How to End the Climate Wars

A leading scientist whose work intersects with climate science charts a pragmatic path forward. Here’s an excerpt from my Q & A with Jonathan Foley:

I’m not interested in getting in the middle of the long-running war between climate skeptics and climate activists. I’m tired of the whole thing, and am looking for some pragmatic solutions instead. I’m a lot more interested in reaching across these old divides, rolling up our collective sleeves, and getting to work on issues that we can agree on. If others would rather shout and argue “” and waste more years and decades “” that’s their right.  But I would rather solve the problem. And I wish others would too.

Go have a read and weigh in.

28 Responses to “How to End the Climate Wars”

  1. Paul Kelly says:

    Wow, Foley says exactly what I’ve been saying for the last two years, even using some of the same words and phrases. So, I have to say the guy’s a genius.

  2. Ya know, if I didn’t know better, I’d think this was the first time the interviewer had ever explored the issue/strategy of focussing on other vectors like “national energy security”.
     
    Except that I’m purdy sure it’s been discussed on this very blog… at length… many times…
     
    You know, the part about how if the solution to “energy security” in isolation yields something that ultimately fails to address the carbon challenge… then what??? Ya know, drill drill drill, etc.
     
    I’ve got a lot of time for Jon, and I would have been interested in his answer – I’ll probably pose it to him directly. But what puzzles me is that you just flew right by this dilemma, never broached it, despite it having been articulated many, many times in the past. Just because we would PREFER solutions that everyone likes doesn’t mean that those solutions intersect the actual problem set…
     
    Wait. Strike that. Not puzzled at all. More like once again underwhelmed.

  3. jeffn says:

    Maybe it’s time to really focus on the battlefield in the war. There are only three parts of the AGW message that have truly “failed:”
    1- we need some sort of massive energy tax in the west (but only the west) – enough that it will dramatically move behavior.
    2 – No, no, no, the fastest growing – and, in fact, largest – sources of GHG emissions don’t need to be included in any “action.” When we said it was urgent and serious reductions in emissions needed to happen, we didn’t mean that urgent or that serious!
    3 – Wind and solar can power industrial economies reliably and cheaply and we must pay no attention to the game changing energy discoveries in the United States (other than to find any way to ban it, of course).
     
    Take away those three “issues” and you’re left focusing on actual action and the true obstacles to it. In short, if you want to reduce emissions, we’ll be using a lot more natural gas and nuclear- which is the same situation we’ve been in since 1992

  4. Ed Forbes says:

    “..JF: To me, addressing the problems of climate change and fixing our nation’s economy are both high priorities.  Does any serious person disagree?   Really?…”

    first you have to show that there IS a problem with “climate change”.

    As the MWP has been clearly shown to have been a world wide event, as warm or warmer than today, and not local as espoused by the Team, our modern temps are within normal variation.

    If you can not get past this, then I see no reason for compromise on my part for tax money to be wasted on “climate change”.
     
    I see the money spent on wind and solar in subsidies as worse than a complete waste as it sucks money from the economy that could be put to better use elsewhere. Just look at Spain and Great Britain for examples of the waste of tax money being transferred for no real gains.

  5. Tom Gray says:

    Perhaps the acceptance of the science and the changing of message to sell it by stealth is not such a good idea
     
    Canada has a national medical program called “Medicare” which is a single payer medical insurance program. The cost of this program has always been an issue and a whole school of health care economic advisors have grown up around it.
     
    These health care economists discovered the concept of “supplier induced demand” or SID. With SID, a supplier who has  more control or knowledge than a purchaser  can induce the purchaser to buy more than they need. So the idea was that doctors would recommend more examinations, tests and medications than the patient really needed to support their own income.
     
    SID naturally led to the idea that Medicare costs could be controlled by limiting the number of doctors. Doctors would take on more patients since they did not need the recommend the superfluous procedures, examinations etc that they were doing previously. Costs would be limited for the same degree of care. As a result, the number of positions in medical schools was severely limited in the early 90s along with the provision of Medicate licenses to graduating physicians.
     
    This was all supported by peer-reviewed articles in learned journals and attested to in recommendations to government by learned professors of economics.
     
    The result of these peer-reviewed recommendations  is not controled cost for Medicare but of a massive shortage of doctors. Out of a population of about 33 mullion about 5 million have no family doctor. Specialist appointments take months to arrange and then more months to wait. Even cancer patients are forced to wait for treatment.. If your family doctor retires then you cannot get a new one.
     
    So perhaps reliance of quick ideas from the peer-reviewed literature and recommendations from learned professors is  not so good after all. As demonstrated with the SID work in Canada, these ideas could just be all hogwash. When I hear the talk of problems in climate science and the solutions proposed by learned climate scientists, I always think of SID.
     
    Problems that look tame can be very complex and easy answers can be just that – easy.  Groups of learned professors can just be packs of fools blathering on about topics about which they know very little. Health care economists please take note and discuss this with your climate science colleagues.
     
    Perhaps the science of climate science is not yet ready to be the basis for world changing policies. Perhaps it ahs been tainted by too much consideration of its political effects already. Health care economists and their peer-reviewed recommendations caused great damage to the Canadian medical system. Perhaps we do not want to allow climate scieits the same free rein to do it to the world economy despite their peer-based approval of the intellectual brilliance  and rigor of their own ideas and techniques.

  6. Eli Rabett says:

    But I also think that much of the science “” as currently presented “” isn’t going to reach many people, especially those who have already decided that the science is wrong and that scientific messages should not be trusted. This is especially true after the whole Climategate  episode. There is a large echo chamber out there, where climate change is portrayed as a fantasy, and more science alone isn’t going to get through.
     
    Nuff said

  7. Paul Kelly says:

    Eli,
     
    The information deficit model is dead. Continuing to even wonder what science is reaching whom and what happens because of it is beyond passe. It is anti science.

  8. intrepid_wanders says:

    Unless the advocates on both sides can agree to discuss the issues both the Pielkes bring to the table in an “educated centrist” format, Jonathan is speaking nonsense.  Pielke Junior explores the nonsense of the ‘if you regulated it, innovations will come’ meme.  Tom Gray hit the nail on the head in the above comment of “Supplier Induced Demand”.  As long as the specter of SID is over any so called scientist, you will have “skeptics”.
     
    A cursory look at history will show abundant energy is the only way to go and regulation does not create abundance.  Putting the cart in front of the horse is ridiculous.

  9. steven mosher says:

    #6.
    My experience spending a  fair amount of time on places like WUWT and Climate etc and Lucia’s trying to make some people see that the core science is correct teaches me that there are some people who refuse to budge.
    I’ve tried a bunch of approaches. None works on the internet. I’ve tried
    A. citing authority
    B. explaining the science, citing the science
    C. appealing to engineering.
    D. appealing to lindzen,christy etc
    E. mocking
    F. doing analysis with open code and data.
    G. arguing that they can still be skeptical even if they accept some of AGW
    H. showing the contradictions in their positions.
     
    Some people won’t budge on ANYTHING, I’d say being on the internet means never having to admit you are wrong.
     
    In person, i’ve had more  success. Not much.
     
    the whole internet experience has devolved into the same old dance with different players. But we can’t ignore this medium.
    Here’s a thought. For climate science the best fields of play are fields were skeptics cant interact as quickly: I can think of a few. The internet, is a pure defensive play. there is no way to win on the internet. not to lose is the best one can hope for. Fight on other playing fields.

  10. Barry Woods says:

    9#

    If it were only about the science…

    It is not, it is about the  narrow policies thayt are championed because of the science, by the environmentalists . Wind farm and solar (current technologies ) are useless whether you believe in AGW, aGW or CAGW or NOT, yet to question them is to be a ‘deniar’.

    If Bjorn Lomborg’s view (for example) was listened to with respect, then most sceptics I know would realx, as some rational thinking would be evident.. ie China is held up as an example of green, by some environmentaluist, when it is anything but.

    If the ‘environment’ is such that AGW advocates like Monbiot and Lynas are attacked as ‘Chernobyl Death Deniars’ by their own ‘side’ then the ‘climate wars’ are just getting nastier and shriller, with more doom and destruction, and descriptions of people being ‘evil’ just for discussing the issues.

  11. I’d think that most everyone on the mainstream scientific side would agree with this. As I wrote 2 years ago: The real question is: How are we going to deal with this? 

    As Herman Daly noted: “If you jump out of an airplane you need a crude parachute more than an accurate altimeter.”

    The discussion should change from debating the specifics of the altimeter to discussing what kind of parachute(s) we may need.

  12. Dave H says:

    I’m going to ask this again because no-one gave me a sensible answer the last time this sort of thing came up.
    Who says “decarbonising” the economy is a common goal? Plain and simple, it isn’t, and you can’t justify that single claim without first establishing that emissions of CO2 *on their own* are worth stopping. Now, if you’re engaging with someone who doesn’t believe that, then you have no common ground on decarbonisation. Every other justification for elimination of CO2 can instead be met by alternative petroleum sources, fracked gas etc, and with the AGW justification *off* the table, there is no justification for urgency.
    The trouble also with pushing a centrist view is that what consitutes the “center” is so effectively manipulated. Not so long ago the IPCC position was pretty much the sensible middle ground on this issue. Now more extreme anti-AGW output and demonisation of the IPCC as radical and extremist has pulled the middle over to where ditherers and uncertainty promoters claim it as their own.
    So if you cede so much ground in your attempt to appear even-handed that ultimately you cannot propose solutions that offend people who don’t believe in AGW, and you cannot propose action on anything like the timescales and scope that would drastically cut CO2 emissions by 2050, then arguably the naysayers have already got everything they ever wanted without having to budge an inch.

  13. Tom Gray says:

    re 11
    ==============
    The discussion should change from debating the specifics of the altimeter to discussing what kind of parachute(s) we may need.
    =============

    Isn’t that waht Peilke Junior has been trying to do. And isn’t also the reason that Peilke Junior is villified by the climate science establishment

  14. Tom Gray says:

    re 9

    Mosher writes
    ===================
    My experience spending a fair amount of time on places like WUWT and Climate etc and Lucia’s trying to make some people see that the core science is correct teaches me that there are some people who refuse to budge.
    ==================

    I’ve read Mosher say this before and have asked him why it is important that the “core science” is “correct”. It is more important that the “core science” be useful than be “correct” in some unidentified and undefined way. Policy makers need useful science not some version of science which is “correct”.

    I’ve also asked Mosher several times what the currently accepted range in climate sensitivity is? How quickly is this range being narrowed. I’al add the additional question if this range of sensitivity is useful to policy makers and in what way.

    I expect that I will get the same answer from Mosher that I always get. That is “crickets”

    Mosher also comments on his ineffectiveness in his attempt to legitimize the “core science”. I think that his response to these questions is instructive in that regard.

  15. Tom Gray says:

    Peilke Junior now has a blog post in which he describe the contention by some that the required technology for AGW mitigation will arise spontaneously in response to regulation. Concomitant with that is the idea that regulation will be passed without the identification of adequate technology. The basic idea is the “core science” is “correct” then all that is needed is regulation and the required technology will appear.
    I wonder why some people are surprised that these contentions have triggered a political war. They wonder why some people who were previously sympathetic to AGW policy have turned against it with the current experience with AGW technology. After all the “core science” is “correct” and that is all that is required.

  16. Tom Gray says:

    assuming that the “core science” is “correct”, would it be possible to generate a lsit of “non-core science” items that have proven to be “incorrect”. This of course assumes that the truth values  “correct” and incorrect” have any useful meaning.

    Perhaps a genuine show of humility might make climate “core science” more credible

  17. Eli Rabett says:

    unfortunately for Roger Jr. regulations HAVE lead to innovation as any study of the clean air act, the Montreal protocols, etc has shown.  Not only is he clueless about politics, but his history is very weak.

  18. Eli Rabett says:

    and Paul that was a direct quote from Foley. Just checking if you were paying attention.  Go argue with him

  19. Tom Gray says:

    re 17
     
    E R writes
     
    ==========
    unfortunately for Roger Jr. regulations HAVE lead to innovation as any study of the clean air act, the Montreal protocols, etc has shown.  Not only is he clueless about politics, but his history is very weak.
    ==========

    Peilke Junior has a blog post open now in which he demonstrates with support from participants that the technology for replacing CFCs was present when the Montreal protocols were created and ratified by the US Senate

    Also why do you need to resort to personal insults about Peilke Junior. it only discredits your cause and point. Don’t you realize that this is one major reason why AGW advocates are held in such low esteem.

  20. Tom Gray says:

    re  17 and 19
     
    http://rogerpielkejr.blogspot.com/2011/04/technological-egg-and-regulatory.html
     
    Is the URL for the Peilke Junior blog post that indicates that technology came  before regulation in the Montreal protocols. participants  in these negotiations indicate that this was a necessary condition for success.

  21. steven mosher says:

    Sorry Tom.
    As a pragmatist I agree that useful is a better word than correct.
    I’m not so sure that narrowing the estimates of sensitivity is possible.
    Ray P had a nice little presentation at AGU on limiting the high end. I wasnt taking notes, but there wasnt much hope.
    I suggested something over at Lucia’s on looking at sensitivity.
    If you want the accepted ranges look at AR4. knutti also has an interesting paper/chart on it.
    Currently reading hansen’s paleo work. I’ve seen some interesting baysian work.
    So, you want the range check Ar4. Check the threads at lucia to see the many conversations we’ve had about it. You are welcome to join that discussion.
    There is an interesting question about how important it is to narrow the range. As Tom fuller once argued people like him and me have no problem accepting something ( say 3C per doubling) and then fleshing out what that means for policy.
    So, for example, i see nothing wrong with mapping out policies for assumed sensivities  (1,2,3,4,5,6C per doubling) and then mapping out policy for those. To get a sense of the importance of the doubling figure. Thats just basic what if analysis.
     
    However, since I like Adaptive governance I’d much prefer that policy be a local issue. requiring Global policy ensures failure.
    (that will cause a fight)
    For future reference if you want to ask me a question its best to find me on lucia’s. I’m trying to get to keiths more often (host and crowd is nice) but I’ve been bad
     

  22. Dave H says:

    @Tom
    And here is a thread at Deltoid, which quotes Ted Parson extensively, showing exactly how wrong Pielke is:
     
    http://scienceblogs.com/deltoid/2011/04/ozone_revisionism.php
     
    You can check all these things out for yourself. As Eli said above, Pielke’s history is weak.
     

  23. Tom Gray says:

    re 21
     
    Mosher writes:
     
    ===========
    [in regard to climate sensitivity]
     

    I’m not so sure that narrowing the estimates of sensitivity is possible.
    Ray P had a nice little presentation at AGU on limiting the high end. I wasnt taking notes, but there wasnt much hope.
     

     
    So, for example, i see nothing wrong with mapping out policies for assumed sensivities  (1,2,3,4,5,6C per doubling) and then mapping out policy for those. To get a sense of the importance of the doubling figure. Thats just basic what if analysis.
     
    =============
     
    What I get from this is a strong indication that the filed of climate science has no more to offer to the issue of AGW. Climate sensitivity cannot be narrowed and likely will be widened in the next IPCC report according to the climate science establishment. GCMs cannot provide useful information even on the  continental scale. So we are left in a quandry, we have a reasonable hypothesis that AGW will be a significant  and possibly grave problem. Climate science can produce no useful results. So what are we to do.
     
    As Peilke Junior indicates, we could start creating technology that will give us options in addressing this problem. The current suggestion that the issue be reframed this way is, to me, a vital suggestion. The issue is not climate prediction since it is being demonstrated that climate science is of little to no help there.
     
    So t is time not just to change the players but to change the game. We can address this as an energy problem and bring in the players who will be able to deal with that problem directly. This will not be climatologists creating yet another multiple regression study on doubtful proxies. it will be engineers, material scientists … who can deal directly with the issues of energy technology. The climate science establishment can go back to publishing their little papers in magazines
     
    AGW is an engineering issue and climate science has little relevance to it.
    That is the way to end the climate wars. Let the combatants play in their little sandbox while the rest of us get on with addressing the problem

  24. Tom Gray says:

    re 22
    DaveH writes
    ===========
    And here is a thread at Deltoid, which quotes Ted Parson extensively, showing exactly how wrong Pielke is:

    ============
    http://rogerpielkejr.blogspot.com/2011/04/technological-egg-and-regulatory.html
     
    I would advise everyone to read Peilke’s blog posting. [URL above] participants in the Montreal process agree with him and indicate that without the technology existing no agreement would have been made

  25. Dave H says:

    @Tom
     
    Pielke’s response is pretty non-responsive.
     
    Parson presents a very different timeline to Pielke, backed up by the research published in his book. Pielke’s response? Quote the takeaway point, make no mention of the specifics of this timeline and then use an Argument from Incredulity (“If we are to believe this[…]”).
     
    Several points Pielke makes to attempt to rebut this are also non-responsive. The fact that technological solutions were known and patented in the 70’s is not a rebuttal – Parson mentions this and also backs up that they were deemed too costly, so research was halted once regulation looked like a non-starter.
     
    Pielke quotes Du Pont as saying it saw business opportunities in the new tech – but this was from 1988, which *again* is a point Parson makes – by this time they were rapidly developing the tech in response to regulation.
     
    Colour me unimpressed.

  26. Sashka says:

    You can draw only so much from the Montreal analogy. Even if new technology was developed in response to Montreal doesn’t mean that the same will happen with CO2.

    But I agree with Tom Gray (23) that climate science has no more to offer to the issue of AGW. I also agree that it’s time to change the players but to change the game. We should address the real and truly important problems for the planet (overpopulation and looming energy crisis) instead of a potential problem that could become irrelevant naturally or due to technology progress.

  27. Tom Gray says:

    re 25
     
    This is a part of a comment posted to Peilke Junior’s poting on this topic
     
    ========
    “Parsons’ account of the non-existence of an alternative to CFCs prior to the mandate would be news to those of us who had to lobby those issues back then. 

    Within the broad automotive industry lobbying groups, (I was an attorney working for an aftermarket trade association in 1987) it was widely known prior to the Senate vote on the Treaty that (a) CFC substitutes existed (b) they would be more costly and (c) probably would not perform quite as well in AC devices but that our industry would be able to tool up to handle the change, albeit without enthusiasm.

    ….

    If there were no viable CFC alternative known to industry (with catastrophic consequences for any and all economic activities that required refrigeration or cooling in the event of a ban) there is no way in hell the Senate would have voted unanimously to put the Montreal Protocol requirements into effect right away and, I suspect, no way Reagan would have moved so unequivocally to endorse the Montreal Protocol.
    ==============

    I think that this puts the issue in perspective.

  28. Dave H says:

    @Tom
     
    I don’t know what your point is or what the commenter’s point is but it basically echoes *precisely* what Parsons said.
     
    So – there were alternatives, there was cost involved in making the switch, and it took the legitimate threat of legislation to actually force the shift to take place. Pielke then takes later statements to dress this up as industry making shrewd business decisions and legislation following on behind – which is patently not the case – and this commenter doesn’t actually rebut that in the slightest.
     
     
    The commenter appears to be responding solely to Pielke’s selective quotation and characterisation, rather than the original source. The original source is pretty damn clear that industry knew about alternatives prior to legislation, but that without legislation there was no appetite for incurring the development cost of making them commercially viable. Which is exactly what your commenter says. So, really, this just further supports Parsons.

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