It has been claimed that energy security and climate policy should be considered “two sides of the same coin.” In 2006, former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair said, “We must treat energy security and climate security as two sides of the same coin.” Other leaders in Europe, members of the United States Congress and many commentators have echoed Blair’s statement.
Are both energy security and climate policy best addressed by the same policies, or do policies that are best for one goal possibly compromise attainment of the other goal?
The argument is that reducing fossil fuel combustion should increase energy security while also reducing potentially harmful climate change. Although we have two policy goals, they should be treated as one, since one policy instrument can simultaneously further both goals. To examine this argument more carefully we need to discuss what we mean by energy security and climate policy. We also need to investigate the range of policies that could address the two policy goals. Only then can we assess whether both goals are best addressed by the same policies, or whether policies that are best for one goal might compromise attainment of the other goal.
Several policies have been proposed to deal with energy insecurity. Longer term energy security for the world can be increased most effectively by diversifying energy sources and the range of regions from which they come, and especially by increasing supply from more stable countries. Increased substitutability among energy sources also increases resilience to supply disruptions. National energy security is also enhanced by a greater variety of domestic energy sources.
In the United States and Canada, ensuring energy security for the next few decades at least will require that those countries continue to rely on their huge endowments of fossil fuels. For example, the World Energy Council estimates that the United States has around 30% of the world’s known coal resources, which is more than any other country. They also estimate that Canada has more than 70% of the world’s known bituminous oil, and the United States has more than 70% of the world’s known oil shale resources. While oil imports are currently an energy security issue for the United States, absent concern about CO2 emissions the United States and Canada could together produce, at costs competitive with the current price of crude oil, all the petroleum products they need until alternative energy technologies become competitive.
More generally, fossil fuels are essential for modern economic activity, and curtailing their use will reduce economic growth by raising the cost of energy. However, burning them adds CO2 to the atmosphere, and since CO2 is a greenhouse gas, this should raise global surface temperatures and may trigger other harmful changes in climates. Although there is much uncertainty about the character, size and geographic distribution of these effects, it has been asserted that significant and immediate reductions in fossil fuel combustion are needed to avoid significantly harmful climate change. However, limiting CO2 emissions is not the only possible policy response.
I will classify climate policy actions into five categories. The first is reducing the emissions of greenhouse gases, particularly CO2.
A second category of responses involves an offsetting sequestration of CO2. Already CO2 is used for enhanced oil recovery, although the permanence of such sequestration has been questioned. Since the alternative of more permanently burying CO2 in underground reservoirs does not produce anything worthwhile in exchange, however, it is very expensive and unlikely to be used on a large scale without further technological innovations.
Another set of sequestration proposals relies on the fact that CO2 is an input into photosynthesis. Planting forests, or reducing deforestation, sequesters some CO2 until the wood decays. Since partially oxidized plant material (charcoal) is slow to decompose, burying it sequesters carbon for a long time and can improve soil quality. However, this could be expensive to do on a large scale. Algae that have been genetically engineered to produce compounds that can be turned into synthetic liquid fuels could be grown in CO2-enriched greenhouses. The CO2 released when these fuels are burned is recycled CO2. The same idea underlies producing ethanol and other biofuels from sugars produced by plants. Proposals to seed the oceans with iron also aim to enhance the absorption of CO2 by phytoplankton. Some of the additional carbon compounds so produced would fall to the ocean floor to be sequestered for a long time.
A third category of responses to the threat of climate change involves various geo-engineering projects aimed at increasing the direct reflection of incoming solar radiation. One way to do this is by increasing the amount of low cloud cover.
The fourth category of responses involves reducing the probability of harmful consequences from climate change. For example, levees or dykes, or depopulating low lying areas, can help reduce the chance of damaging floods. Improved building materials, and more stringent building codes, can lessen damage from strong winds. Better weather forecasts can help people get out of harm’s way. Crops can be made more resistant to droughts or wet weather and farmers can be given better seasonal weather forecasts.
The fifth category of responses involves taking better measures to deal with damaging weather events after they occur. Primarily, this would involve improving civil defense responses to disasters. Other examples of policies in this category include stockpiling emergency medical and food supplies, faster provision of temporary housing, and better planning of evacuation routes.
When many policies could address an issue, most people are likely to conclude that we should use all of them. The economic approach, however, argues that we should compare costs and benefits and implement first those policies with the lowest expected costs for a given level of expected benefits. In making these cost/benefit assessments we need to include indirect effects as well as the direct ones. In particular, if a policy eliminates benefits that would otherwise have accrued, the foregone benefits should be counted as an additional cost.
From this perspective, the main problem with an immediate shift to non-fossil fuel sources is that it would be enormously expensive. Large amounts of capital invested in the current system for producing, delivering and using energy will have to be replaced if fossil fuels are eliminated. Since the investment funds could instead be used for other purposes, replacing otherwise productive capital would reduce prosperity and economic growth.
In addition, alternative sources of energy currently are much more costly than fossil fuels, especially when one takes account of limitations such as their frequent unavailability and extreme short term variability, the inability to schedule their time of supply, their remoteness from markets, their low energy density, and their non-CO2 related environmental costs. Research could likely ameliorate some of these problems, and some subsidization of basic research into energy technologies could be justified as part of an efficient energy policy, but it will take time to solve the problems.
Meanwhile, technological developments in producing natural gas from shale have substantially increased estimated economically recoverable reserves. The consequent reduction in current and expected future natural gas prices will increase use of natural gas, which is the least carbon-intensive fossil fuel. This will reduce growth in CO2 emissions in a way that does not raise energy costs and reduce economic growth.
The finite supply of fossil fuels means that their costs eventually will exceed the cost of alternatives, at which point CO2 emissions will rapidly decline. In the meantime, continuing CO2 emissions will have some beneficial effects that offset costs from climate change. Numerous studies have shown that abnormal cold snaps have more adverse direct effects on health than do abnormal heat waves. Consistent with this finding, significantly more people die on average in the winter than in the summer.
Experiments have shown that increased CO2 increases plant growth, makes plants more resistant to drought, disease, low light conditions, and pollutants such as ozone, and increases yields of seeds or fruit. These beneficial effects have also been observed around natural CO2 seeps, while their commercial value has been demonstrated by adding CO2 to greenhouses. The free fertilizer provided to farmers worldwide by continued CO2 emissions over the next few decades could be essential for feeding the world population in 2050.
In addition, the effects of CO2 on climates will vary geographically, and not all the changes will be harmful. In particular, Russia, Canada, and Northern Europe could be expected to benefit considerably from less severe winter cold, while their important grain producing areas would benefit from longer growing seasons. Some economists recently estimated that the predicted changes in temperature and precipitation would likely increase the value of agricultural output in the United States even if farmers did not alter practices to better exploit the new conditions. The calculation also did not take into account the increased agricultural productivity from the direct fertilizer effects of CO2. Similarly, throughout European history, economic and social progress tended to be more rapid during warm climatic phases, such as the Minoan, Roman and Medieval warm periods, than in cold periods, such as the Dark Ages. A possible reason is that agriculture in Europe was more productive in warmer periods.
The latter discussion raises another point. Climate is always changing both naturally and as a result of other anthropogenic actions such as land clearing, large-scale irrigation, and urbanization. Controlling the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere at best does something about just one source of climate change. Climate will still change regardless of what happens to CO2. This reduces the value of investing in technologies to control CO2 by reducing the certainty of their benefits. Furthermore, the larger the non-CO2 components of climate change, and the more variable the effects geographically, the stronger the case for limiting the chance or magnitude of harmful consequences from climate change, or taking measures that improve recovery from damaging weather events regardless of the source. Such measures would also enable us to retain any benefits of increased CO2 in the atmosphere. The fact that many policies for handling damaging weather events would also be useful for events such as earthquakes or terrorist attacks further reduces their cost/benefit ratio.
Finally, if fossil fuel use can be restricted in developed countries alone the cost/benefit ratio becomes more unfavorable. Developing countries will not slow their economic growth by avoiding low cost fossil fuels. As those with large populations increase their standard of living, their increased CO2 emissions already are swamping reductions made elsewhere. For example, CO2 emissions from energy consumption in China increased by more than 167% over the decade 1999–2009, while the absolute increase in India over the same period was around two and a half times the decrease in the United States. Continued growth in CO2 from developing country emissions reduces the marginal benefits of reducing emissions in developed countries. In fact, raising the cost of energy in developed economies alone could even raise global emissions. Industry will shift to developing countries, where energy efficiency tends to be lower, while industry relocation would increase transportation energy use.
In summary, meaningful global controls on CO2 emissions will not be instituted before alternatives to fossil energy become competitive. At that time, policies to force reduced fossil use will be unnecessary. In the interim, policies encouraging basic research to lower the cost of new energy technologies, limiting the harmful consequences from climate change, or contending better with damaging events of all sorts would yield greater expected benefits for comparable expected costs. For the United States and Canada, in particular, constraining fossil fuel use over the next few decades will come at a high cost in terms of reduced energy security.
Biographical note: Peter Hartley is the George & Cynthia Mitchell Professor of Economics and Rice Scholar in Energy Studies, James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy.
This is an abbreviated version of a paper that Professor Hartley presented at an energy conference in Houston on January 20, 2012. The slides from his presentation and a full version of the paper are available [here].
JC comment: Several days ago, I received an email from Peter Hartley, with a copy of his paper. I encouraged him to do a guest post at Climate Etc., and this essay is the result. I ‘m trying to remember if I’ve previously come across a more insightful and sensible essay on energy and climate policy, and I can’t think of one.
i would say they are two sides of the same dice
but with the caveat that it’s a 7 sided dice and it’s fallen on the floor
That’s a bit enigmatic..
Chop a dice in half, and both faces add up to 7..
climate change policy is now between the proverbial rock and a hard place – reneawables not up to replacing fossil fuels, alternatives, thorium, fusion, decades or more away. New nuclear problematic, poltically, and vested interests with respect to reactor design..
Developed economies , ie Germany/UK need to maintain/grow generating capacity, and fossil fuels seem to be the only way to do this in short/medium term.
Yet the EU has a target of 20% cut in emission by 2020 (8 years away) some politicians are pushing for 30% or more, same timescale.
The UK climate Change Act is even more agressive..
Yet, whilst the UK was covered in snow last night, at peak demand (coal accounted for 48% electricirty generation, gas and nuclear the majority of the remainder and wind (3%) which is below its’ capacity..
Something has to give, keeping lights on – or policy….
With likely future ‘global cooling’ demand on the energy is bound to increase.
Recently I produced 3 mutually independent long term forecasts using different data and different methods. Return of the 1970’s temperature range is a very real possibility.
“Chop a dice in half, and both faces add up to 7..”
Or zero, if the die falls so that the cut faces are up. Just like in the Thomas Hardy novel, Return of the Native.
Well remembered. It was an A level book for me, and I was left with many a dream of encountering the reddleman on the windswept heath..
Very sensible. Unfortunately, sensible is not in vogue.
Climate security and energy security have nothing in common because we have control over energy security but we have no control over climate.
There is no possible relationship between CO2 and climate because the greenhouse effect has remianed perfectly stable at 33°C from back when it was first calculated to today in spite of the increase in both CO2 emissions from fossil fuels and atmospheric CO2 concentration.
This is confirmed by satellite measurements of OLR which show no detectable change in the greenhouse effect in spite of the 57.1% increase in CO2 emissions since 1979 when the satellites first trarted recording continuous OLR measurements.
On the other hand there is a direct connection between ludicrous climate change initiatives and energy security in that the wasteful measures of carbon trading driven energy schemes has increased energy costs dramatically but has not increased energy availability because most of these initiatives are strictly cosmetic and wearing green makeup does nothing to produce additional energy to meet increasing demand.
World oil consumption, world natural gas consumption and world coal consumption are all increasing in spite of these feeble green initiatives so the ony connection between climate security and energy security is that less people are affected by climate because more people are dying from styarvation because their food is being used as feedstock for biofuels in support of climate security
Well said, Norm. You got in ahead of me. There is only one problem; energy security. CO2 has a completely negligible effect on climate.
Let me once again say something about cellulose ethanol. The problem with so called “renewable” energy sources, e.g. wind and solar, is that the energy produced cannot be stored economically in sufficient quantities; i.e gigawatt/months. The only renewable energy source, at the moment, that can be stored, and also transported, is cellulose ethanol. Unfortunately, ethanol is a dirty word, since, to date, the only source is food, and using food as fuel is, in many people’s minds, including mine, immoral. Cellulose ethanol has a bad reputaion also,because the US Congress mandated it’s use by 2011, but the DOE’s 2 billion dollars has failed to produce any substantial quantities; and has cost something like 300 million dollars.
But there is hope. See
Let us hope by 2014, the USA will be producing 20 million gallons of cellulose ethanol per year, and Poet/Royal DSM wil be making a handsome profit. Now, someone, please accuse me of highjacking the thread.
The fundamental problem with ethanol is that the process of making it is very energy intensive and combined with the fact that a gallon of ethanol only contains 64% of the energy of a gallon of gasoline the economic factor come into play.
Ethanol has its place as a motor fuel in dragsters but they are not well known for getting good mileage.
It also has its pace as a fuel where local sources make it economical but it is not a good overall replacement for gasoline strictly for reasons of volume.
A barrel of oil contains 42 gallons and the 2010 U.S. consumption was 19.148million barrels per day. This equates to about 80 million gallons per day so a year’s production of 20 million gallons of cellulose ethanol will only supply enough fuel to meet 25% of one day’s demand in the U.S.
There are far better ways to get portable fuel. South Africa converts natural gas to liquids through the Fischer Tropsch Process
http://www.fischer-tropsch.org/primary_documents/presentations/acs2001_chicago/chic_slide01.htm with the large volume od shale gas now being produced this could eliminate quite a bit of imported oil.
The other factor to consider is the time frame. Non conventional oil and gas sources such as the Colorado Oil Shales and methane hydrates can easily supply the world with enough energy for at least the next 100 years.
Right now there are two competing technologies of containment and laser driven nuclear fusion working on a 20 year time frame to produce a workable prototype.
There is a third technology along the lines of cold fusion called muon catalyzed fusion which will also likely come to the fore in the near future.
As well there is another approach to fusion called heavy ion fusion that is also in the works
With today’s technology by 2050 these and yet undiscovered technologies will be supplying the world with all the energy we need putting the fossil fuel industry out of business.
Renewables sound very nice but except for those places where they make sense they are more cosmetic than practical
Norm you write “The fundamental problem with ethanol is that the process of making it is very energy intensive ”
The problem with getting oil out of the tar sands is that it is very energy intensive also. This does not mean that getting this oil makes no sense. As long as one can make a profit who cares?
The point is that there is a huge untapped source for energy that is produced every year from agriculture. In order to grow food, you have to grow a lot of cellulose that, basically, gets wasted. If it can be economically turned into fuel, who cares about anything else? And it means that continental North America is just that little bit more fuel self sufficient.
The energy used in oilsands production is only a small fraction of what is needed to make ethanol. The oilsands only need to be warmed to the extent that the heavy oil will flow compared to ethanol which must be distilled. It takes a lot of energy to boil off the alcohol to get 14% methanol up to the 95% pure state that is required for e95 fuel and even more energy to get it to the 99% pure level necessary for mixing with gasoline at 10% for e90 fuel.
Current ethanol, production to the 99% pure level requires 100 units of input energy to get 139 units of energy output from ethanol.
By comparison if you just burned the feedstock for ethanol and used the heat generated to produce electricity with a 50% efficient generator you would be much better off than converting the feedstock to ethanol.
Norm, I hesitate to reply as the issue is not that important. Two little questions and answers.
Question 1. Has anyone got a shovel ready, engineered plant that will recover the energy in agricultural waste, and operate at a profit? Answer; no.
Question 2. Do Poet/Royal DSM expect to make a healthy profit from the plant that will build this year, and which should produce 20 million gallons of cellulose ethanol in 2014. Answer; yes.
The defence rests.
Norm Kalmanovitch February 5, 2012 at 4:31 pm
Should that not be over 800 million barrels per day? And then taking the energy-content difference into account reduces the ethanol displacement to less than 2.5 %.
I am in favor our using our domestic natural gas in the transportation sector. It looks like our national labs are willing to look this as an option once again-
A ‘natural’ solution for transportation
“.Hoping to expand the pool even further, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory have begun to investigate adding one more contender to the list of possible energy sources for light-duty cars and trucks: compressed natural gas (CNG). ”
…….Because the domestic production of natural gas has increased dramatically over the past ten years, making a large number of the cars and light trucks currently on the road CNG-compatible would help to improve U.S. energy security. “As a country, we don’t lack for natural gas deposits,” said Argonne mechanical engineer Thomas Wallner. “There are fewer obvious challenges with direct supply than with most other fuels.”
Last time I checked Yahoo’s green car web site the Honda CNG vehicle was rated as close to the greenist around as well.
Excellent summary. The energy issue is rather more complicated however- the Peak Oil/Doomer crowd believe the current recession is at least in part caused by peak oil, and we will never get out of it because economic growth depends on energy growth: http://skepteco.wordpress.com/2011/12/28/review-peak-oil-personalities/
Neither coal nor bituminous oil nor shale oil/ gas can directly substitute for light sweet crude- they just don’t do the same thing, and it is flow rates that count, not total reserves. Much more significant and easy to achieve in the short term will be improvements in mileage in American cars, currently only half the European average. If gas stays cheap and oil stays expensive, we could see a slow move into LNG vehicles over the next couple of decades. After that- Thorium reactors, Fast-breeder reactors, oil from algae, underground coal gasification- but these changes will only happen slowly over 50yrs plus, way too slowly to please the climate alarmists.
The IPCC WG2 said things would get better before getting worse in these main agricultural areas. The historic warm periods may have been better, but were only half a degree warmer than the long-term average, and we are already past that point into more experimental territory. I would be skeptical of this assertion about agricultural production.
Skepticism is a good thing, Jim, especially if the premise of which you are skeptical is not supported by empirical evidence (ex. the IPCC CAGW “consensus” position).
But it the case of agricultural yields we have some hard empirical data from the UN’s FAO.
These tell us that agricultural yields of major crops (wheat, corn, rice, soybeans, millet, etc) increased by 2.4 times over the 40-year period 1970 to 2010.
Over the same period atmospheric CO2 increased from 324 to 390 ppmv (plus 20%) and “globally and annually averaged land and sea surface temperature (HadCRUT3) increased between 0.4 and 0.5°C, with the increase of the “land only” portion at the upper end.
(Note that human population increased 1.9 times over the same period – from 3.7 to 7.0 billion – and starvation rates decreased markedly.)
So the “facts” are there, Jim. No need to be “skeptical”.
Save your healthy rational skepticism for the unsubstantiated IPCC claims, instead.
You will find I agreed with WG2 that things may get better in some areas before getting worse. The concern is continental agricultural areas like Canada and Russia and US Midwest that may see lower relative humidities as land temperatures rise more quickly than the ocean which has the effect of drying out the soil. This is a potentially dangerous effect of the transient climate that can only be partially mitigated with better irrigation and reservoir planning. Europe’s Mediterranean area is projected to get drier, being already semi-arid. These should be concerns, but the almost-consensus rosy picture of agriculture, such as that presented here, makes people susceptible to poor planning, and is not helpful.
I realize that WG2 has hedged its long-term negative forecast with short-term positive ones.
This appears to me, being somewhat skeptical of IPCC claims, as simply being a hedge maneuver.
That it “may” get drier in Canada and Russia, thereby cancelling out the certain benefit of warmer temperatures (if they come at all) is a bit too speculative for me to get too excited.
I also do not believe that the slightly higher CO2 levels or even more slightly higher temperatures had everything to do with the dramatically increased crop yields since 1970 (but they didn’t hurt).
Part of it was certainly simply demand (more people to feed). This factor will grow as population does (but population growth is expected to be much slower over this century)
The good news is that crop yields grew by a larger percentage than population – and that starvation rates decreased. There is no reason to believe that this will mot be the case in the future, as well, despite WG2 negativism.
Part of it was also better farming practices / technology (better seed stock, more efficient fertilization, etc.). This factor will probably continue to grow as new technologies and better practices continue to be developed.
IPCC’s forecasts are so myopically fixated on postulated impacts of postulated increases of GHGs ignoring everything else, that they are worthless, Jim.
The fact is that higher CO2 levels as well as a modest amount of global warming (particularly at higher latitudes) are very likely to be beneficial,
This discussion is hampered by the decade-long focus on what has happened to date–whether or not the climate has been influenced by emissions and if so, by how much.
I’ve been diving in recently to look at how energy consumption is set to change over the course of the century. I believe that most agencies charged with projecting future energy use have underestimated this by a considerable margin.
If my calculations are even close to correct, by 2075 we will be consuming every blessed year close to as much energy as we did in the past decade.
I think if that actually happens we will need all five approaches, all of Socolow’s wedges and a way to transmute Pielke’s iron law of energy policy into some baser metal that will prove more pliable.
If the past is merely prelude, we will see interesting times.
If the world’s development continues at its current acceleration rate, so will its energy use, which will be its carbon use unless policies are implemented by the major nations. Simple extrapolation of the current CO2 doubling rate gives 1000 ppm in the atmosphere by 2100. Some say we can’t exploit that much in known fossil fuel reserves, but we see new large reserves all the time, and are already finding ways to exploit the less efficient reserves. This could amount to 5 C above pre-industrial levels, and it looks like the most likely scenario to me for the reasons mentioned in the main post that replacing carbon use globally is almost impossible. Given this, the planning has to take into account the inevitable environmental effects.
The whole point of extremely expensive renewable energy like wind turbines and solar panels is to punish the most vulnerable people — the old and poor — and to kill as many off as possible so that socialized medicine has few people to treat.
Ok, it IS The Onion, “America;s Finest News Source”:
But this does raise the question of the implication of what is meant by “Sustainability”, a term and an idea that needs much greater discussion.
“”I don’t care how it happens, but a ton of Africans have to go, because by 2025, there’s no way that continent will be able to feed itself,” said Dr. Henry Craig of the Population Research Institute. “And by my estimation, three babies have to die for every septuagenarian, because their longer life expectancy means babies have the potential to release far more greenhouse gases going forward.””
DUH! That explains the DDT ban! That rachel Carlson was prescient.
“According to a study published in the journal the Lancet, in 2010 there were 1.24 million deaths from malaria worldwide — nearly twice the World Health Organization estimate of 655,000.”
Pete, so culturally exact!
Isn’t Hartley a victim of solutionizing? Shouldn’t we look at the whole issue of the political economy of energy (generation, distribution and consumption)?
Not quite stated explicitly, the probability is that there will never come a point where enforced decarbonization is economically or strategically sane and workable.
Those countries which have jumped ahead with heavy commitments to it are already suffering the inevitable consequences of following half-vast plans. To make a play on a well-known adage, countries get the energy they deserve.
Two sides if the same coin or different sides of two dice (loaded or not)?
There are no clear “black and white” answers, as Tony Blair surmised (and his successor dogmatically believed to the day he got elected out of office).
The premise is stated:
This argument is far too oversimplified.
Is the path to “energy security” massive government (i.e. taxpayer) subsidy of existing green technologies or “drill, baby, drill”.
Is it plopping costly and inefficient windmills all over the landscape without any clear idea of how these are going to supply the electrical power demand of the future?
Is it selectively supporting basic research into totally new non-fossil fuel energy sources, such as nuclear fusion?
Is the best “climate policy” one of supporting climate research in order to clear up the many unresolved uncertainties or embarking on an extremely costly and disruptive action program based on the “precautionary principal”?
Or one of doing neither? Or both?
What role will the massive deposits of shale natural gas play?
What about the future of nuclear fission?
How solid is the science behind the IPCC conclusions and to what extent have they been tainted by political hubris?
Then there is the underlying political debate between those who espouse centralized (even globalized) decision making by a political and intellectual elite who know what’s best and those who want a less powerful, decentralized government with increased personal freedom and liberty for individuals.
And, wherever there is a political debate, we have the PR experts and wordsmiths, whose job it is to make one or another political viewpoint palatable to a generally uninformed public by sugarcoating and fogging up the facts.
Yes, these things are all inexorably tied together in the ongoing climate debate today, but IMO it’s much more complicated than two sides of a coin or two six-sided dice.
And Tony Blair’s political call to “treat energy security and climate security as two sides of the same coin” is conceptually wrong to start off with: “energy security” is something that will come from a free market where energy supply is allowed to increase with energy demand (as it has in the past), while “climate security” is a will o’ the wisp we humans will not be able to realize no matter how much money we throw at it.
And IMO politicians are unable to contribute anything positive to either.
There are not two sides of the same coin, but entirely different denominations, if you like to continue with the analogy. CO2 if anything, is an indicator of energy usage, and on a global level, the indicator may have merit. It fails, however, as a climate metric. In Vostok and EPICA data it clearly lags temperature variation and neither fell appreciably in the Little Ice Age (Maunder minimum) or the 1800’s cold snap (Dalton minimum). The Medieval Warm period also got along quite nicely without appreciable CO2 rise either.
Recently, we have a 15 year temperature flatline since the 1998 peak, with CO2 just increasing as usual, totally de-coupled from land temperatures (but not ocean temperatures largely responsible for its release into the atmosphere).
Its time we furnished the Emperor with a new set of clothing.
Norm Kalmanovich wrote this: Climate security and energy security have nothing in common because we have control over energy security but we have no control over climate.
I think that the phrase “Two sides of the same coin” juxtaposed with Norm Kalmanovich illustrate part of the difficulty of thinking of them together. There is much overlap between policies to address both problems: if there is a problem due to CO2, and if the problem can be solved via development of great energy sources that don’t depend on fossil fuels, then solving the CO2 problem can contribute to providing energy security. The problem I perceive is that the large group of people who are really concerned about energy security and energy abundance, and the large group of people who believe that CO2 is a serious problem, don’t have much overlap. To take two exemplars, one of each view: Norm Kalmanovich does not believe that CO2 is a problem; James Hansen does not believe that drastic reductions in energy use have any important negative consequences.
My view is that AGW might be correct so mitigation should be considered; the process is slow, so we need to think long-term about solutions; replacing coal and oil are also long-term processes requiring a long-term outlook; plentiful energy is at least useful, and most likely an absolute necessity; as economic growth causes increases in the cost of fuel and electricity, participants in the market will create substitutions; as matter of policy for long-term, government subsidies can probably speed up the development of alternatives, while simultaneously creating the technology useful for reducing CO2 if later evidence demonstrates that the potential threat is real; how much to invest each year in each technology is not an easy question to answer.
As far as I can tell from reading, here and elsewhere, my view has few adherents and negligible political support. That could, as everyone will remind me, be because I am wrong, and I may come to abandon one side or other of “the same coin”.
“absent concern about CO2 emissions the United States and Canada could together produce, at costs competitive with the current price of crude oil, all the petroleum products they need until alternative energy technologies become competitive.”
We need to take out all the stops on getting the science right about CO2
Climate Scientists cannot do this alone. A Team is needed that includes many disciplines. No opinion can be rejected without inspection.
There are many qualified people who are ready and eager to help. Many without pay.
If you want climate security to be the temperature of the past hundred years, you are not going to get that.
If you want climate security to be the temperature of the past ten thousand years, you are going to get exactly that.
Medieval Warm Period, Little Ice Age, Current Warm Period that has topped out, stuff like earth has seen for ten thousand years will prevail for thousands of years to come. This is not alarmist, so most people will not be interested. Wake up, a little ice age is severe for a lot of people, but it is not a major warming and it is not a major ice age. Those are history, but not future. The current warm period is more stable in a narrow range than any other warm period in the past ten thousand years.
I do wish you wouldn’t inject a overarching statement between the end of the post, and the bit where we talk about it!
It’s disconcerting – especially if you have different response to it from me. It trips me up and I have to re-read the whole thing again with a new set of questions in my mind..
Admittedly – if you put your comment first eg “Here is a very insightful article from x, y, or z” there would be similar problems, and I’d be asking myself throughout if I agreed with ‘insightful’..
OK. I get it – it’s my problemo. Sort it and move on..
I said the above because I really do disagree about the insightfulness. I found a considerable naivety about both energy and climate policy.
Here is one of Peter Hartley’s statements –
I assume he has sourced his information about climate from Michael Mann’s ‘Dire Predictions’, because the assumption that a raised surface temperature is categorically harmful seems a bit presumptuous. I agree with Garth Paltridge that the first question is to ascertain whether such a thing will be noticeable
Perhaps even more misleadingly, Hartley claims that
<blockquote taking better measures to deal with damaging weather events after they occur
is a response to climate change
Really?! It looks like a response to climatic events – in other words, climate – to me. And we’re back to the fundamental misconception that people are vulnerable to climate change when they are primarily vulnerable to climate.
Another of Hartleys claims is that we are attempting to reduce the probability of harmful consequences from climate change when we consider that
Is this not crackers? Which of these does not apply to climate as it is today? What is it about climate change that means farmers will benefit from better seasonal weather forecasts that they wouldn’t do otherwise?
As for the energy policy, I’m not sure if WHT is here to eviscerate Hartleys lack of understanding of fossil carbon supply and demand –
Er, partly not true and partly “that’s the problem”. Saying economic factors will define the obvious reduction in fossil fuel use is a vacuous truism, and there is no evidence at all that the decline will be rapid. Large amounts of coal will be locally economically usable for many hundreds of years.
Which is sort of “that’s the problem”, at least from an ‘alarmed’ perspective. It is exactly the point that it will be economic forces that end fossil use that worries people because that is [apparently] about 2 trillion barrels of oil-equivalent too late. It is just a way of describing the problem, not suggesting it is a solution.
Thanks for your comments.
I tried to be circumspect about the extent to which CO2 would raise surface temperature and whether “a raised surface temperature is categorically harmful”. If it turns out that CO2 has a trivial effect on climates, or that the effects are not significantly harmful on net, there is even less of an argument for having concerns about CO2 emissions dominate energy policy. My main point, however, is that finding that the effects are non-trivial and significantly harmful on net would not be not sufficient to justify restricting CO2 emissions from burning fossil fuels. It is only the start of an argument for such a policy when too many people treat it as settling the matter.
Your other comments about dealing with “climate events” versus “climate change” miss the point that we would only be concerned about climate change in so far as “climate events” impose net costs. If there are ways of reducing the costs of such events, those actions are an alternative to trying to stop the climate change — which is a futile exercise anyway in a world where many factors affect climates and we are talking about controlling just one of them whose real impact is uncertain as your first comment states.
I think your criticism that “there is no evidence at all that the decline [in fossil fuel use?] will be rapid” suggests that you misinterpreted me. I was tailing about the rate of decline in CO2 emissions once non-fossil energy sources become competitive with fossil fuels, not the rate of fossil fuel use until that happens.
Peter- Based on your comment to Anteros, we may agree more than I originally thought. Don’t you agree that it is virtually certain that CO2 levels will continue to rise for decades regardless of “mitigation” actions by western nations.
Peter Hartley –
Thank you for your response – particularly your calmness in the presence of a certain amount of vehemence. An unfortunate blog habit of mine.
I find myself in much more agreement with your first paragraph. The assumption that a warmer climate will necessarily be ‘harmful’ in some way I think is premature, as you say. And importantly, even if it is, there is no automatic presumption that reducing Co2 emissions would be the best thing to do – even if it were practically, socially and politically possible, which I doubt. It might be – but lets not assume it. This I think is characteristic of our response to changes that are ‘bad’ – we over-imagine them and yet ignore concomitant changes that are ‘good’ and many times larger. If you like, it is very hard to be rational about future scenarios.
The second point I think I still disagree about because I think the net impacts of climate change are/will be indistinguishable from climatic effects that already exist. I think it is something of a myth to think that we’ll be able to say “Ah, that flood, drought, storm, frost, hurricane etc” was caused by climate change. Those things are very prevalent today and the two kinds of responses you mentioned that I picked up on (4 and 5) are relevant to those people vulnerable to climatic effects today. I think it is a fair assumption that the vast majority of the people who would be vulnerable to climate change effects [were they to be identifiable] would be the same people who are vulnerable to climatic effects today.
I think it is an unremarked upon truism that climate vulnerability is almost wholly correlated to social conditions – poverty, essentially – rather than the nature of climatic effects themselves. For instance, where I live in the UK, our vulnerability to climatic effects has reduced by orders of magnitude in the last 150 years. All the effects I mentioned earlier we have effective defences against. And I don’t think climatic effects would feature in the top 100 causes of death. We live in a heated, cooled, windproof, waterproof, GPS-warned climate-safe country. And the wealth to adapt as we go.
In contrast, droughts and floods in places where there is little infrastructure can be devastating. The important variable is not the weather or the climate and certainly not climate change – it is basic everyday vulnerability that development would drastically reduce.
This actually is a cause for my climate optimism. Ignoring the science fiction prognostications of the likes of James Hansen, it seems to me that humanity as a whole is becoming less climate-vulnerable much faster than climate is likely to change – even with the assumption that climatic patterns are assumed to make life more difficult.
The final question – about the decrease in Co2 emissions when alternatives become competitive I still don’t quite see as something dramatic. Primarily because conditions around the world vary so much. In Norway it is already much cheaper to produce electricity by hydro – hence the Norwegians do very well exporting their fossil fuels. Nuclear power may become competitive – and is already used as a matter of choice – in a number of countries, but that number will be limited by a lot of other factors. Barring dramatic technological breakthroughs I think coal especially will persist for a long time – at least it has the economic potential to do so, because it is so prevalent.
I think my main point is that from the point of view of the climate-concerned, the change-over time when fossil fuels become uneconomical and therefore Co2 emissions will begin to fall [at whatever speed] is so far away, and will be spread over such a long time that it must be as a result of policy that energy production is transformed. Hence all the advocacy. It isn’t a particular concern of mine but I do understand where they’re coming from.
One final observation. I forget often that the majority of the readers of this blog are American! [or rather, that I’m British..] I’m reminded of it because your article rightly focuses on some aspects of energy security that are very different from the areas of concern for European countries.
For some reason I cannot get a reply to your 7:53 comment to appear below it so I am putting it here.
Regarding my second paragraph, the point I am making is that if one is among the “climate-concerned” people, as you describe them, then a more efficient policy response than taxing fossil fuels to reduce CO2 emissions is to work on reducing the chance or magnitude of harmful effects from extreme weather events (no matter what the cause) and improving responses to extreme weather events — which incidentally will also help with disasters of all sorts, thus making those actions even more cost-effective. In particular, these types of actions are more cost-effective than reducing fossil fuel use. I agree, of course, that they also are relevant even if climate does not change, but they should address the concerns of the “climate concerned” more effectively than trying to reduce CO2 emissions, especially in a world where:
– there are many sources of climate change
– the effects of changing climates vary substantially geographically, with some effects being beneficial
– there are direct non-climatic beneficial effects of CO2
– limitations on CO2 in countries that make them are not going to be effective anyway since the developing countries are not going to go along with the proposed solution.
I agree with many of your other points, and since I have just been called away from my computer by my “better half” I won’t nit-pick over any minor detail I may quibble with.
As with Anteros, my few concerns with a good article were in the preamble: accepting the premise that higher temperatures would necessarily be harmful; the statement that “When many policies could address an issue, most people are likely to conclude that we should use all of them” – that’s not my experience, in a career which involved discussing the merits of alternative policies; and there’s a general rule that you should not try to address multiple policy objectives with a single policy instrument. Otherwise, the article and responses by Norm K, manacker, you and others provide some sense and sensibility in a debate which tends to lack both. It would be good if relevant politicians could see this thread. The Australian newspaper would probably welcome an op ed piece based on your article.
I certainly agree that there is “a general rule that you should not try to address multiple policy objectives with a single policy instrument” among economists at least. I am not so sure this is understood by non-economists.
With regard to Australia, you might note that the conference were I gave this paper (linked above) was an Australia Day event in Houston organized by the Australian-American Chamber of Commerce. In addition, I was asked to speak at that conference in part because I gave a previous version of this talk at the University of Western Australia last August. The paper has more comments on Australian policy that the summary version above.
OK, I’m only halfway through the comments, but I will jump in. I thought the article was succinct and useful. I do think we need to keep in mind, that what is the right policy now, may not be the right policy in 20 or 30 years. This seems to be forgotten sometimes in our discussions. I don’t think Peter is forgetting it but more writing to the here and now.
He did not really mention Energy Returned on Energy Invested, which will be interesting to monitor once the lower grade of fossil fuels get produced in huge volumes.
– Tar sands instead of conventional crude oil
– Lignite coal instead of bituminous and anthracite
So the multiplier effect on using 1/2 or even more of equivalent fuel to process what we actually use is an unknown.
I have no problem with the top-level post, other than I always get beat up for saying some of the same things he says. I guess I don’t belong to the right tribe, whatever that is.
The two issues of potential climate change and energy policy are actually only very loosely linked. Concerns to a nations security over a lack of energy are immediate and profound while the potential impacts over changes to the climate by increased CO2 are not immediate and only potential in nature.
Reducing fossil fuel combustion would not necessarily increase a nations energy security. It would only increase its energy security if the nation did not need to import as large of a percentage of its total energy production operational. As an example, if a countries energy needs continued to rise and the nation continued to get a large percentage of their energy needs from fossil fuel and needed to import spare parts for their other means of energy production, they would actually be less secure from a energy interruption.
Hartley’s idea that “Longer term energy security for the world can be increased most effectively by diversifying energy sources and the range of regions from which they come, and especially by increasing supply from more stable countries.” is imo very flawed.
Energy security is a national concern and not a unified global issue. Energy security comes solely from a nation becoming relatively invulnerable economically from other nations disrupting their energy production. Imo, the US has been shortsighted in this arena by not having developed the capability/capacity to meet its energy needs from domestic sources if required virtually immediately.
Hartley wrote “Continued growth in CO2 from developing country emissions reduces the marginal benefits of reducing emissions in developed countries.” Here Hartley has understated the issue completely. It doesn’t just reduce the benefit, it eliminates the benefit. Until alternate technologies are economically practical, developing nations will continue to look after their own self interest and emit CO2 as fast as they can afford to increase energy production and distribution.
70% of the world’s population want and need more energy production. Higher levels of CO2 emissions are inevitable for several decades at a minimum. People living in their fantasy world choose to ignore the reality that their actions to implement carbon taxes, or sequestration, etc. will do virtually nothing to alter the big picture.
Thanks for your comments. I agree with several of your comments.
I could not see the “reply” button to your previous comment — hence it is attached to this one. Yes, I agree that, “it is virtually certain that CO2 levels will continue to rise for decades regardless of “mitigation” actions by western nations.” Developing countries will not forego relatively cheap fossil fuel energy sources — they see economic development as a priority. Even when it comes to worrying an=bout environmental issues, they are going to tackle “conventional pollutants” that are directly harmful to health and welfare long before they start to worry about CO2.
I agree that energy security is a national concern, but I think we can also view it as having global elements. In particular, the world oil market is quite well arbitraged, so disruptions in one location impact supply and prices in all regions. I discuss energy security issues in more detail in the longer paper.
There is a direct relationship between availability of energy and individual wellbeing. Ten years from now for any country that is seen to have increased its per capita GDP it will be seen that per capita energy has increased over the period.
I agree with Norm Kalmanovitch, in that relating climate security and energy security is a non-sequitur.
Unfortunately at the moment (in parts of Europe, at least) we are definitely stuck with a “pursuit of climate security”, and they appear to be galloping the wrong way down s*!t avenue. Nuclear power with fast-breeder technology and fuel stockpiling does at least offer some energy security.
The only time in my life when I recall a UK government demonstrating any genuine concern for energy security, was when Margaret Thatcher [allegedly] got the nationalised coal/power industries to stockpile coal. That was so that she could defeat the coal miners union in a showdown, having stepped down very quickly in an earlier dispute.
In the event, the miners union called the strike in Spring, maybe the worst possible time from their point of view!
The argument from depletion is always questionable. Look through estimates of ‘years remaining’ of any resource over the last century and it tends to be fairly steady (H. Kahn, J. Simon).
What has gone horribly wrong in the last decade is that some governments (acting on ‘authority’ from the IPCC reports and pressure from neo-Malthusian pressure groups) have actually taken the message ’10 years to save the world’ seriously and placed carbon targets upon their countries. And the only way of reducing CO2 emmissions by 20% or 30% by 2020 is to use ridiculously unsuitable tech such as wind and solar.
Without the scaremongering a massive boost to R&D in thorium, fusion and other reliable 24*7 energy systems could have taken place during this decade. This would have meant increased energy security and (if ever needed) reduction of CO2 emissions achievable without any economic tradeoff.
As it is, the lights will start to go out in some countries (eg: UK) around 2020 even as the bills go through the roof, and the minascule effect on global CO2 emissions will mean nothing given that developing countries with less powerful eco-lobbies will continue with BAU.
You might like to check out Tom fullers new web site 3000 quads which deals with the amount of energy we will need in future, of which a significant proportion is supposed to come from renewables.
I think you’ve said you’re British,like me, and the cost of energy here, petrol and heating etc is simply absurd and should be an object lesson to other countries in how to stop an economic recovery by confiscating everyone’s spare cash in order to prove some ludicrous green ideal.
Thanks Tonyb. PS: I love your stuff! Thanks for those too.
I wonder how all the freezing Europeans feel about the artificially high prices of energy? The unusual cold and snow there and over much of Asia and Alaska probably have increased the number of skeptics. The high price of energy due to taxes and environmentally based laws probably have many doubting the sanity of their politicians. Pretty snow in Rome, though.
Let”s not forget the now drenched Aussies who were reassured by government. appointed “experts” that floods would no longer be a problem…drought would.
pokerguy, Latimer, et al
Worth keeping an eye on the Queensland Floods Enquiry, which has reconvened following evidence and allegations that the first one was misled by dam managers (who’da thunk it?) who appear to have concocted a self-exculpatory report in March claiming they had moved from one level of flood-mitigation strategy (modest-releases) to a higher one (emergency releases) 2 days earlier than they in fact did.
This time round the counsel “assisting” the judge is a real tiger, as the tears to which his questioning has reduced one witness attest. He hasn’t got to WHY it should have appeared sensible, to a whole group of engineers, to continue a strategy under which the safety of Brisbane depended on the the torrential rain they could see out of their windows all being over in an hour or two, but it’s certainly consistent with the whole enterprise being overtaken with drought-fixated warmist nonsense, to the point where the dam’s operating manual was treated like a pre-CAGW relic.
It remains to be seen when counsel assisting will name the elephant in the room. Popcorn required.
Here’s the latest offering from The Australian’s Hedley Thomas, who has been making the running on this story.
We are all absolutely ticekty-boo and snug as a bug in a rug here in good old Blighty. We have the knowledge that all our energy needs are going to be met by wind power in the next few years.
And with the British Bulldog spirit still with us, we aren’t at all concerned that – as often happens in winter – the cold weather was produced by a big static anticyclone over Europe and that the wind ceased to blow.
At the moment only 10% of our energy is supposed to come from windmills (achieved <1% over the weekend). We know that our legendary optimism will keep help us through the inevitable blackouts to come. If it gets too cold, we'll just whistle a bit louder as we dig out the snow.
And my old Mum will console herself – just before the hypothermia finally carries her off – that she is pointlessly dying to appease Mother Gaia and her ecoloon acolytes. So that'll be all right then
Thank you for asking.
The gas supply to much of Europe has a dependency on Russia and the complex politicking between Russia and former states of the USSR.
And then in UK our benighted government adds its own burden to the already high prices so that we all compulsorily pay for the construction of useless f…g windmills and putting solar panels on rich folk roofs. To add insult to injury, we then have to pay huge bribes to them for the next 25 years if they ever actually manage to produce any electricity. Which any serious geographer will tell you is not very likely at +51N in a dampish and cloudyish climate.
The econutters really are in charge of our ‘Department of Energy and Climate Change’
A bit disappointing that the reasoned and on-topic arguments by two people against this content-free, off-topic and borderline defamatory rant of Latimer’s have been censored.
‘A bit disappointing that the reasoned and on-topic arguments by two people against this content-free, off-topic and borderline defamatory rant of Latimer’s have been censored’
I’m sorry to hear that somebody has been censored …who were they and what did they say? JC normally gives an explanation if she is obliged to do so…and that happens pretty rarely.
As to my own reasoned and measured contribution, I hardly think that a discussion of UK energy policy and its manifest failures can be off topic in a thread entitled: ‘Climate and Energy Policies’.
Content-free? Nope…discussed in some detail the content of those policies and why they are misguided.
Boderline defamatory? Seems like I got the range and elevation about right then.
I’m sorry that you may not like the robust style with which I present my arguments. I fear that we shall have to agree to differ about that.
Having been liberated from the corporate yoke a while back I have absolutely no desire to return to writing boilerplate crap devoid of any colour or expression.
Well put Paul
Re: “energy security and climate policy should be considered “two sides of the same coin.”
NO. They are not because of different qualities of energy and different time scales of their impacts.
Our economy is at least directly proportional to:
Fuel for transport and
(if not much more sensitive to shortages. See Pakistan’s energy crisis)
Coal fired power provides long term supply with relatively very slow changes. (Though China is installing a 1000 MW power plant per week.)
However, shortages in oil supply cause financial crises within months if not in weeks. The consequences are not trivial!
James Hamilson shows that 11 of 12 oil shocks since WWII were followed by US recessions.
Embargoing oil to Japan brought on Pearl Harbor and WWII.
Destruction of Germany’s coal to oil factories brought the end of WWII within a few months.
Today Iran/OPEC have that power over oil importing countries.
The rate of decline will depend on the rate at which alternative fuels can be implemented. It is essential, but it requires massive resources and major manpower.
Alternative hydrocarbon recovery nominally costs ~ $100,000/bbl/day. A 100,000 bbl/day plant will thus require ~$10 billion investment. Replacing the global 100,000,000 bbl/day oil production will require 1000 plants each at 100,000 bbl/day. Transitioning over 10 years would nominally require 2 plants per week at 100,000 bbl/day each or of the order of $1,000 billion/year for 10 years.
For perspective at current oil prices of ~ $100/bbl, OPEC is now raking in $1 trillion/year. Oil importing countries have the choice of investing to transition off of OPEC or rapidly transfer our wealth to OPEC – and then still have to develop alternatives!
However “peak oil” means that each oil field, each region, each country and consequently the world will reach a peak in oil production for that region with that technology for that economic range.
Developing alternatives will require new methods of enhancing recovery of conventional oil, or developing alternative hydrocarbons such as oil sands coal, or shale oil – none of which are cheap.
As each resource is depleted, geology/physics is systematically forcing society to shift to alternatives. The critial issues are in being to manage the rate of transitions and in the costs of doing so.
The quadrupling of oil costs from $25 to $100/bbl (1998-2008) directly removed that corresponding portion of discretionary income from the economy.
That dropped GDP, increasing unemployment, which in turn precipitated the housing crisis which led to the 2008 and 2010 economic crises.
See economist James Hamilton’s working paper Oil Prices, Exhaustible Resources, and Economic Growth. to better understand the issues.
Catestrophic anthropogenic global warming (aka “Climate change” by equivocation) is decades to centuries for its rate of impact. Natural flucations are large and the uncertainties are high. (Uncertainties in cloud parameters alone run the full gamut from low to high climate sensitivity). The costs of inaction have been magnified and the benefits of higher CO2 have been deprecated. We need much better objective evaluations each of these issues.
Furthermore, independent evaluation of benefits/costs for the top 30 humanitarian projects put global warming mitigation dead last. See the Copenhagen Consensus 2008.
So NO, climate and energy are not the two sides of the coin. They are related, but there are massive differences in the impacts, timing and policy issues to be addressed with each.
The most critical issue facing us is the transition to alternative fuels in the immediate future. Failure to deal with this will cause massive reductions in economies much larger than historic econmic recessions, “crises”, or depressions. Acting immediately with full war footing scale effort might reduce the economic impact to just a major depression. Climate impacts are nowhere close.
See Robert Hirsch 2011 and Jeff Brown 2011
For those wishing to dig into the details, see the Feb. 2012 dissertation by Kristofer Jakobsson, Petroleum Production and Exploration: Approaching the End of Cheap Oil with Bottom-Up Modeling
Also see other dissertations and publications by Kjell Aklett’s energy group (pronounced “shell”), and discussions at http://www.TheOilDrum.com etc.
A agree that energy shortages lead to macroeconomic downturns and avoiding such shocks is part of what I mean by “energy security”. Again, this is discussed in more detail in the paper.
I do not really want to turn this into a discussion of “peak oil”. Suffice it to say that I pretty much agree with your statement that the critical issue is the “rate of transition” to alternatives and “the costs of doing so”. While I think there are good arguments for using NSF-type funding to pay for basic research into new energy technologies which become breakthroughs, the current policy of subsidizing production from alternatives that are never going to be a satisfactory replacement for fossil fuels is a waste of resources and a burden on our economies.
I endorse your “arguments for using NSF-type funding to pay for basic research which become breakthroughs” and agree on the waste and burden of subsidizing what cannot become cost effective.
I believe it is possible to develop sustainable fuels cheaper then petroleum based fuels without subsidies. With the rate of transition being forced on society, NSF level funding will be woefully insufficient. It will require Manhattan project level funding.
Ensemble of “peaks”
James Hamilton’s chapter Oil Prices, Exhaustible Resources, and Economic
Growth* (for the “Handbook of Energy and Climate Change”) shows that “US” production has been a composite of a series of peaks with extended shoulders or increases after 1970 being due to extending into new geographical regions, from new states, to Alaska, and into the Gulf of Mexico.
Efforts to explore deep offshore and the Arctic highlight how the world is rapidly running out of “new geographical regions”. Existing global crude oil depletion is of the order of 6%/year (3% to 10% for individual fields).
Global population growth is 1.2%/year.
Seeking even a meager 1.5%/yr – 3%/yr per capita economic growth on top of population growth requires replacing/adding ~ 8.7%/yr to 9.3%/yr alternative/new fuels/efficiency gains. That is the the great challenge for this generation!
Following a 2008 National Intelligence Assessment on the National Security Implications of Global Climate Change to 2030 issued the National Intelligence Council (NIC) of the US Government, NIC commissioned research reports and held conferences in 2009-2010 “to explore in greater detail the national security implications of climate change in six countries/regions of the world: India, China, Russia, North Africa, Mexico and the Caribbean, and Southeast Asia and the Pacific Island States.” The research and conference reports can be found here – http://www.dni.gov/nic/special_climate2030.html. NIC describes itself as “a center of strategic thinking within the US Government, reporting to the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) and providing the President and senior policymakers with analyses of foreign policy issues that have been reviewed and coordinated throughout the Intelligence Community.”
I hope this is useful.
Seems to me, linking CO2 and energy policy is mostly a ruse to try and sell a really poor solution (renewable energy) to a problem that may or may not exist.
The energy policy should be to efficiently produce and use energy because that is how we can reduce our costs and become more competitive, thereby freeing up capital for other uses. That helps the economy, including putting people to work in meaningful activities.
This same policy also happens to significantly reduce CO2 emissions, but as a happy unintended secondary benefit. To be blunt, CO2 is not the real problem; the problem is affordable energy.
I’ve just deleted a substantial number of comments that are off topic and/or content free sniping. Keep it on topic and constructive. This is a guest post, and the distinguished author of the post is actually stopping by and responding to some of the comments.
Wow! The article is totally political and based on green ryhme dogma;
Climate Policy = Energy Policy??
If I tear it apart line by line with quotation mark exerpts then it will not be deleted? Let’s deal with the first obvious FAIL, human CO2 has what to do with the Climate? It’s imbedded all through the article;
“should increase energy security while also reducing potentially harmful climate change.”
Since the second point is unproven beyond resonable doubt the entire passage is a fallacy. Since I wouldn’t trust people with such a basic belief in Climate change fiction I wouldn’t listen to them at all regarding energy “regulation” which is what “energy policy” is in the hands of such parties.
AGW is a losing hand, grasping at energy policy is just a way to draw more cards from the deck and hoping for a different outcome. Muddy the water all you want, the article and premise fails.
On point, topical and not what you want to hear.
The data shows there is no change in the global mean temperature pattern since record begun 160 years ago as shown below:
This data shows the global mean temperature pattern before and after mid-20th century are nearly identical. However, there was about four-fold increase in human emission of CO2 after mid-20th century.
As a result, there is no evidence of increase human emission of CO2 causing global warming.
As I mentioned in a reply above, if you are right that only strengthens my arguments.
It is possible for climate and energy policies to work in the same direction. A less obvious example is Canada. By exploiting oil sands that take additional fossil fuels to extract, they can warm the earth, making it possible to clear some boreal forests to make way for more croplands, which will warm the earth enough to seasonally open the Arctic Ocean for more oil exploration. This would seem a perfect strategy for them, but they may want to limit immigration after a while.
An example of the policies working in the same direction that I discuss in the paper is improvements in energy efficiency. That is not to say, however, that these are a “free lunch”.
Yes, the motivation to improve efficiency and develop alternatives to fossil fuels is directly proportional to the degree an individual country is a net exporter or importer of fossil fuels. Exporters, not so much, unless climate changes also work against them. This is not the case for Canada and Russia, hence my illustration above.
Judy, I was just about to post that “This is one of the best policy threads I’ve read, here or elsewhere,” when I saw your post that “I’ve just deleted a substantial number of comments that are off topic and/or content free sniping. Keep it on topic and constructive. This is a guest post, and the distinguished author of the post is actually stopping by and responding to some of the comments.” Well done, I appreciate that your approach and capacity prevent this as a general rule, but we see the benefits here!
This articles describes a two sided coin, both of which come up skeptic.
Drill baby drill for energy security, and targeted adaptation where necessary, on climate policy.
Where are all the consensus advocates decrying this heresy?
Or were those the comments that got deleted?
Much of the essay could have been written by Bob Carter of James Cook University,,,
Yes, I agree that Bob Carter has said similar things, but I did come to my conclusions independently. I have been saying similar things for some time. Good ideas often have a way of being thought of by more than one person :)
If your energy policy is to restore the grand world of the dark ages across the land then you have by default solved the energy security problem. Security is a problem only if you have something to defend. Get rid of that like California is doing the the rest falls in place.
If one did have a policy of returning to the Dark Ages it would be the biggest mass murder in the history of mankind. Imagine how many fewer people the world could support on a Dark Ages economy.
Dr Hartley, with regards to your comment “the biggest mass murder in the history of mankind”, many deniers believe that this is exactly what the green movement desires.
‘many believe that this is exactly what the green movement desires’
Seems a pretty good summary of the standard ‘green’ position to me. Along with quite a bit of authoritarianism.
‘We know what is best for the few of you evil peasants and despoilers of Mother Gaia that we will allow to live.
Now shut up and do what you’re told, scum. We know where you live (*).’
* copyright Greenpeace.
Peter: See my comment/link above made Feb 5th at 8:20 pm. The link is the dead on satire of The Onion, but sad to say there are some, perhaps many, that would like to see the earth somewhat depopulated, since (they think) the planet cant support all of us. Which is why I asked what does “Sustainability really mean, and what are the logical consequences of implementing ‘Sustainable” policy. It’s a pretty phrase until you start to scratch the surface….
Welcome to Dr. Hartley. I am sorry I was unable to attend the lecture in person. Dividing- or at least recognizing that CO2 obsessions and energy policy are not necessarily the same thing is an important step back towards rational energy policies and climate policies.
An important aspect of this is the ruggedness of energy infrastructure. Wind power and crop-based biofuels are vulnerable to normal weather extremes like windstorms and droughts. Neither if fully implemented would prevent windstorms or droughts.
As to ideas like seeding iron into the southern oceans to increase phytoplankton, I think one way to look at it would be from the point of view of the value of increasing ocean fishery yields. More phytoplankton would yield larger fishing catches. If it also ties up some CO2, that is not a bad thing. How to pay for the seeding that would benefit fishing interests is a significant issue, but if the AGW community truly believes that CO2 should be reduced, then perhaps the true believers could foot the bill for a few years’ of a pilot project to determine if the promise holds up in the reality.
Thanks for bringing this to our attention, indeed an excellent paper.
“In summary, meaningful global controls on CO2 emissions will not be instituted before alternatives to fossil energy become competitive. At that time, policies to force reduced fossil use will be unnecessary. In the interim, policies encouraging basic research to lower the cost of new energy technologies, limiting the harmful consequences from climate change, or contending better with damaging events of all sorts would yield greater expected benefits for comparable expected costs. For the United States and Canada, in particular, constraining fossil fuel use over the next few decades will come at a high cost in terms of reduced energy security.”
Wiki: In 2008, total worldwide energy consumption was 474 exajoules (474×10^18 J=132,000 TWh). This is equivalent to an average energy consumption rate of 15 terawatts (1.504×10^13 W].
What world needs is a new source of energy which equal of more than 15 terawatts.
Solar energy in space per square km is: 1300 watts per sq meter times one million. At with solar panel at 20% efficiency it’s 260 watts generated power per square meter,. so 260 MW per square km. In space one has millions to billion of square km one could harvest solar energy. There more square meter of area available in space than entire earth surface- and using this area in space has zero negative impact upon people on earth. So space can a source of thousands times more than 15 terawatts. And such a source of energy last for millions of years.
A solar panel in space has 4 times the energy density as solar panel has on earth has- and it’s constant supply of energy- it has 24 hour a day, of constant energy. So solar panel in space gets more twice amount sunlight as panel on does during daylight, plus get same amount during night on earth. Or earth gets about 6 hours of 1000 watts of solar flux- and space gets +1300 watts for 24 hours.
The reason this is not already being done, is getting off of earth is expensive. We are in a deep gravity hole. The moon is in relatively small gravity hole. It would fairly bad idea to make solar panels on earth and ship them into space. It could be done, it’s just not a very good idea.
You don’t have make solar panel on the Moon- there could other to get material- one could mine asteroids.
Now fusion is also a possible source of endless energy- but we can’t do that because we don’t know how. We know how, to mine and make solar panels on the moon, in same degree as we know how to make some huge bridge, building, or ship. It’s technically and managerially challenging- but with fusion we can’t do it yet- maybe never can do it.
One thing essential to know, is that the high cost of getting into space, is not mostly a matter of physics. But instead it *largely* a matter of market. Getting into space is similar to early day flying airplanes. The advantage aircraft had over what spacecraft has, is aircraft had a potential of a large fairly easy to see market. But this market had to be developed- costs had to lower, people had to be convinced that flying was first, “fun” and somewhat safe, finally it was practical way to get from point A to point B.
Space travel, more precisely suborbital travel, may in next few decades be a practical way to travel to different places on earth- anywhere on earth in about an hour. If that is accomplished, that will a huge market for “space travel”. If that happens getting to the Moon or Mars will a lot cheaper and easier [it’s quite different- not it has important similarities]. There are about 4-5 players [one being Virgin Galactic] trying to go in this direction- first step being joyrides and science payloads.
So my point is not that we go to moon and start building solar panels- that would like trying build a 747 in the 1920’s. My point is this is option in the future. You talking about 40 to 50 years in future. This could done in 40 to 50 years into the future, but we need to do some stuff first.
And it’s not so much that technology has to evolve first, but more importantly markets need to evolve first. We could have started this 40 to 50 years ago- we didn’t gained any needed technology that’s enabling it today. And it possible that 40 to 50 years from now, that no significant progress is made. We could will still be 40 to 50 year from being able to do it. What is required is for NASA to explore the Moon- and explore the moon with a specific purpose. That purpose is to determine whether there is *minable* lunar water and where it is more precisely that we guessing where it is today. And this lunar would then need to be mined- but not mined by NASA. NASA has limited budget, and it’s job is exploring space, not mining or farming in space [or mining or farming on earth]. Once NASA is finished with Moon [something achievable within about 10 years] it then must explore other places- such as Mars.
But almost as important, NASA needs to support a market for rocket fuel in space. And needs to do this right now, and continue doing this after it goes to Moon and afterwards goes to Mars. The importance of lunar water, is you make rocket fuel. And having a market for rocket in space, is of course creating a new market, but is also allowing NASA to do it’s job at a lower cost. It makes going to the Moon and elsewhere cheaper.
And rocket fuel will start expensive, and become cheaper as a market develops [develop meaning more players are buying rocket fuel than NASA- other govts, and other non-profit and for profit entities.
This may all happen “despite” what NASA does, but NASA should making it happen, sooner, rather than later.
Now what happens, when make rocket fuel from water is you need electrical power- so this starts a market from electrical power in space- right now the cost of electrical power is more than $10 per Kilowatt hour,
and getting below $1 per kilowatt hour would something one could expect within a few or several years, and within a decade or so it be near around the cost we paying for solar power on earth. At that point, large investment might be possible to drive down cost considerable lower than solar power on earth, and in order to sell it to Earthlings. But before this there would research developing means of achieving production a lowest costs.
Point is isn’t a sure path- you can’t have governments throwing money at it- there is a learning curve.
“My point is this is option in the future. You are talking about 40 to 50 years in future.”
I agree that an investment in basic research into energy technologies of many types could have a very large payoff. The idea that we will be using the same energy technologies in 2100 as we are today under a so-called “business as usual” scenario is ridiculous. One only has to think about the energy technologies we were using in 1912 compared with 2000. I have no doubt that there remains much to learn in material science, physics, biological sciences and who knows what other basic science that will have worthwhile application in making energy production and use more efficient. You don’t get from where we are to where we want to go, however, by taxing economic growth and scientific progress.
Nice last sentence
Our Chancellor (Brit speak for Finance Minister) said it well last year:
‘We’re not going to save the planet by putting our country out of business’
But unwinding fifteen years of ecoloon policies – especially while in coalition with the Ecoloon Meisterschaft in the Liberal Democrats is proving a tough nut to crack.
Our Chancellor (Brit speak for Finance Minister) said it well last year:
‘We’re not going to save the planet by putting our country out of business’
Which is a shame, given that his policies are doing a very good job of putting our country out of business. It would have been nice to have had the consolation that we had at least saved the planet.
re “40 to 50 years in future”.
We don’t have 40-50 years.
Lloyds of London and the US DOD are warning of global shortages of fuel in the 2013 -2015 time frame!
Sustainable Energy Security: Strategic Risks and Opportunities for Business
“David L. Hagen
re “40 to 50 years in future”.
We don’t have 40-50 years.
Lloyds of London and the US DOD are warning of global shortages of fuel in the 2013 -2015 time frame!”
There oil shortages now- why do you think oil is around $100 per barrel?
And these shortages are a result of governments policies.
The only remedy [assuming one wants a remedy] appears to be that one must elect different people- those who don’t have a vested interest in maintaining oil shortages.
But I am talking about something else, I am talking cheap energy.
Something to replace coal electical powerplant, as well as natural gas, oil, and nuclear plowerplants.
There are limits to the amount coal and natural gas. And for periods of centuries to thousands of years there are limit to nuclear fuel.
At some point [assuming one isn’t fanasying that billions of people are going to abruptly die] we going to need to go into space.
And there is no reason why we should not do this now, rather than later. Now it’s a political decision, at some point it won’t be decision, it will become the only course that has to be taken.
Though a semi-rational for not doing it now, is you may not want space capablity as commonplace as airliners. There is no real difference between a spacecraft and a ICBM.
And related to this, there more powerful weapons in space than a merely nuclear weapon. In space there rocks fragily “balanced” which could completely incinerate earth- so no doubt that could worry some people.
And people in space are also probably going to have nuclear reactors- in space such things far safer than on earth. On the Moon you don’t really *need* a nuclear reactor, but on Mars it’s almost a requirement.
And controling these people in space could be problem- borders are quaint ideas.
Though there one thing good about space from the law enforcement angle- it’s very difficult to hide in space. So as long as have so ablity to detect and reasonable response times, smugglers are not going to be very successful. Though spacers showing up at grandma house could be problem- so sheer numbers of traffic not going thru checkpoints could be an interesting challenge.
Completely agree. Thank you.
In addition, there is no evidence of man-made global warming => http://bit.ly/Aei4Nd
The first part of the article read like a Wikipedia-sourced list of possibilities – dropping in mentions of a few topical or not so topical ideas like iron seeding of the oceans, better weather forecasts, better building codes.
When I got to the sentence about how eventually the cost of fossil fuels would rise forcing a reduction in emissions, I assumed that the meat of the article would follow.
Instead I found a list of sceptic talking points (CO2 is plant food, warm is better than cold, the climate is always changing so why be worried about yet another source of change etc. etc.) followed by a one-sentence “conclusion” that the answer to the question is “No”.
The presentation I found on the web looked like it had more beef.
Clearly the answer appears to be “No” if you are one of the likely net beneficiaries of warming and if you have adequate fossil fuel reserves. On the other hand if you are concerned about your long term dependence on fuel bought from dodgy regimes then it is “Yes”. So would this article have got the same traction in the years prior to the prospect of fracking?
The context of Blair’s speech was presumably European dependence on Russian gas and a wish to argue for either renewable or new nuclear investment in Europe. With Blair, though, you never know quite what he thinks he is up to.
I agree that the trade-off varies geographically, not only because the energy resource endowment has geographical variation but also because the likely impacts of climate change will vary geographically. That is a major reason why the idea of getting worldwide agreement on a policy such as taxing fossil fuel use was always destined to failure. Even if you thought it was the best policy it is unattainable in practice, so you better start to think about the best alternative.
I don’t see that follows at all. Any energy policy needs to look many decades into the future and cannot anticipate all the potential security risks. Obviously the heavy cost of western involvement in the Middle East is significantly driven by such concerns today.
And both governments *and* the markets are influenced by perceptions of that risk, so one should not simply talk about taxation alone when we are all fully aware of the impacts of, say, an incident in Hormuz could be on oil prices.
These issues are relevant *even if* a country has substantial resources of its own since most countries are in a world market for commodities.
It’s very welcome to have a distinguished and influential non-scientist making a statement like: “Climate will still change regardless of what happens to CO2.” It’s a point that needs emphasising, even among scientists. Thank you, Professor Hartley.
1) You miss the policy option that could potentially make a really significant difference in the shortest period of time if we take it seriously, namely, improvements in efficiencies (industry, government, private).
2) While you mention the ‘finite’ supply of fossil fuels, you do not explore the possibility that we have arrived at peak oil. When we talk about peak oil, we have more short-term policy overlap with climate change issues.
3) “Numerous studies have shown that abnormal cold snaps have more adverse direct effects on health than do abnormal heat waves. Consistent with this finding, significantly more people die on average in the winter than in the summer”
Where? Death from heat involves more than the kinds of health issues that you might already associate directly with heat e.g. respiratory problems, stroke, heart attack (especially for vulnerable people like young children and elders) in Western countries e.g. water-borne illessess due to increased flooding. You seem to be oblivious to the range of public health issues and climate change. The cold/hot effects comparison is complicated but it doesn’t help when your argument borders on eugenics. Try public health websites around the world. And identify the sources of your information.
4) “The free fertilizer provided to farmers worldwide by continued CO2 emissions over the next few decades could be essential for feeding the world population in 2050”
Again, is that a serious statement? Please learn something about agriculture, germination, drought, flooding and water supply for different regions.
5) “the effects of CO2 on climates will vary geographically, and not all the changes will be harmful”
That’s right. The regions you name are already in a good position to cope relative to regions set to be more severely impacted. It’s why we talk about climate justice.
6) “if fossil fuel use can be restricted in developed countries alone the cost/benefit ratio becomes more unfavorable”
No one is talking about that: we’re talking about developed economies taking a lead with an appropriate plan for increasing responsibility by all countries relative to ability.
7) “In summary”
In summary, nothing. :-(
The only thing I agree wholeheartedly about is
In the UK our energy prices are so outrageously high because of the government using our energy bills to pay bribes (politely called subsidies) to people to build windmills and solar panels that we have to be ‘efficient’ with our use of energy.
The rest is the usual Martian content-free verbiage hoping to impress us with the breadth of her concern and knowledge.
And, as usual, failing completely.
Your point 1. We have a great deal of low hanging fruit which can be plucked without people really noticing. Energy eficiency in general and better insulation in particular can do much.
Your point 2. We may or may not have reached peak oil but there appears to be lots of ‘viable’ alternatives related to gas and shale. WE may differ on the word ‘viable.’
Your point 3. I have seen several people reply to you regarding relative deaths due to heat or cold in other threads-perhaps you didn’t see them?. You suggested;
‘The cold/hot effects comparison is complicated but it doesn’t help when your argument borders on eugenics. Try public health websites around the world. And identify the sources of your information.’
I suggest you do the same and come up with evidence that supports your apparent belief that heat is the main killer- or may become so if all the dire predictions come true.
In your view of ‘climate justice’ do those in underdeveloped countries warrant greater consideration than those in developed ones? In other words is ‘justice’ blind?
“peak oil” is bread for the masses to keep them afraid and distracted.
If you studied science, you would know that, yes, CO2 is a basic requirement of plant metabolism and that plants do better in the higher CO2 levels we are creating.
“Climate justice” is a sick deceptive oxymoron.
No, people you like are in fact talking about fossil fuel exactly as described.
But at least you were civil. Congrats.
The plants cry out for justice, but Gaia gently reminds them that they’re the cause of the troubles in the first place, but gives them man for temporary respite.
Read ‘brief solace’ for ‘temporary respite’. There’s gotta be a solstice joke in there someplace.
In the UK our energy prices are so outrageously high because of the government using our energy bills to pay bribes (politely called subsidies) to people to build windmills and solar panels that we have to be ‘efficient’ with our use of energy.
Can you provide some figures to support that claim?
With immense pleasure. Here, as part of his recent speech to Parliament are the words of Jonathan Marland about the solar panel Feed in Tariff scheme (Whitehall speak for ‘bribe’)
‘This is one of the most ridiculous schemes that has ever been dreamed up.
“It is already going to cost the consumer £7 billion for £400 million of net present value. This is on a product where you need the electricity when the sun doesn’t shine.
“It is going to produce 1.1 percent of our electricity supply and it doesn’t target the needy and the consumers.”
How does he know? Because he is a Minister at the Department of Energy and Climate Change.
And making a net loss of £6,600,000,000 on an expenditure of £7,000,000,000 doesn’t seem like good value for money to me.
Perhaps you can point out a silver lining? Because it sure has hell has escaped me!
But that doesn’t tell us what proportion of our current energy bills is due to subsidies for renewables. You claimed that such subsidies were already the cause of high energy prices in the UK, so how much is it?
I think that we can be assured that they would be £6,600,000,000 less without these daft bribes.
I make that about £140 for every man, woman and child in the country. Just on solar panels.
Maybe you are rich enough that £140 (abt US$200) is just small change for you. But for many of us it ain’t and it shouldn’t be spent on such daft ecoloony schemes as this.
But that £6.6bn (assuming it is correct) includes future commitments, the FIT scheme has not cost anything like that so far. According to the Committee on Climate Change between 2004 and 2010 the average domestic fuel bill rose by £455, of which £30 was due to subsidies for low-carbon power generation. That’s not to say that the FIT scheme is cost effective, I’m not conviced it is – at least given the current state of PV solar technology, but it’s simply not true to say that subsidies for renewables are responsible for our sky-high fuel bills.
Without the bribes (or subsidies if you just like spending other people’s money on daft eco-schemes and want to give it a fancy name), the bills would be less outrageously sky high.
There may be other reasons as well, but that does not mean that these ridiculous wastes of householder’s money should be condoned or ignored.
You’re perfectly entititled to object to the subsidies if you don’t think they are justified, what you’re not entitled to do is exaggerate the effect they are having on energy bills. That would be… alarmist.
To make it entirely clear I don’t think that even one penny of bribe is justified. And to use this huge sum of money in an entirely wasteful way borders on criminal malfeasance IMO.
It is a common technique to complain about the predictable minor effects of a policy that is designed to provide less apparent benefits for people now (through subsidies on insulation, and subsidies on heating installations for poorer/older people) and in the future (improved energy security through diversity of supplies).
Even if the predictable minor effects are tiny compared with real impacts of higher prices caused by movements in the commodity markets.
All the better to throw in wads of hyperbole to describe these minor impacts with words like malfeasance, criminal and bribe, and by multiplying the costs by every house and for the next 25 years because you are confident your foolish readers are confused by lots of 000s. In reality, though, these schemes are policy decisions of a democratically elected parliament that are quite in line with subsidies and support given to many different areas of industry including other aspects of the energy industry.
I note that despite all your hand waving laden with promises of a bright energy future somewhere over some far-distant rainbow, you advance no actual reasons why the solar PV scam is a good thing.
Excellent..that at least is one thing we can agree on. Perhaps next time we can discuss windmills in detail.
You also remark about what the policies are ‘designed to provide’. The question – as ever – is not what the designers hoped to achieve. It is what actually happens that counts. (*)
And what has happened is that the solar scam has nothing to do with power generation, and everything to do with ‘investment opportunity’. At a time of low interest rates it has become a good way for rich folks to put away a few thousand quid and get a big fat rate of return from guaranteed bribes from the government.
Wind ‘power’ is the same, only you need to own a Scottish grouse moor, not a 3 bedroom semi in KT1 postcode.
And your final point …that other energy generation mechanisms get subsidy too..has me reaching for the aisle to roll in. Even if they are so subsidised they aren’t getting 45p per KWh FiT (about 5 times the market price)as the solar guys are. Whether there should be any subsidy at all anywhere is probably a bigger debate, but your attempt to show some sort of equivalence fails completely.
(*) Much like climate models The designers may convince themselves that they have done a fantastic job of producing a great model. But if what it predicts and what actually happens differ, you cannot just say…’our design was great..it must be reality that’s wrong’. Ohh …hang on a minute…that seems to be exactly what climate modellers do……..
Andrew has given the figures to counter your deceptive hand-waving alarmism, so I was merely commenting on your style of discussion.
Solar and wind subsidies are required to give a start to a necessary industry in the UK and part of the effort of moving to lower CO2 and more local energy generation. Two years ago, the payback times for solar PV in the UK were about 12-15 years. At the moment they are 7-10 years which is in part due to the effect of the subsidies on the market, but is far too generous and subsidies are being more than halved from March 3rd (probably) to 21p per unit: the subsidy should have been scaled back in a more orderly fashion last year.
The real subsidy to nuclear has been and will be frighteningly large – how much for Sellafield? How much for research into where to dig the holes for the waste? How much for “insurance”? The government (i.e. the consumer) will have to underwrite the costs for many of the risks. Note this is reality and offered as a comparison: I’m not intending to argue for or against nuclear.
‘Solar and wind subsidies are required to give a start to a necessary industry in the UK and part of the effort of moving to lower CO2 and more local energy generation’
Sounds like a fairly content-free sentence from some publicity from the Renewable Power Foundation. Good hand-waving stuff, but not enough to justify £7,000,000,000 of subsidy. Might give them a fiver if they rattled the tin nicely and told a sob story abut their kids having no shoes.
1. Why are these subsidies necessary? Plenty of other industries started up without subsidy. What’s so special about these two in particular?
2. Why is ‘more local energy generation’ desirable?
3. Please assess how well these subsidies are performing against the goals you list.
I note especially the proliferation of wind farms in the sparsely populated Highlands of Scotland and their absence in densely populated areas like London, Birmingham or Manchester. Which does not speak well to ‘local energy generation’
I note also that during the recent cold spell, national wind energy production fell to less than 1% of national demand. And Solar PV is so small that it is not even measured as a separate item by the government monitors.
And whether or not Sellafield may or may not have had subsidies. should not distract you from the iniquities of the current renewable subsidies. ‘But look – they did it too’ is an excuse best left behind at primary school.
“And whether or not Sellafield may or may not have had subsidies. should not distract you from the iniquities of the current renewable subsidies. ‘But look – they did it too’ is an excuse best left behind at primary school.”
You’ve completely missed the point haven’t you in your desire to put forward your “Latimer” personality. The UK consumer *heavily* subsidises a substantial part of its energy supply. Cut away these subsidies and the need to subsidise wind and solar PV retreats as the cost of energy goes through the roof.
‘The UK consumer *heavily* subsidises a substantial part of its energy supply. Cut away these subsidies and the need to subsidise wind and solar PV retreats as the cost of energy goes through the roof’
OK – please show some actual numbers that back up your assertions. The relevant power generation sources would be coal, CCGT and nuclear since these are the three suppliers that make up by far the majority of our electricity generation.
You will need to show the actual subsidy per unit of power generated and then convincingly prove that removal of that subsidy would take the cost of that mode of generation into parity with wind or solar. And remember that we are talking direct actual subsidies. Real pound notes.
Over to you.
I agree that this is a very good essay on energy and climate policy.
It addresses my frustration that too often today’s debate does not distinguish between the two policy issues: climate science and energy development. I get frustrated when the “debate” seemingly is only between one side that says the science is settled and the only impediment to major reductions in GHG emissions is a lack of political will and another side says there are no climatic risks and no reason to consider long-term lower carbon energy alternatives.
I believe that in order to develop a rational policy the premise of both policies has to have nuance. For example Dr. Roger Pielke, Sr. et al. (http://pielkeclimatesci.files.wordpress.com/2009/12/r-354.pdf) suggest that instead of the hypothesis that recent changes in the climate system are dominated by effects caused by greenhouse gas emissions they recommend “Although the natural causes of climate variations and changes are undoubtedly important, the human influences are significant and involve a diverse range of first-order climate forcings, including, but not limited to, the human input of carbon dioxide (CO2). Most, if not all, of these human influences on regional and global climate will continue to be of concern during the coming decades.”
I think that Dr. Hartley has laid the groundwork to develop a similar nuanced hypothesis for energy policy. Simply put, society cannot afford to do everything but surely there are policies that reduce overall risks, address uncertainties that cannot be resolved quickly, and are less expensive than some of the “solutions” currently in politically “correct” vogue. A debate that looks at two nuanced policy bases will surely develop a better plan for going forward.
The obverse displays a CO2 climate control knob, the reverse a power density grid. Bite that apparent ducat. Bit hard, eh?
‘Pieces of eight, pieces of eight’ squawked the parrots. Quoth the Raven, ‘Nevermore’.
I’ll comment on this topic with some trepidation, because my knowledge of economics is very superficial. My understanding of climate is greater, and in this post, as in others, I continue to see a disconnect between some economists who scold climatologists urging prompt reductions in carbon emissions by saying, “You don’t really appreciate the true human and economic cost of doing what you demand”, while the climatologists scold the economists by saying, “You don’t really appreciate the human and economic cost of NOT doing what we demand”. That argument isn’t going to be resolved here, although I confess I understand the climatologic argument in more depth than the economic one.
Peter Hartley is to be commended for his willingness to engage in the discussion here. I would ask, though, whether his perspective is not somewhat toward the far right end (politically speaking) of economic perspectives on this issue. Nicholas Stern, I suppose, would be on the other end, but it’s certainly my impression that there are economists in between those ends. Among these, William Nordhaus comes to mind as one who has perhaps studied the climate/economy relationship in greater depth than almost anyone else. If I understand him correctly, he recommends incremental approaches to the mitigation of carbon emissions, but he also recommends as optimal that we start now to increase the price of carbon, as an incentive to enhance all the other steps (energy efficiency, conservation, and alternative energy development and scale up).
I won’t pretend to be capable of judging disagreement among economists, but it’s worth emphasizing another dimension to the issue that can’t easily be framed in economic and/or mathematical terms. The principle is that when we assess cost/benefit relationships, it’s important to ask, “Costs to whom? Benefits to whom?” When those reaping the benefits are not the ones bearing the costs, the issue gets tangled up in moral and philosophical principles, and not merely economic ones that could be addressed by estimating discount rates. To put it starkly at the risk of oversimplifying, if I create a mess and a hardship, at what point can I say “I’m going to pass it on to you, because you can fix it more cheaply than I can?”
I raise all the above points as questions rather than attempting to answer them. I have my own views on the subject of anthropogenic climate change and its consequences, but since this post is focused on the economic aspect of the problem, I think it would be worth exploring the views of economists over the entire spectrum of opinion.
To clarify a point above, it has been argued that by saving wealth now rather than spending it on mitigation, we can pass on that extra wealth to future generations, who can then undertake the mitigation efforts more effectively, with a net overall benefit. It’s a logical argument, but in my view, it almost certainly overlooks the reluctance of societies to adequately fix problems that beset the underprivileged more than the affluent. If the necessary sense of community existed, I don’t think we would be facing this problem in the first place. The climate change problem, in my view, already reflects the tendency of individuals and societies to assign more importance to their benefits than to the costs they impose on others, and I haven’t seen evidence that the world is moving in an opposite direction. Even a wealthier future, in general, is likely to leave adverse impacts of climate change inadequately addressed for many inhabitants of the globe.
To some extent, this gets to the relative merits of climate change mitigation vs adaptation. For some of the most affluent countries, particularly the U.S., adaptation is likely to be more cost effective than serious mitigation, whereas a lack of mitigation poses worse threats to nations without the resources to adapt adequately.
There is no mitigation technology that actually exists. It is a pipedream.
Until you can actually show a mitigation technology that works, perhaps it would be to discuss things that are real.
I dunno, but maybe “video conferences” are a an effective carbon mitigation technology. Google: “Mirror Phil Jones Tahiti” for the details.
Quite a read, that Mirror article, incidentally. And it should help keep Phil’s countrymen just a little “warmer” despite the travails of their newly-imposed, low-carbon, watermelon-cicle lifestyles as they struggle to survive this winter’s “global warming.” Seems Phil had an emergency need to jet off to Tahiti to lecture the Tahitians on the perils of demon-carbon. All funded by his tax-payer supported university, of course.
And, oh yes, a video or telecast of Phil’s vital message was not practicable: There is…”no substitute for face-to-face meetings and informal networking…” we are informed. So there, you hypothermic, useless-complainer, butt-frozen, no-body peasants!
Another point, Fred:
If Dr. Hartley’s ideas are informed, as your question implies, by a political perspective then why not ask the same for those advocating other sides in this issue?
Limiting the debate to climate scientists vs econoistsleaves out an important component: engineers, and results in a absurd vaste of resources on windmills and solar.
It also results in blackouts, energy poverty, and theopposite of energy security – enrgy deprivation.
Let’s reasonable examine some of your thoughts as they are consistent with others who believe in the concept of cAGW.
William Nordhaus starts out his book with a glowing statement about Al Gore and the potential perils of a warmer planet, so it is a bit difficult to understand how anyone could consider him to be moderate or unbiased on the topic. Nordhaus is a leading advocate of the IPCC’s conclusions. He wrote: “Global warming is a serious problem that will not solve itself. Countries should take cooperative steps to slow global warming. There is no case for delay [p. 28].”
Hartley on the other hand is simply being factual and realistic in his assessment. He seems to fully understand reductions in CO2 emissions by currently developed countries will have no hope of offsetting increases in emissions by countries developing significantly over the next several decades.
Both you and Nordhaus have faith in the outputs of GCM’s that predict that it is possible, although with a low probability; that extremely harmful changes will occur as a result of more CO2 being released. Both you and Nordhaus believe that currently developed countries should “lead by example” and aggressively implement expensive mitigation policies to reduce CO2 emissions.
Nordhaus “hopes” these actions will lead other nations to join in to implement a universal price of carbon and that by raising the price it will lower emissions.
Unfortunately, your views are inconsistent with reality. The models you have relied upon to form your fears have been demonstrated to be unreliable. In the real world there is no way that the currently developed nations will be paying for significant amounts of energy development in other countries. These countries are already deeply in debt and are struggling to find a means to pay for current expenses. There is simply almost no money to give away to the parts of the world seeking to develop faster. In the real world, countries wanting to develop are not going to agree to limit their CO2 emissions when that would be more expensive and slow their ability to help their population.
Fred, this is not right wing economics, it is just economics period. I have no idea what Hartley’s political position is, and you would probably be surprised at mine, but this is not a political disagreement but one of one side being realistic and the other living in a world not based on faith, flawed reasoning and fear.
I wouldn’t go quite so far as Rob, but I certainly agree with him that we see the world in a very different way. And that these views may well be incommensurable.
I was struck by your use of the term ‘climate change problem’. This sounds the same to me as people talking about the ‘problem with Satan’. You see something that I believe does not exist. I think you would agree that this makes it very difficult – even with the best will in the world – to have really fruitful discussions.
As this is mostly about economics, I’ll leave it there for now. I am though interested in having a look at what it is that fundamentally separates disparate views about climate and perhaps [naively] looking at possibilities of bridging those divides. I think in much the same way Mike Hulme does in ‘Why we disagree about climate change’ the answers have very little to do with evidence, reasoning or science.
Anteros- I’d appreciate you letting me know where you think I went “to far”. I acknowledge that Fred really frustrates me so i may have.
I didn’t say you went too far. I said I wouldn’t go quite so far. Not a big difference and I agree with everything behind your comments.
To an extent I was being diplomatic. I too can let my frustration come out very easily on blogs and it isn’t the best way to get a thoughtful response from Fred – which I was after. I too find Fred quite frustrating, but the feeling might be mutual and I think I need to make a bit of an effort if I’m to find out why Fred sees the world upside down..
TY, I appreciate the feedback. I personally feel that many of us who post here would be completely willing to alter our positions if there was data to justify the change. (at least I would, and I suspect you are similar). I just don’t understand the religious like positions of people like Fred.
Off topic (unusual for me, I know), but I thought you might get a chuckle out of this:
Thanks, except apparently the video is ‘not available in my territory’. Maybe it is too rude/sophisticated/provocative for us this side of the pond..
I’m not short of chuckles though – I had a few watching the ‘football’ game in the early hours of this morning :)
Maybe this will work for you?
On the other hand, that football game wasn’t funny in the least.
Thanks for further efforts. Apparently this version falls foul of ‘legal and business’ issues…
It’s OK, there actually wasn’t a whole bunch of laughing over here either…
I’ll try looking it up on Youtube..
Yep. That resonates here…..
Thank you very much for your thoughtful comments. I think you raise a point about distributional impacts that is relevant, but I wanted to focus on getting the efficiency argument straight first. Having sorted that out, we can then also talk about distributional issues, but I think it is important to tackle the issues one by one rather than lumping them together from the outset.
It seems to me that the efficiency-based counter-argument to my proposition is summarized by your statement, “He [Nordhaus] also recommends as optimal that we start now to increase the price of carbon*, as an incentive to enhance all the other steps (energy efficiency, conservation, and alternative energy development and scale up).”
Let me explain in slightly different terms, that address your points more directly, why I think taxing CO2 is not the most efficient way of handling the problem.
First, it is unlikely to work in terms of materially affecting the accumulation of CO2 since the developing countries are not going to agree to it.
Second, even if we could control global CO2 emissions effectively, the policy is unlikely to work in terms of achieving a predictable net benefit for future climates since so many factors impact climate change and any given change has so many different effects geographically.
In this regard, I think you will find that Nordhaus’ analyses assume that the controls can work in terms of materially reducing global CO2 emissions and that consequent reduced CO2 accumulation beneficially affects climates and does not impose costs in terms of lost benefits such as the foregone fertilizer effect of CO2 or the climate changes that would have been beneficial.
Third, and most importantly, the alternative I propose of
– directly encouraging basic research into energy efficiency and alternative energy technologies;
– limiting the potential for harmful consequences of adverse climate events; and
– contending better with disasters of all sorts after they occur
achieves more than taxes on CO2 emissions in terms of handling the potential problems at lower cost.
It is true that CO2 taxes would provide incentives to do some of the things I propose (especially encouraging energy efficiency and alternative energy technology development), but they are not the most cost-effective way of doing these things. Some of the resources effectively used up in such a tax/subsidy scheme are in a sense “wasted” on subsidizing current output from energy technologies that are not efficient and will not solve the problem long term. The indirect subsidies to energy efficiency and new energy technologies implied by a CO2 tax are also poorly targeted. Instead of fostering basic research that we think is most likely to pay off and really solve the problem, the funds are spread willy nilly across all sorts of things.
Finally, in raising the price of energy, one effectively taxes economic growth which reduces the resources available for, among other things, financing basic scientific research into new energy technologies.
[* As an aside, I have a pet peeve when people talk about CO2 taxes as a tax on carbon. To me, calling CO2 “carbon” is like calling “water” “hydrogen”.]
I’ve been reading many of your comments with interest.
Re-visiting a distinction I focused on earlier, I note that you say to Fred –
– which I wholly agree with [as sensible actions/policies] What is striking to me is that this should seem (to me) so different from saying the same thing but referring to climate change events. Putting it as you do above creates a completely different emotional and intellectual perspective. The whole issue looks different.
I have a suspicions that the label ‘climate change’ has taken on all sorts of connotations that fundamentally obscure the reality that climatic events happen all the time – the ‘noise’ of variability and unpredictability are vastly greater than any ‘signal’ of change that we could measure or identify. And yet the prospect of something changing so terrifies us that we see signs and wonders everywhere. It is as if the notion of climate change makes us imagine climate currently has no effects – that they are something new or different. I thank that is very much an illusion – though a compelling one.
There are people, of course, claiming that all climatic events now have an anthropogenic component and should all be seen as such. But beyond this rather extreme view, even calmer eyes are looking to see if it is possible to identify trends in rainfall, flooding, droughts etc. These things are happening all over the place, today!. Whether there is a 2% change per decade one way or another is insignificant in comparison to the significance and variability of the events themselves. Unremarkably, that is the reason it is so hard to identify trends – even if they were to exist in the first place.
Another aspect of this is the power invested in the word ‘impact’. Almost a third of the IPCC reports devote themselves to the concept of climate change impacts which to me is very strange indeed. With your wording above, these things dissipate like Dementers in the face of boundless optimism… Looking fairly and squarely at climatic effects – and the ways in which certain groups are currently [and imminently] vulnerable to them – means that any (alleged) effects/’impacts’ from changes in climate are automatically taken care of.
One other question I have is about efficiency. I agree that it seems obvious that it is a sensible thing to aim for. How could it not be?
But I wonder. Is there any convincing evidence that genuine increases in efficiency have actually had the effects we assume that they, indeed, will have? I’m thinking of Jevons paradox where increases in the efficiency of engines in mining actually increased the amount of coal used..
Perhaps more realistically, are there any studies that show the kinds of benefits achievable by pursuing efficiencies? I suspect that the reality is somewhat less than we would like – as is perhaps the case with most things.
Peter – Thanks for your response. First, to get a very small point out of the way, anthropogenic carbon emissions include both CO2 (the most important one) and methane, which is also a potent greenhouse gas.
You make a series of statements you refer to as “First”, “Second”, and “Third”.
Regarding the second, you state, “even if we could control global CO2 emissions effectively, the policy is unlikely to work in terms of achieving a predictable net benefit for future climates since so many factors impact climate change and any given change has so many different effects geographically.” To me, that illustrates a problem I alluded to earlier – economists understand economics much better than they do climate science, while the reverse may be true about climate scientists. While there are a number of scientists who might agree with your statement, I can say, as someone familiar with the science and the literature, that the large majority do not, based on evidence I find compelling. I’m sure you will find partisans in the blogosphere who agree with you (many in this blog), but if you want to mount an argument that is persuasive to those with a professional understanding of climate dynamics, your statement will be a weak starting point because more readers will disagree than agree. This is not to say that effective global CO2 emissions control can be predicted to yield a benefit that is precisely quantifiable over a quantifiable interval. However, that there would be a substantial net benefit is a conclusion that most active climate scientists will see as a near certainty. In any case, your economic arguments will be more solidly grounded if they don’t depend on the truth of the argument I quoted.
In regard to your “Third” argument (your “alternative” vs carbon taxes for emissions reduction) , I can’t disagree with some of the particulars, but I believe the implication that they conflict with increasing the price of carbon is an argument that would not be universally accepted. Is this truly an either/or proposition. That is something I’m unqualified to judge, but I would want to read a number of perspectives on it to get a better sense of the logic of those proposing the taxes. How has this been quantified?
Your “First” statement, that carbon taxes are unlikely to significantly affect CO2 emissions, is also one I’m unqualified to judge. However, my instincts tell me that approaches like these tend to result in efforts that are neither efficient, coordinated, and fully implemented, nor those that do nothing at all, and I’ll venture the prediction that we’ll see something in between. We already have such approaches in some nations (doesn’t Australia have some sort of carbon tax?), and I would include CAFE standards in the U.S. as well as some state initiatives in the mix. I’ll also guess that these will expand when the recession ends, but I’m not prepared to bet on it. The developing nations are certainly an important consideration, but here too, I suspect the prospects are mixed. China recently released a very long report (in Chinese) detailing the prospect of serious damage to Chinese agricultural productivity from continued global warming (even after taking CO2 fertilization effects into account). They are now conflicted between the current demands for industrialization (plus a more affluent lifestyle) vs future harm to their economy and regime stability. That leaves some latitude, I suspect, for negotiated international agreements that don’t restrict their options too rigidly.
Those are some main points I feel comfortable making. I certainly need to understand the economics much better before reaching conclusions on the economic aspects, and that includes more familiarity with the full spectrum of economic opinions. I understand the science well enough to appreciate why there is some sense of urgency in getting started on mitigating anthropogenic emissions, but to address the science in detail would be an undertaking far beyond the purview of this thread. What would most capture my interest is an economic analysis that acknowledged reasons for starting to act now combined with an objective evaluation of how best to reduce carbon emissions at acceptable costs – but probably not at no cost at all.
Peter Hartley said, “- directly encouraging basic research into energy efficiency and alternative energy technologies;”
That is a key point. No energy source is perfect and no energy source is inherently evil. Blending sources to obtain maximum efficiency until one or more shine is the way to go. Picking winners before technology matures is, well, like predicting the climate before it happens :)
You are making the case that there is a consensus which is claiming that if we reduce CO2 in the atmosphere then there will be a noticable reduction in extreme or dangerous weather.
Can you please offer some references for this, or have you been misunderstood?
That was a long and thoughtful comment of yours at 2.19. Terminology is important in shaping opinion and the changing use of a phrase to describe mans apparent adverse involvement in something so visceral as ‘the climate’ is something that future historians and lexicographers will want to dissect.
As you observe, people don’t tend to like change, so the notion of a ‘changing climate’ with all its connotations that it is caused by man is especially scary.
This link describes when the various phrases were first used;
I try in my own small way to point out that todays events are not out of the ordinary and indeed are often rather modest compared to the past (thanks for your kind reply to my comments on this subject on the other thread). I wrote this next article as a succinct precursor of the events eventually drescribed in ‘the long slow thaw’ and one of these days I will update it as further evidence of ‘climate change’ from way back presents itself
Yes — one of the reasons that investments in limiting harmful consequences or contending better with disasters of all sorts are likely to have a much more favorable cost/benefit ratio is that, as you say, “climatic events happen all the time” and that, “whether there is a 2% change per decade one way or another is insignificant in comparison to the significance and variability of the events themselves.” The idea that we can effectively limit the costs from climate disasters by attempting to control changes in climates, and then only changes resulting from just one source, is a fantasy.
Your question about efficiency exposes an issue I should perhaps have explained better. Economists use “efficiency” in the sense (roughly speaking) of “getting more value for the same total cost” of “achieving the same outcome at lower total cost”. This is to be distinguished from “energy efficiency” which is an engineering concept of getting the same useful work done (e.g. miles driven) by using less energy input (e.g. higher miles per gallon).
Having said that, I agree there is something called the Jevon’s paradox, whereby increases in energy efficiency, by lowering the cost of operating the machine using the energy input (e.g. higher miles per gallon make it cheaper to drive), encourage increased energy use and might (paradoxically) actually increase rather than decrease energy use. I think the balance of empirical evidence on that point is that there is a “rebound effect” (lower cost of use does beget more use), but the effect is not strong enough to actually raise energy use overall.
More generally, I agree that it is probably easy to get carried away with the opportunities for improving energy efficiency — especially in ways that also are economically efficient too, or in other words ways that raise the overall value that people obtain from the resources used. For example, if more fuel efficient vehicles are lighter and increase the cost of accidents that is a cost that has to be offset against the benefits of the lower cost of driving. As another example, while CFL light bulbs are more energy efficient than incandescent ones, the mercury pollution from the former may raise their costs above the total costs of incandescent bulbs (and perhaps for some, like my wife, the different quality of light may also reduce the benefits of the CFL ones).
Thanks for your response. I yake note of what you’ve said about efficiency and economics.
I think the point we agree on about climatic effects and approaching resiliency to them can be taken a step further. From climate change to climate, then from climate to development.
I think it is easy to take the resilience to climatic effects out of context. By that I mean that extracting the idea of a communities vulnerability to a certain kind of climatic effect – flooding, snow, heatwave, whatever – we can miss that these vulnerabilities are all correlates with something else. In England we have resilience to all these possibilities, but this wasn’t always the case. The difference isn’t that we looked at these problems and solved them in isolation, but that as a consequence of development, prosperity and infrastructure, we have become immune to almost every kind of climatic event [as a nation].
So, wherever I see people being identified as vulnerable to climatic events [or bizarrely climate change events] I see people in need of development [+ of course good governance, peace, education etc – the usual things!]
Somehow I feel our choice of perspective is important. Even moving from a focus on climate change to climate itself still obscures the most important variable – not the weather, but the circumstances of the people themselves.
My claim that “many factors impact climate change and any given change has so many different effects geographically” is not based on climate science so much as simple observation of history. Isn’t there plenty of evidence, in just the historical era (i.e. since we have had written records) of climate changes of substantial magnitude in the absence of large changes in CO2?
With regard to my “third argument” you comment “Is this truly an either/or proposition”. That really gets to the heart of my comment in the original piece that to an economist these are either/or propositions. For policy to be efficient, we want to do the lowest cost things first (normalized for their expected benefits). It is a waste of resources to pursue a less efficient alternative.
As regards the issue of whether China, India, Brazil, Indonesia and other high population countries will impose effective controls on growth of CO2 emissions in the foreseeable future, I again simply point to the evidence of emissions growth and observe that a very good explanation for it is that, to the leaders of these countries, raising the standard of living of their people is a far more important issue than climate change. For that matter, dealing with more conventional environmental issues and with disasters happening today are far more pressing than reducing the chance of an adverse change in climates.
Peter – I’m reluctant to engage in an extended discussion of anthropogenic vs natural climate variability. It’s an enormous topic – far too broad to do justice to here. I think it would be more useful for me to repeat a point I made above – if you want to convince individuals with a strong background in climate science that you have a valid economic point to make, you will need to base it on the expectation that continued anthropogenic carbon emissions are likely to exert significant adverse effects (even if their magnitude is controversial), and that substantially reducing carbon emissions will substantially reduce the severity of those effects.
I could devote much space to detailing the evidentiary basis for those conclusions, and provoke many arguments from blogosphere partisan warriors in the process. Whether the conclusions are right or wrong, though, doesn’t in my view change the fact that if you depend on their being wrong for your arguments, your arguments will be seen as unpersuasive by the majority of those who know the science very well. I also assume you genuinely want to arrive at a position that is accurate rather than to merely win arguments. In that case, you’ll have to try to evaluate as objectively as you can how likely those scientific conclusions are to be wrong. Blogs are probably not very helpful for that purpose, but I don’t know if there’s any quick way to get an accurate perspective on climate science without running into personal biases. Perhaps consulting a wide diversity of expert sources would be helpful.
Anthros says at 2:19 pm- “One other question I have is about efficiency. I agree that it seems obvious that it is a sensible thing to aim for. How could it not be? But I wonder. Is there any convincing evidence that genuine increases in efficiency have actually had the effects we assume that they, indeed, will have?”
A recent paper discusses this topic-
“Is There an Energy Efficiency Gap?”
Hunt Allcott and Michael Greenstone
From the abstract-
…..”We therefore review the empirical work on the magnitude of profitable unexploited energy efficiency investments, a literature which frequently does not meet modern standards for credibly estimating the net present value of energy cost savings and often leaves other benefits and costs unmeasured. These problems notwithstanding, recent empirical work in a variety of contexts implies that on average the magnitude of profitable unexploited investment opportunities is much smaller than engineering-accounting studies suggest. Finally, there is tremendous opportunity and need for policy-relevant research that utilizes randomized controlled trials and quasi-experimental techniques to estimate the returns to energy efficiency investments and the welfare effects of energy efficiency programs…”
Download this paper in Adobe Acrobat format: http://ei.haas.berkeley.edu/pdf/working_papers/WP228.pdf
There is some data from City of Palo Alto on the costs of EE increasing over the years as noted here- http://www.energy.ca.gov/2011_energypolicy/documents/2011-08-11_workshop/comments/City_of_Palo_Alto_Utilities_Comments_TN-61893.pdf with some specifics referenced as follows:
“At the August 11 workshop, NRDC repeatedly quoted the cost of EE at 2¢/kWh. This is a misleading number. Based on the SB 1037 reports submitted by CPAU in the past three years, the levelized cost of EE, as expressed by the total utility cost divided by present value of net lifecycle EE savings, has increased steadily, from 2.9¢/kWh in 2008
to 6.4¢/kWh in 2010. Looking forward, as new lighting standards take effect and other low-cost efficiency measures reach saturation, the cost of EE will continue to increase.”
An article by Cynthia Mitchcell, et al entitled “Stabilizing CA Demand- The real reasons behind the state’s energy savings” http://www.fortnightly.com/exclusive.cfm?o_id=159 is an enlightening review of the factors that influenced the stable kw/capita usage in CA over the years. The costs of electrical energy is noted as being one of the biggest drivers…….
As I said in my first response to you, the main argument does not rely on the claim that climates will change anyway. Rather we want to limit the potential for harmful consequences of adverse climate events and contend better with disasters of all sorts after they occur. As a means to achieving that end, policies directly focused on those events are likely to be more efficient than a blunt, and likely ineffective (because developing countries will not go along with the program) tool to influence changes in the distributions of weather events.
If there is substantial uncertainty about the magnitude of the likely effects of CO2 on the distribution of weather events (as you suggest), that raises the risk of investing in CO2 control and makes such investments less desirable than the alternatives of directly handling the potential for harmful consequences of adverse climate events and contend better with disasters of all sorts after they occur.
If at least some of the consequences (weather or otherwise) of increased CO2 are beneficial, that also shifts the balance toward the policies I am advocating — accept the good and treat the bad.
If measures to cope with weather disasters are useful for things like earthquakes and terrorist attacks, that also shifts the balance toward such policies.
Peter Hartley and Anteros
There is no doubt that the increase in affluence, standard of living, quality of life and life expectancy, which the industrially developed world has experienced over the past 150-200 years has been to a large extent a result of the availability of a reliable and low cost energy source..
There is also no doubt that this is the path now being followed by China, India, many smaller Asian nations, Brazil etc.
Those that are fortunate enough to have their own resources of fossil fuels, are using these for this transformation; others are supplementing local resources with purchased ones.
The poorest nations of this world do not have a reliable energy infrastructure based on low-cost sources of energy. They might have the basic fuel resources, but they lack the capital investment for developing the infrastructure.
Each of these nations will have its own “energy policy”. For example, China’s economic growth objectives are based on the continued growth in energy demand. So the “energy policy” is basically in support of an economic growth policy, which in turn is based on gradually improving the quality of life of its population.
“Climate policy” is a more nebulous concept.
A few already affluent nations (in Europe, for example) have a stated goal to “reduce carbon emissions to X% of what they were in year Y by year Z”, or to “hold global warming to no more than 2 degC”, but this is not really a “climate policy”, but only empty political posturing.
Curiously, it is precisely these nations, which do not have a coherent “energy policy”, as witnessed, for example by the UK’s “chasing windmills” or Germany’s “nuclear phaseout”, neither of which addresses the future energy needs of its populace.
The IPCC would like to promote a “global climate policy” (to reduce CO2 emissions globally in order to avert a virtual computer-projected climate disaster), but the larger nations of this world are not buying in to the need or desirability of doing this, as was evidenced at Copenhagen, Cancun and Durban, so it will not become a reality.
Nor have there been any concrete actionable proposals to date, which would result in a perceptible impact on our planet’s climate – NONE.
And it has become increasingly evident that we humans are unable to change our planet’s climate, no matter how much money we throw at it.
So I’d say that a “climate policy” (on a national or regional basis) should be to be able to respond to any climate changes, which nature throws at us, in order to minimize any harm or maximize any potential benefit that these might cause.
And this has no connection with an “energy policy”.
I agree with you mostly. But it depends to a certain extent what you mean about energy policy. A country [India, say] might have the objective of making its citizens better off, and one of the things it seeks to do is make them less vulnerable to climatic events. So they have a climate policy. Their climate policy, if sensible, is to increase prosperity by the mechanism of utilising fossil fuels as much as possible – investing in large numbers of power stations for instance.
This is, in a broad sense, an energy policy, part of a national objective and also in part a way of addressing the vulnerability of many of its citizens to climatic events.
Isn’t energy use strongly correlated with prosperity which is in turn correlated with resilience to climatic events?
Seems straightforward to me! Over the next hundred years it seems obvious that resilience to climatic events will increase – we will become progressively less climate-vulnerable.
Of course, that isn’t how the ultra-alarmed see it…
Government policies designed to make their populations less “climate-vulnerable” can certainly be effective, as you write, but I would say that these have nothing to do with a “climate policy”, but are just a part of larger efforts to make the populations less “disaster-vulnerable” on a local or regional basis.
Judith has written about the desirability of having local extreme weather advance warning systems in place.
In regions where there is a record of tornadoes, this means installing tornado watch and warning systems, facilities and personnel.
Coastal locations, which have repeated floods (whether these are caused by extreme weather events or tsunamis), should have adequate dikes and levees.
Earthquake-prone regions should have appropriate building codes.
Better farming, pesticide and irrigation methods and facilities should be provided to drought-prone regions to avoid famines resulting from crop loss; the same is true for regions suffering from periodic invasions by locusts or other pests.
Programs to fight malaria and other diseases with insecticides and improved sanitation should be sponsored by governments for regions that have this problem.
Disaster response and relief efforts should be coordinated by local and regional governments.
The suggestion that a slightly warmer world will see a major increase in weather-related disasters has pretty much been invalidated as unfounded (despite Kevin Trenberth’s feeble attempt to postulate a new “null hypothesis” in this direction).
Studies by Indur Goklany and others have shown that global (as well as US) human deaths resulting from extreme weather events have declined sharply over the 20th century as global temperatures rose slightly.
Obviously the reason for this dramatic decline was NOT the imperceptibly warmer “globally and annually averaged land and sea surface temperature” over this period (which was pointed out by Richard Lindzen). It was a result of local and regional efforts to make the populations less vulnerable to natural disasters.
I would not call this a “climate policy”
And it certainly has little to do with an “energy policy” IMO.
” I think it would be worth exploring the views of economists over the entire spectrum of opinion.”
Fred, it might be worth a conversation but it isn’t likely to happen is it? The dogma of central planning economics is even more established than that of central planning climate science. If we are talking about “Two Heads of the Same Coin” we couldn’t pick a better example than AGW and Keynesian economic dogma. The purpose is an exact match in fact. State controls over markets and private property rights in both cases.
More pressing to the article and discussion is we are dealing with the usual Granfalloon(s) shared only between AGW advocates;
“I(we) think CO2 is changing the climate ……..therefore…….fill in any presumed expansion of state authority”
This only has meaning among various types of similar political culture (The Granfalloon in question). It’s actually more important than CO2 beliefs.
Regarding human produced CO2 presumptions of importance to the Climate and relating it to fellow peers in a way that is objectively meaningless to the more rational. Carried to the extreme, which it often is, AGW presumption is an abusive form of political correctness.
More directly to your comment, it’s the cost of excess regulations and loss of individual rights that are far more costly to humanity at large. It’s a common bias that is found here but one you should reconsider. It’s no small irony that those who would claim greater sensitivity to Climate regulations and the needs of the “poor” are actually increasing the burdens of such groups and are counter productive to their stated ideals.
Climate dogma hasn’t just destroyed physical wealth, it’s lowered our most important resource which is to think rationally.
Developing countries will not slow their economic growth by avoiding low cost fossil fuels.
Both India and China are in the predicament of importing coal at a final delivered cost in excess of $100/tonne…$4/MMbtu.
So the idea that ‘developing countries’ have access to sufficient quantities of ‘inexpensive fossil fuels’ is false to begin with.
What developing countries don’t have is access to a sufficiently large pool of ‘trained nuclear operators’ because developing countries don’t have ‘nuclear powered navies’.
The one thing in the IPCC scenario that was clear was the effect of ‘technological integration’ on the emissions scenario. I.E. Developing countries gain access to energy technologies that give them a choice as to whether they should burn ‘expensive’ fossil fuels or use ‘inexpensive nuclear’.
Whether or not ‘energy security’ and ‘climate change’ are different sides of the same coin is country dependent.
In the US and Australia we have more then our fair share of ‘inexpensively extractable coal’ the answer is at best ‘in some circumstances’. We could make oil from our coal via fischer-tropishe and be ‘energy secure’ in a matter of a few short years. Of course the ‘environmentalists’ would be a tad upset if such a thing were to occur.
In the ‘coal poor’ regions of the world ‘action on climate change’ and ‘energy security’ are indeed the same thing.
Western countries have been reluctant to have nuclear technology proliferate into undeveloped countries because of the risk of the by-products and related technologies being used in undesirable ways. That is the main reason why more large ships are not nuclear powered btw.
Fossil fuels are still the lowest cost and most reliable form of energy production for most developing countries.
Fossil fuels are still the lowest cost and most reliable form of energy production for most developing countries.
At the prices China and India pay for imported coal for every GW of coal fired plant that runs on imported coal the fuel tab is $400 million per year.
A nice modern Westinghouse AP 1000 which has a design lifespan of 60 years built with ‘local labor’ costs around $3 billion.
I find it hard to believe that a Nuclear Plant with a 60 year lifespan and a payback period of 8 years in fuels savings alone isn’t by far the ‘cheapest’ way to go for developing countries.
The nuclear suppliers group now has a standard ‘legal framework’ for developing countries to adopt civilian nuclear power…UAE is the first country to adopt the new ‘nuclear suppliers group legal framework’.
Basically…sign on the dotted line and agree to ‘third party’ refueling verifications and safeguards. Then it’s about 10 years of setting up internal regulatory frameworks and various training programs before you get an operating nuclear reactor.
So simple even poverty stricken Bangladesh can play –
I won’t argue againest nuclear power since I believe it is a very efficient means to generate electricity when managed correctly. (both in terms of the type built and the methods of design/construction)
Rob Starkey and harrywr2
I’d agree with harrywr2 that nuclear power can compete with coal (even without a carbon tax), including relatively high costs for spent fuel disposal – once fast breeder reactors (using thorium?) are operational worldwide, these cost should even come down, while delivered coal prices are likely to continue to increase.
But, even when the spent fuel problem is solved, there are two major problems with nuclear power.
– The anti-nuke hysteria fueled in places like Germany by environmental lobby groups, such as WWF, was given a new shot in the arm with the Fukushima “event”.
– And proliferation concerns limit the places where nuclear plants are likely to be built, especially in the underdeveloped nations with unstable or dictatorial governments..
China and India have nuclear technology and it is inevitable that they will continue use this to provide the required energy for a part of their economic growth.
Both nations also have coal reserves, and they also import coal (from Australia and South Africa, for example).
So I believe that Rob Starkey is also correct, when he writes:
IMO it is highly unlikely that these nations will let a “rich white man’s imagined future problem” hold them back from improving the quality of life of their populations by building up the required reliable, low-cost energy infrastructure based on fossil fuels
The UNFCCC planners who believe these nations can be bribed into not doing so by forcing the rich nations to pay their dictators a billion dollar “guilt tax” for “past climate sins” are delusional.
Sure, the governments of these nations will take any bribe money that comes along – but they’ll then do exactly what makes most sense for their populations and themselves – not what makes sense in the eyes of “the rich white man”.
Just my opinion.
“We must treat energy security and climate security as two sides of the same coin.”
Calling re-write !
“We must treat political expediency and climate security as two sides of the same coin.”
Is it possible that “Energy Policy” is the last stage of the following metamorphosis?
Global Warming=>Climate Change=>Extreme Weather
Stuff climate. We need the cheapest possible energy sources to maximise economic growth as a humanitarian objective. I am over millenialist d…wads with their well meaning but ultimately perverse objectives.
Rich and resilient cultures can handle anything. Poor and corrupt cultures lead to nothing but death and failure.
I’ve been waiting for someone to put it so succinctly for ages. What is bizarre to me is that many people can’t see it.
Take the people of a few generations time. 100 years, say. Their degree of vulnerability to climatic events ie the effing weather, will be dependent not on the weather, but their vulnerability! In other words, their lack of resilience. And in actual reality, from there, where would you go to get more climatically vulnerable people? back in this direction – towards now!! Assuming development isn’t sacrificed on the alter of Gaia’s vengeful icon.
Changes in windiness and raininess?? Ha ha ha.
200 years ago where I live, a hard late frost, dry summer or wet autumn would have killed people by the thousand. Today the climate is irrelevent Most folks have to turn on the TV even to find out what the weather is doing. Climate is an ex problem.
In a place where houses and roads can be washed away because they are made of mud, crops die for lack of irrigation, and people freeze because there isn’t any heating, changing the trace gas composition of the atmosphere isn’t going to change a damn thing – ever.
The last two comments from Anteros and the Cheif sum up the real issues beautifully. Notice the paucity of comments from the warmist proponents. It was really eye opening reading a comment from a warmist on another thread that stated when they die they want to come back as a virus!
In Western Europe, in the preindustrial Middle Ages, man’s life expectancy was 30 years. In the nineteenth century, Europe’s population grew by 300 percent—which is the best proof of the fact that for the first time in human history, industry gave the great masses of people a chance to survive.
If it were true that a heavy concentration of industry is destructive to human life, one would find life expectancy declining in the more advanced countries. But it has been rising steadily. Here are the figures on life expectancy in the United States (from the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company):
1900: 47.3 years
1920: 53 years
1940: 60 years
1968: 70.2 years (the latest figures compiled)
Anyone over 30 years of age today, give a silent “Thank you” to the nearest, grimiest, sootiest smokestacks you can find.
You wrote [February 6, 2012 at 12:35 am]:
Your statement is speculative, Jim.
But let’s do a quick reality check (figures from Wiki and IPCC AR4).
I think we can agree to the basic premise that human CO2 emissions (and increase of atmospheric CO2 levels due to human CO2 emissions) are proportional to the number of humans on our planet.
Will global population continue to grow at a compounded rate of 1.7% per year (as it did between 1960 and 2000?
Very likely NOT. UN tells us it should level off at between 9 and 10.5 billion by the end of the century. This is a compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) of between 0.28% and 0.45% (or one-sixth to one-fourth the past growth rate).
How about human CO2 emissions?
Data from CDIAC tell us that these grew from around 2.6 GtC/year in 1960 to 9.3 GtC/year in 2010 (or at a CAGR of 2.6%, or around 50% higher than the population CAGR).
How did this impact atmospheric CO2 concentrations?
Since Mauna Loa measurements were installed in 1957, atmospheric CO2 has grown from around 315 to 390 ppmv, or at a CAGR of 0.42% (or around one-fourth of the population CAGR).
If we accept IPCC “Scenario and Storyline B1” (business as usual with moderate economic growth, population growth leveling off at end of century and no climate initiatives), we would have cumulative CO2 emissions of 983 GtC (added from 1990 to 2100) and atmospheric CO2 rising to 584 ppmv, for a CAGR from today to 2100 of 0.46% (slightly higher than the past exponential rate, despite the dramatically slower projected population growth rate.
So your “simple extrapolation” to arrive at 1,000 ppmv by 2100 is a bit too “simple”. Even the worst IPCC “scenario and storyline A1F1” only has atmospheric CO2 rising to 781 ppmv.
IPCC (with its exaggerated 2xCO2 climate sensitivity) shows projected warming for case B1 of 1.8°C by 2100.
Even the highly unrealistic worst case IPCC projections (with CO2 growing at three to four times the past observed exponential rate) only project warming up to 4°C.
Now to your statement
The World Energy Council has estimated the “proven fossil fuel reserves“ as well as the much larger “inferred possible total fossil fuel resources in place” on our planet.
To put the higher “inferred total resource” estimate into perspective, Jim, it estimates that around 84% of all fossil fuel resources that were ever on our planet are still in place – i.e. we have only used up 16% so far, so it is a very optimistic estimate compared to most that are out there.
These estimates show us that ALL the carbon contained in ALL the optimistically inferred fossil fuels remaining on our planet would just be enough to get atmospheric CO2 levels to around 1,060 ppmv.
That’s it, Jim. That’s the maximum ever possible level of atmospheric CO2 from human fossil fuel consumption, when they are all 100% consumed. Ain’t no’ mo’.
To postulate that we will reach essentially this level by year 2100 is absurd IMO.
I doubt if we will EVER consume ALL of the remaining fossil fuels – as they become more difficult and costly to extract and as cost-competitive alternate energy sources are developed – we will use the more expensive fossil fuels increasingly for higher added-value end uses, such as petrochemicals, fertilizers, etc., so we will very likely NEVER reach 1,000 ppmv (let alone in 2100).
Now to the temperature impact. How realistic is your 5°C by 2100 (which you describe as “most realistic to me”)?
From 1850 to today we saw a global warming (HadCRUT3) of around 0.7°C.
IPCC tells us that 7% of this was caused by natural (solar) forcing and that all other anthropogenic forcing factors other than CO2 cancelled one another out, so we can assume that 93% of the observed warming was due to the increase in CO2.
Atmospheric CO2 increased from an estimated 290 ppmv in 1850 to a measured 390 ppmv today.
The CO2 / temperature relation is said by IPCC to be logarithmic.
So if 1,060 ppmv is the maximum ever possible CIO2 level (when all fossil fuels are gone), we can calculate (based on the past observation) how much warming this will cause compared to today.
dT(390-1060) = dT(290-390)*ln(1060/390)/ln(290-390)
= 0.93*0.7*1.000/0.296 = 2.2°C
That’s it, Jim. All the carbon in all the optimistically inferred fossil fuels remaining on our planet will cause a warming of 2.2°C above today’s average based on the observed past warming from CO2.
So your fears do not pass the reality check, Jim.
Sorry this got so long, but you cited a lot of squirrely projections that needed to be checked for reality.
Climate and Energy Policies: Two Sides of the Same Coin (?)
Nope. Each government should make policies that are in the best interests of its citizens in each area separately. The USA, for example, does not have a policy in either area.
We need to reserve some resources that are best suited for specific purposes for future applications: lubrication, as an example.
Completely unmentioned is decreasing the amount of incident sunlight by pumping reflective or absorbant substantices into the upper atmosphere. If the occassional large volcano is cabable of depressing the average world temperature for one or more years, then artificial volcanos offer a cheap and easy way to offset any warming that we actually observe. The real beaty of this plan, of course, is the fact that we can response after the fact. We don’t have to bet on the accuracy of the models. Since even the most catastrophic of projections are only projecting catastrophy in 100 years, we’ll have more than enough time to respond when the temperatures actually start to rise.
Problem solving 101. Coupling two problems reduces the possible solutions. It’s an attractive trap, but still a trap.