Who's a Climate Extremist?

Joe Romm has often claimed that most people don’t read past the headlines of news stories. I’m wondering if he thinks that rule doesn’t apply to blog posts, because this doosey from him clocks in at 3947 words.

But if you’re one of those headline-only news consumers, Romm does oblige by summarizing his bloated post with this snappy title:

The Road to Ruin: Extremist ‘Climate Pragmatism’ Report Pushes Right-Wing Myths and a Failed Strategy

In his write-up at Time Magazine, Bryan Walsh characterized the same report as being written by “a bipartisan range of thinkers on energy and climate issues.” I didn’t detect any hint of extremism by this bipartisan bunch in Walsh’s description of the paper. Nor in my own reading of the Climate Pragmatism report did it strike me as the work of radicals. (I’ll have a full post up on the report later in the week.)

No matter. I’m sure the irony of labeling the report as “extremist” eludes Romm.

54 Responses to “Who's a Climate Extremist?”

  1. I am convinced Joe’s language was deliberate. I’m not sure “irony” describes it exactly, and I wouldn’t have written it that way, but I am sure he thought about how it would sound to people to have this sort of charming fairy tale described as “extremist”.
    There’s a point to it, too: we are surrounded by extremists who pay no attention to the factual situation. This sort of compromise between reality and fantasy is still fantasy, like Tea Party economics. It doesn’t matter at all if it is “bipartisan”. What matters is that it’s grossly inadequate.
    I disagree with Joe about nukes; I think they might have saved us. But Fukushima closed that door so my opinion seems beside the point on that.
    Mostly, Joe’s main conclusion is correct. If a proposal lacks anything resembling consideration of a global carbon trajectory it is not relevant to climate policy. He says:
    MEMO TO PEOPLE WRITING AND REVIEWING CLIMATE REPORTS:  Let’s stipulate that if a report doesn’t spell out what your greenhouse gas concentrations target is for the planet, it is  just handwaving “” and we’ve really had enough of that for two decades now.

    to which the sensible reply from anyone who understands the outlines of the problem is “yep”. The problem is not bringing alternatives online. The problem is taking the fossil fuels, essentially all of them, permanently offline (or sequestering the emissions). That may sound radical, but unfortunately it is the only path to sustainability, and therefore the only way a proposal can be considered reasonable. Not eliminating carbon fuels is far the riskier path. Joe’s calling it “extremist”, while peculiar and perhaps impolitic, isn’t really wrong by any means.

  2. Keith Kloor says:

    This bit about people who talk about reframing the debate not being in touch with reality is too rich. This is reality:

    “I can’t see the Kyoto protocol making any headway – there are enough blocks in place, especially from the US and China, that it is wholly unlikely that it will go on. We need to be pragmatic…If you say only a full [legally binding] treaty is any good, we will still be arguing about it in 20 years.” 


  3. Aldous Tenpenney says:


  4. King’s position is reasonable. It acknowledges that there is a real threat tied to a physical quantity and allocates emissions accordingly. Using numbers. That is what “per capita” means.
    Abandoning Kyoto is realistic. Replacing it with vague suggestions isn’t.

  5. intrepid_wanders says:

    “I disagree with Joe about nukes; I think they might have saved us. But Fukushima closed that door so my opinion seems beside the point on that.”

    I do not believe you, Michael.  Might you point me to the article on your blog where you may have supported nuclear?

    Romm is just barking at Pielke Jr again.  While, having a management number is good; from a management’s perspective, I find a lot for people that agree that it (CO2) should be managed.  I would be more receptive to a Super-Fund Project sponsored by the Sierra Club and Greenpeace to clean up the Mercury deposits in land fills.

    With biofuels imploding on the renewables and dams to be “busted”, what is the last piece of nonsense that is going to power our non-nuke future? 

  6. Chuck Kaplan says:


    Noone can facepalm like Luc Picard.

  7. Paul Kelly says:

    MT’s assertions contradict every bit of applicable science. Social science has demonstrated the thinkprogress style is counterproductive. It is hard, in polite company, to properly describe what a black hole of negativity is Joe Romm and the entire thinkprogess operation. I’m amazed MT is still so invested in majority requiring political partisanship. Has he no faith in his fellow man?
    “…it is  just handwaving “” and we’ve really had enough of that for two decades now”.  Handwaving is dismissing a report meant as a step in the right direction because it’s not the whole solution all at once.


  8. Most climate scientists have supported nuclear all along, myself included.
    I haven’t written articles about it because energy engineering isn’t really my turf. Here is my position mentioned by way of agreement with a presentation by some earnest public policy grad students.
    I did find it interesting how they came to the right conclusions, conclusions that neither party seems capable of grasping (basically: “vigorous pursuit of nuclear power, development of CCS, and government investment in many other technologies, acceptance that fossil fuels remain in the mix, 80% cut in emissions by 2050”). There is some skill there in extracting such a reasoned position from limited knowledge, though the LBJ school has enough cachet that they get to interview dozens of real experts. Aside from the one clunker (they think cold fusion is on the table) it was exactly the dull and reasonable presentation you would expect from the middle party that America so sadly lacks.

    And THAT’s reasonable and centrist. Please note this part: 80% cut in emissions by 2050. If you don’t see the necessity of something like that then you do not understand the physical constraints of the problem.
    A step in the right direction that is far too slow to hit something like 80% by something like 2050 is foot-dragging masquerading as effort. An 80% cut is a big deal; the incentives and disincentives will have to be quite vigorous. Going without a target is essentially writing off the climate and pretty much all wildlife along with a whole mess of agricultural land and some big cities.
    Can we survive that? Maybe. Do we want that? I don’t think so. So we need an ambitious target that we take seriously.

  9. The non pragmatic people who insisted on global treaties are the last one who need to be complaining. That idea was doomed from the start.

  10. Roger Pielke Jr. says:

    One thing I have learned about Tobis is his unwillingness to actually read analyses that he might find challenging, but this doesn’t stop him from disparaging those analyses.  Both The Hartwell Paper and The Climate Fix (the latter in explicitly quantitative fashion) discuss stabilization targets, and these are part of the background to the analyses he now, incorrectly describes as without a target.
    Here even is a widely-cited paper that explains quantitatively why the current approach cannot work with respect to the exact same targets:
    Climate Pragmatism, Hartwell, TCF and related literature are about choosing the right means to an end, they do not alter the ends.
    Until Tobis decides to actually engage arguments on their merits (and he can critique the math or the interpretation of the math) as they have actually been presented, then his comments about “hand waving” will be seen as ironic.  His repeated mischaracterizations of other people’s arguments say more about him than those he’d like to critique.
    So how about it Tobis?  What does TCF even say about stabilization targets?  Where is the math wrong?  And what is it that you object to in that presentation?  Why not actually read these things you are critquing?  As I tell my students, doing so makes your critique that much more informed . . .
    Such questions to Tobis in the past have proven to be a conversation-stopper, but let’s see 😉

  11. Roger Pielke Jr. says:

    Let me just add that there is of course no need for Tobis to actually read any of these things … however, if he wants to critique them out in public, as he so often does, then he will find himself being called out for being so obviously poorly informed.

  12. grypo says:

    People should really read King’s report.  It gives a good account of past negotiations, putting to rest extremist ideas about global treaties, being “all bad failures” or “successful and great”.  There are accomplishments there should not be abandoned because of extreme nationalistic ideology, or black and white fallacies about failures.

    Beyond that, it covers most of the basic points for setting about targets for individual countries and border tariffs for regional trading.  It looks at adaption and the ethical problems of poor v rich countries.  If people want pragmatic, logical, and useful, this is probably what you looking for.

  13. Pascvaks says:

    “If he can’t breathe fire, he will produce smoke –lots and lots of smoke.” 

    The poor guy is just trying to make a living.  He’s bound like a slave to his contract.  He must produce or he’ll have to sell apples on the street and eat at Soup Kitchens.  Most people don’t appreciated how hard it is to make a decent living in this decadent, worthless, contaminated, dying world.  Pretty soon he’ll even have to learn Chinese, or buy one of those expensive gizmos that translate what you’re thinking before you think it. (SarcOff) 

    [This contributes nothing to the thread’s dialogue. It’s a continuation of the same nonsensical silliness you’ve been leaving. It’s like the free-association equivalent of that bad haiku poetry from that other skeptic that I see on other threads. Start making sense in your comments or don’t bother.//KK]

  14. jeffn says:

    MT #8 “Most climate scientists have supported nuclear all along, myself included.”
    This very clearly seen in the fact that since the first congressional hearing on AGW in 1988, the United States- at the insistence of climate scientists- has engaged in a building spree of nuclear plants that today totals….
    Holy crap! None! And you guys blame the GOP for failure to “take action.”
    Seriously is there even any such thing as a “climate concerned” individual or is it all just politics?

  15. Paul Kelly says:

    “we need an ambitious target that we take seriously.”
    The target has been set, known and agreed to for years. Everybody knows what it is.
    We grew up with the slogan “the longest journey begins with a single step”. MT and Romm and the progressive partisans refuse that step. They says we must wait for benevolent authority to implement a grand solution. There’s a pro active action plan. Wait and wait and wait for that which has zero probability of occurring. 
    The progressives have for along time tried to use climate for their political advancement. It worked out pretty well. In 2008, parlaying the anti war movement and the climate concerned, they seized control of the Democratic Party and nominated and elected President Obama. So far, the climate concerned have gotten a stick in the eye. Joe Romm was Obama’s biggest booster. He now gives him an F.

  16. Marlowe Johnson says:

    Let’s start with the notion that this is somehow a ‘bipartisan’ report. 
    “representing, characterized by, or including members from two parties or factions.”
    Now maybe I’m wrong (and it wouldn’t be the first time), but the list of authors I see are either centrist/third way types with one right-wing affiliate for good measure (i.e. Steve Hayward from AEI).  What I don’t see is anyone from what would normally be considered from the ‘left’ side of the debate (e.g. someone for Center for American Progress, Pew, World Resources Institute, Resources for the Futures Sierra Club, Green Peace etc).  As a result I think that it’s more than a little misleading to describe the report as a ‘bipartisan’ effort.  And that’s an important flaw I think, because without the imprimateur of ‘bipartisan’ the report loses some political traction/currency.
    One of the key objections I have with the framing taken by the Hartwell Group and this latest report is the idea that there is an implicit opportunity cost involved; if you pursue global international treaties, you cannot then pursue the other policies that they recommend (e.g. government sponsored research into clean energy research, development and deployment, etc.) .  The State Department and the USDA are working on numerous initiatives that have climate benefits (e.g.  marine diesel, cooking stoves in developing countries). Would these activities have halted if Kyoto had been ratified? Or conversely, would these efforts have been more succesful if international cooperative agreements had not been pursued to begin with?
    The other problems I have with the report are nicely summarized by Michael Levi:
    “their sleight of hand obscures the fact that their strategy ““ even if it’s successful ““ is likely to leave us with some really big climate problems. They do not attempt, even casually, to estimate the consequences of following their strategy. There’s a good reason for that: There is no evidence that an innovation focused approach can make zero-carbon energy so attractive that it displaces fully amortized coal plants, or even new ones. There is no indication that a climate-blind resilience strategy would help poor countries prepare for climatic developments like the massive falls in agricultural productivity that might accompany sharply changing temperatures and weather patterns, but that wouldn’t arise otherwise. There is no analysis showing that plausible regulations on conventional pollutants won’t simply encourage the deployment of better (or retrofitted) traditional coal fired power plants in too many cases.”
    RPJR responds with a link to an article he wrote where the headline says: “Success is not guaranteed”.  It would be nice if that kind of sentiment had been voiced in the Hartwell papers…

  17. Jarmo says:

    I’ve read many projections about the 2010-2030 period, by energy organizations (like US DoE and IEA) and companies such as BP and Exxon.

    They are all in agreement that global emissions will grow by 20-30% in this period and that the growth will take place in in the developing countries. OECD emissions flatline. The great hope is that gas will replace coal in many places, nobody talks about taking fossil fuels offline.

    I think these projections reflect reality. Just stopping the growth of global emissions by 2020 would require massive investments and infrastructure building. Perhaps you can call it hand-waving but that’s what will likely happen in the best case.

    Germany has taken a bold step in the wake of Fukushima and decided to shut down nuclear power by 2020 while simultaneously cutting emissions. I think their experience will show the practical limits of what is doable.


  18. Tom Fuller says:

    Re Paul Kelly’s comment, the number of solar power modules shipped last year was equivalent to 17 nuclear power stations. (Bit of a lag in getting them installed, so the phrasing looks weird.)

    Paul, by the time Romm quits fulminating and Dr. Tobis quits rending his sackcloth and daubing himself with ashes, you and those like you will have solved the problem. Just ignore them and carry on. 

  19. Pascvaks says:

    Ref: My Last and KK Cmt

    KK- Your a good man with a great blog, I’ve apparently been missing the drummer’s beat.  Will be checking as always but keeping my keyboard under the desk for a while.  I can’t seem to take anything serious these days.  Getting old I guess.  Keep up the great work, you’re A.O.K.!  Pascvaks Out!

    [You’re a good sport! And mighty generous with your praise considering my ill-tempered comments. Mighty big of you.//KK]

  20. Sashka says:

    @ MT (8)

    And THAT’s [80% cut in emissions by 2050] reasonable and centrist.

    This certainly calls for the new definition of centrism. I suppose the center is right where MT is.

    If you don’t see the necessity of something like that then you do not understand the physical constraints of the problem.

    I don’t think arrogance of this sort will help your case.

  21. intrepid_wanders says:

    jeffn #14:
    “This very clearly seen in the fact that since the first congressional hearing on AGW in 1988, the United States- at the insistence of climate scientists- has engaged in a building spree of nuclear plants that today totals”¦.”

    Actually, -11 NPP since 1988.

    Zion 1 & 2

    Millstone 1

    Maine Yankee

    Connecticut Yankee


    San Onofre 1

    Yankee Rowe


    Fort St. Vrain

    Rancho Seco

    Awesome start…

  22. jeffn says:

    intrepid-wanderers, I didn’t realize this. How about it Michael Tobis- when will we see climate science activists hounding the Democratic Party to change the direction of this trend?
    In fact, MT, any comment on this government report that shows that  the year 2010 saw the largest increase in new coal-fired capacity in the US since 1985? http://www.netl.doe.gov/coal/refshelf/ncp.pdf  
    Why has “climate science” chattered away about taxes and treaties while advocating policies that do nothing other than dramatically increase the use of coal?

  23. 14, sheesh, it’s obviously that what we say goes, right?
    But when we have our scientist hats on we speak as scientists; energy infrastructure is not the expertise of climate scientists. I’d no more want you asking me questions about energy infrastructure than asking Freeman Dyson about climate. The key public result of the material I understand professionally is that carbon emissions cost much much more than the population or the government accept.
    But most of the climate scientists I have heard venture an opinion on the matter lean pro-nuclear. I realize this confounds the conspiracy theory view of what we are about, but so does much other evidence. I am sure you can manage to discount it somehow if you are intent on it.
    I simply do not care whether the solution is leftist or rightist, nuclear or solar or wind-based or luddite, treaty-based or, um, some other thing which I don’t know what it is-based, anywhere near as much as I care that we actually get a grip on the real situation and stop pretending that we haven’t reached a point of urgency.
    Until Fukushima, as an interested but nonprofessional observer of history, I would have bet on nuclear as the eventual winner and would have been happy for it. Now I don’t think that will happen. 
    As with the budget negotiations in the US, the possibility of a completely unnecessary and stupid disaster looks increasingly likely in the spectrum of outcomes.

  24. #20
    Well, I was reporting that the 80% by 2050 number was the consensus of a bunch of University of Texas public policy grad students after a collaborative year-long effort. This is not, by nature, a radical bunch, but they didn’t come into it with preconceptions about the physical basis of the problem. It was gratifying to see them come to roughly the answer that is supported by the evidence.
    Indeed if you follow the link you will see that I argued with them about how difficult the goal would be to achieve, given that (in my opinion) we are hitting other limits to “growth”. There was a lot of resistance to this idea; these kids getting advanced degrees in public policy (all in tailored suits for the presentation) have political ambitions and are not radicals.

  25. jeffn confuses climate science with climate advocacy; the former group is small and organized apolitically. “Climate science” has no opinions about matters that aren’t about climate; if it did it wouldn’t be science.
    Nevertheless, it is my observation that most climate scientists (i.e., participants in the climate science enterprise) as individuals were pro-nuclear prior to Fukushima. There is no mechanism for such an opinion to have any influence. On this matter, we are just a few thousand voters, nothing more.
    If you understood the scientific culture and how it relates to the political culture you would understand this. We are having enough trouble getting the message across about what we do understand.
    The confusion of climate science, the climate scientists who constitute it, and the much larger and (necessarily) less expert climate advocacy community is endemic in these discussions. jeffn’s confusion is understandable.
    Maybe more effort ought to be put into clearing that up. Hmm, maybe another job for, umm, journalists? Naw…

  26. Tom Fuller says:

    Journalists would have a hard time following the bouncing ball as people change hats every five minutes depending on what argument they’re making.

    I’m talking science. I’m talking policy. I’m talking scientific culture (pass the Petri dish, please…)

    She’s my sister… She’s my daughter…

  27. Tom, a fair point. It is also necessary to distinguish between climate science as understood by its practitioners, and the impacts and mitigation communities that contribute to IPCC but are not considered climate scientists. It’s messy, but unavoidably so.
    Which is exactly why most climate scientists don’t publicly express their preferences regarding, e.g., energy policy beyond the point that expertise leads to. That’s the simplest tack for a scientist to take.
    But I, among others, am past that point. I for one try to be clear which hat I am wearing on any particular occasion, but feel free to ask if I fail at that.
    But we do need journalists to actually do some hard work and figure it all out.

  28. edG says:

    25. What dizzy pontification!

    “If you understood the scientific culture and how it relates to the political culture you would understand this. We are having enough trouble getting the message across about what we do understand.”

    I think the attitude displayed here explains why The Great AGW Communications Makeover is a flop and always will be.

    Seems this is one aspect that the Team definitely does not understand.

    P.S. Is Hansen a ‘scientist’ or an ‘advocate’?

  29. jeffn says:

    “jeffn confuses climate science with climate advocacy; the former group is small and organized apolitically. “Climate science” has no opinions about matters that aren’t about climate; if it did it wouldn’t be science.”
    I’m not confusing anything. I’ve been observing AGW’s “appeal to authority” advocacy for more than a decade and I don’t recall any full-throated calls from the camp for nukes. To declare that you don’t care about the options is a cop-out- there are some that science shows will work to reduce emissions, there are some that won’t. Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last 20 years, advocates have been happily killing the stuff that works and demanding the stuff that doesn’t and they’ve been doing that in your name, my friend. Read the link to Romm again.
    If that doesn’t bother you, then I can’t believe you’re really concerned about the issue. And if you aren’t, why should I be? By the by, that’s what draws me to this blog- it’s owner seems to actually care about the issue. The presence of one or two of those is what keeps me mildly interested in it.

  30. Sashka says:

    @ MT (24)

    Are you seriously suggesting that public policy students understand physical constraints of the climate system? I suspect that the have no idea of either ideal gas laws, fluid dynamics, heat transfer or elementary calculus. Good job brainwashing them but it doesn’t make it a centrist position.

  31. Somehow I missed this earlier. I acknowledge Roger’s point in #10 and accept his challenge. Obviously this will take some time.
    Hans-Joachim Schellnhuber’s point stands regardless; “Political reality must be grounded in physical reality or it’s completely useless.”
    If political realism is inconsistent with physical realism, we have the very difficult job of changing the politics ahead of us, because the physics is not going to compromise under any circumstances.

  32. Sashka, true, LBJ School of Public Policy graduate students are not competent to judge the scientific substance. But they are well-placed to identify the real experts and contact them.
    My point here is not that they are correct (though I believe that they are). My point is that 80% cuts in net carbon emissions by 2050 is not a radical prescription. It is roughly the minimum risk position/maximum utility position on present evidence.
    Any real centrist position must be based on the aggregated position of the relevant scientific communities. People who ought to be expert in identifying the sources of valid opinion came to a conclusion consistent with that position. It is not surprising to me. That it is surprising to others again shows what a bad job the scientific and journalistic communities have done in expressing the nature of the problem to the public.
    The fact that the climate blogosphere is dominated by people with a very skewed view of the facts does not make them correct either. The question is which side is more biased by their prejudices and which side is open to the balance of evidence. Your prior estimate may differ from mine. But it’s not a matter of brainwashing for policy experts to go to domain experts, is it?

  33. Tom Fuller says:

    80% reduction by 2050 is neither radical, centrist or conservative until mechanisms are discussed.

    Proposing a percentage reduction without discussing mechanisms is pretty much fantasy. 

    We could achieve it by unplugging Europe and the U.S. of A., China and Japan. Shall we offer that as a solution to the world? 

  34. Tom, I agree completely with your assertions in #33.
    I have some ideas about the answer but I would have to take my expert hat off and put a resonably informed and interested non-expert hat on. With my expert hat still on, I just want to say that sharp cutbacks on a rapid time scale are necessary to avoid huge risks.

  35. Roger Pielke Jr. says:

    MIchael Tobis, a thread set up just for you (and a few others I’ve named) to engage this debate:
    I look forward to seeing your comments, thanks

  36. Sashka says:

    @ MT (32)

    They are well-placed to identify the real experts – in what?

    In climate science? But they won’t be able understand anything but the final conclusion that we need to cut CO2 to the bone. That would be just another way of re-sampling the consensus.

    In climate risk? But there are no such experts. I explained this to you before and illustrated using the example of mortgage market that the experts are no better than laymen in matters of risk assessment. There are no utility function, nor probability distribution, nor even cost-benefit analysis.

    Given that these students don’t understand neither physics nor risk I wouldn’t be surprised by any conclusions.

    To me the word “centrist” has a political meaning. But we are either doing politics or science (plus economics). If your definition of centrist is something like a median of a relevant expert group than it could make sense to you, but it won’t be relevant for me.

  37. Eli Rabett says:

    So, some ask, why has the fraction of electrical generation by nuclear increased since 1988 if friend intrepid is right?
    The plant up time has soared.
    A significant achievement of the US nuclear power industry over the last 20 years has been the increase in operating efficiency with improved maintenance. This has resulted in greatly increased capacity factor (output proportion of their nominal full-power capacity), which has gone from 56.3% in 1980 and 66% in 1990 to 91.1% in 2008. A major component of this is the length of refuelling outage, which in 1990 averaged 107 days but dropped to 40 days by 2000. The record is now 15 days. In addition, average thermal efficiency rose from 32.49% in 1980 to 33.40% in 1990 and 33.85% in 1999.
    All this is reflected in increased output even since 1990, from 577 billion kilowatt hours to 809 billion kWh, a 40% improvement despite little increase in installed capacity, and equivalent to 29 new 1,000 MWe reactors.

  38. Paul Kelly says:

    Climate pragmatism incorporates the variety of valid reasons framing and what I’ve been calling the focus model. The next step is to go beyond governmental and political processes. I went over to RJPjr’s. MT wrote something the shows why the government/politics approach has little on no chance to succeed:
    As long as we have a nation-state system, we have to allocate targets to countries, and then each country has to meet its targets. 
    First of all, who is this we he writes about? There is no we or they capable, much less willing, to set and enforce those allocations. The gov/pol approach leads leads to fanciful thinking and insistence on doing the impossible. I say this without malice or rancor, but with hand outstretched. I think MT is ripe for an epiphany.

  39. rustneversleeps says:

    Imagine there’s no nation states
    You may say that I’m a dreamer
    I hope someday you’ll join us
    And the world will be as one

  40. Paul Kelly, for the twentieth time, I don’t think anything less than a global agreement is likely to avoid a global disaster and possibly even a global collapse.
    I’d be very pleased if you could prove me wrong, but as for “fanciful thinking and insistence on doing the impossible”, um, well, yeah that is a problem.

  41. Paul Kelly says:

    For the twentieth time you are wrong. A global agreement is not needed. That’s a good thing. If it were necessary, it could not be done. Certainly not in the time frame dictated by the disaster you fear. Fear is the hunter. There is a wide world of energy transformers and decarbonizers waiting to welcome you with open arms. Fear alone keeps you from recognizing the superiority of the variety of valid reasons framing.
    You want proof. Take an empirical look around you. Compare what countries have done to advance a global agreement with what they have done to retard it. Name the countries that have enacted climate legislation and those that have rejected it. Read some social science.

  42. Marlowe Johnson says:

    could you please explain how we can solve the problem absent some kind of global agreement? While you are at could you give me a sense of the likelyhood of success of your approach? Slim to none? somewhat likely? etc….

  43. Paul Kelly says:

    I can answer better if I broaden your request to: Explain how we can solve the problem in the absence of a global agreement and acting within a social/market construct. It is almost as simple as changing the mindset from global agreement to combined bottom up effort done globally.
    I give my approach a better than even chance to succeed. I believe there are a sufficient number of people who understand the benefit, necessity, and inevitability of energy transformation to solve the problem on their own. I’ve been calling it aggregated individual action, but it needs a better description. 
    This approach has a good chance to succeed because it proceeds one step at a time. And, it can be put into practice immediately. In fact, it is already going on all around us. 
    The number one impediment to decarbonization is not an absent global agreement, or oil company lobbying or skeptical science. It is the cost of alternative and efficiencies installation vs the time it takes to break even. There is a way for the marketplace to overcome this impediment.

  44. Mark Renfrow says:

    I couldn’t agree with Paul Kelly 43 more.
    I would just add that in a time of uncertainty, both in the climate and how to deal with a global reduction in CO2, the big idea and action, without empirical evidence to support it, is harrowing and easily incorrect.
    Much disagreement (and delay) globally comes from our collective ignorance on how to solve this problem in one fell swoop.
    Any of us faced with such a daunting task would likely, at some point in the brainstorming session, choose to break the problem up into bites we do know about and have evidence to support.
    I’d offer that this problem is too large, too new, too complex and too scary for there to be global consensus on real solutions.
    I would also argue that the same applies to the US federal government. What we know works exists at a much more granular level (states and cities).

  45. Keith Kloor says:

    Mark, thanks for stopping by. I’ve followed your comments with interest over at the related Grist thread.

    You should definitely check out the thread at RPJ’s. Most illuminating. 

  46. intrepid_wanders says:

    Eli #37 –

    Feel free to look up any of those plants and determine if they are not “decommissioned”.  Some of them were for a measly $150 million in earthquake upgrades, but the majority are from referendums sponsored by Greenpeace and the Sierra Club.

    Based on personal experience, when manufacturing increases, you are filling a gap in market.  If you had a 56.3 – 66% uptime (utilization term in my world) and go to 91.1% with something that is considered “dangerous”, it would give me pause.  Your saying that, to provide for the market gap, increasing the risk (accelerated “up-time”) for a mistake is acceptable?  Where is this “acceptable risk” that you have in the <u>climate sensitivity</u>?

    Finally, how is this “efficiency” going to translate into reduction of “fossil fuel power”?  It is going to take something in the order of 200 nukes by 2050 to start to rub just the coal signature from the energy makeup of the US.

    Pleasure as always… 

  47. Eli Rabett says:

    Glad that you now realize that nuclear electric generation has increased substantially in the US since the 1980s.  However, allow Eli to start from the top of your list to find the nefarious hands of greenpeace.
    The Zion Nuclear Power Station was retired on February 13, 1998.[1] The plant had not been in operation since February 1997, after a control-room operator accidentally shut down Reactor 1 and then tried to restart it without following procedures.[3] Reactor 2 was already shut down for refueling at the time of the incident. ComEd concluded that the plant could not produce competitively priced power because it would have cost $435 million to order steam generators which would not pay for themselves before the plant’s operating license expired in 2013.
    Closed because it was not economical, not because of Geenpeace or the Sierra Club
    Why are you not telling the truth
    The Millstone Nuclear Power Station is the only nuclear power generation site in Connecticut. It is located at a former quarry (from which it takes its name) in Waterford. Of the three reactors built here, units two and three are still operating at a combined output rating of 2020 MWe.
    So the two newer units on the site continue to operate.  Shocking lack of effective Greenpeace action there bucky.
    A lengthy Nuclear Regulatory Commission investigation started in 1995, following allegations of safety problems at the plant. The NRC staff identified so many problems that Maine Yankee Atomic Power Co. decided “it would be too costly to correct these deficiences to the extent required by the NRC and decided to shut the plant down”.[1]
    The eight-year $500 million decommissioning process spanned from 1997 until 2005.[4] In 2000, the first structures were gutted out by workers. In 2003, the reactor pressure vessel was shipped to Barnwell, South Carolina via barge. Finally, in 2004, the facility’s containment building was brought down by explosives.
    Given that the thing cost 230 mil to build and $500 mil to tear down, those were very expensive required changes.
    In short try some other bunny.  Eli RTFR
    Now, if this was a real blog, Eli would mention that you appear quite willing to deceive others.

  48. Mark Renfrow says:

    Kieth 45 – Thank you for the warm welcome. I think that link sent me in the wrong direction. Did you mean to post the Pielke link for this discussion? If so I followed it from his post and am trying to decide if it’s important. (It’s definitely interesting).

  49. willard says:

    > I’ve been calling it aggregated individual action, but it needs a better description. 

    I suggest bottom-up.

    Tried and true. 

  50. intrepid_wanders says:

    Eli #47 –

    Sometimes I think you and MT share the same brain.  Nothing in my post said that ALL (11) decommissions were due to extreme activism.  Though, it is curious that in a span of 10 years eleven plants were shut down.  Previous 20 years only (3) decommissions.

    The POINT is that if Michael, Yourself or any other calamity activist, before the Fukushima incident, have stated a supporting view of nuclear power to fill in the obvious energy gap that would occur if coal power plants were to be replaced.

    Second question is, AFTER the Fukushima incident,
    “Is coal power more dangerous than nuclear power?”

     Biofuels are still in infancy, wind-power is going to soon see the referendums that nuclear-power experienced above (NIMBY) and solar is still requires a lot of power to process the silicon.  Options are thinning…Teske et al may need to “re-run” the (R)Evolution simulation 😉

  51. Without accepting “calamity activist” as a title, yes, my dismay at Fukushima was and is dominated but the realization that nuclear power would become politically unviable. I have recently said that “at least one of nuclear power or carbon sequestration had better work” but I can;t recall where, and I pointed to another pro-nuclear statement I made above.
    This idea that there is some point to alleging that I believe otherwise than I do is flattering. I don’t think that my opinion is all that important in the sense that it is important because it attaches to me. The issue is important, and finding ways to discuss the issue effectively is important.
    But yeah, I’ve been inclined pro-nuke all along, and not especially vocal about it because I have no real expertise on the matter.
    “Is coal power more dangerous than nuclear power?” With the proviso that humans are capable of competently managing the nuclear enterprise, certainly so, in my opinion. But that proviso is in question now, and that’s important.
    My money is on solar-thermal, by the way (or would be if I had any); no refined silicon is needed.

  52. opit says:

    There are ‘energy’ experts around : not all of them are in love with coal or petroleum. Deep oil from offshore drilling would not have been attempted were it not for the enticement of tax relief : it’s really past the boundary of known tech and reliable theorizing with conflicting ideas about oil formation and no clear ‘winner.’ But radioactive deep oil is under horrendous pressure and wellheads are problematic : with Halliburton cementing having a ridiculous failure rate and salt domes not seeming a smart place to drill.
    High pressure pockets complicate drilling in a situation where the partial pressure produced at the tip should be roughly equal to mass of a water column the depth of the hole : given twice the density of water in the solid being drilled.
    With nukes all is not a ‘scientific’ or even an engineering problem. The government has never been candid nor helpful in either choice of nuclear technological type nor design parameters. Power is a military consideration best appreciated by a look at the NPT TRAP.
    It also helps to realize that the Fukushima design team lost 2 GE engineers who quit over implications of the design they considered unsafe – 35 years ago. Things are so crazy there are tales of nuclear explosions causing the tsunami and wondering if HAARP’s resonance patterns were no implicated in some attempt to ‘lubricate’ things in a time of instability caused by space/orbital causes of related stresses or. pole shift
    Coal is not just more radioactively dirty  than nuclear power ( though exploratory holes and mines seem conveniently ignored in such calculations ) : a check at SourceWatch will reveal an infosite revealing coal ash dangers.
    Wind power doesn’t seem efficient except in large installations : and those are panned harshly in mostly unreported sources. It isn’t just the killing of bats and birds and subsonic causes of diseases either : vibration and wind gusts are not reliably dealt with by any known tech. Magnet production has left a Chinese pool of poison of quite an extent.
    The rush to global taxation on the use of fire by the usual band of thieves does not recommend itself to me as a likely ‘cure’ for a problem which is really not quantifiable as a known variable against a static background. Certainly not without tripping over an obvious snag : future predictions are not verifiable.
    Nor have I dealt with the knottiest problem of all : patent law. Check the story ‘Who Killed the Electric Car’ for the backstory on batteries for electrical transportation being unavailable because Chevron is sitting on the tech.

  53. opit says:

    “With the proviso that humans are capable of competently managing the nuclear enterprise, certainly so, in my opinion”
    It’s a political football because weaponization is always at the forefront of research….even when making things that don’t go bang ! Then the specter of alleged menace is raised.
    I recall a story where a 12 year old managed the feat of using all the spectrum in solar collection for  a science project. That was a year or more ago only – but the efficiency increases which looked possible were impressive.

  54. Sashka says:

    @ 38

    First of all, who is this we he writes about?
    Paul, you frequently say “we” as well and I have no idea who you are talking about.

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