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  1. “There would almost certainly be ‘unknown unknowns’ – things we don’t yet know that we don’t know. A great example of that was the creation of the Antarctic polar ozone hole as a function of the increased amount of CFCs which was not predicted by any model beforehand because the chemistry involved (heterogeneous reactions on the surface of polar stratospheric cloud particles) hadn’t been thought about.”

    A good point. Given this, why doesn’t this apply to our current climate models as well? In other words, why are we confident that our current computer models used in the IPCC predictions have any forecasting validity at all, especially since they haven’t demonstrated any forecasting success at long time scales, and all have exactly the problem described here of ‘unknown unknowns’.

    [Response: I made the point about even non-geo-engineering projections missing the 'unknown unknowns' above. That is clearly something to be concerned about (though not something that should make you any happier about our current trajectory). But you are fundamentally wrong about the models not demonstrating forecasting success. Models run in the 1980s projected continued warming of the magnitude that was seen, they projected stratospheric cooling, the impact of the Mt Pinatubo eruption, the amplification of the warming in the Arctic, the increase in water vapour, the increase in ocean heat content etc. etc. These predictions were not perfect, but they were clearly more skillful than assuming no change or some regression to the 20th C mean. - gavin]

    Comment by Mesa — 18 Oct 2009 @ 11:20 AM

  2. Fine point about geo-engineering requiring faith in climate models, a faith that many of the public proponents of geo-enginerring solutions do not have.

    Your post points to the responsibility that scientists have to be careful in discussing incomplete ideas or proposals with the press. Somewhere in the initial translation of geo-engineering (at least by sulfate aerosols) from scientific community to the media, the fact that it would require continuous action (ongoing injection of sulfate aerosols) not a one-time fix was missed. An almost Swift-ian modest proposal somehow became a cheap fix to a complicated problem.

    Comment by Simon D — 18 Oct 2009 @ 11:24 AM

  3. Your review is an encouraging sign that we can no longer accept such hype, tripe and misinformation.

    In the forgiving times of the past, it was not so necessary to question such popular messages. Now it is vital. Thanks.

    Comment by Richard Pauli — 18 Oct 2009 @ 11:44 AM

  4. I guess my point was that clearly we don’t have any evidence of models being accurate at 50-100 yr time scales (no fault of anyone, just haven’t had time to run the experiment)…also climate model results depend on sensitive counter-balancing effects of positive and negative feedbacks which are incredibly susceptible to the ‘unknown unknown’ problem. Longer time scales just make this problem worse.

    Comment by Mesa — 18 Oct 2009 @ 11:47 AM

  5. Sulfate engineering is in many ways analogous to some of the early suggestions for clearing smog from Los Angeles:

    http://www.aqmd.gov/news1/Archives/History/weird.html

    LDs arguments false choice of mitigation vs “behavior change” is really amazingly naive.

    Comment by PaulW — 18 Oct 2009 @ 11:52 AM

  6. What have you got against Paris?
    :)

    [Response: I love Paris, but it hasn't been the most effective city at dealing with its dog poop externality. - gavin]

    Comment by CM — 18 Oct 2009 @ 11:56 AM

  7. So the leaders of men conceived of their most desperate strategy yet

    Comment by Jim Galasyn — 18 Oct 2009 @ 12:17 PM

  8. Gavin,

    A beautiful piece of work here. Thank you.

    Freakonomics is on my short list of favorite non-fiction books but now I am wondering if Levitt was wrong about many things in his first book. Because I am far from expert on those issues, was I fooled like many will be fooled by Superfreaknonics’ treatment of climate science and geoengineering?

    Maybe, just maybe, the public will get the correct message because of the backlash to Levitt’s incorrect message?

    Comment by Scott A. Mandia — 18 Oct 2009 @ 12:20 PM

  9. Well stated by Krugman, but I’d go further.

    In the first place, in order for snark to be truly clever, it has to be on target. Other than that, a lot of what’s wrong with discourse (on any topic) these days is that’s it’s dominated by gratuitous snark — just one grand vociferous expression of facetious arrogance from the political peanut gallery. You’d think it would have gotten old long ago. It’s an indication of lack of imagination in our culture that people never seem to tire of this clownishness, IMO.

    Comment by Radge Havers — 18 Oct 2009 @ 12:24 PM

  10. I again point out that Cheap Access To Space (and building Mirrors there) does not have the same set of negatives as making still more changes to our Atmospheric Chemistry.

    I agree fully that it would not solve the problem of CO2 completely. The oceans would still be absorbing it, but it could keep us under the level at which tipping points take things out of our control.

    It could buy us some precious time even when the warming has become an undeniable fact and the deniers have become converts or simply been crucified by the general population.

    It could provide us with a source of power that is undeniably green 24×7.

    Understanding that there would be other potential issues with creating such a system and its control of weather, the ability to tune the albedo in response to the real results measurable on our real planet means less need for perfect modeling.

    The point I repeat is that this would be cheap and easy compared to getting everyone to agree to actual effective cuts at Copenhagen. It would permit us to recover the climate from far deeper into the AGW process than we can manage through changes to our own CO2 output. It would in effect, allow the climate itself to silence the bulk of the denialsphere and still let us have a chance of recovery.

    It plays to our strengths (which include aeronautical engineering) and avoids some of our weaknesses (the tendency of nations to act like spoiled children on a schoolyard).

    respectfully
    BJ

    Comment by BJ_Chippindale — 18 Oct 2009 @ 12:27 PM

  11. I read the excerpt from the book in the Sunday Parade magazine today. It is outrageous “don’t worry, somebody will fix it” drivel.

    About
    “The people benefiting from fossil fuel based energy are not those likely to suffer from the consequences of CO2 emissions.”

    We will all suffer– that’s an implication of why we call it *global* warming. Here in New Orleans it was the poor working class who suffer the most. But in the upper middle class neighborhood of Lakeview, there were also rooftop rescues and there are still empty and partially destroyed houses.

    It is an important fact that those who have contributed the least to the problem are those hit hardest and first, especially in the global sense. (I am happy to report that our daily paper also carried the Maldives underwater story prominently as well.)

    Thanks for the discussion!

    Comment by john Atkeison — 18 Oct 2009 @ 1:01 PM

  12. The term “geoengineering” has only recently come to include a new approach called “Biochar” – the intentional manipulation of the carbon cycle. In one version of this approach, pyrolysis results in about half the carbon content becoming a charcoal which is called Biochar when placed into soil. The sequestration period is generally now conceded to be be millennia (larger in northern climes). In another version, (called hydrothermal carbonization – HTC), the conversion is almost entirely to a char-like solid. In both cases, hundreds (maybe thousands) of ongoing experimental test plots are proving what ancient Amazonians proved thousands of years ago – huge improvements in soil productivity. In the Amazon, the improvement (still continuing to this day) is about 300%, with a technology known as “Terra Preta”. The Japanese have practiced the same for centuries, with numerous scientific papers. In the first (termed “slow pyrolysis”) approach, roughly half the carbon is available as gases and/or liquids. Both approaches require no or minimal external thermal input to carry out the atmosphere-saving chemical conversion – that some term reverse photosynthesis.
    The Biochar community has largely steered clear of the Geoengineering community, for the reasons expressed by Gavin. But 6-7 weeks ago the Royal Society (RS) brought the possible inclusion to the fore (http://royalsociety.org/news.asp?id=8734). Biochar proponents think that the RS scoring was less than half of what it should have been. If it is to be included by anyone as Geoengineering (and thankfully no-one involved so far has done so on this list), please look more closely at the benefits (many wedges of both carbon neutral AND carbon negativity being possible) than did the RS. I know of no anti-Biochar claim that can’t be readily refuted.
    Biochar proponents are almost unanimously agreeing with this list – that we need to be attacking the main climate disruptor: excess CO2. I’d love to hear of objections similar to Gavin’s that apply to this direct remediation approach, which will also add employment, rural economic development, nitrous oxide, and peak oil crises we face. Being the new kid on the block, the main things Biochar needs to take off are more publicity and being replaced in the draft UNFCCC document for Copenhagen. I’d love to hear objections on why Biochar is NOT the right solution – as well as whether it should be called Geoengineering.

    Comment by RonalLarson — 18 Oct 2009 @ 1:20 PM

  13. Sorry about the silly Paris question. This is a fine and timely essay. The memorable image of needing 1-2 Pinatubos a year, in perpetuity, is worth far more than a thousand words of technical discussion.

    I was also happy with the points made about human behavior. You may be right that noone has ever suggested as a plan to solve the climate problem that individuals consciously modify their behavior all the time. But it’s not hard to see where people might get that impression. How many books, feature articles etc. on global warming don’t culminate in a “10 things you can do to save the planet” box, exclusively targeting individual consumer behavior and appealing to conscience? They all too rarely start with: “1. Vote for people who say they’ll raise taxes on fossil fuels. 2. Join a campaign to get others to do the same.”

    Comment by CM — 18 Oct 2009 @ 1:22 PM

  14. Very well stated Gavin. I find myself on both sides of the geo-engineering issue. On the one hand, I think the time will soon arise, that because of our tardiness in solving the emissions problem, we will be forced into trying geo-engineering of some sort. If this is indeed the case, we don’t want to have created too much knee-jerk resistance to the idea. On the other hand, as you point out, high CO2 plus an amount of geo-engineering calculated to bring the global average temperature (or any other single degree of freedom metric you care to use), back to near where it would have been in the undisturbed system, is still a different planet than we started with. My contention, is that high GHG concentrations plus countervailing geo-engineering is likely to be less different than high GHG alone. But, clearly the movement to use the possibility of a geofix as an excuse to avoid or delay necessary changes does needs to be nipped in the bud.

    The other argument I see too infrequently, is that a transformation away from fossil fuels will be necessary anyway. So we are not fighting about whether we need to transition away from them, but rather about the timing of the transistion. And given that we are already seeing the beginnings of real problems due to the ending of cheap oil in sufficient quantities for BAU level demand, I contend that that inevitable transition is going to forced upon us one way or another a lot sooner than most realise.

    Comment by Thomas — 18 Oct 2009 @ 1:37 PM

  15. Since economics were to some extent brought into discussion, I would suggest the RC fellows to make a future post about Elinor Ostrom, who won this year´s Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences.

    Her work has a lot to do with the many dilemmas we face mitigating AGW.

    Comment by Alexandre — 18 Oct 2009 @ 1:59 PM

  16. RonalLarson (12) — Biochar as a soil amendment clearly works in the tropics and appears to be benificial in temperate zones. In neither case should too much be added into the root zones; radish starts won’t in 30% biochar, for example. In temperate zones about half the biochar re-eneters the active carbon cycle within decades; the othr approximately half persists for centuries to millennia, perhaps many of the latter.

    There are many web sites about biochar. Here is one:
    http://terrapreta.bioenergylists.org/

    Below the root zones there might be no limit but nobody knows, AFAIK. In any case there is no econoimic incentive for the gardener or farmer to do so. If a plan of verifiable carbon credits for this could be devised and enforced, all the better. Make biochar and compress it (like coal), bury deep (like coal) and it will last for millions of years (like coal); artifical coal seams.

    It is probably the case that there is not enough excess primary production, world-wide, which if turned into buried biochar, would offset the approximately 7–9 billion tonnes of excess carbon added per year. One proposal is then to artificially increase primary production. Here is an achievable plan to do so:
    Irrigated afforestation of the Sahara and Australian Outback to end global warming
    http://www.springerlink.com/content/55436u2122u77525/
    (the pdf is open access, just click the internal link in the abstract)

    Is the application of biochar a form of geo-engineering? I would say yea, but then I say yes to the wide-spread adoption of artifical fertilizers as well.

    Comment by David B. Benson — 18 Oct 2009 @ 2:12 PM

  17. “I guess my point was that clearly we don’t have any evidence of models being accurate at 50-100 yr time scales”

    We don’t have any evidence they won’t.

    Especially since over 50-100 years they will improve still further.

    But we DO have evidence that being good over 50-100 years is eminently plausible. 40 year old models which are cruder and have more unknowns unmodelled in them have been right for 40 years.

    Why the belief that the better ones we have no will mysteriously break then?

    It IS after all an unsubstantiated claim. And requires proof.

    Got proof?

    Comment by Mark — 18 Oct 2009 @ 2:16 PM

  18. Thank you.

    Comment by paulina — 18 Oct 2009 @ 2:18 PM

  19. The World Health Organisation are estimating a 50,000 per annum death toll from the use of Sulphur Aerosols, so if the intention is to save the planet and consequently the human race, that certainly would be counter intuitive !

    Comment by Schmert — 18 Oct 2009 @ 2:19 PM

  20. “I again point out that Cheap Access To Space (and building Mirrors there) does not have the same set of negatives as making still more changes to our Atmospheric Chemistry.”

    The building space mirrors though is expensive and unworkable. How big IS that half-degree wide burny thing in the daytime?

    Access to space is expensive. For the same value we could reengineer our cities to use 15% of the power it currently consumes.

    Access to space is not cheap. We do not have space elevators and fuel rockets are expensive. Especially in terms of CO2.

    You are technically right, your idea doesn’t have the same downsides. It does however have a whole slew of downsides peculiar to itself.

    Comment by Mark — 18 Oct 2009 @ 2:20 PM

  21. Alexandre:

    Yes. But both winners’ work does. We shouldn’t neglect Oliver Williamson, either.

    Comment by Marion Delgado — 18 Oct 2009 @ 2:24 PM

  22. (as little as i care about being contraversial, in terms of Geo-engineering, i’ve never seen mention of more Oxygen! ozone (trioxygenate)the biosphere’s sun screen, and the depletion of which means more UV radiation, which cannot possibly be helping the polar melt rate? I was flicking thru a few papers a while ago on whatever i could find relating to trioxygenate and it appeared to be a reaction process of oxygen with UV radiation, so the actual reaction, is oxygen’s process of UV absorbtion, if so that would make the solution more oxygen, that would also force the CO2 down so the oceans can do there carbon sink thing, feed plankton etc, and no-one’s going to die as direct consequence of oxygen, so that’s most likely the problem !?)

    Comment by Schmert — 18 Oct 2009 @ 2:38 PM

  23. Schmert 50,000 per year is not much of a death rate for a planet of almost 7 thousand millions. Just saying, that wouldn’t be the best argument against it.

    Comment by Marion Delgado — 18 Oct 2009 @ 3:15 PM

  24. This is like watching a Drug Addict trying to ‘Rationalize’ his/her abuse; these Carbon Junkies, and there little “Surely we can get in at least one more ‘Hit’” before it all comes crashing down.
    Oddly enough, on a personal note, some people have been trying to hand ME that same kind of stuff – but then that’s what I get for being a Medicinal Cannabis Activist, as well as a Climate Activist!
    Since their all ‘Corporate Shills’ of one kind or another……..

    Comment by James Staples — 18 Oct 2009 @ 3:27 PM

  25. …”The existence of a near-perfect climate model is therefore a sine qua non for responsible geo-engineering, but should such a model exist, it would likely alleviate the need for geo-engineering in the first place since we would know exactly what to prepare for and how to prevent it.”…

    I disagree. With a near-perfect climate model we would be able to figure out exactly where, when, and how much of each substance to inject above and/or into the atmosphere/ocean. It wouldn’t provide a magical way to alleviate the need. We don’t need any climate model to know that we need to Stop Spouting CO2!

    A plan would have to be combined with an epic transition to nuclear and/or renewables http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2008/nov/09/miniature-nuclear-reactors-los-alamos

    The dump-quicklime-in-the-ocean geoengineering idea includes ocean acidification mitigation. They say it would take 2500GW of power. That’s gotta be a mistake. 2000 full-size nuclear plants going 24/7?
    http://www.cquestrate.com/the-idea/detailed-description-of-the-idea

    Geoengineering testing would be of NASA’s scale. Assuming we have at least a decade (famous last words) before the arctic sea ice disappears, then that gives ten years of testing before a pressing need (tipping point) for geoengineering might arise. The tests would also greatly advance climate science and improve climate models. The Met Office just estimated 2060-2080, and we can possibly do something by then, but if it’s 2020 or before, then wouldn’t it be nice to have some tests done before we make such a decision?

    Comment by RichardC — 18 Oct 2009 @ 3:29 PM

  26. Not to beat a dead horse, speaking of horses – but when it comes to known unknowns, here’s what we do know:

    1. Gasoline emissions ultimately result in ozone; ethanol emissions ultimately wind up as peroxyacetyl nitrates. Both can travel long distances from their source.

    2. Ozone and PANs are well known to be toxic to humans (cancer, emphysema, asthma) and vegetation.

    3. Vegetation is dying – in the California Sierras, in the midwest, and the Eastern Seaboard of the US. Reports are in from old-growth forest in Yosemite, about Sudden Aspen Decline in the Rockies, and documented at witsendnj.blogspot.com. The bark beetle infestation is often blamed for decimating the vast swaths of the western pine populations, but research shows that ozone encourages insect depredation on trees, as well as lichen growth.

    What contribution is ethanol making to this widespread demise of trees and other plants? We don’t know, because the Environmental Prostitution Agency isn’t tracking ethanol emissions, or if they are, they’re not telling – in fact, they want to increase the proportion already mandated to be added to gasoline.

    That will make the corn growers happy – for a while. And it will enable some to pretend burning biofuels will liberate us from foreign oil – even though when the costs of oil-based pesticides and fertilizers, growing with diesel-fueled equipment, processing and transporting are figured in, it becomes clear ethanol is nothing but a green fraud.

    And what will it mean when our trees, the foundation of our terrestrial ecosystem, are gone? The same as when coral reefs are destroyed – mass extinctions for all the species dependent upon them.

    Unless we’re willing to say goodbye to shade, nuts, fruits, and wood, geoengineering is not a solution.

    Comment by Gail — 18 Oct 2009 @ 3:53 PM

  27. Alternatively, we can install motion-detectors that turn the lights out if there is no-one around. The cost of these detectors is much lower than cost of the electricity saved and no-one has to consciously worry about the issue any more. No-brainer, right?

    You obviously don’t have a cat.

    [Response: Fair point. Though in my defense I was more thinking about office situations than domestic ones.- gavin]

    Comment by Sili — 18 Oct 2009 @ 3:55 PM

  28. One more reason, and the equal (at least) of any other, why geoengineering of any kind can not replace steep emissions cuts: ocean acidification.

    (PS: Buenos Aires is at least as bad as Paris, based on a visit a few years ago…)

    Comment by Gareth — 18 Oct 2009 @ 3:57 PM

  29. ‘Schmert 50,000 per year is not much of a death rate for a planet of almost 7 thousand millions. Just saying, that wouldn’t be the best argument against it.’

    that is conservative estimate, what they did mention is whether or not they are intending on re-spraying the SUV, and where they think they can hide if they taint my Starbuck’s Latte !

    so in real in terms, the death toll is probably best left at them getting run-over ?

    Comment by Schmert — 18 Oct 2009 @ 3:58 PM

  30. I’m starting to feel like deja vu all over again.

    There was something of a sea change in how the public viewed Global Warming around 2003-2004. The tide turned significantly in my experience on the street, and more people seemed to be taking us seriously.

    In the years since, more of this *deflection* has risen, but with the same effect as the denial: NO MEANINGFUL ACTION.

    In fact, now Business As Usual is now dressed up for the party and steps out with real attempts to deal with the problem– they are calling the combination “climate legislation.” But in no case are we presented with an opportunity to strike at the heart of the situation with anywhere near the speed, scale, or scope necessary.

    In this situation, I am skeptical of any fix other than rapid down-scaling of fossil fuel use in a populist style. Just Do It!

    Comment by john Atkeison — 18 Oct 2009 @ 4:06 PM

  31. I personally would that that the energy aircraft carrier USA will turn itself around energy usage wise regardless of the political and economic will anytime soon. The same might apply to China, Europe and India for that matter and hence 30 billion tonnes of CO2 per annum is scheduled to grow by that period doubling time of 2 to 3% per annum or emissions doubling in 70/2 = 35 years or in 70/3=23 years which is alarming to say the least.

    In those short years to our doubling of CO2 emissions we would have released/emitted between 1 to 1.5 trillion additional tonnes of Co2 which in real terms 2 to 3 times the total emissions to date from 1750. If you take these emissions projections to the middle to the end of the century and assume that peak fossil fuels do not matter much and we continue to grow our energy usage then lets make it a nice round 2 trillion tonnes of additional CO2 and say its another 500 ppmv of CO2 added to our atmosphere. So the future is warmer and the rate of change is potenitally a little too fast for our planet and its inhabitants to handle.

    For the optimists we can do the following:

    Invest in CCS and clean up coal.
    Invest in renewable energy sources (CSP, Wind, Geothermal, wave etc)
    Mesh it all goetehr via a new supergrid (HVDC Cables etc)
    Make efficiency a priority (electrical goods, new thermal homes and buildings etc)
    Eliminate the ICE vehicle and replace then with the electric vehiclce future.
    Change our eating habits and reduce our meat usage
    stop decimating our forests and even restore them
    Change some of our hanits – consumption and materialism maybe

    for the pessemists:

    Its all over becuase the present infrastructure is just too expensive and pervasive to replace in any meaningful time frame and hence the only hope is to geoenginer our way out of this issue to some degree.

    I will go for the former one personally.

    Comment by pete best — 18 Oct 2009 @ 4:06 PM

  32. I’ve read the Superfreakonomics chapter, and it’s so terrible that the effect will end up being positive. Levitt and Dubner will find themselves being invited to address the Heartland Conference, appear on the Rush Limbaugh show, and sit down for dinner with people like Dan Blankenship and George Will. Talk about a living nightmare!

    Out of desperation, the authors will renounce and then rewrite that chapter for future editions, in a desperate attempt to restore their shattered reputations. This will be good for the advancement of climate change knowledge.

    Comment by mike roddy — 18 Oct 2009 @ 4:26 PM

  33. SInce my Great Grandfather became a rich man raising mules and draft horses (from 1875 until the 1920s), I would be remiss to point out that one choice is to return to using them. If people hate the smell, then why does just about evert city have horse transport in their quaint, inner-city neighborhoods. It stinks. So what? It’s apparently mood-makin’ romantic. Modern veterinary medicine makes it unlikely many horses would die while at work.

    A great deal of the fossil fuel used in agriculture and transportation could be eliminated by reverting to real horsepower. The jobs created would eliminate intensively fossil-fueled jobs, and they could not be shipped overseas. It would be very easy to construct oder-free, to their neighbors, stables.

    Horses and mules are a very efficient means of converting cellulose to energy, and the conversion is essentially GHG neutral. The jobs are low skill and for a lifetime, and we have plenty of F-through-C students to fill them.

    “You got to have smelt a lot of mule manure before you can sing like a hillbilly,” – Hank Williams

    And then there is sail power.

    We already know how to run a modern world in a largely carbon-free way. The fully globalized companies that would become ExxonMobil once shipped their products all over the world in sail-powered oil tankers, and delivered it to customers with horse-drawn tankers.

    To a cowboy, it makes a lot more sense that screwing up our only sky with some crazy-butted experiment just because you’ve gotten so far from your raisin’ that Old Bessie is a pejorative. Your Great Grandfathers would have taken you to the woodshed, or worse.

    Comment by JCH — 18 Oct 2009 @ 4:35 PM

  34. I can’t add to your excellent summary of geoengineering, Gavin, but know something about infrared motion detector lighting controls. Actually, I am a distributor of them, or, more often, hotel keycard systems that send a RF signal to the thermostat, indicating by the key’s placement in a slot whether a guest is in the room. This saves much more money than lighting controls, since hotel rooms use 85% of their energy on the HVAC system. Most hotels in the US- unlike those in Europe- drain away huge amounts of energy keeping the room heated or cooled at the perfect temperature when nobody is in there.

    Our products save 25-40% on room energy use, and with rebates, tax credits, and asset appreciation, it should be an easy sell to hotel GM’s. Except that it’s not. Most hotel rooms in the United States keep that wall heat pump humming all the time. This is in spite of the fact that the economics of the product are fantastic- payback is 1-2 years. This is not exactly a small issue, since there are millions of hotel rooms in the United States.

    The reason is human behavior from an unexpected source. Guests don’t mind either infrared or keycards, but hotel GM’s think they would object, so don’t buy our products. They are terrified of losing guests to a hotel down the street, since here it’s an unusual product (though standard in, say, Berlin, Rio, or Tokyo). Hotels want to project an image of abundance and luxury, which is an American behavior trait as much as anything.

    My business is out of Southern California and Washington state. The product is entergize.net, but I can be reached at greenframe@aol.com. We’re not the only manufacturers, but total market share of keycard systems- which save more energy than infrared motion detectors- is less than 1%. I’m puzzled and a bit frustrated. Advice welcome.

    Comment by mike roddy — 18 Oct 2009 @ 4:43 PM

  35. Surprised you didn’t point out the glaringly bad basic science knowledge Levitt displayed on NPR:

    (speaking about sulfer dioxide)

    “If you put it at the North Pole and the South Pole, is where you really want to put it to cool the Earth”

    Huh? Gee, and all these years I thought the sun was strongest at the equator…

    “it turns out you need about as much as would come out of a regular garden hose.”

    Hmmm, I know Pinatubo spewed out a lot more material than sulfer dioxide but I gotta believe it was a bit more sulfer dioxide than a garden hose’s worth…

    [Response: He's quoting Nathan Myrhold who thinks that 100,000 tons of SO2 (a year?) in the polar region stratosphere is enough to cool the planet, and that he can deliver it there via a 'garden hose'. I find this very hard to believe and have seen no studies that would support a significant forcing from such a small amount (for reference, Pinatubo - peak forcing around -3 to -4 W/m2, put something like 20 million tons of SO2 into the stratosphere - 200 times as much). - gavin]

    Comment by Peter Backes — 18 Oct 2009 @ 4:43 PM

  36. Sorry, off topic, but I hate really bad examples. Paris pre-automobile produced
    all its fruit and veg from within the city limits … thanks to the productivity
    boost which horse manure gives to any gardening. Horse manure was always a valuable
    resource.

    Comment by Geoff Russell — 18 Oct 2009 @ 4:44 PM

  37. Actually, I think Milano is worse than Paris on that one point.

    When awareness of the AGW problem comes into context of self interest of the individual, there will be more significant progress on mitigation and adaptation (the trickle up effect). Sooner the better of course, but there in lies the quandary.

    Chasing geo-engineering solutions that are not viable on multiple planes, will hinder or retard progress and ability to address effectively. All the little ducks need to be in a row to prevent sillyness and throwing money at bad ideas that are merely on the plate because of various interests that would benefit.

    In other words the benefits need to be aligned with the self interest of the human race, not merely those that are good at generating proposals and getting funding. Otherwise, we risk capacity to cope in a changing/evolving economic landscape.

    It’s very good to have articles like this one to keep perspective.

    Comment by John P. Reisman (OSS Foundation) — 18 Oct 2009 @ 5:08 PM

  38. Actually, some of us equestrian types rather enjoy the smell of horse manure. At the very least, we respect it, and use it to enrich our gardens.

    Comment by Gail — 18 Oct 2009 @ 5:35 PM

  39. How will the biosphere respond to a world without seasons? How will we respond where the heat of the day and cold of night are meaningless concepts? Do we really want Alaska and Florida to have the same climate?

    Does not more CO2 plus geoengineering equate to a world without differences? When the airlines were forced from the sky the days were hotter and the nights colder.

    Comment by Tony O'Brien — 18 Oct 2009 @ 5:58 PM

  40. A while ago I read a blog post by levitt about an article in the nytimes on peak oil. I was similarly unimpressed with their reasoning. The NYtimes piece they were referring to was well written and referred to a range of viewpoints – they criticised it on the basis that the views reported contradicted each other, even though they were clearly attributed to different people. Like their attitude to the climate, their general take was “don’t worry, technological advances will fix it”.

    By the way sili, the cat probably considers himself to be “someone” (although whether or not he wants the lights on is open for debate).

    Comment by david — 18 Oct 2009 @ 6:00 PM

  41. #34:

    Why can’t I buy a compact fluorescent bulb with a motion detector built in? How much would it add to the cost?

    Comment by GlenFergus — 18 Oct 2009 @ 6:08 PM

  42. Here is the definitive answer to crazy desperate plots to geoengineer.

    http://witsendnj.blogspot.com/2009/10/you-cant-fish-and-not-have-hope.html

    Now, just stop it! Shut up! Dead oceans = dead people, period.

    Comment by Gail — 18 Oct 2009 @ 6:32 PM

  43. [Response: He's quoting Nathan Myrhold who thinks that 100,000 tons of SO2 (a year?) in the polar region stratosphere is enough to cool the planet, and that he can deliver it there via a 'garden hose'. I find this very hard to believe and have seen no studies that would support a significant forcing from such a small amount (for reference, Pinatubo - peak forcing around -3 to -4 W/m2, put something like 20 million tons of SO2 into the stratosphere - 200 times as much). - gavin]

    So to be clear – we need, at worst case, 2 of these eruptions’ worth of SO2 per year, each of which is equivalent to 200 garden hoses running continuously? So we need 400 garden hoses? This is supposed to be crazy/impossible? Granted the ‘garden hose’ isn’t an SI unit, but then nor is the ‘volcanic eruption’, and both seem to be being used for the same purposes (to trivialise or exaggerate the amount of material needed respectively, without stating quantities).

    In the book it is claimed that the price tag for the SO2 solution is $250m. You seem to be saying this is 400 times too low. Ok, so the new price tage is $100bn. Let’s double this because projects like this always overrun. This is still less than 20% of the $1.2tn annual spending Stern proposes. I’m no expert on this, and your other points are persuasive, but we’re not talking peanuts here – we’re talking sums that, when subject to compound growth are the difference between your great great grandchildren living in (relative) poverty or not.

    So let’s not call Lavitt an idiot career-focuses demagogue just yet.

    Comment by mdc — 18 Oct 2009 @ 7:04 PM

  44. I would still recommend Alan Robock’s “20 Reasons Geoengineering may be a bad idea”
    http://climate.envsci.rutgers.edu/pdf/20Reasons.pdf

    Comment by Chris Colose — 18 Oct 2009 @ 7:13 PM

  45. To paraphrase that same former Defense Secretary- as far as Levitt and Dubner are concerned- ‘You go with the planet you’ve got not the planet you think you want’.

    Comment by Lawrence Brown — 18 Oct 2009 @ 7:14 PM

  46. On human behavior:

    Levitt just keeps on digging doesn’t he? I wonder if he is even vaguely familiar with the work in economics on the effects of institutions on human behavior. You know, the work that won Douglass North that prize from the Swedish Central Bank? Perhaps he should do a little (more) reading, and this time within his own discipline. Or indeed any of the texts on social contract theory that make the explicit point that institutions are built by us in order to shape our behavior.

    Comment by tokyo requiem — 18 Oct 2009 @ 7:28 PM

  47. I love the contradiction that the geo-engineering people are proposing fixing a problem that doesn’t exist. According to them.

    That can’t be emphasized too much.

    Comment by Jeffrey Davis — 18 Oct 2009 @ 7:51 PM

  48. RichardC said

    The dump-quicklime-in-the-ocean geoengineering idea includes ocean acidification mitigation. They say it would take 2500GW of power. That’s gotta be a mistake. 2000 full-size nuclear plants going 24/7?
    http://www.cquestrate.com/the-idea/detailed-description-of-the-idea

    At one time that URL led to a scheme where pulverized and oceanically dispersed lime — not quicklime! — would capture atmospheric CO2 by forming bicarbonate ion. Maybe the scheme has deteriorated. The energy cost of pulverization and dispersal is obviously many times less than that of pulverization, calcination, and dispersal, and including the calcination step only doubles, or slightly less than doubles, the sequestration potential of a tonne of limestone.

    In any event, this remediation method, already inadvertently demonstrated, also takes very little energy compared to limestone calcination, but gets the same four moles CO2 per mole of metal that quicklime would get.

    It would even allow coal-powered CCS: one coal-fired electricity plant build on Mg2SiO4-rich terrain, and dedicated to pulverizing and dispersing it, could take down the CO2 put up by eight such electricity plants.

    (How fire can be domesticated)

    Comment by G.R.L. Cowan, H2 energy fan until ~1996 — 18 Oct 2009 @ 8:22 PM

  49. Re mdc @44: you are overlooking the cost of addressing the other very serious harmful impact of higher atmospheric levels of CO2, namely ocean acidification and it’s impact on the marine food chain, which Levitt and Dubner ignore completely.

    Comment by Jim Eager — 18 Oct 2009 @ 8:26 PM

  50. Excellent post!

    ————

    Re Schmert 22 – producing oxygen requires energy and it would not react with CO2 in the air. However, a net increase in oxygen would result from biochar. But it would be very very very very small compared to the oxygen content of the atmosphere.

    Re JCH 33 – “If people hate the smell, then why does just about evert city have horse transport in their quaint, inner-city neighborhoods. It stinks. So what? It’s apparently mood-makin’ romantic.”

    I think it’s a difference in amount/concentration. (The fewer the horses, the more people appreciate them.)

    “Modern veterinary medicine makes it unlikely many horses would die while at work.”

    That won’t stop animal abuse and neglect – though changing attitudes since that time might.

    PS yes, horses can convert cellulose to energy (right? – or maybe the bacteria in their guts use it (although those bacteria might then supply some service. I’ve even read that without bacteria in the human womb, development of the embryo?/fetus is adversely affected) – I don’t know); However, I’ve read that muscles are only 20 % efficient at converting calories to mechanical energy. Then consider how much more efficient a wheeled vehicle can be to a legged vehicle (unless we’re talking kangaroos??) – or maybe not (legs lift up, gain potential energy, swing forward, go down, maybe it’s more efficient than I thought), but at least a wheeled vehicle can have regenerative breaking. I suppose you could affix some devices onto a horse’s body that would collect and channel mechanical energy to reduce losses in stop-and-go traffic, if the horse can adapt to it…

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 18 Oct 2009 @ 8:31 PM

  51. A garden hose ? 100,000 tons of SO2 per year comes to about 200 kilograms/minute, which is about 10 times more than your average garden hose. That’s still a tiny amount though. If we can really cool the climate by 3 degrees or so with such a small amount, we would want to be very sure the calculations were right, lest we accidentally put a little too much out and plunge the earth into an ice age.

    Comment by david — 18 Oct 2009 @ 8:35 PM

  52. I’ve been following the blog postings around this, and I’m glad to see RC weighing in. DISCLAIMER: I have not read the Levitt and Dubner chapter in its entirety… I am relying on the summaries available on the internet.

    Anyways, I remembered seeing this video of David Keith (U. Calgary) last year, and I wonder if this is the catalyst for the Myhrvold “Intellectual Ventures” geoengineering plan that L&D think has so much potential:
    http://www.ted.com/talks/david_keith_s_surprising_ideas_on_climate_change.html
    Nathan Myhrvold or others from IV were likely in attendance. Ken Caldeira is mentioned.

    Note also: this other lecture at the same event contains mention and images of the sulfur stockpiles at the Athabasca tarsands:
    http://www.ted.com/talks/juan_enriquez_wants_to_grow_energy.html
    What exactly is Caldeira’s connection to Intellectual Ventures?

    Comment by Alex A. — 18 Oct 2009 @ 8:39 PM

  53. I’m concerned that the US version of policy shaping up so far is highly imperfect, but at this late stage, I’m afraid that making a big fuss could be counterproductive (Especially with Copenhagen potentially in the balance). Is it better to let it be for now, and then replace it down the road with something better, or will there be a problem of entrenched interests standing in the way at that point (I’ve heard that ‘Wall Street’ is looking forward to the opportunity of trading on emissions markets. Well, there is an advantage to having a special interest to protect the policy in the future against the remnant fossil fuel lobby. But I’d much prefer a straight tax as the heart and core of the policy, and let Wall Street direct money into clean technology, etc, in response.)

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 18 Oct 2009 @ 8:45 PM

  54. I think this analysis is fair enough on current knowledge, but I believe the Royal Society, no less, did give credence to geoengineering as a solution at some point in the future, depending on future technological developments. Just like the impact of the invention of the internal combustion engine on horses – the game can change. Because it isn’t a solution now, we shouldn’t dismiss it as a possible option in the future. I don’t think this article gives enough credence to this possibility.

    Comment by Richard — 18 Oct 2009 @ 9:12 PM

  55. #20
    Mark says:

    “Access to space is not cheap. We do not have space elevators and fuel rockets are expensive. Especially in terms of CO2.”

    1. We use rockets to put communications into orbit. It is relatively inexpensive these days.

    2. How is it expensive in terms of CO2? My understanding is that the main fuel for rockets is liquid Hydrogen and liquid Oxygen. A hydrogen/oxygen reaction does not produce CO2. Solid fuel boosters are very minor in terms of CO2 production. CO2 production in providing launching infrastructure is almost non-existent as the infrastructure is already in place.

    Comment by Richard Steckis — 18 Oct 2009 @ 9:49 PM

  56. If you give an engineer a problem they will solve it. That does not mean the solution is a good one for the ecosystem. The solution may well turn out to be worse than the problem.

    Comment by Richard Steckis — 18 Oct 2009 @ 9:59 PM

  57. Unfortunately, on our current course, geo-engineering is going to be needed anyway. Not as a solution, because it is not a solution for all the reasons Gavin mentions. But rather, to buy us time because we’re doing such a lousy job of getting anthropogenic emissions under control. Jason Blackstock gave a very well reasoned talk on this at the EGU meeting in April, and has a detailed report out of the feasibility of geoengineering with sulphate aerosols, and the preliminary modeling results of their effectiveness. But he warned that people would misunderstand the suggestion, and took great pains to point out that we need a lot more research in the next decade to understand much better the pros and cons, to be ready to deploy in the 2020s, when things get desperate. And only then to buy us a few years of time to get the greenhouse gases sorted out.
    Pointers to all the reports here:
    http://www.easterbrook.ca/steve/?p=406
    Oh, and the oceans will be dead by then anyway, I reckon.

    Comment by Steve — 18 Oct 2009 @ 10:08 PM

  58. Good post. My only minor contention is: “The people benefiting from fossil fuel based energy are not those likely to suffer from the consequences of CO2 emissions.”

    It seems most, including many benefiting from fossil fuel usage, will suffer the consequences of CO2 emissions, to varying degrees.

    Comment by MarkB — 19 Oct 2009 @ 1:13 AM

  59. Horse-drawn transport didn’t cease to be popular because horse manure became a problem; cars became increasingly convenient especially as good roads were built and cars became safer, faster and more reliable. This did not all happen because the market favoured cars. Roads are heavily subsidised by governments and in many countries, the competing rail infrastructure was allowed to go broke without government help.

    Some of this is reversible: we could stop subsidising roads, and spend the same money on public transport and clean energy to power it.

    Many of the geo-engineering “solutions” strike me as worse than the original problem. And probably more expensive than going to low-emissions technology. I can see a case for keeping them on the research agenda but there are much simpler and more direct solutions: why not focus on those? Remember, the whole reason for all this is rescuing the environment from destruction. A “solution” with major environmental negatives is no better than curing a headache by decapitation.

    I keep hearing the mantra “governments should not pick winners”. Fine. But why then pick losers?

    Comment by Philip Machanick — 19 Oct 2009 @ 1:52 AM

  60. Gail, in comment #42:

    “Here is the definitive answer to crazy desperate plots to geoengineer.
    http://witsendnj.blogspot.com/2009/10/you-cant-fish-and-not-have-hope.html
    Now, just stop it! Shut up! Dead oceans = dead people, period.”

    Well, well–look who’s in the video! It’s Ken Caldeira talking about the dangers of increased anthropogenic CO2 production … Somebody outta tell Levitt & Dubner.

    Comment by Charles — 19 Oct 2009 @ 2:18 AM

  61. OK, so I need 10 garden hoses instead of one to deliver the SO2. But my garden hose is only about 20 feet long. I’m not a civil engineer (my wife is, but she is asleep), but it seems I would need each of my 10 garden hoses to be some 1500 times longer. I expect these incredibly long hoses will have quite a loss of flow due to friction, so I’ll really need lots and lots of garden hoses. And we also need to find a way to hold my cluster of garden hoses six miles up into the atmosphere.

    And if we need to recreate Pinatubo with 200 times more hoses than proposed… We’re gonna need a bigger hose.

    Comment by Jim Eaton — 19 Oct 2009 @ 2:33 AM

  62. “1. We use rockets to put communications into orbit. It is relatively inexpensive these days.”

    Oh Skeksis, how big a mirror would they make? And how far away do they have to go? LEO like the satellites we put up inexpensively? Or geostationary (actually, would have to be an L point or refuelled quite often). Sunlight pressure, you know.

    And define “cheap”.

    I couldn’t afford one lift. Could you?

    And you complain of the expense and potential ruination (alarmism? from your kind??) of mitigation but do not bat an eye at the expense here.

    Tut tut.

    Comment by Mark — 19 Oct 2009 @ 2:51 AM

  63. Their was an article in New Scientist a few months ago, claiming that one of the CO2 issues was directly attributal Ozone Depletion, which is causing CO2 to hang higher in the atmosphere than it normally would be, this is causing the Biosphere’s Carbon Sinks to play a limited role in the scrubbing process, so the theory being, more 02, more 03, and consequently less CO2 due increased Carbon sink effeciency.

    [Response: I don't think you are remembering this right. I think it was ground level ozone impacting plants ability to take up excess carbon. However, this is a very small term and is balanced by any number of additional minor impacts related to nitrates for instance. The big issue for taking up carbon is how much is being taken up by the deep ocean. - gavin]

    Comment by Schmert — 19 Oct 2009 @ 2:57 AM

  64. You state “The cost of these detectors is much lower than cost of the electricity saved and no-one has to consciously worry about the issue any more.”

    A motion detector costs $A 52.80 (just to grab the first price for one that came up in Australia). The cost of an electrician to fit one of these is generally a minimum of $100 (tradesmen don’t come cheap). The electricity saved can be calculated on the basis of a 11W compact fluorescent globe. Lets assume that you save 16 hours a day even though that is probably too high an estimate of the saving. At $0.15 per kWh you will save 64kWh per year which is a saving of $9.60 per year. Allowing for 7% interest per year on capital costs you have an interest cost of $10.50 per year. So the interest costs on the initial outlay exceed the electricity saving. That is not a no brainer. The installation will never pay for itself.

    Some things can pay for themselves – compact fluorescents for example. But the easy gains are already taken there – the rest is increasingly expensive and isn’t a no brainer.

    My point is not to quibble with your example per se but to point out that when you start down that road you need to be vary careful. There can be lots of hidden costs associated with any given course of action and there can be a lot of unintended consequences. Levitt’s big claim to fame is pointing out the remarkable unintended consequences of some policy changes – Roe v Wade for example. It is never simple and rarely easy.

    Comment by John S — 19 Oct 2009 @ 3:56 AM

  65. “…or let dogs foul the sidewalk. Nonetheless, societies in the developed world (with the possible exception of Paris…”

    Gavin, you will be pleased to know that there is now a Euro 180 fine for fowling the footpaths of Paris.

    On the geo-engineering front, although I’m a sceptic, I agree everything you’ve said. You will of course remember that the Royal Society in the UK was putting forward geo-engineering as a solution not so long ago. It was bunk then and it’s bunk now, as you say too many variables, too chaotic and lurking in the background is the Law of Unexpected Consequences.

    Comment by Geronimo — 19 Oct 2009 @ 4:10 AM

  66. oops! should have said “fouling the footpaths” I wouldn’t want to give the impression that Parisians went round putting chickens on the footpaths the the extent that a law was needed to stop them.

    Comment by Geronimo — 19 Oct 2009 @ 4:11 AM

  67. Or we just stop pumping CO2 in the atmosphere. All those geoengineering proposals are bad because they divert the public from the real issue. How to reduce CO2 emissions.

    Comment by Lakis — 19 Oct 2009 @ 4:22 AM

  68. Gavin, excellent article!

    “… let dogs foul the sidewalk”
    Welcome to Holland: http://ourchangingclimate.wordpress.com/2009/09/27/hondenpoep-bumperklevers-en-wilders/
    (in Dutch)

    Comment by Bart Verheggen — 19 Oct 2009 @ 4:29 AM

  69. Re #27 motion detectors and you don’t have a cat.

    In Germany, many homes and most public buildings and hotels have narrow band motion detectors at chest level so cats and dogs are not a problem.

    They are way ahead of us in energy conservation.

    Most europeans drive fuel efficient, low sulfur diesels which get 40-50 mpg.

    Comment by Tom Johnson — 19 Oct 2009 @ 5:15 AM

  70. sorry, but what are you talking about?
    4-8w/m² in 2100 by adding CO2? Are you dreaming?
    Did you find some new absorbtion lines we don`t know?

    [edit]

    [Response: The net radiative forcings from the SRES scenarios are given here combined with some possible amplification from carbon cycle feedbacks. - gavin]

    Comment by Gustavson — 19 Oct 2009 @ 5:20 AM

  71. If you suspect a meal to be off, do you keep eating it until you’re CERTAIN that it’s off, or do you stop eating before you’re sick?

    Denialists would demand you chow down.

    Comment by Mark — 19 Oct 2009 @ 6:39 AM

  72. THIS IS THE SUN NOW

    http://umbra.nascom.nasa.gov/images/latest_eit_304.gif

    THIS IS THE SUN IN 1997
    http://umbra.nascom.nasa.gov/eit/images/eit_19971207_0700_ratio.gif

    Any questions why it was so hot in 1998?

    [Response: You do know that 1998 was in a solar minima, right? - gavin]

    Comment by steve1953 — 19 Oct 2009 @ 6:49 AM

  73. To Pete Best, 18 October 2009 at 4:06 PM

    You wrote:
    “For the optimists we can do the following:
    Invest in CCS and clean up coal.
    Invest in renewable energy sources (CSP, Wind, Geothermal, wave etc)
    Mesh it all together via a new supergrid (HVDC Cables etc)
    Make efficiency a priority (electrical goods, new thermal homes and buildings etc)
    Eliminate the ICE vehicle and replace then with the electric vehiclce future.
    Change our eating habits and reduce our meat usage
    stop decimating our forests and even restore them
    Change some of our habits – consumption and materialism maybe”

    Curious — why would you leave off your list “build nuclear power plants (a la France)? Do you have a science-based reason, or are your reasons political?

    [Response: Not every thread has to discuss nuclear power. This is OT and further disccusion will be deleted. - gavin]

    Comment by Stephen M — 19 Oct 2009 @ 6:50 AM

  74. One example where local geoengineering is underway is at a few alpine skiers, trying to preserve their glaciers. The two tactics are either more snowmaking capacity or covering the glacier with a protective blanket. Even on the smallest of scales geo-engineering is quite expensive. On these scales it does not have large drawbacks for the globe, but demonstrates how difficult it is to address climate changes on any spatial scale.
    http://glacierchange.wordpress.com/2009/10/10/snowmaking-for-alpine-glaciers-where-there-are-enough-skiers-there-is-a-way/
    http://glacierchange.wordpress.com/2009/09/06/stubai-glaciers-protective-blanket/

    Comment by mauri pelto — 19 Oct 2009 @ 7:33 AM

  75. Going back to the possible effectiveness of a ‘polar-only’ sulphate, there are at least three issues which make it problematic. First off, the radiative forcing of stratospheric aerosols near the poles is small – the surface is already quite bright and so the extra reflectance has less impact in the short wave, and secondly, the during the polar night, you are only going to have the long-wave warming effect. There is a picture of the Pinatubo forcing as a function of latitude here: http://data.giss.nasa.gov/efficacy/Fa.2.02.html.

    Finally, there is the lifetime of the aerosols. Injection into the tropics leads to a lifetime of a few years since the particles get carried up by the background circulation, but injection into the polar areas will lead to a much faster removal since the background circulation is downward there. Absent a study that shows that I’ve got this completely wrong, I find it hard to see how this could be expected to be effective.

    Comment by gavin — 19 Oct 2009 @ 8:25 AM

  76. I am old enough (just!) to remember “The UK Clean Air Act (1956)” introduced to combat an obvious problem, smog, in the aftermath of the “Great Smog” (1952).

    The benefits and the solution were both pretty obvious and the effect of the act was almost immediate.

    But was it popular?

    Well for many including myself it had a clear downside. Post WWII England suffered a succession of unseasonable cold winters. Smokeless fuels were next to useless in the standard hearths of that time. Basically we froze.

    I think it was a measure that required legislation. For many it reduced the quality of life (not all of the London basin suffered from terrible smogs). Given a choice many would have continued to burn coal.

    Similarly, as mentioned, CFCs required legislation banning their use. They were arguable a better propellant (non-flammable) and in particular Halon was (and still is) an excellent extinguishant. Again I suspect legislation was necessary.

    Now I cannot see how we can ban GHG emissions, we could tax them more highly but the benefit to the tax payer is not very tangible. By this I mean benefit in its most immediate sense. How will it make my life better than it currently is? An immediate improvement (like an end to smogs) not just a reduction in how bad it might get (CFCs) (possibly followed by a return to the status quo ante).

    Also I suspect that it will be the same group to suffer disproportionately as it was with “The Clean Air Act” namely the poor. Taxation on life essentials can have that effect.

    Unless doing nothing results in a material diminishment of human happiness in the short term, I seriously doubt whether sufficient support for doing anything with a tangible downside is either sustainable or desirable.

    Also doing anything with a tangible downside that is not accompanied by an obvious mitigation of undesirable consequences is likely to prove to be unsustainable (at least in democracies). I suspect that if the “killer” smogs had continued after 1953 or had only been slightly abated there would have been riots in the streets or a repeal of the law and different approach to the problem.

    Another problem is that people can be awfully parochial when it comes to such matters. Around here, the general effect of our changing climate has been well received. You do not get many people wishing to be cut-off by snow most winters as was the case fifty years ago.

    Strangely just about the only vocal people suffering are those whose properties have been blighted, not by the here and now, but by the consequences of the models. Mostly enhanced fears of rising water levels (I should add that rising water levels are a local historic fact that has historically been mitigated), justifying the withdrawal of support for flood defences. Action justified by sea level projections but suspected of being financially motivated. Additional habitations would likely be lost under the new scheme whether there is enhanced sea level rise or not.

    I doubt whether one could maintain any policy that promises a slightly less worse future to people for whom the current trend has been largely well received.

    Now I am all for a reduction in the use of all finite resources and have been for as long as I can remember, or more accurately, for as long as I have understood what the “finite” bit meant. But anyway since a time before the fears of impending glaciation gave way to global warming.

    I doubt that much progress on sustainability in general, and a reduction in the burning of fossil fuels in particular, will be made until its more popular alternative becomes intolerable in a way that can not be mitigated. I also doubt the wisdom of governments failing to first trying to mitigate the consequences (mainly the financial hurt due to supply outstripping demand) before attempting legislation to curtail fossil fuel consumption. And as to the wisdom of using taxation to punish the use of fossil fuels to a degree would substantially reduce consumption, I doubt there is any.

    We need to find a way to a better world not just a less worse one.

    We need to address need, and let need take care of demand. We need to put in place the technology that will support a brighter future and wait for people to adopt it. Enforcing a narrow view of a “better than worse case” future through measures that are likely to be seen as unnecessarily harsh advocated by people likely to become characterised as spoil-sport zealots is not I feel a fruitful approach.

    Alex

    Comment by Alexander Harvey — 19 Oct 2009 @ 9:07 AM

  77. Re 75 gavin
    One other issue is that:
    • the sulfates would change the albedo of the ice more then they decrease the incident radiation resulting in increased surface melt of the ice sheets.
    • sulfate deposition on the surface of the ice would result in depression of the melting point (small at the concentrations discussed) but if the local temperature is already at 0C then ANY depression of melting point could have a large effect.

    Over all, my guess is that injection of sulfates in to the atmosphere would increase ice sheet melt (if the surface temperature of the ice sheet is already near 0C).

    Comment by Aaron Lewis — 19 Oct 2009 @ 9:39 AM

  78. As few others have commented (but Gavin’s post did not include)

    the reason geo-engineering is not a fix comes down to two words:

    OCEAN ACIDIFICATION.

    [Response: Actually it did though possibly too subtly. - gavin]

    Comment by John McCormick — 19 Oct 2009 @ 9:43 AM

  79. Steckis, It costs $20000/kg to launch a payload into orbit. This has not decreased appreciably in 30 years. Once a system is in space, it must cope with a variety of hazards ranging from radiation to thermal extremes to atomic oxygen. It must function autonomously and repairs will not be possible. Engineers for communications satellites worry about every gram they put up in orbit.

    With regard Levitt and Dubner, they seem to value provocation over accuracy, but then, their business in selling books rather than saving the planet. Perhaps the most interesting question is why they chose to listen to the “experts” they did. These ideas are well outside mainstream climate science. I fear what is going on here has much more to do with human psychology than with science or economics:

    Dunning and Kruger–it’s not just for dumb people anymore.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 19 Oct 2009 @ 10:13 AM

  80. 62
    Mark says:
    19 October 2009 at 2:51 AM

    “Oh Skeksis, how big a mirror would they make? And how far away do they have to go? LEO like the satellites we put up inexpensively? Or geostationary (actually, would have to be an L point or refuelled quite often). Sunlight pressure, you know.”

    Oh Mark. Aside from you obvious insult (bastardising my name) you appeal to ridicule. This is a logical fallacy one resorts to when one cannot argue from a position of strength.

    NASA is retiring the Shuttle program in favour of the un-manned re-supply option for the space station. Therefore the logistics are already possible.

    I suggest you use a little logical thought instead of resorting to low level insult.

    Finally. I think that the whole geo-engineering thing is a complete madness that should not be entertained by sane people.

    Comment by Richard Steckis — 19 Oct 2009 @ 10:42 AM

  81. &9
    Ray Ladbury says:
    19 October 2009 at 10:13 AM

    “Steckis, It costs $20000/kg to launch a payload into orbit.”

    Ray. How much does it cost to lay a submarine cable between the U.S. and Australia? Multiply that by about 20 times for other destinations, then factor in maintenance costs, replacement costs and repair costs for each one. Then compare it to the cost of sending a satellite into orbit. They don’t do it because it is cost prohibitive Ray. They use the satellite option because it is cost effective.

    Comment by Richard Steckis — 19 Oct 2009 @ 10:46 AM

  82. Gavin says:

    [Response: You do know that 1998 was in a solar minima, right? - gavin]

    Sorry about the grammar correction but should you not have said minimum? Minima is a plural.

    Comment by Richard Steckis — 19 Oct 2009 @ 10:50 AM

  83. If we’re talking sheer efficiency, a bicycle is better than anything else I can think of. Neither horses nor cars can compete at all.

    Comment by Marion Delgado — 19 Oct 2009 @ 10:51 AM

  84. I think you grossly underestimate the cultural changes that people will go through. Normally “with proper incentives” implies an appeal to logic. Yet your examples are predominately legislative and criminal. If leaded gasoline is outlawed (under criminal penalties) and unavailable, a “cultural change” of the people in not using leaded gas is obvious but not done with more benign incentives. Or if you outlaw the domestic production of CFCs and fine someone up to $25,000 for even possessing leftover or foreign produced CFCs, saying you’ve “changed human nature and cultural preferences with appropriate incentives” is really sugar-coating it. IMO you’d be better off realistically recognizing the tremendous inertia of human desires and homeostasis.

    On the other side, I agree with all (else) you say. I think it proper for people to look at and research geo-engineering — can’t hurt and who knows? But currently, in any reasonable fashion, I fully agree that what you say, “Geo-engineering is neither cheap, nor a fix, and the reasons why it is very likely to be a bad idea are ethical and legal, much more than its still-uncertain scientific merits” is right on target.

    Comment by Rod B — 19 Oct 2009 @ 11:01 AM

  85. “I think you grossly underestimate the cultural changes that people will go through.”

    You’re entirely entitled to that thought.

    Now, is it strong enough to risk humanity and the civilisation we have created?

    Comment by Mark — 19 Oct 2009 @ 11:12 AM

  86. “Sorry about the grammar correction but should you not have said minimum? Minima is a plural.”

    And there are many times where the sun’s output has varied to a local minumum.

    Or is this the only minimum the sun has ever had?

    Comment by Mark — 19 Oct 2009 @ 11:12 AM

  87. “Ray. How much does it cost to lay a submarine cable between the U.S. and Australia?”

    Undersea cables aren’t interstellar mirrors.

    And when they get cut, they can be fixed.

    I really don’t know where you’re going, but it’s weird.

    Comment by Mark — 19 Oct 2009 @ 11:13 AM

  88. “I suggest you use a little logical thought instead of resorting to low level insult.”

    I suggest if you don’t want insult, don’t insult the intelligence of the others on here with your inanity.

    Comment by Mark — 19 Oct 2009 @ 11:16 AM

  89. 50 atrick said, “I suppose you could affix some devices onto a horse’s body that would collect and channel mechanical energy to reduce losses in stop-and-go traffic,”

    I can see it now… horse-sized hamster wheel collecting power for lithium ion batteries and an electric drive with regenerative braking!! (Just don’t expect a second date)

    Comment by RichardC — 19 Oct 2009 @ 11:28 AM

  90. Mike Roddy #34, that is an interesting (though a bit OT) problem. It made me think of the similar situation with automobile safety, where manufacturers were long loath to mention the car safety issue in advertisements. The conventional wisdom being that safety made people think of accidents, blood and gore — not conducive to concluding sales.

    IIRC it was Volvo who first broke the taboo. What they did was offensive rather than defensive: they made safety central to their advertizing, even featuring animated crash-test dummies etc. It paid off well then (though Volvo isn’t doing too well today :-( )

    Perhaps the same could be done with environment/climate friendly hotels. You need to find one chain, probably a small one, willing to conspicuously go against the conventional wisdom. There are prospective guests who want this kind of thing and who currently can go nowhere.

    BTW you could seek strategic partnerships with other providers, of double glazing, bathing equipment and other relevant stuff. One hint about showers: from my travels in the US I remember with fond affection (NOT!) the army-issue showerheads hardwired into the bathroom wall (yes, even in up-market places!). A detachable, regulatable showerhead with a joystick temperature control not only saves water (by making the showering process more flexible and efficient) but is just a better user experience, and especially females like it :-)

    Note that I never in my life successfully sold anything for money. My advice is worth what you paid for it ;-)

    Comment by Martin Vermeer — 19 Oct 2009 @ 11:30 AM

  91. About cats:

    It is easy to install a motion detector system that ignores most pets. The companies that sell alarm systems including motion detectors solved that problem a long time ago. We had such a system in a house with cats as far back as the 80s.

    Comment by Leonard Evens — 19 Oct 2009 @ 11:34 AM

  92. In the UK, the bicycle competed against horse drawn transport before the car.
    In fact there were incidents in which coach drivers tried to run cyclists off the road because they feared for their jobs.

    Also the great expansion of the cycle population was an incentive to improve roads. Plus, the first modern road maps in the UK were created for cyclists!

    All in all, the bicycle was the big revolution in transport after the horse.
    Once cheap bikes were produced, the masses took up cycling.

    Comment by Paul UK — 19 Oct 2009 @ 12:00 PM

  93. If you don’t like the graphs in the chapter of that book, you can always turn the book upsidedown, so that the graphs then show warming! Oh, I see you already have.

    Comment by Steve — 19 Oct 2009 @ 12:04 PM

  94. “But my garden hose is only about 20 feet long. I’m not a civil engineer (my wife is, but she is asleep), but it seems I would need each of my 10 garden hoses to be some 1500 times longer.”

    And then some: the plan is to spew the SO2 from a 24 Km altitude, and the “hose” will probably be slanted, so more than 24Km long in total.

    If your wife is an engineer, ask her how she would pump 1 ton of liquid SO2 24km UP.
    There would be a slight problem to keep the SO2 liquid at all times, probably not much a problem at high altitude, but a serious problem in the first Km. The SO2 must be kept under -10C or else it boils.
    Having bubbles in the “hose” could be problematic for the pumps.

    Comment by _Arthur — 19 Oct 2009 @ 12:17 PM

  95. Re #89 and the “horse-sized hamster wheel”–actually, I believe a kinesis-powered generator has been developed & demonstrated for humans. IIRC, it’s worn like (or incorporated into) clothing, and it harvests energy from incidental motion to charge small devices (such as cell phones.)

    Not huge power output, but maybe Patrick was thinking of something like that.

    Comment by Kevin McKinney — 19 Oct 2009 @ 12:20 PM

  96. Looks like another mistake in this book. Take a look at these paragraphs:

    Superfreakonomics excerpt from Page 176:
    “Mount Pinatubo was the most powerful volcanic eruption in nearly one hundred years. Within two hours of the main blast, sulfuric ash had reached twenty-two miles into the sky. By the time it was done, Pinatubo had discharged more than 20 million tons of sulfur dioxide into the stratosphere. What effect did that have on the environment?

    As it turned out, the stratospheric haze of sulfur dioxide acted like a layer of sunscreen, reducing the amount of solar radiation reaching the earth. For the next two years, as the haze was settling out, the earth cooled off by an average of nearly 1 degree Fahrenheit, or .5 degrees Celsius. A single volcanic eruption practically reversed, albeit temporarily, the cumulative global warming of the previous hundred years.

    I thought the majority of the heat buildup on earth due to AGW was ocean heating, followed by ice sheet and glacier melt, possibly some land heat absorption, and with thermal energy used to heat the atmosphere as a relatively minor buildup. Did the Pinatubo eruption reverse and remove the cumulative global heating over the last 100 years of all these heat sinks?

    [Response: No. Not even close. - gavin]

    Comment by Paul Klemencic — 19 Oct 2009 @ 12:22 PM

  97. Great article, but I think it may still leave an incomplete impression. ALL major shifts come about as a result of cognitive and behavioral changes. The way we plan our infrastructure, design our technologies, and form our policies are a reflection of our core assumptions and beliefs which are are formed in response to early childhood experiences, interactions with our environment, and other factors. And, big policy changes including the Montreal Protocol don’t happen by magic. They come about only after a sufficient number of people have altered their thinking and beliefs. That’s not to say we can every expect individuals to think about their carbon footprint all the time. But until enough people do we won’t get the policy and institutional changes needed to make low and no carbon goods and services culturally and legally accepted.

    Comment by Bob Doppelt — 19 Oct 2009 @ 12:44 PM

  98. Re #10 BJ Chippendale,

    If you are again pointing out that we have cheap access to space you are again wrong. You might have heard about some low cost communication satellites and are mistakenly extrapolating this to extremely big things of the sort we are talking about for electric power or mirrors. Mark has this right.

    There is no relevant cost experience for things of this size. However, defense related systems far smaller than these have been enormously expensive, and the cost of these is not generally known.

    However, I have to agree that the likelihood of these is higher than the likelihood of achieving meaningful cap and trade laws from Copenhagen or anywhere else.

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Co. — 19 Oct 2009 @ 12:44 PM

  99. Just to back up my post about cycling replacing horses in the UK.
    Do a search for Bacon’s Cycling maps. Bacon’s published ‘cycling’ road maps of different areas and counties of the UK in the late 1800s. Later when the car became more popular, Bacons started calling them ‘cycling and motoring’ road maps.

    Comment by Paul UK — 19 Oct 2009 @ 12:56 PM

  100. RichardC #89

    “hamster wheel”

    Or you could just plug your electric car into a giant horizonal hamster wheel at night.

    Comment by Radge Havers — 19 Oct 2009 @ 1:00 PM

  101. Mark, I’m not sure I get your point. It seems like if overcoming human inertia presents a problem in implementing some solutions, you’re saying let’s just define that inertia away — pretend it doesn’t exist.

    Comment by Rod B — 19 Oct 2009 @ 1:05 PM

  102. Martin Vermeer, In a simple sort of way Ford emphasized safety in the mid- to late-fifties. The common expression was, “Ford sold safety. Chevy sold cars.”

    Comment by Rod B — 19 Oct 2009 @ 1:09 PM

  103. No, I’m saying DEFINE the inertia, weigh it up against the need and work it out.

    You haven’t even defined if the inertia exists.

    And there was plenty of inertia against changing CFCs or Y2K fixing or WW1 or WW2, Gulf War 2, creation of Palestine and Israel (well, the intent was to create both, neither of which existed at the time) and so on.

    Yet they happened.

    Comment by Mark — 19 Oct 2009 @ 1:15 PM

  104. “And then some: the plan is to spew the SO2 from a 24 Km altitude, and the “hose” will probably be slanted, so more than 24Km long in total.”

    I’m not sure about anyone else here, but what sort of pressure would be needed? I’m sure my hosepipe would split if I put enough pressure on it to shoot water 100 ft in the air, never mind 16 miles…

    Comment by Mark — 19 Oct 2009 @ 1:18 PM

  105. “In the UK, the bicycle competed against horse drawn transport before the car.”

    And the early car was supposed (designed) to run on vegetable oil.

    Comment by Mark — 19 Oct 2009 @ 1:19 PM

  106. Re Jim Eage @ 49: That’s priamrily what I was talking about when I said that gavin still makes persuasive points in his article, and he may well be correct in his conclusion. But surely it’s worth investigating, on the basis of the presumptive maximum $200bn price tag for solving the warming issue, how much a geo-engineering solution to ocean acidification would cost? Since if it’s anything less than $1tn/year, geo-engineering is still beating the Stern report’s proposals for CO2 reduction.

    Comment by mdc — 19 Oct 2009 @ 1:33 PM

  107. JCH @ 33,

    I actually like horses, however there isn’t much chance each of us in this country can own a team of them to be our transportation. Let alone the 6.7 billion of us and growing in the rest of the world….

    Though something like this might work.
    http://www.zoomilife.com/2009/02/23/video-the-solar-powered-gw-walking-chariot/

    Comment by Fred Magyar — 19 Oct 2009 @ 1:48 PM

  108. “But surely it’s worth investigating, on the basis of the presumptive maximum $200bn price tag”

    And who gets a cut of that?

    mdc?

    Comment by Mark — 19 Oct 2009 @ 1:56 PM

  109. All this talk of hamster wheels takes me back. When I did high school debate, an argument that was really bizarre or unusual would be called a “squirrel case” (still is, Google suggests). The legend went that someone or other had won a big debate event on the topic of energy security by basing his solution on millions of squirrels running around in little cages, generating electricity. The opposing teams were woefully unprepared to meet that argument, and lost.

    The geoengineering debate reminds me of that a lot. “The affirmative’s plan is to cool the Earth with a garden hose to the stratosphere…”

    Comment by CM — 19 Oct 2009 @ 2:12 PM

  110. Regarding geoengineering, Dubner and Levitt are clearly off the farm
    in advocating it in place of other efforts to deal with the problem.
    However, research on various forms of geoengineering (including biochar)
    should continue, especially as we may need some more dramatic backup if
    the catastrophic tail event of a really massive global temperature increase
    comes to pass in the next century or so. While biochar is relatively
    “garden variety” (and harmless) the more dramatic forms should be viewed
    more as possible emergency backups rather than as the main approach.

    Comment by Barkley Rosser — 19 Oct 2009 @ 2:36 PM

  111. RonalLarson (#12),

    I think that anything we do with intention to change the climate is geo-engineering. There may be other reason to do what we are doing, but so long as we are aware of the effect on climate, that makes it geo-engineering. So our current carbon dioxide emissions are geo-engineering even though they were not a couple decades ago. Now, when we burn fossil fuels, climate change is part of what we intend. Using biochar to change the climate back would be geo-engineering as well. Cutting emissions would be geo-engineering. There is sensible geo-engineering which focuses on reducing the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere below 350 ppm, or there is crazy geo-engineering which increases the concentration of carbon dioxide. Those ideas which try to change albedo fall into the crazy group.

    “Geo-engineering” enthusiast don’t care much for this definition, but I’m not sure they should be charged with defining the term.

    A though on what Gavin had to say about perfect models: cutting the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere does not require a perfect model since we already have past experience to know how the system behaves.

    Comment by Chris Dudley — 19 Oct 2009 @ 4:11 PM

  112. Levitt and Dubner are not proposing research, they are demanding implementation. Besides which commenting here does little good, go over to the Times, or Amazon.

    Comment by Eli Rabett — 19 Oct 2009 @ 4:12 PM

  113. Seeing as we are talking about motion detectors and cats, employees of an alarm installer in South Africa some years back set up a system that didn’t detect anything below a height of 1m to miss the pets. Some of them then ventured back to rob the place, keeping low to avoid the detectors. Unfortunately for them, one of them forgot to keep low and triggered the alarm.

    Comment by Philip Machanick — 19 Oct 2009 @ 4:45 PM

  114. To me a fix-it solution would be something that draws CO2 from the atmosphere and buries it for a long long time (hundreds or thousands of years) — without entailing more CO2 emissions than it draws down, and maybe throw-in solving the garbage, dog, horse, and human poop problems, and increasing agricultural productivity, giving us some clean energy, and saving & making us money, and … whatever else the human heart could desire.

    Oh yeah, it seems we do have that solution. I’m not totally up on it, but I think “bio-char” can do all that and more.

    But, of course, that requires changing human behavior….like someone has got to make the equipment and man the works.

    Meanwhile, I much prefer NOT to change my behavior bec I’m so lazy, so I bought a SunFrost refrigerator (uses 1/10 the electricity of other frig’s & $aves bundles) and later (after the frig had paid for itself) moved to Texas when a better job opportunity opened up, and got on Greenmountain 100% wind energy, which also $aves me money. And many other intall-it&-forget-it measures. Problem is I don’t consider myself much of an environmentalist, bec I not really doing anything, & I forget I did these no-brainer/no-work things.

    It seems to me that pumping up SO2 would require a lot of work and planning and effort…not at all for people who don’t want to change their behavior, esp not for those who disdain all that work involved.

    Comment by Lynn Vincentnathan — 19 Oct 2009 @ 4:50 PM

  115. Dear Dr. Schmidt,

    I humbly disagree that economics are the primary driver or the way to change from the current technology base. In fact I believe that economics are not the correct measures or motivation for change if the current technology is found to be hazardous.

    A staged tax increase is not the way forward either. In order to create the proper motivation requires that the hard decisions be made. First the scientists that want to prompt change through economics need to get motivated to instead offer a economic equivalent technological path forward. Too often I see well educated physicists standing on the side of the road claiming if we could only make it more expensive to use mineral carbon versus organic carbon the way forward will be better.

    Often I watch these same folks suggest that there is a high amount of waste. Yet if that were the case then the recent Oil price spike should tell us how much waste was in the system, 3-4 million barrels out of 87.3 million barrels per day or less then 4.5%. Of that 4.5% no more then 3% were actual waste the rest was the attempt to offset costs for materials for manufactured products.

    If anything the way forward is for these self same experts to get off the side of the road and start devising the way forward and stop wasting time exclaiming how bad the current technology is. When we have a clear alternative way forward and Congress has a form of a consumer tax base created then we may see a change.

    Without a defined direction and infrastructure plan there is no focus for investment or planning for government regulation and tax base legislation. Who better to define the direction then the self proclaimed experts? As to the issue of the technology base for moving forward we need to keep in mind that at the turn of the century the initial fuel sources were going to be Soy Bean Oil and Alcohol. The decision to change over to mineral oil was not an economic one 100 years ago and should not be one today…

    Cheers!
    Dave Cooke

    Comment by L. David Cooke — 19 Oct 2009 @ 5:32 PM

  116. Mark @ 108:

    While I refuse to confirm or deny that I am an Evil Capitalist(tm), you, I and everyone else (inc. the developing world) would get a cut of the potential $1tn/year savings.

    Comment by mdc — 19 Oct 2009 @ 5:33 PM

  117. Martin, #90, thanks for your thoughts. A strategic partnership is something I hadn’t even thought of, except with engineering firms, but it makes sense.

    I’m a terrible salesman too. Too cranky!

    Comment by mike roddy — 19 Oct 2009 @ 6:52 PM

  118. There is no horse manure problem. Speak of it increasing and “disease risk” is just a scare devised by All The King’s Men to levy a new tax on horses.

    Horse manure has been much higher in the past. During the Medieval Manure Period for example we can safely assume all the streets of London were meters deep in manure.

    As for a “disease risk”, did you know horse manure makes up just 0.3% mass in a typical street? So how can it be a problem anyway? Don’t refer to the germ theory of disease please, everyone knows it’s just a theory and one that has been disproven time and time again by tavern gossip.

    Increased horse manure can only bring benefits. Horse manure is an excellent fertilizer for example. So if we switch to automobiles we may very well run out of food – is this perhaps part of a population reduction agenda by the powers that be?

    Alarmists and so-called “men of science” just want to take away our horse-drawn carriages and force us to walk around like cavemen. Alternative transport such as so-called “automobiles” are far too expensive and will bankrupt the economy of the country.

    Even if there was a problem with more manure there is nothing we can do about it. It’s arrogant to assume humans can upsurp nature and replace the horse with metal and steam.

    Horse manure. They call it a disease risk, we call it life.

    Comment by socold — 19 Oct 2009 @ 7:02 PM

  119. Except for the fact that we would be living on a planet with a chemically completely different atmosphere and ocean.
    It also presupposes near-perfect understanding of the coupled atmosphere-ocean system to be able to fine tune both.
    Sounds like as good a definition of the word hubris as any I’ve read.

    Geoengineering proposals remind me of a conversation I once had with a chemist who worked at the EB Eddy paper mill across the river from the Houses of Parliament in Ottawa. The mill produced pastel coloured toilet tissue, and the chemist’s job was to figure out how much green dye to add to the effluent when they were making a run of pink tissue so that the effluent would be a neutral grey-brown colour that would not be noticed, and visa versa. In other words, double the dye load rather than stop dumping dye into the river.

    Comment by Jim Eager — 19 Oct 2009 @ 7:29 PM

  120. 104 Mark said, ” I’m sure my hosepipe would split if I put enough pressure on it to shoot water 100 ft in the air, never mind 16 miles…”

    Eyeroll. Repeater pumping stations are kinda easy to visualize. Why did you miss it? Hmm, lift VS lift!

    And NO, your hose wouldn’t split at 100ft. That happens to equate to standard water pressure – a bit above 40 psi.

    Comment by RichardC — 19 Oct 2009 @ 7:51 PM

  121. “Repeater pumping stations are kinda easy to visualize.”

    If you put a pump, say, every 250 meters of your hose, that will increase the weight significantly. (Don’t forget to add one-way valves, too). I expect the “hose” will be supported by balloons at each pumping station too.

    Helium costs quite a bit nowadays. It would be much cheaper to use hydrogen. Oh, wait, SO2 is mildly flamable…

    Comment by _Arthur — 19 Oct 2009 @ 8:08 PM

  122. socold: sweet!

    Comment by dhogaza — 19 Oct 2009 @ 8:09 PM

  123. Oops, my post @119 was meant in respose to mdc’s reply to me @106.

    And to socold @118: brilliant!

    Comment by Jim Eager — 19 Oct 2009 @ 8:16 PM

  124. I have a friend who is a vegetarian and quite scornful of omnivores. She likes to pronounce that other people shouldn’t eat meat (although she eats fish!) because it is environmentally unsustainable.

    On top of which, she has horses and several dogs!

    What does this have to do with anything? Well, everyone has their own personal understanding of what is necessary, and what is an expendable luxury.

    None of which is going to matter, very soon, when we all find out that the necessary, however we are pleased to define it, is unobtainable.

    Given the intractable nature of our global warming problem, I personally plan to worship ever more frantically here, http://www.venganza.org/about/open-letter/, maybe even buy a t-shirt. What else is one to do?

    May you be touched by His Noodly Appendage.

    Comment by Gail — 19 Oct 2009 @ 8:29 PM

  125. 115: “Often I watch these same folks suggest that there is a high amount of waste. Yet if that were the case then the recent Oil price spike should tell us how much waste was in the system, 3-4 million barrels out of 87.3 million barrels per day or less then 4.5%. Of that 4.5% no more then 3% were actual waste the rest was the attempt to offset costs for materials for manufactured products.”
    Now why would you think that a short term price spike would have captured all (or at least most) os the waste? Many attempts at changing patterns take a great deal of time. Think of moving closer to work, or buying a more efficient vehicle -you don’t do that in response to a few month long price spike, but you might if you think the cost savings will be good for the rest of your life. And even then, things like replacing your car, are usually defered until the old one wears out, time lags are really very substantial.

    The people on The Oil Drum did an analysis of horse drawn cultivation versus bio-fuel fueled tractors. Before oil drawn tractors came along roughly a third of farmland was pasture for the draft animals. Much less land than that would allow biofuel based cultivation. So clearly the overall efficiency of animal power is pretty poor. So switching to animal power is just not a way to make energy progress. Its only real advantage is that it requires only very low technology to support.

    Comment by Thomas — 19 Oct 2009 @ 8:55 PM

  126. Re Gail, Paul UK, Thomas, others…

    I forgot that in addition to the 20 % efficiency of muscles, there’s the rest of the metabolism.

    Well, that would be analogous to the indirect fuel usage of a car, via the supply of fuel itself (energy used to process and transport and maintain the infrastructure), and the production, maintence, and disposal of the car. Except the horse has some of those too (medical, shelter, etc.). And both can serve purposes besides transport (nice car, pretty animal). But anyway…

    I wasn’t exactly thinking of those devices that people can wear or a hamster wheel; I was just joking, really. Although that brings to mind those springy things people can wear so that they can walk really fast…

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 19 Oct 2009 @ 9:29 PM

  127. Re Schmert 63 –

    Increased greenhouse forcing results in stratospheric cooling, which could increase/amplify ozone depletion by allowing more polar stratospheric clouds. Could you have been thinking of that?

    It would be essentially impossible for us humans to do anything to affect atmospheric oxygen levels except maybe if we had thousands of years for a cummulative effect (?).

    ———-

    Rod B. – the point wasn’t that we can change human nature, but that we can know human nature and change human behavior.

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 19 Oct 2009 @ 9:36 PM

  128. 35;Gavin re
    “Myrhold …thinks that 100,000 tons of SO2 (a year?) in the polar region stratosphere is enough to cool the planet…II find this very hard to believe and have seen no studies that would support a significant forcing from such a small amount (for reference, Pinatubo – peak forcing around -3 to -4 W/m2, put something like 20 million tons of SO2 into the stratosphere – 200 times as much.”

    Volcanic sulfate aerosols have wide droplet size (and hence lifetime ) distributions. Since the backscattering scattering cross section for a given aerosol mass, or number density , scales inversely with radius squared, a monodisperse aerosol of micron-sized droplets might backscatter more than an order of magnitude more sunlight per unit mass than a larger natural cloud droplet population

    Comment by Russell Seitz — 19 Oct 2009 @ 9:46 PM

  129. I went to a talk recently where the speaker put up a graph showing demand elasticity. For some hypothetical situation of energy cost vs. demand, as the price went up, demand dipped very slowly (inelastic demand). But in a real situation, demand may drop very suddenly when price goes to high (e.g., you leave your car at home when running it suddenly becomes too expensive, and you switch to using the train every day).

    What we really need to do is amplify these inflexion points by choosing cleaner technologies that are a little too expensive (even if they confer other benefits) and adjust their cost relative to dirtier options so demand drops quickly from the dirty technology. An example: double tolls on roads, and simultaneously halve train fares. Peak oil and carbon taxes or emissions trading will get us there eventually but with the risk that an inelastic demand curve will simply mean people will pay more. Add in the behaviour tipping points like cheaper public transport and you get a rapid change that will stick if the system is good.

    Here in Brisbane, we are doing just the opposite. Much of the city budget is going into new roads, bridges and tunnels (some but not all with tolls) and public transport is going to cost 20% more from next year.

    It helps a lot if you actually want to solve the problem.

    Comment by Philip Machanick — 19 Oct 2009 @ 9:58 PM

  130. Re: “You obviously don’t have a cat”

    I do have a teenager, and have found that motion detectors at home solve the problem well. The cat sleeps most of the time anyway, although, so does the kid.

    On a related note, I’ve always wondered why people don’t use motion detectors in parking lots. Seems like low-hanging fruit.

    Comment by The Wonderer — 19 Oct 2009 @ 10:18 PM

  131. > 100,000 tons of SO2 (a year?) in the polar region stratosphere

    http://www.google.com/search?q=polar+acidification+oceans

    Sometimes I think these proposals are the answer to

    “Now, what to propose next, to make their planet even less habitable?”

    “…. ah, let’s propose putting the SO2 in the _descending_ air, so it enters the ocean faster and falls out where much of the primary production happens, and where pH change from CO2 is already going out of bounds.”

    http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/abstract/281/5374/200

    “… photosynthetic carbon fixation by marine phytoplankton leads to formation of ~45 gigatons of organic carbon per annum, of which 16 gigatons are exported to the ocean interior. Changes in the magnitude of total and export production can strongly influence atmospheric CO2 levels (and hence climate) on geological time scales, as well as set upper bounds for sustainable fisheries harvest. The two fluxes are critically dependent on geophysical processes that determine mixed-layer depth, nutrient fluxes to and within the ocean, and food-web structure. Because the average turnover time of phytoplankton carbon in the ocean is on the order of a week or less, total and export production are extremely sensitive to external forcing and consequently are seldom in steady state….”

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 19 Oct 2009 @ 10:43 PM

  132. Re Gavin’s article: 18 October RealClimate.org

    Your discussion about changing people’s behaviour makes important points that I find very appropriate. I think that the solution is here, but it is not going to get done by changing lightbulbs, recycling bottles, or any of these feel good kind of things.

    The hybrid car that is well designed to cut the use of energy offers the only real possibility for change of a magnitude that would really matter, and it could come at a negative cost, even without rebates, due to the gasoline cost savings. Wise government could rescind the oil depletion allowance to move along a shift to such cars.

    I continue to point out that by converting hybrids to plug-ins is a step backwards, since the marginal response to the added electric load is ultimately an increase in coal fired power generation, yes, even in California. In some of the well known examples, the economies that were built into the Prius (and probably the Ford Fusion hybrid) are ignored in such cars as the Fisker, thus taking things another step backwards.

    We then move on to what I consider to be unconscionable deception by those who are interested in reducing use of foreign oil, where they would play on the need to reduce CO2 to motivate change. Energy guzzling cars remain energy guzzling cars even though they are powered by plugging them into the grid. The fact that large “-money to be paid back-” (unlikely to be paid back since they are to corporations of doubtful future) have been given to Fisker and Tesla (half a $Billion each) as well as the huge -money to be paid back- to GM and Chrysler for the same supposed purpose, is a demonstration of unwise government action in response to a false hope generated by that deception. This kind of stimulus might help with jobs and reduce oil dependence, but it is very likely to lead to worsening of the CO2 levels. This seems like a demonstration of the worst of capitalism coupled with the worst of democratic government.

    The IEA report excerpt,

    http://www.worldenergyoutlook.org/docs/weo2009/climate_change_excerpt.pdf

    shows that a very aggressive campaign to limit CO2 will result in 2030 with a significant amount of coal fired power production, and implicit in this is a significant reserve capacity that would use very low cost fuel. This is stark evidence that the marginal response to new loads would be coal fired power.

    Curiously, the remaining coal fired generation in 2030 could be eliminated by NOT changing from hybrids to plug-ins. Of course, additional CO2 from oil to run the hybrids would be more, but not so much as the CO2 from coal that would be eliminated.

    My approaches would require the kind of behaviour modification that you speak of, but would also have the kind of economic incentive built in that you point out as being a necessary part of the change process. These include high efficiency car and truck systems using measures to nearly eliminate aerodynamic drag, measures to nearly eliminate rolling resistance for trucks, and distributed cogeneration of electricity using natural gas powered small engines in the small cars where discharged heat from the car engines would be fully used by respective households. The magnitude of CO2 reduction from these measures ranks high enough to really make progress. And use of such measures would be very profitable to their users.

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Co. — 19 Oct 2009 @ 11:29 PM

  133. Re 76 Alexander Harvey –

    From a very pro-free market perspective, it might be good in the long term if an emissions tax happens to hurt the poor. Because it just corrects an externality, after all. Imagine if fuel just happened to cost that much. It would, by the same logic, hurt the poor.

    So it is quite ironic that some (not accusing you of this) conservatives argue against action based on the welfare of the poor. Of course, there are solutions to that (if even necessary – it depends on what is to become of the tax revenue), but conservatives may be ideologically against those solutions. Or they might be for charity, but not publically-enforced charity. Okay, so if they want to give, they should give; let the legislation go through and they can give more to charity – problem solved.

    ————

    Re 129 and other like comments – inelasticity of demand of energy.

    A tax can still work to reduce emissions even if demands are inelastic. How? By increasing the economic advantage of choosing a clean energy source over an emitting energy source. And so on for alternatives regarding agriculture and land-use. And if there is a more efficient device or method, the economic advantage will swing even more that way.

    And, of course, as demand increases for cleaner alternatives, the price of those alternatives may rise and the price of the dirtier options fall in response, but this changes the potential to profit by investing, so investments shift from the dirtier to the cleaner options, and this counters the aforementioned price tendency. If a threshold is reached (mass market advantage, technological breakthrough (hastened by investment)), the price of a cleaner option can even fall, but pulling more investment in as well as more demand.

    What would get in the way of this is the inelasticity of – proxy demand ? -image demand ? – I don’t know if there is a particular term for it, but it is demand for a quality or quantity which has traditionally been used as a proxy for real value – the actual object of the demand, which may now no longer be accurate. And then there is also the force of habit. And problems with large-scale organization (requirements that groups of people need to agree to change before any individual can benifit from a decision to follow that change – for example, if we abandoned neck ties, we might be more comfortable, but there would have to be an agreement reached to no longer use that as a signal for seriousness (?)…
    —-
    (it’s like deciding that a revision of word definitions would confer an advantage even after retooling/adaptation costs, but the retooling step cannot happen without some large scale agreement (although actually word usage does change over time in some cases)…)
    —-
    … – I don’t know if that would have any effect on climate or anything much, but it’s an example of how it is hard to change within a system. It may in a way be a negative sum game – without an understanding among parties to move together, those who venture out take a great risk.

    I don’t see those problems as arguments against the tax but as arguments for auxiliary policies, such as changes in building codes (skylights and, as conditions warrant, incentives for solar roofs (electricity and/or hot water, depending on latitude, climate, landscaping) (note that these policies can be formulated as functions of variables and thus avoid the one-size-doesn’t-fit-all issue) and targeted incentives for cars, buildings, and appliances. And demonstration projects.

    And the potential of future mass market advantage is a good reason for government support of related R&D at least. (the power source that will not be named that is used a lot in France doesn’t seem a good candidate for government R&D, since it is already a mature industry – or is there some reason they would not pay for research into new fuel cycles?)

    For domestic policy, the tax itself should come with a tariff on imports (and possibly subsidy on exports) in proportion to differences in the price signal among countries, being careful to note differences in where the price signal is applied (if country A taxes coal out the ground, country B taxes coal as it is sold to a utilities and industries, and country C taxes electricity bills for electricity from coal and sales on whatever comes from industries using coal (in proportion to coal usage), then coal produced in B and sold to A should have a tariff, etc. – PS I favor the policies of A and B – I think it reduces the bureacracy costs to regulate the stream where there is the greatest flow per pipe.)

    In the absence of actual internation agreements to an international price signal, an agreement to allow such tariffs and subsidies without reacting to them with retribution could be quite helpful.

    Anyway, it makes perfect sense to have a tax given that emissions have a public cost, regardless of the market response to the tax, except in so far as the externality value is a function of the emissions trajectory. That’s the elegance of it. It should be acceptable to pro-free market people, and if it isn’t to some, at least the rest of us have the pleasure of calling them out on their lack of reason.

    And the public cost itself is not evenly distributed, so part of the revenue should go to reparations for climate change-injury, for example, to climate change refugees and the countries that accept them. Part should also go to adaptation, such as R&D on crops and investment in water infrastructure (desalination, aquaducts, etc.), improvements in medicine, and efforts to protect biodiversity, and protect ecological refuges, perhaps such as those at the higher elevation/higher latitude ends of their current ranges, in particular. There is the problem of the time difference between revenue collection and payout. Some subsidy for long-term clean energy/infrastructure/efficiency investments (like solar power) above and beyond what could otherwise be justified can be justified by the economic benifit to future generations to compensate for climate-change costs. Other options for spending, such as the equal-per-capita payback and the cuts in other taxes, could also be seen as economic investments that could indirectly help future generations. And then there’s the economic aid to regions with fossil-fuel (or deforestation, etc.) dependent economies – one way to do that without hurting the overall purpose is to plan clean energy projects or related industries (solar power conditioner/inverter manufacturing) in those regions, whichever would make more sense on a case-by-case basis.

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 19 Oct 2009 @ 11:50 PM

  134. Ah, but maybe we’ll get an increase in erosion and flush of nutrients and excess nitrogen rushing into the oceans — and if so, perhaps will counteract some of the pH change by causing a rapid increase in, say, algae growth. Green is good, right?

    Uh, oh.

    http://www.alphagalileo.org/ViewItem.aspx?ItemId=62016&CultureCode=en
    http://gsa.confex.com/gsa/2009AM/finalprogram/abstract_163685.htm

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 20 Oct 2009 @ 12:40 AM

  135. “(e.g., you leave your car at home when running it suddenly becomes too expensive, and you switch to using the train every day).”

    London Congestion charge was created to remove some cars from London, removing the endemic gridlock in the city.

    People stopped using their cars and took the train.

    Then they put in an extra charge because too many people were using the train at rush hour (the hour(s) before the 9 o clock start and the 6 o clock end of work).

    Demand isn’t ALLOWED to go elastic because they want the same revenue. Companies demand higher revenue growth, not just stasis, so it’s no good going there.

    It’s one reason why denialist lobbying works so well: the politicians know that a greener future mitigating AGW won’t be so easy to tax at the current levels. So they WANT it to be wrong. So the denialist lobby get a willing ear. If they’d had convincing proof, they’d have got their way 100%, but all they have is “we’re not CERTAIN”.

    Comment by Mark — 20 Oct 2009 @ 3:04 AM

  136. “And NO, your hose wouldn’t split at 100ft. That happens to equate to standard water pressure – a bit above 40 psi.”

    Sigh.

    I can’t get the hose to shoot the water 100ft across the ground with standard water pressure, Richard.

    A fireman’s hose may be able to (though their limit, if it does go to 12 stories, isn’t much higher than that) and that requires a big engine and four people to brace and hold it.

    Comment by Mark — 20 Oct 2009 @ 3:15 AM

  137. Gail @124: You may want to show the following paper to your friend:

    The Effect of Dairy Farming on Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica Abundance, Distribution and Reproduction
    Anders Pape Moller
    Journal of Applied Ecology, Vol. 38, No. 2 (Apr., 2001), pp. 378-389

    http://www.jstor.org/pss/2655805

    Comment by Chris S — 20 Oct 2009 @ 7:07 AM

  138. So, do Levitt and Dubner list Dunning and Kruger as co-authors on this chapter?

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 20 Oct 2009 @ 7:32 AM

  139. It’s worth saying — and there are a number of interesting (and good) proposals that people have already put up — hat behavior change is not such an intractable problem.

    Look at it this way: in the US we had an unfortunate Civil War that ended the practice of slavery — even though the economic growth rates in the South were absolutely fantastic by 19th century (and even 20th century) standards. The South was once the equivalent of Saudi Arabia for cotton. The Brits reading this might remember that one of the big reasons for Britain seeking other countries to colonize was to find an alternative cotton source. (And they found one, which was one reason the British government was unwilling to go to war with the US to secure the supply from the CSA. The French were less squeamish about slavery, but also simply ramped up production in Ageria).

    But after the war we never went back to slavery, despite its obvious economic efficiency, assuming you disregard the horrific human cost. (Remember, the Emancipation Proclamation did not apply to Missouri or Kentucky, or Oklahoma — all slave holding territories. What is now West Virginia was less so, but still).

    Brazil didn’t even need a war to get rid of slavery, though they were late about it.

    But we got along without slave labor and continue to do so — in fact, with relatively small exceptions (in relation to the world as a whole) slavery is almost extinct. That’s a pretty big change in human behavior and it was by no means apparent at the time it was a good idea, from an economic standpoint.

    Or take the attitude towards having children in the workplace, or treating women as property — both common occurrences in the US until the 20s and the 50s, respectively. The changes in attitude started with a minority of the population, but eventually — and in a short time — became the norm.

    Human behavior is subject to all kinds of influences. Some by law, some by social pressure.

    Another thing, re: space launches. They are not cheap — it costs $100m or more to put s single communications satellite into orbit. The Russians will do it for $80m at the cheap end and ArianeSpace will hit you up for $120m or so. A space mirror of any size – and in an orbit that would leave it in the stationary position relative to the sun and earth (really, essentially in its own orbit around the sun, as it would have to be in a “locked” aspect w/r/t the Sun, rotating once per year but remaining in place over a certain point on the earth’s surface) is an expensive proposition. The Iridium company went bankrupt because cell phones were cheaper than satellite. That was a 66 satellite system that cost $7.5 billion.

    ICO Global is bankrupt, by the way. So is Sea Launch (though they claim they have a way out now). It is far from clear that any satellite company can operate minus subsidies (or at least doing military work to keep the lights on — Sea Launch would not do that, which denied them $200m/year in revenue at least).

    While the carbon cost — at least in terms of the way fuel is used — is low for space launches, the dollar cost is gigantic. I am not saying it couldn’t be made cheaper. But right now, and for at least the next decade or so, $100m per satellite is going to be the norm. More to get to the orbit necessary for the mirror idea to work.

    Prices by the way, I got by calling up the companies and insurance agents and asking. Fascinating method, that. :-)

    Comment by Jesse — 20 Oct 2009 @ 9:10 AM

  140. Thank you Chris S. Many foot bassetters are of the opinion that the reduction in the prevalence of local dairy farms has led to the elimination of hare, forcing the hounds to chase bunnies, which race in tedious circles before going to ground. Thus those of us in the field can follow the sport by standing still, instead of running over hill and dale, which has led inexorably to weight gain, ill health, and the necessity of purchasing larger clothing.

    Comment by Gail — 20 Oct 2009 @ 9:13 AM

  141. RE: 125

    Hey Thomas,

    Your question regarding the assumption of how much can be attributed to waste in the recent Oil Price run up would have been valid, if indeed it had only been short term and there had been anticipation that eventually the prices would come back down. In essence that was never the case. There was a near certainty that instead the new price would become the baseline into the future with each plateau acting as the comparative base for the next round of increases.

    In essence, we saw in 2005 the return of the pre-Katrina price base for gasoline around the May/June time frame (roughly $2.15-2.40/gallon). However, there was not the return to the $40/barrel of crude, instead the new base line appeared to be about $60/barrel.

    We then got into the bidding wars in which Texas crude Oil reached as high as $144.00/barrel. (Who do you think was doing the bidding? Who do you think would have benefited most from the run up? What do you think was the motivation was it for immediate cash returns or was it intended to raise the baseline from the old $40/barrel to the new standard of $70/barrel…?)

    The point, is at the time of the last run up there was already a strong move to decrease Oil consumption and content in our products. With the cost to the consumer rising to 200% and the cost to the supplier rising to 360% of the pre-Katrina price and $240 of the post-Katrina price there has been nearly 4 years of effort to reduce demand to a minimum.

    With there being no indication of a future price drop it was clear that those who were concerned with a 3% decrease in margin in their budgets would have reacted quickly to try to minimize the impact, meaning that all waste would have immediately been addressed. The end result was only about a 4.5% reduction in the daily demand. That was because economically that was all people could do to reduce their demand. Hence, economic waste was very likely addressed with as much of non-essential petroleum products being removed from manufactured materials. (IF, there is additional waste it has to be contained within the current technology base and that is the component that needs to be addressed, not human behaviour.)

    The conclusion is if a 100% rise is not enough to curb Oil demand how much is enough, well lets try a linear regression if 100% increase decreases Oil demand by 4.5% then to achieve a 50% demand decrease then Oil would have to cost 1111% more or roughly $66,000/barrel or at the current estimated gasoline cracking content per barrel of crude at 45 gallons it would cost roughly $1480 per gallon of gasoline wholesale.

    Even is you were to make the curve non-linear the eventual cost would have to rise significantly above $5/gallon of gasoline to get many to start making changes and it would likely have to reach levels in excess of $10/gallon to eliminate it as the fuel of choice moving forward.

    In short, energy costs now have reached the point that energy consumes nearly 12% of the average families budget. In lesser economic circles it is reaching closer to 20% and in larger economic circles it is likely reaching 2-4%. As more then 87% of the population is in the average to low income brackets that would suggest the there is more then ample pressure to remove waste at even a 100% increase in cost that we saw over the last 3 years, in my humble opinion…, hence my suggestion that economic motivation is not going to be enough to make the necessary changes. Instead we need a new technology baseline, so lets get cracking…

    Cheers!
    Dave Cooke

    Comment by L. David Cooke — 20 Oct 2009 @ 9:30 AM

  142. Jim Eager @ 119:

    I don’t think it does require perfect knowledge &c., it just requires us to be confident our inevitable mistakes will cost us less than $1tn/year worth of damage. I don’t think that rebuilding the world economy is much better understood or much less frought with danger (and it’s not just about frivolous ‘consumerism’, ultimately millions in the third world are going to die due to lost development that is instead used to pay for CO2 reduction): but the minimum price seems to be a lot lot higher.

    Comment by mdc — 20 Oct 2009 @ 11:51 AM

  143. RE: 141

    Hey All,

    Ooops, my poor diligence has caught up with me again… That is an increase of 1111% of $60 or an increase of roughly $666/barrel or around $16 per refined gallon of gasoline resulting in a price of about 2 pounds / liter. My apologies… (2 pounds / liter is intended to correct the initial error of 168 pounds / liter.)

    Cheers!
    Dave Cooke

    Comment by L. David Cooke — 20 Oct 2009 @ 11:56 AM

  144. mdc, What you fail to understand is that the current economy is not sustainable. It will collapse in the near term–and it would with or without climate change. Petroleum–which drove the economy for a hundred years–is basically finished. The question is what replaces it. If it’s coal, we’re cooked–literally. If it’s renewables and other non-carbon intensive energy sources we stand a chance.

    You seem to be succumbing to the delusion that what you don’t understand must be easier than what you do. The point is that we have clear scientific guidance on this issue. We can either go with what science tells us gives us the best chance of survival or we can go against it. Science or anti-science. Choose.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 20 Oct 2009 @ 12:04 PM

  145. Of course I’m always pleased to get a link from the lead article on RC, but in the present case it’s a bit off base I’m afraid.

    I did indeed write an article concerning the conventional usage of the word “adaptation” as contrasted with geoengineering, but it was this one.

    The article you referenced was making a different point, and one which I consider more important, though alas there was a meandering preamble which I’d have left out had I known you were going to link to it!

    The important point is this one: two very different classes of proposal are commonly going under the rubric of “geoengineering” these days. The confusion stands to be quite consequential.

    There is intervention in the carbon cycle on the one hand, which is necessary, curative and unlikely to be dangerous to first order. On the other hand there is direct intervention to the radiative balance, which as you point out is necessarily imperfect and merely symptomatic, and which carries enormous risks and enormous demands on climate theory.

    There is some question as to whether investigation of the second class of project should be supported. Perhaps it should, but the arguments in its favor are far more speculative and weaker than arguments supporting various strategies toward carbon sequestration.

    Putting both classes of idea under the rubric of “geoengineering” without qualification is a grave error. It’s understandable that the press is making that error, but the relevant scientific and engineering communities should be at pains to maintain the distinction.

    Comment by Michael Tobis — 20 Oct 2009 @ 1:40 PM

  146. Nice article, except that I think there is an unspoken implication that no form of geo-engineering has any validity. Some forms, such as may have the potential to buy us some much needed time, without any direct side effects. The Royal Society explored some of these in a
    recent paper
    .

    Comment by Dave Rado — 20 Oct 2009 @ 1:53 PM

  147. PS – please could the Preview button be restored when submitting comments? It’s very much easier to proof-read one’s post properly when in preview mode.

    Comment by Dave Rado — 20 Oct 2009 @ 1:58 PM

  148. Ray Ladbury @ 144: Neither coal nor renewables will replace oil. These are mass electricity generation systems, and oil is not used to generate electricity to any sigificant degree. The question of what we will use to power planes and trains, or make plastic, is an interesting one, but not one that is very relevant to this debate. Whatever it is, the energy required will either be solar (ie. biofuels) or more likely come from the electricity grid (ie. LH2, synthetic oil, etc.). Though I’m not sure what this has to do with what I said, if I’m entirely honest.

    As for science vs anti-science… no, not at all. Science can tell us what will happen if we do X. The people saying that ‘solution to CO2 problems’ will happen if we do ‘geo-engineering’ are apparently scientists. The question is then an economic and a political one. A cheap solution is better than an expensive one, all else being equal. Now it seems all else is not equal, but I’m not at all convinced that the downsides of geo-engineering cause more harm than the money saved does good.

    Comment by mdc — 20 Oct 2009 @ 2:14 PM

  149. re: nr 98

    Mark

    Where did I claim we HAVE CATS? Ever? In ANY thread? I pointed out that we NEED it, and it would be easier to get it and a HELL of a lot safer than adding yet another massive change to the planet’s atmospheric chemistry.

    This isn’t an either-or issue. We’re up against it in terms of time and we CAN get CATS, it is more a matter of engineering refinements and engineering structures than it is a matter of scientific unknowns.

    Something like Venturestar for human transport and some form of mass driver for bulk transport and you’re already mostly done. We canned the project with all the major parts produced.. it was 95% built. One person appeared before a Senate sub-committee and it all-went-poof. All the science is done. What is left is Engineering.

    Besides which, the cost of simple medium sized mirrors using inflatable structures is quite small. There’s no “fixing” involved.

    The need is for something that buys us time to change (to cast iron underwear) once it becomes clear that Mother Nature is going to give us the spanking we have earned.

    PEOPLE, particularly in our media addicted population, aren’t going to respond until it starts happening in obvious ways and we know that THAT is going to be way to late to stop the process. The good news and the bad news is that they will then crucify any denialists they find and there will be no resistance permitted. The revolution will be profound. However, it WILL be too late then unless we have some way to rebalance the energy while the planet (and we) re-sequester the CO2. Somehow.

    The cost of ANYTHING up there once CATS is achieved is by definition, small. The first word is “Cheap”.

    The benefits are immense.

    But it isn’t scientific speculation or research… it is just engineering.

    Engineers. The “Rodney Dangerfield’s” of the community :-)

    BJ

    Comment by BJ_Chippindale — 20 Oct 2009 @ 2:16 PM

  150. BJ Chippendale, when your theory is all “jam tomorrow” when we need “jam today”, you have nothing.

    You *pre-suppose* that cheap access to space (I assume that’s what CATS is) will happen.

    But that’s like pre-supposing that we will be able to cryogenically freeze people to fix ailments in the future.

    A wish.

    Nothing more.

    “Jam tomorrow” is not an answer.

    We don’t have cheap access, we can’t make a mirror in space.

    If we don’t know how to get cheap access today, we have to wait until we find out how. Then wait until it’s tested. Then wait until we get a mirror up there. Then wait to see if we did it right.

    It’s a lot of “jam tomorrow”.

    Why delay our jam today so that you can get your jetpack and flying space-car tomorrow?

    Comment by Mark — 20 Oct 2009 @ 2:50 PM

  151. “The people saying that ’solution to CO2 problems’ will happen if we do ‘geo-engineering’ are apparently scientists. The question is then an economic and a political one. A cheap solution is better than an expensive one, all else being equal.”

    But they are not equal.

    Jam tomorrow again.

    Lots of these geoengineering projects are “if we get this and this and this done, then we can reduce CO2″.

    But the longer we wait to reverse the damage and the longer we carry on business as usual, the more expensive the cheap solution tomorrow will be.

    Net
    Present
    Value

    Or Opportunity costs.

    If we mitigate NOW we have more options later.

    Including geoengineering.

    But the geoengineering should be ***after*** we’ve solved the problem of doing the damage in the first place. Without that, geoengineering cannot fix our problems: we’d just do worse and hope the engineering will be up to the task.

    Comment by Mark — 20 Oct 2009 @ 2:56 PM

  152. Re. mdc, #148:

    Neither coal nor renewables will replace oil. These are mass electricity generation systems, and oil is not used to generate electricity to any sigificant degree.

    Have you ever heard of electric cars? They couldn’t replace it completely but they could replace a very large proportion of it. The technology is already here, it just needs public investment in battery charging infrastructure, working with companies like Better Place.

    Comment by Dave Rado — 20 Oct 2009 @ 3:57 PM

  153. mdc, let me spellit out for you. You are claiming that making radical changes to the global economy is risky. I don’t disagree, but point out that it is inescapable due to the end of the petroleum era. It is not a question of whether the economy must change, but of how. If we emphasize renewables and noncarbon intensive technologies, we have a hope in hell of creating a sustainable economy. If we opt for coal, natural gas, tar sands, etc., we screw ourselves. That simple. Science or anti-science. Choose.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 20 Oct 2009 @ 4:15 PM

  154. Michael Tobis and the Royal Society make the same important distinction

    — carbon management, which addresses all our problems, but slowly
    — radiation management, which addresses warming but not ocean pH

    Doing carbon management first doesn’t make radiation management harder.
    Doing radiation management first allows carbon mismanagement to worsen.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 20 Oct 2009 @ 4:15 PM

  155. Making geoengineering work would require outfitting the IPCC with a shiny, but large, set of black helicopters. Something that the delayers might not like

    Comment by Eli Rabett — 20 Oct 2009 @ 9:32 PM

  156. We put a mirror in space in the 1960′s Mark. It wasn’t that hard. Echo 1a was launched in August 1960. 75 Kg.

    You are doing a big song-and-dance production about how hard this is and how expensive it is.

    You are wrong about whether we could do it even with the access to space we currently have. We could.

    You are wrong about whether we can get CATS. We’ve done all the hard work and compared to the scientific questions and unknowns about all the other geo-modification options it is quite straightforward engineering. Your rancor and ridicule is not called for mate… and your resorting to them is a clear indication that you don’t have a REAL argument.

    Finally, the entire point to any of these solutions is that they aren’t very likely to be used, or even taken seriously, until the AGW problem becomes so real that Joe Six-Pack recognizes the problem and tells Goldman-Sachs-The-Planet and Planet-EXxon (they must have one of their own stashed away somewhere to be so intent on trashing this one) to go stick it where the solar irradiance can’t isn’t measurable.

    That’s too late for any actual rational approach to succeed. Buying us time at that late juncture will work for us because at THAT point the delayers and deniers will be in hiding or strung up from convenient lampposts.

    I spend a LOT of time arguing for more controls on CO2 emissions and tougher limits but I recognize human nature. We have Buckley’s of getting enough “jam today” to make it work and you are using bad logic and worse argument to make a bad case to do nothing but try to make the members of the human species do something completely foreign to it. Cooperate as nations. I just testified in parliamentary special committee to try to put NZ back into the “marginally sane” column. Not sure it did any good at all.

    Which is EXACTLY my point. The “jam today” effort is completely at the mercy of politics. The population has not figured out the truth. We have to be ready to do whatever is necessary when it does because only when the people start tossing the deniers and delayers out of their cushy positions and DEMANDING action are you going to get any damned jam at all.

    … and it is too late at that point for simply reducing the CO2 emissions.

    respectfully
    BJ

    Comment by BJ_Chippindale — 20 Oct 2009 @ 11:45 PM

  157. Re my 133 – my point about an emissions tax being elegant and making sense whether or not it significantly reduces emissions:

    1. I and many others would hope it does reduce emissions, or at least helps (along with some supporting policies).

    2. If the optimal trajectory is indeed an emissions reduction of size x(t) (taking into account the cost of the policy mechanism itself (includes bureacratic waste and corruption), which is likely small by comparison, unless someone really screws it up (by fiddling around with the package and granting too many special deals without justification…), then the tax justified by market economic principles is the tax that results in that size of emissions reduction x(t), as the free market is supposed to tend to optimize things.

    3. Even those who think adaptation or geoengineering are either better or more likely to happen should be able in principle to get behind such a tax because adaptation costs, direct losses, and geoengineering (should that be persued) should in fairness be compensated by the benificiaries of emitting activity.

    And so on if CCS/biochar/carbonate mineral production is chosen – in which case, obviously, effectively sequestered emissions (in so far as it is not to the detriment of some other thing) should be paid for at the same rate as the tax on emissions.

    —–

    About inelastic demand.

    I have an inelastic demand for chocolate (at least at the moment I thought to write this, I thought I did), and orange juice. And I have an inelastic demand to live further north than those things are generally produced (don’t like venomous ___, malaria, etc., enjoy snow and fall colors, don’t like heat and humidity (except when it leads to thunderstorms), some other stuff). Thus I will continue to pay more to transport chocolate and orange juice to where I live. But this needn’t be for oil – I would pay more to get them to me via solar-powered electric processes. I would also pay more if there is a worker fair wage issue. At least I like to think I would.

    ———-

    Re 141 Dave Cooke “hence my suggestion that economic motivation is not going to be enough to make the necessary changes. Instead we need a new technology baseline, so lets get cracking…”

    Yes, and fast.

    That was interesting.

    But just to be clear, I think many people consider technological changes to be a change in human behavior (it requires humans deciding to invest in R&D, shift consumer demand among options, etc.). And an emissions tax or other such price signal should be an incentive to make progress in technology and strategy faster than otherwise.

    ———

    Just a thought, no math done on it, so maybe it’s a really bad idea, but if we were going to go space-based –

    Over thousands or perhaps millions of years (in preparation for Milankovitch cycles, changes in mantle convection and mountain building, the inexorable brightenning of the sun over geologic time), mirrors might be a way to go. Many small mass-produced mirrors might be launced with remote control gyroscopes and solar powered electric propulsion (or sailing on the solar wind with magnets or whatever they come up with). Some will be lost. But it wouldn’t be catastrophic. Except for the space junk issue… Although these would tend to be at one of those Lagrangian points (right term?)…

    Although for some of the same reasons as mentioned about SO2 injections, would any such scheme be eschewed in favor of riding out orbital cycle-forced changes (as those might occur more slowly than potential catastrophic failues of the geoengineering, and would benifit science with observational opportunities, and are part of the beauty of nature)?

    Over the short term, what about blasting some dust off an asteroid… Well, there’s the space junk issue, and if too many fell to Earth, there’s heating there, which would probably outweight any CO2-sequestration by Ca-bearing silicate mineral dust… oh well.

    I’m guessing the safest radiation-management strategy would be reflective balloons (also power stations) (wouldn’t do much) and tarps made of used candy and junk-food wrappers (another size problem)… And that still has problems.

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 21 Oct 2009 @ 12:08 AM

  158. It’s a great piece Gavin.

    Most of the wrong-headed climate chapter in the book is inspired by what must have been a very big day out for the authors at Nathan Myhrvold’s “Intellectual Ventures”, a smart new firm where geoengineering fantasization seems to be the game the smarties play.

    In a NYT piece in desperate defence of the book’s manifold bloopers Myhrvold quips that “two wrongs don’t make a right”. Very true, that idea is actually the simplest put down of the entire class of geoengineering “solutions”. Geoengineering would purport to address the single (though probably most serious) negative aspect of fossil fuel burning – greenhouse warming enhancement – with a further anthropogenic intervention into natural systems that itself would be replete with at least several well understood negative externalities from day one, plus an unknowable number of others to rapidly become apparent as the non-solution was scaled up to any size capable of having therapeutic effect on the original problem.

    Somebody else recently referred to Heath Robinson machines and that’s the way the pictures play in my mind: mad gangs of bearded Myhrvold lookalikes scrambling about in a Leviathan maze of gears, levers, skyhooks and thingamebobs all belching smoke, rattling and wheezing, everything connected to everything else (in a funny way, not a good way), the whole just seconds away from collapsing into the smoking ruins of what was once the most beautiful blue planet in the Universe.

    Geoengineering is an all-but guaranteed way to make a bad situation worse by the same kind of half smart thinking that got you into trouble in the first place, of trying to extract yourself from the hole you’ve just dug by digging yourself in deeper. It’d be as Gavin has it, a spraying of scent over streets steaming with horse poo all because the political power of horse owners had proven greater than that of the far smarter and more useful automotive engineers. We can do better than these guys would have us believe.

    Comment by john frankis — 21 Oct 2009 @ 12:16 AM

  159. mdc:

    ultimately millions in the third world are going to die due to lost development that is instead used to pay for CO2 reduction

    Ultimately human civilization as a whole is going to die, within about 40 years, if we do nothing to stop global warming, and that will result in a hell of a lot more deaths than mitigating CO2 will. In 1970 12% of the Earth’s land surface was “severely dry” by the Palmer Drought Severity Index. In 2002 that figure was 30% (Dai et al. 2004). People tend to die when they have no food to eat.

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 21 Oct 2009 @ 4:09 AM

  160. Mark @ 151: I don’t know if you actually stopped reading my post where your quote cuts off, but just to be clear: I don’t think ‘all else is equal’. What I’m not convinced of is that avoiding these additional harms of geo-engineering are worth $1tn/year. As far as I am concerned this is a quantitative problem. Your claimed speed advantages for CO2 reductions (are you serious, by the way?) may be worth $1tn/year, or they may not, but it doesn’t seem at all obvious that they are.

    Dave Rado @ 152: Electric cars are a storage solution, not a generation solution. All you’ve done is moved the problem up one stage, to the bulk electricity generation (which is what I said, incidentally). I have my doubts about electric cars and the ability of state subsidies to radically improve technology with pretty fundamental limitations, but that’s another post.

    Ray Ladbury @ 153: Again, I don’t see what connection this has to my argument. Petroleum probably will increase in price until its use becomes much rarer than in the past. But I don’t see how this handwaves aside the costs of either:

    1. Removing non-oil sources of CO2.

    2. Phasing out oil before it ceases to be economically beneficial to use it.

    —————————————–

    I’m glad my comments are generating such discussion ;) I think the best exposition of my views I’ve seen so far is given here – http://econlog.econlib.org/archives/2009/10/where_the_pigov.html# (not quoted or written by me, unfortunately).

    Comment by mdc — 21 Oct 2009 @ 5:50 AM

  161. Re 133:

    Jim,

    Your:

    “Because it just corrects an externality, after all. Imagine if fuel just happened to cost that much. It would, by the same logic, hurt the poor.”

    There is a major political difference between a tax rise and a price rise. You can vote out a tax rise.

    The UK government quite casually gave a tax break to the better off accompanied by a large percentage tax hike on the lowest paid. They had to turn all sorts of cart-wheels to try to unpick it but never did totally fix the injustice. It was not just the poor who thought it unjust.

    Also the political climate under which a government can legislate to produce a less worse future may be coming to an end. There is a limit to the number of times a government can lessen the quality of life, justified by scary projections into the future.

    My case is simple, I doubt that artificially inflating fuel prices justified by producing a less worse future could be sustained for the period necessary.

    Alex

    Comment by Alexander Harvey — 21 Oct 2009 @ 7:50 AM

  162. John Frankis, you make good points. Aside from the acidifying oceans, geoengineering also does nothing to halt and reduce the other effects of spewing greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, namely that the toxins are causing rapidly increasing incidents of cancer, emphysema, asthma in humans – and animals now too – as well as poisoning vegetation. Do we have to wait until crops fail to notice that ozone and peroxyacetyl nitrates interfere with their ability to photosynthesize?

    Anybody who thinks we can find a technical fix out of this without ceasing to burn fuel, whether fossil or plant-based, is mad.

    Comment by Gail — 21 Oct 2009 @ 7:51 AM

  163. Re my own 160:

    I really should have added a clarification: I doubt that it could be achieved without a revolutionary government.

    “We will force you to be green.”

    Alex

    Comment by Alexander Harvey — 21 Oct 2009 @ 8:09 AM

  164. RE: 133 and 156

    Hey Patrick,

    I would that your suggestion that you could use economics to change the technology infrastructure were true. If you were to total the cost of the infrastructure change for just one of the alternatives which could supply about 15% of the energy derived from Oil it would top 1 trillion dollars. By the same token if you were to take 15% of 83 million barrels of Oil at the target $70/barrel you would look at a daily cost of roughly $870 million daily or $320 billion annually.

    The issue is the $1 trillion substitute is only available for a maximum of 10 hours a day with an average of 7 hours active energy generation. Add in the cost of restructuring the current base to adapt to the new resource and you are looking at nearly a 5 year cost recovery with a 10 year implementation period. (The Electric car solution re-powered with solar.)

    Going further with a simpler solution, let us just change over the liquid fuel base to a different primary fuel. Say let’s replace 25% of gasoline with one of the various forms of alcohols. Ethanol or methanol doesn’t matter they are still going to require massive biomass to be placed in the digester.

    Matter of fact, you can likely add in a methane cycle to try to glean out the residual energy from the cellulose fibers through anaerobic activity. In BTU you are looking at a value per acre suggesting the necessity to offset nearly 30% or arable land, of which we are currently using 80% either follow or actively being used to produce food supplies. (20% of the arable land is actually used for housing believe it or not…)

    Not that I am saying this makes it impossible only that to convert the current systems to an alternative is unlikely to meet the current demands and usage cycles while you increase the costs of energy. In short you are only putting consumers of energy into an economic vise without offering a viable alternative.

    So what do you see as the path forward? Personally, I see that solar is next to perfect for Electricity as it is at it’s peak output when there is a peak demand made by businesses. That would at least reduce the coal demand by about 30%, if implemented universally. However, we need governments and industry to work together to actively make this conscious effort. Currently, most patents regarding Solar alternatives are held by Oil companies… maybe it is time to regulate corporations and write a few laws that prevent not only monopolies from forming; but, also prevent restricting competition.

    As to liquid/gaseous fuels, I am a big fan of CNG/LNG solutions, the primary output is water and CO2 and can be created out of waste biomass with the composted remains returning increasing hydrolyzation, and nutrients while returning carbon to the ground, the combination of which would promote further crop growth.

    In combination with Biomass NG and Mineral CNG actually is one of the better alternatives forward IMHO and even reduces the infrastructure costs. (The buried pipelines already exist for distribution. The only change would be a the dispensing station, with a relative cost on the order of 10% for the solar installation. The change-out for vehicles is the change of the fuel injectors to a CNG device and fuel tank conversion, or roughly $4000.00 for a conversion and less then $1000.00 modification in new vehicles. (See the Honda GX…) The point is if and when fuel cells come out the fuel infrastructure will already be in-place. If you wanted to drop the CO2 generation at that point you would only need to increase the solar banks and add hydrolysis systems to the grid.

    The issue I am no expert I am only a layman and have no say in the way forward. Even if you were to remove the nay sayers and congressional lobbyists to make this change, without bringing the industries forward or mandating a change (which is unlikely in a democratic society or even in a representative republic) there will be nothing more then thumb twiddling. Sad to say without the legislation outlawing the current technology it becomes a matter of horse to water… The issue is economics is no motivation, nor does government want to make a investment only to have it fall flat as the Earth underlying their plans shifts…

    Hence I repeat, rather then standing on the side of the road and claiming use the economic vise why not pave the way forward and direct the traffic to a new pathway…?

    Cheers!
    Dave Cooke

    PS: Radiation management is not the way forward as has been pointed out by many much better at the technology then I. If you want to manage radiative content in the atmosphere you need to reduce the radiative sinks in the atmosphere… plain and simple… ldc (Though I did like the idea of calcium carbonate and aluminum sulfate dust being emitted by aircraft flying above 30k feet. The issue remains that only buys time and does nothing for the change to the new path.)

    Comment by L. David Cooke — 21 Oct 2009 @ 8:09 AM

  165. mdc, are you being intentionally obtose? My point is that even if climate were not at issue, our economy would be headed for massive and rapid change. The fact that climate is a critical concern makes the change all the more imperative and also restricts the solutions available to us to those which do not increase CO2 emissions. This is not optional. This is not a matter of “can we afford it”. To say that we cannot afford a sustainable civilization is to say that we cannot, in the long run, afford civilization. Got it now?

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 21 Oct 2009 @ 9:06 AM

  166. BJ Chippindale,
    You are not going to see cheap access to space in your lifetime. You are not going to see a fleet of mirrors reflecting sunlight away from Earth in your lifetime. The largest similar system currently on the books is the sunshade for the James Webb Space Telescope. It is about the size of a tennis court–and its deployment is a bitch. Once there, it has to deal with a harsh radiation environment and maintain its position as the solar wind tries to move it. This is a fantasy.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 21 Oct 2009 @ 9:11 AM

  167. This is what Nathan Myhrvold does: announce vaporware to paralyze competition.
    http://boycottnovell.com/2009/06/21/nathan-myhrvold-antitrust-memo/

    “… The purpose of announcing early like this is to freeze the market …. In this respect it is JUST like the original Windows announcement. This time we have a lot better development team, so the time between announce and ship will be a lot smaller. Nevertheless we need to get our message out there.”

    Today’s version:

    Don’t change anything. Wait until what we promise to sell gets developed.
    Our climate product will be just as good as the first version of Windows was.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 21 Oct 2009 @ 9:42 AM

  168. ““We will force you to be green.”

    Alex”

    It worked for the US:

    “We will force you to give us liberty.”

    Or did the founding fathers ask the British government for consensus on the idea of home-rule in the American colony?

    Comment by Mark — 21 Oct 2009 @ 10:01 AM

  169. “There is a major political difference between a tax rise and a price rise.”

    Not if it is an essential.

    Food.
    Shelter.
    Electric power.

    And petrol, unless you only work locally (and this is highly unlikely: you don’t have a job for life any more, and so you’re likely to be sacked from work at least once. Try limiting yourself to walking or cycling distance from home for working).

    There’s no difference.

    Just like tax, you can’t not pay it.

    “You can eat less”

    Well you can earn less too. And that reduces the tax you pay.

    Comment by Mark — 21 Oct 2009 @ 10:18 AM

  170. “What I’m not convinced of is that avoiding these additional harms of geo-engineering are worth $1tn/year.”

    OK, can you please let me know if that is supposed to be 1 trillion dollars?

    Now, can you explain what that means?

    Will money disappear if we don’t do geoengineering???

    “As far as I am concerned this is a quantitative problem. Your claimed speed advantages for CO2 reductions (are you serious, by the way?) may be worth $1tn/year, or they may not, but it doesn’t seem at all obvious that they are.”

    Uh, we can cut back CO2 at any time we wish.

    Just stop burning so much of it.

    INSTANT reduction in CO2 output.

    And why the obsession with 1tn a year?

    You really are going to have to explain why this money is what has to be made or spent or given to geoengineering or whatever is coming from.

    Comment by Mark — 21 Oct 2009 @ 10:22 AM

  171. “We put a mirror in space in the 1960’s Mark. It wasn’t that hard. Echo 1a was launched in August 1960. 75 Kg.”

    Wow. To affect the solar radiation intercepted at earth, this must be spread pretty darn thin, BJ.

    Though I have to ask: after being beaten that thin, did it actually reflect any light at all? Or did it get evaporated by the sunlight falling on it..?

    Comment by Mark — 21 Oct 2009 @ 10:26 AM

  172. Re mdc @142: “ultimately millions in the third world are going to die due to lost development that is instead used to pay for CO2 reduction”

    A statement of belief that assumes 1) that same expenditure will otherwise be made on so-called “third world” development, and 2) that none of the expenditure on CO2 reduction will be made in the “third world.”

    Comment by Jim Eager — 21 Oct 2009 @ 10:42 AM

  173. Ray Ladbury @ 165: I don’t think you understand the economics of the situation. ‘Peak oil’ would, climate change considerations aside, result in a rise in the price of oil such that either present uses became unviable and/or alternatives became cheaper. This would be a ‘natural’ transition over a fairly long period of time.

    The $1.2tn Stern report CO2 reduction proposals are costs additional to this, covering two major cost errors: the first is the opportunity cost of switching away from oil before oil ceases to be economically viable, and the second is the opportunity cost of shifting non-oil CO2-generating energy sources to less cost effective sources. The latter alone presently makes up the majority of CO2 producing energy consumption.

    PS. As hilarious as it is reading you repeatedly insulting my intelligence in badly spelt English, it’s not a very decent way to behave, now is it?

    Jim Eager @ 172: It’s nothing to do with “expenditure”. There will be less wealth available to be consumed than otherwise. When you’re considering sums in the trillions, the effects cannot be localised. The first world will experience ill-effects as well, but a reduction in growth rate, or even negative growth rate, for us by and large just means less luxury. In the fast-growing third world economies like India and China, it is the difference between life and death for many.

    Comment by mdc — 21 Oct 2009 @ 12:44 PM

  174. Mark @ 170: [sorry for the double post, but I didn't see this before]

    Dollar notes won’t disappear if we choose CO2 reduction, but wealth will disappear, yes. Wealth is not a conserved quantity: if we adopt processes that require more input to get a certain amount of output, there will be less output. This is even worse than it sounds, because growth tends to be exponential. The equivalent of losing $1tn/year in 50 or 100 years’ time – when we stand to benefit from it all – is absolutely vast. Assuming a modest real terms interest rate of just 2%, the lost value of $1tn/year in 100 years time is more than $300tn – or total 5x current world GDP; at 4%, this becomes a stupendous $1.3 quadrillion dollars, which is probably more than the sum total of mankind’s production up until now.

    So I really think that we should take this wealth loss seriously. On a par with how seriously we take the climate change in the first place, which shouldn’t be surprising, since Stern calculated his $1.2/tn year spending plan on the basis of how much he thought the economic damage of the climate change would be worth. If we do geo-engineering then wealth will, of course, still be lost, but the claim is that very significantly less will be.

    As to which has a speed advantage: it is of course possible, in a philosophical sense, for us even to suddenly end all CO2 emissions. But that will not actually happen, and the evidence of the various intergovernmental attempts to agree to reduce CO2 indicates this is a long drawn out process. Not because countries are against the principle of stopping climate change, but because they (probably rightfully) weigh the value of the wealth loss highly in their calaculations: developing, aspirant third world countries especially, but also countries that perceive themselves as having a strategic position to maintain, such as the US or Russia. In this regard, I think a cheap solution is very much more likely to be implemented quickly, because it side-steps a lot of these problems.

    Comment by mdc — 21 Oct 2009 @ 1:03 PM

  175. mdc wrote @173: “There will be less wealth available to be consumed than otherwise.”

    Hogwash. Wealth will be invested in production and installation of solar-voltaic, solar-termal and wind turbine hardware, among other things, and that production will generate more wealth. And were do you think that hardware will be manufactured? China is already the world’s largest producer of solar voltaic panels, and is on-track to achieve the largest installed base of wind generation. That hardly sounds like a death sentence to any rational mind.

    Comment by Jim Eager — 21 Oct 2009 @ 1:28 PM

  176. > I don’t think you understand the economics

    http://www.sciencenews.org/view/generic/id/48586/title/Science_%2B_the_Public__Report_tallies_hidden_energy_costs

    http://www.nap.edu/catalog.php?record_id=12794

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 21 Oct 2009 @ 1:29 PM

  177. mdc, Actually, suggesting that you are being deliberately obtuse is giving your intelligence the benefit of the doubt, as the alternative is to conclude that you simply aren’t bright enough to comprehend what you read.

    Let me spell it out more simply.

    Sustainalbe=able to maintain itself into the indefinite future.

    Oil=finite resource= not sustainable

    Coal, likewise.

    Environmental collapse as global population climbs to 9 billion=really, really bad

    So, if you are saying that we cannot afford to develop a sustainable economy in the 30 or 40 years before we cause environmental collapse, then you are saying we cannot afford civilization. I don’t agree. Now is that simple enough, or should I try it in monosyllables?

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 21 Oct 2009 @ 1:56 PM

  178. mdc – Stern $ 1.2 trillion / year ?

    Are you sure that wasn’t $1.2 trillion dollars total over several decades?

    Because I thought the Stern report concluded that a substantial mitigation scenario would ultimately delay economic growth by maybe a couple years out of 100, or something like that. So you’d have to wait until 2099 for the global GDP (would that just be GP, since there is not any interplanetary trade as of yet?) to rise to what it would instead have achieved in 2096 or 2098. Which – I’m not sure, is not taking into account the savings from avoided climate change, which might actually put GDP in 2099 at a value that it instead wouldn’t have achieved until maybe 2120 (?) or 2199 or 2555 or 3200 or 10,000 or 100,000 or 1,000,000 or 500,000,000 (?), depending on how things go.

    Re 161,163 Alexander Harvey (I think you were actually responding to me, not Jim – its okay) – yes, the politics is different, and I’m just poking fun at that. Which is that it is funny to me that some conservatives will defend the poor against emissions taxes but would just assume do nothing to help the poor if prices rose for any other reason, apparently.

    Re space mirrors – actually, the shade can be anything with opacity and could just be a bunch of space debris (although that could pose problems as I remarked earlier); it only need be a mirror or organized set of mirrors if it is to serve some additional purpose (asteroid defense, perhaps?).

    Re L. David Cooke – 164 – nice comment. But I think the $1 trillion/year is a bit high. For the US energy use in particular, with (prices vary and subject to overall decline), let’s just say $3/peak W including balance of system for solar power (could include ‘CAES’, thermal storage, chemical storage, also HVDC), replacing the primary energy consumption (~ 3 TW) with electrical equivalent (~ 1 TW) (Yes, technological issues there, I know…), with module fleet average solar insolation of ~ 200 W/m2 (so it would be $15/average W not counting fill factor related losses and slow degradation – will get to that), the price tag comes to $15 trillion. WOW! But wait… how long will these things last? Some of the most expensive parts might last typically 50, 60, … 100 years. With the degradation over 100 years – supposing 0.5 % annual intrinsic loss + 0.5 % storm/fire/etc module area losses, we’d get around 60-years worth of installed power over 90 to 100 maximum years of service…

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 21 Oct 2009 @ 4:07 PM

  179. Alex:

    I really should have added a clarification: I doubt that it could be achieved without a revolutionary government.

    “We will force you to be green.”

    If we don’t switch away from fossil fuel use on a massive scale voluntarily and under a democratic system, we will do so under the lash–or human civilization will fall. There are no other alternatives. I prefer the first.

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 21 Oct 2009 @ 4:29 PM

  180. #173 mdc

    First, what is your real name?

    Second, what is wealth in your opinion?

    Third, are you under the impression that dollars = value, or are a realistic representation of productivity? Or that dollars are merely a medium of exchange that is intended to represent value. Or…?

    What is value? is it the cost of a product, or the worth?

    There are so many arbitrary realities here is is difficult to have a proper conversation. Even the standard definitions do not accurately represent the reality due to the multitude of perspective biases in the equation of discussion.

    From what I gather from the discussion, people are considering the value of SO2 injections into the atmosphere without understanding the ramifications and costs. Everything is estimated based on so & so, or such & such.

    There are a lot of people that think, including my uncle George Reisman, that ‘if’ global warming is a problem, then humans will figure out some new technology that will fix it.

    The naiveté of the assumption is dangerous however. It indicates a fundamental misunderstanding of the scope of the problem and mankind’s capacity to reasonably, rationally, and economically deal with the problem.

    For the sake of a reference point, do you believe global warming is human caused? And, if so, what is your thinking on mitigation and adaptation, as well as economic viability in the context of proposed solutions?

    Also, how bad do you think the problem of global warming is, from an economic perspective as in what should we commit to the problem?

    Comment by John P. Reisman (OSS Foundation) — 21 Oct 2009 @ 4:34 PM

  181. mdc – You misunderstand Stern

    “Since if it’s anything less than $1tn/year, geo-engineering is still beating the Stern report’s proposals for CO2 reduction.”

    But we are going to spend something like $30 tn on the energy system in the next 30 years anyway, JUST TO STAND STILL. The /incremental/ cost is about $1 tn over that period. So somewhat less than $100bn per annum.

    “ultimately millions in the third world are going to die due to lost development that is instead used to pay for CO2 reduction”

    This is just bollocks. The idea that we were going to spend the money on the poor but we spent it on climate instead is crap. We are going to spend THE VAST MAJORITY of that cash investing in coal-fired power stations, coal mines, oil wells, refineries, petrol stations, cars etc. etc. etc. We aren’t giving it to Africa.

    Not to mention the environmental (not climate) costs of soil, water and (particularly) air quality. Any ideas how much air pollution from coal costs the average Chinese peasant a year?

    We are INVESTING literally trillions in dead-end technology. And the oil is running out.

    Do you want to invest, let’s say, a conservative $25 trillion in fossil technology to 2030, just to stand still?

    Or a (very generous) $30 trillion on clean tech (including nuclear, I confess) that will generate the same amount of energy, and cause a fraction of the environmental damage AND give us sustainable energy until the sun dies AND not wreck the climate?

    Or spend $0 (but end up living in the stone age)?

    The choice is yours. Well, ours, actually.

    Comment by Silk — 21 Oct 2009 @ 5:29 PM

  182. Hey Gavin. Did you guys see this? Looks like you’re ahead in the poll…

    http://www.thecrunchychicken.com/2009/10/hot-men-of-climatology.html

    Comment by Darren — 21 Oct 2009 @ 5:49 PM

  183. Not including interest rates (for lo-ans) or dividends (equity), etc.:
    in inflation-adjusted (constant real) money:

    cents/kWh for energy investments with average power = 0.2 * capacity, for equivalent years of service (actual number of years will have to be a bit longer to make up for degradation, and some modules will have to have a longer service lift to make up for losses in other modules):

    (using 8.766 kWh/(W-year), which is an average with a leap year every 4 years)

    ____equivalent years: ___ 10 | ___ 15 | ___ 20 | ___ 30 | ___ 40 | ___ 50 | ___ 60
    $/peak W|$/average W|
    ___ 4.0 | ____ 20.0 | 22.815 | 15.210 | 11.408 |_ 7.605 |_ 5.704 |_ 4.563 |_ 3.803
    ___ 3.0 | ____ 15.0 | 17.112 | 11.408 |_ 8.556 |_ 5.704 |_ 4.278 |_ 3.422 |_ 2.852
    ___ 2.0 | ____ 10.0 | 11.408 |_ 7.605 |_ 5.704 |_ 3.803 |_ 2.852 |_ 2.282 |_ 1.901
    ___ 1.5 | _____ 7.5 |_ 8.556 |_ 5.704 |_ 4.278 |_ 2.852 |_ 2.139 |_ 1.711 |_ 1.426
    ___ 1.0 | _____ 5.0 |_ 5.704 |_ 3.803 |_ 2.852 |_ 1.901 |_ 1.426 |_ 1.141 |_ 0.951

    ………..

    US energy expenditures now about $1 trillion/year.

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 21 Oct 2009 @ 6:15 PM

  184. RE: 178

    Hey Patrick,

    I would suggest that installed costs of Solar Systems will likely be nearer to $5/watt by next Spring. If the newer manufacturing systems (printed and organic) come on line they could drop to $2/watt by 2011.

    The main difference in cost will be the efficiency of conversion. 18% efficient poly-crystalline can be obtained for about $3/watt today, only the current panels are too small in size, if they were issued in 1m^2 panels they would come closer to a 60-80 watt output and they would teeter on the edge of being useful at that point. 28% efficient Mono-crystalline are running about $6-7/watt and are dropping slowly as more manufacturing is coming on line, “the big problem had been the silicon ingot availability and the Fab time availability…”

    The point is with the continued development in technical design mono crystalline may get to 35-40% efficient as they continue to expand the acceptance spectrum. Though the cost will be a minimum of a decade before they are in the realm of “affordable”?

    The truth is likely that even the top of the line products will have a life expectancy of 20 years and that is only if you include a thermal extraction coil to the underside of the panel to reduce thermal degradation (Which also increases optical conversion efficiency BTW.) As to the printed or organic versions they likely will have a life expectancy of 5-7 years…

    I will suggest that using storage systems are likely not valid considerations and an unnecessary expense. The average roof top is insufficient to meet peak demand and remain a of hours resource. Hence, grid interfaced solar peaking coupled with a Nuclear base load design is likely the best path forward. With the use of fluidized bed coal gasification furnaces or CNG for inclement condition peaking resources. As fuel cells and other alternatives begin to come on line then we can attempt to wean ourselves off stationary combustion derived resources…

    Cheers!
    Dave Cooke

    Comment by L. David Cooke — 21 Oct 2009 @ 7:30 PM

  185. Okay, here it is, one of the solutions (we should not be looking for the “silver bullet,” but at 1000 ways to mitigate GW) –

    Biochar — a mobile pyrolyzer for about $10,000 is in development by Princeton scientists. It would not only help toward drawing carbon from the atmosphere, but would pay for itself in a year, and (presumably) go on to save such money each year, while increasing crop productivity by 20%. This is like having your cake and eating it too.

    See: http://www.youtube.com/user/rechar350#p/a/u/2/kRQuF4d9DBo

    Skip these freakonomics guys, they’re barking way up the wrong tree.

    Comment by Lynn Vincentnathan — 21 Oct 2009 @ 8:49 PM

  186. RE: 185

    Hey Lynn,

    Why lose the available hydrocarbon resource in biomass by directly going to charcoal? You are aware that the low temperatures you would need to prevent your “Anoxious Furnace” from reducing your biomass to ash would likely make it a high emitter of carbon monoxide…?

    The compost emerging from a biomass digester would likely be the better material for plants hence, increasing carbon sequesteration while providing future fuel.

    Cheer!
    Dave Cooke

    Comment by L. David Cooke — 21 Oct 2009 @ 10:46 PM

  187. Did you watch the video, David? Less than 5 minutes.
    It’s only an ‘emitter’ if it’s the old open container method.
    Did those pictures and what they’re describing seem like what you imagine?

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 21 Oct 2009 @ 11:46 PM

  188. So consider the case where there is an energy use of 1 TW electric equivalent, with an original source costing $ 1 trillion per year per TW, that is to be replaced by clean energy with a price of $15 per average installed W with an annual power decay of 1 %.

    Money spent on the clean energy investment: spend $10 billion, increase annual spending by $10 billion each year through year 8, then increase spending twice as fast from year 9 (total $ 80 billion in the ninth year) to year 24 (total $ 0.4 trillion in the 24th year), then hold steady at $ 0.4 trillion annual investment in clean energy.

    Assume a 2 year energy payback time for clean energy, so that the total installed average W each year increases the total energy use that year by twice that power (so that in year 24, $ 0.4 trillion is spent to add 26.7 average GW of clean power, and total energy use that year is 1.0533 TW).

    The total ‘dirty energy’ consumption peaks in the first year at 1.00067 TW, and falls below 1 TW in year 4. In year 64 it goes to ZERO. Cummulative avoided emissions (relative to constant 1 TW ‘dirty energy’ use) go positive in year 5, and reaches 27.47 years of avoided emissions in year 64, increasing by 1 year per year after that as emissions are zero at that point. (Thus, the total emissions, in years of 1 TW ‘dirty energy’, is capped at 64 – 27.47 ~= 36.53 years.)

    Total annual spending on energy peaks in year 22 at 18 % above the trillion dollar per year baseline – thus an increase in annual spending of $ 180 billion. Spending goes back to baseline value between year 31 and year 32, so that the cummulative above-baseline spending peaks at $ 3.417 trillion in year 31.

    Cummulative above-baseline spending goes to zero after year 49. In year 50, annual energy spending has fallen to $ 0.635 trillion – an annual savings of $ 0.365 trillion. In year 64, the annual savings reaches $ 0.6 trillion, with the only spending on clean energy, and the cummulative savings reaches $ 7.111 trillion. Note that constant spending after that point results in an increasing energy supply, perhaps for net CO2 removal from the air and other things. (Total energy supply, minus energy input to the energy supply, is 1.37 TW in year 90.)

    In reality, some portion of the energy supply now goes to providing energy (more than the electricity used by power stations), so total energy supply to non-energy supply sectors actually increases before year 64 in this scenario.

    But this doesn’t include taxes. In fairness, it could be argued that property taxes on the energy conversion devices should be the same as the fuel taxes for fuel (but the property tax on the land should in fairness be determined by land value apart from the installations on it).

    It also doesn’t include that worldwide, energy use will increase even with efficiency improvements. But that might not change the proportions much, because presumably the present day cost of energy reflects the investments being made to support growth. I haven’t gone through this scenario yet though. On the other hand, fossil fuel prices will rise even without climate policy, so savings could be greater.

    Solar power prices are on the way down. Even with material limitations on CdTe ( about $1/peak W, or $5 / average W using the same conditions as above, though that doesn’t include balance of system), there is CIGS, amorphous Si, thin c-Si with light trapping, and potential for other photovoltaic materials, for example, zinc phosphide and CZTS (or is it CTZS … it’s a sulfide of Cu, Sn (tin), and Zn). I might have trouble finding it now, but I also came across a website which suggested that commercially-available PV efficiencies might eventually reach 40 % (it’s generally under 10 % to 15 % now), and CPV efficiencies might reach 60 %. Efficiency improvements have the potential to limit necessary land use. (In desert installations, because solar panels will be spaced to reduce shadowing of each other, older less efficient panels could also be laid flat when newer more efficient panels are installed (if the cost decrease allows it), and or newer panels might be made bigger so as to cast shadows on the older panels in winter (if the series within panels go side-to-side, this would reduce the consequences of shadowing which will generally go up and down the panels over the day and year) – although by saving land, the total power will experience a greater seasonal range and a more concentrated dose at noon, but by the time this might be done, storage could handle it, I would think. Storage installations (CAES, pumped water (could be underground), on-site thermal for solar thermal technology, hydrogen/other chemical) can lag behind renewable energy installations since the grid can act as storage with fuel, hydroelectric (which will be more available in rainy weather and less available in droughts, which presumably would tend to be associated with higher solar power supplies), and geothermal and biofuel power being responsive to changes in wind and solar (and waves). Shifting the timing of desalination and water pumping, and energy inputs to CO2 sequestration and maybe even aluminum production, etc, could also help. Also, HVDC (which is “undergroundable” as I have read in a follow-up to the famous “Solar Grand Plan” article) will help reduce storage needs, among other things. Short-term fluctuations in solar power might be compensated for by signalling smart appliances to shift timing of energy use according to local cloud conditions (ie clouds moving in ten minutes, run refrigerator now to store up cold – and so on for HVAC and water heating (a lot of room for efficiency improvement and/or improved fuel usage strategy in those two – ie electric heat pumps run on fuel cells that produce waste heat, or just use waste heat from fuel cells run on natural gas, to be replaced with biofuel or solar hydrogen…?). Good use of solar energy for direct heat and light should help reduce winter energy needs except at the highest populated latitudes. As long as I’m on the subject, solar power and supporting industries have about as good (or was it better?) worker safety records as nuclear power, not including radiological risks. Of a few Si solar cell technologies, CdTe, and coal, solar power lifecycles release less Cd into the environment than coal power, with CdTe emitting the least – in large part because CdTe has the shortest energy payback time and some portion of that energy input is now coal (but that will change) – although this is for ‘normal operations’. Back to land-use, I doubt it need get as high as is stated in the original “Solar Grand Plan” in part because they conservatively assume no further increases in solar panel efficiency beyond some year (2020?) and also because they do not factor in the increases in energy efficiency – in fact they have a substantial increase in per capita energy use by year 2100, whereas total primary energy consumption per capita in the U.S. has been nearly steady over the last three decades. And future cost declines will allow more compact arrays to save on land at the expense of average panel insolation. (Not to ignore rooftop devices, which may be hybrid (making use of waste heat), and/or double as skylights (luminescent concentrator technology).) PS east-west aligned rows of either flat-panel or concentrating devices will cast the longest shadows in winter, when plants in between them would likely be dormant at sufficiently high latitudes – summertime could be used to grow crops among the solar devices, and in semi-arid regions, solar panels could effectively act to concentrate water onto the vegetated regions between them or adjacent to an array. Solar panel albedo effects will tend to be of the same order of magnitude as the electrical energy supply, which will be quite small globally – in some cases solar power plants might increase the albedo (would that tend to reduce local boundary-layer cloud cover?). (Note that the effective albedo includes the efficiency of conversion to electricity, since that does not go into heating onsite, and off site has the same climatological consequences as any other energy use.) Greatest albedo reductions would occur in winter. Mirror concentrators would tend to reflect a fraction of diffuse radiation back up – actually, a portion of that would be reflected back down again, especially in cloudy conditions, so flat panel devices (including luminescent concentors) might produce greater power in cloudy weather when surrounded by CSP/CPV and/or snow.

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 22 Oct 2009 @ 12:28 AM

  189. And I will try to get back to you with references, though it may take awhile.

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 22 Oct 2009 @ 12:29 AM

  190. “But this doesn’t include taxes.”

    Well, it would presumably include some of the taxes in the energy supply lifecycle – I assume when someone buys a solar panel now for $x, some of that is to income taxes, etc, up the supply chain.

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 22 Oct 2009 @ 12:33 AM

  191. #173: “There will be less wealth available to be consumed than otherwise.”

    I earn more in a month than my dad did at my age in a year.

    Is this more wealth?

    I don’t think so because I’m not able to buy a house every two years (25 year mort gage paid off in 1 month to 1 year).

    And when food becomes scarce because londoners have to move into the farmlands uphill because the city is flooded, what do you think will happen to my wealth? It will go on food rather than the luxuries and my wealth will reduce even if my money increases.

    Comment by Mark — 22 Oct 2009 @ 3:19 AM

  192. mdc, Patrick 027,

    mdc said:

    Assuming a modest real terms interest rate of just 2%, the
    lost value of $1tn/year in 100 years time is more than $300tn – or
    total 5x current world GDP

    It’s a comfort we’ll still have the ~16,000tn (or total 320x current world GDP) from the other ~$49tn/year, then.

    Of course, if science is anywhere near right, those trillions will be well spent.

    mdc, does it keep you awake at night calculating the cumulative opportunity cost in 20-30 years of the health insurance you pay today? Do you compare that figure with your current salary? Do you still want health insurance? Does the phrase “apples and oranges” mean anything to you?

    Actually, Stern is not talking about a fixed $1tn/year but a ballpark cost of 2% of GDP per annum (after rounding up for bad policy and nasty surprises). It starts at about $1tn today and grows with the marginal cost of reductions. The calculated cost increase seems to roughly keep pace with a world economy growing at 2% a year.

    As Stern points out, in this scenario, by 2050, the world economy would lag business-as-usual growth by six months.

    I’m referring to Stern’s recent book “Blueprint for a Safer Planet”, p. 54, not the Stern report.

    You should read it. In particular the chapter about discounting. Might make you think twice about applying a simple cost analysis to a 100-year period in which the natural world and the world economy will change beyond experience, in all likelihood leaving our grandchildren to pay an exorbitant premium for ecosystem services we today still take for granted.

    Comment by CM — 22 Oct 2009 @ 5:53 AM

  193. > # 182 Darren says:
    > 21 October 2009 at 5:49 PM
    > Hey Gavin. Did you guys see this? Looks like you’re ahead in the poll…

    “Hottest men” ? No doubt we are already seeing here some positive feedback due the AGW.

    Comment by P_adic — 22 Oct 2009 @ 7:03 AM

  194. RE: 187

    Hey Hank,

    No I hadn’t; however, the principle is common, it was used by my mothers family in Upstate NY for years as the means to create Charcoal.

    Basically you would dig a pit, start a fire and then begin to toss in logs. Once all surfaces were engaged you would in essence “bank” the fire by covering it with dirt. The fire would continue to smolder based on the size of the hole and the amount of wood you put in the pit which would determine the amount of time the wood was to remain smoldering. Just like pottery making, it was usually two days with someone tending through out the night.

    This was no difference from an experiment we ran in junior high chemistry with wooden tongue depressor anoxic reduction. We would splinter up a few tongue depressors and place them in a test tube, corking the container and running a tube from the test tube to a bottle in a water bath. From there we ran to a second bottle in an dryice bath. After turning on the Bunsen burner and running the process several times we got measurable amounts of alcohol and water…. The end gas that emerged from the dry ice bath was tested and found to contain high amounts of CO by bubbling the gas through lime water.

    The point is returning Biochar to the ground is a valid solution; however, alone it is inefficient. If you were to process and extract the methanol produced as well it might be a reasonable system, except for the energy required to generate the heat necessary, if that heat is not used elsewhere, as well.

    On the other hand a two stage biomass processing system which extracts the sugars and alcohols first and then allows for the balance of the nutrients and carbon to be return to the soil is much more effective/efficient, though slower, it provides both an alternative energy source, allowing the system to approach being energy neutral, as well as a carbon neutral sequestration of carbon…

    IMHO biomass digestion is much more cost effective and allows for the creation of a profit making industry rather then a waste disposal/carbon sequestration cost. Shucks, if you could keep heavy metals and salt out of human septic treatment systems they could provide carbon sequestration opportunities as well… (I do not have a link; but, the UN WHO have now implemented biomass digesters in Africa promoting conversion to gas stoves as a means of reducing deforestation and increasing the health in the homes, (No more choking wood smoke!).

    In short, I would suggest that low tech is the best step forward, the more cost effective the solution the higher chance of adoption and the greater reduction in mineral carbon demand. (Oh BTW, yes, you get CO2 and HSO from bio-digesters and will require both an iron wool and lime water wash of the methane produced… Sorry to say you cannot get away with not having these issues when dealing with organics…)

    Cheers!
    Dave Cooke

    Comment by L. David Cooke — 22 Oct 2009 @ 7:37 AM

  195. One of the problems I have with neocon economics is that it utterly ignores the role if technological innovation in fostering economic growth. Developing a sustainable economy will require a significant investment in technology, and that will actually foster growth.

    Economic Reality–it’s not just about taxes!

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 22 Oct 2009 @ 8:35 AM

  196. RE: 188

    Hey Patrick,

    Your annual potential conversion decay should be more on the order of 4%/year out to about year 5 and then about 2%/year out to year 20 for one. The systemic decay will require the expenditure of $1t every 20 years or roughly $50t in 2005 dollars over the 100 year period you are proposing. Given the value of the USD is 1/2 every 20 years that would suggest an expense at 80 of $16t and $32t at 100 years. Stepped up that would be $1t, $2t, $4t, $8t, and finally $16t in year 80 resulting in simple panel costs of $31t over the 100 year time frame, with an additional $32t in the last year for the next 20 year period. (Yes, increases in efficiency may occur; however, they would not necessarily be used to reduce solar panel costs; but, to change the base load systems as that would be where the greater cost burden would be.)

    You also may want to reconsider your storage solutions even if you were to attempt a sodium or salt solution, the benefit would only be local and limited to maximum value of around 200 Deg. F,(no concentrators in a PV system), so unless you have a local use for a 200 Deg. working fluid, (Like a Sterling Engine driving a alternator.), your storage system is an expense that has no economic added value even if it were to last the typical 5 year life expectancy…, sorry.

    As to my comment of the extraction of heat through a working fluid, that was not in regard to the SW US DoE “Sun Tower”; but, a simple fact that as you reduce the thermal content in a PV cell the efficiency of conversion increases.

    Hence, by placing your cells on a aluminum or copper plate with copper tubing running across the back and insulated you could in essence replace south facing roofing with these 24″ wide panels and they would be implemented to replace the use of plywood and asphalt roofing materials saving the both wood and tar/asphalt for other uses. Building costs would rise about $10K for the average home and yet it would use about 1/4-1/2 the purchased energy of a normal home… The extracted heat energy could either go to a water heater or to a Sterling Engine Peaking system which returns the home demand to the Grid primarily only for night time heating, cooling and entertainment systems while things such as lighting, if converted to LED, will be minuscule at best and may be run on batteries if desired.

    Cheers!
    Dave Cooke

    Comment by L. David Cooke — 22 Oct 2009 @ 8:37 AM

  197. [Take 3:]

    Dave, if you had watched the video, you’d know that the process–in “late prototype stage” as of filming–involves reclaiming the hydro-carbon content as you advocate. (It’s in the form of “bio-oil.”)

    They’re talking about a $10,000 unit with a one-year payback period. That’s good deal on the economic scale of developed-world farms.

    [If this doesn't work, I'll stop torturing the moderators!]

    Comment by Kevin McKinney — 22 Oct 2009 @ 9:03 AM

  198. RE: 197

    Hey Ken,

    Actually, I had looked it over. Notice the costs involved in the video are only the cost of the unit; now add in the costs of powering the unit… Though a bio-digester extracts about 10% of the potential energy in the material the total return on energy assets approach 80%.

    Found a link that highlights the positives and negatives of biomass bio-digester conversion: http://www.ehponline.org/members/2006/114-5/innovations.html

    Sure the pyrolizer is not septic; however, it is not micro-organism free and where the bio-digester requires a water resource it does not require a heat or fuel resource. As to the bio oil produced in the pyrolizer, generally this is mainly ethanol mixed with the combustible resins generated in the anoxic reduction of the organic material. The sulfides and CO are still there, plus you have the additional CO2 generated to raise the organic material to nearly 455 Deg. F min. (Believe me a solar system cannot reach that point without a sizable (read expensive) installation. If solar were and option then this would be an option as well: http://www.worldwatersolar.com/2-maxpure-seawater.hard)

    I am not trying to be hard headed or difficult or even stifling of great ideas; however, costs remain a major component of this consideration. Just as they currently do at Sewage Treatment Centers, if you allow the affluent to dry out in direct sunlight prior to use you get a bacteria and mold free high carbon mixture you can either mix in soil or bury for say growing tubers in and get the benefit of both sequestering carbon, enriching the soil and getting fuel…, at 1/10th the cost of the great idea presented in the video…

    Which do you think would be easier to deploy and has a greater likelihood of adoption? Especially when you consider the cost of a 500 liter polyethylene tank, a solar powered bubbler/air pump, a few hundred liters of water and a couple of tons of waste can provide… (around $1500) -vs- a patented solar pryolizer (est. $10K, plus fuel), even if it were donated by a philanthropic group… (The only materials required to make the output of a bio-digester a commercial venture is a several kg of steel wool once a month and lime water, from reduced lime stone, (if you wanted to remove the CO2).)

    BTW there are several thousand truck loads of free plastic sitting in the middle of the N. Pacific if anyone would like a cheap resource for making bio-digester tanks….

    Cheers!
    Dave Cooke

    Comment by L. David Cooke — 22 Oct 2009 @ 9:54 AM

  199. RE: 197

    Hey All,

    Ooops broken link, the solar water purifier is at: http://www.worldwatersolar.com/2-maxpure-seawater.html (I hate auto completion sometimes…, especially when I forget to include a space between the link and the parenthesis.)

    Cheers!
    Dave Cooke

    Comment by L. David Cooke — 22 Oct 2009 @ 9:59 AM

  200. Coming in a bit late but in reply to #10 BJ_Chippindale I have often wondered about the dangers of capturing energy in space and sending it to Earth as the majority of energy eventually gets converted to heat energy. Should we be taking sunlight that doesn’t hit the Earth and directing at the Earth? I’m thinking of the magnifying glass and the ant analogy. Perhaps a space-based energy source could be climate-benign if it displaced enough GHG-based energy but I doubt it because because so much carbon would have to emitted in the construction of it and then that carbon would continue to insulate the planet for centuries. I’d be interested to see an analysis done.

    Comment by J.D. Gibbard — 22 Oct 2009 @ 10:26 AM

  201. David Cooke — some of your ideas are good;
    you seem to think they are original with you, and they’re not.
    You’re criticising your own outdated memories.
    Youu aren’t bothering to look up what others are doing.

    Look at the biochar video: it’s capturing not venting the gases, as Kevin points out for the third time.

    Look up combined PV/thermal plates (“PVT”) — already in use, e.g.

    http://www.google.com/search?q=combined+photovoltaic+hot+water+panels
    http://www.iea-shc.org/task35
    http://www.pvtforum.org
    http://www.ecn.nl/nl/egon/extra/extranet/pvt-platform/het-pvt-platform/

    It’s not hard to check this stuff. Your memory only tells you what used to be true the last time you learned about the subject. These days that’s guaranteed to be out of date. For current information, use a search tool.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 22 Oct 2009 @ 10:42 AM

  202. RE: 197

    Hey Kevin,

    BTW sorry about the name confusion on my part,…

    Dave

    RE: My to follow-on to Kevin’s comment,

    Hey All,

    In the close of my prior, I had asked the question of had anyone considered the resource of free plastic available for the creation of bio-digester tanks.

    First you hopefully understand that each thermoplastic has a different melt temp so extracting a single stock is not going to be that difficult. Secondly, you likely also understand that there is a limitation on the buoyancy of certain plastics meaning that the stocks there are generally limited to the less denser families. As to the heavier families they are likely at the bottom of the sea.

    Also for the technical ones about us, is it possible we may have missed taking into account the carbon sequestration that has already occurred over the last 60 years? WRT the amount of plastics generated and disposed of either in landfills or the oceans, it may be that the consumed fossil fuel balances may need re-adjustment… I would suspect that a loosely arranged 30 foot by 1200 mile by 800 mile patch of the ocean should harbor a significant amount of raw long chain carbon compounds. (As would the millions of miles of asphalt covered road beds…)

    Cheers!
    Dave Cooke

    Comment by L. David Cooke — 22 Oct 2009 @ 10:54 AM

  203. If anybody is interested, Ken Caldeira was recently interviewed in light of the confusion of his views brought up by the Freakonomics book.

    His take on it, here.

    http://e360.yale.edu/content/feature.msp?id=2201

    Comment by tharanga — 22 Oct 2009 @ 11:49 AM

  204. Dave, you touch on an idea I had, namely that plastic in landfills is the main form of carbon sequestration going on today in most developed nations. Unfortunately, the carbon sequestered is way too low to be much help. On the digester/pyrolysis question, I think that it’s likely that in the real world it won’t be an either/or–different solutions will work for different situations.

    On another topic just mentioned, I doubt the additional heat from space-based solar is much of a worry; the “residence time” of waste heat in the atmosphere is pretty low. Also, given enough power you can sequester CO2 like crazy to compensate. I think the real problem is what Ray said: the state of the art isn’t close to being there yet for the space-based solar idea to be practically feasible.

    Comment by Kevin McKinney — 22 Oct 2009 @ 1:16 PM

  205. Re 196 L David Cooke – haven’t gotten through the rest of this or other subsequent comments, just to quick point out (about the decay rate):

    Inverters might need replacing ever ? years, there are maintenance costs, etc, though for solar power the bulk of the expense is the longer-lived infrastructure. (HVDC lines would, I assume, be made of aluminum – energy intensive per unit mass but not all that much mass relative to the whole thing, really, and you can recycle the aluminum, and how often would the aluminum need replacing anyway? Once every 500 years? I don’t know. By the way, we can run out of bauxite but never out of aluminum – worse comes to worse, we’ll get it from granite or felspar-rich sandstones or shales.)

    The 20/25 year warranty you might be thinking of is not a due date for energy production to go to zero; it might be 80 or 90 % of what it was at installation at that point.

    More later…

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 22 Oct 2009 @ 1:31 PM

  206. Lifetimes –

    1. A public subsidy to help with high up-front costs – either in direct contribution or very low interest rate lo-ans: Some care should be made as this may drive more investment into shorter-lifetime technology; thus the subsidy should be a function of technology lifetime.

    2. It is conceivable that solar PV technology might bifurcate into two niches: moderately expensive to cheap, higher efficiency, long-lasting devices that are manufactured at a slow rate, and extremely cheap lower efficiency devices that degrade faster – the later might be helpful in the event of disasters.

    Yes, some technology has warranties significantly shorter than 20 years, but as the 20-year warranty devices could reasonably be expected to produce 60 years worth of energy over 90 to 100 years, the devices with shorter warranties might concievably also last quite a bit longer than their warranties; some technology is prone to faster degradation, but the shorter warranties may also reflect that the technology is just new and somewhat unfamiliar. There seems to be a general tendency for PV technology to eventually reach a 0.5 % annual decay rate – that’s the impression I’ve gotten from what I’ve read. Note that the initial fast degradation seen in amorphous solar cells is factored into the nominal power – the nominal power is the power in full sun after that initial fast degradation period.

    Heat will tend to shorten the lifetime (one way is to increase the degradation of the encapsulating layer, causing a reduction in transparency), but it isn’t generally a serious problem unless concentrated sunlight is used.

    Efficiency tends to be higher in cold weather…

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 22 Oct 2009 @ 3:59 PM

  207. RE: 201

    Hey Hank,

    You are very correct most of the ideas I am sharing are in regards to articles from Mother Earth News nearly 30 years ago. (Even the modeling of the eyes rod and cones in Solar cells dates back to 1951/53 papers in Nature.) As to being up to date I figure I am about as up-to-date as the products currently on the market and from some media sources such as science daily maybe a bit more…

    Most of the PV panels I have been looking at run from a maximum of 200 to 100 watts with a size ranging from 48×43″ to 45×38″ with the technology running from amphorous cells to copper indium gallium selenium (CIGS) technology with most being available from Northern Tool and Equipment for under $600. Whether I look there or to ebay and purchase the 200 watt units there at prices of $750 both exceed my budget.

    As to the newest generation cells which include the Suniva Inc.’s screen printed 20% or the Konarka Technologies Inkjet printed solar cells or even to go as far as the IMEC demonstrated organic variety (See: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/10/091006104312.htm ).

    Hank you appear to think my head is in the sand and that I am ignorant of change. I believe that is far from the truth; however, I will leave it to others to judge. In short, the basic technology of 30 years ago remains sound. The attempt to dress the technology up so that scientists and engineers can achieve a differentiation in the market with design or process patents is what I see as a roadblock. It is as though if the technical community cannot lay a claim to increasing value (Read make a fortune on changing the technology) that no one is interested in pursuing the implementation of the technology. The point is there is little that can be added today other then the widening of the spectrum of acceptance that will increase the conversion efficiency that science may likely add in the next couple of decades. (See: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/10/081023100536.htm and Quantum well (dot) designs: http://www.mrs.org/s_mrs/doc.asp?DID=217331&CID=16988&SID=1&VID=2&RTID=0 )

    If you look at this article you can find a number of datum points I may have shared over the last two days: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/10/081014160813.htm

    The point is if we can model the retina with flexible panels based on a product using a technology like this ( http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/07/090709170757.htm ) there is the possibility of both increasing the spectral acceptance and the energy capture. However, the wide-scale implementation remains about two decades out and we can ill afford to wait that long.

    If the rest of the science community wants to drag their feet and yet shout about mineral carbon harvesting then they need to draw a line in the sand so far all I see is shifting sand and nothing resembling a rock foundation to build a future on…

    Cheers!
    Dave Cooke

    Comment by L. David Cooke — 22 Oct 2009 @ 4:45 PM

  208. You did a great job with dealing with the issues in this post!

    However, let me ask about the issue raised by V. Ramanathan and Y. Feng in PNAS 2008.09.23 with On avoiding dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system: Formidable challenges ahead. They observe that are already geo-engineering with coal-power plant SOx emissions, which partially mask the effects of the CO2 from those same power plants. If we shut down the coal plants, temperatures will soar as the SOx is eliminated from the atmosphere, while the previously emitted CO2 remains. This is likely to trigger further feedback that will make our problems yet more severe. Would not replacing the coal SOx emissions with an equivalent amount of stratospheric SO2 be wise, not to mask continuing CO2 emissions, but simply to keep the temperature from rising further as we shut down coal plants?

    Comment by Earl Killian — 22 Oct 2009 @ 5:31 PM

  209. L. David Cooke – (re your re Hank Roberts) – ” However, the wide-scale implementation remains about two decades out and we can ill afford to wait that long. ”

    Because the people who know how to make solar cells, as with any skilled or even unskilled labor pool, are a scarce resource, there are probably limitations in how rapidly production can be scaled up; also there is the matter of the industries that support industries, and the industries that support those industries, etc. Which is not to say that I think we can’t get some large changes soon, but that I wouldn’t expect complete takeover of fossil fuels by solar power within 20 years.

    CdTe is taking off. c-Si and a-Si are still growing too, I think. And CIGS. There’s no reason not to continue to improve manufacturing efficiency and product quality or improve designs – these are expected benifits of continuing along the solar cell learning curve and getting to the point of mass market advantages. And there are new promising materials on the horizon (CTZS or is it CZTS, zinc phosphide, and so forth, also semiconducting polymers, etc.) and designs (extremely thin layers with plasmon-enhanced absorption; nanoantennas…). There are reasons to look into these things …

    (the relative abundance of Cu, Sn, Zn, P, S, not to mention Fe, Cr, Ni, Mn, Si, C, Al, Ti, V, Zr, Nb, Ce, etc.) relative to the amounts that would be used in solar cells, relative to Te, Se, In, and Ga in particular (Cd is a byproduct of Zn in particular; Te and Se are mainly byproducts of Cu; Ga is a byproduct of mainly Al and In is a byproduct of mainly Zn – the supplies are limited by the rate of production of Al, Zn, and Cu. This might not be much of an issue for Cd but there are concerns about Te especially.)
    (c-Si is a nice material except that it needs a larger thickness to absorb light than many other PV materials (because c-Si has an indirect band-gap, as opposed to a direct-band gap). Taking advantage of total internal reflection (for example, by using a diffuse back reflector and perhaps light diffusion at the front as well) would allow thinner layers of such materials to be used. Concentrating the absorption of photons into a thinner layer (with photosensitizers, which could include using plasmons, or using an absorber in a folded junction between semiconductor layers) can also reduce recombination and internal resistance, allowing a smaller amount of cheaper quality of material (with smaller crystal grains) to be used to obtain the same or higher efficiency. Besides multijunction cells (which need to be current-matched) and spectral-splitting concentrators (mirror/lens with prism/diffraction grating – or multilayer luminescent concentrators (in skylights, 1 layer for solar UV, 1 layer for solar IR, and let the visible light through) (PS lumninescent concentrators can use diffuse light, as flat panel PV devices can), there is also the potential for using nanoparticles to convert higher energy photons to multiple electron-hole pairs, or using multi-band-gap materials (as I recall, a telluride of Zn,Mn doped with O ??). Alternatively, one could try to collect ‘hot’ charge carriers produced by the more energetic photons before relaxation and production of waste heat. There is also the idea of using a photonic crystal to absorb solar radiation, heat up, and emit radiation only at specific wavelengths to increase the efficiency of subsequent conversion to electricity.)
    —–
    … And we needn’t abandon continued research and development even while scaling up production of current technology. (Microsoft has produced a lot and they’re still making new products).

    ———

    I should point out (re my previous comments) that there will be some losses between panel output and consumer. Of course, there is already a ~ 10 % loss in the transmission/distribution system from existing power plants, and some of that (not all, since rooftop devices will occasionally supply energy to the grid) will be eliminated with rooftop applications. Although smaller scale power production may also have greater losses from inverters? (I’m guessing there). The additional losses to be considered in comparing solar (and wind, etc) energy to present day supplies are the electrical connections within an array, the HVDC, and the inverter. And storage…

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 22 Oct 2009 @ 6:00 PM

  210. Not having read their book yet (just came out) I think that the reason why Dubner and Levitt like geoengineering is simply because they are aligning themselves with the adaptationists over the mitigationists. They don’t want emissions cut, they want us to adapt after the fact or find some way, any way of dealing with them other than cuts. It’s funny that that’s also Big Energy’s position too. What it shakes down to is they simply don’t want to mess with Big Energy’s profits. Also they ahve chosen the “economy over the environment” argument. It makes me wonder whose paying them under the table…

    [Response: Given their likely book sales , I don't think you need to look for any under the table funding... -gavin]

    Comment by Ron R. — 22 Oct 2009 @ 6:22 PM

  211. By the way, Dubner and Levitt sound like they’re just channeling Bjorn Lomborg.

    Comment by Ron R. — 22 Oct 2009 @ 6:32 PM

  212. RE: 209

    Hey Patrick,

    Sad to say, most of your last post is little more then noise… You are not addressing the basic issues. If you will take the time to review the MRS.org highlights link regarding the quantum well/dot idea, basically it relates to the formation of a tapering cone pillar.

    This cone shaped pillar is one in which the well is formed at a ever decreasing distance as the base of the pillar gets wider. If you were to surround a non-tapering pillar and create a simpler 2 junction device and you approach creating a wide spectrum device similar to the rods and cones structure in the retina. The end result is there is no internal reflection the energy continues to be absorbed as the photons enter the substrate. The end result is the efficiency begins to approach roughly 70% of the theoretical maximum of 85% efficiency…

    As to implementation it has little to do with resources in as much as it is related transfer of knowledge. The manufacturing technique remains the biggest roadblock to moving forward. There just no economic capability to, on a large scale, build cells with nanometer molecular structures with tightly controlled changing dimensions that are repeated throughout the substrate. (The best method to-date would be a matrix of valleys surrounding a single pillar. The problem is insuring the build up of the sides of the valleys. In essence, you would be building not to micron or probably even to nanometer; but, to 100′s of picometer dimensions. (The best we have right now is about 65 microns on a large scale capability…)

    It is one thing to use an electron microscope to stack molecules; however, however it is another thing altogether to create the means to build trillions of cones and pillars in a single thin layer of Si or G-As. And to repeat this process half a billion times a year for the next 10 years…

    The last link in that post only discussed the creation of pillars as to try to try to create bendable or flexible cells. Try going further and create a vapor deposition system that creates nonometer pillars that taper at a set slope to try to form a quantum sink… We have quite a distance to go before we can achieve this capability….

    Beyond that issue is also the issue that until you specify a standard manufacturing will not change the product to commodity level which is what will be required to bring the price/value decisions into play. The best suggestion would be the establishment of the standards and move forward with the variations being standardized at the panel interface. (IE: Current Buss or Voltage Buss based on the known technology migration over the next 20 years.) In short, make it simple and define the dimensions and interfaces that will support the technology for the next 20 years and is adaptable to the technology that will be in place 20 years out.

    The point is define the technology and standard interfaces and move out. We have roughly 20 years if the science is correct to stop exceeding the 3 Gt of natural annual up take of carbon…, if we don’t stop trying to build the better mouse trap and start catching mice there won’t be any grain left….

    Cheers!
    Dave Cooke

    Comment by L. David Cooke — 22 Oct 2009 @ 8:39 PM

  213. Dave Cooke might want to read this:

    Shifting the world to 100 percent clean, renewable energy as early as 2030 — here are the numbers

    Most of the technology needed to shift the world from fossil fuel to clean, renewable energy already exists. Implementing that technology requires overcoming obstacles in planning and politics, but doing so could result in a 30 percent decrease in global power demand, say Stanford civil and environmental engineering Professor Mark Z. Jacobson and University of California-Davis researcher Mark Delucchi.

    To make clear the extent of those hurdles – and how they could be overcome – they have written an article that is the cover story in the November issue of Scientific American. In it, they present new research mapping out and evaluating a quantitative plan for powering the entire world on wind, water and solar energy, including an assessment of the materials needed and costs. And it will ultimately be cheaper than sticking with fossil fuel or going nuclear, they say.

    One central theme that backs this argument up is the inefficiency of fossil fuel energy conversion, due to the large losses of heat during combustion. For example, electric motors are far more efficient than gasoline motors, and if all gasoline motors were replaced by electrical ones, you would save large amounts of energy with no change in net energy demand. For more details:

    http://news.stanford.edu/news/2009/october19/jacobson-energy-study-102009.html

    Comment by Ike Solem — 22 Oct 2009 @ 10:27 PM

  214. … and storage.

    But the 2 year energy payback time (EPBT) may include all that, or at least that except for storage/retrieval losses (ie for example, there would otherwise be only a 1.5 year EPBT, but with 75 % efficiency from panel to regular grid (after which, losses are similar to other centrally-generated electricity). Of course, EPBT will vary with technology; my understanding is it will tend to decline with mass market advantages, … etc.

    And if panel costs go into the $7.5 to under $5 per average panel W ($1.5 to under $1 per peak W with 0.2 capacity factor), with a 25 % loss, this would effectively go to $10 to under $6.67 per average panel W. I think the balance of system costs might be kept within ~ $15 per average W. I’m not saying I offhand definitely know that it would, though. Also, the losses won’t necessarily by 25 % – that’s a sample but it’s near what one or more studies have used.

    Not all of that $15 per average W would be upfront costs for the full life of a panel, since some components might be replaced more often. That actually could be helpful to payment plans.

    ——–

    The tendency for cold to increase panel efficiency would help reduce the seasonal range of solar power supply in temperate climates. Rooftop hybrid systems could increase the electrical supply by using waste heat to preheat water, while reducing additional heating needs.

    ——-

    Albedo effects:
    When solar panels take the place of snow cover during part of the year:

    Example: Solar panel with annual average insolation of 180 W/m2, and average winter insolation of 120 W/m2; with conversion efficiency of 10 %, replaces land cover with albedo of 20 %. The local heating effect is then the same as the electrical output. Now, if the panel intercepts 120 W/m2 otherwise destined for snow cover with an albedo of 70 % (it varies), that would have a local heating effect of six times the electric power for that time of year, 5/6 of that being due to snow if the land would otherwise have an albedo of 20 %; if this represents 1/4 of the year, then the annual heating effect is 1 + (120/180 * 5 / 4) = 1 + 5/6 = 1.83 times the annual average electric power.

    Present day global energy consumption averaged over the Earth’s surface is about 0.02 W/m2. The electrical equivalent is about 0.007 W/m2. If global energy usage increased by a factor of 5, in electrical equivalent this would be about 0.035 W/m2. A quick estimate suggests the global climatological forcing of supplying this power with solar energy might be somewhere between 0 and 0.1 W/m2 (the example above suggests 0.07 W/m2), or could be negative if conversion efficiencies increase enough.

    Note that wind, hydroelectric power, and biofuels have zero net heating (except for possible feedbacks from changes in wind, etc. – not expecting anything big there) since it is mechanical energy within the climate system that would ultimately be converted to heat anyway. Geothermal, nuclear, and fossil fuels result in a climate forcing equal to the primary energy consumption, which (except for geothermal) is generally near 3 times the electrical equivalent for existing power plants (natural gas power plants tend to be a bit more efficient, though).

    Water needs – not really a problem for solar power in general.

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 22 Oct 2009 @ 11:39 PM

  215. … that’s weird. After I just posted the last comment, I got a message that said it looked like a duplicate and was deleted. And yet, there it is!

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 22 Oct 2009 @ 11:41 PM

  216. L. David Cooke –

    That sounds like very interesting technology.

    However, I think we’re talking at cross purposes. I certainly agree that we can no longer wait for ‘quantum leaps’ in improvements in the technology, nor is it the case that we need to do so.

    Also, some of the micro/nanostructuring of solar cells might not require such precise ordering. Some structures can be self-organizing (perhaps a wet sol-gel nanoparticle process, or taking advantage of crystal growth habits to tune structures using different voltages and currents (electro(chemical)deposition), temperatures, pressures, drying rates, etc. A homogeneous mixture often crystallizes into a heterogeneous arrangement due to finite solid solubilities – as seen in granite, and note the cooling rate effect as compared to basalt. What if some X-ray diffraction pattern could create a heat or photochemical grid to control production? Some microstructuring might take the form of simple thin layers with no need of further structuring.

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 22 Oct 2009 @ 11:53 PM

  217. RE: 213

    Hey Ike,

    I was aware of that, thanx! We still have not specified the National standards or local building codes to integrate the technology in structures, yet. Hence, costs will be higher by a min. of a factor of 2, just because you still have to build a roof and install the P V panels on top of that. Couple that with each installation being a one off and economically you start off being non-competitive. Going further even though the technology is available there are few turnkey solutions that have been devised.

    The point is that is only solar cells what about the C N G conversion. Why is it so difficult to get a simple distribution pump installed at every fueling station. I understand the issues; however, converting my vehicle to N G should not be one of them. ( Actually, a N G solution when coupled with a compressed air power plant would be great as you could employ a two stage power system or hybrid. The residual combustion heat could be transferred to a heat exchanger/compressor increasing the output efficiency 2 fold.)

    Cheers!
    Dave Cooke

    Comment by L. David Cooke — 23 Oct 2009 @ 12:01 AM

  218. (PS not all micro/nano-structuring would necessarily serve the purpose of quantum confinement)

    Of course, the more expensive materials and processes can be used for solar cells in concentrating systems (CPV), which may be geometric or luminescent concentrators.

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 23 Oct 2009 @ 11:36 AM

  219. Correction about albedo and solar power:

    The radiative forcing of solar panels would be the total reduction in albedo, so the sample scenario of solar cells with a panel heating 1.83 times the electrical output would still have a total heating effect of 2.83 times the electrical output. The part of albedo reduction that is matched by electrical output simply has it’s heating effect elsewhere, mainly at the end-use. In this sample scenario, the total climate forcing would be similar to the direct heating (not the CO2,etc) of fossil fuel power plants, for the same amount of electricity. A global electrical power supply of primary energy equivalent of 50 TW might then have a global climate forcing near 0.1 W/m2. However, many solar cells will be in places which don’t get much snow, and some concentrating devices might still have a net negative climate forcing. Also, some solar cells, in particular some rooftop devices, might be in places where there used to be forests, in which case the ‘original’ surface albedo would have been considerably lower then 70 % even with snow cover. (Land use climate forcing to date would include albedo changes from replacement of forest by cropland (negative forcing, including enhanced snow albedo) and clearing and darkenning of snow in urban areas and roads (positive forcing) – these being small effects (except maybe locally) in comparison to gas and aerosol emissions, etc.)

    —-

    On energy storage:

    CAES and some other mechanical energy storage systems, and chemical energy storage, could easily work on seasonal to interannual time scales. The thermal storage at solar thermal power plants (generally are types of CSP) would not be for seasonal time scales but instead would help control mainly the hourly to diurnal variations in supply.

    —-

    On biofuels:

    The whole corn ethanol pathway is not promising in so far as it doesn’t include cellulose. It has a bigger role in national security than in climate change mitigation, and the long term national security effect is problematic because of food issues. (Not that we need more corn to eat and feed livestock – if anything we have too much corn; but we could use the land for other crops, of course.)

    This isn’t to say that it requires more energy than it uses, but it doesn’t produce all that much more energy than it uses (so far) and some of that energy comes from coal, making it potentially worse for the environment than petroleum – though some may come from natural gas. I’ve heard soybean biodiesel is somewhat better, and sugarcane ethanol from Brazil is decent.

    There are sugar policies and other agricultural policies that need to be fixed – they should be regardless of climate change issues.

    But biofuels need not compete with food. Every year there will be droughts and floods and hail storms, early frosts (even with climate change, presumably poleward shifts in agriculture or making the best use of changes in growing seasons will continue to make early frosts/freezes or late frosts/freezes a risk – if this were not the case than why would they be problems now or before). There will also be blighted crops, food contamination/disease, bruises and peels, crumbs stuck to muffin wrappers, used napkins, used coffee grounds, etc. Biofuel technology could increase the efficiency of the whole system. Also, there’s algae.

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 23 Oct 2009 @ 12:04 PM

  220. On light trapping to concentrate absorption of photons into a thinner layer:

    When I first heard of that, I actually wondered if it didn’t violate the second law of thermodynamics, but then I realized that it is a basic consequence of total internal reflection. Assuming perfect antireflection, such as in a gradual change in index of refraction (n), math shows that the intensity of radiation, in the absence of scattering, absorption, emission, or reflection, must be proportional to the square of the (real component of) the index of refraction (at least in the simple case that group velocity and phase propagation are in the same direction). Assuming this does not violate the second law of thermodynamics, this requires that blackbody radiation intensity must vary as a function of the index of refraction. But total internal reflection keeps the more intense radiation within a high n blackbody or a high n material enveloping a blackbody from being seen directly from the outside – any perfect blackbody radiation will be (along the lines of sight leading to the blackbody) be seen as having blackbody radiation intensity for the n of the material from which the observation is conducted, assuming no intervening reflection, scattering, absorption, or emission. Etc.)

    And realizing that, it is then not necessary to go through elaborate ray-tracing excercises to realize some basic conclusions – that it doesn’t matter if an antireflective coating or interface uses gradual transition, texturization, etc – total internal reflection will still work if there is scattering of the rays at some point and reflection at the back of the cell so that the radiation becomes nearly isotropic before coming back to the front. (With texterization or forward scattering near the front, the ‘cone of acceptance’ will be broken up or made fuzzy, but it still sets a limit on which photons or what proportion of photons can escape.)

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 23 Oct 2009 @ 3:39 PM

  221. Did anyone else lose faith in the climate-related expertise of Myhrvold, the Intellectual Venture guy the authors portray as a uber-brilliant visionary, when he was quoted mentioning “a breakdown of the thermohaline circulation system in the North Atlantic, which would put an end to the Gulf Stream”?

    [Response: Almost everything they (myhrvold and wood) are quoted saying is a very poor reflection of the actual science (if not completely wrong). I don't know why anyone would think they have any credibility on this issue. -gavin]

    Comment by Armando Brinks — 23 Oct 2009 @ 4:36 PM

  222. > After I just posted the last comment, I got a message …
    If the Return key bounces and signals twice, it’s interpreted as two responses; if the content is not different, you get that message.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 23 Oct 2009 @ 6:13 PM

  223. Mr. Patrick: Re: cones of acceptance, critical angles

    There is an excellent book on kinetic theory in the Landau and Lifshitz series, and, in particular a beautiful exposition of the law of detailed balance. If you consider fluxes through cones in phase space scaled by the occupation number, i think you will find that everything works like it says on the box.

    Comment by sidd — 23 Oct 2009 @ 10:14 PM

  224. Dubner in today’s Australian.
    It started by looking like journalism, and then presented hurricanes as climate, told us that since trees need more water than CO2 increasing the CO2 would let them grow with less water, and shaded steadily into oddness.

    Comment by Adrian Midgley — 24 Oct 2009 @ 1:41 AM

  225. since trees need more water than CO2 increasing the CO2 would let them grow with less water – Adrian Midgely

    That’s actually true to some extent. Plants absorb CO2 through stomata on their leaves, through which they also lose water. They respond to increased CO2 levels by reducing the number of stomata and hence transpiration losses. However, there are various secondary effects, both to individual plants and to ecological systems, that mean this is not pure gain.

    Comment by Nick Gotts — 25 Oct 2009 @ 7:19 AM

  226. when i hear people say geoengineering will be cheap i just think of how cheap and fruitless all the beach replenishment programs are.

    Comment by ron — 25 Oct 2009 @ 7:47 AM

  227. RE: 216

    Hey Patrick,

    The closest to the level of technology I can see required is along the lines of this work: http://spie.org/x648.html?product_id=512359&showAbstracts=true&origin_id=x648%09%09%09%09&start_year=2003%09%09%09%09%09%09%09%09&end_year=2003

    Going with your crystalline silicon die idea, the idea of trying to grow a crystal with constantly diminishing dimensions would be similar to trying to grow the tips of quartz crystals. Until we get to the point that we can define why it is that SiO2 crystals have sharp tips and start growing billions of these SBS within a substrate the technology will not advance.

    What I see you suggesting in your comments is the idea that if you were to take a copper plate and using a grid masking with dimensions on the order of less then 50 nonometers you vapor deposit diamond seeds, next you remove the mask and then deposit a a non conducting insulator followed by a deposition of Silicon and then by using a nitric acid was you end up with micro dots of diamond and silicon. From there you would have to lay down a gold grid interconnecting the silicon and then grow your tapered silicon cones, apply your doping elements followed by your insulator. You would then have to use some thing like a x-ray machined grid to remove the insulator from the surfaces of the diamond so that you could grow your nanotubes. And WaLa you have your next generation solution, sorry it is not that simple…

    We are no where near to the technology that we can control the molecular structure on that scale, much less specify where and how the crystals will form. Trying to control the ionic charge of an electron cloud so that you can specify the dataum points of the dots alone would be the fruition of a life time of work. Going further to specify the crystalline structure at the molecular level is hilarious… In essence that would be the equivalent of controlling the location of rain drops landing on the ground in a specific grid pattern…

    Anyway, you might want to consider the subject of our discussion in relation to the subject of this thread. The solution that we are striving to resolve is a technical and not a human or of a societal nature. This should point to all of us that first we have a technical focus and secondly we know beyond a shadow of a doubt that the only acceptable solution appears to be a technical one…

    The problem remains the same, the time to take the work from the laboratory to the a consumer commodity is long and you have to negotiate a mine-field of MBAa that do not want their stability shaken and that is not even getting into the politics…

    Cheers!
    Dave

    (PS: Concur that Ethanol from feed stocks or that utilize current arable land is a massive error in judgment. Bio-mass that utilizes non-arable land or non-food stocks is the focus. Whether the end fuel is in the methane family or the lipid family matters little. Note: The recent entry of Big Oil in Algae research. (Experiments run from the use of high pressure and (Solar?)heat to even a roller press to release the lipids.)

    Hey Ike,

    Just as an aside when looking at the various transportation options… Personally, for transportation systems I liked the 1968 idea of metro cars moving on a inter-metro rail and the use of Rail Trucks for personal transportation and goods deliveries (illustrated in Pop Sci). These can be more easily be powered by controlled pulse AC motors (Hence the greater efficiency as you suggest, (Roughly, a 90% conversion from energy to work…).) or if necessary a low carbon combustion system coupled with the higher efficiency of the metal-metal rails, (Read low friction surface), reaching a efficiency of nearly 35%.

    The main problem is in the implementation, how do you stop when traveling 100 mph and stopping every 20 miles at that… (With 90% of the trip is either speeding up or slowing down. For a 1 mile long train that means after 10 min you can get up to 100mph for about 1 min. with the remaining 7 min. being the braking cycle. (Though a large elctro-magnet embedded in the track bed would do the trick, it would likely as wipe out every Magnetic Stripe Card, or EM based storage medium within 1/2 mile…) This would offer you an average speed of about 50 mph, if you allowed 3 min for departure and boarding.

    Would it not be more effective to simply employ EM rails under the current highway beds and allow individual traffic instead…? At least with a hybrid design like this it would be scalable and could be implemented on expressways first… Plus depending on the number of Lanes and the length of the segments, (Cars/Trucks per segment), it could be solar powered by day… Implementation time roughly 8 hours/mile/lane, materials costs roughly $1500/mile/lane. Conversion cost for current hybrids, less the $1000. Motivation to implement 0…

    Cheers!
    Dave Cooke

    Comment by L. David Cooke — 25 Oct 2009 @ 8:54 AM

  228. > how do you stop when traveling 100 mph and stopping every 20 miles at that
    http://www.pond5.com/stock-footage/531251/millipede-walking-along-a-stick.html

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 25 Oct 2009 @ 11:58 AM

  229. “The solution that we are striving to resolve is a technical and not a human or of a societal nature. This should point to all of us that first we have a technical focus and secondly we know beyond a shadow of a doubt that the only acceptable solution appears to be a technical one… ”

    1. – the paragraph immediately following illustrates that there is a technical-strategical-economic-environmental/safety side…

    (the last words mentioned because any large category of energy sources will contain options that could do some damage – chemicals are used in solar cell production, wind power has bird/bat/ice-throwing issues, etc, but these things can be addressed; chemicals can be used with safety measures taken, etc, and there is a technical aspect to this as well as policy)

    … but also an economic-environmental/safety-policy side. Simply subsidizing clean energy and energy efficiency will tend to make fossil fuels cheaper because of reduced consumption, which will limit the reduced consumption of fossil fuels. If the externalities were appropriately addressed with imposed price signals, market economy behavior will tend to channel more demand and more investment into the supply toward efficiency and clean energy. The reaction of demand to the price signal would by itself tend to induce an opposite shift in prices, but the reaction of investment to that potential shift in demand will tend to keep fossil fuels from becomine too cheap in response to reduced consumption, and tend to grow the supply of the cleaner options. This isn’t just about increasing the production of existing commercial technology – the price signal will also enhance the flow of investment toward R&D for technology improvement. Technology is not independent of policy (not that this is what you were saying, but it deserves emphasis).

    Now, if the market worked perfectly, and/or if this price signal had been in place a while ago (because of the market has a learning curve, R&D and scaling up of production take some time), we might perhaps leave it at that. However, there is a role for having some public property (if for no other reason than to avoid the psychological suffocation of everything being owned, though there are other justifications), and I think the market can benifit from some large-scale planning and further regulation (PS though there is something to be said for ‘buyer beware’, safety and quality regulations could boost demand by offering reassurance to consumers; Hopefully China learns that lesson), and subsidies and government investment to help get past kinks/hysteresis/etc and habitual maladaptive behavior (building codes). in the supply-demand relationships and to help different parts move without too much asynchrony (eg the standardized sizes and designs you mentioned before) – so long as there is not too much micromanaging and picking of winners and losers without regard to costs and benifits (although the international market should give some incentive for governments to choose wisely, tempering the favors given to prefered constituent groups by their representatives).

    (One of the nice things about the market economy is that the price signals flow so as to present a proxy measure of life cycle costs – if the energy payback time of a technology were too long, for example, then either it would not be selected by the market because of the expense of clean energy input, or else too much of the climate emissions price signal would spill into the cost of the ‘clean’ option, signaling that it is not so clean in reality. Of course, at some point people have to make decisions about future plans, government or private, and studies of likely energy payback times and other things can be done in guiding these decisions – we don’t necessarily need the market to know these things, but the market is a valuable proof, and ultimately mature technologies should be left largely to survive or fail on their own except for the other justified imposed price signals and general large-scale planning/regulation.)

    —-

    I’m not sure how much we are really disagreeing or agreewing with each other.

    My position is that:

    1. There is exponential growth of the PV market right now (wind, too). Prices are coming down. CdTe is ready for ‘prime time’, and CIGS and amorphous Si are doing well, too. The economics of c-Si have also improved, as the industry works with and on different production methods and designs – in particular, using solar-grade Si and polycrystalline material instead of monocrystalline material, etc. TiO2-dye-electrolyte cells … haven’t heard much about them but I think they’re making progress. I also just read of a plastic solar cell that has broken through 7 % efficiency.

    I’m not an expert on the details, but I don’t see why quantum dots and/or molecule-level precision or any nanoscale-precision in general should be necessary to achieve light-trapping to boost the economics of c-Si solar cells. (Scattering of photons (either at the back of the photovoltaic layer or within it or even at the front) to make the reflection off the back as it reaches the front closer to isotropic and thus less concentrated in the cone of acceptance (whether a fuzzy probabalistic entity or a an actual cone) doesn’t require precision in nanostructures.) Light trapping reduces the amount of c-Si material needed, and by increasing the density of photon absorption, allows thinner layers of poorer quality material, with smaller crystal grains, to achieve higher efficiencies.

    That smaller crystal grains can be used with thinner layers is not about quantum confinement. These are the crystal grains that spontaneously occur when a solid phase is produced. Grain boundaries result in reduced conversion efficiency. If the electrons and holes have shorter paths to drift from photon absorption to electrode, one can allow for a greater density of crystal grain boundaries or other imperfections in the crystal lattice, including dopants, which, as I understand it, actually improve charge-carrier mobility. This means cheaper production for higher efficiency.

    But aside from that, just because we have technology ready to massively deploy now and/or quite soon, doesn’t mean R&D should not be stopped, either in continuing to improve the commercial technology or in coming up with potentially even better options.

    Some materials are quite scarce – especially Te, Se, Ga, and In. This could impose limits on the the total PV power supply from CdTe and CIGS cells. This doesn’t mean that CdTe and CIGS can’t make a difference – they are, as I understand it, a long way from reaching the limits of material scarcity, but growth in the production of CdTe and CIGS could at some point slow down if not reverse. R&D in other options now can add additional commercially available technologies to the mix in the future and keep the overall market growing faster.

    It is also just a good idea to have some ‘technodiversity’ in the event that a problem is discovered or to increase the probability of finding something better. I think I’ve read that there may be some climate-emissions from amorphous Si cell production that are not tied to the energy input and thus will not decrease with time as the energy sources used in production shift. It may be quite small (?) compared to emissions from natural gas, oil, and coal, but it is there. There may be other pollution issues that are discovered at some point – Not that they couldn’t be managed (at some cost), and not that I’m expecting anything catastrophic, but just something to note.

    New technology doesn’t necessarily require all the bells and whistles, like photosensitizing nanocrystals and quantum confinement and photonic crystals. It can be as simple as just finding a new PV material (perhaps copper-tin-zinc-sulfide ? or zinc phosphide ?) that offers promise for reasonable efficiency, might be cheaper to process and less scarce, involve less environmental and safety issues, work better with other PV module components, etc, and the only reason it is not used now is that nobody took the effort to invest laboratory time, etc, to learn how to make it work, because ‘everybody’ was so focussed on Si, etc, just like they’ve been just fine with using fossil fuels.

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 25 Oct 2009 @ 12:44 PM

  230. Re: 228

    Hey Hank,

    Yep!, that would work, the only problem is the use of 800 little legs is not terribly efficient on a train…, unless you know something we don’t… (Things that flash through my mind are Mars/Lunar
    Rovers..) Cheers! Dave

    Comment by L. David Cooke — 25 Oct 2009 @ 12:46 PM

  231. …”and the only reason it is not used now is that nobody took the effort to invest laboratory time”…

    Well, not literally nobody, but you get what I mean.

    ————————–

    And I’m not sure, but I think plasmon-enhanced photon absorption might just involve thin layers of material, not intricate two-dimensional or three dimensional patterns. Although it might also be done by using nanoparticles formed or deposited on phase boundaries between semiconductors, in which case, I’m not sure if it is necessary for precision arrangement to have a useful effect; a random arrangement or some self-organized short-range organization might do well.

    And also, some structures arise spontaneously. Eletrolysis, among other things, can produce dendritic growth patterns. Think of how lipids sponatenously form spheres in water. A mixture can undergo a phase transition that produces a heterogenous mixture of phases that preferentially form as layers or other shapes. Tiny structures can be contolled by macrocopic parameters.

    And tiny structures can serve roles that do not require precision. The nanoscale porosity of a TiO2 layer formed by a sol-gel process can be used to increase the area per unit volume of the dye-sensitized interface between the TiO2 and a liquid electrolyte, or perhaps on oxide of copper, etc.

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 25 Oct 2009 @ 12:58 PM

  232. For example:

    Find two semiconductors with limited solid solubility in each other and some other substance with limited solid solubility in both, so that when the materials crystallize from a melt or solution or (photo/thermo/electro)chemical reaction, they form a number of crystal grains of semiconductors with a third substance forming tiny particles at those grain boundaries. Choose materials so that they mutually dope each other in favorable ways. Change the rate of phase growth (via electric fields and currents, rate of drying, temperature, etc.) to tune the micro/nano-structure.

    OR do this with some combination of materials with different properties, and use the differences in properties to remove one of the phases and then replace it with another material, maintaining the micro/nano-structure.

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 25 Oct 2009 @ 1:07 PM

  233. Nanoparticle sizes in a sol-gel can be tuned by … pH … well I know they can be tuned. It has to do with the thermodynamics of the interfaces between different materials (for example, the physics that gives rise to the surface tension of water, which tends to bead up on hydrophobic surfaces…).

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 25 Oct 2009 @ 1:09 PM

  234. “I’m not sure if it is necessary for precision arrangement to have a useful effect”

    Sometimes it’s more about topology than geometry.

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 25 Oct 2009 @ 1:10 PM

  235. … and tiny spheres may preferentially stack into particular arrangements just because of the kinetics and thermodynamics of it.

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 25 Oct 2009 @ 1:14 PM

  236. http://www.technovelgy.com/ct/content.asp?Bnum=737

    But back on topic:
    http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/10/23/contrarianism-without-consequences/

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 25 Oct 2009 @ 1:27 PM

  237. RE: 229

    Hey Patrick,

    Many of the newer designs incorporate what appears to be an inverse herringbone pattern within the substrate, which act to reduce the reflection out of the cell. The problem is the energy introduced is not generating electricity; but, becoming heat.

    As we have talked about before heat is not desirable in a PV cell. The difference, in the basic designs is that on one hand we are using the HF quanta to dislodge an electron from a metallic molecules electron cloud and the other is simply increasing the “ringing” of the metal molecule. Reducing the “ringing” and increasing the exchange of the electron/hole content should be the goal and not reductions in reflection…

    As to your comments regarding the energy market. To put it in simple terms, we have a case in which we have two possible products. On the one had we have a committed infrastructure for which demand is increasing and resources are decreasing, hence the price is increasing. For the investors this is the best of both worlds. On the other hand we have a product for which the demand is slowly increasing and the goal is to decrease the price. As you should be able to see the later is not necessarily the desirable choice for the average investor. This is a major roadblock that will need to be overcome, not simply increasing the price or decreasing the availability of the undesirable technology. You have to purposefully end the older technology and to modify/improve the infrastructure to adjust to the newer technology. However, before you can do this you have to define the attributes of the application of the new technology…

    I think maybe it would be better to summarize things a bit…

    To make the technology change, increasing the cost of Oil is not going to reduce the speculation on Oil. Reducing the cost of solar PV is not necessarily going to increase the demand if there is a lack of predefined infrastructure. Hence, if you want to move towards a low carbon and renewable system the plug and play ability of the system and the ability to ride much of the current infrastructure will provide the greater chance of implementation. It is likely that the energy density of the source systems or reserves (by surface area more then volume) will have the greater impact over anything else.

    So keeping with the ideas that Dr. Schmidt first laid out and the likelihood of the requirements for moving forward, in your opinion what is likely the best path forward?

    Cheers!
    Dave Cooke

    Comment by L. David Cooke — 25 Oct 2009 @ 1:54 PM

  238. L. David Cooke – the point about infrastructure compatability is a good one, and that along with the phenomenon of habit and kinks/hysteresis in the supply-demand relationship (mass market advantage) – though the later is related to compatibility issues – and these are good reasons for some auxiliary policies to come along with a tax/cap.

    People who like to say that the government is wasteful (well, true, it is, but it seems at least some of those same people can’t correctly identify the waste from the good spending or will happily partake of the waste) might be suspicious that the government is choosing inefficient pathways. It might offer comfort to them to see solutions competing in the market. The price signal from a tax (or cap with near 100 % auction, etc.) allows the market to respond to choose the more efficient options, and in response to the price signal, produce the most value per emission. It is an elegant solution in that way.

    Granted, a price signal need not be imposed directly; capping and curbing mining of coal would make coal more expensive and produce a price signal in that way, even if the caps are not auctioned. If a renewable energy portfolio mandate is based on percentages, that would create a price signal as well. On the other hand, mandating production of a given amount of renewable energy would not be such good incentive for greater efficiency in energy use; the pull of investment toward clean energy could impose a price signal on fossil fuels indirectly.

    As clean energy and efficiency increase, the demand for fossil fuels will decline, but use of fossil fuels will not decline as fast if the result is to lower the price. Imposing a price signal on fossil fuels’ C content insures that demand and supply will be driven away from that option.

    Bear in mind I am not simply talking about mandating a price. That is a clumsy move. Mandating a price increase will drive away demand but pull in investment via the profit motive, increasing the supply – unless the mandate is for a set price, and not a price above the market value (the later would be hard to regulate, I’d think). A mandated price reduction pulls in demand but drives out investment, leading to shortages. A tax or subsidy imposes a price signal in such a way as to drive both investment and demand in the same direction; this is because, for the taxed item, the consumer sees a higher price while the supplier sees less revenue.

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 25 Oct 2009 @ 5:47 PM

  239. RE: 238

    Hey Patrick,

    Cap and Trade or a Carbon tax that does not directly fund alternative energy resources is worthless. Income from these sources going to the government coffers does not increase the renewable energy being generated, so that is a false perception. As I said, without a replacement solution you simply continue to tighten the noose around the neck of the consumer and hence your society. Now if instead the funds collected were to go to the modification of the technology base and flow to the construction of a specific renewable technology now you may have something…

    As to the idea of sending a “signal”, this is garbage, IMHO. Signals have been around for 30 years since the US pumped its peak oil in the early 1970′s. They have done little to nothing; but, egged on abuse of power/market share, monopolistic pricing schemes and simple graft.

    To me, placing a price on carbon and not specify mineral carbon is ludicrous. In essence, that means that the carbon contained in my body and surrounding environment has economic value exceeding the current use. What is to stop this from going overboard…? Unless you legislate limits what in essence you have done is opened up a new ball of worms regarding land use and Eminent Domain. (In essence, it could become possible that Governments could than tax your roof top not only for the treatment of the rain water run off; but, also based on the potential of your possessions to generate power. Bet, this would make a heck of a Sci Fi novel…)

    Expecting the market to define the future is like leaving the safety of your offspring to a crap shoot. Depending on who shows up defines the guardianship and does little to protect them. Unless you specify the character of the allowed technology and remove the more hazardous technology from the market you will achieve little.

    Sad to say a light hand will not make the necessary changes. Though the heavy handedness has it’s own consequences, the probability of threatening life on the planet is less through legislating technology then continuing down the current road…. (A light hand certainly did not work with CFCs, it took a heavy hand, likewise the current light handed approach against HFCs is not going to make much headway without direct government intervention.)

    Cheers!
    Dave Cooke

    Comment by L. David Cooke — 25 Oct 2009 @ 6:58 PM

  240. “Cap and Trade or a Carbon tax that does not directly fund alternative energy resources is worthless. Income from these sources going to the government coffers does not increase the renewable energy being generated, so that is a false perception. As I said, without a replacement solution you simply continue to tighten the noose around the neck of the consumer and hence your society.”

    Okay, well I haven’t actually said what I would choose to do with the revenues yet (at least not recently).

    But:

    1. consider a ‘heavy handed approach’ of capping the emissions to a set level and pulling that level down over time.

    Why wouldn’t a tax or auction of those caps have at least the same if not a stronger effect?

    2. However that revenue is spent, it would either: 1. reduce the deficit and help pay down the debt, helping the future economy; 2. reduce other taxes, helping the economy; 3. go toward paying the costs that it represents – adaptation and/or mitigation of climate change and/or it’s effects, including agriculture and other land use issues, biodiversity and ecosystem protection, and population growth mitigation; 4. payments for economic adaptation to the policy itself – such a job training for former coal miners to be employed by the solar power industry, etc.

    “To me, placing a price on carbon and not specify mineral carbon is ludicrous.”

    I totally agree (except for carbon in methane emissisons, etc.)

    “Sad to say a light hand will not make the necessary changes.”

    I didn’t think I was advocating a light hand. But in your own defense, I haven’t put the entirety of my proposal into a single comment.

    “As to the idea of sending a “signal”, this is garbage, IMHO. Signals have been around for 30 years since the US pumped its peak oil in the early 1970’s.”

    Then why has oil been so cheap until a few years ago?

    ___________________________

    “in your opinion what is likely the best path forward?

    Here is my proposal:

    A tax on emissions (for simplicity of enforcement, the tax should be applied upstream of the point of emission where possible, such as a sales tax on fuel per fossil C content – as opposed to a sales tax on electricity and products, etc, per fossil C emission, etc.). All fossil C as CO2 emissions should be treated equally – the cement emissions and fossil fuel emissions should be treated the same; the cement industry and fossil fuel industry should not face seperate sets of caps or taxes in so far as CO2 emissions are concerned. Ideally, all unbalanced emissions (human and other respiration of CO2 from recently formed organic matter is balanced by photosynthesis and need not be considered) of well-mixed gases (aerosol effects are complicated and need to be treated a bit differently; climate forcing via directly anthropogenic albedo changes (replacement of forest with cropland, etc.) could also be taxed (though that might be a negative tax) but it may be too small an effect to justify the regulation effort) should be treated the same per unit GWP (global warming potential – a time integrated measure of warming effect).

    Revenue would be divided up among the following:

    1. subsidies for CO2 sequestration (if environmentally safe, at the same rate as the CO2 tax).

    2. R&D for clean energy and energy efficiency, and public subsidies for clean energy and efficiency implementation, including demonstration projects and help for industries to grow to the point of mass markets; other climate change mitigation R&D and subsidiesequal per capita.

    3. R&D and investments in climate change adaptation measures, and reparation for climate change damages. (Efforts to protect ecosystems and biodiversity, investments in water resource management, compensation for loss in farmland property value and coastal property value, and other losses in ecosystem services, and/or paying for replacement of ecosystm services, help for climate change refugees and their recieving countries, etc.)

    4. help for economic adaptation to this policy (ie job training for former coal miners, etc.)

    1 & 2 & 3 – farming, land use issues (crop breeding, soil management (including biochar), better irrigation techniques, water infrastructure, biofuels, efficiency improvements in food production, etc.)

    2 & 3 – limiting population growth (social security, family planning, education for women/girls, etc.)

    5. cuts in other taxes

    6. equal per capita pay back

    More explanation may come later.

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 26 Oct 2009 @ 12:10 AM

  241. (This is actually on topic — the economics of behavior modification, though not the topic of geoengineering.)

    L. David Cooke said:

    Cap and Trade or a Carbon tax that does not directly fund alternative energy resources is worthless.

    Au contraire! The point of a carbon tax is not to fund anything, but to drive down the use of fossil fuels by driving up the cost. Revenues are a side effect. (Ditto for cap-and-trade with government-auctioned certificates; I’ll use “tax” as shorthand for both.)

    We do need government funding for renewable energy R&D and a variety of incentives for switching. But that only means we need adequate funding on the expense side of the budget. What revenues the funding comes from is, again, irrelevant in principle.

    I say “in principle” for two reasons. First, and much as you argue, with more available alternatives, fossil fuel demand will be more responsive to price signals, and the tax policy will realize more of its potential. If markets were perfect, this would take care of itself, but they aren’t. That argues for a policy mix with both a carbon tax and funding for renewables carefully phased in together. It doesn’t require them to be linked by an earmark, though. And without it, a tax still won’t be worthless, just worth less. It will still provide the incentive for *some* energy switching and saving with available technologies.

    Second, an earmarked tax may be an easier political sell, inter alia *because* it panders to this widespread misconception that the point of a carbon tax is to *fund* something. Dispelling the misconception lets one consider a wider range of policy options: if one is concerned about unemployment, one might want to offset the carbon tax by a modest cut in taxes on labor; if one is concerned about the social impact of fuel costs, one might prefer to target the revenues at poverty reduction. (Explicitly linking such expenses to carbon-tax revenue is, again, a political sell, not a logical requirement.) The tax will serve its purpose in either case, though more or less efficiently. And in any case, it is still possible to boost government spending on renewables separately — to begin with, by redirecting all kinds of subsidies from non-renewable energy.

    All that being said, earmarking carbon-tax revenues for renewable energy promotion might be a good idea (depending on detailed policy considerations that will likely vary from country to country). But let’s not fall into the trap of saying a carbon tax is just a government cash cow that is worthless for the environment if the revenues are not used for a particular purpose. It’s meaningless and it will only help the fossil-fuel industries bury a tax.

    Comment by CM — 26 Oct 2009 @ 4:31 AM

  242. RE: 241

    Hey CM,

    Given the choice between cap and trade and cap and tax I clearly prefer the latter with the Cap and Tax clearly being ear marked. If the intent is to move to a different technology due to “unforeseen” hazards, then the cost must be born by those who authorized the technology. Hence, if the government specifies that a product or technology proves to have unforeseen consequences and that technology or product has become “embedded”, then it will have to be the responsibility of the government to fund the necessary changes to move forward.

    This is not unlike historically questionable land being opened for development. When a 50 year flood or a 100 year storm comes along after said opening up the of land to development, we have a crisis. Government steps in with partial compensation and removes these lands from future development. This is likely what will have to happen here.

    Due to the embedded nature of the current technology in the societal infrastructure a “light hand” is not going to make the necessary change. At the same time A carbon tax that is not ear marked will only likely replace the lost “mineral carbon” tax base and will not remedy the societal losses if an alternative is not provided for. (Remembering of course that all taxes are simply passed to consumers and are only seen as a price increase, with no visible benefits to those being taxed…)

    On the conservative side I can see a major issue as the government provisions reeks of government control or nationalization in a free democracy. The problem is there is likely no other way to make the change. If the rules are written such that specific goals and time-gates are put into place there is the best chance to make the necessary changes and specify the return of the national energy industry to the free market. This is not unlike the legislation that will have to follow the current re-establishment of financial regulations. With the return of regulations heralding the reduction of the active involvement of the US government in that industry.

    (Of course you could always use the technique called “matched investment” in which the government would match an individual investors funding of a key energy industry…, with the investor reaping the profits and the government reaping the taxes… I will have to leave the specifics up to the political experts.)

    However, tax or trade without being earmarked is simply the rearrangement of the deck chairs on the Boat Deck or the Baths Deck (F) of the Titanic. If you are not going to actively move to an alternative society as a whole, even after the loss of the Baby Boomers, the follow on generations may not be able to keep their heads above water. Even worse is if the new technology is not simpler there will be a similar issue. The current indications of the reduced student populations expressing an interest in technically intensive subjects suggests there will not be enough technical types to design, implement and maintain the alternative systems.

    Cheers!
    Dave Cooke

    Comment by L. David Cooke — 26 Oct 2009 @ 8:20 AM

  243. 242 LDC says, “(Remembering of course that all taxes are simply passed to consumers and are only seen as a price increase, with no visible benefits to those being taxed…)”

    Remember that all taxes are simply a direct reduction in the state/national/global debt, which is a big benefit. Even if spent, the effect on the economy is obvious. Were you asleep during the stimulus?

    That said, I like tax/rebate per capita of the entire planet. That would replace a lot of foreign aid. The Initial rate should be low, with a step increase every year, say $10/tC to be increased by $10/tC each year for 20 years. Everyone gets fed and we all know what spewing carbon costs and how it is going to get more expensive. You want to spew carbon? That’s your human right. You should pay your own way, though.

    Comment by RichardC — 26 Oct 2009 @ 12:17 PM

  244. Patrick 027 (240) — Here are certainly safe ways to sequester CO2, safe because it turns to carbonate.

    In situ peridotite weathering:
    http://www.popularmechanics.com/science/earth/4292181.html
    http://www.technologyreview.com/energy/21629/?a=f
    http://www.pnas.org/content/105/45/17295

    In situ basalt weathering:
    http://www.pnas.org/content/105/29/9920.full.pdf+html

    Ex situ olivine weathering:
    http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2008/03/air-capture/#comment-87160
    ftp://ftp.geog.uu.nl/pub/posters/2008/Let_the_earth_help_us_to_save_the_earth-Schuiling_June2008.pdf
    http://www.ecn.nl/docs/library/report/2003/c03016.pdf

    See references 7, 8 and 9 in
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Olivine

    Mine tailings:
    http://adsabs.harvard.edu/abs/2005AGUFM.B33A1014W

    Comment by David B. Benson — 26 Oct 2009 @ 12:24 PM

  245. “(Remembering of course that all taxes are simply passed to consumers and are only seen as a price increase, with no visible benefits to those being taxed…)”

    But if there are other options, including just using less of that product, then the price signal serves it’s purpose. It is a signal, after all – it communicates something about the value of that transaction.

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 26 Oct 2009 @ 12:25 PM

  246. “(Remembering of course that all taxes are simply passed to consumers and are only seen as a price increase, with no visible benefits to those being taxed…”

    Citation needed.

    This only applies when there is a free market. Marketing is all about ensuring that the customer is not informed and therefore cannot buy rationally, making the Free Market fail.

    In many cases, there is a monopoly. IP laws like copyright and patent ensure there IS no free market.

    Then, as Patrick says, there’s the option of “not buying”, which I’m sure many corporations would like to see banned as an illegal activity. They certainly assume any money they don’t get is a loss, rather than a “not buy”.

    Lastly, if someone can make their product with less CO2 tax on it, they can undercut the others and make great profits. All under the aegis of Proper Capitalism.

    Assuming that CO2 taxes would be passed on in perpetuity assumes that technology cannot advance.

    Is this what the US has come to?

    Comment by Mark — 26 Oct 2009 @ 1:39 PM

  247. In an idealized free market, the suppliers pass along the cost of production to the consumers. If the economy as a whole is able to benifit from a chain of economic activity, then there will be some net profit – there is greater benefit than cost – and this benifit will be distributed in some way along the chain. Each participant puts something in and gets something out (including the consumer, who must work (time, effort, investment in him/herself, sacrifice of alternatives, etc.) to earn the the resources to afford the good/service), and the net benifit – that is, the profit, is the motivation. Economic activity is sustained along pathways that produce more than they consume. Along a chain, price signals propagate up and down essentially letting the participants know if this activity is worthwhile. Among chains, suppliers and consumers are drawn toward where they can get the most for their investments, and the efficiency of the whole network tends toward an optimum, where supplies of the most valuable products/services are increased at the expense of the supplies of the less valuable products/services, and demand shifts among options to those goods/services which are less costly to produce, all the while individuals seeking and realizing their own personal preferences among the options available (not all people make the same choices – this is not (necessarily) because they are being more or less rational or are more or less informed than each other) (PS ultimately, all economic value exists because of aesthetic value; there is no unqualified need; all needs are in order for something else).

    ——

    Of course, free markets are not perfect. There are externalities. As with biological evolution, there can be a tendency to reach local optima that are lower than other optima (a unique global maximum might not be definable – although it would be more easily done for the economy than for biological evolution, since there is no system-wide fitness, whereas there is a system-wide profitability in the economy). On the other hand, if their is some way to bridge the gap among optima, then there must be some different perspective (perhaps wherein the possibility of government participation is allowed, or with a different time horizon) from which the lower optima is not a local optima but is on a slope upward to the higher optima – from this perspective the higher optima may be shifted to a different position to acount for the benifits and costs of the allowed actions in this new perspective (including the policy design and enforcement costs, and the risk of corruption – the costs and benifits of policy options should be considered to find the most net benificial policy – some policy designs may be less corruptable than others and more efficiently designed and enforced) – the resulting optima might be higher (ie the law to drive on one side of the road creates an environment in which private actors have an incentive to choose one side over the other, and there is a net benifit to the whole thing; in general, choices can shape the options present for othere decisions – for example, a better choice can involve creating an environment where others (or the original decision maker) have better options or have to invest less decision-making resources to attain the same or higher level of accuracy – PS expenditure of the decision making resources are actually part of the choices, so it can be considered part of the same thing. An actor is part of the situation that determines the options and their values). Powerful large actors (monopolies) in the private sector might also be able to bridge such gaps and enact big changes, but there is a problem (perhas analogous to the corruption costs of public actions) of negotiating power – is it nonlinearly related to the investment to earn that power? – powerful businesses might act like dicatorships in their own right (in part via control over information and large decision making resources – although it is large decision making resources that may allow bridging of what would otherwise be gaps among optima?), unless labor and consumer groups form … when their are inequalities, the powerful might be able to keep the less powerful down (ie low pay for coal miners to maintain the supply of cheap labor?), … and there is a value (mitigation of psychological suffocation, having an enlightenned electorate and consumer) to having a commons (nature, some public property, fair-use concepts in copyright law, issues with the news business (for both the benifit or harm to either economic choices or political choices), which requires some amount of public control, and sometimes privatization can denude the value of an entity (nature is not nature if someone is actually in charge of it), or otherwise benificial privatization has technical hurdles (ie the inefficiency of making every road a toll road – whereas a tax on tires (scaled by tire durability) would be a proxy measure of road usage that could be utilized for public funding; also, the totalitarian nature (psychological/social/*moral* cost (ultimately all real costs and benifits are moral or else it wouldn’t matter – the policies and individual choices we should make are all based on maximizing the moral value, or with lack of perfect knowledge, the best approximation to the best probability of the highest moral value, etc. – (aesthetic value is the source and moral value is the end??)) of any perfectly fair and accurate health insurance (which would require monitoring of any activity that has some reproductive risk, as well as diet and excercise) – whereas a junk food tax (approximate solution since there is a diversity in the consequences of any such behavior) … well you get the idea) … and even when this is all optimized for the greatest good, it might not actually be so since people don’t start out with the same resources (especially if the rest of the system has not been perfected for some lead time up to birth, and for example, if the health insurance system doesn’t require (PS please note I am not advocating this design) advance pay on the part of the reproductive decision makers/risk takers for congenital/genetic risk factors so as to provide for those with related conditions in a fair manner if that is at all possible, etc, etc, etc, etc., and then there’s the estate tax or lack thereof…) and might not have the same internal reaction to equal externally-measured value (monetary or otherwise)(and other things)… Well I’ve gone through that before elsewhere.

    Also note – Within a free market, decisions are ultimately made at some point by people, not by the market itself. Both government and private actors have incentives (profit motive, vote motive) which can tend to lead to good decisions but are contingent on decision making resources of others (consumers/investors, electorate). Both governments and markets can be wasteful.

    The market economy is like an algorithm. It is a computer model of itself, and computations involve processing of price signals. There is learning.

    ——–

    And I was going to start with some specifics about climate policy but now I have to take a break.

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 26 Oct 2009 @ 1:45 PM

  248. re:243-247

    Hey All,

    First the Energy Market is not a Free Market. Two, the Energy Market suppliers are over optumized. Three, if the goal is to remove fossil/mineral carbon then increasing the price without providing a Cost Margin alternative is untenible and evil. Fourth, the fact that there are none so blind they cannot see, is clearly a universal human condition and not reserved for the denialists….

    I guess, we are done here, thanks, Dr. Schmidt, Hank Roberts and the rest of the RC team, this has been a wonderful respite, just wish the C&T community could see the supply/demand curves based on price. (It takes gasoline to nearly reaching $7/gal. in 12 months without the promise of return before the tap can be shutoff. By that time society as we know it now will not exist. (Evidence: Cigarettes, At the beginning of regulation average price was $0.58/pack current average price per pack $5.00 % smokers quitting less then 70, reason most quitting they are dying off…)

    Cheers!
    Dave Cooke

    Comment by L David Cooke — 26 Oct 2009 @ 2:49 PM

  249. “Also note – Within a free market, decisions are ultimately made at some point by people, not by the market itself.”

    Also note: the free market requires an informed consumer and free action within the market.

    Canadian softwood lumber?
    Bananas?
    Sugar Cane?
    Internet Gambling?

    And all the manipulation of the marketing department.

    Add that people have no time and you have no informed consumer.

    Comment by Mark — 26 Oct 2009 @ 3:44 PM

  250. L David Cooke-
    “the Energy Market is not a Free Market.”

    True, and obviously, in addition to enacting sensible policies, some other policies must be phased out or corrected (in energy and in agriculture, and in FEMA/natural hazard management), and there is the matter of monopolies and market manipulation. I wouldn’t disagree with that at all.

    “without providing a Cost Margin alternative ”

    But there are cost margin alternatives already, and they are destined to get better as a group with time.

    Mark -
    “Also note: the free market requires an informed consumer and free action within the market.”
    “Add that people have no time and you have no informed consumer.”

    The free market doesn’t require an informed consumer, but the performance will be improved with an informed consumer. Also with an informed producer. Large entities might tend not to have an issue with decision-making resources so far. Large volume businesses can know a lot. It is problematic for an individual consumer to suffiently inform his/herself about his/her choices.

    However: 1. within the free market, consumers can band together by way of consumer groups, and pool decision making resources, increasing the efficiency and accuracy of their decisions – analogous to the banding together of small businesses to negotiate with suppliers, and analogous to unionized labor.

    Nonetheless, 2. government can also play a role and I’m not against that – it could be argued that some forms of regulation are economically benificial, even to the businesses that are regulated, by boosting confidence in product quality and safety, readily disseminating information (food labels), and removing a question of how the workers are being treated. And there may be analogies for labor, etc.

    “IP laws like copyright and patent ensure there IS no free market.”

    Actually I disagree. People generally have to make investments of resources in order to come up with good ideas. Having good ideas should be encouraged according to their value. Just as zoning and urban planning, and regulation of pollution protect people’s (property and/or other) rights, copyright laws and patents protect people’s property rights.

    There are two qualifications on that:

    1. It may be sensible to put a time limit on intellectual property rights to the extent that, with the passage of time, it becomes probable that someone else would have stumbled onto the same thing or something very similar with less effort or maybe none at all.

    2. Because of the psychological, societal, political and economic benifits of an intellectual commons, limitations on intellectual property rights can be good. The concept of ‘fair use’ might be thought of as a safety valve.

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 26 Oct 2009 @ 5:40 PM

  251. Re CM – http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2009/10/why-levitt-and-dubner-like-geo-engineering-and-why-they-are-wrong/comment-page-5/#comment-139548 – well said.

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 26 Oct 2009 @ 5:43 PM

  252. Re 244 David B. Benson – Thanks.

    I wonder though if we should watch out for in situ weathering possibly causing earthquakes. That can also be an issue with geothermal power. But these are not things I would really know about.

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 26 Oct 2009 @ 5:49 PM

  253. Here’s a grim little piece from Bruce Bueno De Mesquita, complete with unrealistic techno-optimism at the end:

    Recipe for Failure

    Despite the hoopla, the U.N. climate change conference in Copenhagen is destined to fail. Here’s what will happen instead: Over the next several decades, world leaders will embrace tougher emissions standards than those proposed-and mostly ignored-in the 1997 Kyoto Protocol. But real support for tougher regulations will fall. By midcentury, the mandatory emissions standards in place will be well below those set at Kyoto, a far cry from the targets for carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases set to be discussed by world leaders in Copenhagen. And by the time 2100 rolls around, the political will for tougher regulations will have dried up almost completely.

    Comment by Jim Galasyn — 26 Oct 2009 @ 6:23 PM

  254. 185,186,187 Dave, Lynn, and Hank,

    Hank is certainly right about biochar, but if he did a diligent search he would find the an earlier name for biochar is “charcoal,” and it is still in common usage.

    Henry Ford started the Kingsford (familiar?) brand of charcoal which he made from wood used in crates etc. as a part of his automobile manufacturing business.

    Of course the real biochar problem is that it has to be made from wood that is grown or already standing. Either it displaces crops of other kind, food or building materials, or it amounts to deforestation. Yes, there are piles of wood chips rotting here and there, but these will quickly go if there is to be a significant amount of this newfangled “biochar” to be buried. If cutting wood for building materials leaves residue, of course this could become biochar. Is this likely to be a sustaining enterprise financially? I doubt it.

    Maybe using wood for buildings has a real potential for carbon capture, especially if we learn to preserve our wood buildings properly and don’t tear them down whenever the hunger for a bigger house takes hold of us.

    Cheers, Jim Bullis

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Co. — 26 Oct 2009 @ 7:04 PM

  255. Use of the term ‘geo-engineering’ for projects such as this gives engineering a bad name. Engineering, as far as humanly possible is to use scientific knowledge to design and implement projects to advance and improve on existing conditions for society(not always successfully to be sure)-to improve commerce, communications travel, and the general welfare of humanity. Examples abound such as The Panama Canal, the electronic transistor and now the computer chip, various engines, turbines and bridge spans that enable wider more accessible travel,also modern day medical devices,such at computer aided tomography(CAT)scans. The list goes on.
    These are only a small sample of the contributions of the engineering field. It would be closer to the truth if this term were changed to something like(in this case) Sun dimming experiments, or maybe geo-economic wizardry,or denialosphere proposals to increase ocean acidification. None of the dangerous proposals advanced so far comes even close to deserving the name engineering-far too many uncertainties with potentially distrastrous consequences.

    Comment by Lawrence Brown — 26 Oct 2009 @ 8:07 PM

  256. Jim Bullis, Miastrada Co. (254) — Biochar can be made from any dry biomass. There are plenty of agricultural wastes which could be used, etc. Now deforestation is not such a good idea, but for some species in some locations coppice provides a rapidly regrowing supply of wood without destroying the root system. And so on.

    Comment by David B. Benson — 26 Oct 2009 @ 8:29 PM

  257. I teach and do some research in climate change. To this end I am saddened by the quality of the debate both sides of the issue, from the contrarians who have their own agenda, and those on the side of reducing CO2 as the only logical control issue. I ask my classes a fundamental tragedy of the commons question:

    How can the west get China, Russia, India and 3rd world nations to also curtain carbon emissions and soon, without providing them a cheap alternative? If this can’t be done, all the decrease of emissions in the west (hardly even close to 100% in the next 20 years) will lead to little in controlling the problem. It may make the west feel good to do something, but it won’t stave off the acidification of the oceans nor increasing temperatures.

    If politically and economically getting the 3rd world to buy into large-scale carbon reductions SOON won’t happen (and I can’t see it happening–can ANYONE?), then what can be done to effectively control at least some of the problem?

    Perhaps geoengineering could do it. Mt. Pinatubo did it for a while for temperature until the aerosols were washed out in a few years. There is a cost of geoengineering, which will obviously not stop the problem–which IS carbon. We might not like hazy skies.

    But those who want it all, curtailing carbon emissions world wide, will be waiting until hell freezes over until it happens–or the earth perhaps cooks. Working towards that goal through efficiency, getting more nuclear plants on line, solar and so on, would obviously be a good thing. But my guess is that geoengineering will happen once the results of the heating become globally unbearable.

    I’d like to see it at least considered in the mix without the vitriol I am seeing on the blogs posted on Real Climate, most recently related to the book Superfreakonmics. I see Blogs parsing incorrect details with the same glee as that found in blogs of naysayers. Real Climate sadly has become a site which I can’t recommend any more for my students because of this vitriol.

    Comment by Don Siegel — 26 Oct 2009 @ 9:15 PM

  258. 256 David B. Benson

    Sounds good but I continue to think anything grown will displace the process of growing food related products.

    Also, I realize things are different now, but in the old days we thought all that agricultural waste had a useful purpose when plowed under. If it is now burned off you have a good point, though still, gathering the stuff is fairly labor intensive.

    I still think we can get further along with this by making our transportation systems work more efficiently. Hey, cost is zip and people might some day like it. They can go fast with safety and comfort! Generating systems also can be a lot better. So can trucks, including wheels and roads. That actually gets a lot done without much burden on the ordinary folks.

    There will be a lot of resistance in getting people to give up their muscle cars and cute fashion statements that now pretend to be good transportation solutions. But hey, things might change when the water rises enough to scare the heck out of us.

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Co. — 26 Oct 2009 @ 9:43 PM

  259. > 185, 186, 187, 254

    You’ve missed the point discussed in those earlier comments, Jim. All of us are aware of the etymology and the differences.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charcoal_burning
    Open methods wasted the carbon monoxide and hydrogen evolved by heating.
    Closed methods have been in use for many decades:
    http://www.google.com/search?q=vehicle+“World+War+II”+charcoal

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 26 Oct 2009 @ 10:46 PM

  260. Don Siegel, 257: I don’t think too many people would object to the study of geoengineering as a last-gasp imperfect backup plan, in conjunction with belated emissions cuts. It’s posing geoengineering as the preferred option over emissions cuts, without mentioning the myriad shortcomings of the method, that generates dissent.

    You’ll convince various developing nations to cut emissions if you pay for them to do it, or at least toss in some free technology transfers. Brazil is now quite happy to take money for avoided deforestation; the Chinese have quite enthusiastically put forth projects for offsets. But the rich world is only going to pay for so much, so this can only go so far.

    Comment by tharanga — 26 Oct 2009 @ 11:35 PM

  261. I forgot to mention negative-sum games in my list of problems with the free market. (Example: competitive fertility to insure security in old age.)

    ————————————————————————————–
    Now to some of the gritty details (that I didn’t have time to get to in comment 240:

    First, considering the tax on externalities.

    There may be many things that may have externalities that could be taxed. In some cases taxation might not be the best option. A mandate might work better. Or a set cap. It depends, perhaps on how nonlinear the externality per unit economic activity varies with volume of economic activity, and on how easily an appropriate tax value can be determined. An externality with local effect would be taxed locally. The first idea is that the tax rate should be sufficient to compensate those who deal with the externality in the combination of direct losses and adaptation costs, or costs of counteracting the externality. There may be other systems, though.

    With regard to climate forcings, some of the forcers have other effects, and some forcings have idiosyncratic or local effects, and some economic activity related to climate forcing has other effects. I don’t mean to imply that only the effect on global average temperature should be used to determine a tax. So if I forget something, I’m not trying to argue against addressing it. But here are a few specific points:

    1.

    We start with a tax per unit global warming potential (GWP). A negative tax is a positive subsidy, and this would occur when GWP is less than zero. If the main threat ever became global cooling, then the signs would reverse, but this is not a major concern at this time.

    a.
    The GWP of an atmospheric emission is a time-integrated radiative forcing multiplied by relative efficacy (example of efficacy – the efficacy of a unit globally-averaged radiative forcing of the radiative forcing of dark aerosols emitted near or upwind of places and during times of sea ice and snow cover will tend to be larger than that of CO2), and the tax would be charged once for a given amount of emission. Removal of an emission from the atmosphere would be paid for at the same rate.

    b.
    The GWP of a unit of substance may vary with time due to changes in radiative forcing per unit substance (tends to decrease with increasing amount, at least for CO2) and the longevity of the atmospheric composition perturbation (tends to increase for CO2 when an amount of emissions accumulate over a sufficiently short time). However, to the extent this is caused by the recent history of emissions, the emissions share in the responsibility, so the tax should tend to apply more to the substance amount-weighted average GWP of a substance over a given time period. The externality of climate change might also vary nonlinearly with the amount of temperature change. But each unit temperature change shares the responsibility of the increasing or decreasing effect of the next unit change, so there again, the tax should tend to be averaged out over average GWP of a substance or closely-interacting group of substances (CO2 affects CO2, CH4 affects CH4 some other things).

    c.
    Aside from emissions from land-use, land-use can have an albedo effect. The GWP of an albedo change would be a value per unit time.

    2.

    Some climate forcings have effects that, for a given global average temperature change, are different from the general tendencies associated with a ‘generic’ global warming or cooling of the same amount. This will tend to be true of anthropogenic aerosol emissions in particular. It is also conceivable that land use changes and irrigation may affect local and regional evapotranspiration rates (as well as runoff) Some adjustment to the climate forcing tax should be made according to the externalities associated with these effects.

    3.

    adjustments for CO2 for other effects:
    CO2 adds to oceanic acidification. There is a CO2 fertilization effect. The tax on CO2 emission should be increased for the acidification effect (including how the consequences might be affected by the climate change), and then perhaps decreased for the fertilization effect, which in some cases might ameliorate the climate change effects, or otherwise enhance some land use (agriculture), although there might be an additional increase in the tax for possible decreasing nutrient quality of food (?) and/or disruptions in ecological relationships or changes in ecological services caused directly by the CO2 change.

    4.

    Some of these effects might affect the valuation of the other effects. Interactions will tend to have shared responsibility.

    5.

    Other environmental issues associated with energy and agriculture should be addressed. In particular, a prohibitively high tax, or outright phaseout or ban, could be enacted regarding mountaintop removal mining of coal. Mercury and other non-climate forcing (or as-of-yet unknown climate forcing (would mercury in oceans affect planktonic production of aerosol precursors (DMS)? well maybe not, I just mentioned it in case it ever did come up as a possibility)) pollution could/should also be taxed or otherwise regulated. The petroleum industry should most definitely pay for oil spill cleanups and net losses in tourism and other ecosystem services, etc, or at least pay for insurance for that purpose. And so on for spills of toxic sludge.

    6.

    Because of uncertainties, complexities, competing effects, and relative magnititudes of externalities, global regulation of some of the above might be dropped for the time being. For example, aerosol emissions in general have short longevity, negative direct effects on human health, complex climatic effects besides the effect on global average temperature, and maybe other effects. It is expected that regions with such pollution will eventually try to reduce such emissions for their own benifit, and they don’t accumulate over time in proportion to greenhouse gases. It may be desirable to have regional treaties for dealing with issues such as the “Asian Brown Cloud” (and global policies would then take regional policies into account so as to not double count taxation or whatever is used), but it may not be worthwhile at this time to pursue a global policy for these aerosols, at least for aerosols with a global-average cooling effect. Likewise, direct forcing of surface albedo may be too small to justify the effort to regulate it comprehensively, and so on for the (other) effects of irrigation and changes in evapotranspiration caused by replacement of forests with cropland, etc.

    Meanwhile, some uncertainties and complexities will require approximations. Rather than attempting to work out a precise relationship between amounts of emissions, etc, and their effects, value of those effects and how they may be contingent on each other, we might try at least initially using linear approximations. Given the magnitude of the global warming problem, if we can’t get all the i’s dotted and t’s crossed, a blunt instrument may be justified. (But there is no need to be lazy about it either and just toss out numbers at random.)

    7.

    Wherein a cap/mandate/prohibition is used instead of a tax, the proportionalities of exchangaeble pollutants should be considered. For example, if the tax on anthropogenic biological methane emissions would have been x per unit, and the tax on CO2 emissions would have been y per unit, then for a cap on all externalities, x units of CO2 would fill the same portion of the cap as y units of anthropogenic biological methane. This could get complicated, however, when all externalities are not addressed the same way, and if their are seperate caps on different categories of effect and some emission falls into both categories. But some math could work out the proportions.

    8.

    A cap/mandate/prohibition is not mutually exclusive to a tax. A cap with auction acts like a tax. Caps by themselves act like a tax by raising the price by decreasing supply, but there is no net public revenue to compensate for the effects of the externality. Any pollutant could simulatenously be restricted to being less than a set amount and also taxed for whatever amount is emitted. A sufficient fine for violation would effectively create two tax brackets for the pollutant, which would be justified by a nonlinear externality relationship; criminal charges beyond some point would be somewhat similar.

    Interesting point: If there were only one entity emitting vast quantities of CO2, this could be considered a criminal act, encompassing theft, terrorism, and perhaps even manslaughter – or maybe this is too extreme – it might be more analogous criminal negligence. (PS nothing against free speech, but considering that legal trouble could follow the event of a stockbroker giving outrageously bad advice to clients, there might be some analogue for some of what Richard Lindzen has done.) But a sufficiently small amount of CO2 would, by itself, be nothing to worry about. It doesn’t make since to apply criminal charges to CO2 emissions as the situation now stands. It would make since to apply criminal charges to violations of a climate emissions policy, however.

    9.

    Three special points about CO2 and methane emissions:

    Methane emissions can affect other aspects of atmospheric composition, including stratospheric water vapor. This may be true for some other things.

    There are two distinct types of methane with regards to GWP. CH4 oxidizes in the atmosphere over time, producing CO2 and water vapor – the tropospheric water vapor created this way is inconsequential, but there is stratospheric water vapor. Anthropogenically-caused increases in biological emissions adds CH4 to the atmosphere but does not add CO2 to the atmosphere (Actually, any increase in temporary storage of recently created organic C will result in some net removal of CO2 from the air – stockpiles of food represent an amount of C not in the atmosphere – but this can probably be ignored without much consequence, except for deforestation, etc.). Emmisions of CH4 from fossil C do add CO2 to the atmosphere and will have a higher GWP.

    Aside from use of organic C to sequester CO2 and changes in stockpiled organic matter, including especially changes in biomass (de/re/a-forestation), only fossil C emissions matter for climate. Of course. Fossil C includes C emitted from limestone in the production of cement.

    10.

    Special allotments should not be made to particular industries or even (in an idealized global policy) countries (except perhaps when there are restrictions on migration?, since migration is part of the market response, among other things) – except wherein that affects the amount of forcing or efficacy (such as how the effects of aerosols depend on timing and location). If there is a tax on CO2, it should be the same for all fossil C emissions. If there is a cap, different industries should have to compete for their fractions of the same total allotment. The total reduction in global warming can be a target and the tax or cap could be formulated and adjusted to reach that goal if a top-down approach is incorporated into figuring out the optimal trajectory, but the market response should decide the allotment of reductions among the different industries.

    11.

    If there is a category of emissions that are harder to regulate via taxes or caps, then another option certainly could be pursued. I happen to thinkg a tax/cap approach is best in general for fossil C as CO2 emissions. But the most efficient cost-effective policies to address externalities and any other free market shortcomings should be pursued – noting that (in general, not for climate change) some free market problems will be less costly than the government solutions required to correct them; it is certainly possible that governments can be inaccurate and get the wrong answer just as free markets do – they are both run ultimately by people with limited decision-making resources and possibly subject to perverse incentives in some cases (ie/eg CEOs who get paid by productivity at the moment with no regard for long-term consequences – presumably a problem with solutions, though).

    (PS I wonder if, as broadleaf and coniferous trees both do better in better soil, but coniferous trees are less sensitive to soil quality and can beat out the broadleaf trees in poor soil and not in better soil, so too perhaps are there situations which will befuddle the government and the private sector to varying degrees but for which a public or private solution will be more likely than the other to succeed.)

    12.

    Emissions that are a climate feedback should not be taxed according to the managers/owners of the component of the system (various ecosystems, etc.) because they are not at fault – rather it is the responsibility of the climate forcing anthropogenic emissions themselves – essentially such positive feedback acts to increase GWP.

    However, management to reduce the risk of such positive feedback could be paid, and usage that, aside from whatever the direct emissions are, increase the risk or amount of positive feedback should be charged accordingly. However, this should be adjusted to avoid incentives to destroy ecosystems; destroying wetlands to reduce CH4 emissions is probably not a good idea (assuming it would even work, and even if compensating increases in CO2 were less than the reduced CH4 effect if there even were one).

    (PS aside from the more complex ecological interaction and the direct aesthetic values, an externality of wetland destruction can include greater flooding problems downstream).

    13.
    Specific to international policies:

    How to handle past CO2 emissions and make policies regarding deforestation fair:

    It would be somewhat unfair to tax deforestation now and subsidize re/aforestation…
    —-
    (aside from potential negative effects of aforestation of areas not originally forested at any point in the last few thousand years, including possible albedo problems, and aside from the potential positive ecological value of helping forests to ‘migrate’ to keep up with climate change, etc.)
    —-
    … because some places have already reaped the economic benifits of deforestation and have greater opportunity to reforest because of past deforestation.

    Possible solution, which also encompasses inequity in fossil C emissions:

    a.
    Apply the tax to past emissions.

    b.
    Apply a time dependent discount to the tax for each time in the past to take into account that:
    (1) the past has shaped what is and is not advantageous or efficient now and cannot actually be changed; people live where they do in part because of where past economic activity has been, and so on; the way things are now is in some ways just like the locations of mountains and rivers – it may not be a boundary condition but rather an initial condition, nonetheless the future trajectory cannot originate from anywhere else beside the present and we have to adapt to the present in that way to make the future better.
    (2) people didn’t generally know the externality existed and was a serious problem (or at least most were not aware of it).

    c.
    Apply an additional discount rate to subdivided the tax. The total tax attributed to each time is divided into 2 portions:
    (1) one portion, whose fraction of the total decreases back in time, is assigned as the responsibility of nations of origin
    (2) the remaining portion is assigned to all nations in proportion to total accumulate wealth, to reflect the fact that wealth can travel from where it was produced, and also that present day nations cannot be held responsible for all activity that happens to geographically coincide with their present locations.
    - some adjustments might be made to this apportionment to reflect historical events. It’s possible that all emissions up to 1970 (?) would be apportioned by national wealth.

    INTERNATIONAL POLICIES MORE GENERALLY:

    d.
    The above steps assign a monetary responsibility to each nation for past emissions. A schedule is agreed for nations to gradually pay back this amount (with the only interest rate being to compensate for some combination of global? and national inflation?) over decades or when climate adaptation costs get larger. Nations also pay their responsibility for emissions now into the future as they occur. Spending is apportioned to nations according to adaptation/compensation/neutralization/etc costs and other spending categories (mitigation, adaptation to policy, equal per capita, equal per G(D/N)P as analogue to a cuts in other taxes). The difference between what a nation owes and what it is owed is what it actually must give or recieve. A nation must agree to be taxed in order to qualify for the spending allocation.

    d’.
    The equal per G(D/N)P payout is okay and perhaps valuable in that:

    - It directs resources to where they will be used to produce wealth (ideally this is real wealth, not heavily advertised junk)
    - Some of that wealth can be directed toward R&D and subsidies to produce and grow mitigation pathways, and nations can compete economically to do this. (whereas it may be hard to mandate that spending go toward such purposes on an international level ??)
    - Aside from competition for mitigation, there is an incentive to produce more wealth for less emissions and nations can compete in that way.
    However, there might be a risk in reducing this competition to produce more for less emissions if two much of the revenue is spent in this way and if all nations progress at the same rate in their emissions efficiency. If there are tighter controls on migration among nations, then this part of the spending should be reduced farther.

    SEE BELOW for further explanation of spending.

    ________

    Note that the price signals produced by these policies will flow through supply-demand chains.

    For example:

    Fossil C is mined or otherwise extracted, processed, combusted, and energy used to supply electricity to consumers (residential or commercial) or to supply energy and heat to industrial processes, etc, with perhaps several transactions along the chain.

    At any point along that chain, a tax (or cap) could be applied, and the price signal would flow back and forth along the chain, as demand downstream is reduced, reducing profit realized upstream, reducing investment in the supply, or else, profit is reduced to keep prices downstream from changing, with ther result that investment is reduced, redusing supply, etc.

    But there are points along the chain where large volumes tend to flow through a small number of pipes. Such a point would be the most efficient point to regulate. For example, fossil fuels might be taxed (per unit fossil C, except for variations in fossil CH4 emissions, etc.) at the mine, or by sale to combustors of the fuel or large scale distributors of fuel to smaller scale users. Just as long as (ideally) each unit of fossil C is taxed/capped at least once and only once in full (or twice to add up to being taxed in full, although that seems inefficient). Although some approximation can be allowed to increase the efficiency of enforcement.

    Fossil C emissions are particularly amenable to such policies. It is harder to determine land-use emissions (biological methane and land-use CO2 emissions). In that case, some estimate might be used. There may be variations in the effect of a behavior depending on other variables; when some of that variation is not understood, some average value might be assigned – if the people engaging in that behavior can’t know all the contingencies, it wouldn’t make since to reward or punish them for such inaccuracies.

    As the price signal flows along the chain, it will spill into clean energy and energy efficiency choices depending on energy payback and the energy mix used. Thus the price signal, via market response, will be helpful in determining or double checking the emissions efficiency of the lifecycles of alternative pathways. For subsidized industries, the industries will still have to respond to the price signal for a given subsidy, and any government planning and allocation of funds should be aware of the price signals, as in general they should avoid directing government support of options that are less efficient or more costly either directly or via externalities (including the effects of worker compensation, pollution control, etc). For those who doubt that solar power and wind power are real solutions, though there may be persuasive studies (which are important in allocation of spending), the price signal(s) will offer proof against those doubts.
    ________

    TARIFFS/SUBSIDIES NOTE:
    ****
    In the case of domestic policies that differ among nations, in the absence of a global arrangement aside from allowance of climate policy tariffs and subsidies, trade of fuel or energy across borders may require some correction when different nations apply a tax or cap to different points along the chain of fuel supply and energy use. And more generally, tariffs and maybe subsidies (?) could be applied for trade between nations with differing policies, the sum of which (tariff + subsidy) being in proportion to the difference (effort should be made for the tariffs to represent embodied emissions of products and services, and/or subsidies to go to products/services that have lower embodied emissions per unit economic value). Similar principles could apply to variations in other environmental, safety and health, quality, and labor policies.
    ****
    ________

    PART II:

    Spending of revenue.

    Note that, in principle, the value of the tax itself is contingent on the spending of revenue – whether or not the revenue entirely comes from that particular tax.

    Case 1: The spending on adaptation/amelioration/compensation/neutralization/sequestration (in total) is equal to (averaged over time, accounting for inflation, etc.) the tax revenue.

    In that case, the tax represents the public cost of the externality, which is the cost people realize as they suffer loss, and reduce further loss by adaption or neutralization.

    Case 2: The spending includes subsidizing alternative economic pathways (clean energy, efficiency) –

    In that case, the price signal is a combination of the subsidy and the tax.

    In principle, that (the price signal) is what should match the public cost of the externality. This would argue for a reduced tax rate. Additional revenue would then be necessary to fund the spending.

    However, if the optimal path is determined to be a combination of subsidy/support for alternatives and paying the public cost of the externality, it might be argued that the total externality actually includes both costs and the tax should be enough to fund both (but the optimal path must then be determined to be one in which the tax and spending is structured in that way).

    Well, maybe we should split the difference?

    (Just so there’s no confusion, alternative pathways may include anything from energy-efficient buildings and infrastructure and expansion of clean energy use, to using less TV and more radio (radios use less energy, generally), to moving closer to various places, buying locally and in season where possible, etc, to just enjoying the simple things in life (and not buying stuff you don’t really want).)

    Bear in mind, though, that some government spending in pursuit of establishing and supporting alternative pathways can be removed from the above equation because it can be justified from more general issues not specific to the externality. This would include some portion of R&D and support of industries/businesses that have yet to reach mass-market size.

    Case 3: The spending also includes paying for the cost of the policy and it’s implementation.

    Similar arguments as in case 2.

    This includes:

    a. the cost of decision making resources to design the policy (climate studies, economic studies) and the cost of enforcement, and the cost of policy related corruption. However, policy should be designed to be efficient and enforceable, and relatively hard to corrupt (perhaps by keeping the majority of taxation and spending to a central core of the policy that is written in a very clear and brief fashion (perhaps unlike some of my own writing), with good guidelines to prevent congress(wo)man representing A from directing spending from a solar power plant in B to another project in A that is a less efficient/promising use of funds, etc.) Corruption in particular should tend to be the responsibility of the corrupt, except to the extent that our representative democracy as it now is encourages it in general.

    Policy/bureacracy costs should be minor in comparison to the resources regulated by the policy.

    b. economic adaptation to the policy: migration from coal country to solar and wind country, compensating localities by starting clean energy or energy efficient industries in regions now depedent on dirtier industries, job training, aid to the poor for the potential regressive nature of the externality tax.

    It should be noted that some of this cost should have been anticipated, and over time, the economy should evolve so that there are not continuing losses due to investements made in the absence of knowlege of the policy. Except for the poor, people should have been able to their decisions in anticipation of this policy, even before now (at least in general ways), so this spending should be limited. Over time, socioeconomic conditions might be expected to evolve so that the poor are not so hurt by the tax (*some* people might ‘allow themselves’ to reach a certain level of poverty when the costs they face are at one level. Of course, people don’t generally choose poverty; but except for inherited poverty, they might take risks or actions that lead to poverty (unprotected acts leading to unplanned reproduction, reproduction for the sake of status, security in old age, or proof of manhood (if manhood is only judged either by wealth or fertility, then poor insecure men (or all men if the culture is sufficiently wacky – I don’t know of examples offhand, though) have an incentive to have lots of children), some other things) that they would be more likely to avoid (if only it were that simple) if economic conditions are different. If only it were that simple – by no means am I trying to suggest that poverty is always or even necessarily commonly the fault of the poor; wealth is inherited, people are trapped to some extent by the influence of neighborhood wealth on quality of schooling, there’s forcible induction into gangs, lack of opportunities, and perhaps increasing returns – that you may be caught below a threshold where it is hard to ever get a sufficient concentration of wealth to make a big change. Also, if you have no hope then your behaviors might reflect that. And I suppose junk food and ___ are cheap entertainment – maybe – I’m no expert on this stuff. But I do know that lack of public social security can, in particular in third world countries, encourage higher fertility rates (with a spiritual analogue in traditional ancestor-worship cultures), and childhood mortality, aside from the more obvious tragedy of it, impairs the efficiency of investment in education (you have to teach more children to get fewer skilled adults). Lack of good medical care also hurts economies.)

    One thing that should be kept to a minimum is spending in support of maladaptive behavior – such as continually paying people for losses incurred by not adapting.

    —–

    I’ve only listed five spending categories here:

    1. Sequestration or other direct ameloriation/neutralization of externalities (except wherein there are sideeffects or the effect does not completely cover the externality, the pay rate is the same as the tax rate.)

    2. Original source of externality costs: Adaptation and compensation for losses (which shall include indirect ameloriation or neutralization of effects of emission/etc., such as replacement of ecosystem services or measures to preserve ecosystems, ecosystem services and climate services and biodiversity (water supplies, abiotic signals to ecosystems, potential medicinal, food and other crop resources, etc, aesthetic, scientific, cultural , societal and psychological value, etc.)

    (And note again that we should keep perverse incentives for maladaptive behavior to a minimum. For example, we shouldn’t continually pay compensation to farmers for consistent crop losses. We should pay the net loss assuming the farmer minimizes losses by changing practices or crop choices or invests in irrigation, etc, or sells the property at a loss (and this should be a one time deal per increment of regional climate change and ecosystem service change – we shouldn’t pay twice for the same damage, such as paying to compensate for adaptation costs which can be represented by a change in property value and then again for a net loss in property value when the farmer sells. Etc.) And so on for a pattern of flooding – we shouldn’t just subsidize people’s risk taking or lack of adaptation **when adaptive options are available** (also an issue with FEMA and agricultural policies right now, climate change or not).)

    3. Mitigation

    4. Economic adaptation to the policy

    5. Direct policy costs.

    So how would an equal per capita payback or cut in other taxes fit in? What would actually justify this? I have some ideas…

    To be continued….

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 27 Oct 2009 @ 12:13 AM

  262. 257 Don: China and India are indeed eager to participate. What they need is primarily a free access to the patents and other intellectual property owned by the industrial countries. Finance is not a problem, it is forthcoming when business is good.

    The newly industrialized countries are the global factory, specializing in volume production of goods at competitive, low cost. Good big business potential for them, making all the solar panels, wind generators, electic cars and nuclear power plant the world needs. They are increasingly credible nowadays.

    The Chinese are already working on this. Political horse trading is another matter. See:
    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/10/25/AR2009102502132.html

    Comment by Pekka Kostamo — 27 Oct 2009 @ 3:58 AM

  263. “How can the west get China, Russia, India and 3rd world nations to also curtain carbon emissions and soon, without providing them a cheap alternative? ”

    Don, why should I care about what I can get others to do? Why not do better myself.

    You don’t ask “How can we stop other people stealing?” as a reason why you won’t stop, do you.

    And the per-capita output from both is much lower than US or even UK emissions.

    So how about asking “When we are using less CO2 per person that Russia or China, do we have the right then to ask them to control their waste?”.

    Comment by Mark — 27 Oct 2009 @ 4:11 AM

  264. Don Siegel,

    If you think the objections to AGW in “Superfreakonomics” are valid, you’re not competent to judge what your students should be reading about it. Sorry. Pick up a book and get a clue. I’d start with Houghton’s “The Physics of Atmospheres,” or if the math intimidates you, Hartmann’s “Global Physical Climatology.”

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 27 Oct 2009 @ 5:41 AM

  265. Re Don Siegel (257), BPL (264),

    Barton Paul Levenson, I think you’re being unreasonably harsh on Don Siegel. I take his main point to be a pessimistic view of the problem being dealt with in time (mainly because the developing nations aren’t willing to curtail their growth). And resulting from this view, that geo-engineering should be on the table “once the results of the heating become globally unbearable”. As a last resort, as an emergency measure. What options do we have to reverse or reduce the melting of the Greenland ice sheet once it starts? Perhaps none; perhaps one. I prefer the latter.

    I do disagree with Don Siegel’s last paragraph. I think this was an excellent post with very good arguments.

    Comment by Bart Verheggen — 27 Oct 2009 @ 8:45 AM

  266. RE # 265

    Bart, not to be a nag, but anyone writing the word ‘geoengineering” without also writing the words “ocean acidification” is not writing a complete sentence.

    Reversing or reducing the melting of the Greenland ice sheet can only be accomplished by reversing the accumulation of atmospheric CO2 back to levels pre-1950. Sun shades are not the answer if 70 percent of the earth’s surface CO2 sink is no longer absorbing the problem.

    Comment by John McCormick — 27 Oct 2009 @ 9:19 AM

  267. Don Siegel says:
    If politically and economically getting the 3rd world to buy into large-scale carbon reductions SOON won’t happen (and I can’t see it happening–can ANYONE?)

    Yes I certainly can, and with strong recent evidence to do so. Just within the last month, Brazil has pledged to cut it’s deforestation rate by 80%–80%!–within 10 years, and Indonesia by 25 to 40% in the same time frame. Other 3rd world countries, and China, are making similar noises about their intent to cut emissions. Your statement has no basis in fact. In fact, most of your post consists of rather grand assertions with no support. In particular, there is no evidence to support the claim that the world cannot alter its emissions radically in a relatively short period of time, if it decides to. None.

    The reason that reducing CO2 is the correct path to take is because increased CO2 is the source of the problem. Since its addition to the atmosphere caused the problem, it’s removal, or stabilization, will also solve the problem. Fairly simple. On the other hand, most geo-engineering ideas are a full court shot, with prayer, at the buzzer. There is no guarantee on anything about any of them. And if I’m wrong on that, then please provide the evidence to the contrary here and I will stand corrected.

    Comment by Jim Bouldin — 27 Oct 2009 @ 9:53 AM

  268. p.s.

    And no more crying from anyone about the supposed disastrous effects of emissions reductions on “the economy” please. Had enough of that one for one lifetime.

    Comment by Jim Bouldin — 27 Oct 2009 @ 10:03 AM

  269. Re:263 by Mark
    “Don, why should I care about what I can get others to do? Why not do better myself.”

    This is true to a point,but in this case it’s more a matter of what we can do together. Just as it wouldn’t make sense to unilaterally disarm all our atomic weapons while not caring what other nuclear nations do, it would be more effective if we in the relatively prosperous west could work together with the poorer nations to provide incentives to lower their carbon output.

    Comment by Lawrence Brown — 27 Oct 2009 @ 10:12 AM

  270. John (266),

    You’re right. I wasn’t complete at all. Nor will I be in this comment.

    Let me make clear that I would be the last person advocating geo-engineering *instead of* emission reduction. But if emission reductions proceed too slowly (or not at all, as seems much more likely for a while to come), and if that leads at some point to unacceptable impacts or consequences, we have to consider what we can do *in addition to* strongly reducing our emissions, to decrease the negative impacts to acceptable levels. At such a point in time, even replacing all power generation by wind- and solar power within the course of a few years, will reach their intended effects much too slowly. That’s of course a prime reason why we should have started reducing our emissions yesterday, and not tomorrow or, God forbid, in 100 years.
    The only way in which (the warming aspect of) climate change can be *quickly* reversed is geo-engineering. And of course, at the risk of repeating myself, we should really have reduced our emissions enough so that we don’t need to meddle even more with the system. That is clearly the preferred route.

    I agree with Ken Caldeira (http://news.mongabay.com/2007/0604-geoengineering.html):
    “I hope I never need a parachute, but if my plane is going down in flames, I sure hope I have a parachute handy,” Caldeira said. “I hope we’ll never need geoengineering schemes, but if a climate catastrophe occurs, I sure hope we will have thought through our options carefully.”

    I contributed to an assessment of “other” climate reduction possibilities, for which I wrote chapter 6 on geo-engineering and air capture. Section 6.4.1 is especially relevant, and I think it makes clear that I do not downplay the risks associated with geo-engineering. I plan to write more about the topic on my blog in the near future.

    Comment by Bart Verheggen — 27 Oct 2009 @ 10:42 AM

  271. Are you arguing that geoengineering could not possibly be an element of the lowest risk approach?

    It’s not like avoiding geoengineering is without risk. We may lose the Arctic ice cap. The current and projected level of forcing might already have us on a path to irreversible catastrophe if we avoid geoengineering and rely soley on emission reductions.

    Perhaps we need urgent R&D on geoengineering and we need emission reduction, since our lowest risk option could be a mix of the two.

    Comment by Tom Adams — 27 Oct 2009 @ 12:10 PM

  272. Jim Bullis, Miastrada Co. (258) — Peanut shells, for example, are send to the peanut factory where the edible portion is extracted. It doesn’t pay to return the shells to the fields; where this occurs near St. Loius the peanut shells are co-fired with coal for electricity. Could equally well make biochar. Very similar situation with forestry wastes created at the wood and pulp mills. Etc.

    The US taxpayers pay US farmers a considerable sum each year in set-asdie lands;; the farmers are paid not to farm those areas. Instead those poorer soils could be used for growing biomass to make biochar.

    In addition, we could choose to increase primary production by schemes such as
    Irrigated afforestation of the Sahara and Australian Outback to end global warming
    http://www.springerlink.com/content/55436u2122u77525/
    That would make lots of biochar!

    There are many web sites about biochar. Here is one:
    http://terrapreta.bioenergylists.org/

    I don’t have any expertise about transportation, so don’t comment about it. (That’s a hint.)

    Comment by David B. Benson — 27 Oct 2009 @ 12:48 PM

  273. “Are you arguing that geoengineering could not possibly be an element of the lowest risk approach?”

    Tom,

    Are you arguing that ANY geoengineering could be a lower risk than not burning fossil fuels?

    Comment by Mark — 27 Oct 2009 @ 12:55 PM

  274. “This is true to a point,but in this case it’s more a matter of what we can do together. Just as it wouldn’t make sense to unilaterally disarm all our atomic weapons while not caring what other nuclear nations do”

    I would contest that.

    China for example would require such a drubbing from nukes that it would be practically MAD by indirection for the US to invade with nukes as the big stick. IF China invaded someone else, the invaded country would not be happy at being nuked so that the chinese are driven out.

    Nukes are a negative-sum game.

    The only way to win is not to play.

    And reducing CO2 production isn’t nuclear disarmament.

    Comment by Mark — 27 Oct 2009 @ 12:59 PM

  275. Tom (assuming you addressed your Q to me),
    I am argueing that it could be, but only in the case of a climate emergency.

    Comment by Bart Verheggen — 27 Oct 2009 @ 1:17 PM

  276. “The US taxpayers pay US farmers a considerable sum each year in set-asdie lands;; the farmers are paid not to farm those areas. Instead those poorer soils could be used for growing biomass to make biochar.”

    One reason why they are poor soils is they’ve been overplanted and overfertilised.

    Of course a nitrogen fixer that is a weed and quick growing and produces a lot of usable organic material could be used to help such land.

    But hemp is the Demon Plant.

    Farmers would toke themselves to death.

    Apparently.

    Comment by Mark — 27 Oct 2009 @ 2:05 PM

  277. See instead:

    http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=powering-a-green-planet

    “This Web-only article is a special rich-media presentation of the feature, “A Path to Sustainable Energy by 2030″, which appears in the November 2009Scientific American. “

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 27 Oct 2009 @ 2:24 PM

  278. Don Siegel (#257), I assume you’re the Don Siegel(*) who teaches a cross-disciplinary course called “Climate Change: Science, Perception and Policy” at Syracuse and SUNY. The conception of the course sounds really interesting. It’s regrettable (for those of us who wish RealClimate every success in outreach!) if educators like you are so put off by the occasionally robust tone of posts here that you stop recommending the site to your students.

    That said, I’m puzzled by your comments. There may be serious reasons for considering geoengineering, as you and Bart Verheggen have argued in this thread. But that doesn’t geoengineering should be accepted for the /bad/ reasons that were rightly demolished in the original post. Hopefully you are not /recommending/ the Superfreakonomics chapter to your students…?


    (*) Another Don Siegel once directed Invasion of the Body Snatchers, a movie with the following tagline — eerily topical for the mood in which we contemplate geoengineering:

    “Something is happening! Send your men of science quick!” The panic stricken cry went over the phone to Washington D. C. until the lines went dead!…

    Comment by CM — 27 Oct 2009 @ 2:26 PM

  279. “You are not going to see cheap access to space in your lifetime”

    Well that’s a real shame because without it the human species is doomed. Given how easy it would be to GET it, it is doubly shameful.

    The “closest” thing you mention is a device that has to remain in a precise position relative to a highly sensitive instrument with both in orbit. It is far more precise than a simple reflecting sphere like echo and it is unlikely that either resembles a reasonable design for something designed simply to increase the effective albedo of the planet while orbiting the planet.

    Your hostility to this is palpable and yet nothing YOU have suggested has a hope in hell of actually happening fast enough to avoid catastrophic change.

    The economy must change. Agreed, and it will. Peak energy will cause a lot of change… and the catastrophe will happen ANYWAY unless we pull the CO2 down now (which we won’t because there is still a huge industry bias against that sort of change). If we don’t the warming from what we are putting in the atmosphere even with a crippled economy will probably push us over a tipping point and start us towards a new stable global temperature several degrees warmer than anything any human has ever lived with.

    Much less any human civilization.

    So if you want to be able to STOP a catastrophe from happening you’d best hope you’re wrong and we come up with mirrors in space or CATS because otherwise, just as sure as the Sun rises, some jacka55 will panic and start pumping something else into the atmosphere.

    BJ

    Comment by BJ_Chippindale — 27 Oct 2009 @ 2:51 PM

  280. “Well that’s a real shame because without it the human species is doomed. ”

    How long do you expect to live for? 10,000,000,000 years?

    If we don’t fanny about trying to burn more fossil fuel and flood the human civilisation out of existence in the next 100 years, there will be plenty of time after YOU are dead for humanity to work out how to create cheap suborbital stationkeeping.

    Comment by Mark — 27 Oct 2009 @ 3:42 PM

  281. “Your hostility to this is palpable and yet nothing YOU have suggested has a hope in hell of actually happening fast enough to avoid catastrophic change.”

    Yes we have:

    Don’t burn oil.

    7% cut each year.

    That’s all that’s needed.

    Just 7%. Not even the gold-standard of ROI of 10%+

    30 years time, 1/8th the CO2 output from fossil fuel burning.

    Comment by Mark — 27 Oct 2009 @ 3:45 PM

  282. patrick 027–I love specifics, but is there any chance you could give *less* gritty detail? Especially the qualifications and conditionals–I’m afraid I just can’t wade through it all–and I hate to miss the gist, as I suspect it would be good if I could get to it!

    Comment by Kevin McKinney — 27 Oct 2009 @ 3:50 PM

  283. “And reducing CO2 production isn’t nuclear disarmament.”

    .If you think acting alone will do the job,you’re certainly entitled to your opinion, but this a problem for the international community. We’re all on the same planet and we’ve got to work together to solve the crisis.

    Comment by Lawrence Brown — 27 Oct 2009 @ 5:05 PM

  284. “.If you think acting alone will do the job,”

    If we all act alone, the job will be done, Lawrence.

    If 50% act alone, the job will be less urgent and still get done.

    If 10% act alone, a large part of the job will get done and would prove the process.

    If one country with 4-6% of the population of the planet acted alone, they would be leading the free world and be a beacon of how things SHOULD be done.

    But if not one person acts alone, the job will never get done.

    Comment by Mark — 27 Oct 2009 @ 5:29 PM

  285. Re BJ_Chippindale, Mark

    (PS nice points 280, 284 etc.)

    ““Well that’s a real shame because without it the human species is doomed. ””

    “How long do you expect to live for? 10,000,000,000 years?”

    I remember reading – I think it was in “Pale Blue Dot” by Carl Sagan – that given the history of mammals or primates or species in general or something to that effect, not considering the specifics of humanity, we have a (from memory, could be a touch off) 95 % chance of surviving as a species for somewhere between 12 years and 8 million years, with a 2.5 % change of going extinct in the next 12 years and a 2.5 % chance of surviving beyond 8 million years. Or maybe it was 97.5 % and 1.25 %/1.25 % and 12/3,000,000 years … I’m not quite sure. Just an interesting thought.

    Maybe space colonization will ultimately insure that our civilization continues, as disasters on any one planet – should be mitigated, because the death of billions will be tragic – but at least memories might be preserved and the planet repopulated from other colonies. Anyway…

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 27 Oct 2009 @ 8:14 PM

  286. 259 Hank Roberts,

    It is always fun to know that I miss the point when everyone else knows all about it, including the really important differences that others but me know about.

    But sometimes when I miss the point I discover that there is no point.

    As in the present case, where all the references confirm that biochar is indeed charcoal, though exclusively when that charcoal is made with reasonable efficiency.

    I call things as I see them; biochar is a made up word to somehow make charcoal sound like more than it is (sorry – that is how I see it). This is not to say that arguments to use it are not very good and I strongly encourage finding ways to get this done efficiently. Though if it interferes with food producing endeavors, then I say, not so good after all.

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Co. — 27 Oct 2009 @ 8:16 PM

  287. 262 David B. Benson

    You say, “I don’t have any expertise about transportation, so don’t comment about it. (That’s a hint.)”

    What the heck does that mean?

    Just to note, transportation accounts for about a third of the CO2 dumped into the atmosphere, and if electric cars become a reality as seems to be happening, this will go up considerably due to the fact that the electricity will cause increased use of coal fired power generation systems. So now you have expertise. Can I talk about it now?

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Co. — 27 Oct 2009 @ 8:22 PM

  288. Re Jim Bullis – but petroleum is such a great expense; conceivably replacement of petroleum fuel with electricity will save a lot of money to help replace coal, including that which would otherwise run the cars, with solar power. Anyway, making cars more efficient for whatever energy source they use would help either way.

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 27 Oct 2009 @ 8:32 PM

  289. Jim Bullis, Miastrada Co. (286, 287) — No, biochar is made from any dry biomass, including dog dropings. More typically it is made from various agricultural or forestry wastes which are not left in the field or the forest.

    There are several companies making pyrolysis equipment to do this rather efficiently but old-fashioned charcoal burning works for woody materials.

    I would agree that avoiding replacing food production is important in those regions with insufficient food; there are about one billion malnourished people in the world. It probabbly matters less where there is plenty of food; there are also about one billion obese people in the world.

    Agriculture, world-wide, accounts for about 38% of the CO2 emissions, some due to fuel based transportation. Of course you should post about transportation, I’ll stick more to the agricultural practices and potentials, including such nifty ideas as growing food in city buildings to avoid most transportation and other important efficiency measures; see the latest issue of Scietific American.

    Comment by David B. Benson — 27 Oct 2009 @ 8:38 PM

  290. I should clarify my #287

    Making a conventional car into an electric car could have a benefit. However, the much better course of action would be to convert that conventional car to a hybrid and forget about the plug-in part. This would save a lot of money in batteries and end with greater CO2 reduction.

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Co. — 27 Oct 2009 @ 8:39 PM

  291. Back to the biochar guys,

    I am perplexed as to why the worlds farmers have never seen a benefit in turning their corn cobs, straw etc. into charcoal. The kiln has been a technological art within the grasp of country folk for a long time indeed. When firing up stoves to huddle over on a cold winter’s night farmers have generally preferred to bring in a few logs from the wood lot over gathering up corn cobs, making charcoal and burning that. Even the stoves could be operated to first make charcoal and then burn it. Hm. Sounds like they might as well just burn it. There must be a reason for that.

    I get a feeling that the reason a lot of this agricultural waste is waste is that it takes a lot of work to make it useful as a fuel, biochar or whatever.

    Having been there long ago, I would suggest that asking todays farmer to get down out of his harvesting machine and picking up corn stalks might not meet with a good response.

    At the risk of annoying everyone further, I put some, not all, of this biochar stuff in the same category as household waste recycling. We get to spend time rinsing containers with water we don’t have enough of, so we can put these in a container which takes up otherwise useful space, which we can then put out once a week for an extra diesel fueled truck to cruise the community to pick up, deliver to a recycling facility, and maybe some of it gets actually recycled, and the rest goes into the dump anyway. Somehow I suspect this is not working as the ecological dreamers intended.

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Co. — 27 Oct 2009 @ 9:01 PM

  292. RE: 291

    Hey Jim,

    Sorry for getting into the middle of your conversation. A little history of bio-char may in order if you are not familiar with the technique. Generally, it was used by South American tribes such as the Mayans and even earlier groups to enhance grass lands that were converted to crops.

    It really is not a made up word it is based on the idea that mulch could be used to hold moisture in the ground was employed by these ancient farmers as the ground they farmed would have been either very sandy or high in clay, the bio-char mixed in provided some organic fiber and increased the hygroscopic content.

    As to modern agriculture, up through the 1960′s most dairy farmers kept cisterns full of cow urine and usually had compost piles out near the edge of their pastures, some was spread in the pastures other was used to fuel the grains fed to the cattle. The bio-char raw materials ended up feeding most of these compost piles. These mounds would form steaming hills of corruption and in 8-12 weeks would produce some of the richest dark soil you have ever seen.

    The point, the organic material left overs had to be removed from the fields. The reason was the organics could hold pathogens that could threaten future crops. Many farmers up through the 1980′s would over winter their fields with rye and clover as they formed what was termed as “green manure”. In the spring this material would sprayed with a herbicide and turned into the soil, The main difference between this and creating bio-char, is only the combustion temperature and “cooking time”.

    Cheers!
    David Cooke

    Comment by L. David Cooke — 27 Oct 2009 @ 11:25 PM

  293. 282 – Kevin McKinney:

    The gist was in comment 240, although with a few errors. I’ll try to put together a brief summary after I’m done.

    I had a variety of comments on economics here (and previous pages):
    http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2009/08/a-biased-economic-analysis-of-geoengineering/comment-page-7/#comments
    ____________________

    A couple technology/’geoengineering’ points:

    Could there be a way to remove CH4 and O3 from the atmosphere (they are being removed; what I mean is to reduce the residence times, without too much adverse consequence)?

    For example, what if wind turbine blades were coated with TiO2 nanoparticle layers. In the daytime, solar UV would generate electrical charges and surface would catalyze some reactions. I’m not sure if it would catalyze the oxydation of CH4 (which, taking place in the lower troposphere, would not add much to stratospheric water vapor). Other surfaces (pumice platforms to replace Arctic sea ice) might be coated with TiO2 or perhaps ___, boosting albedo and accelerating ‘cleansing’ reactions (when not covered in snow).

    Maybe the lifecycle costs wouldn’t justify it (pumice platforms particularly) and the effect would just be too small to bother with, but I just figured I toss the idea out there.

    (Not that mineral resources are not an issue, but Ti is actually one of the more common elements in the Earth’s crust. From memory, I think it goes something like O, Si, Al, (Fe, Ca, Na, K, Mg), (Ti, Mn, P), … )

    On the other hand, TiO2 has been suggested (not sure of the progress here) as a transparent coating on windows that is self-cleaning. Applications to solar power?

    Another point – using aluminum coatings to boost albedo (ie the used candy wrappers and potato chip bags idea I tossed out earlier – for the aluminum surface, not necessarily the ones with a white inside)) might actually be a bad idea (aside from issues besides the global average radiative forcing)). I haven’t done the math to compare the relative magnitudes yet, but while aluminum has a high SW albedo, it also has a high LW albedo, which means it would tend to reduce radiative cooling of the surface, and in proportion to the fraction of surface emission that penetrates the tropopause, this would have a warming effect via the tropopause level forcing.

    For CSP/CPV solar power with mirrors, it might be nice then (but not critical; solar power plant albedo is a minor effect at least globally) if the mirrored surfaces could be good emitters of LW radiation.

    On that note, it would be cool if PV modules could reflect the photons with less energy than the band gap back out. But if light trapping (total internal reflection, diffuse scattering at the back and/or front (forward scattering) of the PV layer) keeps more of all photons in, the advantage in increased efficiency and/or cheaper costs would likely outweigh the increase in waste heat. As it is, I’m not sure solar panels reflect very much of any SW radiation.

    Flat panel and luminescent concentrators can use diffuse SW radiation, and if tilted to get the most insolation, will be able to get some reflection off the ground beneath them and the underside of the devices ‘in front’ (generally equatorward, or if their is diurnal tracking … you get the idea). Note that tilted panels in a power plant on level ground will be spaced out to make the most economical use of panel area at the expense of land use (cheaper panels and tracking/mounting (per unit energy supply) and more expensive land will affect the optimal spacing). Thus making the undersides of panels and the underlying surface reflective of SW radiation could boost solar power supply while also increasing the albedo of the array as a whole, which might (??) have the benifit of tending to reduce local boundary-layer cloud cover (??), further enhancing the economics (the cloud cover efffect would be local, and conceivably might be balanced by enhanced cloud cover elsewhere if just due to rearrangements of convection, depending on how cloud thicknesses are affected; anyway, the areas affected (if there even is a significant effect – I really don’t know) should be relative small globally, and it would be odd if just the on site cloud albedo reduction caused greater heating than the cooling effect of the surface albedo, since the cloud changes require the cooling effect). But outside of desert applications, it might be preferable to grow crops in the summer between rows (if the rows run east-west with seasonal tracking or fixed tilt), which can be done even without shade-grown crops because the gaps between panel rows are in shadow more in fall/winter and would always recieve diffuse light from the sky.

    Also bear in mind that ground-based solar power plants in semiarid lands could boost vegetation growth in between rows or on neighboring plots by concentrating the rainfall (this wouldn’t necessarily act to preserve natural ecosystems except where a climate shift produces a drying trend; however, enhanced agricultural value at that location could help preserve/conserve ecosystems elsewhere). Also note that even in deserts, rainfall might be sufficient to supply the power plant for washing of panels or mirrors and maybe even for solar thermal steam generation. Land use concerns can be reduced with increases in energy production efficiency and energy transmission, storage and retrieval, and end use efficiency.

    Luminescent concentrators might be used in construction of greenhouses (for the purpose of growing plants while conserving water in arid environments) – depending on the complexities of biological systems, perhaps these could actually be purple houses, withe 3-or-more layered luminescent concentrating panels that use UV, green and solar IR to produce electricity while letting blue and red light in for photosynthesis (would this confuse pests?). Alternatively, such luminescent panels (which would produce some heat that might be used) could overly algae-growing panels to produce biofuel or feed for fish farms; the biofuel component could be processed to produce some substances for fuel cells and some other substances for combustion, possibly as supplemental heating in solar thermal power plants, or used for heat in industrial processes.

    PS a significant portion of industrial processes that need heat can work at sufficiently moderate temperatures that solar parabolic troughs could supply the heat.

    And maybe roof based CSP could (when ‘turned on’ – as in removing a mirrored radiation valve) be used to direct solar heat directly into ovens to supplement other heat sources.

    ————————-
    … (continued from 261: http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2009/10/why-levitt-and-dubner-like-geo-engineering-and-why-they-are-wrong/comment-page-6/#comment-139621 )

    PART I taxation/caps

    9.

    Depending on where the regulation is applied along the flow of fossil C, some adjustment may be needed in recognition of the fossil C that is not combusted but instead goes into material products. An additional reverse adjustment would be necessary to account for CO2 released if those products are combusted (or oxydized over time) – though it may not make sense to apply this to accidental fires, as that would be piling on (although the cost could be transferred to fire insurance – but this (accidental oxydation) is a minor issue in the scheme of things and perhaps best left unregulated).

    10.

    The same goes for methane – which is to say, allotments of emissions (as measured by total externality value, including ocean acidification from CO2, etc.) should not be specified for agriculture, energy, cement, etc, seperately; the market should generally be allowed to determine an efficient.

    13.
    INTERNATIONAL POLICIES MORE GENERALLY:
    d1. Note that this structure imposes an incentive to participate in the regulation of emissions.

    d2. Note that this structure imposes an incentive on each nation to regulate it’s emissions and pursue clean energy and efficiency, and international funds allocated to nations not used by adaptation/etc. costs could go toward mitigation.

    d3. Note that, aside from issues arising from politically-motived or otherwise government regulation of migration (because an ideal full market response to the policy and to climate change includes migration), this is more fair than setting limits on each country, especially without regard for population. Whereas alloting specific emission amounts to each country while attempting to be fair to population size may reduce the incentive to control (with respectful humanitarian measures) population growth.

    d4. Note that this structure should encourage nations to collect tax revenue from emitting activities. Depending on how emission responsibilities are determined …
    —-
    (ie/eg for fossil fuels and carbonat minerals for cement, at point of extraction, at point of sale, etc.) (and note that care should be taken to avoid overlapping of national responsibities – responsibility for each unit emission should ideally be allocated once and only once)
    —-
    it might seem that some nations might be charged unfairly – for example, as might happen if responsibility is assigned at point of extraction, it would be unfair to assign responsibility of CO2 from petroleum from Saudi Arabia to Saudi Arabia when Saudi Arabia is only one of the beneficiaries. *** HOWEVER ***, remember the point (following the original point 13 above) about the propagation of the price signal. In this case, Saudi Arabia could – AND SHOULD – pass only a portion of the added cost to the consumers of their petroleum, to a first approximation in the same proportion to the selling price as the share of responsibility they don’t pass on is to their profit, or otherwise whatever they see fit (let the market decide)
    —-
    (yes I know it’s not a free market, but OPEC as a single entity works within a market, and anyway, this is a problem of economics in general, and furthermore, there might be something to be said for monopoly control of such easily exhaustable resources (in that it may discourage a race to the finish line?) – or there would be if we didn’t want to avoid actually exhausting this resource, although oil is better than coal, so if give ourselves some limit to further emissions, it would be better to get more energy for those emissions by finishing (if finishing anything) gas and oil first and leaving coal in the ground, were it not for the other economics (replacing oil with renewables could help pay for replacing coal with renewables) and politics involved).

    d’. It may seem like allowing the rich to get richer, but bear in mind that this would only be a fraction of the spending – there would still tend to be a net redistribution of wealth from rich to poor to the extent that adaptation costs, emissions, etc, do not correlate with wealth exactly. Even if it were the whole of spending, it would at least encourage competition to be efficient with emissions, unless the nations remain too similar in wealth per emissions. There may be some good balance between equal per capita allocation and equal per G(D/N)P allocation and the other spending categories. If there is concern, however, some portion of this (equal per G(D/N)P) allocation could be transfered to funds specifically assigned for mitigation – See point e.

    e. On the international scale, mitigation funds could be allocated, perhaps in addition to other things, to rewards to innovations, in exchange for dissemation and rights to intellectual property (patents); in this case, the funds would go directly to the inventors and not the national governments, unless the governments own the patents.

    f. *** If a comprehensive or somewhat comprehensive global arrangement cannot be worked out, at least there should be an agreement allowing tariffs and subsidies in proportion to or correction of differences among national policies while protecting against retaliations.

    g. *** There should be compensation for climate-change refugees and/or the nations that recieve them.

    h. Of course, we shouldn’t forget that some governments are more corrupt than others, and some are just the scum of the Earth destined to burn in hell. Care should be taken to prevent/minimize funds from being wasted by corruption or abused by evil governments, or helping them gain or keep power.

    i. Compensation should generally be computed based on the assumption that people will adapt in some optimal way. However, some people are too poor. And some people would go to war. It could be argued that, given human nature and conditions, some amount of waste and evil may be an expected outcome of global warming and thus subject to being tallied as adaptation costs and added to the tax rate on the externality. However, the externality depends on the future trajectory in this case, and efforts should be made to prevent war and help the poor adapt***. And criminal responsibility for evil (like the Janjaweed) should be (except for insanity and etc.) with the war criminal, and not the emitter (unless one gets into a situation where ‘climate warfare’ is practiced and CO2 is a weapon – perhaps it is a good thing that climate and economic/ecological,etc. models are a frosted-glass window to the future, so that the people who would benifit from global warming are less sure who they are).

    ———–

    PART II spending of revenue.

    Revisting Case 2 and considering the calculation of the externality and tax (and so on for caps, etc.):

    Case 2: There is another amount of subsidy or public spending for mitigation which might be justified without reducing the tax to keep the price signal from getting larger.

    The possible justification is the time taken for the market response in full, including scaling up of alternative pathways, even beyond the threshold of mass production. In other words, once the policy is enacted, there will be some lag time before the market actually reaches an optimum as a function of the policy.

    This might be a weak justification, though(?).

    During the lag time, the market would ideally still be on an optimal trajectory of change – that is, getting from point A to point B in the most efficient manner.

    ****
    (AUXILIARY POLICIES involving public planning would help navigate in particular when the trajectory reaches a fork in the road (the emergence of a concave portion of the production possibilities curve causing a bifurcation of optima (this can be related to ‘increasing returns’ – why the word ‘clockwise’ means something) or gets caught in a ditch via the difficulty of spontaneously changing multiple parts in compatable ways.)

    And sometimes people just don’t believe that something proven to work will actually work – see first part of this comment:
    http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2009/08/a-biased-economic-analysis-of-geoengineering/comment-page-7/#comment-135371
    ****

    (PS what I meant above about government vs private sector, coniferous vs broadleaf trees (was that only for temperate forests and deciduous broadleaf trees or true in general; I’m not actually sure) – the point was that comparing how well the government does to how well the private sector does has an apples-to-oranges issue because they are not taking on the same tasks.)
    (PS as an entity that is part of the entire system, the government is actually part of a larger market economy. Humans are a part of nature. Etc.)


    But would the externality calculation reach different results when the process of change is accounted for?

    As mentioned before, given the basic logic that a free market would (ideally) tend to go towards an optimum when externalities are corrected properly, a top-down approach could determine the proper externality (and spending and planning, etc.) based on studies of what leads to an optimum trajectory. Perhaps there might be a pairing of top-down and bottom-up approaches.

    Determination of optimum: I have argued before (in another thread) that moral value and aesthetic value are not entirely independent or seperate from economic value, and that economics is involved in all decisions – there is an economics to moral value, to aesthetic value, etc. And relationships can be inferred from behavior, for example, by considering how much a person would have to be paid to give up a scenic view, or how much of a person’s motivation for working to gain resources could be attributed to desires for relationships with other people, etc. – at the very least, one must recognize that we need to be (so far as is readily apparent) alive in order to be in love or enjoy the ‘simple pleasures’, and this requires material resources, and material resources also support the existence of other people and the ability to go for a walk in the park, etc. There is the important caveat that a behavorist’s approach would also have to account for the decisions about allocation of decision making resources – not all decicions are fully informed and made rationally, but this can be because decision making resources are themselves subject to scarcity and a person might seek to allocate these resources according to their probable need and the potential magnitude of the consequences – some decisions are anticipated to be less consequential or be among options with little variation in total value, or they might just be easy to make, or they might be of a nature where instinct, habit, rule of thumb, or experience-based guesstimate seem up to the task.

    However, there are still tricky aspects to such calculations. Not that going purely by equivalent economic value (as a way of comparing apples to oranges among aesthetic values and also accounting for moral value with an economic equivalent) this couldn’t achieve the ‘correct’ solution given sufficient knowledge, but an easier method might be to go by some metrics that are proxies for average, median, and lowest 10 % of standard of living/quality of life integrated over time. It should be remembered that the goal we should to be pursuing is a moral optimum, by definition of ‘moral’ and ‘should’. But all other things being equal, it is good for people to have things (and each other) that they like and want, etc, and liking and wanting, etc, are (in combination with ecological/physical/biological/neurological/etc. limitations) the source of economic value.

    What is interesting is that some of the calculations of the costs and benifits depend on the trajectory we take. This also includes the discount rate of value – it may depend on whether or not there is a plan for the future or not; the plan thus reacts itself. Small actors can approximate the consequences of their decisions based on the assumption that the larger reality is independent of those actions – just as some weather phenomenom can, for an initial level of understanding, by modeled with linearized equations with a superposition of perturbation and independent basic state. But large perturbations change the basic state enough to have consequences for the behavior of the perturbation, and so it can be with large actors in the economy and ecosystem. Considering both the presence of externalities, imperfections in market economies, and the time frame (as long and longer than individual human lives in particular), there is an argument for public planning – but note that market mechanisms would still be relied upon in much or most of the realization of the plan.

    SPECIAL NOTE ON ADAPTATION COSTS – AVOIDING PERVERSE INCENTIVES:

    A.

    Currently, FEMA and agricultural policies (see Richard Manning, “Against the Grain”) are set up to reward maladaptive behavior.

    As I understand it, when weather events or patterns impair the ability to plant, grow, or harvest a crop, compensation is made available for the loss regardless of what the farmer could have done to cut losses. There might not be much to do right now to cut losses when crops are lost beyond some point in the growing season, but in the future, this could be a way to produce biofuels while cutting losses without displacing food or feed – it increases the efficiency of the system. Even at the current time, there are other crop options if events occur with enough time left in the growing season or if the problem is earlier, such as at planting time. If conditions delay planting, a crop that needs a shorter growing season could be substituted, etc. Now, part of the problem may simply be a lack of awareness of alternatives, because some such alternatives do not currently have a large market share. Awareness helps.

    For both such internal variability or short term forcing events, and for longer sustained climate changes, compensation should be given based on the losses that the farmer cannot reasonably be expected to avoid. One way to measure the loss is a decrease in property value plus any investments in infrastructure to add to property value (efficient irrigation mechanisms); the change in property value should reflect the potential for any farmer to produce food or other crop or to cut losses by selling or transfering to a different activity altogether. In the extreme that property must be abandoned, the compensation would be the full former property value. However, maybe only x % of the loss should be compensated, especially for climate change, especially farther in the future and especially in first-world countries, where and when it can be expected that the farmer knew the risks and could have done something else (??). For shorter term variability, farmers should pay for (public or private or a combination that sums to the correct total) insurance proportional to their risk in proportion to probable compensation amounts, and this would fund compensation when necessary. Changes in risk due to climate change would be reflected in the cost of insurance, and that would be reflected in the value of the property, and thus could be compensated from climate-change adaptation funds.

    Note that in the ideal case, insurance reduces the good and bad luck, giving people more control, while still preserving the price signal of the risk (plus the cost of this service, which one would hope would be small in proportion) that tends to guide behavior towards optimal practices where risks that are taken are justified by the (probable) benifit.

    Similar logic can apply to other losses. FEMA ought to be funded at least in part by a tax on the portion of risk that is not otherwise covered by private insurance, or at least that portion which is above some threshold level. Changes in this tax caused by anthropogenic climate change would change property values, and that could be compensated to some degree by climate-change adaptation funds. (However, in the case of losses from sea level rise, depending on how fast sea level does rise, it should be expected, beyond some point in time, that at least the wealthier among us were aware of the risk and had the means to pull out and chose not to do so.)

    And so on for compensation for losses in economic activity during an event.

    Note that there should only be a one time payment per one time realization of an effect of an increment of climate change. The goal is to compensate people for losses in a fair way, but not to subsidize continued unwise risk taking.

    What about the few people who gain from climate change. Should they face a negative compensation? It may be better to let it go, because adaptation should be encouraged (although in some cases this will just be a windfall, and as with losses, it should be possible to tax the windfall without discouraging benificial adaptation), and this might be a small effect that is not worth the effort. An assymetric policy (between winners and losers) might be justified. On the other hand, especially on the level of nations, there may be a danger that some nations would have an incentive to add to climate change.

    B.

    Individual losses identified as such may leave a hole. When some property is lost, or some farmers grow less of some crop, values of property and other crops, especially properties with similar features and crops that are similar to that crop, will increase in response. Thus the net loss of the farmers does not fully reflect the resulting loss of food and feed production; the net loss of property owners does fully reflect the loss of property. (Or did I fail to account for some aspect of what value is?). In this case, should food be subsidized directly? Properties? Perhaps not so much; this may counteract consumers and property buyers’ adaptation incentives – better to compensate them directly and let them do what they want? ***Note that the food compensation issue might take the form of an equal per payback. I’ll get back to that.

    But there are some other options to consider:

    Public funding for agricultural R&D
    Public investment in infrastructure for adaptation.

    Getting back to the equal per capita payback:

    It must be noted that when everyone has the same loss and recieves the same compensation, the compensation will tend to cause inflation – so is there any point in this? Yes, there is. Responsibility for the externality is not necessarily distributed equally. The payback by itself might seem to do little (?)…
    —-
    (aside from trade issues when there are variations in national policy – the higher taxes in one nation would, depending on product or service considered, by itself shift consumer demand toward imports due to increased expense of domestically-produced, but the increased expenses in general would reduce demand for imports, and the corrective tariffs/subsidies would tend to reverse the first effect. The payback, either as equal per capita or as cuts in other taxes, or in many other forms (compensation of specific losses, public spending on mitigation and infrastructure, etc.), should *tend* to put consumer buying power back to where it was relative to other nations, or at least push it in that direction.)
    —-
    …, but it can be part of a system that redistributes compensation from those with higher than average responsibility for the externality to those who have lower than average such responsibility.

    Which works fine when this is all occuring at the same time. What about compensating future people for externalities taxed in the past?

    B1.

    To the extent that there is some baseline risk of loss to all people, equal per capita payback can compensate for future risk (people are free to invest it). (Should this amount or a fraction of it be subtracted from compensation to specific losses – reducing the fraction of losses that are compensated?)

    Both equal per capita payback and cuts in other taxes could be seen as ways to invest in the economy, which might then provide greater ability to adapt in the future and/or provide a greater tax base to balance spending on specific losses and adaptive/ameliorative/etc. projects/programs.

    B2.

    Public investment in mitigation-related infrastructure/R&D, greater than the amount otherwise justified, could also serve this purpose. For example, making low interest rate lo-ans to solar power projects could result in a reduction in energy costs from today’s values in a several decades if not sooner. The government could recieve revenue from the interest, which, even if only just enough to keep up with inflation, would at least preserve the value of the public spending so that it can be returned to be spent on adaptation and loss compensation, but the low interest rate will also help get past the high up front costs of some very durable items. (Care should be taken so that the payback on the investment does not warp the incentives of the solar power plant managers/investors so as to discourage proper maintenance or choice in technology, etc, so as to maximize the lifecycle value.)

    …to be continued…

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 28 Oct 2009 @ 12:09 AM

  294. I wasn’t surprised that Levitt was full of sh*t when he appeared on the Daily Show. But I was severely shocked that Jon Stewart (my idol!) didn’t seem to have the slightest inkling why he was full of sh*t.

    Is there any chance some real scientist can get an invitation on the Daily Show to explain to Jon why Levitt is not only wrong, but dangerously wrong? If someone like Jon Stewart can be so badly misinformed, then climate science has a major communication problem.

    Comment by Didactylos — 28 Oct 2009 @ 12:10 PM

  295. re #292

    Hi Dave, you are always welcome in any conversation that I have any control over. Thanks for the information, and the way you explain it. Your information dates from about the same time as mine, which makes it reliable and not so likely to be made up by marketing folks – - no guarantee there though. I did not realize the compost pile was working that way; I thought the stuff was just rotting to make the soil good. I guess the charcoal, oops biochar, does not smell like the rest of the stuff. (My agriculture education was put on hold at the end of my sophomore year in high school when we moved to a more urban world.)

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Co. — 28 Oct 2009 @ 12:44 PM

  296. re #288 Patrick 027

    Hi Patrick,

    Analyzing your words I think some clarifications and important points could be made:
    ——————————–
    I paste:
    Re Jim Bullis – but petroleum is such a great expense; conceivably replacement of petroleu
    m fuel with electricity will save a lot of money to help replace coal, including that which would otherwise run the cars, with solar power. Anyway, making cars more efficient for whatever energy source they use would help either way.
    End paste.
    —————————–
    You probably do not really mean that you think electricity is a fuel. Electricity is only a carrier of energy if and when it is produced by burning fuel, and since the cheap available capacity to make such electricity is coal fired power, we will be simply switching from oil to coal. You point out this will save a lot of money by thus using coal, so it seems circular thinking to say this could help replace coal. Ok, so the saved money could work its way into buying solar panels. I do not see a market mechanism that will make this happen. What I anticipate is that the money saved will simply motivate greater energy guzzling by the cars, since there is no motivation otherwise. Along with observation of American preferences, I base my outlook on the GM plan by Savagian about a year ago which indicates an intent to simply convert the existing line-up to plug-in mode. (see page 18 of http://fastlane.gmblogs.com/PDF/presentation-sm.pdf ).
    So it seems like any action in the direction of solar panels is a separate action that has to attract funding from wherever, and there is not special tie to money saved by shifting from oil to coal.

    I hope you are not assuming that shifting to coal will necessarily make cars more energy efficient. Electric equipment can be very useful in making engines work better and braking less wasteful, but batteries charged by central power plants is not necessarily such an efficient process. The efficiency of the central power plant, when compounded with various inefficiencies of the electric link to a driveshaft, can exceed typical American car engine efficiencies, but not necessarily. The efficiency of a well designed hybrid can be significantly better than that of the car connected to the central power plant the CO2 emission burden can be significantly less with the gasoline powered hybrid. (See Fig.5-1 to get past the PR for plug-ins imposed on the actual analysis conclusions in http://mydocs.epri.com/docs/public/000000000001015325.pdf )

    I have discussed elsewhere the lack of logic in hoping coal fired power will be displaced, and the IEA agreement with that in their 2030 scenario, where agressive implementation of renewables still fails to cause such a displacement.

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Co. — 28 Oct 2009 @ 1:19 PM

  297. Regarding the lead article by gavin, I saw Levitt last night on The Daily Show done by John Stewart.

    He seemed to make the point that there is an economic problem with plans to reduce CO2 emissions. He says he is an economist so that seems ok for him to say. Some words about geo-engineering being easier went on. I don’t remember that they got much further.

    Yes, when he treads into geo-engineering without serious basis in science or engineering he is off base and planting this idea is bad. They alluded to high book sales which suggests that he might be reaching people which is also unfortunate. However, he did say that global warming was absolutely a problem that had to be addressed.

    I find economic difficulties in reducing CO2 to be a serious problem that calls for serious innovative thinking. What I see instead is silly stuff like “Smart Meters” and “Smart Grids.” Certainly there is room for improvement based on “digital technology,” but the possible gains from this have to be vanishingly small compared to the inefficiencies of the central power plants which these Smart things seem set to perpetuate, not significantly improve. Similarly, the stampede to electric cars and their batteries as great hopes are clearly going to end up causing more CO2 than would be the result if we just went to hybrids. I have discussed that elsewhere with references that I think are nearly absolute proof. And then we have cap and trade legislation that is barely comprehensible but seems to be without sufficient merit to justify the legislative conflicts and deal making that will be a cost going into any more real legislative action to reduce CO2.

    I think perhaps it is not so bad to stir up some thinking that questions the main plans to fight global warming.

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Co. — 28 Oct 2009 @ 1:54 PM

  298. “I find economic difficulties in reducing CO2 to be a serious problem that calls for serious innovative thinking.”

    Why is that innovative thinking not “how do we reduce fossil fuel use”?

    Personally the problem isn’t an economist saying “reducing CO2 will cost”, but

    a) Have you done the sums?
    b) What will the cost of not mitigating be?
    c) What will the cost of geoengineering be?

    surely the cheapest way of doing this is to not do something.

    Not burn fossil fuels.

    No extra work needed: you’re not doing something new, you’re not doing something.

    No extra expense: you aren’t paying more if you use less.

    Certainty: geoengineering *may* reduce CO2. But not producing it will reduce CO2 too. In any of the cases where not producing more CO2 would not result in lower CO2, geoengineering to remove CO2 we are producing would have the same problem.

    Risk avoiding: not burning CO2 can’t upset the balance of nature. Making CO2 munching diamond trees could.

    The MAIN plan should be “don’t burn fossil fuels”.

    When you have plans for that and execute them, you can start saying “how about some way to speed up the reduction of atmospheric CO2?” and bring in your innovative thinkers again. At that point your engineering problem has to solve a much less tricky issue. It doesn’t have to deal with humans just ramping up production and undoing your work.

    Comment by Mark — 28 Oct 2009 @ 2:20 PM

  299. What everyone is neglecting here is the fact that Dubner is exactly right in his comment about human behavior and that it is central to the point. It is pointless to attempt to effect some moralistic solution to the problem because the problem is global and the externalities cannot be internalized. Usage will just shift to territories without these environmental hangups (or expensive filtration devices) i.e. these resources are going to be used either now or in the future. Even if you could ban the burning of fossil fuels altogether you would have a black market problem where people cheat until all the coal and oil are spent in spite of any theoretical notions you might have about “doing the right thing”. Therefore, if it is impossible to avoid the release of CO2 (unless someone were to get all of the coal, oil and trees in the world and shoot them into space) then something needs to counteract it (one less expensive option is to put all of the S back into gas so no planes have to be used).

    [Response: How do you know any of these things? Similar statements were made regarding CFCs and that was heavily overblown as well. Even so, is your opinion that 'it won't work' an excuse for not looking for ways to make it work better? I hardly think so. - gavin]

    Comment by Chris — 28 Oct 2009 @ 2:24 PM

  300. RE # 270

    Bart, thanks for your clarifying comment which is amplified by your contribution to the report you cited.

    I went to the link and found good information and your

    statement:

    “Ocean acidification due to enhanced dissolution of CO2 is not halted by artificial cooling schemes.”

    Good enough for me and I will read the entire report.

    Peace,

    John McCormick

    Comment by John McCormick — 28 Oct 2009 @ 2:33 PM

  301. Mark (298),
    Not burning fossil fuels sounds cheap. Until you go look for alternatives to provide the energy.
    Not saying we shouldn’t do it, but your reasoning misses this important point.

    Comment by Bart Verheggen — 28 Oct 2009 @ 3:15 PM

  302. Mark 298
    “surely the cheapest way of doing this is to not do something.”

    Agreed with Bart 301 on this one. Here, simply not doing something either means ceasing some economic activity altogether (a cost) or to do it using some other more expensive fuel (also a cost).

    The issue with comparing the cost of mitigation with the cost of doing nothing is that people discount future costs, especially uncertain ones. So even if you tell people there will be high costs due to climate change in the future, they’ll be reluctant to spend much to avoid it now. Human nature, but I think we’re approaching the level of political will needed to overcome that.

    Comment by tharanga — 28 Oct 2009 @ 4:10 PM

  303. My # 296 and re Chris #299 and lead article,

    After reading the article at (in spite of the slime, especially at the end, we need to be aware of how things go in the campaign for public opinion):
    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704335904574495643459234318.html

    After reading this I feel Levitt’s pleasant manner with John Stewart sort of took me in. His appeal to good economic sense resonates with me, and maybe with you Chris of #299, so it is easy to overlook that he goes well past his domain of economics and believes a “smart guy” named Myhrvold, impressively an ex CTO of Microsoft, who might be smart in software, but it really seems not to be a general qualification for engineering or science. On this I agree with Al Gore that SO2 in the atmosphere is nuts, at least until someone explains why we have been kicking the electric power folks for many years for emitting such stuff. Isn’t that what they turn into gypsum? That was an amazing breakthrough, or so it seemed. And with its half the heat content, one of the big advantages of otherwise second rate Powder River Basin coal is that it is very low in sulphur compared with Eastern coal.

    Living as I do almost in the shadow of the Google complex, I continue to chafe at the misguided actions of these otherwise “bright” folks, or so they seem. The actions I speak of seem due to inappropriate presumption of knowledge of things mechanical, especially of the thermodynamic. I can only explain this by surmising that when students choose to go into electrical engineering today they usually do not choose the “power option” if that is even available today. Even power subjects in EE do not say much about heat engines, leaving that to mechanical engineering folks. It seems most of the hard sciences have not had to face realities of thermodynamics as far as heat engines go at least. I am particularly referring to the fact that Google is leading in the Smart meter idea as well as the plug-in hybrid fad. At least the Smart meter kind of relates to information which they clearly understand. The fact that it is of minimal potential benefit might be attributed to the fact that they think power will be produced from solar cells in a sufficient amount to displace coal fired generation and that it is appropriate to base decisions on California assumptions. But that goes on and I meant to talk about how Levitt and now the right wing press is twisting the public sense of global warming.

    So back to Myhrvold from Microsoft, we should think about how his apparent silliness is playing into the anti-action crowd. Since Levitt ties this to his otherwise reasonable sounding economic concerns about the mainstream plans to cut CO2 he effectively leads us down the path that no action is all we need to do. This is serious to me since I think that bad action is worse than wrong action and this leads to the same “no action” position. Maybe I need to clearly state that aggressive search for the right answers is the right thing to do now. Unfortunately, much of my time is spent trying to prevent implementation of what seem to be bad ideas.

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Co. — 28 Oct 2009 @ 5:07 PM

  304. Gavin-
    If you overlook the practical constraints facing you it is very hard to come up with a workable solution. I do not think it is really an overreach for economists to discuss the economics of climate change as the solution really serves as a proxy for the scarcity (i.e. limited amount) of condensed energy sources. Dubner and Levitt are dealing with those constraints by proposing “global cooling”. Whatever the costs of maintaining this system are they are surely less than the economic inefficiencies of carbon taxes that result in lower wages and higher prices for the average person. It is also not economically realistic to limit the combustion needed for the production of goods and services because it is human nature to act in one’s self interest. The optimum usage is dictated by the global price of coal and oil, which is based on the supply and not the demand as the middle east withholds production. You will have noticed that China and India refuse to sign a pact to reduce their emissions for our benefit because doing so will add costs to their products and make them less competitive. I also doubt that people will want to “do the right” thing if it means paying extra for goods and services from their artificially low salaries. It is also of note that most new office buildings have motion sensors because the owners want to save money (i.e. be efficient).
    Therefore, in order to combat global warming you have to eliminate the demand for combustion on a global scale by providing a cheaper or near optimal alternative such as alcohol or other propellants for CFCs (which are probably still used in refrigerators). That said, since most combustion is done for the production of electricity you would have to begin moving the world toward nuclear power. I know you are probably asking yourself about biofuels right now, but as of now, they are inefficient as it takes more energy to make them than they release and even solar panels and windmills kind of defeat the purpose if we have to pave the Earth with them in order to get a reasonable supply of energy especially as they can lead to massive power shortages if the sun doesn’t shine or the wind doesn’t blow etc.
    You can find all of the ways to halt climate change you want but they have to be economic (i.e. efficient) and not based on artificial limits on demand. Otherwise, the only thing it will do is to make people in developed countries feel less guilty about their modern existence while shifting consumption of fossil fuels to less developed nations and do nothing for the problem itself.

    [Response: I have no illusions about the scale of the task ahead of us here and I'm obviously very keen to have economists come up with ways to help - in my opinion the obvious first step is to put some kind of price on carbon emissions which will motivate all sorts of innovation in reducing emissions, increasing renewables, increasing the incentive to efficiency, removing CO2 from the air etc. etc. Some of these will scale up, some won't. But ignoring that in favour of Rube Goldberg schemes that are not rooted in anything more than the most naive view of how the climate system works is (to quote someone else) "nuts". - gavin]

    Comment by Chris — 28 Oct 2009 @ 6:45 PM

  305. Patrick 027 (252) — In situ weatherization will cause the ground to noticably swell; some microseisms will result but never anything major due to the rock formations used. In addition, nobody lives above the various proposed sites (in part because the soils are poor or non-existent).

    Comment by David B. Benson — 28 Oct 2009 @ 7:21 PM

  306. Jim Bullis –

    It’s true that in all my writing on possible policies I never really specified that increasing the use of plug-in electric cars should be tied to increasing the renewable electricity supply.

    But if you take, in the U.S., for example, the annual energy expenditure, and compare that to what even some more expensive renewable options cost, over the long term, the renewable option looks good (although I haven’t accounted for the profit margin that today’s energy suppliers have). Of all the fossil fuels, coal is, so far as I can see, the least likely to increase much in price in the absence of government policies. But coal must be replaced. It makes it easier on the economy as a whole if, depending on technology costs, petroleum and natural gas can also be replaced – especially in the future. And it is hard to run a non-plug in car on solar power.

    And none of this need preclude making transportation of any sort, industry, etc, more efficient.

    I am for plug-in vehicles, but not in isolation – that is not my intent.

    Do we know that the government won’t advance plug-in car usage without doing the complementary changes in electricity supply? I guess not. But do we know the government will do what is necessary to cut CO2, etc, emissions in any case? If not being able to count on the government to do the right thing is reason not to support a plan, then we might as well quit trying to solve the problem altogether. That just doesn’t make sense to me.

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 28 Oct 2009 @ 8:21 PM

  307. … (continued from 293 http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2009/10/why-levitt-and-dubner-like-geo-engineering-and-why-they-are-wrong/comment-page-6/#comment-139784 )…

    *** Note on calculation of property value changes for purpose of compensation (or anything else) – when similar properties are not being exchanged in sufficient volume, the market cannot necessarily be depended upon to provide information on property value. Thus calculations are in order.

    —-

    So the spending categories (besides the costs of designing and enforcing the policy) are now:

    1. Sequestration or neutralization of the emission/etc. (paid at the rate proportional to the tax on the externality, qualified by completeness of neutralization and lack of side-effect externalities)

    2. Adaptation, including adaptation to the effects, neutralization or amelioration of the effects, and compensation for losses (this includes compensation for losses by individual parties or groups and also investments in infrastructure and organization to reduce adaptation costs realized in the future or realized by the people in general – this can include investments in efforts to save ecosystems and biodiversity and ecosystem services, and changes in buildings (some R&D could be there) for changes in climate, and physical infrastructure to reduce vulnerability to flash flooding, etc, with planning taking into account shifting and changing climate zones), and advances in efficiently dealing with tropical pests and diseases or pests and diseases in general).

    3. Adaptation and compensation for adapting to the policy (not including neutralization or amelioration of the effects of the policy, because that would just degrade the price signals. For example, the poor shouldn’t be helped by given them a break on their emissions taxes – they should be helped in some more general way, preserving their exposure to the price signal.)

    4. Mitigation (funding to initiate and support alternative economic pathways – efficiency and clean energy) – wherein a portion of this spending is justified by more general economic arguments and can be considered to be outside the externality-justified price signal (some public investment is justified by overcoming the gap between a small or nonexistent alternative and a mass market or mass-accepted behavior* …

    (*this, and public planning for the sake of compatability, is also a role for mandates such as product standards and building codes, and regulation of the energy grid, coordination of changes in car technology and other things, possible changes in dress standards to reduce air conditioning or heating needs in the office, etc. …and this also applies for adaptation etc.)

    … and accelerating the scale up time, and also as an economic investment that can later help pay for adaptation costs, and various other complexities.

    AND NOW:

    Where
    5a. cuts in other taxes (or internationally, equal per G(D/N)P allocation to nations),
    and
    5b. equal per capita payback,
    and
    5c. some other possibilities (General improvements in the global economy and efficiency, general technological advances not necessarily specific to the externalities, so long as the economic progress is in a direction that does not increase vulnerabilities)

    can be considered investments that will help pay for adaptation/compensation later.

    So there are some different flow patterns that different portions of the tax revenue can take:

    tax revenue –> 1. sequestration, etc, to reduce need for spending in 2.

    tax revenue –> 2,3 adaptation, etc. costs, which can include investments in infrastructure and the environment to reduce adaptation costs and losses in the future

    tax revenue –> 4. mitigation (support of alternative economic pathways (clean energy and efficiency and related infrastructure))

    tax revenue –> 4. investment in mitigation –> regeneration of revenue at later time –> 1,2 adaptation/compensation/sequestration, etc.

    tax revenue –> 1,2,3,5 investments –> regeneration of revenue at later time –> 1,2,etc.

    tax revenue –> 3,4,5 –> increase ability to adapt

    In some cases/scenarios/revenue flows (?), some of the compensation given to specific parties would be for the portion of adaptation costs and losses they face that is above average (would there be a symmetrical charge on below-average costs/losses?). This makes sense if other funds go to helping society as a whole, such as large scale water resource projects and protection of ecosystem services, and use of mitigation as an economic stimulus or for future savings, etc.

    ———–

    There are some spending actions and categories that can fill multiple categories:

    1,2,3,4,5, and 2 again – public spending in land use (increased efficiency of land use and food/feed production, R&D on crop varieties and rotations and care, including potential perrenial replacements for annuals, for compatibility with ‘organic’ processes, for drought resistance and reduced water needs, for soil carbon storage, for better nutrition (PS was it really necessary to make ‘gold rice’ to supply vitamin A to the third world? Aren’t there any tropical crops that naturally contain vitamin A?), for decreased fertilizer usage, etc, R&D on reducing livestock and land-use emissions, more efficient irrigation, desalination and water transport investments, preservation of ecosystems and biodiversity (where most likely to survive as climate zones shift) to maintain a genetic library that might yield discoveries for crops, medicine, etc, reducing other stresses on ecosystems to help them survive global warming and thus protecting access to ecosystem services from pollination to natural flood (and disease/pest?) control and ecotourism and general science and aesthetics, natural heritage, social and psychological value, and nature video production, etc, development of biofuels that can use waste from the production and use of food, and from other organic waste (paper napkins, etc.), and cures for food allergies and metabolic disorders, etc, or smarter processing of nuts (reduce the roasting?) to (aside from the obvious benefit to quality of life) allow for greater efficiency in food supply such as making vegetable proteins and calcium more widely available to decrease reliance on meat and milk, and so on…)

    2,3,4,5 – reducing population growth (social security, access to family planning resources, education for girls/women (and boys/men, too), medicine (this may seem counterintuitive, but…), economic development, and … challenging some cultural issues (but that last one is probably best left to ____).

    Note that 2. could includes any increases in efficiency of medicine and health care, energy, food, water, or any other economic thing, or anything that aids in quality of life (which could concievably include re-education efforts to reduce female circumcision).

    1,2,3,4,5 – something like what was known in the Kyoto Protocol as CDM (clean development mechanism). There have been problems with CDM with perverse incentives. These must be fixed or avoided. However, one issue that has come up is that using CDM as an offset to emissions doesn’t necessarily reduce emissions by the same amount. However, as I see it, the important thing is that there is a price signal on the emissions because of the money spent on CDM. If the CDM is subject to the same taxes, there will be an incentive to make it more emission/externality-efficient.

    ———–

    The attractiveness of CDM is undeveloped and developing countries don’t have the same legacy costs as more fully developed nations do. Developed nations have durable infrastructure and entrenched practices that were designed and/or evolved without either the externality or the effects of climate change in mind. Developing nations have an opportunity to get on the right track on the outset (or closer to the outset), and help and incentive to do so should be given if/where necessary or helpful.

    To be clear, the legacy costs are somewhat limited by finite longevity or timing and amount of repairs and maintenance. It makes the most sense to switch light-bulb technology when the old bulb wears out, provided the old bulb is not expected to last very long. On the other hand, when CFLS are replaced by LEDs (or photonic crystal devices, etc.), then there might (?) be a need to consider the costs and benifits of wasting the later months of a CFL and the energy saved in that time (and reduced stress of thinking about what to do in case of breakage) by early replacement by an LED (or even if this is relatively inconsequential, it serves to illustrate a general concept). When it comes to durable goods (appliances, cars, buildings, factories), it becomes more important to get things right sooner rather than later.

    For example, if a building is not designed to be CFL or LED compatable (if that is an issue for LEDs?), or doesn’t use passive solar lighting and heating or near optimally-sloped solar roofs (with water heating, PV, PV+heating hybrid panels, luminescent concentrator PV and heating hybrids, etc.)…

    —–
    (thermally-insulating windows and skylights and light pipes, preferably reflecting solar UV and IR or using them for other purposes as in a luminescent concentrator, especially in warm climates, or with adjustable spectral blocking (mechanically adjustable shade or temperature dependent optical properties or some other mechanism) for the annual cycle, or having skylights that reflect or convert to useful energy the solar UV and IR, and equatorward facing windows that admit solar IR and with all side wall windows reflecting terrestrial IR, etc., depending on the building’s surroundings, etc., and also, in warm climates or warm seasons, use of light-colored interiors to make the most use of light and reduce the heating effect of absorption of visible radiation, roofs sloping equatorward for best use of solar power, and in general, for small homes, the elongated dimension could be aligned east-west (that’s a general recommendation for avoiding too much summer heating and winter cooling – it has to do with how much solar radiation is intercepted by windows on different sides of the building))
    —–

    … or using a setup whereby an air conditioner can use either AC or DC electricity so that it can use electricity from onsite solar power that bypasses the inverter,

    or thermal heat storage, and/or heat exchangers to judiciously use waste heat and waste cold …

    —–
    (for example:
    use of hybrid solar panels to preheat water or another fluid with lower melting point, before the water or other fluid is heated to higher temperature from solar heat only panels (and then the other fluid passes through a heat exchanger to heat water and be cooled by the water before going back to the hybrid panels), and then the water is stored in the hot water tank, not necessarily at final temperature, passing through an ‘on-demand’/'flow-through’ water heater (I’m not sure what the name actually is, but it’s a tankless water heater that reduces heat loss during storage) to heat to final temperature – this setup might require fuel or electric heat pump or waste heat from a electricity-generating furnace (possibly using thermoelectric or thermophotovoltaic conversion)…

    (after preheating by solar PV waste heat, solar heat, and then/or other waste heat such as from a fuel cell (how hot do fuel cells operate?) or clothes dryer or kitchen oven … or compost pile … or fresh air intake on a hot day or waste heat from an air conditioner or refrigerator (boosting efficiency of those devices) … or waste water (that last option has been built (heat exchanger) and marketed!) …)

    … but that final amount of energy will be smaller because of the preheating using waste heat and solar heat. The cold fluid/water flows through the solar PV hybrid panels first because it is advantageous to keep those devices cool)
    (Another use of heat exchangers would be to use the portion of cold water that is to be heated for air conditioning or precooling a fluid that is then cooled further by an air conditioner and then used to cool the air)
    (heat exchangers can generally be used in ventilation)

    (a heat exchanger in simplest form can be visualized as too parallel pipes, with fluids flowing through each, with good thermal conduction between them – not necessarily along their lengths – if a hot and cold fluid flow in the same direction, they will only approach an intermediate temperature, with the flow with lowest heat capacity per unit time changing temperature the most. However, if they flow in opposite directions, the two fluids can, depending on the effectiveness of the device relative to the flow rates, approach each other’s intake temperatures at the points of exit, or at least the flow with the lower heat capacity per unit time can approach the intake temperature of the other fluid. Waste heat sources at different temperatures can be used from lowest to highest temperature, and so on for waste heat sinks (waste cold).)
    —–

    … or various other items, then it may cost more to remodel and retrofit the building later than it would have to design the building with such features at the beginning – and that also includes a psychological resistance to going to the trouble of remodeling and retrofitting.

    Because of the benifits of getting things right sooner rather than later, and because of engrained habits that may be hard to change when consumers are used to doing something one way and suppliers are used to doing something one way, etc, and people are reluctant to start something new, and compatibility issues may arise if different parts of the whole system don’t shift in an organized manner, it can make sense for governments to use targeted incentives for specific goals and also mandate some things, as in building codes and product standards. In the case of the later (if not the former), care should be taken to make requirements a function of relevant variables. For example, a building code shouldn’t require PV panels if the expense is too great for the on site insolation and it’s quality – the later being affected by shadows from trees, which themselves are not worthless and can be an energy efficiency feature (deciduous trees on the equatorward side) as well as well as having other value – the benifits and costs (which involve personal preferences, the statistics of which being reflected in property value) must be weighed against each other in that case. However, if solar PV doesn’t make sense for that location and the cost of solar PV at the time, it might still make sense to have skylights, solar heating panels, and some other features.

    Once the old habits have been sufficiently shaken, the market might be able to actually search for and identify solutions on its own and scale them up in reasonable time.

    (An example of mutual reinforcement of status quo is professional attire. People dress in a certain way to communicate that they are professional. People make judgements based on clothing because of the way people dress. Etc. Individuals behave rationally within a system and the system itself just is the way it is – or may resist a rational change (although to be fair, there might have been some reason for the system getting to where it is, and, if there were some reason to change, then there are optimal and less optimal paths from point A to point B; perhaps change may be easier when there is variety of conditions so that the change can be initiated at some point, get a foothold, and then spread ???). A similar concept applies to language – we use words as we do because of what they mean; they continue to mean what they mean because of the way we use them. It might be analogous to sexual selection in biological evolution.)

    —–

    … to be continued, but almost done (FINALLY! My hands are getting tired.) …

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 29 Oct 2009 @ 12:02 AM

  308. “Here, simply not doing something either means ceasing some economic activity altogether (a cost) or to do it using some other more expensive fuel (also a cost).”

    Port Talbot Steelworks changed their procedures so as to use less coal for melting steel.

    Reduced CO2 output.

    Reduced coal required (and therefore the coal bill).

    Increased productivity (direct processes didn’t require a wait while steel was reheated).

    Please.

    Your points are only valid if you are not an innovative thinker.

    Your points are equivalent to me saying “geoengineering a giant beer-swilling bending unit robot will not help the CO2 levels and cost massive amounts”.

    You cannot say that this is false.

    Can you.

    Comment by Mark — 29 Oct 2009 @ 5:39 AM

  309. “Until you go look for alternatives to provide the energy.”

    Or don’t use it.

    If I hypermile instead of boy-racer, the VERY SAME CAR will use half or less the petrol to go the same distance.

    I used less energy.

    I didn’t need to find an alternative.

    I thought you wanted innovative thinkers? You’re not thinking innovatively.

    Comment by Mark — 29 Oct 2009 @ 5:41 AM

  310. Gavin- You can’t put a price on emissions more effectively than the market. This is to say, to get back to Dubner’s point, that taxing carbon usage will just shift emissions from nations that adopt such a tax to those that do not. This is why when economists like Krugman point to CO2 emissions and see an externality and want to tax it it doesn’t make sense because taxes on externalities are implemented to represent the true costs of an activity. While it is acceptable in theory the reality is the costs are not easily estimated and the scope of the externality too large. In order to make the system efficient you would have to target the emissions by one country and tie them to the costs of another. And, the more global the tax the higher the incentive to “cheat” i.e. refuse to pay. Even the coercion necessary to implement such a regime would require an inordinate amount of solidarity and effort. The world can’t even enforce the Kyoto protocols (I believe the only country reducing emissions to the appropriate levels is France, and that is because they are almost 100% nuclear power) or the Geneva Convention.
    What you say about renewable energy is also naive because it assumes that if you tax carbon (i.e. make energy more expensive) that this will increase the desire to find or implement alternatives. This assumes that: a) the government who controls the proceeds from the tax has an incentive to fund research based on the likelihood of success and not for the benefit of its members (I think that the experience with biofuels makes this assumption invalid), b) capital cannot move from jurisdictions with carbon taxes to taxes without them (it can and it does) and c) that the scarcity of carbon would not force investigations into alternative energy without a tax.
    The SO2 solution may be a Rube Goldberg contraption (it probably won’t work) but that is not the point. What is important is that it has the characteristics needed for a solution to the emissions problem in that it does not cause distortions in demand (i.e. require a tax), will not have the unintended consequence of distorting the food supply, requires no significant change in land use, is scalable to the problem, has low and more or less measurable costs and does not require global co-operation (the most Rube Goldberg contraption of all). I think that the authors were not so much positing a solution as highlighting the need for a change in our thinking about what a real solution might look like. They present us with a challenge to the conventional wisdom so that we might avoid the temptation to cleanse ourselves through unneeded hardship without actually confronting the problem like so many monks flagellating themselves during the plague.

    [Response: I'm not quite sure what you are saying here. There is currently no market in CO2 emissions other than those instituted by governments. Where did I say I could be more efficient than that? And you are way overestimating the effect on 'exporting' emissions. There can be no export of emissions for the power sector or transportation or the main bulk of the agricultural sectors. And even for those things that are more mobile, this is exactly why these things are being discussed at the international level. Even with some level of leakage, you still get reduced emissions overall, and there are ways to reduce leakage being discussed already. Pricing in the externalities associated with carbon fossil fuels clearly switches cost-benefit calculations being made with respect to investment in renewables - regardless of what the governments do with the revenue from whatever pricing mechanism they choose. It shortens payback times for efficiency improvements and allows new technology such as air capture to become viable (if they can reduce their costs sufficiently to compete with emission-reducing strategies). Exactly how elastic demand for fossil fuels is to the price of carbon remains unclear (but the reduction in driving miles as a function of the oil price rise and coal use over the last few years as a function of discussions about carbon pricing (over and above the reduction due to the economic downturn) are quite hopeful in that regard). I don't know how successful this strategy will be, but it is clearly a necessary first step that of course needs to be monitored and updated as new information comes in. Self-flagellation is completely pointless (unless you like that sort of thing). - gavin]

    Comment by Chris — 29 Oct 2009 @ 1:40 PM

  311. Chris, you’re off about Kyoto compliance. Here is an interesting (though imperfect) blog post. Read down into the post for the key to these pretty but less-than-self-explanatory graphics.

    http://www.informationisbeautiful.net/2009/kyoto-whos-on-target/

    Comment by Kevin McKinney — 29 Oct 2009 @ 4:12 PM

  312. [i]“I again point out that Cheap Access To Space (and building Mirrors there) does not have the same set of negatives as making still more changes to our Atmospheric Chemistry. I agree fully that it would not solve the problem of CO2 completely. The oceans would still be absorbing it, but it could keep us under the level at which tipping points take things out of our control.” [/i]

    Actually this is totally wrong. Our cheapest access to space with current technology also is the method that destroys the most ozone per launch. The amount of launches and construction needed for building space mirrors would almost certainly have a real atmospheric chemistry affect. That affect would be the destruction of part of the ozone layer. Rocket exhaust has a real and experimentally observed and modeled affect on our atmosphere.

    Comment by johonny — 29 Oct 2009 @ 6:31 PM

  313. Gavin-
    The price of fossil fuels is the cost of emissions. So the market for them is the market for emissions. Any cap and trade regime is just a tax on carbon. Whatever the costs of fossil fuels these costs are paid by power companies and any other companies who depend on fossil fuels who pass those costs on to their consumers (unless you are under the assumption that there is no “hurdle rate” i.e. minimum rate of return on corporate investment). This means the average person pays for the power they use personally as well as that part of the cost of the goods and services they consume that can be traced to the cost of electricity, transportation, air freight etc. times any extra sales tax (VAT). If you believe that no new factories are constructed and businesses do not move between countries then emissions will be lowered overall. The problem is that they do not remain so static.
    Example: California has the strictest emission standards in the US meaning that no new coal-fired and very few oil burning plants, if any, have been built in the last few decades as its demand for electricity has increased with expanding electricity usage and population. California’s policy on emissions would translate into a very low supply and high price for electricity, which would be paid by its population. However, much of California’s power comes from out of state where there are no such laws. This is in direct agreement with what classical economic theory would predict with what essentially is a price control. Maybe given this scenario there was some reduction in overall emissions over time due to the increase in price. However, to assume any significant global decrease occurred would require the further assumptions that the States from which California now gets its power are not increasing their emissions by increasing output or building new plants. (Given the power shortages experienced in CA in the beginning of this decade that may have been the case.) It also assumes that companies will not be sensitive to the cost of electricity in CA and move their operations to other states.
    If you take the very real example of California and apply it to the world, there is no long-run shift in demand (irrespective of price elasticities which are irrelevant in the long term as they do not affect global demand) except those created, as you point out, by an economic downturn. Right now, the reality of what you are suggesting is the sabotage the world economy (hence the “self-flagellation” in my earlier post) by artificially increasing the costs of the factors of production (i.e. fossil fuels) until such time as we can come up with an alternative. Even with vastly improved renewables technology such systems can hardly be expected to replace oil and coal (and the electricity for “electric cars” has to come from somewhere). This is especially true when you consider that biofuels will lead to deforestation and thus more CO2 in the atmosphere, we cannot use the earth as a sink for the CO2 because it already has absorbed as much as it can hold and photovoltaics, windmills, geothermal, and hydro are all limited by physics in their efficiency.
    The only technology I can see that will cause a shift in the demand curve and not be like cutting our hands off so we don’t bite our nails is to shift our generation of electricity from coal and oil to nuclear power. In the US we already have a suboptimal number of nuclear power plants because their economic viability is lost in a sea of paperwork and red tape.

    Comment by Chris — 29 Oct 2009 @ 7:07 PM

  314. Kevin-
    I maybe off about Kyoto compliance, but I believe the numbers on those graphs do back up my general point that countries are being willfully non-compliant in the face of economic pressures in order to make themselves more competitive (see Italy, Spain, Switzerland etc.) or they are just slumping (most of the countries that have almost hit their targets in Eastern Europe).

    Comment by Chris — 29 Oct 2009 @ 8:06 PM

  315. I have no idea how effective this would be and am more hopeful for emissions reductions, but what about crashing a rocket into Mercury and spreading out a dust cloud around the sun (the disk of the sun would appear dimmer but there would be a diffuse glow around it; provided the dust albedo is not 100 %, there would be some net reduction)? Well if not for climate change, we could at least discover water! :)

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 29 Oct 2009 @ 9:21 PM

  316. Mark, 308: Yes, there are some emissions cuts to be had for free, so to speak, in that they also save money while maintaining the same level of economic output – plenty of more mundane examples, too, like CFLs and installing more insulation. Higher energy prices lower the payback periods, so industries have been scrambling to find such savings – the oil industry very much included.

    But I wouldn’t go around talking as if those free cuts are going to be enough. McKinsey figures such efficiency gains can get us maybe halfway to typical stabilisation targets*. So there’s potentially huge scope, sure, but don’t count on it getting you all the way.

    Some of these efficiency gains also just aren’t realised unless energy prices are high. If the electric bill is low, the savings for any one improvement may be also low, and the payback period long. So people don’t bother. Also, incentives aren’t always lined up well: if you’ve ever rented an apartment, you’ll have seen that the landlord might not care to invest much in efficiency improvements, as it’s the renter who pays the
    utility bills.

    * source here, possibly behind paywall
    http://www.economist.com/displaystory.cfm?story_id=E1_TTPNGVQJ

    Comment by tharanga — 29 Oct 2009 @ 11:47 PM

  317. …(continued from 307
    http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2009/10/why-levitt-and-dubner-like-geo-engineering-and-why-they-are-wrong/comment-page-7/#comment-139904

    Note – that comment will for referencing purposes be indentified as MC3;

    MC1 will be:
    261
    http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2009/10/why-levitt-and-dubner-like-geo-engineering-and-why-they-are-wrong/comment-page-6/#comment-139621

    MC2 will be:
    293 http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2009/10/why-levitt-and-dubner-like-geo-engineering-and-why-they-are-wrong/comment-page-6/#comment-139784

    )…
    __________________

    Corrections/clarifications:

    (MC1, point 12) “Emissions that are a climate feedback should not be taxed according to the managers/owners of the component of the system (various ecosystems, etc.) because they are not at fault “…

    Replace “according to” with “as the responsibility of”

    ———–
    There will probably be some uncertainty regarding how to assess land-use and livestock emissions. One way to address these issues would be to estimate the emissions and assign a tax based on the combination of known assessable aspects of the land, it’s climate (but don’t punish for climate feedback emissions – but do incentivise practices that affect the feedback, but not to the point of negatively affecting natural ecosystems with a net bad total effect, etc.), crops, livestock and feed, and the way the system is managed. Also consider the portion of C that remains within wood and wood products over time, as a function of what is done.

    But of course, by all means, allow those who work the land and manage the livestock, etc, to try things (as public money funds similar work), and if they find something that works (“Beano” for cows?), verify it and adjust the policies to encourage it in the conditions that it would work.

    Some methane emissions from cows come from cow waste, I think; that methane (unlike that which comes directly from the cow) could be taken and used for energy.

    Be aware of the risks of genetic modification as a solution. You can’t take you-know-what out of a pool (without processing the water).

    Don’t forget those who work the water and seafood and marine ecosystems. There have been political tensions recently between land-based food production and seafood interests – for some reason Sean Hannity has taken sides (is seafood un-American?) (as pointed out in an episode of “The Daily Show”, right wing libertarians who don’t want the government to spend money want the government to change something about water management that wouldn’t even be an issue if the government hadn’t spent money years ago on water resource management). Runoff from farms affects seafood production downstream (freshwater fish could be affected too, I’d assume).

    ———–

    (MC3) “However, as I see it, the important thing is that there is a price signal on the emissions because of the money spent on CDM.”

    The price signal should be preserved – the same tax rate should apply to the emissions, whatever portion of that revenue goes to CDMs. This is a bit different than using CDMs as an emissions offset to reduce the amount of tax owed.

    ———–

    (MC3) “advances in efficiently dealing with tropical pests and diseases or pests and diseases in general”

    (MC3) “reducing other stresses on ecosystems to help them survive global warming and thus protecting access to ecosystem services”

    (MC3) “Note that 2. could includes any increases in efficiency of medicine and health care, energy, food, water, or any other economic thing, or anything that aids in quality of life (which could concievably include re-education efforts to reduce female circumcision). ”

    I had intended to edit the last part about an ugly practice because it seems a tangent too far from the main topic (as long as I mentioned it, though, it is an example of a behavior that tends to be self-reinforcing within a society perhaps more so than what the individuals (beyond the victims) involved would actually like).

    But in general, these are some of the things we should be doing anyway, climate change or not (reducing other stresses on ecosystems would still have value). Other such things are trying to prevent war (which, besides the more obvious problems, tends to impair food security), and fight corruption and brutality.

    Use of these things as a compensation for climate change costs should go above and beyond what should otherwise be done (and in some cases, what should be done is 100 %, leaving no additional room for improvement). Climate change provides added incentive and added need to do at least some of these things. (Compensation to climate change refugees and their recieving nations, and to nations that suffer greater than average per capita losses, could help prevent war and keep migration open as an adaptation option.

    (While political pressures to close borders is generally an impediment to efficient/optimal adaptation to various things, it must also be remembered that, whatever the material economic benifits, any migration tends to have a pyschological/social/mental/etc. cost (on the part of the immigrant), so reducing the need to migrate far is helpful.)

    ———–

    (MC3) “tax revenue –> 3,4,5 –> increase ability to adapt”
    This refers to a direct benifit to the private sector, whereas:
    “tax revenue –> 4. investment in mitigation –> regeneration of revenue at later time –> 1,2 adaptation/compensation/sequestration, etc.”
    and
    “tax revenue –> 1,2,3,5 investments –> regeneration of revenue at later time –> 1,2,etc.”
    refer more to reallocation of revenue to adaptation/compensation/sequestration/etc. purposes.

    Add to that list of revenue pathways:

    tax revenue -> 1,2,3,4,5 -> regeneration of public investment as it is made (short term) to fulfill (without necessarily additional public direction) 2,*3*,(4?,5?)

    ————

    Concievably, embedding a metal grid within pavement would allow a thermoelectric device to produce electric power from roads, particularly in winter when the albedo difference between a cleared road and snow-covered fields will be larger.

    In general, except for surfaces devoted to other tasks with other optical requirements, energy efficiency may be enhanced if building exteriors have high LW (terrestrial IR) albedos. In warm climates – or perhaps in cold climates that experience a lot of boundary-layer cloud cover with inversions – this will be of greatest effect on building sides; *perhaps* higher LW emmisivity on rooftops, perhaps (I haven’t gone through the math yet) specifically in the ~ 8 to 12 micron range with higher LW albedo outside of that, could actually aid in cooling. (Solar ovens with concentrating mirrors can be used to enhance cooling of objects (this has been tried by someone) by focussing lines of sight upward, so that the object at the focal point is effectively surrounded by the dimmest (in the LW band) part of the sky (with exceptions, the intensity of downward LW radiation tends to be higher near the horizon and lower near vertical) It would also be helpful if the outer material in general had a temperature dependent albedo to solar radiation – the effect could be greatest in solar IR so as to avoid any undesirable aesthetic effects (if it would be undersirable).

    The relative proportion of solar energy at different wavelengths can vary. Some solar IR wavelengths will be depleted in power by higher specific humidity as tends to be found in warm humid climates/seasons. Any gaseous absorption (including UV) and scattering will have least effect when the sun is closest to overhead. Different solar cell band gaps or energy conversion devices in general or different optical parts of any solar energy collector, and different designs in series-connected multijunctions, will thus experience different diurnal and seasonal variations in energy output. There might be different temperature-dependencies for efficiency. Concievably, different solar cell and other solar energy device types/designs might be better for different latitudes and climates.

    Energy efficiency of specific processes and things and times will not have equal effect. Strategically, the most valuable energy efficiency will be in those cases and at those times when the form of energy used has greater scarcity or cost. Market responses will tend to optimize this. However, this should be kept in mind for public planning and regulation. For example, if solar power is expected to become a major source of energy and increases in wind power in the winter and at night don’t fully compensate, etc (some wind power (besides offshore and warm or dry climate) might be taken offline after some weather events/conditions to prevent dangerous throwing of ice chunks ?), and depending on expenses and resource availability in transmission and storage and compensating dispatchable energy, it will be of more value to increase energy efficiency in fall/winter and at night, and thus generally in colder conditions, then to do so for summer daytime conditions, except where summers are very cloudy, etc.

    ———–

    **********************************************
    IN SUMMARY:

    While real markets are not ideal, an ideal market tends toward economic efficiency when the benificiaries of a process pay the costs of the process. Pollution is one of the things that results in externalities. Externalities can be corrected by public policies; these can include taxes, caps, planning (such as zoning to reduce externalities on property values), and bans, and privatization of the commons. These actions can have costs as well as the benifit of correcting an externality – some policies may be hard to enforce effectively and efficiently and/or might be corruptable, and some commons have a benifit as commons that would be lost if privatized, and privatization in some cases is not economically viable for other reasons. Some positive externalities can even be of some societal value (advantages to utilization of ‘fair use’ in copyright laws). There are also costs and benifits for public policies with regards to other imperfections of the free market.

    Regarding climate change:

    ———-

    ******
    Minimize perverse incentives, don’t get too narrowly focused so as to make another problem worse, allow market responses to price signals to find efficient solutions (there is a role for public planning, but don’t prescribe specific allotments of change to different industries), make the policy a net benifit, make a policy that is principled, efficiently enforceable, and resistant to corruption. Note that there may be nonlinearities in the value of externalities – emissions and other changes can interact with each other to produce a total effect, and the effect may depend on the trajectory of the whole system into the future. Balance minimization of perverse incentives and avoidance of narrow focus with a good sense of priority, allowing approximations (including linearizations, where justified) as the costs of reducing error get large as the error gets small, and tackle the biggest problems with the clearest effects first. Address trade issues. Try to be fair (and know what ‘fair’ means, which is often a problem). Except for practices that change the feedback, realize that emissions that are a feedback are, for the purpose of responsibility, part of the effect of the anthropogenic emissions and add to their externality effect.
    ******

    Addressing the externality can help the market shift from emissions and waste to alternative pathways and efficiency; the market will tend to shift toward the most efficient options (for example, it would encourage buying local to the extent that reduced transportation emissions are not outweighed by other considerations – a simple mandate could more easily miss the mark). A tax could work very well for climate-change and ocean-acidification emissions, especially for emissions of fossil C. A tax with a cap (auctioned caps) would also work. Such measures and some others (such as a moritorium on new coal power plants, etc.) would send a price signal that propagates along a chain of supply and demand, so the regulation can be applied at one point on the chain – the price signal can be distributed among consumers and investors, and to other countries, etc. Directing public funds to clean energy could help but by itself it would not have the strength of a tax in pushing the economy to reduce emissions and increase efficiency, and it also makes sense that if revenue is spent to address the problem or it’s consequences, at least some of it should come from a tax on the source of the problem.

    In designing the policy, it is important to realize that some climate forcing agents have other effects (such as ocean acidification), some climate forcing economic pathways have other effects (mercury emissions, effects of mountaintop removal mining), and some climate forcing agents have some idiosyncratic effects (regional aerosols in particular). Obviously, for CO2 emissions that are balanced by a directly-connected sequestration need not be considered – only fossil C (fossil fuels and some use of limestone) and net losses in biomass and soil C are the only significant net sources of anthropogenic emissions. Methane emissions containing fossil C and methane emissions from animals and soils, etc. due to human activity differ in total effect on atmospheric composition over time. Fossil fuels are the biggest but not the only source of anthropogenic climate forcing. Also, there are other issues. Too much focus on one source of emission, on one type of emission, on one category of externality, etc, could result in some perverse incentives to increase other environmental or other problems (such as deforestation to produce biofuels, etc.). A balanced approach, wherein all externalities, including those not specific to climate change, are treated equally per unit public cost, would tend to have optimal results. However, it is also true that there is a cost to achieving accuracy; overall the optimal policy and enforcement thereof will probably in some cases, such as land use (less so for fossil CO2 emissions), there will have to be some approximation, and some climate forcers and some effects (some aerosols (besides dark aerosols that darken ice and snow?), forced land albedo and evapotranspiration changes, CO2 fertilization ?) might have to be set aside (made a lower priority for the time being – perhaps addressed later if found worthwhile) due to some combination of small effect or low probability of becoming larger and being very complex, so that the effort to design and enforce a good policy may not be payed back, except perhaps for some regional and local concerns wherein the policy would be the responsibility of those nations or localities (?).

    If caps are imposed, externality amounts of equal value should generally be exchangeable – this gets complicated if not all externalities are capped, but the math should be workable. If found to be good, a total cap might be imposed for some externality, but in general, specific proportions of that should not be assigned to particular industries or locations; instead, the market should be allowed to determine the distribution of the externality sources (in the case that there is some dependence of the effect of an emission on where it comes from, then the externality would be measured according to that effect and not in constant proportion to the emission amount).

    The policy should be designed to be effective, efficiently enforceable, and corruption-resistant, or at least corruption resistant for the bulk of the tax revenues and powers involved. I believe that in the case of fossil C emissions and at least some other well-mixed gaseous climate-changing emissions, a tax could work very well. The tax should be applied at points in the flow where the greatest volumes are found in the least number of branches (for example, at points where fuel is extracted or sold to power plants and large distributors, not to residential customers of electricity and natural gas, etc.), and the price signal will then tend to propagate as it should.

    On the international scale, accounting for past emissions could help level the field among nations so that all could more fairly participate in the same overall global policy (see 13. in M1 and M2). Requiring payments of x % of what a nation is responsible for in order to get x % of what that nation is owed would incentivise participation. Absent a more comprehensive agreement, at least an agreement to allow or have tariffs and/or subsidies on trade in proportion to differences in policy (amount and structure) between nations would help.

    ———-

    ******
    Utilize bottom-up principles as well as top-down considerations of an optimal trajectory to guide how much of mitigation spending to consider in determining the price signal (tax + spending on alternatives) that is justified by the public cost of the externality. Note that the public cost of the externality can extend beyond the necessary spending purely to compensate or adapt to climate change. Note that various spending pathways exist, some of which can serve multiple purposes at once, and some of which can serve as investments to regenerate revenue (for public spending or direct private sector benifit) at a later time when it might be needed.

    Try to be fair in compensation of losses suffered by people. But in compensation those who might lose more or gain less from the price signals, do not remove the price signals.

    Consider whether to address only losses that are greater than average, and whether to tax in a symmetric fashion people (or just nations) with benifits greater than average (noting that the average benifit is most likely a negative benifit). Avoid perverse incentives in compensation – don’t encourage maladaptive behavior or discourage optimal or near-optimal adaptation – note also that climate change or none, some changes in FEMA and agricultural aid (and agriculture in general) are in order.
    ******

    The price signal of an externality is justified in principle by the public cost; thus, it makes sense that the tax rate be equal to the public cost per unit, so that the amount of revenue is equal to the amount of spending necessary to compensate/reduce those costs (sequestration, adaptive infrastructure investments to make the system less vulnerable to climate shifts (in general or those predicted – additional spending for climate shifts ‘in general’ would not be the responsibility of the climate emissions tax payers, however), and replace lost ecosystem services and strategic measures to reduce climate impacts on ecosystem services and biodiversity, etc, and compensation to those who suffer specific losses or greater than average losses, etc.).

    However, some forms of spending that may make good sense don’t obviously fit into that equation.

    If there is public spending on mitigation (mitigation = alternatives with (much) less emissions, including efficiency) more than is justified for some other reasons …

    (funding from R&D to the threshold of mass market advantage, safety in R&D to support ‘technodiversity’, perhaps also accelerating the scaling up of alternative pathways beyond the mass market threshold to reduce total public cost from climate change, and also perhaps using such and other public investments to regenerate revenue either within the private sector or for public spending to help compensate or pay for adaptation and losses in the future or in the short term).

    …, then it could be argued that in principle the price signal is the sum of the tax rate and the public investment in alternatives, and thus the tax rate should then be lower than the public cost of the externality. However, if the optimal trajectory includes public spending for mitigation in response to the climate change threat, then that is public spending made necessary by the externalities and thus the tax rate should provide sufficient revenue to include that.

    In general, spending may be for sequestration, adaptation (adaptation/amelioration/neutralization/compensation) to climate change, adaptation to economic changes motivated by the policy, mitigation, and various other categories including equal per capita payback and cuts in other taxes (or paying down the debt, etc.).

    Some specific projects may serve multiple purposes, and some categories (spending on land-use issues, population growth reduction, CDM-type programs) also fall into more than one of the categories in the previous paragraph. Some spending in one category can serve as an economic investment to regenerate funds at a later timer or just help in a more direct way.

    Since the ideal market response to the correct externality tax would be optimization, the ‘correct’ externality tax could be calculated from a study of optimizing overall trajectories.

    ———–

    ******
    Things to consider in evaluting public cost of climate change and the net benifit of policies
    ******

    It can be hard to measure public costs, especially since they include potential losses in aesthetic, scientific, psychological, and social value, as well as the more material losses, themselves being potentially hard to measure because some such losses are in ecosystem services. It is possible at least in theory to find equivalent economic values, however, given that all economic value originates in behavior that is motivated by aesthetics, and equivalent values could be found by considering what it would take to get a person to change a behavior, assuming rational behavior. It must be kept in mind, however, that the value of one item might be partly realized directly to a person and realized indirectly to the same or other people, even possibly through people to other people – such is the nature of ecosystems.

    Since the policy we should have is a morally-optimum policy (by definition of ‘should’ and ‘moral’), moral values come into play, though ultimately there are economics involved there as well – it might be said that aesthetic value is (in combination with the constraints of a (meaningfully-interactive – as in causally-linked as implied by patterns) physical reality) the ultimate source of all economic value and moral value is the the end value of values – the ultimate purpose of any other value, if there is one.

    One way to estimate an optimal trajectory withoug getting into a lot of such complex value relationships (but still requiring physical, ecological, and tangible economic relationships and some basic assumptions about what people will like and not like in the future…

    (safe to assume people will still mostly be carbon-based lifeforms that have a set of nutritional and other needs in order to be healthy and generally want to experience achievement in return for effort, relax, have fun, learn, imagine, be entertained, enjoy beauty, have friends and maybe family, enjoy interesting thoughts, fall in love, have a good story to tell, eat really good dessert every once in a while, … not necessarily in that order)

    … is to measure in some way quality of life/standard of living – perhaps considering the average, median, and lowest _ percentile of people.

    ———–
    ******
    There is a role for public planning and regulation in addition to the taxation and general spending. Public planning and standards and some targeted incentives will help, in both mitigation, adaptation, and other things, in coordinating changes so that different parts of the whole system remain or become compatable with each so they can have greatest effect, and in breaking entrenched and self-reinforcing habits that have or will become maladaptive (especially important where durable goods and infrastructure are involved, because of legacy costs) – once broken, the market might then be able to better explore alternatives and tend toware the efficient pathways.

    Planning may also play a role due to nonlinearities – for example, how the public costs of emissions depend on the future trajectory of emissions and of other things.

    Planning can also affect the discount rate (at least that portion due to uncertainty – if we plan a future then we might put more value in it). Public planning can act over time scales larger than most private sector activity.
    ******
    ————-
    ******
    There are also changes to make in existing policy. For example, there might be tax breaks on fossil fuels. In fairness, it makes sense to tax the land used by solar power as land (and land used by coal mining should also be taxed), but it may make sense to tax solar panels as fuel (?). Tax policies besides taxing and spending as described above should be made fair.
    ******
    ————-

    Some things that would help adaptation and mitigation to climate change should be done anyway. The threat of climate change in some cases will justify greater overall changes or accelerated changes (Some other things are more absolute in nature – they should just be different, climate change or not). Any improvements in the efficiency of food, water, industry, health care, etc, and any improvements in the treatment of people will be good.

    —————–

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 30 Oct 2009 @ 12:10 AM

  318. “But I wouldn’t go around talking as if those free cuts are going to be enough.”

    Build renewables.

    The US can quarter their per-capita energy needs, the UK halve and they will then be at the world average. Much of Europe can reduce their usage to 50% or thereabouts and still have our current productivity.

    There’s much of the 75% reduction right there.

    Now make your energy builds renewable rather than fossil fuels and much of the remaining 50-60% of our production will be coming from non-fossil fuels and so not becoming a CO2 problem.

    At that point we’ve had several years of reductions and several years of time to think of innovations to tackle the remaining. We’ve also had several years of seeing whether we would need to remove CO2 without waiting for the natural processes. And then geoengineering comes into view.

    And while geoengineering is being run, if needed, we have adaption (move out of New Orleans, move financial services out of London, etc).

    Comment by Mark — 30 Oct 2009 @ 3:40 AM

  319. Chris:

    photovoltaics, windmills, geothermal, and hydro are all limited by physics in their efficiency.

    So is every other physical process. What’s your point?

    We can provide ALL our energy needs with solar alone, or geothermal alone. A mix of all four sources listed above can easily power the entire Earth. Not next year, but as fast as we can get the infrastructure into place would be a good idea.

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 30 Oct 2009 @ 5:39 AM

  320. Patrick,

    The amount of Mercury that would need to be destroyed, and the difficulty of getting it to Mercury escape velocity, precludes that plan.

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 30 Oct 2009 @ 5:45 AM

  321. ” photovoltaics, windmills, geothermal, and hydro are all limited by physics in their efficiency.

    So is every other physical process. What’s your point?”

    In addition, the sunlight is at a high effective temperature (the 6000K of the sun’s visible temperature) and therefore the Carnot cycle efficiency will be high.

    And no losses of digging up sunlight, refining sunlight and transporting the resulting sunlight to where the energy is needed to then be burnt and transported over powerlines to the home.

    Comment by Mark — 30 Oct 2009 @ 6:20 AM

  322. Early geoengineering:
    http://desmogblog.com/sites/beta.desmogblog.com/files/blogimages/funny%20cooling.gif

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 30 Oct 2009 @ 7:14 AM

  323. > crashing a rocket into Mercury and spreading out a dust cloud around the sun

    Look at the actual sizes involved for a sanity check.
    See the craters on Mercury now? http://messenger.jhuapl.edu/
    Far bigger rocks have been hitting Mercury than anything we can throw.

    Rocks come our way bigger than anything we can either throw _or_ catch, and cause just a contrail, not even a blip in climate.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zt2X_P455yk (Indonesia, recently)
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7M8LQ7_hWtE (Grand Tetons, long ago)

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 30 Oct 2009 @ 7:29 AM

  324. Heck, how much mercury would be needed to make a ring dense enough and wide enough to block sunlight?

    And what about light pressure on these bits of dust? What do you think is causing the sun-fleeing cometary tails?

    Comment by Mark — 30 Oct 2009 @ 8:01 AM

  325. You make three major errors here:

    1) When switching from leaded to unleaded, human behavior *did not change*. You go to the gas station, fill up your car, and drive off. CO2 fixes such as “switch to mass transit” or “only eat locally grown food” would require massive behavior changes. As Levitt and Dubner point out, even when changes are in our best interests and are nearly free (as with seat belts) humans still don’t change their behavior very easily.

    [Response: The issue was not that some 'fixes' require behavioural change, but that many don't (and frankly I think those will be the most successful - so I don't think we disagree on this). Switching from coal to renewables entails no behaviour change, internal combustion to plug-in hybrids little or no change, capturing methane from land fills no change etc. Similarly, carbon pricing will favour non-carbon emitting sources in ways that will be mostly opaque to most users.]

    2) Your points on the inaccuracies of climate models seem to mirror pretty closely the statements of global warming deniers. Which is it? Do we know the basic causalities of climate change, or don’t we? As Levitt points out in the book, we’ve already run the proof of concept of the idea with Pinatubo (and every other time a volcano goes off).

    [Response: What is your point? Climate models aren't perfect (but who ever said they were?), but have to used in attribution and projecting. They are clearly going to be more reliable the closer we are to today's climate. Pinatubo had plenty of adverse affects - rainfall decreases, ozone depletion etc. that are relatively well simulated (rainfall decreases are much less in the models though) - but doing one or two Pinatubo's a year is probably going to set off different behaviours still. Do you feel lucky?]

    3) Levitt and Dubner actually do address the point of who would get to control the SO2 emitters – it would be a very contentious issue. However, this is philosophically no different than our current efforts to geoengineer the planet with Kyoto and similar protocols (and it is geoengineering – what else do you think it is trying to do?) The same international methods could be used to control the SO2 emitters.

    [Response: But then you might as well use that mechanism to reduce emissions. It's only because people think we can't come up with international agreement that people want these schemes to work. - gavin]

    If you agree that we should do something about global warming, it is mind boggling that you would prefer an expensive and immoral approach that would curtail the prosperity and liberty of billions of people over one that is essentially free.

    Comment by Foobear — 30 Oct 2009 @ 8:14 AM

  326. 321: Did you just calculate a Carnot efficiency with the surface of the sun as the heat source, and try to apply it to solar cells? That’s, um, innovative. While there are thermodynamic constraints that would keep the maximum possible efficiency of a photovoltaic below 100%, you’d be looking at quantum mechanics for the limit, not the classical heat engine.

    318 Mark: Obviously, you build renewables, but don’t pretend there isn’t a cost associated with that, so long as fossil fuels are cheaper. Which was my original point. Advocate all the policies you want, but be honest that there are some costs involved. Sure, that added cost can be justified by various problems avoided down the road, but in the short term, your electricity still costs more.

    Comment by tharanga — 30 Oct 2009 @ 8:54 AM

  327. “321: Did you just calculate a Carnot efficiency with the surface of the sun as the heat source, and try to apply it to solar cells? That’s, um, innovative.”

    The energy spectrum of sunlight IS 6000K.

    There’s not as much *energy* as at the surface of the sun, but that doesn’t effect the efficiency theoretically possible from sunlight (which is the carnot cycle limit).

    If you thermalise that radiation (as the earth’s surface under sunlight does) then you have an effective temperature of somewhere under 320K and your efficiency is greatly reduced.

    Don’t get the two scenarios confused, tharanga.

    Comment by Mark — 30 Oct 2009 @ 9:18 AM

  328. “318 Mark: Obviously, you build renewables, but don’t pretend there isn’t a cost associated with that, so long as fossil fuels are cheaper. Which was my original point”

    What does the cost of fossil fuels (used up in operation) have to do with the cost of building the solar power plants (a one-off cost)?

    Comment by Mark — 30 Oct 2009 @ 9:19 AM

  329. 327: This is confused enough that I’ll leave it alone. Let’s just say, whatever you think the maximum possible efficiency of a photovoltaic cell is, actual efficiencies can be from maybe 10 to 30%, defined as electric power generated/incident solar power. But that, in itself, does not tell you what’s important: the actual cost in dollars; a energy source with low efficiency can easily more expensive than one with high efficiency.

    328: One puts together capital and operating costs when discussing the costs of different energy sources. For example, nuclear power has huge capital costs (to build the thing) and low operating costs, and the price one would quote for price/kWh from a new plant would include both. And on that basis, fossil fuels are cheapest. Nobody builds a coal plant out of spite; they build it because it’s cheap.

    Comment by tharanga — 30 Oct 2009 @ 10:01 AM

  330. “Do we know the basic causalities of climate change, or don’t we? ”

    We know the basics. But any modeler will tell you that we might be missing some factors which could either lead climate change to be better (negative feedbacks) or much worse (positive feedbacks, or other impacts) than the general span of the models. To make the decision to reduce emissions, this is “good enough”, since you are moving back towards a “no-impact” scenario. To make the decision to geo-engineer, this isn’t _nearly_ good enough.

    For example, I might be considering jumping off a tall building. I make a quick mental model, decide it is probably a bad idea. I mean, I could get lucky – there might be a passing haycart that I could fall into and it would be a nice, fun experience. On the other hand, maybe there’s a newspaper box that I could crack my head on, which would make it even worse.

    But wait – I’ve seen people use parachutes on TV! Maybe I don’t have a real parachute with me, but I can jury-rig one. Maybe I have vague recollections that parachutes only work if you open them at a certain minimum height, but I’m probably above that height. My mental model was good enough to tell me “don’t jump off that building”, so surely it is good enough to tell me “this parachute will save me”, right?

    Comment by Marcus — 30 Oct 2009 @ 10:07 AM

  331. Re tharanga – “Also, incentives aren’t always lined up well: if you’ve ever rented an apartment, you’ll have seen that the landlord might not care to invest much in efficiency improvements, as it’s the renter who pays the utility bills.”

    Good issue to address.

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 30 Oct 2009 @ 11:32 AM

  332. One way to solve the problem of landlords not caring would be to require that rental agreements state normal monthly costs for power.

    A fully informed consumer can then make an informed decision about where they rent from.

    A place that is expensive to heat will be ignored for one that may be expensive to rent but cheap to heat, if the total is still lower.

    Having to be second-best to a cheaper heating rental means that the landlord makes less money or gets the less secure tennant who cannot get accepted to another place.

    It would be nice to tax the landlords for archaic power systems, though this would best be done under the same rules as health and safety laws currently ensure that the landlord keeps the rats out and the walls painted on their rented apartments.

    Comment by Mark — 30 Oct 2009 @ 11:55 AM

  333. Foobear (#325, 30 October 2009 @ 8:14 AM):

    Two responses to “…you would prefer an expensive and immoral approach that would curtail the prosperity and liberty of billions of people over one that is essentially free.”-

    Your “free” doesn’t include the effects of ignoring, and even aggravating, ocean acidification. I believe that this would be immoral.

    Your “free” doesn’t include the loss of “prosperity and liberty of billions of people” that will result from the radical increases in the cost of petroleum and coal in the future if alternative sources of energy are not developed rapidly, and in addition for the US, the cost of maintaining our military for dealing with the worldwide scrabble for energy.

    Steve

    Comment by Steve Fish — 30 Oct 2009 @ 11:56 AM

  334. re: 325
    “If you agree that we should do something about global warming, it is mind boggling that you would prefer an expensive and immoral approach that would curtail the prosperity and liberty of billions of people over one that is essentially free.”

    Odd sense of freedom. Have you consulted the future about what they’d want? Even an odder one of morality.

    I could imagine a scenario in which pumping millions of tons of SO2 into the atmosphere would be a viable band-aid.

    If we woke up one day to discover that we had passed the temperature threshold for tundra to emit as much CO2 as human activity does, I think even the scoffers would have to admit that we had a problem to fix. At that point, every spare shekel we could muster would be spent on carbon capture. (I think at that point, we’d be too late, but what do I know?) To buy us the time to get a global carbon capture/abatement regimen put into place, the SO2 scheme might be defensible. As a permanent fixture of Life on Earth? Not so much.

    But, hey, I’ve got a great idea. Let’s start abating and capturing CO2/CH4 right now!

    But who says it’s needed? Do you think the scoffers and deniers and professional hacks would support a plan to pump 20,000,000 tons of SO2 into the atmosphere to fix a problem they say doesn’t exist? A global problem needs a deeper commitment than we currently have. Can you imagine the carping, foot-dragging, fault-finding, anxiety-fanning, paranoia-milking saturation-bombing from the media such a plan would provoke if you tried it today? I can.

    Comment by Jeffrey Davis — 30 Oct 2009 @ 11:57 AM

  335. “327: This is confused enough that I’ll leave it alone.”

    Except you didn’t.

    “Let’s just say, whatever you think the maximum possible efficiency of a photovoltaic cell is, actual efficiencies can be from maybe 10 to 30%, defined as electric power generated/incident solar power.”

    Absolute best efficiency you get is the spare energy of the released electron less the thermal energy of the lattice the electron is released from.

    Say 0.1eV is lost. Far IR.

    An electron kicked out from a photon of light about 1eV will then have 0.9eV energy available that will then be extracted. 90% efficient.

    An electron kicked out from a photon of IR about 0.2eV will have 0.1eV energy available on escape that will then be extracted. 50% efficient.

    Now if you use thermal sources of 200W at 300K you will have almost all your energy in the 50% efficient or less range. Because the spectrum of photons are at 300K.

    If you have photons from the sun, the spectrum is at 6000K. And most of your 200W is at 90% efficiency.

    Think of this too:

    Incandescent lightbulb: 100W power used

    Flourescent lightbulb: 12W power used

    Both are the same brightness.

    Why?

    Comment by Mark — 30 Oct 2009 @ 12:02 PM

  336. “For example, nuclear power has huge capital costs (to build the thing) and low operating costs, and the price one would quote for price/kWh from a new plant would include both.”

    Incorrect.

    Hank has frequently given the figures and Nuke power is several times more expensive than renewables while PV power is very nearly the same price (and nowhere near as subsidised: Nuclear power subsidies in the US total 7.1Bn a year, Petro ~30Bn.).

    “And on that basis, fossil fuels are cheapest. Nobody builds a coal plant out of spite; they build it because it’s cheap.”

    They build it because they get subsidies. They operate cheaply because the oil extraction is subsidised.

    And they aren’t cheaper than even current wind turbines. They are practically identical. And lower in subsidy by a long shot.

    They aren’t building 240 turbines in Texas because of spite: they’re doing it because it’s cheap.

    Comment by Mark — 30 Oct 2009 @ 12:07 PM

  337. Re potential efficiency of solar power energy conversion:

    Offhand, I recall (don’t take my word for it) that the upper limits for solar cells are ~ 60 % for flat panel and ~ 80 % for concentrated solar radiation (I don’t know what it would be for luminescent concentrators – higher than either or intermediate value or what?); I think I also recall one website that claimed we could expect to eventually see commercially available efficiencies of 40 % in flat panels and 60 % for CPV. I don’t know enough to explain why the upper limits are lower than the ~ 95 % (roughly) efficiency for a carnot heat engine. However, one contributor is that blue light is scattered more than red light by the atmosphere, so the direct solar radiation will effectively have a lower temperature, and the diffuse blue light of the sky (not usable by geometric concentrators) also has a lower effective temperature. At any one wavelength, the brightness temperature is the temperature that a perfect blackbody would have to have to emit such an intensity of radiation – the intensity is a flux per unit area per unit direction (solid angle) (per unit wavelength in the case of spectral/monochromatic intensity, which is what I was considering). Visually, intensity is the brightness you see in any one direction – hence the same radiant flux per unit area has a lower brightness temperature if it is diffuse. Thermodynamic limits apply to luminescent concentrators by consideration that the entropy per unit energy is greater for photons of lower energy, and so a greater intensity of lower energy photons could be produced from a lower intensity of higher energy photons (however, the same total intensity concentrated into a small interval of the spectrum has a higher brightness temperature and lower energy, so there is a trade off if the lower energy photons are closer to monochromatic); luminescent concentrators work by absorbing light in a layer of optical material, then fluorescence of energy at lower photon energy (monochromatic?), which is concentrated onto the edges of the layer by total internal reflection; solar cells on the edges can work at higher efficiencies because their band-gap energies can be matched (or approximately so, depending on available options) to the photon energies – the waste heat is produced in the process of absorption and fluorescence. Multilayer luminescent concentrators can achieve higher overall efficiencies in the same way (except for the option of parallel connection instead of series) as multijunction cells. Other options to increase efficiency include using nanostructures to produce multiple electron-hole pairs from photons with much more energy than the band-gap, and the collection of ‘hot carriers’.

    Solar thermal power has another limitation to efficiency. In order to get to the ideal carnot efficiency, solar thermal power has to concentrate solar energy to produce a temperature in a material at the brightness temperature of available solar radiation. But if that point were reached, the material would emit as much energy as it absorbed in the direction of incoming radiation (ie not usable to energy conversion devices). Actually using any energy requires keeping the material at a lower temperature. But it doesn’t have to be all that much lower in order to have emission out the solar collector be much lower than insolation on the solar collector, at least for the use of the whole spectrum (as temperature increases, radiant intensity starts to become nearly linearly proportional to temperature at sufficiently long wavelengths – it remains much more sensitive (in terms of proportions) to temperature at shorter wavelengths, hence the shift in the peak toward shorter wavelengths at higher temperatures.

    There’s a pretty good (so far as I can tell) wikipedia entry on solar cells.

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 30 Oct 2009 @ 12:31 PM

  338. CORRECTION:

    (however, the same total intensity concentrated into a small interval of the spectrum has a higher brightness temperature and lower *ENTROPY*, so there is a trade off if the lower energy photons are closer to monochromatic)

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 30 Oct 2009 @ 12:34 PM

  339. CORRECTION:

    “However, one contributor is that blue light is scattered more than red light by the atmosphere, so the direct solar radiation will effectively have a lower temperature,”

    Actually, any scattering from a direct beam lowers the brightness temperature; but the effect will vary depending on which wavelengths are scattered more. There is also absorption by water vapor in solar IR, by ozone in solar UV. The complex spectrum has a different brightness temperature at different wavelengths. Actually, the same is true even in space, as the sun’s radiation doesn’t come entirely from an isothermal photosphere; the source is distributed over a layer that is not isothermal, with contributions and uptakes from outer layers.

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 30 Oct 2009 @ 12:38 PM

  340. Re myself: 317http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2009/10/why-levitt-and-dubner-like-geo-engineering-and-why-they-are-wrong/comment-page-7/#comment-139994

    I can do even better:

    SUMMARY OF SUMMARY (picked out the key paragraphs – I would have put them in bold in the original summary if I knew how to do that):
    *******************
    IN SUMMARY:

    While real markets are not ideal, an ideal market tends toward economic efficiency when the benificiaries of a process pay the costs of the process. Pollution is one of the things that results in externalities. Externalities can be corrected by public policies; these can include taxes, caps, planning (such as zoning to reduce externalities on property values), and bans, and privatization of the commons. These actions can have costs as well as the benifit of correcting an externality – some policies may be hard to enforce effectively and efficiently and/or might be corruptable, and some commons have a benifit as commons that would be lost if privatized, and privatization in some cases is not economically viable for other reasons. Some positive externalities can even be of some societal value (advantages to utilization of ‘fair use’ in copyright laws). There are also costs and benifits for public policies with regards to other imperfections of the free market.

    Regarding climate change:

    I. Regulation of emissions (and some general concepts):

    ******
    Minimize perverse incentives, don’t get too narrowly focused so as to make another problem worse, allow market responses to price signals to find efficient solutions (there is a role for public planning, but don’t prescribe specific allotments of change to different industries), make the policy a net benifit, make a policy that is principled, efficiently enforceable, and resistant to corruption. Note that there may be nonlinearities in the value of externalities – emissions and other changes can interact with each other to produce a total effect, and the effect may depend on the trajectory of the whole system into the future. Balance minimization of perverse incentives and avoidance of narrow focus with a good sense of priority, allowing approximations (including linearizations, where justified) as the costs of reducing error get large as the error gets small, and tackle the biggest problems with the clearest effects first. Address trade issues. Try to be fair (and know what ‘fair’ means, which is often a problem). Except for practices that change the feedback, realize that emissions that are a feedback are, for the purpose of responsibility, part of the effect of the anthropogenic emissions and add to their externality effect.
    ******

    II. Spending options:

    ******
    Utilize bottom-up principles as well as top-down considerations of an optimal trajectory to guide how much of mitigation spending to consider in determining the price signal (tax + spending on alternatives) that is justified by the public cost of the externality. Note that the public cost of the externality can extend beyond the necessary spending purely to compensate or adapt to climate change. Note that various spending pathways exist, some of which can serve multiple purposes at once, and some of which can serve as investments to regenerate revenue (for public spending or direct private sector benifit) at a later time when it might be needed.

    Try to be fair in compensation of losses suffered by people. But in compensation those who might lose more or gain less from the price signals, do not remove the price signals.

    Consider whether to address only losses that are greater than average, and whether to tax in a symmetric fashion people (or just nations) with benifits greater than average (noting that the average benifit is most likely a negative benifit). Avoid perverse incentives in compensation – don’t encourage maladaptive behavior or discourage optimal or near-optimal adaptation – note also that climate change or none, some changes in FEMA and agricultural aid (and agriculture in general) are in order.
    ******

    [AND: not necessarily fair or advisable to compensate losses (or losses above an average level) in full (both from climate change and from policy itself), as in some cases, depending on time and wealth, people could be expected to anticipate these costs in advance and avoid them. However, over long timescales, if we assume people do their best, then the costs/losses they face are those they could not have avoided. Some compromise may be necessary.]

    [AND: note the difference between the net losses by firms or individuals in a sector of the economy and the actual loss to the whole society.]

    [AND: keep in mind the deflationary effect of a tax and the inflationary effect of spending (to a first approximation in a simplified case, they would cancel each other if both occur at the same time; variations from that could occur as different people in different circumstances spend additional money differently, so that any redistribution of money would have net effects, although a weighted average over all price changes, including interest rates, etc, might be near zero?? Maybe more to say about that later...]****

    III: Things to consider in evaluting public cost of climate change and the net benifit of policies

    Don’t forget the intangibles. Ultimately the goal must be moral. But economic principles apply. There are causal linkages – it’s an ecosystem.

    IV: Public planning and targeted incentives:

    ******
    There is a role for public planning and regulation in addition to the taxation and general spending. Public planning and standards and some targeted incentives will help, in both mitigation, adaptation, and other things, in coordinating changes so that different parts of the whole system remain or become compatable with each so they can have greatest effect, and in breaking entrenched and self-reinforcing habits that have or will become maladaptive (especially important where durable goods and infrastructure are involved, because of legacy costs) – once broken, the market might then be able to better explore alternatives and tend toware the efficient pathways.

    Planning may also play a role due to nonlinearities – for example, how the public costs of emissions depend on the future trajectory of emissions and of other things.

    Planning can also affect the discount rate (at least that portion due to uncertainty – if we plan a future then we might put more value in it). Public planning can act over time scales larger than most private sector activity.
    ****

    V. OTHER:

    ******
    There are also changes to make in existing policy. For example, there might be tax breaks on fossil fuels. In fairness, it makes sense to tax the land used by solar power as land (and land used by coal mining should also be taxed), but it may make sense to tax solar panels as fuel (?). Tax policies besides taxing and spending as described above should be made fair.
    ******

    Some things that would help adaptation and mitigation to climate change should be done anyway. The threat of climate change in some cases will justify greater overall changes or accelerated changes (Some other things are more absolute in nature – they should just be different, climate change or not). Any improvements in the efficiency of food, water, industry, health care, etc, and any improvements in the treatment of people will be good.

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 30 Oct 2009 @ 12:50 PM

  341. http://link.aip.org/link/?APPLAB/91/223507/1
    “an upper efficiency limit of 44.5% is achievable due to single photon absorption only. This efficiency is significantly higher than the Shockley-Queisser limit of ~31% for homojunction cells, but remains below that predicted for two photon excitation (>63%) previously predicted for quantum cells.” ©2007 American Institute of Physics

    Levitt and Dubner will appreciate anything that distracts from discussing them.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 30 Oct 2009 @ 1:03 PM

  342. But let’s talk about Levitt and Dubner.

    Caldeira: … I do see CO2 as the problem. I think to present it as if, “Well, it not’s really CO2, but the effects of CO2,” it’s like if you got shot by a bullet and you said, “Well, it wasn’t really the bullet that was the problem, it was just that I happened to have this hole through my body …”
    http://scienceblogs.com/deltoid/2009/10/superfreakonomics_levitt_missi.php#more
    quoting from http://www.e360.yale.edu/content/feature.msp?id=2201

    “Thingsbreak has been documenting the way Levitt and Dubner keeping digging the hole deeper, and Dubner has kept on digging ….”
    http://scienceblogs.com/deltoid/2009/10/dubner_falsely_claims_that_oce.php
    quoting from http://thingsbreak.wordpress.com/2009/10/29/the-freakonomics-solution-to-finding-yourself-in-a-hole/

    How about it? Let’s talk about Levitt and Dubner.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 30 Oct 2009 @ 1:11 PM

  343. Barton and Mark-

    My point is that hydro, geothermal windmills and photovoltaics working at optimum levels (i.e. if all the energy that could realistically be captured was) would still require a great deal of infrastructure investment and land. It would kind of defeat the purpose of averting an environmental catastrophe if every desert had to become a mirror. Also, such solutions do not scale very well (e.g. you can’t stack solar panels), and would eventually (quickly) be outstripped by demand, which means people would start carbon emissions again. If we look at SEGS VIII and IX in California they take up 1 Km^2 but their output is only .45% (that’s .0045) of the total energy needed for the state. That means you would need around 450 new plants for California alone, in similarly ideal locations, for the demand that California has right now. Solar plants tend to be profitable, especially when compared to other renewables, but can you really say that ALL our power can be solar given the limited amount daylight and space available? And why do we have to depend on new technologies? The Indian Point reactors in New York are over 30 years old and each has a gross capacity of over 1000 MWe. It’s like moving forward to get where were decades ago.

    Comment by Chris — 30 Oct 2009 @ 3:03 PM

  344. Define “a great deal of infrastructure and land”

    Compare it to, say, the surface area we take up with railroads.

    Or “brownfield sites” that are impossible to use for industrial let alone residential use (http://wwwp.dailyclimate.org/tdc-newsroom/2009/10/green-shoots-from-brownfields).

    “It would kind of defeat the purpose of averting an environmental catastrophe if every desert had to become a mirror.”

    Did you check this out?

    http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2009/10/an-open-letter-to-steve-levitt

    “Also, such solutions do not scale very well (e.g. you can’t stack solar panels), ”

    You can’t stack nuclear power plants either. And go and have a look at the open letter and check the graphic for how much 100% replacement with purely PV would take.

    “California they take up 1 Km^2 but their output is only .45% (that’s .0045) of the total energy needed for the state. ”

    Except 97.5% of the land is still usable for farming. You can farm ***around*** the bases.

    Try farming around the pipes of a nuke plant..

    “And why do we have to depend on new technologies?”

    Indeed. 50%+ of the change can easily come from just being a bit more sensible about how we abuse energy.

    “The Indian Point reactors in New York are over 30 years old and each has a gross capacity of over 1000 MWe.”

    Except they aren’t in California, are they. Or do they procreate?

    Comment by Mark — 30 Oct 2009 @ 3:27 PM

  345. Hank Roberts (#342, 30 October 2009 @ 1:11 PM):

    Whew! Thank you. My contribution to the refocus is a question. If this scheme will result in acid rain, has anybody tried to estimate how much this might accelerate ocean acidification.

    Steve

    Comment by Steve Fish — 30 Oct 2009 @ 3:29 PM

  346. Also, how will people be able to farm “around the bases” of solar panels if the solar panels are blocking out the sun?

    Comment by Chris — 30 Oct 2009 @ 4:09 PM

  347. I would also show you a picture of how many reactors it would take to provide the world’s energy but it’s not visible from space.

    Comment by Chris — 30 Oct 2009 @ 4:11 PM

  348. Mark, 335: None of that has any bearing on my points: The actual efficiencies of photovoltaics are well below any thermodynamic limit, so boasting of a high thermodynamic limit is pointless. And energy efficiency does not necessarily tell you much about cost efficiency, which in the end, determines what gets built. If solar cells were only 2% efficient, but somehow the resulting solar energy cost 3 cents per kWh, you’d still happily build solar cells left and right.

    What I’m leaving alone is your attempt to equate a Carnot cycle with a solar cell.

    The implications of the First Law on a solar cell are obvious; I’ll have to give some thought as to what the Second Law tells us about the electrical work we can get out of a photon flux.

    Comment by tharanga — 30 Oct 2009 @ 4:27 PM

  349. Mark, 336: You missed my point. I was making no statement on the merits of nuclear power; I was simply saying that when anybody quotes the cost of an energy source, that quoted cost includes both capital and operating costs, in response to your statement in 328. The one-off cost of construction still has to be paid off over time, so the cost per kWh will reflect it.

    Your statements on subsidies are hard to justify, I think. Everything gets subsidised in different ways, but I’d be amazed if you could show any analysis that showed that coal would not be cheaper than solar/wind/nuclear, per unit energy, in the absence of all subsidies. Yes, I’ll allow that wind is getting close, in the right locations.

    Comment by tharanga — 30 Oct 2009 @ 4:38 PM

  350. Re 305 David B. Benson – Thanks!

    Re others (dust cloud around the sun) – Thanks!.

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 30 Oct 2009 @ 7:29 PM

  351. tharanga – “None of that has any bearing on my points: The actual efficiencies of photovoltaics are well below any thermodynamic limit, so boasting of a high thermodynamic limit is pointless. And energy efficiency does not necessarily tell you much about cost efficiency, which in the end, determines what gets built. If solar cells were only 2% efficient, but somehow the resulting solar energy cost 3 cents per kWh, you’d still happily build solar cells left and right.”

    Good points there – but the second (and first) law of thermodynamics is handy to give an upper limit for all technology for a given heat source and sink – further specification of the technology may and will impose other limits.

    Fossil fuel and nuclear power plants also operate far below the thermodynamic limits, as defined by the available free energy of the fuel. Fossil fuel plants and nuclear power plants are generally a bit over 30 % efficient (natural gas plants do a bit better than others) in conversion of fuel energy to electricity; I’m not sure but I would guess solar thermal power plants are generally in the same range. If the right technology came along, we could drastically cut emissions and still be dependent on fossil fuels without any energy use efficiency improvements (but why stop there?). Well, there is the concept of using waste heat from power plants (and that could be applied to renewable heat to electricity conversion plants as well) – this is particularly amenable to industrial on-site electricity generation. Whatever happened to magnetohydronamic generators? What would be awesome is if hydrogen could be stripped from the hydrocarbons and used in fuel cells – there would be energy loss from unoxidized C, but that cuts the CO2 emissions out, and the fuel cell conversion would be more efficient. Although I have read that fuel cell technology can also apply to CO, in which case, you’d have the emissions but you might still get more electricity per emission. Now if the H and CO came from biomass… Also, I have read of a bacterial fuel cell in which the bacteria feed on sugar and actually produce a usable voltage between electrodes. But I digress…

    Anyway, it is nice to know that solar cells have the potential to improve. See 341 Hank Roberts’ comment above – the limit there is lower than the upper limit for all solar cells because it applies to a specific category. Conventional single-junction solar cells can only convert photons to electron-hole pairs when the photon has energy greater than or equal to the band gap energy (the energy gap between the top of the valence band and the bottom of the conduction band), while of all the energy of those photons, any that is greater than the band gap tends to be thermalized as the excited charge carriers fall back towards the band edges. (The simplest way photons produce electron-hole pairs is for a single photon to excite an electron from an occupied state to an unoccupied state; because the photon has very little momentum, the wave vector k of the electron remains approximately unchanged; energy bands can be approximated as a continous set of electronic states in which energy varies as a function of k; within that band, electrons can move to different states by changing energy and k via phonons (I think); the valance and conduction bands can actually consist of multiple such bands that overlap in energy values, and there are other bands above and below, but the top of the valence band and the bottom of the conduction band are those available energy levels that come closest to the fermi level from either side; in thermodynamic equilibrium the occupied states as a fraction of available states varies with energy with a distinct shape that goes from near 100 % below the fermi level (which is within the band gap for semiconductors) to near 0 % above the fermi level, and the range of energy values with intermediate fractions expands with increasing temperature, but the fraction of occupied states will always decrease going to higher energy levels when in local thermodynamic equilibrium, and so charge carriers (when defined as holes in the valence band) tend to fall towards the fermi level from either side. In a direct band-gap material, the band edges closest to the fermi level occur at the same k; in an indirect band-gap material, the band edges do not occur at the same k, so at any given k, the difference in energy between valance and conduction bands is always greater than the band gap, so photons have to reach a threshold energy somewhat greater than the band gap before they can produce electron-hole pairs as described above (unless there’s something about excitons?… that’s going way beyond what I know); processes that allow photons closer to band gap energy to produce usable electron hole pairs tend to occur more rarely, and so a thicker layer of material (or light-trapping) is needed to absorb a good fraction of those photons, as is the case for c-Si. Anyway, the maximum efficiency of such a device, in terms of electrical power output per unit incident radiant flux, varies as a function of band gap energy and of the spectrum of radiation – for solar radiation at least, the general tendency (will be distorted a bit by water vapor absorption bands in solar IR in particular and various other bumps in the spectrum) is for small band gap energies and large band gap energies to have lower potential efficiency than intermediate values, because at higher band gap energies, fewer photons can be utilized, while at lower band gap energies, a lot more of the photon energy of those which do produce electron-hole pairs is converted to heat. Further constraints on efficiency come from theoretical limits on how charge carriers drift and recombine, probably related to the necessary built-in potential (vanishes at open circuit, is necessary to organize charge carrier drift, reduces the voltage of the output of the cell), which is related to the fill factor (maximum power that can be produced divided by the product of the short circuit current (maximum built-in potential in the absence of an externally-applied voltage), zero output voltage) and the open circuit voltage (maximum output voltage in the absence of externally-applied voltage, zero built-in potential). I think higher photon absorption rates per unit volume tend to result in higher fill factors; fill factor tends to decrease with decreasing incident radiation flux … and there are many many interesting details that I couldn’t possibly go into because I don’t know enough.

    This limitation doesn’t equate to the Carnot efficiency, but it is obvious that a solar cell cannot produce power from a radiation source at the same temperature. If the solar cell is at local thermodynamic equilibrium with the exception of energy produced from absorbed incident radiation, then it will have to be able to emit as well as it can absorb at any one wavelength (in any given direction, in any given polarization), which means it would be in radiative equilibrium with an opaque cavity at the same temperature.

    PS for solar thermal power, the heat flux available to conversion to electric energy could increase even faster with decreasing temperature of the heated material relative to solar radiation than is implied by using the difference in the fourth power of temperature (even if the available radiation were as if from a perfect isothermal blackbody) – the reason is that the spectrums shift away from each other; if the heated material has greater absorptivity at short wavelengths and less at longer wavelengths, then allowing it to cool will decrease the radiant energy loss faster than the the change in the fourth power of temperature. By the way, this would be loosely/broadly analogous to a greenhouse effect.

    —-

    Chris:

    “Also, how will people be able to farm “around the bases” of solar panels if the solar panels are blocking out the sun?”

    Shade grown crops. Diffuse light will come in from the sides.

    Although the ‘farm around the bases’ sounds more like a characteristic of wind power. With solar power, when in semi-arid land, the rainfall would (via runoff from panels, etc.) be concentrated in between panels or on neighboring land, potentially boosting the agricultural value of that land.

    “If we look at SEGS VIII and IX in California they take up 1 Km^2 but their output is only .45% (that’s .0045) of the total energy needed for the state. That means you would need around 450 new plants for California alone, in similarly ideal locations, for the demand that California has right now.”

    0.45 % * 450 = something larger than 100 %.

    But even 450 km^2, or lets say 600 km^2 (making up for less than ideal conditions), is actually quite small – I’m surprised that would be sufficient. But assuming 1 m2 of panel area per 3 m2 of land (it might be smaller or larger but probably somewhere around there for flat panels at fixed tilt) and incident solar radiation on panels of 200 W/m2 (it would be higher than that on ideal land, provided the panels are not packed too closely), and efficiency of perhaps 7 % (may include some losses outside the panel and a little bit of performance decay – I’m not quite sure this is the best number to use), we get a time average of 4.67 W/m2 of land, or 4.67 MW of average power from 1 km2, or 2.8 GW of power from 600 km2. That’s not enough for CA. You’d need roughly 100,000 km2 (a bit over 1 % of U.S. land) under those conditions to supply all U.S. electric power. Still, the land that would actually be needed is not that big compared to CA (and by the time a significant fraction of necessary power is supplied, conversion efficiency may be larger, and maybe my 1/3 ratio of panel area to land area was too low, and cheaper technology could allow for sacrificing average panel insolation to gain greater time-average power output per unit land. Might solar power collectors be floated on already existing artificial reservoirs (which would reduce evaporation, perhaps helpul in a drying West)).

    “but can you really say that ALL our power can be solar given the limited amount daylight and space available?”

    Storage. Solar thermal power has an option of hourly-diurnal scale storage built into the concept. For seasonal storage, hydrogen and CAES. There’s also pumped water storage. Also, desalinate and pump water during sunny droughts, use more (no need for ALL our power to be solar) hydroelectric power and geothermal, biofuel, etc. when necessary. Adapt industry to resources (as has been done before). HVDC lines. Maybe smart appliances with flexible schedules (refrigerator, air conditioner) respond to short term cloud variability. Wind energy, too. Etc.

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 30 Oct 2009 @ 11:55 PM

  352. “Still, the land that would actually be needed is not that big compared to CA ”

    That’s for CA energy usage – I’m not sure what it is, but it’s not much more than 10 % (or even that?) of U.S. population.

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 30 Oct 2009 @ 11:57 PM

  353. Another thing about taxes and spending -

    Obviously, when money flows to the government via a tax, it can’t just be transported to the future to be spent on things at that time – even if it could, actually wealth could not follow – instead, the result would be deflation (relative to whatever background tendency there is) during taxation and inflation during spending.

    In the simplest possible tax/spend structure, where there is a tax on emissions (or other externalities) as they are emitted, supporting some type of spending at that time, and then in the future, there is spending to compensate for losses, with revenue coming from whereever, the result is (if formulated correctly):

    Emitters pay a fair price; those who suffer losses recieve a fair compensation.

    But this is linearly superimposed on (setting aside the effects of the unspecified sinks and sources of public funds):

    During time of emission, there is to a first approximation no net cost to society as a whole – which means that they are still benifiting from the emissions without paying for them.

    During the time of compensation, there is to a first approximation no net benifit to society as a whole, which means they are not as a whole being compensated.

    However, this doesn’t at all argue against the effect of the price signal on emitting economic pathways – it would still encourage mitigation via market mechanisms.

    Future generations generally do benifit from the past via accumulated technology advances, economic progress in general, and more general cultural inheritence, even as they face scarcer resources. Thus, there is a trade off and leaving future generations with less of something is not necessarily unfair. However, the goal is not to be fair – although fairness is an important consideration, what they goal is is the best. Obviously, the future can’t be compensated for climate change from inherited benifits if climate change obliterates those inherited benifits.

    PS I think I forgot to point out above that the future trajectory of population also affects the public costs of climate change from emissions today. And so on…

    And then there’s the discount rate. Intergenerational ethics. Etc.

    Anyway:

    Specifying the as of yet unspecified could allow for some adjusting of this picture. Obviously, investing the tax revenue in measures that reduce the future losses due to climate change would make perfect sense. This could include mitigation (which also benifits/compensates the future by reducing their own emissions taxes that have to be put into such public investments as mitigation and adaptation as opposed to stuff they would rather have if they could).

    But it gets weird when the revenue pays for mitigation, because the most obvious relationship that is justified by principle is that the tax rate is such that revenue be equal to what is necessary to compensate or ameliorate, etc, the effects of the externality – thus, the tax rate represents the cost of each unit of externality, which would be constant aside from nonlinearities that make the tax rate dependent on the future externality trajectory, among other things, and potentially variable in time on time scales longer than the longevity of the externality accumulation.

    However, public spending on mitigation increases the price signal and reduces the future emissions/etc. more/faster than otherwise. Spending on mitigation may well be justified (for reasons mentioned before along with this one – it plays the same role as public investment in adaptation measures to reduce future losses to climate change), but it’s mathematical proportionality to tax revenue is different. Does this mean the tax rate will vary with time according to cummulative public spending on mitigation? Well, maybe it should…

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 31 Oct 2009 @ 12:30 AM

  354. Chris:

    It would kind of defeat the purpose of averting an environmental catastrophe if every desert had to become a mirror.

    Every desert doesn’t have to become a mirror. Do the math.

    If we look at SEGS VIII and IX in California they take up 1 Km^2 but their output is only .45% (that’s .0045) of the total energy needed for the state. That means you would need around 450 new plants for California alone, in similarly ideal locations, for the demand that California has right now.

    How many coal-fired power plants currently operate in California?

    Solar plants tend to be profitable, especially when compared to other renewables, but can you really say that ALL our power can be solar given the limited amount daylight and space available?

    Yes, easily. Do the math.

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 31 Oct 2009 @ 5:28 AM

  355. Hank Roberts (#342, 30 October 2009 @ 1:11 PM):

    Levitt and Dubner, who? I think that the bottom of old threads is seen as the place for poorly conceived, off topic rambles.

    Steve

    Comment by Steve Fish — 31 Oct 2009 @ 11:42 AM

  356. “Mark, 335: None of that has any bearing on my points: ”

    It has HUGE bearing on your facaetious and fatuous comment #326:

    “321: Did you just calculate a Carnot efficiency with the surface of the sun as the heat source, and try to apply it to solar cells? That’s, um, innovative.”

    To which the efficiency of what we build is NEVER at the carnot efficiency, so saying “it’s only 30%” is irrelevant point. Hence my post is irrelevant to your later posts about what efficiency rates we get: it has ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to do with your post in 326 which was a response to my post 335.

    Ergo “no bearing on my point” is bull: your point wasn’t what we get from PV but your apparent incredulity that carnot cycle efficiency was applicable, so it doesn’t HAVE to have bearing on the points I wasn’t answering.

    Comment by Mark — 31 Oct 2009 @ 11:55 AM

  357. tharanga – ” If solar cells were only 2% efficient, but somehow the resulting solar energy cost 3 cents per kWh, you’d still happily build solar cells left and right.”

    Other point: efficiency will influence the cost. For a given panel output at a given cost per unit power, higher efficiency reduces the area needed by the panel, possibly the necessary materials (especially the non PV materials – less glass or plastic, to some extent less metal in wiring, less structural support), and some manufacturing costs of the panel itself, plus the land area (directly and by allowing greater output from roof space), and balance of system components related to panel area (mounting, tracking if that is used) and maintanence of panels (occasional washing or clearing of snow, etc.). Less sensitive to efficiency of panels are the costs of inverters, storage, HVDC, etc.

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 31 Oct 2009 @ 1:20 PM

  358. 11:
    I’m obliged to John Atkeison for pointing out he read the geoengineering ”
    excerpt from the book in the Sunday Parade magazine”

    It’s a locus classicus of policized science, the venue then-science editor Carl Sagan used in 1983 to impose a “sophisticated one dimensional model ” of a global deep freeze on the popular imagination.

    Having the largest circulation of any magazine , Parade’s capacity to inflict factoids remains unrivaled in print. But whatever it carries, from ‘nuclear winter ‘ to Freakomonics, must first be edited down to the lowest common denominator to fit its yack TV demographic.

    This leads to an interesting division between policy investors who view Freakonomics as a threat to Cap and Trade, and those who view the dumbing down of geoengineering as a necessary prelude to making it an investment vehicle.The lack of crosstalk between Parade readers and New Yorker subscribers explains why Maocolm Gladwell’s coverage of the same events in May 2008 passed almost unnoticed, while a firestorm has erupted around Freakonomics pre-Copenhagen floating of Geoengineering Lite.

    I still must take exception to Atkeison’s elision of media events and reality. Writing as though Katrina’s aftermath had something to do with real-time sea level change, he says “Here in New Orleans it was the poor working class who suffer the most… those who have contributed the least to the problem are those hit hardest and first, especially in the global sense. (I am happy to report that our daily paper also carried the Maldives underwater story prominently as well.)”

    This just doesn’t wash-while the Maldives remain above sea level, the waterlogged neighborhoods of New Orleans were below it to begin with.

    Those decrying Republican fondness for uninsurable waterfront property should take scuba gear to Copenhagen to stage a submarine protest against the Maldivian’s bad example in colonizing a chain of so fecklessly low and deservedly deserted islands. It speaks to the intellectual poverty of UNEP’s case that they should make such a demographic outlier their poster child in an epoch that is seeing more land created by poldering , delta growth, and evaporative retreat of lake and sea shores in Asia and Africa that is being lost to Indo-Pacific microstates with single digit average elevations, and out-islands seemingly better fitted for use in New Yorker cartoons than human habitation.

    Comment by Russell Seitz — 31 Oct 2009 @ 1:37 PM

  359. > the Maldivian’s [sic] bad example in
    > colonizing … deservedly deserted islands

    Two millenia ago, at least. You’re suggesting they should have known better?
    http://www.iias.nl/iiasn/iiasn5/insouasi/maloney.html

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 31 Oct 2009 @ 2:21 PM

  360. Re 304 Chris:

    “Whatever the costs of maintaining this system are they are surely less than the economic inefficiencies of carbon taxes that result in lower wages and higher prices for the average person.”

    So how are you going to pay for this system? Why shouldn’t it be payed with taxes on the thing that made it necessary? And why would taxing a negative externality result in inefficiency – it is the lack of tax that is at the root of the inefficiency. What happens to wages and prices depends on how the revenue is spent.

    “The optimum usage is dictated by the global price of coal and oil, which is based on the supply and not the demand as the middle east withholds production.”

    Yes, if only some nations reduce usage via a price signal or other means, then there will tend to be a reduction in price, which causes an increase in usage in other nations. But that increase cannot make up entirely for the initial reduction, because that would bring the price back up to where it was. Furthermore, even with some adverse trade effects caused by differences among nations in policy (something with an obvious solution by the way – even without a more comprehensive global agreement, one can have tariffs and/or subsidies for imports/exports), there would be some stimulation of R&D and scaling up of mitigation options, tending to reduce their costs, and making alternatives more palatable elsewhere.

    “You will have noticed that China and India refuse to sign a pact to reduce their emissions for our benefit because doing so will add costs to their products and make them less competitive. ”

    1. What about their own benifit?

    2. The socioeconomic conditions of such nations make it somewhat ridiculous to even ask them to reduce their emissions in an absolute sense when nations like the U.S. haven’t even begun to reduce. It is difficult to be fair in allocating set amounts of emissions to countries – other ideas exist that are better.

    “It is also of note that most new office buildings have motion sensors because the owners want to save money (i.e. be efficient).”

    That’s great!

    “providing a cheaper or near optimal alternative”

    Again, price signals help direct spending on R&D among other things.

    Re 310 Chris:
    “c) that the scarcity of carbon would not force investigations into alternative energy without a tax.”

    *** But it will take longer, and the cummulative reductions will be less than is jusitified by the combination of scarcity and externality. ***

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 31 Oct 2009 @ 3:16 PM

  361. 359;

    “Known better” ?

    Whatever Sinhalan sons of Sinbad made landfall there circa 500 AD wisely went for the high ground the oldest stupa foundation stands all of 12 feet above sea level.

    Comment by Russell Seitz — 31 Oct 2009 @ 7:02 PM

  362. Continued from 353, http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2009/10/why-levitt-and-dubner-like-geo-engineering-and-why-they-are-wrong/comment-page-8/#comment-140195

    In summary, a tax on emissions and spending of revenue don’t necessarily compensate the future for the effects of those emissions, but does benifit the future by imposing a price signal that drives private sector spending away from emissions-intensive economic pathways and towards alternatives.

    Some taxation and spending in the future may compensate for the inequities of the externalities but not necesarily offer much compensation to the future as a whole for those externalities.

    Direction of externality tax revenue, perhaps +/- other funds, into investments that benifit the future (scientific and technological progress, planning (the spending-aspect of planning, such as investing in decision making resources and in the power to enact those decisions, etc.), capital goods and infrastructure). Some of this investment (greater than what would otherwise occur) may take place by market mechanisms as people plan for climate change for themselves (private investments). Otherwise the investments would be public spending (public investments). Note that the private investments may in particular not depend on the externality tax revenue, whereas in principle it makes sense for public investments to be in some way related to the tax revenue since their cost reflects the externality. Note also that private investments might be publically compensated either specifically or indirectly from nonspecific spending of the tax revenue; public spending that specifically supports private investments should be counted as public investments here, though they can make use of market mechanisms. Actually, an additional policy might apply to incentive private investments (besides mitigation) in preparation of future consequences – not just via public spending but also taxation on maladaptive behavior. ***This just brings some of the same aspects of spending which I previously mentioned and brings them from the time period of realization of the costs of climate change back to a time period of preparation for climate change (except for that, nothing in this comment and the last economics comment (link at top of this comment) from which this is continued are in disagreement with my earlier series regarding a general policy structure proposal: (

    Big policy commnet 1 (MC1)
    261
    http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2009/10/why-levitt-and-dubner-like-geo-engineering-and-why-they-are-wrong/comment-page-6/#comment-139621

    Big policy comment 2 (MC2) (with a beginning portion focussed on technological issues outside the focus of this set of comments)
    293
    http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2009/10/why-levitt-and-dubner-like-geo-engineering-and-why-they-are-wrong/comment-page-6/#comment-139784

    Big policy comment 3 (MC3)
    307
    http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2009/10/why-levitt-and-dubner-like-geo-engineering-and-why-they-are-wrong/comment-page-7/#comment-139904

    additional points, clarifications/corrections, and summary:
    317
    http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2009/10/why-levitt-and-dubner-like-geo-engineering-and-why-they-are-wrong/comment-page-7/#comment-139994

    Summary of Summary:
    340
    http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2009/10/why-levitt-and-dubner-like-geo-engineering-and-why-they-are-wrong/comment-page-7/#comment-140126

    ); this present comment and the one it follows are just to give some additional perspective on mathematical relationships).***

    There could be some amount of spending of the tax revenue on sequestration or otherwise direct neutralization of the effects of emissions – to the extent that they exactly cancel the externality, payed at the same rate as the externality tax. Subracting this spending from the tax revenue, we have a net tax revenue that reflects the amount of externality passed on to the public (most of which is realized in the future (it occurs to me that some of ocean acidification in particular would be immediate (although the ecological effects would cascade in time, I’d guess – don’t know all the details – I’d guess some of it is modulated by climate change, too) – whereas even aerosol forcing, when persistent, has a time lag from thermal inertia).

    Thus it makes sense that the net revenue would go to paying the cost of investing for compensating the future. Note that the tax rate on the externality depends in part on how effective these investments are; if a small investment could massively compensate, the tax rate would be smaller because the public cost is smaller because of the existence of that option, provided the option can be utilized.

    This investment can include general economic investments but also investments specific to adaptation/amelioration and to mitigation. Some portion of those investments pay back via their adaptive/ameliorative and mitigative effects, while another portion may pay back by regenerating funds – the portions can’t necessarily be spent independently of each other; the total would be counted as either one or the other portion depending on the value of the effects – a mathematical procedure to assign value to different aspects of the process.

    Note that for public spending, either directly or in support of private spending decisions, for mitigation, has a mitigating effect (M1) that is in addition to the mitigating effect (M0) of the market response to the price signal of the tax.

    It might also be justified to spend some additional revenue that is not from the emissions tax on mitigation (M2), in so far as general economic concepts not specific to externalies would justify it.

    Spending for M1 is justified in so far as it is an efficient investment – paying back more (via reduced climate change, ocean acidification, etc., and also with regeneration of funds) with less spending – and such efficiency in general should guide how public spending is apportioned.

    One effect of the spending on M1 (if not spending on M2) is to bridge what would otherwise be the valley between two optima, or otherwise increase the slope to increase the incentive to mitigate – for example, the mass market advantage delays the point in time at which alternatives can take a given share of the market from the externality-intensive pathways; support of an alternative up to the threshold of mass market advantage, as well as accelerating other improvements in the economic efficiency of the alternative, can, at least up to a point, increase overall economic efficiency.

    Earlier I mentioned that spending for M1 was a bit weird – not that it is unwise or unjustified, but that it has a different mathematical relationship to the externality. Over time, this is true; public investment in mitigation effectively compensates the future for externalities by reducing the production of externalities. But if those externalities are not produced, what is taxed to fund that which makes up for the effect of something that didn’t happen? As a solution to that puzzle, I figured some combined modeling could attempt to figure out an optimal trajectory, including spending scenarios, and the tax rate in that optimal trajectory would be justified by a sort of inversion of market behavior – that a market will ideally tend to perform optimally if an externality is corrected (and then consider a perspective in which the government, or at least parts of it (at least the parts that correct externalities and manages the commons) can be seen as an entity within the market (it does provide goods and services (services can be in the form of catalyzing private sector activity)).

    But now I’m also thinking that maybe the mathematical relationship for public investment in mitigation is not so different. In particular, public spending on mitigation in any one year would give a benifit to the future by way of reducing subsequent emissions to compensate for some of the emissions from that same year which provided the tax revenue.

    Okay, puzzle solved?

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 31 Oct 2009 @ 7:54 PM

  363. (And spending for M2 is justified by, perhaps among other things, the scarcity of fossil fuels – of course, ideal free market response would address the scarcity issue alone just fine, but the gap between new innovation and mass market advantage, and the benefits of a smooth transition, which a realistic market might not produce, may justify such public investment.

    Actually, this is a service provided to us by the oil speculators who drove up the price back in early 2008 – Bringing a taste of the future into the present should help the market prepare for the future. Unfortunate that it came in one big surge, though. It may not have been entirely due to the actual future (? a lot was said, and I don’t remember much of it – was it a case of the tulips?)- not that prices couldn’t eventually go even higher after correctiong for inflation.)

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 31 Oct 2009 @ 8:05 PM

  364. (I forgot to point out that increasing investment in such things as capital goods does actually take away benifits to the presentand give them to the future, not that it’s a one-to-one correspondence.

    Making capital goods/infrastructure/research/etc. for future economic activity takes away the supply of products and services that people to have for end use now. (Just as making more durable goods reduces the available resources for making marshmallows to eat in the next hour.) In general we make this sacrifice because we plan on us or our childrent, etc, being alive at some future date and wanting stuff, and we never would have gotten to a level of prosperity near what we have without such investments. It is analogous to saving some grains of wheat to plant for next season at the expense of having a little less to eat this year.)

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 31 Oct 2009 @ 8:16 PM

  365. (“Making capital goods/infrastructure/research/etc. for future economic activity takes away the supply of products and services that people to have for end use now. (Just as making more durable goods reduces the available resources for making marshmallows to eat in the next hour.)”

    But again, not a one-to-one trade-off. There’s a production possibilities curve, the slope in general is not constant over the range of values.)

    ______________

    I’m done with that. Maybe I can get back to putting together a list of references about renewable energy (I have it but it’s not organized – could still take me a while).

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 31 Oct 2009 @ 8:20 PM

  366. Patrick 027:
    I got 450 from .45% because you can only count on sunshine for a maximum of 12 hours a day.

    Spending tax dollars on R&D for an externality is an illogical extension of the idea of externalities because it does not pay for costs incurred. We can start from the point of view that the costs will be very large, but that is not certain.
    I mean how would you calculate the actual costs to society without knowing what the damage will be? And the damage to whom? And who caused it? People in Kansas may be paying for the mansions in Florida and California that are underwater, but be generally unaffected. How do you justify making them pay for California’s problem? What do people in Bolivia care about coastal flooding when the Andes will surely protect them from any rise in the level of the sea? What are their costs? I don’t think the fact that they may never see a live polar bear in the wild will weigh too heavily on them.

    That said. Why would it make a difference if the emissions are now or later if the CO2 is not going anywhere? I think we can safely say that plants are being a little bit lax in their CO2 intake recently. Does the speed at which this stuff happens really matter? How much damage to society do we avoid by merely slowing climate change down?

    Comment by Chris — 1 Nov 2009 @ 12:40 AM

  367. Chris (#366) said:
    “What do people in Bolivia care about coastal flooding when the Andes will surely protect them from any rise in the level of the sea? What are their costs?”

    Glaciers retreating, rivers drying up, crops failing, ancient peoples gone for ever? A poignant example:

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/apr/24/andes-tribe-threat-bolivia-climate-change

    Chris, it’s not nice to pose facile rhetorical questions in other people’s name, when you don’t even bother to google their situation.

    Comment by CM — 1 Nov 2009 @ 12:04 PM

  368. CM:
    Is climate change responsible for diverting the river? Why don’t you read the articles you cite?

    Comment by Chris — 1 Nov 2009 @ 12:44 PM

  369. Re Chris 366:

    “I got 450 from .45% because you can only count on sunshine for a maximum of 12 hours a day.”

    in 343 you wrote:

    “If we look at SEGS VIII and IX in California they take up 1 Km^2 but their output is only .45% (that’s .0045) of the total energy needed for the state.”

    I assumed that was a time-average output, thus already accounting for nightime. So, do you know if this is the case or not?

    Otherwise, were you refering to capacity? If so, is it the capacity as a fraction of average power usage or as a fraction of total power generating capacity?

    12 hours a day?

    100/0.45 = 2000/9 ~= 222.22. 222.22 * (24/12) = 444.44, so your math is correct.

    But if you were going by the capacity, then the above equation takes into account a capacity factor of 0.5 That’s the maximum capacity factor (not counting a very very slight gain from atmospheric refraction) you can get in the annual average, assuming you go by the output for the maximum insolation per unit (tilted) area you can get as your capacity (at the utilized wavelengths, etc.), as opposed to the the output for the a standard 1 sun insolation, which can be exceeded at higher elevations … -to realize this capacity factor, you would need two-axis tracking (as would be typical for parabolic dish technology or a mirror array with a central reciever), and the solar flux per unit area would have to be invariant over the entirety of daylight hours, which it won’t be because, even with the clearest, dryest skies, more sunlight will be absorbed and scattered by the atmosphere when the sun is nearer the horizon.

    For fixed tilt flat panels, you could get capacity factors over 0.25 in the best places; many places will give you near or greater than 0.2. Capacity factors for geometric concentrators depend on direct-beam solar radiation, which will lower the capacity factor, although the capacity factor is increased via tracking; within the U.S., geometric 2-axis tracking concentrators can get greater capacity factors than fixed flat panels in much of the West.

    Diurnal-tracking and 2-axis tracking concentrators, however, require greater land area to spread out the collectors so that they do not cast much shadow on each other. The land area needed for a given area of fixed panel or seasonal tracking collectors is not as large to reduce shadowing by the same amount. (The arc of the sun only shifts by a range of ~ 50 degrees over a season, whereas the equinox sun traces a full semicircle; on the summer side of the equinox, the sun actually traces out more than 180 degrees – relative to a latitude-tilt axis with tracking at precisely the same period as the solar day (sidereal days slightly shorter), the panel would actually point somewhat downward at sunrise and sunset to aim at the sun in spring/summer; in fall/winter it would be somewhat upward – this reflecting the changing length of the day. On the other hand, a diurnal tracking axis could be horizontal, in which case the rotation rate would have to be variable but the collectors would only go through a half-circle each day. Of course, if the solar collector array were on an equatorward facing slope with latitude tilt, then the daylight hours would be limited to 12 hours in spring/summer.

    Note that fixed panels at latitude tilt would recieve only 12 hours of direct beam insolation; panels with less tilt could recieve more, though the winter output (not effective daylength) would be reduced for direct beam insolation. An east-west axis could be used for both seasonal and daily tracking – at equinox, there would be no daily tracking; at the summer solstice, the collectors would have to point poleward early and late in the day. When there are overcast skies with isotropic diffuse radiation (that probably never exactly happens, of course), the best panel orientation tends to be pointed straight upward; geometric concentrators that don’t use diffuse light needn’t worry about that.

    While land use will be greater per unit capacity for 2-axis and north-south axis (rotating east-to-west) diurnal tracking, the capacity factor will be larger for the same collector technology (flat panel or geometric concentrator); the geometric concentrators will have smaller capacity factors for the same tracking set-up; but geometric concentrators tend to have a higher conversion efficiency, and can also be used for direct heating needs (parabolic troughs are sufficient for temperatures used in a good portion of industrial processes).

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 1 Nov 2009 @ 1:55 PM

  370. “For fixed tilt flat panels, you could get capacity factors over 0.25 in the best places”

    Just to be clear, by ‘best places’, I didn’t mean a few acres of land here and there; so far as the U.S. is concerned, a capacity factor of 0.25 or greater can be achieved in a large chunk of the desert Southwest ( including almost the entirety of AZ and NM).

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 1 Nov 2009 @ 4:07 PM

  371. Chris, the article framed the water diversion in question as a matter of competition for resources increasingly scarce in the context of climate change, and quoted an expert who referred to the group in question facing a double whammy of competition and climate change. But okay, you’re not obliged to accept that interpretation, of course — on reflection, I have some problems with it myself. Certainly the Uru community is struggling with many different problems, and to claim that (man-made) climate change that is already worsening their situation is contentious. (To point out the vulnerability to climate change of people eking out their existence in extreme environmental conditions, on the other hand, should be uncontroversial.)

    The article also referred to erratic rainfall and disappearing glaciers, two major climate change issues for Bolivia more generally (though in parts of the country, the problem has been too much rain and flooding rather than too little, and melting glaciers too cause floods in the short term).

    Your assumption was that Bolivians wouldn’t worry about climate change impacts because they wouldn’t care about the sea level or polar bears. My point was that they have other things at stake.

    But I’ll try to be more discriminating with my cites. Here’s one from the IPCC to round off the Bolivia discussion, which was tangential to the questions you tried to raise.

    As a consequence of temperature increases, the trend in glacier retreat reported in the Third Assessment Report is accelerating (very high confidence). This issue is critical in Bolivia, Peru, Colombia and Ecuador, where water availability has already been compromised either for consumption or for hydropower generation. These problems with supply are expected to increase in the future, becoming chronic if no appropriate adaptation measures are planned and implemented. Over the next decades Andean inter-tropical glaciers are very likely to disappear, affecting water availability and hydropower generation (high confidence).
    - IPCC AR 4 (2007), WG 2, ch. 13

    Comment by CM — 1 Nov 2009 @ 4:18 PM

  372. Chris –

    – “spending tax dollars on R&D for an externality is an illogical extension of the idea of externalities because it does not pay for costs incurred.”

    Yes, I agree, and yet, attempting to pay for the costs incurred can end up including R&D and further public support in mitigation as well as adaptation. It’s just a question of what combination achieves the greatest payback per unit investment.

    – “We can start from the point of view that the costs will be very large, but that is not certain.”

    It’s very likely more than zero, which is approximately where the policy is now in the U.S.

    – “I mean how would you calculate the actual costs to society without knowing what the damage will be? And the damage to whom? And who caused it? People in Kansas may be paying for the mansions in Florida and California that are underwater, but be generally unaffected. How do you justify making them pay for California’s problem? What do people in Bolivia care about coastal flooding when the Andes will surely protect them from any rise in the level of the sea? What are their costs? I don’t think the fact that they may never see a live polar bear in the wild will weigh too heavily on them.”

    The tax on externalities would be payed via a tax on the externality-producing activity; market forces will tend to distribute the imposed cost among the willing benificiaries of that activity, thus, those who pay the tax and therefore whatever the tax revenue goes toward are those who are responsible.

    It is true that people can also contribute to the cost by maladaptive behavior. Hence my statements above that compensation to specific losses incurred by people or groups of people should be formulated so as to discourage maladaptive behavior and encourage adaptive behavior. This can be done either after the fact, wherein a loss in property value plus investments to mitigate that loss are compensated based on what those things are if the owner takes the most economical available adaptive measures (for a farm, switching to different crops, using efficient irrigation techniques, etc.), and does so ahead of time if that helps (adaptive planning). On the other hand, some portion of that could be done before the fact by the public policies – for example, effectively having a climate-change risk tax and subsidy to discourage maladaptive behavior and encourage adaptive behavior.

    Easier said than done? Of course. And approximations will probably have to be used. It won’t be perfect. Why would this necessarily make it worse than doing nothing?

    – “Why would it make a difference if the emissions are now or later if the CO2 is not going anywhere?”

    If the same CO2 emission is removed from year x and shifted to year x + dx, there will be a period of dx years with less forcing of climate and an increase in forcing at a later time if the emission stays in the atmosphere for the same time after it was emitted.

    Over sufficiently long dx (relative to the time scale of atmospheric composition perturbations and natural oceanic pH buffering), spreading out emissions in time would reduce the total climate change and ocean acidification, plust reduce the cost of adaptation further by increasing the time available to adapt. I don’t think this is much of an effect for the time scales of anthropogenic forcing, though.

    But the sooner sequestration takes place, the shorter the time period that a given amount of emission has stayed in the atmosphere, and the less time-integrated radiative forcing it has done. In the most simple case wherein a given total amount of emission is released at time 0 and taken out at time t, the greatest difference made to the peak in the climate shift per unit change in t occurs at small t, since the climate change will approach a new equilibrium at larger t (although the longer-term feedbacks and effects such as with ice sheets shouldn’t be discounted).

    But when there is ongoing emission, it isn’t so much the timing of each bit of sequestration that matters, but that sequestration starts sooner and ramps up sooner than otherwise – this doesn’t mean that the subsidy for sequestration would vary with timing; the existence of a subsidy would encourage greater sequestration, starting sooner.

    “How much damage to society do we avoid by merely slowing climate change down?”

    Likely a bit more than doing nothing, but the goal of these policies is not just slow emission rate growth; they would cause emissions to peak at a lower value than otherwise, and decline sooner, thus tending to reduce the peak in atmospheric CO2, etc, thus tending to reduce the peak global warming.

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 1 Nov 2009 @ 4:45 PM

  373. > best places … desert … almost the entirety of AZ and NM

    Off topic, but as an aside, I suggest you look into current uses of the area and include those details in your plans, rather than simply assume they’re empty and available to you. That would be repeating the Pilgrims’ Mistake.

    That applies to loading up the Arctic stratosphere with sulfates that will descend into the Arctic Ocean. It also applies to siting solar and wind generators.

    Examples of what one can easily find:

    http://flyways.us/images/flyway-map-bio.gif
    http://www.pacificflyway.gov/Management.asp

    See also
    http://www.treehugger.com/files/2008/03/migratory-bird-flyways-off-shore-wind-farms.php
    http://www.treehugger.com/north_american_migration_flyways.jpg

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 1 Nov 2009 @ 6:47 PM

  374. “rather than simply assume they’re empty and available to you. ”

    I never made that assumption, but within a vast area of land, there is some probability of finding parts that are available.

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 1 Nov 2009 @ 8:16 PM

  375. Patrick:

    Since peak hours are during the day I assume that SEGS is used to cover the difference between peak load and the base capacity.

    An update on the SEGS figures:
    Doing the math based on the figures given by the DOE for 2007 (www.eia.gov) in terms of actual energy provided (5.5 Trillion BTU) over the amount used (1975.6 Trillion BTU) that works out to being .28 %. Maybe .45% is an ideal number, but judging from actual output it is nowhere near that amount.

    Comment by Chris — 1 Nov 2009 @ 8:32 PM

  376. Chris –

    – “spending tax dollars on R&D for an externality is an illogical extension of the idea of externalities because it does not pay for costs incurred.”

    Me: – “Yes, I agree, and yet, attempting to pay for the costs incurred can end up including R&D and further public support in mitigation as well as adaptation. It’s just a question of what combination achieves the greatest payback per unit investment.”

    Okay, in time, a given emission could be made up for in a net time-integrated sense by reducing some future emission in some proportional way.

    But in the totality of all emissions ever made, any tax money that goes to mitigation has to be a contribution to what keeps emissions as they are. It cannot actually cancel the emissions that payed the taxes to do so.

    And I thought about that earlier.

    I think I went about this the wrong way. Here’s a different perspective: When the externality tax is invested in capital goods and similar things, it takes away from the welfare of society at present (more resources directed to capital goods means higher prices for things used at the present time for their own direct value in end use as opposed to value via the value of things they will provide), and gives back to the future (the payback from the investment). When money is invested in solar cells, the result is an energy source with low maintenance costs, etc, for several decades into the future. By paying for the goods up front and eliminating debt and the interest on that debt, a low levelized cost can be realized. Thus investment in solar cells now can provide inexpensive energy to the future. It isn’t that emissions are removed (* they are indirectly via reduced demand for fossil fuels, but that also reduces the total energy consumption, but not back to where it would have been without this spending on energy sources), but that energy is provided at low cost and low externality cost to the future to compensate for the emissions. Similarly, investing in energy efficiency can, depending on economics, reduce costs to the future. Feedback can further reduce emissions to the future via a market response, and yes, this is in addition to the market response to the tax itself, so it would seem like this type of spending, in adding to the effect of the price signal, actually is going beyond the optimum trajectory, if in fact the tax rate was the correct price signal – in other words, the original idea was that the tax rate was equal to the correct price signal that represents the public cost of the externality, and in so doing, the market response is to tend to go toward an optimum which includes the cost of the externality in the measurement of overall economic benifit; thus, additional spending on mitigation would actually go past that optimum, being a net detriment – that is, if we set aside the various imperfections of a market economy besides externalities (the kinks in the supply-demand relationships caused by mass market advantage, for example, which can trap the economy in a local optimum that is lower than another optimum).

    But consider this:

    What if investment in clean energy and energy efficiency pay back more to the future per unit input than other investments that are meant to make up for the public costs of emissions? Would it not then be quite silly to avoid the more efficient use of funds?

    But then, also note that the existence of a more efficient option makes the public cost less, because the externality can be compensated to the same degree for less cost. Thus, IF IT IS (I’m not saying it is, I’m not saying it isn’t) the case that investment in mitigation is more efficient than investment in adaptation or some other combination of things, then the tax rate based on investment in mitigation would be lower than that based on the other options.

    Of course, each broad category contains various things, and the cost per unit won’t generally be constant over variation in amounts, so the optimal investment strategy may be a combination of options.

    It might be easier to start with an optimal trajectory, whose numerical values are unknown but can be labelled with variables whose values can be solved later. This optimal trajectory may include spending on clean energy and energy efficiency. It also includes a tax rate. Concievably, then, the tax rate doesn’t actually represent the full public cost per unit externality. Yet it does represent the full amount per unit net externality (emissions – sequestration) that the present does for the future in response to the externality.

    You know what, I’m going in circles here trying to get it to match up. There seems to be a possibility of two incompatible tax rates or two different total public costs of the externality. It’s a paradox. But it shouldn’t be – mitigation should be an application of the revenue if that’s part of the most efficient combination, and the tax rate should be whatever it should be to, in combination with the correct spending of revenue and some other things, make the optimal trajectory happen.

    Because if the tax rate were changed from that value, the trajectory would no longer be optimal, and so the tax would have to be adjusted back to compensate for the public cost.

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 1 Nov 2009 @ 8:50 PM

  377. Oh, Chris, I think “we’ve” made this thing a lot more complicated than it needed to be.

    The problem is I started with the knowledge that there is an externality, and put a tax on it, and was then left trying to figure out how to spend the revenue.

    But we should do that in reverse.

    There’s an externality.

    The present and future benifit from the activity that produces the externality. The present (ocean acidification) and future realize the public cost of the externality – but mostly the future (climate change has a lag time from forcing, etc.). There is a mismatch in the timing, and in particular, the externality production itself occurs in the present, thus the decisions affecting it are in the present, based on motivations present (existing) in the present (time), thus it makes since, if there is a tax on emissions in the present, to apply it then.

    But aside from that, there is an externality that should in fairness and the interest of optimal market performance be compensated in some way. That compensation for the externality realized in the future may take the form of investments that are a economic sacrifice for the present and earlier future (should this match up with the time scale of the benifits of the emitting activity?) that payback in the later future. This may include investments in alternative economic pathways that emit less (mitigation).

    And now we take the public cost of that spending, and use it to determine the proper tax rate. And that tax rate produces a price signal that causes a market response that tends to shift economic activity away from externality-intensive pathways and toward alternatives.

    The public cost being determined by the cost of what was necessary to compensate for the externality in an efficient way, the tax rate produces the correct market response, even if the compensation for the externality has a component that is of a similar shape.

    In other words, the externality justifies the spending, which justifies the tax, so the tax and market response occur in a world in which public spending on mitigation is a given based on efficient compensation for the externality.

    Okay, puzzle solved?

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 1 Nov 2009 @ 9:57 PM

  378. I find it incomprehensible that there is all this discussion about the wildest ideas imaginable including everything from emulating volcanoes to restructuring the economic balance of developed world countries and jaw boning the developing countries into compliance contrary to their perceived interest.

    Cutting CO2 due to transportation and cutting CO2 due to electricity generation are real worthy tasks. The challenge is to do these things within the framework of the existing economic systems.

    Impossible you say? Well maybe not. Fairly mundane engineering might actually get the job done.

    I am sure others besides myself are thinking this way, but for example, we could cut out 80% to 90% of the energy loss in personal transportation by reshaping cars like well known aerodynamic forms like the airship. Maybe it is unknown to many, but the airship has a drag coefficient that is about 20% that of the best production car. There is no need for people to ride side by side in a car to accomplish the main functions of a car, and simply by seating people in tandem, the car aerodynamic drag can be cut by a half on top of the benefit of cutting the drag coefficient.

    Steel rails can be laid on highways where the height is about 2 inches. Steel wheels can be incorporated in truck wheels and these would roll on the rails when the rails are present. The rubber wheels would be retained. This hybrid kind of wheel would make trucks about as efficient as trains on long hauls and would still enable the delivery efficiencies that long ago made trucks superior to trains in most overall operations. Coal trains that take 120 cars from mine to power plant are hard to beat, but most other things require more delivery flexibility. The rails would be rounded so cars could cross over them without serious effect.

    Then we need the trucks to be shaped aerodynamically, also like the airship perhaps.

    These solutions could nearly wipe out the CO2 from transportation, and in the USA this is about a third of all man-made CO2.

    The cost of these approaches could be palatable to the public. Energy savings by the trucking industry would be easily seen as a cost benefit. Putting down the rails would be an infrastructure project of significance. A highway engineer involved in replacing a long stretch of Interstate road which had been pounded to near destruction found this to have some possible appeal simply as a way of extending highway service life. Of course, fuel saving for personal cars would be a real incentive.

    I have talked before about distributed cogeneration of electricity based on high efficiency cars such as the aerodynamic sort I described above, where the engines running on natural gas, next to households where the engine heat would be utilized by the household, could make that natural gas two to three times more productive than if it was used in a central power plant. This would give economic incentive to shift from coal to natural gas for power generation. The operation of the small generators would be conditional on the ability of the household to use nearly all the heat discharged.

    Now we have cut man-made CO2 by about a half in the USA. Would this help more than trying to build a volcano? I think it might.

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Co. — 1 Nov 2009 @ 10:14 PM

  379. I hate to be the proverbial hippie, but I do feel I need to make a point. You suggest that we could not justify putting sulfer into the atmosphere because it would be an ongoing project, extremely costly and the extraneous factors or ‘Unknown, Unknowns’ are too many. This may be true but it remains to be pointed out that we are geoengineering this planet’s changes that are occuring currently. Our own industry is an ongoing project, extremely costly, and imperfect. All it seems to do is profit a small amount of people and injure the earth. It is human industry that is forcing these changes and it is an ongoing project spanning hundreds of years. Another argument you have brought up is that humans can be given easy alternatives to implement into daily life and the use of products through research and technology breakthroughs. If we continue to do it like we are and never make any moves towards Fixing(not slowing, because we are passed that point) the process of global warming, what you said about people normally being forced into certain behavioral attributes will come true. We will be forced to live underground or protected by some other means.(this is radical of course)It is however important to not get sucked into the, “Oh we will figure it out and technology will prevail,’ attitude. It is extremely acceptable that we may need to act to undo the damage we have done. We have been geoengineering destruction for years, why not get good at it and geoengineer the planet right?
    At any rate I believe this scientific line of reasoning is due some further study and a lot of research. Not a complete downplay of its benefits.

    Comment by Jason Jedlikowski — 2 Nov 2009 @ 6:16 AM

  380. Chris, where will the people displaced by the melting glaciers and other problems near Bolivia go?

    Do you think they may consider invading Bolivia?

    Now do you think that the Bolivian government and the people themselves would like the prospect?

    Comment by Mark — 2 Nov 2009 @ 6:41 AM

  381. “This may be true but it remains to be pointed out that we are geoengineering this planet’s changes that are occuring currently….
    We have been geoengineering destruction for years, why not get good at it and geoengineer the planet right?”

    So because we’re screwing up the planet with one geoengineering feature we should undertake another one???

    How about “stopping the geoengineering project we currently have in place”?

    Comment by Mark — 2 Nov 2009 @ 7:34 AM

  382. Re myself 377:

    “That compensation for the externality realized in the future may take the form of investments that are a economic sacrifice for the present and earlier future (should this match up with the time scale of the benifits of the emitting activity?) that payback in the later future. This may include investments in alternative economic pathways that emit less (mitigation).”

    specifically:

    “(should this match up with the time scale of the benifits of the emitting activity?)”

    It is unnecessary to consider that, since the sacrifice is via the cost imposed by the tax and tends to follow along with the benifit of emitting activities.

    The taxation plus spending the revenue on investment should have, to a first approximation, no net cost to people in the present who are not benifiting from emitting activity (the stimulative effect to the present economy by the spending would tend to balance the effect of the tax in so far as such people are concerned – of course, few people within a developed nation, and in general, are truly completely out of the loop of benifiting from the emitting activities, but the point is that they would tend to face a cost proportional to their benifit from those activities).

    On the other hand, spending for the moment would reward the public of the present for nothing in particular and leave the future to face the cost.

    Of course, the two can’t necessarily be completely seperated – spending for the moment can end up benifiting the future in some ways (even the benifit to the end-user is not the ultimate end, because that person may still interacts with society).

    It is possible to consider that, over time, a diffusion of benifit to the public does occur, and this could be subtracted from the public cost of the externality to find a net public cost, which is that portion which should be made up for by spending, including investments. But this public benifit can’t simply be taken to be the average per capita effect – it would have to only apply to benifits that were not motivators of the behavior – the positive externalities of economic activity. (? Otherwise, the policy could end up sending a negative price signal for emissions in the short term, as judged by the optimal trajectory not being an actual halting of all emissions right NOW (because this would remove much of the ability to develop alternatives and cause much harm to people anyway)?)

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 2 Nov 2009 @ 1:05 PM

  383. Mark (#380), not such a likely scenario perhaps? (Poor Andean peasants are no invasion force.) Heightened international tensions over upstream water-diversion projects sounds possible. But I’d guess *internal* civil unrest over water would be security concern #1.

    Anyway, I apologize for starting this off-topic ‘Bolivia’ digression: please, let’s not go off on my tangent. Chris and Patrick were having an interesting and vaguely on-topic discussion of economics before I butted in.

    Comment by CM — 2 Nov 2009 @ 1:59 PM

  384. Patrick:
    The problem is that there cannot be an “efficient” compensation for the externality based on the “unknowns” and “unknown unknowns” of the situation. It is completely arbitrary. To come full circle with this point for CM. I believe that this is exactly why there is a “do-nothing” attitude from Levitt and Dubner and other Economists who are not adherents to the “Public Choice” Theory of economic analysis (e.g. Krugman (who was an advisor to Enron btw)). The “do-nothing” attitude stems not from the denial of the problem, but from the inadequacy of the solutions available. The “externality” theory was created by the release of the report by Stern. However, this would be like saying that CO2 emissions are equivalent to normal pollution, which, despite what the EPA says, they are not because they are not localized (i.e. there is no significant difference in the long-term concentration of CO2 in any one location). What cap-and-trade or any other tax on carbon amounts to is just a tax, no matter what fancy term you come up with to justify it.
    As a climate neutral example of this kind of revenue/subsidy matching there was a bill in Congress to impose a $1 tax on every phone line in America with the proceeds to be used to develop internet and telecommunications infrastructure in rural areas. This bill may seem to you to have nothing to do with a tax on Carbon as there is no externality related to phones, but it would have the same effect as cap-and-trade. The bill would have taxed new phones, driving smaller telecommunications companies out of business and increasing the costs to the consumer, while providing a subsidy to the politically appointed companies responsible for creating the infrastructure in rural communities.
    Similarly, cap-and-trade causes a distortion in demand (of a much larger order of magnitude) at the cost of higher prices to consumers and lost jobs in manufacturing and other low skill areas (making it extremely regressive) to provide subsidies for R&D in renewable energy. However, the subsidies would go to renewable energy producers not based on the probability that they would be efficient (we have Venture Capitalists to do that without subsidies) but on how politically attractive the projects are to various Congresspeople.
    Such a development would be bad for the economy and potentially ruinous for any innovative ideas in the field of renewable energy. The distortion in supply would crowd the marketplace, which would lower potential profitability and adversely affect the risk-reward ratio for investment and affect capital formation for workable ideas. All R&D for renewables might have to be funded by the government due to the lack of private initiatives and the government will have to construct these projects and maybe nationialize the power grid or create some GSE for renewable energy. The decline will not be immediate as there are innovations right now that will be pursued due to the financing that is currently there without this subsidy. However, having Government pick the ideas that are “winners” will certainly cause future good ideas or productive lines of research to be abandoned.
    All of this, of course, neglects the costs of future emissions (i.e. the externality itself). R&D does nothing to defray the costs of an environmental catastrophe. There is no fund for flooding in Florida etc. so that is an additional cost to the R&D that was subsidized. As I have said before, the amount of decrease in global emissions (unlike straight pollution where they come from does not matter except in some abstract moral sense) in the long-term due to taxes will be minimal as emissions will shift to countries that care about being competitive more than environmentally friendly. Ex: California has net imports of energy from Mexico and there is no reason why that would not continue to grow as the power will be cheaper. The alternative being that companies simply move their manufacturing operations offshore (ala Intel).
    To tie this into L&D (again) limiting emissions is not only expensive in the actual money diverted and extra costs incurred, but the opportunity costs of lost productivity, jobs and better ideas that come from a competitive (economically not politically) marketplace. The approach of combatting climate change without limiting emissions is thus the better and cheaper way to go for society. Even if “global cooling” is not the answer it is a step in the right direction because it is based on sound economics and not on arbitrary assumptions about costs that cannot be identified as a way of creating so many pork barrel projects for Congress to subsidize.

    Comment by Chris — 3 Nov 2009 @ 3:29 AM

  385. chris –

    “The “externality” theory was created by the release of the report by Stern. ”

    I think the concept has been around quite a bit longer than that and CO2 and other emissions obviously fit the bill.

    “However, this would be like saying that CO2 emissions are equivalent to normal pollution, which, despite what the EPA says, they are not because they are not localized (i.e. there is no significant difference in the long-term concentration of CO2 in any one location). ”

    How does that make it not an externality? I suppose I could see your point if it were automatically the case that all people benifited equally from the emitting activity and thus any person’s decision to reduce emissions would be accompanied by a full realization of the benifits of the individual action over time because everybody else automatically does the same. But this is not the case. There are some complexities with intergenerational ethics and the effects being contingent on future decisions, but that doesn’t make the problem go away. (While the identities, much less the actions and preferences, of future people are yet undetermined, the statistics of the group should be more predictable. We have some influence over future population growth or lack thereof, and other things – these needn’t be treated as complete unknowns anyway.)

    ” What cap-and-trade or any other tax on carbon amounts to is just a tax, no matter what fancy term you come up with to justify it.”

    Gee, and I’ve tried so hard to avoid using the word ‘tax’ up till now :)

    “This bill may seem to you to have nothing to do with a tax on Carbon as there is no externality related to phones,” …

    Not directly. Presumably the idea is to reduce transportation by increasing communication. It’s a bit clumsier than using an imposed price signal to increase the demand for communication to encourage development of communication infrastructure. On the other hand, such infrastructure issues may benifit from some public planning and targeted incentives.

    …”but it would have the same effect as cap-and-trade. The bill would have taxed new phones, driving smaller telecommunications companies out of business and increasing the costs to the consumer, while providing a subsidy to the politically appointed companies responsible for creating the infrastructure in rural communities.”"

    Taxed new phonse because ? Maybe the logic was that redirecting the revenue to specific parts of the communications sector would have a net benifit by way of reducing transportation energy use? That said, it makes more sense to pay for it with revenue from an emissions tax.

    There is also the problem that this type of policy implies that the population distribution as is is a public good – which is to say, it subsidizes rural living. Maybe the climate tax would cause some partial depopulation of rural areas, and that would be a good thing if that is what happens. But maybe there is a public benifit to some rural population. Maybe we want to maintain rural population until the incentives from wind and solar power production are sufficient to keep the rural population there, because otherwise, there might be some migration into urban areas followed by migration out of urban areas, which has some cost that could be avoided if such temporal blips were smoothed-over (similar problem with the housing bubble – we built a bunch of houses, we destroy some houses, we build them again inevitably…).

    And then, maybe the smaller businesses should go out of business if they aren’t efficient enough. Or is there a public value to having such competition? – would this pruning risk monopoly? If the rural telecommunications businessess serve some public purpose should they not be subsidized?

    But I couldn’t claim to know the actual economics of such a policy. It might be good, it might be bad.

    All the same, it does sound like a clumsy move to me. The problem with climate change legislation thus far is that politicians are reluctant to do the most sensible thing; they don’t want to have to force their constituents to take personal responsibiliy (which is ironic since this is especially true of Republicans on this issue, the so called advocates of personal responsibility – yeah right!).

    ——–

    “Similarly, cap-and-trade causes a distortion in demand (of a much larger order of magnitude) at the cost of higher prices to consumers and lost jobs in manufacturing and other low skill areas (making it extremely regressive) to provide subsidies for R&D in renewable energy.”

    Therein does NOT lie the distortion (except in some potential specifics, such as if they only focus on large emitters (to protect small businesses?), ignore some consequential emissions categories, and specifically allocate caps to various sectors – but do note I have already stated that I am against those kinds of things.). That is a corrective lens for a preexisting distortion.

    “However, the subsidies would go to renewable energy producers not based on the probability that they would be efficient (we have Venture Capitalists to do that without subsidies) but on how politically attractive the projects are to various Congresspeople.” … ” However, having Government pick the ideas that are “winners” will certainly cause future good ideas or productive lines of research to be abandoned.”

    Therein DOES lie the potential distortion. But there are ways to design a policy to make it less corruptable. For example, setting up criteria for rewarding money to venture capitalists, etc, based on performance. Subsidies for renewable energy projects would be based on energy output relative to energy input and costs. Studies right now indicate that solar power has tremendous potential as a solution, suggesting government money should be directed to encourage development there. But within that field and related supporting fields, of course, there should be competition for funds. Also, energy efficiency. And if another area can justify investment, so be it, of course.

    There will be errors. The question is, how big will they be relative to the extenality that we are trying to correct, and how do we keep them small. Will the biggest errors be those necessary to get the legislation passed? Unfortunate if so, but better 80 % than zero.

    —-

    “All R&D for renewables might have to be funded by the government due to the lack of private initiatives and the government will have to construct these projects and maybe nationialize the power grid or create some GSE for renewable energy.”

    I actually don’t know what GSE means. Aside from that…

    Okay, good point – the public spending reduces the potential benifit of private spending. But is it 1-to-1, or is there an optimal point on the production possibilities curve?

    Traditionally the government has funded some R&D. It might be best to maintain the fraction it contributes relative to the whole, since private enterprise has adapted to that condition – or at least announce sufficiently in advance any changes, so that private enterprise can take optimal advantage. Or instead of pushing, pulling might be better – reward the successful private R&D. But the state of the private sector must be considered: from some years ago, perhaps outdated, but consider: Michael Brower, “Cool Energy”, 1993, p.28:

    “Even when new technologies have been developed to the point of being ready for commercial testing and deployment, they have not been picked up by industry. During the eighties, in fact, the Department of Energy eschewed programs designed to foster transfer of technology to industry on the grounds that such programs would interfere in the “free market” and usurp the role of industry. Instead, emphasis was put on basic research. Most renewable energy companies, however, do not have the financial strength or technical know-how to turn component technologies into reliable and marketable systems. Photovoltaic cells are one example: Even though scientists’ understanding of the inner workings of photovoltaic cells has advanced in the 1980s, the same cannot be said for the industry’s ability to produce reliable, low-cost photovoltaic modules (integral collections of cells) on a large scale. Other promising technologies, such as tapping the geothermal energy of hot dry rock”…” are virturally doomed unless the federal government provides technical support and funding for commercial-scale demonstrations.”

    Specifics may have changed since then, but perhaps the lasting lesson is that public funds should be designed to take advantage of privately-funded progress in a complementary, supporting, and symbiotic way, giving private enterprise something from which to gain rather than with which to compete.

    Nonetheless, any increase in total funds, provided good incentives for success, will tend to increase supply, just not necessarily linearly – watch out for decreasing returns, look for increasing returns, but note there will usually be some range of decreasing returns to get through to reach the optimal point.

    There is another important point, also from Brower, pp. 27-28:

    “Since renewable energy sources represent largely new technology, investment in research and development is of critical importance to their success. Yet as we have seen, federal funding for renewable energy R&D declined through the eighties, and despite substantial increases in fiscal 1991 and 1992, it still constitutes less than 10 percent of total federal funding for energy supply R&D.[4]”

    Maybe dated, again, but an important point – yes, competition with the private sector, especially if imposed in such a way as to send the message that private sector successes will not be rewarded in kind but rather usurped, will discourage private sector investments. Nonetheless, for industries which as a whole have a fair way to go to mass market scale, a public good can come from public support, aside from push verses pull. And yet, how much government support is going toward established energy supply industries? Some rearrangement is in order – or was, but I suspect still is.

    ————–

    “All of this, of course, neglects the costs of future emissions (i.e. the externality itself). R&D does nothing to defray the costs of an environmental catastrophe. There is no fund for flooding in Florida etc. so that is an additional cost to the R&D that was subsidized.”

    What if mitigation is more efficient than other investments in the ability to compensate for losses. Which is to say, if it costs $x to compensate and move people from 100 sq. mi and $y to prevent flooding of another 100 sq. mi by mitigation investments, and $z to build a sea wall… and the ecological externalities therefrom… There is probably some optimal combination that minimizes the public cost of compensation/amelioration/adaptation; should this not be pursued?

    —-

    “the amount of decrease in global emissions (unlike straight pollution where they come from does not matter except in some abstract moral sense)”

    Maybe you didn’t mean to imply this, but if the abstract moral sense does not matter, then why do you even care what ends up happening. If there is no moral imperative, it makes since to just be apathetic and not participate in this conversation.

    ——

    “in the long-term due to taxes will be minimal as emissions will shift to countries that care about being competitive more than environmentally friendly. Ex: California has net imports of energy from Mexico and there is no reason why that would not continue to grow as the power will be cheaper. The alternative being that companies simply move their manufacturing operations offshore (ala Intel).”

    But I addressed that issue, as did Gavin Schmidt in an inline response. Here you are raising an issue as if it did not have solutions.

    ———-

    “To tie this into L&D (again) limiting emissions is not only expensive in the actual money diverted and extra costs incurred, but the opportunity costs of lost productivity, jobs and better ideas that come from a competitive (economically not politically) marketplace. The approach of combatting climate change without limiting emissions is thus the better and cheaper way to go for society. Even if “global cooling” is not the answer it is a step in the right direction because it is based on sound economics and not on arbitrary assumptions about costs that cannot be identified as a way of creating so many pork barrel projects for Congress to subsidize.”

    1. In the long run the economics of wind and even solar look quite good. In fact there could be a net economic benifit to investing in solar power now even without the climate issue. Petroleum prices are ultimately destined to soar in the absence of an alternative – price reductions resulting from alternatives will slow the decrease in use but also provide an economic savings, and the whole economic savings of electrifying transportation might pay the costs of replacing even cheap coal with solar power. Even with storage/HVDC costs – although there is a lot of information out there and I haven’t processed it all.

    2. Don’t forget energy efficiency.

    3. for 1 and 2, some of the problem isn’t cost but force of habit. Habit will be overcome with time but a boost from public policies could help various parts of the economy get out of a well-worn rut and make it free to run towards optimum.

    4. The public value of geoengineering would be from climate-changing emissions. Why shouldn’t an emissions tax pay for the geoengineering?

    5. Won’t some geoengineering schemes continue to cost for maintanence even after 100 years, when solar and wind will likely be cheap?

    …”based on sound economics and not on arbitrary assumptions”…

    6. I can’t predict the future of solar and wind power economics, of course, though there are those who know more than I, but besides that, what about predicting the effects of geoengineering?

    7. I never took sequestration off the table (might be better than geoengineering?). It is only the net tax revenue after sequestration payments that would go towards climate change and climate change effects amelioration/compensation/adaptation/mitigation investments.

    8.

    “cannot be identified as a way of creating so many pork barrel projects for Congress to subsidize.” —

    “without limiting emissions” – meaning no cap or tax? No price signal? Doesn’t that place not just some but ALL of the task on the government’s shoulders? Did all your reservations about government action just evaporate?

    How do you know the government will pick the right winner? Aren’t you worried that a congressperson from a district that produces sulfur will cut a deal to get sulfur injections preferential treatment? If the U.S. pays, doesn’t that get China and India and Mexico off the hook? If any of these concerns can be addressed, why couldn’t they be addressed for mitigation funding?

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 3 Nov 2009 @ 2:22 PM

  386. Also, if a portion of investment in mitigation is done by increasing demand for clean energy and energy efficiency via incentives, that would buffer the effects of direct public investment in reducing the incentive for private enterprise investments.

    But there is one particular area where public investment should help unequivocably:

    Increased resources to environmental siting analysis to speed up the planning stages of projects on the public end. Areas favorable to solar and wind should be evaluated for ecological sensitivity, and the least ecologically-sensitive areas (which will be a function of the technology – wind having different issues than solar) should be spotlighted. And so on for given options for new transmission lines, including HVDC (which is ‘undergroundable’ as I read in a follow up to the “Solar Grand Plan” article, thus the lasting aesthetics are less of a concern there).

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 4 Nov 2009 @ 12:40 AM

  387. Patrick-
    If what you say about wind, solar etc. (I would include nuclear in that category) being increasingly more efficient is true then the market will adopt them. What does not make sense is to create costs to steer the market toward adopting this technology now because you end up with isub optimal products (i.e. not marketable) that if installed will not provide power efficiently. You may have a problem with market outcomes, but that is a moral issue and has nothing to do with economics. Such outcomes are also exacerbated by government taxing to fund a subsidy, which distorts the efficient outcome even more than if the government had put the tax revenue into a fund for future infrastructure repairs. In addition, the type of competition fostered by grants is not efficient either because it is political and not economic. If you think that defense appropriations are corrupt, wait until they start to dole out the cap and trade revenue. I feel the same way about the global cooling scenario, but at least such a solution can be budgeted properly (since the costs are known). All this is by way of saying that market outcomes are better in this case than with a tax because the solution will be more efficient, the distortions (from this particular piece of legislation) will be absent. The free market eventually punishes distortions in the form of higher costs, lower quality or shortages, which is something that the economy will react very negatively to as higher prices are to the economy what leg irons are to a marathon runner.
    About the global aspects of the proposed solutions (i.e. will the US pay?) the US will pay anyway if we choose to tax or geo-engineer. But the tax payments are intentionally slowing down the economy so the demand for emissions goes down. I’ve discussed this in previous posts. Mitigation funding itself is 1) redundant as there is no reason to believe that funding for these projects is inadequate as money would be made if a technology is marketable without subsidies 2) ineffective in terms of mitigating actual emissions as the tax will curb emissionis by slowing economic growth and have very little effect on global demand 3) ripe for pork spending i.e. putting solar panels in Alaska or windmills for their own sake in rural districts or hiring campaign contributors as contractors or inefficient local firms 4) permanent because once you subsidize something it will never approach the efficiency demanded by the market.
    If you address the additional emissions by China, India and Mexico by putting tariffs on their goods to pay for their emissions this will mean higher prices for everything. Otherwise, their economies will grow while ours shrinks. In either case what you can count on is that unemployment here will keep growing among the poorest and least skilled and our standard of living will decline.
    All of this translates into lower costs for the geo-engineering solution (compared with neutering our own economy for something we cannot even accurately predict) even if other countries do not pay for it. Even if it does not work we know that cap-and-trade will not solve the problem as I discussed above. So it makes sense to look at those types of solutions rather than distortionary taxes that create social-ills.

    Comment by Chris — 4 Nov 2009 @ 4:11 AM

  388. Chris (#366) asked: “Why would it make a difference if the emissions are now or later if the CO2 is not going anywhere?”

    Patrick (#372) suggested earlier cuts would slow the warming rate, allowing for a bit more natural buffering, and also reduce adaptation costs a little by giving more time to adapt.

    A more important point, perhaps, is that the longer we continue on a high-emissions trajectory, the steeper the cuts we will have to make later on for a given stabilization target. The procrastinate-then-panic scenario is likely to be far more costly than an early start because we won’t know what works, we won’t have stimulated development of new technologies, and we’ll have to try all sorts of mitigation measures at once.

    Comment by CM — 4 Nov 2009 @ 5:50 AM

  389. Chris (#384), a few comments (some parentheticals for Patrick, too):

    The “externality” theory was created by the release of the report by Stern

    No, it’s how any economist would frame the problem, and they have been doing so long before the Stern report.

    … CO2 emissions are [not] equivalent to normal pollution … because they are not localized

    Global pollution is pollution. A global externality is an externality. It still needs correcting if society is not to be worse off. You just can’t expect to correct it in the same way you might if it were some textbook case of, say, factory effluents ruining a downstream salmon fishery, where you could work out how much compensation is owed by whom to whom. As you point out, it’s hard to say how, and how much, humanity should compensate itself for wasting the planet; better, then, to work out how to avoid incurring that cost in the first place (as far as possible).

    This bill may seem to you to have nothing to do with a tax on Carbon as there is no externality related to phones

    Indeed. Your example has nothing to do with a carbon tax, which is meant to limit carbon emissions, whereas your phone tax is not meant to limit phones. (Patrick, I think you tried too hard to find a point in Chris’s example.)

    I’d like to repeat my earlier contention (#241): The primary point of a tax/cap on carbon emissions is to reduce pollution by increasing costs, not to generate revenue to fund anything.

    (Patrick, at #250 you seemed to agree but at #261 you stated “the value of the tax itself is contingent on the spending of revenue”…?)

    The size of those caps/taxes should not be determined by calculating the future costs of compensation or adaptation. Instead, society would decide what risk it is willing to take, and setting a stabilization target accordingly. Working backward from there, you set an emissions cap low enough, or a tax high enough, that this target will be reached.

    Calculations like those in the Stern report suggest the costs of inaction would be higher than the costs of action (for a given choice of stabilization levels), so saving the planet is not just common sense but also makes economic sense. Put another way, if we designed the tax to cover the costs of adaptation and compensation for the harms of inaction, as Chris seems to think we would have to for a tax to make sense, it would cost more than one that is just set high enough to trigger the necessary emissions reductions.

    But there will be revenues, and there will be adaptation costs whatever we do at this point, so setting the one aside for the other could make moral and political sense. Patrick’s broad discussion of the many options and competing claims here is useful.

    Similarly, cap-and-trade causes a distortion in demand

    No, it corrects one, by internalizing (part of) the external cost.

    at the cost of higher prices to consumers and lost jobs in manufacturing and other low skill areas (making it extremely regressive)…

    You’re ignoring the new business opportunities in low-carbon energy, energy efficiency, clean transport, manufacturing, farming, etc. and the jobs they’ll create. You’re also ignoring the fact that this just gets us a head start on the challenge we’ll face anyway when we run out of oil.

    However, the subsidies would go to renewable energy producers … based on … how politically attractive the projects are to various Congresspeople.

    Any policy (including geoengineering, as Patrick pointed out) can be subverted by pork-barrel politics. That is not an argument against carbon taxes in particular, or even against subsidies for renewables.

    Even if “global cooling” is not the answer it is a step in the right direction because it is based on sound economics and not on arbitrary assumptions about costs

    With no experience to go on regarding how it would work, plenty of ideas how it might go spectacularly wrong, back-of-napkin calculations suggesting cheap fixes for the energy imbalance of the planet are riddled with assumptions. They can be improved by using the same models that feed into calculations of the costs of climate change.

    Comment by CM — 4 Nov 2009 @ 6:03 AM

  390. “But the tax payments are intentionally slowing down the economy so the demand for emissions goes down.”

    No, the point is to send a price signal for the market to react to by increased efficiency and clean energy investment/production.

    The reason why it might make sense for a portion of revenue to be spent on mitigation is that this might be one of the more efficient ways to make up for the public costs of climate change.

    … other stuff … So construct the criteria for spending based on performance!

    more later

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 4 Nov 2009 @ 2:35 PM

  391. CM:
    I think that you are starting from a position of “moral imperative” and working backwards, which is the kind of thinking that L&D are trying to expose in their book. There are activities that we know have costs to society beyond their market prices in the absence of making the producer pay these costs, but most of these have measurable costs and have already been internalized in most developed countries. There is also a definite source we can identify to which we can allocate the costs. If you look at smoking, for example, the costs to society is in medical care, as the costs to society for carbon emissions is flooding or other environmental damage of property. However, the higher costs of insurance for smokers or property holders should cover these costs as insurance companies have taken the risk in agreeing to indemnify them. Taxes on tobacco products can largely be seen as regressive taxes on the poor solely for revenue purposes as cap-and-trade would be a revenue stream for government. Discouraging smoking or carbon emissions is thus redundant as the potential costs are being borne by third parties in most cases. A better way forward for the emissions problem would be for the government to allow companies to buy litigation insurance for climate change issues and to create a system for climate change suits to be adjudicated by federal judges instead of having jury trials. That way the costs of the problem will be adequately dealt with and reparations can be made via the government and not by the government. The price mechanism should take care of the issue of the scarcity of condensed carbon-based energy sources.

    On the issue of job loss you have to look at “net jobs”. There may be some jobs created in “green” areas, but they will be much fewer than the jobs lost as low-skilled, less capital intesive jobs will be the first to go and the jobs created will have high capital intensity and skill requirements due to the nature of “green” jobs. In addition, if the jobs created require subsidies then we would be better off having people who have lost jobs collect unemployment rather than reinforcing inefficient production methods or unworkable ideas.

    Speaking of inefficiency and unworkable ideas, it is a misunderstanding of the nature of “pork-barrel” projects to equate the potential subversion of Myhrvold’s plan to add SO2 to the atmosphere with the potential uses for the revenue from cap-and-trade. In the case of the SO2 solution we have a plan in search of funding while with cap-and-trade we will have billions of dollars in search of a plan. Even without a plan that money will have to be spent, and it will be. It will be like a feeding frenzy and the economically viable renewable energy plans will most likely get buried in favor of less efficient plans located in the district of important members. Tax credits for PV on San Francisco buildings in Nancy Pelosi’s district, a second Hoover dam for Harry Reid etc. Such a system will be somewhat beneficial for the recipients of the largesse of varions members of the House and Senate. But, for the people who lose their jobs because of the increased costs involved (if costs of production increase by %10, as many people fear, that could cost 100s of thousands of jobs nationwide alone)not so great. For the people who manage to keep their jobs and have to pay more for their groceries and everything else not so great for them either.

    In short, better to have market mechanisms and risk reduction take the place of taxing and spending. Better to have real plans with measurable goals being proposed than money that needs to be spent. Better to have everyone weigh in on the issue everyday with their dollars through insurance premiums and market prices than to simply hijack the system so that the beliefs of the few can be foisted on the many. All cap-and-trade for carbon does is to move us farther away from a real, market-based solution to the problem and toward a dysfunctional, anti-carbon technocracy.

    Comment by Chris — 4 Nov 2009 @ 3:59 PM

  392. Chris –

    “I’ve discussed this in previous posts. Mitigation funding itself is 1) redundant as there is no reason to believe that funding for these projects is inadequate as money would be made if a technology is marketable without subsidies.”

    Yes, the price signal from the tax would in principle largely accomplish the proper mitigation, but the tax is justified by the public cost, suggesting the revenue (aside from sequestration) should pay the public cost of the unsequestered emissions, and how this should be done depends on what is more efficient, and what if additional investments in, say, solar power plants, give more return to the future than if it is all spent on aquaducts and desalination plants, migration costs, … etc? Yes, the math is tricky there; it’s not obvious if the public cost should be equal to the revenue or if the revenue should be equal to half the public cost since the price signal is effectively doubled (roughly speaking) if all revenue goes toward mitigation… And I am open to suggestions, there, but then you need to explain why (beside the imperfections of a representative democracy).

    “2) ineffective in terms of mitigating actual emissions as the tax will curb emissionis by slowing economic growth and have very little effect on global demand”

    Even without any international action, total demand for fossil fuels should drop (from the baseline trajectory) if some users cut their demand, because a 100 % compensatory increase elsewhere puts the price back to where it was, which would then be too expensive for those who were not otherwise using it.

    “3) ripe for pork spending i.e. putting solar panels in Alaska or windmills for their own sake in rural districts or hiring campaign contributors as contractors or inefficient local firms”

    What about just subsisidizing solar panel sales and wind turbines at a constant per MW output per year of service or per unit capacity per year or even per unit expense – this still preserves the incentive to put those devices where they would be best used, and still use the least expensive devices. And for per unit expense or capacity, maybe specifically the longest-lived components, as this becomes a gift to the future.

    OR perhaps much better, a constant subsidy per unit capacity*intrinsic longevity of the longest-lived device (don’t double count and add multiple subsidies for devices that work together for the same output) of a type of clean energy, scaled to a fraction of the lowest-cost option.

    And some corrolary subsidy for energy-efficient devices. Skylights. Etc.

    Even then, I can think of some need for adjustments. But I only just started to describe it. It shouldn’t be too hard to get something good.

    As for the R&D side, well, it’s already being done, we just need to scale up and maybe diversify (go over the literature and designate some research on new PV materials that are promising in abundance, lack of toxicity, potential performance and compatibility – for example, CZTS (or is it CTZS?) and zinc phosphide).

    (Admittedly, maybe a lot of funding would be most easily spent paying down the debt. Keep that in mind as an option. I didn’t mean to rule it out.)

    “4) permanent because once you subsidize something it will never approach the efficiency demanded by the market.”

    Write a phase-out schedule (contingent on trigger conditions, where applicable) into the policy for those things that should be phased out.

    ————
    CM –
    “(Patrick, I think you tried too hard to find a point in Chris’s example.)”
    Okay.

    “(Patrick, at #250 you seemed to agree but at #261 you stated “the value of the tax itself is contingent on the spending of revenue”…?)”

    I agree with you that the tax alone would suffice to accomplish a significant amount. My point was that since the tax is justified by the public cost, the revenue should go towards that public cost, and the public cost itelf depends on how much revenue is needed to do that adequately for that portion of cost which would be covered by the funding of adaptive infrastructure, etc.

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 4 Nov 2009 @ 4:44 PM

  393. Chris, you’re not making sense.

    If you look at smoking, for example, the costs to society is in medical care, as the costs to society for carbon emissions is flooding or other environmental damage of property. However, the higher costs of insurance for smokers or property holders should cover these costs as insurance companies have taken the risk in agreeing to indemnify them.

    Huh? If I manage to forget about passive smoking for a moment, I can sort of see your point about smokers, who are the cause of their own misery, but how does that extend to property holders who get their land flooded by global warming? Sure, they may pay higher insurance premiums. How is that a solution? How is it fair? Presumably you don’t argue that flooding occurs only on the land of big CO2 emitters?

    Who’s going to insure against the slow but certain flooding of land by sea-level rise? And while disaster insurance is a sensible part of adaptation, it typically requires huge capital reserves and hence comes with high premiums, so you should be worried about regressive impacts on the poor here, too.

    A better way forward for the emissions problem would be for the government to allow companies to buy litigation insurance for climate change issues and to create a system for climate change suits to be adjudicated by federal judges instead of having jury trials.

    I’m trying to imagine it:

    - Drought has parched your crops. Global warming is to blame. Who you gonna sue?

    - The Arctic melts, the tundra thaws, the Amazon croaks, the coral reefs dissolve, millions of species go extinct, hundreds of millions starve. You mastermind a class-action suit against the coal industry that reaps billions of dollars in punitive damages. Why does victory feel so hollow, you wonder?

    low-skilled, less capital intesive jobs will be the first to go and the jobs created will have high capital intensity and skill requirements due to the nature of “green” jobs

    *Carbon*-intensive jobs will be the first to go, and you can’t generalize that these will be low-skill, low-capital or labor-intensive jobs. As for green jobs, you don’t need a PhD to install solar panels or solar water heaters, isolate lofts, construct wind farms, separate garbage streams for recycling, build trains as opposed to trucks, grow and refine biofuels… (And if biochar is adopted as a mitigation measure, how much skills do you need to burn and bury green stuff?)

    That’s not to say there won’t be re-training needs, frictional unemployment, and regional impacts (in coal mining districts for example), just that you are painting a very one-sided picture.

    In short, better to have market mechanisms and risk reduction take the place of taxing and spending. Better to have real plans with measurable goals being proposed

    Risk reduction’s good. That’s why we need to limit emissions. Measurable goals are good. That’s why we should aim to hold at 450 ppm or so and try to take it downward from there. Market mechanisms are good (at allocating stuff, less so at discovering when there’s too much stuff). That’s why we want to put them to work with a cap-and-trade system or, alternatively, price signals sent through a tax.

    Comment by CM — 4 Nov 2009 @ 6:16 PM

  394. “All cap-and-trade for carbon does is to move us farther away from a real, market-based solution to the problem and toward a dysfunctional, anti-carbon technocracy.

    Comment by Chris”

    Show me we have a market based economy, Chris.

    It’s riddled with cliques, artificial barriers, tariffs and lots of other protectionist encumbrances.

    And why would an anti-carbon technocracy be dysfunctional?

    To what use would we put the CO2 that this anti-carbon technocracy would deny its use for? Or was that loaded language to alarm anyone against hinting it might not be a bad thing to be anti-carbon and a technocracy (especially if compared to an anti-ecology plutocracy)?

    Comment by Mark — 4 Nov 2009 @ 6:49 PM

  395. Re CM –

    “The size of those caps/taxes should not be determined by calculating the future costs of compensation or adaptation. Instead, society would decide what risk it is willing to take, and setting a stabilization target accordingly. Working backward from there, you set an emissions cap low enough, or a tax high enough, that this target will be reached.”…”Put another way, if we designed the tax to cover the costs of adaptation and compensation for the harms of inaction, as Chris seems to think we would have to for a tax to make sense, it would cost more than one that is just set high enough to trigger the necessary emissions reductions.”

    I think future costs (or costs now to avert them), probabilistically, would be the basis for deciding a worthwhile risk threshold and setting a stabilization target.

    That said, if the minutia of allocating revenue to the purpose of adaptation/compensation is too complex and uncertain, it could be set aside for the moment. It will probably become critical, though, to compensate climate-change refugees and their receiving countries, or else invest in water infrastructure, etc, to prevent that, lest tensions escalate, perhaps to the point of @#$%!$%@#$%.

    ——–

    Re me (re chris): “And I am open to suggestions, there, but then you need to explain why ”

    For example, if we consider what future people, if they had control over the revenue, would decide, how much (M1) would they choose to have invested in mitigation? Well, if we assume convex (when mapped onto a value-proportional space) production possibilities curves (decreasing returns) all around, the mitigation spending increase from the ideal market response (M0) to the tax would increase the mitigation investment would be such that additional investment in mitigation greater than M0 would be worth less then the money spent, which represents the combination of externality avoided and the any other benifits (energy, profits that would occur in the absense of the tax). This suggests that the if the future public has the benifit of a history of ideal market response, they would have a net loss if choosing to invest more in mitigation. So they should invest in adaption, etc. Okay.

    Therefore, the only public mitigation spending (if the tax represents the whole public externality of the emissions themselves, and the production possibilities curve is not concave) should be to make up for dimples in the production possibilities curves (the interim period before mass market advantage is reached), habitual behavior, and public planning, much of which can be phased out after mass market thresholds have been surpassed (for each sufficiently promising technology), the market has been sufficiently shaken of old habits and is then more free to pursue the optimum. All with some continuing basic R&D. (By the way, in case it was forgotten, mitigation isn’t just energy and energy efficiency; it’s irrigation efficiency, cow methane issues, etc.)

    Okay, puzzle solved?

    —-

    “I feel the same way about the global cooling scenario, but at least such a solution can be budgeted properly (since the costs are known).”

    We actually have records of solar panel production, sale, installation, etc, and reasoned future projections, and so on for CSP, wind, etc.

    In the long run, renewable energy will probably save money, climate change or not; it is important to get the market response sooner because of climate change (and ocean acidification, etc.).

    When was the last time somebody sold the service of injecting sulfur into the upper atmosphere? And again, what about the side effects besides the inteneded global cooling?

    “All this is by way of saying that market outcomes are better in this case than with a tax because the solution will be more efficient, the distortions (from this particular piece of legislation) will be absent.”

    Meaning you expect somebody to offer this service (of spraying a substance into the air) to … whom, exactly, besides the government?

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 4 Nov 2009 @ 7:15 PM

  396. In addition to CM’s response:

    Re Chris:

    -

    “starting from a position of “moral imperative” and working backwards, which is the kind of thinking that L&D are trying to expose in their book.”

    I see. Like ‘Theft is wrong; how can we reduce it, what should we do when it happens’ – is that too backwards for you?

    Anything worthwhile must have a moral imperative (though in many cases, the small and ‘easy’ decisions are not regarded as having moral dimensions simply because they are so easy that we needn’t think much, or because they are too small to justify the allocation of decision making resources). Otherwise it is purposeless. You are appealing to morality in your own arguments, too, as well you should.

    “There are activities that we know have costs to society beyond their market prices in the absence of making the producer pay these costs, but most of these have measurable costs and have already been internalized in most developed countries.” …

    “However, the higher costs of insurance for smokers or property holders should cover these costs as insurance companies have taken the risk in agreeing to indemnify them.”

    Your example of smoking – well, in many countries there are bans and restrictions to manage the externalities, and if there is a box on the insurance form to check, you’ve got the harm to self covered – or do you? Does the insurance company actually keep tabs on how many cigarretes you smoke? One way to manage that which would not be intrusive is to tax cigarretes and put the revenue into health care.

    Note that some property risks are not covered by insurance. Note that FEMA covers some of that. Note that this ‘public property insurance’ ought to be reformed via being funded at least in part by a tax proportional to risk proportional to what is not covered by private insurance, etc.

    And aid to farmers should also be reformed.

    Note I mentioned this in my big policy comments above in this thread.

    “Taxes on tobacco products can largely be seen as regressive taxes on the poor solely for revenue purposes”

    Because … the poor are too stupid to avoid falling for tobacco advertisements?

    Because of addiction. Because addiction limits freedom of choice, in a manner of speaking? Perhaps addictive drugs are harmful to the free market.

    (Aside from fossil fuel companies, aside from big corn, aside from big health insurance, … there are people who should … not just have their businesses taxed, but perhaps be locked up in jail, and they are Tobacco execs. Seriously, why doesn’t Colombia ask us to crack down on our Drug suppliers?)

    “There is also a definite source we can identify to which we can allocate the costs.”

    Like the emitting activities.

    “A better way forward for the emissions problem would be for the government to allow companies to buy litigation insurance for climate change issues and to create a system for climate change suits to be adjudicated by federal judges instead of having jury trials. That way the costs of the problem will be adequately dealt with and reparations can be made via the government and not by the government.”

    In principle, this is not a bad idea, provided a class action lawsuit can be filed on behalf of all future people from now till ….

    But isn’t this awfully inefficient? Wouldn’t it be more efficient to put a tax on fossil C emissions.

    And aren’t you concerned that your distorting the market for lawyers?

    “In addition, if the jobs created require subsidies then we would be better off having people who have lost jobs collect unemployment rather than reinforcing inefficient production methods or unworkable ideas.”

    Why would unworkable ideas and inefficient methods be given preferential treatment? Why couldn’t any of my suggestions (among others) be considered as ways to mitigate waste? Even if subsidies were rewarded at random, the better performing economic pathways would still tend to be selected by the market.

    “In the case of the SO2 solution we have a plan in search of funding”…

    Ted Stevens had a plan. Was it not pork-barrel (and of the worst sort, not only was it less efficient than a free market, it could be argued that the bridge to nowhere would have had an efficiency less than zero, because additional money would have to have been spent to remove it after it was built)?

    Wouldn’t a company with a lot of sulfur on hand like to have such a plan and like to get funding from someone else?

    …”while with cap-and-trade we will have billions of dollars in search of a plan.”

    The search for a plan is a search as to how best to connect the funds to the justification for them, requiring a connection over time, requiring investments. If you’re willing to just spend at random without trying to be efficient, then the search can stop before it starts.

    …”It will be like a feeding frenzy and the economically viable renewable energy plans will most likely get buried in favor of less efficient plans located in the district of important members. Tax credits for PV on San Francisco buildings in Nancy Pelosi’s district, a second Hoover dam for Harry Reid etc.”…

    I know there is government waste; I understand a generalized concern. Why cannot we be motivated by that concern to mitigate waste, rather than throw the baby out with the bathwater, which is what I think you are doing here.

    Why would a PV tax credit only apply to one district as opposed to nation-wide (if it did, by the way, it would still result in less total incentive to install PV (for the same local purpose) in Alaska than in Arizona (for some purposes, a PV application might make sense even in Alaska – I hardly think we should ban PV sales to Alaska, in case that’s what you would argue) – better yet, the tax credit might be contingent on local insolation, including landscaping effects (see what I wrote previously).

    Where would a second Hoover Dam go, exactly? Hydropower will have an important role, especially in filling in the diurnal and other temporal variations in supply of solar + wind, but there isn’t much room for increasing the total supply of hydroelectric power.

    “than to simply hijack the system so that the beliefs of the few can be foisted on the many.”

    What the HELL is that supposed to mean?

    “All cap-and-trade for carbon does is to move us farther away from a real, market-based solution to the problem and toward a dysfunctional, anti-carbon technocracy.”

    It can actually do the exact opposite (except for the anti-carbon bit (except if a workable CCS comes along, and the possibility of carbonat mineral formation as sequestration … etc.) – I mean, that’s the whole point!).

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 4 Nov 2009 @ 8:01 PM

  397. RE: The Initial Topic

    Hey All,

    As regards the relationship between atmospheric chemistry and aerosols, there is a new paper being prepared for publication by Dr. Shindell and Dr. Schmidt. Based on the NASA media release it looks as though there are different ways we need to be looking at pollutants.

    Congratulations to the authors, I await the paper reaching the public domain. The media release: http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/Newsroom/view.php?id=40975&src=eoa-nnews

    Cheers!
    Dave Cooke

    Comment by L. David Cooke — 4 Nov 2009 @ 8:45 PM

  398. Thanks, Dave. Interesting, indeed.

    And congrats to Gavin.

    Comment by Kevin McKinney — 4 Nov 2009 @ 10:42 PM

  399. Patrick-
    If a workable (i.e. economically feasible) CCS comes along it would do so without a tax on Carbon. What happens when government controls the money is that you do get stuff like a second Hoover Dam or PV investment in a perpetually foggy city like SF. This is especially true when employment is an issue. Private investment expects a return for the amount of risk it takes so it does not gravitate to stuff that will not work. When government enters the picture politically popular projects crowd out economically feasible projects because the government is assuming a great deal of the risk. You can see this effect at work in the number of Ethanol producers that were subsidized that have since gone bankrupt. More government funds always produce less economically feasible solutions because government uses tax dollars (meaning less free capital) and distorts risk reward ratios.
    Many of the assumptions about “net jobs” created also use this type of math where Net Jobs = New jobs created with subsidies – Energy sector job losses. This totally ignores jobs lost to offshoring, plant closings and other collateral effects of more taxes and neglects the reality that subsidized jobs come at the expense of other jobs in more productive industries.

    Comment by Chris — 5 Nov 2009 @ 3:15 PM

  400. Chris – you keep discussin what could go wrong, and aren’t considering my suggestions for minimizing these errors and problems.

    If the government is assuming risk and propping up things that should otherwise not be pursued, then why would ethanol producers that have been subsidized be going bankrupt? Wouldn’t you expect the government to keep throwing good money after bad to prop them up? And why would public funding of SO2 geoengineering be better? And why should the average tax payer have to shoulder the burden of SO2, and why should we risk losing jobs for it?

    Anyway, the ethanol subsidy is not the sort of thing I’d pursue.

    I’m not going to stop advocating a policy just because of the risk that people will mess it up. I would advocate against people trying to mess it up. Just not doing anything because somebody could screw it up is itself screwing up, I think.

    “Private investment expects a return for the amount of risk it takes so it does not gravitate to stuff that will not work.”

    I Know!

    Try reviewing all of my previous comments.

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 5 Nov 2009 @ 6:26 PM

  401. “If a workable (i.e. economically feasible) CCS comes along it would do so without a tax on Carbon. ”

    For what reason if not a tax on carbon? Only alternative is PR benifits. I don’t know if that’s strong enough.

    You just aren’t getting this.

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 5 Nov 2009 @ 6:28 PM

  402. patrick-

    I reviewed again your general predictions for mitigation spending and I do not think that they are realistic. Empirically, you need economic growth to develop new technologies and not the other way around. If advances are to be made at the pace at which everyone claims they can be then a carbon tax will be ruinous to this effort because it will cause a major contraction in our economy. I do not believe that you can have government spur the kind of technological advances or adopt the solutions that you are putting forward (even if everything goes perfectly) without risking a massive “green bust” where we have too many seemingly promising solutions that get funded but go nowhere. Just look at all of the Hydro power projects we had during the Great Depression that failed. If this happens again, given our current dependence on electricity, we will be unable to produce our own power efficiently (i.e. without subsidies). At that point we will either have to scrap our entire grid or import dirty power from Mexico.
    My general solution to this would be to remove all of the legal restrictions on Nuclear power, to deregulate our utilities so they are forced to run efficiently and allow Nuclear plants to borrow at government interest rates. My guess is that since the long term costs of Nuclear are lower all the new plants will be nuclear and have no emissions. PR will impact coal and oil plants to reform as dictated by the market, which may not be “good enough” but it is a fair bit better than causing an economic catastrophe every time emissions levels are ratcheted down.

    Comment by Chris — 6 Nov 2009 @ 3:10 AM

  403. Chris –

    If you have the government spend x1 on geoengineering to cool the earth but with potential other side-effects, and if those side-effects cost x2, you’re taxing the economy x1+x2, for a benifit z.

    If mitigation pathways are pursued, with an additional cost to the economy of y1, for a benifit z, then the economy is being taxed y1. But what if y1 is less than x1+x2 and less than or equal to z?

    Why would the private sector pay y1 more than otherwise if there is no public policy, such as a tax on the emissions?

    ——-

    “to remove all of the legal restrictions on Nuclear power,”

    I really have not made up my mind regarding nuclear power, but I most definitely think some regulation is necessary there.

    People have been known to try to get away with murder, you know.

    ———

    “Empirically, you need economic growth to develop new technologies and not the other way around. ”

    I agree that having resources to invest in invention is necessary for invention, but this is affected by both supply and demand. There may be a tendency for economic growth to help technological progress, but I don’t see why economic growth would be necessary or sufficient in an absolute way for technological progress – futhermore, technological progresss should strongly tend to stimulate economic growth, or reduce economic decay.

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 6 Nov 2009 @ 4:42 PM

  404. Chris (#402) said: “My guess is that since the long term costs of Nuclear are lower all the new plants will be nuclear and have no emissions.”

    I don’t want to start another discussion of nuclear. But it seems pretty clear that your guess is wide of the mark. Unless the industry gets a lot better at building nukes on time and budget, the only way new nukes can compete with new coal or gas if the market is “distorted”, as you would see it, by hefty carbon price through tax or cap-and-trade.

    MIT study update suggests $25/ton CO2 might almost but not quite do the trick for nukes versus coal:
    http://web.mit.edu/nuclearpower/pdf/nuclearpower-update2009.pdf (p. 6)

    Not likely under Boxer-Kerry anytime soon:
    http://www.businessgreen.com/business-green/news/2251145/carbon-price-hit-tonne-under

    Comment by CM — 6 Nov 2009 @ 5:45 PM

  405. Re myself re Chris:

    More precisely:

    —–
    emitting economic pathway: public cost z1, which is somewhat hard to measure but is understood to exist and be significant.

    Net public cost is z1.

    —–
    Geoengineering: pubic cost (via government funding) g1 in order for a public benifit z2, plus more public cost g2.

    Net public cost is g1 + g2 – zg.

    There are some different ways to assign effects to either g2 or zg; in the case of aerosols, letting g2 be the net adverse side effects of global cooling to counteract global warming by aerosols (changes in precipitation, regional), plus more direct effects on the ozone layer, then g2 is equal (or proportional) to the portion of z1 that is global warming; the rest of z1 is ocean acidification (for CO2), … etc. Note that there is no obvious way to get zg as large as z1 by cooling alone, because making the climate too cold is not a net benifit. Thus the only way to get zg as large as z1 is to do at least something of net public benifit in addition to the cooling, such as distribution CaCO3 and CaSiO3, etc, around the oceans to counteract the acidification, or ________. Of course, this actually has that effect plus a CO2 sequestration effect, and depending on how the material is dispersed, could have an aerosol cooling effect itself, and the sequestering and aerosol cooling which would reduce the necessary other aerosols for cooling to achieve the same zg…

    ——
    Sequestration: cost (public funding or private) s1, public benifit zs, plus more public cost s2

    net public cost = s1 + s2 – zs

    Same issues as with geoengineering, except if zs can be brought nearly equal to z1 and s2 can be made small or negative (olivine/etc. dispersal (land or ocean or air to ocean?), etc, or other carbonate mineral sequestration, biochar).

    ——–

    Mitigation: cost of replacing emitting pathways with non- or reduced-emitting pathways to either private sector or public sector is m1, public benifit zm, public cost m2

    net cost = m1 + m2 – zm

    zm can generally approach or be proportional to z1; options exist that make m2 small and manageable.

    ———

    mitigation_cost = m1 + m2 – zm
    sequestration_cost = s1 + s2 – zs
    geoengineering_cost = g1 + g2 – zg

    Best path to pursue is the one with the least (likely) cost.

    There is no way besides PR to get the private sector to take on the costs of m1, s1, or g1, without a public policy that directly or otherwise puts a price or cap on emissions. Even if direct public funding is eschewed in all cases, so that emitters pay directly for offsets as s1 or g1 or else reduce emissions (m1), there has to be some incentive to do so, and some regulation to keep people from just making stuff up (and to watch out for poor approximations).

    So you’ve got government involved whichever way.

    And even if scarcity of emitting pathway resources eventually makes m1 zero or negative, this actually shifts the best trajectory even more strongly towards mitigation, or mitigation + sequestration + geoengineering, because the private sector without public policy still wouldn’t do enough and as soon as justified by BOTH scarcity AND externalities – it would only tend (ideally) towards optimum performance as judged by scarcity; the externality issue would still leave room for improvement from there, although it would tend to shrink. But timing is important.

    Uncertainty is arguably greater for zg than for zs and zm, zs perhaps being more uncertain than zm; g2 and s2 may be more uncertain in absolute (vs relative) terms than m2. Evaluation of m1 has some basis in real-world data – of course, it may be very easy to project s1 and g1 for some cases – are those the cases with the best overall outcomes?

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 6 Nov 2009 @ 9:48 PM

  406. Clarification:

    mitigation_cost = m1 + m2 – zm
    sequestration_cost = s1 + s2 – zs
    geoengineering_cost = g1 + g2 – zg
    none of the above = z1

    Best path to pursue is the one with the least (likely) cost.

    In the above, zg, zs, and zm are the net public benifits that occur by changes in the opposite directions, along various dimensions (including global average surface temperature, ocean pH), as the changes that occur that produce the net public cost z1.

    g2, s2, and m2 are the net public costs caused by changes in other dimensions or changes in the same direction as those which cause z1 along some dimensions.


    (for ‘incomplete’ geoengineering plans, such as SO2 injections:)
    “Note that there is no obvious way to get zg as large as z1 by cooling alone, because making the climate too cold is not a net benifit. ”

    Well, given prior emissions, it is possible that future actions could cancel out more than the warming caused by future emissions and lead to a greater benifit, within limits.

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 7 Nov 2009 @ 9:32 PM

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