December 15, 2009
Adapt To Global Warming?

Bjorn Lomborg argues that we could adapt to global warming more cheaply than we could prevent it.

Take malaria. Most estimates suggest that if nothing is done, 3% more of the Earth's population will be at risk of infection by 2100. The most efficient global carbon cuts designed to keep average global temperatures from rising any higher than two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels (a plan proposed by the industrialized G-8 nations) would cost the world $40 trillion a year in lost economic growth by 2100—and have only a marginal impact on reducing the at-risk malaria population. By contrast, we could spend $3 billion a year on mosquito nets, environmentally safe indoor DDT sprays, and subsidies for new therapies—and within 10 years cut the number of malaria infections by half. In other words, for the money it would take to save one life with carbon cuts, smarter policies could save 78,000 lives.

But I question the high costs claimed for CO2 emissions reduction. For example, one third of the CO2 emitted in the United States from human activity comes from burning coal to make electricity. Well, with 103 (104?) nuclear reactors the United States gets 20% of US electric power from nukes and almost 50% from coal. Well, build two and a half times as many nuclear reactors as now exist in the US and then all those coal electric plants could be retired for a one third reduction in CO2 emissions. Cost? Probably about $2 trillion if we assume $8 billion per nuclear reactor. Too low? Even at $10 billion per nuclear reactor we are still at only $2.5 trillion. That's not per year, that's total. Spread across 20 years to make the transition the cost is only $125 billion per year. Granted that's only the United States. But the same could be done in the rest of the world too.

The hardest part of emissions reduction is due to oil used for transportation. I'm expecting Peak Oil to take care of that problem - albeit at the cost of an economic depression. But suppose I'm wrong to think that Peak Oil is just around the corner. What to do? Switch to pluggable hybrid electric cars (recharged with nukes, wind, and solar power of course). Suppose they cost $10k extra each. If the United States builds, say, 10 million of them per year then the extra cost is $100 billion per year. Not much in an economy with a $14.2 trillion yearly GDP. Besides, pluggable hybrids lower cost of fuel and therefore much of the initial higher purchase cost eventually gets paid back by savings due to less money spent on fuel.

For anything we can switch to electric power we can avoid the burning of fossil fuels. We can also reduce pollution from soot and other stuff we don't want to breathe into our lungs. An electrified society is a cleaner and healthier society.

On a related note: a reduction in soot emissions would help improve human health and reduce global warming. Why not pursue policies that reduce conventional lung-damaging and heart-damaging pollutants which as a side effect also reduce the risks of warming? Conventional pollutant reduction doesn't get the attention that it deserves because global warming gets so much attention.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2009 December 15 10:40 PM  Climate Policy

Bruce said at December 15, 2009 11:15 PM:

If you are worried about "global warming" causing malaria to kill more people:

1) Rachel Carlson killed possibly 100+ million with attack on DDT.

2) Read this article on the IPCC's malaria fearmongering:

3) Remember, the IPCC and the Hockey team and the AGW cult lie lie lie lie.

4) Your comment on nuclear power plants is irrelevant. The AGW cult has 2 goals:

a. Transferring as much wealth as possible to the 3rd world while their rich friends make billioon with there cut.
b. Destroying capitalism in the west

The AGW cult has NOTHING to do with science or common sense.

JAY said at December 16, 2009 5:57 AM:

CO2 is not a problem. The IPCC lied. Give up the trillion dollar pipe dreams.

pete in SF said at December 16, 2009 6:54 AM:

Even before the Climategate scandal, I had trouble taking believers in AGW seriously, because so few would even consider nuclear power (that and the fact that the science was so bad - have these people never heard of a signal to noise ratio?). You are correct that building a large number of nuclear plants for electricity generation would reduce carbon output. But this suggestion is almost immediately rejected by environmentalists, often on absurd grounds. (The most amusing argument is that building the plant and digging up the fuel use enough energy to offset any savings in CO2 output, which is ridiculous.)

I agree that building more nuclear plants in the U.S. would be an environmental win, even without global warming, but please explain how to get that past the hurdles put in place by the same people who are constantly decrying global warming. Currently, 104 new U.S. nuclear plants are a political impossibility.

Rob said at December 16, 2009 8:27 AM:

An average retail store uses between 1,000 and 4,000 kilowatt hours of electricity per day. Let's use 2,000 for this example (there are probably more small ones than big ones). An energy management system will cost between $10,000 and $20,000 for that retail store. Let's say $15,000. This system will return its initial cost in about two years by saving about 15% to 25% of the electricity used by that retail store, let's pick 20% for this example.

So this costs about a dollar a watt until it pays for itself (about two years) then nothing per watt afterwards. Let's assume it only lasts ten years: that's *20 cents per watt* over the whole ten years. This requires very little in the way of resources (a single-board computer, internet connection, some networked thermostats, some temperature and light sensors). It uses no land, blocks no views, kills no birds, produces no emissions. It inconveniences nobody; shoppers will be unaware of its existence. Carefully controlled, it can be a stabilizing and peak-reduction resource to the grid, as opposed to the destabilizing effects of wind and solar.

So, a technology that "generates" power far more cheaply than wind, solar or fossil plants, has a two year ROI, requires no environmental impact studies and tends to stabilize the grid rather than disrupt it. It can be installed without government involvement, subsidy or permit (and you may get incentives from your electricity provider).

Screw that, let's put up more wind turbines!

PS. Here's the math:

2000 kWh per day is an average load of 83 kW (this isn't how the power companies talk about it, but it's how an average person would). Twenty percent of 83 kW is 16.6 kW. We spent $15,000 to save 16 kW of load, that's about a buck a watt.

Bruce said at December 16, 2009 10:43 AM:

I think it is quite sad Bjorn Lomborg has joined in with the IPCC's malaria fear mongering.

But I guess he was one of those people devastated by the the blacklist imposed by lynch mob of environmental extremists (Scientific American et al).

Red Cloud said at December 16, 2009 11:29 AM:

The data from UEA CRU is no longer trustworthy. The US centers base much of their data on the corrupted East Anglia series. Bad data equals bad science, no matter how you try to process it.

Time to step back from the abyss of fanatical quasi-religious climate crusading, and clear up the matter of data first. Then do careful modeling while testing the models against real world observations ---- not the other way around.

If you think you are believing the science by believing global warming, remember: science is not about belief. Science is about the vicious and ruthless testing of rival hypotheses. Belief is for religions.

Michael L said at December 16, 2009 12:38 PM:

how exactly does Rob plan to save $10K worth of electricity per year in a store using "energy management system"? What exactly will it manage? Also, Walmart is not known for being run by idiots. If they could save so much so easily (whether by "management" or by simply putting in diode lamps and stuff), why haven't they done it already? Is this alleged savings result based on some originally extremely inefficient air conditioning situation in a hot climate that here is being broad-brushed onto all retail establishments in the country?

Rob said at December 16, 2009 2:45 PM:

Uh, Walmart has had energy management systems installed in all of their stores for several years now, they're not dummies - it's just one more way they promote low prices. Lots of their store staff don't even know it's there. Lots of places do this, companies have been in the business for a long time. The technology is getting better and better and so are the savings (an EMS used to only be practical for someone Walmart's size, but things have changed). This sort of thing isn't sexy and isn't easily subjected to graft, so it gets no attention from politicians or greens.

There's no "Rob's Plan" here. This is all being done every day right now at thousands of sites all over the US (and, probably, lots of other countries, but I wouldn't know about that).

An EMS saves you money in several ways. Depending on the system, you can:

* Manage your HVAC setpoints (what you heat and cool to) both regionally and seasonally. You would be surprised at what a one degree fahrenheit change in setpoint means when applied to a few thousand HVACs across a chain - many thousands of dollars per year.
* Have the system automatically put your HVACs in "setback" at night when no one is there (where they heat to maybe 65F and cool to 80F), this saves a good deal of energy. At times of year with moderate temperatures, most HVACs won't run at all overnight. Yes, you can do that with a timed thermostat, but yes, your store managers and minimum wage staff can really screw up those thermostats, too.
* Keep an eye on your HVACs to make sure they're performing properly. Go into a retail store and look up. The HVACs are all on the roof and they all poor air down into the store. It's not at all uncommon in an unmonitored facility to find that 5-10% of HVACs simply aren't working (they're running, but blowing hot air). Inside the store you never notice it, because all of the air mixes in that big space, but it's wasting a ton of energy (since one of the other HVACs has to run extra to make up for the failed one).
* Have the system automatically turn out most of lights at night. Also manage your outdoor signage so it's only on when you want it to be and when it's actually dark outside (it's amazing how much juice a big sign uses and lots of signs don't come with timers or light sensors).
* Have the system only turn on half or a fourth your lights during stocking and other after-hours activity.
* Monitor your electrical usage, so you can spot "problem" facilities and do something about them before the problem shows up on a bill that gets looked at three months from now.

Advanced systems can also:

* Do demand controlled ventilation. This means that, instead of always sucking in outside air according to a building code that says you have to bring in so many CFM for every occupant, you monitor CO2 and only bring in outside air when it's needed. Since recirculating already-conditioned air is much cheaper than conditioning outside air, you save a few percent on HVAC electricity whenever the store isn't crowded, ie, most of the time.

* Do daylight harvesting. This means that you only turn on as much overhead light as you need. Say you have a health club with a pool surrounded by windows. When the sun is out, you may only need to run 25% of your ceiling lights. When it's bright but cloudy, you may need 60%. When it's dark outside, you need 100%. Your EMS monitors the light levels and only turns on enough to meet your needs. Since you may have 20 to fifty kilowatts of light over that pool, turning off half is a big deal.

* Do demand reduction. This is where you agree with your electric company to reduce demand on high-demand afternoons (typically by bumping up setpoints and turning off non-essential lighting) for either a lower overall rate or a bit of cash for each event.

When you're spending $50,000 per year on electricity at a single store (that's about average for retail), saving 20% is a lot of money. A large chain of medium-sized retail stores will budget around $50M per year for electricity (there's a good deal of variation). A good-sized restaurant chain will be twice that or more.

LarryD said at December 16, 2009 7:26 PM:
Well, build two and a half times as many nuclear reactors as now exist in the US and then all those coal electric plants could be retired for a one third reduction in CO2 emissions. Cost? Probably about $2 trillion if we assume $8 billion per nuclear reactor. Too low? Even at $10 billion per nuclear reactor we are still at only $2.5 trillion. That's not per year, that's total. Spread across 20 years to make the transition the cost is only $125 billion per year. Granted that's only the United States. But the same could be done in the rest of the world too.

Yes, nuclear is a far more practical way of CO2 reduction than wind or solar. You can tell which environmentalists are serious about CO2 reduction, they're the ones who have concluded that nuclear has to be a big part of the solution. They're a small minority.

Of course, the coal industry, the miners and the States whose economies have coal as a significant part, will object. This "broken rice bowl" issue will have to be addressed to actually establish a policy of replacing coal with nuclear.

Fat Man said at December 16, 2009 7:27 PM:

The question cannot be adaptation vs. prevention. Even if a an agreement arose from Copenhagen, and no one cheated, and everybody did what they were supposed to do, there will be an increase of atmospheric CO2 from its current 385 ppm to ~700ppm, Link If AGW theory is correct, (and in the aftermath of climategate, I can assign it no higher status than unproven hypothesis), the increased CO2 will cause a ~3° C increase in the mean global temperature during the rest of century 21.

So we will have to adapt. Or perhaps nothing much will change and we won't have to adapt.

Most adaptation, if required, will be trivial -- check those climate zone hardiness labels on your garden plants. Some is slightly more intensive, but malaria prevention is actually a well understood subject. Some could be expensive -- will we have to build hundreds of miles of sea walls to protect low lying areas, or can people be moved to higher ground.

Fat Man said at December 16, 2009 7:44 PM:

As for nuclear costs, this Economist article discusses the international effort to design new types of reactors, the Generation 4 Forum. Smaller reactors with closed fuel cycles, built in factories are probably the best way forward for cost reduction.

Bruce said at December 17, 2009 7:20 AM:

With the latest revelations from Russia, there is doubt the earth is warming at all.

"Analysts say Russian meteorological stations cover most of the country’s territory, and that the Hadley Center had used data submitted by only 25% of such stations in its reports.

Over 40% of Russian territory was not included in global-temperature calculations for some other reasons, rather than the lack of meteorological stations and observations.

The data of stations located in areas not listed in the Hadley Climate Research Unit Temperature UK (HadCRUT) survey often does not show any substantial warming in the late 20th century and the early 21st century."

Jamie said at December 17, 2009 7:49 AM:

I'm starting to think that there's a blog astroturfing campaign going on. On many blogs that I read, as soon as "global warming", "climate change" or "copenhagen / COP15" is mentioned, a series of commenters appear and repeat very similar talking points about how we can't trust the science, and it's a socialist plot, etc. This has only been happening recently, in the run up to COP15 and since it started.

About the CRU:

Engineer-Poet said at December 17, 2009 10:10 AM:

Pro-nuclear environmentalists include James Lovelock (creator of the Gaia hypothesis), James Hansen and Patrick Moore (co-founder of Greenpeace).  The reason so many environmental groups were anti-nuclear is because of propaganda which equated nuclear power with nuclear weapons.  This was only true of the Soviet system (RMBKs were designed for weapons plutonium production, PWRs are grossly unsuited for it) but between our lousy education system and KGB propaganda efforts the US industry got tarred with the same brush.  It took the difference between the TMI non-event and the actual disaster at Chernobyl to open people's eyes, and I've been doing one-on-one outreach and education all that time.

If Vaclav Dostal's PhD dissertation work is correct and we could mass-produce reactors of about 250 MWe for around $1500/kW, replacing the USA's coal-fired electric energy would cost about $330 billion.  That's $33 billion a year for 10 years, which is a pittance.  Adding another 200 GW to be able to electrify all ground transportation would cost $300 billion, or less than 1 year's oil supply.  Once that's done you can start working on systems for industrial process heat (if they aren't already taken care of by waste heat from plants sited where they can get dual use).

I'm not sure that $1500/kW is realistic, because technologies like Pb-Bi cooled fast reactors and molten-salt reactors require no pressure vessels and minuscule containments; they appear to be small and light enough to be shipped on trucks, and ought to be cheaper.  Any reactor with a pressure vessel will require much more care in construction and will be too big for ground shipping.

Engineer-Poet said at December 17, 2009 10:15 AM:

Jamie, it's no mystery.  FP and all the other blogs I read have the same talking points from the same sorts of people.  They were never on the blogs before and they don't comment on anything else.  It's astroturf, all right.

Fat Man said at December 17, 2009 10:17 AM:

"I'm starting to think that there's a blog astroturfing campaign going on."

Either that, or everyone who can think for himself realizes that Climategate has exposed the corruption and fraudulence of AGW's supporters.

Hong said at December 17, 2009 11:02 AM:

Intelligent comments from the skeptics are now astroturf to the warming alarmists? Aren't the Gorist chroniclers the ones who perfected the art? I guess for them when their arguments (or lack of) fails, the namecalling begins.

Bruce said at December 17, 2009 1:01 PM:

Jamie, realclimate is run by the people who conspired to keep non-AGW papers out of journals just so they could lie and claim that the peer-reviewed literature is bereft of papers that do not agree with AGW. It is not a place to go for unbiased information.

th said at December 17, 2009 3:17 PM:

sayeth the two-faced dufus "The reason so many environmental groups were anti-nuclear is because of propaganda which equated nuclear power with nuclear weapons."

Shilling for the nuclear industry much, dumbass?

David Scott said at December 17, 2009 3:28 PM:

I could be paddling a rowboat down Market Street in San Francisco after the poles have melted, and there will still be conservative fanatics who deny that humans are responsible for Global Warming or that it is even real. I invite you to my web-pages devoted to raising awareness on this urgent issue:

th said at December 17, 2009 3:45 PM:

david scott, why not call it, who needs another earth fairy website, prove your case here, they do need all the help they can get.

Astro Super Astro Turf said at December 17, 2009 4:28 PM:

I have never been so disappointed in E-P as over his devout and slavish worship at the altar of climate hysteria. Giving up one's rationality to a questionable authority is not the act of a strong and self confident person. Very sad.

Randall Parker said at December 17, 2009 7:10 PM:

Fat Man,

I didn't find the e-mails from East Anglia surprising in content. There's no love lost between scientists who think AGW is real and skeptics who attack their characters. The climate scientists think their characters get attacked unfairly by people who are much more ignorant. The skeptics see left-wing conspiracy to create a world regulatory system combined with scientists who just want bigger grants.

Unfortunately some left-wingers really are attracted to a world regulatory system and unfortunately if AGW is real it provides a compelling argument for such a regulatory system. So right-wingers who oppose world regulations are naturally suspicious.

Meanwhile, the truth exists somewhere. But the argument about the email leaks misses the fact that the emails aren't the road to scientific understanding. To achieve scientific understanding requires far more intellectual effort that the political types (on both sides of the fence) are up for.


Being rude and obnoxious does not make your arguments more persuasive.

Shilling for the nuclear industry: Is that also what you call what I do when I make pro-nuclear comments? E-P and I agree pretty closely on many points relating to nuclear power. A commenter who was here a few years ago repeatedly accused me of being in the pay of the nuclear power industry. Why? Because I advocate greater use of nuclear power. So I have sympathy for scientists who are accused of being part of an elaborate conspiracy. I think the conspiracy nuts are nuts.

Bruce said at December 17, 2009 7:46 PM:

David Scott said: "I could be paddling a rowboat down Market Street in San Francisco after the poles have melted ... "

1) Antarctica is GAINING ice.

2) Because the Arctic ice is already floating in the water, if it all melted the estimated sea level rise is 5mm or so. One fifth of an inch. What are the tides in SF? 15-16 feet?

3) 20 years ago James Hansen said that in 20 years: "The West Side Highway [which runs along the Hudson River] will be under water." He lied.

AGW fanatics are always making apocalyptic predictions that don't come true. Thats what cults do.

Engineer-Poet said at December 17, 2009 8:28 PM:

Ah, yes, engaging in climate "hysteria" and "shilling for the nuclear industry".  I've only been in favor of carbon controls since before the Clinton administration, and in favor of nuclear power (for many of the same reasons) for much longer than that... only I favor development of things like the Integral Fast Reactor and Molten Salt Reactor which would eliminate large segments of the current nuclear industry (the entire post-sale fuel cycle).  I guess I'm not worth what the Marxist one-worlders and Toshiba-Westinghouse have been paying me, which has been zero.  I've only been blogging for close to 6 years now, and commenting under this moniker for closer to 7 (I can't find the registration date for my latest Slashdot account).  But if you see a sudden change in my position without new data to justify it, feel free to blame it on payola.

But what about you, th and hong?  What about the rest of you who never commented at FP before, and only comment on climate issues?  You who have no blog links, no record, no identity?  Why should we take you for anything but astroturfers?

Engineer-Poet said at December 17, 2009 8:33 PM:

Bruce, Antarctica is rapidly losing ice from both the West and East Antarctic Ice Sheets.  You are either an astroturfer or one of their useful idiots.

Brett Bellmore said at December 18, 2009 3:53 AM:

It's only astroturf if they're PAID to make the comments. I think some people don't realize just how few people were actually commenting on this online before; Any increase in public interest will bring in a huge number of new commentators, who, of course, will be getting their talking points from the same relatively small number of sources.

Given the amount of money going into the global warming industry, I'd be careful about accusations of "astroturf", they're likely to end in proof of astroturf on the OTHER side.

Hong said at December 18, 2009 5:00 AM:

I just recently discovered this blog via Instapundit. No conspiracy there since Glenn Reynolds doesn't pay my astroturf money. Given that I'm not a scientist or engineer 'they' certainly could've chosen better representation. Heh

And E-P what's wrong with commenting on the issues we feel most passionate about? Maybe we enjoy our privacy and don't feel the need to broadcast our 'expertise'. What, because we don't have a Facebook or MySpace page, we aren't genuine skeptics? Pathetic... Thousands of doubters from every profession and background with their numbers increasing daily thanks to the fraud and manipulation from the alarmists can't all be paid shills. It certainly proves we haven't swallowed the kool aid of the greenies.

Hong said at December 18, 2009 5:09 AM:

And I have commented on non-climate related stories here before but knowing that would defeat E-P's narrative here and he's not exactly known for subtlety or nuance anyway. lol

Bruce said at December 18, 2009 7:29 AM:

EP, The article you reference: "The margin or error, they cautioned, is almost as large as the estimate, meaning ice loss could be a little as a few billion tonnes or more than 100"

Can you read ... or are you just an AGW regurgitation-bot?

My article: "Ice core drilling in the fast ice off Australia’s Davis Station in East Antarctica by the Antarctic Climate and Ecosystems Co-Operative Research Centre shows that last year, the ice had a maximum thickness of 1.89m, its densest in 10 years. The average thickness of the ice at Davis since the 1950s is 1.67m"

Your article based on satellites wild assed guesses. My article based on actual drilling.

th said at December 18, 2009 4:34 PM:

Randall, the nuclear thing was a parody of his paranoia about everyone else here, ....but this is interesting,

"I didn't find the e-mails from East Anglia surprising in content. There's no love lost between scientists who think AGW is real and skeptics who attack their characters. The climate scientists think their characters get attacked unfairly by people who are much more ignorant. The skeptics see left-wing conspiracy to create a world regulatory system combined with scientists who just want bigger grants.

Unfortunately some left-wingers really are attracted to a world regulatory system and unfortunately if AGW is real it provides a compelling argument for such a regulatory system. So right-wingers who oppose world regulations are naturally suspicious.

Meanwhile, the truth exists somewhere. But the argument about the email leaks misses the fact that the emails aren't the road to scientific understanding. To achieve scientific understanding requires far more intellectual effort that the political types (on both sides of the fence) are up for."

Taking the high road, how noble? These little petty differences between "scientists" don't concern you, its the truth we're after, what a pathetic joke. It reminds me of the democrat party's response to the collapse of the banks, it went something like.... this not the time to find blame, we need to move on and fix the problem, as in we are up to our asses in this so deep our culpability will get compromised, so lets just move on and hope like hell it blows over, it did on that but it ain't on this.

Engineer-Poet said at December 18, 2009 10:29 PM:

Referencing WUWT is a red flag.  It's run by a man with no ethics.

If you actually read the news releases about Antarctic ice, the increases are in sea ice, which is floating and does not affect sea levels.  Where is this sea ice coming from?  It appears to be from glaciers and ice shelves.  The former were grounded ice, and the transformation to sea ice does raise sea levels.  If you want to measure total mass, you either have to drill lots of points or use e.g. gravimetric measurements.  That's what GRACE does.  GRACE may have overstated mass loss due to rebound, but other measurements like rate of ice-sheet movement do not lie.

The Davis station is one point.  It's rather close to the coast, where it's warmer and wetter than the interior.  Remember, Antarctica is a desert, receiving a fraction of an inch of precipitation per year; if it weren't for the cold causing most of it to accumulate, it would be bare rock. 

I'm not going to bother responding to th any more, as his comments in the other thread show that he has no ethics either.  But if he was serious about the distinction between science and the uses politicians make of it, he would suggest and promote some mechanism which doesn't allow the power-grab he claims to be worried about.  I don't see him making this leap, or even trying.

Hong said at December 19, 2009 6:04 AM:

"I'm not going to bother responding to th any more, as his comments in the other thread show that he has no ethics either. "

Because we all know you're simply the model of decorum here don't we? Name calling all the critics either trolls, paid skeptics, idiots or such. Is this what the alamists are reduced to?

E-P you and others like you are what the Marines might call 'Lost in the Sauce'. Completely and utterly trapped in your closed and fading world of gaia worship and hysteria. Now struggling to restore your lost dignity with increasingly negative posts that deviate from actual science or coherence. It brings a smile to my face to see.

Engineer-Poet said at December 19, 2009 9:04 AM:

More lying with statistics, Hong?  First, sea ice doesn't affect sea levels; only grounded ice does.  Second, the overall area measurements don't take into account the radical shrinkage in the Arctic and growth in the Antarctic.  Third, area of ice doesn't measure its thickness.  Last, what's been driving the trends at both poles appears to be warming, causing loss of ice from glaciers (which winds up as sea ice in Antarctica).

Minister of Health said at December 19, 2009 10:08 AM:

Futurepundit is a great site, but it's not At realclimate they delete posts they don't like. Futurepundit would never do that, would it? I hope not.

Thickness of ice in the Arctic is increasing, according to satellite and US military surveys.
There is no warming at the poles, contrary to predictions of fudged models.
It's a con game, folks. Now we know.

Hong said at December 19, 2009 10:19 AM:

There's been a lot of deception here but clearly it hasn't been from me. I'm merely presenting the opposing side using less politicized sources. Looking at the data, the sea levels haven't risen much, nor has Antarctica warmed at such a rate the alarmists trumpet.

Glacial levels arguably are related more to local weather patterns instead of global ones. So tell me E-P. Having evaded perhaps the central topic of discussion raised here and elsewhere , whether Co2 levels predict global warming or follow it, what data do you alarmists have left? I mean you've flogged dishonest studies by RealClimate, you're in denial about the East Anglia emails, you're bloviating about sea levels while dismissing (unconvincingly) opposing data, you've ignored Russian claims of climate data manipulation, it's a remarkable picture of a hack who can't maintain the fiction any longer. How does that feel?

Randall Parker said at December 19, 2009 10:52 AM:


Dishonest studies by RealClimate? That's a blog site, not scientific journal.

I've watched Nick G and E-P try to have an empirically-based discussion with you a couple of months ago and you weren't having it. You just responded with jingoistic talking points.

Lew Rockwell's site is less politicized? Political commentators are not less politicized.

Before writing a post ask yourself if it contains real information or just an assertion your side is correct. If you held off on the posts that are just assertions you'd make a lot fewer posts and the persuasive effect of your comments would go up, not down.

Minister of Health,

I delete:

- ALL CAPS posts.
- Spam posts of people just trying to generate traffic or page ranking to some commercial site.
- Kiddies coming onto a post writing to each other for fun unrelated to the topic.
- Total insult-fests on occasion. Depends on my mood.

Mostly I let civil discussions stand even if I think the commenters are posting errant nonsense. I think these posts can be edifying about human understanding or lack thereof.

Bob Badour said at December 19, 2009 12:18 PM:
Mostly I let civil discussions stand even if I think the commenters are posting errant nonsense.

And I would say occasionally lets uncivil discussions stand because nothing else could better impeach the sources. Am I right?

Hong said at December 19, 2009 12:32 PM:

You are wrong Randall to say to accuse me of failing to have an rational argument. I've cited Roger Pielke and other sources, including news articles but E-P and Nick were having none of that. It seems you've forgotten that as well. I don't know what you're referring to when you speak of my jingoism. I apply plain and sometimes combative language but to say I'm uttering someone else's thoughts is insulting. Were I so easy to dismiss, then E-P and others could do so without the animus. You choose to come down on E-P's side, ignoring the ad hominems. As for persuasion, perhaps I don't really attempt to persuade E-P since he's not interested in anything more than uttering talking points and his intolerance to other's opinions.

And as for RealClimate, you're right, they're a blog, a dishonestly written blog which has been too tied to Al Gore to be credible any longer. Their empty dismissal of the Climate Gate issue is in line with their doctrine of man made global warming. Thanks for giving me the opportunity to clear that up. :)

th said at December 19, 2009 4:24 PM:

Poet, did you write this?

One thin September soon
A floating continent disappears
In midnight sun

Vapors rise as
Fever settles on an acid sea
Neptune's bones dissolve

Snow glides from the mountain
Ice fathers floods for a season
A hard rain comes quickly

Then dirt is parched
Kindling is placed in the forest
For the lightning's celebration

Unknown creatures
Take their leave, unmourned
Horsemen ready their stirrups

Passion seeks heroes and friends
The bell of the city
On the hill is rung

The shepherd cries
The hour of choosing has arrived
Here are your tools

T. J. Babson said at December 19, 2009 4:31 PM:

A few perfectly obvious points:

1) People are not going to give up their energy-intensive lifestyles without a fight.
2) No matter what one's politics are, no one should be against conservation.
3) At the end of the day, nuclear power is quite clean and safe, but not especially cheap.
4) There is a strong anti-capitalist bent to climate activism.
5) The science is far from settled, but there are valid reasons to be concerned. The earth's climate is too complex for us to model accurately at this point.
6) Some sort of carbon tax makes sense. It would encourage conservation and include the "cleanup cost" in the price.

Bob Badour said at December 19, 2009 5:26 PM:
no one should be against conservation

I don't should on you. Please don't should on me.

Randall Parker said at December 19, 2009 6:02 PM:


I defintely let some posters ruin their own reputation.


Regards the high road: Arguing about people's personalities and character is usually a waste of time. The high road? I see it as the productive road. Stick with the evidence.

Of course, sticking with the evidence is harder work. So most people do not do it. Rather they send signals to indicate who they feel loyalty to and who they see as enemies. More emotionally satisfying for the intellectually lazy. But not productive toward discovering the truth.

The truth really is very hard to know about extremely complex systems. I hesitate to tell someone they are wrong in their predictions about the climate. But I am less hesitant to tell them they are too certain. Why? Because unless they've invested a huge effort into understanding climate research any certainty they feel isn't based on their own judgment.

I hear far more certainty from politicals than I do from most scientists. The press focuses on the scientists with the most certainty. My guess is that the sharper ones know they are not sure even as they think they have a pretty decent guess.

BTW, I've talked ou this issue with two practicing scientists in other fields. Their views about the complexity and unprovability are similar to my own. How can the models be validated? It is a fundamental problem.

Fat Man said at December 19, 2009 7:03 PM:

Randall: I am sorry if I think climategate is a big deal, but serious analysis of the released material, such as this:

IPCC and the “Trick” by Steve McIntyre, posted on Dec 10, 2009 at 6:50 PM

establish, to my satisfaction, a prima facia case of deception. I spent a long time preparing securities filings, and I would never have allowed or condoned anything like that.

and this:

The Smoking Gun At Darwin Zero by Willis Eschenbach dated 8 12 2009*

calls into question the "value added" data.

At this point, and speaking only for myself, I am unconvinced of the truth of the AGW Hypothesis. I would ask that my elected representatives be equally skeptical. If somebody wants to prove the case to me, he will need to base that proof on matters that do not assume the validity of the CRU data. Until then I am from Missouri.

*EP seems to have an issue with Anthony Watt, but his ad hominem does not affect my judgment.

Bruce said at December 19, 2009 7:23 PM:

Ep, your smear of Anthony Watt is quite typical of the AGW fanatics.

However, back to some facts:

"Satellite radar altimetry measurements indicate that the East Antarctic ice-sheet interior north of 81.6 degrees S increased in mass by 45 +/- 7 billion metric tons per year from 1992 to 2003. Comparisons with contemporaneous meteorological model snowfall estimates suggest that the gain in mass was associated with increased precipitation. A gain of this magnitude is enough to slow sea-level rise by 0.12 +/- 0.02 millimeters per year."

Note that YOUR study has a margin of error so huge as to be useless.

Hong said at December 19, 2009 7:23 PM:

In regards to reputations, the skeptics are arguing for truth, not for appearances.

Disagreeing with an opinion isn't ruinious to anyone's image, especially when no effort is made to understand or honestly debate their points. Questioning the motives of others are simple astroturf was certainly not the line crossed by the skeptics.

Nobody is certain of everything, which is precisely our point. Overt politicization of the science to pursue comic socialist ends is precisely what rational minds tend to avoid. Curious how that point is lost on some. Disappointing too.

Randall Parker said at December 20, 2009 9:14 AM:

Regards ice in Antarctica: Obviously E-P is correct that both area and thickness matter. But there's a twist I haven't seen anyone mention: It might be possible for the planet to go thru a stage where in Antarctica ice thickness increases faster than area shrinks. So total ice might go up even as area shrinks. This is a cause for worry even if the short run effect is that more water gets tied up in ice.

Ice thickness is a function of precipitation, evaporation, and melting. Warming can cause more evaporation of water in the ocean and therefore mmore precipitation onto the Antarctic continent. That cold precipitation can cause ice accumulation. But if warming continues eventually loss of ice area on the periphery counts for more than build-up of ice further inland.

I've read scientists discussing this but not recently. I am not familiar with current thinking on the subject. So it is not clear to me whether warming would cause more water to be locked up as ice inland than is lost on the periphery for a few decades or not.

Bruce said at December 20, 2009 9:31 AM:

Randall, try and remember that the Antarctica ice sheet has been melting for ... 20,000 years.

"During the last 20,000 years, the west Antarctic ice sheet lost two-thirds of its mass and raised the sea level 10 meters. It still contains enough ice to raise the sea level by another 5 meters if it were to lose the remainder of its mass,' Bindschadler said."

"The majority of the west Antarctic ice sheet sits atop dry land, while the east Antarctic ice sheet is grounded below sea level. Changes in the east Antarctic sheet would have little effect on sea levels since the ice displaces water, but a complete melt of west Antarctic ice would pour new water into the oceans."

"About 12,000 years ago, it began a dramatic retreat," Bindschadler said."

AGW fanatics NEVER mention that melting has been going on since the last ice age ended. They try and create this fantasy world where everything was in balance right up until man started burning fossil fuels. The climategate scandal has exposed their consipracy to pretend the Little Ice Age and Medievil Warm Period did not really exists so they can perpetuate the fantasy of millions of years of the same temperature which only changed in the 1950s.

(wow, hard to believe 10 years ago CNN would write story that didn't blame all the melting on CO2)

Bruce said at December 20, 2009 10:37 AM:

As for the study referenced by EP ...

"Not all scientists are convinced, however. Jay Zwally of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center noted that the team's findings also show a thickening of ice in another part of eastern Antarctica, which he thinks is evidence that snowfall has merely shifted away from Wilkes Land in recent years.

"You can have a change in precipitation of tens of centimeter during the time period they're looking at," he said. "I don't think what they're seeing is related to changes in ice dynamics. Melt isn't driving this."

Well .... Melt isn't driving this.

Randall Parker said at December 20, 2009 1:25 PM:

T. J. Babson makes points I agree with.

Bob, shoulding is inevitable.

Bob Badour said at December 20, 2009 5:16 PM:
shoulding is inevitable

As is my response to it. In the end, shoulding is a choice. It is a choice to impose one's own values on another human being and doing so is invariably wrong.

John Moore said at December 20, 2009 5:41 PM:

Randall - good work on the cost estimates. Bringing the numbers down to annual billions is a good way to make the costs understandable.

As for AGW, I find the evidence to be far from convincing - mostly because the paleoclimatologists have been torturing the data, and the modelers are working very hard at an impossible task.

However, it really doesn't matter because the political will to do anything significant is simply not there. People will not tolerate significant hits on their lifestyle for this hypothesis. Remember, the "required" cuts in US emissions, per capita, would put us at 1870 carbon emissions levels, which is a beyond radical change in our energy use.

I am tempted by the peak oil hypothesis, but not sure it is relevant - see the following somewhat contradictory points

1) the rise in hydrocarbon fuel costs, along with advances in other technologies (I've been converted on electric cars, btw), may switch us to electric transport except for aircraft.

2) I think the enviros, right or wrong, have enough power to continue to artificially inflate hydrocarbon costs dramatically.

3) as oil costs go up, hydrocarbon substitutes become easy replacements - either switching to NG or coal gassification will be economical

4) unless the enviros undergo radical change (which I doubt), nuclear isn't going to be built in adequate numbers at adequate costs (the permitting costs are astronomical)

Randall Parker said at December 20, 2009 8:40 PM:


If you support laws against assorted activities (e.g. stealing) you are shoulding.


Artificial hydrocarbon price inflation does not happen in most countries. Even in the US hydrocarbon taxes are low and do not even raise enough money for all road maintenance.

Electric transport: Would work for some purposes, not others. Works for shorter range trips. Also, the transition costs are high once Peak Oil hits.

Easy replacements: I disagree with the "easy" part. We do not normally turn over our vehicle fleet as quickly as Peak Oil will force to happen.

Nuclear costs: The permitting got a lot simpler in terms of the number of steps due to some 2005 legislation. The biggest problem with nukes is their expense. Cut the costs in half and a lot of nukes would get built.

Bob Badour said at December 21, 2009 7:50 AM:
If you support laws against assorted activities (e.g. stealing) you are shoulding.

I respectfully disagree.

If someone steals from someone else, that other person is harmed.
If there are no deterrents to theft, fear of harm will reduce trade and productivity harming everyone.
If we have a law that says people caught stealing will suffer harm, the law will deter theft.
If a person gets caught stealing, that person will lose the proceeds of theft, pay additional fines and lose freedom.

No shoulds in there anywhere--only possible courses of action and likely consequences.

As for conservation, my only use of conservation is to reduce resource usage in one activity so I can burn more resources in other activities. Those who believe they conserve for any other reason--including for moral imperative--delude themselves.

Nick G said at December 21, 2009 9:24 AM:


You're not applying this libertarian model with sufficient imagination.

I'd phrase the relevant idea this way: If someone pollutes someone else's air, that other person is harmed.

We can rephrase the idea in question ("no one should be against conservation") as "conservation is in everyone's enlightened self-interest".

Bob Badour said at December 21, 2009 1:31 PM:

Nick G,

Not being a libertarian, I have no idea what you are talking about.

Everyone pollutes. If you are concerned about anthropogenic CO2 emissions, don't exhale.

Nick G said at December 21, 2009 2:18 PM:


I see - it's not that you disagree with the idea that pollution is bad, or that society should do something about it, it's just that you don't believe that CO2 is a problem.

I certainly hope you're right. Not being a climatologist, I'm willing to listen to those who are. And, it seems to me that reducing CO2 emissions will be awfully cheap - see

Bob Badour said at December 21, 2009 5:22 PM:


If you want people to switch to wind or solar or nuclear energy, make it cheaper and make it more portable. When it's cheap enough and portable enough, everyone will switch. Until then, people will burn as much carbon based fuel as they can afford.

Personally, I am somewhat concerned about the cap and trade proposals going around. I live in an area where most folks generally are not very wealthy. There are 2 primary heating fuels used here: firewood and diesel. Right now, wealthy land owners cut down trees to sell as firewood. Under a cap and trade proposal, rich assholes like Gore will pay the wealthy landowners to let their wood stand instead to offset the very dirty exhaust they release from burning jet fuel in their private jets.

As a result, instead of burning an inexpensive carbon neutral fuel, my neighbors will all be forced to burn a much more and increasingly expensive non-renewable carbon fuel.

When it comes right down to it, cap and trade is nothing more or less than an extremely regressive form of taxation that fucks over the folks least able to afford the fucking. Any forced reduction in our consumption of carbon fuels will only increase the carbon fuels available to our enemies.

What should we do? I don't should on people. I only observe that choices have consequences and that the unintended consequences are a bitch.

Randall Parker said at December 21, 2009 8:57 PM:


So if one person tells another person they should not steal that's wrong? I can't figure out your position.

It is a normative judgmment as to whether one should hurt other people. It is a normative judgment as to whether hurting other people should have painful consequences. Laws are the result of a lot of shoulding.

Pollution and shoulding: People who use electricity are (with rare exception) causing a chain of events that causes harm just from conventional pollutants. One doesn't need to bring in CO2 to argue to others for conservation.

Bob Badour said at December 22, 2009 6:33 AM:
So if one person tells another person they should not steal that's wrong? I can't figure out your position.

Is it wrong for a commando or special forces soldier to steal when dropped behind enemy lines? If someone is at imminent risk of starvation and can save himself by stealing an armful of vegetables from a garden so moderately that the gardener will never notice anything missing, are you saying he should choose to die instead?

It suffices to say that one caught stealing will face consequences and to spell out what those consequences are. Similarly, if a family facing starvation can avoid it by fishing out of season, it suffices to say what the consequences for getting caught poaching are and let the family decide for themselves.

Laws are the result of a lot of shoulding.

To the people who are wont to should on everybody, I agree laws are the result of a lot of shoulding. To those of us who don't should on people, they are not. Laws simply describe possible behaviors and the consequences to those behaviors. When it comes right down to it, I doubt any laws use "should" in their texts. "Thou should not covet thy neighbor's ox" doesn't have quite the same ring to it, does it?

One doesn't need to bring in CO2 to argue to others for conservation.

Whenever one conserves, one does so to burn more somewhere else. Even if one conserves to sock away money, one conserves a little today to burn more tomorrow, and in the meantime, the money gets loaned to someone else to burn today anyway. So, what are you arguing to others?

If you advocate for laws to change behavior to reduce the overall use of energy, your advocacy has consequences. What are the chances the law will alter the behavior of an Al Gore who burns extremely dirty jet fuel in his private jet? I'd say the chances are very low. What are the chances the law will alter the behavior of large companies that make a profit from burning energy? In some cases, the law will make companies unprofitable. The affluent involved with those companies will simply reallocate their resources out of those companies. The less affluent will simply lose their jobs. Other companies will continue to burn energy. In some cases, by reducing the profits earned per BTU, the companies will try to burn more BTUs to keep their margins up.

Domestically, advocating for such laws simply advocates for a transfer of wealth from the poor to the rich.

Internationally, assuming such laws actually reduce domestic energy consumption, the reduced domestic demand will simply make energy more affordable to our enemies and their consumption will increase.

So, what are you arguing to others?

Engineer-Poet said at December 29, 2009 7:18 AM:

Reducing domestic energy demand through increased efficiency means we transfer less wealth to energy suppliers.  Inefficient consumption by our enemies drains their wealth instead, and cutting overall demand reduces the prices that suppliers (including lots of our enemies, for oil) can command.

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