Denying the Climate Catastrophe: 9. A Low-Cost Insurance Policy

This is Chapter 9 (the final chapter) of an ongoing series.  Other parts of the series are here:

  1. Introduction
  2. Greenhouse Gas Theory
  3. Feedbacks
  4.  A)  Actual Temperature Data;  B) Problems with the Surface Temperature Record
  5. Attribution of Past Warming:  A) Arguments for it being Man-Made; B) Natural Attribution
  6. Climate Models vs. Actual Temperatures
  7. Are We Already Seeing Climate Change
  8. The Lukewarmer Middle Ground
  9. A Low-Cost Insurance Policy  (this article)

While I have shown over the previous chapters that there is good reason to be skeptical of a future man-made climate catastrophe (at least from CO2), I am appalled at all the absolutely stupid, counter-productive things the government has implemented in the name of climate change, all of which have costly distorting effects on the economy while doing extremely little to affect man-made greenhouse gas production.  For example:

Even when government programs do likely have an impact of CO2, they are seldom managed intelligently.  For example, the government subsidizes solar panel installations, presumably to reduce their cost to consumers, but then imposes duties on imported panels to raise their price (indicating that the program has become more of a crony subsidy for US solar panel makers, which is typical of the life-cycle of these types of government interventions).  Obama's coal power plan, also known as his war on coal, will certainly reduce some CO2 from electricity generation but at a very high cost to consumers and industries.  Steps like this are taken without any idea of whether this is the lowest cost approach to reducing CO2 production -- likely it is not given the arbitrary aspects of the program.

For years I have opposed steps like a Federal carbon tax or cap and trade system because I believe (and still believe) them to be unnecessary given the modest amount of man-made warming I expect over the next century.  I would expect to see about one degree C of man-made warming between now and 2100, and believe most of the cries that "we are already seeing catastrophic climate changes" are in fact panics driven by normal natural variation (most supposed trends, say in hurricanes or tornadoes or heat waves, can't actually be found when one looks at the official data).

But I am exhausted with all the stupid, costly, crony legislation that passes in the name of climate change action.   I am convinced there is a better approach that will have more impact on man-made CO2 and simultaneously will benefit the economy vs. our current starting point.  So here goes:

The Plan

Point 1:  Impose a Federal carbon tax on fuel.

I am open to a range of actual tax amounts, as long as point 2 below is also part of the plan.  Something that prices CO2 between $25 and $45 a ton seems to match the mainstream estimates out there of the social costs of CO2.  I think methane is a rounding error, but one could make an adjustment to the natural gas tax numbers to take into account methane leakage in the production chain.   I am even open to make the tax=0 on biofuels given these fuels are recycling carbon from the atmosphere.

A Pigovian tax on carbon in fuels is going to be the most efficient possible way to reduce CO2 production.   What is the best way to reduce CO2 -- by substituting gas for coal?   by more conservation?  by solar, or wind?  with biofuels?  With a carbon tax, we don't have to figure it out.  Different approaches will be tested in the marketplace.  Cap and trade could theoretically do the same thing, but while this worked well in some niche markets (like SO2 emissions), it has not worked at all in European markets for CO2.   There has just been too many opportunities for cronyism, too much weird accounting for things like offsets that is hard to do well, and too much temptation to pick winners and losers.

Point 2:  Offset 100% of carbon tax proceeds against the payroll tax

Yes, there are likely many politicians, given their incentives, that would love a big new pool of money they could use to send largess, from more health care spending to more aircraft carriers, to their favored constituent groups.  But we simply are not going to get Conservatives (and libertarians) on board for a net tax increase, particularly one to address an issue they may not agree is an issue at all.   So our plan will use carbon tax revenues to reduce other Federal taxes.

I think the best choice would be to reduce the payroll tax.  Why?  First, the carbon tax will necessarily be regressive (as are most consumption taxes) and the most regressive other major Federal tax we have are payroll taxes.  Offsetting income taxes would likely be a non-starter on the Left, as no matter how one structures the tax reduction the rich would get most of it since they pay most of the income taxes.

There is another benefit of reducing the payroll tax -- it would mean that we are replacing a consumption tax on labor with a consumption tax on fuel.  It is always dangerous to make gut-feel assessments of complex systems like the economy, but my sense is that this swap might even have net benefits for the economy -- ie we might want to do it even if there was no such thing as greenhouse gas warming.   In theory, labor and fuel are economically equivalent in that they are both production raw materials.  But in practice, they are treated entirely differently by the public.   Few people care about the full productive employment of our underground fuel reserves, but nearly everybody cares about the full productive employment of our labor force.   After all, for most people, the primary single metric of economic health is the unemployment rate.  So replacing a disincentive to hire with a disincentive to use fuel could well be popular.

Point 3:  Eliminate all the stupid stuff

Oddly enough, this might be the hardest part politically because every subsidy, no matter how idiotic, has a hard core of beneficiaries who will defend it to the death -- this the the concentrated benefits, dispersed cost phenomena that makes it hard to change many government programs.  But never-the-less I propose that we eliminate all the current Federal subsidies, mandates, and prohibitions that have been justified by climate change.  Ethanol rules and mandates, solar subsidies, wind subsidies, EV subsidies, targeted technology investments, coal plant bans, pipeline bans, drilling bans -- it all should go.  The carbon tax does the work.

States can continue to do whatever they want -- we don't need the Feds to step on states any more than they do already, and I continue to like the 50 state laboratory concept.  If California wants to continue to subsidize wind generators, let them do it.  That is between the state and its taxpayers (and for those who think the California legislature is crazy, that is what U-Haul is for).

Point 4:  Revamp our nuclear regulatory regime

As much as alternative energy enthusiasts would like to deny it, the world needs reliable, 24-hour baseload power -- and wind and solar are not going to do it (without a change in storage technology of at least 2 orders of magnitude in cost).  The only carbon-free baseload power technology that is currently viable is nuclear.

I will observe that nuclear power suffers under some of the same problems as commercial space flight -- the government helped force the technology faster than it might have grown organically on its own, which paradoxically has slowed its long-term development.  Early nuclear power probably was not ready for prime time, and the hangover from problems and perceptions of this era have made it hard to proceed even when better technologies have existed.   But we are at least 2 generations of technology past what is in most US nuclear plants.  Small air-cooled thorium reactors and other technologies exist that could provide reliable safe power for over 100 years.  I am not an expert on nuclear regulation, but it strikes me that a regime similar to aircraft safety, where a few designs are approved and used over and over makes sense.  France, which has the strongest nuclear base in the world, followed this strategy.  Using thorium could also have the advantage of making the technology more exportable, since its utility in weapons production would be limited.

Point 5: Help clean up Chinese, and Asian, coal production

One of the hard parts about fighting CO2 emissions, vs. all the other emissions we have tackled in the past (NOx, SOx, soot/particulates, unburned hydrocarbons, etc), is that we simply don't know how to combust fossil fuels without creating CO2 -- CO2 is inherent to the base chemical reaction of the combustion.  But we do know how to burn coal without tons of particulates and smog and acid rain -- and we know how to do it economically enough to support a growing, prosperous modern economy.

In my mind it is utterly pointless to ask China to limit their CO2 growth.  China has seen the miracle over the last 30 years of having almost a billion people exit poverty.  This is an event unprecedented in human history, and they have achieved it in part by burning every molecule of fossil fuels they can get their hands on, and they are unlikely to accept limitations on fossil fuel consumption that will derail this economic progress.  But I think it is reasonable to help China stop making their air unbreathable, a goal that is entirely compatible with continued economic growth.  In 20 years, when we have figured out and started to build some modern nuclear designs, I am sure the Chinese will be happy to copy these and start working on their CO2 output, but for now their Maslov hierarchy of needs should point more towards breathable air.

As a bonus, this would pay one immediate climate change benefit that likely would dwarf the near-term effect of CO2 reduction.  Right now, much of this soot from Asian coal plants lands on the ice in the Arctic and Greenland.  This black carbon changes the albedo of the ice, causing it to reflect less sunlight and absorb more heat.  The net effect is more melting ice and higher Arctic temperatures.  A lot of folks, including myself, think that the recent melting of Arctic sea ice and rising Arctic temperatures is more attributable to Asian black carbon pollution than to CO2 and greenhouse gas warming (particularly since similar warming and sea ice melting is not seen in the Antarctic, where there is not a problem with soot pollution).

Final Thoughts

At its core, this is a very low cost, even negative cost, climate insurance policy.  The carbon tax combined with a market economy does the work of identifying the most efficient ways to reduce CO2 production.   The economy benefits from the removal of a myriad of distortions and crony give-aways, while also potentially benefiting from the replacement of a consumption tax on labor with a consumption tax on fuel.  The near-term effect on CO2 is small (since the US is only a small part of the global emissions picture), but actually larger than the near-term effect of all the haphazard current programs, and almost certainly cheaper to obtain.  As an added benefit, if you can help China with its soot problem, we could see immediate improvements in probably the most visible front of man-made climate change:  in the Arctic.

For those who have hung with me this entire series, many thanks for your interest.  If you have questions, concerns, or outraged refutations, you are welcome to email me at the link above.


  1. herdgadfly:

    Did I really just read that an our host, and supposed expert on global warming, just proposed that we accept that life-giving CO2 is a poisonous gas and that we should pay a carbon tax for use of so-called fossil fuels?

    When on this subject I like to start with the words of Michael Crichton in his "Prologue to Jurassic Park: " You think man can destroy the planet? What intoxicating vanity."

    The science is now all-but-settled on global warming, because the latest evidence points to cosmic rays and the sun - not human activities - as the dominant controller of climate on Earth. The research comes from CERN, one of the world’s largest centers for scientific research, located in Switzerland, built a clean stainless steel chamber that precisely recreated the Earth’s atmosphere. In this chamber, CERN scientists have done what global warming doomsayers said could never be done - demonstrate that cosmic rays promote the formation of molecules that can grow and seed clouds, so the cloudier it is the cooler it will be. Because the sun’s magnetic field controls how many cosmic rays reach Earth’s atmosphere, Sol determines the temperature, not the Greenhouse Effect.

  2. Joe_Da:

    Point 3: Eliminate all the stupid stuff

    Oddly enough, this might be the hardest part politically because every subsidy, no matter how idiotic, has a hard core of beneficiaries who will defend it to the death -- this the the concentrated benefits,

    Environment zealots lack basic knowledge in cost benefit analysis with zero concept of marginal cost / marginal benefit analysis. For example, reducing air pollution has major benefits and little costs to reduce the majority of air pollution. Now that the air in the USofA is very clean, the incremental benefits of making it even cleaner is very small while the costs are very large - using scarce resources that can provide greater benefits elsewhere.

  3. Dano2:

    the latest evidence points to cosmic rays and the sun - not human activities - as the dominant controller of climate on Earth.

    You can't show the italicized is true. You made that up.



  4. stan:

    Carbon tax plus reduced payroll tax is a massive redistribution of money from rural and suburban people to city dwellers. With tremendous negative impacts for rural communities. Warren is supporting the crushing of coal communities only on a much wider scale.
    For example, taxing those who drive a great deal 300 and those who don't drive much 100 while giving everyone a 200 payroll rebate simply takes 100 from the drivers and gives it to the non-drivers. With extraordinary transactions costs.

  5. David Zetland:

    Actually, VERY SMALL transactions costs. A carbon tax (which you treat like a gasoline tax) would ALSO help bring the now-in-deficit highway "trust" back into balance.

  6. David Zetland:

    I'm surprised that you didn't mention lowering the rate of deforestation, which is bad on many counts and driven by corruption and weak property rights. Or does that fall under "stupid stuff"?

  7. EricAdler:

    "I think the best choice would be to reduce the payroll tax."
    There is a problem with this. If the program succeeds and carbon emissions decline to close to zero, the proceeds go away. The payroll tax funds social security retirement and health care for the elderly. So as a practical matter it will involve fancy political footwork to make these programs whole when emissions decline.
    "In my mind it is utterly pointless to ask China to limit their CO2 growth. "
    China has already committed to reducing their CO2 emissions, and has stopped building new coal plants, and is ramping up renewable sources. Part of it is due to reduced economic growth and a desire to cut pollution, but the renewable rampup is related to curbing global warming.
    “This trend may continue for 3-5 years or even longer,” said Li Junfeng, director general at the National Climate Change Strategy Research and International Cooperation Centre, a thinktank close to China’s government. “Today’s figures are sending the strong signal of the clear acceleration of China’s energy transition. I think thermal [coal] power generation will continue to drop with an annual speed of 2-4% and the non-fossil power generation will stay in a high growth rate of 20%.”

  8. Maximum Liberty:

    It's not the case that Warren's proposal "simply takes ... and gives ... ." It does take and give, but the point of the proposal is to create a different set of incentives: to use less carbon-based fuel and use more labor. Your use of the word "simply" in that context is a rhetorical tool advising the reader to ignore all other effects. But it is those other effects that are the point of the proposal. That same rhetorical tool also hints to the reader that Warren's purpose is to take and give. I think that's unfair to Warren: his driving purpose is not redistribution.

  9. J_W_W:

    The problem with your solution is that you are trying to solve the stated problem. While progressives are actually trying to solve the problem of not having enough control over people's lives.

  10. erschroedinger:

    That's flat out false. Cosmic rays do not even correlate with temperatures, and the sun has not increased its output in 40 years while the earth continued to warm.

    Hint: If all the world's scientists say one thing and you say the opposite, the odds are you're wrong.

  11. EricAdler:

    Coyote wrote:
    "the US is only a small part of the global emissions picture"

    The US is responsible for 17% of the world's CO2 emissions from energy consumption. China is 27%. I don't consider 17% that small. On a per capita basis our emissions, 17.62 Metric tons, are much higher than than China, 6.5 and all other countries except Suadi Arabia and Australia. Canada is a close second.

    I am discouraged that you have written such a wide ranging detalied blog which is so wrong on so many of the "facts" that you provide.

  12. Bill_Woods:

    "I am not an expert on nuclear regulation, but it strikes me that a regime similar to aircraft safety, where a few designs are approved and used over and over makes sense. France, which has the strongest nuclear base in the world, followed this strategy."
    A note of caution: France seems to have bungled the design and/or the construction of its latest model, the EPR, rather badly. These days, South Korea seems like a better role model.

  13. Joshua:

    I gotta say carbon tax is the best idea of a bad bunch though. Maybe it'll be the incentive needed to develop practical solar that will benefit rural users. On the bright side, it makes up for the Universal Service Fund! ;)

  14. Mahon1:

    The primary cause of (catastrophic) global warming was the fall of the Soviet Union. As long as it was possible to pretend that Russia was a "workers' paradise" all of the anti-capitalist energies of the left-over hippies in academia and the media could be channeled into left-wing economic theories. After 1989 it was clear even to them (for the moment - everything is new again to Millennials) that Communism, socialism, etc. were lost causes. So the position became: OK, so Capitalism really works, but it is destroying the planet through Global Warming. The theory was invented to answer the question "How can we claim Capitalism is still evil?" and the arguments and the models and even the data were back-formed to support that answer. Of course, this was not done consciously, for the most part. Confirmation bias is a very powerful force.

  15. rktsci:

    The key would be to shift away from water-cooled reactors, which are subject to rapid catastrophic failures. A number of alternative reactors have much more benign failure modes and are therefore safer. The use of water-cooled reactors for electric power was because the Navy used them, so the manufacturers could scale-up the Navy designs.

  16. rktsci:

    Hint: not always true. Look at the history of the treatment of ulcers. It took quite a bit for the medical community to give credence to the bacterial infection theory. And that's now the standard in differential diagnosis - test for bacterial infection in the gut. Science is as subject to group-think and herd following as any other field. I've seen it first hand - the primary concern of scientists is getting funding, which you do by making the right pitch to the funding agencies.

  17. Bill_Woods:

    Yup. Molten-salt reactors look like the way to go.
    (Better yet, to have gone, back in the '70s.)

  18. HenryBowman419:

    The carbon tax you suggest is completely absurd, for the following reasons:

    1. There is actually no empirical evidence that carbon dioxide is the cause of atmospheric planetary warming. Assertions that carbon dioxide is responsible for such are simply without merit.
    2. There are a number of really good reasons to suppose that increasing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is a pronounced benefit to mankind.
    3. A carbon tax that you suggest will never be offset by a reduction in other taxes: it will simply be used to steal more of people's money, and will never decrease, only increase.

    One should never give the totalitarians another monetary resource — put on your thinking cap, Warren!

  19. obloodyhell:

    }}} most supposed trends, say in hurricanes or tornadoes or heat waves, can't actually be found when one looks at the official data).

    No, there is a clear and obvious trend which says all anyone needs to know about Global Warming, driven entirely as it is by oceanic temperatures.

    It's the fact that we haven't had a single Class-3 or above Hurricane strike the entire eastern seaboard for longer than at any time (since ca. 1820) when there first were enough people to reliably record a description matching anything like a class-3 or better hurricane along the entire coast from Texas to Maine. The LAST longest period was in the 1860s.

    Since hurricane formation is virtually ENTIRELY driven by ocean surface heat, it is blatantly fucking OBVIOUS that that ocean surface heat has been consistently LOWER for all of that time than at any time since 1820ish.

    Since the heat absorption capacity of the ocean is VASTLY greater than that of the atmosphere, it also means that the ATMOSPHERIC temperatures have also been averaging well below "typical" for this recent timeframe during this period between ice ages. Otherwise, the heat would be rising and re-applying itself in the Caribbean spawning grounds for Atlantic hurricanes.

    So, no, Warren, you're wrong. There's an obvious TREND, and it is AWAY from WARMING and towards COOLING. The last remnant of any warming cycle happened in 2006, when we had FOUR Class-3 or better hurricanes strike the eastern seaboard, which was touted as "proof" of AGW and "We just had to get used to more such" -- and of course THAT was fear mongering and spike-for-average argumentation.

    This isnt a "spike", or if it is, it's one in the opposite direction. It's a NINE-YEAR RUN which is unprecedented in the last 190 years.

    Proof? Nope. But one hell of a glaring indication that AGW is absolute bovine excreta, and its proponents ambulatory humaniform containers of said material.

  20. Come2gether:

    More government intervention. Like they have not already done enough harm. This is just another version of socialism totalitarianism lite. Do me a favor, stick to solutions that do not result in giving corrupt politicians even more control over the economy.

  21. mx:

    That's the precisely the point. Someone who emits substantially more CO2 (by say, driving a lot) is imposing a cost on all of us. A carbon tax means that externality should be priced into the good. To the extent that causes changes in behavior at the margins, that's where the reduction in emissions comes from: the market provides an incentive.

  22. Justwaitinforchange:

    Here is where you are wrong - ours is 17% and shrinking (due almost solely nat gas replacing coal for power generation). We all want that % to be much lower. However the world has greatly benefited from our economic, scientific and military strength. China and India (the next large scale polluter) benefit only themselves. Short of cutting the population of the world in half there aren't any simple/easy solutions.

  23. Justwaitinforchange:

    the issue with that fund is much greater gas mileage for traditional cars and electric vehicles not paying their share for road up keep (and if we weren't busy building bike paths thee funds shortfall would be much less).

  24. davemarney:

    The smartest part of this proposal is to have government set up INCENTIVES for behavior, and not get directly involved in whatever changes people make to gain them. Imagine an entire administrative system based on incentives! Fantastic idea.

  25. JAR:

    IPCC Third Assessment Report

    Chapter 14


    Last paragraph:

    “In sum, a strategy
    must recognize what is possible. In climate research and modelling, we should
    recognize that we are dealing with a coupled non-linear chaotic system, and
    therefore that the long-term prediction of future climate states is not

    This information was not included in the Summary Report for
    Policymakers given to the press and public.

    If the climate is indeed a coupled non linear chaotic system
    (who can doubt the IPCC) then there is no rational or scientific basis to make
    a definitive statement about a future state of the climate.

    At this point the coupled non linear chaotic nature of the
    climate make scientific observations academically interesting but they have no
    relevance in predicting the future state of the climate. The climate is a system
    which means the relationships among these observations are what is important
    not the observations themselves.

    All the public discourse regarding the future state of the
    climate has been based on the false premise that the current climate models are
    predicting the future state of the climate when in fact the models are merely
    projecting these states.

    Predictions are the purview of science. Model projections
    can only agree with predictions when the models duplicate the real world.

    To base public policy on an unknowable state of a system
    defies common sense. However, too much money and political power is at stake
    for the Central Planners to do otherwise.

    I would argue that the Climate Model True Believers are the
    ones taking an unscientific approach to the subject.

    In January 1961 President Eisenhower in his Farewell Address
    identified the situation in which we find ourselves today:

    “Akin to, and largely responsible for the sweeping changes
    in our industrial-military posture, has been the technological revolution
    during recent decades.

    In this revolution, research has become central; it also
    becomes more formalized, complex, and costly. A steadily increasing share is
    conducted for, by, or at the direction of, the Federal government.

    Today, the solitary inventor, tinkering in his shop, has
    been overshadowed by task forces of scientists in laboratories and testing
    fields. In the same fashion, the free university, historically the fountainhead
    of free ideas and scientific discovery has experienced a revolution in the
    conduct of research. Partly because of the huge costs involved, a government
    contract becomes virtually a substitute for intellectual curiosity. For every
    old blackboard there are now hundreds of new electronic computers.

    The prospect of domination of the nation's scholars by
    Federal employment, project allocations, and the power of money is ever present
    and is gravely to be regarded. Yet, in holding scientific research and
    discovery in respect, as we should, we must also be alert to the equal and
    opposite danger that public policy could itself become the captive of a
    scientific-technological elite.

    It is the task of statesmanship to mold, to balance, and to
    integrate these and other forces, new and old, within the principles of our
    democratic system -- ever aiming toward the supreme goals of our free society.”

    Another relevant publication is: “The True Believer” by Eric

  26. mawendt:

    Why not tax or restrict water vapor? Water vapor is the single biggest contributor to AGW.

    Oh, wait... then we'd have to punish the ocean. Sorry.

  27. EricAdler:

    On the other hand as an advanced, wealthy and large country, it is our duty to lead the way to an emissions free economy. With the exception of Canada, Australia and Saudi Arabia, other developed countries generally have lower emissions than we do per capita.

  28. Dano2:

    Are you dishonestly leaving out the next passage in that section, or were you duped into believing that passage is whole in context?



  29. Dano2:

    I'll take those points on offer:

    o Water vapor makes up 95% of the greenhouse effect [30 points]



  30. Dano2:

    Why are you cherry-picking a small portion of the cyclone data to make your point? Why don't you tell us about the rest of the data?



  31. Dano2:

    1. false
    2. false
    3. unproven.



  32. erschroedinger:

    Yes, and it was the DATA that convinced doctors. Not yahoos claiming all the others were lying. Not yahoos claiming all the others were fudging data. The climate denialists have no data; all they do is claim scientists are lying and this is some global conspiracy for Al Gore and Obama to impose a tax and have the UN control us.

  33. erschroedinger:

    I see. So a hurricane doesn't exist if it doesn't strike the eastern US? Are you remotely away how stupid that is?

  34. erschroedinger:

    You charge a carbon tax (actually a tax on fuels based on how much CO2 they produce), then you give everybody the same average amt off their income taxes. Rewards people who use fuel more efficiently.

  35. Justwaitinforchange:

    If you mean signing unenforceable treaties with China I have to disagree - and the latest Paris accords were a joke. If you mean encouraging true scientific research/development of alternative means of power production that don't bankrupt the US economy - then I agree.

  36. Mark B:

    Sadly, as with most commentary on this subject, the points made will do little to change the opinion of people who do not agree. It is also highly unlikely to stimulate discussion about the facts of the case or the actual data.

    So... as a suggestion to the catastrophic global warming believers, please immediately begin to live your life as if you believed that the greenhouse gasses you emit are killing the planet. (The least you should be willing to do is match your behavior to your belief!) Shut off your electricity connection and generate your own through solar/wind. Stop driving your car and walk/pedal. Stop flying on airplanes. Stop heating your house and buy a coat. Unwilling to do this?.... hmmm.

    Once you adjust your own behavior, you will be on a much firmer foundation to deny electricity to the third world and to manage the behavior of people who do not agree with you.

  37. Econ101lab:

    Then why do NOAA/NASA datasets no longer match satellite and balloon data? That is DATA. RSS and UAH data sets are observed data. The NOAA/NASA data set is adjusted.

    Speaking of yahoos...

  38. gda:

    "The most we can expect to achieve is the prediction of the probability distribution of the system’s future possible states by the generation of ensembles of model solutions."

    Is this your beef? Small beef indeed. Especially since you consider that these "model solutions" have run almost universally hot, no? GIGO my dear boy.



  39. Dano2:

    Models are right on track now, not sure....erm...what your beef is.

    And the entire passage lets us know that we are, in fact, able to model the system but better computing is needed. Fortunately, since that passage was authored we have indeed much better computing power.



  40. Dano2:

    I'll take those points on offer:

    o Belief in AGW means you have to live in a cave, walk everywhere, want everyone to live in Medieval times, etc. [15 points]



  41. gda:

    Your nemesis, Mr. McIntyre, seems to suggest that the models are hardly on track now, unless there are secret models we mere mortals are not party to.

    And I'm afraid your insinuation that all will be well once we have better computing power is mere pixie dust. Am I to understand that we have solved the intricacies of a "coupled non-linear chaotic system".
    Who knew? Blow the trumpets for heavens sakes!



  42. Dano2:

    The passage was about "prediction" and computing power and statistical tests.

    Global Climate Models don't predict. They project. Based on a range of scenarios. And they are on track now. These are a few months old, but still you get the gist of it:

    Here's the very latest on how the models are doing.

    Here's how the models are doing.

    A different look at latest run.

    An interesting depiction of latest run.

    Here's how some older models are doing.

    And some older ones.

    And some older ones.

    And some older ones.

    And some older ones all together.

    And what several scientist said in the 1980s that was surprisingly accurate about Arab Spring.

    Here is the the very first climate projection from 1981, constructed from this paper. Pretty dang good, no? Not what the disinfo sites tell you, is it?

    Here is something from the 1970s that is surprisingly accurate as well.

    Here is an early prediction from an early pioneer of climate science, from 1975, 50 years ago. Pretty darn good. (source, and original paper)

    Heck, even Exxon scientists were pretty durn close in the early 1980s!

    This is where we are now.




  43. Bernd_Harzog:

    You have cloaked an economically reasonable move in a useless Trojan Horse of climate change.

    The payroll tax is a highly destructive tax because it taxes working (for the employee) and hiring (for the employer). It is therefore a disincentive to both working and hiring.

    Replacing the payroll tax with a sales tax makes sense on purely economic grounds. Forget the carbon tax - just replace the 15.3% sales tax with an 8% sales tax (which should be revenue neutral) and we will all be better off.

    And oh by the way, yes - get rid of all of the crony capitalist subsides. And while you are at it, ban unions for public employees.

  44. Peter F:

    A carbon tax is as you say, the best solution but no complex problem is ever solved with one solution. The market did not solve the problem of slavery or interstate transport or safety at sea or even making electrical power, telephone and internet systems work. These systems came into their modern reliable form on a combined platform of government direction, subsidies and regulation which provided opportunity and lower transaction costs for private sector innovators and businesses. Of course some subsidies and regulations are misguided or counterproductive, just as many products, management decisions and investments in the private sector are not perfect. When you have more evidence you change the rules.

    There are, as you say, uncertainties in the science and the data but the trends are clear and the rate of temperature increase is increasing.i.e in the 80's temperatures appear to have increased but by less in the decade than they have in the last five years. Whether global temperatures are 0.9 or 1.1C above the base line now or whether it will take 15 or 40 years to reach 2C these are amazingly short time frames on a geological scale and humanity needs to change if we are going to leave the world no worse than we found it for future generations.

    The idea that replacing coal with gas is the solution is problematic because of a) the leakage of methane, b) the CO2 entrained in the gas. Methane is at least 14 times more potent greenhouse gas than CO2 and some natural gas streams have 10-20% CO2 included which has to be stripped out and then dumped in the atmosphere. So if you have 5% leakage and 10% CO2 in the gas stream then natural gas is worse for climate than coal.

    Your understanding of backup of wind power is weak. Wind farms do not instantly fall off as wind eases. In fact real data shows that prediction of combined output from wind and solar farms is reliably within 2-3% of actual for at least 24-48 hours ahead, This allows ramp up from cold of gas peakers, even combined cycle gas and of course hydro, so no hot spinning reserves are required. On the other hand if a grid is reliant on a relatively few large thermal stations and a generator, or worse, a whole plant trips in a second or two then there must be hot running reserves to take up the slack. Studies on the Texas grid show that maintaining these hot spinning reserves for coal or nuclear is more costly than supporting wind with cold backup.

    I am agnostic about nuclear power. It is reliable and has low running costs and I would agree has been over-regulated, however the new generation nuclear technologies you speak of are by no means proven in a technical or economic sense and new nuclear is currently double the price of wind or solar PV. It also uses a lot of cooling water which in many parts of the world is quite scarce where the power is needed. That said, in a modern electrically powered net zero carbon world I expect that nuclear might provide between 10 and 30% of demand. It's economics would be favoured by a carbon tax but they still appear to worse than renewables and a smart grid for contributions above the 10-30% level of demand.

    Your point that storage costs have to fall by two orders of magnitude is based on replicating current usage rates and patterns. Most of the well researched studies which combine overbuild of wind and solar, demand management, power to heat together with treating hydro more as the backup rather than base load and increased energy efficiency show that storage requirements are typically less than 10-15% of peak demand. A large fraction of that storage can be justified by reduced network investment due to peak shaving so while battery costs now are about 3-5 times the cost of fossil fuel power, the total system wide benefits are such that deployment of sufficient storage over the next 10-15 years to support a 90-95% zero carbon grid need not add to power costs.

  45. gda:

    Why I do declare sir. I seem to have got you all discombobulated.

    Deep breaths now!



  46. Tom King:

    Finally someone who has taken the time, in a measured manor, to explain what all the screaming is all about. I guess this puts me as a "Lukewarmist" and if that makes me a "Denier" then so be it. Solutions to this mess are not going to be "simple" or "easy" as there are too many vested interests at work in this debate. I will say that the language of the Alarmists is very close to that of a Religious Cult. Early in the last century the prevailing "solved science" was that size of the universe was steady state...and a man named Edwin Hubble sat at a telescope night after night till he showed (not with handwaving but photographic evidence) that the universe was, indeed, whenever I hear "its Solved Science" I take it with a grain of salt. As always...Follow the Money is a good axiom too...

  47. Ben Winchester:

    That's incorrect. The surface measurements match the balloon data rather well.

    And even the satellite data does okay, particularly if you actually include the uncertainty, which you should always always do. The uncertainty for the satellite data is 5x that of the surface, and easily encompasses the surface trends.

    So, no, this^^ is completely wrong.

  48. Ben Winchester:

    Logically, if greenhouse gases were bad for our economy (not "the planet", the planet doesn't care), the first thing I'd try to do is get other people on board.

    Hey, what a coincidence! That seems to be what our author is doing. :-p

    As for why it's important to get other people on board: well, think about it. There are both costs and benefits to getting off of fossil fuels, right? If I'm the only one who changes my lifestyle, I pay all of the costs of getting off of fossil fuels, but I get nearly zero benefits, as I'd still suffer from the emissions of everyone else. Clearly, that's not a rational approach.

    It's a collective problem, and requires a collective solution. It's a regular Tragedy of the Commons.

  49. Dano2:

    Weak bluff.



  50. SteveS_2000:

    Interesting series, and I appreciate the effort you put into it. One question / thought, though. You point out that most of the temperature increase is in increased lows, rather than increased highs, and I believe you're saying that's evidence against the "catastrophe" theory. But isn't that exactly what one would expect to see if the Earth were experiencing a reduction in the rate of heat loss (i.e., lack of cooling)?