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Musings about models

Filed under: — gavin @ 20 August 2007

With the blogosphere all a-flutter with discussions of hundredths of degrees adjustments to the surface temperature record, you probably missed a couple of actually interesting stories last week.

Tipping points

Oft-discussed and frequently abused, tipping points are very rarely actually defined. Tim Lenton does a good job in this recent article. A tipping ‘element’ for climate purposes is defined as

The parameters controlling the system can be transparently combined into a single control, and there exists a critical value of this control from which a small perturbation leads to a qualitative change in a crucial feature of the system, after some observation time.

and the examples that he thinks have the potential to be large scale tipping elements are: Arctic sea-ice, a reorganisation of the Atlantic thermohaline circulation, melt of the Greenland or West Antarctic Ice Sheets, dieback of the Amazon rainforest, a greening of the Sahara, Indian summer monsoon collapse, boreal forest dieback and ocean methane hydrates.

To that list, we’d probably add any number of ecosystems where small changes can have cascading effects – such as fisheries. It’s interesting to note that most of these elements include physics that modellers are least confident about – hydrology, ice sheets and vegetation dynamics.

Prediction vs. Projections

As we discussed recently in connection with climate ‘forecasting‘, the kinds of simulations used in AR4 are all ‘projections’ i.e. runs that attempt to estimate the forced response of the climate to emission changes, but that don’t attempt to estimate the trajectory of the unforced ‘weather’. As we mentioned briefly, that leads to a ‘sweet spot’ for forecasting of a couple of decades into the future where the initial condition uncertainty dies away, but the uncertainty in the emission scenario is not yet so large as to be dominating. Last week there was a paper by Smith and colleagues in Science that tried to fill in those early years, using a model that initialises the heat content from the upper ocean – with the idea that the structure of those anomalies control the ‘weather’ progression over the next few years.

They find that their initialisation makes a difference for a about a decade, but that at longer timescales the results look like the standard projections (i.e. 0.2 to 0.3ºC per decade warming). One big caveat is that they aren’t able to predict El Niño events, and since they account for a great deal of the interannual global temperature anomaly, that is a limitation. Nonetheless, this is a good step forward and people should be looking out for whether their predictions – for a plateau until 2009 and then a big ramp up – materialise over the next few years.

Model ensembles as probabilities

A rather esoteric point of discussion concerning ‘Bayesian priors’ got a mainstream outing this week in the Economist. The very narrow point in question is to what extent model ensembles are probability distributions. i.e. if only 10% of models show a particular behaviour, does this mean that the likelihood of this happening is 10%?

The answer is no. The other 90% could all be missing some key piece of physics.

However, there has been a bit of confusion generated though through the work of climateprediction.net – the multi-thousand member perturbed parameter ensembles that, notoriously, suggested that climate sensitivity could be as high as 11 ºC in a paper a couple of years back. The very specific issue is whether the histograms generated through that process could be considered a probability distribution function or not. (‘Not’ is the correct answer).

The point in the Economist article is that one can demonstrate that very clearly by changing the variables you are perturbing (in the example they use an inverse). If you evenly sample X, or evenly sample 1/X (or any other function of X) you will get a different distribution of results. Then instead of (in one case) getting 10% of models runs to show behaviour X, now maybe 30% of models will. And all this is completely independent of any change to the physics.

My only complaint about the Economist piece is the conclusion that, because of this inherent ambiguity, dealing with it becomes a ‘logistical nightmare’ – that’s is incorrect. What should happen is that people should stop trying to think that counting finite samples of model ensembles can give a probability. Nothing else changes.


167 Responses to “Musings about models”

  1. 101
  2. 102
    catman306 says:

    “re 83: “a growing concern that the stance of some denialists may include a hidden agenda… ”
    I’m positive this is true, as it is for many proponents of the AGW theory. Might be best to just leave the factions of both camps alone, though I have to admit their cacophony sometimes just can’t be ignored.
    Comment by Rod B ”

    The ‘hidden agenda’ of people worried about AGW is simply the continuation of human and biotic existence and that of our human civilization. It’s a quality of life issue.

  3. 103
    John Wilson says:

    The media have given interesting coverage to Tim Lenton and now to this story:
    http://www.enn.com/climate/article/22168
    Could you please offer a post on the emerging scientific perspectives on sea level rise potential?

  4. 104
    Walt Bennett says:

    Re: #98

    John,

    As I acknowledged in my first response, your points are valid and, in my mind, true. I come at the stewardship of the planet from the same standpoint that you do: if it’s bad for the planet, it’s bad for us.

    What I was trying to explain are two things: 1, having spent a great deal of time in discussions (and observing the rationale) of the general group known in this forum as “deniers”, I am aware that they consider themselves to be acting on moral principles. Many of them consider the AGW “crowd” to be the immoral ones, because the solutions being discussed have the potential to rein in economic growth. Many see that as hitting hardest at those who live in the most desperate poverty.

    2, with regard to the bigger shovel and accelerated consequences, it is an adaptation issue, isn’t it? Humans have not adapted to the consequences of these bigger tools as quickly as we have developed them. There of course must always be such a lag, because only experience can be the final arbiter of the relative “good” or “bad” of a new behavior. I suppose we can rule out many behaviors as clearly destructive (and yet, some will advocate them anyway); many others are much more ambiguous, and there is no clear way to know these things without experience.

    Hypothetically, we could be around the corner from a breakthrough technology that, within ten years of implementation, sucks the excess CO2 from the atmosphere. We simply don’t know. I’m sure there are many examples of a need for development, followed by some new breakthrough which delivers the needed solution. So, is it “practical” to work out all of the potential consequences of a new behavior? Or is it more practical to “wait and see” what those consequences are, and react to those? I would submit that the answer is “both”, depending on the circumstances. In the effort to meet mankind’s energy and sustenance needs, the industrial revolution was born. Would it have been practical to withhold deployment of these innovations on the theory that there were consequences we could not anticipate? Of course not.

    As I said above, the challenge is to decipher the clues as we go, and to do all that we can to avoid catastrophe. Toward that end, AGW is not only real but symbolic. I wrote in a different thread that the future of the nation state relies on the collective ability to deal with challenges such as this. If nations keep competing on the basis of short-term self interest, they will become irrelevant in the larger struggle to save mankind from man.

    A very serious topic, well worth discussing. I stand by my position that “morality” is not the crux issue, and in fact has the grave potential to bog down the entire debate as each “side” defends the “morality” of their views.

    Gore had it right: stick to the practical. Now, we just have to get everybody – or at least an overwhelming majority – to come to some sort of consensus on the accuracy of the science.

    THEN the real fun: what to do, who will it impact and how will it be funded?

  5. 105
    Rod B says:

    re 99, just one for the drill, Ron (Gavin et al rightly so don’t like lots of this stuff): the folks who, with no reservations, put the inconvenience of the spotted owl over the economic viability of the people.

  6. 106
    Rod B says:

    re 102, Catman says, “The ‘hidden agenda’ of people worried about AGW is simply the continuation of human and biotic existence and that of our human civilization. It’s a quality of life issue.”

    High-minded contention, there, though I admit it probably does apply to the mainstream AGW proponents. But you don’t have to look hard to find the faction who clearly support the idea of diminishing the quality and development (they call it greedy wastefulness) of especially the West and U.S in particular, and find AGW a convenient tool.

    [Response: Fair point, but the answer to that is to argue that their conclusions do not follow from the premise, not to argue that AGW can't be problem because some people draw conclusions from it that you don't like. - gavin]

  7. 107
    Philippe Chantreau says:

    Re 106: That, of course, would call for a debate (concept so dear to AGW opponents) about the objective reality of greed and wastefulness in the developped world. After all, there may be such a thing.

  8. 108
    dhogaza says:

    the folks who, with no reservations, put the inconvenience of the spotted owl over the economic viability of the people.

    Well, I guess you mean me, then, since I was on the board of the co-lead plantiff in the spotted owl lawsuit.

    My guess is you don’t know much about the history of the old-growth wars in the PNW.

    I’m curious though. Is there any particular reason why you believe the US Forest Service should be allowed to ignore federal law? When Congress passes laws saying “this is how our federal forests should be managed”, personally I think the USFS should obey them.

    If they did, after all, they wouldn’t've lost the lawsuit in such spectacular fashion.

    Feds break the law, conservationists get blamed for “not caring about people” when we force them to follow the law.

    Strange world.

    Do you believe the USFS should lie about the amount of old-growth forest when setting harvest levels? They did, for over a decade. The Wilderness Society spent $500,000 proving it (and after they did so, the USFS said “oh yeah, you’re right” less than a week later).

    There’s a reason why Jack Ward Thomas, when appointed head of the USFS by Clinton, sent a memo to every Forest in the country that started with these two points:

    1. We will obey the law
    2. We will tell the truth

    His point being that the USFS had done neither during the Reagan and Bush I administrations.

    BTW a huge majority of Oregonians support a total moratorium on old-growth logging, and our economy is doing fine, thank you. Old-growth veneer and saw mills were rapidly switching to second-growth before the spotted-owl shit hit the fan, and available old-growth would’ve run out in 10 to 20 years regardless. We’re still harvesting old-growth, with luck a couple percent of the original old-growth forest will remain in perpetuity. At least until AGW kills it off.

  9. 109
    SecularAnimist says:

    Alastair McDonald wrote: “… we assume that any species that developed intelligence would inevitably be aggressive, since it would have developed through the process of the survival of the fittest. Like us, they too would burn their planet’s fossil fuels as if there was no tomorrow. They too would not only cause the end of their civilisaton, but also the end the prospect of any new civilisation because the natural resources needed to advance beyond the stone age had already been squandered.”

    It is not a given that carbon-based fossil fuels would be abundant or even exist on other planets where technologically-capable species might evolve. The existence of large quantities of relatively easily accessible fossil fuels on Earth is the result of particular specific events in the Earth’s geological history. Indeed, it is interesting to contemplate an alternative history of the human species on an Earth where fossil fuels either never formed, or formed under conditions such that they remained inaccessible and unknown to humanity. Where would we all be today if humanity had never had all that coal or oil to burn over the last century or two?

  10. 110
    SecularAnimist says:

    Rod B wrote: “Actually there has been a set of environmentalists that for some time now have the survival and enhancement of the human species way way down on the priority list.”

    I don’t know of any such “environmentalists”. I do know of environmentalists who recognize that the human species is but one of many species that have evolved as part of the Earth’s biosphere, and that our survival and well-being as a species is utterly and completely dependent on the survival and well-being of the web of life of which we are a part, and thus when through ignorance, shortsightedness and/or greed we engage in activities that are destructive to that web of life, we are destructive to ourselves as well.

    The basic paradigm that sees the world as consisting of the human species on the one hand, and everything else in the living world as “resources” or “the environment” for the consumption of human beings on the other hand, is at the root of our most serious problems, global warming being at the top of the list. No such duality actually exists. Just as that false duality is at the root of the problem, an appreciation and understanding of the reality of wholeness is at the root of the solution.

  11. 111
    James says:

    Re #106: [But you don’t have to look hard to find the faction who clearly support the idea of diminishing the quality and development (they call it greedy wastefulness) of especially the West and U.S in particular, and find AGW a convenient tool.]

    In addition to the point Gavin makes, you should also consider that quality of life (beyond the basics of e.g. getting enough to eat) is largely subjective. I certainly find that some of what you refer to as development in fact reduces my quality of life.

    If you think that gives me a motive for using AGW as a tool, then I’d just have you reflect on how much use one gets out of a broken tool.

    And #105: [...put the inconvenience of the spotted owl over the economic viability of the people.]

    As it happens, I used to work on a logging crew in my younger days, ’til spotted owls and the like made jobs hard to find. Yet here I am, making way more money than I ever would have, if I’d thought of myself as just a logger and sat around bewailing the evil environmentalists and the loss of my God-given right to cut down every tree in sight. Seems like I ought to be thanking those folks for increasing my economic viability, wouldn’t you say?

  12. 112
    Philippe Chantreau says:

    I can somewhat relate to James’experience. 20some years ago I had an idea of doing forestry in equatorial Africa, where I grew up in part. Seeing 1st hand the practices of most logging companies there discouraged me of doing so, although at the time there was nothing I wanted more than to live in the African forest. There are countless examples of how quality of life is better when we protect our world. Look at the industrial devastation of former soviet satellite countries or the difference between Dominican Republic and Haiti. The US has the most stringent environemental regulations in the world (except possibly for NZ) and the single largest economy. All those lamenting the fate of NW loggers never comment on that of all the workers who lost their jobs to globalizaion, even in cases where an entire community would mobilize to give the best possible deal to a corporation.

  13. 113
    Andrew says:

    The following article claims 12F of cooling over several decades by climate modeling for 20,000 nuclear explosions.

    http://www.nature.com/climate/2007/0709/full/climate.2007.39.html

    As far as I know, between the US, Soviets, Chinese, French and British, there has been somewhere between 500 to 750 above ground weapons test between 1944 to 1968.

    This works out to between 0.3 to 0.45F of cooling. That could go a long way into explaining stabilization of Global Temperatues between the 1940′s to 1970.

    Don’t see anything in the IPCC report about this.

    Could it have been considered and rejected by the IPCC?

    Are there good reasons to reject it?

  14. 114
    Hank Roberts says:

    Try the Search box here for more on this from previous discussions.

    The nuclear war scenarios assume primarily airbursts over industrialized and populated areas, with firestorms and large volumes of soot as a result, even if the fireballs were high enough not to touch the surface directly, and some ground level explosions to maximize damage on hardened sites, also producing large amounts of soot and debris.

    The atmospheric nuclear tests were primarily over desert or coral atolls, and many were airbursts set off high enough that the fireball did not touch the ground, so there was relatively little material (and even less burnable material) in the bomb cloud; that was intentional, to reduce fallout.

  15. 115
    Andrew says:

    “The problem is how to find the Jeffrey’s prior when the likelihood function isnt available analytically as a function of the parameters.”

    That turns out not to be a problem for several reasons. There are ways to estimate parameters with Jeffrey’s rule even for models of unknown form. I don’t know if anyone in climate science is using that sort of thing, but it can be done. Essentially you embed your model in an infinite dimensional function space, although you know full well that you will actually be working in a finite dimensional subset. But you do not have to know that finite dimensional subset. It turns out that you can choose the infinite dimensional embedding in such a way that you can easily compute the Jeffreys’ prior estimate, or you can also choose it so that the Jeffrey’s prior will be locally uniform, it is more a matter of style which of these you do. The “magic” happens that the Jeffreys’ prior regularizes your estimates in the infinitely many directions which your data provide no information.

    Whether or not this ends up being a good estimator really depends on whether you have been intelligent enough in choosing the embedding; there are lots of ways of doing it. I’m not aware of anyone in climate science who is using these techniques, but the guys in climate science (GCMs) who I did my Ph. D. with back in the 1980s would have no trouble picking up those tools.

    Note: I am not a climate scientist now, if I ever was one, but I am a mathematician who is active in the field of high dimensional estimation.

  16. 116
    Ike Solem says:

    Eric – Well, I suppose that means that you agree with what the climate science community has been saying for some time now – anthropogenic global warming is indeed a reality. However, you seem to think that this will be (at least for you) beneficial? Let’s see: agricultural losses due to a destabilized climate, increased heat waves, droughts, and flooding, more intense and frequent hurricanes, millions of climate refugees due to sea level rise…I’m not seeing a whole lot of benefits here.

    Andrew – I looked at that article. That would be the simultaneous explosion of 20,000 nuclear weapons, right? No doubt you wouldn’t mind too much if someone dropped a kilo of sand on your head from a height of two meters – try doing that with 20,000 kilos of sand, all at once. Also see Hank’s comment on soot and fire from burning cities (vs. isolated Pacific coral atolls). It’s the immediate stratospheric injection of large amounts of aerosols that leads to cooling.

    Take another example – Pinatubo’s explosion, which ejected 5 billion cubic meters of ash and debris to heights of up to 30 kilometers in the atmosphere.

    “The cloud over the earth reduced global temperatures. In 1992 and 1993, the average temperature in the Northern Hemisphere was reduced 0.5 to 0.6°C and the entire planet was cooled 0.4 to 0.5°C. The maximum reduction in global temperature occurred in August 1992 with a reduction of 0.73°C. The eruption is believed to have influenced such events as 1993 floods along the Mississippi river and the drought in the Sahel region of Africa. The United States experienced its third coldest and third wettest summer in 77 years during 1992.”

    This served as a good confirmation that climate models were handling aerosol effects correctly. Note that Pinatubo was in the tropics (see Current volcanic activity and climate? RC 2006. I just mention this because the paper you reference is really all about the long lifetimes of aerosols – and the Pinatubo test case provided verification for modelers. Science just keeps on advancing…

  17. 117
    Michael says:

    Re 109. “Where would we all be today if humanity had never had all that coal or oil to burn over the last century or two?”

    We wouldn’t be waiting for ice sheets to disintegrate and to submerge dozens of nuclear reactors sitting on the shoreline … or waiting for the redistribution of increased ocean waters to trigger earth quakes and undermine the other nuclear reactors that aren’t at the shoreline.

    The situation is an emergency.

  18. 118
    Michael says:

    Regarding nuclear reactors, an estimate of 5 metres plus can be taken from here

    http://environment.newscientist.com/article.ns?id=mg19526141.600&feedId=climate-change_rss20

    and put into here

    http://flood.firetree.net/

    to check against the locations of installations which are given here

    http://www.insc.anl.gov/pwrmaps/

    each of which can also be viewed using Google Earth.

    Mitigation is essential. Mitigation is doable. Action is required now.

  19. 119
    Eric (skeptic) says:

    Hi Ike, you won’t see benefits if you don’t look for them. You asked for an example, I gave you one of many. Of course AGW is a reality, just as GW was and is (to some debatable extent). Getting back to the original point, global tipping points are not currently a reality and it is very unlikely that human tipping points will happen either (e.g. your example of refugees) as long as the current trends continue: globalization reducing world poverty, democratization, economic progress, free migration.

  20. 120

    [[It is not a given that carbon-based fossil fuels would be abundant or even exist on other planets where technologically-capable species might evolve. The existence of large quantities of relatively easily accessible fossil fuels on Earth is the result of particular specific events in the Earth’s geological history. Indeed, it is interesting to contemplate an alternative history of the human species on an Earth where fossil fuels either never formed, or formed under conditions such that they remained inaccessible and unknown to humanity. Where would we all be today if humanity had never had all that coal or oil to burn over the last century or two?]]

    Burning wood and biofuels and getting electricity from biofueled turbines and perhaps windmills?

  21. 121

    [[The following article claims 12F of cooling over several decades by climate modeling for 20,000 nuclear explosions.
    http://www.nature.com/climate/2007/0709/full/climate.2007.39.html
    As far as I know, between the US, Soviets, Chinese, French and British, there has been somewhere between 500 to 750 above ground weapons test between 1944 to 1968.
    This works out to between 0.3 to 0.45F of cooling. That could go a long way into explaining stabilization of Global Temperatues between the 1940’s to 1970.
    Don’t see anything in the IPCC report about this.
    Could it have been considered and rejected by the IPCC?
    Are there good reasons to reject it?
    ]]

    Yes. The nuclear winter scenario involves the nuclear destruction of cities, and consequently large amounts of soot lofted into the stratosphere. Individual nuclear tests don’t generally do that. You got some of it with Hiroshima and Nagasaki, but not enough to be significant.

  22. 122

    Re 120:

    Burning wood and biofuels and getting electricity from biofueled turbines and perhaps windmills?

    It’s important to remember that biofuels, wind and solar themal power aren’t “expensive”, as in, “astronomically out of this world”, they are simply “more expensive” and much of that because fossil fuel based technologies got the head start, economies of scale kicked in, and further research into alternatives halted. As fossil fuels increase in cost, those other technologies become attractive.

    We, of course, wouldn’t have had the solar photovoltaic revolution that we’re now seeing, with falling solar cell prices, from the outside, but it is reasonable that solar thermal would have emerged as the alternative to cutting down the forests for fuel. Once solar thermal developed, we’d have had all the electricity we needed, and many of the other technologies we have today would have come in their due course. We’d all be riding electric cars, or electric city buses, and we’d be living in homes with televisions (or whatever ;) ), working lights, and all the other essentials. Electricity was the primary enabler, before the internal combustion automobile and the massive oil fields which supported them.

    The only question I have about climate, long term, in a “renewable energy” world, is land use — how do land use changes in some utopian “renewable energy only” scenario play out? If we drive towards biofuels-based energy, complete with massive land use changes to support fuel crops, how does that affect the climate, as compared to a solar-fuels scenario? If we get smart and sequester as much of the ‘scrap’ as possible, can we move towards negative carbon emissions.

    My personal thoughts are that variability in weather will cause solar-fuels to compete favorably with fuel crops — how much more energy can be produced on an acre of land with wind, solar thermal or photovoltaic compared to fuel crops? Unless I’m mistaken, I’m thinking that solar thermal is going to be the greatest output, unless there is sufficient wind that a combination of technologies — solar thermal electric plants with wind towers mixed in.

  23. 123
    Ron Taylor says:

    Re 119 Eric, I think you may be assuming that positive and negative impacts of AGW will, more or less, average out over the globe, so all will be well. It will not work that way. Any positive effects will be regionally limited and are unlikely to be coincident with the worst negative ones. Think of the tensions that will be created between areas of relative benefit and areas suffering the worst negative consequences.

    The issues are likely to be the most basic: food and water. What, for example, will the Chinese and Indians do when they begin to run low on fresh water, used for both consumption and food production, as a result of the loss of the Tibetan glaciers? And this will only be one problem among many that arrive simultaneously. It is hard to imagine them rolling over and meekly watching their populations die down to a level that is sustainable in the new environment. Of course, technology will provide some mitigation, but…

  24. 124
    Rod B says:

    All, Actually I agree with the preponderance of the words posted to refute my assertions. But, strictly logically speaking, they don’t refute my assertions.

    Gavin makes a good point (106). Hidden agenda AGW “proponents” do not logically detract from the scientific arguments for AGW, though they might cause an unfortunate deleterious reaction at nobody’s fault. Same goes for the hidden agenda skeptics.

  25. 125
    J.S. McIntyre says:

    re 121

    The nuclear winter scenario involves the nuclear destruction of cities, and consequently large amounts of soot lofted into the stratosphere. Individual nuclear tests don’t generally do that. You got some of it with Hiroshima and Nagasaki, but not enough to be significant.

    =============

    I recall reading recently that the amount of particulate matter tossed up in the atmosphere by Krakatoa in 1883 was along the order of 13,000 times that of Little Boy…

  26. 126
    Ike Solem says:

    Eric, your assertion that global tipping points don’t exist is completely unsupported and is barely worth replying to. Saying that they don’t ‘currently’ exist is meaningless, particularly considering the amount of change that is in the pipeline already – even if we were to halt the use of fossil fuels today, the momentum will keep warming the planet for decades.

    You haven’t given any evidence that there will be any benefits to the current business-as-usual projections of global warming, other than to claim that winters will get warmer while summers won’t – which is completely unsupported. The only arguments you give imply future economic benefit, so let’s look at that. Statistical Analysis Debunks Climate Change Naysayers

    From the above link:
    ““These arguments are moot,” says Peter Tsigaris, an economist at Thompson Rivers University, in Kamloops, BC. He continues: “The important question is the cost of these opinions being wrong relative to the cost of the IPCC report being wrong in its assessment.” ”

    “Tsigaris asked, “A claim is made that global warming is caused by humans. Set up the null and alternative hypothesis for this claim. As a scientist, you want to test that the above claim is true beyond a reasonable doubt. Discuss in terms of the type I and type II errors that are associated with the claim, and discuss the implications of the errors in terms of their associated costs.””

    A type II error would be to conclude that global warming is not caused by humans, when in fact it is. A type I error would be to conclude that global warming is caused by humans, when in fact it is not.

    To quote again,
    “It is obvious that a type II error, being unaware that global warming is caused by humans and maintaining our current living styles, is much more serious than a type I error which argues that humans are the cause when they are not, in terms of the costs,” he says. “Rising sea levels, temperature and precipitation caused by human lifestyles will have an impact on our health, agriculture, forestry, water, coastal areas, as well as on other species and natural areas,” he says, adding that “this analysis also confirms the Stern Review on The Economics of Climate Change which suggests that the cost of taking action today is way less than the cost of continuing the current path we have chosen.”

    Note – this is a purely statistical economic argument – but there are also statistical physical arguments as well as first principles physical arguments that confirm the reality of fossil fuel-induced global warming. There really are no valid scientific or economic arguments for doing nothing about the problem.

  27. 127
    John Mashey says:

    re: 120
    “globalization reducing world poverty, democratization, economic progress, free migration.”

    Eric: why are you assuming this?

    I’d claim there is plausible skepticism on the economics issues, for which I’d cite:

    1) David Strahan, The Last Oil Shock, pp 114-130. [Amazon Canada or UK]
    http://www.lastoilshock.com/

    2) Hall, Lindenberger, Kummel, Kroger, Eichhorn, The need to reintegrate the natural sciences with economics. BioScience vol 51, no 8 (August 2001), 663-673. http://www.ker.co.nz/pdf/Need_to_reintegrate.pdf.

    3) Ayres & Warr, Accounting for Growth: the role of physical work.
    Structural Change & Economic Dynamics, 16(2): 181-209.
    http://www.iea.org/Textbase/work/2004/eewp/Ayres-paper1.pdf
    http://cres.anu.edu.au/events/sem-marr2007.php

    Summary: globalization and increasing wealth/person collides with Peak Oil.

    a) Long-term economic growth depends not just on labor and capital, but on energy, i.e., more (effective) energy = richer, which in turn depends on energy used and efficiency of its use. Other things being equal, farmer+tractor+gas is richer than farmer+horse is richer than farmer with no draft animals; the same output is produced with less people, which means people are richer.

    The authors above claim that mainline neoclassical economics doesn’t seem to recognize the importance of energy in increasing wealth, and from an hour spent sampling the (extensive) Economics section of the Stanford bookstore, I tentatively agree with them. I get really nervous with things like “Solow residuals” where the residuals are bigger than the growth explained; including energy seems to give much better fits.

    A lot of people seem to assume that worldwide GDP/person will automagically keep increasing, incidentally claiming that means that climate mitigation efforts should be deferred to a richer generation. This is unclear.

    b) Cheap oil has been wonderful: our civilization was built on it.
    Peak Oil happens 2015 +/-5 years, which, coupled with increasing demand from places like India and China, mean that the free ride on cheap oil will soon end, well within the lifetime of existing vehicles and especially infrastructure investments being made. Assume, for example, $10/gallon gas in CA,as well as 3X jet fuel [~25% of airline cost].

    How do people think that will affect globalization? Does it make sense to build Heathrow Runway 6, tearing down 600 homes, to be done by 2020 or later, to handle 2X or 3X larger number of passengers by 2030? Will there be 2X or 3X more passengers if prices go up? How many poor third-world farmers will get tractors? As of 2003, India was supposed to have 15M electric and 6M diesel irrigation pumpsets, and the agricultural consumption of electricity was 27% of the total. http://www.hwwi.org/uploads/tx_wilpubdb/HWWI_Research_Paper_4.pdf.
    Substantial investment and time will be needed to convert to solar, although they’re trying.

    The Stern Review (“The Economics of Climate Change” doesn’t even mention Peak Oil), although Chapter 11 covers energy costs somewhat.

    c) Over the next 50 years, as cheap oil winds down, followed by cheap natural gas a few decades later, we’ll need to have a major/expensive turnover to solar, wind, biofuels, (nuclear?) JUST TO STAY EVEN in energy/person (assuming no population growth). There will be a strong temptation to use more coal to keep the lights on. It is simply NOT obvious that we’ll be increasing the (efficient-energy)/person on a world scale at the rate we’ve done in the last century, even with the recent boost from IT seen in the models. Exactly how do you expect to reduce world poverty if the energy/person stops growing.?

    Climate models at least have physics in them; it seems that many economics models don’t explain the sources of wealth and growth very well, which is why I trust physics models much more.

    I’d be happy to have someone read the cited sources and knowledgably explain why they’re wrong … but vague assumptions about globalization and increased wealth aren’t very convincing.

  28. 128
    Philippe Chantreau says:

    I agree with John. For all the buzz on the “new” economies, there is no escaping the basics. Wealth is not generated out of nothing. Another important thing to consider is one that has become a favorite of denialists: poor countries. As oil and gas supplies decrease, who is going to be able to afford what’s left, poor countries?

  29. 129

    John,

    Per-capital energy isn’t the whole issue — the U.S. has already reduced per-capita oil consumption. That peaked back in the 1970′s. The growth in consumption, per-capita, on a global basis is slowing already, and wealth continues to outpace per-capita oil consumption.

    The thing is to look at the past and see how the adaptation to expensive oil occurred, because in the past, oil was much more expensive than it is even today. Changes in technology have always “trickled down” before becoming ubiquitous. Before Ford’s Model T, the other automobile manufacturers were selling cars for 10 times what Ford sold them for. The same thing is happening, more or less, with various forms of hybrids. It was cheaper to have a horse and buggy, than a horseless carriage — up until it wasn’t. And that’s the point we’re approaching with hybrids. It will be cheaper (and I’d argue it is already) to own a hybrid over its lifetime, than not.

    That’s always how it works — the early-adopters are the affluent, the enthusiast, or the hobbyist. Look at how it went in our profession — my first real computer was $8,000, didn’t have a hard drive (it was a $4,000 option), came with 128K, and ran at a mind numbing 6MHz. The equivalent cost today would be on the order of $20,000 after inflation, even though it has less memory and a slower processor than the cell phone Sprint gave me for free (after rebate and 2 year service agreement ;) ) Who is richer — someone with a circa 1980 “personal” computer, or someone with a Blackberry, iPhone or Treo? Now for the tricky part — which consumes more power: a circa 1980 “personal” computer, or my 64MB Tungsten T3? Your assumption that “energy” and “wealth” are bound unalterably is flawed.

    Look at where “oil” goes, and look at how many of those uses are “required”. How much “oil” is turned into disposable plastics because the oil to make disposable plastics is so cheap? Will plastic packaging continue to be used by corporations when oil goes to $120 / bbl? $150 / bbl? Consumption is high because costs are low. That’s all — no great mystery.

    “Cheap oil” is an artificial construct — “oil” was not cheap when it was first discovered, and neither was “solar” when it was first being deployed. “Oil” is a developed technology. “Personal Computers” are a developed technology. The technologies that can replace non-renewables aren’t yet completely developed, though they are getting there.

    The point, John, is that if computers and cars hadn’t drastically fallen in price, they’d still just be the domain of the rich. The computer hardware in my house today would have cost in the billions of dollars in 1980. I’m not a billionaire, or even a millionaire. I’d have been left out of the “Automobile Revolution” if car prices had stayed where they did, after adjusting for inflation. In the 1950′s the solar panels on my roof would have cost over $600,000 — without adjusting for inflation. Who has more wealth? Someone with the 1950′s equivalent value of solar panels on their roof, or someone with that value in 2007? Now for a more modern question — who has more wealth: someone with a house full of incandescent bulbs (cheap initial cost, high recurring costs), or someone with a house full of CFLs (high initial cost, low recurring costs)? If the examples I’ve given here — all of which use less energy at higher values of “wealth” aren’t proof that you’re wrong, I don’t know what is.

    These costs aren’t static — if they were few of us could afford cars, and fewer still could afford computers. Just as the “Information Age” started in the 1980′s, we are at the start of the “Energy Age”, and that’s why the “renewable energy won’t do it” / “more energy is more wealth” skeptics are wrong.

  30. 130
    Eric (skeptic) says:

    Ron (#123), I don’t assume positive and negative will be equal, I just don’t ignore the positives. Just as you say any positive impacts will be localized, obviously negative ones will be too. In your example the Chinese and Indians will have to import more food and possibly water or develop other sources. That does not seem problematic to me, people do that all time even without being forced to.

    Ike (#126), when I read discussions of global tipping points like the one here a year or two ago, I saw cherry picking and ultimately non-quantitative analysis. The discussions tend to hypothesize positive feedbacks without hypothesizing negative ones. Since quantitative CO2 forcing to date produces more warming than seen to date, there are obviously already some negative feedbacks in the mix. The IPC07 report states that the carbon flow percentages have remained unchanged since 1958. That doesn’t mean other feedbacks can’t occur (e.g. methane) but those are short term and those are more easily solved with countermeasures than the long term (“baked-in”) type of warming you seem to be referring to.

    John (#127) peak oil is a good point. But the fact is globalization has equalized incomes around the world. Middle class Americans have seen stagnant incomes while the percentage of $1/day poor has drop from about 40 to 20% (IIRC, numbers were from CATO). No doubt peak oil will lower the global rate of growth that has resulted from globalization, but it won’t fundamentally change it. The Indians and Chinese, for example, can build solar panels which will easily pay for fuel used for shipping them around the world. Our per capita energy use is flat despite our economic growth. The rest of the world will quickly catch up in efficiency given the economic motivations.

  31. 131
    Rod B says:

    FurryCatHerder (129), like your post. Bear in mind that costs don’t always go down (at least greatly), and their sometimes hard to predict, especially for the future! Another minor caveat: hybrid owners have yet to reach the whole “new and improved” costly concept of replacing tires and batteries at NTB. An interesting sidebar: Henry Ford built a very good prototype car in the 30s with a mostly plastic body that came from renewables, but, unfortunately, mostly hemp which was becoming a really stupid high hurdle. It is not out of the question today, I would guess.

  32. 132
    James says:

    Re #129: [...who has more wealth: someone with a house full of incandescent bulbs... or someone with a house full of CFLs...?]

    We could even extend that question: who has more wealth, the person who leaves the lights on because energy is cheap, or the one who turns them on only when needed?

  33. 133
    Ron Taylor says:

    Re 130 – Eric says: “Just as you say any positive impacts will be localized, obviously negative ones will be too. In your example the Chinese and Indians will have to import more food and possibly water or develop other sources. That does not seem problematic to me, people do that all time even without being forced to.”

    Yes, the example of the Tibetan glaciers is a local impact, but that “locality” includes most of populated Asia, with maybe three billion people. Replacing the lost water will be a huge problem, and it will be urgent. I cannot imagine how it will be as easy as you assume.

  34. 134
    David B. Benson says:

    By following the articles on

    http://biopact.com

    one discovers that the poor countries iin the semi-tropivcs and tropics are moving to bioenergy as rapidly as they can…

  35. 135
    John Mashey says:

    (oops, sorry, computer problems, lost half the post, throw previous away).

    re: #129 F.C.H. #130 Eric

    I *never* said per-capita energy was the whole issue [that’s like saying CO2 is the *whole* issue in climate change :-) Since I mentioned efficient-energy I think the end result matters (not just the energy input), and my house has been filled with CFLs for a long time.

    I did say:

    “I’d be happy to have someone read the cited sources and knowledgably explain why they’re wrong … ”

    Haven’t seen that yet…

    Your examples are rich-world high-tech consumer products, one category of which (computers) is famous for the rapidity of cost-reduction. These have little to do with where this started: “globalization reducing world poverty”, because that primarily means reducing rural poverty [63% of those on biofuels is certainly a good idea: they can’t afford much oil,and maybe they can just skip that phase (akin to skipping wires for telcom in favor of cellphones).
    ========

    This may be getting further OT for RC, but really, one has to bring the same kind of analysis (numbers, relevant facts, cites) to the problem.

    This may be getting further OT for RC, but really, one has to bring the same kind of analysis (numbers, relevant facts, cites) to the problem.
    “vague assumptions about globalization and increased wealth aren’t very convincing.”

  36. 136
    Phil. Felton says:

    “Ike (#126), when I read discussions of global tipping points like the one here a year or two ago, I saw cherry picking and ultimately non-quantitative analysis. The discussions tend to hypothesize positive feedbacks without hypothesizing negative ones. Since quantitative CO2 forcing to date produces more warming
    than seen to date, there are obviously already some negative feedbacks in the mix.
    Comment by Eric (skeptic) — 25 August 2007 @ 8:58

    Looking at Cryosphere Today it appears that an extra million square km has melted in the NH, also the SH maximum looks like it will be a million square km short so that represents a considerable excess of energy stored in the cryosphere compared with last year.

  37. 137
    Philippe Chantreau says:

    Isn’t it a little paradoxical to insist on effects that will (supposedly) be “local” and yet place them in the context of interactions between countries that are “global”? I don’t believe that anything can be truly local anymore. LA gets a good part of its smog particulates from China, the mountains and streams in the Pacific Northwest (where I live) receive more mercury than I’d want from that same place, crossing the all Pacific! The full influence of the Asian Brown Cloud is unclear (no pun intended). It seems to me even weather isn’t entirely local, if it affects activities in ways repercuted across the Globe through trade agreements. We’re all in this together, eventually.

  38. 138
    Eric (skeptic) says:

    Ron (#133) The glaciers store water seasonally so some dams would have to be built to store the water. Not easy, but doable. The water supply itself will be there, the Tibetan plateau itself will tend to keep the precipitation consistent.

    John (#135) FCH said it better than I did. The technology he describes is increasingly being pushed into the developing world. Like you say, it doesn’t make sense to run copper wires when the air is free and the cell phones and cell network have plummeting costs. These are simple facts, not vague assumptions. Globalization is colliding with the politicians looking for a scapegoat long before we get to peak energy. The main problem for Americans is that we are relatively overpaid and globalization will equalize that.

  39. 139
    Timothy Chase says:

    I was digging some for data on the US projected for 2095, Southeast, but discovered the following from back in July from the Union of Concerned Scientists on the US NE…

    Global Warming Will Hit U.S. Northeast Hard Unless Action Taken Now;
    Long-term Severity Depends On Near-term Choices, Scientists Say
    July 11, 2007
    http://www.ucsusa.org/news/press_release/global-warming-to-hit-0044.html

    First the temperatures…

    Under the higher-emissions scenario, winters in the Northeast could warm by 8 F to 12 F and summers by 6 F to 14 F above historic levels by late this century. But under the lower-emission scenario, temperatures during Northeast winters are projected to warm only 5 F to 8 F above historic levels by late-century, and summers by just 3 F to 7 F.

    Then the floods (assuming a nice, neat, linear and entirely unrealistic response on the part of Greenland and the West Antarctic Peninsula)…

    Coastlines: Global sea level is conservatively projected to rise 10 to 23 inches under the higher-emissions scenario and 7 to 14 inches under the lower-emissions scenario. Using these estimates, cities such as Boston and Atlantic City can expect a coastal flood equivalent to today’s 100-year flood every two to four years on average by mid-century and almost annually by the end of the century under either scenario. New York City is projected to face flooding equivalent to today’s 100-year flood once every decade on average under the higher-emissions scenario and once every two decades under the lower-emissions scenario by century’s end.

    PDF summary and report linked to in the article….

  40. 140

    The mathematical physicist v. Neumann once said to his young collaborators: “If you allow me four free parameters I can build a
    mathematical model that describes exactly everything that an elephant can do. If you allow me a fifth free parameter, the model I build will forecast what the elephant will say.”

    Isn’t the same problem that portrays relying on Climate Modeling as predictors?

    [Response: Climate models aren't statistical fits to data, and the climate system is much more complex than just a few degrees of freedom, and the reason why climate models are used is because they have shown themselves to be useful - their predictions have matched observations for long term trends, responses to volcanoes, to El Niño, to orbital forcing etc. See here for more discussion:
    http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2007/01/the-physics-of-climate-modelling/ - gavin]

  41. 141
    John Mashey says:

    2nd try, had computer/network problems; 135 was supposed to be:

    re: #129 F.C.H. #130 Eric

    I *never* said per-capita energy was the whole issue [that’s like saying CO2 is the *whole* issue in climate change :-) Since I mentioned efficient-energy I think the end result matters (not just the energy input), and my house has been filled with CFLs for a long time.

    I did say:

    “I’d be happy to have someone read the cited sources and knowledgably explain why they’re wrong … ”

    Haven’t seen that yet…

    Your examples are rich-world high-tech consumer products, one category of which (computers) is famous for the rapidity of cost-reduction. These have little to do with where this started: “globalization reducing world poverty”, because that primarily means reducing rural poverty [63% of those on biofuels is certainly a good idea: they can’t afford much oil,and maybe they can just skip that phase (akin to skipping wires for telcom in favor of cellphones).
    ========
    This may be getting further OT for RC, but really, one has to bring the same kind of analysis (numbers, relevant facts, cites) to the problem.
    Like I said:
    “vague assumptions about globalization and increased wealth aren’t very convincing.”

  42. 142
    James says:

    Re #138: [The glaciers store water seasonally so some dams would have to be built to store the water. Not easy, but doable.]

    I would like some practical ideas on just how one would do this. I’ve tried to think it out, but I can’t come up with anything that wouldn’t require many, many thousands of dams to even approximate the sort of storage than an alpine snowpack provides.

    Maybe your problem is that you are only looking at the far downstream end of the water flow, the urbanites and irrigated fields down in the flatlands, and forgetting that there is a very large land area upstream. What happens to that?

  43. 143
    John Mashey says:

    re: # 140, sorry, I’m having some odd problem in cut-and-paste (?) where 80% of the post (in the middle) seems to get dropped when on the way to RC. I hope this makes it.

    ….
    Your examples are rich-world high-tech consumer products, one category of which (computers) is famous for the rapidity of cost-reduction. These have little to do with where this started: “globalization reducing world poverty”, because that primarily means reducing rural poverty [63% of those on biofuels is certainly a good idea: they can’t afford much oil,and maybe they can just skip that phase (akin to skipping wires for telcom in favor of cellphones).

    ….

  44. 144
    Eric (skeptic) says:

    James (#140), we’ll have to ask Ron (#123) what he meant by loss of Tibetan glaciers, but I think there will still an annual snowpack with some water storage. There’s not a lot of numerical observations of decreased Aug-Sep runoff, but there’s a projection of 10 or 20% loss here: http://www.glaciers.pdx.edu/granshaw/Chapter06.pdf For higher altitude glaciers the immediate effect will be a rise in the summer pulse followed in the long run by a smoother annual outflow depending on precipitation patterns.

  45. 145
    James says:

    Re #145: [For higher altitude glaciers the immediate effect will be a rise in the summer pulse followed in the long run by a smoother annual outflow depending on precipitation patterns.]

    It appears that you’re still thinking of the effects way downstream as the only important ones. So let’s forget about Tibet for a bit (since I don’t have any firsthand experience), and consider something a lttle closer to home: the snowpack in the Sierra Nevada, Cascades, or Rockies.

    You have a snowpack that typically lasts into June, or even longer in some areas. The gradual melting of this snowpack allows a lot of it to sink into the ground, where it replenishes groundwater, rather than running off immediately as heavy rains mostly do. That groundwater supports the vegetation during the half of the year when there’s little or no precipitation.

    So how do you propose to replicate this with dams? Seems to me that to even make an attempt would take many small dams on every little stream – and that attempt wouldn’t do a very good job of replicating what the snowpack does for free. (Indeed, the snowpack is a source of profit, from all those who will e.g. pay to ski on it.)

  46. 146
    Ron Taylor says:

    Re 145 – Eric, there has been quite a lot about this in the news in recent years. The Tibetan plateau, with some 46,000 glaciers, has been warming faster the the rest of the NH. Some reports have indicated very rapid glacier retreat. You prompted me to do a limited search for sources, but do not have time for a more thorough search. We are leaving on vacation tomorrow and I will be out of touch for two weeks.

    You may want to have a look at this yourself. Human suffering aside, a serious loss of water for China and/or India could be very destablizing and something of global concern.

    Some news sources are here:

    http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,193970,00.html

    http://www.commondreams.org/headlines06/0507-05.htm

    http://news.independent.co.uk/world/asia/article2600243.ece

    http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/english/doc/2004-10/05/content_379891.htm

    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/07/070720163907.htm

    A more scholarly item from the Chinese Academy of Sciences is here

    http://www.wanfangdata.com.cn/qikan/periodical.articles/kxtb-e/kxtb2000/0007/000718.htm

    Like I say, this was a quick search and these are not necessarily the best available, just the best I could come up with in the time available.

  47. 147
    John Mashey says:

    re: #135, #141, #145 Sorry, problem seems to be that an innocent-looking character sequence caused WordPress to discard most of the post. One last try, with *less than* spelled out.

    re: #129 F.C.H. #130 Eric

    I *never* said per-capita energy was the whole issue [that's like saying CO2 is the *whole* issue in climate change :-) Since I mentioned efficient-energy I think the end result matters (not just the energy input), and my house has been filled with CFLs for a long time.

    I did say:

    "I’d be happy to have someone read the cited sources and knowledgably explain why they’re wrong … "

    Haven't seen that yet...

    Your examples are rich-world high-tech consumer products, one category of which (computers) is famous for the rapidity of cost-reduction. These have little to do with where this started: "globalization reducing world poverty", because that primarily means reducing rural poverty [63% of those on *less than* $1/day worldwide according to IMF].

    In the USA, 2% of the population are farmers [due to land-grant ag schools, science/breeding, cheap energy, and lately, some help from computing technology]. They produce more food than we need, and some get paid to leave land fallow.

    A 50% cost reduction for compute power helps American farmers … but I bet most would rather get a 50% cost reduction in fertilizer or gasoline. Electronics is good for many things, including saving energy in smart buildings, routing trucks to save fuel, teleconferencing, etc, but it only modestly helps grow food or move things when they really must be moved, for which real energy gets expended.

    Is North American farming (2%, heavily mechanized) is representative of the world?

    John Deere says of farm populations
    4.4% Western Europe
    16.5% Brazil
    53.7% India
    66.6% China

    I’ve occasionally visited (nicer) farm villages in India and China and elsewhere in developing world.

    Some of these people (or a village) may even have a cellphone … which makes them “wealthier” than their parents … but they *still* do hard physical labor all day. How cheap would cars need to get for them to have one?

    But first, maybe a tractor would be good, and energy to run it. Of course low-quality roads are nice – better than none, which is what many have (in Africa, anyway). Unfortunately, building roads takes energy (human, draught, or machinery), for which low-cost consumer electronics may help a little, but not much. I’ve been in villages that had no roads, just footpaths and small boats. One such village did have a VCR+TV, run by a small generator. No cellphones (no signal).

    WHAT IS FARMING LIKE IN MUCH OF WORLD?
    Read “4.6.2 Farm power” FAO (http://www.fao.org/DOCREP/005/Y4252E/y4252e06b.htm) and look at Table 4.16 “proportion of area cultivated by different power sources.”
    (hand, draught animal, tractor)

    “Human labor is the most significant power source through-out sub-Saharan Africa.” (tsetse flies make it hard on draught animals …) and FAO expects that 45% of the land there will still be cultivated by hand in 2030. They do estimate big increases in tractors in many regions, but tractors sometimes require difficult-to-get supporting infrastructure. Of course, there are plenty of crops for which mechanization doesn’t work very well.

    If there’s any mention of “Peak oil” in FAO’s website, I couldn’t find it. For farm mechanization to continue increasing worldwide, we’re going to have to get a whole lot better with solar, wind, miscanthus, jatropha, etc. We can and will, but infrastructure doesn’t change overnight, now matter how fast oil prices go up. People are starting to build electric tractors, which with solar charging may let third-world farmers skip gasoline (that they’re not going to get anyway). http://www.renewables.com/Permaculture/ElectricTractor.htm is interesting.]

    I’m not unfamiliar with the benefits of technology progress in producing more value/energy-input, but rich-world consumer product trajectories don’t relate as much to reducing third-world poverty as do things like building roads, creating better crops tuned to local conditions, no-till farming, lower tariffs, and of course, solving many governance issues.

    re: #130 Eric

    I don’t know if having middle-class Americans’ income stagnate helps solve third-world poverty.

    I do think that Just-in-Time worldwide supply-chains that depend on flying products around from half the world away are in for serious rethinks, but even surface shipping is going to get more expensive (good news for Mexico vs China), and in fact, if transport costs get high enough, I’d expect a lot of manufacturing to disperse again to be closer to its markets.

    “Soaring Oil Prices Will Make the World Rounder”, Oct 19, 2005, in
    research.cibcwm.com/economic_public/download/occ_55.pdf

    “Cheap gasoline in Producing Countries Will Have The Rest of World Paying More”, July 18, 2007:
    research.cibcwm.com/economic_public/download/sjul07.pdf
    If you prefer something shorter:
    http://www.salon.com/tech/htww/2006/01/31/transport/index.html

    “Our per capita energy use is flat despite our economic growth.”
    Well, I’m not sure who “our” is, and I’m not sure what period is implied (for macroeconomic discussions, multiple decades makes sense) but see:
    http://www.data360.org/dsg.aspx?Data_set_Group_Id=1499

    “our” is true, (at least for electricity) since mid-1970s if you are in California (or a few other states), but for the US as a whole:
    1960 ~4 KWh/person (CA same)
    2003 ~12 Kwh/person ( CA flat ~6 since mid-1970s: good news: if you really try hard, you can get more efficient, but it takes persistent effort over decades, with no simple silver bullets. Of course, a mild climate helps.)

    For the world as a whole:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_energy_resources_and_consumption,
    see chart on (Energy Consumption vs GDP)/capita … If energy keeps getting more expensive, the US better figure out how to make a strong left-shift on that chart, because otherwise it’s down-and-left.

    As for developing countries, going to biofuels is certainly a good idea: they can’t afford much oil, and maybe they can just skip that phase (akin to skipping wires for telecom in favor of cellphones).

    Anyway, that data supports what I said. I’ll happily look at contradictory *data*.
    ========
    This may be getting further OT for RC, but really, one has to bring the same kind of analysis (numbers, relevant facts, cites) to the problem.
    Like I said:
    “vague assumptions about globalization and increased wealth aren’t very convincing.”

  48. 148
    Philippe Chantreau says:

    Re 146: the only way you can replicate the role of snowpack with dams is if, and only if, rain patterns will change in such a way to allow compensation. If there is no rain to be stored in order to compensate for the snow that was not there to melt in the first place, dams are useless.

  49. 149
    Rod B says:

    John, don’t want to trivialize your excellent post (148), but it brought back a very distant memory from 30-40 years back. An auto manufacturer (Chrysler maybe) came up with a plan to produce a bare-bones very small but useful cheap farm vehicle for the Indian market (then). Something that could be bought for a few months average income and almost double productivity (their estimate — and my memory is pretty fuzzy). They were disallowed by our gov’t because it didn’t have many (none?) nice aux safety features like seat belts.

  50. 150
    dhogaza says:

    but it brought back a very distant memory from 30-40 years back.

    Distant, and inaccurate, since the feds can only regulate vehicles sold domestically.


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