Carbon is not the enemy

by Judith Curry

Design with the natural cycle in mind to ensure that carbon ends up in the right places. — William McDonough

Nature has published a provocative essay entitled Carbon is not the enemy (full text available online).  Excerpts:

Carbon has a bad name. 

But carbon — the element — is not the enemy. Climate change is the result of breakdowns in the carbon cycle caused by us: it is a design failure. Anthropogenic greenhouse gases in the atmosphere make airborne carbon a material in the wrong place, at the wrong dose and for the wrong duration. 

Rather than declare war on carbon emissions, we can work with carbon in all its forms. To enable a new relationship with carbon, I propose a new language — living, durable and fugitive — to define ways in which carbon can be used safely, productively and profitably. Aspirational and clear, it signals positive intentions, enjoining us to do more good rather than simply be less bad.

It is easy to lose one’s way in the climate conversation. Few of the terms are clearly defined or understood. Take ‘carbon neutral’. The European Union considers electricity generated by burning wood as carbon neutral — as if it releases no CO2 at all. Their carbon neutrality relies problematically on the growth and replacement of forests that will demand decades to centuries of committed management. 

Such terms highlight a confusion about the qualities and value of CO2. In the United States, the gas is classified as a commodity by the Bureau of Land Management, a pollutant by the Environmental Protection Agency and as a financial instrument by the Chicago Climate Exchange.

A new language of carbon recognizes the material and quality of carbon so that we can imagine and implement new ways forward. It identifies three categories of carbon — living, durable and fugitive — and a characteristic of a subset of the three, called working carbon. It also identifies three strategies related to carbon management and climate change — carbon positive, carbon neutral and carbon negative.

slide1

Carbon is at the heart of soil health. In healthy ecosystems, when plants convert CO2 into carbon-based sugars — liquid carbon — some flows to shoots, leaves and flowers. The rest nourishes the soil food web, flowing from the roots of plants to communities of soil microbes. In exchange, the microbes share minerals and micronutrients that are essential to plants’ health. Drawn into the leaves of plants, micronutrients increase the rate of photosynthesis, driving new growth, which yields more liquid carbon for the microbes and more micronutrients for the fungi and the plants. Below ground, liquid carbon moves through the food web, where it is transformed into soil carbon — rich, stable and life-giving. This organic matter also gives soil a sponge-like structure, which improves its fertility and its ability to hold and filter water.

This is how a healthy carbon cycle supports life. This flow kept carbon in the right place in the right concentration, tempered the global climate, fuelled growth and nourished the evolution of human societies for 10,000 years.

Let’s keep those carbon bridges open on all landscapes — rural and urban. Let’s use carbon from the atmosphere to fuel biological processes, build soil carbon and reverse climate change. Let’s adopt regenerative farming and urban-design practices to increase photosynthetic capacity, enhance biological activity, build urban food systems, and cultivate closed loops of carbon nutrients. Let’s turn sewage-treatment plants into fertilizer factories. Let’s recognize carbon as an asset and the life-giving carbon cycle as a model for human designs.

 

The article offers abundant examples of such designs.  The articles concludes with:

Such designs offer an inspiring model for climate action. It all starts with changing the way we talk about carbon. Our goal is simple and positive: a delightfully diverse, safe, healthy and just world — with clean air, soil, water and energy — economically, equitably, ecologically and elegantly enjoyed.

JC reflections

I regard this as a really important essay. Not only does it change the way I think about something important, but it points to a way forward that people on both sides of the climate debate can respond to favorably.

For more on all this, check out William McDonough’s web site.  Fascinating.

Vanity Fair has a profile on McDonough [link], which is well worth reading also.  Excerpt:

Many of the radical players in the ecology and sustainability movements who have made their voices heard have done so through protest. Think of the vigilante-style work of Greenpeace in the 1970s. For most environmental activists, communal sacrifice and curbs on industry in order to create greater eco-efficiency—that is, the reduction of environmental impact and resource consumption on a global scale—are the prescriptions of choice. McDonough sees the matter through a very different lens. To him it’s a design problem. Shrill broadsides against industry are misdirected. Dire predictions of heatless winters and a car-less future are missing the point. Perhaps the most compelling part of McDonough’s plan is its repudiation of the Judeo-Christian guilt that has long defined the green movement. He and Braungart reject what they call the “dour face of eco-efficiency.”

“I want things designed so well there is no need for regulations,” he continues. “How about cars that spew out good emissions? Factories that make clean water. Then growth is good. Then the question becomes: What do you want to grow? Right now industry is set up to grow cancer and Alzheimer’s. For every case of leukemia we create nine jobs. Are the government and industry willing to sign on to that as the right kind of job-creation program? If so, we clearly need an alternative plan.”

138 responses to “Carbon is not the enemy

  1. > Carbon is not the enemy

    If only those who think C is the enemy even knew what it was.

    • Yeah, we don’t want a carbon tax to put the diamond merchants and the pencil brokers out of business.

      • The diamond merchants and the pencil whatchu talking about Willis?

        I broke a few pencils in my day, but I never saw someone broke one.

      • Well I never! I thought you were kidding, Bob (well—if we’re being honest—I thought you were suffering hibernation sickness from the carbonite) but according to Naomi Klein and Erik M. Conway, authors of the fascinating ‘Merchants of Diamond,’ people are already selling pencils on e-Bay. I guess economics really does abhor a vacuum.

        The book ends with a chilling warning to Americans who take free nanotubes and buckyballs for granted: they might “grow on trees,” but even trees (believe a growing number of scientists) contain carbon!

      • yeah, put in a 200 dollars a ton carbon tax, and then when you have an average sized baby, cough it up.

        That’ll be sixteen cents.

      • But Bob, what if you don’t *emit* the baby so much as the baby is from its mother’s womb untimely ripp’d? Is that a smart way to save, or does the IRS treat Caesareans as tax evasion?

    • I think we can assume that “carbon emissions” has an established meaning (greenhouse gases) and so move on to discuss something more interesting than terminology.

      • No, Noel. If that phrase means anything at all (and it probably doesn’t), it means diamond, graphite, nanotube or Bucky-ball secretions, radiations or ejaculations.

        But I don’t know what’s more amusing:

        1. that you’ve conflated C, a solid element, with the vaporous form of the compound H2O,

        2. or that you “assume” everyone else has made the same chemically-illiterate mental switcheroo as you.

      • > If that phrase means anything at al

        Phrases don’t have meanings, Brad.

        Discourses do.

        That’s the only way to make sense of “warmist” and “alarmist.”

      • And Noel,

        if you still don’t get why I’m chuckling at you for swallowing hook, line and sinker the scam, on the part of the vulgarizers of quote-unquote “science,” of conflating C with ‘greenhouse gases,’ then congratulations: you’re the target audience.

      • Willard,

        Yeah, I was wondering what Noel meant when he claimed the phrase “carbon emissions” had an “established meaning.”

        But then I remembered “established meaning” has no meaning :-)

      • PS Willis, I don’t pretend to possess the power to make sense of “warmist,” which is why I try not to use it.

        I also make it a policy to avoid “alarmist” for exactly the same reason…. a policy honored more in the breach than in the observance, I’m afraid. :-(

      • D’oh! I mean Willard, obv. (Whatchu talking about, Brad?)

      • > I was wondering what Noel meant when he claimed the phrase “carbon emissions” had an “established meaning.”

        I can’t speak for Noel, but it’s quite obvious that “carbon emissions” should mean something like carbon emissions.

        Like, the result of dumping stuff made of carbon into the atmosphere like there’s no tomorrow.

        We could of course wonder what carbon “really means,” just like we could wonder in what ways Bannon can be said to be a racist bigot.

        Wondering about wordology is a big part of Denizens’ ground plan.

      • Willard,

        > it’s quite obvious that “carbon emissions” should mean something like carbon emissions.

        Should it? But only discourses have meanings. Phrases can’t mean.

        But “should” means “can” in Gentile ethics. (In Sidney Morgenbesser’s formulation of Jewish ethics, “can” means “don’t.”) So “can’t” means “shouldn’t.” Which means you can’t say “should.”

        > Like, the result of dumping stuff made of carbon into the atmosphere like there’s no tomorrow.

        The result of, or the act of?

        Happily, except for the odd puff of graphite dust emitted during nude portraiture, stuff made of carbon falls to the floor immediately after emission, thus exiting “the atmosphere” almost as soon as it entered.

        > We could of course wonder what carbon “really means,”

        Elements can’t mean.

        > just like we could wonder in what ways Bannon can be said to be a racist bigot.

        Perhaps you could. But could I, without knowing who this Bannon person is?

        > Wondering about wordology is a big part of Denizens’ ground plan.

        Deconstructing and exposing Orwellian lexical abuses is a big part of my plan for Citizen [Defence Of] Science (a hobby of mine).

        Perhaps I should meet one of these Denizens you speak of. Would we share topics of interest?

      • > I can’t speak for Noel, but it’s quite obvious that “carbon emissions” should mean something like carbon emissions.

        No need to speak for him, happily. He already explained that “carbon emissions” refers to water vapor and other gases that act in a greenhouse-like fashion.

        “Explained” is probably not le mot juste, but you know what I … mean :-D

      • > Should it?

        No idea. The more appropriate question is: does it?

        As Paul Halmos almost once said, it’s good to have examples.

        Speaking of which, here’s a good one of the game plan I alluded to:

        Reversing that meaning would hardly benefit “communication”.

        Other examples can be gathered for “acidification.”

        And “denier.”

        Or forcing.

        Auditing word meanings never end.

      • Auditing word meanings, as you put it, is usually unnecessary, because in most areas of life, language is used cooperatively. The climate debate is unusual, to state the obvious. Words and semantics are being used as weapons, by groups that hate each other.

      • And poor people like Noel are collateral damage. Why does he have such a screwed-up mental dictionary, to the point where his attempt to define a fundamental, everyday phrase ended so badly? Because he got caught in the semantic crossfire. Nobody in “science communication” cares whether the Noels of the world wind up comprehending the first thing about science, or whether they just end up like… Noel :-(

      • That frown emoticon wasn’t flippant… I am really saddened (when I’m not angry) about what they’ve done to the brains of a generation of Noels

      • When this is over, we need a sort of climate Nuremberg. Someone must pay for Noel’s weakened grip on reality, multiplied by the number of Noels.

      • > The climate debate is unusual, to state the obvious. Words and semantics are being used as weapons, by groups that hate each other.

        It’s been known for a long time that conservatives use language to dominate politics, Brad.

        Just like they were more disciplined to rally under teh Donald, they are usually more efficient with their meme machines.

        I’m working on that.

      • A: It should.
        B: Should it?
        A: No idea. The real question is, does it?
        B: Argh… it’s a good thing we’re friends, because otherwise… :-)

      • Willard:
        > It’s been known for a long time that conservatives use language to dominate politics, Brad. [Link that goes to Lakoff, I see.]

        I see that link goes to Lakoff.

        Seeing that that link goes to Lakoff, I’ll raise you a

        > It’s been claimed for a long time by liberals who use language to dominate politics that conservatives use language to dominate politics, Willard.

        BTW, it’s been known for a long time that politicians abuse language to dominate politics.

        Thanks to the climate debate, we know that scientists do too.

      • Try the Cat Weazle’s crap, Brad:

        It’s crap, but it works.

        Perhaps in our post-truth world, it wouldn’t work if it wasn’t crap.

        Let’s wait for Post Post Truth.

      • Willard,

        my biggest regret in life is blinking and missing the Pre-Post-Truth age.

  2. “Rejecting the guilt” may be the “most compelling part”, but it may be the biggest stumbling block as well. People today use guilt as a badge to proclaim their goodness and superiority.

  3. He is still rather naive and paints a picture of a somehow magical equilibrium state where everybody will be happy. Consider this:

    “carbon in the right place in the right concentration”

    Right place? Right concentration?

    For whom or for what? What is “right” and what is “wrong” here? And why?

    It is still the same the environmental narative: humans are bad and nature is good. Which remains a very misantropic worldview – and using different wording is not going to change that.

    It is not a communication problem!!!

  4. This recasting of concepts involving carbon still doesn’t address the fundamental question if fossil fuel combustion will be net negative, neutral, or positive. This writer just assumes CO2 from fossil fuels is bad, then moves on.

    • Bingo.

      BTW, try not to say positive, negative or neutral when good, bad or indifferent (or beneficial, harmful or neither) is what you mean. It mixes the numerical up with the deontological. “Net” is an excellent touch though.

      • In physics including particle and electronics; positive, negative, and neutral are used in conjunction regularly there smarty pants.

      • I absolutely reject those charges.

      • And since I was quantifying impact, those terms make sense in my original comment also; since numbers are positive, negative, or neutral (zero), but zero didn’t feel right.

      • but zero didn’t feel right

        Now you’re bringing chirality into it?

      • No reflection on you Brad. I guess I wasn’t being strictly quantitative – tremi-quantitative perhaps. When it gets right down to it, it isn’t complex, but might be imaginary.

      • “No reflection on you Brad.”

        I find it odd that you’re even
        qualified to quantify
        my specular component.
        so now we know I’m no
        beththeserf, it’s back to prose for me, forever.

      • Say not ‘forever’
        fer wit cannot be
        contained.Yer
        Brads’ and Kims’
        ‘n Socrates’ will ever
        wage war, wage war,
        against the lying
        and the fright.

      • I had “for good.” Then I changed it—for the worse.

  5. Pingback: Carbon is not the enemy – Enjeux énergies et environnement

  6. Rejecting the guilt? I’m afraid the true believer derive too much self satisfaction over the their moral superiority to change. However if such a piece got published in Nature perhaps sanity is beginning to finally come back to the debate. On the flip side, maybe new government and the threat to cut off the green gravy train has those morally supercity types with a sense of self preservation thinking of moderating their opinions a bit.
    I for one am delighted to see what appears to be a call to go back to good old fashioned environmentalism.

  7. “Climate change is the result of breakdowns in the carbon cycle caused by us..”

    Given evidence for strong forcing of AMO and ENSO by solar wind variability that easily overwhelms GHG forcings of the opposite sign, I would suggest that rising CO2 is a minor net benefit on temperatures. And higher CO2 is what normally happens inter-decadely when solar is weaker, because of the warm AMO reducing CO2 uptake, and more poleward continental interior regions becoming drier.

  8. First the article claims “Climate change is the result of breakdowns in the carbon cycle caused by us” which remains unproven. Second the article completely ignores the benefits of increasing atmospheric CO2 concentration on plant productivity. This article can’t be taken too seriously, just more AGW propaganda pretending to be a balanced analysis.

  9. Willis Eschenbach

    I must confess, when I see someone rumbling on about “carbon” and not CO2, I check to make sure I have my wallet. Pretending that the issue is carbon and not CO2 is a bogus use of the language designed to hide the fact that CO2 has never been shown to be a problem.

    The author says:

    “A new language of carbon recognizes the material and quality of carbon so that we can imagine and implement new ways forward. It identifies three categories of carbon — living, durable and fugitive — and a characteristic of a subset of the three, called working carbon. It also identifies three strategies related to carbon management and climate change — carbon positive, carbon neutral and carbon negative.”

    Gosh, there’s a surprise—someone that Judith likes thinks that this is just a communications problem. Breaking news-poor communication is not the issue. What we have is a problem involving crappy science, a climate science establishment which has taken many wrong turns, and far too many people willing to sacrifice their ethics to advance their claims.

    Judith, many times you’ve described the CO2 issue as a “wicked problem”, which indeed it is.

    And as such, it won’t be solved by inventing some new “language of carbon”, that is unicorn-and-rainbow level magical thinking.

    Once again, I raise my voice in protest against the incredibly simplistic idea that this is all just a communications problem, and if only we could find the right worlds or a “new language of carbon” suddenly everyone would be pulling in the same direction … we have problems, but inability to communicate our ideas isn’t anywhere near the top.

    We don’t need a new language of carbon. We need honest, fact-driven scientists.

    w.

    • Willis,
      You wrote: “CO2 has never been shown to be a problem”.
      How long will it take to remove all the text books that are brainwashing our future scientists? Trump should put Mike Huckabee in charge of the Dept. of Education.

    • > Pretending that the issue is carbon and not CO2 is a bogus use of the language designed to hide the fact that CO2 has never been shown to be a problem.

      So you agree—it’s a communication problem, albeit not quite in the way the “it’s a communication problem” people mean. The problem, in your view, is that people are communicating dishonestly. Presumably the same people, in many cases, who say “it’s a communication problem.” Which it is. But not the way they mean.

      • “If I proved to you that it was an insider in a republican government who pushed for…”

        It typically takes more than one guy “pushing for” a global lexical shift to make it happen, Noel.

        Or do the thousands of scientists who study AGW, I mean ACC, take their marching orders from Frank Luntz? In your mind, is that how the world works?

        Do you also imagine that Luntz’s memo convinced the United Nations to create the IPCC instead of the IPGW *a decade before he wrote it,* Noel?

        Did its influence propagate backwards through time? Is Luntz just that damn good?

    • Well said Willis.
      First we had Global Warming, then AGW/CAGW and it morthed into Climate Change.
      The same story of CO2, that now is called carbon for short, and it is now turned to carbon pollution.
      You could as well call oxygen O2 for pollution, because it turns carbon to the terrible carbon pollution known as CO2.
      Anyway William McDonough might have a point, that the perception depends on how we name the stuff, and so far the climateers are miles ahead.
      Would it be possible to take back the language and words to the original meanings?

      • Sometimes people say that climate denial is the result of bad information and sometimes they say that it is simply determined bias impervious to any kind of argument.

        Let’s try an experiment. If I proved to you that it was an insider in a republican government who pushed for the use of climate change in preference to global warming, would you change your mind on this single point?

      • “If I proved to you that it was an insider in a republican government who pushed for…”

        It typically takes more than one guy “pushing for” a global lexical shift to make it happen, Noel.

        Or do the thousands of scientists who study AGW, I mean ACC, take their marching orders from Frank Luntz? In your mind, is that how the world works?

        Do you also imagine that Luntz’s memo convinced the United Nations to create the IPCC instead of the IPGW *a decade before he wrote it,* Noel?

        Did its influence propagate backwards through time? Is Luntz just that damn good?

    • Well said, Willis. Clear, concise, and to the point as usual. Sorry Judith, but the Nature essay was BS. It’s showing us the way that the BSers are trying to get out of the mess that they have created and remain in charge of the narrative.

    • I agree. Using “carbon” for black soot AND for CO2 that is plant food yet demonizing it as “polution” I find to be a logical fallacy of equivocation and abusive rhetorical argument.

    • Bravo, Willis.
      If CO2 is not a problem, then carbon certainly isn’t.
      In “All Climate Change is Natural”, Professor Carl-Otto Weiss uses spectral analysis of all long-term climate data to show that all climate change is due to natural cycles, and there is no signal at all from our CO2 emissions. His modest conclusion doesn’t say that CO2 can’t cause global warming, just that there’s no evidence it ever has.
      The cycles are
      1) 11-year solar cycle
      2) 60-120 yr cycles (Gleissberg solar cycles)
      3) 150-250 yr cycle (de Vries solar cycles)
      4) 800-1100 yr cycle (Eddy solar cycles)
      with the effect depending on how they go in and out of phase.
      But we’ll find out. The IPCC predicts a resumption of global warming. The cycles predict a cooling. But the only predictions that I personally believe are death and taxes.

  10. “Climate change is the result of breakdowns in the carbon cycle caused by us … ”

    Wikipedia tells us that
    The carbon cycle is the biogeochemical cycle by which carbon is exchanged among the biosphere, pedosphere, geosphere, hydrosphere, and atmosphere of the Earth. Along with the nitrogen cycle and the water cycle, the carbon cycle comprises a sequence of events that are key to making the Earth capable of sustaining life; it describes the movement of carbon as it is recycled and reused throughout the biosphere, including carbon sinks.
    The global carbon budget is the balance of the exchanges (incomes and losses) of carbon between the carbon reservoirs or between one specific loop (e.g., atmosphere biosphere) of the carbon cycle. An examination of the carbon budget of a pool or reservoir can provide information about whether the pool or reservoir is functioning as a source or sink for carbon dioxide.

    The carbon cycle is working fine as any first year chemistry student could tell you.

    • Pretty much, and despite the common misconception, human CO2 isn’t even lunch money in the Carbon cycle (unless you lunchalot). Ten GtC/year human input out of 330+ GtC total inputs and 1000+ GtC total flux.

  11. But carbon — the element — is not the enemy. Climate change is the result of breakdowns in the carbon cycle caused by us: it is a design failure. Anthropogenic greenhouse gases in the atmosphere make airborne carbon a material in the wrong place, at the wrong dose and for the wrong duration

    I say that is 100% wrong(carbon has nothing to do it ) and AGW theory will meet it’s demise before this decade ends.

    Everything this theory has predicted from a +AO evolving over time to a lower tropospheric hot spot has failed to come about. There are 30 more I could state.

    The distribution of warm and cold temperatures across the globe is wrong as well as the magnitude of the rise as called for by this theory. In addition the decline in global temperatures has now set in and will be accelerating gong forward putting an end to this theory.

    In addition this period of time in the climate is in no way unique.

    My theory (in a nutshell) is 1000x better then AGW theory . My theory is based on the following: Which is weak solar/geomagnetic fields when in sync IF the degree of duration and magnitude of change is long/strong enough will push the terrestrial items that govern the climate into a cooling mode.

    Terrestrial items
    sea surface temperatures
    major volcanic activity
    global cloud coverage
    global snow coverage
    global sea ice coverage
    atmospheric circulation pattern changes
    oceanic current changes

  12. Interesting . . . my twitter and Facebook followers are really liking this article (or staying silent about it)

  13. Shrill broadsides against industry are misdirected.

    The productive are the earners, the makers and the candlestick burners. The blood, sweat, toil and sacrifice of the productive is going to this evergreen army of Western bureaucrats whose justification for existence is that they used attorneys, courts, juries and the politics of fear and envy to gain a choke hold over sectors of the economy. One after the other on top of others the Left has driven up tax revenues on everything from alcohol, tobacco, gaming and fuel to transcations in goods and servies of nearly every kind, from hotel bills to utility payments like telephone and electric bills. Call it the ‘tobacco-model;’ and, it’s not one wit different from the British tax on tea.

  14. What many are missing is the double effect of geo magnetic /solar magnetic fields declining in sync which will complement one another in my opinion.

    .

  15. “Our goal is simple and positive: a delightfully diverse, safe, healthy and just world — with clean air, soil, water and energy — economically, equitably, ecologically and elegantly enjoyed.”

    Diversity is important in carbon management. Since Trump got elected, I saw a Facebook post about a bunch of C12 teenagers in the South chanting about ongoing decay in the C14 community and no one stood up to defend them.

  16. The title of this post states Carbon is not the enemy. Leads me to ask why does there have to be one?

    The politics threads have exposed the lines more fully. What I fear is a continuation of the same behavior only from the other side. Those more climate concerned seemed hell bent on an ‘elite’ approach to ‘save us from ourselves’ via less than ‘certain’ science. How will those less climate concerned respond?

    In contrast to Willis, I concur with Dr. Curry w/r/t communication. But in agreement with Willis it’s not ‘just’ communication. As a society there are ‘needs’ requiring addressing. The needs of those more climate concerned are abundantly clear. However, the needs of those less climate concerned have been largely ignored. Pen and phone have changed hands. Can there be an adult in the room this time?

    From JC reflections: “but it points to a way forward that people on both sides of the climate debate can respond to favorably.” is all that’s suggested. Might the improvement in relations begin here?

    • > The title of this post states Carbon is not the enemy. Leads me to ask why does there have to be one?

      Because we’re having a Climate Wars?

      Joking aside, I agree. There’s no climate problem, and no enemy but pseudoscience.

    • Of course there has
      to be an enemy !
      Of course you hafta’
      keep the populace
      alarmed and hence
      clamorous to be
      led to safety !
      Mencken noted it,
      Alinsky promoted it,
      see Rules for Radicals
      Nine, Ten ‘n Eleven.

      • His primary rules were: never allow the public to cool off; never admit a fault or wrong; never concede that there may be some good in your enemy; never leave room for alternatives; never accept blame; concentrate on one enemy at a time and blame him for everything that goes wrong; people will believe a big lie sooner than a little one; and if you repeat it frequently enough people will sooner or later believe it.

      • ‘The big lie,’ there it is again, ‘and if you repeat it
        frequently enough people will sooner or later believe it.’

        Tsk! I omitted Plato in me above, Plato and the noble,
        necessary myth for keeping the plebs in their place.

      • Alinsky backlash is THE reason trump won…

      • Beth, don’t worry, everyone knows about Plato, unless they’ve been living in a cave.

      • Hi Beth,

        I’d rather not. Not an Alinsky fan, nor do I appreciate the propensities of Monkton to play to the base although his science chops obviously are to be regarded.

        More of the same from the opposite side creates progress along the path of a circle.

    • “Tsk! I omitted Plato in me above, Plato and the noble,
      necessary myth for keeping the plebs in their place.”

      I am not so sure Popper’s take on Plato’s myth is the right one. I tend to prefer Desmond Lee’s translation as it make more sense contextually. Lee translates the phrase to mean “Magnificent Myth” which is different than “noble lie” or “royal lie”.

      There is no reason to think that the ancient Greeks used the word myth to be equated with lie. There is certainly no evidence of that. That there is a distinction between mythos and logos gives clue to how they saw myths, not as fictional tales but rather as relevant tales that provided context to peoples days and nights. Logos was all about the practical matters and mythos all about the meaning of matters.

      Stan Lee, like Plato created a “magnificent myth” in Spiderman and his “with great power comes great responsibility” is not so different from Plato’s suggestion that a magnificent myth would encourage the watchmen to watch themselves.

      • Well, in The Republic 414 /d, Plato reaffirms his hope
        of persuading even the rulers themselves of the truth
        of his lie. or call magnificent myth but the intention was
        to build a static hierarchical society and unjust state
        on a false premiss and prevent criticism of that society.
        – Seems ter me. )

      • Who wants to watch the watchmen to make sure they watch themselves? I’ll take first watch. As Jon Snow once said, my watch is ended, but never mind—there’s a clock on the Wall.

  17. “I regard this as a really important essay.”

    You say that frequently, Dr. Curry. Evidently. we are awash in important essays.

    Andrew

    • Have important essays hit 400ppm yet?

    • Perhaps JC sees it as important because it suggests moving from confrontation and tax to cooperation and profit, from protests and demands to thought and work. If AGW turns out to be a global problem, then like every other problem we face, cooperation, profit, thought and work will provide solutions, while confrontation, taxes, protests and demands will continue to fail, as they always have. Sure, those latter can bring the problem to public light, but we’ve already done that. It’s time to find solutions that people choose not because they’re good for the environment, but because they work and are cheaper than the alternative, even without taxes, subsidies or other coercion.

      Like a lot of ground-breaking science tends to do (and yes, I know this isn’t technically science, ok?), this is simply looking at things in a different way. If that different way of looking at things provides a benefit, it will catch on.

      • Communicating Climate Change.
        1. Walk this way.
        2. I don’t want to walk that way. I will step off a cliff and fall.
        1. It’s really important that you walk this way.
        2. I don’t want to fall off a cliff.
        1. If you don’t walk this way bad things will happen.
        2. I don’t want to fall off a cliff.
        1. Everyone thinks you should walk this way.
        2. I don’t want to fall off a cliff.
        1. You are stupid if you don’t walk this way.
        2. I don’t want to fall off a cliff.
        1. Do you like ice cream?
        2. Yes.
        1. You can eat ice cream while walking this way.
        2. While the ice cream is cool, I don’t want to fall off a cliff.
        1. Put on these shoes.
        2. Wow, they’re nice.
        1. Using those shoes, walk this way.
        2. I don’t want to fall off a cliff.
        1. Sigh, do you like fast cars?
        2. Yes.
        1. Which would you prefer, a Saleen Mustang, or a Saleen Camaro?
        2. Oooh, the Mustang.
        1. Ok here’s the keys. Now drive this way.
        2. I don’t want to drive off a cliff.

      • Hehe… that’s a pitch-perfect allegory of CCC (Climate Change Communication) and its inevitable abuse as a tool for social-engineering, a.k.a. CMMC (Climate Made Man Change)

      • The only unrealistic note, if I had to nitpick? The range of cars on offer is bewilderingly diverse. In an actual cliff-top scenario the choice would be between an eggplant Trabant and an aubergine Trabant.

  18. Google defines “carbon-negative” as:

    A negative carbon dioxide emission or negative emission or a process that is carbon negative gives a permanent removal of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide from Earth’s atmosphere. It is considered the direct opposite of carbon dioxide emission, hence its name.

    His definition is the exact opposite:

    Actions that pollute the land, water and atmosphere with various forms of carbon. For example, releasing methane into the atmosphere or plastic waste into the ocean is carbon negative.

    I don’t deny the value of describing something with “positive” in its name when it’s considered good, but we’re not starting from scratch here.

    Google gave me over 200,000 results in the search linked above, all of them presumably with the common meaning. Reversing that meaning would hardly benefit “communication”.

    • Google defines “carbon-negative” as… His definition is the exact opposite…

      I feel your confusion. But Noel Darlow’s imagination will be along in no time to regale us with the “established meaning” of the phrase. That’ll break the tie… for about 5 minutes, until Willard points out that phrases don’t have meanings, and the meaningless circle of life carbon is complete!

  19. “Anthropogenic greenhouse gases in the atmosphere make airborne carbon a material in the wrong place, at the wrong dose and for the wrong duration. ”
    He gets this part right and then goes off the rails. I want him to expand on this part, but he never returns to it. Yeah for carbon. Give oxygen a cheer too. Great elements.

  20. Excellent article and concept…if you start as one terrified of CAGW.
    If not then it’s just lame.

  21. “Anthropogenic greenhouse gases in the atmosphere make airborne carbon a material in the wrong place, at the wrong dose and for the wrong duration.”

    I’m always left wondering. What is the optimal amount of CO2 in the atmosphere?

    • The optimal amount of CO2 is clearly much more than now. If earth always had what we have now, we would have run out of fossil fuel long before now. Places with large populations used to burn all of their trees before they discovered they could burn coal.

  22. “How about cars that spew out good emissions?

    That’s a good one. I recommend cars that spew out water and carbon dioxide. But not soot, lead, or sulfur.

  23. Need to be quite sick mind, if think that our body’s main building element is an enemy.

  24. He seems to refer to soot, in which case I agree fully (technically, soot is not a gas, but let’s not nitpick.)

  25. “Aspirational and clear, it signals positive intentions, enjoining us to do more good rather than simply be less bad.”

    Amen brother.
    And we shall go rejoicing bringing in the sheaves.

  26. Pingback: Judith Curry Climate Science and the Uncertainty Monster – Niflheim Media

  27. “This flow kept carbon in the right place in the right concentration, tempered the global climate, fuelled growth and nourished the evolution of human societies for 10,000 years.”

    Except that it didn’t. Nature reduced the amount of CO2 available for plant food to dangerously low levels. The global climate does not exist – it cannot be defined in any useful way. Surface temperatures range from roughly 90C to to about -90 C. CO2 has not been shown to affect either extreme to any great effect.

    Carbon “flow” did not nourish the evolution of human societies. Just more tricksy weasel words – reminiscent of GHE enthusiasts desperately casting about for respectability by inventing new paradigms.

    Carbon is carbon. Not enough is fatal – we are a carbon based life form. Too much is fatal – replace the oxygen in the air you breathe with CO2, and you die.

    Water is fatal. Too little, or too much.

    Even oxygen – Apollo 1 showed that oxygen kills.

    Talk of a “healthy carbon system” is just more kumbaya New Age distortion. Does anyone else foresee regulations and taxes based on “bad” carbon and “good” carbon? Or maybe fugitive, durable and living carbon?

    Having been unable to convince us that CO2 will kill us all by being fried, boiled, toasted, grilled, or flooded, the coal hating Hansenites now have to take another tack. This effort won’t work either – I hope.

    Cheers.

    • That what I was think when I hear/read about ‘carbon’ sequestration. Plant’s need a good level of CO2. What if, in the unlikely event, we manage to bring it down, then the climate turns colder?? More CO2 into the oceans – then we could go extinct!! Seems better to leave it alone.

  28. Climate change is the result of breakdowns in the carbon cycle caused by us. …

    Anthropogenic greenhouse gases in the atmosphere make airborne carbon a material in the wrong place, at the wrong dose and for the wrong duration.

    The figure says:

    Too much carbon in the atmoshere is damaging

    Fugitive carbon has ended up somwhere unwanted and can be toxic.

    This paper, and almost all other papers written by the climatariate, start with the premise/assertion that GHG emissions are a threat. However, that assumption does seems to be supported by convincing evidence. Even IPCC admits the evidence to support the damage function is sparse. It’s based on massive assumptions, mostly biased analyses that cherry pick the high damage examples and largely ignore the benefits. Many of the studies used to justify the damage function are two decades old or more.

    • Peter Lang: However, that assumption does seems to be supported by convincing evidence.

      “Does seem”, or “Does not seem”?

      • matthewrmarler

        Should read: “does not seem to be supported by convincing evidence”

        Thank you for pointing that out. It seems to me the issue of whether or not GHG emissions will cause more damage than benefits, is the critical issue that needs to be debated. The fact the alarmists want to avoid it suggests they recognise it is the Achilles heel of their belief.

  29. This paper is another example of the regressive-Left bias of Nature. It mentions (i.e. advocates) for renewable energy 5 times but not one mention of nuclear energy. How clearly biased is that, eh?

    Reminder for those who may not be aware: non-hydro renewables can make only a negligible contribution towards global electricity supply, let alone global energy supply. Therefore, they can make negligible contribution towards reducing GHG emissions from fossil fuels.

    Conversely, nuclear can supply the equivalent of all the world’s energy consumption for thousands of years (for 10 billion population using energy at the US’s average per capita energy consumption)

  30. From the Nature article:

    In 1989 my architecture firm designed a day-care facility in Frankfurt, Germany, based on ‘a building like a tree’ that could be operated by children, who would move solar shutters, open and close windows, grow food on roof terraces and irrigate the gardens with rainwater.

    I think the article is just a statement of the beliefs of an architect who has not bothered to check or challenge the basis for the belief that GHG emissions are dangerous. He has swallowed the group think of the climatariate.

    • I like the idea of having a lot of plants in the building and the building looked pretty cool.

      • Jim 2,

        What have your likes and dislikes got to do with a rational debate about whether or not human caused GHG emissions will are, or will be, net damaging or net beneficial for the world over times scales that are relevant to policy analysis?

      • Pity you can’t see the difference. Mine is about the lack of evidence that GHG emissions are dangerous and the group-think amongst the climatariate that leads it to accept the premise without checking whether there is valid evidence to justify it. Conversely yours is a tweet about your personal preference about liking plants in buildings and the building looking cool.

      • Wow, Peter. Your comment about the architect packed in a lot of hidden meaning. I guess I didn’t have my Superman x-ray glasses handy.

    • That architect found suckers who wanted to pay more for their facility because they bought into the green alarmism. The architect has a gold mine in Germany, they will pay a huge price for stuff that makes no difference.

  31. This is a ridiculous article.

  32. Somewhat amusing, carbon is not an enemy, only in the eyes of climatologists and EPA regulatory officials. As this perception is likely to change in the near future, we are faced with a mood in the catastrophic Antrhopogenic Warming crews, that, only an all out offensive against a reversal of this opinion will suffice to steer the behemoth governmental bureaucracy in a direction more favorable to slowing a progress to a horrendous hot house future.

    Taking a premise, that CO2 increases will lead to a hot house future, and amplifying the consequences to unimaginable scenarios, is what I expect from dishonest people. People who lack integrity.

    Lack of integrity is what I find in the musing of these and similar articles. Such literature reinforces my own skepticism of any validity to their claims.

    To say that I am skeptical is but a modest view point.

  33. From the article:

    The number of people who believe being an EU member is good for their country has fallen to 53%, according to the latest “Parlemeter” poll, commissioned by the European Parliament. And the future looks bleak: 54% of respondents said they think “things are going in the wrong direction,” an increase of 13% from 2015.

    2016 has marked an extraordinary turning point in global politics. The status quo is well and truly under attack.

    https://sputniknews.com/europe/201611181047586844-eu-disunity-parlemeter-poll/

  34. Yes, … cars emitting roses … if only someone could make the laws of thermodynamics go away…

    From what I read in this blog this seems to be an old hat that somehow finally made it into Nature. Was this just to ad a little entertainment or did they go full postmodern utopian?

    Meanwhile the other half of mankind seems to turn to linguistic Trumpism and Duterteism which is also supposed to be a “movement” for the salvation of the world.

    The “old world” seems to be on the verge of bifurcating into …

  35. I want things designed so well there is no need for regulations,” he continues. “How about cars that spew out good emissions?

    But, if as seems likely, such cars would cost more than existing cars, why would more than a handful of people buy them? And, realising this, why would anyone produce them in the first place?

    • cars spew out CO2 and Water Vapor, both are good emissions, if you only consider honest science and actual data.

      Only climate model output makes CO2 bad. Those things don’t really work right, and since they are written by Consensus Climate People, they cannot be fixed to produce skillful output.

  36. Rather than declare war on carbon emissions, we can work with carbon in all its forms. To enable a new relationship with carbon, I propose a new language — living, durable and fugitive — to define ways in which carbon can be used safely, productively and profitably.

    This essay strikes me as another aimless exercise in avoiding the scientific evidence, both what we have and what we hope to obtain in the near future.

  37. “Plastic in the ocean” is not “fugitive carbon” — it is mismanaged trash — nothing more, nothing less. The fact that plastics have the element carbon in them is trivial — so does human waste and so do [nearly] all products of earth life-forms.

    Like other carbon compounds, plastic in the ocean is broken down into smaller and smaller pieces, all the time being consumed by bacteria and other lifeforms, until it is thus re-absorbed into the carbon cycle. Some of plastics in the ocean sink to the bottom are are more slowly consumed.

    It is specious to call mismanaged trash “fugitive carbon” — and neither useful or helpful.

    Kindergarten rule: Pick up your own trash and dispose of it properly.

  38. “Climate change is the result of breakdowns in the carbon cycle caused by us: it is a design failure.”

    Does this architect know what he’s talking about? The carbon cycle is not broken, it’s still working. CO2 is not the only possible cause of climate change. In fact the evidence that it caused warming in the last 200 years and in geological epochs is weak. A design failure? Who’s the designer? Man designs the carbon cycle? How can man design something that existed billions of years before humanity.

    “Anthropogenic greenhouse gases in the atmosphere make airborne carbon a material in the wrong place, at the wrong dose and for the wrong duration.”

    Airborne carbon? That would be black carbon or soot. How can greenhouse gases make soot in the air? By alchemy I suppose. What is the right dose and right duration? I leave this for the architect to figure out by experiments on inhaling soot.

    I sense this ‘green architect’ wishes to join the carbon bandwagon to promote himself and get more green clients. It’s good for business. But if you’re interested in science, Craig Idso has been talking about this in his website ‘CO2 Science’ and his ‘Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change’ since 1998.

  39. From the mid 1990’s and Al Gore’s day in the sun, I’ve always believed that the left made a strategic mistake in blaming carbon based fuels for putative (and highly questionable) future environmental influences. Had their movement concentrated on eliminating deforestation, with emphasis on ensuring a net growth in vegetation on the globe, thinking people across the political spectrum would have signed on to the cause. People like plants and trees, gardens and forests. The more the better, whether they are embedded in urban areas or supporting wildlife in the many, many areas of the planet that are still wild.

  40. I’m afraid I don’t agree with the premise of this article that carbon doixide emmissions need to be manipulated and controlled (reduced). That is hypothetical, and there is no real evidence to support the hypothesis. There are no experts on Earth’s climate; the variables and complex interactions and feedbacks between them are not remotely understood. I wish researchers would just stay with the facts known and the evidence, and remember how little is understood about our climate systems, and stop jumping to conclusions. It’s a natural human tendency, but unscientific.

  41. A major omission in the carbon neutral energy production area is nuclear power which directly produces zero carbon emissions and requires less land area (deforestation) than solar farms or hydropower reservoirs. Advanced Generation III and IV power reactors will be safer, have lower capital costs, and greater reliability. According to the World Nuclear “The greatest departure from most designs now in operation is that many incorporate passive or inherent safety features* which require no active controls or operational intervention to avoid accidents in the event of malfunction, and may rely on gravity, natural convection or resistance to high temperatures.” Importantly, nuclear power doesn’t suffer from intermittency problems of solar and wind without the need for costly energy storage solutions.

    Reference: http://www.world-nuclear.org/information-library/nuclear-fuel-cycle/nuclear-power-reactors/advanced-nuclear-power-reactors.aspx

  42. Reblogged this on 4timesayear's Blog.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s