So the only way this scales is through collective political action: getting governments to change the regulations and price structures that shape what gets built and what we consume, and making governments and corporations accountable for cutting their greenhouse gas contributions. (scale: decades?)

When we get serious about the need for coordinated action, there are further forms of inertia that come into play:

Missing governance structures.
We simply don’t have the kind of governance at either the national or international level that can put in place meaningful policy instruments to tackle climate change. The Kyoto process failed because the short term individual interests of the national governments who have the power to act always tend to outweigh the long term collective threat of climate change. The Paris agreement is woefully inadequate for the same reason. Similarly, national governments are hampered by the need to respond to special interest groups (especially large corporations), which means legislative change is a slow, painful process. (scale: decades!)

Hampers implementation of new policy tools. It takes time to get legislation formulated and agreed, and it takes time to set up the necessary institutions to ensure they are implemented. (scale: years)

Social Resistance. People don’t like change, and some groups fight hard to resist changes that conflict with their own immediate interests. Every change in social norms is accompanied by pushback. And even when we welcome change and believe in it, we often slip back into old habits. (scale: years? generations?)"

Maybe I should have spent less time in Cambodia, Cuba, and Siberia.

Phil said...


I'd love to hear your solution, or any ideas at all about a solution.

It is always in the individual's interest to overuse a commons, such as the atmosphere is a commons for dumping of CO2.

Problems of commons can be solved by making them property or by managing the commons. Any idea how to make the commons property practically in the case of the atmosphere?
You seem against having some sort of governance/management of the atmospheric commons.

Do you have a suggestion, or is the fate of the climate to overheat and nothing whatsoever will be done about it?

E. Swanson said...

Russell, I think Phil Hays has summed it up rather well.

The reality is rather simple. If AGW, aka, Climate Change, represents an existential threat to humanity (or civilization, take your pick), what is the best way to solve the problem? Doing nothing to slow, then reverse Business as Usual emissions is an action, but not a solution.

What's your preferred solution, or do you simply think there's no solution possible?


First, we should take action to mitigate existential threat inflation.

Unknown said...

It's only in the individual's interest to export a common for as long as the other commoners don't get seriously pissed and give said individual a sharp smack.
Problems of commons can also be solved by denying access to abusers.
The atmosphere problem is more of a 'negative commons' issue.
@eswanson; re your 'if' - it doesn't apply, so doesn't require a solution (as Russell piquantly observes).
In the early 70's, John Brunner suggested a simple solution to solving the problems of overconsumption, waste and inequality - eliminate the worst examples. In his novel, this entailed (as a metaphor of kinds), removing California from the map (it was meant to shock, not as a serious solution, but makes its point).
Take the benefit away from the exploiter and the exploitation stops. The modern way to do this is tax.

E. Swanson said...

Fergus Brown, the "if" was an essential part of the question. Think of how much effort has been applied by governments to stop nuclear warfare. Shouldn't one apply the same level of commitment to finding solutions to AGW, assuming that the "if" is true.

As for taxes being a solution, a tax large enough to make a dent on the problem would also cause price inflation as the tax is passed along from one person to the next. After a while, the tax must be increased to have the same effect on consumption as wages adjust upwards. And, worse yet, the cuts in consumption must increase over time, which would require added increases to the tax. I submit that this scenario represents a positive feedback, which is unstable. Recall the events in 2008, as the price of oil spiked to near $150 a bbl and the price of gas exceeded $5 a gallon in some areas of the US, which contributed to the economic collapse as people were forced to choose between driving their cars and paying their home mortgages. The resulting economic disruption after 2008 gave the US President Obama, the Tea Party, Occupy Wall Street and now Trump. Would increasing taxes on carbon be any different or even possible, what with the present anti-elite mood in the US (and Europe as well)?

Kevin O'Neill said...

Eric - the price of oil as one of the culprits in the financial collapse??

I don't think so. Bad loans, opaque derivative products, and greed throughout the mortgage channel, yes. Gas prices, no.

Phil said...

I translate "mitigate existential threat inflation" as pretending the problem is small enough to ignore. Or maybe almost ignore.

Suppose we don't ignore the problem. What can we do? What should we do? Anything?

Unknown said...

@E Swanson,
Perhaps a need for attention to detail here. AGW doesn't have to be apocalyptic (for everybody) to be either a problem or important. In this sense, you don't need this particular qualifier.
Instead, perhaps: IF climate change is VERY LIKELY to contribute to disruption, (insecurity, death, international conflicts, trade disruption, loss of means to survive, infrastructure problems, for example), for a number of potential victims which boggles the mind, then failure to seek solutions or take appropriate actions is irresponsible, dangerous, stupid and immoral (take your pick).
Tax is just an example of a mechanism to adjust behaviour on a sufficiently large scale to make a difference. The transfer of cost from taxee to consumer is a economic choice reflecting the disproportionate power and liberty of the major market players, which would also need to be managed in some way. Its in part a consequence of excessive pandering to the Free Market ideology interpreted as minimal regulation.

Unknown said...

What is about the word "tax" that seems to send many people into such a frightful tizzy? And how is it that after so many years of talking about it, people still don't understand the purpose of a carbon tax? It is to modify behaviour, it is not intended to raise more money for the government. It's intended to be revenue neutral and compensated for by reducing other taxes. Or even redistributed on a per capita basis, like Hansen's tax and dividend model.

Unknown said...

FL said,"Did you notice CO2 emissions are barely growing?"

Wow, fantastic. We've slowed down the rate at which we're digging the hole that we're in, but we're still digging. Of course, even if we stop digging and CO2 emissions stop rising that still doesn't really provide a means for getting out of the hole does it?

E. Swanson said...

Kevin O'Neill said...

Eric - the price of oil as one of the culprits in the financial collapse??

Yes, I'd say so. Think back to what happened after the '73 Arab/OPEC Oil Embargo. The economy took a severe hit, later called "Stagflation", which the economists of the day couldn't explain. The recession of '75 was called "the worst recession since the Great Depression". Fast forward to the Iranian Revolution in '79 and the spike in prices as a result. Another recession appeared in 2000, again called "the worst recession since the Great Depression", the resulting "Stagflation" Paul Volcker crushed with massive increases in interest rates. Oil prices in 2007/2008 spiked again as demand exceeded supply.

Oil is the source of the fuel for almost all transport and the cost of transport increased everywhere as the result of these shocks, costs which had to be passed on as higher prices in the marketplace, else companies would go broke. With Greenspan's low interest rates, the real estate bubble rocketed upwards as people sought hedges against inflation. But, like most bubbles, the bankster's financial bubble finally hit the wall and burst. The price of oil also crashed, but several years later, the price was back above $100 a bbl. The oil producers responded with the more expensive fracking procedure, but the market can not consume the supply, so the price has settled around $45-50 a bbl, which has killed many producers who needed higher prices to survive. US production appears to have begun to slide, which should (eventually) lead to the return of higher prices, which will impact the overall economy. In the rest of the economy, consumption is slowly increasing, with gasoline increasing at about 3% YoY.

Whether it be due to OPEC limiting production, the frackers going bust or the imposition of a stiff carbon tax, higher oil prices will have a direct impact on the economy, beyond just reducing consumption. In the short term, oil above some magic figure, say $100 a bbl, will result in another recession. That would be good for reducing CO2 emissions, but bad for the people who lose their jobs and lively hood. Any bets on the political response, where politicians in the US routinely called for reduced gasoline taxes when the price of oil was high?

EliRabett said...

New Jersey raised its gasoline tax from essentially zero by $0.23 US in November

E. Swanson said...

Eli said: "New Jersey raised its gasoline tax from essentially zero by $0.23 US in November"

A good move with oil prices relatively low these past few years. But, lets not forget the historical context.

From Wikipedia: "By 1890, Standard Oil controlled 88 percent of the refined oil flows in the United 1899, the Standard Oil Trust, based at 26 Broadway in New York, was legally reborn as a holding company, the Standard Oil Co. of New Jersey (SOCNJ), which held stock in 41 other companies, which controlled other companies, which in turn controlled yet other companies. This conglomerate was seen by the public as all-pervasive, controlled by a select group of directors, and completely unaccountable."

Standard Oil Co. of New Jersey v. United States



Thanks for reviving John Brunner.

The Stand On Zanzibar metaphor has been under water since the Population Bomb imploded

When JFK was elected, $ 0.23 was the price of gasoline in Jersey, not the tax.

PurpleOzone said...

now Bunny says:
The first spacecraft sent to Venus found it is hotter than a kitchen oven. (743F). Most scientists were astonished. But some knew that "runaway greenhouse gasses" caused it, and that this could happen to earth too. we were already emitting too much CO2, although not as much as now, of course.
James Hansen at GISS first programmed the equations to study Venus' atmospheric trapping of heat. He applied them to earth. That's what started GI involvement in Earth science.
I suspect The new administration will attempt to destroy entirely climate research at NAsA. some stuff will be transferred to NOAA. It is important to understand that Nasa always was chartered to study new techniques and experiments because Noaa has the operational responsibility for weather forecasting. (New research often involves NOAA participation as well as France, Japan, etc.) It is believed that operational needs take precedence over new developments.
At any event weather forecasting has greatly improved during the last 50 year, due to satellite data and analysis.
Trump's transition and cabinet picks demonstrate to me that he is determined to destroy climate research, energy, rebates, and regulations, in the service of oil profits. hat is his connection to oil??

PurpleOzone said...

snow bunny says: I meant 'giss' my keyboard's capital 's' is not working right. I'm getting a new keyboard.