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"Raise Wages, Cut Carbon":

Conservative House members Jeff Flake (R-AZ) and Bob Inglis (R-SC), along with Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-IL), have introduced an alternative to the cap-and-trade proposal developed by House Democrats: HR 2380, the "Raise Wages, Cut Carbon" Act of 2009. Their proposal is for a carbon tax that will gradually increase over time, offset by a reduction in payroll taxes. Here's Rep. Flake's explanation:

If there's one economic axiom, it's that if you want less of something, you tax it. Clearly, it's in our interest to move away from carbon. But if we're going to take the step of taxing carbon, that needs come with commensurate tax relief.

This legislation forces us to have an honest debate about protecting the environment, rather than simply raising more revenue for the federal government. Further, we shouldn't put ourselves in the position to decide what industries, whether it be nuclear or wind or solar, come out on top. Let's face it, government just isn't very good at making these choices.

You can be agnostic on the question of global warming and still recognize that, as a country, we need to move away from carbon. Republicans have articulately made the case that the U.S. needs to become energy independent, but the truth is that as long as we rely so heavily on fossil fuels, it's going to be awfully tough to get there from here.

I've been arguing that a revenue-neutral carbon tax is preferable to cap-and-trade for some time (see here and here). The real dealing has yet to begin, and already the House cap-and-trade bill is being watered down to accommodate corporate interests, and it will only get worse. I have no illusions about the likelihood of a "clean" carbon tax bill emerging from Congress, but I believe cap-and-trade is inherently more vulnerable to special interest manipulation -- a problem made worse since so few people understand what cap-and-trade means. As actually implemented, cap-and-trade is also less likely to spur the sort of innovation necessary to meet even less-ambitious climate targets, particularly if Congress insists on combining it with energy portfolio standards that constrain the market's ability to shift toward the most efficient means of emission reductions. So, in the case of carbon, it's time to consider a revenue-neutral tax.

Bruce Hayden (mail):
This is one of the biggest things scaring me about Cap and Trade (from your earlier article here):
Another consideration in choosing between various emission control strategies is that there is reason to believe that cap-and-trade programs are more vulnerable to rent seeking than are emission taxes designed to achieve equivalent reduction levels. Implementation of a cap-and-trade regime requires many more decisions about regulatory design than a tax regime, and that each decision presents the opportunity for rent-seeking behavior. While a tax can be designed to be relatively uniform, implementing a trading scheme necessarily requires many decisions about how to allocate and value allowances -- e.g. are the allowances to be allocated by auction, lottery, or past behavior? If by lottery, how is participation determined? If by past behavior, what behavior counts? What is the relevant time period? Is it purely retrospective, or partially prospective? What metric is to be used to evaluate comparable, but not identical, activities? Must some allowances be discounted in certain sectors to account for monitoring or enforcement problems? And so on. Users of allowances are not the only with something to gain through rent-seeking, those who seek to trade or broker allowances can also capture rents by influencing program design. (This was one of the reasons Enron fought so hard to get the Bush Administration to endorse carbon trading.) Insofar as rent-seeking involves a socially wasteful (and at times, even destructive) use of resources, the vulnerability of a system to rent-seeking should be a relevant consideration when choosing between various policy instruments
Of course, if I were cynical about the Democrats running Congress and the Executive, I might suggest that this rent seeking is precisely why they are picking Cap and Trade over a carbon tax. Those doing the rent seeking (in terms of acquiring the allocations from the government) will logically compare the cost of lobbying and campaign contributions (i.e. bribing) those in power in Congress and the Executive against the cost of acquiring them in the open market, and if the campaign contributions and lobbying costs are lower, go that way. The politicians love this, since they are the recipients of the campaign contributions, and their friends and family the recipients of the lobbying costs.

But from an economic point of view, that is likely to be non-optimal. For example, established industries are likely to be much better positioned to benefit from this. The result is then likely to be an economic bias in favor of the older, more established, industries, at the expense of the newer emerging ones, where our economic growth has traditionally been.
5.14.2009 12:56am
Oren:
If Flake endorses it, I'm behind it.
5.14.2009 1:05am
Volokh Groupie:
I like this proposal better as well and am surprised Inglis has endorsed it. Cap and Trade is a bit of a joke for seriously science policy analysts who are actually concerned about global warming and lowering emissions.

Who would have though we'd have a bunch of conservative republicans advocating an environmental tax though? I anxiously await the 2010 Coburn and Sessions sponsored VAT.
5.14.2009 1:11am
Andy Freeman (mail):
Retired folks will slaughter this idea.

Reduced payroll taxes don't do them much good. Higher prices do them much bad.

Revenue neutral as far as govt isn't concerned isn't all that big a priority among tax payers. For some reason, they're more concerned about their taxes.
5.14.2009 1:17am
Zach:
I'm not opposed to a revenue-neutral carbon tax, but I'm inclined to doubt that setting up a massive new tax infrastructure will end up being revenue neutral in practice. We're running a two trillion dollar deficit this year, with huge deficits as far as the eye can see and an administration which wants huge new spending programs but has no taste for spending cuts. If we offset a new carbon tax with cuts in the payroll tax, I suspect we'll see a reraise in the payroll tax in the not too distant future.
5.14.2009 2:44am
A. Zarkov (mail):
"You can be agnostic on the question of global warming and still recognize that, as a country, we need to move away from carbon."

Absolutely not. Natural gas and coal are immense domestic energy sources. Both can provide portable fuels for our transportation system.

In theory pure hydrogen can be used in place of a hydrocarbon fuel, but using hydrogen has lots of practical problems. That leaves either electric cars or cars and trucks running on some form of hydrocarbon fuel. Let's look at the implications of electric cars.

The key technology here is the battery. Let's assume we can solve that problem. What carbon-free energy source can provide the feedstock?

Nuclear
Wind
Solar
Bio

DOE secretary Chu is big on bio. He says "coal is his worst nightmare. It looks like nuclear is out of the picture because the Obama administration has closed down the Yucca Mountain Project. Chu has rejected fusion. So it comes down to the question: Can wind, solar, and bio provide enough feedstock to run the US transportation system, and at what cost? All of these approaches are tremendously capital intensive, meaning the US economy will take a tremendous efficiency hit. If China and India are free to use carbon-based fuels then they gain a tremendous advantage over the US.

We are looking at the de-industrialization of the US and our reduction to a third world country. But that's really the whole idea isn't it?
5.14.2009 2:49am
Volokh Groupie:
Retired folks and folks concerned about taxes aren't going to like cap and trade or any carbon regulating legislation. In the end the costs of all of these methods are going to be passed on to them. At least a direct approach like a carbon tax may impose less costs compared to a more convoluted system like cap and trade (for some of the reasons Prof. Adler mentions) and may be less subject to abuse.
5.14.2009 2:52am
dirc:
New taxes rarely result in the retirement of old taxes. Reductions in old taxes are, at best, temporary. With press reports that Social Security is reaching the point where payments exceed receipts, there is little likelihood that payroll tax reductions will last even a year.

If you want to reduce carbon output, I'm pretty sure that we just have to keep on the path we are on. Increase taxes and run massive deficits for a few years, and economic output should drop enough that demand for "carbon" (such a nice euphemism for "energy") will also drop. With a little luck, we will have a world-wide depression, and we can stop global warming.
5.14.2009 2:56am
Volokh Groupie:
@Zarkov

One has to think that the 'agnostic to AGW' bit is just a way to placate anger from conservatives--a carbon tax like this is absolutely an acceptance of the popular view on AGW's consequences for the world.
5.14.2009 2:57am
Volokh Groupie:
@dirc

Your ideas intrigue me and I wish to subscribe to your newsletter.

Seriously though, oil demand and oil prices didn't drop down to the 45-60$ range only out of some normal market correction.
5.14.2009 3:00am
John Moore (mail) (www):
This is most likely an attempt to get the costs of carbon abatement visible to the public, after which the idea will die. Most people don't want to trade their standard of living in order to ineffectually try to prevent a hypothetical problem 40 years into the future.

In any case, if we are to tax carbon emissions, it should indeed be through a direct tax.

Of course, the whole thing is a ridiculous farce. If one believes the highly dubious alarmist predictions, the amount of CO2 reduction to "solve" the "problem" will be vastly more than anyone is willing to outright propose. Furthermore, it is a world-wide issue, and the Chinese and others are happy to keep on emitting CO2.

Remember the Kyoto Treaty? Not a single US Senator voted for it. The Europeans signed it, but were unable to actually meet their goals. Furthermore, even had they done so, it would have been a trivial change in anthropogenic CO2 emissions - if one believed the most alarmist IPCC prediction, 100 years after Kyoto, global temperature change would have been slowed by 6 years - i.e. not even measurable.

The really frightening thing is the EPA ruling that CO2 is a dangerous pollutant. That's an excuse for pure tyranny - and is being used as a wedge to force congress into enacting its own stupid CO2 emissions reduction.

If you don't want to use much energy in your life, just move to a fourth world country and live as they do. Or, you can force us all to live that way by restricting our CO2 emissions here to the level required by the IPCC models.
5.14.2009 3:06am
David Welker (www):
Saying that a change in the tax code should be revenue neutral is equivalent to saying that current revenues are perfect. Why should we think that, given the deficits that were run under Bush?

That said, I certainly am not against a reduction in regressive payroll taxes, assuming we have enough revenue. Such a tax cut is infinitely more desirable than eliminating or lowering inheritance taxes, for example. But, I don't really see the linkage between this sort of tax cut and a carbon tax. The assumption that currently revenue is "just right" strikes me as far fetched, given current and future projections of deficits going forward.
5.14.2009 3:46am
ATM (mail):

The assumption that currently revenue is "just right" strikes me as far fetched, given current and future projections of deficits going forward.


Your implied assumption that the spending levels leading those deficits is "just right" is what is far fetched.
5.14.2009 6:41am
Dan28 (mail):
I've spent the past three years telling everyone I meet that a cap and trade system would be better at fueling innovation than a carbon tax, but after seeing the details of the Waxman-Markey cap and trade bill I am completely disgusted with it, especially with those Democrats for whom "moderation" has clearly become a code word for blatant special interest give aways. I agree; a revenue-neutral carbon tax would be much better than that POS bill, and as long as this bill is substantial enough to make a real impact I'm down with it.

Either that, or the EPA should just implement a cap and trade system on their own, with the authority they already have under the CAA. But Congress sucks at doing this stuff.
5.14.2009 8:40am
rick.felt:
My biggest objection to achieving revenue neutrality through payroll tax cuts is that it helps to destroy the relationship between FICA contributions and Social Security benefits. The public has enough trouble understanding this relationship already.

Everyone contributes 12.4% of their wages to the Social Security Trust Fund [ha ha! --ed.], and in return, they get retirement benefits proportional to their lifetime contributions. For younger workers the rate of return isn't very good, but at least there's a relationship between what you put in and what you get out.

Reduce or eliminate payroll taxes and you transform Social Security from an ersatz 401(k) into welfare for the old. You haven't paid money into the system, but you get free money on the back end. There's no longer an understanding that the money you're getting when you're retired is the money that you put in when you were working. Rather, this is money that you get from Uncle Sam when you get old.

I'm wary of the psychological effects of voters thinking that they're getting Free Money. Once the psychological connection between contributions and benefits is destroyed, it becomes much easier to say "I want more free money." Currently we can say "you're only getting $10,000 in Social Security because you only put $X in over your lifetime." But once we start saying "you didn't put in any money over your lifetime, but here's $10,000 anyway," it becomes much harder to deny increases in benefit levels.

This is already starting to be a problem on the other end of the earnings spectrum. One popular solution to the Social Security revenue shortfall is to do away with the cap on FICA contributions. "It's not fair that the rich get to stop paying FICA taxes at ~$100,000. It's a regressive tax!" It's perfectly fair, of course, because while the rich don't pay more in, they don't get more out. Get rid of the cap (without giving credit for these additional contributions) and you're severing the relationship between contributions and benefits, and Social Security becomes more welfare-like. You're raising taxes on high earners to pay benefits to lower earners. Not everyone gets the same return on investment, which isn't fair.

I suppose that if you replaced payroll taxes with a carbon tax you could create a virtual link between earnings and Social Security. Every paycheck could contain a simulated FICA contribution showing what you would have earned under the old scheme. I can't imagine something like that passing, though. The argument would be that workers were all paying the same amount into the system ($0) but getting different amounts on the back end. There's no rational basis for treating a higher wage-earner better than a lower wage-earner if they both paid the same amount in. In fact, if Social Security is no longer being funded through taxes on wages, shouldn't everyone be entitled to Social Security, regardless of whether they ever worked? Social Security benefits would have to become uniform, regardless of lifetime contributions. That would completely destroy the understanding of Social Security as a retirement program, and would transform it into welfare.
5.14.2009 9:28am
deathsinger:
rick.felt

I understand what your concern is, but are you under the mistaken impression that OASDI has always been 12.4%? Do you understand the return change points on the formula for getting money back (90%, 32%, 15%)?

If we lower the rate to 10% does that really change the notion of paying into the system to get something out? This bill does not eliminate the payroll tax on some portion of wages, it simply lowers the rate.
5.14.2009 9:47am
Bart (mail):

You can be agnostic on the question of global warming and still recognize that, as a country, we need to move away from carbon. Republicans have articulately made the case that the U.S. needs to become energy independent, but the truth is that as long as we rely so heavily on fossil fuels, it's going to be awfully tough to get there from here.

Really? Let's put that claim to the test.

Open up the oil shale fields out here in Colorado, Utah and Wyoming that hold 3-5 times the Saudi oil reserves.

Open up all offshore oil fields.

Streamline the environmental review to 2 years.

The resulting energy boom would dwarf and cost hundreds of billions of dollars less than Obama's planned government created green power.
5.14.2009 9:52am
Houston Lawyer:
I think revenue neutrality is a pipe dream. The whole purpose of the cap and trade proposal is to collect more taxes while encouraging rent seeking contributions to the Democrats who control the legislative process.

Count me in as against reducing FICA taxes. Since 50% of families effectively pay no income taxes, these are the only federal taxes that they pay.

What many Lefties don't want to admit is that any effective environmental legislation will hurt the poor disproportionately. Legislation designed to fix imaginary problems will only be more harmful.
5.14.2009 9:54am
deathsinger:
Houston Lawyer,


Count me in as against reducing FICA taxes. Since 50% of families effectively pay no income taxes, these are the only federal taxes that they pay.


So if they pay the carbon tax plus the FICA taxes that isn't good enough?
5.14.2009 9:57am
Dan28 (mail):

What many Lefties don't want to admit is that any effective environmental legislation will hurt the poor disproportionately.

What you don't want to admit is that the consequences of not taking action to combat global warming is hurting the poor disproportionately, a problem that will continue to get worse over time.
5.14.2009 10:01am
Joe T Guest:
Houston Lawyer - I stood up and yelled "Bingo" first when you made that call. Do I get a prize?

I agree with you. The point is to wring an additional $2k - $4k / year out of each actor in the energy and power market - consumers who own houses, drive cars, whatever. After having looked at how Cap &Trade is supposed to work, it's clear that it's just another tax that will be passed through corporations to consumers. I'm laughing hearing the argument that nationalized health care is going to be cost-neutral because Cap &Trade is going to offset the increased expenditure, and Cap &Trade isn't going to cost us anything because it's going to operate at a profit. (Really? Fascinating - a regulatory scheme that operates at a profit... I used to think the term for that was "tax").

I suppose we're expected to believe that corporations like GM (and power &energy *utilities* many of which are basically non-profit public corporations to begin with) are just going to eat the cost of Cap &Trade. It beggars belief that the pols would make this ridiculous argument, which follows the classic rhetorical formulation posited by somebody, maybe Cato the Elder or perhaps Mad Dog Murdoch, of "this plan is so crazy, it just might work."
5.14.2009 10:03am
Vermando (mail) (www):
Someone needs to tell Bart about marginal economic cost. That the energy exists at home doesn't mean it will be produced here - regardless of the permits - if it is cheaper to be produced abroad.
5.14.2009 10:13am
Houston Lawyer:

What you don't want to admit is that the consequences of not taking action to combat global warming is hurting the poor disproportionately, a problem that will continue to get worse over time


Please explain to me how the poor are to be hurt by global warming. Start by explaining how you have determined that the world is currently at or above its optimal temperature. Show your work.
5.14.2009 10:26am
Dan28 (mail):

Please explain to me how the poor are to be hurt by global warming. Start by explaining how you have determined that the world is currently at or above its optimal temperature. Show your work.

There is no "optimal" climate. What there is, is the climate that billions of people in the world depend on every day in order to survive and in order for the global economy to run properly. It makes no objective difference to the earth whether Bangladesh is a river delta or a shallow sea, just as it makes no difference to the earth whether human industy survives or fails or, for that matter, whether the human species lives or dies. It matters a lot to the 120,000,000 people who currently live in Bangladesh. Whether agriculture survives in areas currently facing massive drought - such as most of the West and Southeast United States, much of Africa (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/2027079.stm) and Austrailia (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/asia-pacific/7584592.stm) and Asia (http://news.mongabay.com/2008/1209-forests_drought.html) matters a lot to the world's poor, who starve when agriculture prices go up. So instead of ignorant sophistry and the repetition of inane right-wing talking points, how about you do a little actual personal investigation of the consequences of climatic change? I strongly recommend "Collapse" by Jarod Diamond, which explains in exhaustive, meticulous detail why, historically climate change has been an incredibly important factor in the rise and fall of various civilizations (see a wikipedia synopsis of his argument here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Collapse_(book) ).
5.14.2009 10:44am
BenFranklin (mail):
What the politicians decide to do about "carbon" is irrelevant. The laws of physics and economics won't change. There are very good reasons why our energy sources are as they are. There are no alternatives that are viable at present.

Only a bunch of scientifically and economically illiterate goons could think of a plan pushing everyone towards using electric cars, which will double the amount of electricity we will have to produce, while at the same time ruling out all sources for the production of such glorious amounts of energy like coal fired plants or nuclear plants. We won't even mention requiring the re-tooling of an already bankrupt automobile industry.

The country has had a psychotic break with reality and it is in for a rude awakening. Please do not encourage these people by taking them seriously and engaging them in discussion. Any energy spent discussing what we are going to do about "carbon" is as useless as discussing what we are going to do about silica, or nitrogen or Shakespeare's ghost. We are going to do nothing about it. We may cause each other great injury in trying to do something about it but in the end there will be no net effect no matter what we flavor our poison with.

We can either burn the coal in our power plants or in our homes. Either way it is going to get burned (even if we let loose the nuclear industry). Our best hope is to be prosperous enough that there is enough free capital in the market that people feel secure speculating on new technologies. Given the current war being waged on the economy in general and speculators in particular that is not going to happen any time soon either.

I never really thought of Americans as being particularly drawn to Luddism or fascism... and yet... there is no other explanation for how we are behaving.
5.14.2009 10:44am
rick.felt:
If we lower the rate to 10% does that really change the notion of paying into the system to get something out? This bill does not eliminate the payroll tax on some portion of wages, it simply lowers the rate.

It simply lowers the rate... for now. I'm concerned about going down this road. Today it's a carbon tax knocking 2.2% off of FICA. Tomorrow it's a Sody-Pop Tax shaving another 1% off. Then a Fat Tax shaving off 3%.

Getting close to zero would be bad. We wouldn't have to get all the way. I don't want to get to the point where the ROI on FICA has a "free money" component. Getting even a seven or eight percent return on a risk-free investment would be getting into free money territory.
5.14.2009 10:45am
iowan (mail):
What is the earths optimum temperture?

Can man get it there?

How?
5.14.2009 10:49am
David Drake:
Houston Lawyer--

Thanks for asking one of the many unresolved questions about global warming alarmism: that the consequences of global warming will, to some extent, be positive: primarily in permitting agriculture, or another growing season, in many areas of the world. The "official" (i,e, non-hysterical) global warming websites admit this, but claim the good effects are outweighed by the bad.

But rather than admitting this, the alarmists use the following "argument":

The climate is warming.
Warming may be causd to some extent by "greenhouse gases"
CO2 is a greenhouse gas.
Some percentage of C02 is generated by human activities, primarily use of carbon based fules.


Therefore, the world is going to end unless we cut carbon usage in the U.S. to a level not seen since the American Revolution .

A. Zarkov has it right: the goal is deindustrialization, and "global warming" only the latest means to try to achieve that long cherished environmentalist goal.
5.14.2009 11:02am
Dan28 (mail):
The overwhelming reliance on ad hominem argument and the complete inability of most people on this thread to even correctly identify the major arguments of global warming scientists and activists is a sad condemnation of the horrendus way this issue is currently being covered in the conservative media. Get out of your bubble people and do some reading of the actual arguments on the other side of your own.

Here's what climate activists actually believe: Real Climate. When you have an analysis that actually understands the opposing argument and actually responds to the points raised, let me know.
5.14.2009 11:08am
Dan28 (mail):
Corrected Link
5.14.2009 11:11am
deathsinger:
rick.felt

So you see this carbon tax as the slippery slope to no FICA taxes?

Raise the carbon tax enough and we'll stop using so much carbon. FICA will get raised back to compensate.
5.14.2009 11:25am
rosetta's stones:

Clearly, it's in our interest to move away from carbon.


No matter which politician uses the word "clearly", Flake or Inglis or any other, rest assured their point is anything but clear, certainly not this one.
.
.
.

Vernando, I don't think anybody doubts that the cost of domestic carbon drives us to imports. The point is that the US has such domestic carbon sources readily available, and with the appropriate actions, can achieve the fabled "energy independence" that some politicians are using to push for these overt and hidden taxes.

I want to be there when the first federale shows up at some municipally-run coal burning electrical utility, and demands the fed cut of the take. They might be able to sneak this nonsense onto corporate books, but out in the open, publicly? There will be issues here.

In recent years, we've seen our utility bills rising, as nat gas has slowly been replacing coal in some areas. The unease hasn't reached critical mass, but there's been some rumble. Carbon taxes will not come without pain for these politicians.
5.14.2009 11:52am
joe (mail):
Dan28 -

I did a quick check of your source on what climate activists really believe. They are deluded - callously misled.

First, anyone who believes the computer models are reliable simply does not understand the science (or practice) of measurement or the scale of the problem. The smug ignorance with which the assurance is offered is unutterably dispiriting.

Second, there is a difference between pollution, of which we humans are clearly guilty, and climatological effect, which we can only aspire to. We simply do not have the capacity to affect the *climate* regardless of our abilities to denude the land or foul the air. The difference in scale between affecting habitat and climate is beyond the comprehension of most folks - the difference between agriculture and terraforming.

Third, the accumulation and distribution of ice throughout the planet is poorly measured and even more poorly reported. I pick up another 5% correction to the figures every few years in the news. We have no legitimate basis for using any of these figures as a driver of public policies that demand a fundamental restructuring of our economy.

I repeat, what climate activists believe is adulterated twaddle. It is, therefore, impossible to have a rational discussion with them. Like their cousins, the creationists, they attempt to speak in the language of scientifically educated adults, but scientifically educated adults are not fooled by the gibberish.
5.14.2009 12:17pm
Oren:

In recent years, we've seen our utility bills rising, as nat gas has slowly been replacing coal in some areas. The unease hasn't reached critical mass, but there's been some rumble. Carbon taxes will not come without pain for these politicians.

Utilities make up such a small part of the average household's budget (~2.5% of mine, and I use an exorbitant amount of electricity) that I probably wouldn't notice if the prices doubled.
5.14.2009 12:18pm
David Drake:
Dan28:


The overwhelming reliance on ad hominem argument


I reread the comments and found only one or two examples of ad hominem arguments.

I hear "ad hominem" arguments from the proponents all the time. They look like this:

Skeptic assertion: "John Jones, a climatologist at Big U, questions whether CO2 is causing global warming on the basis of x, y &z."

GW true believer response: "John Jones accepts grants from oil companies."

It is an ad hominem argument because no attempt is made to address Jones' x, y or z, but only Jones' credentials or ties.

I will review the site you linked to, though.
5.14.2009 12:19pm
Sigivald (mail):
Would it help to point out that both worrying about CO2 emissions and "energy independence" are wastes of time?

CO2 isn't a problem, and energy autarky is a chimera.

(If we really want the latter, nuclear power could provide it. Hell, coal could, though I don't want the actual non-"greenhouse gas" pollution from coal burning.

But it's obvious that nobody actually wants "energy independence" at the political level - and it's not obvious that "energy independence" provides any significant benefit... apart from the anti-benefit of paying more for "local" energy than the international market price.)
5.14.2009 12:36pm
Volokh Groupie:
@Dan28

I don't disagree with your larger points but citing Collapse and the arguments you choose from it is a pretty poor way of making them. First, Diamond has got plenty of flack for much of the shoddy research (or not following research) regarding Easter Island, which raises enormous holes in his theory considering it is the most pure example of an environmentally driven collapse.

Otherwise, while environmental damage/change is the recurring theme in Collapse, with the exception of Easter Island all of the other examples generally showed civilizations that failed because of a combination of factors and a failure to adapt to environmental changes. It's very difficult to claim that the civilizations he chose (largely isolated ones) provide apt analogies in our globalized world. It's equally disingenuous to neglect that there are scientists who agree with AGW and believe it makes more sense to look at how man can adapt in reaction to what they believe are inevitable changes.

Realclimate is a good place to link to but throwing out ad hom charges after complaining about 'right wing talking points points' is pretty hypocritical.

@joe

really, you're going to try to say creationists=climatologists?

one group produces scientific models and results and tries to confirm them using empirical proxies to do their work while the other obfuscates any actual science and try to advocate religion in lieu of it

otherwise all your criticism of the 'scale' and of 'models' is pretty easily rebutted by the handful of sites set up which respond to these common criticisms of AGW research

if you have more serious (read detailed) criticism of the GCM's used then state it, but don't make these over the top undetailed accusations/claims
5.14.2009 12:41pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
Dan28:

"The overwhelming reliance on ad hominem argument ..."

Outside the VC, the use ad-hominem arguments better describes the defenders of AGW and not the critics. For example "Rajendra K. Pachauri, chairman of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), compared Bjorn Lomborg, author of The Skeptical Environmentalist, to Adolf Hitler ..." The famous physicist Freeman Dyson, has been bitterly attacked by the pro-AGW community. And these examples are merely the tip of a very large iceberg. People who live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones.

"Get out of your bubble people and do some reading of the actual arguments on the other side of your own."


Good advise for you to follow as well. Let me help you start.

AGW could very well be real, but we need to determine how much warming and the effects. If you want a scientific critique then read On Climate Sensitivity and why it is probably small. See also Carbon dioxide or Solar Forcing. BTW the physicist author Neil Shaviv has himself been the target of ad-hominem attacks. Read his More slurs from realclimate.org (a site you reference).

Shaviv has proposed a theory of cosmic rays and cloud cover. See Is the causal link between cosmic rays and cloud cover really dead?? A reasoned critique of Shaviv's theory appeared Harrison R.G. &D.B. Stephenson, Proc. Roy. Soc. A, doi:10.1098/rspa.2005.1628, 2006. But unfortunately for the authors they don't really understand Bartlett's test for serial correlation. See also Do cosmic rays cause clouds? What should be obvious is the science is far from "settled" as one can see from the point counter point of the scientific debate. A scientific argument does not rest on how many come down on one side or the other. It rests on the quality of the science itself.
5.14.2009 12:44pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
Whoops, I messed up the last link. Let's try again.

Do Cosmic Rays Cause Clouds?
5.14.2009 12:47pm
Dan Weber (www):
You get less of what you tax. If you tax meat, you get less meat. If you tax cigarettes, you get less cigarettes. If you tax dividends, you get less dividends.

Right now the plurality share of the Federal Budget comes from Income Taxes. These are taxes on production and work. It means we get less production and work. These are the features that create value in an economy.

Economists have been arguing for taxes on things that aren't income for a long time. Consumption taxes are the most common alternative, and a carbon tax would cover a broad part of consumption. It's the whole reason for the Pigou Club, and you'll see a whole bunch of serious economists from both sides of the aisle there. Mankiw is the founder.

I do share the concerns about disassociating FICA inputs from outputs, so any increase in carbon or consumption taxes should be offset with flat reductions in income tax.
5.14.2009 12:59pm
Dan28 (mail):

We simply do not have the capacity to affect the *climate* regardless of our abilities to denude the land or foul the air

That's an assertion. Do you have an argument to defend that position? Because all the evidence suggests it is wrong.

@Zarkov
Let me ask you something. I assume we agree on the following four points:

1. Carbon dioxide (and other greenhouse gasses) retain heat;
2. There is a significantly increased amount of CO2 and other GHGs in the atmosphere as a result of human industry;
3. Historically, there has been a close relationship between GHGs in the atmopshere and global temperatures;
4. The historical relationship between GHGs and global temperature is roughly equivalent to what you would expect, given the degree to which GHG emissions retain heat;
5. The earth is warming significantly.

The first point is subject to controlled laboratory tests and is therefore indisputable. The second and fifth are equally obvious. The third I suppose assumes the basic accuracy of a number of different means scientists have of testing historic atmospheric content and temperature, such as tree ring data and ice cores, but I have never read anything that gives a good argument as to why these mechanisms are inaccurate. The fourth is complex and perhaps the most disputable, since there are obviously more factors than just GHGs on earth's temperature, but within that complexity the close relationship between the gasses and temperature is remarkable.

The problem with alternative theories about why the Earth is warming is not that they lack evidence, although many of them do lack evidence or fail to make accurate predictions about the future, and are therefore discarded over time. The problem is that we already have a theory that makes inehrernt sense (if a chemical retains heat, emitting a lot of it will probably make the planet hotter), that predicts the data, both because it has accurately predicted temperature increases found since the beginning of global warming as a theory and because it has accurately predicted new discoveries about the past correlation between temperature and GHGs, and has no immediate or obvious flaws. So with a theory that powerful to compete with, searching for alternate explanations has a similar feel to OJ Simpson's investigation into who killed Nicole.

And note that none of the scientific basis for global warming has anything to do with computer models. Computer models have a different purpose - to predict what the impact of global warming will be. Those predictions are, indeed, not altogether reliable (although not nearly as unreliable as some people here arbitrarily assert). But there's a difference between knowing that global warming is going to happen and knowing exactly how it will impact the planet. If I shoot you twice in the chest, I may not know for certain which organ my bullet will cause to fail first, or whether it will kill you or merely drive you into a coma, but I can be pretty sure it will fuck you up.
5.14.2009 1:07pm
Fub:
Dan28 wrote at 5.14.2009 11:11am:
Corrected Link [realclimate.org]
I read the page and the first ~200 comments.

The overall gist seems to be: Belief good; skepticism evil. Everybody knows major breakthroughs are just around the corner. It's been true for years.

One article of faith appears to be that "research" will produce heat engines operating at, or even greater than, perfect Carnot efficiency.

Particularly precious was the discussion about a new photovoltaic technology that, according to a proponent "...the bonnet and hood of your car can be made of sliver cells and that will supply more than enough power to it's electric motor for even the most blaze speed freak to raise a sweat over."

Color me evil.
5.14.2009 1:10pm
Smooth, Like a Rhapsody (mail):
If one stipulates to the premises that climate change is occurring and that, say, Bangladesh is going to be inundated unless the trends are reversed; does it matter who is to blame for the existence of the trend?

I mean, what if we in the 1st world could avert catastrophe if we stopped using airplanes, or whatever. Is our duty to act any different than if we are to blame?

If it is different, why?; we are still rich and they are still facing annihilation. It does not matter to Bangladeshis why sea levels are rising.

If it is not different, then would we choose to impoverish ourselves if we did not deem the negative outcome to be, in some strong sense, "our fault"? It is hard to imagine that we would do so.
5.14.2009 1:12pm
Bruce Hayden (mail):
What you don't want to admit is that the consequences of not taking action to combat global warming is hurting the poor disproportionately, a problem that will continue to get worse over time.
Are we talking American poor, or those in Bangladesh?
There is no "optimal" climate. What there is, is the climate that billions of people in the world depend on every day in order to survive and in order for the global economy to run properly. It makes no objective difference to the earth whether Bangladesh is a river delta or a shallow sea, just as it makes no difference to the earth whether human industry survives or fails or, for that matter, whether the human species lives or dies. It matters a lot to the 120,000,000 people who currently live in Bangladesh. Whether agriculture survives in areas currently facing massive drought - such as most of the West and Southeast United States, much of Africa and Australia matters a lot to the world's poor, who starve when agriculture prices go up. So instead of ignorant sophistry and the repetition of inane right-wing talking points, how about you do a little actual personal investigation of the consequences of climatic change? I strongly recommend "Collapse" by Jarod Diamond, which explains in exhaustive, meticulous detail why, historically climate change has been an incredibly important factor in the rise and fall of various civilizations.
I will start with an agreement, that there is no "optimal climate". But, then I will have to disagree that a warmer climate would be worse for, at least our, poor. I commend you for your worrying about the poor in Bangladesh and Africa, but that doesn't take away from the facts that it is our taxes that we are talking about, and that their neighbors bear a lot more of the responsibility than we do. In the case of Bangladesh, let's look at India, China, and likely SE Asia as it grows economically.

We just don't know exactly what a warmer climate is going to do in this country, except maybe flood out some of our lowest lying cities. But then, contrary to Al Gore's fevered predictions, if that were to happen, it would be on a very slow timeline, easily slow enough that we could move those affected to higher ground for a mere fraction of what is being proposed as taxing and spending here.

But when it comes to water and farming, what we do know from physics is that warmer air carries more moisture, and that much of the Earth is now unfarmable because it is frozen. Just look at the globe, and you should easily notice that the two biggest countries on the planet lie far enough north, that a majority of their land cannot be farmed. It won't take moving agriculture very far north at all to compensate for all farming being lost in Bangladesh. Probably on the order of a couple of miles. Heck, it would probably be cheaper to just transport them all to Siberia when it warms up, than to engage in the CO2 reductions that are being pushed so hard here and in Europe.

It is interesting historically that populations tended to boom in times of global warming, and crash in times of global cooling.

I am not claiming that the people on this world would be better off if the Earth warmed a bit. But there is probably as much evidence in favor of that, as there is that they would suffer, over all. Yes, you can find places where they likely would suffer, but there are plenty of places where they would likely be better off. Maybe more.
5.14.2009 1:27pm
FredGarvin (mail):
Dan28:
1. Carbon dioxide (and other greenhouse gasses) retain heat;
2. There is a significantly increased amount of CO2 and other GHGs in the atmosphere as a result of human industry;



Of the places that store CO2, it is a trace gas in the atmosphere, holding the least amount of it. The ocean plays a much more significant role in the storage (holding 93%) and effects (heat retention) of CO2.

If any human activity is the culprit to adding CO2 to the atmosphere, I'd figure it comes from deforestation, lesser amounts from car mufflers contained in the United States.
5.14.2009 1:29pm
Bruce Hayden (mail):
Smooth

By all means. Send all your own money to Bangladesh. But what is being proposed here is not saving the people there, but rather just spending trillions of dollars of everyone else's money to feel good about helping them, even if it doesn't do any good whatsoever. As I pointed out in my last post, the booming countries next door to that country are ramping up their energy use and CO2 discharges as fast as they possibly can, and there is every reason to believe that beggaring ourselves to putatively help them will be swamped by the "harm" done by their neighbors, esp. with us out of the way.
5.14.2009 1:32pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
Dan28:

I agree that an increase in atmospheric CO2 concentration will cause some warming, but without positive feedback from increased water vapor, the effect is small. The whole game is in the feedbacks both positive and negative. When you write
And note that none of the scientific basis for global warming has anything to do with computer models. Computer models have a different purpose - to predict what the impact of global warming will be.
I can't help thinking that you don't understand the subject. Computer models (specifically GCMs) are used to predict the amount of warming and the effects. The GCMs are used to calculate the all important feedbacks. The models give us that 1.5-4.5 C increase in temperature for a doubling of CO2 concentration. Shaviv explains all this in his essay on the Climate Sensitivity Factor. The reason we have a factor of 3 uncertainly in the predicted warming traces to our lack of understanding of the cloud physics.

Look at it another way. Atmospheric CO2 increased through out the 20th Century, but temperatures were falling from about 1940 to 1990-- that's why some scientists were worrying about a new ice age in the 1970s. The AGW community blames the temperature decrease on particulate pollution, another feedback. If it were just more CO2 => higher temperature, we would have seen a monotonic temperature increase with CO2, but we don't. It much more complicated.

Please read Shaviv on the Climate Sensitive Factor. He frames the entire problem mathematically and make it clear just what's going on.
5.14.2009 1:38pm
Joe T Guest:
One article of faith appears to be that "research" will produce heat engines operating at, or even greater than, perfect Carnot efficiency.


Yes, of course they believe that. Now that we have a Democratic Congress, we can repeal the Laws of Thermodynamics imposed by reactionary conservatives in response to attacks by heat, cold, and the lingering effects of stasis. With luck, we can also repeal monstrosities like like Charles-Broyles Law (the Kemp-Roth of its day)and get the fed to reset the Planck constant. Only then will society be free to achieve authentic equilibrium in our lifetime!
5.14.2009 1:44pm
geokstr (mail):

Volokh Groupie:

really, you're going to try to say creationists = climatologists Climate Change True Believers?

There, fixed that for you.

There is much in common between the two groups. They both hurl invective at unbelievers. They both have lots of scientifically ignorant followers who blindly recite the litany. They twist and mold and shape their "evidence" to justify their desired outcome. They totally disregard any conflicting studies and smear the authors with personal attacks and innuendos. They cannot stand criticism.

There are lots of prominent climatologists and other scientists who have direct knowledge and experience in the area who do not agree with either manmade global warming and/or the disastrous apocalypse predicted by the environmental prophets:
Petition Project

That group of over 31,000 includes:
1) "3,803 scientists trained in specialties directly related to the physical environment of the Earth and the past and current phenomena that affect that environment."
2) "Computer and mathematical sciences includes 935 scientists trained in computer and mathematical methods..."
3) "Physics and aerospace sciences include 5,810 scientists trained in the fundamental physical and molecular properties of gases, liquids, and solids..."

And yes I have been made aware that there is supposedly one whole entire scientist who has been found who claims he never signed and shouldn't be on the list, and that apparently in the minds of AGW alarmistas means that the entire list is totally discredited. (See above under "smears".)

That is a creationist tactic called "quote mining".

They look for any way to pull totally out of context a sentence or phrase written or said by a legit scientist and then use that to descredit the entire body of science.

One of the most famous examples is that in his seminal book, Darwin posits a hypothetical question that evolution can't be proven, then goes on to immediately demolish the hypothetical. Creationists then quote the hypothetical question only to prove that Darwin didn't even believe in evolution.

Sort of like finding one scientist who says he shouldn't be on the list.
5.14.2009 1:45pm
Dan28 (mail):
<blockquote>
much of the Earth is now unfarmable because it is frozen
</blockquote>
I'm sure the Bangladeshis will be comforted to hear about the expanded growing season in Siberia.

There are lots of problems with the "some areas will improve, some areas will decline" response. First, the ecology of various areas of the world are adjusted to the climate as it existed before industrialization. If that climate changes significantly, it creates big problems. For example, areas that suddenly get warmer not only get exposed to longer growing seasons, but also to new virusus and bacteria that take on a sudden new strength in ecological areas that haven't evolved defenses to them. See, for example, the spread of west nile virus into new environments. It is for this reason that all climatic shifts historically, whether warmer or colder, have been followed by large numbers of extinctions.

What is true from an ecological perspective is also true for human ecology and industry. Population is concentrated in areas based on the assumption of a stable climate. When the climate changes, you can't say, hey Darfur, you're area is becoming a desert, but look, Siberia is getting warmer so why don't you all pack up and move there. Instead, people start to kill each other. Maybe the Siberians have a few surprising growing seasons, but that hardly compensates from a utilitarian perspective with the disaster that will befall most of the rest of the world.
5.14.2009 1:46pm
rosetta's stones:

Utilities make up such a small part of the average household's budget (~2.5% of mine, and I use an exorbitant amount of electricity) that I probably wouldn't notice if the prices doubled.


You'd notice it if it doubled. More importantly, lower incomes types would definitely notice it. And the increase won't be reflected solely in your utility bills, but throughout the CPI. It took 2-3 years of high prices plus a recession to impact gasoline consumption, the demand was so inelastic. Utilities and the basket of CPI will be similar, and disposable income will be affected.

Woe be to the politician who jacks taxes for this nonsense... and the needle seems to be swinging over to the nonsense side of the gauge, if you observe public opinion.
5.14.2009 1:53pm
Soronel Haetir (mail):
Dan28,

I also have a lot of problems with your #5. I will certainly agree over a scale starting from 1600, but our data over the last 100 years or last 2000 years is much less certain. And to try and make claims about a global temperature to tenths of a degree Celcius strikes me as massive overconfidence.

There are also problems with your #3 in that the evidence appears to show that actual atmospheric changes lag not preceed climate change.

And to make any claim that humans with current technology can control climate appears as nothing more than hubris to me. If past climate did not exhibit wildly different climate regimes over even relatively short time periods I might believe humans had such an effect but there is plenty of evidence for past climate change. And even if humans /do/ have such effects I don't see the evidence that carbon alone is the key factor and not say land use patterns.
5.14.2009 2:07pm
Oren:
Wow, yet another thread that's devolved into a debate on the merits of AGW. Fascinating.
5.14.2009 2:42pm
geokstr (mail):
Between Greenland, the Candian Yukon, Alaska and the tundra of Russia there are tens of million of square miles that are totally useless to us right now (except for their unspoiled beauty, of course). If those areas were to open up to farming, the earth could support billions more people (another reason the environmentalists hate the idea of warming.) I'll bet that under all that ice there is enough readily and cheaply available fossil fuel to make Saudi Arabia look like a half empty 5 gallon gas can, enough natural gas and coal to power human civilization for thousands of years, enough gold for the world to go back on the gold standard, not to mention all the other minerals.

Even without "warming", the European penchant to not reproduce fast enough to maintain their own populations created a sociological vacuum that has sucked in many tens of millions of the "poor" from other countries. That's without governmental planning, or expensive incentive programs to get them to move, etc. Why do you think that the Bangladeshis wouldn't move up north all by themselves into previously uninhabitable areas to seek opportunity?

And nice try with this "sudden warming" stuff. What does the IPCC predict anyway? A 1.1 to 6.4 degree Celsius increase by 2100. You (and algore) make it out like one day it will be frozen and the next, a baking desert, just before the 100 foot walls of water crush New York and Holland. All this will happen very gradually, if at all.

So should we spend hundreds of trillions of dollars worldwide, potentially wrecking the entire global economy to attempt to hold this back? Or would it be better to spend 1% of that to gradually facilitate the demographic shifts that will occur mostly by themselves anyway. (And all this depends on the alarmists being totally correct, when it's likely that they're overblowing it for dramatic effect.)
5.14.2009 2:55pm
Dan28 (mail):

Wow, yet another thread that's devolved into a debate on the merits of AGW. Fascinating.

It's a real problem that it's impossible to have a sensible conversation about what should be done about global warming when 40% of the country - and 75% of this thread - apparently believes that the whole idea is a malevolent conspiracy by liberals to destroy the American economy.
5.14.2009 3:02pm
geokstr (mail):

Oren:
Wow, yet another thread that's devolved into a debate on the merits of AGW. Fascinating.

I don't see this as a "devolution" at all, more at getting to the root of the necessity for things like carbon taxes and cap 'n tax in the first place.

The post was about the opening salvos in the coming political war over - what exactly? AGW, and what to do about it, if it exists at all. There's an awful lot of uncertainty about this whole subject, despite the so-called consensus. Proponents of AGW are essentially wanting to restructure our entire economy in a relatively short period of time, with potentially disastrous unintended consequences.

The debate over AGW should take place first, not afterwards. But the left has not allowed any debate to take place yet.

Can't let a good crisis go to waste I guess.
5.14.2009 3:15pm
geokstr (mail):
I'm so sorry, Dan. I get it that you think us little children on the right are too stupid to understand science, and its inevitable politicization like all the intelligent adults do.
5.14.2009 3:21pm
Dan28 (mail):
Apology accepted.
5.14.2009 3:25pm
Bruce Hayden (mail):
The cap-and-trade racket
In the name of environmental protection, Democrats are readying just such a transfer on a scale that would have impressed the Pharaohs. Tens of billions of dollars, possibly hundreds of billions, will be shifted from American consumers of electricity to shareholders of favored utility companies in primarily blue states. Under the leadership of uber-liberal Henry Waxman, chairman of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, Democrats are determined to make their plan so complicated that taxpayers will not notice the flocks of dollars migrating from the middle of the country to the coasts.
5.14.2009 3:27pm
Smooth, Like a Rhapsody (mail):
ok, let's be sensible:

I am not going to agree to move from my current home (50 miles from my workplace) to a home that would result in a shorter drive to work, because, inter alia, I refuse to send my daughter to the terrible schools in the town where I work.

(**There are lots of other reasons, such as that I believe that any sacrifice we rich evil Americans might make will be more than offset by contrary actions of people in the developing world--but I think my first reason should be a sufficient justification for my position.)

I say this in full knowledge that refusal on the part of me and others similarly situated to co-operate may lead to the disappearance of the polar bears or of the country of Bangladesh.

I think that is sensible, Dan; what about you?
5.14.2009 3:40pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):

It's a real problem that it's impossible to have a sensible conversation about what should be done about global warming when 40% of the country - and 75% of this thread - apparently believes that the whole idea is a malevolent conspiracy by liberals to destroy the American economy.
No, we believe that it is a conspiracy by people intent on looting the pockets of the population through complex carbon credit trading schemes. (For example, Al Gore's indulgence selling scheme.)

The fact is that the science on this is far less clear than you think, and it is based on some remarkably uncertain data. The USHCN, for example, relies on large numbers of weather stations that are:

1. Next to buildings that now have large numbers of air conditioning compressors--but didn't used to.

2. At the end of airport runways. (You know, next to engine exhausts.)

3. In places that used to be rural, and now have condos and a burning barrel within five feet of the station. In that case, there's a very noticeable jump in the temperatures recorded the year the condos were built.

There are LOTS of these examples--and the USHCN data is a very large fraction of the data that goes into the IPCC "science."
5.14.2009 3:48pm
Oren:

Democrats are determined to make their plan so complicated that taxpayers will not notice the flocks of dollars migrating from the middle of the country to the coasts.

We're just trying to get our money back from those damned farm subsidies. Jeez.
5.14.2009 3:51pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
Dan28:

"... 40% of the country - and 75% of this thread - apparently believes that the whole idea is a malevolent conspiracy by liberals to destroy the American economy."

Unfortunately liberals invite this kind of conspiratorial thinking by their positions. If someone believes that the earth is really in peril, then he should support realistic non-carbon emitting alternatives. But we don't get that-- we get a rejection of the nuclear alternative. Chu and Obama have taken nuclear energy off the table. I don't understand how the liberals can reject a proven technology. France generates about 80% of its electricity from reactors. Japan acts in a similar fashion. They both reprocess spent fuel. The liberals cannot escape this basic contradiction in their position on alternative energy. Is it any wonder that some people think something nefarious is going on?
5.14.2009 3:54pm
rosetta's stones:

"...taxpayers will not notice the flocks of dollars migrating from the middle of the country to the coasts."


They'll notice, and they will not like it. The recent state actions reaffirming state primacy, however tentative and meaningless, are the first shoots of growth to come, as we move into this era of tight cash at state and local levels.

Try this on: "The people of the sovereign state of '_____________' are building a new power plant, which meets or exceeds all air emissions regulation existing prior to that recently promulgated by the EPA, against the advice of their own in house counsel. The plant's financials will not be open to EPA regulators, and if you don't like that, go take a run and jump at yourself."

Now, I don't expect it to go down just like that, but the only way the feds can exert influence is to buy it, and I don't think they'll be flush enough to do that in the coming generation. Once the states figure that out, expect some blowback on this sorta global warming nonsense.
5.14.2009 3:55pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):

First, the ecology of various areas of the world are adjusted to the climate as it existed before industrialization. If that climate changes significantly, it creates big problems.
Please explain how industrialization caused the disappearance of the Mound Builder civilization, changes in the Southwest, movement of the Aztecs to the Valley of Mexico, disappearance of the Anasazi civilization, loss of wine grapes from Britain, and freezing out of the Viking colonies in Greenland.

You AGW worshippers just don't get it: climate change preceded the Industrial Revolution. I had originally planned to do my doctoral dissertation on the role that the end of the Little Ice Age played in the development of the Industrial Revolution. My provisional thesis statement was that improving climate in Britain caused improvements in crop yield, making it possible for more resources to be devoted to non-subsistence activities, leading to (among other things) the Scottish Enlightenment, expansions in canal building and mining, which led to Watt's development of the low pressure steam engine.
5.14.2009 3:55pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):

We're just trying to get our money back from those damned farm subsidies. Jeez.
Except coastal California is one of the big beneficiaries of farm subsidies.
5.14.2009 4:00pm
Dan28 (mail):

But we don't get that-- we get a rejection of the nuclear alternative. Chu and Obama have taken nuclear energy off the table

Do you have a source for this? (Preferably a source in their own words). Many environmentalists, including myself, support expanded nuclear energy. The ones who don't have their reasons - we don't really have a safe way to deal with the problems of nuclear waste. But I generally agree with the position that the climate change issue is urgent enough that environmentalists should make their peace with nuclear.

I think that is sensible, Dan; what about you?

Sure, I think that's completely sensible. I think there should be a cost associated with emitting GHGs, because of the externalities involved, and I hope that as a matter of public policy we can create some kind of system where the price of GHG is internalized to the actor. But I have no interest in telling anybody where they should cut back in their GHG emissions, or even whether they should cut back at all as long as they are paying for whatever costs they impose on the rest of us.
5.14.2009 4:02pm
Dan28 (mail):

Please explain how industrialization caused the disappearance of the Mound Builder civilization, changes in the Southwest, movement of the Aztecs to the Valley of Mexico, disappearance of the Anasazi civilization, loss of wine grapes from Britain, and freezing out of the Viking colonies in Greenland.

Where did I say any of that? This is a great example of the kind of straw man argument you hear from conservatives: if people are arguing that the climate is currently changing because of increased GHG emissions, they must be arguing that every single time the climate has ever changed it was because of increased GHG emissions.

It is good that you recognize that climactic shifts have an often devastating impact on human civilization, such as the impacts that you describe. Those other civilizations couldn't help but be impacted by climactic conditions out of their control. We, on the other hand, can see and control our fate. What will we choose?
5.14.2009 4:05pm
rosetta's stones:

Except coastal California is one of the big beneficiaries of farm subsidies.


...and fed water subsidies.
5.14.2009 4:08pm
FredGarvin (mail):
We, on the other hand, can see and control our fate. What will we choose?

I don't see how you get to controlling "our" fate via taxing the crap out of Americans. Is forcing Americans to emit less CO2 going to change the climate of the entire world? Will it achieve "optimal" global temperature?
5.14.2009 4:12pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
We can cross classify energy sources into a 4x4 contingency table-- carbon emitting versus non-carbon emitting, and concentrated versus diffuse. Diffuse sources such as wind and solar suffer from the fact the energy is consumed far from where it's used and must be transmitted. Installing a massive transmission grid is no small matter-- it would be very costly. Of course there are solar panels on your roof, but they are way to expensive. The only source that's both non-carbon emitting and concentrated is nuclear energy. All practical roads lead to nuclear power-- a proven technology that our industrial competitors use and will use.
5.14.2009 4:12pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):

This is a great example of the kind of straw man argument you hear from conservatives: if people are arguing that the climate is currently changing because of increased GHG emissions, they must be arguing that every single time the climate has ever changed it was because of increased GHG emissions.
You don't get it: we have a long history of climate change in human history that we could not POSSIBLY have caused--and now we get a climate change that looks very much like previous climate changes--and you insist that we're causing this one, with nothing stronger than a weak correlation between CO2 concentrations and increased temperatures. And you haven't even clearly established the direction of causality, even if there is a causal relationship.
5.14.2009 4:14pm
mcbain (mail):

just before the 100 foot walls of water crush New York and Holland.


global warming sounds more and more appealing to me.
5.14.2009 4:14pm
Dan28 (mail):

Democrats are determined to make their plan so complicated that taxpayers will not notice the flocks of dollars migrating from the middle of the country to the coasts.

A particularly ridiculous example of provincialism given that the main sources of wind power are in the center of the United States, the main sources of solar power are in the Southwest, and the main sources of potential biofuels are all midwestern.
5.14.2009 4:14pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):

We, on the other hand, can see and control our fate. What will we choose?
If, as a number of prominent solar scientists believe, this is primarily driven by first and second order effects of changes in solar output (as were the pre-Industrial Revolution climate changes), then we can see our fate, but we can't control it.
5.14.2009 4:16pm
Dan28 (mail):

You don't get it: we have a long history of climate change in human history that we could not POSSIBLY have caused--and now we get a climate change that looks very much like previous climate changes--and you insist that we're causing this one, with nothing stronger than a weak correlation between CO2 concentrations and increased temperatures. And you haven't even clearly established the direction of causality, even if there is a causal relationship.

It is both a strong correlation and you're ignoring the fact that you can prove, in controlled labratory experiments that are undisputed by anyone, that the GHGs retain heat in the atmosphere. And the temperature increase is not comparable to previous periods of warming. It's much, much faster than anything else we have on record.

You want to continue to run the riskiest scientific experiment in human history by ignoring an obviously huge threat until we can get from "I think, therefore I am" to proving that human industry is responsible for global warming, with millions of lives at stake if you're wrong.
5.14.2009 4:18pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
Dan28:

"Do you have a source for this? (Preferably a source in their own words)."


The Obama administration canceled the Yucca Mountain Project.
The FY 2010 budget request of $197 million for the Office of Civilian Radioactive Waste Management, a cut of more than $90 million from last year, "implements the administration's decision to terminate the Yucca Mountain program..."
Not only that when Chu listed energy alternatives nuclear was missing from the list.
5.14.2009 4:24pm
Bruce Hayden (mail):
A particularly ridiculous example of provincialism given that the main sources of wind power are in the center of the United States, the main sources of solar power are in the Southwest, and the main sources of potential biofuels are all midwestern.
Except that what the author was talking about was more likely the allocation of (free) permits to politically favored carbon producers.

I also don't see the main source of wind being in the center of the country. Rather, optimal wind is a bit north of there (ND, SD). And the mountain tops and ridges have even more wind, but they also have icing problems. Oh, and off the East Coast, esp. off of Mass. (but they won't build there because of highly placed NIMBY). Solar should be pretty good throughout most of the west half of the country, and not just the southwest. Besides, we still have the transmission problems - how do we get it back to the majority of the population living far from any of these areas?

In any case, your suggestion that alternate energy would be funded by the sale of carbon allowances ignores that there probably won't be much of a tie there and that raising money with selling the allowances is secondary to rewarding preferred constituents. As I pointed out in the first post of this thread, one of the biggest problems with cap and trade is the inherent rent seeking that will invariably result from it.
5.14.2009 4:31pm
Andy Freeman (mail):
> And the temperature increase is not comparable to previous periods of warming. It's much, much faster than anything else we have on record.

Except that said temperature increase seems to have stopped in 2000. (Was that Bush's fault?)

And, "on record" hides a lot. We don't have records that are good to less than a degree much past 1900, if that far.

We do have some pre-record information that suggests that CO2 levels have been significantly higher than they are now without the run-away effects predicted. (Seriously - what are the odds that we'd have been a degree or so away from disaster?)

And then there's the oceans. Their heat capacity dwarfs that of the atmosphere. Are they heating or cooling? If they're cooling ....
5.14.2009 4:31pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):

It is both a strong correlation and you're ignoring the fact that you can prove, in controlled labratory experiments that are undisputed by anyone, that the GHGs retain heat in the atmosphere. And the temperature increase is not comparable to previous periods of warming. It's much, much faster than anything else we have on record.
That GHGs retain heat in the atmosphere is not in dispute. Of course, CO2 isn't the only GHG. You planning to fix the water vapor problem, too?

Concerning the rapid increase: see my comments about the problems with the USHCN weather stations. Also, this rapid increase seems to have come to a screeching halt the last several years--curiously enough, at a time when the sunspot cycle has changed in a very dramatic way, with sunspots just about disappearing. This is consistent with those solar scientists who believe that the temperature increase in primarily tied to solar cycle change.


You want to continue to run the riskiest scientific experiment in human history by ignoring an obviously huge threat until we can get from "I think, therefore I am" to proving that human industry is responsible for global warming, with millions of lives at stake if you're wrong.
You clearly don't know much about science, or you wouldn't call this a "scientific experiment." We don't have a control experiment. We have NO control over the single largest energy input to the experiment (the big glowing ball up in the sky). And many of those who keep calling it a "huge threat" have financial or political interests in calling it that.
5.14.2009 4:32pm
Bruce Hayden (mail):
It is both a strong correlation and you're ignoring the fact that you can prove, in controlled labratory experiments that are undisputed by anyone, that the GHGs retain heat in the atmosphere. And the temperature increase is not comparable to previous periods of warming. It's much, much faster than anything else we have on record.
Well. No. You are arguing from old data. We really haven't seen much in the way of Global Warming over the last couple of years (even ignoring the structural reporting problems mentioned by Clayton, who didn't bother to mention the problems with the fall of the USSR). Which presumably is why we are now hearing about Global Climate Change, instead of Global Warming, as the major threat.

What you are ignoring are all the other things that affect a global climate. For example, more important to global temperatures than CO2 levels is solar activity. But also, there is a lot of feedback, a lot of which is not well understood as yet. So, your scientists are extrapolating from those experiments to the world climate, making monumental assumptions about what types and levels of feedback are involved.

For example, increased CO2 levels cause increased plant growth, which may affect the planet albedo, which in turn, may affect the amount of solar energy absorbed versus how much is reflected. Of course, increased plant growth also translates into more food, both directly from the plants, and indirectly through more food available to animals to eat. Maybe it would be cheaper to ship some of this added food grown elsewhere to the Bangladeshi than to cut our CO2 discharges.
5.14.2009 4:44pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
Dan28:

"It is both a strong correlation and you're ignoring the fact that you can prove, in controlled labratory experiments that are undisputed by anyone, that the GHGs retain heat in the atmosphere."

If you do an energy balance between the solar energy that comes in, and the energy that gets re-radiated then the average equilibrium surface temperature for the earth is:

T= (S/e sig)^1/4

where e= average emissivity
sig= Stefan-Boltzman constant
S = average flux received by a unit surface area

However S= (1 - albedo) X solar flux

The albedo tells you how much solar energy gets reflected back into space.

In the real earth system (unlike a laboratory) the emissivity and albedo are functions of temperature-- the very thing you want to solve for. For example changes in the cloud cover change the albedo. An example of a feedback. We don't understand, and can't calculate the feedbacks accurately enough to make good predictions. This is the source of the basic debate about global warming. We don't know if the feedbacks will in total give us a large or small temperature change. Your statement is misleading.
5.14.2009 4:46pm
joe (mail):

It's a real problem that it's impossible to have a sensible conversation about what should be done about global warming when 40% of the country - and 75% of this thread - apparently believes that the whole idea is a malevolent conspiracy by liberals to destroy the American economy.


Misapprehension once again. I do not assert a conspiracy to "destroy the American economy," but I do recognize religious zeal and venality that consider such destruction an acceptable side effect.

And yes, environmental activists are all but isomorphic with creationists. Both posit a "god" who is offended by the ascent of mankind and promises to wreak retribution on the transgressors. Both groups keep upping the ante until non-believers are condemned to annihilation and an unredeemably hellish future. Neither can stand up to real science. Both are anti-human philosophies. The two groups are deeply and broadly comparable to those of us who observe them from the outside.

Michael Crichton's warnings from the beginning of this decade are borne out by subsequent events.
5.14.2009 4:49pm
George Smith:
I think that the various carbon tax/cap/trade schemes will do little more that impoverish Americans and enrich government. I believe that humans may have an effect on the earth's climate, but that it is very small compared to the historical swings in climate - the Vikings use to farm Greenland, and Florida was not then under water. Nothing that the AGW folks want to impose on the US will do anything to curtail what is being belched into the atmosphere by China, India and Russia, and I haven't seen reports of massive demonstrations outside their embassies protesting their environmental policies. More environmetal laws equals more governmental control of theeconomy and of peoples' lives. I have to conclude that the "cures" for whatever warming there has been are little more than tools for a greater objective, which is fundamentally anti-industrial, anti-capitalist, and anti-western. We're arguing religion with Dan, and that's usually an argument without resolution.
5.14.2009 4:49pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):

We don't have records that are good to less than a degree much past 1900, if that far.
Yup. I went looking for temperature data for the United States in the 1830s, to test out a possible hypothesis for the rise in concealed weapon regulations in that period, since temperature and violence are positively correlated. And I discovered that as close as there is to useful data sets come from Army frontier hospitals--and these are seldom more than 20 years in the same location, before they get moved again.
5.14.2009 4:57pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):
One of the interesting parallels between AGW and early 20th century studies of temperature and violence: the correlations were positive and significant, and social scientists found them so unmistakable that everyone was in agreement--but there wasn't much that could be done to change weather, and so social scientists stop looking at this, and started worrying about poverty, racial inferiority, eugenics, etc. Because that's something that they could do something about. (Yes, usually making problems worse, not better, with all their Social Darwinist schemes for removing the "inferior" genes and "inferior" races from the breeding pool.)
5.14.2009 5:03pm
ray_g:
"liberals invite this kind of conspiratorial thinking by their positions. If someone believes that the earth is really in peril, then he should support realistic non-carbon emitting alternatives. But we don't get that-- we get a rejection of the nuclear alternative."

And I would add that solar plants and wind farms will, hell already are, being fought against and delayed by environmental concerns, and I'd bet that if tomorrow fusion was suddenly economically viable some environmental concerns would try to stop that because it isn't entirely clean either. Any energy generation method is going to cause some pollution or environmental harm somewhere, demanding none is not a realistic position.

I've said it before, I'll keep saying it: these are not serious people. You can't on the one hand talk about how it is vital to develop alternative energy sources and free ourselves from imported oil and with the other hand hinder all attempts to do just that, and expect to be taken seriously.

It is all about feeling righteous, not actually accomplishing something. Close to home example: I've gotten really tired of grocery stores exhorting me to get a reusable grocery bag to conserve resources, and then handing me a 3 foot strip of register tape for only 1 or 2 items, because they can sell ad space on it.
5.14.2009 5:26pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):

And I would add that solar plants and wind farms will, hell already are, being fought against and delayed by environmental concerns, and I'd bet that if tomorrow fusion was suddenly economically viable some environmental concerns would try to stop that because it isn't entirely clean either.
Environmentalism is the excuse for all sorts of crazy stuff. A lot of environmentalists here in the Northwest want to remove the dams that provide much of the region's electricity. Now, I understand the arguments against building new dams, and they are quite strong. (Only government can afford the economic lunacy of many of these projects.) But the dams are already built, and environmentalists won't allow anything else to replace it, such as nuclear power.

A friend worked for the Air Force, and at one of their remote beacon stations in the middle of the Idaho desert, they decided that it would be both more environmentally friendly, and cheaper, to replace a diesel generator with solar panels. Of course, an EIS was required--and the Snake River Coalition, objected to the solar panels. What they really objected to was a military, but being environmentalists, they lacked the honesty to admit it.
5.14.2009 5:31pm
rosetta's stones:

That GHGs retain heat in the atmosphere is not in dispute. Of course, CO2 isn't the only GHG. You planning to fix the water vapor problem, too?


Yes, already included in House Bill HS 48978978126... the OUTLAW-H2O bill... Outrageously Unlearned Tomfools Lawmaking Against Wisdom.
5.14.2009 5:33pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):

I've said it before, I'll keep saying it: these are not serious people.
They are serious, but many of them won't admit (sometimes to themselves) what their real goal is. It is about worshipping the environment, and treading lightly on Mother Earth. The religious instinct is very strong; when you remove religion, that instinct gets redirected in very odd ways. In Weimar Germany, it was a somewhat mystical worship of nature, which played into Nazi ideology. Marx (and many Marxists) have the religious fanaticism of the worst of Christianity, without Christian teachings. Environmentalism (as opposed to an actual serious understanding of ecology, which requires hard work) is along those same lines.
5.14.2009 5:41pm
PQuincy1:
It's always interesting to see how complex policy positions bring out different constituencies. A quick glance at this thread suggests:

1. There are a substantial number of climate-change deniers still out there. They tend to treat current climate research as uniformly and simply predicting global catastrophe, then try to debunk that straw-man without engaging in the actual issues.

2. A second group aren't so much climate-change skeptics as deniers that fossil fuel use possibly has any externalities at all. Drill, baby, drill...as if massive expansion of fossil fuel production and use in the US would have absolutely no consequences. (Mr. Cramer is more sophisticated, to be sure, and his comments on environmentalism-as-religion are not wrong...but then, many conservatives, if not libertarians, view religion as a good thing, no?)

3. Finally, there are prudential calculators, who discuss the possible benefits and consequences of various pathways to regulating carbon emission. Most are cynical about the politics of the matter in Congress, and it's hard to disagree: one could hardly design an institution worse suited to acting prudently to manage a problem that will likely impose major costs on someone -- whether through action or through inaction, n.b.

Seems to me that when faced with potentially major disruptions of our living conditions, with difficult-to-predict costs and outcomes, traditional prudence is exactly the right approach. Neither sticking one's head in the sand and insisting "there's no problem" nor contrarian insistence that there's not only no problem, it's an opportunity, seem wise (even if being contrarian is awfully seductive to the libertarian temper).
5.14.2009 6:04pm
FredGarvin (mail):
Neither sticking one's head in the sand and insisting "there's no problem" nor contrarian insistence that there's not only no problem

Even if there is a problem with the climate changing to "bad" (whatever that might be, as I am still confused: First it was an ice age prediction in the 70's, then we hear about "global warming", and now the latest flavor is the all-encompassing "climate change"), I still find it impossible that reducing the CO2 emission of AMERICANS alone will change the climate of the entire world to some percieved perfect state.
5.14.2009 6:30pm
Ariel:
Dan28,

I'd like to address a couple of holes in your five step syllogism.

1. Carbon dioxide (and other greenhouse gasses) retain heat;

The supposed mechanism of action of AGW is that CO2 reflects heat, not that it retains heat. If it retained heat, that would actually mean that more CO2 means lower temperatures, as the CO2 would be retaining more and more heat. So, even by your own terms, your first step does not work.

Now, supposing you meant that CO2 reflects heat, there's another problem. Atmospheric CO2 may reflect heat from the sun before it gets to the earth back into space. It may also reflect heat radiating from the earth back toward the earth. The balance between these effects is unclear. If more is reflected back into space because there is more atmospheric CO2, then we could get cooling, not warming. This actually seems more likely. CO2 has a reflection rate, and that rate does not depend on which way it is facing (meaning toward the earth or space). So more CO2 would probably reduce temperatures, as a purely theoretical matter.

2. There is a significantly increased amount of CO2 and other GHGs in the atmosphere as a result of human industry;

Agreed.

3. Historically, there has been a close relationship between GHGs in the atmopshere and global temperatures;

Nope. See, e.g., the medieval warm period, or the last decade or so.

4. The historical relationship between GHGs and global temperature is roughly equivalent to what you would expect, given the degree to which GHG emissions retain heat;

See response to point 1, above.

Further, the correlations are not nearly as tight as I think you suspect. I recently saw something on your site of choice. The error terms are huge. This is reasonable. As a though experiment, is the weather forecast for tomorrow more accurate than that for a week from now? Your intuition should say it is. That's because the further out you go, the less predictable things are. Further, the more moving parts involved, the less predictable things are. Error terms are not linearly variable but move as the square, so the further out you go (e.g., 2100), the less accurate your prediction will be.

Given the degree of complexity and how far out their predictions are, using a 95% confidence interval is probably not appropriate. A 95% CI is used for things like testing medical drugs, where you can do close monitoring and have a control group. For obvious reasons, that's not possible here. In business situations, my clients have been comfortable with an 80% CI, because it gives them some information which may be accurate. I doubt that anything more than that is appropriate here.

Now, just in eyeballing the graphs here, you can see that the current observed data is toward the bottom of the 95% CI - so it probably means that using a realistic CI of 80% would mean that we are outside of the IPCC's predictions. Note that this graph was used to rebut somebody's supposed errors - but in all likelihood, it had errors of its own.

5. The earth is warming significantly.

You are not using this term correctly. The word significantly means that there is a statistical difference, and it does not appear that that is the case.
5.14.2009 7:01pm
Bruce Hayden (mail):
1. There are a substantial number of climate-change deniers still out there. They tend to treat current climate research as uniformly and simply predicting global catastrophe, then try to debunk that straw-man without engaging in the actual issues.
Let me suggest the opposite, that the climate change proponents are the ones who are predicting global catastrophe. On I believe Earth Day, I again watched a part of Al Gore's movie, predicting tidal waves of water in the next couple of years. After all, if the threat isn't imminent, then why the rush?
2. A second group aren't so much climate-change skeptics as deniers that fossil fuel use possibly has any externalities at all. Drill, baby, drill...as if massive expansion of fossil fuel production and use in the US would have absolutely no consequences. (Mr. Cramer is more sophisticated, to be sure, and his comments on environmentalism-as-religion are not wrong...but then, many conservatives, if not libertarians, view religion as a good thing, no?)
Again, you set up your own straw men. The argument isn't that fossil fuel might not have externalities, but rather, that they are unproven, and even if proven, the emerging economies are going to swamp anything we do to alleviate the problems with their fossil fuel usage.
3. Finally, there are prudential calculators, who discuss the possible benefits and consequences of various pathways to regulating carbon emission. Most are cynical about the politics of the matter in Congress, and it's hard to disagree: one could hardly design an institution worse suited to acting prudently to manage a problem that will likely impose major costs on someone -- whether through action or through inaction, n.b.
Worse, if you want cynicism. The proposed solution seems primarily designed to maximize rent seeking, with little regard to effectiveness. And, the major beneficiaries of this are precisely those same people in Congress imposing this program.

But that response ignores that you have posited a false choice. A false trichotomy. You have painted with a much too wide brush, allowing your personal views and preferences to determine the three choices here. And, as a result, they are far from accurate.
Seems to me that when faced with potentially major disruptions of our living conditions, with difficult-to-predict costs and outcomes, traditional prudence is exactly the right approach. Neither sticking one's head in the sand and insisting "there's no problem" nor contrarian insistence that there's not only no problem, it's an opportunity, seem wise (even if being contrarian is awfully seductive to the libertarian temper).
Well, maybe it will be a major disruption, and maybe not. But if it is, it is unlikely to unfold all that quickly. I am just counseling against running out and spending trillions of dollars on something that may not be that bad, or, indeed, maybe good. And, esp. not doing that in the middle of a big recession.
5.14.2009 7:33pm
Soronel Haetir (mail):
Ariel,

I do have a slight problem with your description of the posited physics. The postulated mechanism is that shorter high energy wavelengths arrive from the sun and are absorbed by the surface. These wavelengths are CO2 transparent.

The surface then radiates longer lower energy wavelengths that are not CO2 transparent. Over the full radiation spectrum of the sun this is supposed to result in a higher equilibrium temperature.

If CO2 were the only factor I would have little trouble believing this formula. However to get to the disaster scenarios other factors such as increased humidity also come into play. These additional factors are not well understood at all. Some are so poorly understood (such as clouds, even different types of clouds) that even the overall sign of their effect is uncertain.
5.14.2009 7:47pm
PlugInMonster:
It's so easy for the left to say "global warming deniers" and end of discussion. They are not serious people. They fight against carbon fuels, nuclear energy and wind energy!
5.14.2009 7:53pm
Bart (mail):
Vermando (mail) (www):

Someone needs to tell Bart about marginal economic cost. That the energy exists at home doesn't mean it will be produced here - regardless of the permits - if it is cheaper to be produced abroad.

That is correct, so far as it goes.

Remove the artificial government costs imposed on oil recovery in the United States, then energy will be produced at home as soon as foreign oil climbs above $60 per gallon.

If foreign oil is below $60 per gallon, by all means use up foreign energy reserves.
5.14.2009 8:09pm
Ariel:
Soronel Haetir,

I hadn't heard that. It could be a true - I may not have said this, but I'm a skeptic, not an absolute nonbeliever in AGW. I'm pretty sure that the sun emits at a range of wavelengths, and I'm pretty sure that said range includes CO2's reflection range. To assume that the AGW hypothesis is right, you'd have to get more earth-reflected radiation in that range than you have sun-originated. It's possible, but given that the range is narrow relative to the total range out there, and that I doubt the reflections from the Earth discriminatorily reflect in CO2's range, it sure seems unlikely.

Now granted, I'm speaking as someone with only a little background in physics, chemistry, quantum, and physical chemistry, and it's been a long time since I've done anything in any of those. So I could be completely wrong. But, again, from my limited understanding, it seems unlikely.
5.14.2009 8:28pm
Soronel Haetir (mail):
Bart,
$60/gal or $60/barrle? Even at the rate we're going $60 per gal is a ways off yet.
5.14.2009 9:48pm
Desiderius:
Dan28,

Your outreach is much appreciated, and the only sort of action with any promise to puncture the conspiracy theories that plague all sides of the debate. If you have any suggestions regarding how to make this forum more hospitable, please do not hesitate to offer them.

As for Real Climate, I don't take any offense at their use of the term "contrarian" for the various flavors of AGW skeptics (both as to the science and the proposed remedies, preventative and otherwise) as I am a contrarian in general myself, but perhaps "skeptic" would be both more accurate and less inflammatory.

Likewise, would it be too much to ask for them to link the primary source documents produced by the skeptics themselves, instead of merely the debunking thereof? The whole thing has the odor of either condescension, or, you know, conspiracy in itself.
5.14.2009 9:55pm
John Moore (mail) (www):
It's pretty well established, an not doubted by scientific skeptics, that CO2 doubling in the atmosphere will increase the temperature by about 1 degree C, in the absence of other factors. This is the "greenhouse effect."

AGW proponents prefer to let you think that all the gloom and doom is a result of this simple physical fact.

In fact, as others have pointed out, to reach the IPCC numbers, a large amount of positive feedback is required (for example, extra heating from CO2 causing more water vapor in the atmosphere).

However, the earth's climate system is extremely complicated, and anybody who says the feedback is scientifically "proven" or well established is just wrong.

For example, the effect of clouds on warming is dramatic. However, the cloud droplet size determines whether a cloud increases or decreases temperature. No model is skilled at forecasting just this one parameter.

Is arctic ice melting caused by global warming (even though the global temperatures have NOT been warming in the last few years), by changes in sunspots, or by the black particulate pollution from china accumulating on the ice? Nobody can say for sure.

There are hundreds of such issues.

The last ten years or so go directly against the models, showing a cooling instead of a warming. That's one reason the whole assertion was renamed from "Global Warming" to "Climate Change."

Serious skeptics understand the uncertainties. The skepticism is not that man can alter the climate, or that CO2 causes warming. The skepticism is rightly directed against the specific estimates given by the alarmists, and the supposed scientific "consensus" (as if consensus means anything in science) that supports it.
5.14.2009 10:31pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):

1. There are a substantial number of climate-change deniers still out there. They tend to treat current climate research as uniformly and simply predicting global catastrophe, then try to debunk that straw-man without engaging in the actual issues.
Can you point to some examples? There are a variety of skeptics out there, everything from those who believe that anthropogenic CO2 is a factor, but perhaps not the major factor, in rising temperatures, to those who believe that the quality of the data and models is so poor that it is difficult to have any confidence about the extent of the climate change. And of course, the last few years, the evidence for continued climate change has become as scarce as sunspots.


2. A second group aren't so much climate-change skeptics as deniers that fossil fuel use possibly has any externalities at all. Drill, baby, drill...as if massive expansion of fossil fuel production and use in the US would have absolutely no consequences.
Oh it certainly would have consequences, in reduced dependence on politically unstable countries, improved balance of payments, and lower prices. Since the evidence for anthropogenic CO2 being the cause of the climate change that suddenly stopped several years ago is at best, weak, why not?

(Mr. Cramer is more sophisticated, to be sure, and his comments on environmentalism-as-religion are not wrong...but then, many conservatives, if not libertarians, view religion as a good thing, no?)
You are mistaken. There are all sorts of religions out there, each claiming to be Truth--and in contradiction to each other. I consider science to be a good thing, but that doesn't mean that every crackpot scientific theory is therefore a good thing.
5.15.2009 10:09am

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