Dueling grandchildren

by Judith Curry

I am visiting my 9 month old granddaughter Clara this week, which provides motivation for this post about intergenerational equity and justice.

Grandchildren have become a significant part of the battleground over global warming.  The “dueling” part of this issue is reflected by statements by Jim Hansen and John Christy on the subject of grandchildren.

Jim Hansen’s book “Storms of my Grandchildren”  paints a devastating, all-too-realistic picture of what will happen in the near future, mere years and decades from now, if we follow the course we’re on. But he is also an optimist, showing that there is still time to do what we need to save the planet. Urgent, strong action is needed, and this book will be key in setting the agenda going forward to create a groundswell, a tipping point, to save humanity—and our grandchildren—from a dire fate more imminent than we had supposed.  Grandpa Jim speaks about this issue on this youtube clip.

John Christy has some very different concerns about grandchildren, which are laid out in this video clip linked to on this Air Vent post.  Christy argues that the key moral issue is to provide energy to people that do not have it.  Access to energy has substantially increased global population and life expectancy since the 19th century, and that the life expectancy of 35 years in the 19th century made the whole issue of worrying about your grandchildren rather moot.

Intergenerational ecological justice

An article entitled “Climate Change and Intergenerational Justice” provides the following historical perspective on the issue:

The concept of intergenerational ecological justice appears to have first emerged in modern environmental times in preparatory meetings for the 1972 Stockholm Conference on the Human Environment which adopted, in June of that year, the much celebrated Stockholm Declaration on the Human Environment. The preamble of the Stockholm Declaration several times proclaims the “goal” of defending and improving the human environment “for present and future generations,” and its Principle 1 expresses “the common conviction” that humanity “bears a solemn responsibility to protect and improve the environment for present and future generations.” Around the same time, in the 1972 London Ocean Dumping Convention, the 1972 World Cultural and Natural Heritage Convention, the 1973 Endangered Species Convention, and the 1974 Charter of Economic Rights and Duties of States, in several regional seas conventions such as  the 1976 Barcelona Mediterranean Sea Convention, in the 1982 U.N. World Charter for Nature, and in the 1997 UNESCO Declaration on Responsibilities Towards Future Generations, identical concern for the ecological legacy we leave to future generations was formally expressed.

It was, however, for the 1987 report of the U.N. World Commission on Environment and Development (WCED)—popularly known as the “Bruntland Commission Report on Our Common Future,” to give the concept of intergenerational justice its first concrete meaning. Seeking to recapture the spirit of the 1972 Stockholm Conference by joining the environment and development as a holistic issue, it famously stated that socioeconomic development, to be sustainable, must ensure that “it meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” This statement, aided by the publication of Our Common Future and the subsequent work of the WCED, helped to lay the groundwork for the 1992 Earth Summit which produced the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development and its companion Agenda 21, each of which made the well-being of “present and future generations” a high priority. The Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action adopted by the U.N. Conference on Human Rights in June 1993 and U.N. General Assembly resolutions relating to protection of our global climate have likewise given future generations high priority.

Human sustainability and intergenerational justice

In my readings on this subject (admittedly limited), the best essay that I have found is a chapter by Clark Wolff on intergenerational justice in the book “A Companion to Applied Ethics.”  Wolf begins his chapter presenting arguments for and against environmental justice, using the libertarian and liberal theories of justice.

The idea of intergenerational justice has been linked with sustainability, in the context of resources or sustainable productive opportunities.  The concept of sustainability as a foundation for intergenerational justice becomes problematic in the face of a rapidly growing population.  The idea of sustainable welfare focuses more on human well-being rather than on resources or opportunities.   But this concept runs into problems of the ethics of total versus average welfare and the ethics of inequality and distributional justice.

Wolff argues for the need for an alternative conception of sustainability:

These considerations militate in favor of an alternative conception of sustainability which (1) takes need provision (rather than welfare, opportunities, or resources) as a plausible value to be sustained, and which (2) is formulated as a negative principle rather than a positive one. Focusing on what future generations are likely to need may allow us to bypass our uncertainty about what they will want. And formulating a sustainability condition in negative terms makes it possible to accommodate population change. Gro Harlem Brundtland’s famous definition of “sustainable -development” incorporates both of these features: she stipulates that sustainable development is “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs” (Brundtland et aI., 1987: 43). 

A principle requiring that present institutions must be humanly sustainable would require that present institutions should not reduce the ability of future generations to meet their needs. There are two different ways to reduce the extent of future unmet needs. One is to see to it that the members of future generations will have the ability to satisfy their needs. Another way is to reduce fertility so that future generations will be smaller, and so that fewer needy people will come into existence. There is empirical evidence that these two aims are causally connected: fertility declines when people’s needs are secure.

Is there any reason to regard human sustain ability as a requirement – perhaps a minimal requirement – of intergenerational justice? There are several ways in which such a claim might be supported. First, we may note that future generations are vulnerable to our choices. and that it is typically regarded as “unjust” when some people needlessly deprive others of the ability to meet basic needs. The requirement of human sustainability is violated only if we leave future generations worse off than we are ourselves with respect to the satisfaction of needs. so violation of the requirement of human sustainability would make later generations worse off in order to benefit previous better-off generations.

But there is an odd feature of such an argument: it treats “generations” as if they were individual persons. While earlier generations may be better (or worse) off than later ones, there may be members of these same earlier generations who are much worse off than an average member of the later generation. If the appeal of human sustainability derives from the high priority this principle assigns to the satisfaction of needs, then it is plausible to think that present unmet needs are at least as important, from the moral point of view, as future unmet needs. For these reasons, we might regard it as permissible to address present needs first when we face a tragic choice between the needs of present and future generations. This minimal priority for the present is plausible for other reasons as well: we know more about the needs of members of the present generation than about the needs of distant future generations.

Discounting

Intergenerational equity (which is related to intergenerational justice) figures prominently in estimates of the economic impact of global warming.  This brief essay on Climate Change and Justice Between Generations from the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics summarizes the issue:

Sundstrom, chair of the SCU Economics Department, explored the relationship between the economics of climate change the ethics of intergenerational justice. To the extent that we base policy decisions on a cost-benefit analysis of the global warming problem, Sundstrom said, we need to quantify the cost of global warming in the future against the current cost of prevention. While there are some uncertainties about the current cost of prevention, the estimated cost of global warming in the future is a particularly contentious number.

Leading economists in different continents, notably Nicholas Stern in the UK and William Nordhaus in the US, strongly disagree in their estimates of what global warming will cost. According to Sundstrom the disagreement is due to the different discount rates used by the two economists. He explained that discounting is a commonly used technique to calculate the value of a future monetary amount in terms of present-day dollars. The higher the discount rate, the lower the value of a future monetary amount will be in the today’s dollars. Stern assumes a discount rate of 2 percent, which leads to substantial costs for global warming as measured by today’s dollars. On the other hand, Nordhouse uses a rate close to 6 percent, which drives the cost of global warming significantly lower. Sundstrom raised the question of how to pick an ethically defensible discount rate.

To Sundstrom, one way to look at the ethics is to adopt an approach favoring the poor over the rich. He argued that if we make the reasonable assumption that in the future people are going to be richer than they are today, they will have less value for the same amount of money. Hence the cost incurred in the future to deal with global warming should be discounted, when doing the analysis in the present, because people will have more money or spending power in the future and thus more resources to cope with the costs of climate change.

While supporting discounting based on the above approach, Sundstrom strongly disagreed with another justification of discounting, so-called pure time preference, which says that we should intrinsically care more about the wellbeing of present generations, whatever their standard of living, than we do about the wellbeing of those in the future. While Stern has assumed a very low value for pure time preference, Nordhaus has assumed a significantly higher value. Sundstrom argued that to do so is unethical and that the idea of applying pure time preference in social decisions has been widely criticized by many notable economists in history. Finally Sundstrom concluded that we need to be conservative in discounting due to the uncertainties surrounding the analysis of the future.

JC comments:  The concept of intergenerational justice is evolving and is the subject of debates on the philosophical, legal, and economic fronts.   The Rio Declaration and the UNFCCC give high priority to future generations.  Exactly how this consideration is to be weighted among competing needs is not at all clear.

All of us would probably do just about anything to secure the well being and happiness of our grandchildren.  But looking back to our own grandparents, it becomes apparent how futile it is to try to imagine the needs or wants of your grandchildren 50 years into the future.

My own thinking on this issue is that resiliency is the key for future generations, which increases in parallel with economic development.  How the world 50-100 years hence will manage food, energy and water is something that I won’t pretend to be able to imagine.  Yes, our knowledge base is more sophisticated than that of 50-60 years ago, but the technologies and capacity of innovation 50-60 years hence is not easily imagined.

Apart from the scientific uncertainty surrounding the threat of global warming, assessment of the policy choices should consider not only the various scenarios of climate change but also the relationship of these scenarios to alternative theories of intergenerational justice.

It is these alternative theories of intergenerational justice that are at the heart of the disagreement between Hansen and Christy on the topic of their grandchildren, and also between Stern and Nordhaus on economic impact assessment.  Intergenerational justice is a thorny topic in applied ethics.

261 responses to “Dueling grandchildren

  1. Paul Rubin, professor of economics and law at Emory University, wrote a book titled “Darwinian Politics: The Evolutionary Origin of Freedom” which has some excellent observations on the consequences of evolving in a zero-sum environment, particularly in relation to the evolution of that emotion we all envy. He also discusses how people in a modern, non-zero-sum economy continue to act as if the quantity of wealth is fixed such that one man’s prosperity is another man’s poverty. The notion of intergenerational justice is very much contaminated by the kind of zero-sum thinking which Rubin discusses. I strongly recommend a reading of Darwinian Politics to anyone who intends to think about this topic.

    • I agree, the “notion of intergenerational justice is contaminated by zero-sum thinking.”

      It is an appeal to emotionalism. A sign that AGW promoters may now be led – like troops on both sides of historical conflicts have been led – to die to protect “God, flag, and motherhood”.

      Al Gore seems better versed in propaganda techniques than in scientific methods.

      With kind regards,
      Oliver K. Manuel
      Former NASA Principal
      Investigator for Apollo

      • How does “intergenerational justice” work?

        If I walk into town instead of driving does this mean the gas I don’t use is available to my own grand-children? Or is it for someone else’s grandchildren – maybe in a foreign country? Or will it be used tomorrow morning – maybe in Al Gore’s jet ?

        And what are the grandchildren supposed to do with it anyway? If they use it that would be selfish – they need to preserve it for their own grandchildren…

        8) 8) 8) 8)

      • I suspect this is a perculiarly western discussion. In countries such as India and China parents and grandparents are more concerned about how best to maximise the opportunities for thier future generations.Oh for the joy of living in a dynamic society. In the older industrial countries the discussion seems to be about managing decline. Climate change seems to be only one of many issues in which we seem to be trying to impose our fears and insecurities about the present and future shape of our societies onto unsuspecting offspring.

        It’s better to see this particular spate in the wider political context. On that basis I’d have to go with JC on this, provide future generations with the ability to make real resoursed decisions

      • Rob Starkey

        HR

        Your comment is very prejudiced.

      • Jack Hughes

        My own childhood was a time of excitement and optimism – not just for me but for everyone. The zeitgeist was upbeat. Apollo landings, silicon chips, atomic energy, heart transplants. Wow. Every day was like Christmas Eve.

        Now this has gone into reverse. The zeitgeist is weary pessimism, fear and insecurity.

        What is really sick is the way that schools push this negative message and dump all the neurotic guilt and self-loathing on the next generation.

  2. Your point about your grandparents is critical. What could they have done differently to improve (or harm) your current circumstances? (Other than becoming feelthy rich and leaving the pile to you, of course!)

    Your GPs wouldn’t, in fact, know where to begin in material terms. The intervening changes and lifestyle advances have been beyond all rational anticipation. But core values and culture endure longer, and matter more. Motivation, interest in learning, and respect for self and others are not subject to “sustainability” codes, but vastly outweigh their targets and concerns.

    • Note that “wouldn’t (have known/know) where to begin” would apply even if they were given a tour of the present in HG Well’s time toy; the linkages between their actions and circumstances and yours are impossible to direct or control in advance even with substantial accurate foreknowledge. Without it, it is pure folly and self-important delusion to claim such control.

    • Brian –

      What could they have done differently to improve (or harm) your current circumstances?

      They could have taught me the wisdom, common sense, ethics and knowledge that they had gained over their lifetimes. And they did that. Obviously, that was not a universal practice.

      Physically, technically, technologically – they had little to offer. But those things are of far less value than than the intangibles they did give me.

  3. All of us would probably do just about anything to secure the well being and happiness of our grandchildren. But looking back to our own grandparents, it becomes apparent how futile it is to try to imagine the needs or wants of your grandchildren 50 years into the future.

    When I think of the world as it existed in 1961, I think of many problems with which they concerned themselves explicitly on our behalf, and how grateful I am that they did. For example, John Kennedy, speaking of the Cold War, said:

    So, let us not be blind to our differences — but let us also direct attention to our common interests and to the means by which those differences can be resolved. And if we cannot end now our differences, at least we can help make the world safe for diversity. For, in the final analysis, our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this small planet. We all breathe the same air. We all cherish our children’s future. And we are all mortal.

    People fifty years ago may not have imagined CGI or commercial spaceflight or the iPhone, but they thought we, their heirs, would appreciate it if they avoided global thermonuclear war. And they were right about that.

    In 1961, Martin Luther King gave a speech, which included this:

    The church can make it clear that the Negro Is not seeking to dominate the nation politically; he is not seeking to overthrow anything; he is not seeking to upset the social structure of the nation; but he is merely seeking to create a moral balance within society so that all men can live together as brothers. The church can make it clear that all of the talk about intermarriage and all of the fears that come into being on the subject are groundless fears. Properly speaking, individuals marry, and not races. And people, in the final analysis, in a democracy must have the freedom to marry anybody they want to marry.

    Not only do we care that they fought that battle in the 60s, we continue to fight it on a different front even today! Congratulations to New York!

    The people who fought the ban on interracial marridge or fought the doctrine of separate and equal court by court until it was destroyed may not have imagined Netflix or heart-lung bypass. But they thought we, their heirs, would be better off living in a world without legalized racial discrimination and oppression. And they were right about that.

    The future is very uncertain, but not completely unknowable. Will our heirs want to live in a society enjoying a global climate similar to the one every human community has lived in since the invention of writing, or will they want to live in a society living with temperatures warmer than the earth has seen for millions of years, with the many destructive consequences anticipated from that?

    I have an idea as to that. I suspect I’m right about it.

    • John Kennedy also said, “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.” Then he lowered income taxes.

      Anyone saying that today would be labeled a greedy, racist, fascist, sexist homophobe. You know, a Republican.

      • John Kennedy also said, “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.” Then he lowered income taxes.

        No, he didn’t, unless he passed the Revenue Act of 1964 from beyond the grave. LBJ cut taxes, but then again he also sent hundreds of thousands of troops to Vietnam. His judgement was not always stellar.

        The Revenue Act of 1964 made the top marginal tax rate 70%. I don’t think making the top marginal tax rate 70% would qualify you as “a Republican” — not today’s Republicans, anyway, who, ehm — how can I say this delicately —

        a greedy, racist, fascist, sexist homophobe. You know, a Republican.

        You said it, not me.

        Back to the climate.

      • Kennedy sent advisers to Viet Nam, while Johnson blew it into a full scale war, Johnson gets full credit for escalating and mismanaging that war. But the tax cuts were a Kennedy initiative from the start, passed a whole 3 months after his death. Johnson signed them but he was a hard left progressive, Kennedy was not.

        And the tax act did indeed make the top rate 70%, but somehow you left out that that was a reduction from 91%. The change was in fact favored by conservatives at the time.

      • Here is a video clip of JFK proposing his tax cuts to start in January 1963. See http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aEdXrfIMdiU

    • Robert: The future is very uncertain, but not completely unknowable. Will our heirs want to live in a society enjoying a global climate similar to the one every human community has lived in since the invention of writing, or will they want to live in a society living with temperatures warmer than the earth has seen for millions of years, with the many destructive consequences anticipated from that?

      You forgot to also ask if our heirs would want to live in a greatly impoverished world with an increasingly obese and greedy state, fattened by the biased and fraudulent climate science it itself funds, with untold trilions of our money poured down the drain on wind farms and other hopeless schemes, simply to further the secular new religion of bigger government and world socialism ?

    • The morally righteous rhetoric exists alongside a paucity – indeed a complete lack of any success in changing the trajectory of greenhouse gas emissions, the lack of policy that appeals to a broad spectrum of people, the lack of a coherent vision for the future of human society.

      The lack of scientific nous can be forgiven – if I can get over the moralising. But it is never clear just what solution is being envisaged – I assume that it involves Kyoto style cap and trade. A method that has failed utterly – and has no future at all. The sensible alternative policy is heuristic – learning by doing – to build ecological, economic and social resilience using multiple paths with multiple objectives. Conserving and restoring ecosystems, R&D, restoring soil carbon stores, reducing black carbon and tropospheric ozone, providing models of good corporate governance and prudential oversight (which most of the west would do well to remember), allowing free trade and providing health services, education, safe water and sanitation. There is little here that anyone would object to.

      The world is not warming for a decade or three as explicitly stated in peer reviewed decadal forecasts – and thus the left social and economic experiment is dead in the water. The left continues to insist on their simple and superficially scientific narrative. If we are not careful it will derail the public discourse and the opportunity to increase food and energy resources on the immense scale required this century will be lost for a generation. We can have lower costs, economic growth, technological optimism,and a reduction in greenhouse gases.

      Perhaps I should get past the climate war – but these typically leftists are not terribly helpful.

    • John Carpenter

      Robert,

      To answer your question about whether our heirs will want to live with temperatures we haven’t experienced in millions of years?…

      We cannot project our present day experience or feelings about the climate onto future generations. The future generations will not know what it feels like to live today and thus will have no idea if what they are experiencing is really better or worse, they will view it as the norm and will adapt accordingly.

      We have no way of controlling the our planets climate destiny, at least not by very much. As for the little bit we might alter, I doubt future generations would be able to comprehend it because they will not know the difference.

    • Robert –
      People fifty years ago may not have imagined CGI or commercial spaceflight or the iPhone, but they thought we, their heirs, would appreciate it if they avoided global thermonuclear war.

      What they thought was more along the lines of avoiding nuclear war so they could have grandchildren. They were generally smart enough to know that those grandchildren would make their own world and would have no need or desire for the grandparents to make their decisions or shape their world for them. They were generally smart enough to know that the only legacy they could leave their grandchildren was a world that provided the freedom to live their lives and make their decisions without the interference of either the grandparents – or of a government that was either intrusive or dictatorial. None of this is apparently obvious to the alarmist side of the dance floor. Gotta wonder why their grandparents didn’t teach them what they needed to know.

      The future is very uncertain, but not completely unknowable

      Robert needs to read Talib’s “The Black Swan”

      Will our heirs want to live in a society enjoying a global climate similar to the one every human community has lived in since the invention of writing, or will they want to live in a society living with temperatures warmer than the earth has seen for millions of years, with the many destructive consequences anticipated from that?

      There are so many errors, misapprehensions and assumptions in there that it’s almost unanswerable.

      The first error is that climate has NOT been as constant as is assumed and asserted. Nor will it be in the future regardless of any actions taken now or in the future.

      And then the most basic assumption falls among those things that are unknowable – that the climate will be what Robert expects. And since that assumption is in question, the rest of the thought is valueless except as an example of arrogance and hubris.

    • While the appeals of John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King were couched as an appeal to future generations, what they sought was also consistent with the best interests of the generation in which they lived. It was in the best interests of the current generation and all future generations to avoid nuclear war and to strive for racial equality. Neither was asking for current sacrifices that would accrue only to the benefit of a future generation.

      • Another differnence is that they also weren’t caught red-handed trying to cook the books and mislead the public on those matters.

    • Robert:
      Would our heirs be grateful that we sequestered millions or billions of tons of CO2 under the ground, under the ocean , possibly fouling aquifers for generations to come, and defiling landscapes with the required pipelines?

      And will they be grateful if the consequences of a precipitate shutdown of coal , with biofuels filling the gap— are food shortages and hunger worldwide?

      Will they be grateful if the world is turned inside out and national sovereignty diminished to allow a dysfunctional and corrupted UN that seems unable to run anything efficiently , to oversee developed economies and the wealth redistribution and technology transfers that Copenhagen and Cancun foreshadow?

      Will they enjoy the world financial chaos that is forecast by some , as a consequence of the warmists’ determination to inflict carbon trading on the whole world, for no positive result in emissions reduction?

      Will they enjoy the turmoil and conflict in the world that is the likely result of all of this?

  4. This is just another in a long series of attempts at “reframing” CAGW. Intergenerational justice, social justice, climate change, global warming, “for the children,” “for the grand children,” sustainability, the precautionary principle; all are euphemisms for central planning and taxation of the energy economy. All are based on the claim that catastrophic damage will be caused by human emissions of CO2 raising global temperatures. You know, CAGW.

    If you are a progressive, you decide what policy you want to implement to increase your, and your colleagues’, political power, then keep trying new arguments (rationalizations) until one sticks.

    There is nothing new in the climate debate, including “new” arguments based on “intergenerational justice.”

  5. The future is the last refugee of a scoundrel.

  6. Any concatenation of the word Justice with some other word or phrase like intergenerational or economic or environmental gives me the willies. Some danged agenda is lurking in the woodpile when this happens. You make life better for your grandchildren by making it better for yourself – that’s the way it has always been. Development and abundant energy are the answer, not the problem. I think we are crazy to think that rolling back the clock or embracing ‘the end of energy on demand” will make things better for our grandchildren. I think it will rather leave them shivering in the dark.

    • Agreed. If a person making a claim cannot demonstrate the justice of that claim they can “reframe” the argument by attaching an adjective to the word “justice”. In this way they highjack the connotations of the word while abandoning its inconvenient denotations by way-side.

    • Development and abundant energy are the answer, not the problem.

      Hear! Hear! These perpetual doomsayers and re-framers would do well to consider Dr. Hans Rosling’s “200 Countries, 200 Years, 4 Minutes”:

      • K Scott Denison

        Thanks for sharing that link. Brilliant video.

      • Great video, HR, thanks. I am of the opinion that shrinking birthrates will follow increased standards of living and lifespans of those living in the poorest countries. Everybody should enjoy the standard of living we do here in the US. Unfortunately, my view of scary enviros like Al Gore is that they would like to return us to standards of living that encourage high birthrates, and hence their eternal need to advocate all sorts of fertility interventions.

      • This is really strange. My kid’s grandparents grew up with radios and TVs. They had cars and indoor plumbing. 3 of the 4 had college degrees: one grandfather and two grandmothers. Between them they had twelve children (and five stillborns,) which is fewer children than their grandparents had. They would have had more, but doctors had discovered a cash cow called the hysterectomy.

        The children of my kid’s grandparents, to whom cars and indoor plumbing and electronics and college degrees was old hat, have averaged less than two children apiece.

        Look again.

  7. I’d add at least a couple of generations. They matter too. We’ll all be dead by the year 2100, so what happens in the year 2101 is of no more importance to any of us than say the year 2301, but we don’t seem to be capable of looking quite that far forward.

    David Archer’s book “The Long Thaw” does discuss the very long term nature of any future climate change which will become increasingly unstoppable the more it is left untackled.

    • “The Big Thaw” s science fiction dressed up to fool the gullible into thinking it is non-fiction.

      • tempterrain

        Readers can form their own opinion about the book. However, he does repeatedly make the point that we should be looking ahead longer than the lives of our grandchildren or the year 2100. For example:

        “Conveniently, by limiting the scope of consideration to 2100, and not caring about what happens afterward, there is a 67% ‘bonus’ in the amount of CO2 that can be emitted.”

      • tempterrain,
        Your inability to consider that CO2 is not the major environmental problem your faith tells you it is, is quite admirable as a demonstration of the power of faith over critical thinking.

      • tempterrain –
        The book might be classified as science fiction but I’ll repeat that anyone who starts talking about 100,000 years in the future is either a liar or a con man. And I check the security of my wallet.

    • “The Long Thaw”

      Just picked it up — thanks for the tip!

  8. Pooh, Dixie

    For your information, opinions of the current regulatory czar in 2008. (I do not know his current views.)

    Sunstein, Cass R., and David Weisbach. 2008. Climate Change and Discounting the Future: A Guide for the Perplexed. Working Paper. Reg-Markets Center, AEI Center for Regulatory and Market Studies, August. http://aei-brookings.org/admin/authorpdfs/redirect-safely.php?fname=../pdffiles/phpEK.pdf

    Some of the most important disagreements about how aggressively to respond to the threat of climate change turn on the choice of the discount rate. A high discount rate implies relatively modest and slow reductions; a low discount rate implies immediate and dramatic action. The debate between the two sides reflects a disagreement between the positivists, who argue for a market rate, and the ethicists, who urge that the positivist approach violates the duty of the present to the future.

    We argue that the positivists are largely right, and that the question of discounting should be separated from the question of the ethical duties of the present. Discounting is a means of taking account of opportunity costs, and a refusal to discount may well hurt, rather than help, future generations. Nonetheless, it is also possible that cost-benefit analysis with discounting will impose excessive harms on future generations. If so, the proper response is to make investments that will help those generations, not to refuse to discount. We also explore several questions on which the ethicists’ legitimate objections require qualification of the positivists’ arguments, justifying a low discount rate for climate change policy.

  9. Pooh, Dixie

    Another journal article:
    Sunstein, Cass R., and Eric A. Posner. 2008. “Global Warming and Social Justice.” Regulation. http://www.cato.org/pubs/regulation/regv31n1/v31n1-3.pdf

    Introduction: Climate change raises serious questions of science and economics, but it also raises questions of justice. The United States has been the world’s leading contributor to the problem, and it is also the wealthiest nation on the face of the earth. Because of its past contributions, does the United States owe remedial action or compensation to those nations, or those citizens, most likely to be harmed by climate change?
    Questions of corrective justice are entangled with questions of distributive justice. Because of its wealth, should the United States be willing to sign an agreement that is optimal for the world as a whole — but not optimal for the United States?

    Last paragraph: To the extent that the United States believes that some of its foreign aid goals can be achieved by taking a more generous position in climate change negotiations than ordinary national interest considerations would suggest, then it should not hesitate to do so. And if the United States believes that it can effectively assist vulnerable people through climate change policy, it should also be encouraged to do so. But in their usual forms, concerns about redistributive and corrective justice muddy the picture and threaten to interfere with efforts to negotiate an effective climate treaty in the future.

    • Thanks for these references

    • A simple answer to the simple question:

      “does the United States owe remedial action or compensation to those nations, or those citizens, most likely to be harmed by climate change?”

      Reasonable answer—-Absolutely not!

      • Another angle to this is do the developing nations owe the West debt due to the increase in global economic activity and the benefits they have enjoyed from it?

      • Most “developing nations” owe a debt of thanks to more developed nations and to worldwide energy production for their very survival in the world today. That is an undisputed fact.

        It is also true that most “developed nations” will exploit the resources/people of “developing nations” any time they think they can do so if they believe it is in their own long term interest

      • Ahh, but in the ‘exploiting,’ like the exploitation of cheap labor for example, the developing nation benefits. Look at India.

    • Corrective justice, distributive justice, intergenerational justice, social justice, environmental justice – how many kinds of justice are there? Hmmmm, maybe some rethinking is in order – corrective justice = payback, distributive justice = pay another’s bills, intergenerational justice = pay forward, social justice = pay people differently, environmental justice = pay for another’s air conditioning. A trend may be emerging.

  10. AGW believers seem to think that is they threaten our grandchildren skeptics will finally agree.
    They do not seem bright enough to realize that we are skeptics in no small part because of our hopes for our grandchildren.

    • But not for your grandchildren’s great great grandchildren.

    • David L. Hagen

      The cost of fossil or renewable energy, particularly for transport fuel, is the controlling issue for both warmists and coolists, especially in providing energy for the developing world.
      That depends on the risks involved and the capital/recovery rate.

      We are now at a critical transition from light crude to bitumen (aka “oilsands” or tar) or coal to liquids. Bitumen recovery and upgrading typically costs $100,000 / barrel/day. Operating over 27 years would produce about 10,000 barrels, for a straight line depreciation of $10/barrel at 3.7%/year

      Public guarantees of housing drops interest rates to 5%, which would add $14/bbl. However, full risk CO2 Enhanced Oil Recovery is expected to have a hurdle rate of 25%/year and add $68/bbl. Notionally:
      Interest 5%/yr 25%/yr
      $14/bbl $68/bbl
      Capital $10/bbl $10/bbl
      Total $24/bbl $78/bbl
      Bitumen recovery also adds energy costs of converting three barrels of water to steam for every barrel of bitumen recovered.
      Solar energy is primarily capital costs with little additional fossil energy.

      “Green” solar thermochemical energy could nominally all the energy needed for the developing world as well as the first world. The deciding issues are
      1) the investment to develop technology to bring the capital cost down, and
      2) the public policy in the transition on the risks involved as to whether projects must return 25% interest or only 5%.
      3) Overcoming “environmental” objections to installing large solar thermochemical fuel or power systems in the desert or bitumen recovery in northern Canada etc

      Once very low risks are demonstrated, then insurance investment returns of $6% or so could be obtained.

      Imposing a Cap and Trade would send the economy into a roller coaster dive from horrendous costs with little benefit. The current “peak oil” transition from light crude to new/alternative fuels has already caused the 2008 “economic crisis” just from the constraint from expected growth to a constrained “plateau”. We now face the daunting prospects of declining available light crude without having prepared alternatives.

      These issues of fuel transitions and risk dominate the pensions of our generation as well as the livelihoods of our children and grandchildren.

      For the issues involved in CO2-EOR with the 25% “hurdle rate” see
      An Assessment of Gate-to-Gate Environmental Life Cycle Performance of Water-Alternating-Gas CO2-Enhanced Oil Recovery in the Permian Basin September 30, 2010 DOE DOE/NETL-2010/1433

      • Placing a price on carbon to reflect the negative externality associated with the emissions would encourage investment in non-fossil fuel technologies, and encourage the opening of new area to the development of renewable energy, by the same method that has been so effective in encouraging investment and development of fossil fuel energy; it would make non-carbon energy more profitable to sell.

        There is no reason to think that taxing carbon emissions would be any more damaging to the economy than any other consumption tax; a VAT tax or a sales tax. There is no reason to think it would be more harmful than a payroll tax or property taxes. Our economy is not without labor because there is a tax on payrolls or without private property because of property taxes. The idea that cap-and-trade or direct taxation of emissions would “send the economy into a roller coaster dive from horrendous costs” is speculative, implausible, and alarmist.

      • Carbon taxes would spur investment in alternative energy “by the same method that has been so effective in encouraging investment and development of fossil fuel energy.” I like revisionist history. What exactly was the commodity that was taxed and regulated to spur the development of the fossil fuel industry?

      • David L. Hagen

        The “great enthusiasm” for carbon trading has caused the price of carbon to fall through the floor! See:

        EU Carbon Credit trading takes a dive. In Greece, they can’t hardly give EU carbon credits away

        Public carbon trading dead in the USA

        Let’s focus on positive policies that are beneficial to all parties!

      • It’s not the fact of a tax, it’s the fact that carbon taxes will be onerous. Heavy taxes by any means will hobble economic activity. The other aspect of carbon regulations is that the regulations themselves will hobble economic activity. Saying botulism poisoning is no worse than measles doesn’t make botulism poisoning desirable.

      • Placing a price on carbon to reflect the negative externality associated with the emissions would encourage investment in non-fossil fuel technologies

        The problem being that at present we have absolutely no idea what if any negative externality there is associated with emissions. All we have is the word of a climate science profession steeped in vested interest, politics and science fraud, and quite unrepentant about it.

        There is no reason to think that taxing carbon emissions would be any more damaging to the economy than any other consumption tax; a VAT tax or a sales tax.

        It is damage on top of the damage caused by those, putting more and more resources into the state’s hands.

        There is no reason to think it would be more harmful than a payroll tax or property taxes. Our economy is not without labor because there is a tax on payrolls …

        There is though reduced labor because of taxes on labor. The higher the price of something, the less of it you can afford.

        The idea that cap-and-trade or direct taxation of emissions would “send the economy into a roller coaster dive from horrendous costs” is speculative, implausible, and alarmist.

        It’s a question of the scale. Your implication that it will be mild is speculative , implausable (given the endless CAGW drumbeat from politios), and complacent. Taxes are invariably worse than those selling them say they will be.

      • Robert writes-
        “Placing a price on carbon to reflect the negative externality associated with the emissions would encourage investment in non-fossil fuel technologies, and encourage the opening of new area to the development of renewable energy, by the same method that has been so effective in encouraging investment and development of fossil fuel energy; it would make non-carbon energy more profitable to sell.”

        My response- in Robert’s above point he is correct that a tax on one form of energy will make other forms of energy more attractive economically in comparison. His comparison to governments trying to keep fossil fuel energy low cost is inappropriate. Governments wish to have low cost energy for users, but does not care which form of energy (electricity) is used.
        Robert writes-
        “There is no reason to think that taxing carbon emissions would be any more damaging to the economy than any other consumption tax; a VAT tax or a sales tax. There is no reason to think it would be more harmful than a payroll tax or property taxes. Our economy is not without labor because there is a tax on payrolls or without private property because of property taxes. The idea that cap-and-trade or direct taxation of emissions would “send the economy into a roller coaster dive from horrendous costs” is speculative, implausible, and alarmist.”

        My response- Robert is correct that taxing carbon is not more harmful than any other tax that makes a nation’s goods more expensive than the goods/services produced by others without a similar tax.
        What Robert misses is the negative consequences of making US goods/services more expensive on the world market and the degree to which those goods/services would have to rise in price in order to have a significant impact on CO2 emissions in the US.

      • …and the degree to which those goods/services would have to rise in price in order to have a significant impact on CO2 emissions in the US.

        That is an interesting and important question. I would agree that some on the “believer/convinced” side of the debate make facile assumptions in that regard.

        Other points – it seems that you are making unsupported assumptions about the impact of carbon taxes on the domestic market. For example, I lived in Korea a while back, when there was a great deal of domestic pressure among Koreans to buy domestic products rather than international products no matter their relative cost/quality ratio. It is not inconceivable that Americans would be capable of such an outlook. Further, you seem to be making assumptions about long-term behaviors of other markets that ignore the power and influence of the American economy on economics in other countreis.

        However, that said, short of raising taxes to that point – wherever that point is – there is another argument for taxing carbon: Using the revenue for specific purposes such as investment in alternative energy. Not to say that your points are without merit – but that it would seem that you might be basing them on overly-broad assumptions.

        Further – I think it untrue that the outcomes of our governmental process reflect an indifference to the relative strengths of different industries’ lobby.

      • Rob Starkey

        Joshua

        The key point is to define what goal you are trying to achieve. If your goal is to reduce CO2 emissions then the carbon tax is generally an inefficient and risky method.

        If the goal is to raise revenue (which is clearly necessary) then implementing a carbon tax makes some sense. The question about a tax to raise revenue is if the proposed tax effects the portion of your economy that you wish to target. You will find that a carbon tax that has a beneficial impact in reducing CO2 emissions will also greatly impact the poorer segment of the developing nation’s economy.

      • David L. Hagen

        Robert
        “a price on carbon to reflect the negative externality associated with the emissions ”
        That assumes that the externalities are negative. That is not a given. I see harmful potentials emphasized with high uncertainty as to their occurrence – while beneficial projections and benefits of CO2 are given cursory consideration.
        e.g. See
        The Many Benefits of Atmospheric CO2 Enrichment: How humanity and the rest of the biosphere will prosper from this amazing trace gas that so many have wrongfully characterized as a dangerous air pollutant!
        Craig D. Idso & Sherwood B. Idso (Vales Lake book).

        CO2 Science

        Monthly C02 Report, January 2011, SPPI

        Taxing a gas that is essential to life seems an innovative way to harm our economy and fatten government coffers with little benefit.

      • “There is no reason to think it would be more harmful than a payroll tax or property taxes.”

        Those taxes are damaging but in sense equal in application. Carbon taxes will be highly unequal and further support elite interests (say green investors) WHO CAN’T COMPETE IN THE REAL WORLD MARKET PLACE.Think Ethanol x 1000 fold.

        If the left’s minions think it will help support Utopianism and the welfare state they will buy in, which is what has happened. The hatred of private carbon interests is also traditional class hatred refined. Just sub “bosses” from the 20’s with “big oil” over the past 40 years and you are there.

        As always there is the irony that without government mismanagement and excess the concentrations would not be possible. We abandoned the gold standard over the the 33′ to 71′ period in part to support massive trade imbalances tied to another government creation OPEC. Had we not restricted carbon growth domestically under the phony claims of the eco-green movement and claims our decline would not have been as hasty.

        All claims about “grandchildren” are just political talking points and demagoguery as a rule, something the eco-left mastered long ago. As for factual? Look at the romance with ancient primitive society or for that matter the assumed moral superiority of third world nations as “victims” of first world nations in transactions. It’s very tied to U.N. and IPCC agenda setting.

      • randomengineer

        Placing a price on carbon to reflect the negative externality associated with the emissions would encourage investment in non-fossil fuel technologies, and encourage the opening of new area to the development of renewable energy…

        That’s an example of cargo cult style technology creationism at its finest.

        Trust me as an engineer I know full well that if I were to invent a renewable energy form that was reliable and even partially scalable then I’d be rich enough within 24 months to buy my own country. All science and engineering types are more than aware of the ample (wealth beyond human dreams, making Bill Gates look like a pauper) reward awaiting for successful invention, and are highly motiviated. No further “encouragement” is needed. Everyone would like to have a car that emits nothing and runs 1000 miles on a bucket of banana peels, and more to the point, everyone knows this.

        And yet your silly post is one of the countless lefty tech creationist posts where the “given”seems to be that a) engineers are idiot savants who just don’t realise the importance of green tech, as if we could have done it all along but didn’t know you really really wanted it; or b) evil big oil corporations are suppressing halfway decent tech with their minions sabotaging any and all efforts to affect their profits.

        Therefore we need encouragement, we need to punish behaviours (i.e buying gasoline in lieu of the banana peels.)

        GaryM tends to post his right wing stuff and in this instance he’s dead on right. All you are doing here is trying to make a case for yet another form of statism and/or socialist control of the marketplace, and this case is premised on ignorance and ideology — not science.

      • Robert re “a VAT tax or a sales tax”
        A VAT encourages exports compared with an Income Tax which harms exports. Europe’s move towards VAT gives it an advantage over the US with its income tax approach.

    • David L. Hagen

      Decisions on current vs future fuel use is explored in: Hubbert Rectangles

      One, the rectangle: we use it all up at today’s rate and then it’s smack dab zero. Second (unrealistic) what if we cut back immediately and spread it out evenly over a long period of time — 1000 years, or whatever you say? Third, create a policy at some deliberate enlightened decline rate and move off fossil fuels as quickly as possible.
      Here’s one variation of these 3 scenarios — using “25 years [of oil/gas/coal] left.” Our options are:
      #1) be done with it quickly — the black rectangle
      #2) drop supply at 10% per year (orange). Clearly some people aren’t going to be happy about this.
      #3) for reference, we drop immediately to a 1000 year rate. (At least this is less un-sustainable.)

      Practically, I see the need to develop cost effective alternatives ASAP to handle the impending decline of light oil.

  11. Pooh, Dixie

    “the wealthiest nation on the face of the earth.” This may no longer be correct after subsequent government policies. :-(

    • Well, if we revert to the laissez faire (government hands-off) capitalism advocated by right-wingers, China’s government-directed capitalism may make it the world’s #1 economy.

      • Capitalism is an economic system where govenment does not interfere in or direct people’s lives. “Government directed capiralism” is thus a contradiction in terms.

      • You are talking about “free market capitalism”. There are variants, including “state capitalism” and “corporate capitalism”. Even a quick trip to Wikipedia will show you the types. The variant of capitalism that you favour is “free-market capitalism”, which requires quite a lot of government legislation to exist and continue to exist.

      • There is no difference between “capitalism” and “free market capitalism”, and “state capitalism” is just self-contradictory nonsense.
        You do of course gets various hybrid systems, with various mixtures of coercive-socialist-state elements as well as consensual-capitlalist-market features.
        What did you imagine “state capitalism” actually means?

      • tempterrain

        I’d direct you to this Wiki article for a fuller description of the meaning of “State Capitalism”.
        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/State_capitalism
        As you can read , the term means different things to different people but I’d say:
        Its a pretty good description of the workings of the present day Chinese state which clearly operates under very different principles to what it did thirty or 40 years ago when the Red Guards and Mao were in charge.
        Its also useful in understanding the nature of the Western European democracies in the post war period. They were probably somewhere in between socialism and capitalism with the State playing a key role in the workings of their economies.
        If you think the same thing doesn’t happen in the USA I’d point you towards the workings of the Military Industrial Complex there. You don’t get much more State Capitalist than that.

      • Mussolini was a big supporter of state capitalism. I’ll assume its also big with leftwing fascists too. China’s system is very corrupt my chinese colleagues tell me and they hope for more freedom as that is what is improving things there not state control. They had state control for many years without improvement.

      • Teddy, your Chinese colleagues may have a tendency to tell you what you want to hear, and you may have a tendency to hear what you want.

        The CIA World Fact Book says …

        ” In recent years, China has renewed its support for state-owned enterprises in sectors it considers important to “economic security,” explicitly looking to foster globally competitive national champions.”

        The Fact Book also says …

        “The Chinese government faces numerous economic challenges, including: (a) reducing its high domestic savings rate and correspondingly low domestic demand; (b) sustaining adequate job growth for tens of millions of migrants and new entrants to the work force; (c) reducing corruption and other economic crimes; and (d) containing environmental damage and social strife related to the economy’s rapid transformation.”

        Americans could show them how to fix “(a).”

      • M.carey –

        This is the same CIA that siad there were WMD’s in Iraq, right?

        Do you need other examples of their expertise?

      • Punksta.
        Let’s discuss economic systems on a different blog.
        By letting the believers divert and detour through a nice discussion of dialectics and competing economies, we are letting them avoid the one thing they cannot deal with.

      • Hunter,

        You’re right. It is probably just as difficult for us to deal with climate skeptics/deniers as it is for Darwinian Evolutionists to deal with Young Earth creationists but we do our best!

        I think you expressed some slight reservations, on another post, recently about the role of CO2 as a GH gas. Unlike water it is non-condensing which means that CO2 stays in the atmosphere for a long long time and that’s an easy to understand key difference to remember the next time you hear someone claim that water absorption swamps any effect from CO2.

        That’s not to say that other GH gases aren’t important too, but CO2 build up is the biggest concern at the moment. There is lots to read on the net but, to start with, you might like to see if you spot any flaws in this:

        http://bartonpaullevenson.com/Saturation.html

      • M carey

        Having lived in China and worked with Chinese, I can vouch for the fact that EVERY Chinese is basically a capitalist, in the true sense.

        What makes China’s economy so successful is the basic work ethic seen in most Chinese.

        A Communist government cannot change this. It can only help it along by moving away from a centrally planned economy to allow individual capitalism, as it is doing.

        Max

      • I’ll say it again, anyone who thinks they know the future of China is dreaming.

        http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702304665904576383142907232726.html

        The suggestion that a communist government with the will to use overwhelming force can not have an effect on the Chinese economy strikes me as more than naive. Gorbachev already tried what the Chinese are trying, and when the effort at a communist controlled market economy failed, the slow reversion to a centrally planned economy (planned by mafiosi and kleptocrats) began.

        The vast majority of Chinese do not live in the urban wonderlands frequented by westerners. Nor do they share in the fruits of much of the economic prosperity seen in those areas. Which may have a tiny bit to do with the apparently ever growing unrest.

        I posted a link some time ago about the unpopulated ghost cities the Chinese government has built. Intervention in their own economies by western nations, with developed, democratic, essentially free market economies, has led them to the brink of financial disaster. The suggestion that the powerful, dictatorial Chinese government cannot change the Chinese economy, or its citizens economic practices, strikes me as wishful thinking.

        No country has ever done what the Chinese are trying to do, and no one knows how it is going to turn out. History suggests it will not be pretty.

      • Who is this Carey character? He drops in with a line of obscure comment here and there – purporting to be what?

        No-one – and I am am about as libertarian as you can get – is proposing any strict laissez faire market system. ‘In economics, laissez-faire describes an environment in which transactions between private parties are free from state intervention, including restrictive regulations, taxes, tariffs and enforced monopolies.’

        About the closest we should get is described by Freidrich Hayek involving controls on interest rates to prevent bubbles. We should probably add good corporate governance – a system of rules on monopolies, inside information, full disclosure etc – and prudential oversight of banks.

        It is just too bad that these standards failed – a failure of government – before the GFC. Mind you – with the level of bad loans to bank executives in China – we are undoubtedly looking at problems there for the same old reasons.

        Perhaps it is me – Carey’s comments seem pointless and trivial.

      • Who is this Carey character? He drops in with a line of obscure comment here and there – purporting to be what?

        He’s a frequent commenter here. He purports to be commenting on the topic. Anyone can do that, and the site is not “owned” by climate deniers or “skeptics” or however the anti-science lot refer to themselves.

      • If there is a substantive comment to be made – and not simply inane comments about deniers.

      • Chief has a good point. We should limit the comments to those of substance – like calling people pissants and obsessive compulsive.

      • This is the Latiff paper you were misusing elsewhere. There are other references to decadal prediction listed with quotes here – https://judithcurry.com/2011/06/19/understanding-the-conflict/#comment-78822

        ‘Using this method, and by considering both internal natural climate variations and projected future anthropogenic forcing, we make the following forecast: over the next decade, the current Atlantic meridional overturning circulation will weaken to its long-term mean; moreover, North Atlantic SST and European and North American surface temperatures will cool slightly, whereas tropical Pacific SST will remain almost unchanged. Our results suggest that global surface temperature may not increase over the next decade, as natural climate variations in the North Atlantic and tropical Pacific temporarily offset the projected anthropogenic warming.’

        ‘Keenlyside et al 2008- Advancing decadal-scale climate prediction in the North Atlantic sector – Nature 453, 84-88 8 May 2008

        My words concerned ill conceived notions from pissant lefty would be intellectuals and obsessing compulsively over details of radiative physics. If the shoe fits here Joshua – feel free to feign umbrage.

        Do try to evolve intellectually and not simply deny the science.

      • CH, the best decadal variability can do is buy time. We have seen the global temperature increase in steps because of partial cancellation by decadal variability only to resume with greater strength as the variability adds to the background warming. Similar things happen with the solar cycle, but this offsetting will reduce as AGW accelerates later this century. Even if this cooling some are predicting, not others, happens, it is temporary, but I find it very dubious that the 2011-2020 decade will be cooler than the last one, given the steady decade over decade increase rate of the last three (yes, even including the so-called cooling decade of the 2000’s).

      • Perhaps you could explain, Chief – how referring to Latiff’s views on temps over the next couple of decades is “misusing” what Latiff says about temps over the next couple of decades?

        Apparently, you are mistaken yet again — in thinking that I wasn’t aware of Latiff’s opinion?

        I became quite aware of Latiff’s perspective after reading over and over the distortions of his perspective in the “skeptic/denier” blogosphere and then reading about what he actually says. One of the best ways to find out the truth about climate science is to find out what lies behind the disinformation often promoted by the “skeptic/denier” tribe.

        You grow weaker by the post. Stick to the science, Chief – you do yourself a disservice when you being listening to those libertarian voices rattling around in your head. They are misinforming you. This is like the third or fourth time at least they played you with respect to what this pissant leftist thinks.

      • Joshua,

        It is about distorting what is black and white and baldly stated in peers reviewed science for whatever purposes you deem make it necessary – dishonest in the extreme.

        You don’t at any time make it clear what Latiif was talking about in the sadly distorted blogosphere. You should always read the studies – before making an arse of yourself.

      • Chief, if you don’t mind my asking, WTF are you talking about?

        When Latiff said that we could expect a relatively short term period of cooling – which would mask a long-term period of warming (that has already commenced) – it was badly distorted in the “denier/skeptic” blogosphere. He also said that the possible short-term cooling would be used by “deniers/skeptics” to distort the implications of the underlying climate science.

        I was fully aware of what he said – which strikes me as similar to what you have been saying – and I stated that his perspective seemed to me to be well-reasoned.

        Since you fancy yourself as the “Chief,” I assumed that all I would need to do is mention that I felt his perspective on warming versus cooling was well-reasoned, and you would have the background to know what I was saying. If I over-estimated your knowledge base, I apologize.

        In no way did I “misuse” Latiff’s perspective. I “distorted” nothing. I “denied” nothing.

        Well, unless you’re stuck in some libertarian stupor, that is.

      • The study clearly said what it said – and what I quoted. The interview with a junior author is something other than science. I had indeed read that interview – and paid scant regard. Peer review trumps by a long way the diversions of modern media. If you wish to make any claims to science – you need to be a great deal more circumspect.

        To discuss science for a moment – Keenleyside et al (2008) use a model that proceeds from SST temperatures rather than a physically realistic model. This is because the physics of the systems are not sufficiently known to develop physically realistic numerical models.

        I referenced a couple of other studies – one that used the PDO as a proxy for pan Pacific conditions in a similar way to Keenleyside. Anastasios Tsonis used a network model – the NAO, the PDO, the ENSO and the PNA – from memory to explore the increase in autocorrelation or what they called synchonisation of these indices. Increases in autocorrelation or slowing down is a property of dynamically complex systems at bifurcation points – or what they called climate shifts. They found shifts in climate around 1910, the mid 1940’s, the late 1970’s and 198/2001.

        The Tsonis work has some fundamental implications for how climate works at its essence. Dynamical complexity rather than simple causality. Abrupt and nonlinear climate change rather than the simple causality of GW theory.

        Suffice to say that these changes are predominantly the Interdecadal Pacific Oscillation. IPO phases tend to last for 20 to 40 years.

        You rely on a media interview. The point is that even if that interview wasn’t biased in any way – it is far from sufficient to provide a wide ranging understanding of the topic, the contrasting views, confounding factors and uncertainties. For that you need a far broader review and deeper understanding of the field.

        Making much of a single interview and challenging me on my own ground is not a strategy for success as a warrior in the climate war Joshua.

        BTW – I certainly have a love of water in its many forms but the title comes from Cecil Terwilliger. Did you really think I would take myself so seriously in the blogosphere?

      • You rely on a media interview. The point is that even if that interview wasn’t biased in any way – it is far from sufficient to provide a wide ranging understanding of the topic, the contrasting views, confounding factors and uncertainties. For that you need a far broader review and deeper understanding of the field.

        Chief – the fact that you feel compelled to spend time writing something so completely obvious suggests that somehow you think it is actually something profound. Stick to the science.

        I’m not well-enough versed in the technicalities to read and understand the science at the level you’re talking about. That’s why I read blogs such as this one, to try to get a window into the debate by reading the shortened analysis of the type you present. That’s also why I focus so much on trying to decipher the political biases that are (inevitably) embedded in how people interpret the science. Despite your strong political orientation – I don’t see much overt bias in your perspective on the science. That is refreshing and highly unusual on a blog such as this one. However, when you step into commenting on the political context that surrounds the science, your biases become overtly apparent.

        For example, they become very apparent when you launch into your vitriol towards Fred – and here’s the reason why: Sometimes I believe I can see some biases in his interpretation of the science, but for the most part he does a pretty good job of rising above the type of obviously politically biased interpretation that characterizes the vast majority of the “analyses” presented on these pages (and most of what isn’t politically-biased is biased by the apparent need of many posters to show somehow that they have scientific chops – but that’s another issue). Certainly, my ability to tease out political bias is limited by my technical expertise, but even one with my limited technical knowledge can see that anything a hunter says about the science, to site just one example, is overwhelmingly tainted by his extremist political views. Fred makes a good faith effort to present the science in a straight-forward manner, and takes looking at his own biases seriously. When you call out Fred, of all the freakin’ people on this blog, as someone who uses a cover of “dispassionate science” to cover an agenda to “transform the root and branch of society,” in reality you are doing nothing other than exposing your own biases that cause a distortion in how you see Fred’s input. Why are you so fixated and obsessed with Fred when there are ubiquitous examples of tribally-influenced science posted in every single thread at this website? (I also suspect that it become personal with you re: Fred because you are threatened by his level of knowledge and his intellect – but that is perhaps less clear than the influence of your own political orientation).

        More examples of the same phenomenon have occurred when you repeatedly made mistakes about what I said or what I believe with respect to global warming. You determined that I am a leftist (of which there is little doubt), and lost the balance you have when presenting the science because you have little libertarian voices in your head that whisper nasty, evil things about leftists.

        Stick to the science, Chief. You do yourself a disservice when you let those tribal voices override your better instincts.

      • ‘I’m not well-enough versed in the technicalities to read and understand the science at the level you’re talking about. That’s why I read blogs such as this one, to try to get a window into the debate by reading the shortened analysis of the type you present.’

        ‘Although it has failed to produce its intended impact nevertheless the Kyoto Protocol has performed an important role. That role has been allegorical. Kyoto has permitted different groups to tell different stories about themselves to themselves and to others, often in superficially scientific language. But, as we are increasingly coming to understand, it is often not questions about science that are at stake in these discussions. The culturally potent idiom of the dispassionate scientific narrative is being employed to fight culture wars over competing social and ethical values. Nor is that to be seen as a defect. Of course choices between competing values are not made by relying upon scientific knowledge alone. What is wrong is to pretend that they are.’ The Wrong Trousers: Radically Rethinking Climate Policy : Gwyn Prins & Steve Rayner

        The blogosphere is not science at all. It consists mostly of mad theories and even madder theorists peddling pet views mostly without any substance, review or reference to analysis in the sense of the scientific method. Occasionally I try to shake people out of complacency with the stories we tell each other. We surf the WWW picking up snippets that concur with our inclinations in the typical patterns of confirmation bias.

        The vitriol as you characterise it could apply to us all. We obsessively comb the WWW freely creating narratives for us and our friends – and tend to ignore what doesn’t gel. None of us have breadth of knowledge needed to understand more than a fraction of the relevant science. I work in environmental science – it is a multi-disciplinary science precisely because none of us alone have the knowledge to solve the complexities of real world problems. I know a little about hydrological and biogeochemical cycles.

        Climate is immensely complex and variable – indeed it is dynamically complex. Which creates whole new areas of uncertainty. If there is rude confidence expressed in any opinion – it is certain that it is misplaced. The language of science is modest, tentative and qualified. If the language is conclusive to a high degree of certitude – you can be sure that something has been overlooked. It creates a false impression amongst the impressionable – and is very destructive of the public discourse and the sacred hydrological truth that is arrived at through dialectic in honesty, good faith, humour and civility.

        Now you might think that I fall short of my sacred duty. But I do it with malice aforethought. Is that an excuse? Poor Craig was most upset that I accused him of sniffing bicycle seats and eating babies in my pale imitation of the Socratic method.

        ‘If the most famous philosopher of all were alive today, he might find America remarkably similar to his own Athens of the fifth century BC. Socrates would witness a vibrant and proud democracy, and disdain it as an indulgence of the benighted, unphilosophical “herd”. He would interrogate America’s politicians, talk-radio and cable-television pundits in search of honest discussions that lead to truth, and thereby expose their confusion, contradictions and ignorance. He would avail himself of America’s as of Athens’s freedom of speech, and simultaneously be horrified by the speciousness of the speech that Americans choose to make. And he would challenge America just as he had provoked Athens, and possibly be prosecuted and condemned for it a second time.’

        Sometimes I get a ringing in my right ear – but I don’t hear voices libertarian or otherwise. I keep promoting a middle path – specifically the path outlined in the 2010 Hartwell Paper (http://eprints.lse.ac.uk/27939/). A follow up paper to the one quoted from above. To make any progress at all we need to move beyond the failed Kyoto methodology to multiple paths with multiple objectives.

        I don’t know what you believe about ‘global warming’. The very use of the term signals to me a misunderstanding of the fundamental nature of climate. In a dynamically complex system – the planet may well warm but it is by no means certain. We have no means of predicting this. I quote Tim Palmer – head of the European centre for mid range forecasting elsewhere to the effect that climate can only be forecast that as a probability density function – a field of probabilities – of climate occupying a finite volume of phase space. That is – there are possibilities of hot, cold or anywhere in between.

        One – hopefully remote – possibility is the extreme scenario posed by the Pentagon.

        ‘The research suggests that once temperature rises above some threshold, adverse weather conditions could develop relatively abruptly, with persistent changes in the atmospheric circulation causing drops in some regions of 5-10 degrees Fahrenheit in a single decade. Paleoclimatic evidence suggests that altered climatic patterns could
        last for as much as a century, as they did when the ocean conveyor collapsed 8,200 years ago, or, at the extreme, could last as long as 1,000 years as they did during the Younger Dryas, which began about 12,700 years ago.’

        You can see the Woods Hole page on abrupt climate change for much more. If anyone says with certainty that it can’t happen – see rule No. 1.

        So you’re a lefty? Don’t worry – I’m sure you’re young enough for there to be hope for the future. But don’t be under any illusion that I eschew my libertarian values or resile from the climate war on your advice to vacate the social space. I would like to see a middle path between the failures of Kyoto and the counsels of complacency – and I will battle for my values as is my inalienable right. If you don’t like it – well guess who doesn’t give a rat’s arse.

      • Chief – I’m talking here about accountability – not asking you to change your political orientation. If you don’t care about accountability, that is to your own disservice.

        In these recent exchanges, you have expressed exactly the kind of mistaken confidence that you describe above – a confidence borne of ignorance, tribalism, and quite likely a need to prove to your self some sense of adequacy.

        You were over-confident that you knew what I did or did not know, or what I did or did not believe, simply based on the fact that you identified me as a lefty. You drew false conclusions without sufficient supporting data for a reason – the reason being that you were propelled to your conclusions by misconceptions borne out of your libertarian distortions of (what you perceive to be) leftists ideology.

        When someone like hunter draws conclusions without sufficient data – for example by proving that he has mistakenly drawn conclusions about what do or don’t believe, as he has done over and over – I view that as characteristic of his reasoning ability. He is untroubled when doing so, and it is because he isn’t serious about scientific processes, and so I know that I can generally just dismiss his interpretation of the science. You, in your discussion of the science, have proven that you not so easily dismissed as someone who is simply untroubled by drawing conclusions without supporting data. But you are also not impervious to the tribal influences that affect us all, and sometimes they do slip through and acidify your thinking process. I have provided ample evidence of how that was the case – yet you continue to duck that reality.

        It’s not that big a deal as long as you hold yourself accountable. It happens. You are not as perfect as you think you are, Chief. And you only drag yourself down further the more you resist displaying any humility.

        I don’t give a rat’s arse that you’re a libertarian, and I have no wish to change your political viewpoint. I like political battles, and I have no illusions about dissuading you from a libertarian view of the world no matter how ridiculous (extremist) libertarianism is. But it is because of the fact that I respect your input on the science that I suggest that you’d be better off showing accountability when you wander off deeper into the nexus between the science and the politics.

        Here are some more areas where you seem to have mistakenly concluded what I do or dont’ believe or don’t believe based on a nasty combination of insufficient data and tribal influences based on misconceptions about pissant lefties.

        You really don’t need to keep repeating yourself about the dynamic complexity of the environment. I get that.

        If you think that I don’t understand how the term “global warming” is only a shorthand for that much more dynamic process – you’re wrong.

        I have read some of the Hartwell Paper (and counter-arguments to it) and I don’t dismiss the theses contained therein. I put it into the category of “interesting and certainly worthy of further study and consideration.”

        I have no illusions about the viability of approaches such as the Kyoto protocol (or for approaches that are based on a notion that simply by focusing on reducing CO2 emissions we can solve the potential problems created by anthropogenic climate change). For example, I recently watched a Pielke Jr., presentation showing projected levels of realistic reductions in CO2 emissions, and I give his conclusions about their the insufficiency of realistic reductions great merit.

        I’m a middle path (multi-pronged approach) kind of a guy – despite your creative fantasies about agendas for root and branch transformation of society.

        Anyway, we’ve beaten this horse just about enough now. I’m off to spend a few days “down da shore” as we say here in Philly. Hopefully the water won’t be so acidic that I won’t be able to enjoy myself surfing those waves swelled from global sea rise.

      • Jim,

        We are in a cool mode of the Interdecadal Pacific Oscillation – this is mode that involves a negative Pacific Decadal Oscillation along with increased frequency and intensity of La Nina. It is associated with changes in low level cloud in the eastern Pacific – negatively correlated with sea surface temperature. These modes last for 20 to 40 years. The last Pacific climate shift occurred after 1998 – so a continuation of the recent surface temperature trajectory for another 10 to 30 years is postulated.

        My prime concern is what happens to the politics of multi-dimensional management of the environment of our world and in the social, economic and cultural development of people this century.

        The lack of warming will be noticed and used by the opposition – and they are partially right. About half of the recent warming happened in 1976/1977 and in 1997/1998 – predominantly ENSO events. Remembering the ENSO cloud feedbacks and non-Gaussian and non-stationary changes in ENSO intensity – COADS observations in the Pacific show decadal changes in cloud cover. Satellite (ERBE, ISCCP snd AIRS) observations in the tropics show that decadal changes in cloud cover dominated warming since 1985. ‘The overall slow decrease of upwelling SW flux from the mid-1980’s until the end of the 1990’s and subsequent increase from 2000 onwards appear to caused, primarily, by changes in global cloud cover (although there is a small increase of cloud optical thickness after 2000) and is confirmed by the ERBS measurements.’ NASA/GISS

        So why do I think there is a problem? The climate problem is the problem of dynamical complexity. I quote Tim Palmer again below. Essentially he says that climate is predictable only as a probability density function of climate occupying a specific finite volume of phase space. Climate in other words is chaotic in the physical sense of chaos theory. The ‘phase space’ includes a range of outcomes from snowball to hothouse Earth – the shifts in which are abrupt, unpredictable and extreme in the sense of noisy bifurcation – otherwise and more colourfully known as dragon-kings. AGW theory as such ignores both the fundamental nature of climate and as a result the unpredictability of climate – it is a worthless concept. There are more direct impacts on terrestrial and marine ecologies with an atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration not seen for 10 to 15 million years.

        The Kyoto approach was always nonsense. It is now dead in the water – with fewer and more rabid adherents trying to blow life into a rotting and unlamented corpse. The sensible policy is heuristic – learning by doing – to build ecological, economic and social resilience using multiple paths with multiple objectives. Conserving and restoring ecosystems, R&D, restoring soil carbon stores, reducing black carbon and tropospheric ozone, providing models of good corporate governance and prudential oversight (which most of the west would do well to remember), allowing free trade and providing health services, education, safe water and sanitation. There is little here that anyone would object to and much potential for significant progress.

        Include 1998 though to 2010 – 2001/2 was a deep La Nina – and I expect that 2011 to 2020 average will be cooler as the cool mode IPO intensifies. Regardless – even no warming for just a decade has political implications.
        .

      • I would just respond to your last sentence and say that would be very short-sighted and unfortunate if it happens that way. AGW is about the long view, not inter-decadal variability. That is an entirely different problem, much more subject to chaotic fluctuations that cancel out in the long term. It is more akin to trying to predict next year’s annual mean, which amounts mostly to El Nino prediction, which we know isn’t good at the moment.

      • Jim D –
        AGW is about the long view, not inter-decadal variability.

        Climate “science” doesn’t know enough to even begin talking about the long view And the attempt is obvious arrogance and arrant nonsense.

      • Jim D,
        We have been promised apocalypse *now* since 1988.
        The typical pattern of doomsday cults is to restate the prophecy and move the time horizon out into the future.
        Now AGW is doing this.
        Is there any reason anyone should hold AGW in higher credulity than any other doomsday cult?

      • There is a common misperception that climate change should already be significant now, when even Hansen in 1981 said it would only be a few tenths above natural variability by 2010. Hardly a catastrophe expected by now. His predicted warming 1980-2010: 0.5 C, which turns out pretty good, and that was just with a one-dimensional model.

      • Butt out guys – we don’t always need political point scoring – fun though it is – but a little too easy. .

        Jim,

        The political aspect is one thing and you know it will happen. These guys will put their hands on their hearts and say in a long suffering manner – ‘but it hasn’t warmed in 10, 15, 20 years.’

        I think the longer term is problematic as well. The standing patterns in oceans and atmosphere are chaotic with this seeming
        periodicity of 20 to 40 years. We have an idea of feedbacks but little of the control variables – so where is it going. My pet theory is solar UV – as in the Lockwood 2010 and Lean 2008 papers I quoted. Ozone cooling in the middle atmosphere – high SLP in the Antarctic and cold Southern Ocean surface water pushing into the region of the Humboldt Current.

        The oscillations are as I said – non-stationary and non-Gaussian. The systems vary on decadal, centennial and millennial timescales.

        We are in for a few surprises I think. Certainty is the bête noire of understanding.

      • Jim,

        Most of the recent warming happened in a couple of ENSO events. The satellite data suggests that most of the rest occurred because of changes in cloud cover.

        You should drop the BS about Hansen being in any sense right. Or are you too far gone with the cognitive dissonance of the true believer?

      • Man up, Chief. We wouldn’t want anyone to think you’re a pissant:

        The following is exactlywhy I told you that that I thought Latiff’s perspective was well-reasoned – because what he says is very similar to what you have been saying.

        Mojib Latif, a climate expert at the Leibniz Institute at Kiel University in Germany, said he “cannot understand” reports that used his research to question the scientific consensus on climate change.

        He told the Guardian: “It comes as a surprise to me that people would try to use my statements to try to dispute the nature of global warming. I believe in manmade global warming. I have said that if my name was not Mojib Latif it would be global warming.”

        He added: “There is no doubt within the scientific community that we are affecting the climate, that the climate is changing and responding to our emissions of greenhouse gases.”

        […]

        The Mail on Sunday article said that Latif’s research showed that the current cold weather heralds such “a global trend towards cooler weather”.

        It said: “The BBC assured viewers that the big chill was was merely short-term ‘weather’ that had nothing to do with ‘climate’, which was still warming. The work of Prof Latif and the other scientists refutes that view.”

        Not according to Latif. “They are not related at all,” he said. “What we are experiencing now is a weather phenomenon, while we talked about the mean temperature over the next 10 years. You can’t compare the two.”

        He said the ocean temperature effect was similar to other natural influences on global temperature, such as volcanos, which cool the planet temporarily as ash spewed into the atmosphere reflects sunlight.

        “The natural variation occurs side by side with the manmade warming. Sometimes it has a cooling effect and can offset this warming and other times it can accelerate it.” Other scientists have questioned the strength of the ocean effect on overall temperature and disagree that global warming will show the predicted pause.

        Latif said his research suggested that up to half the warming seen over the 20th century was down to this natural ocean effect, but said that was consistent with the 2007 report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. “No climate specialist would ever say that 100% of the warming we have seen is down to greenhouse gas emissions.”

      • CH, I raise Hansen because his simple ideas from 1981 still explain a lot of what could happen if CO2 is the main driver, which I strongly suspect. Long-term records don’t show changes of more than a degree in the last millennium, and give a measure of natural variability, which is why the CO2 (plus other GHGs and aerosols that offset each other) has an important predicted magnitude for this century. I don’t see anything that could conspire to offset CO2. I am aware of increasing cloud cover on a sub-decade time scale. This is part of the variability, and could start decreasing again tomorrow for all we know, while CO2 keeps rising. It may look like I have a lot of certainty, but I hope you see where it comes from, and I am comfortable with the prediction of a warmer next decade which will make the politicians pay more attention. Also solar strength could decline further, but you can see from the LIA, its impact is only about 0.5 C in an extreme case, and this time we will be measuring it directly.

      • Jim,

        No worries. You have neglected the cloud radiative forcing term. This is an IPO feedback at a minimum. See the Zhu et al 2007, Burgmann et al 2008 and Clements et al 2009. Getting past the positive feedback of Clements – the COADS observations show feedback of the decadal patterns as they say.

        If these dynamics are nelected – it leads to misleading answers all round.

      • I don’t deny clouds are affected by the ocean, but all these changes reverse themselves and contribute to what I would call chaotic noise. Lindzen and Choi were heavily criticized (twice now) for over-stretching this issue from tropical short-term ocean signals to global long-term CO2 climate responses. The CO2 response is mostly at high northern latitudes where the ice albedo feedback is still significant. This is neglected when looking at the tropics and clouds alone.

      • Jim,

        The idea that gets repeated is that it all cancels out – it is an oscillation isn’t it?

        Too simple – try this one – http://www.nonlin-processes-geophys.net/16/453/2009/npg-16-453-2009.pdf

        Have a look at the ENSO reconstruction at Fig 5 – of
        Climate change and the demise of Minoan civilization – Tsonis 2010
        http://www.clim-past.net/6/525/2010/cp-6-525-2010.pdf – just for something a bit more fun.

        ‘It appears, for the entire tropics, the observed outgoing radiation fluxes increase with the increase in sea surface temperatures (SSTs).’ LC09

        They seem to have the wrong end of the stick entirely. It is defined by Clement et al 2009 and Dessler 2010 as cloud negatively correlated with SST in the PDO and ENSO respectively. Higher SST – less low level stratiform cloud, lower albedo, more IR and less SW up at TOA in the radiatively important tropical zone.

        In the long term many things change.

      • Yes, CH, ocean circulations could change, notably the Gulf Stream could slow or stop. Who knows what effects ensue on clouds and albedo in that situation, but the global energy budget has to be conserved, and it would take a lot of extra clouds to stop warming, when we don’t even know if a given ocean change leads to more or less clouds, let alone how much. These are the tipping points. How close are we to one? No way of knowing until we can trust the coupled models more for decadal predictions. I don’t think we will reach a tipping point soon, but if we do, there will be some fast regional effects of one sign or another that no one can anticipate fully.

      • Well – thermohaline circulation is one of the changes that could bring rapid and extreme change.

        A 1% change in albedo is by definition a change of 3.4 W/m2.

        Here is something from Project Earthshine – suggesting a climatologically significant change in albedo – http://www.bbso.njit.edu/Research/EarthShine/http://isccp.giss.nasa.gov/z

        Here is the ERBE and ISCCP data for SW in the tropics suggesting something similar – http://isccp.giss.nasa.gov/zFD/an2020_SWup_toa.gif

        We certainly do know the directions of cloud feedback in these pan Pacific states – cloud cover is negatively correlated with sea surface temperature.in both surface and satellite observations.

        ‘The overall slow decrease of upwelling SW flux from the mid-1980’s until the end of the 1990’s and subsequent increase from 2000 onwards appear to caused, primarily, by changes in global cloud cover (although there is a small increase of cloud optical thickness after 2000) and is confirmed by the ERBS measurements.’ NASA/GISS

        More mild tipping points of lessor duration occur with some regularity.

        ‘This state is followed by an increase in coupling strength and incredibly, as in the cases of 1910 and 1940, synchronization is destroyed (at the time marked by the right vertical line) and then climate shifts again. The global temperature enters a warming regime and El Ninos become frequent and strong. The fact that around 1910,
        1940, and in the late 1970s climate shifted to a completely new state indicates that synchronization followed by an increase in coupling between the modes leads to the destruction of the synchronous state and the emergence of a new state.’
        http://www.nosams.whoi.edu/PDFs/papers/tsonis-grl_newtheoryforclimateshifts.pdf

        Climate shifted again in 1998/2002. ‘Using a new measure of coupling strength, this update shows that these climate modes have recently synchronized, with synchronization peaking in the year 2001/02. This synchronization has been followed by an increase in coupling. This suggests that the climate system may well have shifted again, with a consequent break in the global mean temperature trend from the post 1976/77 warming to a new period (indeterminate length) of roughly constant global mean temperature.’
        https://pantherfile.uwm.edu/kswanson/www/publications/2008GL037022_all.pdf

        So sayeth the peer reviewed literature JIm.

      • Long winded claptrap from a self appointed champion of scientific enlightenment battling the minions of darkness – neanderthals, criminals, flat Earthers, deniers of the holocaust to come, unwashed, unscientific and reactionary, lacking accountability (?) or whatever other subtle slight you can imagine. Do we dare to question to the purity of motivation and superior intellect of this paragon of moral virtue? I think so – I think you lack good faith and honesty.

      • Sure, Max, allows it as long as it serves their State-directed capitalism and national goals.

      • China already burns 3x as much coal as the USA. It is the #1 emitter of CO2.

        All thanks to people like you trying to destroy economies that use cleaner energy.

      • We should show China we can out pollute ’em.

        We could do that by subsidizing fossil fuel industries and removing the tax on gasoline.

        Fossil fuel consumption can be equated with economic growth. The more we burn, the higher our standard of living. That’s why I leave my lights on all night.

      • The fossil fuel industry is already subsidized by the fed. I’m for getting rid of just about all energy subsidies, including those for the fossil fuel industry.

      • And in that we are in agreement. However, I thought that you are stridently against an increase in the price of fossil fuel. Riding the subsides that support fossil fuels, the costs (at least in this country) will rise considerably, will they not?

      • Where did I say I was opposed to a price increase for fossil fuels? I’m for the government getting the level of regulation down to a bare, necessary minimum; but otherwise, let the market determine the price.

      • Sorry – I guess I confused you with many who are arguing that the rise in fuel costs resultant from a carbon tax will be catastrophic economically.

        I agree with you about regulation being whittled down to the bare, necessary minimum – although it seems clear that we’d come at determining that point from differing angles.

      • This is actually something you could get most people to agree to. So which specific subsidy program(s) are you talking about? Every time I read an article about that they don’t mention any specific programs so I have no idea if they are just making this up.

      • Rob Starkey

        Joshua
        The subsidies you mention are really not relavant in terms of the US fossil fuel use

      • What subsidies?

        IEA says there are fuel consumption studies:

        Iran, Saudi Arabia etc

        http://www.iea.org/work/2011/rewp/Session_1_Birol.pdf

      • Tell us about those subsidies for the fossil fuel industry please.

      • Way too late. Kyoto gave China a huge head start. Thanks to you.

        China knows the key … burn a lot of coal. Burn the cheapest fuel there is. Encourage the US and Europe to make energy as expensive as possible so jobs go to China.

        Instead of manufactured goods made with nuclear electricity, they are made with COAL!

        Good work Co2 encouraging AGW cultists.

      • you obviously don’t turn your computer off

  12. By he way, besides the point that you are far to young to have grandchildren, how was the visit?
    The lovely Mrs. hunter is pressuring the the hunter’s daughter to get on with the grandchildren business post hast.

    • Tell Mrs. Hunter to keep up the pressure :)

      • Thank you for the professorial advice. ;^) To that end this 4th weekend we are making a road trip from the capital of wicked oil, through Cleveland, Ga. and Asheville, to Durham to get our daughter out of the lab and give her some quality mom and dad time, lol.

  13. Pooh, Dixie

    Dr. Curry observes: “My own thinking on this issue is that resiliency is the key for future generations, which increases in parallel with economic development.” Others concentrate on “Intergenerational justice”, but “justice” is a governmental function. Still others point to “wealth” and “poverty”.

    I suggest that Dr. Curry has it right. Resiliency involves adaptability. The ability to adapt involves (among other things) assets, a.k.a. “wealth”. It isn’t just gold coins buried in the cellar. The abilities to nap flint arrowheads or make fire drills are also assets. (Let us hope we don’t have to go back that far.)

  14. Beth Cooper

    History is littered with incorrect predictions and I predict future predictions will fare no better. Who can say that societies will respond more effectively to future problems because a small power elite make the decisions. We don’t need nanny states wielding more and more authority over us, we need well educated individual able to respond flexibly to respond flexiblt to challenges within a reliable rule of law that gives a basis of stability. We especially dont need faceless Eu power wielders.

  15. Judith points out that our grandparents would have been hard pressed to solve our problems for us:

    But looking back to our own grandparents, it becomes apparent how futile it is to try to imagine the needs or wants of your grandchildren 50 years into the future.

    The past 50 years have seen many new developments and changes our grandparents could never have foreseen. [My grandfather never learned to drive an automobile – but he new how to handle horses.]

    And the pace is accelerating exponentially.

    And we are talking about 90 years in the future (not 50) – so we are worrying about the future of our unborn great-grandchildren.

    I can imagine how they would chuckle 90 years from now about our well-intentioned but totally silly musings.

    Max

    • The whole “It’s for the children (grandchildren)” sales pitch is a fraud. The Democrats in the U.S., with an assist from liberal Republicans, are spending trillions of dollars of those children’s and grandchildren’s money. Not for infrastructure or to preserve the society in a desperate war for survival, but to further their political goals of ever more centralized authority over the economy.

      The last trillion dollar stimulus, that was supposed to go to “shovel ready jobs?” It went to keep the public sector employee unions afloat. The 800 billion TARP bailout before it? Went to crony capitalist, big time Dem contributors Goldman Sachs, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and AIG. oh, and the nationalization of two car companies.

      And while they blithely wait for the EPA to bring the economy to a complete halt, what are they suggesting? Another “stimulus? Forget mitigation, forget even adaptation, our children and grandchildren will be working their entire lives to pay off the debt these geniuses are accumulating.

      CAGW? How about CAEC – catastrophic anthropogenic economic catastrophe. And that’s before decarbonization. The only thing that may save the west from our genius politicians and scientists is…those stupid voters.

      • GaryM,
        You make a great point.
        Well said and clearly supported by the reality of our present situation.

      • And now we learn that not only did Obama waste a trillion rewarding his political allies, he also killed the pension for GM’s non-union workers. This is socialism at its best:

        New emails obtained by The Daily Caller contradict claims by the Obama administration that the Treasury Department would avoid “intervening in the day-to-day management” of General Motors post-auto bailout.

        These messages reveal that Treasury officials were involved in decision-making that led to more than 20,000 non-union workers losing their pensions. (General Motors not eager to be political talking point in 2012)

        Republican Reps. Dan Burton and Mike Turner say that during the GM bailout, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner decided to cut pensions for salaried non-union employees at Delphi, a GM spinoff, to expedite GM’s emergence from bankruptcy.

        At a Wednesday hearing, the House Oversight Committee’s Subcommittee on Regulatory Affairs, Stimulus Oversight and Government Spending started pushing the Treasury Department for answers on the effects of the bailout and on how much of a role the department played in picking winners and losers.

        Read more: http://dailycaller.com/2011/06/22/private-emails-detail-obama-admin-involvement-in-cutting-non-union-worker-pensions-post-gm-bailout/#ixzz1QODKgj00

        http://dailycaller.com/2011/06/22/private-emails-detail-obama-admin-involvement-in-cutting-non-union-worker-pensions-post-gm-bailout/#ixzz1Q6Yxx4ZN

      • Wow.
        This sort of takes away from that hope and change kindly caring facade.
        Yet public employee unions bankrupting entire cities and states is okey-dokey for the Obamatons and their supporters.

  16. Making intergenerational equity an legal issue appears misplaced to me. Rather it’s a very complex ethical issue and should be discussed as such.

    To me the related ethical questions are at the heart of the proper choice of policies related to climate change, but I have found it extremely difficult to reach strong conclusions. The choice of the discount rate may have a huge effect on the conclusions, but it’s still only a small detail among a multitude of equally difficult questions. Furthermore the conclusions are likely be of little value, when the open questions are approach one at the time, because they are actually not separate issues, but intertwined in such a way that changing the definition of one may often be compensated by a new interpretation of another. Thus they must be considered as a whole to avoid spurious results from inconsistent definitions.

    My favorite book to start understanding, what the problem is about, is Partha Dasgupta’s “Human Well-Being and the Natural Environment” published in 2001, but based largely of earlier articles. This book doesn’t provide full answers, but it gives good ideas on how the problem should be approached and how deficient the thinking of many others has been (and is even now).

    I’ve written something on these issues on my blog, but that’s more about telling, how bad is the state of understanding than proposing better solutions.

    • randomengineer

      It’s not even an ethical issue. Europe despite plans was fairly well trashed in the 2nd world war. If ethical issues were real, then 70 years back there wouldn’t have been such a war. Man has not evolved away from war etc since then. Intergenerational ethics is mental self-stroking since even the best laid plans can and will go sideways. Napoleon was fond of saying ‘no battle plan survives contact with the enemy’ and this applies to everything.

      Moreover, Eisenhower authorised the US interstate system which revolutionised the economics in the US. This was not an investment in the future generations — it was (and remains) a military road system intended for fast movement of military materiel and troops — thus it was an investment into *other* needs. That future US citizens can and would benefit from this is a bonus. In other words, the battle plan had unexpected and surprising results.

      • The impossibility of planning far to the future is an essential part of what have been saying, and in particular that the largest obstacle for such planning is the freedom of future decision makers to decide something that we cannot foresee. Whatever we do now, the future decisions will either strengthen or counteract the influence of our acts.

        But we can influence the range of choices available for the next generation. We can do it by scientific research and technological development, which improve their available knowledge base. We can do it by influencing the stability of the society. We can do it through the education. But we can do it also by using nonrenewable resources so much that the next generation has little left of some valuable materials, or by damaging the environment on global scale.

        The next generation will react to the situation that it faces, and the next generation will influence the starting point of the generation following them, and so on generation after generation.

        The basic idea of Dasgupta is to evaluate the value of the world transferred to the next generation (or to some other future point of time perhaps less than a generation away) and to optimize in some sense the combination of well-being of the present generation and the value transferred to the next. (This is exactly the idea of dynamic programming as a mathematical method.) As far as I can judge, he hasn’t been very successful in implementing this approach, but I do believe that thinking along these lines is useful and helps in deciding, which policies are better justified than some others.

      • Pekka –
        The impossibility of planning far to the future is an essential part of what have been saying, and in particular that the largest obstacle for such planning is the freedom of future decision makers to decide something that we cannot foresee. Whatever we do now, the future decisions will either strengthen or counteract the influence of our acts.

        But we can influence the range of choices available for the next generation. We can do it by scientific research and technological development, which improve their available knowledge base. We can do it by influencing the stability of the society. We can do it through the education. But we can do it also by using nonrenewable resources so much that the next generation has little left of some valuable materials, or by damaging the environment on global scale.

        The next generation will react to the situation that it faces, and the next generation will influence the starting point of the generation following them, and so on generation after generation.

        YES!!!

  17. My own thinking on this issue is that resiliency is the key for future generations,..

    Apart from the scientific uncertainty surrounding the threat of global warming, assessment of the policy choices should consider not only the various scenarios of climate change but also the relationship of these scenarios to alternative theories of intergenerational justice.

    Until the scenarios include the possibility of strong global cooling, no reasonable policy can be devised. Resilience to climate change, whichever direction it changes in, is the only sensible policy in the face of uncertainty.
    We need grain silos not windmills. Reservoirs not carbon sinks. The policy maker need to get their noses out of the trough and listen to the engineers.

    Future generations will look back on us fondly if we leave them ready for anything, not if we leave them unprepared for a scenario which poses a much greater risk than warming.

    Warm periods are associated with plenty of food and surplus labour free to advance culture. Cold periods are associated with famine, war, pestilence and death. We turn history upside down at our peril.

  18. Speaking of progress, congratulations to Dr. Curry and the Denizens on passing the 80,000 comment mark. An elegant measure of the debate.

  19. John Hewitt

    Many sceptics believe that Stern’s analysis was fatally flawed by using such a low discount rate. Economists would frown too at the concept of an ethical discount rate.

    Generally the discount rate is higher the greater the level of income streams or costs in the future is perceived as being variable or uncertain.

    Commercial discount rates are usually around 10% or more on projects and there is no reason to apply a lower rate to the risks associated with the AGW hypothesis. On this basis the present cost of adverse climate change is much lower than Stern suggests.

    • In the US every proposed federal regulation is required to have a cost-benefit estimate. The discount rate is normally 10% but EPA gets to use less, usually 6%. Either one quickly renders distant future benefits worthless. For the stratospheric ozone rule EPA had to go out 150 years to get the benefits, so they used two tricks. First a discount rate of just 3%, but that was still a killer. So they assumed the value of a human life increases by 2.75% per year. This gave an effective discount rate of 0.25%. We may see more of this game when the climate rules start coming out.

      • It’s not about the science, it is about a politically motivated goal. Saul Alinsky, in his book Rules for Radicals which I recommend to all conservatives and libertarians, went to great lengths to justify an ‘any means to an end’ methodology. Obviously our lefty rulers agree.

      • Good point. It appears they used similar type of reasoning for PM for new wood boilers under MACT. Watch out for that as well. Only one company with one boiler claimed it could meet the new standard. Not much of a track record, nor any history for how long and economically such a unit could function. The cost analysis had to be made up, since there was no real data for future costs; it was new.

      • On paper U.S. regulatory agencies are required to conduct cost benefit analyses, but this has ever been a deterrent to the regulators. Endangered species listing going to destroy and entire local industry? No problem. Taxing and regulating fossil fuels going to tank the economy? Not according to our analysis.

        If you believe the current unemployment rate is really 9.1%, or the current rate of inflation is only 3.6%, I’ve got a prospectus I would like to send you on this really great bridge….

        There are lies, damn lies, and statistics; then there are bureaucratic cost benefit analyses.

  20. Joe Lalonde

    Judith,

    Interesting you brought up this subject.
    I plan on leaving my grandson a legacy that he may choose to follow based on the background of how, what, where, when, and why my perspectives of science changed by following the evidence instead of the theories.
    Huge book with hundreds of drawings on motion, magnetic field strengths, speed of circular motion to the change of compressions, individual energy efficiencies by motion, Planetary size to distances of the sun, Suns interaction of motion in sequence to generating gravity, and much, much more.

    He’ll probably get a failing grade by not following current science books but he’ll have the evidence to back up the science.

    In 3 more years, he’ll be old enough for the fiction book I am currently writing him with some interesting morals on authority in following routines to the absolute and breaking away from them to become yourself.

  21. The problem with this thesis is that environmental justice or ecological justice can’t be separated from the other impacts on future generations. If the end result of a push for either of these is a government that controls virtually every aspect of our grand children’s lives, then there is no justice in that. We have done the greatest harm of all to them – stolen their freedom.

    It gets back to the science. CO2 is a Tyndall gas, almost all agree with that. But it is the secondary effects, known and unknown, that are at issue. There is also the fact that climate has been in a warming phase since the Little Ice Age. There is also the fact that atmospheric warming has moderated of late as has warming of the sea. The science is anything bu settled and to rush to a ‘solution’ to a problem that very likely might not exist is insane.

  22. I think a close paraphrase – ‘Yesterday is but a memory and tomorrow is only a hope, but today well lived makes every yesterday a memory of happiness and every tomorrow a vision of hope.’ Hope you get the vision. Live today well. Do not dwell on yesterday or what tomorrow may bring.

    Beware of philosophers selling little bottles of their homemade brew for the meager sum of one small dollar. It will only make them rich and you and yours all the poorer. Yesterday is dead and gone, as today will soon be tomorrow. Do your own thinking McDuff, that’s what you’re here for, and it’s your only claim to fame.

    PS: Your children and grandchildren –if they haven’t already– will soon replace you, sooner than you think I might add. Give them the “best” you can –in as “much” as you can– if you can; otherwise, don’t worry about it, they are smarter than you ever were on any day of the week. (Well, that’s what they think. Remember when you were their age?)

    PPS: Philosophers and their black art can be very confusing, a waste of your time and money, and the cause of wars and jihads and all they bring. If you are ever alone, or with your family, and meet one in person, treat them like a Used Car Salesman (or– cover your ears, turn, and run away as fast as you can). If you meet one while out drinking with friends, get some tar and feathers and do whatever comes naturally.

    • As to philosophy, consult the bard:
      “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.” – Hamlet Act 1, scene 5

      As for conferences in Copenhagen:
      “Something is rotten in the state of Denmark.” – Hamlet Act 1, scene 4

      This story did not turn out well. :-)

      • This story did not turn out well.

        Oh, I don’t know about that. The cost was high, especially among those duped by the pretender, but at the end of the day the liar and criminal pretending to be something he wasn’t was unmasked and removed, and the real authorities were back in charge.

    • Philosophers and their black art can be very confusing, a waste of your time and money, and the cause of wars and jihads and all they bring.

      Here that, David? Watch your step. Pascvaks has your number.

  23. All species of animals, humans included, have natural survival instincts. The idea that humans who have (perhaps) the most sophisticated survival instincts of all will not adapt and evolve in order to survive as a species is a fallacy not born out by the historical record.

    The idea that we will blindly destroy our environment in some sort of WALL-E world future is a repugnant and arrogant belief of an elitist class which spends it’s time distorting the historical record in order to justify their schemes to control the future.

    It is beyond ironic bordering on moronic that this same class of people who see a consumption society as destructive to the environment can not see that the wasteful consumption of wealth to feed their leviathan institutions and egocentric beliefs which promote “sustainability” are instead guiding society into an unsustainable future.

    This unsustainable future which is being created for my grandchildren is being built by the greatest waste of human intelligence in thousands of years. It is indeed sad to see that mankind could be at the brink of a new “dark age” . Perhaps “dark age” is too dramatic, future generations will probably laughingly look back at today’s scientific community as the age of the “dim” wits most aptly represented by a mercury filled cancer causing curly cue light bulb.

    • It is “beyond ironic bordering on moronic” that you invoke the inevitability of adaptation while trying to prevent it from happening, and say people are too smart to do the stupid thing they are already doing and you are urging them to continue.

      Adaptation is not magic. It involves recognizing the threat and making realistic plans to limit the damage and deal with the consequences. That is exactly what the people who believe the science are encouraging society to do, and what “skeptics” are trying to prevent.

      • Robert,
        Please show us where the AGW community has contributed to adaption.

      • Hunter
        imo that is to broad a point. Individuals who are concerned about AGW have certainly at times advocated the construction of sewer systems and flood control dams, both are adaption examples

      • I think the point is that adaption requires no particular hands-on approach. As problems arise they will be solved. Trying to resolve them prematurely before they are confirmed and understood properly is likely to be unproductive and wasteful.

      • AGW cultists “adapt” by buying private jets and then spending 10$ on carbon offset credits … all the while encouraging the poor and middle class to pay twice as much for basic energy needs.

  24. I thought Nigel Lawson’s book, An Appeal to Reason had a good view on the grandchildren argument.

    http://www.amazon.co.uk/Appeal-Reason-Cool-Global-Warming/dp/0715638416/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1309089089&sr=1-1

    Would we want our own grandparent’s generation to sacrifice x% of their standard of living to help our generation with a problem our grandparent’s generation considered (without having proof) existed. The answer is clearly no. The advancement in technologies and standards of living that occurred between our generation and our grandparents generation make it a preposterous suggestion. Indeed it would be an absurd and cruel thing to ask of them.

    We have to accept that our grandchildren’s generation will not be helpless babies in 50 years time, but will have technologies we can not even conceive of now. Their generation will more than likely make our generation look like children.

    The emotional appeal of using grandchildren and children in the mitigation argument does not wash with me.

    Paul

  25. JC, I think that generational justice will not be legally supportable in the US. A future person would have no standing in a court. Further, reducing consumption does not necessarily mean stopping consumption. In other words, I would argue that all that will be accomplished is that it will be a further genration in the future that finishes the consumption. Thus the whole basis of the discussion contains an assumption that can be attacked. If we are going to prosper such that we don’t end up consuming, how do you know that it is in the far future, if at all, and not in the near future, and we need the prosperity and consumption to create the condition we desire? So not only will the generational part have no standing, the argument is one that would not stand legal scrutiny since it would be a “taking” from one generation to the next. No net sum gain, just a taking so some other generation can consume.

  26. David L. Hagen

    Ultimately we are all accountable for how we steward our resources. See Jesus’ parable of the “talents” (1 talent = 6000 days wages).

  27. tempterrain

    “Would we want our own grandparent’s generation to sacrifice x% of their standard of living to help our generation with a problem our grandparent’s generation considered (without having proof) existed. The answer is clearly no”

    I would say not that clearly. For instance if we take a look at what happened on Easter Island:

    http://www.physorg.com/news121959198.html

    we can imagine the generation who were around in the late 13th century saying something very similar to Nigel Lawson’s “you’ve never had its so good etc etc”

    Whereas, the 15th century Easter islanders, who were obviously experiencing a very tough time, may well have been of the opinion the problems they were experiencing were quite foreseeable. They would perhaps have thought previous generations shouldn’t have wasted their energies constructing quite so many useless statues, and instead should have planted a few more trees and planned for the future.

    • Then perhaps we should also not waste our energies constructing quite so many useless statues (aka wind turbines)

    • tempterrain,
      Having studied Easter Island a bit more than you, I can assure you that the monuments- built on faith about how to honor ancestors and demonstrate clan power into the future, have much more to do with the rationales behind the AGW movement than the skeptics.
      It is actually rather stupid of you to keep on this one note fixation about future generations and to keep implying that
      1- you have the future figured out
      2-that to disagree with your take on said future is to not care about our future offspring.
      You cannot show any support for why you are correct on either point.
      It is as stupid as some of m. carey’s misrepresentations regarding capitalism and what conservatives and Republicans want from capitalism.
      So if your goal, as carey’s seems to be, is to increase skepticism and offer only parody level representations of both sides of the dispute, please do keep on.

  28. The money men at companies like Raytheon and BAe systems know what governments spend their tax dollars on. When they start getting seriously interested in renewable energy you might start to have a point ;-)

  29. tempterrain

    Hunter,

    Just a few tips which you might like to consider:

    1) Arguments along the lines of “I’ve studied X more than you, so you can safely take it from me etc etc ” rate pretty low on the scale of things. Its the sort of tactic that teachers of high school debating teams would probably advise against.

    2) Calling your opponent “stupid” can work but it’s risky. I’d advise leaving that one alone for now.

    3) Comments along the lines of “You cannot show any support for why you are correct…” are sometimes justified, but not usually when your opponent has actually given a reference. Better to reserve this comment to highlight unsubstantiated statements of opinion which are clearly wrong and provide your own counter reference.

    4) If you really do feel that the level of your opponent’s argument is so bad that it actually helps your own side, its probably better to keep quiet about it in case they do raise their game!

    PS I should possibly take my own advice and delete comment #4 as far as you’re concerned. :-) but I don’t think we have much to worry about just yet!

    • tempterrain,
      Pointing out that I have studied something more than an obsessive troll is at least better than arguing that someone does not care about their grandchildren.
      Pointing out that you are recycling failed arguments about grandchildren and that you are stupid for doing it is something I am comfortable with, but thanks for the helpful advice in the spirit in which it was offered.
      As for your inability to offer evidence that
      1- I do not care about my grandchildren or their grandchildren
      2- any evidence that there is in fact danger to our grandchildren from CO2
      other than opinion pieces and projections based on dubious predictions is well established by your posting. Your confusion over this is something I offer counsel over in the same concern that I would have for someone who is trying to make a speech while drunk or over medicated.
      I am not, unlike AGW believers, afraid to have counter opinions offered. I only want you to finally make an argument that is coherent and thoughtful.
      You seem unable to do so, but do keep on trying.

      • And, by the way, here are what archaeologists who actually investigated the history of Rapa Nui (Easter Island) have come to conclude:
        http://csulb.academia.edu/CarlLipo/Papers/363801/Revisiting_Rapa_Nui_Easter_Island_Ecocide._

      • A well reasoned paper. Thanks.

      • randomengineer

        Esai Morales was *great* in that movie. That guy is one of the few where you can read his face and know what he’s thinking.

      • Pointing out that I have studied something more than an obsessive troll . . .

        See, but you have absolutely no way of knowing if that’s true.

        I realize that you lie routinely, so this doesn’t bother you morally, but it’s a very sloppy, ineffective lie, because it is obvious that you have no way of knowing if it’s true.

        And of course, opening with an obvious lie in your first sentence just gives away the fact that what follows is a series of lies.

        Tempterrain is generous enough to think you can learn to be an honest debater, but I think a more realistic goal for you is to make your lying less blatant and childlike.

      • Robert,
        I know I studied Easter Island more than tempterrain because he is very uninformed and using ahistorical, discarded beliefs about the topic.
        Calling me a liar based on your ignorance does not make you look very bright.
        I would suggest that you check your assumptions at the door.
        When you assume, you always run the risk of making an a*s of u and me.
        In this case, mostly you.

      • Also, Robert, It is notable that neither you or tempterrain seem able to respond to the rest of my points.

      • Robert –
        because it is obvious that you have no way of knowing if it’s true.

        In general, that may be true, but in specific instances it becomes obviously false. As in many of your posts where you ignorance is revealed by your own words.

        Have you learned the root and meaning of “xenos” yet?

      • andrew adams

        I’m all for showing respect for the knowlege of those who have studied a subject in depth, but when it’s suggested that this might apply to the study of climate science it’s dismissed as appeal to authority.
        ISTM that people are very quick to object to appeals to authority until they are discussing a subject where they actually have authority themselves.

  30. I’ve always thought the Easter Island analogy was the counsel if despair!

  31. There’s a excellent post at this link that adds much to this discussion – http://chiefio.wordpress.com/2011/06/26/coal-tax-post-redux/
    Remember, whenever you’re dealing with people who are devious, it’s best to not trust them, especially if it has anything to do with taxes.

  32. My planning for my grandchildren’s future involves me learning to accept many of the choices they make. I strive to discus with them what constitutes good decisions from nonproductive decisions. I see the next social struggle as developing social constructs that promote better decision making on an individual basis: fidelity in relationships, transparency in transactions, accountability. Nowhere can I envision a “future.” All I can do is influence the process, the journey. As a global society we have learned much from the thermonuclear holocaust scenario we endured after WW II. Repeated conversation, frequent and restrained. A global discussion; inclusive of many voices. Trust but verify. Each epoch we correct some of the failures in communication that have led to our present quandaries and the climate change debate is no different. Transparency, accuracy, and believability are missing so far. Scientists of climate change have proven to be poor social decision makers. Ultimately they are the wrong ones to assume such a role. Society as a whole, likely through representatives will provide the guidelines for the journey, and more accurately, the milestones. The first milestone will be the ability to predict regional weather more than four days out. Like pornography, I know it when I see it, climate change “predictions” will become believable when weather forecasts help farmers decide what to plant, and I can decide if my grand daughters wedding should be indoors or outdoors.

    • And SHE can decide.
      Too fast on the trigger

      • Good save, lol.
        Great essay.
        The boring, sniveling tedious ignorant ploy of the believers in pushing the grandchildren game is simply annoying.
        It does demonstrate a real lack of substance in the believers, however.
        If they had actual arguments, I am certain they would use them.

    • Your personal values seem rooted in the 10 commandments – not a bad place to start.

      There are 2 ways to predict weather – starting from initial conditions in models that lose their way in a week at most. The other way is less precise but allows seasonal to decadal predictions. This relies on persistent patterns in the oceans and atmosphere. The El Nino Southern Oscillation, the Pacific Decadal Oscillation, the North Atlantic Oscillation, the Indian Ocean Dipole, the Southern Annular Mode and the Arctic Oscillation – as well as ocean transport indices in the Atlantic. This allow seasonal to decadal forecasts of weather and climate that we are getting better at, are very useful to farmers and create problems for the simple AGW narrative that include no global warming for a decade or three. There are some references summarised here – https://judithcurry.com/2011/06/19/understanding-the-conflict/#comment-78822

      There is little potential to extend by far the accuracy of forecasting from initial conditions. It is because both weather and climate models use the partial differential equations of fluid motion – used by Edward Lorenz in his 1960’s convection model to discover chaos theory. Both weather and climate are dynamically complex systems (chaotic) as well and diverge exponentially form a mean solution – bringing the possibility of abrupt and extreme climate change as a result of greenhouse gas emissions. .

      The increase in carbon dioxide to levels not seen for 10 to 15 million years in the great atmospheric experiment – for which we have not the wit to determine the outcome – seems to me on its own to be sufficient cause to show prudence.

      We know that there should be a decrease in pH in the open oceans. Ecologies and populations have delicate balances and complex trophic pathways. They are indeed examples also of dynamically complex systems that exhibit abrupt and nonlinear change as a result of small changes in initial conditions – the catastrophes of dragon-kings (extreme events at points of bifurcation) and rapid changes in state to new and unpredictable conditions. We know that plants have responded to increased CO2 concentrations with a change in stomata size and density. As a hydrologist – I wonder what that does to the hydrological cycle and to terrestrial ecologies.

      So there is perhaps a problem and the sensible policy solution is heuristic – learning by doing – to build ecological, economic and social resilience using multiple paths with multiple objectives. Conserving and restoring ecosystems, R&D, restoring soil carbon stores, reducing black carbon and tropospheric ozone, providing models of good corporate governance and prudential oversight (which most of the west would do well to remember), allowing free trade and providing health services, education, safe water and sanitation. There seems little here that anyone would object to – certainly not ones grandchildren. .
      ,

  33. I know you’re enjoying the visit. This age, and the months to come, are such a wonderous time.

    On the topic, I’d agree with Pekka and John Pittman that it’s too abstract a concept to be brought into a legal framework. I firmly believe both ends of the spectrum have concerns for their progeny. I also firmly believe that finding the correct balance between the concerns is a political, rather than legal issue.

  34. The best any of us can do when we depart is to leave our children in freedom so they can make the decsions they need to make to take care of themselves. To try and impose some kind of preconceived future on them is just progressive/liberal fantasy. We should leave them the liberty to escape illusions like Global Warming. If we can do that, we done good.

    Andrew

  35. The CO2 AGW doomsday-convinced use emotion every chance they get.

  36. “The United States has been the world’s leading contributor to the problem, and it is also the wealthiest nation on the face of the earth. Because of its past contributions, does the United States owe remedial action or compensation to those nations, or those citizens, most likely to be harmed by climate change?”

    No, because it wasn’t the “united states” the created the CO2 and it is not the ‘united states” that ultimately will be asked to pay.

    Past and present citizens of the united states created the CO2 and became wealthy as a result. Many of those people do not exists anymore. Much of the wealth has been spent or otherwise lost.

    Lumping people together by nation is a form of discrimination like sexism and racism. It assumes that all people within the “united states” are equal. That they equally created the problem and they equally benefited from it.

    Why not simply say “white people” should pay for past CO2? Most of the past CO2 was produced by white people so surely if it is OK to lump people together by country, it is OK to lump them together by race.
    .

  37. ferd berple

    “has been the world’s leading contributor to the problem, and it is also the wealthiest nation on the face of the earth.”

    This lesson is not lost on India and China. There is a much stronger correlation between national wealth and CO2 production than there is between global temperatures and CO2. This tells us that cutting CO2 is much more likely to cut wealth to a greater degree than it reduces temperature.

    And we certainly know that poor people are less able to deal with climate change than are rich people, thus the net effect of cutting CO2 will be to increase the risk of climate change to humans.

  38. How you think on this matter depends on your point of view. If you live in Africa or in India, and you cook with dung, your dream for your grandchildren would probably be that they have a pot to piss in and a roof over their heads. If you were really pushed, you might dream of them having a gas stove and an electrical connection. You know – like the poorest white person.

    Of course, if you’re a white person, you don’t even consider these things.

  39. ferd berple

    The discount rate and the law of unintended consequences argue strongly against being able to make meaningful plans for your grandchildren.

    Otherwise, everyone would simply place $1 in the bank when they were born, and through the magic of compound interests this would grow into millions of dollars for your descendants.

    There would be no reason for anyone on earth to work. It would simply be standard practice to place $1 in a bank every time a child is born, for the benefit of their descendants.

    Should your ancestors not have done this, then following the logic put forward in the article, your descendants would then have a claim upon you for the harm you did them, and could ask the “citizens” of the country where they live to make reparations.

    We already have this sort of logic in operation around the world, where race based reparations are being paid to “survivors” of aboriginal or genocidal crimes committed by past generations, where the present generation is expected to pay.

    Fundamental to any notion of justice is the idea that only the person the committed the crime should have to pay. You should not have to go to jail because your grandfather robbed a bank.

    So why then should you have to pay back the money that someone elses grandfather received, simply because in the past they lived in the same country into which you were born?

    Where is the justice in that?

  40. ferd berple

    “If you were really pushed, you might dream of them having a gas stove and an electrical connection.”

    Exactly, which is why the real crime is denying these people access to coal, which is what built the wealth of white people. They already use renewables, dung and charcoal.

    The great fear by the wealthy of the word is not the CO2 they produce or the children they produce (look at Al Gore). What really scares the wealthy of the world is that the poor will have access to the same benefits that the wealthy enjoy today.

    A fart in a packed elevator is not a problem if you are the one that farted. Everyone in a packed elevator farts at the same time, you are not going to be so happy.

    That is what Al is so worried about, not his own farts, that everyone is going to want to fart and spoil his ride. He wants to put a cap on those other farts, while he trades his own.

  41. Based on a set of principles, current observations, and historical data, projections of future climate change have been made that vary between the trivial and the catastrophic. There is some agreement that the most likely outcome will fall somewhere in between. Unless mitigated, this includes a continuation or increase in the rates of CO2 emissions as large parts of the world industrialize and expand their energy demands. It involves a mid-range estimate of about 3 C temperature rise for a doubling of CO2, and an increase in the hydrogen ion concentration of the oceans. The projected consequences include threats to vulnerable populations from the warming, and damage from ocean acidification to the marine life that provides sustenance for many people around the world. These estimates may prove wrong, but it would be imprudent to ignore them simply because someone has arrived at different numbers.

    CO2 and temperature have risen over the past century, the latter by about 0.74 C. Some harms have probably occurred from those increases alone. I’ve mentioned examples elsewhere in discussing the consequences of storm surges built on higher starting sea levels, and in reference to observations of sporadic harm to marine organisms from the observed 26 percent mean increase in ocean hydrogen ion since preindustrial days. These examples can be disputed, but are unlikely to be totally wrong. They provide some idea of what we might worry about for the next few generations if temperature and ocean acidification continue their upward trajectory.

    Not being an economist, I’m unqualified to judge disagreements about discount rates, but it seems to me that some principles remain valid under any circumstances. Because excess atmospheric CO2 returns toward baseline at a multiple set of rates that average out to about a century, much of what we add in the near future will be with us for a long time. This tells me that whatever the cost of mitigation at a specified future time, it will need to address the emission rate at that time plus the continuing effects of Co2 added to the atmosphere in the meantime. I don’t know how that balancing might come out, but I suggest that it can’t be evaluated on the basis of discount rates alone, because the burden we must spend money on will itself change with time, and is likely to increase if the mid-range projections are anywhere near accurate.

    This applies to mitigation, but the situation may be similar for adaptation. To build a seawall will be less expensive in the future per meter of height, but we may need to build higher ones once we’ve added CO2 to the atmosphere that we can’t take back.

    For very high discount rates, it might still be economically advantageous to defer expensive measures to the future if the calculation involves a simple cost/benefit estimate. In that realm, however, my question about the balance of costs and benefits is “costs for whom?” and “benefits to whom?”
    Those questions defy simplistic answers. We can ask our grandchildren to pay costs (at a discounted rate) rather than bearing them ourselves, but it can always be argued that our money savings can then be passed down to them, with a net positive result.

    My main concern is that the future world, if it is like the current one, will still harbor huge inequities that render some populations very vulnerable to potential climate harm. It may be theoretically possible for a civilization that is much richer to rectify these inequities through a greater spirit of community inspired by their greater wealth, but will it? I’m pessimistic. From a vantage point of short term national self interest, it makes little sense for affluent nations to engage in mitigation that might benefit the entire world, when it is advantageous for them simply to invest in adaptations that benefit themselves alone. Would that change in the future? Possibly, but I tend to doubt that the logic that says “It makes sense to let someone else fix the problem later because it will cost them less” will translate into the problem being fixed.

    What I see as optimal and what I believe will happen differ greatly. It would be reasonable, in my view, for the international community to arrive at some agreement to begin limiting greenhouse gas emissions, with appropriate aid to the less affluent nations so that they benefit from the reduction but bear little of the cost. It would be equally reasonable for us to expedite the development of alternative energy sources, with some subsidization as needed, even as we recognize that their ability to replace most fossil fuel sources is a distant future goal. It will of course be reasonable to continue to enhance our scientific understanding of climate change and its consequences. I doubt that any of these goals will be pursued to the extent that is optimal, but some progress would be better than none.

    On a slightly off-topic note, I suggested recently that substitution of natural gas for coal and oil where feasible could be an immediate step toward reducing CO2 emissions. However, a news item yesterday suggests that the promise of unlimited gas supplies may be something of an illusion. I can’t judge the evidence, but it’s worth noting, at Natural Gas Rush.

    • That is an article rife with might, may, could, etc. It is the same kind of approach used by the warmists as they predict all sorts of dire consequences of anthropogenic CO2. Also, there is an alternative technology to hydro-fracking. I don’t know all the costs and benefits, but the alternative exists.

      Here is the web site: http://www.gasfrac.com/

      All that needs to happen in order to know if shale gas is economic or not is for the government to butt out.

      • I would suggest that you count up the mights, mays, and coulds in Don Aitkins post about how the “authority” of the AGW “orthodoxy” developed.

        Is that also an example of the “approach used by warmists?”

      • Joahua – since you seem to prefer ‘active’ government, maybe you can explain how this government mandate is helpful. It costs about $200,000 to certify a vehicle for use of nat gas. This has to be done for every make and model combination, although I believe this has been modified recently, it is still a very costly process. Why would anyone want to hamper the conversion of vehicles to nat gas given the extremely high likelyhood that nat gas will emit less CO2 (if you believe that to be a problem). This is a clear case of government interference holding back a beneficial technology with excessive regulation. The conversion to nat gas powered vehicles would occur much more quickly if the fed would butt out.

        http://www.afdc.energy.gov/afdc/vehicles/conversions.html

        http://www.ngvc.org/pdfs/FAQs_Converting_to_NGVs.pdf

      • Jim2 – I’ll look at your links later. Thanks for them.

        But I think that you misunderstand my perspective. I am in favor of some elements of an “active government.” However, I harbor no illusions about the potential for an “active government” to implement some policies that have unintended (or perhaps even intended) negative consequences.

        I have basic sympathy with much of the underlying focus of what I see in libertarian ideology. Where I draw the line, however, is when those concepts are taken to unrealistic extremes. There are, and could be, no forms of government that don’t implement unfortunate policies – but that in and of itself does not mean that I agree with drawing categorical conclusions that government = evil, or even that more government = evil (because “more government” needs to be viewed in a relative context).

        I learned a long time ago that just because some elements of an entity are negative does not mean, therefore, that all elements of an entity are negative. It seems to me that much of what I see from libertarian extremists (not to mention players in the climate debate on both sides) is deeply, deeply infused with that kind of a binary thinking.

      • I’m not advocating a completely passive government, but to my way of thinking the current level of interference by government in business has gone way overboard. There is hardly any activity left that isn’t influenced by the government – from what light bulb I can buy to my options for fixing my A/C. There are suspicions that the Corps of Engineers knowingly let some farmlands in the mid-west flood in order to bring the river closer to its natural state. The flood control system is an example of the positive effect of government, but if they let the river flood on environmental grounds, it is just wrong. If this is true, it has a negative consequence for us all – that is higher food priced on top food prices that are already high. Well, at any rate, it does not appear we are as far apart on some issue as my first impression indicated.

      • Joshua:
        “It seems to me that much of what I see from libertarian extremists (not to mention players in the climate debate on both sides) is deeply, deeply infused with that kind of a binary thinking.”

        Do you not think, though, that when people lay out their views they tend to do so in absolute terms in order to reinforce their points and support their position? That is human nature although I accept that it is also sloppy thinking. It is also human nature to dig your heels in when challenged about your beliefs. IMHO, much of what goes on in the blogosphere is a reflection of this, and it is amplified by the slightly impersonal nature of the medium. There is nothing like a bit of eye to eye contact to inject some reason into viewpoints.

      • Joshua,

        I read this comment with interest, and went back to see what I had written. Maybe I re-read too quickly, but I found 2 x ‘may’s, no ‘might’s and no ‘could’s — but one ‘can’. You are welcome to add that to your list If you’d like.

    • Fred, I am not sure “prudent” is the proper word to describe the forced restructuring of the global economy. It all sounds so benign when you say it that way. So I am curious as to how much force you think this prudence involves?

      That is, are you simply saying that this is something every country should somehow agree to force their own citizens to do, or do you recommend that we conquer China to force them to reverse their rapidly growing coal burn? (In the name of the grandchildren of course. Conquest is always better when it serves a moral purpose.) Just how prudent do you propose we be? Or is this simply an academic discussion on your part, with no real action contemplated?

    • Fred,
      Like OA (whichWillis’ latest post, I believe, will end your repeating endlessly wrong ideas about the topic, you keep asserting mitigation is going to be just what is needed, yet there is no shred to support the idea that
      1- there is a problem that needs to be mitigated
      2- that it can be mitigated
      3- that there are tools which can be used to mitigate CO2.
      You should truly hope that natural gas is in fact quite plentiful. If it is not, coal is here to stay until enough nukes can be built.

      • Hunter – It may be best to reserve detailed discussion of ocean acidification to threads more relevant to the topic. However, I did notice that Willis commented further on this, and in response to his request, I provided more specific citations at Comment 80321. It’s certainly an important topic, and perhaps a forthcoming thread can be devoted to it.

    • Fred
      I have frequently found your comments to be long on words and short on actual scientific content.
      In this post of yours I noticed several points that summarize your perspective on the issue of potential climate change that really demonstrate the flaws (imo) of your perspective.

      Fred writes:
      It involves a mid-range estimate of about 3 C temperature rise for a doubling of CO2, and an increase in the hydrogen ion concentration of the oceans.
      My Response:
      It would be difficult today to find scientists that believe that 3C would be the midpoint for a doubling of CO2.
      Fred’s comments about the ocean becoming acidic due to human released CO2 are without much scientific merit. Fred has acknowledged that over fishing and other human released pollution are much more of a concern to the oceans than human released atmospheric CO2. In spite of writing that these other issues are of greater importance than are CO2—Fred still writes about ocean acidification as a major worry.

      Fred writes:
      I’ve mentioned examples elsewhere in discussing the consequences of storm surges built on higher starting sea levels, and in reference to observations of sporadic harm to marine organisms from the observed 26 percent mean increase in ocean hydrogen ion since preindustrial days. These examples can be disputed, but are unlikely to be totally wrong.

      My response—Fred’s “calculations” about increased damage due to the additional depth of water due to global warming were in fact totally wrong and this was shown to Fred, but he continues to write about the point. What Fred has written about Ocean Acidification has been shown to be WRONG, but that doesn’t stop Fred from writing it again and again.

      Fred writes:
      To build a seawall will be less expensive in the future per meter of height, but we may need to build higher ones once we’ve added CO2 to the atmosphere that we can’t take back.

      My response:
      Fred- if you had to build a sea wall anyway, building one somewhat higher is a very small additional cost. Climate adaptation is far more efficient than mitigation.

      Fred writes, and these really key to the “Fred philosophy”:
      My main concern is that the future world, if it is like the current one, will still harbor huge inequities that render some populations very vulnerable to potential climate harm.

      My response:
      Yes you are correct. There will always be those that have less than others. That does not mean it is a good national economic policy to transfer a nation’s wealth to poorer nations.

      Fred wrote:
      From a vantage point of short term national self interest, it makes little sense for affluent nations to engage in mitigation that might benefit the entire world, when it is advantageous for them simply to invest in adaptations that benefit themselves alone.

      My response:
      Fred—you finally get a point correct. The above point is key.

      Fred wrote:
      It would be reasonable, in my view, for the international community to arrive at some agreement to begin limiting greenhouse gas emissions, with appropriate aid to the less affluent nations so that they benefit from the reduction but bear little of the cost.

      My response:
      Why should people in the United States pay for people to get electricity in other parts of the world? I do not want my funds to go to pay for some other countries corrupt economy!

  42. ferd berple

    One of the most effective means to destroy a country or peoples is to give them “aid”. Consider what happens when you send grain to Somalia to feed the starving people. This “free” food destroys the local market price for food, driving local farmers out of business. Next year there is no food production, making dependence on foreign aid all the greater.

    A similar situation happens when you give “aid” based on race or ethnic groups. Canada and Australia have race based aid programs for their indigenous populations, which destroys incentive and prevents integration into the wider population. As a result the indigenous people are amount the poorest in the nations with the highest incident of health problems and the shortest lifespans.

    People do best when they are free to choose their own futures, without the effects of corruption robbing them of their futures before they are even born.

  43. Canada and Australia have race based aid programs for their indigenous populations, which destroys incentive and prevents integration into the wider population.

    Yes, indeed.

    Throughout history, indigenous populations have widely been successfully incentivized and integrated into the wider population – until the advent of the “totalitarian welfare state.”

    Clearly, “aid” based on race or ethnic groups is the causal factor that underlies the high rates of health problems in indigenous populations.

    • Personally, I would like to see the provision of aid conditional on the promotion of birth control in those areas where life is precarious due to environmental issues like climate/lack of resources etc. By providing aid we artificially support population growth in areas where it is least desirable. BTW, I make a distinction between aid and development with the assumption that development is appropriate to the area under study.

    • Joshua –
      Clearly, “aid” based on race or ethnic groups is the causal factor that underlies the high rates of health problems in indigenous populations.

      Gotta tell you – there hasn’t been much for us to agree about, but on this subject I think we just might be in agreement. Depending on details, of course :-)

      Have you ever read any of Thomas Sowell’s work? Specifically, his treatise on the results of Affirmative Action?

  44. They say patriotism’s the last refuge of a scoundrel. I’d cynically amend that to the 2nd to last. “We have to do XYZ for the benefit of our children’s children” is just as scurrilous in my opinion as hypocritical flag waving. One tiny illustration: My wife and I were once treated very badly by the town we lived in (complicated issue to do with a zoning change so a few people could get rich), and one of the favorite arguments by the hack, “in the tank” selectmen was that we had to do it “for our grandchildren” ( a ridiculous and fraudulent assertion having to do with increased tax revenue).

    Oh the piety alone! Regarding climate change, it is for the most part a transparent attempt at claiming the moral high ground while at the same time demonizing skeptics.

    I recently heard a Greenpeace guy on NPR say that the skeptics didn’t deserve to be listened to because “we” (the alarmists) “obviously have the moral high ground.” Completely oblivious was he of course, regarding the circularity of his claim. These guys are so locked in by their piety and flawed logic that there’s simply no way to break through to them.

  45. Imagine that it is 1890, you live in New York City, and sit on the City Council — the topic of your meeting is ‘intergenerational justice and public transportation’. You worry about the ability of the city to support another ten thousand horse-drawn carriages, the potential shortfall of adequate hay and feed grains, and the increasing problem of horse manure. A man of some reputation advises that, though it will bring the economic growth of the city to a standstill, the city must freeze the number of horses allowed at their current level, and even, through attrition, allow the number to drop, so that future generations will be able to enjoy a ride through Central Park.

    Another forward looking City Councilman points out the developments made in the motorcar in Europe, and counter-proposes that at the rate of scientific development, horses will soon be obsolete and planning would be better spent on more cross-river bridges, built to support the future loads of motor-driven cars, trucks and buses.

    The problem with intergenerational justice is that we are better at hindsight and constantly misjudge the future, either being way too optimistic or way too pessimistic. For the first case, think of how many science fiction movies you have seen with dates in the titles that have either long passed or or unlikely to arrive as predicted: 1984, 2010, 2019 (Bladerunner) — there are plenty more. As for the pessimistic: The Population Bomb, Club of Rome, etc etc.

    I don’t suggest a solution, but I am an optimist and have faith in our common ability to work our way out of problems and invent our way to a better future.

    • The analogy would extend to CO2 if the manure was not easily removable and just accumulated with time, making a speedy transition to better technologies a thing to encourage, possibly by taxing horse-food to raise money.

  46. The notion that the different positions of Nordhaus and Stern can be explained by a different choice of discount rate is a myth that Stern likes to propagate because it allows him to capture the moral high ground.

    In Chapter 8 (?) of “A Question of Balance”, Nordhaus recalibrates his model to adopt Stern’s position on discounting and finds that it hardly affects optimal climate policy. The reason is simple: You cannot change a single parameter in a calibrated model and still reproduce the data; you have to change at least one other parameter too.

    The real difference between Nordhaus and Stern is that Nordhaus uses a model that reflects how the world works, whereas Stern uses a model that reflects how he would like the world to work.

    Unfortunately, Stern has the backup of an impressive PR team.

    • Richard – I’m woefully ignorant about economic projections related to climate change, but this recent analysis of Stern and Nordhaus Projections appears to differ from your conclusion, and suggests that both of these individuals have fairly similar views on the value to reducing CO2 emissions over the long haul. Do you have any comments on this point?

      • Rob Starkey

        Fred

        The fact that two individuals you cited think CO2 should be reduced is meaningless. It does not mean that they believe reducing CO2 is likely, probable or cost effective

      • Fred: That presentation is short on detail.

      • Many comparisons in that presentation extended to 2205. While I agree that we must consider the consequences of climate policies having a long perspective, I don’t think that it makes much sense to calculate costs or benefits over periods much longer than 50 years. The reason is that it’s totally impossible to tell, how our near term decisions will affect the world after more than 50 years.

        How did the decisions made 1961 affect our present world, and how capable were people of that time in estimating the consequences of their decisions for 2011. If they had some capability then, what about decisions made in 1911.

        The future generations will make so many choices based on the state of matters at the time that it’s just impossible to make any meaningful calculations of net present values over very long periods (unless we accept a high discount rate that makes the contribution from the far future essentially zero).

        Adaptation to the existing state of world is done all the time and adaptation may well be a more important factor in cutting of the significance of far future in the present estimation of costs and benefits than discounting of of the costs and benefits that remain, when adaptation is taken into account.

        When calculation of costs and benefits is so impossible, we must use other approaches in considerations that take distant future into account.

    • David L. Hagen

      Do not treat prophecies with contempt but test them all; hold on to what is good, reject every kind of evil. 1 Thessalonians 5:20-22.

      The one who states his case first seems right,
      until the other comes and examines him.

      Proverbs 18:17 ESV

      Check out some of the reviews of the Stern report.
      The Stern Report: Some Early Criticisms

      A Collection of Reviews on the Stern Report – Vol II
      See also:
      Scientific Audit of the Climate Commission Carter et al.
      These include some strong critiques!

  47. ‘Intergenerational justice’ sounds to me like a couple of other ‘experiments’, sold to people in the guise of making a better, more just world for their children – only this time encompassing the whole globe, instead of a race or a political class.
    There can be no such thing as ‘intergenerational justice’ imposed by politicians/NGOs/international organisations.
    Firstly, because none of us can foresee what happens in one, two or five years time – and I don’t mean climate change here.
    Anybody who reads a bit more than climate blogs cannot have missed the dire economic situations countries in the West are finding themselves in at the moment.
    Do you think the people in Greece, for example, are worried about a possible rise in global temperature in fifty or a hundred years time right now?
    Do you think the fond projects of spending vast amounts of money on cutting CO2 emissions will be available once the debts run up by our governments will have to be paid in the very near future?

    I found this sentence very interesting:
    “The requirement of human sustainability is violated only if we leave future generations worse off than we are ourselves with respect to the satisfaction of needs.”
    Indeed – but we will do just that if we load even more debt onto their shoulders when we destroy our economies even further by trying to prevent something which reality shows is not a problem.

  48. I find that when most people invoke a superior concern for the “grandchildren” it is usually a crass fingerpointing affair to say the least. We care about grandchildren but those who oppose us do not. Certainly the eco-left has this down but it can show up if any established interest wishes to stop say a sewer project to keep the growth in a town at a lower rate. Is being anti-growth caring about “grandchildren”??

    Of course like so many things the claims become highly refined and certainly the eco-left claims ownership over “concern for future generations” while at the same time claim to be heros of the working poor who lack what? Right, jobs and growth. It’s almost a sick alliance when you see at all levels. These strange contradictions happen on other issues like school vouchers where while supporting union shops they vote with elite interests in closing access to better schools for the poor.

  49. Using children to influence people is the first refuge of a huckster

    • Which reminds me of the greatest comedy musical about con-artists……

      And do note how the con in the movie is totally based on manipulating parents by way of a false threat to the kids.

  50. Based on progress and changes that have happened in my lifetime, my parents lifetimes and my grandparents lifetimes, I have to think that children born today will live in a better world. A short list of things we now have that my grandparents didn’t: indoor plumbing, antibiotics, central heat, civil rights, electrification, air conditioning, automobiles, refrigeration, television, internet, and sliced bread. Let’s not worry so much about how tough life will be for the grandchildren.

  51. BlueIce2HotSea

    “we know more about the needs of members of the present generation than about the needs of distant future generations.” – JC

    Future generations will have problems that haven’t even been invented yet! The same is also true for the solutions.

  52. Just think if your own great-granparents had bought this whacko “sustainability” idea.

    They would have shivered in the dark, while stockpiling whale oil for your lamp, candles, fire-wood and hay for your horse…

    8)

  53. Yes, I believe it. I have not seen evidence the Bureau of Labor Statistics is lying about the unemployment rate and the CPI.

  54. The entitlements of our grandchildren have been brought up rhetorically for a long time, and not only in the AGW domain. Like Judith and others, I haven’t much idea of what what the world will be like in 2061, or whenever, but, having nine shared children and 13 grandchildren, with whom we interact frequently, I do think about the issue of ‘what sort of world are we leaving them’. I wrote a book about the last fifty years (‘What Was It All For? The Reshaping of Australia’, Allen & Unwin, 2005), and said in it that no one could have predicted in 1950 the kind of world we actually inhabited in 2000. I don’t think we are any more perceptive now, looking ahead fifty years.

    So what can we do? My offering is that we try to make our society better in ways that seem obvious to us now. We cannot make a perfect human society, but we can always make the present one better. I could go into detail about how I would do it, but that is the subject of the next book. In terms of the environment, which is what this website is about, I argue that we should do the obvious things. In Australia we know that droughts, floods and fires recur, so let us adapt what we do and the way we live to their recurrence.

    The seas are rising? The planet is warming? Maybe. If we think there are real threats there, let us adapt to these threats too. Our society is based on cheap, reliable and portable energy. Let us ensure that we continue to have that basic support, and guard against any threat to it. In an earlier life I put a lot of effort and advice to government into improving the efficiency of solar, with some success. I think we should go on doing that. Wind farms? No. Wrong way, go back.

    And I would go down the AGW path too, though looking first at adaptation, if I could be convinced that there was a real and present threat. I’m still waiting. But the other things we can do now. And we should.

  55. In terms of the environment, which is what this website is about, I argue that we should do the obvious things.

    If you are releasing millions of tons of a gas that is warming the planet and transforming the climate in unpredictable ways, the very obvious thing to do is to stop doing that. If you cannot stop completely, then the obvious thing to do is reduce the emissions as much as possible.

    We should not confuse the non-obvious with obvious things that some people are working to obfuscate.

    • We are cooling, folks; for how long is not very obvious to kim.
      ====================

    • Human input is less than 4% of total co2, the sink isn’t well defined and the impact of clouds isn’t understood either.

      In short your argument is emotionally based which is why it had the success it had. Emotions trump logic in many cases but the claim that the science is backing you is very poor indeed. Climate is always unpredicictable and there is no constant or equillibrium, a basic falsehood of the IPCC process that framed the current AGW deception.

  56. As a former economic policy adviser, I’ve been arguing for at least 20 years that change was inevitable and unpredictable, and that optimal policies were those which left us best placed to make optimal use of changing circumstances. Unfortunately, governments tend to be averse to such approaches, and seek to limit change and protect vested interests. Here’s the start of a paper on Achieving sustained economic growth aimed at one such government but with broader application:

    “Developments in growth theory are gradually eliminating the distinction between the fields of economic growth and economic development. Sustained economic growth is everywhere and always a process of continual transformation. The sort of economic progress that has been enjoyed by the richest nations since the Industrial Revolution would not have been possible if people had not undergone wrenching changes. Economies that cease to transform themselves are destined to fall off the path of economic growth. The countries that most deserve the title of “developing” are not the poorest countries of the world, but the richest. (They) need to engage in the never-ending process of economic development if they are to enjoy continued prosperity.”

    – Peter Howitt, Conclusion, Growth and development: a Schumpeterian perspective, 2006.

    Introduction: understanding economic growth

    The above extract from one of the leaders in economic growth theory emphasises that growth is about transformation, about change. The main message of this paper is that policies which embrace openness, competition, change and innovation will promote growth. Policies which have the effect of restricting or slowing change by protecting or favouring particular industries or firms are likely over time to slow growth to the disadvantage of the community. While it is true that Queensland has had relatively rapid growth, labour productivity is only about two-thirds of US levels and is lower than in other states. Queensland can clearly do better with more growth-supportive policies.

    In addition, the rapid growth is in part due to transient factors such as the mineral resources boom. It is better to improve the policy framework now rather than being complacent about the future.

    Sustained economic growth is widely regarded by governments as a desirable objective. Achieving this objective requires an understanding of the drivers of economic growth, and whether and how policy can influence them. Policies developed without this understanding, and particularly those with mainly political objectives, are unlikely to be successful, and have often had serious negative consequences both economically and politically. Recent examples include the failure of interventionist policies in Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia in the 1980s and 1990s, at high cost to those states, and government-backed projects such as the failed magnesium smelter in Queensland.

    Over the last 20 years, variations in growth between regions and countries have increasingly been explained by “endogenous” growth theory, in which growth depends on characteristics of the economic environment rather than on exogenous factors. Explanations with the clearest implications for policy come from “Schumpeterian” growth theory, based on the notion of “creative destruction.” They stress the dynamic nature of modern economies and the importance of change – including firm entry and exit – in driving growth in productivity and national income.

    An understanding of the implications of endogenous growth theory is critical to developing appropriate state government policies – not only policies which are clearly economic in nature, but also a wide range of policies which affect economic outcomes, for example in education and training, social welfare, regulation and provision of infrastructure services.
    The recent drivers of economic growth (DoEG) project of Queensland Treasury’s Office of Economic and Social Research (OESR) attempted to develop an explanation of growth as an aid to government policy in Queensland. A Government website says that the 2003 paper Drivers of Economic Growth in the Smart State “distils the key findings of this research and examines the Queensland Government’s current policy approach in the context of these findings. This paper outlines how the research findings provide theoretical support for the rationale underpinning the State Government’s Smart State vision and broader economic strategy.”

    However, the policy implications drawn from that research have some basic flaws and are not consistent with theory, evidence and international best practice. The fostering of higher economic growth, productivity and employment in Queensland should be based on a quite different approach that allows the private sector (which constitutes 80 per cent of the economy) to respond positively to changing circumstances.

    While the approach as outlined here is based on a wide range of theoretical and empirical work, for purposes of this Appendix it draws mainly on the recent work of leaders in the growth theory field (Philippe Aghion and Peter Howitt, and their co-researchers) as well as the experience of the author.

    • .. that change was inevitable and unpredictable, and that optimal policies were those which left us best placed to make optimal use of changing circumstances.

      ..

      “Developments in growth theory are gradually eliminating the distinction between the fields of economic growth and economic development. Sustained economic growth is everywhere and always a process of continual transformation.

      ..

      The above extract from one of the leaders in economic growth theory emphasises that growth is about transformation, about change.

      The above sentences from your comment should be understood by everyone. Even people, who favor “degrowth” should understand that the change is more fundamental and important than growth, and that effective change is driven by the same forces than growth. These forces must be allowed to work even in situations, where external constraints make overall growth impossible or unrestricted growth undesirable. Central planning doesn’t work. The only model that performs acceptably well is market economics. The markets can be regulated, but it’s essential that the regulation is not made so restrictive that it hinders necessary change, which may actually be most important under circumstances where growth is constrained.

      What you wrote is also closely related to my above comment on the impossibility of determining the monetary values of benefits and costs (or damages) of distant future, where distant means anything beyond 30-50 years. The real difficulty is not determining, what is the correct discount rate, it’s determining the monetary values to be discounted.

      The mathematical approach most applicable to these issues is dynamic programming, which is the theory that can describe to some extent the freedom of choice of future decision makers. That gives some interesting results over modest periods, and applying that reveals also, how impossible it is to extend any model to calculate net present values over very long periods.

      These issues are extremely important for understanding the value of potential climate policies. I’m disappointed that they have not been discussed widely enough. They may be very difficult, but that shouldn’t be accepted as a reason for not emphasizing them. I have made some modest attempts in that direction in my own blog and in several messages in various threads on this site. People like Partha Dasgupta have been studying related issues for long, but much more is needed.

      • Pekka – you misunderstand that capital renewal,and technological innovation – the energies of new businesses – are at the core of productivity and therefore economic growth.

        No one is talking about ‘degrowth’ or constrained growth. That is dangerous nonsense to be resisted at every turn. What is needed is 3% per year growth in food and energy for the rest of the century. Yes – that is 8 times increase just to meet basic humanitarian goals.

        You make a good European and a bad libertarian and as an economist you make a good physicist.

        You remind me of Feynman – in that a scientist outside of their field is as dumb as the next guy.

      • Obviously I’m not clear enough, as you have misunderstood my message totally. Your comment has nothing to do with what I tried to say. I’m not going to try again, but I hope that you try to read again, what I wrote. Perhaps it’s after all intelligible, when read with a little more care.

      • Chief, I advocate policies which support capital renewal and technological innovation, as Pekka understands.

      • ‘The markets can be regulated, but it’s essential that the regulation is not made so restrictive that it hinders necessary change, which may actually be most important under circumstances where growth is constrained.’

        It is the renewal that maximises growth. There is no understanding change unrelated to maximising productivity – that is in an environment of ‘constrained growth’ – although this is what was stated. The latter seems to imply an assumption of limits to growth – which is a dangerous philosophy in a time of extreme need.

        I support policies of maximised economic growth – and indeed in the standard economic theory of capital formation renewal and innovation are keys to producitvity and economic growth. There are of course other essential elements – management of interest rates, prudential oversight of banking, corporate governance and (usually the need to limit) the size of the government sector. Little beyond this is economically justifiable in any degree – and certainly not any amount of social engineering.

        ‘In this paper, I make the argument that modern “mainstream” economic thought is inclined towards government intervention and social engineering. To the extent that economic analysis is seen simply as a tool it is likely that economists will recommend greater intervention in the marketplace. Largely, the damage is caused by an ever-increasing emphasis on “short-term” analysis and social discussion. As Joseph Schumpeter wrote “any pro-capitalist argument must rest on long-run considerations. In the short run it is profit and inefficiencies that dominate the picture”. Mainstream economists have a theory that indicates that these inefficiencies cause markets to “fail” and government intervention can improve upon market outcomes. This feeds into the policy recommendations that economists make and also what they teach in the classroom. As an ever-increasing cohort of the population is exposed to these teachings, it is likely that public support for markets will be eroded.’

        http://www.ipa.org.au/library/publication/1281597921_document_12082010_-_sinclair_davidson_essay.pdf

        I think I understand too well what is meant by ‘market regulation’ in an environment where ‘growth is constrained’. ,

      • If there are constraints, there are constraints. If supply of fossil fuels is limited by availability and no other source of energy can compensate at comparable costs, the growth may be constrained. There are many other possibilities for constraints of growth that may become critical during this century. What I was saying is, that under such hypothetical, but plausible conditions, it’s even more important that markets can perform their task. Under such conditions the outcome may not be growth but better economy than without the market mechanism.

        While the markets are the best mechanism for a wide range of situations, there’s also sufficiently evidence on market failures, i.e. about situations, where market left alone leads to an severely suboptimal outcome. The most relevant question related to my earlier comment is the ability of markets to react early enough to approaching shortage of resources or environmental damage. While the evidence on such threats may be strong, it’s still possible that the markets do not provide sufficient incentive to its participants. The situation may a dynamic example of the tragedy of commons.

  57. Intergenerational equity? All IPCC projections of warming are based on extensive economic growth. One scenario has the GDP of South Africa in 2100 similar to total world GDP in 1990. Rather better economic modellers have estimated that Australian GDP per head in 2100 will be around 5-7 times present levels, whether or not we take anti-AGW actions. I would think that future generations will be able to afford to deal with their own problems without us accepting great costs to mitigate emissions which may or may not have adverse effects.

    Intergenerational equity is a furphy, anyone who believes in equity could find much better projects dealing with current issues and inequities, as Lomborg et al have identified.

  58. Judith: I assume your third paragraph about Hansen’s book is either irony or sarcasm or both, or a shill review written by Hansen himself. Self promotion and scaring children aren’t the best personality traits.

    • Gordon

      I read it a bit differently than you.

      Following the “grandchildren” topic, Judith has presented the totally opposing viewpoints of two individuals, who both have high credentials as climate scientists (Hansen, Christy).

      Christy has first-hand experience of having lived in a region where locals had no access to an energy infrastructure (Africa), so sees this as a practical priority, while Hansen invokes his grandchildren directly but otherwise has a more theoretical model-based approach.

      Hansen’s model-based “tipping point” predictions can be taken with a large grain of salt. Over 20 years later we observe that his 1988 prediction of rampant GH warming never came about (even though CO2 increase was even greater than Hansen had predicted).

      Hansen is selling a doomsday story (extinction of species, coal death trains, etc.) while Christy is just a climate scientist doing his job, who is rationally skeptical of the doomsday predictions.

      That’s how I read it.

      Max

  59. State asset management company China Reform Holdings Corp (CRHC) announced Wednesday that it has formally acquired its first central government-controlled State-owned enterprise (SOE), China Huaxing Group.

    http://business.globaltimes.cn/china-economy/2011-05/659103.html

  60. I find it strange that those who claim we must do something, now, because of the grandchildren show at the same time a distinct disrespect to the lives and opinions of their own grandparents.
    How can they be so certain that their grandchildren will be grateful when they have to live with the consequences, should what they propose, i.e. the destruction of the Western economies (see Maurice Strong), be implemented?

  61. Sustainability, agw, bio diversity, intergenerational equity, keynesian economics are all coded subsets of utopian socialism in the context and quarters they turn up.

  62. The problem with climate change is that it’s not our problem, but rather that of future generations.
    http://ourchangingclimate.wordpress.com/2010/09/06/future-generations-global-warming-is-not-our-problem/

    Do we leave it up to them to deal with, or do we try to minimize their problem?

    I guess the “clash” is that Christy and others frame it rather as: Better than minimizing the future problem, we should be maximizing their ability to deal with this (and other) problem(s).

    In principle that’s a valid viewpoint, though based on the science as I understand it I regard not trying to minimize the future climate problem as highly risky for those future generations.
    http://ourchangingclimate.wordpress.com/2010/07/21/the-risk-of-postponing-corrective-action/

    Postponing any meaningful mitigation action until things start to get really messy comes with considerable risk, because many changes in climate are not reversible on human timescales.

    The ‘stop’ button has a delay of multiple decades, which means you have to act based on foresight, or what comes closest to it (e.g. projections based on science).

    • “The problem with climate change is that it’s not our problem, but rather that of future generations.”
      This must be the new buzz phrase of the week.
      It is the natural idea to push when the prophecy that a cult has been profiting from becomes obviously false.
      Since the AGW claims about storms, rain, drought, extreme weather, slr, OA, heat, cooling, etc. etc. etc. have failed, it is now time for the promoters to tell the believers that the problem is for the future, and that only those who care for their grandchildren will still believe, and that only cynical wicked denialist scum do not care for their grandchildren. This lets the believers smuggly tell each other how morallysuperior they are to those wicked denialsits.

  63. David L. Hagen

    The greatest danger to populations is not some future rise in sea level, but the near term collapse of impoverished states from high fuel costs or fuel shortages, with consequent famines. See North Korea
    N Korean children begging, army starving

  64. You are correct in that we have no idea what the needs or problems of our progeny will be 100 years from now. One issue is certain, however. We should stop spending money that we don’t have, borrowing it on their collateral.

  65. We should stop spending money that we don’t have, borrowing it on their collateral.

    Similarly, we should stop damaging the climate in ways that incur long-term costs in exchange for short-term (and far smaller) profits. This is just another form of borrowing against the future.

    • Once again, we have no idea whether or not we are damaging the climate. All we have is the word of a tainted profession largely undisturbed by the clear evidence of science fraud revealed in Climategate.

    • No more houses … or roads or airports or windmills or solar power arrays ….

      Just mass suicide as long as the grave site does not damage the climate in any way and the bodies are sealed to prevent the escape of CO2.

  66. “damaging the climate”

    Nonsensical. ‘Climate’ is prevailing conditions. You can’t physically damage a concept. There is no ‘the’ climate either. The earth has many different climates.

    You are really scraping the bottom of the barrel, Robert. Even for you.

    Andrew

    Andrew

  67. Much ado about “needs”:
    – Who decides what those “needs” are?
    – Who decides whose “needs” are met?
    – Who decides how to meet those “needs”?
    The dictionary defines “Liberty” as the right of the individual to decide for the individual. The United States qualifies this as “Liberty Under Law”.

    Some comments above answer “government” to the questions: “Who”.

    As an example, consider the ” Independent Payment Advisory Board”, a section of “Obamacare”. Fully implemented, it is the answer to Medicare and Social Security entitlements: there will be fewer grandparents.

    • IPAB: Independent Payment Advisory Board
      Kurtz, Stanley. 2011. “The Acronym That Ate Health Care.” NR / Digital – National Review Online, May 16.
      http://nrd.nationalreview.com/?q=MjAxMTA1MTY=

      Rationing Board: Appointed, Not Elected; Not accountable; No review. Sets maximum Medicare payments, prices citizens out of the health care market by setting payments so low that medical providers can not earn a living. A De Facto Death Panel.

      If you do not trust this source, Google the name of the board with site = “.gov”

  68. LOL in Oregon

    Hey,
    our grand-children’s future has already been decided.
    Mr. Chicago “he made it worse” Politician has ceded the moon and Mars to China. (used space shuttle, anyone?)

    Since we are “borrowing our way to prosperity” from them, once they are on the moon, they will be able to “drop rocks” on the sluggard N. Americas folk (most of whom have already been displaced by bots) to get the terms they want for repayment.
    Not a pretty picture.

    • Nah. Have a tour round the SpaceX site. Already lower cost boost than China, and improving faster. Goal is having capability of delivering people to Mars within 10 years (and returning them, of course!) .

  69. Incidental find related to discount rates:

    Perese, K. 2010. “Input-Output Model Analysis: Pricing Carbon Dioxide Emissions.” Working Paper Series, Congressional Budget Office, Washington, D.C.
    http://www.cbo.gov/ftpdocs/115xx/doc11571/2010-04-IO_Model_Paper.pdf

  70. David L. Hagen

    Inter-generational discussions will need to address:

    Swenson’s Law
    To avoid deprivation resulting from the exhaustion of non-renewable resources, humanity must employ conservation and renewable resource substitutes sufficient to match depletion.

    Anticipating that demand for energy will continue to increase as supplies decline, humanity will adjust by some combination of the following:
    Conservation — the same life-style accomplished with more energy-efficient artifacts … more fuel-efficient cars …
    Life-Style Change — a form of conservation: telecommuting instead of commuting … back to the land … living closer to work …
    Substitution — using other energy sources to accomplish the same objectives … solar power… walking not driving …
    Deprivation — just plain doing without … no more plane trips to visit the family across the country … or, more seriously, pestilence … mass starvation … war …

  71. An IPCC expert meeting discussing issues related to the subject of this thread was held last week in Lima, Peru.

    http://ipcc.ch/meetings/lima_peru/econethicsagenda_lima_2011.pdf

    http://www.ipcc-wg3.de/meetings/expert-meetings-and-workshops/files/Proposal-Costing-EM.pdf

    Does anyone have more information on this meeting?

    The issues discussed are very interesting for me, but using that information to support actual decision making might need some additional intermediary bodies of “wise men”, preferably a few of them with somewhat different views as trying to force one common set of conclusions is not likely to succeed.

  72. Billy Ruff'n

    I think it’s important to remember that the discount rate used to calculate the net present value of future benefits (returns on the cost of investing in mitigation of AGW now) has two discrete components — the risk free cost of capital, which isn’t that hard to determine and compensates for “opportunity costs”, and the risk premium. The amount of the risk premium is dependent to large extent on the degree of certainty that the returns promised will be realized. Herein lies the problem for those advocating immediate and massive investment in AGW mitigation while at the same time acknowledging that there is very little certainty that the actions proposed will generate any meaningful result (i.e., temperture reduction) in the future. Unless a much stronger case can be made that benefits are real and reasonably certain, the discount rate is high and the rational investor will favor a more moderate approach with respect to the timing and magnitude of investments.

    An alternative financial strategy to “going all in” over the next decade to avoid a possible major downside in the future, would be to adopt a strategy often used by investors in high risk situations. Specifically, they “buy options” — they make a small investments today that create the opportunity to make larger investments later, should the opportunity (need) arise. In essense these investors buy time to gain additional information about the nature and risk of the long term investment being considered. An example of an “option” purchase in the AGW context might be an idea I believe it was first put forward by Ross McKitrick, when he made a case for a revenue neutral, progressive carbon tax that would be adjusted over time based on changes in the temperature anomaly. Another example would be continued investment in climate research that is aimed at understanding the science itself rather than projecting this or that catastrophic outcome.

    Intergenerational equity requires that we be good stewards of both our natural and financial /economic resources. Making high risk / low return investments based only a hope that bad things may not happen is not prudent fiduciary behavior. Neither is the apparent unwillingness of AGW alarmists to consider alternatives other than immediate massive investments in long term GHG reduction.

  73. Revenue neutral? Same universe as unicorns. Never been seen in real life, and never will be. Logically it necessarily displaces other revenue, and hence its associated expenditure and bureaucracy and constituency influence. Since no one can actually select which those should be, much less push them aside, the “neutrality” is pure verbiage.