21 April 2010

What Climate Science?

Here is a thought experiment:

Can you imagine any discoveries or conclusions in climate science would indicate that accelerated decarbonization of the global economy does not make sense?

Answer: No

Accelerating decarbonization of the global economy makes good sense independent of the conclusions reached in climate science. That said, the fact that humans influence the climate system in ways that are understood and not understood gives us another reason to consider whether accelerated decarbonization of the global economy might be a good idea. And for some people the science may indeed be a sufficient justification. But there is no reason why it has to be for everyone.

But just for fun, lets imagine that we learn that all of climate science is a hoax or a fraud (it is not), would that mean that we would no longer need to discuss a need to diversify energy supply, reduce energy costs and expand energy access? No.

The insensitivity of the importance of climate science to decarbonization is the main reason why waging a political war over climate science is wrongheaded. Whether you win or lose that debate it really doesn't ever touch the main policy issues. Sure it generates lots of heat, and may serve other aims, but in the end, it doesn't matter much for the implementation of policies focused on accelerating decarbonization of the economy.

84 comments:

  1. "Can you imagine any discoveries or conclusions in climate science would indicate that accelerated decarbonization of the global economy does not make sense?"

    Sure I can. Let's say that everything that the AGW crowd has been saying is not only true, but 'worse than they thought' by a considerable amount, such that, at some point in the mid-term future we need to be at zero emissions or face massive consequences. We simply do not have the technology to do this today. Not even close. And the net result of accelerated decarbonization using the technologies we do have, apart from the politically-doomed nuclear power, will be to strangle the economy from the cost increases. If decarbonization is accelerated enough (ie, taxes are raised high enough to make alternative technologies cost-effective) we will likely not be able to develop the alternatives that really would let us get to zero emissions. The proper response in this situation would be to use only those technologies that are cost effective, and make good use of our natural resources to develop the replacements.

    On the other hand, let's say that things are nowhere near as bad as the AGW crowd says. How, then, should decarbonization take place? As carbon alternatives become cost-effective they should (and will) naturally take some share of the overall energy production.

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  2. "But just for fun, lets imagine that we learn that all of climate science is a hoax or a fraud (it is not), would that mean that we would no longer need to discuss a need to diversify energy supply, reduce energy costs and expand energy access? No."

    Actually the answer is a resounding Yes. Discussion in the flavor of a dorm room bull session is not NEEDED by anyone.

    The only discussion we need to have regards the government's hindering the market's ability to deliver the most abundant energy at the lowest cost.

    The transition in home heating from wood to coal to oil to gas happened quite nicely driven by market forces delivering a lower cost alternative. The last thing we need is a bunch of rent seekers looking to peddle high cost solutions to the politically powerful, with those inflated costs borne by the rest of us.

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  3. -2-Abdul Abulbul Amir

    Thanks for your comment ... I don't know were you are writing from, but I'd be willing to bet that the energy used to power the computer that you are writing your comments on comes from technologies and infrasturcture that trace their roots to government actions.

    Also, there are 1.5 billion people without access to energy today worldwide. How's that unfettered market working for them? :-(

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  4. "Accelerating decarbonization of the global economy makes good sense independent of the conclusions reached in climate science."

    By itself, without a full review of the parameters and context, that statement doesn't stand on its own merit. Mere wishful thinking.

    Decoupling sound environmental goals and energy policy from climate issues makes much more sense when reflecting upon an expanding world population and necessary energy needs to support a desired suatainable standard of living.

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  5. The problem here is the definition of "makes sense".

    It certainly "makes sense" in some sense to diversify energy sources, and all those other nifty things. The question is, at what cost? Does it "make sense", for example, to diversify those energy sources at the cost of places like China not having sufficient power to provide a higher standard of living for its population?

    And assuming your answer is "yes", how do you propose to bell the cat? China's people don't seem to agree: is it sufficient in your mind to insist they ought to? To take economic actions against China, thereby hurting the population or thwarting them, if it refuses? Is it sufficiently important that military action would be justified?

    Be careful with the answer; that sounds a lot like the situation in the Far East in the late 30's that precipitated Japan attacking Pearl Harbor.

    Does it make sense if the cost is just taking money from people in the US and Europe that they could use for their own purposes, and spending it in the Third World to reduce carbon in ways that don't otherwise increase those people's well-being? For example, is it better to spend that money on reducing carbon emissions than it is to spend it on improving the availability of clean water, or food?

    I think the question is irredeemably poorly-formed: it "makes sense" only if (1) you do believe that carbon emissions pose a real and dramatic immediate threat that justifies hurting people now in pursuit of some later amelioration, or (2) you imagine it can be done at no cost.

    (1) is excluded by your assumptions, (2) is sufficiently non-intuitive that I'll need to see your argument for its mere possibility.

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  6. Also, there are 1.5 billion people without access to energy today worldwide. How's that unfettered market working for them? :-(

    Considering the experience in China and India, where economic liberalization is rapidly decreasing that number, I think the answer is "pretty well."

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  7. -6-Charlie Martin

    Yes, Indian experience is instructive, see:

    http://rogerpielkejr.blogspot.com/2010/04/india-proposes-coal-tax-to-fund-clean.html

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  8. "But just for fun, lets imagine that we learn that all of climate science is a hoax or a fraud (it is not"

    I'm sure the whole house isn't derelict, just the foundations.


    "The insensitivity of the importance of decarbonization to climate science is the main reason why waging a political war over climate science is wrongheaded."


    If you reverse 'decarbonization' and 'climate science', it would make more sense to me.


    Whatever reasons you may have to decarbonise, it is disingenuous to deny that a multi billion dollar propaganda war has been fought to promote carbon trading using global warming science as a weapon.


    Despite the support of every science body on the planet from the American Physical Society to the Mauritius parakeet conservation society, despite the almost universal agreement of climate scientists, the endorsement of the Royal Society, every government on earth, every corporation on earth, every major newspaper and TV station on earth. Despite what amounts to the environmental brainwashing of British children for the last twenty year, only a quarter of British people believe human beings have a significant effect on the climate.

    That is the same number who believed Iraq could attack Britain in 15 minutes. There are always very gullible, conventional individuals who will believe anything authority tells them.

    Your colleagues tried to steal my car, now you want to borrow my lawn mower, and you won't tell me why until I read your damned book :-)

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  9. Decarbonization based on flawed science creates corrupt decisio nmaking corrupt incentives and corrupt carbon trading markets

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  10. The Indian experience will be relevant, when we actually see what it gets them. So I'd really like to see a followup, oh, in about 18 months or so, looking at:

    1. The actual revenue raised, and how much of it went to the NCEF. I suspect it will be considerably less than $660m, due to bureaucratic overhead, and the disincentive effects of the higher prices.

    2. What they actually got for the money that was raised. My suspicion is that the answer will be 'not much', other than some payoffs to politically well connected constituencies and NGOs.

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  11. Climate science isn't a hoax, but climate alarmism certainly is. Climate alarmism is a distraction that is counter-productive.

    Decarbonisation is justified only on the basis of the need to replace carbon fuels with viable, affordable alternatives before carbon fuels run out. Climate is a red-herring. The pace of decarbonisation is dictated by the pace of technological development. Accelerating decarbonisation therefore requires technological development to be accelerated.

    The problem is that 'urgent' decarbonisation is being used by some as a facade for various political, social, and financial agendas that result in expensive policies that harm rather than improve energy security. A case in point is the UK's crazy solar 'feed-in tarrif' policy that will cost £8.9 billion and produce just £300 million worth of electricity. The better-off will buy solar panels simply to receive generous subsidies, and the poor will pay in higher energy bills.

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  12. Roger,

    When I read stuff like what you say it is tough to disgree with the words written. The trouble is there are social dynamics that will inevitably warp and twist an otherwise worthy goal and turn it into a problem.

    For example, the recent push to prevant SA from building a badly needed coal plant illustrates how worthy goals are often used as justifications for extremely harmful policies.

    I would agree 100% if you added a caveat that basically says: decarbonization is a long term goal, however, meeting the economic needs of humans is a higher priority even if that means increasing our use of fossil fuels in short term while we work towards the long term goal of decarbonization.

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  13. -13-Raven

    Thanks, I don't think that decarbonization and "meeting the economic needs of humans" are necessarily trade-offs. In fact, I'd go so far as to argue that the later may well depend upon success with the former.

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  14. I've been hugely in favour of alternative fuels all my life, especially at the sharp end as a power engineer, but I've had a few surprises along the way:
    a) Nuclear power died not due to green protests but because of the huge off-book costs. Nobody wanted to invest in it or even insure it. Even the French were having second thoughts. The Canadians baulked too - and they have abundant Uranium.
    b) In Europe it was the nuclear establishment who buried wind, wave and solar power with propaganda and creative accounting. They sure as heck didn't want to see any energy diversity then and nothing has changed.
    c) In the USA it was actually the government who buried green tech by failing to renew vital tax incentives, presumably not accidentally. Stand by for a repeat performance.

    I'm less inclined to believe that this resurgence in green energy investment is really due to global warming hype. It's probably just a natural, free-market reaction to the very high oil prices that we've had since Bush invaded Iraq. If that's the case then it was engendered by the oilmen who ran the Bush administration with their Saudi and Wall Street pals, like Government-Sachs.

    Irony of ironies; talk about free-market capitalism > give us crony capitalism instead > produce a green tech backlash. The next act to come in this farce is that the oilmen realize their folly and halt their price fixing until the governments cut off the green subsidies again.

    The scientists were always in the back-seat and they are now more irrelevant than ever. If it was really about the science then CO2 scrubbing at source would be the only option on the table just like SO2 scrubbing before it. All the rest is bandwagon-jumping by nuclear green-washers, trading sharks, modern malthusians, tax-raising politicos, grant-chasing universities and green energy enthusiasts (me too I admit).

    Much as I'd like to see alternative energies flourish though we actually do need to use our money wisely to avoid doing more harm than good, especially as it's really our children's money.

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  15. #13 Roger,

    The devil is in the details. If subsidized R&D in electric cars produces a breakthough that allows them to be deployed widely without subsidy then it is a win-win. If the government arbitrarily mandates that 20% of cars shall be electric before the technology is commerically viable then the policies will cause a lot of harm.

    To make matters worse governments and other ecnomically illiterate people have a bad habit claiming that policies that cause harm are actually beneficial.

    It is great to try and get agreement on goals but if the goals are too vague about the means to achieve those goals then the agreement will not move the discussion forward.

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  16. -16-Raven

    The devil is indeed in the details. However, this post is mainly about why we don't need to fight about climate science. (Ironically enough both sides of the traditional climate debate share a view that climate science is the right battleground.)

    I'll have plenty of clean tech stuff in the future for you to shoot down ;-)

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  17. Roger,
    If CO2 was determined to be not a problem then decarbonisation would be at the bottom of a huge list of problems the world has to solve. As a power engineer I can say that spending billions on trying to provide baseload power from sunbeams,sea breezes and pixiedust (with apologies to Viv Forbes) is a complete waste of money badly needed elsewhere. Wind or solar energy projects to power " 30,000" homes will not power one home when there is no sun or wind.
    The price we are being asked to pay for this is a huge increase in energy prices - bearing in mind that cheap energy is what is what has allowed the development of today's technological society . We have inflated food prices for the very poorest and hungriest people in the world, caused by the bio-fuels policy of putting food into fuel tanks and leaving oil in the ground.Government policy and actions should be based on common sense and there is very little in the climate driven policy. There are some things like increased efficiency in automobiles and power stations that actually make sense on their own but they can be done for their own reasons not using the climate boogeyman.

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  18. #17 - Roger

    I have long ago decided that climate science is irrelevant because it has told us as much as it can. The real question is what can be done and how to we balance the competition between human needs today and hypothetical human needs tomorrow.

    Unfortunately, alarmists have systematically exagerrated the costs of climate change while underestimating the costs of CO2 reductions. This has led to a useless war over the science in order to discredit the alarmist estimates of the costs.

    I would like to get to is a point where reasonable people can agree this is a discussion about economics and values - not science and move forward with the understanding that reasonable people can come to opposite conclusions given the same information based on the personal assessments of the risks vs. benefits.

    IOW, there is no one size fits all policy because people have different values. The challenge for people looking for the middle ground is finding a solution that does not involve the majority using legislative fiat imposing their values on the minority with different values.

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  19. Who are you and what have you don't with Roger?

    Whoever you are, you ignored my substantive questions -- at what cost? What consequences to the people who don't already have high standards of living are you willing to accept? what mechanism do you propose to get this magical thing to happen? -- and you answer with a link to a piece about India implementing a coal tax in order to make the next generation of carbon emitting coal plants cleaner.

    The real Roger would have made an attempt to engage instead of simply deflecting.

    So yeah, I do think that if would be wonderful if we had a magic source of energy to replace carbon-based sources that imposed no costs, required no tradeoffs, and could be implemented without effort.

    If that's not what you're proposing, put in enough constraints to make this an evaluable question.

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  20. -20-Charlie

    Sorry, I don't understand your question.

    You said a lot of things about military action and Pearl Harbor, which I have a hard time relating to this post.

    So please feel free to try again!

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  21. Perhaps Dr. Running's class should include your book: http://www.cfc.umt.edu/ccs/Curriculum.html

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  22. Unfettered market? What are you smoking Roger? You think Africans don't have energy because of the market? You think that US govt policy distortions in the market by limiting our citizens freedom will enhance the ability of Africans to get energy?

    Say what?

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  23. when I read "decarbonization" I take it to mean the removal of carbon emitting energy and industry from the economy in an *absolute* sense. Without a valid case for AGW (or more specifically CAGW), this seems unwarranted. One is *removing* energy, industry, product, and wealth sources from the GWP. In a world with large unmet needs, reducing net postive components seems counter productive.

    However, if you mean instead *relative* decarbonization (the reduction of the role of carbon emitting energy and industry as part of the whole), then one can argue from reasons of scalability, and the benefits of renewable and sustainable growth that this is needed.

    However, then it is poorly named, as the goal isn't to reduce carbon per se, but to increase scalablity, renewable, and sustainable, not lower in carbon. The policy choices (penalties on carbon emission) are ill aimed, as they target reducing carbon, not increasing/improving sustainable technologies. It is possible that these might not be carbon-neutral, at least during the transition away from non-renewable resources.

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  24. -23-Stan

    Well ... yesterday was 4/20 here on the Boulder campus ;-)

    More directly, not exactly, I'd phrase it more along the lines that despite market forces 1.5 billion people don't have access to energy.

    It is my view that public investments in energy innovation can move the process along faster than without such public investments.

    The direct answer to your question is that 1.5 billion people lack access to energy because they are too poor and energy costs too much.

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  25. -24-zoo

    This is a helpful reminder that not everyone sees the same thing when they read the same words. (Which is why a book-length treatment is needed).

    Decarbonization refers to a decrease in the ratio of carbon dioxide emissions to GDP, or

    C/GDP

    This value decreases, as you suggest, when the proportion of carbon-free energy supply increases.

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  26. "Well ... yesterday was 4/20 here on the Boulder campus ;-) "

    Do you celebrate the 8th of May as well, hooray hooray in a carbon neutral sort of way?

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  27. Roger

    You said

    "The direct answer to your question is that 1.5 billion people lack access to energy because they are too poor and energy costs too much."

    Whatever your good intentions, in the real world, support for decarbonisation is nothing more than an appendage to Gavin Schmidt's support for decarbonisation due to global warming. That means carbon trading and increased energy prices. There is no harm in directed technology research, but to call it decarbonisation in the current political climate is to join forces with the deceivers.

    Enron created carbon trading by inserting it into article 16 of the Kyoto Protocol

    In a White House meeting in August 1997, for example, Lay urged President Clinton and Vice President Gore to back a "market-based" approach to the problem of global warming -- a strategy that a later Enron memo makes clear would be "good for Enron stock."

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/ac2/wp-dyn?pagename=article&node=&contentId=A37287-2002Jan12&notFound=true

    Guardian

    As many people in Kyoto suspected at the time, the reality has been very different. At the demand of the United States, the Kyoto rules were tweaked to allow rich countries to buy their way out of their targets, a move that gave birth to the multi-billion carbon trading industry

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2009/nov/10/copenhagen-climate-change-summit-2c

    Here is the fossil fuel industry's carbon trading lobby.

    International Emissions Trading Association (IETA)

    The biggest lobbying group at Copenhagen was the International Emissions Trading Association Its members include :-

    BP, Conoco Philips, Shell, E.ON AG (coal power stations owner, EDF (one of the largest participants in the global coal market), Gazprom (Russian oil and gas), Goldman Sachs, Barclays, JP Morgan Chase, Morgan Stanley..

    http://www.ieta.org/ieta/www/pages/index.php?IdSiteTree=1249

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  28. Roger regarding your question :
    “Can you imagine any discoveries or conclusions in climate science would indicate that accelerated decarbonization of the global economy does not make sense?”

    Perhaps I misunderstand your question, or possibly you don’t consider the experiments/discoveries involving the effect of CO2 on plants as part of “climate science”, but it seems to me that one such experiment would be the one that CO2 stimulates plant and crop growth, and net primary productivity, which then reduces hunger and habitat conversion. [Actually it’s not just one experiment, but numerous such experiments.]

    Second, what precisely is meant by “accelerated decarbonization”? There is, of course, a secular rate of technological change which reduces the carbon intensity of an economy. In my lexicon, “accelerated decarbonization” means reducing it more rapidly than would occur via the secular rate of improvement (through mandates and/or subsidies). AFAIK, there is no credible analysis that has shown that accelerated decqarbonization would necessarily pay for itself. The reason I say this is that there isn’t a single analysis of the impacts (or damages) of climate change that has done a half decent job on estimating future impacts – although some of Tol’s recent work is getting there, it seems to me). The reason for my statement is that, even if one sets aside the problems associated with models -- particularly models linked in series with the uncertain outputs of one serving as inputs to the next one down the chain -- no study, so far, has properly accounted for changes in future adaptive capacity. A detailed explanation is contained in a draft paper, “Trapped Between the Falling Sky and the Rising Seas: The Imagined Terrors of the Impacts of Climate Change,” December 13, 2009 Draft, available at http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1548711. So let me turn the question around and ask, “what’s the evidence that accelerated decarbonization makes sense from the point of view of human or environmental well-being?”

    In fact, I have made the case several times that accelerated decarbonization is a poor idea. See, e.g., “ Is Climate Change the ‘Defining Challenge of Our Age’?” Energy & Environment 20(3): 279-302 (2009), available at http://goklany.org/library/Goklany%202009%20EE%2020-3_1.pdf.

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  29. Roger,
    No one said climate science as a whole is a hoax or a fraud, although some of the climate scientists have done work and supported it in a way that is equivalent to fraud. All that most serious skeptics say is that the evidence for CAGW is not supportable at all, and for AGW is not sufficient. The strong advocates of CAGW are not (at least mostly) likely part of a conspiracy, but many are part of a closed group with a bias, and most of the rest are inadequately informed for independent conclusions.

    The supply of reasonably obtainable oil is heading for a fairly short term problem, and increasing prices that will result from the increasing shortage will drive increasing use of alternates. Hybrid vehicle and eventual plug in ones can solve much of that problem. If governments stick their ore in too hard, it will delay (not help) long term solutions by locking in short term fixes. Aircraft can probably use synthetic fuels or biofuels, since electric is likely not adequate for them. Nuclear (with some Solar and wind) energy is the long term solution to the source of electricity, but continued use of coal and natural gas over a long period will allow a long smooth transition. The CO2 will help delay the oncoming ice age, and help crops grow, so it is not a problem but a helper.

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  30. -28-eric144

    "Whatever your good intentions, in the real world, support for decarbonisation is nothing more than an appendage to Gavin Schmidt's support for decarbonisation due to global warming"

    Judging policies by who is for and against is not a good route to effective action. It is just tribal politics.

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  31. -29-Goks

    Thanks for dropping by ...

    on decarbonization: "a secular rate of technological change which reduces the carbon intensity of an economy"

    Yes.

    Do you think that subsidies for fossil fuels influence this "secular rate"? And if so, in which direction?

    The secular rate is not independent of policy, it can be modulated. By how much and at what cost? The honest answer is that no one knows, because we haven't tried.

    Is there good reason to adopt policies that lead to an accelerated rate of decarbonization? Yes I think so.

    What would these policies focus on? Expanding access to energy. Diversifying supply. Lowering energy costs.

    “what’s the evidence that accelerated decarbonization makes sense from the point of view of human or environmental well-being?”

    Easy: I take it as a given that expanding access to energy to the 1.5 billion people without is a good thing. How can this be done without accelerating decarbonization? I don't think it can.

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  32. "Can you imagine any discoveries or conclusions in climate science would indicate that accelerated decarbonization of the global economy does not make sense?

    Answer: No"

    As John McEnroe would say, "You can not be serious!" ;-)

    If science said that an ice age was about to occur, we should be pumping out all the CO2 we can.

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  33. -24 Roger

    OK, that's not at all the definition of decarbonization that I'd have expected. I'd have expected it to be just C, in that equation. That's certainly the objective of the warmers - to reduce in absolute, not relative, terms.

    But since we're talking about ratios here, it seems to me that the best way to reduce the ratio is by expanding our economy to allow us to afford to develop new solutions. As long as GDP goes up faster than C, your ratio will go down.

    And by the way, you throw out the statistic of 1.5 billion people without access to energy, as a market failure. As a percentage of world population, how many had access to energy in 1900? 1950? Is that number increasing? Declining? Finding believable statistics on this on the free portions of the internet is difficult, but from this, an iea report, they suggest that the number will decrease. This sounds to me like a market that is working, not a market failure. And what is going to happen to the number if the price of energy from carbon is sharply raised, as virtually every decarbonization scheme requires? Obviously the number of people who will not be able to afford it will rise, not decrease.

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  34. Roger

    "Judging policies by who is for and against is not a good route to effective action. It is just tribal politics"

    I deserved that for being deliberately provocative.

    However, I made the point in another thread, that you and your and your Breakthrough Institute colleagues have effectively come in line with carbon trading, while appearing to be different. The problem is that the goals of lower energy prices and carbon trading are mutually exclusive.

    You have played your part in the AGW debate very cleverly and effectively, which is why I have followed your blog. If I had the intellectual maturity to join the debate at your level, I would be pushing for a carbon tax, like James Hansen. It isn't going to happen, but it may undermine cap and trade.

    I have always been outside the political mainstream, being an active anarchist in the 1980s. Margaret Thatcher was the reason.

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  35. Roger,

    You said: "It is my view that public investments in energy innovation can move the process along faster than without such public investments."

    Maybe this is true; let's assume so for argument's sake. But where are the considerations of trade-offs with non-energy matters? Increasing public expenditure increases taxes, basically, which means people can't spend money on other things. It means a reduction in profits and hence can reduce productivity in an economy. All Economics 101.

    So where are the wider trade-off calculations? Why should I help fund some African country's energy infrastructure when I'd rather use the money on other things, thank you very much?

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  36. This post expresses an idea worth promoting.

    Decarbonizing is independent from any climatizing, at least in the sense that one can obtain the former without having to obtain the latter. Some climatizing sure hints at decarbonizing, but the reasoning always take some inductive (better, abductive) steps.

    There is always room to frown upon the inductions of others. In that sense, climatizing will never be enough to get everyone thinking about carbonizing.

    It's tough to say that decarbonizing does not makes sense all by itself. It's so reasonable an idea that it's no wonder why people against it prefer we talk about climatizing.

    And so "stealth advocacy" cuts both ways. If that made sense, of course, because everyone's opponents always entertain some stealth advocacy or another.

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  37. If (when) it is shown that the climate science consensus of impending doom is vastly over stated, I think people will be justified in looking for where the money went.
    If decarbonization includes what it does now- lowering the quality of and quantity of power at a huge cost and trading in one form of pollution for another (landscape destruction, habitat destruction, displacement and destruction of wildlife), then I think decarbonization will be in big trouble.
    If decarbonization involves developing effective low impact power, then it may withstand the backlash.

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  38. "Also, there are 1.5 billion people without access to energy today worldwide. How's that unfettered market working for them? :-("

    What unfettered market are you imagining? Don't confuse the likes of Robert Mugabe's kleptocracy with a free market. A free market cannot exist without property rights and the rule of law. Who is going to build a power plant if the ruler can seize it at whim? Most of those 1.5 billion are living where there is neither a rule of law nor property rights.

    The US lacks petroleum refining capacity and a new refinery has not been built in 30+ years. That failure is government policy not market failure.

    Likewise, the lack of off shore drilling and oil production is not market failure but government policy. Likewise, zero carbon nuke power is going about nowhere in this country, again due to government policy.

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  39. -34-Skip

    Have a look at this paper:

    Pielke, Jr., R. A., 2009. The British Climate Change Act: A Critical Evaluation and Proposed Alternative Approach, Environmental Research Letters, Vol. 4, No. 2.
    http://www.iop.org/EJ/abstract/1748-9326/4/2/024010

    It has a technical, but straightforward, discussion of decarbonization as defined here.

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  40. -35-eric144

    "you and your and your Breakthrough Institute colleagues have effectively come in line with carbon trading"

    I doubt it ;-)

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  41. -36-gfreeeman

    "But where are the considerations of trade-offs with non-energy matters?"

    An excellent and important question. Consider that a $5/barrel tax on oil raises $500 billion. If that amount or similar were devoted to energy innovation focused on access, cost, security etc. It could probably do a lot of good with little effects on gasoline prices.

    This is just an order of magnitude example to show that the tradeoffs may not be so severe.

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  42. @ Raven

    "The devil is in the details. If subsidized R&D in electric cars produces a breakthough that allows them to be deployed widely without subsidy then it is a win-win."

    Subsidies are the wrong answer. Once in place they develop a constituency that needs to be kept fed regardless of results. As long as Robert Byrd is in the Senate you can be sure that West Virginia will get more than its share of subsidies.

    Prizes are a much better way to go. For example rather than picking winners and losers for battery R&D funding offer a X million or billion prize for an automotive battery that:
    Has a manufacturing cost if no more than D dollars. (a really super battery made of only platinum and diamonds is of no real use.)
    Fits in a 400mm cube
    holds Y Amp hours
    Recharges in Z minutes
    Can discharge within M minutes
    Has a useful life of W charge cycles
    Operates from -N to +M degrees
    Can withstand Q acceleration/deceleration
    Etc
    Etc.

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  43. Roger,
    $500 billion would build lots of nuke power (but electricity does not easily offset liquid fuels). But the nukes would more than offset the costs of many new nuke plants, and we could develop windmills and solar to keep the enviro interests happy. The CO2 reduction from not needing to burn much coal would be substantial. This would free up natural gas to offset diesel & gasoline as ground transportation liquid fuels.
    We could reserve high energy liquids where they are needed most- in aviation and the like.
    While I believe none of this would have any important impact on the climate, I could support it for the improvement in air quality that would actually occur, and the room it would give developing nations to use coal to provide cheap power to their nations.
    Note that Abdul in comment 39 is on the mark- if the thrid world continues to be run by kleptocrats and loons like Chavez, the third world will continue to linger in poverty.

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  44. "Here is a thought experiment:

    Can you imagine any discoveries or conclusions in climate science would indicate that accelerated decarbonization of the global economy does not make sense?

    Answer: No"

    Suppose the sun goes into a Maunder Mininum situation, and it looks like the earth is going to return to temperatures wherein the Thames River at London freezes solid every year.

    Are you saying it would still make sense to accelerate decarbonization?

    Suppose it was found that the earth was headed to a full-blown ice age (e.g. like 70,000 years ago, when the ice sheet at New York City was a 1000 feet thick). Are you still saying it would make sense to accelerate decarbonization?

    ReplyDelete
  45. I am a decarbonisation denier. Certainly in the Lomborg sense.

    However, it would be wonderful to see third world countries jump to new sustainable energy technologies in the way some have with mobile phones.

    My only problem with the blog is calling it 'decarbonisation'. Let's develop cheap local energy sources because it is a good thing to do, regardless. The connection to AGW / Co2 / is unnecessary and risks reinforcing the case for AGW. Peak oil has always been a fall back position for many warmers.

    ReplyDelete
  46. P.S.

    I am aware of Mike Hulme's argument of using this 'crisis' for beneficial purposes. I am not convinced, but good luck to anyone who achieves some success. For example, what has been proposed in this thread.

    ReplyDelete
  47. -40-Roger,

    Interesting - I approached the article with some trepidation as it was described as "technical", and was surprised at the level. I guess basic algebra qualifies as technical now? The former engineering major in me says that these things scream out for a few differential equations, but as it's been 20 years since I took those classes I'm a bit rusty there. Still, I might have to work through them a bit.

    So reading between the lines, you're focusing on the term (C/TE) and rather than focusing on reducing C, you're focusing on increasing TE. That's certainly one way of looking at things, but I'm not sure that it's valid under the premises of the catastrophist crowd. Under their premises, we need to be at zero emissions, real soon now, so just increasing the non-carbon energy output doesn't help.

    So to them, C must be reduced, and there are only a few ways of doing it. You can raise the price of C, where the combination of disincentives and pricing in of some alternative technologies will do so, but that will significantly impact GDP. This will have the side effect of negatively impacting the poorest folks out there - some who currently can afford energy will no longer be able to.

    Or you can subsidize the alternative technologies, which will disincentivize actually making them cost-effective. And if the subsidies are big enough to matter, it will significantly impact usable GDP, ie the GDP left after paying for this.

    Or you could commit to funding research designed to bring the costs of the alternatives down, at which point the market will fix the problem without any further intervention. But this won't reduce C today, so no politicians who are beholden to the left are likely to commit to it.

    I guess a fourth would be funding research in carbon sequestration technologies, to where we could keep emitting our current level, but remove a certain amount of it.

    See, this is the problem I have with the catastrophist crowd. Their message is 'we need zero emissions or we're doomed!". But they don't seem to recognize that we have no way of getting to zero emissions. We don't even have a roadmap of how to get there today. And the things they're pushing, most of which boil down to reducing GDP to reduce the total emissions, not only won't get us there, but will actively hinder getting us there, and hurt the very poor as a side effect.

    So either they're not very bright, or they don't really believe in the catastrophes they're predicting, and have some other goal. If they did, they would be pushing a much different set of priorities. And reading the literature it appears to be a mixture of the two possibilities, but I lean towards the latter mostly.

    ReplyDelete
  48. -48-Skip

    Thanks. I find that simple methods help to avoid debates over methodology, in favor of debates over substance ;-)

    There is much more along these lines in my book, which I'll continue to discuss leading up to Sept.

    ReplyDelete
  49. irt my coment at 44:
    I was trying to say ....But the nukes would offset many *coal* plants. There are good reasons to reduce coal use over time that have nothign to do with CO2.
    To hopefully clarify further, we could then expand electricity use to the point of making a significant amount of ground transportation run electricity. If we also expanded the use of natural gas as a surface tranport fuel, we would then see substantially cleaner air and for the AGW community, reduce CO2 as well.

    typing in a hurry is not always a good thing.

    ReplyDelete
  50. Roger, do you think you can clarify what you mean by "accelerate decarbonization"?

    If by that you mean that governments engage in active intervention in the energy economy to make it decarbonize faster than it normally would, I vehemently disagree that such would be "good" for anyone, except perhaps the governments themselves.

    When you talk about "investment" in "alternatives" do you mean forcibly taking money from "the rich" to pick winners with it and try to force innovation by throwing money at whoever the government thinks or wants to succeed in alternative energy? I can't support that.

    I say that if you want "decarbonization" you need to leave the Energy economy the hell alone. No more subsidies/taxes, mandates, "carbon price" crap, or any of the ridiculous regulations and rules. You asked if oil subsidies influence decarbonization: Yes, and those of us who aren't "progressive" are as opposed to subsidies as we are to taxes. But where are the people calling for eliminating ethanol subsidies and wind subsidies? You complain about oil but those kinds of energy not only get a pass, but should get more money. I say NO to that!

    ReplyDelete
  51. -51-Andrew

    The world has been decarbonizing for more than a century at a rate of 1-2% per year (where decarbonization is defined as carbon emissions per unit of GDP). To accelerate decarbonization means to increase this rate.

    So before saying "No" maybe pause a second to at least get the ideas straight (then say No!;-)

    ReplyDelete
  52. "The world has been decarbonizing for more than a century at a rate of 1-2% per year (where decarbonization is defined as carbon emissions per unit of GDP)."

    What is the purpose of defining decarbonization in relative terms rather than absolute values? Seems like a politician defining a "budget cut" while spending us into oblivion.

    ReplyDelete
  53. -53-Craig

    "What is the purpose of defining decarbonization in relative terms rather than absolute values?"

    Because most discussions of emissions reductions implicitly or explicitly tend to forget about GDP growth. See:

    Pielke, Jr., R. A., 2009. The British Climate Change Act: A Critical Evaluation and Proposed Alternative Approach, Environmental Research Letters, Vol. 4, No. 2.
    http://www.iop.org/EJ/abstract/1748-9326/4/2/024010

    Especially the discussion of the Kaya Identity and how it can be linked to specific absolute targets. A relative term in not necessarily independent of an absolute target.

    ReplyDelete
  54. 54-Roger Pielke, Jr.

    "Because most discussions of emissions reductions implicitly or explicitly tend to forget about GDP growth."

    That strikes me as political rather than substantive. To the extent that climate is changed by carbon emissions, the relative definition is meaningless to actually arrest such change, if that is the purpose of carbon control policy.
    ;-)

    ReplyDelete
  55. Reading your post, and all the comments, I've come to a couple of conclusions:

    1. Many are confused as to what you mean by "decarbonization," including myself.

    2. Many don't believe that "decarbonization" is going to miraculously provide "1.5 billion" with energy.

    3. Many don't buy into the belief that the "unfettered" market is failing to provide energy for the 1.5 billion.

    Personally, I think the "deacarbonization" terminology is awful. It's not intuitive and is a form of misdirection that's unnecessary. I think a "discovery" of better terminology would make a huge difference towards understanding.

    In addition, I think you should avoid the typical "unfettered market" commentary (leftist rationalization?), since there is no such animal. To be realistic, it is the "unfettered government" approach that has wreaked untold havoc, pain and death on citizens and economies. The unfettered market is a blessing; the unfettered government is a curse.

    You may disagree on this last point. If so, I would love to learn where an unfettered energy market exists. If in return you need examples of unfettered government existence, I'll be glad to provide examples: N. Korea, Cuba, Venezuela, Iran and etc.

    Gee, how's that unfettered government idea working for citizens of those countries?:-(

    C3 Editor, www.c3headlines.com

    ReplyDelete
  56. -56-C3

    Some replies:

    1. See 52

    2. You have cause and effect backwards, providing 1.5 billion people with energy will lead to accelerated decarbonization

    3. I have no absolutely interest in a purely ideological discussion of governments and markets

    ReplyDelete
  57. Hi Roger,

    You use the actual phrase "How's that unfettered market working for them? :-("

    And you then claim in your reply to me that "I have no absolutely interest in a purely ideological discussion of governments and markets"

    Bullshit, Roger. If you don't have any interest in being ideological, then quit using ideological-laden terms such as "unfettered market." It doesn't exist and you're smart enough to know it.

    You: "2. You have cause and effect backwards, providing 1.5 billion people with energy will lead to accelerated decarbonization."

    Roger, come on, do you actually believe that providing energy to 1.5 billion people, who have no present energy, will lead to accelerated decarbonization? If they don't possess carbon-based energy in the first place, how then does accelerated decarbonization happen? Color me extremely confused, or you're playing word games that benefits none.

    Finally, strictly my opinion: your favored term "decarbonize" causes all sorts of confusion. Honestly, do you want to keep marginalizing your own thoughts/beliefs? If so, then you should keep using the "decarbonization" vernacular.

    With that said, how about asking your readers for better terminology than "decarbonization"? I have faith there is a better lexicon that you can use, which will help your cause.

    ReplyDelete
  58. -58-C3

    Apologies, I didn't realize "unfettered market" followed by an emoticon would lead to such a reaction -- chill please, no offense meant.

    As far as decarbonization, it is here to stay. If that marginalizes my views, then so be it, but since it is a concept widely understood among experts and policy makers, I am not too worried about that. In fact, you might think about what you have been missing, e.g., along the lines of understand China's or India's policies, but I digress.

    If you don't like decarbonization, try "carbon intensity of the economy" or "carbon per unit of GDP".

    Thanks

    ReplyDelete
  59. "If you don't like decarbonization, try "carbon intensity of the economy" or "carbon per unit of GDP"."

    What I don't like about such relative measures is that they obfuscate the end result. A sinking ship will still sink no matter the size the hole, it's only a question of time. It doesn't matter that the volume of inflowing water is defined as units per passenger.

    Regarding decarbonization, apparently green diesel is not all that helpful: http://www.reuters.com/article/latestCrisis/idUSLDE63J1FP "...Biodiesel from North American soybeans has an indirect carbon footprint of 339.9 kilograms of CO2 per gigajoule -- four times higher than standard diesel -- said the EU document, an annex that was controversially stripped from a report published in December."

    Champions of relative measures tend to claim success by their choice of labels -- decarbonization, green, etc. without actually demonstrating they can change the outcome of the sinking ship.

    ReplyDelete
  60. -60-Craig

    You write: "What I don't like about such relative measures is that they obfuscate the end result. A sinking ship will still sink no matter the size the hole, it's only a question of time. It doesn't matter that the volume of inflowing water is defined as units per passenger."

    No. This is not the case. It is easy to specify a stabilization target as a goal of decarbonization. In fact, doing so leads to much greater policy realism.

    ReplyDelete
  61. Roger,
    re:25

    and the reasons that they are too poor to afford the energy has much to do with their own govt "interventions" which make it impossible for them to earn a better living.

    ReplyDelete
  62. "Can you imagine any discoveries or conclusions in climate science would indicate that accelerated decarbonization of the global economy does not make sense?

    Answer: No"

    That's an Argument from Incredulity. And the "climate science" conclusions are obviously not the only relevant considerations in accessing energy policy, poverty, prosperity or climate change.

    ReplyDelete
  63. It is not and has not been my intent to battle with you, however, if you cannot address my points, you get what you deserve.

    If you lack the ability/will to defend your position, I understand, however your pathetic attempts at making it seem that I am unreasonable or unwilling to listen will not fly.

    Snip this if you like, or actually defend what you wrote. Do not pretend that a link to your book answers the criticisms of this naive post.

    Good luck

    ReplyDelete
  64. -64-Jeff

    Ask specific questions, I'll answer them.

    Here is an example of specific questions:

    http://rogerpielkejr.blogspot.com/2010/04/few-questions-from-jonathan-gilligan.html

    Go for it.

    ReplyDelete
  65. I wrote a whole blog post of disagreements, work it out.

    ReplyDelete
  66. This is what I left recently at tAV:

    #96 Thanks Tim. It was VERY disconcerting for me to read his post. This post was the toned down version of my reply. Now people tell me that he’s redefining decarbonization. All that he really needs to do is give his HONEST opinion and let the rest have at it.

    Tom Fuller has a 180 degree political view from me and he guest posts here. John Pittman is similar.

    Blogs are about disagreement and discussion, Pielke was condecending in his replies here and frankly, of all things in climatology, that is what I’m most tired of. These boys don’t have one single IQ point over the rest of us and perhaps should consider that the balance may not be in their favor. They need to talk as equals or shut the hell up.

    He wants desperately to pretend that my points are unreasonable, and made a big stretch to be offended. If he wants to lead, he had better be prepared to defend his positions.

    ReplyDelete
  67. -66,67-Jeff

    Yes I did drop by you blog:

    http://noconsensus.wordpress.com/2010/04/25/pielke-jr-one-blog-post-ten-wrong-turns/

    I explained that you completely misrepresented my views, starting with a misunderstanding of what I mean when I use the term decarbonization. I got cussed out by you for my efforts, not a really welcoming way to engage in my view, but hey, its your blog.

    I am not going to rebut your 10 points because they are not even close to a rebuttal of my views. Not even close.

    If you'd like to engage it'll probably take a bit more effort than misrepresenting my views, demanding that I reply, and heaping a bunch of scorn.

    The definition of "decarbonization" that I use here -- C/GDP -- is not my invention, nor is it novel. It is standard in the field of energy policy and is used everywhere from IPCC to Lomborg's Copenhagen Consensus to Bush Administration policies to China and India's policies. There is no point in complaining about the definition.

    So if you have questions about my views, ask them. But please don't expect me to defend positions that I don't hold. That is pointless

    Feel free to try again, if you have questions ask them. Go ahead, I'll answer. Thanks!

    ReplyDelete
  68. Roger,

    To be fair 'decarbonization' is a word that is confusing to people who have not been reading your blog for 3 years.

    I understood that decarbonization does not necessarily require immediate CO2 reductions but at the same time that goal will be used to justify such policies. That I why I suggested that you need to a caveat that human welfare comes first - decarbonization second.

    IOW - Jeff's reaction is understandable and should re-enforce that you need to be clear that 'accelerated decarbonization' is not a blank check for CO2 reductions and that values such as human welfare do matter.

    ReplyDelete
  69. You wouldn't think people would get so worked up over such an innocent remark. Why let's just allow unchecked energy giants like Enron decide our energy needs - then we'll be quite all right I'm sure. And maybe private nuclear companies would really worry after all about where they dumped their waste and just how safe that containment shield was. Yeah right!

    I completely understand the points made about government intervention since all us entrepreneurs have boring stories to tell about ridiculous catch-22 bureaucracy, reams of repetitive forms, crazy taxes, corrupt local government, multiple agencies to visit and different permits for different jurisdictions. Green-tech is actually being held back by these bureaucrats. However, the fix for that is streamlining and standardisation, not getting rid of the rules completely. Go that way and you end up with oligarchs taking all the money and giving you no energy at all: Think Russia when the Chicago boys were allowed to practise their free-market ideology on it: More free for criminals than anyone else. Get rid of the petty bureaucracy and you've paid for the subsidies already. Better yet slash the defense budget that alternately protects and bombs these foreign oil patches. Now there's a big subsidy reduction for you!

    Like a few here I'm certain that there is actually enough carbon-based energy for a while yet but I don't personally see much problem with reasonable carbon taxes since it provably leads to better engineering. Nor is it an economic killer to scrub out CO2 - we already did it for SO2 and it didn't affect prices. Nor do I see much wrong with investigating and supporting viable technology eg. thin film solar panels. Here's a nice discussion of the progress being made there..part public, part-private.
    http://www.theoildrum.com/user/ugo_bardi

    Why so many bizarre arguments against green-tech, eg offshore wind seems like a good idea and many companies see a big profit to be made but then someone bleats about cable laying - almost as if they didn't actually know we already lay enormous gas pipelines offshore and we are laying cables all over the planet to give them this rich media experience. Too much heat, not enough light.

    By the way, just leave South America alone - they don't want your rotten (un)free-market advice. They know about that scam already, which is precisely why they are now so anti-American.

    ReplyDelete
  70. You most certainly didn't get cussed out, but I'm sick to death of climatology docs who think they own the keys to IQ having little care for the pressures which already exist on people and business. Any policy you support for accelerating decarbonization, is a cost, my criticisms were directed to that cost.

    As to the definition of decarbonization, I accept your cliam that climatology is using that as a definition. It makes no sense in a rapidly expanding world but a lot of sense if you are the IPCC and wanting to control ever larger sums of money, oh well. This has no effect on my criticisms.

    Accelerated decarbonization is exactly the point I addressed in my post and reply. It was only when you claimed China was somehow decarbonizing that I called you out, and will do so again if necessary because it is an insanely naive view.

    Now I gave 9 reasons why accelerated decarbonizatoin is wrong policy, you have tried to argue semantics saying I misrepresented your views whereas my criticisms rely only on the acceptance of voluntarily increasing energy costs. It is interesting that you have not clarified your views one bit, but rather pointed to a book I must buy to see them.

    BTW; It is clearly not true that China is producing less CO2/GDP and in a society producing massively more GDP and releasing MASSIVELY more carbon, holding China out as the standard we should follow is just not bright. All they are doing is building newer higher temp coal plants as fast as they can, based on technology developed in the US and Europe. They are building them because they are cheaper than the old designs.

    China does not and will not report what is truly being done any more than North Korea will, and if you go there you can see it. Quadrupling the number of cars in 10 years is NOT decarbonization. One coal plant per week is not decarbonization. China will not be reducing their output in the next 20 years and nothing is being 'accelerated' except the release of CO2 as new coal burners are put up every week.

    It's amazing that you would take the position that slightly higher technology slightly more efficient coal plants being put up as rapidly as possible across the world as decarbonization. If we built new coal plants today in the US/UK/Canada, they naturally would be more efficient as well - no draconian policy required.

    Increases are not declines, thermometers and proxies only read upside right, and no matter which semantic you want to play with, that simply won't change.

    My criticisms, however, are of accepting energy policy here resulting in even more unjustified costs (accelerated decarbonization). We don't need more costs to want more efficiency, the costs and incentives already exist.

    The last thing the US and UK need is more government regulation. Currently we haven't even established the need for less carbon yet have made the leap to implementation of expensive policy. What we do need, is to get the government out of the way so business and technology can grow properly. True decarbonization will happen naturally.

    My criticisms stand.

    ReplyDelete
  71. -69-Raven

    Oh, I don't mind that. Its the rudeness and assumption of ill will that I can do with out. If someone has questions about decarbonization, a better response than anger might be, "Can you explain what you mean by decarbonization?"

    ReplyDelete
  72. -71-Jeff

    A few replies:

    1. I have no degrees in climate, please get that straight. Perhaps you are thinking of my father.

    2. You write, that decrbonization "makes no sense in a rapidly expanding world". This is 100% wrong. the world has been decarbonization for at least 100 years and it has been accompanied by growing wealth and improved human standards of living.

    3. You write, "when you claimed China was somehow decarbonizing that I called you out". Here is some data on China's decarbonization:

    http://rogerpielkejr.blogspot.com/2009/08/autonomous-deacrbonization-in-chinas.html

    China is indeed decarbonizaing, the question is how fast. I am skeptical of their claims, but that they are decarbonizing is not at all implausible. If these data are wrong, then so too is the analysis, of course.

    4. "no draconian policy required" -- what such policy did I propose?

    5. "My criticisms, however, are of accepting energy policy here resulting in even more unjustified costs" -- I have not proposed any such energy policy.

    6. "rue decarbonization will happen naturally."

    Maybe so. I think that it is worth accelerating this so-called (and incorrectly labeled) "natural rate".

    Perhaps you can tell me what that "natural rate" is, exactly?

    ReplyDelete
  73. 2. You write, that decrbonization "makes no sense in a rapidly expanding world". This is 100% wrong. the world has been decarbonization for at least 100 years and it has been accompanied by growing wealth and improved human standards of living.

    ----

    Your use of the word decarbonization is ludicrous as shown by the statement we have been decarbonizing for a hundred years. I guess we can cancel the IPCC then. Your numbers with respect to China are not good, as I have stated China does not report accurate numbers on usage, construction, jobs, economy or anything else as a standard matter of course.

    So let's just keep right on decarbonizing without 'accellrating' the natural rate. The natural rate being one which didn't require government acceleration.....

    Acceleration of decarbonization is a change in policy to a higher than free market cost, toward a goal of 'decarbonization' (elimination of production of CO2). Therefore you have advocated a policy intentionally or otherwise of higher cost in exchange for less CO2 production.

    You claimed in your post that there can be no reasonable situation which would conclude otherwise, I gave you 9 reasonable statements which would cause you to conclude otherwise. You are welcome.

    You tell me how that saves cost and maybe we can agree, but then I'll tell you, no policy is required because it saves cost.

    ReplyDelete
  74. -74-Jeff

    1. Here is a graph of global decarbonization 1890-1970 (best I could quickly come up with):

    http://sciencepolicy.colorado.edu/prometheus/archives/CI%20of%20GDP.png

    On China, I agree that there are data problems, but measurements of global emissions concentrations do not go through China, and provide an independent check on global data.

    2. There is presently not a "free market" for energy.

    3. I support lower cost energy, guess how that occurs?

    You are confusing blind opposition to "government" with a discussion of energy economics. I'd much prefer the latter conversation.

    Check the data out yourself, and see if you come up with anything different than I have.

    ReplyDelete
  75. You are confusing blind opposition to "government" with a discussion of energy economics. I'd much prefer the latter conversation.

    ---

    See, there you go again - assuming 'blind' opposition to government drives my views. I assure you, I'm not blind and am quite capable of thinking for myself. This is where the attitude rubs me wrong.

    Normally I enjoy your blog, however recommendations of energy policy away from CO2 are premature, don't solve the defined IPCC problem, and do nothing but add cost.

    I'm sure you would prefer a discussion of energy economics, all from the view that if the government pulls the right lever it will get better. The government has different motives than yourself.

    You are right about the free market for energy, that is the problem though and more bad policy is not a solution.

    Your plot shows very moderate gains in efficiency, this of course does not address the problems as defined by the IPCC of thousands of years of CO2 residence. This 'data' does not address my point whatsoever.

    Currently we engineers don't have the technology to stop production of CO2. Calling a massive increase in carbon output -- decarbonization -- is silly, but it is a useful definition for a government allow moderated growth while taking more control.

    Calling for accelerating the process is a load, if you are serious that a lower cost energy can be obtained by reducing carbon output per gdp, then you certainly don't need to accelerate anything.

    So again you have the opportunity to explain yourself in some detail. Which government lever will be pulled to fix something which hasn't troubled anyone yet.

    ReplyDelete
  76. -76-Jeff

    You are right, I don't know what your views are, but you've peppered this thread with general complaints about government interference in markets. So let's get specific ...

    Questions for you:

    1. All else equal, would you rather see GDP go up faster or slower?

    If you answer faster, then you, like me, are a fan of accelerated decarbonization!

    2. Do you think that 1.5 people around the world should have access to energy (who presently do not)?

    If you answered yes, which seems a no brainer, then the question that follows is can this process be accelerated by collective action to reduce the costs of energy through diversification of supply and innovation?

    I'd argue yes, and am happy to debate this point. History has examples of such accelerations, so it can be done. the question is how fast and at what cost.

    The world has in the past focused on accelerating the process of improvements in agricultural productivity and health outcomes through collective action, to take two notable examples. Neither case is without imperfections, of course. but both represent remarkable achievements over the past decade.

    I am happy to debate you on the question of whether decarbonization rates can be modulated by policy. But you seem hung up on the notion of decarbonization at all.

    ReplyDelete
  77. 1. All else equal, would you rather see GDP go up faster or slower?

    If you answer faster, then you, like me, are a fan of accelerated decarbonization!

    -- again, the usage of the word decarbonization is heavily distorted. While I understand your term of art usage, it is a politically motivated definition. The definition only makes sense in a stagnant world with no growth. Since that is NOT the case, decarbonization is being misused here.

    Wishing for higher GDP does not make me a fan of accelerating decarbonization, it does make me a fan of less government interference.

    Decarbonization has meaning outside of the IPCC also, it means eliminating carbon production. Building coal plants as fast as possible, each one having slightly more efficiency than one 30 years ago, is not decarbonization.

    Diversification only reduces cost if the cost of the diverse energy is lower than the original. Since there is nothing lower cost than coal and fossil fuels, diversification makes no sense. If I am wrong, and you are right that cheaper sources exist, no acceleration policy is necessary.

    For this reason, all of the above energy policy is my least favorite. Cost is cost.

    Saying I'm hung up on decarbonization is incorrect. True decarbonization will happen naturally whether we want it to or not. I'm hung up on the concept that the government should accelerate it, (add cost to energy) when the government has already inadvertently (on purpose) managed to add so much cost as is.

    Unlike those who consider themselves to be politically elite, the world works by incentives, not by the pulling of the right lever. Politicians have incentives, corporations have incentives and individuals have incentives, scientists like to imagine perfect rules from politicians which will ignore these incentives and fail to grasp the reality of the world. We have a whole political party for that.

    I'm sure from your comments on agriculture, that we have different political views on that as well.

    I suppose then you should explain how your diverse energy is cheaper and why we need policy to enact it.

    ReplyDelete
  78. -78-Jeff

    You write of decarbonization, "The definition only makes sense in a stagnant world with no growth."

    What can I say? You are completely wrong.

    Accelerated decarbonization is both a consequence and a cause of economic growth. But I can see where your argument follows from this mistaken conclusion.

    Thanks for the exchange, last word is yours if you want it!

    ReplyDelete
  79. I love Jeff Id's thread, but Jeff, can't you accept, even for the purposes of this thread, that decarbonisation is defined as C/GDP? that is how Lomborg and very many others use it, sometimes known a carbon intensity I think.

    I think it's a slightly weird debate, though.

    Did the West decarbonise or carbonise 1800-1900 during industrialisation? And if you don't care about climate, which is the thread's premise, why does it matter and why are we talking about it? The market will go to the cheapest energy, with some government subsidy/planning involvement (ie nuclear and the whole of China) and some energy security and diversification issues by government.

    ReplyDelete
  80. No, as I pointed out in the beginning my argument is not dependent on this definition.

    You make handwaiving statements, answer no points say I'm wrong and you're done eh? Nice doc, I guess I'll just sit back and bask in the glow of your superior understanding.

    ReplyDelete
  81. It's pretty clear where the disagreement between Jeff and Roger lies - Roger believes that there are some set of circumstances where we can end up with diverse sources of energy that are cheaper than carbon-based sources in the near term. Jeff does not. And honestly, I'd have to give the edge to Jeff here, until we actually see some set of technologies with the promise to do so. Promises of alternate energy that are cheaper that carbon-based ones so far have required voluminous amounts of magic pixie dust, which, sadly, is in very short supply.

    ReplyDelete
  82. Roger,

    After skimming the back and forth between you and Jeff, I have the following observations:

    1) As there exists a direct correlation between energy consumption and GDP, I concede that your C/GDP is the preferred metric for measuring decarbonization.

    2) Decarbonization for the sake of decarbonization is -- at best -- a fool’s errand.

    3) Decarbonization through tyrannical force of law is not merely a fool’s errand -- it is profoundly evil -- as are all the other goals of the so-called “Progressives” (past and present).

    4) Diversification of energy sources is well and good -- so long as the efficiencies of private market competition are the ONLY forces determining winners and losers. When utterly corrupt government bureaucrats select winners and losers via Crony Capitalism we will ALWAYS wind up with abject debacles such as Ethanol and Wind Mills.

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  83. Skip

    The combined forces of the world's banks and energy companies suggest that Jeff is correct.

    In an honest world, Roger would have a much stronger case. There is no harm in researching new technologies, but the articles below reveal who is calling the shots. Oil companies jumped on the AGW bandwagon on the basis that alternatives (many of which they have researched themselves) would be more expensive than oil (to allow carbon trading).

    It is unlikely any government would seek to undercut its masters in either big oil or big finance by creating a cheaper source of energy.

    ***


    E.ON and Centrica warned that they would not invest the tens of billions of pounds to build expensive new nuclear reactors and clean coal plants at today's carbon price, which is supposed to penalise dirty coal and gas plants.


    http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2009/dec/21/falling-carbon-price-higher-energy-bills



    EDF Energy will scale down plans to build a new generation of nuclear reactors in the UK unless the government fixes the price of carbon, its chief executive, Vincent de Rivaz, has warned.

    De Rivaz said that EDF's business case to build four new reactors depended on a carbon tax or minimum carbon price being introduced.

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2009/jul/05/edf-nuclear-power-energy

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