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Musing about Losing Earth

The NY Times Magazine has a special issue this weekend on climate change. The main article is “Losing the Earth” by Nathaniel Rich, is premised on the idea that in the period 1979 to 1989 when we basically knew everything we needed to know that climate change was a risk, and the politics had not yet been polarized, we missed our opportunity to act. Stated this way, it would probably be uncontroversial, but since the article puts the blame for this on “human nature”, rather than any actual humans, extensive Twitter discussion ensues…

Before we link to some of the more thoughtful responses, a quick reminder that a lot of people read the NY Times magazine (far more than follow any climate scientists on Twitter or Facebook), and that as David Roberts at Vox has pointed out, having differently-told climate stories – even if they are manifestly imperfect, might help broaden the conversation and basic awareness that this is a story worth delving into. Secondly, the last big NY Times magazine story I remember related to climate was the execrable profile of Freeman Dyson – a fascinating topic in theory, but one which focused on the least interesting thing about him – a barely warmed up stew of stale climate skepticism.

The article itself is supported by a lot of background work, some visually stunning photography by George Steinmetz and lesson plans hosted by the Pulitzer Center.

So, here is some of the more interesting commentary:

From Emily Atkin at New Republic:

“Losing Earth” is an impressive piece of journalism for several reasons. One is simply that it’s the Times’ longest-ever article—and it’s about global warming. This comes at a time when much of the news media is failing to live up to its responsibilities covering climate change, an issue that affects the entire population, hundreds of ecosystems, and every economic sector. Rich’s story, too, is proof that the climate story can be told in an engaging—fast-moving, human-centric, funny, and frustrating—way.

And the insights about human nature are worth pondering. “We’re a medium-term species,” he said in April. “We plan ahead, but only so far. We’re willing to sacrifice comfort in the present for security in the future, but within reason.” But the fossil fuel industry and Republicans know that, and have successfully exploited it for the last thirty years. “Losing Earth” is thus not the whole story of human’s failure to act on climate change. Its flaw is that it’s painted as such.

From Leah Stokes:

From Alex Steffen:

Both Climate Progress and Huffington Post have quotes from scientists (including Mike Mann, Bob Brulle, Jennifer Francis and David Titley) who are generally not supportive of the main conclusion.

Naomi Klein has her own idea of whose fault it was:

When I looked at the same period, I came to a very different conclusion: that what at first seemed like our best shot at lifesaving climate action had in retrospect suffered from an epic case of historical bad timing. Because what becomes clear when you look back at this juncture is that just as governments were getting together to get serious about reining in the fossil fuel sector, the global neoliberal revolution went supernova, and that project of economic and social reengineering clashed with the imperatives of both climate science and corporate regulation at every turn.

The failure to make even a passing reference to this other global trend that was unfolding in the late ’80s represents an unfathomably large blind spot in Rich’s piece.

At this point in a post, I’m supposed to summarise all of this and give my own informed opinion but… truth be told, I’m on vacation, and I haven’t got around to reading it all yet. So rather than demonstrate my own confirmation bias, let’s open it up. Maybe I’ll have something to say later this week…

207 Responses to “Musing about Losing Earth”

  1. 101
    Carrie says:

    Dan the other big flawed assumption in the theory is that individual people (that’s 300 million in the US) will spend their bonus Carbon Tax Dividend on shifting to “renewable energy” options and less carbon intensive purchases.

  2. 102
    Fergus Brown says:

    There’s a gaping hole in all of this (MOO). Whether the reference point is the 80’s or now. Nobody has mentioned the influence or relevance of the Military part of the ‘military industrial complex’.

    While I lived in a British city with a strong military link I had several very senior military officers as social acquaintances. The two most common subjects of discussion, once they knew I was ‘into’ climate and worked in renewable energy, were climate change impacts and alternative energy resources.

    Working at a longer timescale, strategically, all militaries rely on logistics, with control of energy supply being at the hub. (No fuel = no defence). In this domain, which is hugely powerful and influential behind the scenes, FFs are King, largely because there is no current alternative viable on a suitable scale.

    In short: the Military need oil. They know that to function they must have control of the line of supply and secure medium-term stocks. Abandoning FF is not currently feasible in terms of defence strategy. For politicians as well as soldiers this is a baseline.

    Until there is a viable alternative on an adequate scale, nothing much is going to change in terms of FF policy relative to climate change.

  3. 103
    zebra says:

    #90 Bill Duncan,

    Yes, of course, but this is third rail territory– nobody wants to discuss it, for various reasons, some less savory than others.

    I would take issue with your point about immigration, though. In terms of global population, immigration is beneficial.

    Think about a woman subsistence farmer in Africa. She will have six children because they provide labor and “social security”. And, so will her daughters, and granddaughters.

    However, move her to Europe or USA. She may still have six children, because of her socialization, but her daughters most likely will not, and her granddaughters certainly not. And the age of first birth will almost certainly increase as well.

    Now, also, consider the effect on the woman’s sister who stays in the African village, and her offspring. The emigre, and her offspring, can affect them both economically and socially such that it will lower fertility rates in the native country as well.

    So, immigration, and globalization as well, are well established mechanisms for accelerating the reduction of global population. As I pointed out earlier, China is now concerned by the lack of fertility in some sectors of its population. Who woulda thunk it a few years ago?

  4. 104
    Susan Anderson says:

    Technical point (Mike Roddy@~86). When posting a link, delete everything after the “?” Your Common Dreams looks like this: *

    But, Mike, for the general public the NYTimes articles is far from irrelevant. It covers a great deal of history with considerable accuracy. You complain about the generalizations, which indicates to me that you ignored most of it. While the choir will agree with you, others will tune you out.

    Your description of the NYTimes article is counterfactual, which means you undermine your argument.

    It is all too common for people to read part of the material they criticize and skim the rest. This is not how scientists work and lacks proper skepticism. It is unhelpful to imitate our opponents’ tactics of changing the facts.

    *(Mike’s Common Dreams reference title: “A ‘Hothouse’ Future for Humanity: Scientists Behind Terrifying Climate Analysis Hope They Are Wrong: This is, by far, the biggest political issue in the world. It is the one thing that will affect everyone on the planet for centuries to come. Why isn’t everyone shouting it from the rooftops?”)

  5. 105
    Dan H. says:


    Jerome Puskin:

    It is unrealistic to expect a poor country to assign a high dollar amount to future damage by greenhouse gases.

    Unless that poor country hopes to sell its products to a rich country. Which is why it’s up to the US to impose, in addition to a per-tonne carbon fee on domestic fossil fuel producers, a per-tonne tariff on the embodied carbon on imported goods. We better not wait too long, either. The buying power of the US consumer is still globally potent, but that window is closing.

    Are you actually saying that the U.S. should impose economical sanctions on the poor, in effect forcing them to employ more expensive technology (which they can ill-afford), while the rest of the world enjoys the benefits of cheaper energy? How callous! These folks are barely scraping by, and you want to punish them for trying to improve their lot.

  6. 106

    i know there has been alot of studies done on how emissions from gas engines and coal burning.and how it is a big cause of global warming. Has there been any studies on wind turbines and the amount of energy they are taking for the weather system. i would imagine at some point this stolen energy is going to impact our weather in a big way and maybe it is already.

  7. 107

    I don’t disagree with Rich that human nature hobbles our ability to deal with slow unfolding crises, but the GOP bears more blame than he assigns>
    Here’s a thought experiment about an alternative history. Imagine there had been no Iranian hostage crisis. Jimmy Carter would almost certainly been re-elected and the findings of Gus Speth’s special commission on climate change would have moved towards policy, rather than the waste basket as they did under Reagan. The discovery of the ozone hole would have added to the urgency (by focusing minds on the perils of messing with the atmosphere), and the U.S. would have provided leadership in the 1980s rather than being the skunk at the garden party on international agreements. There probably would have been a push towards renewables and the technological advances that make them economically viable would have come sooner. And maybe China and India would have committed less to coal as they electrified and industrialized. Assuredly though we wouldn’t have been throwing gasoline on a bonfire as we’ve been doing during GOP administrations. I’m not letting capitalism off the hook, just saying that who’s in charge has mattered deeply in the unfolding climate change tragedy.

  8. 108
    Mal Adapted says:

    Mr. Ironically Anosognosic Typist:

    If AGW believers would just walk their talk, the deniers would be insignificant, and CO2 belching would be cut significantly. But they aren’t willing to sacrifice unless they can FORCE you to sacrifice. The want control. Of everything. They think they know what’s better for you than you do – in every aspect of your life. That’s why they’ve lost power. We’ve had enough of it.

    Mr. IAT appears lost in his Manichaean fantasy of culture war between ‘you’, i.e. deontological ‘libertarians’ like himself who are defenders of Good, and ‘they’, i.e. ‘liberals’, who are one-dimensional minions of Evil. He insists those who understand and accept the scientific consensus case for AGW are ‘believers’, whose motives must be ulterior because ‘they’ (i.e. any AGW ‘believer’) don’t ‘walk their talk’. His argument is self-sealing, of course, since he came to RC presupposing AGW to be a nefarious plot by his imaginary liberal demons, to revoke his sacred freedom to force other people to pay for his private living expenses at the price of their homes, livelihoods and lives!

    In Mr. IAT’s worldview, however, even a revenue-neutral carbon fee is ‘force’, as though he is literally forced to emit all the fossil carbon he does one way or another, and is thus exempt from paying a few more bucks at the gas pump while waiting for his monthly dividend; or its producers forced to dig the stuff up and sell it for all the traffic will bear, incidentally collecting 100s of billions $US in annual profit by socializing climate change out of their production costs. Mr. IAT can’t accept the reality of anthropogenic global warming, because if he does, he’ll have to acknowledge that his dismissal of verifiable evidence and elementary logic, like his hatred of collective action for common benefit, is sheer narcissistic self-indulgence.

    Mr. IAT seems to shrug off appeals to the scientific case for AGW. He appears to think only liberals acknowledge science that’s inconvenient to him, and they do so only to inconvenience him. Apparently it’s simply blasphemous to suggest that his comfort and convenience might have hidden or deferred costs that are paid for somehow, sometime, by somebody, including a finite fraction by him! That’s how he’s able to ignore the economic logic of the drama of the Commons: he seems to reject the very concept of a limiting common pool resource, and even of a shared physical environment everyone has to live in. One marvels at the cognitive dissonance he must undergo whenever he sees his income tax withholding or property assessment, or submits to any of the laws his community imposes on itself.

    Meanwhile, the drama of the climate Commons has already turned tragic for millions of people, and may well end in tragedy for every person now living and yet to live. To be sure, ‘anthropogenic’ encompasses the IATs of the world along with ‘AGW believers’, even those who burn, or cause to be burned, no more fossil carbon than our Mr. IAT does. As he narrates his disordered thinking here, he’s like a lifelong cigarette smoker who, on his deathbed, insists his lung cancer wasn’t caused by his addiction. I boldly predict he’ll deny AGW as he expires in yet another record heat wave, coming to a location near him, and sooner than he thinks!

  9. 109
    Steven Emmerson says:

    Tom Adams@91 wrote

    The whole thing is framed as “Losing the Earth”. But really, it’s just a consensus of scientist that BAU greenhouse gas emissions are dangerous, and they have been a bit vague about defining “dangerous”. … The possible effects that are dangerous to most or all humans are not really part of the scientific consensus, most of the scientists are skeptical about that stuff.

    Tom apparently doesn’t know that the IPCC report comes in three volumes. The first deals with the science; the second deals with vulnerabilities, consequences, and adaptation options; and the third deals with mitigation options.
    The second and third volumes wouldn’t exist if scientists were “vague” and “skeptical”.

  10. 110
    Adam Lea says:

    Carrie 60: Blaming individuals is not helpful, and is very oversimplistic. Yes people have choice over their lifestyles, but if that choice is between consuming fossil fuels and live a comfortable life for a modest price, and live a life with a very low carbon footprint which involves making significant sacfrices in freedom and comfort, and will probably cost more, you can’t blame any individual for choosing the former. It is the system that needs to change so that living a low carbon life becomes the rational choice from the iondividuals perspective.

    You also have the problem that reducing ones carbon footprint doesn’t necessarily provide a tangible benefit for the individual, but can result in costs to that individual. For example, a few years ago, I sold my car and used my bicycle combined with public transport to get around. This was doable, but it did reduce my mobility compared to owning a car, so some things I just couldn’t do feasibly. I gained the benefit of increased fitness at the cost of increased vulnerability and fatigue (cycling 120+ miles a week, every week takes its toll). Being car free had no benefit to society from my view, the roads were just as congested as ever, the air just as polluted as ever, the externalised risk imposed from drivers onto vulnerable road users just the same as before. My attempt to minimise my transport carbon footprint was ended when I was hit by a careless driver and nearly killed. The CO2 emissions from my family travelling a 500 mile round trip to visit me regularly in hospital for the seven weeks I was in there probably offset the reduction in my carbon emissions from cycling instead of driving.

  11. 111

    #106, robert mullen–

    There are different estimates of the effects of very high levels of wind power. Try this story, in which researchers found that a (very conservative) 7.5 terawatts of capacity would have negligible effects on climate. For context, global installed electrical capacity is estimated somewhat variously, but may well now be above 6 terawatts.

    Current wind deployment is on the order of 600 gigawatts capacity, with wind and solar now above 1 terawatt, or ~15-20% of total capacity, depending on whose estimate you use. Unsurprisingly, observed effects of wind turbine farms so far are highly local, with reductions in wind velocity observed over scales of a few kilometers at most. There’s an inherent self-limiting factor in the technology, as Betz’s Law shows that turbines can never extract more than 59.3% of the total energy of the wind crossing the swept area of the rotor disk–and “Practical utility-scale wind turbines achieve at peak 75% to 80% of the Betz limit.”

  12. 112
    Carrie says:

    105 Dan H. says: “Are you actually saying that the U.S. should impose economical sanctions on the poor, in effect forcing them to employ more expensive technology (which they can ill-afford), while the rest of the world enjoys the benefits of cheaper energy?”

    I keep hearing people saying that renewable energy supply is already cheaper or about the same price of FF energy and massively cheaper than nuclear. All I am saying is the variations of what the ‘facts’ are is many.

    While Africans are lucky if they have even one coal fired power plant in their own nation.

    110 Adam Lea says: “Carrie 60: Blaming individuals is not helpful, and is very oversimplistic.”

    Are you suggesting I was blaming individuals? That’s odd given I was saying the opposite: “People need to stop blaming other people and FF companies for their own individual and collective choices of what they will accept as repeated cop outs by Govts who attend UNFCCC meetings.”

    Crystallizing responsibility and stating in whose hands the power lays doesn’t equal blaming. :-) Carbon taxes are a very minor side issue and thus an unimportant distraction at this point in time.

    Adam: “You also have the problem that reducing ones carbon footprint doesn’t necessarily provide a tangible benefit for the individual, but can result in costs to that individual.”

    Very true. I agree. While already having a below average carbon footprint I can also say that I when I make “life choices” & “purchases” these days “carbon emissions” are totally irrelevant. I do not think about them at all anymore. Or care. You won’t see me on pushbike trying to “save the world” from itself. :-)

  13. 113
    Nemesis says:

    @Fergus Brown, #102

    ” There’s a gaping hole in all of this (MOO). Whether the reference point is the 80’s or now. Nobody has mentioned the influence or relevance of the Military part of the ‘military industrial complex’…

    In short: the Military need oil. They know that to function they must have control of the line of supply and secure medium-term stocks. Abandoning FF is not currently feasible in terms of defence strategy. For politicians as well as soldiers this is a baseline.

    Until there is a viable alternative on an adequate scale, nothing much is going to change in terms of FF policy relative to climate change…”

    I mentioned that a million times here and elsewhere, but almost no one wants to hear that, because it undermines the system in total :) So they will just ignore the ugly facts and walk on towards the fall of Empire.

  14. 114
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Robert Mullen@106
    OK, let’s see if we can maybe science this out together. Consider a weather front. It’s going to be 10s to hundreds of miles across.

    Now, imagine a wind farm. What are its dimensions–or more relevant what is the area taken up by the blades of the windmill? The windmills can remove at a maximum only the energy that is incident on their area, right? And in fact, they remove much less than that, as the wind is still blowing on the leeward side, right? Now how does the area of the turbine blades compare to that of the entire front–across its entire width and from ground level to several thousand feet of altitude? Do you have your answer?

  15. 115
    Mal Adapted says:

    Dan H.:

    Are you actually saying that the U.S. should impose economical sanctions on the poor, in effect forcing them to employ more expensive technology (which they can ill-afford), while the rest of the world enjoys the benefits of cheaper energy? How callous! These folks are barely scraping by, and you want to punish them for trying to improve their lot.

    Yep, he went there. I’m tired of playing whack-a-denier, somebody else take a turn with the mallet.

  16. 116
    John Kelly says:

    I rarely post because, as a non-expert, I don’t have much value to add. In this case, I feel qualified as a member of the media-consuming public, although as a regular reader here I feel better informed than most lay readers. My AGW learning came courtesy initially of the AIP site (which was a revelation), and I had somewhat similar feelings reading the NYT piece. I found it riveting history. On the whole I didn’t feel as though it excused Republicans and FF producers, as it made clear throughout how much the tone changed after the 1980 election. The author’s opinion on the extent of the early opposition perhaps could have been more finely stated, as while it is clear from the piece that opponents were mobilizing behind the scenes, it’s also clear (to me) that the opposition was just a whisper, or perhaps an inside voice, of the roar that we’ve lived with this century.

  17. 117
    jgnfld says:


    Fergus: The military is EXTREMELY interested in green energy for a number of reasons. Primary among these is the difficulty of getting diesel to run base-sized generators to forward bases in remote areas and the risks that these convoys run in continually supplying them as the convoys are far more vulnerable to attack than the bases themselves.

    If you haven’t seen some of the solar/lithium battery trailers being developed you should look into them. Really expensive at the moment but compared to $400/gallon for diesel delivered to an FOB, the expense starts looking cheap pretty fast. Yes that’s $400/delivered gallon and I’m talking 2009 dollars here. More expensive now, likely.

    Another important application given the fragility of the grid to hacking is to have reserve power for domestic bases that can be instantly isolated from the main civilian grid.

    The military is looking at any and all ways to project power. Yes fossil fuels are critical. But they are also a logistical bottleneck which military planners abhor and like to find ways around if at all possible.

  18. 118
    Mal Adapted says:

    Adam Lea:

    My attempt to minimise my transport carbon footprint was ended when I was hit by a careless driver and nearly killed.

    Thank you for your compelling 1st-person account, which strengthens the case for collective action against AGW. Your personal narrative helps bring into focus the risks, and commensurated costs, of voluntarily internalizing one’s private marginal contribution to climate change. Having commuted by bicycle myself (not for primarily civic-minded reasons, admittedly), I know the increased risk and fear thereof are substantial prices to pay willingly, to reduce your personal greenhouse emissions. Especially while your Trumpist co-workers ride for free.

    A carbon fee charged to US fossil fuel producers per tonne, OTOH, is something producers and consumers alike would have to budget for (it’s what internalizing market externality means). A tariff on embodied carbon in imported goods would discourage us from exporting our emissions, and would internalize our marginal climate-change costs for our trading partners too. With the fee and tariff revenue returned to US consumers as a periodic dividend, the good ol’ invisible hand of the ‘free’ market could then be expected to build out the carbon-neutral US economy, at the lowest feasible aggregate cost.

    Because the US is still the 2nd-largest carbon emitting nation, our collective efforts to decarbonize can make a disproportionate difference in the trajectory of global climate. And because as consumers we still have considerable global buying power, our unilateral action to decarbonize our own economy can pull the globe along with it. IMHO, now is the time for us to act, before our historical window closes!

  19. 119
    Dan Miller says:

    #100 Carrie: It is not true that there are no alternatives to FF. Wind and solar are already cheaper than coal and NG in some places and they will keep getting more competitive. A known high future carbon fee ($100/ton in 10 years and higher after that) will impact utilities and other companies as they make choices of energy supplies. And since CCS will cost <$50/ton, why would a utility emit CO2 that costs $100/ton? When the fee rises above $100/ton, Direct Air Capture should be cheaper than paying the fee so airlines and everyone else could fully offset their emissions for less than the cost of fee. The fee will keep rising until emissions drop to zero, which is what is required. Since 100% of collected revenues are returned to the public, they will accept (and cheer on) fee increases.

    Note that the "external costs" of FF are real and must be paid now and for 1000+ years into the future. You don't pay the external cost at the pump, you pay it through higher taxes to pay for natural disasters and more military spending, higher food prices, higher insurance payments, higher uninsured losses, etc. A carbon fee that more correctly aligns the true cost of FF with its price will make the economy run more efficiently.

  20. 120
    Dan Miller says:

    #101 Carrie: It is a common myth that the purpose of the dividend is to provide people with the funds to pay for sustainability improvements. While many of them will, that is not what the policy depends on. The reason all the money collected is returned to the public is so they will accept a very high carbon fee ($100/ton+) that will drive the use of FF down and the use of clean energy up. Other policies where the government keeps the money usually limit the carbon fee to less than $40/ton in order to not upset the apple cart. With the public getting all the money, they will demand that the apple cart gets flipped!

  21. 121
    Dan says:

    Re: 106
    Oh for the love of…
    Please read and understand the First Law of Thermodynamics.

  22. 122
    nigelj says:

    Carrie says “Oil prices have increased 1000% since the 1960s yet consumption has increased.”

    And “So what is the basis that increasing the “price” of Fossil Fuels by another 10-20% today will make a difference?”

    This is too simplistic. Wages also increased significantly over that long period, making oil use affordable. In addition the increase in consumption is mostly due to global population growth. Per capita consumption has actually fallen in many places, as automobile fuel efficiency has improved and public transport has improved.

    And of course people have not had alternatives, although Carrie does acknowledge this.

    So therefore a carbon tax in some form operating on shorter term time scales is likely to have an effect on fossil fuel use. There evidence carbon taxes have already had a significant effect as bellow.

  23. 123

    A carbon tax with fee-and-dividend works like this.

    1. Fossil fuels are more expensive. Some people will buy less. On average, that will be the case.

    2. People will have more money to spend on other things. Some fraction of this money, likely greater than zero, will go to renewable energy.

    That’s all you need for it to work. The higher the tax, the more efficient the exchange, until it becomes really burdensome. The optimal point is probably about $150 per ton of emitted CO2. Lower than that wouldn’t have enough effect, higher than that would encourage evasion (the way super-high cigarette taxes created cigarette smuggling).

  24. 124
    nigelj says:

    Carrie says

    “Dan the other big flawed assumption in the theory is that individual people (that’s 300 million in the US) will spend their bonus Carbon Tax Dividend on shifting to “renewable energy” options and less carbon intensive purchases.”

    The modelling suggests carbon tax and dividend will work, and people will spend at least some of the dividend on less carbon intensive purchases.

    This is a great deal more convincing than your completely empty assertions to the contrary.

  25. 125
    Mr. Know It All says:

    94 – Jim
    Jim, Which of the 3 groups I mentioned do you fall into?

    95 – nigelj
    If you are well off, and are as passionate about AGW as you seem to be, then I think you should get rid of the Civic and get an electric car. If your electricity comes from a FF source, then buy a solar and/or wind system (off-grid type with batteries) to power your home AND your car.

    Off-grid, and grid-tied solar PV are easily within the financial reach of tens of millions of middle class ‘Muricans. Scroll down to view many systems:

    Prices for even large systems not more than most pay for a car. No more excuses.

    97 – nigel, I saw your skull photos – not bad. I don’t care about the artists rendering of the whole bodies – those are just guesses. Scientists need to stick to facts. Skulls are facts. :)

    86 – mike
    Laughable article about Common Dreams…… Not one word of science in it, except for the diagram that perhaps a 3rd grader drew up. I do give it good marks on sensationalism – the writers could write good horror movies. Why is it that Susan always makes a comment right after your comments?

  26. 126
    Mr. Know It All says:

    In the 1970s around Fairbanks, temperatures routinely fell below -50 F, every winter. Temps below -60 F in outlying areas were common. Sometimes 2 or 3 weeks would pass with high temperatures below -30 F. Ice thickness on lakes was several feet – I heard reports of 5 feet, but never verified that. The official weather stations differ somewhat because of terrain variations (hills, valleys, rivers, etc). Nobody thought anything about it – it had always been this way since the days of the gold rush and documented in the literature of the far north by folks like Robert Service and Jack London. Around Halloween in 1975, many places around Fairbanks hit -40 F; those were cold records for that early. Once I saw a bank sign that alternately displayed time, then temp, then time, etc. It was flashing 12:00, -50 F, 12:00, -50 F at noon! :)
    Couple of Alaska tales from the days before AGW:

    In 2017, temps of -40 and -50 make the news:

    How do these observations fit in the AGW theory? Is warming greater than the 1.5 C or whatever is claimed at this point?

  27. 127
    Jim Eager says:

    For Robert Mullen @ 106 re the impact of windmills on weather, just put them into scale and perspective. Global surface area is ~510 million square kilometers verses the cross sectional area of all the blades of the approximately 341,320 (2016) commercial windmills presently in place globally. It is a tiny, tiny ratio, and they are spread across the globe. Any impact on wind patterns and weather can only be highly localized.

    By comparison, the mass of the water volume impounded by the Three Gorges dam in China is ~39 billion tonnes, all concentrated in one location, which is still only enough to shift Earth’s axis and slow Earth’s rotation by an imperceptible 0.06 microseconds.

  28. 128
    nigelj says:

    Carrie @11 says “I keep hearing people saying that renewable energy supply is already cheaper or about the same price of FF energy and massively cheaper than nuclear. All I am saying is the variations of what the ‘facts’ are is many.”

    This is the same as Trumps “alternative facts” BS!

    It’s well established that wind and solar power are among the cheapest forms of energy now. Nuclear energy is in the middle of the price range. Google the Lazard energy analysis, but there are many other reputable sources as well. Theres no variation on these basic facts.

  29. 129
    nigelj says:

    MR KIA right now I use the honda civic about once a week, so it doesn’t make sense to buy an electric car right now because electic cars do have an emissions component in their manufacture. It only makes sense if I use an electric car more frequently. Do the math.

    However I will buy an electric car soon enough, as they have so many other benefits as well. Right now choice is a bit limited in my country, but it looks like it will soon improve.

    Thank’s for the other tips, but my house is already very energy efficient.

  30. 130
    Killian says:

    Re #101 Carrie said Dan the other big flawed assumption in the theory is that individual people (that’s 300 million in the US) will spend their bonus Carbon Tax Dividend on shifting to “renewable energy” options and less carbon intensive purchases.

    Oh, c’mon. You don’t make it a choice. This is a global emergency. One’s “choice” is everyone’s collapse/extinction. I think that merits some limiting of choice, particularly when it saves your own future.

    I proposed this ten years ago. Just change the grants to the dividend, et viola. Much overdue.

  31. 131
    Killian says:

    Human nature? Bull. Grow up, people. There is more to this universe than “western” “science.”

    There are 5 tenets to Native science: space/land; constant motion/flux; all things being animate and imbued with spirit; relationship; and renewal (Belanger 10). Indigenous people relate to the world in a unique way compared to western people. “Their traditional education processes were carefully constructed around observing natural processes, adapting modes of survival, obtaining sustenance from the plant and animal world, and using natural materials to make their tools and implements” (Barnhardt 10). Western science tends to focus on compartmentalized knowledge, it is taught in a detached setting such as a classroom, whereas Indigenous people acquire their knowledge form direct experience and relationships with the natural world.Western people often assess competency based on what they think a person should know and measure this by having students take tests. This does not determine if the student is actually capable of putting this measured knowledge into practice. Indigenous people on the other hand, base competency as a relationship to survival or extinction. Their knowledge is tested based on their relation to the real-world such as hunting and being able to feed their family (Barndhardt 11).

    “The specialization, standardization, compartmentalization, and systematization that are inherent features of most Western bureaucratic forms of organization often are in direct conflict with social structures and practices in Indigenous societies, which tend toward collective decision-making, extended kinship structures, ascribed authority vested in elders, flexible notions of time, and traditions of informality in everyday affairs” (Barnhardt 13). While Western ways of thinking are often linear, Native American philosophy views the world in cycles and circles of interconnectedness (Common Themes in American Indian Philosophy 14).

    Your collective ignorance is appalling. We have, in fact, spent most of “human” history – Virtually all but 0.033% – living completely differently than the supposed “human nature” you all keep talking about.

    Grow up enough to see beyond what you have seen and been told. Grow up enough to accept simple math: 0.033 of human history does not, cannot equal this stupid concept of human nature, even if one does agree it exists.

    Human nature, if it were said to exist, is to observe, to understand, to co-exist with Nature (as if anything else is possible!), to live within Nature’s rhythms, to teach those rhythms as the very basis of life.

    Stop this humans-can-only-drink-lattes-and-drive-SUVs mentality. It is denial. Itis driven by fear of change. While pretending to scream and bleat about how horrible these people or those people are, you make change impossible if you convince yourselves and others that this is “just how it is.”

    Bull. BULL. BULL$#!+!

    Stop copping out. There is a perfectly accessible, meaning intelligible to you lost, self-denying, natural selves-denying westerners, Permaculture, if you need all this said to you in White Man words to be able to understand it.

    What you all call human nature is human dis-ease, disease of the mind, the spirit, the body. It is the result of attempting to separate ourselves from Nature, believing we had discovered that by disfiguring nature we could improve upon it.

    What I now call Regenerative Governance is nothing more than a reflection of the models found in intact indigenous cultures. I didn’t know that when I created it. It was only after that the massive networks in the Amazon were discovered, and even later that I came across research indicating the same had been true in N.A. But what seemed logical and intuitive to me has a reason for existing: It’s out historical DNA memory.

    “Human nature” is an excuse for inaction, suicidal ideation and sui-genocidal choices.

    And, no, this is not a debate. Hear or don’t. Thrive or fail. Up to you.

  32. 132
    nigelj says:

    In defence of carbon taxes:

    “I would place a price on carbon,” Michael E. Mann, a Distinguished Professor of Atmospheric Science at Penn State, told Salon by email. “Whether this takes the form of a carbon tax (a revenue-neutral carbon tax? fee and dividend? cap-and-trade?), I leave that to the policymakers to determine as long as they accept, as the premise for policy, what the science has to say about the reality and threat of climate change. The price on carbon needs to be set such that it leads to a reduction in carbon emissions of several percent a year for the next few decades. If we do that, we can avoid a catastrophic 2C (~3.5 F) warming of the planet.”

    He also rejected the idea promoted by many on the left that a lasting solution to global warming is impossible under a free-market capitalist economic system.

    “I’m unconvinced that is true,” Mann explained. “In the past, market mechanisms for pricing environmental externalities have worked. We acted on acid rain and ozone depletion within a market economy framework. The real problem, in my view, isn’t the nature of our economic system, it’s the way that special interests and plutocrats have blocked the sort of common-sense market approaches to dealing with environmental problems that were once supported by democrats and republicans alike. The problem is the moral and ethical rot that now lies at the very center of the republican establishment, the lack of good faith and the total sellout to special interests and plutocrats.”

    Sounds accurate to me.

  33. 133
    Al Bundy says:

    So you were an air force brat too?

    I remember walking home from the bowling alley at Eielson when it was about 65 below. If you spit the spit would freeze before it hit the ground. WAY too cold to snow. Snow was a fall and spring thing.

    My abuser/biodad was a Shimya spy. Yours?

    The US military is THE problem, which is sad because they have developed a Culture of Honor. Used correctly (sans guns), the organization would gladly save the world.

    Change the mission.

  34. 134
    Carrie says:

    124 nigelj says: “The modelling suggests carbon tax and dividend will work”


    Then where is Your References that supports your empty claim above Nigelj?

    Do you not remember what I told you last week? Get with YOUR program please – provide the supporting evidence to YOUR claims.

    Including telling me what are the exact parameters / constraints in the design of said models that have convinced you they are good assumptions and prove the modelling suggests carbon tax and dividend will work?

    Details Nigelji, details – share the details you already know about this issue and convince me you’re right and the Modelling is right.

    For example you CLAIM without any supporting evidence that “people will spend at least some of the dividend on less carbon intensive purchases.

    How many people?

    How much of the dividend will be spent on less carbon intensive purchases?

    How much will ghg emissions fall in the first year of operation @$40/ton.

    Why is it $40/ton and not $30 or $100/ton?

    The earlier Program posited by the very same people said they would start at $10/ton raising it $10 per ton annually until it was $100/ton.

    Why have they changed their proposal?

    Wouldn’t $100/ton make deeper changes faster?

    How are the Farmers going to survive given their income is solely dependent on Market prices out of their control?

    How will the local cake shop survive their higher energy costs when even if 50 people work there the owners will only get $2000/year or less if they are a family of 4 who qualify?

    Obviously you indicate you know more about this than me so I hope you have read the 150 page document – National Summary Downloads: Full REMI Study (150-page PDF) – would you please copy and paste some highly relevant quotes/references with page numbers that support your claims so I can hone in your basis for your assertions F&D is a boon idea?

    What alternate economic studies have been done on this subject Nigelji? Got a ref / quotes / urls for those too? One economics study doesn’t build a Movement – overwhelming objective PEER REVIEWED evidence produced by esteemed experts in their field might.


  35. 135
    Carrie says:

    123 Barton Paul Levenson

    3) a $40/ton CO2 on energy will increase the business costs for all businesses and almost all consumers across the board and will lead to a significant rise in the CPI.

    Will the Dividend be sufficient to cover those price increases in their lives?

    How much will a $20 birthday cake cost after the new carbon Tax is applied?
    How much will a pint of Coke cost after the new carbon Tax is applied?
    How much will a bottle of beer cost after the new carbon Tax is applied?

    Family X (2 adults/one child under 3) spends $600/quarter on their home electricity bill? How much will that electricity bill be after the new carbon Tax is applied?

    Fast Food Restaurant spends $5000 per week on Gas and Electricity?

    How much will that cost them after the new carbon Tax is applied?
    Knowing of course that business will not receive any rebate dividend at all.

    What will be the menu price % increase for their Burgers be after the new carbon Tax is applied?

    I think the new Model 3 Tesla is priced at about $35,000
    How much will a Model 3 cost the customer after the new carbon Tax is applied?

    A new Toyota Corolla 4 door petrol engine auto costs about $20,000 – how much will a Toyota Corolla cost after the new carbon Tax is applied?

    Both S2O emissions and CFCs were regulated/banned by Govts at the same time as “time was given” for industrial scale adjustments.

    The technology already exists and hundreds of car models are on the road already that can get under 100mgCO2/kilometer (US avg 230mgCO2 about) – setting that or better as the standard for all new cars means GHG emissions from Transport could be cut by 50-70% globally in under 10 years – no F&D required.

    A F&D carbon tax is a massive Govt intervention in the market place which will distort pricing and disrupt the economy in every sector. There will be winners and losers. The costs of administration will be a drain on every nations “Productivity.”

  36. 136
    Carrie says:

    119/120 Dan, you have all the “talking points” down pat. Good job. Sorry but I really do think you’re dreaming and for reasons not worth my time going through again. It makes no difference if I speak or not. F&D will never get up in the USA imo. It’s the only place on earth where it’s being floated. a sensible targeted carbon tax could help on the margins but it’s no panacea nor a silver bullet. $50/ton for CO2 CCS is a mythical fiction too at this point.

    Why bother if as according to the Report all the coal fired power stations would be closed by 2025? Ban coal fired power by 2025 and the outcome would be the same without all the taxes and money shuffling. The false assumptions and holes in this F&D idea are too many to count. Not my cup of tea. Simplicity works best.

  37. 137
    Carrie says:

    A pity that real issues in musing-about-losing-earth has been drowned out by the “noisy distractions”. Have fun anyway. :-)

  38. 138
    Jim Eager says:

    Mr Know Nothing, I already answered your question, in detail. Try reading for comprehension.

  39. 139
    Mike Roddy says:

    Nigel T, #73:

    Of course we shouldn’t let the Democrats off the hook. They are often weak, intimidated, and corrupt themselves. However, your comment that they are essentially indistinguishable from the Republicans is not correct.

    The fossil fuel, timber, and banking industries own the Republican Party. At least some Democrats in the Senate speak out about climate- Warren, Whitehouse, and Sanders come to mind.

    If we give up on all of our Congressmen we might as well give up on the future. We have to start somewhere in government. In the meantime, a stand alone organization needs to effect boycotts and aggressive actions, including proposing prison time for people like Koch and Murray. They are crazy with greed, and will never change. If we don’t step up to fight them- and others like them- we might as well just give up on humanity’s future.

  40. 140
    Mike Roddy says:

    Susan, #104, I don’t know why you assumed that I didn’t read the whole New York Times article. It was painful, but I did. And my comments on it stand. Thanks for correcting my laziness in not shortening the link, though. I’m disappointed that you think what I said was “counterfactual” (specifics, please) and The Times piece was somehow valuable.

    Yes, that article made some decent points, which RC readers already know, but it was a whiff in most respects. For example, it bemoaned the past while failing to propose any serious confrontations with the fossil fuel companies today- and their errand boys in Congress. I wish you and The Times would direct more of your pique at them.

  41. 141
    Hank Roberts says:

    all but 0.033% – living completely differently than the supposed “human nature” you all keep talking about.

    Oh nonsense. Your comments are quite typical of human nature as it’s been over the long run. Argumentative and domineering and self defeating.

  42. 142
    Bill Henderson says:

    Losing Earth – why no effective mitigation in the past?

    Plus Hothouse Earth – the urgent need for effective mitigation

    should stimulate debate about emission reduction of a scale and timeline to at least stay under a 2C rise. Instead this RC train fixates on carbon pricing. Read the abundant lit: carbon pricing is an ineffectual time-waster. The carbon pricing allowed will only reduce emissions insignificantly.

    “If governments proved willing to impose carbon prices that were sufficiently high and affected a broad enough swath of the economy, those prices could make a real environmental difference. But political concerns have kept governments from doing so, resulting in carbon prices that are too low and too narrowly applied to meaningfully curb emissions. ”

    “Maybe one day carbon pricing will be the best tool for fighting climate change. But the planet doesn’t have time to wait. To the extent that the carbon-pricing experiment lets policymakers and the public delude themselves that they are meaningfully addressing global warming, it’s not just ineffectual; it’s counterproductive. The time has come to acknowledge that this elegant solution isn’t solving the problem it was designed to solve. In the toughest environmental fight the world has ever faced, a good idea that isn’t working isn’t good enough.”

    If we had initiated carbon price aided decarbonization in the 80s we’d probably have made the transition to a post-carbon economy by now. But we didn’t and we don’t have the time now.

    There has been a flurry of newstories about Republican climate initiatives. Now I know Inglis and co see carbon pricing as a way of turning conservatives from denial to climate action but if you understand today’s carbon mitigation math you have to be either laughing out loud or crying in despair. What is going to happen? Will the US debate carbon pricing for a decade or so and then enact a puny, ineffectual carbon tax that will just waste a further decade? This is US conservative climate leadership?

    It is at least two decades since a realistic carbon price aided decarbonization could have reduced emissions at a scale needed. To advocate for carbon pricing now is as much denial as using a snowball as a prop to declare it is cold outside. Read the growing lit on carbon pricing and learn from my home province BC and from the Trudeau government carbon pricing schmozzle today. The only carbon pricing allowed is ineffectual carbon pricing and we have to reduce emissions by half globally before 2030 and half again before 2040 – by 75% by 2040 – if we are to have even a good chance of staying below a 2C rise in temperature (and as Hansen is being proved right with the emerging science: a 1C rise is too deep into dangerous climate change to be safe).

    And yet, pundits cover the new conservative carbon tax initiatives as if this was a real path to climate safety. This is ludicrous denial; those covering the carbon tax initiative don’t understand how pretend this pretend mitigation really is.

    Furthermore, the whole conservative carbon pricing initiative is really just a measure of how strong solution aversion still is on the right – if all the money is returned to the public instead of being used by government somehow this makes carbon pricing OK and we can consider carbon pricing as getting to effective action????

    Doesn’t this just show how powerful the anti-regulation forces are and how this small group of ideologues still stands firmly in the way of real, effective mitigation in the US and therefor globally?

    Where is the open and informing debate about real paths to needed effective mitigation? Not allowed.

    Business led, coalition governments, regulated wind-down of fossil fuel production after McGlade Ekins

  43. 143
    Carrie says:

    Interview video
    The risk of a hothouse Earth – Professor Katherine Richardson – co-author of ‘Trajectories of the Earth System in the Anthropocene’ – about what could happen if we don’t get emissions under control.

    She does an excellent job of explaining the complexities simply and clearly. I want to see more like Katherine out there in the public view. This kind of communication works better.

  44. 144
    nigelj says:

    Carrie @134

    I gave you an internet link reference on the research suggesting a carbon tax will work. I’m not going to fill up pages and pages on this website with copy and paste. It’s there if people are interested. And well I get a bit lazy.

    Most of the answers to your questions could be easily googled, but heres a comment on just a couple from my point of view:

    “Wouldn’t $100/ton make deeper changes faster?”

    Yes it would, but introduce a very high carbon price immediately and it would cause inflation so it has to be phased in. Economics 101. Surely you can work this out without even needing to ask? :)

    Your problem is you have decided you don’t like taxes because you are suspicious that it could be manipulated by the corporate sector, judging by your general rehetoric, so you attack the idea to the point of absurdity. Now don’t get annoyed, I’m pretty suspicious as well, and your point needs to be made, but I think its more applicable to cap and trade, and I see carbon tax as the lesser of the various evils available and harder to rort than cap and trade. Cap and trade is an opaque, complicated thing.

    There are some good comparisons of carbon tax and cap and trade:

    “How are the Farmers going to survive given their income is solely dependent on Market prices out of their control?”

    Remember its called “tax and dividend”

    But yeah, I take your point in good humour we could all do better backing our positions. But theres only so many hours in the day.

  45. 145
    Carrie says:

    142 Bill Henderson, very well said, you nailed it. Meaning you have an evidence based accurate view of the situation regarding “carbon taxes” and the bullshit that it is today and tomorrow.

    The people here and elsewhere who keep promoting this idea as a solution do not have a clue what they are talking about and are in denial!

    So thank you for that contribution – not that it will make a jot of difference in other people’s uninformed unknowing foolhardy beliefs.

  46. 146
    Mr. Know It All says:

    133 – Al Bundy
    How’s Peg, Bud, and Kelly? :)
    No, I wasn’t an Air Force brat, but I was aware of people from Eielson flying out to Shimya. If I drove by the F4 hanger as I traveled north to Fairbanks on the Richardson Hwy and an F4 was getting ready for take off, I’d wait and drag race it – I’d win for a while, but then it would leave me in the dust. :) I heard stories about US planes coming back with holes in them after encounters with Hillary’s buddies – the Rooskies, so I’m glad our planes had guns. Our military isn’t perfect, but we need them to keep the bad guys away. WE THE PEOPLE, with OUR 2nd Amendment guaranteed right to keep and bear arms, are their backup of last resort, so we’d be hard to conquer using conventional warfare. Being conquered from within because of weak-minded Ds? That’s a serious threat today.

    134 – Carrie
    Good idea. Hold his feet to the fire – make him show his evidence! Scientists stick to facts they can back up with SOMETHING.

  47. 147
    nigelj says:

    Mike Roddy @139, I said that the Democrats and Republicans were not that far apart regarding “neoliberalism” so free trade, regulation, privatisation and so on. Although Trump is changing this balance on trade for example

    I certainly agree there are many substantial differences between Democrats and Republicans. For example relating to climate change science and mitigation, science in general, how poverty is best resolved, healthcare, and many other issues. As far as I’m concerned right now the Republicans (and the white house) just lack credibility right now on all this and more.

    But both parties seem somewhat captured by business lobbies. But your system allows open ended campaign financing so just begs for this to happen.

  48. 148
    Jim Eager says:

    re Carrie @ 135: 3) a $40/ton CO2 on energy will increase the business costs for all businesses and almost all consumers across the board and will lead to a significant rise in the CPI.

    That’s not a bug, Carrie, that’s a feature. If we are going to avert the worst effects of AGW we need an effort on the scale of WWII and we need it in a hurry, not in 10 years. And we are ALL going to have to bear the economic cost of that effort, and it’s going to have to rise to way more than $40/ton to get the job done. Yes, a Fee & Dividend carbon tax is a massive government intervention in the market place which will distort pricing and disrupt the economy in every sector, just as is the current massive structural government support and subsidy of the existing fossil fuel economy.

    The D in F&D is not supposed to reimburse everyone for what they pay in F, it is intended to reimburse more of the F for those who chose low carbon products and services, and less of the F for those who do not, thereby creating an enormous demand and therefore an enormous market for low carbon products, services and technologies. It puts the market to work on the problem pdq. It applies to everyone and everything, making it much harder to game in the way that carbon offsets and cap & trade are.

    But frankly, I doubt it’s going to happen, thanks not only to those with vested interests in fossil fuels and libertarian ideology, but also thanks to foot-draggers like you who are busy wringing your hands about how inconvenient F&D will be for those who consume the fossil-fueled lifestyle. Please do get back to us about how inconvenient and disruptive the collapse of industrial scale agriculture turns out to be, which is likely to happen long before the rising sea inundates the first coastal city.

  49. 149

    “I think the new Model 3 Tesla is priced at about $35,000”

    The base model will be, when it is available; all deliveries so far have been higher-priced versions (longer range or higher performance configurations). That’s because they are also higher-margin, and Tesla is trying to steam hard toward profitability; its survival hinges on that. There are, I think, many reservations for the base model, but it’s probably still a matter of months before they start filling those.

    “How much will a Model 3 cost the customer after the new carbon Tax is applied?”

    It’ll be less of an increase than for anybody else making cars, as Tesla aims to power its industrial operations by renewable energy* and already uses electric trucks (prototype Semis) for haulage (and will do so increasingly over the next several years, if all goes well.)

    *Not sure how what the actual percentages are currently; but it is known that the plans for the Gigafactory in Nevada envision production of significantly more RE (a mix of solar PC, wind, and geothermal) than the facility would need. I’d like to know where they are in implementing the RE power plans; I have not yet heard that they have installed the planning PV panels yet, so I presume they are still operating off grid power for now.

  50. 150
    Dan Miller says:

    #135/136 Carrie: You said “$50/ton for CO2 CCS is a mythical fiction too at this point.” But the US actually passed a “45Q” tax credit this year that provides $50/ton for CCS! It’s only for 5 years to get things started, but it is real.

    While I do think we will pass an F&D or similar carbon fee, I’m not saying we will do it in time. But it will be easier to do — and more effective — than piecemeal regulations. Even if all coal plants shut down in the next 10 years, there will still be lots of NG plants, cement plants, steel mills, steam boilers, cars, trucks, ships, planes, etc. that all need to be addressed in a very short time. Putting a fee on fossil fuels at the source (well, mine, port of entry) is the easiest way to get the job done.

    You list ways that a carbon fee will impact the economy. Of course it will… that’s the point! But F&D pays most people more than they pay in higher prices. In addition, everyone will have an incentive to stop using fossil fuels. And, of course, if we don’t put a price on carbon, we will be paying much, much more for climate impacts for evermore.

    While we can continue to do nothing or close to nothing, we can chose right now to put a price on carbon and return all the money collected to the public. This will create millions of jobs, grow GDP, and drastically reduce emissions. Yes, the politics are against it (and every other effective solution) right now, but if a significant percentage if us demand action, it will happen.

    Remember that the reason we have a climate crisis is that we have a policy in place that says everyone can pollute the atmosphere with GHGs for free. It’s hard to imagine getting the problem under control without changing that policy.