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A biased economic analysis of geoengineering

Filed under: — group @ 11 August 2009 - (Español)

Guest commentary by Alan Robock – Rutgers University

Bjorn Lomborg’s Climate Consensus Center just released an un-refereed report on geoengineering, An Analysis of Climate Engineering as a Response to Global Warming, by J Eric Bickel and Lee Lane. The “consensus” in the title of Lomborg’s center is based on a meeting of 50 economists last year. The problem with allowing economists to decide the proper response of society to global warming is that they base their analysis only on their own quantifications of the costs and benefits of different strategies. In this report, discussed below, they simply omit the costs of many of the potential negative aspects of producing a stratospheric cloud to block out sunlight or cloud brightening, and come to the conclusion that these strategies have a 25-5000 to 1 benefit/cost ratio. That the second author works for the American Enterprise Institute, a lobbying group that has been a leading global warming denier, is not surprising, except that now they are in favor of a solution to a problem they have claimed for years does not exist.

Geoengineering has come a long way since first discussed here three years ago. [Here I use the term “geoengineering” to refer to “solar radiation management” (SRM) and not to carbon capture and sequestration (called “air capture” in the report), a related topic with quite different issues.] In a New Scientist interview, John Holdren, President Obama’s science adviser, says geoengineering has to be examined as a possible response to global warming, but that we can make no such determination now. A two-day conference on geoengineering organized by the U.S. National Academy of Sciences was held in June, 2009, with an opening talk by the President, Ralph Cicerone. The American Meteorological Society (AMS) has just issued a policy statement on geoengineering, which urges cautious consideration, more research, and appropriate restrictions. But all this attention comes with the message that we know little about the efficacy, costs, and problems associated with geoengineering suggestions, and that much more study is needed.

Bickel and Lane, however, do not hesitate to write a report that is rather biased in favor of geoengineering using SRM, by emphasizing the low cost and dismissing the many possible negative aspects. They use calculations with the Dynamic Integrated model of Climate and the Economy (DICE) economic model to make the paper seem scientific, but there are many inherent assumptions, and they up-front refuse to present their results in terms of ranges or error bars. Specific numbers in their conclusions make the results seem much more certain than they are. While they give lip service to possible negative consequences of geoengineering, they refuse to quantify them. Indeed, the purpose of new research is to do just that, but the tone of this report is to claim that cooling the planet will have overall benefits, which CAN be quantified. The conclusions and summary of the report imply much more certainty as to the net benefits of SRM than is really the case.

My main areas of agreement with this report are that global warming is an important, serious problem, that SRM with stratospheric aerosols or cloud brightening would not be expensive, and that we indeed need more research into geoengineering. The authors provide a balanced introduction to the issues of global warming and the possible types of geoengineering.

But Bickel and Lane ignore the effects of ocean acidification from continued CO2 emissions, dismissing this as a lost cause. Even without global warming, reducing CO2 emissions is needed to do the best we can to save the ocean. The costs of this continuing damage to the planet, which geoengineering will do nothing to address, are ignored in the analysis in this report. And without mitigation, SRM would need to be continued for hundreds of years. If it were stopped, by the loss of interest or means by society, the resulting rapid warming would be much more dangerous than the gradual warming we are now experiencing.

Bickel and Lane do not even mention several potential negative effects of SRM, including getting rid of blue skies, huge reductions in solar power from systems using direct solar radiation, or ruining terrestrial optical astronomy. They imply that SRM technologies will work perfectly, and ignore unknown unknowns. Not one cloud has ever been artificially brightened by injection of sea salt aerosols, yet this report claims to be able to quantify the benefits and the costs to society of cloud brightening.

They also imply that stratospheric geoengineering can be tested at a small scale, but this is not true. Small injections of SO2 into the stratosphere would actually produce small radiative forcing, and we would not be able to separate the effects from weather noise. The small volcanic eruptions of the past year (1.5 Tg SO2 from Kasatochi in 2008 and 1 Tg SO2 from Sarychev in 2009, as compared to 7 Tg SO2 from El Chichón in 1982 and 20 Tg SO2 from Pinatubo in 1991) have produced stratospheric clouds that can be well-observed, but we cannot detect any climate impacts. Only a large-scale stratospheric injection could produce measurable impacts. This means that the path they propose would lead directly to geoengineering, even just to test it, and then it would be much harder to stop, what with commercial interests in continuing (e.g., Star Wars, which has not even ever worked).

Bickel and Lane also ignore several seminal papers on geoengineering that present much more advanced scientific results than the older papers they cite. In particular, they ignore Tilmes et al. (2008), Robock et al. (2008), Rasch et al. (2008), and Jones et al. (2009).

With respect to ozone, they dismiss concerns about ozone depletion and enhanced UV by citing Wigley (2006) and Crutzen (2006), but ignore the results of Tilmes et al. (2008), who showed that the effects would prolong the ozone hole for decades and that deployment of stratospheric aerosols in a couple decades would not be safe as claimed here. Bickel and Lane assert, completely incorrectly, “On its face, though, it does not appear that the ozone issue would be likely to invalidate the concept of stratospheric aerosols.”

With respect to an Arctic-only scheme, they suggest in several places that it would be possible to control Arctic climate based on the results of Caldeira and Wood (2008) who artificially reduce sunlight in a polar cap in their model (the “yarmulke method”), whereas Robock et al. (2008) showed with a more realistic model that explicitly treats the distribution and transport of stratospheric aerosols, that the aerosols could not be confined to just the Arctic, and such a deployment strategy would affect the summer Asian monsoon, reducing precipitation over China and India. And Robock et al. (2008) give examples from past volcanic eruptions that illustrate this effect, such as the pattern of precipitation reduction after the 1991 Pinatubo eruption (Trenberth and Dai, 2007):

With respect to cloud brightening, Bickel and Lane ignore the Jones et al. (2009) results that cloud brightening would mainly cool the oceans and not affect land temperature much, so that it is an imperfect method at best to counter global warming. Furthermore Jones et al. (2009) found that cloud brightening over the South Atlantic would produce severe drought over the Amazon, destroying the tropical forest.

They also ignore a huge class of ethical and world governance issues. Whose hand would be on the global thermostat? Who would trust military aircraft or a multi-national geoengineering company to have the interests of the people of the planet foremost?

They do not seem to realize that volcanic eruptions affect climate change because of sulfate aerosols produced from sulfur dioxide gas injections into the stratosphere, the same that is proposed for SRM, and not by larger ash particles that fall out quickly after and eruption and do not cause climate change.

They dismiss air capture (“air capture technologies do not appear as promising as solar radiation management from a technical or a cost perspective”) but ignore the important point that it would have few of the potential side effects of SRM. Air capture would just remove the cause of global warming in the first place, and the only side effects would be in the locations where the CO2 would be sequestered.

For some reason, they insist on using the wrong units for energy flux (W) instead of the correct units of W/m^2, and then mix them in the paper. I cannot understand why they choose to make it so confusing.

The potential negative consequences of stratospheric SRM were clearly laid out by Robock (2008) and updated by Robock et al. (2009), which still lists 17 reasons why geoengineering may be a bad idea. One of those important possible consequences, the threat to the water supply for agriculture and other human uses, has been emphasized in a recent Science article by Gabi Hegerl and Susan Solomon.

Robock et al. (2009) also lists some benefits from SRM, including increased plant productivity and an enhanced CO2 sink from vegetation that grows more when subject to diffuse radiation, as has been observed after every recent large volcanic eruption. But the quantification of these and other geoengineering benefits, as well as the negative aspects, awaits more research.

It may be that the benefits of geoengineering will outweigh the negative aspects, and that most of the problems can be dealt with, but the paper from Lomborg’s center ignores the real consensus among all responsible geoengineering researchers. The real consensus, as expressed at the National Academy conference and in the AMS statement, is that mitigation needs to be our first and overwhelming response to global warming, and that whether geoengineering can even be considered as an emergency measure in the future should climate change become too dangerous is not now known. Policymakers will only be able to make such decisions after they see results from an intensive research program. Lomborg’s report should have stopped at the need for a research program, and not issued its flawed and premature conclusions.


Jones, A., J. Haywood, and O. Boucher 2009: Climate impacts of geoengineering marine stratocumulus clouds, J. Geophys. Res., 114, D10106, doi:10.1029/2008JD011450.

Rasch, Philip J., Simone Tilmes, Richard P. Turco, Alan Robock, Luke Oman, Chih-Chieh (Jack) Chen, Georgiy L. Stenchikov, and Rolando R. Garcia, 2008: An overview of geoengineering of climate using stratospheric sulphate aerosols. Phil. Trans. Royal Soc. A., 366, 4007-4037, doi:10.1098/rsta.2008.0131.

Robock, Alan, 2008: 20 reasons why geoengineering may be a bad idea. Bull. Atomic Scientists, 64, No. 2, 14-18, 59, doi:10.2968/064002006. PDF file Roundtable discussion of paper

Robock, Alan, Luke Oman, and Georgiy Stenchikov, 2008: Regional climate responses to geoengineering with tropical and Arctic SO2 injections. J. Geophys. Res., 113, D16101, doi:10.1029/2008JD010050. PDF file

Robock, Alan, Allison B. Marquardt, Ben Kravitz, and Georgiy Stenchikov, 2009: The benefits, risks, and costs of stratospheric geoengineering. Submitted to Geophys. Res. Lett., doi:10.1029/2009GL039209. PDF file

Tilmes, S., R. Müller, and R. Salawitch, 2008: The sensitivity of polar ozone depletion to proposed geoengineering schemes, Science, 320(5880), 1201-1204, doi:10.1126/science.1153966.

Trenberth, K. E., and A. Dai (2007), Effects of Mount Pinatubo volcanic eruption on the hydrological cycle as an analog of geoengineering, Geophys. Res. Lett., 34, L15702, doi:10.1029/2007GL030524.

329 Responses to “A biased economic analysis of geoengineering”

  1. 51
    random kid says:

    are the economist going to mess this up for us? Now the economy has it’s back broken, are we going to be able to make the changes necessary to save this planet or are we going to die to bail out the broken infrastruture? I’m geniunely asking, what sort of time frame are we looking at before the warming becomes irreverssible and are the changes going to be ” economically viable ” before this recession ends? What are we likely to be looking at here too, a new ice age or mass flooding and drought? Any answers are greatfully recieved. Thanks.

  2. 52
    Patrick 027 says:

    Lynn Vincentnathan (26) – Yes, some pro-free market idealogues love to pretend that externalities, negative sum games, etc, do not exist or that any government action will have greater cost than benifit without necessarily any examination on a case-by-case basis – or so it has appeared to me.

    However, I think Adam Smith may himself been quite a bit more insightful and smarter than all that – although I haven’t read his own work directly, Ike Solem’s comments on another thread a while back gave me this impression.

    It isn’t necessarily a problem that in some context, things be considered acording to monetary value – what is a problem is if there are externalities whose existence is ignored, so that the monetary value does not reflect the actual economic value.

    (PS production possilibilities curve of multiple categories, with value function plotted
    I used to have some trouble with economics because, unlike energy and matter, entropy, etc, the flow of money doesn’t follow such neat and obvious physical laws (that I know of off the top of my own head, perhaps because I haven’t studied economics as much as…).

    However, there are two ways to view the economy and then make sense of it that I like –

    1. one is to consider activity directly involved with money or bartering. Here, behavior itself implies the value that people place on things, and the free market (an algorithm), like a computer model of itself (which everything is), computes a solution for rearrangment of resources that (ideally) tends to optimize total value realized (with a learning curve), depending on people’s behavior (implying valuation) combined with physical reality (and therein comes The Environment (resource scarcity) among other things). Note this is not limited to consumption – people might place value on simply having things continue to exist and buy land or contribute to ecotourism (and cultural tourism), etc. Also note that, approaching this in a general sense, anything involved is potentially a resource, including people, their skills, etc. People invest in themselves, in their social capital, etc, thus increasing their buying power, so that to some degree buying and earning power is a function of effort, thus reflecting the value placed in buying and earning power, which may be value as a means to a means to a means to an end, etc. Free time’s economic value is implied by the money that could be earned if it were not spent as free time. And so on for all endeavors, even those we would not think of as having anything to do with economics, which brings us to –

    2. The economy is the entirety of causally-linked activity that runs through the more narrowly defined economy, thus including natural ecosystems, romantic relationships, and the thoughts and feelings in your head.

    Likewise, the natural ecosystem in a broad sense includes the human economy as surely as it includes the ant economy (Evolution and ecology are often studied using terms from economics – costs and benifits of a trait as measured in reproductive success, for example).

    And the complexity of ecological relationships and evolution (coevolution – with symbiosis and arms races, the multiple local optimums of the fitness landscape, … I guess the economic analogue of a recessive allele would be something like a present day cost/benifit with some probability of future reward/cost (actually a lot of ecological things are that).

    My own further thoughts on the matter, though:

    see comments 387 – 388 here:

    and links, including:

    132,138,141 here:

    and from that in particular:

    comments 15,23,28**,48,55**,58**,59** here:

    See also:
    (“even the free market doen’t always believe in itself” :) )

    Summary of caveats: Learning curve (there will be mistakes), costs and benifits of public mechanisms (as in reshaping the profit landscape or investing in a bridge from one peak to another (the same thing, as seen from two points of view) – PS related to supply/demand curves that are kinked, perhaps also hysteresis?), costs and benifits of accuracy and the free market justification and public policies of freebies (buy-one-get-one-free, fair use in copyright law), the value and costs of planning by individuals, private firms, and also potentially on a public level, negative sum games, externalities, what is value, what is self interest, what is self (I am not the same person from one moment to the next – justify illegal drug regulation as protection of future peoples’ rights????), the profit landscape as analogue to fitness landscape wherein there are mulitple local maxima (kinks in supply-demand curves – note also hysteresis in supply-demand curves), nonlinear relationship between economic power and cummulative effort, **the fact that, though more fair than communism as thus far practiced, and fair from some standpoint, capitalism is obviously not fair.

    One point in particular is that having some public property – space in particular – has a psychological and aesthetic value, in that humans may feel stifled if surrounded by only privately owned things, and that anything which is of value because it is natural would/might be devalued in part simply by being privately owned (as Objectivists might suggest privatizing natural ecosystems and the climate system as a solution?) – there is also the technical value wherein the costs of charging a fee to watch a flock of geese go by to support funding for wetlands is just plain hard to do, aside from the aesthetic devaluation of the experience of watching a flock of geese when your view is being charged.

    (PS all economic value is or comes from aesthetic value.)

  3. 53
    Craig Allen says:

    Ha! Now there’s a post at WUWT proposing that the apparent trend in global temperatures is nothing more then a statistical ‘random walk’.

    God only knows how that can be reconciled with the denialist’s assertions that due to negative feedbacks in the climate system, increasing greenhouse gasses could not possibly have a significant affect on global temperature. Seems to me that it’s their sequence of climate theories that most resembles a random walk.

    No denialist should event consider proposing geoengineering solutions given that they hold to such a random collection contradictory explanations of how the system works.

  4. 54
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Rod B., No, indeed, it would seem that you are all for prevention and mitigation as long as they don’t demand that we actually DO anything. Unfortunately, BAU is anathema to both, and the magnitude of the effort increases the longer we put it off–20 years and counting so far.

  5. 55
    Forlornehope says:

    Andrew’s reference to Deming is quite apt here. Deming’s contribution was on the understanding of variation, mainly in manufacturing processes though his approach, based on earlier work by Walter Shewhart, is much more widely applicable. A particular “sin” he identified was “tampering” where an operator tries to respond to random variation by moving the set point of the process. The result is always, yes I do mean always, to make things worse. Geo-engineering does seem to run this particular risk.

    On a more positive note, Lomborg’s interview in the Financial Times firmly rejects the “no such thing as” agenda ( Anything that moves the political argument firmly onto the ground of agreeing a sensible response must be welcome.

  6. 56
    CM says:

    Richard Ordway (#35), re peer review,

    I’d think the real question is whether there are proper routines in place equivalent to those of a typical journal — in particular, whether there is an editor to make the authors take the reviews into account and revise. Absent that discipline, even if the referees do a proper job, in the authors’ frame of reference it would just amount to getting unusually thorough comments from colleagues. No idea what routines they have at Lomborg’s center, but if Robock’s review is accurate (I confess I haven’t read the report) their standards would seem pretty damn lax.

    The reason to prefer studies published in acknowledged scientific journals, I’d suggest, is not that you can’t do proper peer review in any other publication format. Rather, it is that these journals are where the scientific debate continues to take place over time — and this post-publication peer review is the real test of an idea. Moreover, one can be reasonably confident that the journals’ raison d’etre is to advance science, not pushing a specific political agenda.

  7. 57
    Peter says:

    So far funding for geo engineering demonstration projects is fare off the radar in congress. It has been neglected as the long term strategy for climate control and ensuring our survival when temperature rise begins to exceed 3.6 degrees above historic averages and head on its inexorable climb to 10 plus degrees as the 540 Million year proxy record indicates it will. No matter what the forcing functions are whether they be pollutants or sunspots or a 100 other variables interacting in a complex relationship, its going to get too hot for humans to cope. Forget divvying up CO2 emissions, focus on climate control.

  8. 58
    Rod B says:

    Ray (54) Nope. Didn’t say that either. But keep trying.

  9. 59
    paulina says:

    Where would Lomborg and his sophistry be if *only* AEI and the like contributed to projects such as

    What are the moral implications of lending one’s credibility to Lomborg?

    What moral obligations are researchers who do collaborate with him under, with respect to helping expose his sophistry, its impact, and its unacceptability?

    What *are* communication, research, or science, without a basic commitment to clarity, honesty, and truth?

  10. 60
    Jeremy C says:

    Look, economics is just accountancy with grammar.

    Don’t believe me, then why isn’t there a nobel prize for economics? There is the Swedish bank prize for economical sciences in memory of Alfred Nobel and the person who gets it is allowed to sit at the same table as Nobel winners on the big night. But that is not a Nobel prize. We should give the same attention to economists that we give to our accountants and not much more.

  11. 61

    I am having trouble getting anything from the second link in:

    An Analysis of Climate Engineering as a Response to Global Warming

    has it been moved that fast?

    To Paul Hodgson re deniers.
    Yes I have pointed such people here but it seems that even some educated and intelligent people would rather not bother.

  12. 62
    savegaia says:

    I think it will turn out that we have to fight those who confuse scintific work.

    Firms, lobbyst and payer of climate sceptics are a threat to national security.

    Global climate change presents a serious national security threat which could impact Americans at home, impact United States military operations and heighten global tensions, according to a new study released by a blue-ribbon panel of retired admirals and generals from all branches of the armed services.

    We need rules and laws todo something against the missinformation industrie in regards to the scintific work on these areas.

    The integrity of society is at stake.
    Put them all on trial or “whatever” – to get rid of this scumbags.

  13. 63

    OK. It would seem that there is some confusion on titles going on here.


    I find these three listed,

    An Analysis of Climate Change as a Response to Global Warming, by Dr. J Eric Bickel and Lee Lane. Released by the Copenhagen Consensus Center, August 7 2009

    A Perspective Paper on Climate Engineering as a Response to Climate Change, by Dr. Anne E Smith. Released by the Copenhagen Consensus Center, August 7 2009

    A Perspective Paper on Climate Engineering, Including an Analysis of Carbon Capture as Responses to Climate Change, by Dr. Roger A Pielke Jr. Released by the Copenhagen Consensus Center, August 7, 2009

  14. 64
    Chris Dudley says:

    Jeremy (#60),

    This is probably not the place to suggest that lack of a Nobel Prize in a subject area means that subject is of no account. A number here had to settle for a measly Peace Prize since there is no climate science prize. Neither do math or astronomy, two ancient and fundamental subjects, have prizes. The Economics Prize is not original but it is officially linked to the Nobel Foundation.

  15. 65
    bob cousins says:

    It’s not really a choice between reducing emissions and geoengineering, since
    there is about zero chance of any meaningful reduction in CO2 emissions. No one is interested and no one will pay for it.

    Therefore it’s a choice between geoengineering and nothing, in which case geoengineering seems like a good idea. The purists might not like it, but we might be able to save at least something.

  16. 66

    I’ve tried downloading the link to the PDF but got this message:

    Acrobat could not open ‘AP_Climate_Engineering_Bickel_Lane_v.3.0(2).pdf’ because it is either not a supported file type or because the file has been damaged (for example, it was sent as an email attachment and wasn’t correctly decoded).

    I noticed there has been no update yet on the CC priority list,

    which is the same as that posted in 2008 on the Lomborg site. He just moved the page, so I updated my links on his page

  17. 67
    Donald Oats says:

    It is ironic that these educated folk – who don’t accept anthropogenic global warming, or that climate computer modelling can “prove” anything – resort to economic results produced by computer modelling!!

    If it is sauce for the goose, then it is sauce for the gander.

    BiG ThanX to RC; without your dedication to communicate via this website, we Aussies would have virtually no media access to climate science for the (tertiary) educated layperson. The Murdoch stranglehold on Australian media is virtually unbreakable.



  18. 68

    Give credit where it’s due: Lomborg published one paper in an unrelated area, then became an expert in climate science and its impacts. Never in all the fields of human knowledge has so much been spouted by one person based on so little. (Sorry, Winston.) His defence when hauled before the Danish Committee for Scientific Dishonesty was that it was unfair to judge his book as science, because he isn’t a scientist.

    Take a look at this video as shown on Australian national TV (SBS) last night. Go to 1:18:88 or thereabouts, and you will see a slide captioned “THE IPCC MODELS PREDICT MONOTONIC WARMING, AND THEY ARE WRONG”.

    Can anyone tell me if it is unfair that I called this a lie on my blog? I hate to diss my fellow scientists, but I abhor dishonesty. In the video Carter also claims that the whole case for changing the energy economy is based on 5 data points. That should be pretty easy to refute, especially if you can safely use outdated datasets that have been shown to be in error.

    Back to the subject here: is the idea that geoengineering is a good response to climate change, or something we have to explore because the likes of Carter and Lomborg have been so effective at delaying real action?

  19. 69
    Rene says:

    #62 savegaia

    — I think it will turn out that we have to fight those who confuse scintific work…Firms, lobbyst and payer of climate sceptics are a threat to national security…We need rules and laws todo something against the missinformation industrie in regards to the scintific work on these areas…Put them all on trial or “whatever” – to get rid of this scumbags. —

    There is a another, far more serious conflict of interest and potential source of misinformation you need to note. The ‘consensus’ view that calls for a massive expansion of the state to combat alleged AGW, is actively funded by the state itself, and this funding is many *thousands* of times larger than that on alternative views.

  20. 70
    Eric Bickel and Lee Lane says:

    We thank Alan Robock and the various respondents for their comments on our paper. Since many of these comments seem to have been made without the benefit of reading of our work, we thought it prudent to emphasize a few points here.

    First, Robock speculates on our motives stating that we “refuse to present ranges or error bars,” that we “refuse to quantify [possible negative consequences]” and that we “ignore” various issues such a negative side effects. These accusations imply a willful intent to deceive. We find comments such as these from members of the scientific community concerning, as they are not based on science, but rather on an attempt to divine author’s intentions. We also find the willingness to take arguments out of context and to selectively cite analyses to support one’s point disturbing. It is just this type activity that has caused the public to distrust the science of climate change, with potentially tragic consequences.

    Second, Robock asserts, “That the second author works for the American Enterprise Institute, a lobbying group that has been a leading global warming denier, is not surprising, except that now they are in favor of a solution to a problem they have claimed for years does not exist.” The facts are quite otherwise. AEI is not a lobbying organization. Indeed, it does not even take organizational positions on public policy issues, and it is quite common for AEI scholars to hold differing positions on major policy controversies. Robock could have checked these facts simply by perusing AEI’s website. ( As to the co-author of our paper, Lane has spent most of the last decade on research aimed at fining more efficient and affordable responses to climate change. He has advocated, as is clear from both his congressional testimony and his other writings, the use of a coordinated strategy including GHG controls, R&D on new energy sources, adaptation, as well as R&D to explore the option of solar radiation management. ( In imputing views and objectives to organizations and individuals, minimal standards of scholarly and personal integrity on the part of RealClimate would seem to require some prior effort to check the accuracy of his claims. Better yet would be a policy of not allowing ad hominem attacks.

    Third, as we note throughout the paper, we argue for RESERACH funding for climate engineering, not deployment. For example, the first sentence of the abstract notes that “This paper offers a preliminary and exploratory assessment of the potential benefits of and costs of climate engineering.” The second paragraph of the abstract states, “We estimate that the DIRECT [emphasis added] benefit-cost ratios are…Yet large uncertainties remain about the science and engineering of SRM. Only a substantial research program can resolve these uncertainties, but the very large potential net benefits of SRM offer strong prima facie evidence for including R&D on SRM as part of any portfolio of climate policies during the next decade.” Finally, as we conclude “These inputs to our analysis are admittedly speculative; many questions surround their validity, and many gaps exist in them…This analysis, then, can claim to be only an early and partial look at the potential benefits and costs of [climate engineering]…the question is whether or not the indirect costs [negative side effects] will change the calculus. Only research can answer this question.”

    Fourth, our primary argument is that the DIRECT benefits of solar radiation management appear large, while the DIRECT costs appear to be small. This logic is straight forward. If warming will cause large damages the preventing warming may provide large benefits. The argument that the direct costs appear relatively small is based on existing cost studies; including Alan Robock’s (Robock et al. 2009) which carefully analyzes the cost of using military aircraft (the F15-C Eagle) to carry H2S to the stratosphere to “counteract” global warming. Robock states that the capital cost of this scheme would be $6,363,000,000 and would cost $4,175,000,000 per year to operate. We note that this paper does not quantify possible negative side effects, but do not accuse Robock of “refusing” to do so or “ignoring” it. The paper also does not include error bars around the cost estimates and instead purports to provide “quantitative starting points.” This is quite similar to the approach we take in our “preliminary and exploratory assessment.” Again, we do not take this omission to be willful and instead give the authors the benefit of the doubt. We understand that these estimates are highly uncertain, as are any analyses of climate change.

    Fifth, Robock avers that the real consensus on climate “… is that mitigation needs to be our first and overwhelming response to global warming…” No consensus in favor of mitigation is in evidence, though, in the global political arena, and without a consensus there, the feasibility of mitigation remains in grave doubt. Moreover, if we do not yet know the indirect costs of geoengineering, how could we know that mitigation needs to be the “first and overwhelming response?” How have Robock, and the authors of the many similar comments posted on this blog, managed to reduce their error bars to reach such a certain conclusion?

    Sixth, Robock states, “…Bickel and Lane ignore the effects of ocean acidification from continued CO2 emissions, dismissing this as a lost cause. Even without global warming, reducing CO2 emissions is needed to do the best we can to save the ocean. The costs of this continuing damage to the planet, which geoengineering will do nothing to address, are ignored in the analysis in this report.” Actually our paper does discuss ocean acidification as a harmful effect of CO2 emissions are cite two other studies about the uncertainties concerning both its consequences and the prospects for remediation. Our paper, does not, as Robock notes, discuss it further for the same reason that it also omits discussion of possible defects in the regulation of the global banking system. SRM neither reduces the costs of these problems nor raises them. Other measures are called for, and the analysis that we were invited to do centered on SRM. Our paper no more claims to evaluate all options for dealing with CO2 that it pretends to address responses to all the rest of the world’s ills. The reader should also note that, contrary to the impression conveyed by Robock’s comments, and with only a single exception, every scenario reported in our paper envisions the use of SRM in conjunction with a GHG control regime.

    Seventh, Robock claims “They [Bickel and Lane] dismiss air capture (“air capture technologies do not appear as promising as solar radiation management from a technical or a cost perspective”) but ignore the important point that it would have few of the potential side effects of SRM. In fact, our paper points to several institutional advantages of AC and goes on to state: “Thus, the high costs of AC and the long time scales required for it to become effective are serious drawbacks relative to several kinds of SRM. On the other hand, AC, by seeking to remove CO2 from the atmosphere, reduces some of the risks that remain with SRM.” We go on to note that another Copenhagen Consensus paper will be addressing AC at greater length.

    Eighth, Robock claims: “They also ignore a huge class of ethical and world governance issues. Whose hand would be on the global thermostat? Who would trust military aircraft or a multi-national geoengineering company to have the interests of the people of the planet foremost?” We are unsure whence comes the idea of a multinational geoengineering company. If, however, Robock’s “huge class of world governance issues” coincides with the questions about how conflicting political interests might be resolved, pages 24-26 of the paper are devoted solely to these matters. Later, on page 34, the paper returns to an analysis of the issue of possible discontinuity in an SRM regime. The next sub-section on page 34 begins our analysis of the option of deferring SRM deployment in part to minimize global governance problems. At least four of the seven bullet points in the paper’s conclusion stress the importance of policy market failures and political transaction costs. Robock may, of course, dislike the way in which our paper handles these issues. To say, though, that our paper ignores these questions is simply false.

    Ninth, Robock writes “they [Bickel andLane] insist on using the wrong units for energy flux (W) instead of the correct units of W/m^2, and then mix them in the paper. I cannot understand why they choose to make it so confusing.” We assume Robock means the power flux, since watts are a measure of power, not energy. This issue is quite simple. As we write in the paper “As a short hand, we will sometimes refer to SRM in terms of watts. The reader should not forget however, that by this we always mean watts per square meter.” We are sorry that some find this confusing.

    Finally, when it comes to the health and safety of human beings we do not think any alternatives should be removed from the table. This includes research into the potential benefits of geoengineering. We hope that members of scientific community will not adopt a dogmatic stance, but will instead freely welcome an exploration of geoengineering’s potential benefits and costs.

    Robock, A., A. Marquardt, B. Kravitz, and G. Stenchikov, 2009. The Benefits, Risk, and Costs of Stratospheric Geoengineering. Forthcoming in Geophysical Review Letters.

  21. 71
    Tom H says:

    Regarding Post #21 from Alan Robock:

    Thank you for the publication reference. I am happy to see that people are looking at the potential effects of sulfate deposition on terrestrial ecosystems. I had not done a back of the envelope calculation to compare the current rate of deposition (owing largely to the burning of fossil fuels) with the added deposition that would result from this particular goeengineering scheme.

    I am not sure that I would necessarily agree with your sanguine conclusion that increased acidic should not be a concern for most terrestrial ecosystems. In Kravitz et al. (2009) you use the concept of critical load which is based on an assessment of a level of pollutant deposition that will negatively influence some specified ecosystem element (e.g. forest growth, lake or stream pH). This is a complicated subject based on many years of research and modeling of soil acidification and recovery. The concept of critical load has been a unifying framework that helped put results from many studies into a common language, but,it has its limitations. I trust and hope that your analysis is correct.

    I am a little concerned however when I look at figure 2 in Kravitz and I see that the eastern US is in the 5 to 9 kg per sq m per year range of geoengineering SO4 deposition — If I have done the math right, that is roughly half the current rate of fossil fuel sulfate depostion reported by the National Atmospheric Deposition Program for the eastern US (see map referenced below). I think that it is fair to say that a majority of forest scientists believe that the forests of the northeastern US are at risk for adverse effects from chronic acidic deposition at current rates, much less increased rates. The adverse effects are partly through the continuing elevated base cation depletion that current deposition is thought to be influencing. Increasing rates of sulfate deposition by 20 to 50% could be viewed as an adverse effect.

    URL to Deposition Map

    Fenn, M. E., T. G. Huntington, C. Eager, S. B. McLaughlin, A. Gomez, and R. B. Cook (2006), Status of Soil Acidification in North America, Journal of Forest Science (Prague), (Special Issue) 52:3-13.

    Huntington, T. G. 2000. The Potential for Calcium Depletion in Forest Ecosystems of Southeastern United States: Review and Analysis. Global Biogeochemical Cycles, 14:623-638.

    Stoddard, J.L et al. 1999. Regional trends in aquatic recovery from acidification in North America and Europe. Nature 401: 575 – 578.

  22. 72
    Lynn Vincentnathan says:

    Patrick (52), you have lots of good insight. I think the way of looking at everything (love, ant society, etc) as economics is referred to (at least in economic anthropology) as “formal” and the more common way of looking at it as production, owner/tenure, & exchange of goods/services as “substantive.” So I was speaking from a substantive view.

    You raised very good points about externalities, which I often do as well, incl the “tragedy of the commons.” But I suppose there’s a point at which we cannot really adequately add in externalities (which is what cap&trade tries to do), bec (1) it would be logistically impossible to add in all the known harms & then pay out benefits to those that are harmed (and do animals also have rights, do trees have standing — some say yes, see “wild law” in wiki), (2) we can’t really know all the negative repercussions in the present, and (3) we can’t know all the future repercussions, esp when acc to Archer AGW could last over 100,000 years (can some future generation person haul us into court after we’re long dead and gone?). I do remember during the ozone hole discussions that one person said that if externalities were added in, a can of hair spray might be as high as $1000 (I can’t remember the figure she said).

    There is also one other point I like make re economic theory, about economics being based on the idea that people are rational — rational economic man — that they will maximize gain and minimize loss (not only money, but whatever it is they want or desire). There are, of course, many psychologists that would disagree with that in many different ways. However, what I’ve found is that people do not even implement GW mitigation things that will save them money and there is not other logical reason why they should not do so even if they are purely selfish — that was a real shocker to me 20 years ago when I first tried to inspire people to do such. I guess I sort of believed heart of hearts that economic rational man was real, not a myth. But, alas, he does appear to be a myth, a figment of economists’ overactive imaginations.

    There are some studies now that deal with why people do not implement GW mitigation measures, even when it saves them money:

    But in the final analysis, maybe we’re all just nuts.

  23. 73
    David Heigham says:

    As usual with people who argue ad hominem on technical subjects, those who ‘hate’ or ‘want to lock up’ Lomberg are making fools of themselves.

    The basic calculation that Lomberg and co. have done is that if the median projections for global warming are correct; then our strategy now should concentrate now on the most cost effective ways of ameliorating the problem, on research to understand the issue better and on development of better options for dealing with it more fully later. We should not cut into the resources that we could spend on reducing starvation, poverty and disease in the near future.
    That calculation might well be right if the basic assumption held.

    However, the median projections for global warming are subject to wide uncertainty, especially at the upper end. If we act as though the median projections are not subject to uncertainty, we risk steadily advancing into a scale of disaster which we are prety sure could be immense; but which we cnnot begin to cost. The real case for doing something now, large scale, to cut our greenhouse gas output rests on the likelihood that this will reduce the chance of a major disaster. Leaving out the chance of that disaster, or under-rating it as Lomberg appears to do, is like the Titanic not cutting its speed when it had imprecise reports which suggested a possibiity of icebergs.

    On geo-engineering, no doubt our descendants will design reasonably robust and safe means of manging the flux of incoming solar radiation. We are obviously a long,long way from that point; roughly as far as Jules Verne was from being able to deign a workable lunar excursion module. The prospect of useful progress on increasing carbon absorbtion seems a good deal better. It will probably take decades to to develop manageable systems, but the path to something more effective and controllable than tipping iron into the oceans appears to be opening.

  24. 74
    Joe Hunkins says:

    The problem with allowing economists to decide the proper response of society to global warming is that they base their analysis only on their own quantifications of the costs and benefits of different strategies

    The Problem?!? This is the only rational way to determine the *solutions*. You appear to dispute their quantifications and that is fair game, but the notion we should define the costs and benefits qualitatively is absurd and it’s the reason we struggle so much with mitigation costs and benefits which are often defined with an opportunistically artistic imprecision.

  25. 75
    Patrick 027 says:

    Lynn Vincentnathan – Thank you for your comment.

    Regarding less than 100 % rational self-interested actions on the part of people:

    It could be viewed as an error in the concept of a market with rational actors. It could be viewed alternatively as rational actors embedded within people, which are not always in control due to scarcity of ability itself – in general, decision-making resources (reasoning skills, accuracy of input data, computation time) are subject to scarcity, so we ration them according to the expected likely magnitude of the consequences based on preliminary assessments, or follow instincts and traditions (learned from evolution over multiple generations – may not always be adapted to current conditions, may not pertain to self-interest (or others’) anyway, but may sometimes), rules of thumb, habit (learned response over life time), etc. The same concepts apply to moral decisions, too.

    (It would be hard to use such human imperfection to argue for government takeover of the economy in general as the same imperfections show up in voting; however, the two processes being different, it’s concievable that one or the other form of decision making might do better in any given case or category.)

    For externalities, I agree that efforts to quantify them monetarily can have errors. Some might be obvious – for example, if a wetland were valued only according to a survey of how much people liked visiting it and seeing associated birds, etc, this would completely miss the flood control value, among other things. In some cases the cost per unit amount of an externality of some amount of a thing – a pollutant, for example – might vary with the total amount. If emissions happen over time, later generations might have to pay a higher rate – this itself could be viewed as injury that the earlier generation should pay for, or alternatively, the imposed price would be contingent on the expected emissions, which will include the effect of the price.

    In some cases, civil suits may be the best approach – but I tend to agree that this is not so for greenhouse emissions – although one could imagine a class action lawsuit filed on behalf of all future people (PS then do we need to know the future population trajectory?). In other cases, privatization of the commons would work. In other cases, an imposed cost representing the best estimate of the externality would work. In other cases, public planning might be the best solution (such as urban planning, including zoning, which might reduce the uncertainty in the future of people’s property values (which is a synthesis of all the reasons to live there or own it, and is thus important whether or not the unit is resold)). (Public management of the economy can also play a role in managing kinks in supply/demand relationships so as to move from a local optimum to a higher optimum; and then there are the other caveats (I suspect a case can be made in support of progressive tax schemes based on negotiating power and a nonlinear proportionality of reward for input even – although one should be careful in case there is some good reason for encouraging power centers ?) )

    The point I want to make though, is that even if an actual monetary cost cannot be assigned to all things in some accurate way, any of the above solutions to an externality or some other caveat of free markets would be based in principle on the existence of benifits (including externality correction) and costs of that solution that in principle have some economic value. (PS the best solution is not necessarily that with the most accuracy, because accuracy can come with greater cost.)

    (The economic value of being able to see a sunrise, looking into someone’s eyes, etc, in princple exists because there are alternatives choices that people decide among, including opportunities for more money, and even though the best things in life may be ‘free’, there is a cost for the opportunity to get to those things. Being alive (and in good health) probably enhances the experience of some valuable moments (non-economic value itself, but the cause of economic value, as it is the motivation, cause, or reward for exerting any effort with resources), and material resources are required for that.)

  26. 76
    Patrick 027 says:

    … “in general, decision-making resources (reasoning skills, accuracy of input data, computation time) are subject to scarcity, so we ration them” …

    That would include assigning tasks to people and things based on capabilities.

    And we can also invest in decision-making resources as any other capital good (as this website does with regards to AGW).

  27. 77
    Patrick 027 says:

    PS animal rights – technically, only moral agents have rights. Technically, one could imagine that some other animals besides humans might have some of that capacity. Techically, young children might not so much fit in that category.

    I think of rights as being a useful social construct and legal concept – the existence of which has moral value (good to have freedom, margin of error, + moral decision making cannot be completely centralized without losing accuracy, etc.) – but any sentient being should be treated with some care whether or not it has ‘rights’, all other things being equal (minor discomfort jusifies swatting a mosquito – killing a monkey demands greater jusfication, etc.).

  28. 78
    Alan C says:

    I have to say I’m a bit concerned about large-scale artificial geoengineering projects. Do we know enough about the climate system as a whole to effect changes to the system and predict all the responses? Particularly if this is done while largely nothing is done about the man-made causes of the issue in the first place, that would seem facetious. I still think the main thrust should be dealing with the sources of the problem, replacing fossil-fuel generation with alternate sources for one thing. Wouldn’t a better method involve Forestry, especially with an eye to improved biodiversity?

  29. 79
    Patrick 027 says:


    Of course, what we really should seek is not the greatest likely economic profit (in the broadest sense), but the greatest likely moral profit. But economic profit figures into that. In some situations where the two appear at odds, some degree of resolution might be reached by including externalities and extending economic value to cover anything of any value. Economic value has moral value via the aesthetic value that drives economic value, because all other things being equal, it is good for people to have ‘things’ (including themselves) that they value (PS is all moral value also rooted in aesthetic value? – aesthetic value is subjective in being in the ‘eye’ of the beholder, but is objective in the sense that there are beholders and they do find value in ‘things’). Also and very importantly, economic value can provide opportunity for greater moral profit (ie reduce the rock-and-a-hard-place decisions).

    (There is a moral economy/ecosystem in which one should attempt to maximize moral profit (moral benifits – moral costs))

    Does this mean that a dollar value could be assigned to moral valuables? In decision making we often need to weigh apples against oranges – in moral decisions the common currency used in direct comparison is moral value.

    (Kant would identify moral worth of a person making a choice based on difficulty, but it is good for people to have what they want – a person might do good by making investments so as to reduce difficulty in future decisions. A person does good by an action that makes the best choice better and/or easier for future decisions by anyone.)

    The real value of economic value is the aesthetic value it enables (?), and the proportionality is not fixed, so that is a factor to consider – I would guess that, after accounting for inflation, the average worth of a dollar is greater when the same amount is more evenly distributed, because each person may experience decreasing returns – on the other hand, there could be exceptions where there are increasing returns – for example, if a person wants some quantized item requiring a minimum of $1000, then $999 will be worth less than 999/1000 * $1000 to that person; also, if a room that saves lives only has enough space for 10 people to live, distributing the room more fairly among 20 people may result in 10 more deaths than otherwise…

    A toaster is a capital good within the household economy.

    Reading this website has additional benifits besides the decision-making resources investment regarding AGW and the knowledge of climatology in general. Knowledge can serve other purposes, such as in use to impress someone on a date, and also there may be social capital investments being made here…

    A single item might be an end and a means to another end (enjoying a piece of cake, then, aside from the nutritional benifits, having a memory that can be used in conversation, and also, psychological benifit that might increase worker productivity, etc, etc, etc.)

    Rational self-interested behavior can be of benifit to others (I might feel better knowing you’re doing well, and there might be material symbiosis…) and might be done for others’s benifit for the same reason. People focusing on themselves and those they know tends to be an efficient algorithm because there is greater decision making resource availability (expertise) than there is for making decisions regarding strangers – however, of course, there are exceptions, such as when people are experts on categories of things (doctors, ecologists, auto mechanics, etc.) – but anyway, focusing on one’s self to some degree need not preclude placing value on other’s well-being or achievment of other’s well-being.

    Re my 77:
    A person might extrapolate from this that a comatose person does not technically have rights (? depends on what it means to be comatose) – however, a person on vacation still has property rights on his/her house; a person who is missing but who may return also has rights – after some time has passed, people might bring out the will, which might have instructions on whether or not to terminate property rights in the event of…

    A person may have desires for what happens after they die. Setting aside life after death, what actually happens makes no difference to the person who died, but a pattern of what happens after people die affects what living people can expect after they die, thus affecting the value they experience while alive.

    There is also (in addition to direct aesthetic value (the indirect aesthetic value being the value realized from utilization of material goods and services that require other goods and services, etc…) the scientific value of natural systems that could be denuded when the commons are privatized.

    The government surely can create wealth, as public policy and actions can 1. provide goods and services that are metabolized by other parts of the economy.
    2. help catalyze metabolic processes of the economy (although that would also be a service – there isn’s a clear distinction between catalyst and reactant here).

    One cost of government action being risk of corruption and inefficiency, but then there are imperfections in the private sector as well, but …

    Preservation of extant things (including biodiversity) – I’d invoke the ‘it’s hard to go home again’ principle – Aside from the rate of climate change being a problem for total biodiversity and ecological succession and economic adaptation, there is a change issue. If the total biodiversity in the future were the same but the extant species different, that is not necessarily a problem (it will eventually be inevitable) – however, if it isn’t any more valuable than current biodiversity for other reasons than the following, then the following reason could tip the balance in favor of preservation: There will always be possibilities that will not be realized, and there is sentimental and scientific value in what we now have (the later also having potential material benifits – a genetic library that may include new food and medical options). It makes sense to get some amount out of the Holocene before we move on to the next geologic time division, since we can’t easily get back once we’ve left (something to keep in mind for any irreversable process). On the other hand, once sufficient time has passed, there will be some massive body of knowledge of Holocene conditions that can be preserved, so that less will be lost than gained when moving on, but moving on would happen at some natural rate (which has aesthetic and scientific value as being part of nature itself). Oh, but humans are natural – AGW is natural – but so is government, and if we mitigate climate change, that will be natural, too.

  30. 80
    Brian Dodge says:

    I am unable to download a readable copy of the paper; the link from Realclimate appears to point to an obsolete empty file, and when I waded through the site) to the current version of the file, Acrobat reader reports that the file is corrupted and cannot be repaired. My comments perforce only apply to the points raised in discussion here. (Does the use of psychedelic fonts and menus that pop up offscreen at reflect the current mental state of economists caused by the failure of their models to predict the meltdown?

    “They use calculations with the Dynamic Integrated model of Climate and the Economy (DICE) economic model to make the paper seem scientific, but there are many inherent assumptions, and they up-front refuse to present their results in terms of ranges or error bars.”
    How well does this model handle observed economic conditions such as the recent collapse of the real estate derivatives market and its influence on financial markets and the world economy overall? Given the reported lack of error estimates, can any underlying statistical assumptions (e.g. Gaussian or long-tailed distributions) be determined or assessed?
    My limited understanding of financial analysis is that modeling “discounting” assumes monotonic and unbounded growth in investments; what if the current funds which will be used to support future SRM or other geoengineering schemes are invested in an oil well, which runs dry? does the DICE model predict future investment opportunities, costs, and rate of return for discounting, or does it just assume that there will be constant growth?

    “But Bickel and Lane ignore the effects of ocean acidification from continued CO2 emissions, dismissing this as a lost cause.”
    It seems to me that if we are already well and truly screwed, as this assumption implies, then the rational greedy individual reaction is to protect whatever wealth one has without regard to what happens to everyone else. Perhaps the wealthiest 5-10% of the population, which owns more than half of everything that can be bought and sold, has concluded that the Titanic is sinking. Now they are simply trying to insure that they have a life preserver or a place in the (financial) lifeboat, whatever they can buy, beg, borrow, or steal, to insure their survival.

    “Bickel and Lane do not even mention several potential negative effects of SRM, including getting rid of blue skies, huge reductions in solar power from systems using direct solar radiation, or ruining terrestrial optical astronomy”
    The reduction in solar power with SRM is a positive effect – it reduces the competition for fossil fuels, keeping their price and ROI high, plus maintaining market share(absent effects from cap-and-trade policies). Although blue skies and optical astronomy may have value, they can’t be assigned a price, so economic models must assume they have zero worth.

    IMHO, economic modeling is hampered, if not hamstrung, by the necessity of predicting human behaviors which are not constrained by physical laws(once our basic needs are met). “The market” sometimes decides to do something whimsical, like creating pet rocks, or hula hoops, or other fads which drive economic activities, and there is no underlying physics enabling economic models to predict their occurrence. What if the Saudis decide oil should sell for $40 per barrel, or $400 dollars per barrel for religious reasons? Sometimes quasi-predictable human behavioral drivers like greed result in the creation of financial edifices such as 40-60 trillion dollars worth of credit default swaps(we don’t even know what this number really is, because the Bush Administration decided the benefits of no regulation/no reporting requirements outweighed the risks). Confirmation bias lead to the assumption of a normal rather than long-tailed risk distribution for these & similar financial instruments. As it turned out, the actual risk and economic leverage of CDS’s destroyed Lehman Brothers, forced Goldman Sachs out of the investment banking business, caused the sale of Merril Lynch to Bank of America, and required the Federal government to buy a majority stake in AIG, along with a few other minor economic consequences. Ironically, the instruments played the musicians. I doubt any economic model can predict future presidential election results and therefore the probability of the government handing out another $700 billion in TARP funds, let alone what inflation or ROI will be 5 years from now. Nor do I believe that economic models can accurately predict whether greed(we’ve irreversibly screwed the climate, so it’s every man for himself) or altruism(we must make sacrifices now to stabilize the climate and protect the earth for future generations) will drive future actions. It is painfully obvious that Lomborg, Bickel, Lane, the folks at CEI, AEI, Heartland, Marshall, and other right wing crank tanks, as well as the talking heads at Fox news project their nature to society in general, predicting that they and their ilk will do well, surviving climate change upheavals quite nicely, while ignoring the impact on the rest of the population or future generations.

  31. 81
    Patrick 027 says:

    Re my 77 again:

    moral benifits of system of legal rights:

    greater accuracy of moral decisions in many cases (as opposed to centralized process – some centralized decision making/action taking has value (including protection of rights), but increasing the accuracy of all moral judgement through centralized action becomes inefficient at some point; the justice systmem has expenses, etc.)

    feeling free is a desired thing; having a margin of error within which to make mistakes that are not officially punished has a psychological benifit

  32. 82
    canbanjo says:

    j lovelock talks of risks resulting from implementing reduction of co2 releasing processes eg coal fired power stations due to the low level aerosol haze which reflects heat back into space. presumably geoengineering is possibly more important to tackle short term positive feedbacks in this respect, and not just a technique for enabling long term business as usual?

  33. 83
    Patrick 027 says:

    I keep leaving loose ends and if I keep trying to tie them up I’ll end up writing my entire philosophical outlook here. So I’ll try to limit myself.

    So there are caveats in free markets that may justify some greater government involvement in some way, and the costs anb benifits of any such involvement have to be weighed. Some public planning is good (urban planning, zoning, working through nonlinearities in supply/demand and externalities, laws for driving on one side of the road, etc., perhaps also taking the place of would-be natural private monopolies without some of the disadvantages of monopolies (but maybe with some other disadvantages – give and take, find the best combo, checks and balances, etc.)), and checks on externalities (which is actually a form of protection of rights), and regulation might be helpful to economies in some ways (confidence in the marketplace? More efficient consumers, who don’t need to exert as much effort making sure products are safe and not made in sweatshops, etc, if the government is doing it’s job to those ends (assuming the governmand can do this more efficiently and that corruption doesn’t completely destroy the net benifit) (also regulation of monopolies (monopolies by themselves could become dictatorships if not checked,

    … and also, while having some centers of power might be of some benifit in efficient decision-making (?), if there is a nonlinear relationship between cummulative effort (I specify cummulative, because a position of power can be earned over time, and it is good that people with good decision making skills should be in charge, although that is not always how it works, and this is problematic when someone gains power in one category of work and then uses it in areas in which s/he is not skilled) and reward per unit cummulative effort – such as from negotiating power – arguably I think this actually can make the market less efficient overall. Rich and powerful might like to maintain a group in poverty to maintain a low-cost labor force; while there are jobs that require unskilled labor, so that investment in skills would be somewhat wasteful (although some labor skills have other benifits, to the person who has them if not directly to employers), it would only require investment in some of that labor to increase the necessary demand (wages) to keep the same supply (labor).)

    (Although another solution is unionized labor – the analogue of boycotts and consumer groups for consumers. It seems silly that free market people would be against unions in general, since they are private enterprises themselves).

    Aside from that, there may be additional moral reason to have some additional redistribution of wealth (beyond that which is justified by the negotiating power issue). The moral benifit is perhaps increased fairness (regarding inherited and chance inequity (though the later can be in theory partially mitigated by insurance, or investment in more than a single company, etc.**) plus increased worth of wealth due to more even distribution – the cost is an infringement(?) on (or reduction of ?)property rights that impairs the free market algorithm, so that in the long-run, efficiency declines (The problem of helping without increasing the need for help), as well as decreased fairness regarding chosen inequity (depending on the structure of the policy) (a person might choose to work less hard because his/her values are different – quality of life might still be the same as a rich person in some cases). But there might be a compromise position that works well, assuming the production possibilities curve of policy, mapped onto a moral value-proportional grid, is convex.

    Then of course there is the tax deduction for charity, although what happens when you contribute to a charity that hires you to run it and …

    (PS ideally there should be a national property tax as well as income and sales tax, because government services support all of these things (or does the defense budget not help protext one’s house?, etc.; It has occured to me that while taxes are justified, it is not at all obvious to me how to balance different tax systems in a fair way – I’m thinking that the tax should be on property value + income + sales in the same units; if it is not a flat tax, income should be averaged over years or else it is not fair; there should not be sales tax on business-to-business transactions because this makes taxes higher on products that involve more companies without any good reason; if there are no coorporate taxes, than capital gains should be treated as any other income; otherwise it is the taxes on businesses that justify a reduced tax on capital gains – but I don’t know enough about business taxes to say any more on that (It didn’t use to make sense to me that progressive income taxes would hurt small businesses, because the total business profit and income, are not necessarily those of the owner – it is the take home pay of the owner that is his/her income – but small business owners like to file taxes as individual people, or something … well maybe this could be solved by simplifying the paperwork (??) )

    (Also, FEMA should be paid for at least in part by a tax proportional to risks not covered by private insurance, or otherwise in proportion to the difference between the risk and the average risk for the same property value, etc. – insurance works by increasing certainty for individuals/small groups without removing the incentive to not take unwise risk – to take risks when the likely benifit is greater than the likely cost), or otherwise


    Anyway, the original point was that moral value has potential economic value, economic value has potential aesthetic value, aesthetic value has moral value, moral value has potential aesthetic value, aethetic value has potential economic value, and economic value has potential moral value, and except for externalities, these things could be assessed by considering questions of how much would or should someone be willing to pay to do the right thing, how much would someone pay to see geese fly x times at y time of year at… and how much would someone pay to be in a relationship (big caveat there – posing the actual question changes the answer (is that an externality?) – well it’s tricky but we know people are willing to pay, not the other person, but for things involved in the relationship or for the opportunity to be in the same place at the same time or to communicate, etc.). Nonlinearities make this very hard (enjoying one slice of chocolate cake might be worth more than 1 % of enjoying 100 slices of chocolate cake (especially if in a small time interval), although it might be worth less than 50 % of enjoying two slices (because the first one might prime the brain so that the second can be appreciated in more detail and more deeply), and a person will typically always place a value on at least a few more slices of cake at some future time no matter how many have been had so far.

    But a tax on climate-changing emissions is still in principle jusified by the moral benifit of the tax, which is related to the (equivalent) economic benifit, etc., and that implies a moral cost with an economic equivalent of the tax rate, nonlinearities aside, if the estimate used is correct, which it might not be, but we have limited decision making resources (including computation time), so let’s just do it already.

  34. 84
    Patrick 027 says:

    On cake – savoring is good, but there is a limit to how much this can be done, there are decreasing and negative returns due to the urge to swallow and the declining flavor experience (?) – I also find that the best way to enjoy food in general is in pieces big enough to fill a significant portion of the mouth, so cake (low density) is better than solid chocolate in that way (greater benifit per unit undesired sugar calorie, etc.) (computation changes greater if a person is sugar-deficient), but of course that could just be me and variety is good so evaluations for one-time transactions in isolation could be misleading…(if you always lived like each day was your last, it would be very easy to quickly become obese, and also perhaps bored by always choosing your most favorite food items)(On a related note, I’ve noticed that I (used to) tend to put off enjoying music on a CD because I knew I could listen to it any time, whereas I can’t control the radio station)

    and then there’s being metarational (see Traveller’s Dilemma); sometimes the rational choice is to be irrational. For example, why was I just talking about cake on a climate blog :)

  35. 85
    Hank Roberts says:

    For Brian Dodge — I put just the authors’ last names in the search box at their site

    and found a new revision of their paper — Version 4.

    This link works at the moment and produces a readable file. YMMV:

    I didn’t compare v3 to v4, but hope someone has or will.

  36. 86
    Hank Roberts says:

    “As a short hand, we will sometimes refer to SRM in terms of watts. The reader should not forget however, that by this we always mean watts per square meter.”

    Imagine a climatologist, describing an economics modeling paper, sometimes using Dollars as shorthand for Dollars Per Capita — comparably clear.

  37. 87
    Patrick 027 says:

    … yes, better not to use units at all except in the beginning of a list, ‘all values in W/m2:…’, etc.

  38. 88
    Hank Roberts says:

    Hey, a side question: when people talk about putting sulfates into the stratosphere — what source are they talking about using?

    I ask because I was reminded of a couple of previous situations where an industry’s troublesome industrial point source waste product got redefined as a salable material. Then got government to mandate using it. Later problems turned up — after the stuff had been widely distributed in the environment and groundwater.

    MTBE: industrial waste stream product; gasoline oxygenate additive; groundwater pollutant

    Sewage sludge: waste stream product; unregulated fertilizer sold in large volumes for farm use; virus and heavy metal source.

    So I was wondering — what industries are currently producing large volumes of sulfate waste material they need to dispose of? What are they doing with it now?

    I found this:

    I’m not cynical enough yet.

    By comparison when it’s not controlled at the source:

  39. 89
    Patrick 027 says:

    At least if we used (Ca,Mg)SiO3, etc, dust instead of sulfate aerosols, there would be a CO2 sequestration effect.

    — some materials that are not typically recycled, end up in land fills:

    Al foil used for food, plastic film packaging with a shiny side (very thin aluminum), candy bar wrappers that are white on the inside. All potentially high albedo surfaces. I wonder…

    I also wonder if those Aluminum-plastic wrappers might not be recycled into capacitors. Imagine if landfills effectively became batteries.

    Calculations might show otherwise; just thought I’d toss some ideas out.

  40. 90
  41. 91
    CM says:


    I didn’t compare v3 to v4, but hope someone has or will.

    My best guess is there is no significant difference between those versions, though since the authors have commented here, perhaps they can enlighten us.

    (I got v3 on Aug 13, the link worked fine then. Your comment piqued my curiosity, so I got v4 from your link and did a diff on the text contents. The only change I found — one blank line apart — was in the number of papers said to have been commissioned by the CCC on the topic — corrected from 24 to 21. Of course, there may be differences unnoticed by diff in graphs — though I fail to see any — or display math.)

  42. 92
    canbanjo says:

    Food you know you have, you know you like, its ready for consumption v unknown food specifics, but knowing the likely hood threshold of enjoyment and serendipity out ways the fear or minor risk that the unknown food will be significantly worse than the food you know you have. there is no right answer, and it is good to be versatile and willing to switch hypothesis mid meal. that will enable the clear sky thinking hunger craves.

  43. 93
    Patrick 027 says:

    “there is no right answer, and it is good to be versatile and willing to switch hypothesis mid meal.”

    Or is the right answer still out there waiting to be discovered? Or is the right answer a function of time?

  44. 94
    Patrick 027 says:

    PS on a related matter, I came across a couple sources suggesting that CdTe and CIGS will be able to supply a significant amount of PV power, and also, one mentions the potential for other materials. I’m particularly excited by one: CZTS (Cu2ZnSnS4) (bandgap energy 1.49 eV (at room temp), absorption coefficient of 1 per micron – see:
    “Preparation of Cu2ZnSnS4 thin films by sulfurizing sol–gel deposited precursors”

    “The Influence of the Composition Ratio on CZTS-based Thin Film Solar Cells”

    (lists band gap eneries of related materials in terms of wavelength):

    “PV FAQs
    Will we have enough materials for energy-significant PV production?”

    “Materials Availability Expands the Opportunity for Large-Scale Photovoltaics Deployment”

  45. 95
    Patrick 027 says:

    Clarification on absorption coefficient of CZTS:

    “Development of CZTS-based thin film solar cells”

    states: “large absorption coefficient in the order of [10^4 per cm, equal to 1 per micron]”

  46. 96
    CM says:

    Bickel and Lane (#70),

    Ninth, Robock writes “they [Bickel and Lane] insist on using the wrong units for energy flux (W) instead of the correct units of W/m^2…” …We assume Robock means the power flux, since watts are a measure of power, not energy.”

    Um, I’m sure he does mean the “energy flux”: the rate at which energy “flows” through a surface, hence energy per unit time per unit area, which is the same as power per unit area, measured in W/m^2. Since you yourselves do not use “power flux” in your report, why should Robock?

    When the total surface area involved is known, it may be sometimes be helpful to multiply it with the flux and express the rate simply in terms of power (W). But it makes no sense, except perhaps to Humpty Dumpty, to use W and saying it means W/m^2, and to do so inconsistently. Even if you do tell the reader.

  47. 97
    CM says:

    Bickel and Lane (#70)

    Second, Robock asserts, “That the second author works for the American Enterprise Institute, a lobbying group that has been a leading global warming denier, is not surprising, except that now they are in favor of a solution to a problem they have claimed for years does not exist.” [B&L retort:] … AEI is not a lobbying organization. … Lane has spent most of the last decade on research aimed at fining more efficient and affordable responses to climate change…

    I think the authors’ response has half a point here (YMMV).

    I doubt it is accurate to reduce the AEI strategy against meaningful action on climate change to “denial”; it seems more multi-pronged than that. Nor to call the AEI a “leading” denier (very competitive field, denial). Nor, strictly speaking, to call it a “lobbying” organization, rather than a highly partisan organisation for public policy research and advocacy, and a purveyor of a range of arguments to lobbyists.

    I agree with Robock it’s a funny development, though, that those who don’t think global warming is enough of a threat to merit sensible emission curbs, do think that untested high-risk geoengineering fixes sound promising. Considering the denialist slur that climate scientists make alarmist claims to secure fat grants, it’s also funny how those opposed to taking real action against emissions are coming up with all these proposals for research that should be funded first.

    As for Mr Lane, he is on record in 2006 arguing for Bush to impose a “modest” carbon tax – as a preemptive move to avoid his successor imposing a “draconian” cap and trade scheme, given that some form of GHG control seems politically unavoidable anyway (Strategic Options for Bush Administration Climate Policy. Seems to me the work favors efficient policies as long as they’re not ambitious enough to risk becoming effective ones (but there I go, imputing motive, tch tch, read it for yourselves).

    In that work he does criticize the Bush administration for failing to grasp that, “Logically, today’s continuing uncertainties about climate sensitivity should reinforce a willingness to invest in mitigation” (p. 33). That is indeed a cut above some other AEI noises on the science, and not something a denialist would say.

  48. 98
    Ray Ladbury says:

    CM says, “I doubt it is accurate to reduce the AEI strategy against meaningful action on climate change to “denial”; it seems more multi-pronged than that.”

    I agree, that ignores the willful ignorance and deliberate obfuscation they dish up in large portions.

  49. 99
    Eric Bickel and Lee Lane says:

    [RE: Hank Roberts, #86; CM, #96]

    We don’t disagree regarding units. Our only point is that we did not think our shorthand was confusing within the body of the paper. We do understand that our use of this shorthand in the abstract is potentially confusing and will correct this. We will reconsider its use in the body of the paper. Thank you for your feedback.

    [RE: Hank Roberts, #85; CM, #91]

    We checked with the Copenhagen Consensus Center to understand what they changed between v3 and v4 of our paper. Here is their response:

    “1. We moved our logo from page 4 to page 3 so that this paper is consistent with every other;
    2. In our own description of the project (available in every paper underneath the Abstract on p4), we changed the number of papers commissioned to the correct number; earlier versions had an incorrect number;
    3. Our designer spotted and fixed a minor typo that made it appear that two letters were on top of each other, in an equation on p29.”

  50. 100
    CM says:

    B&L (#99), thanks for passing that on. Useful to know nothing of substance has changed when a paper under discussion is re-versioned.