The Low-Hanging Climate Fruit

Paul Kelly tries talking sense to the all-or-nothing crowd over at Bart’s place. The usual suspects snarl and prance.

The bloggy dialogue is set up by this op-ed in yesterday’s NYT, which Kelly refers to as

a good example of effective science communication.

It would be interesting to hear from climate scientists if they agree. The argument the op-ed authors make is that current obstacles to curbing carbon dioxide need not prevent concrete action on climate change:

Other potent warming agents include three short-lived gases “” methane, some hydrofluorocarbons and lower atmospheric ozone “” and dark soot particles. The warming effect of these pollutants, which stay in the atmosphere for several days to about a decade, is already about 80 percent of the amount that carbon dioxide causes. The world could easily and quickly reduce these pollutants; the technology and regulatory systems needed to do so are already in place.

Here’s what puzzles me: if this could be done so “easily and quickly,” then why isn’t it happening? What’s standing in the way?

184 Responses to “The Low-Hanging Climate Fruit”

  1. Hector M. says:

    An another related question is: if these other gases cause an amount of warming equivalent to 80% of the effect of CO2, that is nearly half total AGW, and their reduction or eradication is easier, why all the concentration of attention on the expensive and difficult cut of CO2 emissions by just 20%?
     

  2. Without agreeing necessarily that Paul Kelly has added much value to the conversation, I think there is no sensible opposition to this secondary-forcings first approach. There are fundamental physical reasons for taking these on with the greatest urgency, specifically because the carbon forcing will not go away quickly.
     
    Unfortunately, there are many people nowadays who are ideologically committed to the idea that global warming is hooey. Such people are not likely to support any constraints.
     
    Which leads us to Pielkeism, Lomborgism, and if we are to be generous, Kellyism, the idea that while climate change may possibly be an existential threat, we are incapable of dealing with it except as a beneficial side effect of other decisions.
     
    That strategy, much celebrated in the confused middle,  is like mortgaging your house to buy lottery tickets.
     
    As Scott Mandia says, there’s no real middle ground between the round earth and the flat earth. Either we are in big trouble or we aren’t. There’s no argument for “medium-sized nuisance trouble that might pan out OK in the end” other than wishful thinking.
     
    If we had taken the process seriously since 1992, we would have ended up in a better position now. Since we fare at least twenty years too late to act and probably more, the problem is no longer distant or modest.
     

  3. grypo says:

    This op-ed was written by Veerabhadran Ramanathan, not Paul Kelly, and Eli is correct to point out that it was originally a Hansen idea, not given any serious consideration 10 years ago.  It still ignores quite a bit of problems, such as ocean acidification, but if marrying the CO2 fight to anti-smog regulation is still a good idea, got for it.

  4. Keith Kloor says:

    Michael Tobis,

    It’s been a while. Thanks for your latest “useful” contribution to the debate: three ad homs.

    One of the co-authors of that NYT op-ed is Veerabhadran Ramanathan, a Distinguished professor of atmospheric physics at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, in San Diego, CA.

    How would you classify him, since your whole argument in opposition to his boils down to an ism?

  5. thingsbreak says:

    @Hector
    why all the concentration of attention on the expensive and difficult cut of CO2 emissions by just 20%
     
    The focus on carbon emissions is primary for two reasons, the second of which you hit upon. In no small part because cutting carbon will be so politically difficult relative to the “low-hanging” fruit, the focus has been there by those seeking to prevent climate change. There are other avenues to address other GHGs and BC, but carbon has to be tackled directly at some point. Carbon is the main focus primarily because the amount we emit and its longer atmospheric residency mean that it is the largest source of anthropogenic climatic disrupting emissions. If we pick all the low hanging fruit but still burn through conventional and unconventional carbon stores (as we will absent some alternative pathway), we will be altering the climate for 100,000 years.
     
    I’ve written about this dilemma before:
    [W]e’re left with political unpalatability of sharp cuts in coal and oil-based CO2 emissions compared to the relative “ease” of reducing black carbon, Montreal gases, etc. vs. the very real difference in long term climatic change CO2 is capable of relative to these other forcing agents. It may be possible politically to reduce a significant amount of shorter term climate disrupting emissions, but this leaves the heavy- arguably the most climatically important- lifting yet undone.
     
    The fear is obviously that taking our eye off of carbon will effectively lock in a high carbon future.
     
    @Keith:
    The usual suspects snarl and prance.
     
    I don’t see the “snarling and prancing”. I do see people point out that Paul Kelly is asking why people don’t advocate what they in fact do.
     
    Efforts to combat climate change via cuts in Montreal gases and black carbon are supported by pretty much everyone who cares about preventing massive climatic changes. This is like the false dilemma presented by pitting adaptation against mitigation. The answer is “both”.

  6. thingsbreak says:

    @Keith
    since your whole argument in opposition to his

     
    What MT wrote:
    I think there is no sensible opposition to this secondary-forcings first approach. There are fundamental physical reasons for taking these on with the greatest urgency, specifically because the carbon forcing will not go away quickly.

  7. grypo says:

    Keith,
     
    Tobis’ argument isn’t an ‘ism’, it is:
     
    That strategy, much celebrated in the confused middle,  is like mortgaging your house to buy lottery tickets.
     
    As opposed to the argument that replacing ambitious carbon taxes with “low fruit” is easy and beneficial.  We don’t know that it will be beneficial.  This is an assumption grounded in a guess that, yeah, we may at some point deal with carbon and it will all work out, but that assumption is, while being ‘easy’, is also has a low probability of a successful outcome, muck like buying lottery tickets (if I have his argument correct).

  8. Keith Kloor says:

    Michael’s opposition comes in the false dilemma he presents:

    “Unfortunately, there are many people nowadays who are ideologically committed to the idea that global warming is hooey. Such people are not likely to support any constraints.

    Which leads us to Pielkeism, Lomborgism, and if we are to be generous, Kellyism, the idea that while climate change may possibly be an existential threat, we are incapable of dealing with it except as a beneficial side effect of other decisions.

    Why should that matter in the immediate present (if Paul Kelly is even arguing that at Bart’s thread) if all he’s doing is echoing the argument in the NYT op-ed.

    And BTW, the argument made by the op-ed authors is not mutually exclusive on doing one or the other.

    Paul Kelly very usefully tries to make this point but gets shot down everywhere he mentions it, be it at Bart’s or Stoat’s. His patience and polite tone is something to behold.

  9. Sashka says:

    I’m all for clean air for health reasons but I’m not sure there is a strong case for soot being a warming agent. After the first Gulf War fires, the prediction was of a cooling, not warming, if memory serves. I’m not sure the subsequent analysis had fully confirmed the theory but the basic point that soot primarily works to scatter the incoming solar is sound.

    I don’t believe the contribution of soot to polar ice melting is well documented (and there is a small problem of expanding Antarctic ice to explain away). However if soot can be proven to be a driver of polar ice melting then it’s a problem for the other narrative – that of melting being a result of general GW. I’m afraid one has to choose the story line.

  10. Keith,

    In my reading, mt didn’t argue in opposition of the ideas put forward by Ramanthan (a very good scientists indeed) at all. And indeed check the ref Eli gave to Hanse’n’s “altarenative scenario” paper, where he argues much along the same lines.

    The reason for focussing first on the “easy” targets is ironically the same as the reason why we can’t abandon focussing on CO2 either: The long atmospheric lifetime of the latter. Because that means two things: 

    1)  It takes much stronger emission reductions (for CO2) to make a dent in the atmospheric concentration (compared to shorter lived compouinds such as ozone or methane or BC).

    2) CO2 emissions accummulate in the atmosphere, so in the long run, they’re goin to be ever more dominant. The lomnger we postpone bringing CO2 emissions down, the harder it will be.

  11. Keith Kloor says:

    No, Grypo, that strategy by Michael is like saying, I’m not going to go to the gym and start exercising until I start eating all the right foods, get 8 hours of sleep every night, and buy the right sneakers.

    It’s absurd. It’s the most self-defeating logic imaginable. It also makes me more inclined to think that people like Michael and Eli are more interested in winning an argument than actually getting behind something that could make a difference in a problem they putatively care so strongly about.

  12. grypo says:

    I know the op-ed writer’s argument is not excluding carbon taxing in the future, he says so in the article:
     
    “Agreeing on a shared strategy to curtail short-lived pollutants would be a good way for all of them to start.”

    Problems arise when this becomes “THE” solution, and not part of the solution (this is fact has to part of the solution).  The “all-or-nothing” crowd would like nothing more than for this ‘stepping-stone’ solution to be taken seriously this time around. Don’t forget:

    wewantitall

  13. grypo says:

    So you think MT would not agree to this with out a carbon tax or C&T plan included?  I don’t get that this is his argument.  He’ll have to clarify.

  14. Keith Kloor says:

    Bart,

    Let’s not beat around the bush. It’s all about keeping the focus on carbon dioxide. Here’s the problem: nothing much is happening on that front (globally, at least) for a few years. Most everyone can agree on that much. So we have a period (as argued by the op-ed authors) in which we can turn our focus momentarily (if you prefer) to the low-hanging fruit.

    What is the problem with that?

  15. thingsbreak says:

    @Keith
    Paul Kelly very usefully tries to make this point but gets shot down everywhere he mentions it, be it at Bart’s or Stoat’s. His patience and polite tone is something to behold.
     
    He’s not getting “shot down”, but rather informed that 1) this isn’t anything novel, 2) it’s supported by basically all the people who support reducing CO2, and 3) in this political climate, it will probably be opposed by most who oppose reducing CO2.
     
    There appears to be a striking disconnect between how you perceive his treatment and the comments at the blogs you mention. Maybe the harsh, “shooting down”, “snarling and prancing”, etc. comments have been deleted?
     
    The larger point is that these things aren’t mutually exclusive. That doesn’t mean that they are also mutually effective. We can and should pick the low-hanging fruit, but that doesn’t mean that we can ignore carbon. We can and should spend money on adaptation, but that doesn’t mean can ignore carbon. We can and should spend money funding clean energy, but that doesn’t mean we can ignore carbon.
     
    Michael’s opposition comes in the false dilemma he presents:
     
    He’s not opposing V. Ram’s (and others’) call to cut non-CO2 radiative forcing agents. He’s pointing out that there will be likely political opposition to that, too. If this is the case, extending the logic of the “breakthrough” boys, we shouldn’t fight for them either, and we effectively roll the dice and hope for a clean energy miracle. Which isn’t a viable position given the stakes of failure.
     
    I’m not sure where the failure in communication is, it may well be mine.

  16. bigcitylib says:

    What TB said.  Expanding the Montreal Protocol is an idea that’s been around for a couple of years now (at least), and will be opposed by all the same people for all the same reasons. 

    You know you seem to think that if you’ve never heard of an idea, it must be new.

  17. Keith Kloor says:

    TB, I’ll just say again what I said to Bart: it’s a matter of emphasis. You and I tend to get into a circular loop pretty quickly, which I don’t find a useful way to spend my time.

    Here’s what the op-ed authors assert:

    “Reducing soot and the other short-lived pollutants would not stop global warming, but it would buy time, perhaps a few decades, for the world to put in place more costly efforts to regulate carbon dioxide.”

    Is there a problem with this argument? If so, your beef is not with Paul Kelly or me, but the two authors of that op-ed.

  18. Keith Kloor says:

    Bigcitylib–oh, so that’s the counter: the “idea” has been around for a while, so why go there?

    By that logic, perhaps we should abandon the idea of a carbon tax or cap & trade.

  19. John N-G says:

    Re: “effective science communication”:
    The warming effect of these pollutants, which stay in the atmosphere for several days to about a decade, is already about 80 percent of the amount that carbon dioxide causes.”
    Misleading.  As the middle clause correctly indicates, the effect of the other pollutants is short-term rather than long-term.  As a result, the proportion of warming caused by other anthropogenic Tyndall gases is going down rather than going up.
    The warming effect of these HFCs is at least 1,000 times that of carbon dioxide. Unless they are regulated as chlorofluorocarbons have been, their warming effect will increase substantially in the coming decades.”
    Garbled.  Probably an editor at fault here.  “Warming effect” in the first sentence refers to the warming effect per additional molecule of HFC.  “Warming effect” in the second sentence refers to the overall effect of the HFC concentration in the atmosphere.
    It will take decades and trillions of dollars to convert all the world’s fossil-fuel-based energy systems to cleaner systems like nuclear, solar and wind power. In the meantime, a fast-action plan is needed.
    This argues for implementing a fast-action plan while we spend decades and trillions of dollars, because of how long CO2 control will take.
    For too long, overly ambitious global climate talks have focused on the aspects of global warming that are hardest to solve. A few more modest steps, with quick and measurable effects, are a better way to proceed.
    This argues for a fast-action plan instead of beginning the decades/trillions process.  Which is it?
     
     

  20. thingsbreak says:

    @Keith
    It also makes me more inclined to think that people like Michael and Eli are more interested in winning an argument than actually getting behind something that could make a difference in a problem they putatively care so strongly about.
     
    I’m not sure who the “Michael” and “Eli” are in this scenario, but they’re certainly not the people I’m familiar with. Both Michael and Eli are fully supportive of non-CO2 radiative forcing reductions as a compliment to CO2 reductions.
     
    Let’s not beat around the bush. It’s all about keeping the focus on carbon dioxide.
    If we don’t cut carbon, the “low-hanging fruit” gains in terms of climate will be irrelevant.
     
    What is the problem with that?
     
    Many of the same political groups that oppose carbon pricing are going to try to prevent non-CO2 cuts as well. If that occurs, Keith, are we supposed to throw up our hands and give up? If not, why we are we supposed to throw up our hands and give up on reducing carbon, which in the long run is the bigger threat? We can walk and chew gum. We can fight for both.

  21. laursaurus says:

    Reading between the lines, the reason is ideological. Unless the public embraces CO2-caused AGW, then what’s the point? We must vow to eliminate carbon emissions at all costs. Then we will impose our lofty Western environmental ideals on China and India. Of course, they will demand compensation upfront. Then if they don’t comply, we will threaten to start withholding this cash flow, but never have the guts to actually do it. Then their will be that colonialist guilt trip that global warming was all our fault.
    We must confess and pay the penance for the sins we committed against Gaia.
    Ironically, the Climate Change worry-warts would actually gain credibility with the skeptics if they addressed the low-hanging fruit instead of this all-or-nothing position. Just saying…

  22. Keith,

    You appear more strident on this point than is necessary. As TB sais, nobody sane would disagree with tackling those other emissions, and inasmuch as they are a health hazard (BC and ozone), everyone would agree (that’s where I disagree with TB’s third point).

    The only thing many, me included, would object to is a false dichotomy between the two: We need to do both (reductions of shorter and medium long lived GHG and the long lived CO2). In the current political gridlock, by all means, let’s get started with the low hanging fruit! Btw, that would include things such as better building insulation and other CO2 or energy directed efforts which are cost effective (check e.g. McKinsey’s analyses).

  23. dp says:

    hector #1, the fight is about the concept of a descending cap on CO2. major industries are somewhat obliged to fight the cap, as it could force them to incorporate new net costs in their accounting, reducing their returns to investors. (this is separate from whether a facility or a production chain can use specific ecologically-sound improvements to cut internal costs in the soon-term.) it’s all about predictable accounting; controlling/reducing liabilities is very important to that.
     
    obviously if all the national caps are insufficient to reduce the meltdown risk then we failed, but it should be noted most of our failure will be because we couldn’t fix an accounting system that defines ‘harm’ as ‘how expensive the lawsuits are.’

  24. thingsbreak says:

    @Keith
    Is there a problem with this argument?
     
    There is no problem with the idea that we need to pick the low-hanging fruit. I support it, Eli supports it, Bart supports it, Michael supports it.
     
    Are you under the impression that because people are dismissing the idea that this is a “new” approach that they’re saying we shouldn’t do it? Because we’re decidedly not. We’re saying, 1) it isn’t new, 2) we support it, 3) it’s not a substitute for cutting carbon. From my perspective you seem to be conflating these points somehow.

  25. Shub says:

    Maybe it is because,

    ….if the non-CO2 factors are tackled and this produces any appreciable cooling (or non-warming), or even if such a course in temperatures occurs coincident with non-CO2 factor tackling,

    …that might deprive CO2 tackling of its momentum?

  26. PDA says:

    What is the problem with that?
     
    I’m not sure that anyone here but you perceives a “problem.” All responses that I’ve read to Kelly’s post, including that of the Evil Dhogaza, acknowledge that “there is no sensible opposition to this secondary-forcings first approach” but also present caveats such as “The longer we postpone bringing CO2 emissions down, the harder it will be.” This is an appropriately nuanced response, it seems to me.
     
    Like TB, I’m willing to consider the possibility that I’m the one who’s missing the boat here. Otherwise, I’d be led to wonder if you’re not so wedded to your idea that “people like Michael and Eli are more interested in winning an argument than actually getting behind something that could make a difference” that you see it even when it’s not there. And I’d be happy to be disabused of that notion.

  27. Keith Kloor says:

    Bart (22):

    Where is the “false dichotomy” I’m making? I’ve not suggested this is an either/or deal. Nor are the authors of the op-ed.

    What I have suggested (and what is implied in that op-ed) is that there is little political appetite or any demonstrable urgency by the climate concerned community to direct attention to the low-hanging fruit.

    I don’t see how I’m being “strident” by pointing this out. It’s a matter of emphasis, is what I’m saying. To deny this is to deny the obvious. Just look at the pushback Paul gets when he raises this at your site and other places.

  28. thingsbreak says:

    @Keith
    Just look at the pushback Paul gets when he raises this at your site and other places.
    No one is pushing back on the idea that we should do this. We’re pushing back on the notions that: it is a new idea;  it can be done in the absence of political opposition; it means we should stop advocating for carbon reductions.
     
    You seem to believe that people pointing out that it’s not a new approach or saying that we’ve got no reason to expect it not to be opposed as virulently as carbon cuts is somehow the same as saying that it’s not worth doing.
     
    We all seem to be in violent agreement that we should do this. We all were prior to Paul Kelly bringing it up.

  29. Artifex says:

    Keith says:
    It also makes me more inclined to think that people like Michael and Eli are more interested in winning an argument than actually getting behind something that could make a difference in a problem they putatively care so strongly about.
    Bingo. If one really, really wants CO2 caps and feels that it is the “end of the human species”, it is entirely possible to get those caps. Just offer those evil Republicans something they really want like the utter termination of certain progressive programs and I bet they would deal in a heart beat. I wonder why this doesn’t happen ……

  30. thingsbreak says:

    And for any in the audience who may not be a regular reader, here’s me describing and pushing for black carbon cuts back in the summer of 2009 before the alleged “death” of carbon legislation.

  31. Keith Kloor says:

    In a related post on the Hartwell paper, here’s what I wrote:

    “In the zero-sum climate change debate, there’s not much political space to discuss stopgap measures that would go a long way towards addressing climate change now.”

    TB, you and others are being disingenuous in not acknowledging this. This is what we are in violent disagreement over.

    Every time this conversation comes up about tackling the low-hanging fruit, someone like you or Michael or whoever comes along to change the conversation. Face it: you don’t want to have this conversation. That’s what I’m saying.

    And trying to counter with 1) it’s not a new idea, 2) there would be opposition, and 3) we can do both–reduce co2 and low hanging fruit at the same time, are all red herrings.

    Bright red.

  32. laursaurus says:

    What about some low-hanging fruit in the energy policy arena? Natural gas is fairly competitive cost-wise and burns up to 60% cleaner. Transitioning to nuclear power will require several years to get up and running. Simultaneously, we could be developing clean coal, advancing solar technology, or possibly discovering something else. In the meantime, why not use natural gas?
    People are rightly skeptical about making expensive and drastic changes, especially when climate science is still in it’s infancy. Michael strikes me a perfectionist. Perfectionism can easily become paralyzing. Notice how even contrarians show interest in policies aimed toward making progress. The idea of going backwards is not very appealing, on the other hand. Let’s get started on things that are doable.
    In 12 step groups there is a saying, “Progress not Perfection”. During my years as an OR nurse, I heard surgeons often say, “Don’t let the ‘perfect’ be the enemy of the ‘good'”.  If we go after the low-hanging fruit, we can build some momentum and begin to approach the goal.

  33. Dean says:

    I think that there are two reasons that so many of us are resistant to putting CO2 and carbon emissions on the backburner.
     
    The first is the attitude among many who propose these strategies that this is all we need to do – feel good tactics that ignore the actual challenges. We fear that many will come to believe that if we pick the low-hanging fruit, and then try to move to the harder stuff, people will complain that they were told that all they had to do is pick the low-hanging fruit, which is certainly what Lomborg and Pielke say. They aren’t saying hold off on a carbon price, they are saying don’t ever do it. I don’t know if this is what Paul Kelly is saying, but it is the general message from those who want to address other aspects.
     
    The second reason is the feedback / tipping point aspect. This is why analogies to exercising in the gym or just about anything else aren’t apt. You can always start exercising and eating better – today, tomorrow, next month, as long as you haven’t keeled over. The fat you eat today doesn’t take 10 years to have an impact. Pushing back action on this aspect of the problem makes it far harder to address later on. And if the tipping point concept pans out, it may not even be possible to address later on.
     
    I think there is one analogy that is apt. In the runup to WWII, the America First conservatives said that we didn’t need to engage the threat. It would never make it across the ocean. It wasn’t a problem for us. I think that almost everybody now acknowledges that it would have been better to address the threat earlier rather than later, but we had other issues then – especially a lousy economy. Sound familiar?

  34. thingsbreak says:

    @Keith
    TB, you and others are being disingenuous in not acknowledging this. This is what we are in violent disagreement over.
    Every time this conversation comes up about tackling the low-hanging fruit, someone like you or Michael or whoever comes along to change the conversation. Face it: you don’t want to have this conversation. That’s what I’m saying.
     
    I seem to have an awfully strange way of not wanting to have this conversation, what with all the posting I’ve done on it.
     
    I don’t know how it is you’ve convinced yourself that our positions are the opposite of what they in fact are.

  35. grypo says:

    This conversation is really an agreement, although personalities are grinding old axes, it appears, so let’s move to the important aspects of the wording of the argument.
     
    The main idea:  this is beneficial “low-hanging fruit” so we should advocate for it and push with all our political muscle.
     
    The reason:   because carbon taxes and other scenarios are politically impossible at the moment.
     
    The counter:  if we don’t try the politically impossible carbon taxes, why should we try something that has been out there for over a decade and, although simpler than carbon taxes, has been argued and deemed politically impossible by industry and it’s political supporters?
     
    Discuss.

  36. thingsbreak says:

    grypo:
    The counter
     
    That’s not at all how I see this issue. There is no “counter” from my perspective. We agree that it should be pursued. Full Stop.
     
    In this pursuit, there will be political obstructionism by most if not all of the same forces fighting carbon pricing. I don’t see such opposition as meaning that we should give up on these reductions, but I am also not one of the ones claiming that we should stop fighting for carbon reductions. And therein lies the problem for the “breakthrough” supporters. There is probably nothing that will have a significant impact on combating climate change that will be achieved without a political slugfest- be it carbon pricing, gargantuan clean energy subsidies, non-carbon reductions, etc. So either we do nothing that involves a fight and pray for a miracle. Or we resign ourselves to fighting, in which case we might as well keep pushing for carbon cuts in addition to other solutions in an “all of the above” push, as we’ll have to address the carbon issue eventually.
     
    I really have no idea how this has resulted in Keith thinking that we oppose non-CO2 radiative forcing reductions. Again, this could all be a failure of my part in communication, but it sounds like others share the same confusion.

  37. LCarey says:

    Jack, from my review of the thread thus far, I believe that a better Monte Python allusion would be the classic “is this the room for an argument” sketch.  It rather seems that Keith is having difficulty taking “yes” for an answer.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=teMlv3ripSM
     

  38. grypo says:

    TB,
    I worded the ‘counter’ confusingly.  The counter should be that because both  options are politically being obstructed by the same groups with vigor over time, describing BC reductions as “low-hanging fruit” is a false premise.
     
    In that, I am in complete agreement that there is no counter to BC reductions, just that allowing a stronger political opposition is not good reason to change a position of negotiation.  It would be like going into a car sales deal and immediately announcing the highest price that you are willing to pay for a car.

  39. Keith Kloor says:

    Ok, since most everybody seems to be agreeing with me and I’m somehow not seeing it, let me quote from another part of that NYT op-ed that this discussion is playing off (my emphasis) and which we presumably also agree on:

    “To give these talks their best chance for success, the delegates in Cancún should move beyond their focus on long-term efforts to stop warming and take a few immediate, practical actions that could have a tangible effect on the climate in the coming decades.”

    Everyone in agreement, say aye.

  40. Dean says:

    “To give these talks their best chance for success, the delegates in Cancún should move beyond their focus on long-term efforts to stop warming and take a few immediate, practical actions that could have a tangible effect on the climate in the coming decades.”
     
    I have no problem with the Cancun talks, or the Congress, picking the low-hanging fruit that they can reach at the moment. Nor would I have ever been against it.
     
    But I think that this should not preclude what ever actions are possible to create the political space for other actions. So I would not characterize it as “move beyond”  as you do, which to me implies giving up on it.

  41. grypo says:

    Aye, with caveats, of course.
     
    The article is also very pointedly calling it a “a good way for all of them to start” and “better way to proceed“.   So I’m confused about what the message is from the op-ed as John n-g articulated in his final point in #19 and Dean in #33.

  42. thingsbreak says:

    I think that the problem hinges on the ambiguity of “move beyond” used here. If it’s merely “expand in scope”, then of course. If it’s “leave behind”, then no. I’m guessing this was just poor word choice, and the authors mean the former, in which case, “aye”.

  43. dp says:

    “Everyone in agreement, say aye.”

    ‘present’ to watch the play.

    the needed reduction curve is about a 20-year curve, if we want to have a shot at bring the GHG levels back down. those ARE the coming decades, for ALL greenhouse gases. wanting to ‘move beyond’ CO2 for those decades in order to get some half-partial reduction in gases we have no serious economic excuse for emitting is essentially lawyers rewriting physics.

    to match a 30% reduction overall by 2020, you’d need almost a total ban on the also-rans. go at it.

  44. Keith Kloor says:

    dp (44), I’m taking that as a nay.

  45. TB gave the shortest possible explanation:

    “2) we support it, 3) it’s not a substitute for cutting carbon.”

    which gives the price for best ironic comment to lcarey: “is this the room for an argument?”

  46. PDA says:

    Interesting, Keith, that  following Dean, grypo and TB‘s responses to your #40  you’re focused on dp‘s ‘nay.’ Talk about not being able to take ‘aye’ for an answer…

  47. thingsbreak says:

    @PDA:
    Interesting, Keith, that  following Dean, grypo and TB‘s responses to your #40  you’re focused on dp‘s “˜nay.’

     
    And moreover that dp’s response clearly hinges upon the “leave behind” interpretation of the ambiguous phrase “move beyond”:
     
    the needed reduction curve is about a 20-year curve, if we want to have a shot at bring the GHG levels back down. those ARE the coming decades, for ALL greenhouse gases. wanting to “˜move beyond’ CO2 for those decades in order to get some half-partial reduction in gases we have no serious economic excuse for emitting is essentially lawyers rewriting physics.
     
    If move “beyond” means “expand in scope” rather than “leave behind”, it sounds like dp might be in favor of it, as the rest of us are.

  48. Andy says:

    Dean (#33),
    You said:
    I think there is one analogy that is apt. In the runup to WWII, the America First conservatives said that we didn’t need to engage the threat. It would never make it across the ocean. It wasn’t a problem for us. I think that almost everybody now acknowledges that it would have been better to address the threat earlier rather than later, but we had other issues then ““ especially a lousy economy. Sound familiar?
    That may be more apt than you realize.  Consider this.  When it became obvious that joining the war was politically impossible, what did FDR and those who saw the looming threat do?  They prepared the way.  They increased industry, increased funding for and the size of the Army and Navy; they started Lend-lease and sold it, slyly, as a program that would not only help friends while keeping us out of the war, but also as an economic investment with clear economic benefits.  When the war finally did come, the US was prepared thanks to those efforts.
     
    The question in my mind is, does the climate concerned community have the same kind of political moxie to play the long-game and similarly prepare the field for a carbon-reduction policy?  To do that will require finesse, subtlety and perhaps even a bit of subterfuge.  Judging from the comments here and the open hostility to the Pielke’s, Lomborgs and Kelly’s of the world,  I think the answer is, for now, “no.”
     
    As evidence I would present a phrase that’s been repeated over and over in this thread and elsewhere – the notion that those who opposed carbon policies will inevitably oppose secondary and tertiary policies that will marginally improve our climate prospects.  Those who oppose carbon policies may or may not oppose these other policies –  wouldn’t it be interesting to find out?  In short, advocate for the policies and try to get them implemented.  There doesn’t seem much stomach for that among the climate concerned community and, to my ear, the fatalism about what the opposition might do, statements that such ideas aren’t “new” (as if anyone claimed they were), etc. are beginning to look more like an excuse for inaction than anything else.
     
    Finally, I get the sense that the climate concerned community believes that if they advocate for these lesser policies, then that will damage prospects for carbon reduction.  Some of the comments here point in that direction, namely those who suggest that lesser, secondary policies are fine as long as they don’t preclude carbon reduction.  Faint praise there!  I think those who believe that supporting secondary policies risks precluding carbon reduction have it completely wrong – successful implementation of secondary or even tertiary objectives will have the effect of building support for carbon reduction for a variety of reasons.  Rome, as they say, wasn’t built in a day.

  49. Keith Kloor says:

    PDA (47), on the contrary, I’m keeping track of the ayes and thought I’d make mention of it after enough responses came in. I also just wanted to clarify dp’s position.

    Speaking of positions, are you and ay or aye.

    Bart? I can’t tell from your last response. which would it be?

    Remember, folks, my argument boils down to that last passage ub the op-ed I quoted from. The authors do a nice job of reiterating their main point at the end too:

    “For too long, overly ambitious global climate talks have focused on the aspects of global warming that are hardest to solve. A few more modest steps, with quick and measurable effects, are a better way to proceed.”

  50. dp says:

    keith (45), it’s not a proposal. there’s disagreement about what it means. therefore it’s not ready for ‘an up-or-down vote’ as they say. sure you can maybe count everybody who doesn’t vote as having voted against, as long as you declare that in the notes of your final tally.
     
    if we’re talking about a delay of two years AND it gets a real cut, ok great. so what’s the proposal? other than my suspected NYT POV of “hey let’s make our next bundle of money on asian industrial expansion, since the cleantech bubble doesn’t look big enough and we don’t really want to boost the USA job market.”

  51. Howard says:

    If the LHF (low hanging fruit) forcings = CO2 *0.8, then low climate sensitivity is indicated.  This is fantastic news that the sky is not falling.
     
    Imagine, there are relatively low cost, low tech measures that reduce human climate forcings and improve human health at the same time.  These measures would buy time so that in another couple decades of technological advancement to develop low cost low carbon energy sources.  This sounds a whole lot more rational and achievable than  having Goldman Saks selling energy ration cards.
     
    Keith is correct: to the true believers, continuing to debate minutia is more important than implementation of compromised practical measures.

  52. PDA says:

    Well, you didn’t “clarify” dp‘s position: as TB noted, you just told him what it was. All or nothing, I guess.
    For my part, it’s aye to “implementing a fast-action plan while we spend decades and trillions of dollars, because of how long CO2 control will take,” present to “a fast-action plan instead of beginning the decades/trillions process.”
    Strategically, I have no problem with a short-term effort to prioritize action on short-lived gases if indeed it’s more politically achievable (which is an assertion I don’t automatically accept as necessarily true, by the way). But I see no reason why everything else has to come to a screeching halt in order to get it: see under Walking, chewing gum.

  53. Steven Sullivan says:

    Keith, you go first:
     
    does ‘move beyond’ mean ‘abandon for now’ or ‘ work meaningfully towards,  while also grabbing the low-hanging fruit?  Or something else?
     
    And btw you might want to try not poisoning your well with this rhetoric next time, if you don’t want to be shocked, shocked at the flavor of the ensuing discussion: “Paul Kelly tries talking sense to the all-or-nothing crowd over at Bart’s place. The usual suspects snarl and prance.”
     
     

  54. Dean says:

    Andy (#49) – I think you make some fair points. Some of the low-hanging fruit policies could help pave the way for stronger policies in the future. But with WWII, that happened with Pearl Harbor. It took that level of shock to wake the country to reality.  How would that all have played out if Japan had eked along without our oil and left Hawaii alone?
     
    Climate activists have long debated what would constitute a Pearl Harbor moment as AGW develops such that it would have the same affect. Speaking for myself, some of the attitude that Keith picks up on comes my pessimism that we can similarly be awoken in this case. War is something that people understand and there is plenty of history of it. The AGW challenge is of a very different nature. Nobody argued about the attribution uncertainty after Pearl Harbor. While it isn’t all that hard to see a heat wave caused by AGW that could kill as many people as Pearl Harbor, can we ever really have the same level of certainty of attribution that we had for Pearl Harbor?

  55. dp says:

    NYT: “Reducing soot and the other short-lived pollutants … would buy time, perhaps a few decades, for the world to put in place more costly efforts to regulate carbon dioxide.”

    “a few decades.” how much more does the NYT editorial board think we can put up there, or in the ocean? i’d like to get them on record so i can shred it, let it float up in the breeze for due consideration by the molecules themselves.

    meanwhile, asking why, well, why — when the costs of investment & materials have never been lower — why do the NYT & other voices of reason suddenly back off calls for green investment? maybe a riddle helps.

    Q: what is more ‘costly’ than mitigation?
    A: delayed mitigation.

    no! that’s the wrong answer. the right answer is: “employing americans who haven’t been softened up w/ a lot of ‘fiscal discipline.'”

  56. Ed Forbes says:

    Leaving out the US political dimension again I see.

    Going for the “low hanging fruit” is the only option open to the warmists in the US  at this time.

    There will be NO chance of CO2 regulation going through congress over the next 2 years. And the EPA will be tied up in court at least that long over CO2.

    Now if you want to clean the air from real air pollutants, go for it. This can get support. But continuing the drumbeat of the imaginary danger of plant food (co2) will not go far in the US these days.

  57. Andy says:

    Dean (#55),
     
    Climate activists have long debated what would constitute a Pearl Harbor moment as AGW develops such that it would have the same affect.
     
    No doubt about it, nothing spurs fundamental change like a crisis.  Since we’re unlikely to get an AGW “Pearl Harbor” event to spur rapid carbon reduction, what is the alternative?  In my view, incrementalism is the only alternative as unsatisfying as that is.

  58. Tom Fuller says:

    Someone should inform MT that the world is neither round nor flat…

  59. grypo says:

    Andy,
     
    Don’t you think incremental regulatory fights would cause the movement to lose political capital and weaken it’s negotiating stance?  I’m not convinced the “momentum” will be there when it is needed.  The ‘LHF’ will need to be fairly easy victory with quick beneficial effects for this to be the case.   I highly doubt the suggestion that it will be easy.

  60. Paul Kelly says:

    MT wrote: “Unfortunately, there are many people nowadays who are ideologically committed to the idea that global warming is hooey. Such people are not likely to support any constraints.”
    This is demonstrably false. No less an outright climate denier than Sen. James Imhofe actually introduced and cosponsored a bill to address carbon soot in the last Senate.
    More later.

  61. Howard says:

    Grypo:  The CAGWCCCD (catastrophic anthropogenic global warming climate change climate disruption) movement has already spent nearly all available political capital and has never been weaker.  At this point, the momentum is going backward.  My guess is that Ramanathan is responding to this situation and offers what he believes to be the best possible approach that has a chance of being implemented.  It won’t be easy because the CAGWCCCD movement is sinking.  If these LHF measures were started 10-years ago, the CAGWCCCD movement would claim the current lack of temperature rise since than was due to those actions.  That was a big missed opportunity.
     
    I do agree that the LHF approach will not be easy and will likely fail unless people can be convinced that there are real measurable benefits to human health.  In any event, mitigation should be focused on documented human health and environmental damage taking place in the here and now not modeled potential damages in the future.  Also, energy policy should be focused on bringing cheap energy to the third world and on mitigating the actual harmful byproducts, not future theoretical pollutants.
    The CAGWCCCD movement not only squandered their political capital, they spent a huge chunk of the political capital of environmental science and engineering in general.  As is said, the path to hell is paved with snake oil and junk carbon credits.  The only thing anyone wants to do for the environment is to slap a thin coat of green paint on everything and feel good themselves.
     

  62. willard says:

    There certainly is a dichotomy at work.  And since it’s a dichotomy, it is false.  Is there a dichotomy that is not false anyway?
     
    My point is this.  WE are talking about WE, but a WE that is both indefinite and indivisible.  We’re not both indefinite and indivisible, but WE is.
     
    This creates all the problem.  So there lies the solution.  Simple as that.
     
    Those who want to work for mitigation, go for it.  Those who want want to lazily pick the lower fruits, go for it.  There is no incompatibility there.
     
    There is not even an incompatibility between blogging, arguing, commenting, aying and ayeing and actually doing something.  Those we who want to talk, talk; the others we who want to do, do.
     
    Taking Tom’s remark seriously in #60, if WE is a solid ball in 3-dimensional space, WE could very well be split into a finite number of non-overlapping pieces, and WE can then be put back together in a different way to yield two identical copies of WE.
     
    So WE could do anything.
     
    Me, oui!  See http://vunex.blogspot.com/2006/02/short-poem-muhammad-ali.html
     
    PS:  How many times must we have this conversation over and over again?
     

  63. Howard says:

    Someone should inform Tom Fuller that no one interested in his sissy-fit kerfuffle with MT …

  64. Andy says:

    grypo,
     
    Don’t you think incremental regulatory fights would cause the movement to lose political capital and weaken it’s negotiating stance?
     
    The movement, as it currently stands, doesn’t have much political capital to lose.   The fact is that political capital does not exist to implement carbon reduction policies.  That simple reality can’t be wished away. The goal should therefore be to build capital which, IMO, requires time and continuous effort.  Incremental success on secondary and tertiary issues will help.  Success in those areas will not only build political capital but will also improve the chances for some kind of carbon reduction scheme.  The reason is that if you can demonstrate, for instance, that methane reduction or whatever policy is workable, then carbon reduction doesn’t look so scary to people which lowers the political capital necessary to bring that about.
     
    I would also suggest you need to sacrifice some policy purity today in order to get allies.   IMO  you need to be co-opting those who pretty much agree on the science but differ on policy.  Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.  IMO you need to be making friends with the Pielke’s, Lomborgs and Kelly’s.
     
    Just look at any major societal changes to see how incrementalism works.  Big changes are typically the product of a long line

  65. Steve Reynolds says:

    As someone against significant near-term limits on CO2, I would still support the LHF approach where it improves health, such as with ozone and soot.
     

  66. thingsbreak says:

    @Andy:
    The movement, as it currently stands, doesn’t have much political capital to lose.   The fact is that political capital does not exist to implement carbon reduction policies.  That simple reality can’t be wished away.

    Sure, but it’s likewise pointless to claim that the current state of affairs will last for another 1o years let alone indefinitely. Once the economy gets going again, and if we get anything like the European or Moscow heat waves in the US, a lot could change.
     
    Incremental success on secondary and tertiary issues will help.  Success in those areas will not only build political capital but will also improve the chances for some kind of carbon reduction scheme.  The reason is that if you can demonstrate, for instance, that methane reduction or whatever policy is workable, then carbon reduction doesn’t look so scary to people which lowers the political capital necessary to bring that about.
     
    Although I don’t claim an incredible familiarity with the nitty-gritty in terms of emissions reductions, I think that this is a fair point that can be taken way too far. Small gains should be pursued, and done to build trust and ensure the proper framework is in place, yes. This- in terms of a relatively painless initial emissions agreement- was the planned successor to Kyoto. But if we do nothing about getting that framework in place and pursue the peripheral cuts in a vacuum, this is undesirable for several reasons. A lot of the early goals in reducing overall emissions were supposed to come from this low hanging fruit. The idea being that a price signal on GHGs would spur innovation and increased efficiency, which would bring cleaner alternatives closer to parity with rising fossil fuel prices gradually over time. But obviously a transition to clean energy infrastructure can’t happen overnight, so this low hanging fruit would be what helped nations achieve early goals while fossil fuels remained relatively cheap and clean energy relatively more costly. Picking all of the low hanging fruit in the absence of a larger economic signal on GHGs can actually run the risk of making a comprehensive treaty less appealing even if things like monitoring and trust are increased because all that will be left will be the most painful and most climatically important heavy lifting.
     
    IMO  you need to be co-opting those who pretty much agree on the science but differ on policy.  Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.  IMO you need to be making friends with the Pielke’s, Lomborgs and Kelly’s.
     
    I can’t speak for everyone, but for Lomborg, Roger Pielke Sr., and Roger Pielke Jr., the reasons for distrust have a lot less to do with policy disagreements than general “misunderstandings” of physical science issues (to varying degrees and making no claims at this time of intent).  That’s probably best discussed in another thread. More directly to your point, however, a great many of us have expressed a willingness to be won over to the “breakthrough” pathway if someone would actually go about explaining how it would work without resorting to hand-waving and appeals to novelty.
     
    @Paul Kelly:
    This is demonstrably false. No less an outright climate denier than Sen. James Imhofe [sic]
     
    Isn’t that sort of the exception that demonstrates the rule, though? The conservative and fossil interest groups that have done the most to block legislative action on GHG reductions haven’t to the best of my knowledge shown any signs of pushing for black carbon/Montreal gas reductions other than as temporary feints away from more comprehensive GHG reduction legislation.  Similar to the ephemeral and self-contradictory support geoengineering has seen over the last few years.
     
    If this has changed and a robust endorsement of non-CO2 forcings has emerged, I’m thrilled to hear of it.

  67. John N-G says:

    Keith (#27): “What I have suggested (and what is implied in that op-ed) is that there is little political appetite or any demonstrable urgency by the climate concerned community to direct attention to the low-hanging fruit.
    Meanwhile, back in the real world, the Washington Post reports:
    New Front Opens in War Against Global Warming
    Many policymakers and business leaders have come to see the most basic method of slowing global warming – cutting carbon dioxide emissions through a binding treaty – as elusive for now. They are turning their attention instead toward a more achievable goal: curbing other greenhouse gases that are warming the planet.

    Willard (#64): There’s a big difference between true dichotomies and false dichotomies…

  68. I should have been more explicit. My objection to Kelly is this claim:
    “What I’ve consistently said ““ and is supported in the article ““ is that successful mitigation can and will be accomplished by actions whose primary rationale and benefit is something other than climate. That you, especially, don’t see this is puzzling to me.”


    I absolutely agree with the Hansen approach of taking on the secondary forcings first, and have been featuring press releases from a group supporting this approach on my blog for years.
     
    To suggest, as Kelly does, that adequate mitigation will spontaneously arise as a side effect of other concerns is silly. The only reason Kelly is sillier than Lomborg and Pielke is because he expressed his faith in a magical happy ending explicitly. It won’t happen; I wish every bit as fervently as anyone else that it will, but I don’t actually see any rational reason for believing it.
     

  69. willard says:

    John N-G,
     
    Let me guess: the former is true, while the latter is false?  I’d like an example of a true dichotomy related to our discussion.  I don’t think you will find any.  Nothing prevents promoting cutting carbon dioxide emissions while slowing down climate disruption otherwise.  People realize something can be done; scientists keep creatively hammering (without sounding boring or daunting) the most important objective; everyone positively feedback-looping from positive measures toward the most important objective.
     
    Perhaps because it’s a blog and we’re arguing, we tend to think this is a fight.  But it’s not: what really predominates is the race.  Humans mainly solve problems by throwing lots and lots of processes and see what sticks, in science and elsewhere.  Popper was wrong at least because he emphasizes too much the fight for refutations.  Bloggers are wrong to think what matters is that someone, somewhere, is wrong over the Intertubes.
     
    As far as I can see, the only way to lose is to stop running and dither about the best way to run.
     
     

  70. Marlowe Johnson says:

    Keith I realize I’m late to this particular party but when you refer to MT ‘snarling’ it suggests to me that you’ve left your thinking cap at the door 🙄
     
    As others have already pointed out the issue here is really about context and expectations.  sure let’s go after black carbon (biochar cooking stoves anyone?).  let’s get rid of sf6 (a really, really nasty ghg).
     
    but at the end of the day the name of the game is co2.  can’t be helped. the danger is the same as with recycling.  if the pols start selling non-co2 measures as a fix and then wash their hands we’re pooched. plain and simple.  the reason for this is that any delay on co2 sources (i.e coal plants) means that we essentially are ‘locking-in’ these emissions.  coal-fired power plants operate on 30-60 year time frames. once they’re built it will be a long time before they shut down.  and any strategy that makes such plants being built more likely is counterproductive.  So it really comes down to appropriate communication strategies.  yes lets start with non-co2.  but no that doesn’t mean that co2 sources are off the hook duke energy.  so if you’re looking to finance new coal plants think again 😀

  71. Marlowe Johnson says:

    to clarify.  the danger about recycling programs is that they can contribute to cognitive tokenism.  so the guy who buys a hummer absolves himself (in his own mind) by recycling.  it’s not difficult to imagine timid pols pushing some of the non-co2 low hanging fruit options as evidence that they’re taking action and then going no further.

  72. Dean says:

    “Just look at any major societal changes to see how incrementalism works.  Big changes are typically the product of a long line”
     
    Except that this issue isn’t like other societal changes. Democracy is a societal change and it can come about as fast or as slow as society makes it happen. So can property rights,  child labor laws, affordable health care, whatever. The word “forcing” doesn’t come to mind with these issues.
     
    Sure, you can say that stronger actions aren’t politically feasible now, and that’s true. But it doesn’t mean that analogies between social changes in how we organize ourselves to changes that are needed in regard to the laws of nature are valid. Nature won’t slow down because the politics ain’t working. So if it’s all we can do, go for it. Maybe they tried that on Easter Island as well. (Maybe not, but you get the idea)

  73. Andy says:

    TB (#68)
     
    Sure, but it’s likewise pointless to claim that the current state of affairs will last for another 1o years let alone indefinitely. Once the economy gets going again, and if we get anything like the European or Moscow heat waves in the US, a lot could change.
     
    Anything is possible, but that doesn’t seem too likely to me.  Betting that luck and circumstance will bring about the political conditions for carbon reductions does not sound like a wise strategy to me.  You could wait around for decades.
     
    On your second point, yes there is risk.  There will always be risk though.  How does the risk you describe in your second paragraph compare to the risk of holding out and hoping for political conditions to change?  IMO it’s better to go after what you can achieve, even if it’s minimal.  If at some point in the future a heat wave comes around which causes people to stand up and take notice, then the sum of those minimal, incremental changes you worked on in the meantime will likely make doing something big easier.
     
    I can’t speak for everyone, but for Lomborg, Roger Pielke Sr., and Roger Pielke Jr., the reasons for distrust have a lot less to do with policy disagreements than general “misunderstandings” of physical science issues (to varying degrees and making no claims at this time of intent).
     
    I don’t really follow everyone’s positions or views all that closely, so I don’t really know much about the differing views on the science.  It just seems to me that if there is some policy area that enough people can get behind to make it politically viable, then that is a much more productive course of action than a lot of the name-calling and accusations I see thrown around.  In my experience it’s usually better to agree to disagree on areas where compromise isn’t possible in order to enable agreement on areas where compromise is possible.

  74. Andy says:

    Dean (#74),
     
    I understand what you’re saying about nature not slowing down, but my point is that policy is ultimately about people and there the comparison is apt IMO.  That nature works on its own hard timetable does not change the way people and polities operate.  The goal is to get society to change, IOW to get them to view the issue differently – to change the collective mindset.  In this regard climate change is really not so different from other, historical changes.

  75. Paul Kelly says:

    Thanks (if that’s the right word) Keith, for opening this thread.
    Many of  the people who think they disagree with me don’t. MT is one. Both he and Eli Rabbett imply that I do not have respect for James Hansen or that I am unaware of his scholarship regarding carbon soot. This despite my citing Hansen and, in the last year, J as scientific backing for my views.
    explicit objection to Kelly is this claim:
    “What I’ve consistently said ““ and is supported in the article ““ is that successful mitigation can and will be accomplished by actions whose primary rationale and benefit is something other than climate. That you, especially, don’t see this is puzzling to me.”
    First of all, this comment was made not to Tobis, but to an anonymous uber commenter who knows nothing. To me, he’s a troll. On the other hand, I enjoy MT’s academic style of discourse.

  76. Andy says:

    Marlowe (#73),
     
    it’s not difficult to imagine timid pols pushing some of the non-co2 low hanging fruit options as evidence that they’re taking action and then going no further.
     
    Yes, that is possible, but it’s not a certainty.  It seems to me the risk of that is small compared to the risk of a “once more into the breach” co2 reduction strategy which uses up all the political capital for no progress at all.

  77. Paul Kelly says:

    I find myself in substantial agreement with MT. He says, “… there is no sensible opposition to this secondary-forcings first approach. ” Doing carbon soot reduction first means means not doing CO2 until after. MT’s fear  that there is political opposition to soot action is happily unfounded.
    He coins the term Kellyism as  ” the idea that while climate change may possibly be an existential threat, we are incapable of dealing with it except as a beneficial side effect of other decisions.” He almost has it.
    The word incapable is incorrect. I have always said we are indeed capable of success and suggest an approach to be so. It is an approach firmly grounded in science, both physical and social. The climate mitigations achieved by the “other things first” approach do not come as a coincidence or by accident. They are a direct result.
    Bart says we can’t abandon focussing on CO2. There is no call to abandon it, only to do other things first. Both Keith and Bart call soot reduction low hanging fruit. This underestimates the complexity of it. There’s a good amount of money and effort involved.

  78. Paul Kelly says:

    Thingsbreak
    No one is pushing back on the idea that we should do this.
    Glad to hear that.

    We’re pushing back on the notions that: it is a new idea; Nowhere have I said this in a new idea.  I say it is a good idea and everybody seems to agree with it.    

    it can be done in the absence of political opposition In the US at least, there is no political opposition to soot action
    it means we should stop advocating for carbon reductions. As what to do first, yes.

  79. Paul Kelly says:

    I wouldn’t describe the commenters at stoat and Bart’s as snarling and prancing either.

  80. Paul Kelly says:

    MT,
    Why do you persist in the misinformation that I believe adequate mitigation will spontaneously arise as a side effect of other concerns? You know that I have said it will come from focused and persistent individual actions.

  81. thingsbreak says:

    @Paul Kelly:
    In the US at least, there is no political opposition to soot action
     
    I have seen no evidence that this is the case, nor that this is true for other environmental pursuits that have climate change limiting co-benefits.
     
    Listen to the GOP leaders themselves. Inhofe’s lone moment of clarity on black carbon is what the kids today call an outlier:
    “This administration’s rampant regulations are also inflicting real harm on our economy. Americans have a right to know how flawed government regulations can kill job-creation efforts. EPA’s circumvention of Congress in enacting costly new rules may devastate our economy and send us into a prolonged recession. Its revised ozone standard alone could cause up to 7 million jobs to be lost and cost businesses upward of $1 trillion annually. Congress must work aggressively to ensure that the EPA does not implement a backdoor energy tax.”
     
    Or in the event Upton loses out his bid for the relevant chair to “Smokey” Joe “I’m sorry for getting our Gulf in the way of your oil, BP” Barton gets it:
    “Put anything in my scope and I will shoot it.”
     
    Like I said, Paul- If this has changed and a robust endorsement of non-CO2 forcings reductions has emerged, I’m thrilled to hear of it. That’s decidedly the opposite of what I have been hearing, however.

  82. Paul Kelly says:

    Thingsbreak,
    I suggest you contact Sen. Imhoffe’s office for information on his support for soot action.

  83. TimG says:

    I really don’t understand why people still believe that meaningful “action” on CO2 is going to happen. It won’t. You are better off believing in the tooth fairy because the overwhelming majority of people are not willing to make significant personal sacrifices for hypothetical future benefits. Especially if that means watching countries like China and India emit with impunity while these sacrifices are being made. 

    The only possible solution a non-emitting energy source that is cheaper than coal and gas.

    I am also not sure action on non-CO2 GHGs will get that much traction in the current political climate. It really depends on how expensive it is and if China et. al. will share the pain.

    The last point is significant. There will be no meaningful international treaty as long as China insists that it be given a free pass because it is “developing country”. It would be political suicide for any politician in a democratic country to even suggest such a thing.

  84. Keith,

    It depends on what is meant by “move beyond”. I don’t see substantial disagreement on anything here, except perhaps the extent to which climate mitigation ought to be part of the rationale (which ahs been discussed at several threads here, at my place, and elsewhere).
    I think Andy’s analogy is useful in that it points to the importance of strategic thinking in how to best achieve one’s goal, even if the strategy wouldn’t win the beauty (or ideological purity) contest.

    In that sense, there is a possible backlash from focussing first on the secondary forcings (I’ve already made the case that certain CO2 mitigation strategies can also be considered low hanging fruit…), in that it may pave the way not for thereafter strongly focussing on CO2, but for thereafter *not* focussing on CO2. That I think is a fear that many have, esp because many more people could be found in agreement with BC and O3 reduction that with CO2 reduction (that’s whereI disagree with MT and TB).

    Because the long term threat is dominated by CO2, that has to remain the primary long term focus, even if we re-direct some “early” attention elsewhere to start making a dent in the warming trend.

  85. Keith Kloor says:

    Bart (86):

    You write “there is a possible backlash from focusing first on the secondary forcings…that I think is fear that many have…”

    I’m glad to see you acknowledge this, which others in the thread have too. This “fear” is precisely what prevents people in the climate concerned community from advocating more strongly for this course of action (instead of the tepid we’re in agreement!) and it strikes me as unfortunate, because as Andy has noted in this thread, doing so could help build momentum towards that larger action.

    This “fear” is paralyzing. Many of you also reinforce this fear by focusing on negative feedback: there will be “opposition,” or it opens the door, as Michael Tobis alludes to in #70 other rationales  (shudders!) for Co2 reduction, etc.

    Marlowe (72), look at the post again (my actual post, not comments). When I made that sarcastic reference to the “usual suspects” pooh poohing Paul Kelly’s suggestion to read the NYT op-ed, there were only about 12 comments at Bart’s place at that time, and I was referring specifically to dhogoza and Eli Rabbet.

    But if Michal would have made the similarly  disparaging and dismissive comment over there as he did here in #2, well then, my description would have fit him too. How would you describe a comment that is framed around three ad homs? That reflexively dismisses a powerful argument for doing something tangible about climate change because it’s not for the reasons he (Michael) thinks it should be?

     

  86. Keith Kloor says:

    From Andy Revkin at Dot Earth on what to expect at this year’s climate talks:

    “In Cancun, you’ll see lots of talk about investing money to conserve forests in poor countries to sustain them as reservoirs for carbon. You’ll see a focus on the low-hanging fruit in the climate challenge “” for instance, reigning in unhealthful emissions of black carbon, which heats the air and helps melt Himalayan snows and also kills lots of people. And you’ll see a continuation of the Copenhagen fights over a lack of money from rich super-emitting countries to help poor ones deal with climate-related hazards.”

  87. Pascvaks says:

    As has already been noted –THE PROBLEM is local and THE SOLUTION is local too.  Those who would have us believe that local can’t and won’t work and that global must be the scale that we must have to achieve success in reducing GHG’s (other than H20 and CO2) are preaching to achieve a global solution to all problems and a global government.  Their FIRST PRIORITY (and some could argue, ONLY PRIORITY)  is political everything, and NOT environmental anything.

    Who’s more in touch with reality with respect to local impacts, New York City or the UN?  Chyanne Wyoming or the UN?  San Francisco or the UN?  London’s Soho or the UN?  Berlin (the city) or the UN?  Hanoi or the UN?  Frankly, it’s all a political power grab from the perspective of John and Jane Q. Public.  Cancun is the same as Copenhagen, no matter how it’s packaged.

  88. Keith,

    You’re right, it could go both ways. The NYT op-ed (as does Andy in this thread) argues that it could pave the way for stronger CO2 reductions as well, by stepping out of the gridlock “everyone waiting for everyone else” we’re in right now.

    I think a critical factor in how it’ll work out (paving the way or preventing the way towards CO2 reductions) is how much socio-political clout the anti-mitigation voices will have down the road.

    Besides the ambivalence at the end of the NYT article, as N-G noted, I’m in broad agreement (you know by now that I love weasel words, don’t you?) with its message.

  89. Paul Kelly says:

    If N-G is still here, maybe he could clear up something that I’m admittedly a bit confused about.
    If doubling CO2 causes about a 1C rise by its radiative properties alone, does an actual sensitivity of 3C mean that other forcings and feedbacks account for 2/3 (or twice that of CO2) of the increase? Does the importance of other forcings and feedbacks increase if actual sensitivity is greater than 3C?

  90. thingsbreak says:

    Keith,
    Do you acknowledge that Paul Kelly’s premise rests on the assumption that the “low hanging fruit” steps don’t face the kind of lockstep obstructionism from fossil fuel, anti-regulatory, and conservative interests that CO2 legislation does? E.g.:
    In the US at least, there is no political opposition to soot action
     
    It is my contention that while the “low hanging fruit” indeed should be pursued, and be pursued with more emphasis than in the past, the idea that it does not face obstructionism in the current US political climate is unfounded. Consequently, people like myself see no reason to stop pushing for CO2 reductions even while pursuing “low hanging fruit”, pushing for greater clean energy investment, etc.- in other words, the “all of the above” approach.
     
    Bart might disagree with MT and I about the prospects of non-CO2 legislation, but I suspect it’s because he’s operating under the illusion that no one or no group would oppose climate mitigating policies that have demonstrable co-benefits. In other words, I don’t think he’s familiar with the current Republican front runners for the relevant Committees (and a number of “moderate” Democrats).

  91. TB,

    You’re right that I’m hardly familiar with current US politics.

    But I do notice that many who oppose CO2 reductions seem to be in favour black carbon reduction. E.g. over at WUWT and at their Dutch counterpart they just love stories where BC is implicated as a main culprit. Of course that’s mostly because it can be used to distract attention away from the CO2-elephant in the room, so I wouldn’t vouch for how sincere their worry over soot really is, but still. I think it likely that it will meet less opposition than CO2 reduction.

    Paul, see my reply over at my site. Basically, yes. The bare, no feedbacks allowed senstivity is 1.2, the rest is made up of the net feedbacks, where the former is accurately known and the latter is quite uncertain (though still informed by theory and constrained by e.g. paleoclimate).

  92. Marlowe Johnson says:

    @78
    agreed.  but let’s at least put that risk on the table so that we understand the trade-off that we may be making.
     
    @92
    +1

  93. Sashka says:

    Somebody should inform Howard that he’d better speak for himself.

  94. I don’t think anyone who is “climate-concerned” is going to oppose reductions in methane, HFC’s, SF6, ozone, etc., and black carbon. If this is achievable quickly, and is on offer, then it would be pretty foolish not to embrace it. And, as several commenters have emphasized, this is hardly a new idea. It’s far from the first time even Ramanathan or Victor has made it.

    That said, I’d like to highlight a few points others have made upthread, and add one more.

    1. Walk. Chew. Gum. This is not an “either/or” solution. We will have to do both. The sooner the better for both, so if one is undertaken sooner – good. If that is that the cost of delaying the other – not so good.

    2. In the sense that this is focussing on “low-hanging fruit”, it’s worth re-iterating what thingsbreak said. The idea of having an escalating price on carbon/GHG’s is based on the economic rationale that it will encourage agents to undertake the lowest-hanging fruit. It may well be that insulating your house is far cheaper and more effective (both in terms of cost and greenhouse-warming-potential) than scrubbing the black carbon out of the charcoal emissions from your barbeque. So, part of this proposal needs to recognize that an exclusive focus on “other” gasses/black carbon implies that – in some cases – less efficient choices will be made. Furthermore, eventually we’ll have to deal with carbon as well, and we’ll likely want to integrate things anyway. 

    Ideal? No. But if it gets us started, great. Just don’t pretend it’s more than the start it is.

    3. Because of the long lifetime and accumulative nature of CO2 relative to ozone, methane and black carbon, the “80% forcing of carbon from other” is only going to become a smaller and smaller number because the denominator will grow faster than the numerator (even if we weren’t trying to reduce the other gasses).

    This is just another way of noting that the pernicious accumulation of what is ultimately the most important greenhouse gas has to be dealt with eventually (and rather soon).

    So, again, let’s pick the low-hanging fruit, but realize that we’ve inevitably got to climb up and work on the higher branches.

    4. If we act primarily to reduce methane, ozone, Montreal gasses and black carbon… temperature will almost certainly go… up.

    The existing methane, ozone and Montreal gasses, and CO2, already have long enough atmospheric residence times – and the system has enough inertia before reaching thermal equilibrium – that these reductions can only marginally slow the rise in global temperatures for quite some time. 

    I just mention this because if this alternative is “sold” on the notion that if we see “results” that we can then use this success to attack the next target (i.e. CO2), it’s not likely we’ll have much. Unless we are candid about the true nature and scope of the problem, this perceived “failure” (although completely predictable from the underlying physics) could lead to frustration rather than enthusiasm for future initiatives.
    So, aye aye, cap’n! Full speed ahead on the other gasses and soot! But we’ll need a lot more horsepower than that to get us to our destination in time, cap’n.

  95. rustneversleeps says:

    @ Paul: <i>”If doubling CO2 causes about a 1C rise by its radiative properties alone, does an actual sensitivity of 3C mean that other forcings and feedbacks account for 2/3 (or twice that of CO2) of the increase? Does the importance of other forcings and feedbacks increase if actual sensitivity is greater than 3C?”</i>

    Doubling CO2 would be a <b>forcing</b>, the direct effect of which would be ~ 1C, and the resultant fast <b>feedback</b> effects of which would be an additional ~ 2C.

    Other <b>forcings</b> – e.g. methane – would be additional on top of that. Their direct effect of increasing watts/metre^2 would lead to some increase in temperature for a given increase, and would also have feedback effects.

  96. Dean says:

    TimG says “the overwhelming majority of people are not willing to make significant personal sacrifices for hypothetical future benefits.”
     
    Tim – People make all kinds of sacrifices for future benefits. They may seem hypothetical now, but that won’t always be the case. The question many of us wonder is how long that transition will take.
     
    In general, opposition to these kinds of policies is mixed. The dividing lines seem to be purely politically motivated. It was conservatives who first devised cap and trade policies as a market-based alternative to direct regulation. The current political balance is in their favor and so they are pushing harder against many things they once supported. Opposition to fast trains, which generally get strong public support, is but one example. But opposition to green jobs and alternative energy has also grown. When the pendulum swings the other way, many of them will shift again.
     
    Efficiency is probably the easy policy that has the most long-standing support among folks focused on climate change and energy policy. But a vote to pass a bond for energy retrofits for schools here in Washington state lost this year.

  97. Francis says:

    “The world could easily and quickly reduce these pollutants  [methane, some hydrofluorocarbons and lower atmospheric ozone “” and dark soot particles]; the technology and regulatory systems needed to do so are already in place.”
    Quickly and easily?  Does the author have any idea just how hard it’s been for California — a deeply Democratic state — to make the progress that it has?  Reduction of these contaminants will cost billions in new infrastructure in countries, like India and China, that seem unlikely to have the necessary political, legal or economic structures in place.

  98. Keith, I don’t see that it is ad hominem to mention others arguing unconvicingly that carbon mitigation can be achieved as a side effect of other pursuits.
     
    I didn’t say what I think of Roger or Bjorn, which would be argument ad hominem. I summarized what I think of their policy positions, which I regard as similar and similarly flawed.
     
    I don’t think Kelly has added enough of substance to the conversation as yet to devote much attention to his claims. But I found his claim
     
    “What I’ve consistently said ““ and is supported in the article ““ is that successful mitigation can and will be accomplished by actions whose primary rationale and benefit is something other than climate. That you, especially, don’t see this is puzzling to me.”


    a useful summary of what I would call the Pixie Dust Option. If you say that a solution “can and will” be achieved as a side effect of other pursuits, you are being so optimistic that you will need to provide some detail. So far we see much handwaving from the Pixie Dust camp, and a centrist posture.
     
    Realistic centrism takes account of evidence, while magical centrism need not. We’re in a sorry state when magical thinking is competitive with realism.
     
    This has very little to do with secondary forcings. I emphatically agree that we should deal with secondary forcings as quickly as is feasible. As things stand, a unit of effort on secondary forcings may have more marginal payoff than a unit of effort on CO2. By all means let’s get on with it!  I am unconvinced by any arguments to the contrary.
     
    But this is not secondary to conventional pollution benefits. The global climate forcing dominates conventional pollution benefits (specifically, it makes it everybody’s business rather than the business only of the emitters) and greatly increases the urgency on these matters.
     

  99. PDA says:

    But a vote to pass a bond for energy retrofits for schools here in Washington state lost this year.
     
    and…
    Republican Energy Chair Joe Barton to eradicate those damn squiggly light bulbs

  100. Howard says:

    I’m sure I speak for everyone here 😉 when I say that regardless of what one thinks of CAGWCCCD, mitigation of documented real impacts to human health and the environment is a good thing.
     
    Francis is correct, the LHF measures will be costly, difficult and time consuming to achieve.  Since meaningful CO2 reductions are near impossible, the choice is pretty clear.  It looks like the folks at Cancun have gotten the memo.
     
    Dean provides supporting evidence that environmental action is a luxury.  The CAGWCCCD promoters will have more success if this fact is remembered.

  101. thingsbreak says:

    @MT:
    But this is not secondary to conventional pollution benefits. The global climate forcing dominates conventional pollution benefits (specifically, it makes it everybody’s business rather than the business only of the emitters) and greatly increases the urgency on these matters.
     
    And to expand on this, climate change is often a threat multiplier for “conventional” pollution hazards. If we continue to heat things up, we expect to undo/offset work already (and expected to be) achieved in reducing conventional pollution problems, e.g. smog, ozone depletion, etc.[1][2].
     
    In other words, not only is pursuing “low hanging fruit” inadequate to address the climate problem, failure to broadly address the climate problem will cancel out at least some of the non-climatic environmental gains pursuing LHF was supposed to primarily achieve.
    [1] Wu, S., et al (2008): Effects of 2000″“2050 global change on ozone air quality in the United States. Journal of  Geophysical Research, 113, D06302, doi:10.1029/ 2007JD008917.
    [2] Waugh, D.W., et al. (2009): Impacts of climate change on stratospheric ozone recovery. Geophysical Research Letters, 36, L03805, doi:10.1029/2008GL036223.

  102. Howard says:

    MT:
     
    The dominance of hypothetical  (unknown feedback physics) climate forcing in environmental policy is killing real (not conventional as you say) environmental mitigation.  The last 40-years of real environmental mitigation has been everybody’s business, has been paid for by everybody and implemented by emitters and developers.  How is this different from mitigation of hypothetical impacts?  For one, “everybody” is resisting your cure.

  103. Paul Kelly says:

    Michael,
    Glad you’re here. I didn’t take your comments as ad hominem. I thought they were, in your way complimentary. What I propose is nothing like the Pixie Dust Option, which consists mainly of carefully spreading the pixie dust and dancing among the flowers.
    I will note that the successful mitigation statement you so dislike is a direct quote from one of the preeminent climate scientists. This a science based strategy. Of course I would never say you don’t see it. You see it.
    As I said, I think we have a lot of agreement. Our differences are likely caused by not understanding each others’ position. By all means let’s get on with it!
    You said  “The global climate forcing dominates conventional pollution benefits”. Not sure that is so.
    thingsbreak,
    Please read in comment 79 ” Both Keith and Bart call soot reduction low hanging fruit. This underestimates the complexity of it. There’s a good amount of money and effort involved.”

  104. Howard, I am sorry you still don’t understand the global climate problem. I hope you will continue to think about it rather than simply asserting that you are unconvinced.
     
    I referred to “conventional pollution” as opposed to greenhouse gases wherein the question of whether CO2 is a “pollutant” or otherwise has become fraught with legal consequences in the USA.
     
    By “emitters” I meant emitting countries. What you emit is not just your business, nor between you and your government, but is the business of every person now living and every person who will live in the foreseeable future.
     
    Climate forcing is a new kind of problem, which has a great deal to do with why we are so incompetent at addressing it.
     

  105. Sashka says:

    @ Tobis (100)

    Quantification of the GW/CO2 threat based on highly unreliable and arguably incorrect models is no better than handwaiving.

  106. Marlowe Johnson says:

    @106
     
    🙄
     

  107. Andy says:

    MT (#100),
     
    Realistic centrism takes account of evidence, while magical centrism need not. We’re in a sorry state when magical thinking is competitive with realism.
     
    What is realism in this case?  CO2 reduction is the goal – on that everyone agrees, correct?  Strategy is how one goes about achieving that goal.  The proposed strategy here is that, given the failure of co2 reduction policy, efforts should be put into secondary areas in order to grow the necessary political support to make the main effort – co2 reduction – a viable political option and eventual reality.  Obviously that strategy has flaws and potential pitfalls.  Obviously it’s not ideal.  Yes it could fail. But that is true of any strategy.  It seems you don’t like this strategy.  Nothing wrong with that provided you have some kind of viable alternative.  If not this strategy, then what?
     
     

  108. Howard says:

    Michael:
     
    Thanks for your response and your clarification of emitters.  Your point makes a lot more sense to me now.  I too am sorry that I don’t understand the global climate problem, which is a new kind of problem as you say.   I disagree that we are so incompetent at dealing with it because it is new.  The reason it is not being dealt with is for many reasons, including huge potential cost, huge potential societal disruption and the uncertainties of what actions to take.
    Personally, I don’t think there is a consensus on climate sensitivity.   First of all, not all forcings will have the same feedback mechanisms.  Using heterogeneous and anisotropic insolation and albedo changes from ice cycles to predict feedbacks from  a well-mixed greenhouse gas like CO2 does not pass the straight-face test.  Also, the failure to document describe and quantify the underlying natural climate variability and associated ocean circulation impacts makes it very difficult to believe the standard climate science conclusion of CO2 as a thermostat.
     
    I am very interested in the research of Pielke Sr. looking at other potential first-order forcings.  My personal favorite is the unprecedented emission of water vapor via evapotranspiration related to irrigated agriculture.  As far as I understand it, this emission of a greenhouse gas is not accounted for in GCMs.  Perhaps it is not important, perhaps it is responsible for holding down the CO2 associated feedbacks.  It is just another piece of a very complicated puzzle that appears to be swept under the carpet.
     
    I do find the topic very interesting and enjoy thinking about it.  However, I hope that you can bring yourself to see that for many people (and not just the teabag WUWT crowd who grew tired of the UFO conspiracy) with backgrounds in science and engineering it is very difficult to “trust the experts” when there is a strong decade-long political and media campaign to declare the science is settled, rational debate is over and promote radical action.  These suspicions were confirmed with the CRU-hack showed that many of the climate superstars are working the system to exclude research that does not confirm the party-line consensus.
     
    My advise to you and your friends is that the short-cut failed, get behind incremental mitigation  of second-order forcings with other benefits, and work harder to disprove the consensus.  It’s going to take another 10-years to rebuild the lost credibility.
     

  109. Howard says:

    Andy:
     
    Everyone does not agree that CO2 reduction is the goal.  The goal is to ensure human activities don’t cause too much damage to human health and the environment.  You are confounding methods with outcomes.  Also, the application of methods will change over time based on cost, available technology and overall benefits.  This is why CO2 reduction as a method is off the table.
     
    When you say that the LHF approach is *obviously* not ideal, what is that based on?  A cost-benefit analysis based on a risk assessment?  As I recall, this is the area of theAR4 that is most full of holes.  I am interested in hearing a rational explaination of this opinion.

  110. Howard,

    I’ve come to see that many well educated “skeptics” loath the idea of a consensus amongst experts being meaningful. To me, that’s a rather strange notion. On areas where I lack a certain level of understanding, I find it more sensible to trust the expert consensus opinion rather than some maverick. Why is it that you apparently don’t?

  111. Marlowe Johnson says:

    not to pick on andy because i think there are some good thoughts/questions.  but.  how does success in dealing with non-co2 sources make dealing with co2 any easier politically?
     
    IMO one does not follow from the other.  deploying clean cooking stoves or implementing tier 3 emission standards for on-road diesel, or getting around to emissions from marine vessels are good things that will be met with varying degrees of resistance (truckers for example are a prickly bunch).  but they don’t make the case for addressing co2 emissions any easier politically.
     
    As Andy Revkin pointed out earlier today, any environmental policy is likely to face significant hurdles in the current u.s. climate:
     
    “The advisers called for a review and shift in energy subsidies and incentives, a review of energy policies and progress every four years, and a tripling of the current $5 billion a year for energy research, development, demonstration and deployment, with $12 billion of the resulting total going to advancing the frontiers of energy sciences and large-scale demonstrations of promising technologies.
    Those are smart steps, along lines that many moderate Republicans have endorsed in the past. But will the new House, shaped by Tea Party priorities, see any reason to move forward on such measures (particularly as the race for the White House in 2012 heats up)? I wouldn’t count on it.”
     

  112. thingsbreak says:

    @Andy:
    CO2 reduction is the goal ““ on that everyone agrees, correct? Strategy is how one goes about achieving that goal.  The proposed strategy here is that, given the failure of co2 reduction policy, efforts should be put into secondary areas in order to grow the necessary political support to make the main effort ““ co2 reduction ““ a viable political option and eventual reality.
     
    Contrast with Paul Kelly’s position, the person who MT was disagreeing with:
    What I’ve consistently said ““ and is supported in the article ““ is that successful mitigation can and will be accomplished by actions whose primary rationale and benefit is something other than climate.

    This is what MT disagrees with. It’s what I disagree with, and many others (including you from the sound of it) disagree with. There is simply no reason, absent climate concern, to not burn through fossil fuels one way or another.
     
    What’s to stop the synthesis of liquid fuels out of coal absent concern about CO2 levels, even if other air pollution regulations slightly reduce the amount of direct coal burning?

  113. Andy says:

    Howard,
     
    Obviously not everyone believes that co2 reduction is the goal.  If everyone believed that then co2 reduction policy would be easy.  My comments are not about what people believe, but about policy strategy.

  114. keith kloor says:

    Sorry for the radio silence today, but I did the school trip thing with my son. Great fun (when not counting kids and asking them to stop spitting) because it was the museum of natural history.

  115. Sashka says:

    @ Marlowe (107)
    That was really deep and thoughtful.
     

  116. Sashka says:

    @Bart (111)

    Loath? I wouldn’t say so. Just not accepting the consensus as a proof of a scientific truth.

    BTW, there is no consensus, as you probably know, beyond the fact that CO2 warms the climate to some extent.

    For confirmation I will quote a BBC interview with certain Phil Jones http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/8511670.stm :

    Q: When scientists say “the debate on climate change is over”, what exactly do they mean – and what don’t they mean?
    A: It would be supposition on my behalf to know whether all scientists who say the debate is over are saying that for the same reason. I don’t believe the vast majority of climate scientists think this. This is not my view. There is still much that needs to be undertaken to reduce uncertainties, not just for the future, but for the instrumental (and especially the palaeoclimatic) past as well.

    To me it’s a rather strange idea to imply consensus far beyond the area where such actually exists. Some would call this sort of argument misleading at best.

  117. Andy says:

    Marlowe (#112),
     
    I look at examples through history which required a large shift in the mindset of the populace in order to achieve the policy goal.  In most of these cases creeping normalcy, incrementalism, two-steps-forward-one-step-back and continuous chipping away at the moral and intellectual foundations of the opposition eventually won the day.
    If, for example, you can show that other GHG reductions are not only achievable, but also come with side benefits and are not nearly as bad as the opposition claims, then it becomes easier to argue that co2 reduction is not only reasonable but beneficial.  Combine that will better science that reduces uncertainties and hopefully better estimates of future effects and it may be enough to get some traction.
    There is also political reality.  Co2 reduction policy isn’t going to be viable for several years barring some climate catastrophe.  Consider, for example, comprehensive health care reform.  The failure early in Clinton’s term poisoned the well for over a decade.  The problem didn’t go away, but there wasn’t any political capital to try for another round of comprehensive reform for quite a while.  That’s actually pretty common following major policy failures. In the meantime, there were incremental changes in the health care system and smaller efforts, some of which succeeded.  CO2 reduction policy is in a similar state as health reform in mid-1990’s IMO.  The opportunity to try again for some kind of comprehensive carbon legislation is probably several years away.  What can be done in the meantime?  The suggestion here is to work in some of these other areas.
    None of this is to suggest that success is assured or even that such intermediary steps won’t be difficult, tough fights.  They will be.  Failure is an option. The question is, again, what’s the alternative to this kind of strategy?  Policymaking is often about choosing the best out of a series of bad, sub-optimal proposals.  If not this approach, then what?  I’m not seeing any other alternatives beyond more of the same thing that’s failed time and again.
     
    To be honest, I don’t hold much hope that it will work, but then I’m a cynic.  My sense is that in a few decades we’ll find out if which models were right. Even if something can be done in the US there is still China, India and the rest of the developing world to consider.  Not very hopeful on that front I’m afraid.
     
    tb (#113),
     
    Paul can speak for himself, but I interpret the quoted portion as mainly about marketing.  In other words, at least for now, the best way to get climate-friendly policies enacted is to sell them as primarily something other than climate policy.  That’s just good tactics, IMO, and is done all the time in politics.
     

  118. TimG says:

    #98 Dean

    People make sacrifices that benefit themselves or their immediate family. They do not generally make sacrifices in the name of intangible benefits 100 years from now. Action on CO2 has always been and will always be a question of cost. If most people see the cost as too high the policies will be rejected and and no amount of moralizing on climate change is going to change it.

    The proposed cap and trade policies are NOT a market based solution by any stretch of the imagination. To be market based there would have to hard caps on everyone (including China et. al.), no give aways and no allowance for ‘carbon credits’ for hypothetical emission reductions (i.e. credits only go to organizations that actually reduce emissions).

    Efficiency gains are also an illusion. In many cases the cost of the capital far exceeds and monetary savings. This is especially true if ongoing maintenace is required. The cases where monetary savings do exist are too few to make any difference to the over all emission picture.

    The entire concept of a “green” job is a scam. If a job depends on taxpayer subsidies then more than one job will be lost by collecting the taxes to pay that subsidy. Even if politicians fool people in the short term with promises of  phoney ‘green’ jobs the public will eventually figure out that it was a scam and withdraw support.

  119. TimG says:

    #98 Dean

    What this all means is there one and one way to address the emission issue: find sources of energy that do not emit CO2 and are as cheap and as convience as fossil fuels. Once we have have viable alternatives the market will ensure a rapid transition. The will be no significant progress in global emission reductions until we have these sources.

  120. Shub says:

    You know Bart, the lover of medical analogies:

    There are many instances when patients cock a snook at scientific medical practice and head over to the nearest alternative shaman, especially for fancy nuisance diseases which really do not do much harm. Apparently in today’s world, it has to be tolerated in the name of ‘complementary medicine’ and understood as patients’ choice. Certainly physicians and surgeons do not get all angry and hopping mad, just because some of their patients go shopping. Because it <i>is</i> their patients’ choice.

    Why cannot the climate policy establishment tolerate or understand that their target population wants to shop around for expertise and listen to mavericks, especially considering the problem that is being sought to be solved is a glamor nuisance called global warming? If the threat were real (we can debate on really real vs palpably real vs pseudo real), the population will automatically come around the right advice.

  121. PDA says:

    there one and one way to address the emission issue: find sources of energy that do not emit CO2 and are as cheap and as convience as fossil fuels.
     
    This is the Pixie Dust/Underwear Gnome Business Plan:

    Step 1: Pixie Dust
    Step 2: ?
    Step 3: Cheap, convenient, carbon-free energy!

     
    I don’t actually doubt that a deus ex machina like this is pretty much the only way any significant reduction in carbon is going to happen, but it’s not a “plan” or strategy in any real sense of the world.

  122. Paul Kelly says:

    thingsbreak,
    To clarify, do you object to the other things first approach in and of itself, or only to my personal reason for thinking it’s a good strategy?
     

  123. Sashka says:

    @TimG (120)

    Not only the question of cost but also of benefit. Noone doubts the ability of big governments to incur astronomical costs. The benefits are very much in doubt.

  124. TimG says:

    #123 – PDA

    It is not a plan it is a goal. So far all of the talk has been about CO2 reduction targets and inventing complex games to create the illusion that these targets are met.

    Change the goal. Agree that the goal is emission free technology that is cheaper than fossil fuels and and something that will be adopted without government inducement.

    With this new goal one can create a new, more focused, plan that would have an infinitely better chance of success than then current obession with mandating CO2-reductions. 

  125. thingsbreak says:

    @Andy:
    In other words, at least for now, the best way to get climate-friendly policies enacted is to sell them as primarily something other than climate policy.  That’s just good tactics, IMO, and is done all the time in politics.
     
    It’s already being done, and is probably already overboard in terms of what can actually be supported by the facts as is (e.g. “energy security”, “green jobs”, etc.).
     
    If there were no reason to limit CO2, then the carbon would find its way into the atmosphere one way or another, even if we bring methane, O3, CFCs, HFCs, BCs, etc. down through other regulation.
     
    To suggest that CO2 levels can be kept down without a market-based cap/price on carbon, unimaginable clean energy subsidies, or direct governmental regulation is a fairy tale. And one that a great many conservative and fossil interests are all too aware of. So you’re either going to have to confront the reality eventually or grossly mislead the public about the justifications for pushing other environmental regulations.
     
    And somehow I don’t think the public is going to be happy with the idea of another massive foreign policy entanglement based on false pretenses.
     
    The incredibly climate-conservative, market-based ACES and APA bills were marketed as “green jobs” and “energy independence” bills and were completely ravaged by fossil and conservative interests as “energy taxation” and “job killers”- this includes members of the Democratic party.

  126. PDA says:

    Agree that the goal is emission free technology that is cheaper than fossil fuels and and something that will be adopted without government inducement.
     
    Fine, a generator that runs on pixie dust, that’s the goal. Just leaving it up to economics, though, ignores the fact that there’s a development cycle to these things. Even if someone can prove that the pixie turbine is possible, how does it scale to a level where it can cost-effectively replace the fossil infrastructure before either the fuel runs out or we’re at 1000 ppm or both?

  127. TimG says:

    #127 thingsbreak

    The problem is there is never going to be an international agreement on a carbon tax or cap which does not have massive exclusions that render it useless. This means a carbon tax will always encourage industries to move to more favorable jurisdictions. The same will happen if high taxes are collected to pay for uneconomic energy sources or if regulations are too onerous.

    That is why the only plausible way forward is one that focuses on finding cheaper emission free alternatives that will be used willingly by the developing world.

  128. TimG says:

    #128 PDA

    Do you realize that you are completely underming all arguments for CO2 control?

    If, as you say, it is impossible to emission free energy sources that are cheaper than fossil fuels then there is absolutely no hope of reducing emissions because reducing emissions will require that people accept a greatly reduced standard of living. This will not happen.

    If CO2 is indeed a problem the adaptation is the only remotely viable option.

  129. willard says:

    Some other Pixie-dusty armwaving from the third, centrist side:
     
    http://www.ted.com/talks/william_ury.html

  130. PDA says:

    If, as you say, it is impossible to emission free energy sources that are cheaper than fossil fuels then there is absolutely no hope of reducing emissions
     
    Why must one follow from the other? It’s pixie power for the entire world or nothing?
     
    I wish I knew where this idea – that the only alternative to business as usual is a reversion to the Bronze Age – came from. What about an expansion of nuclear power combined with drastically improved emissions controls for the remaining legacy fossil power plants and an Apollo-scale push for energy efficiency? We’d still be in for at least 500 ppm by mid-century at least, but it’s better than business as usual. And no one would be shivering in the dark or dragging plows behind oxcarts.
     
    Is something like this politically feasible? I doubt it. But at least it’s achievable without recourse to magical deus ex machina solutions.

  131. John N-G says:

    Willard (#71): It’s a joke, son.  I agree with you.
    Paul (#91): “If doubling CO2 causes about a 1C rise by its radiative properties alone, does an actual sensitivity of 3C mean that other forcings and feedbacks account for 2/3 (or twice that of CO2) of the increase? Does the importance of other forcings and feedbacks increase if actual sensitivity is greater than 3C?
    Sorry, I was over at my day job, wherein I was busy telling my class that IMHO over half of the scientific findings you hear about in the news will turn out to be wrong.  Regarding your question, a sensitivity of 3C means that the feedbacks account for 2C of the warming.  Other forcings would be separate, and many of the same feedbacks would come into play for them.
    If the actual sensitivity is greater than 3C, the feedbacks are by definition more important, because they’re accounting for more than 2C of the warming.  Other forcings also become more important in an absolute sense (though not a proportional one), because they would trigger the enhanced feedbacks too.

  132. harrywr2 says:

    “Here’s what puzzles me: if this could be done so “easily and quickly,” then why isn’t it happening? What’s standing in the way?”
     
    If one owns a coal fired electricity plant that may become uneconomic to run if a carbon tax were to be invoked you will be unwilling to add soot scrubbers if all you are going to get is a 1 or 2 year extension on the economic life of your coal fired plant.
    No one in the electric utility industry is opposed to cap and trade/soot scrubbers or whatever as long as they have adequate planning notice.
     
     
     
     
     

  133. laursaurus says:

    Thanks for the link, Willard!
    I realize you were rolling your eyes at the Pollyanna attitude. But it was nice for me to listen to something upbeat  I am going to go watch from the balcony, since my earlier optimistic post went over like a lead balloon.
    Most blogs are very polarized. Thanks for trying to get people to come together to discuss solutions, Keith.

  134. Dean says:

    I saw Lomborg say on TV essentially the same thing as TimG does: make solar energy cheaper than fossil fuels, and your problem is gone.
     
    Problem is I don’t think so. If all we do is make solar cheaper, then most new energy infrastructure will be solar, but I doubt it would lead to replacing existing infrastructure that has not reached its lifespan, which is something we need to do. Thousands of coal plants are going on line now, and they are going to last a long time.
     
    The other problem is that I don’t really see a plausible plan for convincing/paying for closing those coal plants, so I’m all for making solar cheap. I just don’t think that doing so will solve the problem.
     
    The plan also ignores the externalities of fossil fuels that are motivating the change in the first place. Ignoring these externalities – which this “low hanging fruit” plan does, makes it much harder for replacements to be cheaper.
     
    And here’s an important addendum: if the T sensitivity for greenhouse gas forcing is at the low end of the IPCC range, or even lower, the political result is even less motivation to do anything. Low sensitivity only saves us if we take advantage of the extra time it gives us. If all it does is let us keep our heads in the sand longer, the problem is just as bad if not worse, though for later generations.

  135. TimG says:

    #132 – PDA

    “I wish I knew where this idea ““ that the only alternative to business as usual is a reversion to the Bronze Age ““ came from”

    Basic economics. Humans have a basic needs for food and shelter that must be met before there can be any wealth as we understand it. If the cost of meeting these basic human needs goes up then the collective wealth must go down. Energy is our basic need today. If energy costs go up because we are forced to use non-emitting technology then we get poorer.

    The only exception to the rule is if technology can be found that offsets those increases costs but that would be a “pixie dust” solution according to you. Even if it was possible there is a real risk that it would not happen fast enough do avoid the drop in standard of living if the price of energy increases too rapidly.

    The only difference between a market driven energy price increase (i.e. peak oil) and a regulation driven one is voters will repeal the regulations once they realize the consequences. Hence my comment that CO2 reductions will not happen without cheap alternatives.

     

  136. If the pixie dust solution exists, and I hope it does, the most effective way to find it is with a price on carbon, not with a government make-work program.
     
    Public research is fine; I’m all in favor of it, obviously. But if it’s toward a commercial development/deployment goal, it’s far more efficient to also set up the reward for the end product than to just reward long-shot efforts through funding agencies. That is what the price on carbon does nicely, along with not marching us off a cliff in the event that the pixie dust just does not exist.
     
    After all, the present price of carbon simply hides the externalities. The “no price on carbon” folk really are saying “continue subsidizing carbon and throw a few cents at some long shot cures”. This is what I mean by mortgaging the house to buy lottery tickets.
     
    I mean, it’s amazing that we are even discussing it. Are we really as confused as that? I find this all so nearly unbelievable that I am half expecting to wake up in a sweat from the bizarre nightmare. That it’s all a bad dream seems more likely than that we will come up with “cheap” alternatives.  You see, the alternatives are already cheaper, see? That is the whole point. We are just pretending that they aren’t with hidden subsidies on the stuff that is killing us. How this gets turned upside-down so effectively is unbelievable.
     

  137. dp says:

    TimG i’m seeing a trend that you don’t think there’re downside costs along the business-as-usual path — resource shortages, food supply problems, etc — that also drive down wealth, and that maybe those of us who want to curb our consumption are trying to avoid, because we think they’re bigger and more volatile.

  138. PDA says:

    If energy costs go up because we are forced to use non-emitting technology then we get poorer.
     
    cost of power per kWh in Germany:  €0.204 (about $0.26)
    cost of power per kWh in New England: $0.166
    cost of a gallon of unleaded in Germany: €5.37 (about $7)
    cost of a gallon of unleaded in Boston: $2.90

    Total Personal Average Income in Germany: 24,337 (PPP)
    Total Personal Average Income in the US: 23,484 (PPP)

  139. TimG says:

    #139 dp

    Any problems with resource shortages and food supply will be exacerbated by an anti-CO2 policy which makes energy more expensive. The main reason is it is a lot easier to find substitutes for a resource like oil if you are not denying yourself access to resources like coal and gas which are still plentiful.

  140. TimG says:

    #149 PDA

    Last I checked the EU CO2 emissions, when measured by consumption, are 20% higher than 1990 levels because they have offset the higher energy costs with imports from countries with the cheaper energy.

    What kind of standard of living would the Eurpeans have if they tried to replace the cheap imports from China with goods made in Europe?
     

  141. PDA says:

    Way to try and change the subject.
    Stay on topic: why is Germany, with energy costs more than double those of the US, not twice as poor?

  142. TimG says:

    #143 – PDA

    Because a single country is not a closed system. Countries are specialize like people specialize. The higher energy prices Europe forced Europeans to focus on industries that could survive the higher energy prices. But that was only an option because they could buy goods and resources from countries that still had lower energy prices. On top of that you have massive government deficits which artificially inflate the standard of living until the bills come due. Greece and Ireland are facing massive drops in standard of living for exactly that reason.

    Lastly, you are using a strawman. I said the standard of living goes down if energy prices go up. That does not imply that a doubling of a energy prices would half GDP per capita. It is simply an inverse relationship.

  143. Howard says:

    PDA:
    Because Germany is not half full of toofless tea-baggers, poor farm laborers and no-account urban ghettoites?  In addition to supplying the world food and technology, we have defended Germany and the West for the past 65-years and saved eastern Europe from Soviet domination.  We did this while going to the moon, cleaning up our rivers and air, deploying computer/internet technology infrastructure and perfecting the microbrewery.
    Wiki says the average of California (about same size as Germany) is $38,956.  OK.  I’m done matching your idiotic point with more random facts to support my preconceived notions.
    Other than that, I like your suggestion for more nukes and an energy efficiency “Apollo” project.

  144. dp says:

    TimG, thank you for playing, there’s a nice parting gift.

  145. PDA says:

    I said the standard of living goes down if energy prices go up.
     
    No, you didn’t. This is not a barroom where you can claim you said something different than what you actually said. Scroll up and look where what you wrote was “If energy costs go up because we are forced to use non-emitting technology then we get poorer.” By your own acknowledgments since that blanket statement, I think you can see now that it’s not that simple.
     
    And yes, as energy prices rose, Germany chose to move from the energy-intensive industries of aircraft and automobile manufacturing, electronics and office equipment to… aircraft and automobile manufacturing, electronics and office equipment. Nice try.

  146. TimG says:

    #146 dp,

    Gee. Does that mean you are one of those deluded people that actually believe that everything will be fine if the developing world can freely emit while the developed world strangles itself with CO2 restrictions?

  147. Howard says:

    Bart:
    Nice try.  I understand you are just a kid living la vida academia in the inbred sewer of Europe where most of the non-consensus folks with huevos migrated to Africa and the States (that’s a tit for tat ad hom).  If you think I got my ideas from Sir Monkeytoon, the Lord of Bleechly (Oh $hit, an ad hom you might like), then you are just another koolade drinking fool (that’s a reference to another, yet smaller scale, apocalyptic cult from the 1970’s).
    I am still waiting to hear that the physics of forcing feedbacks, natural variation and ocean cycles have been quantified and can qualitatively explain the past and present.  Your response is just another disappointing dodge, like MT’s pathetic “killing us” ululation.  Send me the links, please.  If you want my money, you need to give up the goods!
    Instead, take your medicine and shut up is the CAGWCCCD mantra.
    I’ll take maverick medicine any day.  In fact, I wagered my life and health on an experimental hip surgery 10-years ago that now allows me to run and jump and be a field geologist.  The medical consensus is still fighting this procedure (resurfacing versus THR).
    Bart, do you also believe the consensus on cholesterol and the statin cure?  Not me, no way am I going to take a liver destroying pill to move some arbitrary number down into the “green”.
    Bart, are you depressed or feeling a bit down lately?  Nothing major, but perhaps the prospect of tropical flowers growing in Oosterhout is too much to handle.  The medical consensus has a mountain of pills to take the edge off.  Not a total mind-f__k, just gentle relaxation.  Thinking of having a family?  No problem!  When your little boy gets too active and you can’t quite handle all of his exuberant energy and curiosity because you are out of Xanadu and you have already maxed out Zoolift, don’t dispair!  Medical and educational consensus will force Ritalin down his throat to quiet little Hans and make him more easily comply (drool-bucket not included).
    Below is a great article on the current state of medical consensus and the gaming of peer review literature:
    http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2010/11/lies-damned-lies-and-medical-science/8269/
     
     

  148. TimG says:

    #147 – PDA

    My blanket statement applied to a closed system – which means the entire world economy. Raise the price of energy everywhere in the world and yes – our standard of living will go down unless a compensating technology is found.

    That context should have been obvious. I suspect you deliberately misinterpreted it.

  149. TimG says:

    #158 Michael Tobis,

    To be clear: I recognize that taxes are necessary and some taxes are better than others. I don’t oppose a modest carbon tax if was revenue neutral and structured in way to deal with geographical unfairness (i.e. deal with the fact that people who live in areas using coal are going to get clobbered for no fault of their own).

    That said, everything I have read suggests it would a very high carbon tax (7/gal) to achieve any significant change in behavior that leads to emission reductions.

  150. PDA says:

    I don’t see any support for the idea, regardless of context. Germany and Japan, with their absurdly high energy costs, are exporting countries, not importers, with massive, energy-intensive manufacturing sectors. You haven’t shown how they’ve offset the supposed standard-of-living-killing effect of high energy costs.
     
    It just seems like you’re content to mouth this rhetoric you’ve absorbed from somewhere. Which is fine, but don’t accuse me of misinterpreting it.

  151. Tim G, however high the surcharge needs to be to drive net carbon emissions to zero or less within 50 years is how high it needs to be. (There should be a reward for sequestration as well.) If there is pixie dust out there, that surcharge will be relatively low. If not, not.
     
    it is a lot easier to find substitutes for a resource like oil if you are not denying yourself access to resources like coal and gas which are still plentiful.
     
    Yes, that is a key part of the problem. If we make the obvious shift as you suggest, it appears that we damage the planet enough so that it is difficult to see how civilization will survive, never mind freedom. The value of the planet vastly exceeds the value of the comfort of the current generation.
     
    I am not arguing there are no costs to acting. I believe that you and others greatly underestimate the costs of not acting. Acting sensibly requires, among other things, eschewing the easy transition of coal-to-liquid, gas-to-liquid, tar sands, and other high-emissions transitions in the transportation sector. We do not appear to have enough sense to do this right.
     

  152. TimG says:

    #152 – PDA

    You cannot support your argument by using examples of countries that are totally dependent on trade with other countries because it is these trade flows that compensate for the increase energy costs. 

    Why don’t you answer my question: how rich would the Germans and Japanese be if everything they consumed what produced in a high energy cost country and all of their customers were high energy cost countries?

    If you really understand economics you would have to acknowledge that they would be a lot poorer. It is simply irrational to claim that global energy costs and global standard of living can go up at the same time unless there are new technologies that can compensate for those increases.

  153. TimG says:

    #153 Michael Tobis,

    The majority of people simply do not share your pessimism. That is why every study that asks people how much they would pay to deal the CO2 threats finds that support for action disappears as soon as the cost rises about $25/month.

    There is also no chance of that changing any time soon. This suggestions that CO2 migitation is a dead end policy and that if the problem is as bad as you say we need different options.

  154. Keith Kloor says:

    Howard (149):

    Moderate your tone and language, or I’ll have to do it for you.

  155. “The majority of people simply do not share your pessimism”
     
    Yes this is true. They are dangerously ill-informed and wrong.
     
    Which is why (no matter what Matt Nesbitt or Randy Olson says) those of us who have some depth in the subject matter have to keep trying to explain matters more effectively.
     
    There is no chance of a sensible policy being politically viable right now. A huge stake rides on this pervasive confusion being reversed somehow. Small positive steps in the meanwhile are better than nothing, but not much better.
     

  156. Howard,

    I fail to see ad hom’s in my comment, to which you replied with a bucket full of venom.

  157. Shub says:

    Maybe it was the fact that you put skeptics in “” and that cartoon you linked to. What is sensible in medicine is much less widely accepted than you like us to believe.
     
    You know the story of the young woman who was heart-broken when her child died. She went to the Buddha and lamented that she should be struck by a tragedy so unique and cruel, asking him to bring her child back to life. The Buddha told her to collect a grain of cereal from every house in town that could tell her their household was happy, free from disease, death or sadness, and come back when she had a handful. She came back emptyhanded.
     
    I like how the climate problem is all similar to health and disease where a good majority of the population knows and understands the benefits of scientific modern medicine, and, at the same time, a problem so unique (mt) that nobody can understand it.
     
    (By the way, Lord ‘Toon of Bleechy asks: why is peer-review in the rest of the sciences in the reviewers’ hands, whereas the review process is in the authors hands in the climate science IPCC?)

  158. willard says:

    Shub,
     
    You’re right: tax-payers are free to get their advice from “complementary” climate-science.  As long as we agree that it’s complementary to real climate science and that its main function is to solace consumers from the lack of benefit they perceive from real climate science.
     
    There are two problems with the climate-medecine analogy.  The problem with dumping CO2 into the atmosphere does not lead to decisions belonging to the personal realm of liberties.  The solutions to dumping CO2 into to atmostphere belong outside the realm of scientific practice, at least as we know it.

  159. Sashka says:

    @Tobis (138)

    No matter how often you repeat “sugar” it doesn’t make it any sweeter.

    No matter how often your repeat “cliff”…

  160. Sashka says:

    @ Tobis (154)

    What is the source of these magic numbers 50 years and zero emissions? You seem to be getting further into the field of strange pronouncements.

  161. Sashka, 50 years is an informed approximation largely based on infrastructure roll-over times. Zero is much less of an approximation; the CO2 perturbation, after all, is largely cumulative.
     
    The conclusion to the Copenhagen Diagnosis is a good source document to begin to understand the crucial constraints. See especially figure 22 on p 51 and the discussion on pp 50-51 and references therein.
     

  162. Sashka says:

    I just love your condescending tone. A scientist deigned to talk to a commoner. Much obliged. How about you “begin to understand” that IPCC projections don’t constitute a proof?

    The relevant  known facts are:

    – we have observed about 0.8 degree warming over last 150 years
    – that was when we started CO2 emissions
    – it was also the time when LIA ended
    – we don’t know how much of the observed warming is attributable to CO2
    – lacking feedbacks, the doubling of CO2 will cause about 1 degree warming
    – the magnitude of feedbacks is highly uncertain
    – the models that IPCC is using for projections are not validated, not even able to reproduce the current climate

    Now, please tell me in your own words: why we should aim at zero emissions in 50 years vs. (for example) half of current emissions in 100 years. What would be the difference for the humanity in temperature terms and in economic terms?

    Fig. 22 tells us that  the lower the rate of reduction the later the CO2 concentration will peak out and the higher the value will be. Of course. So what? Suppose it will peak of at 3 times original CO2 in 2200. Where is the cliff?
     

  163. LCarey says:

    Q:  “Fig. 22 tells us that  the lower the rate of reduction the later the CO2 concentration will peak out and the higher the value will be. Of course. So what? Suppose it will peak of at 3 times original CO2 in 2200. Where is the cliff?”
    A:  http://trillionthtonne.org/
     

  164. Sashka says:

    @LCarey

    The standards of civility maintained by KK don’t allow me to adequately express my opinion of this web site.

    To give you just one clue, the life time of CO2 in the atmosphere is estimated as 100 years (not indefinite as they claim) by most ardent anti-CO2 scientists.

  165. isaacschumann says:

    MT,
    Given Bart’s very relevant point about scientific consensus, and also given my own inability to judge the quality of the scientific work for myself, why should I treat the Copenhagen diagnosis as the best possible estimation of future climate change?
     
    It is my understanding that it was written by a small number of scientists (two dozen or so) who felt the IPCC was being too conservative in its estimates. I am not saying that I disregard the conclusions of the CD, but that I await their acceptance (or not)  by the wider climate science community in the form of the next IPCC report.

  166. willard says:

    > [T]he life time of CO2 in the atmosphere is estimated as 100 years (not indefinite as they claim) by most ardent anti-CO2 scientists.
     
    Here’s the relevant sentence from the site:
     
    > A certain fraction of the carbon dioxide we release accumulates in the atmosphere, in effect, indefinitely because of the way it interacts with ocean chemistry. So it is the total amount that we emit that matters in the long term, not the rate we emit it in any given year or the average rate of emission over a limited period.
     
    Source: http://trillionthtonne.org/questions.html
     
    ***
     
    Sashka has not cited the source of the “facts” in #165.
     
    Sashka has not said why these “facts” are relevant to the discussion, nor how they constitue a “proof” of anything.

  167. Sashka’s points:
    – we have observed about 0.8 degree warming over last 150 years
    agreed
    – that was when we started CO2 emissions
    likely, if you don’t buy Ruddiman’s arguments, which in fact I don’t
    – it was also the time when LIA ended
    redundant at best; the 8 kA prior to ca. 1850 is best characterized as an unusually stable interval in an unusually volatile epoch
    – we don’t know how much of the observed warming is attributable to CO2
    Probably the proportion attributable to greenhouse gases exceeds 100%, and is masked by aerosols. It is the aerosol component that is underconstrained.
    – lacking feedbacks, the doubling of CO2 will cause about 1 degree warmingagreed, but this is an artificial construct. Once you throw in the well-established Clausius-Clapeyron feedback you are most of the way to 2 C, which is really where this sort of argument should start
    – the magnitude of feedbacks is highly uncertain
    There are many constraints indicating that the low end sensitivity that we might wish for are excluded
    – the models that IPCC is using for projections are not validated, not even able to reproduce the current climate
    My opinion is that, to the contrary, they are a bit overtuned and reproduce the current climate too well. Consequently they are likely to understate the sensitivity.


    I don’t see why these particular points should be considered especially important. For instance, there is the fact that CO2 can be increased by temperature; this fact is often used by skeptics as a point of reassurance but it is the opposite. It constitutes a very plausible exacerbating feedback outside the realm of current modeling efforts.

    Now, please tell me in your own words: why we should aim at zero emissions in 50 years vs. (for example) half of current emissions in 100 years. What would be the difference for the humanity in temperature terms and in economic terms?
    Of course, it is a long way from these WG I questions which we can state with precision to a policy constraint. The primary impacts are 1) meteorological 2) chemical oceanographic 3) glaciological and 4) biogeochemical. A great deal can be said about each of these; #2 is almost entirely independent of climatology. The human consequences follow, and the impacts follow from there.


    There is a plethora of stresses; at which point they combine to reverse human progress is unclear. Given that the anticipated changes are in some ways very large in comparison to natural rates of change, we are entering a range in which we may well find out.


    In my opinion last summer’s disasters in Russia and Pakistan are likely to be remembered as the beginning of the age of consequences and the harbinger of decline.


    The reason to act to limit ourselves to the lowest feasible total emission trajectory is simple: that is already entering a regime of great risk. The longer we procrastinate and the weaker the response, the greater the threat to civilization, to human dignity, and even, eventually, to survival.

  168. Howard says:

    Keith: Sorry
     
    Bart:
     
    Sorry for the rant.  I got the definite impression you were disguising your ad hom arguments using a passive aggressive approach by proxy.  You imply, via a link, that I get my ideas from Monkton and it is equal to believing in crystal healing.   I find sugar coated venom delivered at arms length particularly offensive.  I of course don’t believe the slagging about your fine country and you personally.  That was just a knee-jerk response to your tactic of having others throw rocks for you.
     
    Cheers
     

  169. Sashka says:

    @ willard

    If you know nothing then you can imply from MT’s responses that my “facts” are actually facts. If you don’t see the logic then  I don’t think I can help.

    @ Tobis

    Delighted that you agree on Ruddiman. That was least expected.

    WRT models:

    My opinion is that, to the contrary, they are a bit overtuned and reproduce the current climate too well. Consequently they are likely to understate the sensitivity.

    Let just quote Trenberth for you. I hope that’ll be enough.

    None of the models used by IPCC are initialized to the observed state and none of the climate states in the models correspond even remotely to the current observed climate. In particular, the state of the oceans, sea ice, and soil moisture has no relationship to the observed state at any recent time in any of the IPCC models

    From http://blogs.nature.com/climatefeedback/2007/06/predictions_of_climate.html

    However, even if you were correct I don’t follow the logic of “consequently”. BTW, I don’t disagree that they are overtuned.

    The points that I made are significant because essentially nothing can be added to these to validate any particular CO2 reduction target.

    In my opinion last summer’s disasters in Russia and Pakistan are likely to be remembered as the beginning of the age of consequences and the harbinger of decline.

    Well, your ex-boss Ray made similar comment 5 years ago about hurricanes. When I challenged him to state what would make him change his mind he declined. Same question to you.

    The reason to act to limit ourselves to the lowest feasible total emission trajectory is simple: that is already entering a regime of great risk.

    What is the scientific (as opposed to quoting IPCC) basis of the statement re “great risk”? BTW, define feasible and maybe we can have a conversation.

  170. Sashka,
     
    You misunderstand Trenberth so severely that I wonder if it isn’t deliberate. He is making the classic distinction between weather-mode and climate-mode modeling. Others have called it initial value vs boundary condition stochastic modeling but I find that misleading. I prefer to distinguish between dynamical and statistical predictions.
     
    The instantaneous state of the model is not intended as an instantaneous prediction of the state of the world.
     
    Rather it is intended as a member of a representative ensemble. We can argue about the extent to which this succeeds. I think it is very successful for some purposes and quite unsuccessful for others.
     
    But the distance between model output statistics and observed statistics is small and shrinking on the obvious metrics of seasonally averaged temperature and wind fields and their variances.
     
    The models are clustered together more in the present and the recent past than in the future. This is a measure of the extent to which they are overtuned.  The much trumpeted match to 20th century trends would be more convincing if the models tracked comparably on 21st century trends.
     
    As for your other questions they are big ones and I will add them to the list of big questions I hope to take up.
     
    I will say this much for now. By “feasible”,  I mean specifically a strategy such that the risk that the cure is worse than the disease remains small and bounded.
     
    I wish I knew how to address this in detail. I believe conventional economic theory is not well-suited to the task. But therein lies the main quantitative uncertainty and the realistic, reasonable grounds for informed debate. The lack of clarity on what a cost is and what a benefit is on multi-century time scales thoroughly dominates the problem. By comparison the climatological risk spectrum is quite well-specified, in my opinion.
     

  171. Isaac Schumann; it is interesting that you take the position that nothing is relevant other than IPCC. I think we’d be better off if others did.
     
    But there is nothing novel or outside consensus in the conclusion of the Copenhagen Diagnosis. One could make a similar case from IPCC figures. The figure of interest is really a small perturbation on an undergrad integration problem.
     
    To first order, it is the total amount of carbon emitted that matters, and the more carbon that stays in the ground, the smaller the damage and the smaller the risk. (This is not true of most other human forcings, which are mostly flushed out of the system on a much shorter time scale. In those cases, emission rates rather than total emissions integrated over time are what matters.)
     

  172. Sashka says:

    Michael,

    I understand Trenberth perfectly well.

    Whatever the spin-up procedure is chosen, it should lead to a reasonable representation of the observed reality (in your words: “it is intended as a member of a representative ensemble”), otherwise the model immediately qualifies as junk.

    We can argue about the extent to which this succeeds.

    We can but I don’t think we should because Trenberth says very explicitly that it fails miserably.

    But the distance between model output statistics and observed statistics is small and shrinking

    Not according to Trenberth.

    The much trumpeted match to 20th century trends would be more convincing if the models tracked comparably on 21st century trends.

    That’s what I was saying on RC until they banned me. Not that I really need a confirmation of the obvious but I still appreciate an honest answer.

    By “feasible”,  I mean specifically a strategy such that the risk that the cure is worse than the disease remains small and bounded.

    Great stuff. You could have been a lawyer 🙂

  173. Hank Roberts says:

    This –particularly the high cost of delay– has been covered in far fewer words and clearly in the Copenhagen Diagnosis paper, see p.  53 and fig.22.
    Those who haven’t read it would save themselves much time by doing so.

    http://download.copenhagendiagnosis.org

  174. Sashka says:

    @ Hank

    Exactly – in words. If this were a brevity contest I could cover this whole document in just one word.
     

  175. isaacschumann says:

    MT,
    I did not say that nothing is relevant except the IPCC,  please do not put words in my mouth.  At the time I interpreted your comment as giving a skeptical person a good starting place to understand climate science and thought it odd to start with the CD, I always refer people to the IPCC as it is (should be) the least controversial.
     
    Your description of the CD as being in line with the IPCC is at odds with my limited knowledge of it. I understood it as a group of (mostly) IPCC authors who felt the IPCC was too conservative. I would consider it a minority opinion (not irrelevant). If not, than what was the point of writing it? I, as a lowly lab tech, cannot judge for myself the quality of scientific work on climate (nor can pretty much 99% of people) for which I have no training or background, so I defer to what lots of scientists agree on, and yes, it would be nice if others did too.
     
    IMO, your apparent conferring of IPCC level scientific authority on something like the Copenhagen diagnosis leads to the impression of bias which has been so damaging for climate science and the role of scientific consensus in general.
     
     

  176. willard says:

    Here are again what Sashka considers “facts” in #165, which interestingly MT has called “points” (let’s wonder why):

    > we have observed about 0.8 degree warming over last 150 years

    Looks like a fact. Notice some presentational choices: 0.8 degree over 150 years, not (e.g.) 800 milidegrees over 15 decades; emphasis on end points; no theory.

    > that was when we started CO2 emissions

    MT says that this is “likely”.  Now that’s an interesting twist: a fact that is likely.  “Snow is likely white”: does not ring right.  At the very least, we see that the **evaluation** of a fact is not always easy.

    > it was also the time when LIA ended

    MT says this is “redundant at best”: Sashka present a fact that could be “redundant at best”: could that mean that Sashka’s facts must be subjected to an **interpretation**?  Also note MT’s alternative **characterization** of 1850: “an unusually stable interval in an unusually volatile epoch”.  Note that MT consider his characterization “better”.

    > we don’t know how much of the observed warming is attributable to CO2

    Compare this “negative fact” with MT’s version: “Probably the proportion attributable to greenhouse gases exceeds 100%, and is masked by aerosols. It is the aerosol component that is underconstrained.”

    > lacking feedbacks, the doubling of CO2 will cause about 1 degree warming

    Why not include feedbacks: does that means that climate physics makes more sense if we don’t include them?  This is what suggests the presentation of this “fact”, a “construct” that MT finds “artificial”.  A fact that is an “artificial construct”, now that’s interesting.

    > the magnitude of feedbacks is highly uncertain

    Some interesting concepts in this “fact”: “magnitude”, “highly”, “uncertain”.

    > the models that IPCC is using for projections are not validated, not even able to reproduce the current climate

    This last “fact” seems to get to the heart of the matter: Sashka remains very skeptikal of the IPCC models.  They are said not to be validated: **validation** seems to be a “factual” matter, whereas I thought validation was more complicated than that.  Models do not (even!) reproduce current climate…  What is suggested here is that reproduction is what models are for.  Seems plausible: if we can model the structure of a bridge, why not the climate!  This **criteria** is even considered as lesser beast than **validation**.

    It would be interesting to know how factual is that last “fact”.  It would be interesting to know if this list of fact counts as a “proof” of the same kind Sashka’s asking from the science.  It would be interesting to know which of these facts are entrenched in genuine science, and which one in some idiosyncratic disbeliefs.

  177. Sashka says:

    willard
    I’m sure you can write  essays challenging any notion that depends on the meaning of “is”. I am happy to leave you practicing this craft alone b/c I’m not interested in bovine excrements. If you want to talk to me about science (which is ostensibly the goal of your posting) try to learn something and make sense.

  178. willard says:

    Beside lacking elementary reading skills (#166, #169 and passim, e.g. seemingly Caldeira in another thread) and overinterpreting scientific opinions (#173), Sashka has still to show us what he takes for granted about models, for instance what Sashka means when talking about validation and reproduction.  And since Sashka seems interested into belief probing, Sashka could clearly state on what scientific grounds Sashka’s comments keep humming over and over again the monotonous “it’s all about models and all models are garbage” ringtone.

  179. Sashka says:

    A concrete question deserves a concrete answer. I take nothing for granted. Everything is subject to scrutiny and doubt. Regarding validation and reproduction you can try Google first.

  180. Isaac, it is a matter of emphasis. The closing figure of the Copenhagen Diagnosis shows the set of emissions trajectories likely to yield a result that is at the edge of what is considered “dangerous”. The choice of the “danger” threshhold is not part of IPCC and should not be, because it is explicitly a policy question. But the rest of the picture is not controversial within the consensus.
     
    If one picks less stringent thresholds, the curves shift in the obvious ways; if we start now attaining the weaker threshold is relatively easy, while if we delay even the weaker thresholds become harder to reach.
     
    A qualitiative understanding of this picture is the first step. If you’d like to discuss its merits that’s another matter. I assure you that people with a realistic grasp of the situation did understand this information even before seeing these curves. This is exactly why we needed to start taking action in 1997, not in 2027.
     
    But to answer your question, the fact that the graph is not actually in IPCC does not make it outside the scientific consensus. Only the explicit choice of a target is outside IPCC AR 4 territory.
     
    This is, then, not a matter of people who felt IPCC was “too conservative” in its estimates. (I strongly question this use of the word ‘conservative’, by the way.) It is a matter of people who felt IPCC was not clear enough in stating the realistic policy consequences of the science.
     

  181. isaacschumann says:

    MT,
     
    Thanks for the reply, I had misunderstood the document. Great post on the wikileaks release by the way, my feelings are similarly conflicted.

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