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Dispatches from the Front Line of the Apocalypse 
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Post Dispatches from the Front Line of the Apocalypse
Dispatches from the Front Line of the Apocalypse

The 2018 Negative Emissions Conference discussed immediate practical responses to climate change, under the theme 'Integrating Industry, Technology and Society for Carbon Drawdown.' A media report on the conference is here.

Convened by the National Committee for Earth System Science, the Australian National University, CSIRO, University of Tasmania and the Australian Research Council, the conference was held in the Shine Dome in Canberra, home of the Australian Academy of Science. The Shine Dome is a futuristic piece of 1959 architecture, dating from a time of confident scientific optimism and respect for knowledge. Just a mile or so across the lake from Australia's national Parliament House, and adjacent to the Australian National University, the Shine Dome aims to reflect the central place of science in modern Australia.

Locals sometimes refer to the Shine Dome as the Martian Embassy, perhaps combining its flying saucer design style and the sense that scientists are somehow alien to the practical business of Australian politics and culture. Participants in the two day conference on Negative Emissions came from all around our planet, but may well have felt like aliens in view of the complete lack of attention their visit to Canberra prompted from national politicians and media, apart from keynote addresses by one former almost Prime Minister, Dr John Hewson, and Australia’s former ceremonial Head of State, Governor-General Michael Jeffrey.

This conference brought together leading global scientists working on methods to remove carbon dioxide to stop climate change. After attending the conference, my feeling was that the title of this thread, Dispatches from the Front Line of the Apocalypse, would have been a more accurate subtitle, if not title. The situation is highly depressing, even apocalyptic, with the world displaying very limited vision, engagement and capacity to prevent catastrophic anthropogenic global warming. The conference heard from leading scientists, including a message that the current planetary trajectory will produce dangerous conflict and collapse before physical tipping points are crossed, showing the extreme urgency of addressing the primary security crisis of the greenhouse effect.

Climate change is theoretically viewed as the most important existential problem we face, and yet discussions of practical ways to stop it somehow generate almost total indifference from the broader society. An existential problem is one that touches on the conditions of human existence. There should be no dispute that the extreme risk of climate change could tip our planet over into an entirely unhospitable state for us, on an unpredictable timeframe.

Part of my interest is to explore how this global ethical context of climate change, with risks of extinction, war, famine and plague, relates to apocalyptic thinking, but before touching that difficult topic I will set the scientific and political scene.

Meanwhile, the dominant political discussions are off on tangents. The world is fiddling while the planet burns, with the useless debate between the false premise that emission reduction alone could prevent global warming and the appalling psychotic madness of Trumpian denial. Both sides largely ignore the real solution, removing carbon from the air, a technical challenge that is now entirely marginal to politics but needs to move to the centre of global security discussion.

I attended the conference and presented a poster on the work I have proposed using iron salt aerosol as a carbon removal technology. The discussions helped a great deal to see the scientific and cultural context for this and a range of other related proposals. My specific interest is helping define how atmospheric iron cooling can enable progress. There are many other more advanced cooling methods, such as soil biochar, ocean alkalinity, marine plants, direct air capture and bioenergy with carbon capture and storage, not to mention the related range of solar radiation management methods.

I will use this thread to reflect on my notes from the conference, and will link each post to the twitter handle #NEConf2018 to alert those interested in the conference. Comments and questions are most welcome.


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Post Re: Dispatches from the Front Line of the Apocalypse
Australia has a standard practice in public events like this conference to invite a local Aboriginal leader to open proceedings with a ‘welcome to country’ speech. This practice is a gesture toward indigenous reconciliation and respect, reflecting white guilt at the genocidal destruction of Aboriginal culture.

Aunty Matilda House, a local indigenous elder, welcomed the conference to country with immense grace and warmth and friendliness, calling on attendees to celebrate mother earth and to think about future generations.

Such statements are often cynically ignored as platitudes or meaningless political protocol, and yet the indigenous welcome has major value on several levels. Matilda’s concept of mother earth is highly religious, but has been excluded from traditional patriarchal Christianity and from science, in a pathology that illustrates the dangerous alienation of western imperialism from the earth.

I mention these broad philosophical ideas in the context of the apocalyptic framework of climate change to illustrate the principle that the solution to a problem cannot be found within the thinking that gave rise to the problem in the first place.

An indigenous epistemology will be needed to provide the real strategic framework for the ethics of transformation, recognising that the modern epistemologies of western technology are hellbent on a path to destruction, and that only a shift of paradigm to see care and nurture as central can save us.

Many people find such language embarrassing and meaningless, but to me it illustrates the centrality and scale of the paradigm shift involved in developing a compelling story of respect and concern for the future of life on our planet. The challenge is to integrate rival traditions, the scientific valuing of evidence and logic together with the human reverence and awe for the grandeur of the natural creation.


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Post Re: Dispatches from the Front Line of the Apocalypse
Robert Tulip wrote:
only a shift of paradigm to see care and nurture as central can save us.


When I was growing up, many people around me treated tax chiseling by lying to the government as a perfectly moral and ethical activity, because it was only the government being stolen from. My family was quite strange on this issue, saying instead that they did not mind paying for what we get from the government, any more than they minded paying the price of a car.

It is apparently a big ask, but I think it's time we at least have that pragmatic attitude toward the environment. Pay for the damage done, (or if one prefers to say it differently, pay for the services received) and treat it as a duty, whether sacred or otherwise.

One of my goals this year is to read a book by Thomas Berry, who presents the theology of an I/Thou relationship to earth, water and air.



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Post Re: Dispatches from the Front Line of the Apocalypse
The Introductory speech to the Negative Emissions conference was from ANU Professor John Hewson, a former leader of Australia’s Federal Liberal Party who was nearly elected Prime Minister in 1993. Dr Hewson reflected on how he had advocated 20% emission reductions in his 1993 Fightback! national electoral manifesto, but embarrassingly 25 years later Australia still has no strategy or policy on energy or climate. It was interesting to be reminded of Dr Hewson’s rather extreme conservative policy proposals which came so close to national implementation at the heyday of so-called economic rationalism. He says recognition of climate change found an important place in that framework. I did not recall climate featuring in Fightback!, and now that I look at his main 1992 draft report and his energy policy, emission reduction does not leap out from what is mainly a dry economic proposal for smaller government.

Be that as it may, Dr Hewson shows the value of seeing understanding of the primacy of climate change as entirely compatible with capitalist economics, and that action to achieve climate stability does not require anything like a communist revolution, even if that is sometimes the more messianic yearning from some on the left.

Dr Hewson said the lack of a climate action strategy is now a dominant election issue, as shown in the recent by-election in his former seat of Wentworth, with 80% of Australians wanting renewable transition, even if the electricity/transport balance of emissions is not well understood. With the IPCC major statement on 1.5° explaining the risk of 4° warming, the general issue of climate change is a popular concern, despite a lack of engagement on policy detail. Low carbon technology is moving faster than expected in renewables and electric vehicles, but government ignores Australia’s bad climate status as a highest per capita emitter and fossil fuel exporter.

Dr Hewson welcomed this Negative Emission Technology (NET) Conference as important to broaden debate, to recognise that NETs are needed in climate action plans. He told a funny-peculiar-tragic story about a public debate he had with former National Party leader Barnaby Joyce on soil carbon farming techniques and organic fertilizer and tilling, saying these themes for improving farm productivity through soil value should be core business for the Nationals, who present themselves as the party for farmers, but Joyce showed he had no concept of the basic economics. It is amazing how even simple science is now rejected due to a political prism in the conservative bubble. However, the hypocrite Joyce has a Chinese State Owned Enterprise running a solar project in his electorate, where he welcomes the local jobs but fails to engage more broadly on national process for soils and oceans, illustrating the unfortunate world we are operating in.

Calling for Australia to seize the opportunity to lead the world through good management of its unique wind, solar, forest, soil and ocean resources, Hewson said change is positive for growth but governments and businesses are dozing rather than investing, and that elevating NET proof at scale is a challenge worth funding and developing, recognising the fundamental importance of urgent scientific response to climate.


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Post Re: Dispatches from the Front Line of the Apocalypse
Professor Will Steffen from ANU Climate Change Institute gave the closing address to the Negative Emission Conference. He left attendees stunned at the apocalyptic enormity of the climate problem, as we close in on defined points of no return like a canoe tugged toward a waterfall.

In taking an earth system perspective, Dr Steffen explained how to regard our planet as a single entity, a fundamentally rigorous and coherent method of logical analysis. This single physical entity where we live includes all human activity in a complex trajectory now called the Anthropocene. We can see its past behaviour by studying old air trapped in bubbles of ice in Antarctica. Various data sources combine to explain how temperature has gone up and down over the last million years, and what we can expect from the current planetary experiment of taking atmospheric chemistry wildly outside its previous stable boundaries.

Humans have prospered through the stable twelve thousand year period we call the Holocene, but since around 1950 we have increased our biosphere impact through what Steffen terms the Great Acceleration, with dramatic exponential growth in socioeconomic and earth system parameters including population, economics, water usage, food production, transportation, technology, greenhouse gases, surface temperature, and natural resource usage.

Primary indicators of this acceleration include the rate of extinction, now estimated at 170 times the background rate, and the level of ocean acidity, unprecedented over the last 300 million years. On acidity, Dr Greg Rau in a recent talk compared the oceans to a human body, which has a finely tuned pH level. People get severe illness from acidity changes as big as those now occurring in the world ocean.

Humans are driving heat, with a rise of 1.5° in temperature expected in the next decade. All paths to hold temperature below that level involve carbon dioxide removal, and the risk of overshoot is extreme. The committed warming from the CO2 that we have already emitted means there will be no ice ages in the next hundred thousand years, but also puts us on track to achieve the sea level of the Pliocene three million years ago, 10-22 metres higher than now, or even the Miocene 16 million years ago when sea level was up to sixty metres higher.

We have created the conditions for these higher levels to return, and cannot know if tipping points could return the sea to its equilibrium level in years, decades or centuries.

The CO2 already emitted over the last century commits the planet to ongoing warming due to feedback amplifiers. Further emissions could cause collapse of civilization, especially if warming reaches five degrees as projected under business as usual. Understanding the science of global warming involves study of complex feedback systems that amplify a trajectory once it has started. For example, the bright white colour of ice reflects solar heat back to space and speeds up cooling, while dark water absorbs heat and speeds up heating. Steffen says these factors have not been properly factored in to IPCC estimates, so the situation is far worse than the assumptions behind the Paris Accord.

In his recent widely read paper on Trajectories for the Anthropocene, Dr Steffen produced this helpful diagram of expected cascading tipping points Image
We have already crossed the Arctic Sea Ice tipping point, with the coral reef tipping point very close. The Amazon is no longer a carbon sink, but has become a carbon source.

The systems approach to climate aims to identify planetary thresholds with a stability landscape. The most helpful way to explain such a landscape is by constructing a three dimensional map, as shown in this diagram of planetary topology from Dr Steffen's anthropocene paper. Image
For the last two million years or so we can imagine the earth like a snowboarder on a half-pipe rolling down the cooler left hand valley, rolling up onto the ridge between the two valleys every hundred thousand years. But now we have rolled across into the hot valley, and need a massive intervention immediately to get back to stability before we plunge down the precipice to hell.

Without earth system stewardship, using negative emission technology, we will be like a canoe headed toward a waterfall, very soon reaching a point of no return due to the strength of the current.

The tropics will be too hot for humans, agriculture will be far less productive, and we can expect forty metres of sea level rise. While Dr Steffen suggests that could cause population to fall to about one billion, my view is that a more likely result would be that humans would move to the sea, using large scale algae farms to regulate the planetary temperature and provide a range of resources.

Overall, my reading of this analysis means the concept of a ‘carbon budget’ is a meaningless fantasy, since future carbon emissions must be massively outweighed by removals. Efforts to calculate a carbon budget are farcical, given the scale of unknowns such as the recent announcement that the oceans are warming far quicker than previously thought.

Looking back over the geological record, Dr Steffen drew attention to the PETM spike, a sudden injection of CO2 55 million years ago, when the earth had no ice, and with a carbon release rate about 2% of today, enough to cause mass extinctions.

Dr Steffen said that framing the climate problem as a global security emergency is a line of thinking partly understood by the military, who see the risk cascade with conflict and other political security effects occurring far before physical effects.

In any case, the carrying capacity of our planet will be under strain, and there could be engineering limits to efforts to tug the planet away from its hothouse trajectory.

Some other helpful informative recent papers that describe these interconnected warming impacts include Unknowingly on edge of a climate 'precipice'? and New UN Report Warns of Impending Catastrophe as World Warms, Glaciers Melt

Welcome to the apocalypse.


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Post Re: Dispatches from the Front Line of the Apocalypse
When you have burnt coal for electricity, can you stuff the emitted CO2 back down the stack at the power station? This idea, somewhat like reaping a whirlwind, is the caricature of Negative Emission Technology posed to the Negative Emission conference by Dr Philip Boyd, eminent oceanographer and Professor of Marine Biogeochemistry at the University of Tasmania. Dr Boyd ran some of the main field tests of Ocean Iron Fertilization a decade ago, but now stands as a skeptic of John Martin’s famous idea that a tanker full of iron could produce a new ice age.

What Boyd called the magic trick of shoving smoke down a chimney is obviously absurd. Yet it reflects the incredulous language that typically greets carbon removal in mainstream media, showing the hold that emission reduction as the sole mitigation method has upon thinking about climate. Any climate strategy other than decarbonisation of the economy is widely viewed with the suspicion usually reserved for claims of miracles.

To illustrate the pervasive thinking of emission reduction alone, the recent IPCC report said in its summary for policymakers that the carbon added already to the air would stay there for thousands of years. The report left the caveat of “unless removed by technology” to the more detailed technical paper, helping along the false meme that carbon removal is impossible. Similarly, the IPCC report has contradictory graphs, some showing net zero emissions as a hard floor, and others showing the necessary path of net negative emissions as the future goal.

Removing carbon added to the air by large scale technology is entirely possible, and indeed necessary, given that emission reduction alone can only hold warming to the catastrophic level of about four degrees. As yet there is no clarity on which carbon removal methods will prove most effective, putting the industry at a similar state of development as aviation at Kitty Hawk.

Dr Boyd said NETs only entered climate lexicon at Paris in 2015, with recognition that net carbon flow must become negative over the next half century. Unfortunately as he pointed out, drastic emission reduction appears unacceptable to society, and therefore politically impossible, indicating that the heavy lifting of climate restoration will rely mostly on carbon removal at the rate of ten to fifteen gigatons of carbon per year. Such a political scenario opens the ethical problem of claimed moral hazard, that investment in carbon removal reduces political pressure for decarbonisation.

However, the far greater moral hazard is that failure to develop NET technology will plunge us over the precipice into a hothouse climate, with the apocalyptic potential of the collapse of civilization. Hence the urgency of carbon removal as a security imperative. Over the next century carbon removal will need to progress as fast as aviation has from the biplane to the immense industry of today.

As the Biblical prophet Hosea said, we have sown the wind and will reap the whirlwind. The challenge now to reap the whirlwind can mean either to suffer the dangerous impacts of global warming, or to work out how to convert the dangerous CO2 in the air into valuable resources.


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 Re: Dispatches from the Front Line of the Apocalypse
The opening plenary of the Canberra Negative Emissions Conference was titled “Snapshot for Policy Makers, Industry and Media.” If the aim was to interest a broader audience in serious climate policy, it appears to have failed entirely. No evidence I saw indicated that any policy makers, industry or media representatives bothered to attend this session, other than one low level government official speaker from the Environment Department, even though the Conference was quite well advertised in climate internet sites.

It seems everyone has made up their minds about climate policy, and sees no need to become better informed about what will actually work to influence global warming. Instead there is a simple political polarisation. The left blindly equates climate policy with the war on coal, setting decarbonisation of the economy as the core strategy, and has no truck with any observation that emission reduction alone is manifestly inadequate to avoid catastrophe, that carbon removal should be considered a security emergency, or that the required speed of emission reduction is not feasible. The political right is equally stupid, rejecting clear scientific evidence about the greenhouse effect to justify false conspiracy theories impugning the motives of scientific researchers for allegedly misleading the public on a grand scale about climate change.

The Negative Emissions conference asked people to rise above this squalid stupidity in order to consider practical policy responses. Unfortunately, it appears this request fell on deaf ears, and people prefer to sleepwalk to oblivion rather than discuss facts.

The first address to the Opening Plenary was from CSIRO scientist Pep Canadell, on Carbon Cycle Fundamentals. Pep noted that carbon removal is generally interpreted as “weird stuff needed later this century”, rather along the lines that Philip Boyd discussed of magical methods to stuff smoke down chimneys.

Pep explained that the cost of decarbonising some expensive sectors means that negative emission is necessary to achieve zero net emissions, leaving aside whether zero emissions is at all a useful goal other than as a milestone on a path toward the massive carbon removal needed for climate stability. With holding to 1.5° requiring a 45% cut in emissions by 2030, the carbon budget is well and truly busted without massive immediate focus on carbon removal, a focus that simply does not exist outside a few small scientific circles.

Nuclear power has a small potential role, but the IPCC models have relied on the emerging concept of Bio Energy with Carbon Capture and Storage (BECCS) together with land use change as their sole parameters for achieving climate stability, since all other carbon removal methods are seen as too difficult or speculative.

The big problem is that the true feedbacks in the planetary climate system from our massive CO2 release experiment are unknown, even with massive investment in renewable energy.


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Post Re: Dispatches from the Front Line of the Apocalypse
Robert Tulip wrote:
If the aim was to interest a broader audience in serious climate policy, it appears to have failed entirely. No evidence I saw indicated that any policy makers, industry or media representatives bothered to attend this session, other than one low level government official speaker from the Environment Department, even though the Conference was quite well advertised in climate internet sites.
A conference is usually a time and place to discuss advancements in understanding, or perhaps strategy. Was there any discussion of incentives, and the difference they might make to negative emissions technology? If not, why not?

Robert Tulip wrote:
It seems everyone has made up their minds about climate policy, and sees no need to become better informed about what will actually work to influence global warming.
My sense is that the vast majority have not given it enough thought to be said to have "made up their mind." It is still a badge of belonging for a lot of people to take one position or another. Among the well-informed, that is the main force you have to oppose, I think - people determined to make NET and climate change itself some sort of test of political identity, either supporting or opposing, rather than a more honest Al Gore approach of giving the facts a hearing.

Robert Tulip wrote:
Instead there is a simple political polarisation. The left blindly equates climate policy with the war on coal, setting decarbonisation of the economy as the core strategy, and has no truck with any observation that emission reduction alone is manifestly inadequate to avoid catastrophe, that carbon removal should be considered a security emergency, or that the required speed of emission reduction is not feasible.
The massive spending by the fossil fuel industry in the 2018 U.S. elections to oppose any climate action at all, as well as to save the fracking industry from further regulation when it is teetering on the edge of a financial disaster already, makes Big Oil and Big Coal enemies of the people. They are acting out a caricature of the leftist position that corporations put profits before people, and anger is a reasonable response. Some on the left also have a hard position against NET. Most have not looked into it. Most are open to the idea of incentives. Was it discussed, and if not, why not?

Robert Tulip wrote:
The political right is equally stupid, rejecting clear scientific evidence about the greenhouse effect to justify false conspiracy theories impugning the motives of scientific researchers for allegedly misleading the public on a grand scale about climate change.
The ostrich vote is being deliberately stoked by Big Oil and Big Coal. Is there any reason not to hold them accountable for this fraud?

Robert Tulip wrote:
The Negative Emissions conference asked people to rise above this squalid stupidity in order to consider practical policy responses. Unfortunately, it appears this request fell on deaf ears, and people prefer to sleepwalk to oblivion rather than discuss facts.
A carbon tax with carbon rebate for NET is a practical policy response. Was there any discussion of incentives, and if not, why not?

Robert Tulip wrote:
the IPCC models have relied on the emerging concept of Bio Energy with Carbon Capture and Storage (BECCS) together with land use change as their sole parameters for achieving climate stability, since all other carbon removal methods are seen as too difficult or speculative.
Sounds like an opportunity for common ground. Actually the IPCC was already in favor of the use of incentives, which would be a strong basis for common ground. Have you considered the possibility that your stance of opposition to their views might be a source of problems rather than solutions?



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Post Re: Dispatches from the Front Line of the Apocalypse
Harry Marks wrote:
A conference is usually a time and place to discuss advancements in understanding, or perhaps strategy. Was there any discussion of incentives, and the difference they might make to negative emissions technology? If not, why not?
Very good question. The main themes at the conference were technology, ethics, law and politics. Economics entered the discussion in John Hewson’s opening address that I mentioned already and in discussion of Australia’s Emissions Reduction Fund. The main talk relating to economics was titled Integrating Negative Emissions into the Climate Change Policy Discourse, by Henry Adams from a consultancy firm Common Capital. I will discuss each speaker in turn in following posts from my notes.
Harry Marks wrote:
My sense is that the vast majority have not given [climate change] enough thought to be said to have "made up their mind." It is still a badge of belonging for a lot of people to take one position or another.
It is astounding to me that a primary planetary existential risk can be regarded with such indifference, and so clearly subordinated to partisan politics without effort to find cross-partisan solutions. People will trot out Schultz and Baker to suggest carbon taxes are non-partisan, but I don’t think it is so simple. Even so, I am changing my views on the merits of carbon tax, since it is important to threaten with a bludgeon when fossil fuel industries so manifestly fail to support the public interest.
Harry Marks wrote:
Among the well-informed, that is the main force you have to oppose, I think - people determined to make NET and climate change itself some sort of test of political identity, either supporting or opposing, rather than a more honest Al Gore approach of giving the facts a hearing.
Tests of political identity operate as psychological myths, in the sense of mythology as a tribal story that gives meaning and direction to our life. The actual proposals for carbon removal are viewed mainly through the prism of an interconnected group of ideas, and people give tactical and strategic inferences just as much weight as the actual scientific content of the proposal. The inference that carbon removal might reduce political pressure on the fossil fuel industry has far greater weight in many circles than the question of whether carbon removal could provide a practical path to climate stability.
Harry Marks wrote:
The massive spending by the fossil fuel industry in the 2018 U.S. elections to oppose any climate action at all, as well as to save the fracking industry from further regulation when it is teetering on the edge of a financial disaster already, makes Big Oil and Big Coal enemies of the people. They are acting out a caricature of the leftist position that corporations put profits before people, and anger is a reasonable response. Some on the left also have a hard position against NET. Most have not looked into it. Most are open to the idea of incentives. Was it discussed, and if not, why not?
On incentives, Australia’s Emissions Reduction Fund is actually designed to enable incentives for carbon removal, through reverse auctions for least cost abatement, but is generally condemned by the political left as a corrupt alliance between government and the fossil fuel industry to deflect focus on emission reduction. More on that later.

I have been thinking a lot about your point on the corruption of the fossil fuel industries. A good article this week from Business Insider says the largest oil companies spend just 1% of their budget on green energy. I have been astounded by the scale of lying associated with fracking, especially how the fugitive emissions of methane are ignored in the common claims that the shift to gas has cut emissions in the USA.

My attitude on this has been driven by the question of what is the most practical way to stabilise the climate. Fomenting political conflict in order to decarbonise the economy seems unlikely to work, in view of the imbalance of power, whereas collaborating with the fossil fuel to engage their resources, skills and networks on carbon removal just might work. Part of the problem is that corporations have a mindless short-term mercantile view, failing to see how their own interests could be served by a more evidence-based approach to climate change.
Harry Marks wrote:
The ostrich vote is being deliberately stoked by Big Oil and Big Coal. Is there any reason not to hold them accountable for this fraud?
Asking how to hold fossil industry accountable requires a practical strategy to maintain energy security and move toward climate security, while opening a discussion about why it is in the commercial and political interests of the fossil fuel industry to invest in carbon removal, beyond the highly dubious method of injecting CO2 into empty wells.

While the extreme anti fossil fuel campaigns may result in forcing the companies to discuss the problems in a more realistic way, there is also the risk that campaigning to disinvest could have perverse impacts, increasing political polarization and energy prices while reducing potential for cooperation. The useful article linked above from Business Insider shows how Big Oil has used renewable investment as a public relations activity.
Harry Marks wrote:
The IPCC was already in favor of the use of incentives, which would be a strong basis for common ground. Have you considered the possibility that your stance of opposition to their views might be a source of problems rather than solutions?

There are many dimensions to this problem of the role of incentives to achieve the basic goal of climate restoration to have a liveable planet for our grandchildren. My concerns are that incentives are too slow, small, uncertain, risky and complex in the face of the real scale of the climate problem, and therefore are just one arrow in a broad quiver of responses.

The IPCC is a compromise body. It therefore systematically understates the real risk that 2° of warming is already committed by past emissions, and that this committed warming will cause major disruption and conflict. I support the use of tax incentives to cut emissions, but tax is really only a tiny part of the climate solution.

What we really need is a global Manhattan Apollo project, delivering major public private partnership to research and develop methods to remove carbon from the air at scale, while also deploying solar radiation management systems to prevent the climate suddenly tipping over to a point of no return.


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Post Re: Dispatches from the Front Line of the Apocalypse
The Australian Government has invested A$2.55 billion in an Emissions Reduction Fund. The stated goal of the ERF is to provide incentives for Australian businesses, farmers, land holders and others to adopt new practices and technologies to reduce Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions.

Mr Paul Ryan, Director of the Forests Section in the ERF Division of the Environment & Energy Department, told the Negative Emissions Conference about how the ERF works. After approval of methods to provide Australian Carbon Credit Units through scientific endorsement of eligible activities, reverse auctions are run twice a year by the clean energy regulator. The government purchases least cost abatements and manages safeguards to ensure compliance. Forest protection and planting is one successful area of carbon removal. Other methods include managing dry season savannah burning to minimise emissions, and enhancing soil carbon.

Abatement contracted to date is 192 million tonnes of CO2, mainly vegetation, through 429 contracts. The Integrity Standard requires that abatement is additional, measurable, eligible, evidence based, material and conservative, with permanence periods of 25 or 100 years and penalties for reversals, such as by land clearing. The ERF sits within Australia’s international reporting framework under the Paris Accord, and relies on proven technology.

There has been a lot of debate about the merits of the ERF since it was introduced by the conservative Abbott federal government in 2013. It was presented as an alternative to the previous Labor government carbon tax, which was abolished as a primary election promise. As a result, many economists who advocate a carbon tax have been hostile to the ERF. Tony Abbott was replaced as Prime Minister in 2015 by Malcolm Turnbull who was cool on the ERF. Since Scott Morrison became PM this September, the ERF looks to be back on the agenda, due to concerns that renewable energy will increase energy prices and decrease reliability of supply. A typical critique of the ERF is at https://theconversation.com/australias- ... lled-92283

I personally favour the ERF model because it appears better suited to support the climate restoration process that seems most effective to me, large scale ocean based algae production. A least cost abatement method aiming to store more carbon in valuable commodity form than total emissions looks to me to be the best incentive that governments could provide to support climate stability and restoration.


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Post Re: Dispatches from the Front Line of the Apocalypse
Robert Tulip wrote:
Such statements are often cynically ignored as platitudes or meaningless political protocol, and yet the indigenous welcome has major value on several levels. Matilda’s concept of mother earth is highly religious, but has been excluded from traditional patriarchal Christianity and from science, in a pathology that illustrates the dangerous alienation of western imperialism from the earth.

I mention these broad philosophical ideas in the context of the apocalyptic framework of climate change to illustrate the principle that the solution to a problem cannot be found within the thinking that gave rise to the problem in the first place.

An indigenous epistemology will be needed to provide the real strategic framework for the ethics of transformation, recognising that the modern epistemologies of western technology are hellbent on a path to destruction, and that only a shift of paradigm to see care and nurture as central can save us.

Many people find such language embarrassing and meaningless, but to me it illustrates the centrality and scale of the paradigm shift involved in developing a compelling story of respect and concern for the future of life on our planet. The challenge is to integrate rival traditions, the scientific valuing of evidence and logic together with the human reverence and awe for the grandeur of the natural creation.

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Be that as it may, Dr Hewson shows the value of seeing understanding of the primacy of climate change as entirely compatible with capitalist economics, and that action to achieve climate stability does not require anything like a communist revolution, even if that is sometimes the more messianic yearning from some on the left.

Robert, I wonder if you could address what I see as, if not a true contradiction, then at least an extremely difficult reconciling of philosophies of life. You'll see what I mean by the two passages I've quoted. I have always associated adopting an ethic of nurturing and care with turning away from, not embracing, the emphases of capitalism, specifically that we are committed to economic growth fueled by consumption. The alternative doesn't need to be labeled socialism or communism, but it would certainly be a downsizing in terms of resources and energy used and the growth rate of the human population. If it turns out not to be be within the capacity of our nature to voluntarily step down, then our only response to climate change can be adaptation to its effects, which won't "work," but will temporarily address some of the problems.



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Post Re: Dispatches from the Front Line of the Apocalypse
.
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Your Children’s Yellowstone Will Be Radically Different



nytimes.com/interactive/2018/11/15/clim ... rming.html


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Post Re: Dispatches from the Front Line of the Apocalypse
Fortunately more than a handful of climate catastrophic Nostradamean predictions never came to pass, or were significantly off the mark.

Back in 2007 IPCC officials admitted a "mistake" regarding specific forecasts related to Himalayan glaciers. The much broader conclusions remain unaffected.
It turns out the study had not been scrutinized by peer review.


Today's forecasts are consistently broad in scope. Naturally, being so helps to save face when scrutinized decades later.


https://www.theguardian.com/environment ... rs-mistake



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Post Re: Dispatches from the Front Line of the Apocalypse
ant wrote:
Today's forecasts are consistently broad in scope. Naturally, being so helps to save face when scrutinized decades later.


To be fair, the forecasts are broad in scope because they're trying to be honest. It's hard or nearly impossible to make specific predictions. It's not about saving face in the decades to come. It's about trying to give the most truthful prediction possible. Are you sitting there biting your nails waiting for something specific to disprove?

You're being unfair to the character of these scientists.


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Post Re: Dispatches from the Front Line of the Apocalypse
Robert Tulip wrote:
Harry Marks wrote:
My sense is that the vast majority have not given [climate change] enough thought to be said to have "made up their mind." It is still a badge of belonging for a lot of people to take one position or another.
It is astounding to me that a primary planetary existential risk can be regarded with such indifference, and so clearly subordinated to partisan politics without effort to find cross-partisan solutions.
Newt Gingrich seems to have recognized that when the Berlin Wall came down, the old basis for cooperative, bi-partisan politics was gone. (He may have had even larger narratives in mind, such as that the threat of communism had been the only real restraint on the rapaciousness of the rich, but I would rather not explore those possibilities.)

To those who see life as being all about scaling the closest ladder to status, which is a good description of the ethos of most capital cities, "issues" are just content-generation for the scrum of appearances within the game of partisan politics. They have almost no real impact on the lives of real people, and even if they did, such an impact could always be outmaneuvered rhetorically, so real-life impacts are not taken seriously. Levers for freeing up campaign finance, on the other hand, are their daily preoccupation and they don't have the luxury of looking past those.

So divisiveness is in, and realism is out, and for the irrelevant 10% who still think people's lives are the point of politics, a pat on the head will do.
Robert Tulip wrote:
People will trot out Schultz and Baker to suggest carbon taxes are non-partisan, but I don’t think it is so simple. Even so, I am changing my views on the merits of carbon tax, since it is important to threaten with a bludgeon when fossil fuel industries so manifestly fail to support the public interest.
You left out Milton Friedman, whose bestseller and hit TV show was called "Free to Choose." Carbon taxes are not a bludgeon of any sort - they are a recognition of the reality of external costs, without which organized economic activity will continue to ignore those costs. With such a recognition, the inventiveness of human ingenuity will go to work on ways to minimize those costs.

Your late conversion to the recognition that the fossil fuel industry cares nothing for the public interest strikes this observer as astonishingly naive.
Robert Tulip wrote:
Tests of political identity operate as psychological myths, in the sense of mythology as a tribal story that gives meaning and direction to our life. The actual proposals for carbon removal are viewed mainly through the prism of an interconnected group of ideas, and people give tactical and strategic inferences just as much weight as the actual scientific content of the proposal. The inference that carbon removal might reduce political pressure on the fossil fuel industry has far greater weight in many circles than the question of whether carbon removal could provide a practical path to climate stability.

You will find that getting monetary incentives involved moves the discussion away from mythology and symbolism with an astonishing rapidity. More on the political pressure on the fossil fuel industry below.
Robert Tulip wrote:
On incentives, Australia’s Emissions Reduction Fund is actually designed to enable incentives for carbon removal, through reverse auctions for least cost abatement, but is generally condemned by the political left as a corrupt alliance between government and the fossil fuel industry to deflect focus on emission reduction. More on that later.
I'm not familiar with the ERF, but it sounds promising. Like "carbon offsets" it at least gets some process in place for assessing baselines and activating search for low-cost approaches. It also sounds like it is the result of a corrupt alliance, but since it moves in the direction of actual incentives, that strikes me as a foolish reason to oppose it.

Robert Tulip wrote:
I have been thinking a lot about your point on the corruption of the fossil fuel industries. A good article this week from Business Insider says the largest oil companies spend just 1% of their budget on green energy. I have been astounded by the scale of lying associated with fracking, especially how the fugitive emissions of methane are ignored in the common claims that the shift to gas has cut emissions in the USA.
They have bought entire geology departments at major universities. Your astonishment is somewhat astonishing.

Robert Tulip wrote:
My attitude on this has been driven by the question of what is the most practical way to stabilise the climate. Fomenting political conflict in order to decarbonise the economy seems unlikely to work, in view of the imbalance of power, whereas collaborating with the fossil fuel to engage their resources, skills and networks on carbon removal just might work. Part of the problem is that corporations have a mindless short-term mercantile view, failing to see how their own interests could be served by a more evidence-based approach to climate change.
They are also engaged in commercial competition, with relatively thin margins, so no company has any incentive to voluntarily help the public. BP has made some genuine sacrifices, but it is always a fragile initiative, pitting the humanity of a few executives who have decided to care about their children against the mindlessness of market search for returns. If government changes the rules, the play will respond.

Robert Tulip wrote:
Harry Marks wrote:
The ostrich vote is being deliberately stoked by Big Oil and Big Coal. Is there any reason not to hold them accountable for this fraud?
Asking how to hold fossil industry accountable requires a practical strategy to maintain energy security and move toward climate security, while opening a discussion about why it is in the commercial and political interests of the fossil fuel industry to invest in carbon removal, beyond the highly dubious method of injecting CO2 into empty wells.
Ask yourself this. How would sponsoring iron enrichment of the seas enrich a corporation? With abatement (or NET) incentives, the answer is obvious. Without them, the answer is just as obviously that there is none.

The accountability to which I refer is to attach dollar figures to the amount and kind of their "free speech" and make the public aware of who has been saying what, so as the s**t keeps hitting the fan the public will know who to hold accountable.

Robert Tulip wrote:
While the extreme anti fossil fuel campaigns may result in forcing the companies to discuss the problems in a more realistic way, there is also the risk that campaigning to disinvest could have perverse impacts, increasing political polarization and energy prices while reducing potential for cooperation. The useful article linked above from Business Insider shows how Big Oil has used renewable investment as a public relations activity.
Disinvestment is a pea-shooter. There are practical, dollars-and-cents costs involved, as any large insurance company will freely verify. Without incentives to respond to carbon's costs, those costs will just continue to mount and the stored wrath in the atmosphere will continue to portend even higher impacts in the future.

Even a small carbon tax would make an enormous impact. The difference in response between 1/10 of the true cost and zero would be astonishing.

Robert Tulip wrote:
My concerns are that incentives are too slow, small, uncertain, risky and complex in the face of the real scale of the climate problem, and therefore are just one arrow in a broad quiver of responses.
Somehow that doesn't strike me as a reason to prefer "zero." Even "complex," a downside which has actual costs associated with it, is not a real disadvantage because any realistic response to the externality will mean paying attention to the specifics. So "complex" is part of the deal and we might as well get familiar with grappling with it.

I am hoping that geo-engineering and NET will make the kind of impact you are expecting. In fact I am hoping for it so much that I advocate incentives for corporations to pursue it.
Robert Tulip wrote:
The IPCC is a compromise body. It therefore systematically understates the real risk that 2° of warming is already committed by past emissions, and that this committed warming will cause major disruption and conflict. I support the use of tax incentives to cut emissions, but tax is really only a tiny part of the climate solution.
The IPCC is only relevant because we are looking at a global public good. It's still the job of leaders, and in a democracy, voters and the press, to focus on the truth of the matter and get the job done. The fact that they can point to major disruption and conflict already as a result of the warming we have already seen is secondary to the project of getting down to the business of acting in the public interest.

Robert Tulip wrote:
What we really need is a global Manhattan Apollo project, delivering major public private partnership to research and develop methods to remove carbon from the air at scale, while also deploying solar radiation management systems to prevent the climate suddenly tipping over to a point of no return.
That's fine with me. Either way, no, both ways, we are talking about government action. So it's time for advocates of various paths to quit sniping at each other as though they were Bolsheviks eliminating the threat from the Mensheviks.



Last edited by Harry Marks on Sat Nov 17, 2018 12:08 pm, edited 1 time in total.



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