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Open Thread on Lindzen Op-Ed in WSJ

Filed under: — group @ 12 April 2006

We’ve received a large number of requests to respond to this piece by MIT’s Richard Lindzen that appeared as an op-ed in today’s Wall Street Journal. We’ve had lots to say before about the Wall Street Journal (e.g. here and here), and we’ve had plenty to say about Lindzen as well. Specifically, we have previously pointed out that there is no evidence whatsoever that ‘alarmism’ improves anyone’s chances of getting funded – if anything it is continued uncertainty that propels funding decisions, and secondly, the idea that there is a conspiracy against contrarian scientists is laughable. There is indeed a conspiracy against poor science, but there is no need to apologise for that! But rather than repeat ourselves once again, we thought we’d just sit back this time and allow our readers to comment…


105 Responses to “Open Thread on Lindzen Op-Ed in WSJ”

  1. 101
    CO2-Lord Of Creation says:

    “365 0 5000ppm is log2(5000/365) = 3.775 doublings.”

    Yes now looking a bit closer I see this is NOT right. Because your calcuations deal with CO2 as a stand-alone. You aren’t dealing with its Logarithmic interaction with water vapour.

    And this must take into account the fact that when CO2 and much water vapour are in the same area the CO2 has almost no effect. So that the CO2 will have a very strong effect where the air is dry. Particularly where it is cold and dry. But we expect the CO2 to have almost no effect in areas of high humidity.

    Do you think you can square that circle?

    [Response: The calculation of the radiative forcing by CO2 takes water vapor opacity fully into account. One computes the change in OLR due to changing CO2 with a given water vapor profile fixed, based on observations. The CO2 absorption bands are somewhat complementary to water vapor bands, so it's simply not true that CO2 has almost no effect where the air is very moist. Moreover, if one assumes a moister profile in the calculation, the slight reduction in CO2 radiative forcing is more than offset by the increase in amplification by water vapor feedback. This is all very well-known stuff. --raypierre]

  2. 102
    Walter Pearce says:

    #91–Paul G, Public opinion is malleable. You pointed out earlier that as fuel prices increased, support for doing something about AGW decreased. But what would happen to public opinion if the public had a better picture of all the costs and benefits?

    That’s where the battle lines are joined and why big oil companies fund skeptic organizations. As long as the benefits of doing something about AGW can be portrayed as uncertain, the associated costs seem less worthwhile. Take a look at today’s “Free-for-All” section in my hometown paper, The Washington Post. You’ll see a letter from the President of the George C. Marshall Institute, an organization that has received heavy funding from Exxon (they recently stopped disclosing their sources of funding — hmm).

    For a highly successful PR campaign, look no further than the Bush administration’s efforts to link, in the public’s mind, Al Quaeda and Iraq. You and I may have seen through the spin, but polls show a majority of U.S. citizens completely fell for it. The truth was relatively easy to ascertain in that case; AGW is a comparatively complex story.

    What is needed, in the evident absence of courageous, forward-thinking politicians, is to ratchet up the perceived benefits of eliminating carbon-emmitting fuels. In addition to addressing AGW, doing so reduces our need to meddle in Middle East politics, thereby reducing the obscene sums spent on “defense” and “homeland security,” as well as reducing the more visible aspects of air, water and solid waste pollution.

    In other words, one could try to put the onus on the fossil fuels industry to justify the high cost of their use.

  3. 103
    Gar Lipow says:

    Re: 99. Yes there are significant things people can do as individuals. And we should. (I’ve insulated my attic, use compact fl. bulbs, drive a reasonably efficienct car very few miles a week. Don’t get too much credit for this last though; I live close to my clients and am able to do most of my work from home.) But there is lots of stuff we cannot, for the most part, do as individuals that has to be done. One simple example would be plug-in hybrids. You can take a conventional hybrid, replace the battery with a slightly larger one, add a plug and some software, and essentially run between the first twenty and first ninety miles from the grid instead of your gas tank. If every new car in the U.S. was a plug-in hybrid, this would cut U.S. carbon emissions from automobiles in half. For you to do this as an individual, you have to buy an existing hybrid (aleady) expensive, and spend $5,000 on modifications. But if hybrid manufacturers were required to do this, it would add between $1,000 and $1,200 to the cost of making a hybrid. Among other things consumer reports recently calculated that hybrids won’t pay back their additional costs over their lifetime (assuming a $3.00 per gallon gas price.) However, increasing that cost by by $1,000 dollars and doubling your savings for that money probably would let hybrids pay back their costs in gas savings alone – not to mention the global warming advantages.

    And this is a really modest example. Electric cars are much closer than hydrogen; but it would take some social investment to make them a commercial reality.

    This gets us to a larger point. Even stuff we can do as individuals does not seem to respond well to price signals when it comes to energy efficiency. For example, most attics in the U.S. still could add additional attic insulation and pay back their cost in 4 years or fewer. But most people are not doing that. And the same thing happens in industry too. Amory Lovins and the Rocky Mountain Institute have devoted a great deal of time to places where industry figuratively leaves $10,000 bills on the factory floor. If you will pardon a bit of economic jargon, energy demand shows low elasticity in response to price increases.

    This, BTW, explains the huge price many warming deniers assign to reducing carbon emissions. To reduce carbon emissions via price increases requires carbon taxes many times what people actually need to spend to reduce carbon use.

    So if you want to reduce global warming without making denier predicions of a depression come true, you will the support of at least three legs. You do need carbon taxes, but you also need regulation and public works. If you don’t want carbon taxes to be much higher than the actual cost of eliminating carbon then you need regulations to help draw attention to the $10,00o bills on the floor, and public works for thigns like public transit that have to be done socially rather than individually.

    I will add there is a very important economic point here too. Energy demand has elasticity in response to price increases. To translate that out of jargon, that means that people will not always do energy saving stuff that would save them money, even if it will increase their comfort. A classic example is that most people in the U.S. could add additional attic insulation that would pay back its cost in four years or less. If they did that they would be more comfortable, and save money besides.

    This by the way is where global warming deniers can absurdly high prices for solving global warming. Because of this low demand elasticity, if you use green taxes, taxes on carbon equivalent to lower carbon use, you end up having to collect many times in taxes what people need to spend to reach carbon neutrality.

  4. 104
    Gar Lipow says:

    Re: 99. Yes there are significant things people can do as individuals. And we should. (I’ve insulated my attic, use compact fl. bulbs, drive a reasonably efficienct car very few miles a week. Don’t get too much credit for this last though; I live close to my clients and am able to do most of my work from home.) But there is lots of stuff we cannot, for the most part, do as individuals that has to be done. One simple example would be plug-in hybrids. You can take a conventional hybrid, replace the battery with a slightly larger one, add a plug and some software, and essentially run between the first twenty and first ninety miles from the grid instead of your gas tank. If every new car in the U.S. was a plug-in hybrid, this would cut U.S. carbon emissions from automobiles in half. For you to do this as an individual, you have to buy an existing hybrid (aleady) expensive, and spend $5,000 on modifications. But if hybrid manufacturers were required to do this, it would add between $1,000 and $1,200 to the cost of making a hybrid. Among other things consumer reports recently calculated that hybrids won’t pay back their additional costs over their lifetime (assuming a $3.00 per gallon gas price.) However, increasing that cost by by $1,000 dollars and doubling your savings for that money probably would let hybrids pay back their costs in gas savings alone – not to mention the global warming advantages.

    And this is a really modest example. Electric cars are much closer than hydrogen; but it would take some social investment to make them a commercial reality.

    This gets us to a larger point. Even stuff we can do as individuals does not seem to respond well to price signals when it comes to energy efficiency. For example, most attics in the U.S. still could add additional attic insulation and pay back their cost in 4 years or fewer. But most people are not doing that. And the same thing happens in industry too. Amory Lovins and the Rocky Mountain Institute have devoted a great deal of time to places where industry figuratively leaves $10,000 bills on the factory floor. If you will pardon a bit of economic jargon, energy demand shows low elasticity in response to price increases.

    This, BTW, explains the huge price many warming deniers assign to reducing carbon emissions. To reduce carbon emissions via price increases requires carbon taxes many times what people actually need to spend to reduce carbon use.

    So if you want to reduce global warming without making denier predicions of a depression come true, you will need the support of at least three legs. You do need carbon taxes, but you also need regulation and public works. If you don’t want carbon taxes to be much higher than the actual cost of eliminating carbon then you need regulations to help draw attention to the $10,000 bills on the floor, and public works for things like public transit that have to be done socially rather than individually.

  5. 105

    [...] DeSmogBlog,12 Oct 06 * Lindzen: Point by point Daniel Kirk-Davidoff, RealClimate, 13 April 2006 * Open Thread on Lindzen Op-Ed in WSJ Group, RealClimate, 12 April [...]


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