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Two degrees

Filed under: — david @ 8 July 2009

The countries of the G8 today approved a target of 2° C rise in global average temperature above the natural, preanthropogenic climate, that they resolve should be avoided. The Europeans have been pushing for 2 degrees as a target maximum temperature for several years, but this is something of a development for the Americans. We posted recently on two new papers about what it would take to limit global average warming, finding that it would require fairly strong change in trajectory. About 2° C as a target, we wrote,

… even a “moderate” warming of 2°C stands a strong chance of provoking drought and storm responses that could challenge civilized society, leading potentially to the conflict and suffering that go with failed states and mass migrations. Global warming of 2°C would leave the Earth warmer than it has been in millions of years, a disruption of climate conditions that have been stable for longer than the history of human agriculture. Given the drought that already afflicts Australia, the crumbling of the sea ice in the Arctic, and the increasing storm damage after only 0.8°C of warming so far, a target of 2°C seems almost cavalier.

Nevertheless, we view today’s development as a constructive step.


411 Responses to “Two degrees”

  1. 51
    Hank Roberts says:

    Amazing amount of chaff and red herring being thrown.
    Must be an important topic.

  2. 52
    Doug Bostrom says:

    #47 Randy L:

    Along the lines of burning down your house because it has a colony of ants living in it?

  3. 53
    Randy L says:

    #50 Doug Bostrom. Obviously you have never seen an infestation of fire ants. Are there other ways to control the ants? Yes. But if you refuse to use those less extreme methods then your only recourse may be to burn down your house. A sacrifice many of your neighbors would be more than glad for you to take in order to save their houses. But little do they know that it only spreads the ants further afield and now they too have the problem. If only they had paid attention early on and handled the ants before they became such an extreme danger.

  4. 54
    tharanga says:

    I see a lot of people here doing only one side of the cost-benefit analysis. The scientific community’s job is to lay out the probability distribution of outcomes for different scenarios.

    But you can’t just take that information and pick whatever CO2 or warming target you like. You first have to do something like the Stern review and work out the economics. I maintain this is nearly impossible to do well, but you have to try. So long as coal, gas and oil remain cheaper than anything else, you cannot glibly dismiss the costs of converting to something else. The conversion will create jobs and opportunities for some, but overall will involve quite some cost. If the conversion did not cost something, it would have happened by now anyway.

    As for the agreed 2C target: as others have said – I’ll be more interested when they agree on the means to get there.

  5. 55
    Mark says:

    ““Fully 90% of scientists …”

    2. Then it is not 98% as Oreskes maintains?

    Comment by Richard Steckis ”

    Uh, fully 90% of scientists support it. And another 8% support it.

  6. 56

    I have a couple of questions:

    Firstly, 2 degrees higher than what? The LIA, 19th Century average, 20th Century average, or 21st Century average? Does it start now, or when the US Senate approves the deal?

    Secondly, is a 2 degree limit really possible without a reduction in growth?

    Cheers, Alastair.

    [Response: Pre-industrial is generally defined in these contexts as ~1850 temperatures, though mean 19th Century would be another reasonable interpretation. - gavin]

  7. 57
    Todd Albert says:

    Why do people think that we will one day have to move to Mars to survive? Wouldn’t it be far easier to bring Earth’s climate back into balance than to try to create this balance anew elsewhere, especially on a planet with no magnetic field?

    I think that we need to instruct the public on the fact that Earth is our one and only planet. The idea that our finite resources can be used until they are gone and that we can continue to be irresponsible with what this planet offers is absurd and aggravating to real climate scientists.

    The cat pill analogy is an excellent one. (Except that some cats — or students in my case — are quite appreciative of the pill.)

  8. 58
    Mark says:

    “Firstly, 2 degrees higher than what? ”

    The pre-industrial average temperature.

    In effect, the CO2 concentration above 280ppm that will keep the warming less than 2C.

    “Secondly, is a 2 degree limit really possible without a reduction in growth?”

    Yes.

  9. 59
    Lynn Vincentnathan says:

    At this point any step forward to mitigate CC is going to be much too little much too late.

    That said, even little steps toward reduction, I think, may have great consequences. Once people actually start scratching their heads about how to reduce cost-effectively, they’ll find a bonaza of savings out there, then (this is my ardent wish) they’ll go on to surpass any government-set limits and reduce drastically, reaping in the $$.

    It’ll still be much to little much too late, it seems, even if people can reduce up to 80% within 10 years (it can’t be done overnight — that’s how long it took me). I think from what I know, the harms will be great into the next few centuries. But perhaps by doing do we may avoid runaway warming.

  10. 60

    This is an existentialist end-game debate.

    Do we change now to prolong the rapidly degrading lives of future generations, or do we give up and go fill up the Hummer?

    Or maybe just a little bit of each in each direction

    I’m gonna adopt a cat, just so I can pill it.

  11. 61
    tharanga says:

    Lynn, re 58: There are unrealised savings out there, such as through better use of fluorescent lighting, insulation, and simple conservation. Why are these unrealised? Probably a lack of awareness, the relatively low amounts of money saved by each action (electricity is cheap), and long payback periods – sure, installing insulation will save you money over the course of ten years, but what if you don’t want to foot the up-front bill?

    But let’s not pretend that there are so many ways to reduce both cost and emissions. Those actions alone will not do the trick; one has to be honest and see that many necessary steps will reduce emissions but increase cost.

  12. 62
    Mark says:

    “But let’s not pretend that there are so many ways to reduce both cost and emissions. Those actions alone will not do the trick;”

    And you’ve done the sums to show this?

    I don’t think so…

  13. 63
    ccpo says:

    #49 Edward: Clouds

    Gonna save us all? Keep dreaming. As usual a denialist pops up and ignores everything I’ve said and tosses out their talking point: Clouds! Bad GCMs, bad!

    You can disabuse yourself of this fantasy by simply looking at the world around you. The science starts in the natural world and it ends there. Mother Earth is talking to you with a sledge hammer upside your head.

    It’s time you started listening.

    Cheers

  14. 64

    Mark – What are your thoughts about the analysis by Ramanathan and Feng (PNAS, Sept 17,2008: http://dx.doi.org/10.1073/pnas.0803838105), in which they calculate the committed warming of cumulative emissions since the pre-industrial era as in the region of 2.4°C (with a confidence interval of 1.4°C to 4.3°C), based on calculating the equilibrium temperature if GHG concentrations are held at 2005 levels into the future.

    Doesn’t this contradict the analysis you point to by Allen et al and Meinshausen et al, both of which calculate a cumulative emissions budget that include substantial future emissions, to keep us within the 2°C limit?

    Is Ramanathan’s analysis too pessimistic? I can’t tell how they’ve accounted for natural removal by the oceans, and they do assume other forcings (such as cooling from aerosols) are removed.
    Or are Allen and Meinshausen too optimistic?

    It seems that, regardless of whether the 2°C limit is politically possible, it might not even be physically possible.

  15. 65

    Dr Hansen sounds positively negative on all this:

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dr-james-hansen/g-8-failure-reflects-us-f_b_228597.html

    There are ways to move forward without all countries always falling apart on cynically doomed agreements bent on Carbon capping.

    I suggest renewables not yet invented. As I will propose soon one prototype (which theoretically renders current wind renewables as primitive).
    I believe that the solution is to render all dirty energy forms more expensive than new renewables,
    We should spend our energies not entirely on moving behemoth governments not easily motivated to change their convenient pollution ways, but on inventing newer technologies, like the invention of the clock, basically giving birth to new energy world order. RC should have a special section on renewables, because it turns out, renewables and climate science are intertwined a lot closer than you can imagine. Understanding climate intimitly makes one a great renewable inventor!

  16. 66
    tharanga says:

    Mark, Re 61:

    I haven’t had to; the IPCC WG3 and Nicholas Stern have done so. The IPCC report identifies how much CO2 reduction can be realised at no net economic cost. They are significant, but not nearly enough.

    Sir Stern speaks of having to spend 1-2% of global GDP in the near term in order to stabilise CO2 levels at whichever point he chose. That’s a huge cost. He says this is cost is worthwhile, as the costs of avoided problems down the road would be even greater.

    You can agree or disagree with Stern’s methodology (and there is much discussion on it), but for heaven’s sake, let’s not pretend there would be no cost in the short or medium term for reducing emissions. Oil, coal and gas are cheap; nuclear, solar, wind and biomass are currently more expensive. You can’t wish that fact away.

  17. 67
    Mark says:

    Are you talking about post #57? Steve?

  18. 68
    Mark says:

    PS Steve #64, what do YOU think?

  19. 69
    Doug Bostrom says:

    tharanga 9 Jul 2009 at 10:03 am

    “The conversion will create jobs and opportunities for some, but overall will involve quite some cost. ”

    An excellent reminder. Cost is cash flow; we’re not talking about sequestering money but instead changing the directions in which it is flowing.

    Changing our energy sources will involve changing the direction of cash flow, but no cash will actually vanish, not if a change in energy sources implies the creation of markets. That appears to be true; I have not seen any genuinely serious suggestion that we simply turn out our lights, toss our car keys in the trash and hunker down in mud huts. Rather, there appears to be a surfeit of competing ideas for products and solutions, all of which demand investment and expenditure of money. Even the dead ends will result in money spent and earned, and up until now we seem to have had no difficulty with letting things sort themselves out in that way.

    There will be losers here to the extent that a great deal of money is currently headed in the direction of a relatively few concerns as it stands today, with that money sooner or later heading somewhere else. Naturally those benefiting from the present arrangement are anxious about the situation. They have a fiduciary responsibility to maintain the status quo as long as possible, after all.

  20. 70
    Doug Bostrom says:

    Randy L 9 Jul 2009 at 10:01 am:

    Randy, my analogy was to point out that making our fate and letting it take its course is wrong; there’s too much collateral damage involved unless we’re ok with playingu the same role as a large, dumb rock striking the planet.

    Amusingly, I have spent an inordinate amount of time with fire ants and their handiwork, both digging them out of electrical panels as well as futilely scratching at their bites. I’m still puzzled about how it is an evolutionary advantage for them to be so psychotically aggressive; I suppose it’s something about dominating all possible food sources as well as trying to eat anything that moves. Where I dealt with them they eliminated both their larger cousins as well as most game animals plus snakes and virtually all creatures having no way of escaping them.

  21. 71
    Lucibee says:

    The UK Guardian was a little less enthusiastic about the news:

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/jul/09/g8-climate-change-agreement

    The draft states: “We recognise the scientific view that the increase in global average temperature above pre-industrial levels ought not to exceed two degrees centigrade.”

    But unfortunately that doesn’t commit them to finding a way to prevent such a scenario from occurring. Also, defining the target in terms of temperature when we know there is a substantial lag seems to be quite useless. They should be concentrating on emissions and not effects that they can always blame on someone else if/when it all goes pear-shaped. Most of those involved in the negotiations will be long gone by the time such a temperature rise occurs, or maybe some of them will actually live to regret their inaction. Either way, I hope they can do better in December…

  22. 72
    Mark says:

    “Sir Stern speaks of having to spend 1-2% of global GDP in the near term in order to stabilise CO2 levels at whichever point he chose.”

    But the 12% GDP spent on the military isn’t considered lost money.

    In fact much effort is spent to make sure that level of spending IS spent.

    (I think that 12% is what the US spends…)

  23. 73
    Mark says:

    PS:

    It costs me £3000 to fit double glazing and increase lagging in the loft.

    But not doing so costs me more. Even in the rise of the sellable price of the house (how many TV programs have people spending £700 on paint and plaster to spruce up the house and sell the house for £2000 more?)

  24. 74
    Mark says:

    PS Thuranga, how much more money would be spent on oil if we didn’t change to renewables?

    If that is more than the “cost” of moving to renewables, then there is, actually, a saving.

    Or is there another method that isn’t

    a) moving to renewables
    or
    b) staying with irreplaceable fossil fuels

    and doesn’t cost more than either?

    Got the sums?

  25. 75
    Chris G says:

    @ #47
    The answer is too long for this format and has been answered many, many times already, but here is a synopsis.
    http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2004/12/how-do-we-know-that-recent-cosub2sub-increases-are-due-to-human-activities-updated/

    An even shorter version is: It is getting warmer; CO2 is a greenhouse gas and so an increase in it will drive warming (logarithmically without feedbacks); we are taking many gigatons of C out of the earth and dumping it into the biosphere as CO2; the increase in CO2 and the change of isotopes in the C are consistent with the source being the fossil fuels we are burning. There are no other sources of the magnitude required.

    @ #48
    In nature you see boom and bust cycles fairly regularly. Well, most of the more serious ones I know of are related to man upsetting some balance; so, they are not strictly within the “natural” world. The problem is that the busts look terribly unpleasant to live through; most of the population suffers starvation and disease. Also, the populations tend to occilate(sp) around a natural carrying capacity; the highs are higher and the lows are lower. We may very well be heading to a Malthusian limit on human population, but I think it would be better to hit that limit softer rather than harder. The pattern seems to be that the greater the overshoot, the more precipitous the fall, the more damage the environment sustains, and the longer the recovery period. Sometimes the environment is so damaged that the recovery is yet to be seen.

    Climate change is having, or will have, the effect of lowering the carrying capacity, at least for normal human timeframes; so, that means that whatever the overshoot is, it will be greater with greater effects of climate change. I would prefer to live through a, say, 500 million reduction than, say, a 3 billion reduction.

  26. 76
    tharanga says:

    Mark re 72: That’s exactly what I mean by unrealised opportunities for saving money AND cutting emissions. The question is, why don’t more people do such things? I suggest lack of awareness, and high up-front cost/long payback period. In a recession, people might not make that investment now. Assuming you did not sell the house, how long would it take for those home improvements to pay for themselves?

    Mark re 73: I don’t follow. If coal cost 4 cents per kWh, and solar costs 20 cents, then where do you find a savings by switching? You switch to avoid future adverse climate impacts, but you save nothing up front.

    Doug re 68: Take it one step further. Yes, you are changing the direction of the cash flows. But to what consequence? The consumer pays more for what, as far as he cares, is a commodity: 1 unit of energy. The TV works the same, no matter what the electricity source is. That comes with an opportunity cost – he could have spent that money on something else. Everything you might do would cost a little bit more.

    How would you react if I told you that from tomorrow, you’d have to pay double the price for the exact same quantity and quality good you got before – say, for health care, or internet access? You would not see this as simply money flowing in a different direction, but you’d see it as a step backwards for the overall productivity of the economy.

    Likewise with energy. Deciding to pay more for something we already have (energy) would decrease overall productivity and thus economic growth. According to many economists, it is worth paying that cost, because the losses due to climate change would be even worse, but there will be negative economic impacts all the same.

    Some people will see net benefit, such as those with newly created ‘green’ jobs. But on the balance, there is a net cost. It’s worth paying that cost, but don’t pretend there is no cost.

    Mark re 71: The US spends 4% of GDP on military. Well, that’s a matter of priorities, isn’t it? I’m happy to spend 1-2% of GDP per year on reducing CO2 emissions. But to convince others to do the same, one has to describe the economic costs of inaction. Hence, the Stern Report, and other such works.

  27. 77
    SecularAnimist says:

    tharanga wrote: “Oil, coal and gas are cheap; nuclear, solar, wind and biomass are currently more expensive.”

    Oil, coal and gas appear to be cheap as long as their actual, full cost is externalized and foisted on the public. Which is exactly the scam that the fossil fuel corporations have gotten away with for a century or so, to their vast profit, and to the grave detriment of everyone else.

    And you don’t even need to consider the current, and inevitably, astronomically escalating costs of anthropogenic global warming to see that — just consider the cost of the direct detrimental effects of toxic air pollution from fossil fuels on human health.

    tharanga wrote: “How would you react if I told you that from tomorrow, you’d have to pay double the price for the exact same quantity and quality good you got before …”

    How would you react if I told you that from tomorrow, you can no longer flush your toilet into my kitchen, but have to pay for a sewer?

  28. 78
    Mark says:

    “Mark re 72: That’s exactly what I mean by unrealised opportunities for saving money AND cutting emissions.”

    Well, maybe I was concentrating on the negative word “cost”.

    EVERYTHING costs.

    But, when we pay half price for a shirt, we say “we’ve save £10″ not “It cost £10″.

    Saying “changing over to renewables will cost” implies (unless you clarify) that this will cost more.

    When in fact, it will likely cost less.

    But still cost.

    Your folow-up using the Stern Report and saying “It will cost 1-2% of GDP” leaves out “It will cost much more if we don’t”. Again, implying by omission of that “cost more” that this is a cost that we will have to bear ABOVE any cost doing nothing will have.

  29. 79

    #63 – oops, I meant to address the comment to David and the other RealClimate folks. Sorry for confusing everyone (esp. Mark).

  30. 80
    Michael says:

    theranga 75 “According to many economists, it is worth paying that cost, because the losses due to climate change would be even worse…”

    Do you have any sources for this?

  31. 81
    Jim Heath says:

    The political will to limit CO2 emissions does not exist in this country. It is hard enough to get people to pay for tangible benefits, let alone pay to prevent potential future threats like climate change. Increasing energy efficiency and weaning ourselves from foreign energy sources are causes that people can believe in. Adaptation will be the response to climate change. Whether we like it or not.

  32. 82
    Doug Bostrom says:

    tharanga says 9 July 2009 at 2:05 PM

    “How would you react if I told you that from tomorrow, you’d have to pay double the price for the exact same quantity and quality good you got before – say, for health care, or internet access? You would not see this as simply money flowing in a different direction, but you’d see it as a step backwards for the overall productivity of the economy.”

    Doubled overnight? Very scary. But that’s not what’s going to happen, we’re not -that- stupid. Unlike gasoline prices, which did double practically overnight last year and did not bring the world to an end, the changes we’re discussing are going to happen over the course of years. Let’s not let our need for rhetorical impact infect our discussion to the point we’re in la-la land.

    Here’s something about which I’m sure we can agree: Fossil fuels will naturally over the course of time become more expensive, more so if we don’t bring other sources of energy online. In fact, fossil fuels will absolutely without a doubt more than double in price eventually, and they’ll do so faster or slower in correlation with how slowly or quickly we bring substitutes online. The faster we get other energy sources online, the more slowly will the price of fossil fuels advance. So if you like cheap fossil fuels, now is a great time to begin spending money on substitutes. More money will thus be freed up for purposes other than setting it on fire.

    As far as replacement like-for-like goes, a KWH of fossil-generated energy is inferior to a KWH of, for instance, PV energy. Fossil fuels are inherently filthy, cleaning up the mess they leave behind is expensive and ignoring that mess is no longer practical or even affordable. It would be cheaper for me to have my sewer ending in my backyard, if I didn’t mind the stench and disease and expense accompanying that economic choice; fossil fuel pollution is a little less obvious so we’ve been able to ignore it more easily until now. No more.

    “Deciding to pay more for something we already have (energy) would decrease overall productivity and thus economic growth.”

    We’re not deciding to pay more for something we already have, we’re deciding to pay for something else. In the medium to long run, we’re deciding to substitute something less expensive as a means for doing the same things we’re doing today.

    Again, all of this is inevitably going to happen, slowly, while curves for costs and prices are unavoidably shifting for reasons including those having nothing directly to do with combating global warming. There’s no avoiding it.

    Why are we so reluctant to do the necessary work in front of us?

  33. 83

    38 tharanga: Sticking to science: Read “Collapse” by Jared Diamond and “The Long Summer” by Brian Fagan. IT HAS HAPPENED BEFORE!!!!!!!!! At least 2 dozen times. And the temperature change was a fraction of a degree! Agriculture just now collapsed in Australia. Last year Australia produced 1.4 Million tons of rice, this year only 65000 tons of rice. Australia had a wheat crop 15 years ago, but not recently. A few of the deceased civilizations: Maya, Anasazi in Chaco Canyon, the Caananites, the Vikings on Greenland.

  34. 84
    tharanga says:

    Secular Animist Re 76: That is absolutely correct, and is implicit to my points. The adverse effects of CO2 on the climate are unpriced externalities. Thus, we need government action to price that in. Though even with a carbon price, some alternative energies would still be uncompetitive, and would require further research and development.

    ___

    My main point is that we need to convince the public that we ought to take such action. The purpose of RealClimate is to educate people on the physics, but that is only half the story. After the physics comes the biology (impact on agriculture and wildlife) and finally the economics.

    You CANNOT assume that people will want to pay the costs to avoid a 2 C temperature rise, just for the sake of it. You’ll have to convince them that we’ll be worse off, economically, if we don’t. Moral arguments will simply not work for many; it has to be economic. Like it or not.

    We’re probably all more comfortable with physics here, but we need to read and approach the economics literature with the same critical eye.

    Mark re 77:

    I still don’t follow.

    Everything costs, and unfortunately, nuclear/solar/wind/biomass all cost more than oil/gas/coal. It’s simple arithmetic – coal is very very cheap and will remain so, unless and until you raise its cost using a carbon tax or cap-and-trade, to account for its ill effects.

    But it’s a cost worth paying, if you accept the Stern Report, which estimates that the long term cost of not doing so is much worse. I didn’t omit that at all.

    _____

    I’d put it this way: our choices are slower growth now (due to adopting nuclear/solar/whatever), or much worse slower growth later (allowing continued warming and its ill effects). To convince a sceptic, you’ll have to quantify the ‘worse’ part. To have any credibility at all, though, you have to acknowledge the upfront costs.

  35. 85
    pete best says:

    Re #64. Hansens piece just demonstrates how intractable a problem this issue is but when you come down to it only 3 continents pose an issue on this problem. North America, Europe and Asia. If the new energy technologies were immediately for deployment and had been proven to be viable and economic then off we would go. However it does not look that way, we need efficiency gains in every area to go with new energy sources and it seems to be expensive and Governments seem loathe to reallocate GDP towards these large scale revisions in their political systm. From the trustable and well known fossil fuel lobbying to something totally new and odd.

    The sheer scale of the problem for the UK alone is just beyond belief. Our seas will need to have tens of thousands to these wind turbines deployed at several per week to do the job in time and only shallow offshore is viable at the present time and that is inline with existing baseload fossil fuel coal and gas fired power plants along with existing nuclear ones to. Phasing out coal in favour of wind might not be as easy to achieve in a time frame and viable political and economic way. We have yet to see anything but vague to plans for emissions cuts, no detailed plans of how to achive it!!

  36. 86
    tharanga says:

    Doug re 80:

    Point is, doing a “like-for-like” replacement (subbing solar for coal, for example) and paying more for it is a decrease in productivity, and thus would tend to decrease overall economic growth.

    Of course, in terms of impact on climate, the two are not alike. The issue is of time scales. If I build a solar or nuclear plant today, I pay a lot today. But I do it anyway, so that my children are not paying even more, 50 years from now, because of the effects of global warming.

    It’s because of the disparate time scales that the issue is ultimately difficult, politically. It takes effort to convince a human being to pay more now, in order to have some benefit in 2050.
    __

    I agree that oil and probably natural gas will become more expensive over time; simple supply and demand will see to that. In the absence of regulation, perhaps not coal; the coal supply is enormous and cheap to extract.

    But I don’t like my fossil fuels to be cheap; in fact I NEED them to become more expensive. Otherwise, there is no incentive for utility companies to switch to other sources. Oil at $137 is a beautiful thing for people working on alternative energy.

  37. 87
    Hank Roberts says:

    > The political will to limit CO2 emissions ….

    Changes with each election. Change happens.

  38. 88

    #67 – Mark – Here’s what I think of it:
    http://www.easterbrook.ca/steve/?p=692

  39. 89
    Johnno says:

    Re #5 I think there is a good chance that Peak Oil could dramatically slow coal use within the next decade. We have to find low carbon alternatives regardless of AGW.

    On 2 vs 0.8C of warming I guess that depends on whether that is old style weather a tad warmer or an increase in extremes.

  40. 90
    Doug Bostrom says:

    tharanga says 9 July 2009 at 3:56 PM:

    I see what you’re saying, in terms that work for an economist it’s a loss of productivity. Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against economists, why some of my best friends are economists, but they have their culture and we have ours.

    Seriously, I wonder what happens if we work out the numbers? What’s the net effect on productivity over 5, 10, 20 and 40 years between torching a dollar versus investing it? Approaching an answer requires YAM (or Yet Another Model).

    Here’s a bunch of interesting stuff:

    http://realclimateeconomics.org/discounting_and_intergen_ethics.html

    but I don’t see where anybody has actually modeled the choice between burning a dollar now versus investing it in more modern energy sources. Is it actually reasonable to hypothesize (as I happily do) that investment of a dollar will produce a more predictable and even favorable outcome for productivity than combusting it?

  41. 91
    David B. Benson says:

    Chris Dudley (21, 40) — Based on some limited knowledge about glaciers and ice sheets, I am of the fairly firm opinion that nothing above 300 ppm CO2e preserves a “safe” climate, in the long run. That’s about the same as your 280 ppm CO2 (alone).

  42. 92

    45 Gareth John Evans: “1) Nuclear Power – actually has a large carbon footprint in life cycle terms. Uranium is a limited resource – there could be supply problems within 20-30 years (see, http://www.sd-commission.org.uk/publications/downloads/Nuclear-paper8-UraniumResourceAvailability.pdf ) Major security issues.”

    The source you quoted is very probably sponsored by the coal industry. Reference: “Google and the myth of universal knowledge” by Jean-Noel Jeanneney 2007 The original is in French. When you do a Google search, you get “sponsored” links on the right side and “non-sponsored” links on the left. The “NON-SPONSORED” links on Google ARE LISTED IN THE ORDER OF THE HIGHEST BIDDER to lowest bidder. Companies pay dollars to Google to get web sites other than their own that lie in favor of the paying company to be at the top of the “non-sponsored” list. Companies pay dollars to Google to get web sites other than their own that lie in favor of the paying company to be at the top of the “non-sponsored” list. Google search results in your getting nothing but corporate propaganda. Since the coal industry has a $100 Billion per year income at stake, they can and must share a lot of money with Google.

    1a: Nuclear power has the SMALLEST carbon footprint of ANY source of electricity. Wind turbines and solar collectors of any type actually require a lot more concrete per kilowatt hour delivered because so many of them are needed.

    1b: We have enough nuclear fuel for 5000 YEARS!!!!!!!! All we have to do is recycle spent fuel, breed thorium into Uranium 234 and use diluted plutonium as fuel. Don’t worry, power plants make the wrong isotope of plutonium to make bombs.

    1bb: Uranium can be mined all over the world. Australia alone has, did or could mine uranium in 2 dozen places. Egypt has 10 potential uranium mines. The US has many uranium mines.

    1bbb: Coal ashes and cinders contain so much uranium and thorium that more energy goes into coal cinders and ash in the form of uranium and thorium than you get by burning the coal. For Illinois coal, the coal for one coal fired power plant has enough uranium alone for up to 103 nuclear power plants of the same size.

    1c: Nuclear is the ONLY source of electricity that is cheaper than coal on a per kilowatt hour basis. Nuclear power would LOWER your electric bill by 30%. Solar and wind would multiply your electric bill many times, and add $10,000./year for batteries. Nuclear is also the safest.

    Books that tell the truth about nuclear power that are easy enough for anybody to read:
    “Power to Save the World; The Truth About Nuclear Energy” by
    Gwyneth Cravens, 2007
    “Environmentalists for Nuclear Energy” by B. Comby. The original is in French Available only from: http://www.comby.org/livres/livresen.htm 100 Euros. Also available in English

    Better URLs on the subject of nuclear power:
    http://www.cleansafeenergy.org/
    http://www.comby.org/livres/livresen.htm
    http://www.comby.org/media/articles/articles.in.english/
    http://www.ecolo.org
    http://www.hyperionpowergeneration.com
    http://bravenewclimate.com/integral-fast-reactor-ifr-nuclear-power/

  43. 93
    Doug Bostrom says:

    In the news, everybody’s got a month to sharpen their knives prior to the Senate taking up the climate change bill:

    http://thehill.com/leading-the-news/senate-to-wait-on-climate-bill-till-after-break-2009-07-09.html

    Comedian Inhofe makes this thigh-slapper remark: “So with this delay, the public should expect more arm-twisting and backroom deals — or, in other words, more business as usual in Washington.”

    I’m sure he makes that statement from a position of great authority.

  44. 94

    From Jeffrey Davis:

    “You may be right. Humans have an horizon of concern measured in weeks, not decades. We’re probably going to just blow past the point of no return. If one were looking for a way to rid the planet of a pesky species, AGW is startling in its simplicity: addict the beasts to carbon energy.”

    I think that with the political and economic headwinds at hand, as less expensive as it might be, prevention has become a hopeless goal. I think mitigation is the only thing to do. The trouble is, given the increased marginal cost of mitigation, the economic headwinds, and beliefs by many that scientists don’t have the climate thing right (per the great post of yesterday regarding Mooney’s “Unscientific America”) or that the Divine will simply “take care of good people” no matter, I don’t see pursuit of mitigation as being something people or politicians are going to back either.

    So, we are in a Cassandra moment, analogous to the few who foresaw the credit derivatives debacle, knowing Bad Things are coming, unable to convince people that they need to prepare, and watching it play out in slow motion. People will eventually mobilize — after enough body bags with Americans are filled. (They only put up traffic controls at intersections when enough are killed, don’t they?) There’s also the risk, a decade or two from now, of a backlash against scientists, as ridiculous as that might be: “Why didn’t you TELL us it was going to be so bad??!”

    I think we need more “before and after” pictures akin to the Arctic ice ones from NASA, except possibly showing coastal states and ocean states.

    I know it sounds terrible, and I wish it weren’t true, but maybe we’ll get “lucky” and an 1821-type Eastern seaboard hurricane will come long and WAKE PEOPLE UP? (This is even acknowledging that the causal tie of such an event to climage change may not be scientifically demonstrable.) That’s a heck of a way to pursue what should be a rationale response to looming danger.

  45. 95
    RichardC says:

    I think we’ve already passed critical tipping points, so the only way to keep temps below the two degree target will be with geoengineering.

    75 Tharanga said, “The US spends 4% of GDP on military.”

    That’s only the base military budget, excluding the wars, nukes, veterans, and lots of other stuff. The US spends close to 10% of GDP on current and deferred military costs (deferred as in the cost of taking care of widows and the disabled)

    On costs of renewables:
    Oil has extremely inelastic supply. Once a well is dug, most owners will pump oil regardless of price. National sources, such as in the Mideast, need the money. Private sources, such as a Texas farmer, lose the oil if not pumped, since their neighbours pumps will keep going and the oil will migrate. Besides, the farmer probably needs the cash too. This means that if we reduce demand, the price will collapse. Remember last year? $147 oil. That level will return shortly unless we reduce demand. So spending a chunk of change on renewables will save plenty of money in the cost of oil. A reasonable policy would be to build up to a $125/barrel tax on oil, to be mostly rebated per adult citizen while concurrently dropping demand via the expansion of renewables using a chunk of the tax. Over the course of a few years, the price of oil would drop to $25, which is the cost of tar sand oil. This would deter new oil exploration. The same tax per ton of CO2 should go on coal and natural gas, resulting in a no-net-cost (except to the fossil fuel industry) way to switch to renewables. It’s a bit more complicated than this, but the math works.

  46. 96
    Doug Bostrom says:

    Edward Greisch says9 July 2009 at 4:44 PM

    Edward, gross oversimplifications such as

    “Solar and wind would multiply your electric bill many times, and add $10,000./year for batteries. ”

    make you sound like a sponsored link. Why not stick w/the truth, or at least if you’re going to make comparisons keep them honest, or do the homework you need to perform to improve your credibility.

    Do you -really- think proponents of PV power are suggesting that every home will have a battery bank?

    For that matter, do you actually believe that the duty cycle and size requirements of an off-grid PV system require $10,000/year of operational costs for batteries?

    Why should I believe anything you say, when you’re slinging transparently inaccurate b——t like that? Either you’re making it up because you don’t know any better, or you do know better and are saying it to work your agenda. Either way, your credibility tanks.

  47. 97
    Mark says:

    “Point is, doing a “like-for-like” replacement (subbing solar for coal, for example) and paying more for it is a decrease in productivity, and thus would tend to decrease overall economic growth.”

    Uh, paying subsidies for oil at the moment (to the tune of a trillion dollars for the US alone…) is a decrease in productivity.

    Since you don’t have to invade another country to control your own sunlight or wind or tides, this would represent a HUGE saving with all those unneeded tax dollars being spent not on one-shot (pun not intended) bombs and bullets, but spend in the US itself.

    Saying that changing to renewables will “cost” is misleading. Saying changing to renewables will cost more than staying with oil is not misleading, but may well be wrong, and at least is a statement that can be tested.

    So when you say the changes will cost, no changes will cost too.

    Which will cost more?

    And according to the Stern report, not changing will cost more.

    So leave out the weasel wording. Say what you mean and defend it.

  48. 98
    Mark says:

    “I’d put it this way: our choices are slower growth now (due to adopting nuclear/solar/whatever), or much worse slower growth later (allowing continued warming and its ill effects).”

    But you only said the first half.

    Missing out the second.

  49. 99
    John E. Pearson says:

    Re 55: “Secondly, is a 2 degree limit really possible without a reduction in growth?”

    It seems to me that an equally important question is: “Is undiminished economic growth possible with a 2 degree or more rise?”

  50. 100
    tharanga says:

    Doug re 88: I don’t know about “culture”. Reduced growth is felt by all, economist or no. The issue is convincing people that having reduced growth now is worthwhile, in order to prevent worse things happening to our children.

    The link you provide discusses the major hornet’s nest opened by Nicholas Stern in his report: discounting – how to value future costs, now. That’s been a huge point of discussion, and I’ll not presume to have a handle on it.

    As for the maths you request: Flip through the Stern report, and you’ll see things along those lines. Such economic models are just fiendishly challenging, though – how can you predict the rate of technological advancement, for example? How do you predict the economic cost of damaged ecosystems? How do you predict the economic effects of ocean acidification? This is all harder than working out the radiative heat transfer.

    There is a reason I’m insistent on being up-front about the up-front costs:

    Polling shows that people want to take action on climate change, but they don’t want to pay for it. You will not get the political will for change UNLESS people realise that it will cost something in the short and medium term, and accept that it’s a price worth paying.


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