The Brutal Logic of Climate Change

rosenhane wrote:

I've seen conservatives do this often, fight like mad against a law to do something they are doing anyway. Often these issues are fought on a matter of principle.

Did you read the article? Conservatives didn't do anything.

On coal: it was the Sierra Club pushed the program against coal while conservatives were pushing the fantasy of Clean Coal and liquid coal, and working hard to overturn every EPA regulation for pollution and greenhouse gas emissions for coal-burning power plants.

On fuel efficiency: conservatives fought to block the higher CAFE standards that the Obama administration implemented last year.

On energy efficiency: conservatives tried to stop energy efficient light bulbs.

On green energy: conservatives have raised holy hell over the Department of Energy's loan guarantees to renewable energy companies.

On public transportation and bikes: conservatives hate both and actively work to defund any program supporting them.

On recycling: conservatives petulantly ditched the biodegradable cups, plates, and trays in the Capital cafeteria and brought back Styrofoam and plastic.

That's not principle. That's just being stupid and shortsighted.

OG_slinger wrote:
rosenhane wrote:

I've seen conservatives do this often, fight like mad against a law to do something they are doing anyway. Often these issues are fought on a matter of principle.

Did you read the article? Conservatives didn't do anything.

On coal: it was the Sierra Club pushed the program against coal while conservatives were pushing the fantasy of Clean Coal and liquid coal, and working hard to overturn every EPA regulation for pollution and greenhouse gas emissions for coal-burning power plants.

On fuel efficiency: conservatives fought to block the higher CAFE standards that the Obama administration implemented last year.

On energy efficiency: conservatives tried to stop energy efficient light bulbs.

On green energy: conservatives have raised holy hell over the Department of Energy's loan guarantees to renewable energy companies.

On public transportation and bikes: conservatives hate both and actively work to defund any program supporting them.

On recycling: conservatives petulantly ditched the biodegradable cups, plates, and trays in the Capital cafeteria and brought back Styrofoam and plastic.

That's not principle. That's just being stupid and shortsighted.

I love seeing how each of those starts with the word "conservatives". Ah yes, our conservatives. The ones who conserve. It makes me chuckle in the same way that communist dictatorships do when they use the word "democratic" to describe themselves. The word was meant to fit initially, and did for a time. Now it's funny.

Part of the point, Rosenhane, is that under Obama we've actually achieved most of what would have been the Kyoto Protocol goals, through dozens of small changes. It was not the world-changing disaster that was forecast; indeed, it's being spun as "oh, look what the recession did" specifically to avoid that kind of notice. I don't see it so much as principle as fear of policy changes driven by the science. And that seems to have been wrong.

LouZiffer wrote:

I love seeing how each of those starts with the word "conservatives". Ah yes, our conservatives. The ones who conserve. It makes me chuckle in the same way that communist dictatorships do when they use the word "democratic" to describe themselves. The word was meant to fit initially, and did for a time. Now it's funny.

"Conservitism has been dead for a long time.

OG_slinger wrote:
rosenhane wrote:

I've seen conservatives do this often, fight like mad against a law to do something they are doing anyway. Often these issues are fought on a matter of principle.

Did you read the article? Conservatives didn't do anything.

On coal: it was the Sierra Club pushed the program against coal while conservatives were pushing the fantasy of Clean Coal and liquid coal, and working hard to overturn every EPA regulation for pollution and greenhouse gas emissions for coal-burning power plants.

On fuel efficiency: conservatives fought to block the higher CAFE standards that the Obama administration implemented last year.

On energy efficiency: conservatives tried to stop energy efficient light bulbs.

On green energy: conservatives have raised holy hell over the Department of Energy's loan guarantees to renewable energy companies.

On public transportation and bikes: conservatives hate both and actively work to defund any program supporting them.

On recycling: conservatives petulantly ditched the biodegradable cups, plates, and trays in the Capital cafeteria and brought back Styrofoam and plastic.

That's not principle. That's just being stupid and shortsighted.

It is entirely possible to be against government regulations and for all those things, if you believe that the government shouldn't be involved in promoting them.
For instance I can be for lowering the birthrate, but against the imposition of limits to the number of children you can have. It doesn't mean I hate those who are breeders, it means I'm in favor of less people to devour the finite resources.

Why do you think we need government regulation at all, Rosenhane?

Robear wrote:

Why do you think we need government regulation at all, Rosenhane?

Am I missing something? Obviously so the government regulatory agencies can regulate and control the actions of the citizens and corporations under their domain. Neither of which can be trusted to act in the public interest of their own accord, at least not without coercion.

edit: I think I understand now, above I was speaking about observations I have made about people I know, not my own actions. I will attempt to be clearer next time.

Ah, okay. I thought you were staking out the "don't regulate unless it's stuff I like" position. Found it hard to believe, so I was asking where your bottom line was. Sorry for the misunderstanding.

Greenland's ice sheet melted in four days - so much faster than expected that NASA thought the data had to be wrong.

About half of Greenland's surface ice sheet melts during a typical summer, but Zwally said he and other scientists had been recording an acceleration of that melting process over the last few decades. This year his team had to rebuild their camp, at Swiss Station, when the snow and ice supports melted.

He said he was most surprised to see indications in the images of melting even around the area of Summit Station, which is about two miles above sea level.

It was the second unusual event in Greenland in a matter of days, after an iceberg the size of Manhattan broke off from the Petermann Glacier. But the rapid melt was viewed as more serious.

"If you look at the 8 July image that might be the maximum extent of warming you would see in the summer," Zwally noted. "There have been periods when melting might have occurred at higher elevations briefly – maybe for a day or so – but to have it cover the whole of Greenland like this is unknown, certainly in the time of satellite records."

Emphasis added.

Dimmerswitch wrote:

About half of Greenland's surface ice sheet melts during a typical summer, but Zwally said he and other scientists had been recording an acceleration of that melting process over the last few decades.

Certainly a concern, but this also falls in line with a long-term trend of events:

"Lora Koenig, another Goddard glaciologist, told Nasa similar rapid melting occurs about every 150 years."

The last one occurred nearly 150 years ago.

Yup. The real question on the Greenland event is whether it will be a one-time thing or not, since it's not unprecedented.

Exactly. That's the way to consider. Right now, it's normal trending. If it happens several times in the next few years, that's an aberration.

Kind of like the overall temperature changes that are being seen. Lots of global average and regional records clustered in the last 30 years or less, from a data set that goes back into the 19th century (and indirect data sets much, much larger) should raise a concern.

But then, that's why the effort is to deny the trend. If you can't say "Oh, it's not been warmer lately", then "Well, but it doesn't mean anything unusual" is the next best bet.

OG_slinger wrote:
rosenhane wrote:

I've seen conservatives do this often, fight like mad against a law to do something they are doing anyway. Often these issues are fought on a matter of principle.

Did you read the article? Conservatives didn't do anything.

On coal: it was the Sierra Club pushed the program against coal while conservatives were pushing the fantasy of Clean Coal and liquid coal, and working hard to overturn every EPA regulation for pollution and greenhouse gas emissions for coal-burning power plants.

On fuel efficiency: conservatives fought to block the higher CAFE standards that the Obama administration implemented last year.

On energy efficiency: conservatives tried to stop energy efficient light bulbs.

On green energy: conservatives have raised holy hell over the Department of Energy's loan guarantees to renewable energy companies.

On public transportation and bikes: conservatives hate both and actively work to defund any program supporting them.

On recycling: conservatives petulantly ditched the biodegradable cups, plates, and trays in the Capital cafeteria and brought back Styrofoam and plastic.

That's not principle. That's just being stupid and shortsighted.

This is one of the things that drives me crazy about the current conservative movement. I'm definitely of the Teddy Roosevelt camp -I'm all for protecting our natural enviroment and would seek to strike a balance between the needs of the economy and the needs of the planet.

But if the most dire predictions are correct, then we need to do far more than simply up our recycling programs and switch to fuel-efficient cars. We would need a WW II style mobilization and lots of sacrifice at all levels of society. By sacrifice I mean rationing, victory gardens, etc.
Quite frankly, I don't see Democratic leaders making that level of sacrifice, even if they are at least acknowledging the problem. Just take a look at green saint Al Gore's non-energy efficient mcmansions and frequent air travel on his private jet. Of course he claims that he's buying carbon credits, which IMHO is the equivalent of medieval indulgences:

http://www.usatoday.com/news/opinion...

I maintain that the projected emissions that would see runaway climate change simply won't be there. The world's economy is grinding to a halt. Never mind the fact that we are also dealing with scarcity in fossil fuels that makes continual growth in the use of those resources unfeasible. I think we will see a long-term decline in consumption and a rise in efficiency that further drives down emissions. No doubt climate change will be a problem still, but I don't see the input for the kind of scenarios being promulgated.

Never mind the fact that as climate change mounts, it will become undeniable. I think we are seeing growing sentiment towards climate change being real even if there are still a lot of people screaming it isn't. Eventually, it will become more tenable to be more proactive in implementing other solutions, like reforestation.

Very interesting interview with a conservative climate scientist on Point of Inquiry recently:
http://www.pointofinquiry.org/kerry_...

Robear wrote:

Exactly. That's the way to consider. Right now, it's normal trending. If it happens several times in the next few years, that's an aberration.

Kind of like the overall temperature changes that are being seen. Lots of global average and regional records clustered in the last 30 years or less, from a data set that goes back into the 19th century (and indirect data sets much, much larger) should raise a concern.

Yup, that's what I was trying to get at. If Greenland does this again next year, I'll certainly be worried.

jdzappa wrote:

But if the most dire predictions are correct, then we need to do far more than simply up our recycling programs and switch to fuel-efficient cars. We would need a WW II style mobilization and lots of sacrifice at all levels of society. By sacrifice I mean rationing, victory gardens, etc.

I'm always confused by the (mostly conservative) idea that being green automatically means terrible sacrifice, significantly reduced standards of living, less industry, and such.

There's no magic bullet to address climate change. Rather it requires a lot of smaller changes to how our economy functions. The only actual sacrifice we'd need to make will likely boil down to paying slightly more for things.

We could dramatically cut down on our electrical consumption by requiring manufacturers to meet increasing energy efficiency standards. Hell, we could eliminate 100 billion kilowatt hours a year by simply requiring electronics manufacturers to address the issue of power consumption by devices when they're off or in stand-by mode. The consumer might have to pay a bit more at first, but as every device incorporates that technology the cost of that improved efficiency will be insignificant.

Zoning changes would require homes, apartments, businesses, etc. to be energy efficient and highly insulated. Right now there's pretty much no incentive for the builder of an office complex or apartments to make things energy efficient because they will never be the ones paying the ongoing energy costs. Change the building code to make that a requirements and you get a massive energy savings over the course of the building's useful life, which translates into reduced greenhouse gas emissions. The only thing stopping that from happening is that those energy efficient buildings are more expensive than throwing up an conventional building.

Changing zoning laws could also steer us towards much more energy efficient cities and ones that don't require people to drive 50+ miles a day. Cheap gas and highways have made us do horribly stupid things as a society.

Again, all these things are very much doable and don't require rocket science.

jdzappa wrote:

Quite frankly, I don't see Democratic leaders making that level of sacrifice, even if they are at least acknowledging the problem. Just take a look at green saint Al Gore's non-energy efficient mcmansions and frequent air travel on his private jet. Of course he claims that he's buying carbon credits, which IMHO is the equivalent of medieval indulgences:

http://www.usatoday.com/news/opinion...

Man, the right really has a hard-on for Gore...

If you check more recent sources (Snopes or FactCheck.org) you'll actually find he's very much put his money where his mouth is.

Gore made significant energy efficiency investments into his home and by 2009 it was Gold certified by Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEEDs), meaning it's exceptionally efficient in its use of energy, water, and uses sustainable materials in its construction. He gets his energy from geothermal, solar panels, and from renewable sources offered by his local energy company.

While you might joke about carbon credits, they actually mean that Gore has a carbon footprint that's smaller than you or I at the end of the day because he's paid for a carbon sink to make up for the CO2 he emits. Used on a national or global level and carbon credits could be a key way to reduce emissions that uses the market rather than the government.

Republicans, on the other hand, have also put their money where their mouth is can be seen by everything I mentioned above. I mean how f*cking petty do you have to be to eliminate green programs for the Capital building and trade cups and trays made from sustainable materials for Styrofoam? Or rage against CFT lights? Or fight against improved CAFE standards? They're not just being stupid, they're being dangerously stupid.

It's extremely sad that the world our great, great grandchildren are going to live in is going to be worse because we can't be assed to make small adjustments to our lifestyles and pay a bit more for things. The human species will destroy itself out of pure selfishness.

On my phone so forgive my brevity.

I'd read Dr. Koenig's comment as indicating ice cores showed summers with 97% melt total happened every 150 years or so. My impression had been that ice core data wasn't granular enough to say with any confidence that there had been another time where the Greenland ice coverage went from 60% to 3% in less than 100 hours, let alone this early in the summer.

We'll see where the final ice-coverage tally for Greenland ends up this summer, but I'd wager it'll be close to 0% coverage than 3%.

[Edit: 'eager' and 'wager' are not the same, auto-correct.]

OG_slinger wrote:
jdzappa wrote:

But if the most dire predictions are correct, then we need to do far more than simply up our recycling programs and switch to fuel-efficient cars. We would need a WW II style mobilization and lots of sacrifice at all levels of society. By sacrifice I mean rationing, victory gardens, etc.

I'm always confused by the (mostly conservative) idea that being green automatically means terrible sacrifice, significantly reduced standards of living, less industry, and such.

There's no magic bullet to address climate change. Rather it requires a lot of smaller changes to how our economy functions. The only actual sacrifice we'd need to make will likely boil down to paying slightly more for things.

I agree entirely with you. I no longer drive these days. Even when I did, it was a scooter that got about 80-100 mpg. I drove that sucker around all year. I walk or ride a bike these days. I'm not terribly inconvenienced by it. And one could argue the exercise that I get offsets the exercise I would have to do otherwise. And if you frame it with the obesity problem most Americans face, you are really getting a huge bang for your buck. The average American uses around 500 gallons of gasoline a year. That's $1,500-2,000 a year. That's huge!

But if the most dire predictions are correct, then we need to do far more than simply up our recycling programs and switch to fuel-efficient cars. We would need a WW II style mobilization and lots of sacrifice at all levels of society. By sacrifice I mean rationing, victory gardens, etc.

Actually, we could do more than enough with about 1% of the global GDP over the next 75 years or so. It turns out that the industries funding the skeptics have a stake in making the solution look more expensive than the problem. After all, their assets - their future income sources - are still in the ground. If they don't get to take them out in the quantities they do today, they have to find other income streams.

1% will not require rationing, victory gardens, etc. Just with the efficiency measures Obama and Clinton put in place over the last 17 years or so - things done at a level that did not require Congressional approval - we are very close to meeting what would have been the Kyoto reduction target, had we agreed to that treaty. And while we're suffering economically today, it's not because of climate change mitigation.

Let me say that again. Just with what Clinton did with the approval of the country, and Obama did in what's been called "stealthy changes" in policy, we've almost met the Kyoto Framework reductions. If anything contradicts the "OMG it's too costly to fix" argument, this is it.

Robear wrote:

Let me say that again. Just with what Clinton did with the approval of the country, and Obama did in what's been called "stealthy changes" in policy, we've almost met the Kyoto Framework reductions. If anything contradicts the "OMG it's too costly to fix" argument, this is it.

And, as it has been said, the cost of fixing it later far outstrips fixing it now. One way or the other, you are paying for it.

Actually, we could do more than enough with about 1% of the global GDP over the next 75 years or so. It turns out that the industries funding the skeptics have a stake in making the solution look more expensive than the problem. After all, their assets - their future income sources - are still in the ground. If they don't get to take them out in the quantities they do today, they have to find other income streams.

Robear, do you have a study showing that it will only take 1% of global GDP? Because that seems incredibly small considering that it's not just the Western World being the current leaders of global emissions, but also the developing world trying to get to our standard of living.

jdzappa wrote:

Robear, do you have a study showing that it will only take 1% of global GDP? Because that seems incredibly small considering that it's not just the Western World being the current leaders of global emissions, but also the developing world trying to get to our standard of living.

There's a 2009 McKinsey & Co. report out there (PDF) that pegs the cost at around 1% of global GDP. The IPCC itself pegged the costs at 1-3% of global GDP and the World Bank has a nice breakdown of the various cost estimates (PDF).

To put things in perspective the current global GDP is around $70 trillion meaning that 1% of that would be $700 billion. That's far more than the $540ish billion a year the McKinsey & Co. report has as the high end of the cost.

I'm not sure what your issue was with the developing world trying to get to our standard of living because for them to do so they will have to increase the size of their economy, which would just make the global economy--and that 1% slice--bigger.

The tricky problem to solve is how to get the developed world to pay to offset the costs of the developing world since we're the ones that kinda broke the climate.

The Brits in the Stern Report in 2006 pegged it at 2%, while they put the cost of not doing anything at about 5%. That was the first real attempt to figure out the costs of mitigation. OG's cited several other studies. Perhaps that helps?

Bear in mind that many of the mitigations actually *reduce* the cost; they *produce* money. Green energy initiatives are succeeding more than they fail, that's both a money-producing and carbon-reducing investment. Many of the technology changes would likely also enable new businesses in that way. Changes to agriculture and increased vehicle efficiency, along with a more efficient electrical grid and lower carbon power generation would go a long way to help, and again, could be neutral or even profitable changes in the long run.

So it's not like throwing the money down a hole. Over time, the economic benefits start to pile up. As Joel Pett puts it...

IMAGE(http://betternature.files.wordpress.com/2012/01/what-if-its-a-hoax11.jpg)

Put that way, it seems like a risk worth taking.

JD, were those responses of interest?

Touching on a previous topic in the thread, Skeptical Science has a good article summarizing 10 separate lines of evidence that explain why the increase in CO2 is mostly due to anthropogenic factors.

The human-caused origin (anthropogenic) of the measured increase in atmospheric concentrations of CO2 is a cornerstone of predictions of future temperature rises. As such, it has come under frequent attack by people who challenge the science of global warming. One thing noteworthy about those attacks is that the full range of evidence supporting the anthropogenic nature of the CO2 increase seems to slip from sight. So what is the full range of supporting evidence? There are ten main lines of evidence to be considered:

1. The start of the growth in CO2 concentration coincides with the start of the industrial revolution, hence anthropogenic;
2. Increase in CO2 concentration over the long term almost exactly correlates with cumulative anthropogenic emissions, hence anthropogenic;
3. Annual CO2 concentration growth is less than Annual CO2 emissions, hence anthropogenic;
4. Declining C14 ratio indicates the source is very old, hence fossil fuel or volcanic (ie, not oceanic outgassing or a recent biological source);
5. Declining C13 ratio indicates a biological source, hence not volcanic;
6. Declining O2 concentration indicate combustion, hence not volcanic;
7. Partial pressure of CO2 in the ocean is increasing, hence not oceanic outgassing;
8. Measured CO2 emissions from all (surface and beneath the sea) volcanoes are one-hundredth of anthropogenic CO2 emissions; hence not volcanic;
9. Known changes in biomass too small by a factor of 10, hence not deforestation; and
10. Known changes of CO2 concentration with temperature are too small by a factor of 10, hence not ocean outgassing.

Robear wrote:

JD, were those responses of interest?

Touching on a previous topic in the thread, Skeptical Science has a good article summarizing 10 separate lines of evidence that explain why the increase in CO2 is mostly due to anthropogenic factors.

The human-caused origin (anthropogenic) of the measured increase in atmospheric concentrations of CO2 is a cornerstone of predictions of future temperature rises. As such, it has come under frequent attack by people who challenge the science of global warming. One thing noteworthy about those attacks is that the full range of evidence supporting the anthropogenic nature of the CO2 increase seems to slip from sight. So what is the full range of supporting evidence? There are ten main lines of evidence to be considered:

1. The start of the growth in CO2 concentration coincides with the start of the industrial revolution, hence anthropogenic;
2. Increase in CO2 concentration over the long term almost exactly correlates with cumulative anthropogenic emissions, hence anthropogenic;
3. Annual CO2 concentration growth is less than Annual CO2 emissions, hence anthropogenic;
4. Declining C14 ratio indicates the source is very old, hence fossil fuel or volcanic (ie, not oceanic outgassing or a recent biological source);
5. Declining C13 ratio indicates a biological source, hence not volcanic;
6. Declining O2 concentration indicate combustion, hence not volcanic;
7. Partial pressure of CO2 in the ocean is increasing, hence not oceanic outgassing;
8. Measured CO2 emissions from all (surface and beneath the sea) volcanoes are one-hundredth of anthropogenic CO2 emissions; hence not volcanic;
9. Known changes in biomass too small by a factor of 10, hence not deforestation; and
10. Known changes of CO2 concentration with temperature are too small by a factor of 10, hence not ocean outgassing.

Very good resources, thank you Robear. Actually, this thread has helped me out of some of my apathy. I'm not a global warming denier and I try to be green through recycling, watching energy usage, and driving a fuel-efficient car (although it's not a hybrid). But the scope of the problem still seems overwhelming, especially if a number of governments including the US are not going all out to solve it. I'm also thinking it's going to be a Herculean task to switch over our infrastructure to all renewable/nuclear energy. As guys like Zane have pointed out, we're probably looking at another global slowdown in the near future, possibly Great Depression 2.0. It's going to be hard in that economic climate to build the solar/wind farms and power plants needed to replace sources like coal.

We need to do a massive overhaul on our transmission networks anyway - they are antiquated and unreliable, and not tied together in ways that make sense in a modern country. So that's got to be done no matter what. Adding new power sources is pretty trivial; for example, many coal plants have switched to natural gas or other fuels and I'll bet you didn't even notice. Germany has converted 20% of it's capacity to "green" power, and is on track for 30% by 2020 and 80% by 2050. And it's hard to argue that it's broken them.

Besides, what's a Herculean task when you can spread it out over 30+ years? And when you're a power company sitting on nearly a decade of unprecedented profits, maybe that's one way to bet.

I would argue that a depression is an ideal time for government stimulus of alternative energy sources, but then I'm a post-Keynesian, insofar as I understand that stuff.

jdzappa wrote:

As guys like Zane have pointed out, we're probably looking at another global slowdown in the near future, possibly Great Depression 2.0. It's going to be hard in that economic climate to build the solar/wind farms and power plants needed to replace sources like coal.

On the flipside, it will also have the effect of reducing consumption and curbing population growth, so it will have an effect similar to reductions.

Robear wrote:

I would argue that a depression is an ideal time for government stimulus of alternative energy sources, but then I'm a post-Keynesian, insofar as I understand that stuff.

More than likely. People will try to eke out efficiency because they will have to.

Well, it could also reduce startup and overhead costs, and there'd be plenty of relatively cheap labor.

I saw this via slashdot this morning, thought it was relevant:

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/30/op...