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Poll: What to do about climate change? 

What are the top priorities for climate change?
No action needed 8%  8%  [ 2 ]
Cut Emissions 29%  29%  [ 7 ]
Tax Carbon 13%  13%  [ 3 ]
Remove Carbon Dioxide from Atmosphere 25%  25%  [ 6 ]
Manage Solar Radiation 8%  8%  [ 2 ]
Reduce Personal Carbon Footprint 17%  17%  [ 4 ]
Total votes : 24

Poll: What to do about climate change? 
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Post Re: Poll: What to do about climate change?
Harry Marks wrote:
Robert Tulip wrote:
DWill wrote:
It's a two-pronged attack. Relying only on CR would be just as futile as relying only on reduction.
No, that is not right. CR could potentially scale up to removal of 80 GTC/Y, enabling return to Holocene stability, whereas at best emission reduction can scale up to about two or three GTC/Y in the next few years, given the inertia in the fossil system. They are orders of magnitude different in effect.
Well, but to repeat a point I have made before, this premise assumes its conclusion. Both need to be pursued, with incentives to reflect true system costs and benefits, because what CR could potentially do is still a hope, without any basis for claiming all the uncertainty is under control.

Look at the numbers. I am presenting two extreme scenarios to illustrate the policy contrast, recognising that the outcome will sit somewhere between these two.

The extreme case for Emission Reduction alone is that the world, not just the USA, makes a total switch to zero carbon energy by 2030 as proposed by the Green New Deal. And no forests burn down despite drought and warming. Meanwhile this whole agenda is vigorously opposed by the Republican Party and the world climate denial movement with its rich backers due to its perceived economic damage. The downside is that because of this partisan situation, the ER advocates oppose research on Carbon Removal, let alone Solar Radiation Management, because it would undermine political pressure to decarbonise the economy.

The end result, with no focus on Carbon Removal, is that total carbon in the air remains at about 700 billion tonnes (420 ppm) in 2030, with no prospect of rapid decline. The last time carbon was that high was about three million years ago, when the sea was about 50 feet higher and the temperature was several degrees warmer. Under this ER scenario the forcing is still in place in 2030 to restore that natural geophysical balance. There is no plan to cut that forcing and no way to know if the tipping points could come in years or decades.

The best case for Carbon Removal, assuming a Democrat President in 2020, is that the US government sets a moon shot vision for climate restoration, with an aspiration for Net Zero Global Emissions by 2030. This involves financial incentives for investment in CR, encouraging international cooperation on SRM as a primary strategy to build world peace and security, and allowing emissions to be subject to market forces. A wide range of CR technologies are tested, resulting in large scale deployment of CR technologies that remove 0.5 gigatonnes of carbon in 2021. This volume of removal increases by 15% per year. The fossil fuel industry and other climate-exposed industries are brought on board to deliver skills, funds and political backing. The market based policy means emissions continue at a rate of ten gigatonnes of carbon per year.

The result of this CR strategy is that in 2030 total carbon in the air is still around 720 billion tonnes, but the trajectory is completely different from the ER scenario. Under this CR path, by 2030 net emissions are rapidly falling, on a path to net zero by 2042, and critically, to subsequent negative net emissions. This direct cut of carbon in the air puts the planet on a path to climate restoration, with the CO2 level on track to fall to 280 ppm by 2065. Those dates would be later if CR growth is less than 15%, and sooner if the growth rate is higher.

The contrast between these scenarios is that Carbon Removal offers hope, inclusion, stability and growth, while the Emission Reduction path offers far less prospect of success. Even in the unlikely event that ER does succeed in its decarbonisation plan, it has no transition strategy to achieve climate restoration. While it is true that CR could prove unfeasible, the problem is that ER offers no prospect at all of climate restoration or stability. In this context, with scientists arguing that CR technologies could be deployed rapidly at scale if only there were political support, there is little downside for a rebalancing of climate policy to give much more emphasis to CR.

All this shows that ER alone is a futile strategy for addressing climate change, while CR alone offers strong hope to restore the climate. ER has many benefits, in pollution control, economic efficiency and technological innovation, but it is just wrong to pretend that it offers a path to the necessary goal of climate restoration.


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Post Re: Poll: What to do about climate change?
DWill wrote:
Robert Tulip wrote:
Reducing emissions and removing carbon are necessary but not sufficient, as I explain in my analogy above drawn from Leonardo Da Vinci of Gaia as facing impending cardiac arrest.

Wait, I thought that carbon removal was pretty much your answer to the problem, with emission reduction being not even really necessary. What am I missing?
Fair point, I did not express that clearly. The combination of emission reduction and carbon removal will restore the climate, but are not enough to stop dangerous tipping points, which requires solar radiation management. Within that climate restoration combination, carbon removal is far more important than emission reduction, but emission reduction does still contribute.

In the short term, over the next few decades, carbon removal and radiation management could fix the climate, even without severe cuts to emissions. That does not mean emission reduction does not help, except that the prevailing climate activist politics of emission reduction alone is very unhelpful. Over the longer term there are definite climate benefits from emission reduction, making it a necessary shift as part of the need to construct a circular economy.
DWill wrote:
Isn't there something about reducing emissions that makes it a more practical goal for local, state, even national governments? That quality doesn't speak to the effectiveness of ER in achieving the needing lower carbon concentrations in the atmosphere, but it does explain why it has been the go-to solution, as contrasted with public investment in carbon removal installations.
Yes, this is an important observation, that people psychologically prefer actions they can control, rather than analysis of what is actually needed to fix the problem. Governments see direct results from emission reduction in economic change, so they prefer that strategy, even though those results are miniscule against the scale of the climate problem. I am asking that people lift their heads above the parapet to take a strategic planetary view of the orders of magnitude involved in climate change. This shows, counter-intuitively, that the prevailing focus on cutting emissions could actually be counterproductive in terms of stopping global warming.
DWill wrote:
Well, I know you say that CR can offset its costs by selling the carbon removed, but that has to be seen as speculative at this point.
Yes it is speculative, but it is essential to speculate about the future in order to generate a vision that will inspire action. My vision is of a high carbon world with universal economic abundance, shifting the carbon that is now warming the planet into the most useful stable places, such as soil, infrastructure, fish and sustainable energy production. Only such a high carbon world can protect global biodiversity and create a circular economy.
DWill wrote:
The collective "we" is a valuable element in the battle. It's there to some degree regarding emissions reduction campaigns, but it's absent when it comes to CR.
This is another key point about climate psychology. The political climate activist movement has latched on to the only apparent effective method of campaigning, the popular front. This reduces policy to a lowest common denominator (ie a myth) with a worked-out demonology grounded in popular front traditions of class war.

As such, the collective support for emission reduction has a strongly religious flavour, even while claiming a basis in secular science. The unscientific fallacy at work here is the elision from the true statement that climate science is settled to the false statement that emission reduction can fix the climate.

The contrasting psychological basis for carbon removal sits more within existential philosophy, based on a rigorous factual analysis of the authentic situation. Carbon removal does involve a transformation of thinking, and that is much more complex and difficult to describe and convey to a mass audience than the simple agenda of emission reduction.

The very interesting thing here is how the religious dimension of climate activism has spawned the denialist backlash, which is grounded less in greed than in the true, if generally unconscious, observation that emission reduction can’t fix the climate.
DWill wrote:
Even after the technology to remove carbon at scale has arrived, what country is going to undertake the expense of erecting it, when the costs will be borne by that country but the rest of countries would be free riders?
Carbon removal requires a research and development agenda based on public private partnership. Industries such as insurance and energy have a commercial interest in climate stability. Pension funds have a compelling interest to invest in climate R&D. The challenge is to tell the story of why such investment is needed. If carbon removal turns out to be profitable, we won't need to worry about the free rider problem.
DWill wrote:
Again, the problem of the world acting together on the security issue. The treaty on chlorofluorocarbons would seem to be a possible model, but climate change action requires so much more than switching to different refrigerants did with regard to the ozone hole.
The Montreal Protocol was used as the model for the Paris Accord. The ozone success created the false impression that intergovernmental agreement on emission reduction could solve the climate problem, whereas what is needed is a return to first scientific principles to analyse the strategic problem.
DWill wrote:
McKibben makes a good case that we won't need to actually face peak oil before oil peaks as the stuff we use to run the economy.
That argument about the loss of economic value of fossil fuels applies especially to coal. McKibben may be too optimistic about the speed of shift to electric cars powered by renewable energy.
DWill wrote:

Emissions reduction is what we get as we are switching to renewables, as in any scenario we must. Say we did shovel all our effort into CR. If we decarbonized the atmosphere, great, but we'd soon not have enough energy to have much of an economy (because then we'd face peak oil). So I think you are also assuming that we'd be massively investing in ocean algae farming as the big renewable that would also remove carbon. The possible barriers to that happening are many, but I don't mean to poo-poo it.
This is a really important observation that maintaining energy supply is a key agenda. My response is that the key problem is the speed of the various factors. The climate movement sees speeding up the renewable transition as key. My view is the transition to renewables will happen anyway with private investment, whereas the urgent need for public investment is in kickstarting carbon removal since that has much bigger public goods and security return on investment.

My prediction is that algae farming will eventually deliver on both carbon removal and renewable energy, but there are a bunch of political and technical hurdles to jump before that is proved, as NASA’s Jonathan Trent has discovered with his OMEGA project. It is a mystery to me why pension funds are not investing now in OMEGA.
DWill wrote:
No doubt fossil fuels will continue to be valuable for making plastic. It was interesting for me to learn that with a relatively small amount of hydrocarbons, we can make all the plastic we're likely to need, especially as we engineer plastics that can be infinitely recycled. We now divert about 8% of oil production to petrochemicals.
I believe we will find much bigger uses for plastic than we now have. For example, building microalgae farms at sea will require massive quantities of thick fabric for production, transport and storage. This fabric will eventually be sourced from the algae itself but in the meantime can come from petrochemicals. I also think it is possible to build underwater roads and offshore airports and dams out of plastic, but that is a very futuristic speculation. I was inspired by Terry Spragg’s waterbag concept to imagine that future shipping container traffic could use submarine plastic vessels.
DWill wrote:
Circular economy means all sorts of other things, of course, and perceived usefulness doesn't always translate to economic value. I hope that for biochar, it will. Before you started talking about it, I wasn't aware of biochar or its potential.
My interest is to develop a practical vision of a circular economy that has an acceptable transition path from the current linear model. There has to be a theory of change and program logic explaining how we get from here to there. In biochar, the vested interests of corporate agriculture appear to be stymieing progress, just as fossil fuel companies are hindering an energy transition. It may be that efforts to cooperate with the linear companies will generate circular models.


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Post Re: Poll: What to do about climate change?
Robert Tulip wrote:
Harry, I will come back to respond to your last comment in detail, but for now I just want to say you react badly to the idea of constructive dialogue with conservatives, whereas I am saying that such dialogue will be essential to make progress on climate policy.
I have made an effort to have constructive dialogue with Creationists many times. When they have become firmly embedded in an echo chamber social process, in which nothing the outsiders say counts for anything, and voodoo signs have been placed above all claims that the outsiders have anything worth listening to, then nothing I say makes any difference. I am very open to constructive dialogue with conservatives - a difference in values and in how the world is perceived is normal and healthy and, one might say, fecund. But when it reaches the trolling point, at which all that matters is feeling that one has scored a debate point because listening has been excluded, then I am under no moral obligation to pretend to have dialogue. In general, the people whose m.o. is to copy from some website have passed that point.

Robert Tulip wrote:
My view is not about accepting the paranoid delusions of right wing nutjobs, but just seeing that those delusions may have a basis that involves more than just greed. That basis is the visceral recognition that the current UN emission reduction strategies cannot achieve their objectives of preventing warming.
No, it really isn't. It is brewed from a hot mess of resentment, disappointment with the status ladder, inability to make peace in a family context, inability to come to grips with their own inner conflicts, and pleasure at thinking they have thwarted some distant, over-powerful interfering puppeteers in The Government. The pied pipers who lead these children into the cave, with recognizable names like Rush Limbaugh and Newt Gingrich, are the ones who serve greed.
The notion that deep down these people want to prevent warming but just can't feel in their gut that UN strategies will achieve it is utter folly. What they want is to pretend to be right for a change, to be on top of things, and a radio ranter or nutjob website that will feed that craving will elicit their fawning obeisance. There was a time when the conservative establishment in America stood astride the country like a colossus, and they formulated sound policy to deal with global warming. But the insurgents had money to funnel into their bank accounts, and rage to fuel, and opted for burning it down. And now they are getting their wish.
Robert Tulip wrote:
Harry Marks wrote:
In particular, if profits lead to 80 GTC/Y of removal, is there not a danger of excess decarbonization? There is no more reason for the biochar industry to worry about such a danger than for the Koch brothers to worry about global warming.

Interesting questions, but carbon removal is not just about relying on commercial profits, and also not just about biochar. The idea that carbon mining could become profitable is far from current thinking on carbon dioxide removal, which assumes someone will be forced to pay to store CO2 as a useless waste product.
I'm not addressing current thinking, I'm addressing your thinking. In your eagerness to make common cause with those intuitive geniuses, the climate deniers, you continually claim that government involvement is not needed. Oh, maybe for a moonshot, but not to actually meddle in economic incentives. {slaps forehead}. The same government action which you are eager to disparage when it favors Emissions Reduction is essentially a requirement for making your proposals for Carbon Removal (or anyone else's) fly. It is fascinating to watch you dance around that, one week extolling government dreams of glory and the next week stroking the people who think all things governmental are poisonous, but all it adds up to is inability to form a coherent view of how policy should work.
Robert Tulip wrote:
My view that CO2 can be converted from waste to asset at mega scale using methods such as biochar is something that is embedded in a philosophy of respect for nature. It would only occur within the framework of a social enterprise, using profits for public goods, reinvesting revenues to achieve rapid sustainability at scale, with the direct purpose of climate restoration.
I think I have made clear already how naive I think it is to trust your philosophical embedding to steer such a large-scale process. In the U.S. we have managed to have a few "social enterprises" of that scope, such as the Tennessee Valley Authority (and similar water management plans for electricity generation). They were successfully established on the rationale of transforming rural society on a basically self-financing basis. They were also part of a broad-based "liberal" effort to escape the Great Depression (back when liberals stood astride the country like a colossus) and philosophical objections to government action were easily swept aside.

If you had presented such a proposal in the days of Jim Baker and George Schultz they probably would have given you a fair hearing. Today, the piranhas would have all the meat off the bones of such an effort before it ever came alive. Not because they reflected and made a considered decision about what is good for the country, but because piranha power is the order of the day. One need only watch a month of the news to see how thoroughly the process of reflection and verification have been removed from public debate. For one party, only resentment and special interests matter to whatever the question is at hand, since the special interests provide the money to fuel the resentment, and that coalition is the basis of their tenure in office.

There were other efforts - the interstate highway system and the satellite network come to mind - but these have mainly only managed any scale because they could be packaged as necessary to defend against an external enemy. Incrementalist engineering collaborations, such as Wikipedia and the internet itself, might hold out some hope, but you can already see the piranhas settling in to tear the usefulness of the internet to shreds. When the profitability to keep building it began to depend on nefarious manipulations, they became the driving force to net-based business.

Essentially, what I am saying is that if you want to rely on public-spirited motivation, you will have to stop undercutting public-spirited motivation. Because what goes around comes around. Because Training Day - if you think your idealism is better than other idealism, there will be no idealists in your corner when the wolves gather.

Robert Tulip wrote:
As with other public good industries, strong government engagement will be essential.
It might be a good idea for you, or someone in the geoengineering community, to give this some thought. What other public good industries do you have in mind? How did it work? How would the differences between those and yours play out? Because those who ignore history have the privilege of re-living it.
Robert Tulip wrote:
Carbon mining/removal is justified by the security dimension of avoiding the economic and political collapse that drastic climate change would cause.
Yes, and that's certainly a powerful political force these days, or hadn't you noticed? Reflecting externalities to give a true picture of the cost and benefit removes the matter from the endless casting and re-casting of a policy issue. Might take some of the fun out of internet discussions, but to my mind fun is not the point. We already know it is a grave security threat, and the response is sort of "how many tanks do the scientists have?"
Robert Tulip wrote:
Governments need to move away from the current parlous attitude of effectively banning primary geoengineering research, and adopt a strategic vision of climate restoration. Adopting such a goal would enable pension fund investment on the scale now devoted to fracking, which has been highly deceptive about its economics and its climate impact.
I can tell you something far more straightforward than "adopting such a goal" which would activate that investment.

Robert Tulip wrote:
On the risk you mention of carbon mining creating a new ice age through a cooling overshoot, the change of thinking required to dodge the bullet of global warming would prevent that from happening.
If it was a public enterprise I can imagine such a prevention. But your premise was that it would work based on profitability. In which case a public-spirited change of thinking is no more likely to stop a cooling overshoot than it was to stop our current warming overshoot. Your new version, in which a public enterprise raises capital from pension funds and whatnot but maintains its direction in the melded public/private interest might conceivably work, but you know very well the Reaganaut libertarian thinking of the current right wing would oppose such an enterprise, and seize the first available opportunity to privatize it (as the current administration proposed for infrastructure. Because toll roads are so much more joyful than paying taxes.)

Robert Tulip wrote:
Harry Marks wrote:
Of course there would be some negative feedback as CO2 got less common in the atmosphere. But it is hard to imagine such a deficit seriously impacting the profitability once the basic concept was proven and the technical issues solved. I imagine you can see where I am going with this question. Something you consider a blessing, and rightly so, if it can solve the problem of GHG overhang, could turn into a problem precisely because it was responding to profit without any reflection of the external costs it might create.
Yes, I get your point, which I think implies that humanity may be so congenitally depraved that coordination to use our brains to evolve beyond the current extinction risk point may prove impossible. The simple answer here is that once we have converted the 630 billion tonnes of carbon we have added to the air into useful commodities, any need for more carbon can readily be met from coal, rather than from the air.
I imply that humanity will continue to be as "depraved" as it is now. If you want the truth recognized, quit undermining the truth-tellers.

Robert Tulip wrote:
Despite the serious current risk to our survival as a species, I am optimistic that collective humanity will be able to overcome the current error of discounting externalities in approving business investment proposals. In the future our current disregard for managing the planetary climate will be seen as a moral evil as bad as or worse than slavery, nuclear war, terrorism and the holocaust.
Wait, you are saying that morality will be factored into business calculations voluntarily, despite the negative impact on profits? You don't get out much, do you? Can you point to a lot of businesses who have acted that way?

This is a threat which is, by definition, only stoppable through collective security. There is no gated community that can ignore Hothouse Earth and operate independently of the damage done to fellow humans.
Robert Tulip wrote:
My view is that the slowly dawning recognition that culture exists inside nature involves a philosophical paradigm shift at the scale of a new religious reformation. That is why I think it is essential to place the discussion of climate science and technology within a theological framework as a basis for global ethical regulation of the climate, to generate a new political consensus that would enable enduring global stability and abundance.
If you find a way to make carbon removal profitable, you will surely be forgiven for not also reformulating philosophy to make a new religious reformation. But at the rate you are going, your efforts along the second lines seem only to undermine the credibility of the policy shift needed for the first one.



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Post Re: Poll: What to do about climate change?
atr.org/Francis-Rooney-endorses-large-t ... crease?amp I’m not sure whether I trust Rooney or not. I do however know that he is getting a fair amount of pushback from the free market fundies who control local talk radio. When he first got elected as my district representative I attended a local townhall hosted by him. Climate change was a hot topic and I found it interesting and frustrating at the same time.
He didn’t accept at that time publicly that humans were/are responsible for global warming, Instead his claim was that earth was still exiting the last ice age. I couldn’t believe my ears. I’ve participated in surveys from his office and never fail to express how wrong his thinking is. I can not be the only one in my district who does this. But never the less he has moved in a direction that allows him to to come as close as a conservative can come to admitting the culpability of humans with respect to climate change.
He is managing to place the topic in the light of global pollution which is fine with me. On the surface he appears sincere, For me, I remain a skeptic of a republican who has so endearingly embraced what Harry calls “ Reaganaut libertarian thinking “(not nearly enough a pejorative) time will tell whether or not my skepticism is misplaced.
I should at a minimum applaud Rooney for having continued to research the issue and to have the guts to school dear leader and others in the NCR that the problem is real and that conservatives need to be onboard with their past traditions of conservation.
But as I said. I am a skeptic, I do not trust republicans anymore and don’t think I will for maybe the remainder of my life time. They are now the party of Trump and Trump is shit for brained.



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Post Re: Poll: What to do about climate change?
Intelligence Squared is sponsoring a debate on geoengineering tomorrow (Thursday) night. Apparently focusing mainly or entirely on radiation management (aerosols, etc.).



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Post Re: Poll: What to do about climate change?
Harry Marks wrote:
Intelligence Squared is sponsoring a debate on geoengineering tomorrow (Thursday) night. Apparently focusing mainly or entirely on radiation management (aerosols, etc.).

https://www.intelligencesquaredus.org/d ... crazy-idea

Thanks Harry. I will be playing piano at our Good Friday church service when it is on, but it is live streamed and open to comments.

I am very familiar with the lead participants, Clive Hamilton, a foolish leftist Australian who is incapable of coherent risk analysis, and David Keith, a brilliant Harvard scientist who is the lead world advocate for stratospheric aerosol injection.

Chris has previously suggested Booktalk regulars go to the chat room here to comment while such debates are on. Sorry I can't be there, but should be interesting.

The basic fact that everyone should be aware of is that investigating geoengineering is far less risky than the current obtuse climate policy of putting all our eggs in the emission reduction basket.

:popcorn:


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Post Re: Poll: What to do about climate change?
The motion: Engineering Solar Radiation Is a Crazy Idea.
Spoiler Alert / Debate winner: Against the motion. 37% pre-debate 75% post-debate.

You can watch it here:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jclv4xO2q-8



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Post Re: Poll: What to do about climate change?
Good debate, well moderated (except for the moderator repeatedly saying "social radiation" toward the end). I didn't see that lopsided victory coming for the the side opposed. But thinking about it, their win might be mostly due to the extreme stance of the "for" side. If the main thing to decide when voting is whether the notion is crazy, it becomes relatively easy for voters to decide that, while a particular method of geoengineering might not be what we need to do, it's not irrational to investigate how we might do it.

Regarding the only thing being done currently to mitigate climate change--emissions reduction--there was no disagreement from the "against" side that that goal needs to be pursued agressively. That ER alone is not enough doesn't mean that we can possibly minimize the danger of climate change without such action.

I didn't note that the against side confronted the opponents with the question, "How do you propose to prevent drastic damage if not by some form of geoengineering?" The only alternative to geoengineering seems to be absorbing the serious damage, as it's well established that too much carbon is already up there. I would think that absorbing could be the best of the bad choices. The great challenge with it is that the global governance that was argued about in this debate would still be needed to bring in some kind of justice. A huge amount of aid will need to go to poorer nations to prevent them from suffering disproportionately.



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Post Re: Poll: What to do about climate change?
With apologies, I find that I started writing replies to Harry’s very good comments on this thread back in March but did not complete them. So here they are.
Harry Marks wrote:
you should be ashamed of yourself for giving aid and comfort to the lunatic conspiracy theory.
It is not so simple, and I am not at all giving aid and comfort to any form of climate denial. Sure, on the surface climate denial is insane. I agree with you. What I am saying is that the decarbonisation strategy of emission reduction, let alone the Green New Deal call for 100% renewable energy by 2030, is an equally unrealistic partisan stance that has generated an understandable backlash. It is true the backlash is lunatic considered just from science, but politically the point should not be to say left is good and right is bad, but rather to look for avenues of reconciliation and practical cooperation with prospect of actually stopping dangerous warming.

Decarbonising the economy is not such a practical strategy, whereas mobilising the energy and insurance industries and the military to cool the planet would be.
Harry Marks wrote:
Keeping fossil fuel use artificially cheap has gotten us where we are. You should be ashamed of yourself for advocating for a continuation.
Fossil fuels will remain the dominant energy source for decades to come regardless of what you or I or Bill McKibben might prefer. Emissions are projected to rise by nearly 50% from the current 40 gigatonnes of CO2e to about 60 GT by 2030, with the Paris Accord hoping to shave that increase to 54 GT (NYT, 2017). That cut is marginal, and a recipe for climate failure, even if it was doubled or tripled, reflecting the current economic drivers for energy supply.

The main “artificially cheap” element in fossil fuels is the failure to include climate externalities into pricing. The question how to achieve such climate inclusion has to look at transition strategies. Trying to abolish fossil fuels as fast as possible will cause conflict, instability and dislocation, with high economic risk, and strong pushback causing delay. That risk can be ameliorated by instead getting these companies to invest heavily in methods to remove the carbon pollution from the air, which could well achieve an even better climate result at lower cost and risk. Best to cut the partisan demonization and look for methods of constructive cooperation.
Harry Marks wrote:
This Hayekian distortion of policy on externalities was not convincing to Milton Friedman, or any other responsible conservative. Why would you want to get in bed with the hacks and the paranoiacs?
The issue here is not just about externalities, it is about the shared view of Friedman and Hayek that minimising the size of government is good for both the economy and society, by reducing the dead weight of tax that inhibits private sector activity and encouraging civil society economic initiative. That is a view that I share, on the basis that growth and health of civil society and social capital are inhibited by excessive reliance on government.

So I just don’t buy the dominant climate activist view that government action is the primary task for climate response. Sure government has a key role, but it is to steer, not row, even while saying that fixing the climate needs action on the scale of the Apollo Program. While it is true that taxing carbon sets a technology-neutral approach, my view is that ideally such taxation should be minimised by using investment in climate repair technology as a tax offset so that government facilitates the technology R&D by the private sector.

Friedman said “I think the government solution to a problem is usually as bad as the problem and very often makes the problem worse.” He also said “I am in favor of cutting taxes under any circumstances and for any excuse, for any reason, whenever it's possible. … because I believe the big problem is not taxes, the big problem is spending. I believe our government is too large and intrusive, that we do not get our money's worth for the roughly 40 percent of our income that is spent by government … How can we ever cut government down to size? I believe there is one and only one way: the way parents control spendthrift children, cutting their allowance. For government, that means cutting taxes.”

I don’t see how taxing carbon is compatible with those views, except when major emitters can offset their emissions by major investment in carbon removal and planetary cooling technology.
Harry Marks wrote:
People who interpret the world to conservatives have adopted the rhetoric of anti-elitism while serving their corporate paymasters.
That is too cynical as a generalisation. Concern about the rise of progressive cultural and political elites is reasonable, reflecting the worry about a narrowing and homogenising of policy sources.

Such concern about elites is not simply corrupt as you insinuate. It is true there is a broader conservative “rhetoric of anti-elitism” that is used to prosecute the culture wars against political correctness. That extends well beyond the specific problem I am raising, which is that technocratic elites have a wrong view about climate, with their argument that taxing carbon would be a sufficient response. The Paris Accord is an elitist instrument, cooked up by global governments to pretend to be doing something about climate, when it won’t work, since it is too small and slow compared to the freight train scale of climate change.

For example, some governments would like to force people to switch from petrol to electric cars to help the climate. This is an example of what I call elitist policy that won't work. The basis for mandating the switch has miniscule actual effect on climate, even accepting its strong benefits for innovation and pollution control.
Harry Marks wrote:
Those who sought to be responsible were quite able to separate claims about policy options from "liberal packages" but then got blind-sided by Talk Radio disrupters bankrolled by truly warped, anti-human, anti-culture billionaires.
That is fair comment about the corruption of right wing opposition to climate response, but electing progressive governments is unlikely to be an adequate way to fix the climate, in view of the considerable policy baggage on the left.
Harry Marks wrote:
Rupert Murdoch is no better than Joseph Goebbels - he's just a parasite more effective at maintaining a live host rather than killing it off.
Goebbels was a genocidal warmonger. Much as I find it disgusting that Murdoch promotes climate denial, this comparison is ridiculous. Making such comparisons renders it impossible to engage in civil dialogue with important capitalist constituencies who need to be engaged to reverse climate change.
Harry Marks wrote:
Robert Tulip wrote:
The psychology here is a clash of primary assumptions about the world, between the progressive idea that government is central and the conservative idea that government is dangerous. In any event, the conservative idea that government is dangerous and should be limited is powerful enough to severely delay progressive government efforts to decarbonise the world economy.
Only when enabled by determined misrepresentation for profit.
Of course. But the political problem is that such misrepresentation has a large, rich, powerful and somewhat demented constituency. Trying to sideline those social and economic forces appears profoundly unrealistic, in a context where working constructively with them could achieve the main goal of preventing dangerous warming.
Harry Marks wrote:
There are certainly reasonable cases to be made that government is dangerous. Milton Friedman ran a television show making that case week after week for many years. That did not stop him from backing taxes or subsidies to rectify externality problems.
My impression is that people today who think highly of Friedman are likely to be worried that addressing climate change via tax on carbon runs too high a risk of increasing the power and intrusion of the state into civil society.
Harry Marks wrote:
When you try to erase the distinction between lying about the facts and disagreeing about policy, you contribute to the perfidy of the manipulators.
. Completely agree. That is a distinction I have certainly never tried to erase, but have rather tried to highlight. The real problem here is that the policy prescription of emission reduction simply will not work to deliver its goal of climate stability. This is a point that many in the Murdock press continually make, based on Lomborg’s accurate analysis quoted by Trump that full implementation of Paris Accord commitments would not reduce temperature rise by more than a fraction of a degree, and would have immense cost.

The problem is that almost no one is willing to bite the geoengineering bullet, recognising that investment in cooling technologies is the only way to stop global warming. As a result the right wing has adopted denial as a sort of policy placeholder, a head in the sand attitude they will adopt until they get convinced by a better story, ie geoengineering.
Harry Marks wrote:
You continue to use the Paris Accords as a stand-in for efforts to address emissions, as if no other version of emissions reduction is relevant. At the same time you compare it to an engineering calculation of what might be possible in the way of carbon reduction. This is transparently distortionary, and you should not expect to be taken seriously by policy-makers when your discussion follows such a tendentious rut.
Now I am remembering why I delayed replying. With respect Harry, it is angry and baseless for you to assert that comparing the agreed Paris Accord commitments to what is required to fix the climate is tendentious. It is not tendentious, but rather essential to say that climate stability needs CO2 levels to fall by 50 gigatonnes per year but the best the governments of the world could come up with was an accelerating rate of CO2 increase. This climate gap indicates a basic flaw in the decarbonisation orthodoxy of climate politics, and the need for a paradigm shift to discuss different ways to approach the problem.

Your assertion that there are other versions of emission reduction misses the point on orders of magnitude. Emissions are 10 GTC per year, but the carbon problem of accumulated past emissions is 635 GTC, more than sixty times bigger than the possible limit of annual emission reduction. So even if the world ramped up emission reduction by banning all burning, we would still only have marginal impact on warming, which is driven by the committed radiative forcing from past emissions, which have to be mined out of the air and sea and turned into useful products, ie geoengineering.
Harry Marks wrote:
Nobody seriously believes that incentives for emissions reduction have played no role in the evolution of renewable technology. The corollary is immediate: appropriate incentives would have accelerated that evolution even more. The moon-shot mustering of forces that you frequently argue for is arranged naturally by an appropriate incentive.
Incentives don’t work when there are policy blockages. The current progressive policy framework is war against the fossil fuel sector, so all policies are considered through that lens. I simply think such a war footing is a distorting prism that prevents necessary climate action.
Harry Marks wrote:
Robert Tulip wrote:
Geoengineering methods are far more efficient and effective,
This may be true, but frankly we don't know that.
Robert Tulip wrote:
and can be supported by conservatives while decarbonisation faces entrenched economic opposition.
Not on the basis of sound policy analysis. Conservatives already supported decarbonisation, and the entrenched economic opposition was able to buy off actual policy makers, not because of ideological considerations but from sheer venality. Your argument basically comes down to the notion that no special interests will have a reason to oppose ocean fertilization and biochar production, but of course you know that is not true. I'm not sure what gives you the confidence to claim that the special interest thumb will stay off your scale, but I find it worryingly naive.
My confidence is based on the view that the special interests opposed to ocean fertilization and biochar production can be sidelined, once the major forces of global capital engage in serious analysis of these proposals, and the proposals are removed from their current socialistic climate movement context.
Harry Marks wrote:
Robert Tulip wrote:
other approaches should be pursued at the same time.
Sure, but on the basis of sound policy considerations, not as a kind of end run around corruption. The corruption will still be there, and you will have been in the position of linking arms with it.
Again, this debate is about practical strategy to stop global warming. It is sometimes remarked in communist circles that Trotskyism is ideologically pure. The trouble with such imagined purity, disdaining any contact with the corrupt, is that it is utterly marginal from actual policy, and also that its alleged purity involves wilful blindness to reality. I agree that ultimately we should hope to eliminate corruption, but the practical path to this goal does actually involve cooperation with industries that are perceived as corrupt in order to help shift them towards a better future.


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Post Re: Poll: What to do about climate change?
Continuing response to Harry's comments from March.
Harry Marks wrote:
There are myriads of ways to engage big business productively on the issue, some of which are geoengineering. Geoengineering just happens to be yours.
With the greatest respect Harry, your comment is disingenuous. The “myriad ways” that big business can engage on climate change can be grouped by type and analysed by potential effectiveness. The climate problem is that there is too much carbon in the air. The only type of responses that fix that problem are removing the excess carbon and directly cooling the planet, ie geoengineering. All other responses are either marginal or harmful.
Harry Marks wrote:
And yet you find yourself surprised that anti-government rhetoric is employed against your proposal, as if somehow rationality would be restored to a debate that "conservatives" turned into a Rupert Murdoch narrative and an entire wing of politics climbed into bed with.
This is a fascinating point of political psychology. Geoengineering has evolved as a proposed scientific policy response within the left wing culture of academic climate science. That culture routinely engages in the platitudinous nonsense that emission reduction is the main necessary climate response, rubbing industry up the wrong way. Almost no one has had the courage and vision to see or say that the emission reduction emperor is naked, that the new clothes of emission reduction as adequate solution are fraudulent. So naturally geoengineering continues to be viewed with suspicion by big business, and will be until the story shifts.

This week’s Economist cover story on sea level rise, A World Without Beaches, illustrates how the debate needs to shift. People are waking up to the fact that the time is not far off when ports, military bases, beaches, cities and all the other coastal infrastructure and environments we know and love are on a one way ticket to Davy Jones’ Locker, unless we find ways to manage the global climate immediately. Unfortunately even The Economist defers to the religious piety of the current climate movement that ignores the potential for geoengineering to minimise this looming catastrophe.
Harry Marks wrote:
Last I heard you recognized that the funding you considered necessary was not going to be forth-coming from commercial interests.
I have never recognised any such thing. Industries such as fossil fuel and insurance and shipping who should be primary backers of geoengineering have not yet been convinced how it supports their commercial interests. I expect that to change quite rapidly as the case is compelling.
Harry Marks wrote:
Robert Tulip wrote:
current decarbonisation policies are all about generating political conflict against these powerful corporations.
That is an amoral case of character assassination. You know very well that decarbonisation policies and motivation are about doing the right thing. They may be misguided, but they are not sell-out shills.
When somebody means well but they are fundamentally wrong on points of fact, explaining this in a courteous way is entirely moral. That is the situation with climate change. There is a pervasive belief, with Greta Thunberg in the vanguard on the high tech sailing ship to New York, that decarbonising the economy should be the primary climate strategy. That entails political conflict against corporate interests, and saying so is hardly a misrepresentation of their views. I am just pointing out that Thunbergian idealism has no chance of achieving its goals, whereas the alternative strategy of cooperating with capitalism to geoengineer a stable climate offers a rapid practical path away from the precipice.


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Post Re: Poll: What to do about climate change?
I'm probably not ideally aware of some of the points in this debate, but one strong feeling I have is that it's not leftist resistance that retards action on geoengineering. Yes, that faction opposes geoengineering, but since when has that edge of politics been so powerful against industry? I fundamentally can't believe that industry pays so much attention to the left or that the left has much ability to call the shots. The implication of what Robert says is that industry would be a great partner in geoengineering without the left butting in. That's up in the air, speculation. The right pretty much prevails in the U.S. Where is the support for geoengineering?

Sometimes counterintuitive ideas turn out to be prophetic, but many turn out to be just wrong or wishful. That's the way I look at going full throttle with the fossil companies so that they will be incentivized to become geoengineering companies. That is too close to solving environmental problems by adding population, or making the U.S. safer from gun violence by adding more guns.

My brother reminded me yesterday that methane removal requires separate actions from CO2 removal. Just another challenge to think about, as if we needed more.



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Post Re: Poll: What to do about climate change?
DWill, I always appreciate your comments as intelligent, curious and courteous. So often the climate debate is rancorous and arrogant, so a more measured conversation is a good thing. It is highly perplexing why such a major central planetary security problem cannot even be properly discussed, let alone resolved. That is why I think the cultural politics need to be examined so carefully. I have already written another reply to the earlier comment from Harry Marks, but will first reply to your latest remarks before going back to that earlier conversation.

DWill wrote:
I'm probably not ideally aware of some of the points in this debate, but one strong feeling I have is that it's not leftist resistance that retards action on geoengineering.
Essentially, geoengineering has no political constituency, because all the oxygen in the climate debate is sucked up by the precursor question of whether climate change even matters at all. Only the left care about climate change, since the right has largely accepted the false and dangerous delusion that denies the truth of science about global warming. Yet the left basically rejects geoengineering in favour of the fool's view that emission reduction could stop global warming.
DWill wrote:
Yes, that faction opposes geoengineering, but since when has that edge of politics been so powerful against industry?
The first challenge is to convince anyone that geoengineering is needed. That hurdle has not been cleared as far as any mass political audience is concerned. The scientific engagement is limited to a tiny number of experts who can see the catastrophic implications of failure to immediately ramp up geoengineering, in view of the sensitivity of the complex earth system to the changes in atmospheric chemistry brought by greenhouse gases.

Notions of a remaining carbon budget produce a dangerous complacency. The real carbon budget is minus 635 billion tonnes, the total of anthropogenic emissions to date.

The left say all we need to do is cut emissions, while the right say it is no problem because we can live in fairy land. Both sides are engaged in purely mythological thinking based on emotional comfort rather than scientific evidence. The task is to simplify the scientific evidence on the imperative for climate engineering. So far no one has been able to do that, partly because it seems there is no interest or will in the mass media to engage on the topic.
DWill wrote:
I fundamentally can't believe that industry pays so much attention to the left or that the left has much ability to call the shots.
The problem is that industry just does not pay attention to climate change at all, except through lip service to the prism of the scientific policy prescriptions provided by the left, ie the Paris Accord proposals to decarbonise the economy. The left has set the climate agenda, but has done so in a way that sets the debate up for failure, since its central premise of the need to shut down the fossil fuel industry is basically unacceptable to the right. Denial has only emerged as a holding argument to enable the right to ignore the calls for decarbonisation.
DWill wrote:
The implication of what Robert says is that industry would be a great partner in geoengineering without the left butting in. That's up in the air, speculation.
The situation is that no one asks the political right to support geoengineering, basically because the left has created this bugaboo fear of the whole topic, so there is no oxygen to discuss a strategic vision that says mining carbon from the air and sea could replace emission reduction as a climate strategy.

I do blame the left for this failure of public private partnership. The existential question is whether humanity wants to sustain a modern enlightened scientific rationality or collapse into primitive poverty. The last decade has been wasted on futile headbutting for emission reduction, when people could have been supporting field trials of stratospheric aerosol injection, marine cloud brightening, marine permaculture, industrial biochar for agriculture, ocean iron fertilization, ocean alkalinity, iron salt aerosol and other practical systemic geoengineering projects.

Yes there has been small investment in direct air capture, but there has been blockage of anything perceived as tinkering with earth systems, even when such ‘tinkering’ is designed purely to reduce the massive impact of emissions.
DWill wrote:
The right pretty much prevails in the U.S. Where is the support for geoengineering?
The only support is from those like me who live in the desert of the real, the wilderness of factual analysis that is not beholden to prior barriers of political feasibility. The scientific evidence indicates that geoengineering is necessary for human flourishing. People are not willing to engage on evidence because in politics they start by asking if something is popular, not if it is needed for technical reasons.
DWill wrote:
Sometimes counterintuitive ideas turn out to be prophetic, but many turn out to be just wrong or wishful.
Sure, and that is why scientific field trials are urgently needed for geoengineering proposals to test safety and efficacy on the model of pharmaceutical trials. No one wants the situation in 2025 of a perception that dangerous waterfall tipping points are obvious to all, and the world has not done the due diligence to create consensus on which are the most safe and effective immediate responses. Risks of unforeseen consequences of geoengineering will have to be managed and balanced against the much bigger direct risks of a warming planet.
DWill wrote:
That's the way I look at going full throttle with the fossil companies so that they will be incentivized to become geoengineering companies.
Exactly, and that is the counter-intuitive argument that those who have caused the problem are the only ones who can fix it, bringing their resources, skills, interests, contacts and funds to bear. But whoever wants to sup with the devil should bring a long spoon. At the moment, the fossil industry is full bore on mining the Arctic, so welcomes warming to melt the ice and open the sea lanes for exploration and trade, as Trump, Putin and Xi see it.

Unfortunately, a melted Arctic poses the risk of a new Great Dying, a planetary extinction event on Permian scale caused by shutting down the main ocean currents like in the movie The Day After Tomorrow, due to the extreme geological rapidity of the anthropogenic change in the planetary system. Climate change is the primary planetary security problem. Only when warming moves into the military security context will the will emerge to fix the problem.
DWill wrote:
That is too close to solving environmental problems by adding population, or making the U.S. safer from gun violence by adding more guns.
On environment, the counter-intuitive argument is that well-regulated economic growth is the best way to protect ecology. The support for that comes from the observation that poor countries lack the resources and skills to protect their biodiversity. For example now Tim Flannery is arguing that Africa’s wildlife might only survive in wilderness parks created in Europe. We could talk about his new book Europe A Natural History as the Booktalk non-fiction selection.

As I have said here before, my view is that humanity stands at the cusp of a great new frontier of engaging with the massive scale of the world ocean, which offers the only way to build a sustainable global civilization. A high carbon ocean-based economy, mining the massive resources of nutrient and carbon in the billion cubic kilometres of water on our planet, can enable human flourishing orders of magnitude greater than the current world economy while generating methods to restore climate stability and biological diversity.
DWill wrote:
My brother reminded me yesterday that methane removal requires separate actions from CO2 removal. Just another challenge to think about, as if we needed more.
Methane removal is the focus of the proposal I have put to the UN Climate Restoration Summit to be held in New York on 17 September via the Healthy Climate Alliance. National Geographic has just reported on a paper showing that the US fracking boom has concealed its fugitive methane emissions, so all the claims about the US shift to gas as cutting emissions are wrong. The only known way to remove methane at scale is iron salt aerosol, adding iron chloride to the air to generate free chlorine radicals that will hunt out methane molecules and destroy them. Such interventions in atmospheric chemistry require well managed scientific field trials, of the type that are now blocked by the UN political fatwa against geoengineering.


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Post Re: Poll: What to do about climate change?
Harry Marks wrote:
the question is whether denialists have any useful views on climate change. Serious conservatives took a stand for market-like approaches to mitigating CO2 emissions and other GHGs long ago - at latest in 1990. Then something else happened.
Hi Harry, many thanks for these comments, even if you find it hard to suppress your irritation at my perceived obtuseness. Well I am not being obtuse. The facts are that this so-called ‘market-like approach to mitigating CO2 emissions’ has a snowball’s chance in hell of slowing down climate change, and that is due to its inherent defects, not the opposition of denialists. Mitigating emissions, slowing the speed at which we add carbon to the air, can at best remove 1.5% of the carbon problem of anthropogenic radiative forcing each year, not even enough to stop the situation getting continually worse. Emission reduction is a failed paradigm that has to be junked.

Denialists are not always the sharpest tools in the shed, but they can see a crock of shit when one is served up for dinner. Not only does emission reduction fail manifestly to fix the problem it sets out to fix, but it fails at the cost of enormous expense and disruption. Renewables have some great benefits - cleaner air, economic efficiencies and industrial innovation. But their theory of change on global warming does not exist. Meanwhile the planet will keep cooking until we bite the geoengineering bullet. That needs to reverse the taboo against direct climate management, which will need the fossil fuel industries and military to manage it.
Harry Marks wrote:
As with Creationists, I am interested in understanding their motivated reasoning process. Respect is too much to ask in either case.
Sure. The motivated reasoning for climate denial has a number of pertinent factors whose relative weight can be debated. The distrust of elitist progressive culture has been carefully cultivated by the agitprop wing of the political right, with echoes of the fascist mentality of belonging to local place and fearing cosmopolitan values.

Trump set out the issues fairly clearly in his speech announcing the decision to leave the Paris Accord. The Paris agreement is not fair to the United States, its businesses, its workers, its people, its taxpayers; it punishes the United States while imposing no meaningful obligations on the world’s leading polluters; it transfers jobs from the USA to other countries; it creates high risk of energy shortages; and, in the most crucial statement of all,
President Trump wrote:
“Even if the Paris Agreement were implemented in full, with total compliance from all nations, it is estimated it would only produce a two-tenths of one degree — think of that; this much — Celsius reduction in global temperature by the year 2100. Tiny, tiny amount. In fact, 14 days of carbon emissions from China alone would wipe out the gains from America — and this is an incredible statistic — would totally wipe out the gains from America’s expected reductions in the year 2030, after we have had to spend billions and billions of dollars, lost jobs, closed factories, and suffered much higher energy costs for our businesses and for our homes.”


I appreciate that people don’t like hearing these arguments from Trump, but they seem to me to be evidence based, and to provide a fairly cogent explanation for why so many people are unwilling to accept scientific arguments about climate change when these are packaged to require ignoring the problems the President has outlined.

Further to these points, I also believe that religious fundamentalism has an intimate connection to climate denial, due to the ideological separation between spirit and nature creating a rapturous belief in heaven that overrides empirical observation.
Harry Marks wrote:
Liberty is part of the common good.
There is massive political tension and difference between concepts of freedom and equality. Freedom is associated with individual liberty and equality is widely seen as the main goal of the common good. Liberty and the common good serve as primary structuring factors for the political spectrum from extreme equality on the extreme left to extreme liberty on the extreme right, with the centre involving both in balance. Woodard makes the good point that ideologies of the common good have often been perceived as unduly constraining personal liberty, with communism the extreme case.
Harry Marks wrote:
We know with a high degree of confidence when it is not worth sacrificing the common good for the sake of a utopian ideal of unlimited liberty.
Really? The gun debate in the USA shows how contested such ‘a high degree of confidence’ can be. Reasonable as it may seem to say gun nuts are mad, some respect for their perspective is needed in efforts to achieve a negotiated solution. One person’s reasonable choice is another’s utopian fantasy. Similar issues arise with climate change, with perceptions that the elitism of the United Nations and its progressive culture creates unacceptable risks to liberty and local decision making power.
Harry Marks wrote:
Rhetorical appeal is not at all the same thing as intellectual respectability.
True, but their boundary is quite fluid. When you have an emotional distaste for a person’s argument, you will dismiss their reasoning as rhetoric. In climate change there are rival echo chambers, denial and emission reduction. Both engage in mythological thinking with a weak basis in evidence. The climate movement uses the intellectual respectability of climate science to claim its politics are objective, when its decarbonisation policies actually have no prospect of achieving their stated goal of preventing warming.
Harry Marks wrote:
Milton Friedman, George Schultz and James Baker were not smuggling in any secret agendas, much less secret longings for equality and internationalism, when they advocated charging an appropriate price for the damage done by GHG's. This business of trying to turn denialism into a defense against Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is not credible, and I will not mention what I think of the morality of it.
There is no question a carbon tax has an economic elegance that is attractive to the mainstream conservative attitude. The problems are that taxing carbon is just too small, slow, expensive and divisive to offer much useful contribution in the war on warming. Too small: taxing carbon only slows the speed at which we add to the warming problem, doing nothing about the massive committed warming due to past emissions. Too slow: there is major risk of dangerous tipping points being crossed in the Arctic in the next decade, which presents a primary planetary security problem that can only be addressed through immediate geoengineering, driven by political decision, not abstract economic incentive. Too expensive: an energy tax puts sand in the gears of the world economy, forcing a shift away from fossil fuels at a faster rate than is needed, with massive transition costs. Far cheaper to mine carbon from the air than to stop people burning stuff. Too divisive: the broad conservative mistrust will not be turned around by Baker and Schultz, and nor will the global momentum of ongoing fossil fuels be slowed. New ideas are needed that put these divisive debates about decarbonising the economy to one side, and instead look to profitable methods to mine carbon while also re-freezing the North Pole.
Harry Marks wrote:
the not-so-secret agenda of Murdoch, the Koch Brothers, Exxon-Mobil and Newt Gingrich played a direct and devastating role in prying America's conservative party away from responsible conservatism, and blather trying to blame it on "internationalism" is a sick self-deception that does not warrant even the least consideration. Sure, anybody can gin up oppositional rhetoric by demonizing hypothetical conspiracies, but the policies began in the hands of Republicans because the appeal was to reason, not secret agendas, and nothing short of the force of unreason is responsible for undoing that.
The political debate on climate change is not between reason and irrationality. The so-called rational side of decarbonisers simply ignore the evidence that their policies have no prospect of stopping warming, and largely refuse to countenance discussion of methods that would achieve their goals.
Harry Marks wrote:
Motivated reasoning may be politically powerful (see Antebellum Slavery for a fairly complete example) but it has nothing to do with morality or, in this case, rationality. If skeptical conservatives are to be convinced, they are going to have to gather the moral courage to face facts.
That analysis applies equally to the motivated reasoning of decarbonisation, with its political attitude of speeding up the end of fossil fuels leading to an irrational rejection of geoengineering. The moral courage to face facts is as absent on the left as on the right.
Harry Marks wrote:
There have been, for decades, reasonable conservative arguments and considerations favoring a moderate response. If such reasonable analysis had been listened to, we would not be in the fix that you so often cite.
No, that is just not true. People have listened to emission reduction advocacy, and have concluded that its costs are too high and its benefits too uncertain. As I mentioned, the warming problem is due to the 635 billion tonnes of carbon that people have already added to the air, with the sensitivity of the climate system to this change of conditions. That is a fix that no amount of emission reduction can solve. Until the climate movement grasps the key counter-intuitive point that slowing the speed at which we add to this committed warming is marginal to stopping it, on the sanitation model, the two sides of politics will continue to talk past each other on climate change. Again, we don’t fix sanitation by cutting faecal emissions, and nor can we fix climate by cutting carbon emissions.
Harry Marks wrote:
I am not sure why you can't see that the same idiocy that blocked reasonable action when it had a chance of making a difference is probably also going to block geoengineering.
No, it is a different idiocy that is blocking geoengineering. Geoengineering offers a practical path to salvage and sustain the capitalist business model of fossil fuel extraction. Carbon removal has major direct benefits for industries such as shipping, insurance, mining, energy, agriculture and fisheries, enabling them to continue business as usual by investing in offsets that will be bigger than their total emissions, achieving a regulatory model that makes profit and biodiversity compatible, and also working to reverse the worsening business risks of warming, such as the greater intensity of storms, droughts, floods, fires and sea level rise. The idiocy that is stopping geoengineering research is the inability to discuss a pro-capitalist model that is entirely factual about the security risks of climate change.
Harry Marks wrote:
The casual willingness of the super-rich to sacrifice the truth and the public good for the sake of another billion dollars is not something history will remember them with respect for. Sometimes people who extract at the expense of others are just wrong.
That critique of the capitalist system is far too simplistic, bitter, resentful and oppositional to provide a practical way to stop climate change. The public benefits of the products that have generated super profits are immense. Far better to try to forgive the capitalist system for its mistakes, and look to work constructively to use capitalist processes to solve climate change.
Harry Marks wrote:
What is near certain already is that the Florida peninsula will be underwater in the lifetime of my students, and our actions to stop it will continue to be an average of diddley with squat.
It is entirely possible to achieve net zero by 2030 and a restored climate by 2050, but not via emission reduction. We need a different paradigm to stop the looming danger of sea level rise.
Harry Marks wrote:
If you genuinely believe Creationism is worse than climate denialism
You misread my comment. I was saying creationism is worse than the myth that emission reduction can solve climate change.
Harry Marks wrote:
I have no time for arguments trying to blame the left for denialism.
There is certainly some very confusing and complicated political psychology at work in generating people’s opinions about climate change. I don’t see blame as a constructive theme since we are all in the same boat. Denialism has arisen as a psychological and political defence mechanism against the false claim that massive cuts to emissions is a sensible public policy. Both are equally irrational, and can only be overcome by geoengineering as a new climate paradigm.
Harry Marks wrote:
Yes, they ought to give serious attention to the opportunities provided by geoengineering issues. I'm sure there are people thinking that anyone who advocates a larger role for government is more insidious than the special interests who have made a hostage of the earth itself. Speaking of motivated reasoning.
Actually, both sides of the climate debate are now holding the earth hostage. It would really help if the IPCC could develop a constructive approach to climate engineering. The UN tried to progress serious attention to geoengineering this year via UNEP. People blame the US and the Saudis for blocking this proposal, but the situation is not clear. The toxic partisan lack of trust in this space is illustrated by the analysis suggesting that the political agenda of the UNEP proposal was just to prevent any geoengineering deployment, which is an option that the Trump government would prefer to manage unilaterally. Given the craziness of the Trump administration, vetoing the UNEP proposal was a mistake, since any such global system is intrinsically multilateral. Hopefully the next US administration will be able to put fears of UN over-reach aside and work constructively on this global problem.


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Post Re: Poll: What to do about climate change?
Robert, we can count on you to be informed about U.S. politics, so you will have heard that Jay Inslee has dropped out of the race for president. That's a great shame in my view. Inslee might have had the broadest range of experience of any candidate, and he had his eye on the ball as far as the major threat we face. But as a signature issue, climate change doesn't make it with the public. One might argue that it's not individual acts that matter most, anyway, so whether my neighbors think action is needed doesn't really matter. However, if leaders who have made real commitments to fixing climate aren't elected, the larger actions of corporations and national governments won't come about, either.

Inslee said nothing about geoengineering as far as I can tell. His program addressed clean energy solely. I have questioned whether a leader of any country can initiate geoengineering, since the effects will occur beyond national boundaries. The most a president could do would be to advocate for international geoengineering trials. I therefore strongly disagree that a program such as Inslee's isn't worth pursuing because it doesn't go far enough. It's a walk in the right direction. We've shown some ability to cut back emissions, though granted we won't be able to cut enough without political revolution to redistribute the wealth from a crippled economy. In some sense, taking action does matter even if the action isn't sufficient. The alternative seems to be to wait for capitalism to decide to fix everything. How long do we wait?

I've also already opined that while it's true that the left doesn't want to go down the geoengineering road, that isn't why there's a roadblock. In fact, if the left said, "fine, let's do it," wouldn't that become a point of resistance, rather than clearing the way? The left is like a bunch of rubble in the road, not a big impediment compared to the landslide making it impassible.



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Post Re: Poll: What to do about climate change?
To assess the climate situation in terms of problem analysis and proposed solutions requires a practical effort to identify and remove ideological bias, recognising the actual dangers of climate tipping points in order to prevent global warming. The emerging emotional danger is clumsy attempts to exploit climate fears to gain support for extreme left wing political ideology.

Unfortunately, a widespread mentality has emerged in the climate movement that subordinates climate science beneath political action, as seen in the vacuous arguments of the Green New Deal. There is immediate appeal in the idea that solutions lie within the grassroots, in communities, in reconnecting with inter-reliance on each other and the natural world, building a united climate movement. Sensible analysis should flatly reject these assertions as diversions from practical climate strategy.

The reality of climate change is that solutions can only be achieved through industrial investment, by mobilising the resources of capital to mine carbon from the air at far larger scale than annual emissions, while also developing technology to directly cool the planet. These strategies offer real prospect to stabilise and restore the global climate. Scaling up carbon removal offers potential to achieve net zero emissions by 2030, creating a trajectory of increased carbon removal toward climate restoration by 2050.

By comparison, efforts to decarbonise the world economy are marginal and probably harmful. Emission reduction offers only a recipe for conflict, cost and delay, while aiming to fix less than 2% of the warming problem and setting up roadblocks for carbon removal. The counterintuitive reality is that efforts to cut fossil fuel use achieve nothing to stop global warming.

Anthropogenic emissions to date total 635 billion tonnes of carbon equivalent, more than 60 times the annual emissions of 10 billion tonnes. If we can mine 2% of past emissions each year, transforming CO2 into useful products such as fuel, food, feed, fertilizer, fish, forests and fibre, we can achieve net zero emissions with no need at all to cut fossil fuel use, except where justified for economic and environmental reasons. It is probable that such carbon mining activities would create major profitable new industries, especially based on large scale ocean-based algae production.

Working out how to stabilise and restore the planetary climate should be the top security priority for national governments. The IPCC has severely underestimated climate sensitivity, so in fact there is no remaining “carbon budget.” Rather, avoiding dangerous warming means firstly cooling the planet with solar radiation management and then mining carbon from the air and sea to remove the excess carbon humans have already added to the air, measures generally termed geoengineering. The third priority should be to worry about reducing the carbon emissions we add every year. The popular climate movement gets these scientific priorities entirely backwards, producing a dangerous complacency about climate tipping points.

Much climate advocacy is entirely unscientific, despite its manipulation of climate science to give a veneer of logic. An evidence-based approach to climate restoration involves working out what activities cause the most warming, and what methods can address those activities at least cost. This involves measurement of radiative forcing, a theme that seems entirely absent from the popular perspective that focuses only on emission reduction. Most removable radiative forcing comes from past emissions, which have more than 60 times the global warming potential of annual emissions.

This analysis leads me to the view that community level organisation for climate change is counterproductive in terms of avoiding dangerous warming. It is essential for climate response to be transparent and accountable, but such governance needs to rest on evidence not ideology. The only thing that will reverse dangerous warming is industrial investment at global level, based on rigorous scientific data, aiming to identify activities that will safely abate climate change at least cost. That requires alliance between scientists, capitalists and governments, not populist mythology.

Most supporters of action on climate change are not extreme leftists. That is the same story for green movements around the world, that the base of the movement consists of realistic practical people who are just concerned about fixing and preventing environmental damage. However, such movements are prey to the problem of ‘entryism’, a political strategy in which supporters of extreme organisations join in order to influence policy. The classic signs of entryist politics include subordinating the climate change problem to social justice priorities and insisting that movement unity is a key priority.

It is equally true that not wanting to solve the climate crisis is an extreme rightist attitude. The problem here is that solving the crisis requires cooperation between left and right, for example between those on the left who understand climate science and those on the right who can mobilise investment capital. The increased polarization of politics makes dialogue and cooperation increasingly difficult, illustrating the great value of input from a range of voices about how to actually achieve climate restoration.

I think it is immensely helpful to discuss these policy issues, as it provides great opportunity for productive conversation on whether suggestions have any hope of achieving the stated goals. My argument is that the decarbonization agenda does not offer anything practical to stop global warming. More broadly, pointing out that weakness in prevailing climate ideology is essential to define a workable strategy to cool the planet.

I am not deliberately setting myself against the people who hold the widespread but false assumption that emissions reduction to net zero can solve the climate crisis and avoid catastrophe. Scientists who say that achieving net zero emissions will stop temperatures rising and halt climate change are much to blame. There is a fine distinction here, between opposing somebody and pointing out that their ideas are factually wrong. The obvious risk is that when people continue to insist on incorrect ideas, such as that emission reduction can fix climate change, they will not be able to cooperate with people who disagree.

The need is for factual recognition that net zero is only a milestone on the path to climate restoration, and that the path to that milestone must radically shift focus from emission reduction toward carbon removal. An article supporting this point argues that “the approach to climate control has been badly unbalanced. The last three decades have seen intense international attention to emission control, with no parallel plan to test, scale and implement carbon removal technologies.” Getting the balance right involves a challenge to the underlying political assumptions that have so badly unbalanced climate policy and prevented the needed focus on carbon removal.

All this shows the widespread lack of clarity in views on climate solutions. I find this an important conversation, as the more I study it the more I am surprised at the low intellectual quality of climate policy discussion, so I welcome anyone who can bear with us in exploring these themes here.

I wish it were true that scientists don’t believe emission reduction alone can solve the climate crisis. My impression is that acceptance of other methods (geoengineering) is isolated, grudging, repressed, delayed, opposed and unfunded. The general attitude reflected in the IPCC 1.5° Report, and picked up in the popular climate movement, seems to be ‘let’s give emission reduction a red hot go, and only look at carbon removal down the track if emission reduction fails’. That is an incredibly high-risk and unscientific strategy for such a global existential problem. The context is an unrealistic belief in the prospects of emission reduction. The assumption is that cutting emissions as fast as possible should be the main priority, without balancing that against cost-benefit analysis of geoengineering.

Hence the critical importance of work to discuss and develop a coherent climate strategy focused on freezing the Arctic and taking carbon out of the air, with policy based on evidence.

Far from the IPCC being a reliable guide on these matters, Professor Eelco Rohling, in his excellent recent book The Climate Question suggests that climate sensitivity at decadal scale is far greater than IPCC models indicate. Rohling says “avoidance of 2°C warming requires stabilisation of CO2 levels below 400 ppm”. That flatly contradicts the IPCC notion of “a remaining budget of about 420 GtCO2 for a two-thirds chance of limiting warming to 1.5°C (medium confidence).” Rohling’s calculation suggests no confidence in these IPCC numbers. I would go further to argue that climate sensitivity suggests the precautionary principle should demand immediate global focus on measures to cool the Arctic and remove carbon from the air.

As Thomas Goreau commented in his review of Rohling’s The Climate Question, “the sensitivity of global temperatures and sea levels to carbon dioxide are many times higher than IPCC projections that miss almost all of the long-term climate response.” This is a basic dangerous scientific observation, unfortunately repressed and ignored by the dominant paradigms, both climate denial on the right and net zero emission goals on the left.

This discussion prompted me to look again at some sources, for example this astoundingly confused but very prominent statement of the apparent ongoing scientific consensus – Zero emission targets as long-term global goals for climate protection, published in Environment Research Letters in 2015. The title alone shows a weird psychological blockage about climate arithmetic. It should be obvious that net zero emissions offer no hope for climate protection due to committed warming from past emissions. The need is for net negative emissions as the long-term global goal, but this ERL article, like many others, fails to engage with this basic point.

Claiming to clear up confusion while actually making it worse, it wrongly says “Halting global warming requires virtually zero annual CO2 emissions”. But it gets worse: “Because of the authoritative character and the high visibility of these scientific assessments, these insights were quickly taken up by policymakers… An aspirational end point for CO2 emissions can catalyse and facilitate choices that enable the required long-term transition to net zero carbon emissions.” No, the real “end point” required is to net negative emissions, not net zero. That means the goal should be restoring 280 ppm CO2 as fast as possible, something very different from the IPCC policy of cutting emissions as fast as possible.

Contrary to the view of 350.org in its ‘people’s dossier’, the hard truth is that we must engineer our way out of the climate change mess.

A friend of mine recently challenged a climate change professor at a leading Australian university on this point about the need for net negative emissions, and was stunned by the statement of faith in emission reduction. The big problem is that sole reliance on emission reduction is a popular myth among climate activists, politicians and media. That attitude looks to have strong influence.

That focus on emission reduction is reflected in opposition to Carbon Capture and Storage. There are good economic arguments against storing carbon in the form of CO2, as we should aim instead to convert CO2 into productive commodities, especially through marine permaculture and concrete production. But the popular argument is different; it is that CCS provides the fossil fuel industry a license to stay in business. That moral hazard reasoning is an unscientific argument against carbon removal. It implies that the world should avoid developing carbon removal technology in order to increase political pressure to decarbonize. That political pressure strategy fails to optimize factors for climate stability, ignoring the need to scale up carbon removal to larger than total emissions.

The idea seems to be that limiting geoengineering research will reduce the social license to operate of fossil fuel industries. That is highly dubious as a political analysis. Heavily restricting research, if not an outright ban, seems to be the position, except with ‘natural solutions’ and technologies seen as marginal such as painting roofs and direct air capture. One suggestion is to use natural solutions to draw down atmospheric carbon as much as possible, with technological intervention only considered when they are coupled with policies to ensure that it does not prolong the use of fossil fuels or create new harms or inequities. How this policy coupling would work is a mystery. It looks like code for broad opposition to research and development of negative emission technology, as such technology would inevitably ease pressure to cut emissions. There is no good scientific reasoning why that is a problem, since carbon removal is likely to provide lower abatement cost than emission reduction.

There is more mythology in the claim that IPCC has modeled scenarios consistent with keeping global temperature increase below 1.5°C that rely entirely on natural solutions for carbon removal. These alleged models are unrealistic, ignoring or deriding ocean methods that might be the main contribution to climate stability. Rewilding and increased forest cover on land is great for conservation, but does not provide major impact on warming. The situation is that accelerating warming feedbacks create immense pressure to reduce forest cover, against efforts to increase tree planting. The romantic anti-industrial mentality of ‘grow more trees’ offers no prospect to achieve sustainability at scale of any methods that could have a material effect on warming.

There is broad support for calls to immediately protect, restore and enhance natural ecosystems – such as forests, wetlands, peatlands, and marine ecosystems. The IPCC has not modelled these well, especially regarding the role of biochar and ocean based solutions. There seems to be a disconnect between discussion of these gigatonne scale carbon removal methods and the IPCC.

Another popular argument is that continued use of fossil fuels would needlessly harm communities, despoil the natural environment, diminish public health, and waste money. Such argument has some truth, but it ignores the perceived benefits of fossil fuels, setting up a conflict that climate activists cannot win.

The BP 2019 Energy Outlook predicts a 30% increase in world energy demand by 2040, with only half that growth met by renewables and the rest coming from ongoing growth of fossil fuels. It is unbalanced to list the negatives for fossil fuels while failing to recognise the economic and social drivers for increased energy use, with significant poverty reduction impact, beyond the potential for renewables. Projected energy demand cannot possibly be met by low emission sources. This economic and political reality illustrates the urgent need for carbon removal to balance ongoing emission growth, on the sanitation model of removing waste at the end of the pipe.

King Canute knew he could not stop the tide. Similarly, it is time that climate activists saw that the focus should shift to working out ways to restore the climate that adopt a realistic political stance on future world energy growth. Rather than advocating inefficient and ineffective political measures to cut emissions, the challenge is to promote public private partnerships that will quickly ramp up to remove more carbon from the air than total emissions.


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