Climate pragmatism

by Judith Curry

[P]ublic support for the environment is at more than 30 year-low, cap and trade is dead, perhaps for good, and global warming has become as partisan and polarizing an issue as abortion and gun control.

Climate Pragmatism offers a framework for renewed American leadership on climate change that’s effectiveness, paradoxically, does not depend on any agreement about climate science or the risks posed by uncontrolled greenhouse gases.

The above quotes are from the Breakthrough Institute’s web site  regarding a new report entitled “Climate Pragmatism: Innovation, Resilience, and No Regrets”  by the Hartwell group (discussed on Climate Etc. previously here):

[The Hartwell group is] an informal international network of scholars and analysts dedicated to innovative strategies that uplift human dignity through mitigation of climate risk, enhancement of disaster resilience, improvement of public health, and the provision of universal energy access. Previous publications include The Hartwell Paper (May 2010) and How to Get Climate Policy Back on Course (July 2009).

Some excerpts:

The old climate framework failed because it would have imposed substantial costs associated with climate mitigation policies on developed nations today in exchange for climate benefits far off in the future — benefits whose attributes, magnitude, timing, and distribution are not knowable with certainty. Since they risked slowing economic growth in many emerging economies, efforts to extend the Kyoto-style UNFCCC framework to developing nations predictably deadlocked as well.

The new framework now emerging will succeed to the degree to which it prioritizes agreements that promise near-term economic, geopolitical, and environmental benefits to political economies around the world, while simultaneously reducing climate forcings, developing clean and affordable energy technologies, and improving societal resilience to climate impacts. This new approach recognizes that continually deadlocked international negotiations and failed domestic policy proposals bring no climate benefit at all. It accepts that only sustained effort to build momentum through politically feasible forms of action will lead to accelerated decarbonization.

A new climate strategy should take a page from one of America’s greatest homegrown traditions — pragmatism— which values pluralism over universalism, flexibility over rigidity, and practical results over utopian ideals. Where the UNFCCC imagined it could motivate nations to cooperatively enforce top-down emissions reductions with mathematical precision, US policymakers should acknowledge that today’s global, social, and ecological systems are too messy, open, and complicated to be governed in this way. Whereas the UNFCCC attempted to create new systems of global governance, a pragmatic approach would build upon established, successful institutions and proven approaches. Where the old climate policy regime tried to discipline a wildly diverse set of policies under a single global treaty, the new era must allow these policies and measures to stand—and evolve— independently and according to their own logic and merits. And where the old regime required that everyone band together around the same core motivation and goals, policymakers today are likely to make the most progress to the degree that they refrain from centrally justifying energy innovation, resilience to extreme weather, and pollution reduction as “climate policy.”

This pragmatic strategy centers on efforts to accelerate energy innovation, build resilience to extreme weather, and pursue no regrets pollution reduction measures — three efforts that each have their own diverse justifications independent of their benefits for climate mitigation and adaptation. As such, Climate Pragmatism offers a framework for renewed American leadership on climate change that’s effectiveness, paradoxically, does not depend on any agreement about climate science or the risks posed by uncontrolled greenhouse gases.

Pielke Jr. describes pragmatism in the following way:

Pragmatism is about taking the first steps on a long journey and not a comprehensive plan for how the last steps will be taken. That is how we fight disease, manage the economy and win wars.  Climate change will be no different.

Reactions from the climate hawks

Joe Romm writes a 3900 word screed in response to the Climate Pragmatism report entitled “The Road to Ruin:  Extremist Climate Pragmatism Report Pushes Right-Wing Myths and a Failed Strategy“.  Some excerpts:

First the report doesn’t just ignore everything we  have learned about climate science in recent years.  It doesn’t even specify what level of emissions it is aiming at.   One can’t even call it rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic.  It is more like saying we must not talk about the iceberg looming in the distance –  since that makes some of the more conservative folks on the ship uncomfortable — and we can’t slow down the ship or change course, so we should invest in developing a new ship, but really there’s no hurry because … well, we know how that movie turned out.

MEMO TO PEOPLE WRITING AND REVIEWING CLIMATE REPORTS:  Let’s stipulate that if a report doesn’t spell out what your greenhouse gas concentrations target is for the planet, it is  just handwaving — and we’ve really had enough of that for two decades now.

David Roberts at Grist has a more thoughtful post entitled “Balancing climate pragmatism with moral clarity.”  Some excerpts:

It seems clear enough that going big — getting everyone to accept binding targets and timetables — hasn’t worked in either the U.S. and the UNFCCC. What is not as clear as the authors seem to think is exactly why those efforts have failed and what, if any, might succeed in their place. It comes down to how much you think those failures are attributable to policy and process vs. interests and power. There’s always the possibility that nothing could have worked, that the imbalance of power between energy incumbents and their challengers has simply been too steep.

I’m all for policy pluralism, if only because we don’t know what (if anything) will work. I’m also for opportunism, taking gains wherever they can be found and regrouping around strategies that show promise. I’ll happily admit that the climate movement has suffered from a deficit of both and would benefit from more pragmatism. But the rest of the Breakthrough policy and messaging recommendations do not follow from that.

Accepting paralysis on climate as a fact of life is incredibly myopic. In many ways, the dysfunctions of elite politics, in both the U.S. Congress and the UNFCCC, have obscured tectonic shifts beneath the surface. The climate crisis has captured the attention of large swaths of the business world, the U.S. military, the world’s great faiths, and a growing global youth movement. Things are changing in rapid, complex ways that are unpredictable and won’t be clear until the history books are written.

Michael Tobis began discussing this at Collide-a-scape, and then was challenged by Pielke Jr. to engage over on his thread  (Pielke’s thread is pretty interesting).  Note to Michael Tobis: do your homework.

The “cool dudes” don’t seem to be saying anything about this report?

Climate pragmatism from James Hansen

Jim Hansen has posted a new essay entitled “Baby Lauren and the Kool-Aid.”  Once you get past the grandchildren stuff, Hansen makes some interesting points.  Some excepts:

Can renewable energies provide all of society’s energy needs in the foreseeable future? It is conceivable in a few places, such as New Zealand and Norway. But suggesting that renewables will let us phase rapidly off fossil fuels in the United States, China, India, or the world as a whole is almost the equivalent of believing in the Easter Bunny and Tooth Fairy.

Because they realize that renewable energies are grossly inadequate for our energy needs now and in the foreseeable future and they have no real plan. They pay homage to the Easter Bunny fantasy, because it is the easy thing to do in politics.

Many well-meaning people proceed under the illusion that ‘soft’ renewable energies3 will replace fossil fuels if the government tries harder and provides more subsidies. Meanwhile, governments speak greenwash while allowing pursuit of fossil fuels with increasingly destructive technologies (hydrofracking, mountaintop removal, longwall mining, drilling in the deepest ocean, the Arctic and other pristine environments) and development of unconventional fossil fuels4.

It will be a tragedy if environmentalists allow the illusion of ‘soft’ energies to postpone demand for real solution of the energy, climate and national security problems. Solar power is just a small part of the solution. Subsidies yielding even its present tiny contribution may be unsustainable.

The main conclusion is to keep an open mind. China and India will increase nuclear power use; they must if they are to phase out coal over the next few decades. It behooves us to be objective.

JC comments

So what’s not to like about Climate Pragmatism?  The no regrets aspect of this implies that nothing is lost and there are still benefits if the threat doesn’t materialize.  If it becomes increasingly apparent with time that the threat is of a serious magnitude, then we have taken the first steps towards addressing the threat.  David Roberts and Jim Hansen seems to get this (although his carbon fee approach is not no regrets but relatively low regrets , and whether it is feasible to implement and would actually work  is debatable).   Doesn’t sound like Joe Romm or Al Gore will see the light; it seems that they are prepared to continue to wage an idealistic war that they have no political, economic or technological chance of winning.

240 responses to “Climate pragmatism

  1. couldn’t be simpler…the measure is: is the new approach based on demonizing opponents and the undecided? if the answer is yes, as per all past climate efforts, it’ll end all in Joe Romm ie failure. Climate Pragmatism, grammar aside, seems to be different. And that can only be a good thing.

    • World leaders, Jim Hansen, Al Gore, the UN’s IPCC and their army of government scientists only need to endorse and practice honest science.

      Today, as consensus science is crumbling, together with the careers of world leaders and the economy that they undermined with deceit since 1972, I urge you to scan this information on Earth’s actual heat source – the Calcium Ferrite Sun:

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

      • The threat is not pollution or anthropologic global climate change.

        We are all willing to work together to avoid or minimize those.

        The real danger is a tyrannical government that sneaks in control by using Soviet Union style brainwashing and control – resurfaced as politically correct “consensus science” or “post-modern science” and stuffed right down the throats of gullible western leaders.

        Many climatologists noticed this potential danger in seriously flawed Reports by the UN’s IPCC after 1990.

        I noticed this potential danger in the way new findings on the Sun’s origin, composition and source of energy were ignored, hidden, or manipulated after 1972.

        Thankfully the universe is not controlled by scientists or politicians!

  2. I still had difficulty reasoning the postulate that “Decarbonization” is a factor of “GDP” (from Pielke’s blog). I know it’s thrown out there as an axiom, but I think there’s a sizable amount of people out there that consider “Decarbonization” as an entity by itself… as in, reducing the amount of carbon in the atmosphere.

    Is it because there are various approximations and assumptions that comprise such a formula as Pielke’s that renders all other correlatable factors negligible in comparison to simple GDP?

    Weren’t there some folks complaining about trying to characterize the entire climate system as a simple factor of atmospheric carbon content? Is one really that simple and not the other?

  3. If we can just get this current crisis Big Enough…every contingency has already been considered for U.S. and we are all going to be ‘safe & sound’. See, Bush saw the future. We are almost to our destination…

    Hang on tight now, we are almost there.

    • We’ve Given China The Rope
      December 19, 2009|A.J. Weldon , Fort Lauderdale
      Historically, as far as China is concerned, Nikita Khrushchev’s admonishment to the West, “When it comes time for us to hang you, your capitalist will sell us the rope,” was somewhat shortsighted.

      Not only have we actually moved the rope factory to a communist nation, we are now going to allow them to advertise on our “protected free speech” communication networks how such business arrangements benefit us.

  4. I have never understood the concept of a no regrets climate policy. If an action is justifiable without consideration of climate issues then it is not a climate policy. If it is not justifiable without climate considerations then it is not no regrets. What am I missing?

    • The action is motivated by consideration of the risk of climate change. The action is no regrets if there are benefits (or at least no adverse impacts) if the threat doesn’t materialize. A no regrets example of energy policy is conservation (save $$ even if the threat from climate change doesn’t materialize). In terms of “selling” the policies, you can sell say energy conservation under the auspices of energy security or economics.

      • Consideration of the risk of climate change is what FAILED to motivate the international treaty system or cap and trade in the United States. This group claims that action should be taken even if you don’t believe that global warming is a threat, but their own motivation IS global warming. How is this different from John Kerry telling people that his failed cap and trade bill was a jobs and energy bill?

        Pielke Jr want to do the exact same thing as Gore and Co., but they’re putting it in different wrapping paper. And not only are they pulling a PR bait and switch, but they actually have the nerve to tell us that theyr’e pulling PR a bait and switch.

        If they really believe that we should develop new energy technologies because our economy is in the hands of evil Arabs (energy security) in ways we haven’t over the last 40 years, then why do they call it climate pragmatism. If they believe that pollution abatement is a worthwhile goal regardless of climate change, then why do they call it climate pragmatism?

        To me, Pielke Jr has gone off the deep end here – needless to say, I am not impressed. Their ‘climate pragmatism’ program seems to be nothing but “We couldn’t sell the product with New, Improved!, so now we’ll try Three New Flavors!”

      • There is a whole raft of issues related to ‘climate pragmatism’.

        I.E. Whether or not the climate gets ‘worse’, floods, tornadoes, hurricanes etc etc aren’t going away. So regardless of what you believe about ‘climate’ being better prepared for ‘natural disasters’ is a good idea.

        Coal mine productivity(The number of tons per miner per hour) in most of the world, including the Eastern US is declining.
        10 years ago China and India were major coal exporters.Today they are major importers.
        Regardless of how you feel about climate, the price of coal and the price of electricity from coal is likely to rise. For most of the world, ‘Cheap electricity’ from ‘cheap coal’ is a thing of the past. The coal hasn’t run out..nor has the’s just not ‘cheap’ anymore.

        Free markets are exceptionally good at innovating when there is substantial ‘first mover’ advantage or a relatively high product turnover rate. The ‘first’ cell phone company to introduce X,Y or Z feature makes a bundle of money for a year or two selling lots of cells phones.

        In the energy industry there is a substantial first mover disadvantage. First of kind plants always have cost overruns and if they employ any ‘new’ construction techniques the approval process can take decades.
        I.E. See Westinghouse AP1000 nuclear reactor whose ‘major innovation’ was to put an emergency water supply on the roof.

        In the transportation industry…the risk of safety recall also poses a substantial disadvantage to ‘innovation’…I.E. A few sticky gas pedals on the modestly innovative Toyota Prious ended up costing Toyota a reported $2 billion. Not to mention damage to brand reputation.

        The 20 year old approach to addressing climate change has been that if we simply make fossil fuels more expensive then ‘free markets’ will ‘innovate’. We’ve had some innovation in Solar Panels. The windmills being put up today aren’t much different the the windmills of 30 years ago. The price of a gallon of gasoline was less then $2/gallon when I bought my 50 MPG Chevy Sprint for $6,000 25 years ago. How many ‘entry level’ priced cars today get 50 MPG?

        A more pragmatic approach would look at the barriers to innovation and either remove then or provide incentives to overcome them.

        An example of a ‘pragmatic’ approach would be that neither GM,Ford nor Chrysler have spent much money in the way of R&D into automotive grade carbon fiber manufacturing which all three ackowledge is critical to future highly efficient vehicles. Anti-trust laws prohibit GM, Ford and Chrysler from even talking to each other, never mind co-operating on joint R&D programs. There is no real ‘first mover advantage’. If one of the other guys is successful they will just sub-contract for body panels or blatantly copy.

        GM, Ford and Chrysler are quite happy to contribute technically and financially to a National Automotive Carbon Fiber Manufacturing research initiative. All other things being equal a higher MPG vehicle fetches more in the marketplace. Just not so much more that it justifies them individually making major investments in R&D.

        In power generation there are challenges in developing high temperature corrosion resistant materials that ‘private’ industry has little appetite for spending R&D dollars on. It doesn’t matter whether you are burning coal, oil, gas or atoms…a hotter running plant will be more efficient. Patents only last 20 years. By the time someone patented their ‘new material’ and ran it thru all the necessary testing the patent would be in the verge of expiration. There just aren’t that many power plants built by a single vendor in a 3 or 4 year time frame to justify a substantial investment in materials research.

        The result is that we have a history of building relatively inefficient power plants with the materials we have rather then building more efficient power plants with the materials we wish we had.

        A blind belief that markets will solve every problem is no more pragmatic then a blind belief that government regulation or government R&D can solve every problem.

      • Dr. Curry, I am thinking in terms of cost-benefit analysis, not some vague concept of motivation. Every action has a cost. If some percentage of the cost is justified by climate benefits and those are false then that much is lost. If none of the cost is justified by climate benefits then it is not a climate policy, and calling it a climate policy is mere hypocrisy.

        As for your example, forced conservation is forced investment, and investment capital is a scarce resource. If it precludes better investments then there is a loss. Saving money (a positive ROI) is a necessary condition for a good investment but not a sufficient condition.

      • David Wojick
        My ideal pragmatic perspective is that:
        1) Fossil fuels won’t last forever. Therefore we must sooner/later move to solar energy or nuclear energy
        2) Making solar energy cheaper than fossil fuels and as available and reliable will generate a market driven transition that is essential to effective widespread adoption.
        3) The Impending rapidly growing shortage of liquid fuels (“peak oil”) is our most urgent issue. (IEA says crude oil peaked in 2006). Anthropogenic global warming will not have a major impact for decades if not centuries.

        Thus the immediate need is to develop cost effective solar liquid fuels that will provide a “no regrets” rapid market driven transition. (PS Ethanol from grain is NOT the solution.)

      • If you use the term “peak oil”, all your other comments are rendered automatically worthless. The doom and gloomers at the Oil Drum have tried to profit from propaganda and should not be trusted or listened to.

      • Bruce
        Recommend a dose of hard evidence. Can you not recognize that US conventional light oil production peaked in 1970? Warning of an objectively predictable problem while raising the challenge of how to address that problem is not “doom and gloom”.

      • The Oil Drum made a fetish out of predicting shale gas was some sort of con game. They were very wrong.

        By the way, who gave the Oil Drum front charity 100,000$ to start it up?


      • David Hagen,

        Experts once said the same thing about whale oil. They couldn’t foresee the future developments in energy. Neither can we. Using govt force today dictated by foolish, short-sighted assumptions about the constraints of the future is a recipe for regrets.

        Your 2d pt — “Making solar energy cheaper than fossil fuels and as available and reliable will generate a market driven transition” may make for great hope and change rhetoric, but it’s ridiculous economics. [If we force people to do something they think is against their best interests by bribing or threatening them, they will eventually embrace it even after we stop subsidizing it.]

        If you are right in your assessments of the future (or at least convincing), you can get investors to back you. But let’s avoid using the govt threat of force to make people subsidize your plans.

      • stan
        Take off your rosecolored glases and look at reality:
        Katherine Mangu-Ward observed:

        In 1846, Americans dominated the whaling industry with 735 ships. John D. Rockefeller gets into the oil refining business in 1865. By 1876, kerosene is routing whale oil, and the whaling fleet was down to 39 ships, because kerosene was just so darn cheap.

        Because you can’t foresee developments does not mean others are not working on them.
        You falsely claim I advocate “forcing people . . .against their best interests”. I am proposing a cheaper and as or more reliable alternative. That is the basis for getting “investors to back you”.

        This issue is also national security and the public good. OPEC is now forcing tribute from the USA and OECD by constraining oil production to raise prices to the maximum tolerable. That action since 2004 doubled US unemployment – which will not come back to below 5% until we get fuel prices from $5/gallon back below $2.50/gallon.

        Robert Hirsch and Gail Tverberg show a 1:1 correlation between fuel growth and GDP. That means YOUR job and YOUR pension are down the tube when available liquid fuels run short and we are in a panic crash program to develop alternatives.

      • David, I have known the term “no regrets” policies applied to policies which would meet their opportunity cost (i.e., one could not get a higher risk-related return by other uses of funds), but for some reason have not been undertaken, but might be if promoted as a way of helping with a real or prospective problem. Of course, the term is often abused or mis-applied, i.e. to promote preferred policies without a rigorous CBA which do not exceed opportunity costs. But I have known good examples. I knew two competing entrepreneurs in the energy efficiency basis. They would go to firms and demonstrate that they could get essentially risk-free returns of 35% plus from retrofitting their premises, adopting different heating/cooling methods, etc. As a rule-of-thumb, many firms adopt a three-year pay-off target when assessing prospective investment, implying a required rate of return of about 30-35% pa. But very few were interested in the EE proposals. One entrepreneur even offered to fund the investment on the basis of being repaid only if the claimed benefits were not realised; the only upfront cost to the business was any disruption associated with implementation; but still there were very few takers.

        If Government managed to promote such economically viable schemes in order to achieve emissions reductions schemes (whether or not here is a case to do so) they would be “no regrets” policies, which you could pursue even if you were uncertain about CAGW; if the hypothesis is false, you’ve lost nothing, the opportunity cost was zero.

        The problem, of course, is that governments pursue high-cost policies: a $A6.2 million solar power installation was opened near Alice Springs recently; it is expected to provide a saving of $A100k in diesel generator fuel, a gross return of about 1.6% before taking into account such things as battery maintenance and replacement; better to put the money in the bank or cut taxes.

        I have yet to read the article and most comments, but pragmatism involves rigorous risk assessment, CBA and meeting the risk-related opportunity cost; doing what, on your best assessment, best serves your interests.

      • Thanks Faustino
        That 35% hurdle for efficiency on upfront capital is indeed one major psychological barrier. That suggests needing a 40% or higher ROI to persuade investors.

        That 1.6% ROI solar power installation is a classic poster child example of bad global warming economics (though it will provide some security against the looming shortages of diesel fuel.)

        I heartily agree that: “pragmatism involves rigorous risk assessment, . meeting the risk-related opportunity cost; doing what, on your best assessment, best serves your interests.”
        (PS what are you referring to by “CBA”?)

      • A no regrets example of energy policy is conservation (save $$ even if the threat from climate change doesn’t materialize).

        Whose $$ are we talking about?

        And is $$ the only thing at risk if conservation is mandated?


        We should get to the point of eco-green myth making and the complicity of the IPCC and Team on the broader agenda.

    • David,

      Here’s an example: clean stove programs that reduce black carbon emissions. Is this a public health policy, a clean air policy or a climate policy? It’s all three. If black carbon has no effect on climate, you still get a win on the other two counts.

      Justification isn’t binary. The more reasons to pursue a policy the more individuals you can get on board.

      • Gene, I am thinking in terms of cost-benefit analysis, not some binary function. If some percentage of the cost is justified by climate benefits and those are false then that much is lost. If none of the cost is justified by climate benefits then it is not a climate policy, and calling it a climate policy is mere hypocrisy.

        Maybe that is the trick? Are they proposing that we simply list everything we are doing for other good reasons, which happens to reduce emissions or support adaptation, and call that list a climate policy?

      • I’d think that level of detailed analysis would have to be made on a case by case basis. However, using the clean stoves example: if the health benefit alone were to outweigh the cost, any pollution and climate benefits would be a bonus, not hypocrisy.

      • If your idea of a policy is just things that you are going to do anyway, be my guest.That is not how I use the term policy. I would call that having no policy (hence the hypocrisy), but since I think we should have no climate policy I won’t stand in your way. A lot of people want us to have a climate policy and if doing nothing different satisfies them so be it.

        But I suspect these so-called ‘pragmatic’ folks are actually trying to sneak in climate based actions, on some kind of co-benefits rationale, which is very different from no regrets. If you need the climate hook to justify it, it is not no regrets.

      • David,
        I think the factor you are overlooking is that when considering individual problems to solve, there is rarely only one solution. There are usually multiple possible solutions, each with its own advantages and disadvantages. I suppose a “no regrets” solution would be one that tends to minimize those things that are believed to create a climate change problem.
        Interestingly, when specific projected problems are examined, the cost attributable to climate change concerns could well be zero. For example, sea level rise is projected to be slow enough that normal facility maintenance and replacement time frames would likely subsume the problem. The “no regrets” part of this could simply be which
        materials to use.

      • Gary,

        I think the factor you are overlooking is that the “problems” you want to solve are not necessarily considered problems by David or others. It’s not about the solutions so much as your assumptions about what are problems.

      • Bill Collinge

        Stan is correct, and David is correct. Either AGW is a problem, in which case its costs should be weighed against the costs of doing nothing, whether alone or in combination with co-benefits of the same activities. Notwithstanding the difficulty of actually doing that, you have to consider AGW a problem for this to work. Talking about no-regrets climate policies won’t convince those who don’t think climate is a problem.

      • Stan,
        I happen to agree about the non-problem thing. However, to be pragmatic, we should recognize that some folks do believe they are problems. Simply claiming that they are (correctly) non-problems has not been very successful answering their concerns. Answer their concern by placing its magnitude in perspective with historic weather events and trends. Show that the perceived problem is easily handled in the course of normal day-to-day human activities. My point was that many things that are claimed to be future problems are really not, and therefore the cost to deal with them are zero.

    • I’ve linked to the Luntz memo elsewhere and it looks like he may have coined the term “no regrets”. It may bear just repeating the link again here

      His advice to President Bush was that he should be seen to be doing something and suggested “you should argue that America should invest more in R&D to find ways of burning coal more efficiently”.

      Of course no-one can really argue that coal should be burnt less efficiently! The thrust of Luntz’s advice is how to make it appear that the Republicans may be doing something about Global warming, sorry Climate change to take up Mr Luntz’s advice, even if they really aren’t. He also suggests making the most of scientific differences: 25 years ago they were worried about a new ice age etc.

      Maximise the uncertainty , would that be?

  5. And the support for more spending on global warming stuff . . . be it research or mitigation, is going to evaporate faster than a puddle in a parking lot on a hot summer day when the reality of the US government spending problems actually hit home. When one dollar in three of spending is borrowed money, sooner or later real priorities will push silly stuff like global warming worries back in the Hansen created and Gore flogged swamp where the issue came from

  6. Is this the same that Lomborg proposed?

  7. I am more in the pragmatist camp. The first step of pragmatism is to realize there will be problems due to burning fossil fuels, and it will cost something to mitigate the impacts. The report mentions taxes only in the context of Japan’s plan that they will soon implement, but that surely is the way to go. It would be nation-by-nation as opposed to global, so the revenue could be used for future national needs (levees, dams, nuclear and renewable fuel and power infrastructure, etc.), while reducing government subsidies of fossil fuel industries who make enough profit anyway. This would be a carbon premium; an insurance against future impacts. $10 per tonne fossil CO2 would be a reasonable level to phase in gradually (adding 10 cents per gallon of fuel), and 5-10% to fuel bills (that could be mitigated by consumer rebates).

    • Jim,

      Do you really believe additional tax money would be used for anything like that? The US is spending 40% more than it’s taking in. At best the additional revenue would lower that ratio. That’s leaving aside the fact that the 5-10% added to fuel bills would cascade through each and every product that required power to produce or fuel to transport.

      • If anyone thinks that additional tax money is going to be spent wisely is obviously not being serious.


      • Why do you think tax money is not spent as wisely as other money?

      • That is why I would prefer to call it a premium. The insurance industry has strict rules about premiums and their use, and their being non-profit in nature. As we go towards renewable fuels and higher fuel efficiency these costs will be reduced, while also mitigating against the guaranteed rising rates due to past-peak-oil costs as they rise into the future.

      • Call it what you like, but that doesn’t change the fact that it will almost certainly be squandered. Insurance companies are answerable to state and federal law. Congress is only answerable to the Constitution, and short of an amendment that prevented them from misusing this revenue, it can’t be restricted to that purpose.

    • Another word, “pragmatic” down the Orwellian rathole. My other point on the thread proven.

      Should we tax windmills for killing birds? How about the toxic waste of soon to be rotting solar panels almost everywhere? How about the mercury in those stupid led lights?

      How many times does central planning have to fail for you Jim to catch on?

      • I am not optimistic that the US would even adopt such a plan. It is just too pragmatic, but may become a last resort when things start costing a lot.

      • Things cost plenty right now. Both due to leftist over regulation of supply and failed fiat money policy (Keynesian based) that can be tied to both parties but one in particular worships the weakness while the other accepted while in a 40 year oblivion (Congress 1954-1994).

        This is about word corruption instead of honest discussion of differences.

      • We know from experience, it will take a crisis before the US acts on climate change.
        Meanwhile other countries have started planning ahead. At least we got the fuel efficiency policy going in the right direction finally.

      • It’s the stupid compact fluorescent bulbs that have the mercury, the LED lights are mercury free.

    • Jim,

      Come over to the UK to get first-hand experience of high fuel taxes. Especially if you’re living and working here, I can almost guarantee you won’t like it.

      • Europe survives even paying at nearly three times as much for car fuel as the US, and in the past it was five times as much. This makes the point even stronger that 10 cents per gallon is not going to hurt, or even be noticeable here. The price fluctuates by that every week.

      • Jim D –
        Europe survives even paying at nearly three times as much for car fuel as the US, and in the past it was five times as much.

        Europe doesn’t have the transportation system the US has – nor the distances that make that transport system necessary. Where does your milk originate? How far is it? In many places in the US, it would be further than a cross-border trip in Europe.

        On a personal basis – how far is it to your nearest large grocery? In many places in the US that would be a 200-300 mile round trip. You obviously don’t live in those places, but many people do. Many of my friends do.

        Finally, you talk about 10 cents a gallon. You’re naive. I lived in Pennsylvania when the FIRST 1% sales tax was initiated – with the statement that it would NEVER be any larger than 1%. REALLY???
        I also watched it escalate. What’s the sales tax in California now? And how many cities have their own sales tax now – on top of the State sales tax?

        Taxes are not static – ask those who live in the UK.

      • Gas is going up in price in the future, tax or not. 10 cents per gallon is nothing compared to $4 or $5 per gallon that we will get, and would not be noticed if phased in. Also I just suggested $10 per tonne CO2 as a round number. It would generate $60 billion in revenue per year in the US. It is also consistent with taxing bad habits.
        For transportation you need to figure that out. Lets say 100 miles at 10 miles per gallon = 10 gallons, which at 10 cents per gallon is $1 extra cost. This is divided among what, maybe 100 gallons of milk. Not much, and more than made up if the hybrid vehicle fleet could be extended to the next generation of trucks.

      • Gas is going up in price in the future, tax or not. 10 cents per gallon is nothing compared to $4 or $5 per gallon that we will get

        Yes, given the energy policies of the present Administration (and the pre-election promises that were made) – that was inevitable. It is not necessarily a permanent situation – but the carbon tax would be permanent.

        You fail to understand the impact of that. You speak of gas prices in Europe as if they were actually comparable to the US, but you fail to understand the difference in cultures. You speak of 10 cent per gallon tax as if it would be a minor impact in the US, but you fail to understand that that tax will affect prices on ALL goods and services. Gas prices recently jumped to nearly $4 per gallon – do you really believe it didn’t affect the economy? If so, then you might try to explain the recent 15 -25% increase in food prices? Including milk. Given the present economic situation in the US (and other countries) a proposal to add a carbon tax would not just be unpopular, it would be dumb.

      • It is also consistent with taxing bad habits.

        Bad habits like driving to work, heating and cooling your home…

      • The analogy would be second-hand smoke.

      • Really? I guess if I quit working I could quit worrying about how to pay the electric bill…thanks for the brilliant idea!

      • Well which is it? If it generates $60 billion in taxes, that takes 60 billion out of people’s wallets. That’s not nothing. Sounds like about $200 for every one of 300 million people. Or $800 for a family of four. You might not notice it gone, but a lot of families would. And so would the economy. And since the burden falls disporportionately on those in rural areas, their families would get hit a lot harder than 800.

  8. James Evans

    I suspect that in the near future a lot of stuff will be rebranded in “no regrets” terms.

    In the organisation that I work for, the terrors of global warming were seen as being a huge issue a few years ago. The organisation’s web site still has a large section devoted to the issue, though it clearly hasn’t been updated for a couple of years. During the terror, some initiatives were put in place – the main one being a drastic reduction in the use of fossil fuels. I think we’re supposed to reduce our usage by 20% by 2020.

    These iniatives are still in place, but when they are raised during meetings, and I raise my hand and ask “why are we doing that?” they no longer mention global warming. I’ll get some waffle about “energy concerns”, or something. I’m sure the language of climate pragmatism will come in very useful when trying to justify this kind of stuff.

  9. Sounds like feel-goodism run amok. First, they are still talking about using govt to restrict freedom and spend the people’s money. Lefties may not see that as a big deal, but there are still a lot of folks in the USA who have a problem with it unless you are addressing a matter of demonstrated serious importance. Forcing Joe Six-pack to get rid of his old pickup truck may seem like a win-win to these pragmatists, but Joe’s views might be a tad different.

    Second, I don’t see the fevered true believers giving up the crusade from which they draw their purpose in life. The folks who caused the massive flooding of the Missouri River basin and are currently wrecking the central valley of California haven’t shown much interest in pragmatism so far.

    • “The folks who caused the massive flooding of the Missouri River basin”

      Eh? If you’re talking about this year’s floods, maybe you should fill us in on your pet theory. Most likely, it isn’t just your pet theory, and in some enlightened circles, “everybody knows” what you’re referring to, but just for the benefit of the rest of us. –Thanks

      • The Corps of Engineers once had flood control as its primary priority. Environmentalists changed those priorities during the Clinton administration. In the past, with a huge snowpack and the ever present threat of heavy spring rains, the water levels would have been lowered substantially by the time the snow melt and rain began. Because of the new environmental priorities, the Corps didn’t lower the water levels. Flood control didn’t rate as important. The water levels were kept at 99%. And the snow melted and the rain came and the river flooded.

        It’s not a theory. Local officials in the Dakotas were worried about the refusal to lower water levels back during the winter. Pretty simple. Full dams with massive snow melt and lots of rain will cause flooding.

  10. Well, the opening paragraph about climate change becoming “as partisan and polarizing an issue as abortion and gun control” should maybe come with a caveat – ..”in the USA”. Gun control is supported by citizens in most of the developed World, and abortion is a non-issue in these countries at least. I suspect that the climate change debate is similarly maximally polarized in the USA, because looking at it form the outlside, it seems like such a polarized place these days.
    That said, the same trends (drop off in support for environment, divergence of opinion over warming) certainly seem to be ocurring in other countries. Question is do degrees of polarization matter? Is US divergence of opinion soemhow leading what is happening opinion wise in the rest of the world?

    • I know it is OT, but since someone brought up the issue, I thought I would mention what the status of abortion is here in Canada. I think our situation is highly unusual, if not unique, in western style democracies, in that there is no law on abortion at all. Abortion is a medical procedure which comes under the control of the Canadian College of Physicians and Surgeons; just like any other medical procedure. Expenses are covered under our Health Care System. In Canadian politics, abortion is known as the “third rail” issue; the electrified one; touch it and you are dead.

  11. I would like to get Ross McKitrick’s take.

  12. Dr. Curry I am less impressed with the Grist article on the whole. Your quotes from the article have some of the best reasoning. However, taken together it is once again an advocacy that assumes a moral ascendancy because catastrophic global warming will occur. That the merchants of doubt have been replaced does not appear to have been realized at Grist. That the merchants of doubt fueled people to look and conclude that climate change was not as much scientific as it was a political advocacy is also missing. Finally the most damning lack of cognition is that in reality the climate change advocates won, they just refuse to accept what was won.

    Grist states: “The climate crisis has captured the attention of large swaths of the business world, the U.S. military, the world’s great faiths, and a growing global youth movement. Things are changing in rapid, complex ways that are unpredictable and won’t be clear until the history books are written.” This is a two edged sword. The merchants of doubt were replaced by those who questioned and have developed good criticisms of the confidence portrayed by the IPCC. Yet, the nature of these criticisms and their impact on the “moral clarity” part is absent.

    Further, the author berates conservatives “The right has quite deliberately, with enormous assistance from a self-contained media ecosystem, created an atmosphere in which standing behind climate reality brands one an “advocate,” a (gasp) liberal. ” This is contrary to the facts of the 2008 election in which both John McCain and Lindsay Graham of South Carolina were behind cap and trade. Their energy policy was to use natural gas and nuclear to start decarbonization of the US energy package. Those, who may not be political, may not recall that Graham took a lot of heat for his stance, and left the bi-partisan efforts when Kerry and Lieberman with Reid took other laws to the front burner and tried to gut the nuclear, natural gas, and energy security measures that the Republicans wanted including Yucca mountain. It is ironic to read the writings of one who is extolling the liberal political “moral clarity” when in fact it was an abondonment of promises made by the liberals to the conservatives that propelled the current impasse.

    • “promises made by the liberals to the conservatives”

      The idea that AGW was really “about science” was always a joke. The policy actions revealed that to even the marginal. Graham and McCain should be traded to the other side for draft picks, they are done in part to their complicity with AGW themes. Romney is spinning but if he goes down he can thank his whining and middling on the topic. Gingrich doa with a long list of other reasons but AGW didn’t help.

      In JonesTown did the flavor of the kool-aid used really matter? Pragmatism is another canard like “failure to communicate the science to skeptics”. Pathetic excuses (with a strong dose of condescension and cultural liberal arrogance mixed in) and failure to admit the IPCC/leftist agenda was exposed and refuted on merit. There is also the usual subtext that assumes the warmists are correct but people are rejecting “science” for some petty reason. They’re agenda isn’t petty and the science is mush driven by obvious politics. If you want obtuse, it’s there too just like a call for an insane carbon tax on this thread. Kinda like Hitler waving his hand over a map in April 45′ with armies that didn’t exist. A fair amount of delusion about
      reality, that it’s less than Joe Romm’s alternate universe gives it credibility? Now that’s a null hypothesis.

  13. “The action is no regrets if there are benefits (or at least no adverse impacts) if the threat doesn’t materialize.”

    Like all “new” things this is ancient doctrine before AGW zealots claimed “consensus”. There many such arguments in 70’s for carbon controls and rationing as there are always in socialist enclaves such a University life. This is where AGW was born. The “even if we are wrong” the rules will benefit in other ways shows how weak science values really are as well as exposes the vast cultural doctrines that drive so much of the eco-left. It’s also simply a fall back position after getting crushed with no other place to go politically.

    Again, it doesn’t sink in to the eco-left. They aren’t just wrong for twisting science into doctrine. They are party to a evil act that supports top-down statism and failed socialist concepts that lowered growth for millions around the world. It was wrong to try it on a global basis it’s just as wrong to try it locally because it feeds many of the same distortions that brought us to the brink already. “Benefits” aside from the AGW doctrine are major lipstick on a pig.

    We should be focused on reforming government research funding that by it’s nature favors government expansion. Those who recant on the abuses of science in regard to past 25 years (in particular) should be viewed one way. Those who just want to change the tone because they lost another. For others still (who committed fraud) they should face the dock but given the nature and abstraction of the field this will never happen.

    The IPCC should be defunded, eliminated and AGW doctrine should be denounced without equivocation or being forced to listen to the new statist (eco-left) talking point to save face or incubate AGW for a later time. Bogus
    and failed agendas should be recorded as examples of how society can and does go wrong. Sadly, as AGW was a morf of many long held socialist desires for power, money and control it will find a new outlet. “Biodiversity” is another all encompassing and non-empirical area. A newer term for “save the whale” with lots of photo ops. “Those against this tax and regulation want to kill whales, baby whales in fact”. Nothing really new here either but you can kiss saving CO2 panic good by. It will go completely silent like supporters for large urban housing projects from the 60’s. Try even find one person or policy maker who thought or helped making those possible. It’s like they were built by aliens.

    The Lindsey Graham RINO linking to energy conservation isn’t going to be forgotten either. There is really no carbon shortage at all, only excess regulations. Yes, efficiency is good if it actually saves. If it’s just another boon-doggle of crony capitalism. What any of this has for a cover to CO2 fraud is again another sham. The lessons of AGW should require rebuttal and denouncement by science establishment. In the end those who supported the authoritatian features of “consensus” should resign and be shamed. This is the conversation that should be growing, not making excuses and segueing to likely another failed eco-left concept. The concept of the article reflect the very roots of the AGW mania and are as deeply flawed.

  14. Oxbridge Prat

    What’s not to like about Climate Pragmatism? It doesn’t require a wholesale overthrow of the world’s economic and political system, which for many of the climatterati is the central purpose of climate policy.

    • If Michael Mann, Joe Romm and Phil Jones announce they are “pragmatic” we should all feel better?

      This is a pretty foolish article and our host is endorsing the framework.

      • If Michael Mann, Joe Romm and Phil Jones announce they are “pragmatic” we should all feel better?

        Obviously, Joe Romm hasn’t announced any such thing; rather he’s denouncing the whole thing as a swindle by the “Climate Change is a Hoax” crowd, which I may not agree with but think it is a plausible point of view after reading the “Pragmatism” article.

  15. Charles Hart

    Here is one pragmatic no regrets path.

    “Can common ground be found between “warmers” and “skeptics”? Can we identify energy sources that satisfy the concerns of both groups?”

    China has decided to take this path.

    “China has officially announced it will launch a program to develop a thorium-fueled molten-salt nuclear reactor, taking a crucial step towards shifting to nuclear power as a primary energy source.

    The project was unveiled at the annual Chinese Academy of Sciences conference in Shanghai last week, and reported in the Wen Hui Bao newspaper (Google English translation here).”

  16. How many of your took part in the political movements of the 1960’s? I sure did…and I learned a lot from the experience. All the over-the-top rhetorical shouting and gnashing-of-teeth, violent demonstrations, the shutting down of universities and governmental offices…all this did nothing but embarrass most of us. Attempts to shut down military bases and stop troop trains were unachievable and, of course, didn’t eliminate the military and did not stop troops from going to Viet Nam.

    The parallels to the ‘green movement’ are obvious. Violent demonstrations at climate conferences, symbolically ‘shutting down’ coal-powered electrical plants in Washington, DC (James Hasen et al), demands for societal changes that are unreal and impossible, irresponsible spreading of rumors and fears (‘The government is building gulags for us all’ in the 60’s to today’s ‘6 meters of sea levels rise by 2050’) — all these are the tactics that failed the anti-war movement of the 1960’s.

    The real work, the work that changed things for the better, was done by the pragmatists — those who rolled up their sleeves and got to work to accomplish real goals that were achievable and were each a step in the right direction.

    We all know that the world needs cheap abundant electrical power and in so many more places that don’t have it yet. We all know that the world needs power that doesn’t pollute and harm people or the environment. So…let’s get to work on it, seriously, with a ‘Race to put a man on the Moon’-scale effort from government and industry.

    The Climate Wars are a societal aberration.

    • Actually the Left-turned-Right like David Horowitz and (apparently) you, have progressed from “The government is building gulags for us all” to “The government is building gulags for us all”.

      • -> Hal — sorry, the political angle escapes me. How does your comment relate to Climate Pragmatism?

      • Well, Kip, perhaps not so much, and it was more of a riff on what you said including “The parallels to the ‘green movement’ are obvious. Violent demonstrations at climate conferences, symbolically ‘shutting down’ coal-powered electrical plants in Washington”. I see parallels with the Tea Party movement and other manifestations of movement conservatism (e.g. being willing to non-symbolically shut down the government). Horowitz is in my view a case in point, having gone from editor of Ramparts and cheerleader for the Black Panthers to his current position.

        I don’t at all mind pragmatism being brought to bear on climate and other ecological/economical (the 2 words have the same root you know) issues, and I was probably too hasty in putting you name next to Horowitz.

      • No worries, mate. Have been apolitical since about 1972… :-)

    • Another boomer calling for better central planning? The moon shot anology?

      Yes, many of protester would do far more cummulative damage to the society in quiet education and university positions through the course of their lives. Then there are those in “government service”, Bill and Hillary come to mind. There is really no aberration about the divide at all, it’s across the board on many topics large and small. People pick the supermarkets to shop at based on perceptions about what tribe they belong to.

      • Pragmatism is about ‘getting on with it’ — actually doing the things that we know have to be done in any case — and skipping all the cute name calling and silly social ‘science’ nonsense.

      • What are those things we “know” have to be done in any case?

      • –> Stan: I’d start the list with cheap, abundant, safe electrical energy sources — maybe the new fusion reactors and a new efficient fast charge, high current battery, and 80-90% efficient solar cells, Those who know more in this field might have other ideas to add or replace these, but a solution to the need for energy is top of the list, then on and the food side, tough, short stem, salt and drought tolerant grains and disease resistant starch providing root crops. I’m sure the readers here would be glad to suggest a list. The point is the list is things that everyone (+/-) can agree on, which need to be done, regardless of the issues raised by climate science.

  17. Given uncertainty, Steven Schneider has compared restrictions on GHG emissions to buying insurance, a form of pragmatism. Unfortunately, developing countries are unlikely to be willing to buy insurance.

    • Nor should developing countries buy such insurance. Schneider’s logic is grievously flawed. It is an extreme form of the precautionary principle (see Schneider’s Genesis Strategy (1977) wherein he uses the same argument wrt global cooling!) Insurance is based upon undesirable but relatively rare outcomes that are more or less predictable across large numbers of insureds but are not within the control of the person seeking insurance. Since nobody has a clue as to the risk outcome mix for negative outcomes associated with global warming or cooling, buying insurance in this area is to fall for a con job. I am sure there is someone out there willing to sell it to you, but I wouldn’t count on them being around when it comes time to collect.

  18. The case for pragmatism is strong. It’s of no use to set ambitious goals for the emissions or CO2 concentrations, if those goals will not be met. Thus one could not miss the point more totally than Joe Romm in his reaction.

    Unfortunately it’s not enough either to just accept pragmatism as a principle. It’s still necessary to decide, what to do first and how much to invest in programs that will hopefully produce valuable results in future. Past experience is not very promising on what to expect from technology development in energy production and consumption technologies. The R&D programs initiated as a reaction to the oil crises of 1970’s have produced much less results than many expected. Several of the recent attempts to accelerate transition to renewable energy have led to dead ends. It’s really difficult to change radically the energy system.

    The problem of this paper as well as of the earlier Hartwell Paper and other books and articles written in the same spirit is that they all base part of their conclusions on questionable optimism on the results that the proposed approaches should produce. Thus they appear to replace one type of unjustified optimism by another, perhaps less severe, but unjustified optimism anyway.

    How strong policies are required for the best attainable future (whatever that is) depends on the balance between the severity of the problems that are to be solved (running out of fossil energy and climate change) and the effectiveness of the solutions chosen (speeding up technology change and influencing levels of consumption). If the problems are not severe or the solutions are cost-efficient, the policies need not be strong, the opposite case may require very hard policies for best results. In the former case it’s much easier to find essentially no-regret policies that are sufficient, in the latter it may be very difficult to find any solution that satisfies the requirements without breaking up the national and global economic development.

    • Pekka
      “The R&D programs initiated as a reaction to the oil crises of 1970′s have produced much less results than many expected.”

      One reason is lack of ongoing R&D funding. e.g. the current US Energy R&D is only $5 billion out of a federal budget of $3,610 billion. Over 30 years Federal renewable energy R&D there has only been $15 billion. Yet our oil imports are approaching $500 billion/year or $20 trillion over 40 years.

  19. Not mentioned above and shamefully so is that the issue is energy sufficiency for the developed and developing world. Focusing upon all forms of energy: coal burning where coal is mined and not having to be hauled; solar where the sun shines; wind where the wind blows; natural gas where it can readily be piped; nuclear, from boiling water to Thorium to whatever, involves identifying and researching the specific barriers to implementation. The barrier to nuclear is what to do with nuclear waste, bury it? use it for fuel via breeder reactors? develop nuclear systems that do not require the intense radiation? Currently the main barrier to nuclear is political. Of the two obvious renewables, wind and solar, the principle barrier is storage of the generated electricity so that it is available when it is needed, not just when generated. We need a better battery that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg.
    None of my above thoughts have any regrets attached to them. The problems these energy issues raise are all solvable and not a hint of decarbonizing the world. All the “yes but…s” are in the mind that should not be addressed with research dollars.

    • The barrier to nuclear is political, but it is deeper than the waste issue. Anti-nuclear campaigns have left people with highly unrealistic fears of nuclear power and nuclear waste. Large environmental organizations have a vested interest in anti-nuclear hysteria. Ultimately, the forces that, in the name of “the environment” try to stop all progress have been very successful with US nuclear power. There is no real technical problem with storing waste, for example. In general, energy policy is highly irrational in the US as a result of the efforts of people who, ultimately, just don’t want us to use much energy, and other folks who have a mystical belief that the magic of enough “innovation” will solve the problems of “alternative” energy.

      As an engineer, I have watched Moore’s law (to which this progress is often compared) as it made computing many orders of magnitude more powerful in a few decades, while at the same time batteries have not had (and won’t have) those breakthroughs. Anyone who thinks innovation is going to magically work in all technologies should consider that disk drives store billions of times as much as they did 20 or 30 years ago, but are only a few times as fast (seek times). Electric cars were available over 100 years ago, but today’s batteries are only a little better than they were back then. Real technological progress is highly varied, and wishing for progress (or legislating for it) is simply not usually going to work.

      • Good points. I’ll add that Solar is always said to have its own Moore’s law. Fine. But Moore’s is 40% reduction in area (or price per transistor) every year, while solar is 7% per year (cost per watt). Every two years we get 2x improvement for integrated circuits, versus 10 years for solar.

  20. johnfpittmann – I read the Grist “endorsement” as an in-joke. OF COURSE even Grist is thoughtful compared to Joe “Derangedly Looking For Enemies Everywhere” Romm…:

  21. Amazing.
    Even Hansen is walking back from the brink he helped create.
    Now extremists like Romm are going to lose any shred of their legitimacy.
    Has RC weighed in on this? If they join Hansen, then it might be interesting.
    If they stay with what Romm represents, then this will be even more interesting, in different ways.

    • Hunter, it’s hard to think that Romm could have legitimacy at any level of discussion. It’s like the use of the code “denier” which is an ad hom reference to Holocaust Deniers. It’s minimized in the debate just how far consensus promoters have gone in the conversation.

  22. A “no regrets” climate policy may not exist. Rather, we will probably have to choose between “regrets now” and “regrets later” – i.e., expenses and sacrifices to avert the effects of unmitigated CO2 emissions (global warming and ocean acidification) vs the expenses and sacrifices imposed by failure to act. Clearly, there will be those here who dismiss the latter as illusory, but I am not one of them.

    I won’t dwell on the economic issues except to state that I favor making carbon more expensive to the point that we pay both the explicit costs and the costs of repairing the damage imposed by continued use – that debate has been engaged here previously by individuals far more expert than I am on the matter and I will leave it to them to continue the argument. Let me instead address the issue of reducing the use of fossil fuel carbon.

    Much has already been said about alternatives – energy conservation (which is a money saver at the cost of some inconvenience), increased energy efficiency (which is not the same thing and is a money saver without the inconvenience), wind, solar, geothermal, tidal, selected biomass, nuclear (worthwhile but able to contribute only a small fraction of what is needed even if we start one new nuclear facility every week), and carbon capture and storage (CCS). I’ll bring up CCS again shortly.

    We should, in my view, pursue all of the above vigorously, but with a realistic expectation that by themselves, they will reduce our carbon emissions far less than is optimal based on mid-range climate scenarios and climate sensitivities. What I would recommend adding is one additional major program. It is to improve the environmental safety of natural gas extraction, minimize its fugitive emissions (methane escaping to the atmosphere), and then launch an enormous effort to shift our energy consumption from fossil fuels over the next 40 years from coal and oil to gas. After mid-century, we might begin to wean ourselves from natural gas as non-fossil fuel alternatives reduce our fossil fuel dependence, but in the interim, natural gas should be our friend rather than our environmental enemy.

    Coal is still a major source of energy usage worldwide. Substituting natural gas has the potential to extract the same energy with a 40% reduction in CO2 emissions. Replacing oil would probably reduce CO2 by about 20%. Those are reductions with a very substantial environmental impact, and it is hard to envision any other single practical strategy that can approach those figures anytime soon. Replacing coal and oil entails, in essence, substitution not only of gas for coal in electricity generation, but also substitution of electricity for petroleum as an energy-generating mechanism in the transportation sector and beyond. The transition would be a huge undertaking but it is probably doable both technologically and economically over the coming decades.

    Finally, gas-fired electricity generating facilities are suitable for the application of CCS technology. If that is added, the 20-40% reduction in CO2 emissions could be further increased. To what extent remains an open question, but is one that should be pursued concurrent with the shift to gas.

    • Fred,

      Your policy without a coherent political or economic framework – the triumph of hope over experience. You have lost the climate wars – both scientifically and politically.

      ‘From the saintly and single-minded idealist to the fanatic is often but a step.’ Freidrich Hayek

    • Co2 is a harmless trace gas until proven otherwise. It should never be referenced as a pollutant and in fact is a form of political disinformation when used in this context. This should be rolled back and if the science community wants some of it’s social mojo back it should lobby for as much.

      CO2 counting is propaganda.

      • Scientists believe CO2 is a GHG, and believe GHG’s are not innocuous, but are a warming influence. Some people like to believe otherwise, but wishes aren’t proof.

    • I won’t dwell on the economic issues except to state that I favor making carbon more expensive to the point that we pay both the explicit costs and the costs of repairing the damage imposed by continued use

      I’ll play the ‘external costs game’.

      Studies by NHTSA show that reducing the weight of a passenger automobile by 100 pounds increases the fatality rate by 2% to 4%.
      Table 2 –

      Post Arab Oil embargo in the late 1970’s the average passenger car weight decreased by 1,000 pounds. The simple effect of increasing gasoline prices.

      Climate Change predicts some fuzzy number of ‘excess deaths’ due to climate change.

      What happens if our ‘Climate Policy’ ends up reducing the weight of passenger cars in the US by 1,000 pounds. Are excess deaths of 20-40% in auto accidents (6,000 to 12,000 people per year) not to even consider the number of people who will end up with lifelong disabilities an acceptable price to pay to avoid the effects of ‘climate change’?

      If we are going to count the cost of damage from fossil fuel use we probably should also count of the costs of making fossil fuel use more expensive.

      Do you think the reason the CAFE standards for automobiles in the US hadn’t increased in 15 or 20 years until recently was solely a ‘conspiracy between the oil companies and the car companies and their lacky congressman’ or was it the competing goals of the Environmental Protection Agency and the National Highway Safety Administration?

      It’s easy to make a car more fuel efficient. It’s hard to make one that is more fuel efficient without sacrificing safety.

      • Harry – by your logic, if every motor vehicle were reduced to the weight of a bicycle with strong but light weight materials, would almost no-one survive an accident? The exercise is not very meaningful in my view for a variety of reasons that include the relative size in addition to the absolute size of vehicles, the risk of turnover of some large vehicles, the possibility that there is an optimal weight that is neither the minimum nor the maximum, future changes in design and construction of both vehicles and roads, and so on, but I’m not sure it’s useful to reduce the risk/benefit analysis of climate change mitigation to a very restricted example of car safety. Also, I don’t see why we can’t make cars more efficient via a variety of mechanisms, with weight reduction being only one of them. I believe a starting point would be the replacement of the gasoline-burning internal combustion engine with something else – preferably involving electricity. It was the electricity element that I thought deserved particular attention in terms of reduced carbon emissions.

      • “Harry – by your logic, if every motor vehicle were reduced to the weight of a bicycle with strong but light weight materials, would almost no-one survive an accident?”

        That is pretty much what happens when a bicycle is involved in a collision with a car or truck and semis are a fact of life to keep cities running. I used to ride my bicycle everywhere. Not any more. Traffic has become way too dangerous, and it illegal to ride on sidewalks.

      • Like knights of old, a large part of the weight of a motor vehicle is armor to protect the occupants. Wood, steel, aluminum all have similar strength to weight ratios. Carbon composites are somewhat better, but not a whole lot, and they have their own problems.

        A steel car that crumples can provide better protection than a composite car that fractures, at a fraction of the cost. Over the lifetime of the car, this cost difference in materials can pay for a lot of fuel to run the car.

      • Fred –
        The auto companies tried that 30 years ago. IIRC, the statistical death rate increased by 400 deaths per year per 100 pounds of weight loss. Not to mention the increase in insurance rates.

      • Jim – As I mentioned above, I think this is too tiny a piece of the risk/benefit calculation to represent the whole in any meaningful way. However, I did look into this in detail a few years ago, and it is much more complicated than a monotonic relationship between vehicle weight and safety. The statistics at that time indicated that certain mid-sized cars were “safer” than heavier and lighter ones when “safer” refers to the occupants of both cars in a collision, and not merely the one whose weight is being varied as a test statistic. As technology improves, all these statistics will become more and more irrelevant in my view.

      • I did look into this in detail a few years ago

        So did I, Fred. Had several long talks with insurance companies when I wanted to buy one of those “smaller, lighter” cars.

        The statistics at that time indicated that certain mid-sized cars were “safer” than heavier and lighter ones when “safer” refers to the occupants of both cars in a collision

        Look at your words. You restrict the argument to only one of many different possible cases. I didn’t. Nor did the insurance comp[anies.

        OTOH – that WAS about 10 years ago and I haven’t checked recently.

      • OK, the answer is we should all be driving Kenworth pick-ups.

      • Yes

      • Marlowe Johnson


        Why do you continue to misrepresent the impact of vehicle weight on safety? I already explained why you were wrong over at Keith’s place. Is it mendacity or stupidity?

        To reiterate. The increased fatality risk only applies if you assume that the weight of passenger cars was reduced AND the weight of light trucks stayed the same. This is hardly a plausible scenario. In fact, it is much more likely that vehicle manufacturers would lower the the weight of light truck by a greater amount than passenger cars on an absolute basis, thus narrowing the gap and reducing net fatality risks.

        Strange that you didn’t cite the concluding sentence of the report:

        “A reduction in truck weights is likely to generate significant benefits for pedestrians and car occupants that might exceed the added risk for the occupants of the trucks.”

        Also strange that you cite a 14 year old study given that there are dozens of studies that have been conducted more recently that quite clearly refute the myth that you’re trying to push…

        Here, for example:

        “Comparison of fatality and casualty risks in conventional truck-based SUVs and newer, carbased crossover SUVs indicates that vehicle weight can be reduced while maintaining size and at least maintaining, if not increasing, occupant safety…there is evidence that manufacturers’ redesign of traditional truck-based SUVs into car-based crossover SUVs has resulted in lighter vehicles of the same size, with reduced risks both to their drivers and to the drivers of other vehicles.”

    • Fred,
      We are still waiting for you to come up with even one mitigation policy that will work in reality.
      Please let us know if you can do this, since you were asked about it well over a month ago.
      If I missed your answer while traveling, please accept my apology and be so kind as to repost your findings.

    • Is it fun to fantasize about being king and ordering all the world to do as you command?

      In the real world where politicians operate and everything is evaluated from a perspective of who benefits, by how much, and how much of that do they intend to steer to those in power, grand plans have the unfortunate track record of spending far more than they accomplish.

    • “I favor making carbon more expensive to the point that we pay both the explicit costs and the costs of repairing the damage imposed by continued use”

      Human nature guarantees that the funds will be diverted and lead to massive corruption on a global scale. The temptation to use the funds for competing special interests is much too large, as is the temptation to game the system to bleed of funds for self-enrichment.

      The reason why this is true is the time lag. If you bleed of funds that are going to solve today’s problems, this becomes apparent in the short term, and the political will to make correction will be found. There is a good chance you will get caught.

      However, when you bleed off funds intended to solve problems 50 years in the future, no one will notice because the problem won’t appear until long after the records are buried in the archives. Thus, the risk of being caught is very low, while the rewards are very high. This temptation is a large corrupting influence for many humans.

  23. The most important thing about climate pragmatism in my mind is restoring realism and political rationality. Sanity, in fact. There are many arguments against current climate policy, but the strongest one in my opinion is Pielke’s point that the current policies do not work and have no chance to do so, and that there is some simple math and logic to prove it. It’s attacking the current madness at its weakest point, which climate skeptics have missed.

    • The way “pragmatism” is being defined is as political lower hanging fruit after were all told the world was going to end unless the statist machine of co2 regulation wasn’t established.

      An incredibly weak and irrational argument on the face of it. “No regrets” is never being punished for the fraud and abuse people supported. It sounds like no justice to me.

      Give Albert Spear a parking ticket, he said he was sorry which is no where near where the warmist community is. None of these rationaizations work.

  24. It looks like you can add Chris Huhne to the list of Climate Hawks-
    His concluding comments are noted below-

    I stand for high ambition, and high achievement.That means an immovable commitment a global, legally binding treaty to limit emissions – and concrete, measurable actions to deliver it. Nothing else can do, or will do.
    We must summon the courage to commit to ambition without reserve. We must draw on our strengths and confront our weaknesses. We must agree a climate deal that is fair, firm, and final.
    Abandoning ambition in the face of short-term economic or political pressures would be a dereliction of duty.
    It would mean ripping up that chapter of the social contract which holds that government should exist to protect the people.
    Winston Churchill – the patron saint of the Coalition, as he was both a Liberal and Conservative – once said that ‘an appeaser is someone that feeds a crocodile, hoping that it will eat him last’.
    Giving in to the forces of low ambition would be an act of climate appeasement. This is our Munich moment.
    Every country must commit itself in full to meeting this common but differentiated challenge.
    Yes, we are all starting from different positions. History matters. But at one stage or another, we must fix a point in time. We cannot wait for every country to become equal, because that would mean waiting for an eternity.
    At some point, we must draw a line and say: this starts now. This starts here.
    From today, for the first time, humankind will work together as one in defence of our most precious inheritance.
    From today, we acknowledge that we are held to a higher responsibility. One that transcends profit and loss, and peace and war, and trade and aid.
    From today, we commit to work not to the prejudices of the past, but in service of a greater and more lasting good. The planet earth, and the life it sustains.
    Thank you very much.”

    • ‘One that transcends profit and loss, and peace and war, and trade and aid.’

      The death throes of a discredited social thought experiment.

      • Chief Hydrologist-

        Yes, that was an amazing statement. The comment would fit in nicely with the thoughts at CARB out here in CA.

        As the topic of the post is pragmatisim the concept of oppurtunity costs are something that Mr. Huhne might want to review. I have a PV system on my roof, but I know it isn’t the most effective way to deal with CO2 loads- as my power comes from hydro or gas fired generation. It was/is an effective way to stop paying PG&E .40 a kwh for my marginal electical useage though.

        If you haven’t read a comment by the former chief of staff at the CPUC on mandates (the 33%RES one that is) you might enjoy it-

        Loved the Hayek quote!

  25. One of the clearest ways forward is in ecosystem restoration and conservation – and in improving agricultural soils. There are massive increases in food and energy resources needed this century – while at the same time being stewards of nature and the future.

    There is a grand project here – a grand narrative of human development – a song of the future. How can I put it? We have a great need of a positive narrative in the world and now sees the opportunity to seize the day in framing the agenda. Something that captures the political and scientific high ground – without departing from the principles of our enlightenment heritage of democracy and freedom. The great benefit of a grand narrative is for the future of the human adventure.

  26. Michael Larkin

    “It accepts that only sustained effort to build momentum through politically feasible forms of action will lead to accelerated decarbonization.”

    Nasrudin’s neighbour was scattering bread on his lawn, and Nasrudin asked why. Came the answer: “to keep the tigers away”. When Nasrudin pointed out there were no tigers in this part of the world, the neighbour said: “I know. Effective, isn’t it?”

    Two points: the threat was non-existent, and the defence would in any case have been ineffective.

    Let’s change the tale a bit. The neighbour comes to me and everyone else (we live in a block with a communal garden) and proposes we all chip in to build a high wall around us to keep out the tigers. The solution could be effective, but it’s pointless if the threat doesn’t exist.

    He argues that I can’t deny tigers exist, and, as a matter of fact, they’re just over there in the woods. I say I don’t deny they exist, just not over there; his “tigers” are probably insubstantial as werewolves.

    I tell him that if he can bring me proof of tigers in the woods, I’ll chip in on the wall. He says we can’t afford to faff about, we need to build the wall right now. I won’t regret it when the tigers are kept at bay, and besides, he’ll stop telling the neighbours I’m an ex-concentration camp guard.

    I dig in my heels. No proof of tigers, no contribution to the wall. Eventually, realising I’m not going to give in, he develops another ploy. The wall will keep out rabid dogs and burglars, and protect my privacy; and, sotto voce, so softly I don’t hear it, the tigers.

    The man is obsessed with tigers: he’ll tell me anything to get the wall built. To hell with him, I say. I’m dug in here, and here I will stay until I have proof of tigers. Meanwhile, I’ll spend my money on things I know I need: spray for the greenflies, fertilizer for the vegetable patch, weed killer, and suchlike.

    • There are bears in the woods – but the fence is a single dimensional solution to the problem of bears, tigers, burglars – whatever

      In the longer term – the energy problem is one dimension of a problem involving development, agriculture, health, education, population and the environment. The need to increase massively energy resources and food supplies in this century must be recognized – while at the same time conserving and restoring ecosystems. And the fact is that to do this will require the availability of cheaper energy supplies. It suggests on this ground alone that great changes in energy development investments are required.

      The latter is certainly within the scope of government as defined by Hayek – as much as police or the military. You might not agree 100% but sometimes there is a need to accept such things as aid and welfare – a pragmatic reality – and use them to best advantage for an overarching political agenda of – say – capitalism and democracy. The analogy is that you might not want the fence but a handball court might be cool.

      Capitalism depends on the rule of law and a functioning civil society. Modern economic principle is far from laissez faire – but certainly a government sector that is less than 30% of GPD. Good corporate governance (fairness in markets), adequate prudential oversight (is the lesson learnt yet?), management of interest rates (to prevent asset bubbles) and restraint in the printing of money. Democracy, the rule of law, the rights to private property and other individual freedoms are fundamental values of our enlightenment heritage.

      Instead of being reactive – we need to grasp a broad initiative in a way conservatives have not for a generation or more.

      • Michael Larkin

        “Instead of being reactive – we need to grasp a broad initiative in a way conservatives have not for a generation or more.”

        One can only be effectively proactive in areas that one understands adequately. The whole mess over CAGW arises because people are trying to be proactive in an area of poor understanding. The alarmists may even be on the level of trying to prepare for the coming of the werewolves.

        I get this impression you might think I am a conservative, perhaps in the American sense of that term. I’m a Brit, and we know all about welfare; I myself have occasionally benefited from it in the past and can see its value if not abused.

        We are surely going to face challenges, maybe even catastrophes, in the coming century. But my bet is, they will come from completely unexpected directions and we’ll have no choice but to be reactive.

      • I was deliberately keeping science out of this – warming is a nonsensical concept in a complex and dynamic world. The result will be inevitable surprises –

        We talk about increasing resilience of human societies – but what does it mean? Essentially nothing other than an increase in the wealth of nations through capitalist markets – and if we can assist the process through the Lomberg priorities, the Monterrey Consensus or the Millennium Development Goals – terrific.

        We can reduce risks of all sorts – and increase resilience. But we need not just policy but first and foremost a positive political narrative that permeates the zeitgeist.

      • Michael Larkin

        “But we need not just policy but first and foremost a positive political narrative that permeates the zeitgeist.”

        Political narrative, schmarrative; zeitgeist my eye. We have a long history of being driven by what you really mean but don’t realise you mean: ideology. Anything we’ve achieved has been despite, not because of such pompous quackery.

      • What I mean is what I said – capitalism depends on the rule of law and a functioning civil society. Modern economic principle is far from laissez faire – but certainly a government sector that is less than 30% of GPD. Good corporate governance (fairness in markets), adequate prudential oversight (is the lesson learnt yet?), management of interest rates (to prevent asset bubbles) and restraint in the printing of money. Democracy, the rule of law, the rights to private property and other individual freedoms are fundamental values of our enlightenment heritage. The core ideology of western conservatives? Whatever.

        Democracy is the our core method of obtaining consent from the ruled – for that is needed a political narrative that wins votes. But I am speaking more of a optimistic cultural narrative – an optimism that we are lacking at the moment. The zeitgeist is simply the spirit of the times – common ideas, images, memes, cultural norms – it can be lighter or darker as mediated by individuals.
        Have I threatened your ideology? So sad – too bad.

      • Michael Larkin

        I’m not a political animal, and pretty much immune to ideology. I’m an individual, and think/act on my personal experience. I know what “zeitgeist” means. I prefer “spirit of the times”, though, because in English it doesn’t sound pretentious.

        I think genuine evolutionary trends in human affairs go as follows. First, we do things wrongly, or bad things happen. Then we learn from them and adapt so that next time we can deal with them better. We are never able to preclude the unexpected. We can never be proactive except in the sense that we can prepare for what we’ve already experienced and deal with it; but sooner or later, something unexpected and more often than not unpleasant comes along; and that’s an opportunity, not a threat.

        Faux evolutionary trends, which are what delay our development or may even regress it, arise out of assuming we know enough not to have to go through the endless evolutionary spiral. This is ideology.

        We can’t create a spirit of the times. It is something that arises from a genuine evolutionary trend, and it always comes from the bottom up, never from the top down, as ideology does. There were no politicians or ideologues guiding the Enlightenment; no grand schemes, no one saying: “hey, let’s have an Enlightenment” who funded this or that thing thought likely to be enlightening. It’s something that just grew out of the extant circumstances in Europe. It arose when, and because, humanity was ready for it.

        If we are to have a new spirit of the times, it will not come out of ideological prognostication. If and when it comes, it will have no name, not until enough time has passed for historians to dub it. It may not come out of “the West”; it may come out of China or India or South America.

        Politicians or ideologues only dream of such a thing as consciously orchestrating the spirit of an age. They may only make it happen in the sense that they provide the negative stimulus for some bottom-up movement, sick to death of them, to discover a mother lode that has always been there in potential. And then everyone will start waking up and wondering what stopped them behaving in new ways. Elites will follow, not lead.

        What I hope for is a post-political age, an age of commonsense agency. I can only hope that the present crisis in science no less than many other things is the unpleasantness we have to go through before it begins to emerge; and in that sense, it may be performing its useful function.

      • Chief, you say

        “The need to increase massively energy resources and food supplies in this century must be recognized – while at the same time conserving and restoring ecosystems. And the fact is that to do this will require the availability of cheaper energy supplies.”

        I would agree with this statement, however, the conclusion that continued burning of coal is the best way to meet it is not a pragmatic approach.

        Current coal futures trading indicates that there is an upward pressure on the price of coal which may lead renewables being able to beat coal in terms of price in the next few decades.

        This guy predicts 500 per ton within 15 years

        I have no idea how reliable that price prediction is.

        But I think that nuclear and solar would be much more competitive much sooner than, such that a nuclear at night solar during the day energy policy is the only one that has merit.

      • 4th gen solar have been in development for 40 years, are operating and many more deigns are in progress. It is simply a matter of fuels technology. Perfectly safe and efficient, can use uranium, thorium, materials from existing waste and weapons, small, modular, don’t use water as a coolant.

        And many more.

        I think it is probably the near future in energy – if Lerner doesn’t perfect fusion first.

        But why have both solar and nuclear?

        Why have a policy other than throwing a few R&D bucks at it?

      • But I think that nuclear and solar would be much more competitive much sooner than, such that a nuclear at night solar during the day energy policy is the only one that has merit.

        Photovoltaic solar is not competitive and won’t be anytime soon (mature techonology). Even solar heating is a bad joke. Where I work we have a 40 KW solar array and solar water heater. Neither of them have any chance of ever generating enough energy to cover the capital cost. The solar array won’t ever produce enough energy to cover even the installation costs much less the cost of the panels and inverters.

      • “I have no idea how reliable that price prediction is.”

        See Philip Tetlock. Or Julian Simon and Paul Erlich.

        Tetlock’s answer? As reliable as a chimp throwing darts.

      • Chief,
        You used the words “capitalism” and “democracy”. I rather wish you had used the word “liberty”, being the right of human beings to choose.

        Both democracy and capitalism (“free enterprise”) proceed from the word “liberty”, the natural right to choose how to use one’s assets (capital) and to choose those who would govern us (democracy).

        Government is necessary. People cede some scope of their rights to government in order to enjoy the fruits of liberty.

        However, ceding control over ~70% of our energy sources (fossil fuels, according to the input/output tables of the U.S.A.) to government then grants control over how we earn a living, where we work, where and how we live and what is available for our needs and desires.

        A bridge too far.

      • Chief Hydrologist

        Pure liberty leads to the tryranny of the powerful and brutal – as I’m sure you know.

      • That is why government is necessary. The founders knew that, but limited its powers in the Constitution.

      • Americans used freedom of choice to put themselves in a vulnerable position on energy by being dependent on foreign oil. Unfortunately, each individual pursuing his or her desires doesn’t always work out well for everyone as a group.

  27. Until they can accept the concept that there may not be human induced climate forcing their effectively still trying to sell the same message in a new packet . And playing bad cop good cop is not going to win over people who ask ‘wheres the science’ when they rather not answer the question.

    • Climate is dynamic and complex – it has both negative and positive feedbacks with uncertain thresholds. Climate can shift abruptly by as much as 10 degrees C in as little as a decade. Although the world is apparently cooling for another decade of three – I am on Inhoffe’s list of sceptical scientists for saying this – the future beyond that is very uncertain.

      ‘The Earth’s climate system is highly nonlinear: inputs and outputs are not proportional, change is often episodic and abrupt, rather than slow and gradual, and multiple equilibria are the norm. While this is widely accepted, there is a relatively poor understanding of the different types of nonlinearities, how they manifest under various conditions, and whether they reflect a climate system driven by astronomical forcings, by internal feedbacks, or by a combination of both. In this paper, after a brief tutorial on the basics of climate nonlinearity, we provide a number of illustrative examples and highlight key mechanisms that give rise to nonlinear behavior, address scale and methodological issues, suggest a robust alternative to prediction that is based on using integrated assessments within the framework of vulnerability studies and, lastly, recommend a number of research priorities and the establishment of education programs in Earth Systems Science. It is imperative that the Earth’s climate system research community embraces this nonlinear paradigm if we are to move forward in the assessment of the human influence on climate.’

      This is what science says.

      This is the new paradigm of climate science – it is just the way it crumbles.

      All over the world plants are responding to elevated CO2 levels with reduced stomata size and density. Stomata exchange gas and water vapour with the atmosphere changing the global hydrological regime.

      The great atmpsphere experiment sees CO2 at level not seen for 10 to 15 million – directly as a result of human actions. If you are comfortable with this – I suggest that you have comfortable expectations for the future that are not based on an accurate assessment of scientific uncertainty.

      The central message of science is about uncertainty rather than certainties. This thread is about solutions that do not undermine economies.

  28. “The central message of science is about uncertainty rather than certainties.”

    A Whole Foods shopper if there ever was one. This is cultural nonsense, an example of social decline.

    • ‘Moreover, since the climate, as a complex nonlinear system, is subject to abrupt changes and driven by competing positive and negative feedbacks with largely unknown thresholds [Rial et al., 2004], scientists ’ability to make skillful multidecadal climate predictions becomes much more complicated, if not impractical.’ Pielke 2009

      • It is the nonlinearities that make the CO2 increase irrelevant.

      • It is the thresholds that make them relevant.

      • But if I understand you correctly, we don’t know what the thresholds are

        Makes it difficult to plan, in my view

      • Chief Hydrologist

        We don’t plan for specific events in disaster planning or for drought etc – we know they are going to happen.

        We do contingency planning – as in the high level paper the Pentagon prepared for abrupt climate change. The Rial 2004 paper some of this,

        I don’t have a good answer other than ‘resilience’ – which is essentially sound and functioning societies – somethying we are far from.

      • ianl8888 –
        Makes it difficult to plan, in my view

        Not at all. First, set out to build a world that can feed, clothe, house educate it’s population. That has yet to be accomplished in any coherent way.

        In parallel, you plan and prepare for the events that have happened before – hurricanes, tornadoes, flood, drought, etc. Few of those things have ever had any coherent planning and where they have, they’ve been hemmed in by regulation, law, inaction, ignorance and/or ego.

        New Orleans, for example – FEMA was prepared and positioned to help, but was not allowed, under law, to act until requested to do so by State authorities. And that request came much too late in spite of pleas from multiple sources (including the President) to be allowed to act. Ego, politics, whatever.

        The City of New Orleans, in fact, had an emergency evacuation procedure in place, and the city and State governments failed entirely to implement that plan. Ignorance? Incompetence?

        No matter how good a plan might be, it’s not worth the paper it’s written on if it’s not implemented when necessary.

        But then there are other known events that should be planned for – drought, for example, is the evil twin of flooding – and both should be controlled by large scale improvements to the water collection and distribution system. One of the alarmist scary stories has been the lack of clean water – and there is a grain of truth to it. But – the problem is not a lack of water, but rather lack of proper distribution systems for the water that is available. And THAT is certainly correctable.

        I’ve written before about sea level rise – and once again, I’ll plug Matthew Kahn’s book “Climatopolis” . I don’t agree with everything he has to say, but he’s at least headed in the right direction.

        There is nothing that has been proposed as future climate catastrophe that cannot be handled by the proper application of modern engineering practices, some basic common sense – and some proper planning (without the hysteria).

        THEN, once you’ve planned, prepared and implemented the above actions – if you have time, energy and money – try planning for the oddball, one-off events like meteor strikes or alien invasion. :-)

      • Chief Hydrologist

        Oh my God – the aliens are coming?

        Actually I agree – climate is likely to do what it likes – and we plan accordingly. Ask question like – what happens if we get dust bowl conditiolns again? What if Europe and North America cool by 10 degrees C. What if a dinosaur eats New York?

        But I disagree about meteors. It is just a matter of time. It is a race between us and the meteor. The dinosaurs were complacent and look what happened?

        We need to be colonising space pretty soon.

      • This concept of planning makes no sense, even if it merely consists of writing. If it requires actual cost and preparation then it is irrational. There are too many possibilities.

      • Chief Hydrologist

        I was sort of half joking – but if you are asking for volunteers to go into space?

        But you’re wrong. We plan for disaster all the time – put hospitals out of any possible reach of cyclonic storm surge or flood, create escape routes so that people can escape fire, flood, tsumani, etc. It is just good urban planning. It costs a lot less and we lose less people along the way.

        We plan for beach erosion and even for sea level rise. We plan for invasion of hostile forces. Last week it was the Americans storming a local beach. They were sweet little things and I wrote a poem.

      • I do not see thresholds somehow making the CO2 increase relevant. This is pure AGW speculation. Nor is it sensible to plan for speculative futures, not if planning involves more than more speculation.

      • Chief Hydrologist

        I don’t belive in global warming in the merest way. How dare you insult me Sir – I demand satisfaction.

        Thesholds are everywhere in climate – and then climate abruptly and sometimes radically shifts (the definition of nonlinearity) due to multiple positive and nagative feedbacks. Climate is orders of magnitude more complex than climate – and models are complex and dynamic and therefore chaotic.

        Warming or cooling shifts of 10 degrees C in places in as little as a decade. What can we do about it? Don’t panic! When will it happen? How would I know.

        We can make socieities – and environments – richer, healthier, tougher in ways that work and increase human freedoms in the pragmatic ways that the paper discusses. It is not about CO2 primarily – but as one aspect in a far broader picture.

        We need to shift our sights considerably – and not simply continue to be reactive to the left agenda.

  29. what we need is a world war to reset things

    • what we need is a world war to reset things

      It appears, unfortunately, war is the only way humanity seems to be able to restore sanity.


    This is linked about in the article. Gallup of course is a left of center polling organization. It doesn’t ask people why there might be climate change. It doesn’t ask if co2 is the driving force of climate change or how much that impact might be. It’s a steering poll in large measure to support a rather vague “consensus” as if only being against such a consensus is political.
    Really bright people would only wonder how stupid others who disagree might be to a question. The opening narrative is pure liberal dogma as well, the glowing rise of 70’s green culture;

    Historically, support for environmental protection in the United States has been relatively nonpartisan. Republicans pointed with pride to Theodore Roosevelt’s crucial role in promoting the conservation of natural resources by establishing national parks and forests, and Democrats applauded Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s efforts to include conservation as part of the “New Deal” via the Soil Conservation Service and related programs. Especially notable was how Richard Nixon collaborated with a Democratic Congress by signing several of our nation’s most important pieces of environmental legislation into law in the late 1960s and early 1970s.


    Then came Reagan;

    While a temporary backlash from environmentalists and much of the public resulted, Republicans nonetheless enjoyed a good deal of electoral success in arguing that “government is the problem, not the solution.” This theme has been amplified in passing decades, and one consequence has been a growing partisan divide over environmental protection (and other government programs).


    Not much to say about 40 years of eco-hustling, pork ridden “science research” with a political purpose often attached. Gallup is just another old school torch carrier of an establishment dead from the neck up. The climate poll, the particular wording are all predesigned to avoid reporting the truth of what people might think if asked fairly. Almost as bad as the faked “consensus” polls that do everything to leave the view that everyone support cap and trade. “Is co2 a GHG?” “Does the climate change?” On and on using word plays just like “pragmatic” to move the football down the statist end of the field.

    It’s minor, even completely unimportant to the rest of the article but illustrates the culture yet again.

  31. Haven’t read the thread yet, but given the number of Australian denizens, here’s a relevant e-mail from economist and commentator Des Moore FYI. Moore’s e-mail goes to scores of influential Australians (and to me).

    On 18 July I returned from a month in Europe, where climate change policy appeared to be focussing in both France and Germany on building more wind farms to reduce (for political scare reasons related to the Japanese tsunami) the use of nuclear energy. In the UK there were reports of growing opposition to such policies by actual or potential neighbours.

    Since my return there have been some important developments in analyses exposing the defects in the supposed “science”. These include the excellent public presentations by Lord Monckton and Czech President Vaclav Klaus, which although receiving little publicity provided considerable encouragement to the many sceptical attendees. The large IPA’s Klaus function included commentary by Professor Ian Plimer (whose Heaven and Earth has been bought by 130,000 and who is soon to publish a new book) and by Andrew Bolt, who with Terry McCrann has also published important critiques of the analyses used to justify policies to reduce emissions. Klaus also indicated his strong opposition to “Europeanism”, emphasising the importance of recognising ethnic and other differences between nations.

    Monckton was probably too critical (for Australia at least) of the failure of the media to publish data and analyses that reveal major defects in the rationale of emissions reduction policies. An important development in this regard may be the recent publication in The Australian and the Herald Sun of new research indicating such defects and the recent publication by the AFR of a (leaked) Cabinet paper by Gillard when she was Deputy PM advocating a bipartisan agreement with Abbott. While The Australian described its reports as “new research” showing serious defects in the Government’s analysis of likely sea levels and the dangers to the Great Barrier Reef, in reality the research was not new but confirmed sceptical analyses already undertaken by climate experts. Bolt’s latest commentary (attached) mentions no less than 7 recent defect examples (see more below). The continued publication in The Australian of articles by Professor Henry Ergas exposing serious analytical defects (including of Garnaut’s reports and Treasury modelling of the economic effects of a carbon tax) have also been important.

    A continuation of publication along these lines would undoubtedly add to the already growing doubts about the warmist view.

    In terms of new research perhaps the most important has been the publication on 25 July of an analysis suggesting “there is much more energy lost to space during and after warming than the climate models show”. This analysis by two co-authors (including highly regarded climatologist, Dr Roy Spencer) is published in the peer-reviewed scientific journal Remote Sensing. The press release points to the large difference between the actual observations of what happened during the period from 2000 to 2010 and the assumptions made in modelling by the IPCC.

    This relates to the important debate on the extent to which global temperature changes result from radiative forcing from various sources. It is generally agreed that some of the increasing emissions of CO2 (and other gases) remain in the atmosphere and that the existence of these concentrations results in some upward tendency in temperatures as a result of the greenhouse effect. That is, there is radiation back to the earth’s surface from the concentrations.

    This so-called “positive feedback” is incorporated in the various models used by the IPCC (and other warmists) to predict possible future temperature increases. These predictions (which range from 1-3 degrees for a doubling of CO2 concentrations) provide the basis for the global warming scare.

    However, this new analysis of temperatures between 2000 and 2010 raises the question of the magnitude of the positive feedback in computer models and whether the radiation back to earth from the concentrations does in fact result in a net warming of the global surface temperature to the extent predicted. The short period covered, and the acknowledgement that it is not possible to calculate the possible negative effect on temperatures of other influences (eg “negative feedbacks” such as cooling from evaporation), means that the conclusion cannot be regarded as a generic one. It is nevertheless of some importance.

    For one thing, it is consistent with the fact that there has been no significant change in global temperatures over this period. And it is an important addition to the many questions that have been raised about the IPCC analysis, providing yet another confirmation of the need for an independent inquiry into the science used to justify policies designed to reduce CO2 emissions.

  32. Steve Fitzpatrick

    You asked what “cool dudes” think of the Hartwell groups efforts. I don’t know if I really am a member of that group, beyond my race, nationality, and political views, since I think it is pretty clear that increasing GHG’s warm the planet, I just think the weight of the evidence suggests relatively low climate sensitivity (although that is by no means certain).

    If I actually fall in the “cool dudes” demographic: I completely endorse the efforts of the Hartwell group. Their policy suggestions make sense, will make a real difference, and don’t impose an overwhelming cost on the public to address what is, at best, a very uncertain problem. Most importantly, these types of suggestions are possible politically, and should yield real benefits, independent of what the level of future warming turns out to be.

    The infantile screams from folks like Joe Romm about the Hartwell group’s suggestions only confirms that these make a lot of sense. Accepting that you can never force upon the public policies they strongly disagree with is just accepting reality. Long term refusal to accept reality indicates delusional thinking.

  33. The climate crisis has captured the attention of large swaths of the business world, the U.S. military, the world’s great faiths, and a growing global youth movement.

    It was done by the biggest scare mongering of our lifetime with the IPCC’s claim of continued global warming of 0.2 deg C per decade that started in the 1970 into the future.

    However, the data shows a cyclic warming and cooling of about 0.5 deg C every 30 years as shown in the following graph.

    When the global mean temperature reverses and swing in the opposite direction to that during its warming phase, EVERY ONE will find AGW is a baseless theory.


    Because, as shown in the graph above, the global mean temperature has oscillated between the upper and lower global mean temperature boundary lines about every 30 years in the last 130 years and this will not stop in the next decades. As a result, IPCC’s global warming rate of 0.2 deg C per decade in the next decades is necessarily wrong.

  34. First, thank you Fred Moolten for braving this forum and making me feel a bit less alone.

    The article starts off:
    “Future historians of efforts to address climate change will almost certainly look back…”

    Such a wonderfully presumptuous line – I think I’ll just borrow it.

    How about: Future historians … will almost certainly look on 2011 as the year when much of the “conservative” establishment, goaded by an awareness at the highest level of which of their “Think Tank” scholars were hacks, and which actually did some thinking, began to fear that within a year or two AGW would begin to be too obvious to deny, and began to set up face saving fallback positions.

    I think AEI’s involvement in this burgeoning campaign makes my speculation all the more plausible. They have power, centrality in the movement, and undoubtably access to some real brain power (unlike, say, the Heartland Institute). Still they would prefer to have another organization like, say, Breakthrough Institute actually carrying the flag.

    I’ve believed for quite a long while, that the real impetus behind the “Global Warming is a Hoax” campaign is that it serves as Exhibit A in the case against all threatening alternatives (whether people, institutions like academia, or philosophies) to their official world view.

    If you really study them, they have been quite impressively thorough in this regard for example, Jonah Goldberg has done a good job of smearing Pragmatism. I picked up my copy of Liberal Fascists, and though I haven’t touched it in weeks, it happened to be bookmarked to page 52, where he says: “Crudely, Pragmatism is a form of relativism which holds that any belief that is useful is therefore necessarily true. Conversely, any truth that is inconvenient or non-useful is necessarily untrue. Mussolini’s useful truth was the concept of a ‘totalitarian’ society … The practical consequence of this idea was that everything was ‘fair game’ if it furthered the ends of the state”. By this (crude indeed) definition, I would say a there is a tremendous amount of pragmatism in movement conservatism, and perhaps some can see that the “Global Warming is a Hoax” may soon become a liability.

    C.f. Also

    By the way, I really love this “Future historians” business; it is such a neat way of lending the “weight of history” to ones speculations.

    • Hal, what’s going to happen to cause Global Warming to not be a hoax anymore?


    • Hal,
      Historians will wonder why throughout history groups of self identified smart and enlightened people grab on to bad ideas like eugenics or AGW.
      They will wonder why people like Hal keep falling for the ‘next year it will get really bad’ fallacy.
      Hal’s confusion between Goldberg’s use of the term pragmatism and the pragmatism being discussed here is a rather sad reach, by the way.
      Skeptics have been vindicated for their dubious treatment of the AGW movement, and the intensity of that vindication has only been strengthened as time after time we see that the IPCC and other AGW promotion efforts are shown to be using garbage data or even deception to achieve their ends.
      that American lefties have made AGW one of their pillars for their current whine about wicked conservatives is sad but predictable.
      Historians will find the AGW movement a target rich environment to explore how the alleged intellectual elites can screw the pooch so effectively.

  35. Exactly, “peak oil” is a term Honest Abe could have claimed when the first barrell of oil was pumped and refined in the 1860’s. There are likely 5 times the proven reserves on heldback land in the U.S. alone. We don’t even permit studies which might be of vital national security in Alaska and other sensetive places due to the eco-cartel.

    Natural gas production rose 20 fold in recent years due to fracking in PA. Many states are totally restricted but some are coming around. There is no shortage of carbon fuels being the main point. There is global instability, a huge amount of reserves that can underprice and wipe out domestic production in a free exchange system. Excess government as well as monetary excess are the reason for the energy condition. We block supply (eco-cartel a large force) and/or poorer countries under perform for many reasons (failed government a major reason).

  36. “Climate Pragmatism” is simply the first substantive walk back for the AGW community from the apocalyptic crap they have been peddling the past decades.
    “No regrets” is part of that. It is the AGW community’s trying to negotiate away the fatal errors they made in over hyping the risk and making crazy policy demands.
    Skeptics should welcome this, but not at all cooperate with their desire to still be thought of as the source of good ideas for energy or environmental policies. They are not, and never have been.
    But the walk back from the precipice is now well started.
    That is why Romm & gang are so annoyed- their social standings is slipping away, no matter how many denigrating and rude things they call skeptics.
    Reality bites big time for the fear mongers.

  37. Probably the worst concept expressed here is about research to improve mature energy sources. It starts with references to the project to place man on the moon and surely if we could do that, we could do anything if we just tried hard enough. This is wrong from the get-go.

    As for the moon project, we knew before we started it exactly what had to be done and roughly how it would have to be done. We knew where the technical weaknesses were and what work would be needed to minimize them. Fundamentally, however, we knew how to achieve the goal, we just needed to spend the time and money to do it.

    That is far from the situation with wind and solar power. These are already mature technologies. While we may be able engineer a few percentage points of performance out of them, nothing can will keep the wind blowing hard 24 hours a day, and nothing will keep the solar panels from getting dusty and degrading from ultraviolet. There is no path to providing inexpensive, reliable power from them no matter how much money is thrown at them.

    The pragmatics of our situation is that wind and solar power are already tapped out. Hydro has some room for expansion but there is, unfortunately, little interest in doing so, at least in the western, developed nations. The pragmatics also are that, in spite of decades of effort, we have no viable replacement for liquid petroleum fuels for out transportation needs. The pragmatics also are that petroleum is expensive for use in fixed power generation so coal is used instead when available. Nuclear power, though technically viable, has not been allowed to expand significantly.

    The pragmatics are that we will simply deal with whatever happens to us in the form of weather events and trends. Technology and energy are the key to success whatever happens. There will be no “man on the moon” project equivalent to prevent climate from changing, whether naturally or from human activities. (Of course, aren’t humans natural parts of the ecosystem?)

  38. I guess recessions catch up with everyone including snake oil fear mongering that was rage of 2006. It will simply be redesigned as “global warming” to “climate change” was clearly a sign of weakness in retrospect.

    This topic isn’t going to hunt when the governments stop throwing the money away on green energy waste. This is already in the pipe. Some eco-hustlers will move on the the usual and traditional industry bashing etc. “biodiversity” which is a “save the whale” theme. We know how all this works, give us the money or you can’t complete your market based operation.

    Others who are whole hog into climate will suffer when defunded. Most are aging boomers and we can expect a little “Jimmy Buffet” or “Peter, Paul and Mary” nostalgia culture to emerge. They will die telling you they were right all along but the barbaric world was just too ignorant to accept the message. As for the Earth turning in Venus, it was all spoken for pragmatic purposes we will be told. They never apologize or have any gratitude for being born into the best of the world order of privilege. They will simply impose rationing and hardship on others while they project the eco-dream to the world (as long as control is assumed to maintained by their class culture). Predominatly dominated by atheists, they pine for their own cross to hang on for the “cause”. It’s ironic.

  39. Best Article On Man Made Global Warming In The Media

    Global temperatures – and the future

    Paul Hudson, 6 November 2009


    According to the Met Office, the least squares trend from Jan 1999 to Dec 2008 is 0.07 +/- 0.07C per decade, much lower than the 0.18C per decade from 1979 to 2005, despite steady increases in Greenhouse gases. (note the small rise is only the same as the error/noise level)

    The trend in the ENSO related component (1999-2008) is 0.08 +/- 0.07C – virtually the same as the observed trend (again note clearly very close to noise levels)

    Hence the trend once El Nino/SO type events are removed is 0C +/- 0.05C per decade – i.e no rise at all in underlying global temperatures.

    So either from 1998, or looking at underlying temperatures 1999 onwards, then at the very least temperatures have flat lined – global warming has, at least for the time being, faltered – despite a relentless rise in C02 emissions.

    Now some of you will say that the period of time is too short to draw any conclusions. But I am only trying to highlight the fact that global warming has, at least for the time being, levelled off.

    The full article can be found on the Met Office website ; it explains why the Met Office believes levelling off of global temperatures is to be expected at times.

    There’s another element of the research which illustrates how interesting the debate is becoming.

    The authors say that they have been able to simulate near zero or even negative temperature trends for intervals of a decade or less, due to the model’s internal climate variability. But importantly, the simulation’s rule out zero trends for intervals of 15 years or more.

    And it seems that this is where the Met Office’s forecast for the next five years originates from. (They say from 2010 to 2015 at least half the years will be hotter than the hottest year on record). The authors continue ‘given the likelihood that internal variability contributed to the slowing of global temperature rise in the last decade, we expect that warming will resume in the next few years consistent with predictions from near term climate forecasts (source Smith et al. 2007 – note the date – we are nearly 3 years on from when this statement was made).

    So, one could reasonably argue that in the next five years, we will have a far better idea about the extent to which man is warming the planet, and how much is perhaps from naturally driven mechanisms. If the Met Office is right, and temperatures rise to record levels in the next 5 five years, then the sceptics will have no-where to hide. If the Met Office is wrong, and in the next few years we have not exceeded 1998 temperature levels, then this would cause big questions to be asked – remember their simulations rule out zero trends for 15 years or more.

    Paul, we have two more year data form the date you wrote your article, and there is no sign of further warming. When are you going to update your excellent, objective, article?

    Yes, if temperatures rise to record levels in the next [three] years we skeptics have no-where to hide.

    • Since we have little to go on as to why temps rise of fall it’s just more junk science to obsess over the temp record. In the small ball wars on climate I understand the purpose in exposing corruption of data, I admire Watts for his efforts but unless the smoking gun of manipulation is proven it will always be sideshow.

      CO2 might rise because it’s warmer but there is little evidence it makes things warmer in the actual real world model. It’s a logical fallacy unless lots of math and physics is revealed (which it hasn’t). So you the premise skeptics are on the hook for as little as the next three years is a bit of a joke.

      At the populist mob level it’s clear how dumbed down the climate debate and talking points can be. The warmist concept is inane, as if temp mesures can explain all the working parts of climate changes. Skeptics have sunk to that level at times, usually on short-term talking topics. For example the business of recent sun spot activity, why would skeptics get invested on predictions over this one variable? It’s just as lame as being invested on co2.

      When there is a working model of all the variables (don’t hold your breath for very long on this) and it works over decades there might be something to talk about. Since nature is so much larger than human input I’m pretty confident it will support
      natural cycle understanding.

  40. This post revisits discussion of The Hartwell Paper. Our attention was called to the Hartwell Paper here:
    Pielke, Jr, Roger A. 2010. The Hartwell Paper. Scientific. Roger Pielke Jr.’s Blog. May 11.
    The original paper is available here:

    Dr. Curry invited discussion here at Climate Audit.
    Curry, Judith A. 2011. Hartwell Paper: Game Changer? Scientific. Climate Etc. April 10.

    After reading and annotating the paper, I came to the conclusion that the answers were “No” and “Maybe”
    “No”, because it was a re-framing the presentation (marketing) of current recommendations for government policy (decarbonization).
    “Maybe”, because it conceded that there may be significant anthropogenic drivers of climate change other than emissions (land use and UHI).

    My review took some time, so I did not add my notes and findings to the original discussions on Climate Etc . Here they are:

    • Page 02: Professor Mike Hulme, founding director of the Tyndall Centre and an advocate of Post Normal Science, is listed as a co-author of The Hartwell Paper.
      Page 11: “In the case of climate change, one of the co-authors in this paper first made this essential point more than a decade ago and Mike Hulme has most recently provided an extended discussion of its multiple framings.”

    • Page 05: “The Hartwell Paper follows the advice that a good crisis should not be wasted.” (credit is due to Rahm Emanuel, President Obama’s former Chief of Staff)

      Page 05: “The Paper therefore proposes that the organising principle of our effort should be the raising up of human dignity via three overarching objectives: ensuring energy access for all; ensuring that we develop in a manner that does not undermine the essential functioning of the Earth system; ensuring that our societies are adequately equipped to withstand the risks and dangers that come from all the vagaries of climate,
      whatever their cause may be.”

      Opinion: This is reversion to form; it was always political. The vagaries of climate include cooling. Cold is more dangerous than heat (dark ages, little ice age).

    • Page 07: “Without a fundamental re-framing of the issue, new mandates will not be granted for any fresh courses of action, even good ones. So, to rebuild climate policy and to restore trust in expert organisations, the framing must change and change radically.”
      Opinion: I.e., change the marketing plan to promote other goals and benefits.
      Page 20: “Our goal is broad-based support for radical acceleration in decarbonisation of the global energy economy. We believe that an indirect approach, which pulls on the twin levers of reducing the energy intensity of economies and the carbon intensity of energy, is more likely to win public assent than a frontal assault upon carbon emissions, especially one coming soon after the recent turbulences.”
      “First, we do not mean that all or any action on the most ambitious goal of radical decarbonisation is postponed until previous steps – such as efficiency improvements – are successfully underway, let alone complete.”
      “Secondly, to advocate this different pathway does not imply that we think that there is inadequate or weak scientific evidence to support the case for decarbonisation.”
      (The paper has 41 uses of “decarbonisation”, including page 27, which see. The incremental approach is known elsewhere as “Fabianism”.)

      • Page 11 (sorry, out of sequence): “One important reason that more than 1.5 billion people presently lack access to electricity is that energy simply costs too much. Obviously, if energy were free, then its provision would be simple. Even if such access could be supplied from fossil fuels – which is plausible but also debatable – this demand for access to energy, for reasons of cost and security should not be satisfied by locking in long-term dependence on fossil fuels….

        “Providing the world with massive amounts of new energy supply to meet expected growth in demand, while simultaneously vigorously increasing access to energy for people currently without it, will therefore require diversification of supply. Diversification beyond fossil fuels necessarily implies an accelerated pace of decarbonisation. Such diversification ought to be a leading incentive to decarbonise future energy supplies.”

      • Page 12 – 14: Goals
        1. Ensuring energy access for all (Access)
        2. Ensuring viable environments protected from various forcings (Viability)
        3. Ensuring that societies can live and cope with climate risk (‘Adaptation’)
        OpinionAccess for all often involves electrical distribution grids, an expensive proposition, or low cost, local and non-intermittent generation. Viability and “various” must not be open-ended, since no human activity has zero effect upon the environment.

        Page 16: “In particular, the concept of epistemic community circulating in policy circles reinforced the idea that a common diagnosis of the ‘climate problem’ was required to move policy forward.”

        “An epistemic community is a transnational network of knowledge-based experts who help decision-makers to define the problems they face, identify various policy solutions and assess the policy outcomes. – wikipedia

        Opinion: Therein lies the rub. The current epistemic community failed to define the real problem, excluded participation by non-concurring experts (Climategate), and relied upon Post-Normal Science to justify and motivate acceptance by the public.

    • Page 22: “Most fine aerosol particles, including sulfate, nitrate, and carbon, scatter solar radiation back to space and lead to cooling. However, black carbon that emanates from diesel engines, inefficient cooking stoves, forest fires and the like, absorbs solar radiation and warms the atmosphere. Because of these feedback processes and its characteristics in the atmosphere, black carbon is considered in many studies to be the second most important anthropogenic component of global warming after carbon dioxide. Black carbon has received attention only recently and its effects have not yet been taken properly into account in the IPCC reports.
      Opinion: The authors appear to accept that feedbacks will amplify the effect of CO2. The paper applies the Precautionary Principle using different words. “Yet the precautionary principle, for all its rhetorical appeal, is deeply incoherent. It is of course true that we should take precautions against some speculative dangers. But there are always risks on both sides of a decision; inaction can bring danger, but so can action. Precautions, in other words, themselves create risks – and hence the principle bans what it simultaneously requires.” – Sunstein, 2008.

      “Shine and Sturges estimated that 40% of the heat trapped by anthropogenic greenhouse gases (GHGs) in the Earth’s atmosphere is due to gases other than CO2. In a recent study, Bera et al. analysed more than a dozen molecules involved in global warming to find out which chemical and physical properties are most important in determining their inherent radiative efficiency, and thus possess the largest potential to contribute to global warming. They found that molecules containing several fluorine atoms tend to be strong GHGs, compared to molecules containing chlorine and/or hydrogen. For instance, some hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) and perfluorocarbons (PFCs), which are continually utilised in various industries, were shown to be extremely efficient greenhouse gases as they absorb in the atmospheric infrared window and in some cases have atmospheric lifetimes estimated at thousands of years. The study concluded that some PFCs and HFCs display the characteristics to impact global temperatures significantly more than CO2 in terms both of short-term and long-term effects. This being so, they can be immediately acted on under the successful Montreal Protocol.

      Some of the most effective HFCs have global warming potentials that are thousands of times that of CO2. For example, over a 100 year period, nitrogen trifluoride has a global warming potential 17,200 times that of CO2.”

    • Page 23: Management strategies are assumed. From the context, it appears the intent is political management.

      “However, broadening the range of management strategies beyond those conventionally defined as ‘mitigation’ would have other benefits, for human health, agricultural productivity, and environmental quality, which, together with their climate change relevance, justify the actions needed to achieve the alternative scenario.”
      Opinion: Do they believe that farmers and timber companies do not already manage their property? Or do they believe that government bureaucracies will do better? Can 10,000 bureaucrats out-think 300 million citizens?

      Page 24: “In a context of increasing energy demand, the simple mathematics of carbon dioxide emissions indicate that decarbonisation of energy supply should take the lead as the primary factor responsible for future decarbonisation of economic activity.”
      Opinion: The “simple mathematics of carbon dioxide emissions” does nothing of the sort, unless one assumes large positive CO2 feedbacks.

      Page 25: “However, as the case shows, they cannot alter the long-term need for the decarbonisation of global energy supply if targets for CO2 emissions reductions are ultimately to be met.”
      Opinion: There is no long-term need for CO2 decarbonisation if the temperature rise is mere 1 degree C. As we run out of fossil fuels (in 200 years or so), the economy will migrate to alternative sources of energy, just as it migrated from wood to coal 200 years ago.

    • Page 27: “2) The primacy of accelerated decarbonisation of energy supply
      “There have been nearly twenty years of efforts to influence emissions directly by – paradoxically – indirect methods. Principally, these methods are ‘top down’ regulation of the end uses of energy. They have been highly ambitious, including the attempted and flawed manufacture of a market for carbon; but they have failed to reduce emissions or, more importantly, accelerate the rate of decarbonisation of economies. In their Byzantine complexity, they have also just crashed politically at Copenhagen. Nevertheless, they have huge bureaucratic momentum because of vast sunk political capital, notably in Europe. So, as they roll on, they are also irritating more increasingly sceptical citizens in democracies, as the costs to families and to individuals from this “Kyoto” type of strategy are gradually but inevitably revealed. We have yet to see how electorates react to large and rising increases in electricity bills when the public understand that they are discretionary, for so-called ‘green’ reasons, and not because of market conditions.”
      Page 27-28: “The Kaya Identity shows that there are four – and four only – macroscale policy levers in pursuit of emissions reductions. These are, respectively, population, wealth, energy intensity (meaning units of energy per unit of GDP) and carbon intensity (meaning the amount of carbon produced per unit of energy). Each of these factors is amenable to the action of a particular lever and each lever prescribes a particular approach to policy. In the case of population, the lever is population management. In the case of wealth, the lever is to reduce the size of the economy. In the case of energy intensity, the lever is to increase energy efficiency. And for carbon intensity, a switch to energy sources that generate fewer emissions is the primary lever.”
      “Our strategy is to find ways to pull the levers of energy and carbon intensity.”
      Opinion: This is a really scary reference. The scary part is “population management”. In for a dime, in for a dollar. Once the principle is accepted, the other levers may be engaged whether or not the authors agree. The Club of Rome and John Holdren have advocated this in various forms; Stalin (Ukraine) and Hitler (western Russia) implemented it. (It would be an attractive method of managing the cost of entitlements.) Wealth is easily minimized through taxes and economic recession.

      • Re: “In the case of wealth, the lever is to reduce the size of the economy.”

        If we continue to focus attention on “controlling climate” while ignoring transport fuel, OPEC will ensure that we will reduce the size of our economy by running short on available liquid fuel because we would have failed to invest in the infrastructure to provide adequate alternative new fuels. See Robert Hirsch vids.

    • Page 30: “Therefore, the bottom line is that there will be little progress in accelerating the decarbonisation of the global economy until low carbon energy supply becomes reliably cheaper and provides reliability of supply.”
      Opinion: Actually, the alternative has already been implemented. Carbon emissions have dropped coincident with the Global Recession. This also worked well in the Great Depression in the ’30s.

      Page 31: “Such efforts must be led by the public sector for several reasons. First, private funding of R&D is unusually low in the energy sector, worldwide, because there are few incentives to innovate.”
      Opinion: And because regulations make investments very expensive due to required permissions, delay and legal challenges. Anti-nuclear advocates created a 30-year delay in nuclear energy. Liberty, Opportunity, Revenue and Profit are excellent incentives.

      Page 32: Proposes a “hypothecated (dedicated) Tax on Carbon”.
      Opinion: Social Security was named as if it was hypothecated (dedicated). However, the “Social Security Trust Fund” is a cautionary example. Politicians borrowed and spent it; nothing but IOUs remain in the “lock box”.

    • Page 35b: “Resilience to surprises and weather extremes would be an example of ‘true global solidarity’.”
      Opinion: A return to a colder climate regime (solar activity, ENSO index, 1911 rerun) would be a most unwelcome surprise weather “extreme” in a decarbonised world. Nor would such a surprise lend itself to “global solidarity”. Wars have been fought over energy supplies. Not even the Marxist states (National Socialist, Soviet Russia) had “solidarity”.

      • I think you’ll find that Marx’s books were burned and his works banned under Nazism.

    • Miscellaneous:
      Opinion: Can we live with the 1.2oC temperature increase due to a doubling of CO2? Absolutely. The increase is roughly the difference in average temperature between Boston and New York City. Adaptation is already being done (HVAC). In my opinion, the issue is net feedback and its sign. If the temperature can be accommodated by adaptation, then we have a couple hundred years of slow adaptation to new sources and uses of carbon-based energy.

      Opinion: The authors’ objective “was to take a long view of all the aspects of the crisis which enveloped global climate policy during the winter of 2009/10”.
      They propose to make climate policy (political management or “democracy”), more palatable to the citizens. It appears, however, that “democracy” is not acceptable if it rejects the claims and policies of the would-be managers.

      To its credit, the paper addresses “… radical and practical ways to reduce non-CO2 human forcing of climate.” I did not notice major advocacy of advancement of climate science and reduction of uncertainty.

      • The idea, which is explicit in Pielke’s book (haven’t read the paper), is to change climate policy to be compatible with public opinion rather than the other way around (trying in vain to change public opinion to support the “correct” climate policy). Part of the justification for this is that public opinion in fact is in favor of action on climate as long as it doesn’t cause too much pain. In other words, the idea that “political will” is lacking is just a myth.

    • OpinionLastly, let us change the game in two ways:
      1) in place of surface temperature, let us focus on heat energy and its transport, and
      2) let us recover the original raw data, documenting its source, reliability, uncertainty and integrity.

      Let us design the data stores so that multiple sources and types of data can be compared and tested for coincidence and clues about possible causation. Since we can not run designed experiments on the climate, let us milk observations for all they can tell us.

      Surely for $3 trillion we can make some progress in this.

  41. “Climate Pragmatism offers a framework for renewed American leadership on climate change that’s effectiveness, paradoxically, does not depend on any agreement about climate science or the risks posed by uncontrolled greenhouse gases.” ??

    Renewed eh? On the science of global warming the US contribution has never been in question. On the policy aspects, the US contribution has never been anywhere near what could possibly be referred to as “leadership”.

    And, why, if the danger is perceived to be from uncontrolled greenhouse gases, is there a need to keep quiet about that? Its like trying to persuade someone to give up smoking without mentioning the adverse health effects. We don’t want to upset anyone , now , do we?

    Joe Romm is basically correct about “right wing myths”. The problem for the US Libertarian right is, not only do they not have any policy which would address AGW even if they did accept the scientific advice that it posed a serious risk, but “Libertarianism” doesn’t have any proffered solution to any problem which might be categorised as “a tragedy of the commons”.

    They need to don their philosophical caps and have a think how their philosophy can address such issues. Not necessarily about climate change, which may well be the ultimate example, but how they would tackle such problems generally.

    • Tempterrain

      And, why, if the danger is perceived to be from uncontrolled greenhouse gases, is there a need to keep quiet about that?

      As shown in the following graph, the GMT behaved like a pendulum that oscillates between the upper and lower GMT boundary line.

      At the moment, the GMT, the pendulum, is at its maximum and in the next thirty years the GMT, like the pendulum, will swing to its other extreme.

      Temptgerrain, if you are not able to see the oscillation of GMT like a pendulum, please do the following:

      Lie down on a table, in a planking position, with the above graph in front of you. Rotate the graph on the table so that the extension of the global warming trend line passes between your eyes and through the length of your body. Next hang a pendulum above the graph with the length of the pendulum in its neutral position passing through the global warming trend line. Next move the pendulum to the upper GMT boundary line over the graph, to your right hand side. Let this position represent the 1880s GMT maximum. Finally, release the pendulum. You will find 30 years letter, around 1910, the GMT swinging to the lower GMT boundary line, to your left hand side. From 1910 to 1940, the pendulum swings from your left to your right hand side. From 1940 to 1970, the pendulum swings from your to your left hand side. From 1970 to 2000, the pendulum swings from your left to your right hand side.

      In the 2000s, the pendulum is on your right side, and in which direction do you expect it to move in the next decades?

      To claim continued global warming in the next decades is to violate basic physics and nature.

      • Girma

        You are full of nonsense and mischief. If only climate were a simple pendulum. You understand nothing. You have one song which you repeat like some demented toddler – and I have taken you to task about this before. Learn some subtlety or go away and let the adults talk.

      • Chief

        I speak my interpretation as see it. You can refute it or ignore it. But that is my honestly held believe.

        I truly believe that the global mean temperature (GMT) oscillates about the global warming trend line like a pendulum. The 1880s, the 1940s and the 2000s are the GMT maximum (swing of the pendulum to the warming side). The 1910 and the 1970s are the GMT minimums (swing of the pendulum to the cooling side).

        The GMT has oscillated like a pendulum for FOUR times (1880 to 1910, 1910 to 1940, 1940 to 1970 & 1970 to 2000] in the last 130 years. Why not accept it will also continue to behave like a pendulum form 2000 to 2030?

        Why are ALL the GMT peaks in the last 130 years pass through a straight line?

        Why is this line parallel to the global warming trend line for the 130 years data?

      • You might want to take a look at this graph:

        It makes the point, better than I can, that the linearity, even with an imposed sinusoidal variation, of global warming cannot be assumed by looking back as far as 1880.

        The big increase in both CO2 emissions and atmospheric concentrations has occurred since 1975.

    • Anon. 2010. Oblique strategies. The Economist – Green.view. May 11.
      “The difficulty with the current approach to climate change, according to the Hartwell paper, is that climate change is not a problem.”

      • A problem can be identified, isolated and, in principle, solved. Climate change isn’t like that: it is “better understood as a persistent condition that must be coped with and can only be partially managed more—or less—well.”

        Again mischief and nonsense.

      • ? Didn’t The Economist say that, in essence?

    • tt,
      So while you claim that AGW is all about the science, in reality AGW just gives you a patina of science so you can justify your dislike of the capitalist system. Which system, by they way, you have an infantile understanding of.

      • Which system, by they way, you have an infantile understanding of.

        You give him too much credit, hunter.

  42. Tt has at last attempted a serious comment – so I will respond in kind.

    To answer the last first – there is no problem in liberal philosophy in government as such. Government is necessary to protect citizens from external and internal threat – to provide certain necessary goods (roads, hospitals, ports, etc) where these are not supplied by the market for whatever reason. Where there is threat from flood, fire or tempest the government has the resources to supply emergency assistance. These things were clearly formulated by Friedrich Heyak by the middle of the last century.

    The conservative economic agenda is non-negotiable. Capitalism depends on the rule of law, a functioning civil society and a free people. Modern economic principle is far from laissez faire – but certainly a government sector that is less than 30% of GPD. Good corporate governance (fairness in markets), adequate prudential oversight (is the lesson learnt yet), management of interest rates (to prevent asset bubbles) and restraint in the printing of money (theft of wealth). Democracy, the rule of law, the rights to private property and other individual freedoms are fundamental values of our enlightenment heritage. These are values (not to mention lives) that have trampled on by first of all Marxism and then, when that failed, their intellectual successors in the environmental movement. They have abused our love of nature to resist any real progress on the environment – or to bring people out of poverty, disease and hunger.

    The ‘pragmatic’ policy of the Breakthough Institute is a policy that will be broadly supported by the right. It provides a real way forward on reducing greenhouse gases – but it is not a greenhouse policy. It is opportunistic – why waste a good if imagined crisis. It is a policy for global development, health, education, conservation and energy. We have now taken the high ground in science and in policy – and the first salvos have been fired in the battle to win back the cultural high ground.

    In the longer term – the ‘greenhouse’ problem is one dimension of a problem involving development, agriculture, health, education, population, energy and the environment. So – and not before time – we can solve these great human and environmental problems. In that context we can mitigate greenhouse gases far more effectively than ever thought possible by the left. We recognize the need to increase massively energy resources and food supplies in this century – while at the same time conserving and restoring ecosystems. And the fact is that to do this will require the availability of cheaper energy supplies. With some government support and the creative energies of free peoples – we will do this.

    • “We have now taken the high ground in science and in policy – and the first salvos have been fired in the battle to win back the cultural high ground.”

      Oh, how I want to believe that

      Please demonstrate why I should (no rhetoric, please). Serious statement


      “They have abused our love of nature to resist any real progress on the environment – or to bring people out of poverty, disease and hunger.”

      I agree, but it is not only abuse of love, but cynical abuse of imputed GUILT (which I don’t feel here, actually) that has proved such a potent PR weapon.

      So how do we get from here to your quote above ?

      • Hi,

        ‘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.’ –

        This is from the original paper that led to the current discussion. I think there are 2 aspects to science. The published science has a new paradigm of complexity and non-linearity. Although most scientists have still not understood the implications and think in terms of linearity and correlation. As an example – ENSO cloud feedbacks are being more widely appreciated as another mechanism in recent warming – and in recent and near term non-warming. So the scientific high ground is with the sceptics – even though many of those don’t understand why. Or indeed understand the depth of uncertainty that non-linearity implies.

        The policy high ground is provided by the current paper – a diversity of responses to a diversity of problems but succeeding rather than failing in the carbon issue.

        Gaining the cultural high ground is a matter of creating an effective rhetoric in the culture wars – an optimistic narrative of the future based on core values of democracy and individual freedom and addressing the problems of society, development and the environment. The left has been been running the agenda for decades – leaving the right to react negatively. It is more than time that we mounted an effective counter offensive – to continue the metaphor. A core value is democracy and we fight with words and ideas at the ballot box – and not with bullets. .


    • Chief, you are a cool dude. This classification is biased in that it deliberately reduces my felt need to respond to Judy’s challenge. I read the Hartwell paper but feel there are more pressing things for my time in August 2011 than the Pragmatist developments. But I did read your summary and was inspired (even though I wouldn’t have framed the inspiration as a result of the Enlightenment). Thank you.

    • Chief Hydrologist
      Well put.
      Argentina collapsed ~ 2001 from unsustainable borrowing.
      US government grew from 6.9% of GDP in 1902 to 45% of GDP in 2009.

      Consequently, we need to add “with constraints on government spending and government debt”.

    • “The conservative economic agenda is non-negotiable. ”

      This sounds a bit scary. In a democracy everything is negotiable.

      If you want to cut all the things you’d like to cut, you do ultimately have to win elections after you’ve done it.

      Or maybe they’ll be dispensed with as cost saving measure? Is that “non-negotiable” too?

      • Chief Hydrologist

        Why would we negotiate – left to you’re own devices long enough (God forbid) you will raise taxes enough to trip yourselves.

        As to doing away with democracy – nothing could be further from the truth. We will defend democracy and human freedoms with our bodies if we need to.

        Perjhaps it is best to repeat myself – you like to carefully sculpt an impression that serves propanganda.

        The conservative economic agenda is non-negotiable. Capitalism depends on the rule of law, a functioning civil society and a free people. Modern economic principle is far from laissez faire – but certainly a government sector that is less than 30% of GPD. Good corporate governance (fairness in markets), adequate prudential oversight (is the lesson learnt yet), management of interest rates (to prevent asset bubbles) and restraint in the printing of money (theft of wealth).

        Democracy, the rule of law, the rights to private property and other individual freedoms are fundamental values of our enlightenment heritage. These are values (not to mention lives) that have trampled on by first of all Marxism and then, when that failed, their intellectual successors in the environmental movement. They have abused our love of nature to resist any real progress on the environment – or to bring people out of poverty, disease and hunger.

        You are hopelessly muddled – the muddled wombat – but although as I say we fight with words not bullets and at the ballot – you are the enemy and you will be creamed. We have had enough – and will take back the agenda.

      • andrew adams

        Well good luck with that, most of the things you mention are not specific to a “conservative” agenda – us “liberals/progressives” are pretty keen on them too.

      • You would not know it by their behavior.

      • andrew adams

        No doubt you could find some extreme examples which might give that impression. But then there aren’t too many of us in the “god hates fags” brigade either.

      • I am sure I am talking about individual freedoms and free markets. We would certainly be for an unbiased and universal application of the rule of law.

        Economic development for the poorest is incompatible with much of green-Marxist thought and they justify it on the basis of crisis and resource limits. They see humanity as a plague on the Earth, free markets as a way for people to exploit other people and the role of government to control.

        ‘You will know them by their fruits’

      • andrew adams

        I’m sure we would have some differences in our views on free markets and to an extent on individual freedoms – my views on this point are liberal but certainly not libertarian. I’m guessing we would agree on the rule of law.

        As I’m sympathetic to environmental issues I’m not a green- Marxist, nor are most of the people who share my political outlook. The greens I know certainly don’t consider humanity to be a plague on the earth though.

      • andrew adams

        Sorry, should read “As sympathetic as I am to environmental issues…”

      • I am an environmental scientist. We have been thoroughly misdirected. Wasted a generation chasing illusory goals while the global problems compound. They have blown it for another generation at by being simple minded.

        I am a liberal. I don’t know what a libertarian is – it always brings to my mind the Marquis de Sade.

        Someone thinks humanity is a plague – and has the t-shirt. –

      • And which political parties are going to go so far to the right to satisfy you?

        In, say the USA, the UK and Australia?

        The Republicans, the Tories, and the Lib/Nat coalition? You might wish, but you only have to look at what they actually have done when they have the opportunity, to realise that its a very unlikely prospect.

      • tt, Now your ignorance of politics and economics gets you lost.

      • Which one was liberal again?

        It really won’t work to define me as being to the right of Ghengis Khan.

        These are really very ordinary views handed down to us from the enlightenment – all men are created equal, pursuit of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

        Your philosophy is one that leads to slavery – of taking more and more economic and coercive power into the government. It always begins with every saintly intent.

        But the great objection is that it is all so incompetent – it has succeeded in nothing but polemic.

  43. As long as the AGW community gets away with calling global warming ‘climate change’ we will suffer from the ambiguity and confusion seen in this thread.
    Either global warming is occurring in new dangerous ways because of CO2 or it is not.
    The evidence from reality is that it is not.
    So the AGW community pushed ‘climate change’ an ambiguous, useless term that describes everything, anything and nothing.
    So the real problem for the AGW community is that they are pushing a basket of useless policies that deals with an undefined problem and demanding huge amounts of money to do it.
    Pragmatism offers a small first step back from the fallacy at the heart of the AGW community.

    • On Climate Change vs Global Warming

      Frank Luntz and George W. Bush are to blame, not Al Gore.

      Luntz sold the phrase to Bush: “Climate change” is less frightening than “global warming.”

      “It’s time for us to start talking about “climate change” instead of “global warming” and “conservation” instead of “preservation”.

      “Climate change” is less frightening than “global warming”. As one focus group participant noted, climate change “sounds like you’re going from Pittsburgh to Fort Lauderdale.” While global warming has catastrophic connotations attached to it, climate change suggests a more controllable and less emotional challenge.

      • tt,
        Yes, Gore has always been looking to GW Bush for leadership and ideas.

  44. Pragmatic approaches are reasonable whether in regards to the climate or almost anything else. The 1st step is to agree upon the goal that we are trying to reach. The title of the article is “climate pragmatism”, but if you are an American is that the correct goal?

    If the goal f America is to lower CO2 emissions in an economically sensible manner then a policy strategy can be formulated to achieve that strategy. If the goal is to have America eliminate the out flow of US capital while minimizing CO2 emissions the result would likely be different.

    I suggest it is most important to identify, debate and reach a consensus on the goal that is to be achieved before proceeding to the implementation step. From a US perspective, it is difficult to agree that climate pragmatism should be a primary goal, but it does seem that it could be a secondary goal.

  45. A good example of the “pragmatic” left’s attitude on free expression and academic freedom;

    I don’t see many in the warming consensus speaking out about do you?

  46. If the AGW community extremists are against a pragmatic climate policy, can we then conclude they are for a policy that is not pragmatic?

    • andrew adams


      There are different kinds of “pragmatism”. Hansen believes renewables will never make a significant contribution and so we should be making big investments in nuclear. He believes fee and dividend will be much more effective than cap and trade in providing incentives to reduce emissions. Those are entirely pragmatic arguments whether or not one agrees with them.

      Pielke and co. are arguing that we only aim for actions which are politically easy to achieve. That’s the kind of “pragmatism” some of us object to becasue it simply won’t achieve what we consider to be neccessary and it is, as tt puts it below, an essentially defeatist attitude (and not just in relation to climate change).

  47. The link you posted really has nothing to do with a pragmatic approach being implemented (by anyone).
    I again suggest the issue is in defining the goal 1st than then discussing a pragmatic plan for achieving the agreed upon goal.

    For the United States- it would be an interesting exchange to see it people here could agree on what our goal should be. I would suggest that it should be to become energy independent (in North America) while disturbing the natural environment to the minimum extent economically possible.

  48. I tend to think that what you have to do is look to match an economic goal with an environmental goal. Regardless of whether one believes in global warming, there is still the issue that the U.S. cannot afford to spend $300 billion a year on buying foreign oil.

    • David-
      I believe you are correct, but it seems people do not want to define what their real goals are, and then become frustrated when their goals are not achieved. Yo bring up the idea of not wanting to buy “foreign oil”, but I suggest America probably does not sending the money to Canada or even Mexico since it improves the US’s “neighborhood”.

      It would certainly be more likely to achieve our goal if we knew what it was…lol

  49. An assumption of the pragmatism concept worth exploring is the one that implies America, by its net impact of ignoring AGW demands, has lost the lead.
    I think a better way to look at this is that America, by ignoring the siren songs of the AGW community, is leading the way towards a realistic cliamte policy.

    • Really, there is no point in negociating the weasel words of AGWA surrender. If the climate community want to restore its image it should denounce co2 targeting and the use of the idiotic term and process known as “carbon footprints”. There is no evidence co2 harms anything and even the use of this term represents bias and political motives. Billions wasted, economies that have suffered and we still get a poorly framed discussion target like “reducing co2”.

      It’s anti-science.

    • I’ll second that Hunter. Consider the endless gruel of public television listing China and Germany as leaders on green energy. Mostly money flushed down the toilet on subsides for second rate and uneconomical devices. Many of which harm the enviornment far more than carbon fuels. Bird killing wind, chemical wasteland solar all glossed over for the cause.

      • cwon14,
        All Germany has done is figure out how to manage their extreme greens:
        They are going to build *more* coal plants but do what their greens really want, shut down nuke power.
        There is no way that brings Germany closer to a decarbonized power system.
        So any praise of Germany by the AGW community is either based on ignorance or naively (cynically?) accepting bs.
        I wonder what our local climate extremists, if offered the choice between no nukes and more coal, would choose?

      • Good question, except your phrasing and logic slipped at the end there. The choice should be between “more nukes and more coal”. Or, laid out in full, “no nukes but more coal, versus more nukes but less coal”.

        The best real strategy, of course, is both more nukes and more coal.

        (Until, IMO, Focus Fusion generators make the whole issue moot in about 5-10 years. Very small, very hot, totally dispatchible, very very cheap.)

      • Brian H,
        The AGW community wants no nukes,no coal and no people (excepting the enlightened).
        My outlook for fusion of any sort is not optimistic. Fusion has been 5-10 years away since the 1950’s.

  50. Climate Realism? Climate Pragmatism?

    How about ‘Climate defeatism’ ?

  51. The “pragmatists” still buy into the bunkum “need to decarbonize” and cut fossil fuel use. Once that assumption is stripped away, it’s revealed as just another attempt to stifle energy consumption.

    • Absolute bunkum – there is no suggestion in this of anything but massive growth in energy supplies.

      • Oh, yes, there is. The assumption that “renewables” or whatever low-carbon sources are to hand are desirable is still implicit, and the “massive growth” is supposed to come from Anything But Fossil. This is just double-talk, intended to salvage as much as possible from having been hammered into the dirt by the obvious economics insanity of every single mitigation scheme and regimen proposed or legislated to date.

      • No Brian – the suggestion is that we must develop lower cost power sources. You should read the paper – and the previous 2.

      • Are you envisaging that energy consumption will continue to increase exponentially in the 21st century as it has in the 20th?
        It increased by a factor of approx 10 in the 20th. Another factor of ten in the 20st?
        Regardless of any arguments about climate, there just isn’t enough fossil fuel in the ground to be able to achieve that!

      • That was the same conclusion on oil and coal President Wilson’s commission on oil determined after WWI.

      • Yep and we got lots of the black stuff still. Still – never really thought we should burn it all – too valuable for chemicals production and fertiliser.

        I guess that 4th gen nuclear – one started up in China recently and there is a company in Los Alamos nearly rady to start shipping – will take most of the load. Although – if Eric Lerner succeeds – – it’s a new ballgame.

        I understand you’re a little slow – but do try to follow.

      • Oh – right – 4th gen

        It is just a matter of fuels technology developed over 40 years- changes it to inherently safe, no water required, waste is dangerous for hundreds of years not hundreds of thoudands – because it ‘burns’ more of fuel and the fuel can be recycled – it can use uranium, thorium, waste from older plants and weapons, can’t be used to produce weapons grade material. Enough fuel for 1000’s of years just in the Australian outback. I am thinking of setting up a roadside stall.

        They can be delivered on a truck – installed in a 2m thick concrete bunker for 20 years – then taken back to the factory to be unsealed and refueled.

        We should probably have a few thousand of these just to burn up the waste legacy. With cheap nuclear power we can take carbon from the air and combine it with hydrogen for liquid fuel. Am I optimistic? It doesn’t really seem to be a problem.

  52. “Doesn’t sound like Joe Romm or Al Gore will see the light; it seems that they are prepared to continue to wage an idealistic war that they have no political, economic or technological chance of winning.”

    My, aren’t we big for our britches? “No chance” of winning the political battle? Because a poll in the middle of a recession privileges economic growth? Because conservatives are increasingly fanatical and violent in their rejection of any facts challenging their ideology?

    Memo to Dr. Curry: time to take your own advice, and account for uncertainty. Politics on a given issue shift, sometimes very quickly, sometimes very dramatically. See also Marriage, gay.

    The other two claims, also marred by the claim of certainty, are not well elucidated enough to be wrong. Cannot win the economic battle? What does that even mean? We can reduce emissions at a reasonable cost, and there are many secondary benefits from doing so. I’m not sure what Dr Curry means by the “economic battle,” but the economics of emissions reductions are far less daunting than the politics.

    No technological chance of winning? Now Curry can predict the future of technological development over the next several decades all over the world! Impressive!

    Gore’s views on nuclear power, for example, seem quite measured:

    “The main reason for my skepticism about nuclear power playing a much larger role in the world’s energy future is not the problem of waste disposal or the danger of reactor operator error, or the vulnerability to terrorist attack. Let’s assume for the moment that all three of these problems can be solved. That still leaves two serious issues that are more difficult constraints. The first is economics; the current generation of reactors is expensive, take a long time to build, and only come in one size — extra large. In a time of great uncertainty over energy prices, utilities must count on great uncertainty in electricity demand — and that uncertainty causes them to strongly prefer smaller incremental additions to their generating capacity that are each less expensive and quicker to build than are large 1000 megawatt light water reactors. Newer, more scalable and affordable reactor designs may eventually become available, but not soon.”

    It sounds to me as though Gore would be very happy to see nuclear power step up.

    Gore and Romm’s criticism of this rebranding of the lukewarmer “do nothing much” approach sounds to me to have more to do with their grasp of its utter incoherence as an approach, and, even more, at a ready grasp of the politics underlying the effort — the attempt to define as “pragmatic” the mitigation efforts acceptable to the far right — a premise which, if accepted, would lead to nothing being done at all.

  53. tempterrain is futurologist

  54. You guys might be interested in checking out Earth: The Operators’ Manual on PBS (Program 1 also available at It’s hosted by Richard Alley, geologist and professor.

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