by Judith Curry
First we discuss the interlinked problems of climate change, peak fossil fuels and the credit crunch and then grounds for some optimism, including means of adjusting energy and commodity markets to start to address these ills, and other measures to deal with non-CO2 greenhouse gas emissions. – Richard Douthwaite and David Knight
I spotted this article at the blog Sharing for Survival: Restoring the Climate, the Commons and Society, entitled Time for some optimism about the climate crisis.
If you think that there is no climate crisis, the title of this may put you off from reading this. It is an extensive and comprehensive essay, with some new ideas I hadn’t previously come across, including the concept of ‘cap and share’. To give you the flavor of the article, I reproduce the Conclusions here:
This analysis leads me to think that while the climate crisis is alarming it is by no means hopeless provided we break down the problem and the solutions into their component parts and tackle the easiest, rather than the toughest, first. That can buy valuable time. So my suggestions for fellow climate campaigners are as follows.
- Stop being negative. Fossil fuel use may start declining quite soon anyway, climate deal or no climate deal. Talk about the advantages of investing in non-carbon energy sources sooner rather than later, because the energy required for the switch will never be as cheap again in terms of what has to be given up to get it.
- Insist on the highest environmental standards and compensation arrangements being put into place before any further shale gas or underground coal gasification licences are issued. This might be a more productive approach than fighting for an outright ban.
- Campaign for a set of international arrangements that recognises that fossil fuel CO2 is not the only problem and that a range of programmes is needed to tackle all the causes of warming, even the minor ones.
- As the safe level of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere has already been passed, plants seem at present the only realistic way to extract the excess carbon from the air and sequester it in the soil. So work to prevent further forest loss and to protect the carbon in soils, mires and peat bogs. Advocate re-foresting vast areas, changing grazing methods and using biochar to speed the rate at which long-lived forms of soil carbon can build up. Giving indigenous people an incentive to maintain woodland and plant more trees for example by encouraging the development of high value sustainable woodland products such wild silk and honey could help. Millions of people will need to be involved in this effort but increased rural prosperity should result. Moreover the spin-off from new forests could be more abundant water supplies and slower warming as a result of increased cloud cover.
- Talk about the health gains that would come from reducing black carbon emissions and dealing with low-level ozone. Of the rural prosperity that should come from increasing the soil’s carbon content and thus its fertility through better farming methods. Of the new, local industries than will spring up making plastics and other organic chemicals out of biomass rather than oil.
- Work to convince people that the global economy will never run properly again unless the benefits of using all scarce resources are fairly shared. Support the setting up of a Global Climate Trust so that the scarcity rent from fossil fuel use gets properly allocated.
Leaving the effects of climate change aside, the main danger that humanity faces is that it will not invest enough of the fossil energy it can extract with a reasonable net-energy gain into making the transition to renewable energy sources. Every post-credit-crunch year that the global economy stays stalled with its engine idling and burning fuel leaves less in the tank to get it anywhere once the clutch is depressed, the gears engaged and a definite direction taken. Future generations will be hungrier, poorer and probably much smaller because of the delay.
Now, for the first time, if we can get people to internalise the implications of oil peak and the other resource constraints, we have a chance to go beyond Lord Stern’s mildly-negative position that the cost of dealing with climate change is not very high and move on to the positive position that no costs, and no self-denial are involved. Instead, rationing energy use in order to share out its benefits is essential for the proper working of the economic system and will create millions of jobs and commercial opportunities now.
In particular, campaigners should refute the uber-negative position adopted by Clive Hamilton in his 2010 book Requiem for a Species that it is now too late to do anything about the climate except to resign ourselves and die with dignity. The main reason Hamilton thinks this is the case is that he believes that the institutions and thought processes which would need to change to make a better outcome possible will not do so in time to save the day. If, as he assumes, economic growth was still possible, he might be right. The promise of higher incomes for the next few years would almost certainly continue to place an effective block on proposals to cut fossil fuel use, and thus incomes, now. But that block is cleared away by the recognition that regulating fuel demand means much higher incomes in the medium to long term than those that would result if a market-free-for-all led to an economic collapse. Environment and business can walk hand-in-hand and once the limits to the fossil energy supply and thus to economic growth are recognised their interests become aligned.
So there are strong grounds for believing that the climate crisis can be overcome and that many people’s lives, particularly in the poorer countries, could be materially better than they are now because of the work the production of biofuels and biochemicals to replace their fossil equivalents should bring, coupled with the additional fertility that biochar should create. Since the alternative is industrial and societal decline and, after increasing unrest, an eventual collapse, there’s every reason to think the system will incline the right way. But one thing is necessary first: the twin myths that there’s plenty of energy and that economic growth can continue must be exposed. If climate campaigners can get that message over, their battle would be as good as won.
JC comments: I like several of these ideas. We’ve battled over some of the topics raised here previously, but I think this essay provides a comprehensive big picture look at the broad issues. I look forward to your discussion of this.
Have a look at this, it is interesting and can be tested easily.
Interesting post – thanks.
Bottom line = less desert and more bacon.
I watched the 12 minute presentation then listened to the hour long version. Kudos for looking up criticism of it. This is a top of the blog sticky article on WattsUpWithThat and has Tony Watts saying it’s possibly the most important thing ever posted on WUWT. Spare me. He probably did less than you checking its veracity. Watts has a tendency to go off half cocked. Willis is the other half of it which makes the two of them one giant [snip snip snippety snip].
Allan Savory documents: U.S. Drought – Man-made Natural Disaster by Allan Savory July 2012
Chris Gill writes “Doing What Works: Sloppy science is damaging rangelands and wildlife. What’;s missing is a complex functioning whole.”
PS On the Wikipedia criticism of “annectdotal” Savory states:
Rotational grazing does not necessarily have to be optimal or best approach but I believe it can be considered better than letting the land to turn into desert. I believe Mr. Savory does not insist on the land being managed exclusively using rotational grazing as long as it’s kept alive and useful.
Savory shows how managing transient dense herds reverses the current widespread desertification of grasslands that has been the primary cause of long term climate change and degradation. Cattle trampling grass and providing manure covers the ground, reducing evaporation, and restores biodiversity. Savory documents how the conventional wisdom of reducing “overgrazing” by reducing cattle density actually increases desertification. Savory’s holistic method dramatically restored severely degraded regions to very productive land.
Savory gave more detailed talk at the Feasta Annual Lecture, 7 November 2009, Trinity College Dublin, Ireland. For extensive resources see the Savory Institute.
For technical details see: Papers by Savory Institute Experts
E.g., Response to request for information on the “science” and “methodology” underpinning Holistic Management and holistic planned grazing, by Allan Savory (Updated 2013)
“Biodiversity as an Organizing Principle in Agroecosystem Management: Case Studies of Holistic Resource Management Practitioners in the USA” (Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment, vol. 62, 199-213, 1997), by Deborah H. Stinner, Benjamin R. Stinner, Edward Martsolf.
Holistic Management: A New Framework for Decision Making, Second Edition (Island Press, 1999), Island Press Allan Savory & Jody Butterfield
Note also Savory’s Video library
From a climate perspective, the major impact of Savory’s method appears in restoring bioproductivity, with corresponding major changes in albedo, transpiration and regional temperature. (The grassland burning appears to be a transient short term carbon cycling issue.) Long term biomass could sequester carbon. (Though I think higher CO2 provides more plant food and rainfall that increases agricultural productivity.)
David L. Hagen,
Thank you for two excellent comments. This is worth repeating:
In other word’s greenies and computer nerds living in concrete jungles can get their reports published, but they really don’t have much of a clue what they are talking about when it comes to land management.
So under the Savory hypothesis killing off the American bison led to the dustbowl of the 1930’s. Given the bison haven’t been restored how come the dust bowl ended instead of getting worse?
You boys are running off half cocked. Maybe desertification is happening because as global average temperature rebounds from the Little Ice Age all the climate zones are increasing in surface area with the exception of subarctic and polar which are instead shrinking to accomodate the expansion of the others. But hey, don’t let common sense get in the way of blaming human institutions for desertification. I wouldn’t want to spoil your fun.
I encourage you to listen through both videos and read Savory’s publications. The transformations from severely degraded land to flourishing abundant vegetation are exemplary of what can be done. Note too Gill’s experience from trying to eliminate cattle to running 4X higher cattle and not being able to keep up with higher grass growth.
Considering the plight of millions in extreme poverty, any simple change like this that can massively transform productivity should be vigorously pursued – in contrast to ivory tower experts whose recommendations have transformed productive grasslands into dying wastelands.
Focus on what works.
The bison were essentially replaced with cattle, so I doubt the kill off of the bison had much to do with the creation of desert-like land in the Dirty 30s. Most of the land that turned to dust was cropland. Typically when there is drought, large numbers of cattle are sold off to packing houses. Some are moved to areas with surplus food and water. In addition to the normal economic cycle for herds, FDR paid farmers to significantly reduce livestock numbers, so the number of grazing animals went way down during the depression, and rose quickly during WW2.
Savory shows that concentrating herds on agricultural land remarkably improves productivity. The issue is using cattle to manage both grass and crop lands, vs degradation and desertification without.
Yes Bruce There have been some excellent postings here at JC
on conservation farming and citizens’ management of the commons,
especially Elinor Lindstrom and Freeman Dyson on sequestration of
carbon thro’ increasing biomass in soil. It’s a no brainer so why oh
why ain’t the greenies adopting these kinds of positive life enhancing projects???
Why do you propose solutions even though you do not admit to a problem?
That is kind of obvious, as you fear rebuking from the Chief Hydrologist, overlord of the deeply confused.
Do you have anything helpful to say about why you don’t like Savory’s presentation?
Apart from some snark about Anthony (not Tony) Watts, you have provided nothing concrete for us.
Are we just expected to bow before your superior intellect and agree with your opinion sans evidence?
In consequence of the concrete math-and-science evidence that is summarized on Judith’s previous thread, it is evident that in coming decades:
• rational climate-change skepticism will progressively weaken, and
• non-rational climate-change denialism is slated for extinction.
Conclusion The “red-and-blue” path forward that Judith’s post suggests — meaning “conservative (red) means in service of liberal (blue) objectives” — is very welcome and constructive!
Thank you, Judith Curry!
Fan rational climate-change skepticism will progressively weaken
Since rational climate-change skepticism is progressively growing by leaps and bounds right now, I assume this wish is based on some non-public information you have. You couldn’t divulge it for us I suppose ?
Government bureaucracies that define CO2 as a pollutant and engage in spreading fears about human-caused global de-glaciation should be labeled for what it is: doomsday propaganda spread by anti-America Euro-communists and green-robed enviro-posers. Errors, misinformation, bias and distorted reporting of natural events is the problem today not receding glaciers and melting ice packs. Public schools that ignore history and abandon the scientific method are the problem not human CO2. Hysterical government-funded propaganda aside, the simple fact is that glaciers come and go on nature’s schedule — at times covering the Earth and obliterating everything in the process — is not something that skeptical scientists can conveniently fail to notice.
Stop being negative.
Stop being afraid.
Stop being pessimist.
I always hum this tune
Wagathon is not afraid of what is happening,
Wagathon is properly afraid of the stupid things that are proposed to correct the warming that is based on flawed alarmist fears.
I grow a species of bamboo which occupies hillsides, does not much like the prime flats, loves the shelter of the great pest, lantana, until it represses it completely, and – not that I care much – is said to be some kind of champion carbon gobbler. It forms orderly, open forests, largely vermin free, the timber is good after five years from shooting. I don’t irrigate, water, fertilise or apply any chemicals. There is some strenuous protection of shoots required, and blood meal is necessary there, but the only other input is labour. Timber, mulch, charcoal, stabilization etc are good reasons to have the stuff. The great product, for me, is the lacto-fermented shoots which I have finally mastered (I think). I’m told the chlorogenic acid in moso is a player now in diabetes treatment.
I’m not engaged in the above because it’s “green”. I do it because it’s a good idea, The alternative is lots of useless regrowth scrub to be neglected like the bush that is adjacent to it. I’m actually quite bad at most aspects of moso cultivation (beyond understanding its basic needs better than some experts). I dream of seeing this species in the hands of people with more energy and know-how than I have.
Moso will only perform like this in certain parts of the world, but if there is one good idea for this region or biome, there is a different good idea for another region or biome. Ideas are gold, just as dogma is dross.
I’ve heard Allan Savory and find him inspiring for the same reason I find moso bamboo inspiring. Abandoning huge tracts of land to “nature” just leaves one with what I have growing just beyond my boundary: a fire trap and a slaughter ground for koalas at the mercy of feral dogs and cats.
Livestock, forestry, hunting, efficient power grids, efficient transport, water-harvesting and making money: these cliche demons of the Posh Left are actually keys to conservation.
+1 mosomoso …oops, I fergot, I no longer have the franchise fer
plus ones!Come on Peter Davies, yer fallin’ down on the job )
Beth – the – cow – girl.
+! +! +!
Why on earth are you proposing solutions to a problem that you yet to admit exists?
“Work to convince people that the global economy will never run properly again unless the benefits of using all scarce resources are fairly shared. Support the setting up of a Global Climate Trust so that the scarcity rent from fossil fuel use gets properly allocated.”
So we don’t want a carbon tax, we want “scarcity rent.” And we don’t want it to be revenue neutral, we want the money the government extracts from its citizens to be put in an “Global Climate Trust.” Guess who will be running the “trust?”
“Cap and share.” Well, at least it’s more honest about the plans for the billions progressive hope to extort from tax paying citizens for the privilege of, well, existing.
Sickening, innit? I couldn’t read past the first few paragraphs. Just repackaged global village socialist kumbaya commune fodder malarky. I hope that’s not so graphic as to not make it past moderation.
Readers of Climate Etc who prefer allegory to essay are encouraged to read biologist (and two-time Pulitzer winner) Ed Wilson’s recent novel Ant Hill with appreciation of the following allegorical parallels:
• The destructive mutant ant species — that ends-up being exterminated — are allegorical of ecology-destroying “Big Carbon” economies.
• The homicidal religious fundamentalists — who end-up as alligator chow — are allegorical of climate-change denialism.
The optimistic message of Douthwaite and David Knight
is echoed by Wilson in a crucial expression of political activism that is grounded in scientific realism and foresighted moral responsibility:
Thank you Judith Curry, for joining with writers Douthwaite and Knight and Wislon — and many more! — in conveying to the public the crucial three-fold message that:
• climate-change skepticism is destined to diminish, and
• climate-change denialism is slated for extinction, and
• climate-change realism offers a hopeful path forward!
Summary Judith Curry’s rational expositions here on Climate Etc wonderfully parallel and outstandingly complement Ed Wilson’s allegorical messages of sobering challenge, foresighted moral responsibility, and scientifically grounded hope for the future! Well done, Judith Curry!
A fan of *MORE* discourse
It’s always entertaining to watch an addlepated progressive waxing poetic about extermination.
… graphics gratis …
Nice. A new word. First positive thing to ever come out of reading one of your posts, Gary. Keep up the good work!
Addlepated, from 1630, Joshua.
Addlepated, new for me, Fred.
Joshua, you’re giving your age away, I see
Or should that be ‘Methesulah’? ;-)
Insist on the highest environmental standards and compensation arrangements being put into place before any further shale gas or underground coal gasification licences are issued. This might be a more productive approach than fighting for an outright ban.
First of all, who are you to INSIST?
Why “highest” and not equitable?
If we insist that cities provide the purest, highest quality of water, there would not be a drop to drink.
Maybe a more “productive approach”, but with the same goal as an outright ban.
Collectivist claptrap, through and through!
unless the benefits of using all scarce resources are fairly shared
“Fairly shared?” Ever read the “Little Red Hen”?
There are no benefits of using scarce resources if they are not first extracted. So, to fairly share them, those who do not share in the making of the bread ought to have a fair share of zero. Then and only then will more share in the labor of the bread’s making.
There is nothing so scarcre in this world than individual liberty. Look how many there are in this country who have it and yet adored Hugo Chavez and swoon for his likes here in evil America.
LOL … all voters know the answer!
What is your next question, Stephen Rasey?
The words INSIST and VOTER are dissonant and incompatible in a democracy.
I cannot help notice that you chose to leave out the word “highest” in your contextual addition to my quote. I bolded the word “highest”, which indicates importance to my context.
These aren’t the real skeptics of the world. The real skeptics question the absurdity of supplying the public with purified drinking water from a municipal treatment center and then allowing them to use it to irrigate their grass (and flush their toilets).
#WHUT’s up wid dat?
LOL … Stephen Rasey, please be aware our family — like most families — INSISTS that our neighbors
• not poach,
• not drive drunk,
• not run meth labs,
• not dump raw sewage, and
• not gratuitously destroy the Earth’s ozone layer.
Moreover our family VOTES for laws that enforce these principles.
In what respects do these principles depart from the Founders’ prudent-compromise vision of democracy, Stephen Rasey?
Should voters not seek to choose “the GREATER, not the PERFECT, good”, Stephen Rasey?
And are these prudent compromises not particularly vital, in wisely protecting the wild commons that is our shared inheritance?
These considerations are pure Common Sense, eh Stephen Rasey?
Since when is a “prudent compromise” what one self-important group INSISTS?
Urge. Pressure. Lobby. Vote for. Evangelize. Negotiatate for…
All very valid verbs toward a prudent compromise.
“Insist on the highest” is a completely different action toward very different results.
LOL … it is a pleasure to answer your insightful questions, Stephen Rasey!
The answer is, “Whenever the INSISTANCE stands upon the right side of history“, eh Stephen Rasey?
The arc of the moral and factual universe is long, Stephen Rasey, but it bends toward just actions illuminated by scientific understanding!
Keep asking good questions, Stephen Rasey!
The solution is simple. Add a couple pennies tax to each liquid gallon equivalent of natural gas sold into a cleanup fund just like the cleanup funds used for gasoline station pollution. Also, fracking is currently exempt from Clean Water Act regulations… this should change to regulate it just like gas stations and other industries with soil/groundwater chemical contamination.
Dr Rasey should remember that we are talking about exploration in the United Stares, not some third world backwater like Nigeria, Texas or Louisiana.
The solution is simple. Add a couple pennies tax to each liquid gallon equivalent of natural gas sold into a cleanup fund just like the cleanup funds used for gasoline station pollution.
That would be a very sensible solution – if good and bad operators did not pay the same rate. But in a sense, isn’t it already done? It is called insurance, and bad operators rightfully pay more than good operators.
Also, fracking is currently exempt from Clean Water Act regulations…
I don’t know that is true.
All wells must be drilled to protect ground water resources, nothing changed there. Fracking has been going on for 40 years. What has changed in the past decade is that the industry has gotten a lot better at horizontal drilling and large capacity frac jobs. They brought the cost per BOE down. No one changed the law to allow that happen.
Now perhaps you mean that people who complete wells into briny hydrocarbon reservoirs a mile or two below deepest fresh water formation have not had to fill out every Clean Water Act form in the bin. That’s largely because clean water isn’t involved. It’s already very salty down there.
we are talking about exploration in the United Stares,
I AM talking about exploration. But those who want an out right ban are talking NO exploration — sensible regs and solutions have no interest to them.
The wrong assumption leads to the wrong conclusion.
The projected warming of 4 deg C by 2100 defies pattern recognition shown by the y-axis scale in the chart below:
The 4 deg C warming is impossible. The 160 years historical pattern suggests only 1.3 deg C warming in the 21st century.
There is no global warming crisis.
Just adapt to the consequences of global warming. When the sun moves to its less active phase, the globe will move into its cooling phase.
The relationship between global warming and CO2 concentration is shown in the chart below:
The above linear relationship is the best demonstration of Henry’s Law that states the solubility a gas (CO2) in a solution (ocean) deceases with increase in the temperature of the solution. The decrease in the solubility of CO2 in the ocean releases CO2 into the atmosphere increasing its concentration in proportion to the increase in the global mean temperature as shown above.
The above chart is a nearly perfect correlation between global mean temperature and the CO2 concentration in the atmosphere.
To try to reduce CO2 concentration in the atmosphere is impossible. It will only happen when the globe cools. It is impossible for man to change a law of physics. It is a fool’s errand to attempt to reduce CO2 concentration in the atmosphere.
Again, here is the perfect correlation between global mean temperature and CO2 concentration:
Girma, Plese explain how CO2 can absorb all that heat when it is less than 1% of the earth’s atmosphere and it’s specific heat is only marginally greater than N2 or O2. For the answer, please see my website underlined above.
What’s wrong Girma, can’t you carry the courage of your convictions? If you are such a skeptic of global warming, why are you hedging your bets and advocating risk mitigation via adaptation should the consequences manifest themselves?
That is what the top-level post is all about. Fossil fuels will not carry us for eternity, and something will need to take its place. Nothing wrong with discussing this and planning for the inevitable.
This is optimism?
“Future generations will be hungrier, poorer and probably much smaller because of the delay.” No, because of climate alarmism.
“[T]he twin myths that there’s plenty of energy and that economic growth can continue must be exposed.” Trans: let’s huddle together around our wind-powered heating unit in armed camps fighting over the meagre spoils of a global steady-state economy.
Pure skeletal Malthusianism, with lips glossed and dressed up in prettified vestments!
In the 50 years that neo-Malthusians have said we are running out of everything; that economic growth will or has to stop; that we face an existential crisis, they’ve just been wrong. Wrong again. More wrong.
If this Ehrlichian vision of the future of civilisation is the most optimistic thing we can come up with in the early 21st century, we should pass the torch to the cockroaches, and exit the scene now.
I got as far as “Fossil fuel use may start declining quite soon anyway”, and I started losing interest. Then I got to “As the safe level of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere has already been passed. ” And I gave up completely.
To deal with the first nonsense. The world is swimming in fossil fuels, with no sign at all that we have anywhere near exhausted the supply that we know exists. The US is rapidly becoming the largest producer of oil in the world. The Russians are teaming up with the Isrealis to harvest natrural gas from the Mediterranean. It is estimated that the Greeks can solve their economic problems by exploiting fraking. The Japanese are on the verge of showing that methane hydrates can be harvested from the sea floor. The potential for these is enormous. 3 gigatons of coal have been discovered off the Norwegian coast. And so on and so on.
There is no chance that the world is going to limit the use of fossil fuels. CO2 has a negligible effect on global temperatures anyway, so the atmosphere has NOT passed the safe level. The more CO2 there is on the atmosphere, up to say, 1500 ppmv, the better.
I am sorry our hostess has chosen another piece of utter garbage for us to discuss.
May I recommend you grapple with the facts on available liquid transport fuels as shown by Jeffrey Brown in Commentary: The Export Capacity Index
Especially Fig. 15 “From 2005 to 2011, the GNE [Global Net Exporters] (Top 33 Net Exporters) ECI [Export Capacity Index] ratio fell from 3.75 in 2005 to 3.24 in 2011, a decline of 14%.”
On your prognosis of US oil production, see:
#3 – Is Shale Oil Production from Bakken Headed for a Run with “The Red Queen”?
“As are PV cells and windmills”
True; but I gotta believe (without actually knowing) that PV cells will deliver more net energy to the grid per square mile of collector than biomass. At least their output is usable electricity. While the sun shines.
Which brings up the matter of ‘low pass filtering’ the PV cell output so that the energy is available 24/7365. Has anyone ever examined the feasibility of using the PV cells to electrolyze water, storing the H2 in tanks on site, doling it out via pipeline at a steady rate to where it is needed, a la natural gas, and using it to run conventional steam turbines? If so, what was the result of the examination? If nothing else, pipelines are more esthetic than high tension towers.
On energy storage see:
On the importance of reducing the energetic and material demands of electrical energy storage
Pumped Hydro and Compressed Energy Storage appear to be the two high efficiency ones > 200 times energy storage/energy to construct.
Bob L. – what with CO2 storing all that energy, seems like PVs should run at night ;)
+ + + +
Maybe our hostess thought we needed some humor.
This approach merits much laughter – derisive and other.
Biofuels (so far) require a tradeoff between affordable food and energy, and “saving the planet” from CO2 “pollution;” not a fair trade, especially for those of modest or limited means. I cannot imagine how poorer countries can benefit, in any way, from being denied the blessings of cheap and abundant traditional carbon-based fuels, furthermore, does any person or any organization have moral and ethical authority to deny these blessings?
Chuck L, you write “Biofuels (so far)”
I am glad you put in the “so far”. I am one of the people who beleive that cellulose ethanol is going to be the biofuel that actually works economically. But we wont know until, next year. Project Liberty; Poet/DSM.
Jim, ten years ago I was told that cellulosic ethanol would be here next year – I am still waiting. Please forgive me for being skeptical.
Cellulosic ethanol is second generation biofuel. I think third generation (direct conversion of sunlight, CO2, and water into fuel with no harvest of any biomass) is too close to commercialization for second generation to become significant. Third generation is lagging second generation by months not years.
Biofuels are simply an inefficient method of collecting solar energy.
Surprisingly efficient little self-replicating nanomachines, those chlorophyll molecules and their infrastructure. Probably just as efficient as they should be, else their biotic regulation of climate would be off.
@Bob Ludwick | March 9, 2013 at 6:02 pm |
“Biofuels are simply an inefficient method of collecting solar energy.”
As are PV cells and wind mills.
However, biofuels can store and concentrate energy better than solar cells, so we won’t see planes flying or cars running on solar energy any time soon.
Rob Potter, you write “Jim, ten years ago I was told that cellulosic ethanol would be here next year – I am still waiting. Please forgive me for being skeptical.”
I agree with you. To some extent I am skeptical too. There have been too many claims that cellulose ethanol is going to be produced, and it has not happened. Look what happened to Range Fuels. From what little I know of both the Iogen and Poet technology, I think it has a chance of working. Poet/DSM are sufficiently confident that they are putting up $300 million of their own money. But we will have to wait until 2014.
I am cautiously optimistic about biofuels but diverting acres of farmland for the production of corn is, in my opinion, a poor use of productive agricultural resources. In addition I have read that the production of ethanol fuel may produce more CO2 than burning traditional carbon-based fuels. Also, I have read that ethanol increases wear and tear on car engines and it certainly has less energy content than gasoline.
Chuck L. you write “but diverting acres of farmland for the production of corn”
The technology which is being used by Poet/DSM uses the “waste” product from the production of food; in this instance the cobs of the corn after the kernels have been removed, but it principle it can be the non-food part of any agricultural product. I put “waste” in inverted commas, because there is a difference of opinion as to whether it is waste, or needs to be recycled. Poet claims it does not need to be returned to the land, but I dont know. But there is no diversion of land at all.
IF the technology works, and it is a big if, then in theory any cellulose could be used. This could include cellulose from plants which grow in the sea. And plants that do not produce any food. The key is, is it economic? We dont know yet.
As to ethnaol increasing the wear on tear on engines, I believe Brazil has used E80 fuel for many years, with no problem. And since CO2 has no adverse effect on climate, whether more is produced is irrelevant. The issue is, can we economically, recycle CO2 by the use of cellulose ethanol? And hence, not need as much in the way of fossil fuels.
Have you worked out the are that would be required to supply transport fuels for the world now, for the consumption projected in 2050 and in 2100?
If we used the stubble from Australia’s annual grain crop it would be sufficient to provide only half the eastern states electricity generation in average years – perhaps about 1/5 in drought years.
More energy is consumed for transport than for electricity generation, so I can’t see how biofuels can make a significant contribution to meeting the world’s global transport fuel needs. I could be wrong, but yet to be persuaded.
I recognise David Springer believes “third generation (direct conversion of sunlight, CO2, and water into fuel with no harvest of any biomass) is too close to commercialization but I am skeptical of this too, especially since I haven’t found anything substantial from authoritative sources like DOE suggesting that they are taking it seriously.
Gee whiz, Crip, I thought you were skeptical about any negative ramifications of fossil-fuel use on our society. Yet here you are actually sounding optimistic about renewable energy strategies. Providing solutions to a problem that you can’t even admit exists. And you haven’t even applied the Cripwell Criteria** to prove the viability of cellulose ethanol.
Way to be optimistic! Join the club.
** Cripwell Criteria : Production of direct, unassailable, and incontrovertible evidence to prove some physical conjecture.
Quick response – much of this is daft. Considered response – later.
The “Sharing for Survival” essay by Richard Douthwaite and David Knight contains a few very silly suggestions plus a few not-so-stupid recommendations for “step 2”, but the authors assume that “step 1” has already been completed: namely determining that there IS an imminent “climate” or “fossil fuel problem”. This is far from certain and, before we move to “step 2”, we need to clear up all the uncertainty surrounding “step 1”.
But let’s go through the proposals.
– Stop being negative
It is always good advice to “think positive” and not be driven by a negative emotion, such as fear (the underlying emotion driving both CAGW and peak oil).
– Insist on the highest environmental standards and compensation arrangements being put into place before any further shale gas or underground coal gasification licences are issued
This sounds like an oblique way of saying “grant no shale or coal gasification permits”. “The highest” should be replaced with “the most stringent reasonable” standards (let’s not forget “reason” here), “and compensation arrangements” should be deleted and “before” should be replaced with “as”: “insist that the most stringent reasonable environmental standards are being put into place as further shale gas and underground coal gasification licenses are issued” (there, that ought to do it).
– Campaign for a set of international arrangements that recognises that fossil fuel CO2 is not the only problem
Heavens, NO! It is too early to “campaign” for ANY international arrangements, before we have done a better job on “step 1” (besides, there will be no international agreements until there is more “certainty” that there even IS a real problem, which is far from certain today).
– As the safe level of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere has already been passed…
This statement is presumptive. There is absolutely no evidence that it is true. Forget about it and anything that follows it. Go back to “step 1” to determine the “safe level of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere”.
– Talk about health gains that would come from reducing black carbon emissions and dealing with low-level ozone.
These are real pollutants which are harmful to your health (unlike CO2) and should be curtailed or eliminated by the EPA (not just “talked about”).
– [Talk about] the rural prosperity that should come from increasing the soil’s carbon content.
If this really increases agricultural productivity economically, go for it – don’t just “talk about it”!
(The rest about “new industries springing up making plastics out of biomass”, let’s put that on the back burner, until these schemes can be shown to be economically viable – they aren’t today).
– Work to convince people that the global economy will never run properly again unless the benefits of using all scarce resources are fairly shared. Support the setting up of a Global Climate Trust so that the scarcity rent from fossil fuel use gets properly allocated.
NO! “Fair sharing” is a phony big government term for more top-down control. Who will determine what is “fair”? A “Global Climate Trust” is simply a big government boondoggle to get more control over the global energy sector. The global economy runs best when there is the least government control.
– Leaving the effects of climate change aside, the main danger that humanity faces is that it will not invest enough of the fossil energy it can extract with a reasonable net-energy gain into making the transition to renewable energy sources.
This is an unsubstantiated claim. Energy companies are fully aware how much energy it takes to extract new sources of energy, and they are much less likely to be wasteful than governments, who are not motivated by the profit motive. The “transition to renewable energy sources” will occur as soon as it these are economically competitive (nuclear already is). According to WEC 2010, we have enough fossil fuels left on our planet to last almost 300 years at present usage rates, or half that long at anticipated future usage rates. There is no “rush” to solve this problem with half-baked, top-down solutions.
Every post-credit-crunch year that the global economy stays stalled with its engine idling and burning fuel leaves less in the tank to get it anywhere once the clutch is depressed, the gears engaged and a definite direction taken. Future generations will be hungrier, poorer and probably much smaller because of the delay.
Pure baloney and fear mongering hype. The biggest threat to “future generations” is wasting enormous amounts of taxpayer money to fight an imaginary hobgoblin, thereby running up more debt they will eventually have to pay back.
This whole essay has gotten the cart before the horse and is based on the standard CAGW/peak oil pablum we are being fed by the governing elite (and the media) in its effort to get its hands on more tax revenues from an already heavily-burdened general public.
Let’s go back to the basics and find out if we even have a problem or not, before we charge off into various directions trying to solve it.
Please distribute the above result as widely as possible as it shows the perfect linear relationship between CO2 concentration in the atmosphere and global mean surface temperature. It is the increase in the global mean surface temperature that is increasing the CO2 concentration in the atmosphere as the perfect correlation shown in the above graph shows.
It is a fool’s errand for human’s to attempt to control the CO2 concentration in the atmosphere. It is not possible for humans to control the sun’s activity as it is the cause of global warming as shown in the following chart:
Excellent post. I also posted a comment where I quoted each of the conclusion dot points and my response, but the comment has been trashed for some reason. If I try to repost it I get a message saying “Duplicate post detected. You’ve already said that.” But I can’t see it.
Jeez, and I thought it was geophysics and arithmetic.
Geophysics : the study of the Earth using quantitative physical methods, i.e math and physics
It was more theology than geometry.
As so often, I wish I were able to enjoy a conversational lunch with you. I agree with your reactions to the paper, and your general perspective on AGW.
This is all hopelessly, and wholesomely, alarmist, a total whiteout of reason except for the small point about black carbon.
If, like many on CE, you reject the premise that there is an alarming climate crisis which must take priority over other policy issues, then you will be immediately sceptical about much of this offering. But I’ll try to examine the proposals on their merits.
The authors seek to “address these ills – the interlinked problems of climate change, peak fossil fuels and the credit crunch and then … means of adjusting energy and commodity markets …” In a broad sense, everything is linked, problem or not. Arbitrarily picking a few elements might not be a sensible approach. For example, dealing with the aftermath of the global financial crisis (I don’t think that there is a universal “credit crunch,” printing money has been one of the responses to the GFC; and the “G”FC was predominantly the US and the EU) is unlikely to be helped by linking it to climate issues. The traditional approach to policy-making is “one issue, one instrument” – don’t try to use one instrument to achieve multiple objectives. The authors’ concern is alleged adverse climate change, given that the world is yawning about this, they seek to link it to issues which might resonate more with decision-makers and voters.
As I’ve said before, markets are very efficient devices for providing and processing information, for organising production and distribution of goods and services so as to allocate resources to their highest valued use and thus maximise community income. Their superiority to central planning is well attested. But the authors don’t accept this: they want to “adjust” markets. That is, they think that their assessments are superior to those whose livelihoods depend on ascertaining and responding appropriately to changes in demand and supply. Unless they’ve made Buffett-style fortunes from great understanding of markets, I’ll assume they have no expertise in this field.
In fact, there is evidence of this. They advise activists “Talk about the advantages of investing in non-carbon energy sources sooner rather than later, because the energy required for the switch will never be as cheap again in terms of what has to be given up to get it.” I don’t think anyone’s investment decisions will be influenced by agenda-driven assertions from environmental activists.
“Insist on the highest environmental standards and compensation arrangements being put into place before any further shale gas or underground coal gasification licences are issued.” Insist? In a democracy, they can argue their view (in the major emissions-producing country, China, and in other developing non-democracies, they can’t do that, so we are talking about imposing costs on democracies while the major emitters continue to expand emissions), but the issue must be determined on a cost-benefit analysis and a broad assessment of priorities. In the US, the increased supply of low-cost gas through fracking is the main positive in a moribund economy hampered by spendthrift, pro-regulatory government. As in all policy decisions, the ”environmental standards and compensation arrangements” need to be determined on the basis of what most benefits the community at large (Pareto optimum, anybody?).
“Campaign for a set of international arrangements …” Hello? Where have you been? The impossibility of getting meaningful, enforceable, lasting international arrangements on emissions reductions and almost anything else – cf the Doha round of trade talks, which, unlike emissions-restrictions, could bring great benefits to all participants, which are going nowhere after 12 years – has been repeatedly demonstrated.
“As the safe level of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere has already been passed …” Sorry, not only “not proven,” but the world seems to be getting along fine with present levels of CO2. Perhaps some of the measures suggested have merit irrespective of this. But perhaps not. Entrepreneurs thrive or fail from their ability to recognise and exploit profitable market opportunities. “… for example by encouraging the development of high value sustainable woodland products such wild silk and honey could help. Millions of people will need to be involved in this effort but increased rural prosperity should result.” If such viable opportunities exist, why has no one recognised them and invested in them? Would those “millions of people” be content? – apart from some oil-rich countries, every country which has experienced significant economic growth has had a huge shift away from lower-productivity agriculture into industry and later services, and rapid growth of urbanisation. In a connected world, poor people everywhere aspire to those levels of wealth, many drown trying to attain such a life-style in Australia and elsewhere.
Judy, you are a climate specialist, not a policy adviser. Quite often you see merit in a piece like this when, from a policy perspective, it has little or none. I’ll add to this critique later
Rather well said, for a pom basking in a little brief cricket sunshine. (This too shall pass.) Looking further to more comment, Faustino.
One problem with access to services and lower death rates is that the desperate breeding will stop. Another peak that wouldn’t peak! Malthusians, in love with easeful death, seek to ignore the connection between poverty and breeding, just as climate bedwetters ignore the massive climate events of past and present that don’t conform to script. Mention the great Atlantic storms of the past, Australia’s staggering extremes of flood and drought etc over the last centuries…and it’s “cherry picking” (oh, that word!).
If these people were stuck in a phone booth with an elephant, they’d bring out their best undergraduate debating terms to prove it wasn’t there…Look I know you can’t fit an elephant into a phone booth, but neither can you fit Cyclone Mahina, Black Thursday or the Maitland flood into the scone of an Australian climate zealot waving his script from GetUp or Flannery.
mosomoso, I can’t recall if I was part of an attempt to break the people-in-a -phone box record, but I was once one of eighteen in a 1960s mini. Not in motion, of course. I’m not sure if 18 people = 1 elephant.
Only if one of them packed a trunk ;-)
Faustino, u have already received awards from the two Peters.
When do we get a thread, the fruits of yer deep experience* on
policy from u here on Climate Etc?
* I am not referring ter cricket here.
Beth the serf
Heh, I about died when I read ‘I’ll add to this critique later’.
kim, much later, unfortunately, I collapsed exhausted and have surfaced briefly before returning to bed.
The Aussie’s all give thumb’s up to this statement made by an Aussie
Why would you people from halfway around the world applaud this statement unless you really fear that climate change and fossil fuel depletion constitute a global problem?
Why are you all pushing nuclear energy so heavily if you don’t think that finiteness of natural resources are a certainty?
What exactly are you all so frightened about down under, and why do you want to squelch free speech?
Don’t know what all that tripe about fear and squelching free speech is about. (Sounds like John Wayne’s speech at the end of The Green Berets, with the sun sinking slowly in the EAST.) As to applauding a single statement: is that a reference to us liking Faustino’s whole comment? Weird.
Easy answers to why we like nukes and viable alternatives
1. We like liquid fuels but don’t like that whole 70s oil dependency thing.
2. We have lots of uranium, and nukes can be more economical depending on where they are situated etc.
3. I live around century old windmills which pump water in areas where there is no power. Apart from the clank-clank, I love the the bloody things because they represent a simple and economical solution to a problem.
4. I’ve lived with and depended on solar and can see an array of uses for it.
6. Much as I love coal (ah, the smell of a harbourside loader after a spray in warm weather!) fossil fuels replaced other fuels, and other fuels will replace fossil fuels. When the Congo River is powering a huge slice of Africa, I don’t want to be sentimental about the great fuels of the past. I want to evolve. Thorium? Bugs? I dunno. Forward, the Lighting Brigade!
5. We can’t leave these things to our Green Betters, because they stuff everything up, including the environment. Like, they stuff up EVERYTHING. It’s what they do.
Most environmentalists understand perfectly well that mature forests re-emit virtually all of the carbon dioxide they absorb, as leaves, branches and trunks eventually fall down and rot. Termites and other organisms speed this process, so that a mature forest can be reviewed as a steady-state absorber/emitter of carbon dioxide. A newly-planted forest, on the other hand, will absorb more CO2 than it emits – but only for a decade or three! Only in a few locations is there any meaningful natural sequestration of a tiny percentage of forest carbon, to be buried in the soil or carried away in the form of soluble organic material washed into rivers, eventually to be incorporated into corals and carbonates in the ocean. (And after millions of years such carbonates, along with coal and other fossilized material, will be drawn along by tectonic forces and eventually liberated as atmospheric CO2 again by volcanoes).
It isn’t clear that the author of “Optimism about the climate crisis” understands that mature forests don’t act as meaningful carbon sinks. And his enthusiasm for“biochar” indicates he hasn’t done the necessary (brief, back-of-envelope) calculation which would – one hopes – convince him of the folly of cutting down forests for industrial-scale charcoal production, then digging giant pits to bury the charcoal. A more efficient, though even more bone-headed, idea is to simply clear-cut all mature forests and bury the logs and branches.
The true “climate optimist” is going to hope that current (now 15-year) “pause” in global warming is actually a true reflection of the apparent lack of any major impact of (clearly-increasing) atmospheric CO2 levels on global temperatures.
Actually if you harvest the wood to make durable goods out of it the carbon therein is sequestered indefinitely. What’s going to happen with a matter of a few decades at most is genetic engineers will figure out how to modify and program living things so when you want something made of wood (or any other carbon-based material) we can grow finished goods instead of manufacturing them. Living cells are just machines and they are already governed by a digital code that is very similar to morse composed of base-4 triplets coding for some 20 amino acids which are like letters in the alphabet. Ribosomes read strings of those letters like old computer paper tape readers and build folded 3-dimentional proteins
which have electrostatic and hydrophilic/hydrophobic sticky and repulsive areas on them. These proteins when you get them close enough together self-assemble like autmoted lego blocks to build more complex nano-molecular machinery and so on in increasingly larger scale. It’s the most advanced technology on the planet and it’s ours for the taking. Just a matter of reverse engineering and the tools to do the reverse engineering are advancing at a rate that reminds me of Moore’s Law of Semiconductors.
When technology reaches the point where you can grow durable goods anywhere there’s air, sunlight, and water then atmospheric CO2 becomes a valuable commercial commodity and we’ll need laws to limit how much can removed from the atmosphere rather than limiting how much may be added. The irony in that is mind boggling. Mark my words, it’s going to happen. Nature already designed, tested, and debugged the technology and all we need to do is learn how to reprogram it for our own purposes.
Time to be optimistic about the climate…
…start being pessimistic about the height of our species.
I’ll take it.
Every day solar energy via photo-voltaic cells proves itself not to be up to the task of supplying us reliable energy. Wind is just as bad. We need fossil fuels and nuclear for our comfortable way of life. OTOH, I like the idea of populating deserts with ruminants of various kinds where practicable. Means more meat for more humans. I like that idea. And it can be done in some countries where people are starving. I bet they would jump at any chance to become a rancher.
I’d change the title to “Time to be very afraid.” The very premise, that we’re in the midst of a man-made “climate crisis” at this point remains wholly unsubstantiated. IN this context, the prescriptions are absurd. Worse, they’re sinister. This might be my favorite:
“Work to convince people that the global economy will never run properly again unless the benefits of using all scarce resources are fairly shared. Support the setting up of a Global Climate Trust so that the scarcity rent from fossil fuel use gets properly allocated.”
And who might I ask, decides on what is fair? The proposed “global climate trust?” Maybe we can appoint Pachauri as chairman. He’s doing such a good job over at the IPCC. Just what we need, another bunch of clueless bureaucrats telling us how to live our lives. Those who fought to make our country free would be appalled.
Scares the hell out of me, and I’m a liberal democrat. Or at least I used to be.
And when it comes to “peak oil,” we are very far away from the time that oil is economically inviable – and that is what matters. That is, unless the loonies shut down oil exploration, the advance of oil field technology, and/or production.
Like they did with nuclear power!
The Douthwaite & Knight paper lacks scientific rigour, despite being full of good ideas for the future. For example,”This is because the full heating effect of these gases takes some years to overcome the Earth’s considerable thermal inertia” Most of the earth’s new heating originates in the Northern hemisphere from its large number of big urban heat islands, but most heat storage is in the oceans of the southern hemisphere. It takes at least 30 years for heat to travel through the depths of the oceans to the sourhern oceans. This is not an inertial delay but it is a transport delay with totally different dynamic consequences. This is a result of water’s poor heat conductivity.
Politicians and economists have become used to calling CO2 ‘carbon’ when they are of course totally different. CO2 is an invisible and odourless gas whereas carbon is a solid like soot or diamond. Putting the latter in the soil, as the authors advocate, is probably good for the soil, but plants take most of the CO2 they need to grow, from the atmosphere. They need nutrients from the soil, not carbom, (say phosphorous and nitrogen?).
So while some of the author’s ideas are good, they lack good science and therefore don’t provide a roadtrack for the future. The top priority remains to develop reliable climate models.See my website underlined above.
( Thanks for the improvenent to this website’s editors)
‘The top priority remains to develop reliable climate models.’
Is there any evidence that this goal (even if desirable) is actually achievable?
Because thirty years of effort and countless billions of bucks don’t seem to have got us much further than Arrhenius in terms of anything that is useful to us.
Because fluid flow, like the atmosphere, always has random elements at work, it is likely that even an otherwise perfect model will have to tnclude probability in its output. So modelers hsve to live with that.
I asked you why ‘the top priority remains to develop reliable climate models’
and you responded with some technicalities.
Which did nothing to answer the question.
Would you like another go?
Evidence for optimism abounds for those willing to look beyond their neighborhood.
I am finishing the last days of a trip down under to the land of Oz. The specific destination was the driest part (Kangaroo Island) of the driest State (South Australia) of the driest continent (Australia). My purpose was to observe the wildlife: wallibees, koala, platypus, Australian sea lions, New Zealand fur seals, goanna, etc. All I had to do was keep my eyes open and I found, living and thriving commercially were sheep, cattle, marron (fresh water lobster), bees, alpaca on pasture land expanding to the sea. On 100 points of rain (about an inch) wheat is raised and judging by the four 6 silo graineries that I saw, suffiecient for a viable industry. 8 foot rolled bales of hay lay in the field. Vineyards spread over rolling hills. Wineries advertise tasting and retail sales. Plantations of soft wood trees for commercial wood pulp are glimpsed beyond the scrub brush and gum trees along the road. Honey is a commercial enterprise sold throughout the markets Australia.
The land is dry, much more so than what makes headlines in the Mid Western USA. And yet the adaptation is obvious. Now mind you I didn’t see a stalk of corn, which requires much more water; nevertheless, sustainable and vialble agriculture abounds in some of the driest portions of earth.
There is a case to be made for optimism in the here and now. One doesn’t even need to invoke CAGW to see what is already present just next door.
Thank you for visiting the most advanced major country on Earth (i.e. first to get the Sun each day :).
You are right to point out there is stacks to be optimistic about. Earth will have will be no difficulty feeding 10 billion population – or many more if that happens.
The issue with food productivity and distribution is governance, law and order, and infrastructure. That will continue to improve over time. The faster global GDP is allowed to grow the faster will the countries that are poor will improve their governance, law and order and infrastructure and emerge from poverty.
Cheap energy for everyone is one of the most important drivers for facilitating the changes (as opposed to slowing the rate of change which is what carbon pricing and the policies the CAGW alarmists advocate would do)
By the way 100 mm =~ 4″
Comparative population densities:
• Kangaroo Island: 1.0 persons per square kilometer
• State of Texas: 43.3 persons per square kilometer
Simple solution to ongoing Texas drought: reduce the population of Texas by 98%.
It is a pleasure to analyze your insightful cherry-picking, RiHo08!
Uhhhh … maybe the Texas folks can move to Kangaroo Island?
Better bet for Texans fretting about current drought.
Wait’ll next year (but don’t try farming in drought-prone, marginal lands).
Kangaroo Island is a beautiful and interesting place to visit (was there over 10 years ago and still have fond memories).
And you are right -optimism (not doomsday pessimism) is the answer.
Life is good.
Greetings from the neighboring state of Victoria, RiHo08.I will
be out of town fer two days, but should yer be in Melbourne
after that, would be happy ter offer you and yr family some Oz
hospitality. I have a shack in a bit of forest on the glorious
Mornington Peninsular you are welcome to say in. You may
have my contact details through Judith if so.
Thank you for the kind offer. Not this trip, but in the future. Visited Melbourne 2 years ago on a trip to the Great Ocean Road. The 10 year drought had been broken, the land was lush green, farm ponds overflowing, cattle laying in the fields, content.
About this time I recall the Greens, MP Mr David Shoebridge if I recall correctly, was charging hard to get Prime Minister Guiliard to complete the carbon tax legislation. The drought, which had now been broken, was an omen of the catastrophe that lay ahead. The carbon tax on the mines and utilities was needed at the very least.
To me, it is not surprising that doom and gloom prevails in the hearts and minds of the chardonnay left crowd, their naval gazing miopic view misses the greener pastures which are not just over there, but under their very own feet.
Since you are in South Australia, you may be interested in a day trip down Brachina Gorge in the Flinders Ranges. It’s a 20 km drive with large signs telling you about each geologic formation you cross; the dates and the significance. You begin at 650 million hears ago, before Iceberg Earth and before multi-cell life. You end at abut 500 million years ago (from memory) when multi cell life is flourishing. It’s a complete history recorded in the rocks. Nothing missing. All the sea level changes and all the other changes are recorded in the rocks and explained along the way. It’s a educational for those who learn about nature on computer screens. By the way, the location was 6 degrees north latitude when the iceberg Earth deposits were lain down.
Google quickly tells you that Kangaroo Island has an annual rainfall of 17″, not 100 points.
It is very easy to be optimistic if they do as they say “Leaving the effects of climate change aside…”. In that one phrase they side-step the whole reason for pessimism. Rapid climate change does lead to risk and vulnerability for various communities and whole nations. It leads to tipping points where past ways of life (ecological and human) will be lost for good.
Your comments do not seem to be a ‘content-rich environment’
‘Rapid climate change does lead to risk and vulnerability for various communities and whole nations’
‘Risk’ of what? And ‘vulnerability’ to what?
Without those qualifiers your sentence is essentially meaningless scare-mongering.
‘It leads to tipping points where past ways of life (ecological and human) will be lost for good.’
Any evidence for such ‘tipping points’? Or are these just vaguely theoretical sounding constructs? You could start by identifying five recent such points that have been passed and then demonstrate that they were caused by ‘rapid climate change’
Furthermore, also demonstrate that they caused “vulnerability”
It seems that you have not looked at the article or even on the context of that expression. Their point is not that climate change would not be a major risk, on the contrary they seem to agree that it is. Their view is that the most efficient way of counteracting climate change is to concentrate on the other aspects of the energy issue. They claim that “Leaving the effects of climate change aside ..” is a more fruitful approach to mitigating the climate change. They seem to have concluded that the direct attention to the climate change has not lead to effective action, partly due to the negative attitude inherent in that approach.
On this point they reach similar conclusions as Roger Pielke Jr. in his book “The Climate Fix” and also in his recent posting at the Breakthrough, but their proposals for affecting the approach to the energy scarcity problem seem to be somewhat different.
Funny then, that they still get it backwards. These uneconomic proposals hinder the development of wealth, thus ensuring future generations have fewer resources with which to adapt. Mishigas.
I’ll attempt to repost this:
I am not persuaded AGW is alarming. The case has not been made persuasively. Furthermore, I believe we will substantially decarbonise the global economy this century.
I agree with the approach stated here: it is by no means hopeless provided we break down the problem and the solutions into their component parts and tackle the easiest, rather than the toughest, first. This is so obvious it is what we should have been doing for at least the past two decades. But the conclusions suggest the authors are arguing for more advocacy for more of the same as they’ve been doing for the past two decades.
The first criteria is: “do no harm”. Raising the cost of energy will do harm. Arguing to implement policies that would raise the cost of energy is a bad policy from the get go.
Some quick initial comments on the conclusions
Yes. But talk about the economics. Solutions must be ‘no regrets’ and robust. And no biases for one technology over any other.
No! Wrong approach. Don’t select one industry to pick on. That is what the Greenies have been doing forever. Policies should be impartial and objective. They should be equally applicable to all industries. They should have the same effect at improving well-being as all other regulations.
No! Stop the campaigning for international agreements. They will not succeed and survive. The delegates to the international negotiations are overly influenced by Left wing ideologues and NGOs. Instead, USA remove the impediments to low-cost, low-emission energy and facilitate US companies competing to provide the solutions to the world (on a fully commercial basis). Remove the impediments to low cost nuclear power for a start.
That is an assertion. It is a belief by the ideologically left alarmists and activists. It is not established.
That’s a laugh. Greenies living in concrete jungles advocating that those who live on the land should do as the Greenies decide they should do.
Yes, like replacing fossil fuel with nuclear for electricity generation would save over 1 million fatalities per year now and many more by 2050 – far more as the world electrifies and electricity replaces other fuels for some heat.
Activists have been saying that sort of nonsense for over 20 years. They are usually wrong because they do not do the economic analyses properly. Their analyses are ideologically driven to achieve the result the want – often they want to mandate renewable energy or some other top-down imposed requirement involving massive bureaucracy and compliance costs. For example Spain killed 2.2 jobs for every 1 green job created. Germany, UK, and most other EU countries have reports showing similar destruction of real jobs ands transferring of the industries to China, India, etc.
More advocacy from those with an ideological agenda to impose their beliefs and their policy prescriptions on society. Will it never stop? When will they learn?
OMG. Will this advocacy for Left ideological solutions never stop? They are not acceptable. They will not work They are the opposite of what is required. Instead of trying to impose more ideologically driven, top-down regulations on society, focus on removing the regulations that are impeding progress – like the regulations that have been blocking progress of low cost nuclear power for 50 years.
Peter, well said. My belated Part 2 below takes a similar stance.
Judith, what in God’s earth did you like in that article. It was extraordinary only for its’ pessimism. I hope you are not rehearsing for “Mr. Smith Goes To Washington”. Get to a hypnotist as soon as possible and ask that this article be erased from your memory.
Bob, “gods earth” is what the environmental sciences are all about. There are actually natural resources that have a finite lifetime and once reduced to more elemental forms are gone forever.
I think you are in an alternate universe if you think this post is not topical.
I have the same problem with this pronoiac analysis as I do with Freeman Dyson’s dilettante rationalization for his bizarre rejection of AGW. Both assume the will, the mechanism to implement the will, the technical feasibility of the mechanism, and too many black boxes to be developed when that bridge must be crossed to be viable.
Freeman Dyson says a ‘little bit’ of change in land use will entirely resolve CO2 levels by sequestering all the excess emissions, no matter how high emissions get. And he’s not — in theory — completely wrong. Of course, the first step in Dyson’s vision is to build a 30 mile deep, 100,000 mile wide ring around the Sun at one astronomical unit radius.. So it’s not entirely consistent with current technology.
Cap and Share is.. somewhat less fantastical.
Fee and Dividend is real, has been implemented in one form or another, works, and is palatable, politically conservative, not a tax, makes the relative size of government compared to the economy smaller, and has a substantial movement of convinced supporters. It’s not exactly the way I’d do it, but I recognize I’m hardly more credible than Freeman Dyson.
Don’t fool yourself, Bart.
You are a helluva lot less credible than Freeman Dyson.
One of these is a legend in my own mind.
You are a helluva lot less credible than Freeman Dyson.
Oh, I could be orders of magnitude less credible than that measure, and still be flatteringly credible by most measures.
Still doesn’t make Freeman Dyson’s thinking on this right, except in a world where planet-building megaprojects are commonplace.
Individual or regional emission trading scheme will not survive unless there is a global carbon pricing scheme.
But there sill be no global carbon pricing scheme because all rationalists it cannot succeed unless nearly all GHG emissions are included in the scheme – i.e. nearly all countries, emissions sources within each country and all of the 23 Kyoto GHG gases.
As Faustino pointed out in his excellent comment, if the wold can’t agree to free trade (where the benefits are immense) how on earth does anyone believe we are going to agree to a carbon pricing scheme (where the costs are huge and the benefits negligible to none)?
Previous comment was posted before I’d re-read it. Here is how it was intended to read:
Individual or regional emission pricing schemes (tax, ETS, fee and dividend) will not survive unless there is a global carbon pricing scheme.
But there will be no global carbon pricing scheme because rationalists realise it cannot succeed unless nearly all GHG emissions are included in the scheme – i.e. nearly all countries, all emissions sources within each country and all of the twenty-three Kyoto GHG gases.
As Faustino pointed out in his excellent comment, if the world can’t agree to free trade (where the benefits are immense) how on Earth does anyone believe we are going to agree to a carbon pricing scheme (where the costs are huge and the benefits negligible to none)?
Your conclusion is spot on.
The authors of the lead post have their heads in the clouds.
Aside from the remark about “thinking positive” (which their essay did NOT do), a good point about abating black carbon and surface ozone emissions (they could have added other real air pollutants like NOx, SO2, hydrocarbons, heavy metals, etc.), and a possibly interesting approach of enhancing crop yield by CO2 injection of soils, the article is standard pie-in-the-sky CAGW pablum.
The idea that all nations of this world are going to voluntarily sign up to a treaty that binds them from growing their economies based on low-cost energy is not only utopian, it is flat out insane.
If the governments of the developed (mostly western) economies go down this path, either to “save the planet” or to “set a good example for the rest of the world”, they are only committing economic suicide.
Your earlier proposal to replace new coal-fired power plants with economically competitive nuclear technology is the only actionable proposal I have heard that makes any sense. Based on the expected growth in human population and electrical power demand, this could result in the cumulative reduction of 940 GtCO2 by 2100. With 50% “remaining” in the atmosphere this would result in a reduction of atmospheric CO2 of around 60 ppmv, let’s say to a total of 580 ppmv rather than 640 ppmv, or a calculated net reduction in warming of around 0.45C by the end of this century (using the old IPCC AR4 estimate for 2xCO2 ECS of 3.2C.
If we take the newer observation-based estimates for 2xCO2 ECS of around half this amount, the net temperature saving comes out closer to 0.23C.
So it’s not a big deal, but it is the only actionable proposal I have seen that would make any sense at all.
(All the other proposals I have seen so far amount to no more than imposing taxes or “all holding hands and singing kumbaya”.)
Peter Lang’s thinking-that-got-us-here-in-the-first-place, one-side-of-the-equation cherry-picking is exactly wrong.
Fee and Dividend systems so advantage an economy and the people in the economy, so improve the Fair Market and Free Enterprise, that there will be no keeping them down on the farm in neighboring and competing nations once they witness the benefits.
Even tiny British Columbia’s limited and flawed revenue-neutral carbon tax is such a stabilizing and positive influence — favored by industry and business by a ratio of 9:1 in that province, and by individual citizens by a ratio of 4:1 — that it weathered the crash of 2008 virtually unscathed while the rest of the world struggled, and even though it is otherwise pretty much a basketcase of political mismanagement and foot-shooting by most accounts. Alberta, the neighbor of British Columbia — the arch right-wing conservative neighbor — is now seriously talking about copying the program. And British Columbia is seriously talking about expanding its revenue neutral carbon tax more.
Fee and Dividend systems, unlike Australian-style carbon tax lotteries (what the heck were they thinking?) and European cap-and-trade and tax-and-regulate systems, are economically attractive and grow an economy while shrinking the relative size of government.
The first in the pool gain the most benefit, and the strongest bargaining position. The longer a nation delays, the worse its competitive position.
Wrong! Its the so called ‘Progressives’ thinking that got us here. They’ve been blocking progress for at least 50 years. They block all rational policies for the obvious purpose of trying to push their ‘socialist’ Left, Greenie, ‘progressive’ agendas – like Agenda 21, command and control policies, world government.
If they were seriously concerned about climate change wouldn’t you think they’s welcome rational solutions? But, oh no, they are are threat to their ‘progressive’ agendas so they strenuously advocate and protest against them.
It was the so called ‘Progressives’ that have blocked and delayed progress.
Peter Lang | March 10, 2013 at 6:55 pm |
We’ve already established I’m not a Progressive. Nor am I a world-government-panicked Agenda-theorist jumping at pink bogeymen.
I don’t care whose to blame for all the imagined plots and conspiracies of the past fifty years — fifty years which included the Nixon, Ford, Reagan, Thatcher, and two different Bush regimes. There’s never been a half century so unProgressive since the time of Ghengis Khan.
It’s not the politics that’s to blame for this mess, it’s the lacking competency, paucity of backbone, absence of true moral fiber and general full-of-itness of people who imagine there’s something behind the hollow words they spout.
Nixon supposed that those who don’t stand for something will fall for anything.
The problem is, slouching doesn’t count.
Our ancestors coped with mammoth ice ages, droughts which depopulated whole countries, spreading deserts of Saharan magnitude and floods of biblical proportions. Those who sat and sacrificed their substance on fantasies such as ‘Global Warming’ perished and left no descendants. Those with the sense to adapt to the changed climates by migration, new food sources, better technology and more productive lifestyles survived.
None of our ancestors were led to survival by high priests in green robes with computer models chanting anti-energy and anti-food slogans.
Never before have we seen a whole generation of western leaders in politics, media, education, academia and big business so cushioned by prosperity, and so mesmerized by pagan nature-worship that they have lost sight of what created and maintains human existence.” (Viv Forbes)
Its becoming more and more obvious that CAGW is just another doomsday cult with a bit of ‘sciency ‘ thrown in.
And like all such cults…when the world doesn’t actually end, the proponents have to find more and more unlikely reasons to explain away this unhappy fact.
Today’s is that all the ‘missing heat’ is hiding in the deep ocean where (very conveniently) we can’t observe or measure it. And that it somehow gets there by avoiding all our surface level instruments.
No physical mechanism has been proposed for this ‘unusual’ form of heat transfer. Perhaps it is a new form of the climatological exclusive ‘teleconnections’?
The “missing heat hiding in the pipeline” is an imaginary will o’the wisp.
The concept was created using circular logic:
1. climate models showed we should have seen warming of X since1880.
2. The record only shows warming of roughly half of this.
3. Now, instead of correcting our models to reflect the physical observations, we conclude that there is “X/2” still “hidden in the pipeline” (since the models cannot possibly be wrong).
But where is this “missing heat”?
First of all, it “sneaked in” without being detected (we couldn’t detect it because we did not have any meaningful measurements until ARGO in 2003). Since ARGO started we first saw slight cooling and then (after some corrections to the ARGO data) now see statistically insignificant warming of the upper ocean (less than one-tenth of a degree in ten years).
The hypothesis that somehow this imaginary heat is some day miraculously going to jump out of the ocean and fry us all is not only far-fetched, it defies the laws of physics.
It takes a major leap of faith to swallow this one “hook, line and sinker”.
But, believe it or not, there are some scientists out there that do believe it.
If you can’t prove it, just assume it. Spoken like a true IPCCer.
A candidate for the HavingYourCakeAndEatingIt 2013 award
– don’t worry oil, fossil fuel going to peak anyway. To make this happen, impose impossible conditions on its mining.
“But one thing is necessary first: the twin myths that there’s plenty of energy and that economic growth can continue must be exposed. If climate campaigners can get that message over, their battle would be as good as won.”
So climate alarmists can get their way, the authors say, not by relying on the still highly uncertain alarmist science, but rather by claiming that fossil energy will soon run out, which means we will have to switch anyway, and the sooner we use the remaining fossil fuel to ease the switchover, the better in the long term.
With new reserves of gas and shale oil now variously estimated to be enough for thousands of years, one has to – ahem – admire their morally upstanding long-term view. Either that, or see a hidden motive in their desire to regulate cheap gas and shale oil for the common man into bankruptcy.
Isn’t that actually a single “myth” ?
Microwave it in when it starts getting cold.
“Talk about the advantages of investing in non-carbon energy sources sooner rather than later”
Spend horrible amounts of money on unfeasible “solutions” (wind and solar) that don’t work, and can’t supply the energy we need. They are technically unworkable.
In introducing the lead post about “Optimism about the Climate Crisis” you wrote:
My first reaction was “in that case, should I read this?” (I did, and am glad I did, because it gave me some insight into how some people think).
But then I started thinking and have concluded, “Yes, there is a ‘climate crisis'”.
IMO it is a totally “man-made crisis”. But I am not referring to “man-made global warming caused by man-made GH gases”.
Sure, there is the GH effect, CO2 is a GHG, humans emit CO2 (and other GHGs) and atmospheric levels of these gases have gone up and the same time that globally averaged temperature has also risen slightly.
But this is no “crisis” in itself.
That “crisis” is an “imaginary hobgoblin” (Mencken).
I am all in favor of any research work that could help us better understand what makes our climate behave as it does, but IMO the real man-made “crisis” is that so much human energy and so many resources are being squandered on chasing this imaginary anthropocentric hobgoblin.
That’s the “climate crisis” of today.
Billions upon billions upon billions of dollars, wasted and ripped off, impoverishing us and future generations. This mess has contributed mightily to the economic malaise today, and has demonstrably damaged future generations of the human race.
Please not to mention what it has done to the minds of thinkers such as those who penned this piece. ‘Leaving aside the climate crisis for the moment’. Oh, my goodness.
“Billions upon billions upon billions of dollars, wasted and ripped off, impoverishing us and future generations. This mess has contributed mightily to the economic malaise today, and has demonstrably damaged future generations of the human race.”
Unfortunate that you cannot prove your alarmist conjecture there.
Heh, something self-evident needs proof?
nothing is self-evident. Such a concept defies reason.
We can philosophize, or we can talk about the poor and the cold.
Isn’t $100 billion “billions upon billion upon billions of dollars”? If not, please explain why not?
$100 billion is an estimate of the amount spent on climate research and climate related policies so far.
What is $100 billion in proportion to the bank bailouts and the Iraq and Afghan wars?
It’s just more waste. Would any rational person make such an argument?
You are right, manacker.
The “climate crisis” is an “imaginary hobgoblin” manufactured to control humans: http://tinyurl.com/a2ocxtq
With CO2 levels rapidly approaching 400ppm and beyond, it is simply a matter of undeniable basic science that thermageddon is on the cards.
The last 2 degrees C rise has been a wonderful boon to the human race and the whole of the Earth’s biosphere, as will be the next 2 degrees C rise. If we get it.
What is in store is the biggest destructive shakeup of Earth’s biosphere for millions of years. Many of the changes of the past century haven’t yet caught up and we’ll be lucky to have just 2C more.
Yeah, sure, a trace gas which might minimally warm the Earth, a warming which pales against certain future cooling.
Ah, and it does seem to be plant food. And when the rising tide lifts all the plants, animals will float.
Sounds like you just made the common contradictory arguments that CO2 is both an irrelevant trace gas and also a critically important source of plant food.
2C more warming would put the Earth at the warmest it’s been for millions of years. We’ll probably see more warming than that too. In merely hundreds of years and in combination with other threats such as ocean acidification and alteration of the nitrogen cycle, this will cause the biggest destructive shakeup of the biosphere for millions of years.
Irrelevant? Might warm us and clearly sustains more total life and more diversity of life? It is trace, and relevant.
And you want to argue about philosophy.
But even with this it’s still cold. In fact at 17C average surface temp, Earth would be just half way between cold and normal operating temperature (which is where life thrives best).
You threw in the term “trace gas” to downplay it’s significance, as if it is ludicrous to believe a trace gas can have a substantial effect.
But then you appealed to a massive plant food effect from this trace gas.
That’s what just happened.
Heh, lolwot, you just knee-jerked at ‘trace’. Where else are you ticklish?
There’s no such thing as “normal operating temperature”.
Rather there are different operating temperatures. We are switching Earth’s operating temperature back to a time before mammals existed.
why did you mention the term “trace gas”?
I think I am bang on about why you threw that phrase in.
It is marvelously ironic, that this thing that IS a trace gas that can both warm us at the end of the Holocene and provide for the bounty of the Earth has been demonized, and the devils who produced it, too.
We have met the enemy, and they aren’t us.
Bang on Maxthwell thilver hammer
My thumb thur feelth thor.
Not if you have no concept of the meaning of the term. But if you do, and you realise that >75% of the time the planet “operates” with no ice at either pole and at a temperature above 20C, then a practical person would get the point?
Bitumen is getting a bad rap. I saw a segment on MSNBC where bitumen was described as corrosive and the full description on the show made it sound more like the Blob from the 50’s movie than the benign natural material that it really is.
For US readers bitumen is asphalt, the same stuff used to build roads and parking lots. Bitumen/asphalt has been and continues to be a friend of mankind.
From the paper below:
“Few natural materials are put to as many diverse uses as bitumen. Clear evidence exists concerning the use of Bitumen from the Hummalian period from around 180,000 BC [18, 19]. It was used as the adhesive of choice to construct hunting implements out of stick and stone, the success of the hunt critically dependingon how well the sharpened flint stuck to the stick that was flung at a fleeing animal.
the authoritative article by Halleck5 (1841) . Another detailed and thorough discussion of the uses of asphalt in roadways, as a coating for bridges and viaducts, as an insulator, coatings for masonry, roofs, in silos, etc., can be found
We now consider its multifarious uses in the unlikeliest of places. Bitumen was used by the Egyptians for embalming. As Greenhill  observes “there are several kinds of embalming, viz., with asphalt or pissasphalt, with Oyl or Gum of cedar, with aromatics and spices”. However, that asphalt was invariably one of the many ingredients is clear from the very use of the word Mummy. The word Mummy is derived from the Persian word mumiya, the word for asphalt in Persian
(See Pettigrew ). For instance, Forbes  states that . . . mˆmijˆ, a word u a which in the Persian language denotes “wax”, and in Arabic “bitumen”. In recent times, Connan and Desort  used Gas chromatography and mass spectrometry to trace the presence of Dead Sea asphalt in the skull, knees and viscera of a mummy from the Guimet Museum in Lyon.
4. Uses of bitumen in modern times
The Shell Bitumen Handbook  lists over 250 known current uses for bitu-men in agriculture, construction, hydraulics, erosion control, automobile industry,electrical industry, railways, paving industry, etc.
Table 1: More than 250 known uses of Bitumen ”
Bob Ludwick | March 9, 2013 at 6:30 pm |
“True; but I gotta believe (without actually knowing) that PV cells will deliver more net energy to the grid per square mile of collector than biomass. At least their output is usable electricity. While the sun shines.”
True but without a breakthrough in manufacturing PV simply costs too much.
“Has anyone ever examined the feasibility of using the PV cells to electrolyze water, storing the H2 in tanks on site, doling it out via pipeline at a steady rate to where it is needed, a la natural gas, and using it to run conventional steam turbines? If so, what was the result of the examination? If nothing else, pipelines are more esthetic than high tension towers.”
Yes of course many people have. It’s encyclopedic. It would have been quicker for you to google “hydrogen pipeline” than to ask here. Hydrogen molecules are so small that NG pipelines can’t ship it without excessive leakage. Natural gas pipelines are leaky to begin with as the tradeoff between cost of lost gas and cost of higher quality pipes and maintenance are optimized. Hydrogen is also highly corrosive. It infiltrates and embrittles most metals. This represents a problem for both pipes and turbines burning it making $tainless $teel the only solution and that’s not practical for mass distribution via pipeline because stainless is uber expensive.
Direct conversion of sunlight, CO2, and non-potable water into hydrocarbon fuels is possible, practical, and inevitable. It requires no arable land. Just sunlight, air, and non-potable water such as municipal waste water (ideal because of high nutrient load) or saltwater. That’s biological route which simply requires improvements to already patented geneticially modified organisms to lower cost and improve yield/acre. Already third generation pilot plants are producing thousands of gallons of biofuel per acre at a cost competitive with oil at $70/bbl.
Cellulosic ethanol is second generation biofuel and is more difficult and costly. Woody plant matter is difficult to break down biologically into starch and sugar which can then be fermented and distilled in the usual way. Fungi usually do it in nature but they do it very slowly and no one has come up with a cost effective way to accelerate the process. Then you’ve still got to go through the usual steps of breaking down starches into sugars using enzymes such as what is produced by malt and then once it’s all sugar it’s fermented by yeast and distilled. Ostensibly a single genetically engineered organism can do the whole job in one step but there’s nothing close to that in nature to provide a head start. Cyanobacteria (a.k.a. blue-green “algae”) that directly convert sunlight, CO2, and water to hydrocarbon fuels on the other hand already exist in nature and tinkering with their simple genomes is much easier. The bacteria themselves don’t need to be harvested and processed as they directly excrete the fuels. Current production for ethanol simply lets the sun evaporate the ethanol from the bioreactor solution which then condenses on the inner surface of the transparent ceilings in runnels empty into collection tanks where it is perfectly clean water/alcohol mixture easily distilled. For other fuels like biodiesel that dont mix with water the fuel is collected by simple filtration much like the filter that separates water from gas or diesel in automobile engines.
The limiting factor right now appears to be CO2 which, in order to get practical efficiency in the bioreactor, must be concentrated above atmospheric level. The long term solution to that is a better designed bacteria which can live in open ponds instead of enclosed bioreactors. In order to do that means engineering something like what Monsanto did with Round Up. We’d need to poison the open pond so that natural competitors can’t survive in them and then give our artificial critters a means of surviving the poison like “Round Up Ready” GM crops were given. Then we lower our yield per acre to something akin to what can be had from beets or sugar cane, we lose the cost of the bioreactor, and we just need to flood a desert with seawater which then becomes our bioreactor. This wouldn’t work with ethanol because it would evaporate out of an open pond but would be fine for producing fuel oils that don’t evaporate. And that’s fine too because high efficiency clean burning diesel engines are already on the market there’d just be more of those and fewer gasoline/ethanol engines.
Alternatively there’s a non-biological solution for the same thing called “the artificial leaf” but as of now that has the same problem as PV cells which is to say prohibitively expensive to manufacture but it at least doesn’t have the baggage of not being suitable for storage which is a major encumbrance of electricy in the transportation sector and in having a reserve for nights and cloudy days.
Spinger is a funny guy. For all his talk downplaying climate change and fossil fuel depletion concerns he seems to have the answers to the problems concerning climate change and fossil fuel depletion. Good for him and the rest of you seeking solutions to this enduring pair of problems.
On topic to the top level post to boot. This is a “No Regrets” policy as moving to alternative and renewable fuels is a long range winning strategy in terms of risk mitigation and adaptation.
Very ihteresting. I have a great soft spot for fermentation. I’d lacto-pickle my granny’s rosary beads if you let me. There’s power in bugs! Reminds me, I must culture some more coconut milk today.
Of course we need to look for alternatives to everything, like progressing (as opposed to progressive) humans do. Even wind and solar, while utterly ridiculous in their current mainstream formats, can be alternatives for some purposes. And what’s wrong with spending millions on experimentation? It’s got to be better than spending billions on mainstreaming stuff you know will suck before you even build it. (Then you have to spend on statisticians to torture the numbers most horribly till it is proven that the sucky technology is clean and cheap. Whew!)
Timber has found a new global use, it would seem. Britain’s coal industry is converting away from the coal which lies near many plants and, at stupendous cost, converting to wood chip – imported, of course, like a Labor politician’s champagne. This will help Britain conform to some EU standard or directive from Brussels. (I ask again: Is it too late to cancel Belgium?)
No big deal. You lose a civilisation, sure, but with three or four hundred new coal plants being planned in China alone, someone will still be able to manufacture the impotent whirlygigs that line the landscape. And every cool post-civilisaton needs impotent whirlygigs lining its landscape.
lolwot | March 10, 2013 at 6:58 am |
“Rather there are different operating temperatures. We are switching Earth’s operating temperature back to a time before mammals existed.”
Maybe. Mammals have been around for 200 million years. I think you mean to say back to a time when cold blooded animals were the dominant form of terrestrial animal life.
So what you’re saying in effect is that global warming will make dinosaurs the dominant terrestrial animals again.
That’s a new one. Think you’ll get much traction with it? God knows you aren’t getting any traction with any of the other horrific CAGW narratives.
Normal operating temperature for humans has been colder than now. The current climate allowed humans to spread from the tropics to nearly all latitides. Continued warming will require evacuating the currently most densely populated tropical latitudes due to the high discomfort levels as temps go 5 C higher there. Imagine who could live in 40 C 90% RH conditions. Only small mammals can lose heat fast enough to survive that. Steamy tropical forests may look nice and be good for reptiles, but humans would not live in them.
Always good to know what the greens are thinking. Dr. Curry I would like to know which ideas you like as I don’t see any. For cap & share one can start here: http://www.capandshare.org/. Variations such as tax and rebate also occur. Both recognize that decarbonization would be very painful. Fortunately it is not justified.
David, things i like from this essay:
• break down the problem and the solutions into their component parts and tackle the easiest, rather than the toughest, first.
• environmental standards and compensation arrangements are a more productive approach than fighting for an outright ban.
• Advocate re-foresting vast areas, changing grazing methods and using biochar to speed the rate at which long-lived forms of soil carbon can build up. The spin-off from new forests could be more abundant water supplies and slower warming as a result of increased cloud cover.
• Talk about the health gains that would come from reducing black carbon emissions and dealing with low-level ozone. Of the rural prosperity that should come from increasing the soil’s carbon content and thus its fertility through better farming methods. Of the new, local industries than will spring up making plastics and other organic chemicals out of biomass rather than oil.
REforresting is happening natually as the economy moves away from subsidized farming. Big forests replanting in the mid west, southeast and New England will sequester carbon with added benefits to wildlife. Add the re working plains to replant the tall grass prairies in the high plains of N & S Dakato plus the wildlife recovery. The north plains de populated to the time of 1870 so corporate welfare accounts for most cattle grazing. Instead bring back the buffalo and run some wind mills in those resource rich areas. Continue the Brakan shale work and keystone pipeline from Canada. Then reduce the coal cost advantage by cleaning up the slag pond pits, scrubbing mercury and NOx and SOx from the flue gas so external environmental costs to the public are accounted for in the cost of energy from coal. Lots of low hanging fruit before carbon trading.
Is there anything new in that essay? WebHubTelescope and I have sparred already over the notion of investing current (mostly fossil fuel) energy in non-fossil fuel generation. The following is certainly not new: So work to prevent further forest loss and to protect the carbon in soils, mires and peat bogs. Advocate re-foresting vast areas, changing grazing methods and using biochar to speed the rate at which long-lived forms of soil carbon can build up.
Perhaps these ideas are new in that audience. My impression is that pessimism is the most consistent attribute of the numerous advocates of crises over the last 4 decades (Ehrlich, Holder, Hansen etc.) The second most consistent attribute has been a resistance to breaking down the problem into component parts: which is called “reductionism” etc and strongly deprecated compared to “holistic thinking”.
Nothing is new when it comes to the vast public sphere. One of Frank Luntz’s messaging observations is “Finding a good message and then sticking with it takes extraordinary discipline, but it pays off tenfold in the end. Remember, you may be making yourself sick by saying the same exact thing for the umpteenth time, but many in your audience will be hearing it for the first time. The overwhelming majority of your customers aren’t paying as much attention as you are.”
This works from both sides. The side that wins has the most persistence, and because of the passage of time, will also have the truth at their side.
This rule essentially explains all the commentary on this site.
Yes. And right on cue, Don Aitkin (past Vice Chancellor of the University of Canberra) has a post on his web site on just that topic.:
Biofuels cannot take the world from point A today, to point B tomorrow post peak oil. Not even if the whole planet is sustainably harvested. Not even if Craig Venter at Synthetic Genomics is right about re-engineering billions of years of evolutionary photosynthesis and the RuBisCo gene.
So that leaves a few major future problems other than climate change, which planned grazing still do not solve. (btw Savory’s method works on Salatin’s farm, and it works on mine. that is why we have divided the pastures into smallish 10-20 acre sections with all the extra expense and effort of the fencing, gates, and dairy cow movement.)
At least this essay had some interesting new ideas to offer.
Talk about the health gains that would come from reducing black carbon emissions and dealing with low-level ozone. Of the rural prosperity that should come from increasing the soil’s carbon content and thus its fertility through better farming methods.
What to do with it:
Especially for the tropics, BC in soils significantly contributes to fertility as it is able to absorb important plant nutrients.
Glaser B (2007) Prehistorically modified soils of central Amazonia: a model for sustainable agriculture in the twenty-first century. PHILOSOPHICAL TRANSACTIONS OF THE ROYAL SOCIETY B, 362, 187–196.
“Soot is not the same as ash. Soot is more like charcoal – pure carbon with some volatile compounds. That’s why it’s good to let the soot weather before using it – the volatiles evaporate and what’s left is like fine charcoal. This has 3 benefits:
1. It darkens the soil, making it warm earlier
2. It is electrostatic, so it retains nutrients that rainfall would otherwise wash away
3. It has a very large porous surface area, so on an organic allotment all the soil fungi and bacteria and other life have a safe refuge where they can proliferate. This is particularly important for mycorrhyzal fungi, which live for 32 days, then die and leave nitrogen and carbon in the soil, building up humus.
4. Humus retains water as it is like a gel, so theoretically soot-enriched soil will need watering less often.”
Soot will be cleared from the air by its own weight and by rain, not a problem except in confined industries/cities, which is what I think they mean here, (but not sure – because “they” now use the word carbon to refer to carbon dioxide) as they say improving carbon content of soils.
They could be thinking about biochar for “carbon”, but soot also good for soils.
A belated Part 2. It doesn’t take account of anyone else’s comments. I would add to my first comment that while the authors push some blue-sky proposals for rural prosperity, they don’t mention the biggest boost to it in recent deacdes, GM seeds.
If there are health gains “from reducing black carbon emissions and dealing with low-level ozone” and potential rural prosperity from “increasing the soil’s carbon content,” then they should be pursued in their own right. Talk of “new, local industries that will spring up making plastics and other organic chemicals out of biomass rather than oil,” however, is just pie-in-the sky speculation without serious investigation of the prospects for such projects. It takes entrepreneurs and financiers to develop untested new ventures, and they will do so only if they are convinced that risk-related returns exceed those in alternative activities.
The next points are total nonsense: “Work to convince people that the global economy will never run properly again unless the benefits of using all scarce resources are fairly shared.” The global economy has never operated on this basis, it’s been driven by people taken risks from which they hope that they and their families will benefit. There is evidence that humans have an innate tendency to share with closely-related or mutually-supportive small groups (cf, for example, Natalie & Joseph Henrich, “Why Humans Cooperate, OUP 2007) but not to support “fair sharing of all resources globally” – whatever that means. Who determines what is fair? Similarly with ”Support the setting up of a Global Climate Trust so that the scarcity rent from fossil fuel use gets properly allocated.” Which resource owners are likely to subscribe to that? Have you canvassed it in Beijing or Zimbabwe?
Personally, I think that most humans can be “better than they are,” in the sense that they can overcome self-centred craving and aversion and develop loving-kindness and compassion for other beings – but this depends on properly-directed individual effort, you can’t magic it into existence with a “Global Climate Trust” for which there is no basis in observed behaviour of the peoples of the world and their national rulers.
“Leaving the effects of climate change aside, the main danger that humanity faces is that it will not invest enough of the fossil energy it can extract with a reasonable net-energy gain into making the transition to renewable energy sources.” Including climate change, the main dangers faced by humanity are poverty, lack of clean water, sanitation, health services and education, being subject to tyrannical kleptomaniacs and having no freedom of expression. These are real, here-and-now problems, many of which would be exacerbated by attempts to reduce fossil fuel emissions. Left to itself, humans will make individual decisions which lead to the best use of existing energy sources and the development of viable new ones. That is the beauty of markets, I don’t understand how the authors, or anyone, can think that they can out-perform them. The evidence is against this, many attempts to regulate or direct behaviour – cf the USSR and its satellites – have been disastrous. In its 1991 World Development Report, the World Bank cautioned that “the countless cases of unsuccessful intervention suggest the need for caution. To justify intervention it is not enough to know that the market is failing; it is also necessary to be confident that the government can do better.” There is vast evidence that governments and others pursuing central direction lead to adverse outcomes compared to well-designed markets.
The authors advocate that we “move on to the positive position that no costs, and no self-denial are involved. Instead, rationing energy use in order to share out its benefits is essential for the proper working of the economic system and will create millions of jobs and commercial opportunities now.” There is not a shred of evidence to support the viability or merit of such an approach, and plenty to refute Stern’s assessment of costs and benefits – cf my post at http://judithcurry.com/?s=The+costs+of+tackling+or+not+tackling+any+anthropogenic+global+warming .
As for Clive Hamilton, he is a failed economist and alleged ethicist with a distorted view of the world driven by his own complexes. By all means, ignore anything he says, it has no merit.
The authors contend that “there are strong grounds for believing that the climate crisis can be overcome and that many people’s lives, particularly in the poorer countries, could be materially better than they are now because of the work the production of biofuels and biochemicals to replace their fossil equivalents should bring, coupled with the additional fertility that biochar should create. Since the alternative is industrial and societal decline and, after increasing unrest, an eventual collapse, there’s every reason to think the system will incline the right way.” I can’t imagine any basis for any of these propositions, they are not part of the world as I understand it. I haven’t yet read the paper to ascertain what basis is proffered for such views. But I can definitely disagree with the statements that “the twin myths that there’s plenty of energy and that economic growth can continue must be exposed. If climate campaigners can get that message over, their battle would be as good as won.” The main driver of growth is an inexhaustible asset – the innovativeness, entrepremeurialism and adaptability of humans. These will not be diminished by climate changes, fuel shortages or any other changes in a world in which constant change is the norm.
An excellent comment.
Like Beth, I look forward to your next post where you put all this together in a post and thus get to wider group of readers who read only the headline article.
Peter, my intellectual energy comes in short bursts, but I’ll take that aboard. I was supposed to critique a discount rate paper for Judith but have made little progress on it. But I’m on the mend, let’s see. If I did a head post on policy, it would have to be much more rigorous than my casual contributions.
I understand. But remember, perfect is the enemy of good.
You mentioned you are reviewing a paper for JC on discount rates. If you haven’t seen it, you may be interested in Chapter IX, pp165-191 in Nordhaus (2008) “A Question of Balance” http://nordhaus.econ.yale.edu/Balance_2nd_proofs.pdf
Also “Calibrating the preference function and discounting” pp9-13 here: http://nordhaus.econ.yale.edu/Accom_Notes_100507.pdf
Thanks, Peter, with extra sources the paper (if it materialises) will have to be definitive!
A fine, said-it-for-me comment. However, you should not have dragged the Indian Cricket Board into the debate:
“tyrannical kleptomaniacs and having no freedom of expression.”
Also, when you say “the main dangers faced by humanity are poverty, lack of clean water, sanitation, health services and education”, you neglect to list Kevin Pietersen. One cannot simply avert the eyes from such horror because one needs the runs.
Others, dead on target!
Thought I’d bamboozled you there. As for KP, I’ve proposed at the DT that he be dropped with Finn at four. :-) I’ve described India before as a wonderful place where terrible things happen. I wasn’t thinking of the Cricket Board, but it’s part of that vast and varied mix.
KP, like that strange rabbit ‘person’, often refers to himself in the third person. A sure sign of a dangerously deluded individual that one should have nothing to do with….,
However, the term “KP Nuts” precedes the idiosyncratic batsman’s arrival on the scene (perhaps one could add another “t” to the adjective).
Beginnin’ ter sound like this thread could be renamed,
‘Time fer some pessimism about the cricket crisis.”
The “optimism” approach taken by the these authors, is essentially to try fix the agenda so as to make it falsely appear that there are no difficult or fraught questions regarding CAGW and the radical political action premised on it. It’s just a relaunch and repackaging of the old politically motivated “the science is settled” drivel again.
Drivel-by shouting, perhaps?
The authors state, “As the safe level of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere has already been passed, plants seem at present the only realistic way to extract the excess carbon from the air and sequester it in the soil.”
Currently, 1 kg of air contains 0.0006 kg of carbon dioxide. Where from do these guys get the idea that this quite low level of carbon dioxide is unsafe?
For a plant to produce 1 mole of glucose (180 g) by photosynthesis, it has to “inhale” about 440 kg (968 lbs) of air. This is why plants grow slowly.
Most carbon dioxide emitted by all sources eventually ends up into the oceans and is fixed in the form of various carbonate minerals by plants and animals.