Problems with the "man made" global warming debate

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charliew

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Jun 18, 1999, 3:00:00 AM6/18/99
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Some time in the distant past (approximately 2 years ago), I posted my
reservations regarding the possibility of properly going through the
verification of man made global warming. If I searched Deja News, or my own
archives, I think I could probably find it and repost it. However, it
basically said that we do not have the patience to properly do the science,
and I am seeing verification of this fact today in this NG. A brief
synopsis of the current argument, as I understand it is:

1) We are continuing to emit CO2 into the atmosphere to the extent that the
concentration is going up with time. [Since there are actual measurements
which document this, it is obviously a well established fact]

2) CO2 is a "greenhouse" gas, in that it is transparent to visible light,
but opaque to infrared light. [Since lab measurements can be taken in this
regard, this is also a well established fact]

3) Because atmospheric CO2 concentrations are rising, one would expect that
the energy balance of the earth is being affected in a way that will cause
global atmospheric temperatures (especially ground based temperatures) to
increase.
[I too expect that this hypothesis is very plausible]

4) Temperature change is very bad, so we want to intervene now to prevent
"catastrophic" changes to global temperatures, or global climate, or _____
(fill in the blank). [This "fact" is given in such a way that we don't have
the time to take temperature measurements to verify that the anticipated
change is occurring. Furthermore, those who ask for verification are
branded as unscientific fools who are attempting to impede progress with
clever semantic tricks, no doubt because they have hidden agendas. This
argument is a clever tactic in itself, but obviously, I "ain't buying it".]


In effect, this whole "debate" has become a ridiculous waste of time and
name calling. What I fail to understand at this point, is why the "do
something now" crowd is so urgent in their demands (after all, we've been
emitting substantial CO2 into the environment for approximately 150 years
now). Is scientific uncertainty that unnerving? Is all change something to
be avoided? If we don't have the time to verify change regarding global
climate, why don't we just generalize this trend, and start making all of
our scientific decisions based on a few good facts with ample extrapolations
thrown in? Does the "do something now" crowd not recognize that item 4
(above) is itself a very big assumption?

Ian St. John

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Jun 18, 1999, 3:00:00 AM6/18/99
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charliew <char...@hal-pc.org> wrote in message
news:7ke457$2ll3$1...@news.hal-pc.org...

The facts as presented are that the increase in CO2 levels in the air
will change the energy balance of the earth. It does not necessarily
lead to a significant temperature rise in the short term, as there are
massive heat sinks ( the oceans and ice caps ) which must be changed
before significant rises in the atmospheric temperature.

However, those changes will in themselves drive dangerous forces.
Increasing the temperature differential between the oceans and
atmosphere will drive storms. Increasing temperatures of oceanic
waters will drive higher evaporation rates, and this energy will come
out during condensation, leading to severe weather, local heat spells,
flooding, etc. The *average* temperature will not rise much as there
is much as the thermal mass of the oceans overwhelms the thermal mass
of the atmosphere. Other heat sinks such as polar ice caps will take
some of the heat too ( pun intended :-) but rises in ocean levels are
*not* a good thing...

Are you so desperate that you must reach back to an old post to find a
presentation that gives you an opening for an 'ad hominem' attack?

>
>
> In effect, this whole "debate" has become a ridiculous waste of time
and
> name calling. What I fail to understand at this point, is why the
"do
> something now" crowd is so urgent in their demands (after all, we've
been
> emitting substantial CO2 into the environment for approximately 150
years
> now).

You will have to find a 'do something now' person to ask of it. I
haven't seen such a post. Most point out the facts and consequences,
and suggest that we take the issue seriously. Because of the linear
rise in temperature driven by the delta in the energy equation, the
rise in thermal energy ( not temperature ) is fairly rapid. Because
cooling off would be driven by a very low temperature differential and
thermal radiation varies with the fourth power, we can expect that
even in the absense of new input, the cooling off would take millenia.
Thus, it is dangerous to wait for the results of a known process, to
find ourselves up shit creek without a paddle.

> Is scientific uncertainty that unnerving? Is all
change something to
> be avoided?

You imply that we do not have enough science to establish global
warming as a concern. Not true. As you admit, we have the basis for
the thermodynamics of the process. We know that *energy* content on
the surface must rise. Temperature is a trickier issue, as thermal
reservoirs such as the oceans and icecaps will absorb a large part of
that energy, and so the actual air temperature rise will be small and
uncertain over the short term. And the 'unknown' is something to be
avoided, especially when first order approximations of the effects
predict dangerous issues such as ocean level risings ( already
confirmed to some degree though small ) and increases in atmospheric
disturbances ( storms, floods, etc ). *IF* you can show that the
actual results of global warming will be beneficial overall, please
feel free to lobby for more CO2.

As to change being always bad, it is not, yet it is *unlikely* to be
good overall. For example, a man establishes a farm. He does so
because the sunshine is good, he gets March rains that help in the
planting, dry August weather for the harvesting, etc. In short, he
invests in the status quo, because it is optimized for his purposes.
Changes such as sudden hailstorms, tornados, drought in the spring,
floods in the fall, etc do *not* increase his profits. Much of our
seaports and land use patterns are based on low flat elevations being
more valued, so we build a lot of our building within a few meters of
sea level. An eight meter rise in ocean levels ( already known to
occur during most interglacials ) would put much of that land
underwater. This will *not* increase their value. Most random changes
*are* bad, based on the fact that we invest based on current
conditions. Other changes may be positive, such as increased rainfall
in current deserts. However, since such land has been considered
valueless, there is no industry or farming industry there to benefit.
We would have to make new investments ( costs ) to take advantage of
the new conditions, and would they last? Rapid and unknown change is
rarely profitable..


> If we don't have the time to verify change
regarding global
> climate, why don't we just generalize this trend, and start making
all of
> our scientific decisions based on a few good facts with ample
extrapolations
> thrown in?

You wish to base our decisions on what? Which fact are you going to
isolate and make your basis for action? When dealing with insufficient
knowledge and means to verify, we must take a measured approach.
Decisions should be made based on what we can know, or predictions
based on working knowledge. Caution should be applied, so that we do
not waste large levels of resources on what turns out to be small
problems. Value decisions must be made, and public input invited.

We can predict that global warming is occuring based on the inputs to
the simple thermodynamics system. This is plain and simple physics
using a model which is not confused by global weather patterns, etc.
The consequences of this energy balance change are not known in detail
but can be estimated, and no obvious benefit is to be found. NOTE: The
energy increase ( as I've repeatedly pointed out ) does not
necessarily ( or likely ) result in a significant increase in air
temperature in the short term. It must in the long term in order to
re-establish a thermal equilibrium. But in the short term, sea level
rises and increases in atmospheric activity ( storms, etc ) driven by
ocean temperature increases and increased evaporation will be the main
results. Quantify and measure those. We must avoid getting distracted
by climate changes and global weather oscillations, so we should
concentrate on those measures that are more long term.

1: Polar ice melting ( estimated to contribute fifty percent to
measured ocean level rises )
2: Heating of the oceans ( estimated to contribute fifty percent to
measured ocean level rises )
3: In addition, we should put together a global satellite system
capable of measuring heat flux escape from the earth, both reflected
and thermal, so as to give us a handle on actual energy accumulation
rates.

These factors would give us a handle on the quantification issue and
possible future problems. The last point would be a wise move in order
to establish that the predicted effects of higher CO2 levels are in
fact resulting in lower thermal emmissions and so producing a positive
energy influx, before moving forward on any plans to counteract this
effect.

> Does the "do something now" crowd not recognize
that item 4
> (above) is itself a very big assumption?

What "do something now" crowd? The one you have invented in order to
have an issue to discuss? Most of the posts that I have seen have been
balanced and scientific inquiries into the issue, not political
speaches. The only one who seems to be discussing the issue in terms
of it's cost to fix is you. You seem to wish to raise the spectre of
high remediation costs as a means of scaring everone from actually
looking at the issue. Such political debates are not science.

We have ample confirmation of the Y2K bug, and yet initial estimates
of it's impact and calls for massive programs to counter it were
ignored. As a result, small changes and cost effective solutions have
gradually been adopted by rational people to eliminate or minimize the
effect over time. As a results, actual costs of effective solutions
are estimated at a few orders of magnitude smaller than the doomsayers
prediction.

A similar measured approach should be taken regarding this issue.


Russell Martin

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Jun 18, 1999, 3:00:00 AM6/18/99
to
charliew wrote:
>

stuff that I mostly agree with snipped for brevity



> What I fail to understand at this point, is why the "do
> something now" crowd is so urgent in their demands (after all, we've been
> emitting substantial CO2 into the environment for approximately 150 years

> now). Is scientific uncertainty that unnerving? Is all change something to
> be avoided? If we don't have the time to verify change regarding global


> climate, why don't we just generalize this trend, and start making all of
> our scientific decisions based on a few good facts with ample extrapolations

> thrown in? Does the "do something now" crowd not recognize that item 4


> (above) is itself a very big assumption?

Hi Charlie,

We (as in you and I) went through this before, and my summary of
the conclusions reached is that I think the dangers of the results
of (admittedly too poorly understood) global warming are significant
enough to justify *some* action as an "insurance policy" against these
dangers, while you think the costs of such insurance not worth the
benefits at the present level of knowledge. It seemed to me to be
due to different comfort levels we have with risk. Even if that
is not a correct summation of your opinion, I imagine that some
people hold that position, while others hold mine (and others hold
others). At this point it becomes an emotional rather than scientific
discussion, as one's comfort with risk (not the actual calculation
of the risk level) is determined at an emotional rather than analytic
level.

Regards,
Russell Martin

These days any bozo can put up a website, and it appears that many have.

Joshua Halpern

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Jun 18, 1999, 3:00:00 AM6/18/99
to
charliew (char...@hal-pc.org) wrote:
: 4) Temperature change is very bad, so we want to intervene now to prevent

: "catastrophic" changes to global temperatures, or global climate, or _____
: (fill in the blank).


Modify this to extremely RAPID (on historic scales) temperature
change is very bad, large changes over intermedicate periods
of time are potentially extremely disruptive to established
systems, and I might agree.

As has been pointed out a change of 1-1.5 C or so over the next century
would probably be hardly noticed, but a change of > 3C would
probably be disasterous.

: [This "fact" is given in such a way that we don't have
: the time to take temperature measurements to verify that the anticipated
: change is occurring.

By the time you see the temperature spike, it is too late. The
earth system has INERTIA, with a capital I.

: Furthermore, those who ask for verification are


: branded as unscientific fools who are attempting to impede progress with
: clever semantic tricks, no doubt because they have hidden agendas. This
: argument is a clever tactic in itself, but obviously, I "ain't buying it".]

As you may have noticed if you follow the literature, there is
an ever increasing amount of evidence that

a. the global climate is changing in response to anthropic
emissions of greenhouse gases

b. the models are useful guides to what will happen under
various assumptions about continued changes in the atmospheric
composition.

It is not the demand for evidence it is the demand for 100% certain
evidence that labels them as.....and we can use your description.
It disappoints me that you ain't buying it (isn't the proper
first person contraction amn't?) since it is getting clearer and
clearer by the day as new information is studied.

: In effect, this whole "debate" has become a ridiculous waste of time and
: name calling. What I fail to understand at this point, is why the "do


: something now" crowd is so urgent in their demands (after all, we've been
: emitting substantial CO2 into the environment for approximately 150 years
: now).

At exponentially increasing rates.......which tend to be many times
larger now, than then.....

: Is scientific uncertainty that unnerving? Is all change something to


: be avoided? If we don't have the time to verify change regarding global
: climate, why don't we just generalize this trend, and start making all of
: our scientific decisions based on a few good facts with ample extrapolations
: thrown in? Does the "do something now" crowd not recognize that item 4
: (above) is itself a very big assumption?

:
Argumentative, based on false assumptions, invalid sloganeering, are but a
few of the words one should use to describe the above paragraph.:

josh halpern


Peter--...@aol.com

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Jun 18, 1999, 3:00:00 AM6/18/99
to
In article <7kefdu$j73$1...@news.dgsys.com>, jhal...@ms1.dgsys.com says...
This debate keeps on and on about the degree of scientific "proof" necessary
before we'll accept that global warming is, indeed, occurring, AND there is a
need to do something to stop or slow it down. I see no one, except perhaps
myself (Sorry to seem arrogant guys, but that's how it appears to me) talking
about what will happen if we come to the point where there is a true consensus
that we have to accept both the above points.

Our global economy is based on growth, and creating the "sustainable economy"
which the ecologically-minded love to talk about will not be easy. I'm not
against it, by the way. In fact, I'm probably as hysterically in favor of it as
anyone, I'm just somewhat--sadly--experienced regarding the propensity of some
people to decide that doing the ecologically correct, or politically correct
thing takes precedence over little things like peoples' rights. I'm reminded of
a member of the Weathermen who was delivering a speech against rascism. someone
pointed out that his proposals to deal with it amounted to fascism. He said "If
it takes fascism to crush racism, then we'll have fascism."

I'm also sadly experienced regarding the propensity of lots of people to say,
"Yes, we need to cut down emissions of greenhouse gasses, hence cut comsumption
and shrink the economy. I personally, however, must get more for myself, which
is all right because I'm poor enough to avoid being one of the ones who has to
give up anything." Personally, I think I should use less than I do, and I try
very hard to practice Voluntary Simplicity, but oooohhh, it's hard. Furthermore,
I'm not sure I've cut out enough to amount to diddly-boo. I have a twenty-five
year old stepson, in Europe now, who used to love to point out my own
consumptions to me, and call me a hypocrite.
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>


goldfish

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Jun 18, 1999, 3:00:00 AM6/18/99
to

charliew wrote:
snip!

> In effect, this whole "debate" has become a ridiculous waste of time and
> name calling. What I fail to understand at this point, is why the "do
> something now" crowd is so urgent in their demands (after all, we've been
> emitting substantial CO2 into the environment for approximately 150 years

> now). Is scientific uncertainty that unnerving? Is all change something to


> be avoided? If we don't have the time to verify change regarding global
> climate, why don't we just generalize this trend, and start making all of
> our scientific decisions based on a few good facts with ample extrapolations
> thrown in? Does the "do something now" crowd not recognize that item 4
> (above) is itself a very big assumption?

Lately I met (socially) an aide to Sen. Gordon Smith (R-Oregon), who sits
on the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. His main
work was on deregulation of the electric utilities. I asked this aide about
the carbon tax, to be implemented to help the US comply with the carbon
emission limits in the Kyoto accords, introduced by VP Gore two years
ago. His reply: the carbon tax is dead for the foreseeable future.

It matters nothing what the most people in sci.environment think;
most people in the US are in the "do nothing" group.

Peter Mott

johnesm

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Jun 18, 1999, 3:00:00 AM6/18/99
to

Ian St. John wrote in message ...
>
Snipped


>Decisions should be made based on what we can know, or predictions
>based on working knowledge. Caution should be applied, so that we do
>not waste large levels of resources on what turns out to be small
>problems. Value decisions must be made, and public input invited.
>
> We can predict that global warming is occuring based on the inputs to
>the simple thermodynamics system. This is plain and simple physics
>using a model which is not confused by global weather patterns, etc.
>The consequences of this energy balance change are not known in detail
>but can be estimated, and no obvious benefit is to be found. NOTE: The
>energy increase ( as I've repeatedly pointed out ) does not
>necessarily ( or likely ) result in a significant increase in air
>temperature in the short term. It must in the long term in order to
>re-establish a thermal equilibrium. But in the short term, sea level
>rises and increases in atmospheric activity ( storms, etc ) driven by
>ocean temperature increases and increased evaporation will be the main
>results. Quantify and measure those. We must avoid getting distracted
>by climate changes and global weather oscillations, so we should
>concentrate on those measures that are more long term.
>

First of all, if we increase CO2 levels significantly, and CO2 absorbs
long wave infrared, then significant temperature changes should be apparent
within a short time, since it will begin absorbing this heat right away.
True, oceans and ice will cause the equilibrium temperature to be reached
sometime later, but significant warming should already have occured, as
predicted by climate models. Some would say that the 0.6º C of warming
observed in the past 120 years is because of our increased greenhouse gas
emissions. There is a problem with this though-- since the 19th century the
sun has gotten a bit warmer, by about 2 w/m2, solar radiation flux has
nearly doubled, sunspot activity double...and this accounts for most, if not
all, of the observed warming. Plus, since satellites have been measuring
microwave emissions from the atmosphere (since 1979), there has been no
significant temperature trend. Those who are sceptical about anthropogenic
warming have good reason to be so. Those who are pushing it are turning a
blind eye or are trying to discredit these data.

>1: Polar ice melting ( estimated to contribute fifty percent to
>measured ocean level rises )
>2: Heating of the oceans ( estimated to contribute fifty percent to
>measured ocean level rises )
>3: In addition, we should put together a global satellite system
>capable of measuring heat flux escape from the earth, both reflected
>and thermal, so as to give us a handle on actual energy accumulation
>rates.
>
>These factors would give us a handle on the quantification issue and
>possible future problems. The last point would be a wise move in order
>to establish that the predicted effects of higher CO2 levels are in
>fact resulting in lower thermal emmissions and so producing a positive
>energy influx, before moving forward on any plans to counteract this
>effect.

Yes, the above stated problems would need addressing, if this whole
"threat" were real. But it is not.

>
>> Does the "do something now" crowd not recognize
>that item 4
>> (above) is itself a very big assumption?
>
>What "do something now" crowd? The one you have invented in order to
>have an issue to discuss? Most of the posts that I have seen have been
>balanced and scientific inquiries into the issue, not political
>speaches. The only one who seems to be discussing the issue in terms
>of it's cost to fix is you. You seem to wish to raise the spectre of
>high remediation costs as a means of scaring everone from actually
>looking at the issue. Such political debates are not science.
>

Where have you been for the past 20 years? The "do something now crowd"
is the entire environmentalist movement. Do you know who Al Gore is?

>We have ample confirmation of the Y2K bug, and yet initial estimates
>of it's impact and calls for massive programs to counter it were
>ignored. As a result, small changes and cost effective solutions have
>gradually been adopted by rational people to eliminate or minimize the
>effect over time. As a results, actual costs of effective solutions
>are estimated at a few orders of magnitude smaller than the doomsayers
>prediction.
>
>A similar measured approach should be taken regarding this issue.
>
>


Unfortunately such an approach, if implimented, would lay waste to our
economy, and, to quote from the paper Investor's Business Daily, when a
group of investors and businessmen were asked if they would rather curb
greenhouse emissions, the vast majority replied, "we'd rather bake!".

- Johne


Don Libby

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Jun 19, 1999, 3:00:00 AM6/19/99
to
I'm consolidating replies to several posts here to address several
questions:

1) Is warming necessarily bad?
2) What are the chances that it will be bad, or worse than the current
consensus "point-estimate" warming for the next century?
3) What (if anything) should we do about it (and when)?

charliew wrote:
> >: In effect, this whole "debate" has become a ridiculous waste of time and
> >: name calling. What I fail to understand at this point, is why the "do
> >: something now" crowd is so urgent in their demands (after all, we've been


> >: emitting substantial CO2 into the environment for approximately 150 years
> >: now).

josh halpern wrote:
> >As has been pointed out a change of 1-1.5 C or so over the next century
> >would probably be hardly noticed, but a change of > 3C would
> >probably be disasterous.
> >

Peter--...@aol.com wrote:
> I'm also sadly experienced regarding the propensity of lots of people to say,
> "Yes, we need to cut down emissions of greenhouse gasses, hence cut comsumption
> and shrink the economy. I personally, however, must get more for myself, which
> is all right because I'm poor enough to avoid being one of the ones who has to
> give up anything." Personally, I think I should use less than I do, and I try
> very hard to practice Voluntary Simplicity, but oooohhh, it's hard.

Peter Mott wrote:
> I asked this aide about
> the carbon tax, to be implemented to help the US comply with the carbon
> emission limits in the Kyoto accords, introduced by VP Gore two years
> ago. His reply: the carbon tax is dead for the foreseeable future.
>
> It matters nothing what the most people in sci.environment think;
> most people in the US are in the "do nothing" group.
>

1) Is warming necessarily bad?

Charlie questions whether warming is necessarily bad. So does Thomas
Gale Moore in his 1998 book _Climate of Fear_ (and his posts of early
work thereof on sci.environment several years ago) Excerpt from
Amazon.com review located at
http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1882577647/qid=929798067/sr=1-12/002-2768546-0737034:

"History and research support the proposition that a warmer climate is
beneficial," writes Thomas Gale Moore in this socioeconomic analysis of
the potential effects of global warming. Moore--once a member of
President Reagan's Council of Economic Advisers--is an economist, and
thus wisely decides to focus on what might happen if global
temperatures rise, rather than try to debunk the respected scientists
who have concluded that they will.... He says the best global-warming
strategy is to maintain the status quo, continue research on climate,
and help poor countries improve their economies."

Moore is criticised for focusing on the US to the exclusion of the rest
of the world, particularly the island nations most threatened by
sea-level rise (who incidentally comprise the bulk of nations who have
ratified the Kyoto protocol so far), and this is a fair criticism,
because it is a global problem. Moore compares the warmer, pleasant
climates of Florida and Southern California to the harsher climates of
northern states and notes a "revealed preference" for the warmer
climates. Moore's technique might reveal a very different preference if
he had included places with extremely hot tropical or desert climates.
Moore's analysis is therefore biased. None-the-less, we can't reject
the conjecture that warming might be better than no warming.

Somewhat less biased, more balanced and comprehensive economic analyses
of consequences -- some of which are indeed beneficial, such as longer
growing seasons and reduced energy demand -- are to be found in the IPCC
1996 _Climate Change 1995: Impacts, Adaptations, and Mitigation of
Climate Change_ and especially _Climate Change 1995: Economic and Social
Dimensions of Climate Change_ details of which I will return to later.

2) What are the chances that it will be bad, or worse, than predicted?

Halpern (and earlier, Tobis) suggest that warming (especially rapid
warming) are likely to have net negative effects, and that the
likelihood of severe negative consequences exceeds that of beneficial
consequences. I don't know the basis of this hypothesis regarding the
probability density function for climatic responses to CO2 forcing, but
with Tobis weighing in, I suppose the pdf is generated by sensitivity
analysis of GCMs. I'm willing to accept that to the best of our
knowledge, the odds tilt toward worse, rather than better outcomes.

However, the really big consequences don't kick in for another three to
five hundred years. The physical effects for the foreseable future
(decades) are miniscule compared to those that our understanding of the
physics problem lead us to expect over the next several centuries. What
we do over the next century will chart the climatic course of the
several following that. We simply don't have mechanisms for evaluating
the costs and benefits of changes on such a long time scale.

3) What should we do, and when should we do it?

Peter Krunkles and Peter Mott suggest that it is hard to get people to
act when it is not in their self-interest to do so, giving "voluntary
simplicity" and carbon-tax as examples. It is simply wrong to assume
that prevention of climate change means we must surrender some aspect of
our life-style, with the sole exception of greenhouse gas emissions.
Cutting consumption of fossil fuels does not necessarily imply cutting
consumption of electricity or transportation.

Yes, we must give up some greenhouse gas emissions if we are to prevent
climate change, but no, this does not mean we must immediately destroy
civilization or surrender economic growth. Growth can be sustained
through further technological and organizational development by
de-materializing the economy (i.e. greater share of wealth produced from
services and information), and de-carbonizing the fuel supply (i.e.
lower share of electricity and transportation generated from fossil
fuels).

An economic analysis of Sweeden by Yale economist William Nordhaus shows
that the country would achieve a much greater level of prosperity if it
used nuclear power to achieve its greenhouse gas emissions reduction
goals. The choice between a prosperous, sustainable nuclear powered
society and a relatively impoverished, sustainable wood-powered society
seems obvious to me.

The question of whether a carbon tax is the best way to achieve a
de-carbonized fuel supply requires some careful study. The best we can
do at present is to compare the costs and benefits of prevention
measures taken now against the likely costs and benefits of adaptation
and mitigation measures that would be required over the next 50-100
years in the absence of preventive action.

Nordhaus has calculated that future mitigation and adaptation measures,
such as installing sea walls and air conditioning, would come out to
about 2% of future world GDP, assuming the modest predicted rise in
temperatures over the next 100 years. Preventive taxes or regulations
imposed now that cost more than the discounted value of the future cost
of mitigation and adaptation are not in our best interest and will
likely fail politically. However, there is still wide room for
negotiating what the future cost of adaptation would be and what is the
appropriate discount rate for comparing those costs with the present
cost of prevention policies. The debate continues.

Other studies show that the costs of prevention rise from negative (i.e.
net benefits) for low levels of emission reduction to ever steeper costs
for each additional percentage point reduction in emissions, to a point
at about 60% reduction from present levels (30% for less developed
countries) where costs skyrocket with no additional benefit.

It is obvious that we would want to avoid wasting scarce resources on
projects with no expected benefit, but it is less obvious that we would
want to take whatever preventive measures that actually return a profit,
or at least break-even. These are the so called "no-regrets" policies,
such as energy conservation, that produce a net benefit whether or not
the climate warms.

Where it requires a change in "business as usual" to realize the
benefits of "no-regrets" policies, leadership is required to initiate
change. The Clinton/Gore "Climate Action Plan" of 1993 lists 100 or so
such "no regrets" measures that apply largely to how the government does
its business, no so much to how the rest of us get along. However, it
contains a number of public/private partnerships to initiate
climate-conscious decision-making.

I personally believe that the greatest no-regrets measure of all would
be the construction of 30-50 new nuclear power plants each year for the
next 100 years, given appropriate engineering design and public health
and safety oversight. This would increase global prosperity -- thus
relieving the deadly and miserable conditions of poverty -- and would
have the additional benefit of no air pollution health hazard.

This option would reduce two clear and present dangers to human health
and welfare: poverty and air pollution. It is icing on the cake that it
would contribute little or no CO2 (or methane) emissions (certainly less
than the alternatives). If the alternative to a clean, prosperous
nuclear future with lots of wilderness preserves to vist, or a poor,
smoky, wood-fuelled future with vast industrial monoculture forest
energy plantations, wind farms, and solar arrays, which would you
choose? Nuclear power is not the only answer, it is only the most
obvious answer.

Fortunately, both choices are still available, and will be for the next
several decades, as more data come in and we continue to debate the
issues. It does not have to be an either/or choice either, if people
are allowed to make their own choices of local energy supply at whatever
price they are willing (and able) to pay, although some aspects of
nuclear infrastructure and organization would require national and
international public support.

Open dialogue and public debate is the best way to decide these
important questions. In the process, it would be nice if we could
substitute knowledge for fear wherever possible, and keep the
name-calling and ridiculous time-wasting to a minimum.

-dl

--
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Russell Martin

unread,
Jun 19, 1999, 3:00:00 AM6/19/99
to
Peter--...@aol.com wrote:

snipped for brevity

> >
> This debate keeps on and on about the degree of scientific "proof" necessary
> before we'll accept that global warming is, indeed, occurring, AND there is a
> need to do something to stop or slow it down. I see no one, except perhaps
> myself (Sorry to seem arrogant guys, but that's how it appears to me) talking
> about what will happen if we come to the point where there is a true consensus
> that we have to accept both the above points.
>

I think you're right. Perhaps no one else is talking about it because
consensus seems so far off. Congratulations on being ahead of the
curve.

> Our global economy is based on growth, and creating the "sustainable economy"
> which the ecologically-minded love to talk about will not be easy. I'm not
> against it, by the way. In fact, I'm probably as hysterically in favor of it as
> anyone, I'm just somewhat--sadly--experienced regarding the propensity of some
> people to decide that doing the ecologically correct, or politically correct
> thing takes precedence over little things like peoples' rights. I'm reminded of
> a member of the Weathermen who was delivering a speech against rascism. someone
> pointed out that his proposals to deal with it amounted to fascism. He said "If
> it takes fascism to crush racism, then we'll have fascism."
>

> I'm also sadly experienced regarding the propensity of lots of people to say,
> "Yes, we need to cut down emissions of greenhouse gasses, hence cut comsumption
> and shrink the economy. I personally, however, must get more for myself, which
> is all right because I'm poor enough to avoid being one of the ones who has to
> give up anything." Personally, I think I should use less than I do, and I try

> very hard to practice Voluntary Simplicity, but oooohhh, it's hard. Furthermore,
> I'm not sure I've cut out enough to amount to diddly-boo. I have a twenty-five
> year old stepson, in Europe now, who used to love to point out my own
> consumptions to me, and call me a hypocrite.


Valid concerns, IMO. BTW, don't worry, 25 year olds are supposed to
call their elders hypocrites. I'm still calling my elders hypocrites
20 years later. :-)

Regards,
Russell Martin

Russell Martin

unread,
Jun 19, 1999, 3:00:00 AM6/19/99
to
Don Libby wrote:

very nice, thought provoking essay snipped for brevity

> Open dialogue and public debate is the best way to decide these
> important questions. In the process, it would be nice if we could
> substitute knowledge for fear wherever possible, and keep the
> name-calling and ridiculous time-wasting to a minimum.
>

But Don, name calling is so much more fun, and far easier than
getting informed (as you obviously have) and actually thinking!
Are you some kind of radical out to destroy the very foundations
of Usenet? ;-)

Regards,
Russell Martin

Peter--...@aol.com

unread,
Jun 19, 1999, 3:00:00 AM6/19/99
to
In article <7kgbtv$n...@newsops.execpc.com>, Don says...

>
>
>Peter--...@aol.com wrote:
>> I'm also sadly experienced regarding the propensity of lots of people to say,
>>"Yes, we need to cut down emissions of greenhouse gasses, hence cut comsumption
>>and shrink the economy. I personally, however, must get more for myself, which
>>is all right because I'm poor enough to avoid being one of the ones who has to
>> give up anything." Personally, I think I should use less than I do, and I try
>> very hard to practice Voluntary Simplicity, but oooohhh, it's hard.
>

>Peter Krunkles and Peter Mott suggest that it is hard to get people to


>act when it is not in their self-interest to do so, giving "voluntary
>simplicity" and carbon-tax as examples. It is simply wrong to assume
>that prevention of climate change means we must surrender some aspect of
>our life-style, with the sole exception of greenhouse gas emissions.
>Cutting consumption of fossil fuels does not necessarily imply cutting
>consumption of electricity or transportation.
>
>Yes, we must give up some greenhouse gas emissions if we are to prevent
>climate change, but no, this does not mean we must immediately destroy
>civilization or surrender economic growth. Growth can be sustained
>through further technological and organizational development by
>de-materializing the economy (i.e. greater share of wealth produced from
>services and information), and de-carbonizing the fuel supply (i.e.
>lower share of electricity and transportation generated from fossil
>fuels).
>

I don't think that practicing voluntary simplicity means immediately destroying
civilization. It's just difficult to do, and easy to talk about having someone
else do. De-materializing the economy is an interesting idea, we're doing it
here and now, discussing global warming on the Internet.


Ian St. John

unread,
Jun 20, 1999, 3:00:00 AM6/20/99
to

johnesm <joh...@earthlink.net> wrote in message
news:7kf2rs$6b0$1...@oak.prod.itd.earthlink.net...
<snip> >
>
> Where have you been for the past 20 years? The "do something now
crowd"

> is the entire environmentalist movement. Do you know who Al Gore
is?

An idiot? So, Al Gore is an evironmentalist, and he isn't the
sharpest. This means that all environmentalist are stupid? What is
your problem? Not capable of thinking logically? You may have more in
common with Al than I..

Nowhere in the posts do I find the demand for action that those
denying the issue declare as obvious. I myself am an environmentalist.
Nowhere do I post demands for instant action. Yet your post and most
others by those who do not 'believe' in the issue declare that I am
doing so, and that anyone else that feels that there is cause for
concern is also obviously an environmentalist ( I.E. bad ) and a
radical calling for economic doom ( I.E. bad ). This ridiculous
painting of any but the neo-conservatives as fools is just another
reason that I find the anti-warming crowd to be a bit ignorant. You do
so here despite my next paragraph which is hardly a radical
prescription.

>
> >We have ample confirmation of the Y2K bug, and yet initial
estimates
> >of it's impact and calls for massive programs to counter it were
> >ignored. As a result, small changes and cost effective solutions
have
> >gradually been adopted by rational people to eliminate or minimize
the
> >effect over time. As a results, actual costs of effective solutions
> >are estimated at a few orders of magnitude smaller than the
doomsayers
> >prediction.
> >
> >A similar measured approach should be taken regarding this issue.
> >

> Unfortunately such an approach, if implimented, would lay waste
to our
> economy, and, to quote from the paper Investor's Business Daily,
when a
> group of investors and businessmen were asked if they would rather
curb
> greenhouse emissions, the vast majority replied, "we'd rather
bake!".

Yes. I imagine they would buy up what is left of Antartica and run
their financial empires from there. Those who can afford to buy their
way out of it will not suffer. Only those who have to live with the
consequences because they can't. That will be about ninety plus
percent of the world...

As you ignored the rational post on taking reasonable and measured
steps to make remediation as economically viable as possible, I can
only see your mind as closed ( and empty ). Your 'laying waste of our
economy' is an obvious wild exaggeration which brings your other facts
into doubt. Simple solutions such as replacing electrical air
conditioning with absorbtion cooling/hot water systems in some homes
may actually pay if you factor in the decrease in the electric utility
peak loads requirements. Changing from coal to natural gas might be
similarly economically viable, not only for the reduction in CO2
emissions ( relatively ) but for cleaner burning and reductions in
smog levels.

But I will point out that the issue is not only one of *current*
levels of CO2. It is one of constant increases, or "if this goes on".
If we do nothing and merely deny the issue, it will *eventually* be
true. And you may not be able to buy your way out it, in several of
the more realistic scenarios.


Ian St. John

unread,
Jun 20, 1999, 3:00:00 AM6/20/99
to

johnesm <joh...@earthlink.net> wrote in message
news:7kf2rs$6b0$1...@oak.prod.itd.earthlink.net...
<snip?

> emissions. There is a problem with this though-- since the 19th
century the
> sun has gotten a bit warmer, by about 2 w/m2, solar radiation flux
has
> nearly doubled, sunspot activity double...and this accounts for
most, if not
> all, of the observed warming.

Solar radiation flux at 1 AU is about 1400 w/m2, just to put the 2
watt figure in perspective. I have no idea how you define solar flux
as 'doubling'. I haven't noticed the sun getting twice as bright..

Since part of the argument has been that we do not have observed
accurately meaured and peer reviewed ) ground level data showing
warming, your assertion that the changes in solar output account for
the change in the data are somewhat suspect as well.

> Plus, since
satellites have been measuring
>microwave emissions from the atmosphere (since 1979), there has been
no
>significant temperature trend.

You previously state that the absorbtion of CO2 is in *long infrared*
waves. How does a constant *microwave* emmissivity tell you that there
is no significant temperature trend? Is this measurement accurate, and
if so does it cover the entire radiative *and* reflected energy
spectrum. We have to account for changes in cloud layer reflection, as
well as radiative cooling.

You don't look to have done a very comprehensive analysis on the
energy balance. In fact, it is quite meaningless.

johnesm

unread,
Jun 20, 1999, 3:00:00 AM6/20/99
to
Ian St. John wrote in message ...
>
>johnesm <joh...@earthlink.net> wrote in message
>news:7kf2rs$6b0$1...@oak.prod.itd.earthlink.net...
><snip> >
>>
>> Where have you been for the past 20 years? The "do something now
>crowd"
>> is the entire environmentalist movement. Do you know who Al Gore
>is?
>
>An idiot? So, Al Gore is an evironmentalist, and he isn't the
>sharpest. This means that all environmentalist are stupid? What is
>your problem? Not capable of thinking logically? You may have more in
>common with Al than I..
>

Wrong! You're putting words in my mouth. I never said that I felt all
environmentalists were stupid. I simply stated a fact, which was that the
Green movement has always pushed for action now to stave off global warming.
Obviously this is the case, or we would not have had the Kyoto conference or
the Rio summit. All you need to do is visit the Greenpeace website to see
what I'm talking about.


>Nowhere in the posts do I find the demand for action that those
>denying the issue declare as obvious. I myself am an environmentalist.
>Nowhere do I post demands for instant action. Yet your post and most
>others by those who do not 'believe' in the issue declare that I am
>doing so, and that anyone else that feels that there is cause for
>concern is also obviously an environmentalist ( I.E. bad ) and a
>radical calling for economic doom ( I.E. bad ). This ridiculous
>painting of any but the neo-conservatives as fools is just another
>reason that I find the anti-warming crowd to be a bit ignorant. You do
>so here despite my next paragraph which is hardly a radical
>prescription.
>


I never said you posted anything related to an immediate call for action,
and I never said that it happens in this newsgroup (although I know it does,
I have seen it in here). Again you are misstating what I have posted. Why?
If anyone is having problems with logic and credibility, it is not me...

Also, why is it heavily criticized when someone points out possible
economic harm that would be caused by forced reduction in GH gasses, and
applauded when possible ecological harm may be the result of not reducing GH
gasses? Sounds like a double standard to me.


That is unlikely, as ice sheets aren't exactly prime real estate. Ice
sheets will be there for many thousands of years to come...


>As you ignored the rational post on taking reasonable and measured
>steps to make remediation as economically viable as possible, I can
>only see your mind as closed ( and empty ). Your 'laying waste of our
>economy' is an obvious wild exaggeration which brings your other facts
>into doubt.


If I go around warning everyone that the ice caps are melting, would that
be wild exaggeration? Would that cause my facts to be in doubt?


>Simple solutions such as replacing electrical air
>conditioning with absorbtion cooling/hot water systems in some homes
>may actually pay if you factor in the decrease in the electric utility
>peak loads requirements. Changing from coal to natural gas might be
>similarly economically viable, not only for the reduction in CO2
>emissions ( relatively ) but for cleaner burning and reductions in
>smog levels.
>


You think that a few changes in the home will have an effect? Private
use of electrical energy is too small for cutbacks to mean anything.
Switching to natural gas doesnt help, CH4 + O2 ---> CO2 + H2O. You still
get carbon emissions, but without the cooling effects of sulfur dioxide that
you get with coal. So natural gas would actually be worse than coal, for
slowing global warming anyway. Also, second to CO2 as the leading cause of
this assumed warming, is methane. It is supposed to play almost as much
role as CO2 does. Cutting back on methane would probably be even more
difficult than with CO2.


>But I will point out that the issue is not only one of *current*
>levels of CO2. It is one of constant increases, or "if this goes on".
>If we do nothing and merely deny the issue, it will *eventually* be
>true. And you may not be able to buy your way out it, in several of
>the more realistic scenarios.
>
>
>


How do you know it will eventually be true? Crystal ball? No one knows,
the confidence for such a claim is very low, and to announce that you "know"
is quite arrogant.


- Johne

Don Libby

unread,
Jun 20, 1999, 3:00:00 AM6/20/99
to
Peter--...@aol.com wrote:
>
> >Yes, we must give up some greenhouse gas emissions if we are to prevent
> >climate change, but no, this does not mean we must immediately destroy
> >civilization or surrender economic growth. Growth can be sustained
> >through further technological and organizational development by
> >de-materializing the economy (i.e. greater share of wealth produced from
> >services and information), and de-carbonizing the fuel supply (i.e.
> >lower share of electricity and transportation generated from fossil
> >fuels).
> >
> I don't think that practicing voluntary simplicity means immediately destroying
> civilization. It's just difficult to do, and easy to talk about having someone
> else do. De-materializing the economy is an interesting idea, we're doing it
> here and now, discussing global warming on the Internet.

You're right. Sorry, I'm sometimes given to hyperbole to add dramatic
flair to my rants. I myself have practiced voluntary simplicity by
doing without a car for six years. More do-able in my early 30's than
in my late 30's -- now I drive a car that gets 50 mpg (40 in winter),
but I still bike to work (walk in winter) or telecommute.

Where the "destroy civilization" element comes into the picture is when
someone wants to enforce "involuntary simplicity" on someone else. The
extreme form is the neo-Luddite anarchy crowd discussed in the "Gaia's
bully boys" thread (before it diverged into a discussion of drug testing
in the workplace). I must resist the temptation to paint all
ecologically conscious human beings as neo-Luddite anarchists.

My point is that there are some who jump to the conclusion that we need
less of everything if we are to reduce emissions, and it ain't
necessarily so, as the song says.

Don Libby

unread,
Jun 20, 1999, 3:00:00 AM6/20/99
to
johnesm wrote:
>
> Ian St. John wrote in message ...
> >
> >johnesm <joh...@earthlink.net> wrote in message
> >news:7kf2rs$6b0$1...@oak.prod.itd.earthlink.net...
> ><snip> >
> >>
> Also, why is it heavily criticized when someone points out possible
> economic harm that would be caused by forced reduction in GH gasses, and
> applauded when possible ecological harm may be the result of not reducing GH
> gasses? Sounds like a double standard to me.
>

Good point. The challenge is to balance the possible harm caused by non
action with the possible harm caused by action, as well as the possible
benefits of non-action and the benefits of action. It is difficult to
reconcile "ecological" harm and benefit with "economic" harm and
benefit.

Focusing on the economic, a treaty that imposes high costs but does not
accomplish sufficient greenhouse abatement would leave us worse off than
no treaty at all, for we would have fewer resources to deal with future
problems, if and when they arrive. We want to avoid treaties that leave
us all worse off economically with no tangible benefit. If on the other
hand there is a tangible benefit, society might decide that some
reduction in global wealth would be a fair price to pay to obtain the
benefit. Just exactly what will be required to produce this benefit I
will discuss later in the post.

Turning to the environmental side of the equation, when you consider
that the environment and human health appears to actually be in better
shape among the most highly developed nations, imposing high costs on
those nations might work against the environment and human health.

If, as Erlich and his followers believe, I=PAT, then it would seem
logical to reduce PAT in order to reduce I. However, empirical research
has shown that the true formula assumes an upside-down U shape:
I = PAT - (PAT)^2 . Impoverishing the more developed nations while
allowing further development among the less developed nations would push
all the nations of the world up toward the peak, thus MAXIMIZING
environmental impact. We want to avoid environmental treaties with the
stated purpose of MINIMIZING environmental impact but which in practice
MAXIMIZE environmental impact.

>
> >Simple solutions such as replacing electrical air
> >conditioning with absorbtion cooling/hot water systems in some homes
> >may actually pay if you factor in the decrease in the electric utility
> >peak loads requirements. Changing from coal to natural gas might be
> >similarly economically viable, not only for the reduction in CO2
> >emissions ( relatively ) but for cleaner burning and reductions in
> >smog levels.
> >
>
> You think that a few changes in the home will have an effect? Private
> use of electrical energy is too small for cutbacks to mean anything.

Right. Of six non-policy emissions scenarios considered by IPCC in its
_Climate Change 1994_ report, only one scenario - IS92c - would achieve
the objective of stabilizing ghg concentrations at or below twice
pre-industrial levels. Just nibbling at the edges is not enough. It
will require radical de-carbonization of the economy to accomplish the
objectives of the treaty (presuming the objective is to avoid greenhouse
warming, rather than to break the political-economic hegemony of
developed nations and redistribute wealth). De-carbonizing the economy
means either de-stroying the economy or uraniumizing the economy. I
think the choice is obvious, but I'm willing to wait another decade or
two for the obvious to sink in around the world.

> Switching to natural gas doesnt help, CH4 + O2 ---> CO2 + H2O. You still
> get carbon emissions, but without the cooling effects of sulfur dioxide that
> you get with coal. So natural gas would actually be worse than coal, for
> slowing global warming anyway. Also, second to CO2 as the leading cause of
> this assumed warming, is methane. It is supposed to play almost as much
> role as CO2 does. Cutting back on methane would probably be even more
> difficult than with CO2.

Right, again, switching to natural gas, which is exactly what the US is
already doing in the absence of a global warming treaty, will slow the
rate of CO2 emissions, and possibly increase the rate of CH4 emissions
if we're not too meticulous about controlling them. It will not achieve
stabilization of atmospheric CO2 concentrations. Switching to biomass
could achieve the objective, but at a huge cost in land use, meaning
less wildlife habitat, possible air-pollution hazard to human health,
and a costly radical reconstruction of energy infrastructure.

Expanding economic prosperity, environmental quality, human health and
welfare AND stabilizing atmospheric CO2 concentrations means that
nuclear power should be expanded at the rate of 30-50 new plants per
year for the next 100 years (in ADDITION to expanding energy
conservation and the use of renewable energy resources).

Peter--...@aol.com

unread,
Jun 20, 1999, 3:00:00 AM6/20/99
to
In article <Ss1b3.157758$r_1.33...@newscontent-02.sprint.ca>, "Ian says...
>
>

>
>But I will point out that the issue is not only one of *current*
>levels of CO2. It is one of constant increases, or "if this goes on".
>If we do nothing and merely deny the issue, it will *eventually* be
>true. And you may not be able to buy your way out it, in several of
>the more realistic scenarios.
>
>

The issue is also not only one of danger to our civilization. Speaking of
Antarctica, if the planet warms by several degrees, the ecology of that
region will be changed drastically, and the species--such as penguins--
which live there will no longer be able to do so. Do they matter as much
as keeping our GNP growing? This is a moral/spiritual question which is
very difficult to answer without postulating a universal moral order which
is larger than ourselves--i.e., God.


Peter--...@aol.com

unread,
Jun 20, 1999, 3:00:00 AM6/20/99
to
In article <7kie8s$5d0$1...@holly.prod.itd.earthlink.net>, "johnesm" says...
>

>
> Also, why is it heavily criticized when someone points out possible
>economic harm that would be caused by forced reduction in GH gasses, and
>applauded when possible ecological harm may be the result of not reducing GH
>gasses? Sounds like a double standard to me.
>
>

On the other hand, why are people called "chicken littles" for pointing out
the possible ecological harm, or "socialists," while people pointing out the
economic harm are hailed as "heroes of freedom," or some such? Answer:
Because people on both sides want to look only at their own concerns.
No, it's more complicated than that. It has to do largely with knowing on an
intellectual level that I, Peter, am merely one of six billion humans, and
that cosmically, I don't count for diddly. On an emotional level I, Peter,
see myself as the most important entity in the universe. I found that out a
few months ago when I almost died of a kidney failure. At that time, if a
doctor had told me that, to save my life, they would have to release a
billion tons of CO2, I would have said "Sure, do it."


Peter--...@aol.com

unread,
Jun 20, 1999, 3:00:00 AM6/20/99
to
In article <376CD2...@mail.execpc.com>, Don says...

>
>Peter--...@aol.com wrote:
>>
>> >Yes, we must give up some greenhouse gas emissions if we are to prevent
>> >climate change, but no, this does not mean we must immediately destroy
>> >civilization or surrender economic growth. Growth can be sustained
>> >through further technological and organizational development by
>> >de-materializing the economy (i.e. greater share of wealth produced from
>> >services and information), and de-carbonizing the fuel supply (i.e.
>> >lower share of electricity and transportation generated from fossil
>> >fuels).
>> >
>>I don't think that practicing voluntary simplicity means immediately destroying
>>civilization. It's just difficult to do, and easy to talk about having someone
>> else do. De-materializing the economy is an interesting idea, we're doing it
>> here and now, discussing global warming on the Internet.
>
>You're right. Sorry, I'm sometimes given to hyperbole to add dramatic
>flair to my rants. I myself have practiced voluntary simplicity by
>doing without a car for six years. More do-able in my early 30's than
>in my late 30's -- now I drive a car that gets 50 mpg (40 in winter),
>but I still bike to work (walk in winter) or telecommute.

Congratulations. I just retired, vanpooled to work for 8.5 years. I'm
driving my car very little now, usually bike or take the bus.

>Where the "destroy civilization" element comes into the picture is when
>someone wants to enforce "involuntary simplicity" on someone else. The
>extreme form is the neo-Luddite anarchy crowd discussed in the "Gaia's
>bully boys" thread (before it diverged into a discussion of drug testing
>in the workplace). I must resist the temptation to paint all
>ecologically conscious human beings as neo-Luddite anarchists.
>
>My point is that there are some who jump to the conclusion that we need
>less of everything if we are to reduce emissions, and it ain't
>necessarily so, as the song says.
>

>Yes, there are those who do that, and who say we humans are too greedy,
while they themselves live at an economic level many times higher than the
planetary average. There are also some who portray all concern about the
environment as socialism or Ludditism (is that a correct term?) you are
certainly right that some want to enforce simplicity, but not on themselves.
In fact, one of the great debates in the world now revolves around the
feeling that something must be sacrificed, but not by me.

Ian St. John

unread,
Jun 20, 1999, 3:00:00 AM6/20/99
to

johnesm <joh...@earthlink.net> wrote in message
news:7kie8s$5d0$1...@holly.prod.itd.earthlink.net...

> Ian St. John wrote in message ...
> >
> >johnesm <joh...@earthlink.net> wrote in message
> >news:7kf2rs$6b0$1...@oak.prod.itd.earthlink.net...
> ><snip> >
> >
>
> Wrong! You're putting words in my mouth. I never said that I
felt all
> environmentalists were stupid. I simply stated a fact, which was
that the
> Green movement has always pushed for action now to stave off global
warming.
> Obviously this is the case, or we would not have had the Kyoto
conference or
> the Rio summit. All you need to do is visit the Greenpeace website
to see
> what I'm talking about.

Why would I visit the website of a group devoted to radical solutions
and environmental warfare in order to guage the reactions of the
environmentally and responsibly concerned public? This is like guaging
the publics awareness of aircraft safety by going only to recent crash
sites..

> >Nowhere in the posts do I find the demand for action that those
> >denying the issue declare as obvious. I myself am an
environmentalist.
> >Nowhere do I post demands for instant action. Yet your post and
most
> >others by those who do not 'believe' in the issue declare that I am
> >doing so, and that anyone else that feels that there is cause for
> >concern is also obviously an environmentalist ( I.E. bad ) and a
> >radical calling for economic doom ( I.E. bad ). This ridiculous
> >painting of any but the neo-conservatives as fools is just another
> >reason that I find the anti-warming crowd to be a bit ignorant. You
do
> >so here despite my next paragraph which is hardly a radical
> >prescription.
> >
> I never said you posted anything related to an immediate call for
action,
> and I never said that it happens in this newsgroup (although I know
it does,
> I have seen it in here). Again you are misstating what I have
posted. Why?
> If anyone is having problems with logic and credibility, it is not
me...

You agree that most environmentalists posting in this group do not
call for panicky responses to the threat. Yet despite this evidence
that a valid survey of the group does not support hasty action, you
still labelled them as such. No. Your "ad hominem" attacks on the
people in place of the issue do not give you credibility in my eyes.


>
> Also, why is it heavily criticized when someone points out
possible
> economic harm that would be caused by forced reduction in GH gasses,
and
> applauded when possible ecological harm may be the result of not
reducing GH
> gasses? Sounds like a double standard to me.

Some of the concern comes from the fact that most posters on the
'economic harm' side refuse to recognize that 'do nothing' is not an
option. The rate of global increase in CO2/Methane is significant, and
the accumulation grows. Doing nothing will ensure a disaster in the
future. Do you feel no responsibility to hand over a thriving planet
to your sons and daughters. Or do you feel that self indulgence at the
expense of the future is in your best interest...

<snip> >


> >Yes. I imagine they would buy up what is left of Antartica and run
> >their financial empires from there. Those who can afford to buy
their
> >way out of it will not suffer. Only those who have to live with the
> >consequences because they can't. That will be about ninety plus
> >percent of the world...
> >
>
>
> That is unlikely, as ice sheets aren't exactly prime real estate.
Ice
> sheets will be there for many thousands of years to come...

But they will have the continental edges... The last areas of
temperate climate. That will *make* them prime real estate. Would you
rather the storms, flooding, and disruption of the remaining planet?
No. The evidence of paleontology shows that extreme levels of CO2 will
turn the polar regions into a temperature to tropical climate. As with
a blanket on your bed, the heat on the planet evens out, and only the
edges have cool spots.

>
>
> >As you ignored the rational post on taking reasonable and measured
> >steps to make remediation as economically viable as possible, I can
> >only see your mind as closed ( and empty ). Your 'laying waste of
our
> >economy' is an obvious wild exaggeration which brings your other
facts
> >into doubt.
>
>
> If I go around warning everyone that the ice caps are melting,
would that
> be wild exaggeration? Would that cause my facts to be in doubt?

No. I guarantee that continued increases in methane and CO2 will
eventually melt the polar ice caps. This is obvious from both
paleontology and physics. The only debate would be over how fast it
occurs, and how long it would take to reverse.

<snip>


>
> You think that a few changes in the home will have an effect?
Private
> use of electrical energy is too small for cutbacks to mean anything.

It is only one small step, that can be taken with benefits beyond the
fact that it reduces energy consuption.

> Switching to natural gas doesnt help, CH4 + O2 ---> CO2 + H2O. You
still
> get carbon emissions, but without the cooling effects of sulfur
dioxide that
> you get with coal. So natural gas would actually be worse than
coal, for
> slowing global warming anyway.

Coal is mostly carbon, ( see coking ). Natural gas is a mixture of H2
and CH4. The H2 produces only water. The CH4 produces much more heat
from hydrogen combustion relative to carbon combustion than coal or
oil. You have one carbon atom for four hydrogen, while most aliphatic
hydrocarbons are closer to a two to one ratio.

>
> >But I will point out that the issue is not only one of *current*
> >levels of CO2. It is one of constant increases, or "if this goes
on".
> >If we do nothing and merely deny the issue, it will *eventually* be
> >true. And you may not be able to buy your way out it, in several
of
> >the more realistic scenarios.
>
> How do you know it will eventually be true? Crystal ball? No
one knows,
> the confidence for such a claim is very low, and to announce that
you "know"
> is quite arrogant.

Arrogant? You have to be pretty stupid. We dump globally significant
quantities of CO2 into the atmosphere every year. We have records that
show the slow accumulation. The only questions is when the carbon
sinks become saturated and the atmospheric levels start to climb more
in direct proportion to the input.

Never mind. The 'do nothing' crowd seems to be heavily seasoned with
those who cannot see a direct relationship between their actions and
any results they don't want to believe in. I.E. I only added a little
sand each day for the last ten years. I don't know where this big sand
hill came from...

I'd vote for evolution in action and let you destroy your own planet,
but I live here too, and I demand you help with the housecleaning..


johnesm

unread,
Jun 20, 1999, 3:00:00 AM6/20/99
to

Ian St. John wrote in message ...
>
>johnesm <joh...@earthlink.net> wrote in message
>news:7kf2rs$6b0$1...@oak.prod.itd.earthlink.net...


OK, I used the wrong terminology. It is the MAGNETIC flux that has
doubled. See:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/hi/english/sci/tech/newsid_358000/358953.stm
for a more detailed description. You know I wasn't trying to say the sun
has become twice as bright. But you probably hoped thats what I meant,
right? Also, I am quite familiar with the workings of the planet's energy
balance, contrary to you opinion.

- Johne

Ian St. John

unread,
Jun 20, 1999, 3:00:00 AM6/20/99
to

johnesm <joh...@earthlink.net> wrote in message
news:7kjtbr$mi4$1...@ash.prod.itd.earthlink.net...
<snip>

>
> OK, I used the wrong terminology. It is the MAGNETIC flux that
has
> doubled. See:
> http://news.bbc.co.uk/hi/english/sci/tech/newsid_358000/358953.stm
> for a more detailed description. You know I wasn't trying to say
the sun
> has become twice as bright.

No. I asked what you meant. "Brightness" never entered my mind as a
description of a magnetic field. So I asked for clarification. And it
should be noted that the suns magnetic field isn't a big factor in the
energy balance, so a doubling sounds more dramatic than it is.

> But you probably hoped
thats what I meant,
> right?

I never put words in other people mouths. Thus, I have no idea what
you were gibbering about.. My hopes were that you woudn't turn out to
be a complete moron, on whom I was wasting some effort to establish a
basis for discussion.

> Also, I am quite familiar with the workings of the
planet's energy
> balance, contrary to you opinion.

I don't believe we discussed my opinion on your knowedge of
thermodynamic equilibrium. Perhaps I can discuss your knowledge of gay
rights issues. Now, what should I decide that is?... Let me see. What
do I want the effect of your opinion to be... Shall I define you as a
socialist? Liberal? Gee. With no real data, it is so easy to turn this
to my own advantage...

P.S. Are you troll on your mothers or fathers side?


Scott Nudds

unread,
Jun 21, 1999, 3:00:00 AM6/21/99
to
Climate change will affect health in Europe - June 18, 1999
-------------------------------------------
- Reuters -

NEW YORK, Jun 18 - European health authorities should prepare for an
increase in death and disease linked to global warming in the next
century, researchers warn.

Societies ``will need to adapt to minimise any adverse effects on
health,'' conclude researchers led by Dr. R. Sari Kovats of the London
School of Hygiene and Health, in London, UK. Their analysis is published
in the June 19th edition of the British Medical Journal.

Based on a review of over 30 studies on the subject, the authors believe
that gradual warming of the atmosphere by 'greenhouse gases' will
trigger ``an increase in the number of heatwaves in summer and a
decrease in the number of cold spells in winter.''

Milder winters may reduce mortality during that season, the team write,
but this benefit will be offset by an increase in the number of deaths
linked to hotter temperatures in the summer. The researchers also point
out that ``exposures to air pollutants'' -- and resultant respiratory
illness -- are also ''generally higher during heatwaves.''

Global warming may also further the range of insects responsible for
certain illnesses. This may result in a rise in tick-, flea-, or
fly-borne diseases such as visceral leishmaniasis, encephalitis, and
Lyme disease.

...


goldfish

unread,
Jun 21, 1999, 3:00:00 AM6/21/99
to

Don Libby wrote:

> Peter Mott wrote:
> > I asked this aide about
> > the carbon tax, to be implemented to help the US comply with the carbon
> > emission limits in the Kyoto accords, introduced by VP Gore two years
> > ago. His reply: the carbon tax is dead for the foreseeable future.
> >
> > It matters nothing what the most people in sci.environment think;
> > most people in the US are in the "do nothing" group.
> >

> 3) What should we do, and when should we do it?
>
> Peter Krunkles and Peter Mott suggest that it is hard to get people to
> act when it is not in their self-interest to do so, giving "voluntary
> simplicity" and carbon-tax as examples. It is simply wrong to assume
> that prevention of climate change means we must surrender some aspect of
> our life-style, with the sole exception of greenhouse gas emissions.
> Cutting consumption of fossil fuels does not necessarily imply cutting
> consumption of electricity or transportation.

I did not mean to suggest anything; my post was submitted as
a report on the likelihood of carbon tax legislation.

Peter Mott

Donald L. Libby

unread,
Jun 21, 1999, 3:00:00 AM6/21/99
to
goldfish wrote:

>
> Don Libby wrote:
>
> > Peter Mott wrote:
> > > I asked this aide about
> > > the carbon tax, to be implemented to help the US comply with the carbon
> > > emission limits in the Kyoto accords, introduced by VP Gore two years
> > > ago. His reply: the carbon tax is dead for the foreseeable future.
> > >
> > > It matters nothing what the most people in sci.environment think;
> > > most people in the US are in the "do nothing" group.
> > >
> > 3) What should we do, and when should we do it?
> >
> > Peter Krunkles and Peter Mott suggest that it is hard to get people to
> > act when it is not in their self-interest to do so, giving "voluntary
> > simplicity" and carbon-tax as examples. It is simply wrong to assume
> > that prevention of climate change means we must surrender some aspect of
> > our life-style, with the sole exception of greenhouse gas emissions.
> > Cutting consumption of fossil fuels does not necessarily imply cutting
> > consumption of electricity or transportation.
>
> I did not mean to suggest anything; my post was submitted as
> a report on the likelihood of carbon tax legislation.
>
> Peter Mott

Sorry if I attributed the wrong motives to you -- though I think you
would agree that it's fair to say one reason the legislation is dead is
that it is not in peoples' (especially politicians') perceived
self-interest to pass such a tax.

I just saw a table in the IPCC _CC95: Socio-economic dimensions of
climate change_ report that evaluates the wealth-transfer effects of
carbon taxes. In general, the dozen or so studies reviewed found the
tax would be regressive, meaning it would result in a net transfer of
wealth from poor to rich people.

So part of the reason the tax is dead may be that nobody likes taxes in
general, part of the reason might be that nobody supports public
policies that make the rich better off at the expense of the poor.

That still leaves us with the problem of how to incentivate substituting
low-emission fuels and technologies for high-emissions fuels &
technologies. "Cap and trade" pollution permits is one way to do it --
it worked pretty well for leaded gasoline phase-out and it's in process
for sulphur-dioxide emission reductions.

The idea is slow to gain acceptance by the greenhouse policy crowd since
it seems to allow the heaviest polluters to go on polluting without
cutting back. In fact what it does is redistribute the costs and risks
of cutting back so that cutbacks are made in the most economically
efficient (least costly) manner.

The Euros have approved of the idea if it is limited in scope, for
example having one permit-trading market (or "bubble") for Europe and
another market for the US, but no trading between the two or between the
US and other countries. This would have the obvious economic advantage
to Europe of imposing huge costs on the US, that might otherwise be
shifted off to other countries that need cash more than they need
pollution permits. If the goal is to cripple the superpower
economically to give competitors a relative advantage, this is one way
to do it.

A fair, world-wide trading market is a pretty good idea, though.
Probably a better idea than a carbon tax or a command-and-control
scheduled phaseout of targeted technologies. More at
http://www.rff.org/disc_papers/abstracts/9938.htm

ABSTRACT:

The Rationale for Flexibility in the Design of Greenhouse Gas
Abatement Policies: A Review of Economic Issues (117 KB)
Michael A. Toman, Richard D. Morgenstern and John Anderson |
May 1999
99-38

This paper focuses on the desirability of setting fixed and
relatively short-term targets and timetables, such as those contained in
the Kyoto Protocol, as a means of achieving longer term environmental
goals. Based on a review of numerous recent economic analyses, the paper
argues that whatever climate policy goals are adopted, greater
flexibility will mean greater cost-effectiveness in achieving them.
Greater cost-effectiveness, in turn, will mean a greater probability
that the policy will actually be followed and the goals achieved. The
Kyoto approach, which the authors argue emerged from a misplaced analogy
with the successful campaign to phase out CFCs, is found to limit
cost-effectiveness in two important respects: "when" flexibility, with
emissions reductions allowed to take place at a point in time when they
can be achieved at lowest cost, as long as they are consistent with
whatever long-term environmental goals are specified; and "how"
flexibility, through the use of the most efficient policy instruments to
balance environmental goals and compliance costs.

-dl

--
Donald L. Libby, PhD (dli...@facstaff.wisc.edu)
NOTE: TO REPLY BY E-MAIL REMOVE "nospam!" FROM MY RETURN ADDRESS
Opinions are my own not those of my employer.
Visit the Network at
http://www.medsch.wisc.edu/prevmed/network/index.html

Joshua Halpern

unread,
Jun 21, 1999, 3:00:00 AM6/21/99
to
Donald L. Libby (nospam!dli...@facstaff.wisc.edu) wrote:

: goldfish wrote:
: > Don Libby wrote:
: > > Peter Mott wrote:
SNIP.....:
: I just saw a table in the IPCC _CC95: Socio-economic dimensions of

: climate change_ report that evaluates the wealth-transfer effects of
: carbon taxes. In general, the dozen or so studies reviewed found the
: tax would be regressive, meaning it would result in a net transfer of
: wealth from poor to rich people.

This is pretty well known, and is the reason why carbon tax proposals
are usually coupled with strongly progressive tax relief for those
at the bottom of the income scale.

SNIP....
: technologies. "Cap and trade" pollution permits is one way to do it --


: it worked pretty well for leaded gasoline phase-out and it's in process
: for sulphur-dioxide emission reductions.
:
: The idea is slow to gain acceptance by the greenhouse policy crowd since
: it seems to allow the heaviest polluters to go on polluting without
: cutting back. In fact what it does is redistribute the costs and risks
: of cutting back so that cutbacks are made in the most economically
: efficient (least costly) manner.

:
It also involves the government more strongly in the process as the
issuers of the exemptions and referees about what can be traded.

Of the two modes, I think I prefer the carbon tax, as being more
direct and simpler to administer. Note that the carbon tax can
be imposed at the source and passed on by the sellers, while
the emissions trading proposal requires on-going monitoring.

Either would be be useful, and could be structured in ways
that there would be positive economic benefits, or at least
be economically neutral.

Josh Halpern

S. Hales

unread,
Jun 21, 1999, 3:00:00 AM6/21/99
to

Donald L. Libby <nospam!dli...@facstaff.wisc.edu> wrote in message

> That still leaves us with the problem of how to incentivate substituting
> low-emission fuels and technologies for high-emissions fuels &
> technologies. "Cap and trade" pollution permits is one way to do it --
> it worked pretty well for leaded gasoline phase-out and it's in process
> for sulphur-dioxide emission reductions.
>
> The idea is slow to gain acceptance by the greenhouse policy crowd since
> it seems to allow the heaviest polluters to go on polluting without
> cutting back. In fact what it does is redistribute the costs and risks
> of cutting back so that cutbacks are made in the most economically
> efficient (least costly) manner.
>
> The Euros have approved of the idea if it is limited in scope, for
> example having one permit-trading market (or "bubble") for Europe and
> another market for the US, but no trading between the two or between the
> US and other countries. This would have the obvious economic advantage
> to Europe of imposing huge costs on the US, that might otherwise be
> shifted off to other countries that need cash more than they need
> pollution permits. If the goal is to cripple the superpower
> economically to give competitors a relative advantage, this is one way
> to do it.
>
> A fair, world-wide trading market is a pretty good idea, though.
> Probably a better idea than a carbon tax or a command-and-control
> scheduled phaseout of targeted technologies. More at
> http://www.rff.org/disc_papers/abstracts/9938.htm

A global ecological permit exchange/bank would be a better idea ala The
World Bank. Such an institution would be capitalized by the industrialized
nations and facillitate trading in a variety of pollution permits. Its
accounts would be a variety of pollution/ecosystem T-Accounts and possibly
consist of such global asset/liability entries e.g., remaining tropical
forests, all forms of chloroflurocarbon emissions, CO2 emissions, fisheries,
etc. The annual budget for each account would be set by the elected board
and management. The institution would also be involved in funding of
technology transfer. By institutionalizing environmental concerns a
rational approach can be developed that would allow externalities to be
captured on a global scale. Rather than the adhoc systems now in place for
some pollutants such a bank would introduce efficiencies of the marketplace
to control pollution and allow technology transfer to be funded to
ultimately reduce.

Since externalities are by definition not captured in current transactions
such an institution can provide the efficient means to monetize them and
monitor the overall health of the planet. Such an institution would allow
infinite flexibility in transferring pollution to, ala Larry Summers,
underpolluted regions but because of its global nature and its global annual
pollution budget such a bank would facillitate the pricing of some polluters
out of the market.

The benchmarks to be used to set the annual budgets of the ecological
T-Accounts are the contentious issues but they could revolve are around the
concept of ecological resiliency rather than fixed arbitrary and
unquantified and linear definitions e.g., ecological footprints.


Donald L. Libby

unread,
Jun 21, 1999, 3:00:00 AM6/21/99
to
S. Hales wrote:
>
> Donald L. Libby <nospam!dli...@facstaff.wisc.edu> wrote in message
> > A fair, world-wide trading market is a pretty good idea, though.
> > Probably a better idea than a carbon tax or a command-and-control
> > scheduled phaseout of targeted technologies. More at
> > http://www.rff.org/disc_papers/abstracts/9938.htm
>
> A global ecological permit exchange/bank would be a better idea ala The
> World Bank. Such an institution would be capitalized by the industrialized
> nations and facillitate trading in a variety of pollution permits.
snip

>
> The benchmarks to be used to set the annual budgets of the ecological
> T-Accounts are the contentious issues but they could revolve are around the
> concept of ecological resiliency rather than fixed arbitrary and
> unquantified and linear definitions e.g., ecological footprints.

Fascinating. Who are the contenders contending these issues -
references please? Is this proposal being discussed in FCCC talks?

S. Hales

unread,
Jun 21, 1999, 3:00:00 AM6/21/99
to
Donald L. Libby <nospam!dli...@facstaff.wisc.edu> wrote in message
news:376EB9...@facstaff.wisc.edu...

> S. Hales wrote:
> >
> > Donald L. Libby <nospam!dli...@facstaff.wisc.edu> wrote in message
> > > A fair, world-wide trading market is a pretty good idea, though.
> > > Probably a better idea than a carbon tax or a command-and-control
> > > scheduled phaseout of targeted technologies. More at
> > > http://www.rff.org/disc_papers/abstracts/9938.htm
> >
> > A global ecological permit exchange/bank would be a better idea ala The
> > World Bank. Such an institution would be capitalized by the
industrialized
> > nations and facillitate trading in a variety of pollution permits.
> snip
> >
> > The benchmarks to be used to set the annual budgets of the ecological
> > T-Accounts are the contentious issues but they could revolve are around
the
> > concept of ecological resiliency rather than fixed arbitrary and
> > unquantified and linear definitions e.g., ecological footprints.
>
> Fascinating. Who are the contenders contending these issues -
> references please? Is this proposal being discussed in FCCC talks?

They are "original" with me and from gleanings from good threads here over
the years. I add that proviso because of unconscious osmosis. (IOW I am not
publishing, so, I can be accused of plagirism.) But I think it is a workable
solution or at least useful to extend discussions of world ecosystems and
world climate that they are linked with economic interests to encourage
innovation and the adoption of current innovations. It would also create
efficiencies in the debate and in ecological activism as focus would be
shifted from easy political targets to an institution entrusted with
environmental stewardship.

It is interesting that the EU is opposed to permit trading because of their
advantages currently in fuel switching and large installed base of nuclear.
(They state officially that they don't trust a trading permit regime to be
effective as currently proposed.) But I think a worlwide system including
all pollutants and ecosystem management would win them over. It would also
de-politicize the debate as all industries in the world would compete on a
level playing field and no one country or group of countries could exploit
an economic advantage from particular emissions goals already reached. It
would also eliminate the contentious country emissions measurements and
instead rely upon global measures of ecosystem health.

Each source of pollutants would have a no permit necessary threshhold and
once passed an individual country's industry must purchase a permit or the
country would be subject to fines, say treble the current market value of
the permit, if the particular company failed to purchase a permit.

Other sources of pollution that are individual in nature would target
permits to, for example, transportation manufacturers, based on some kind of
modified CAFE standard that would still allow a mix of models to satisfy
consumer preferences but might trigger permit purchases whose cost would be
directly felt by the corporation in reduced profitability and by the
consumer who might forego that manufacturer's products. This type of
feedback loop would encourage innovation to avoid permit purchases in the
first place.

An allowance for economic and population growth should increase the number
of available permits but within the concept of ecosystem resiliency and the
assessment of future technological options to reduce the additional allowed
pollution when old plant equipment is replaced. Also, I think a regime of
emergency permits should be allowed by a positive vote of say 2/3rds of the
member countries. This would allow flexible transitioning moves when
technological walls are temporarily encountered. Also, permits would be
continuously created by certain companies that reduced pollution below a
certain threshhold, so, supply for growth, that occurs unevenly with
respect to technological innovation, might not be an issue

Are we willing to cede some national sovreignty? That is the pressing
question as we enter the 21st century in the next 1-1/2 years. The current
US proposed GHG permit trading scheme still retains too much national
sovreignty over the permits themselves to be effective and without
contentiousness since they are tied to country emissions inventories. These
schemes encourage trading alliances to secure such permits for nationally
favored industries and are thus ripe for abuse. In this regard Europe is
correct to be concerned.

It should be recognized that such an international institution would exist
as an intermediary in trade flows. Countertrade is currently a thriving
business because many developing countries suffer a foreign exchange
shortage. Permit trading can be seen as a source of foreign exchange for
these countries as they can be sold back to the pollution/exchange bank for
hard currency.

johnesm

unread,
Jun 22, 1999, 3:00:00 AM6/22/99
to

>
>I never put words in other people mouths.

Sure, just like you never unjustly insult people or never tell lies....


Ian St. John

unread,
Jun 22, 1999, 3:00:00 AM6/22/99
to

johnesm <joh...@earthlink.net> wrote in message
news:7knbdf$20b$1...@holly.prod.itd.earthlink.net...

>
> >
> >I never put words in other people mouths.
>
>
>
> Sure, just like you never unjustly insult people or never tell
lies....
>

Why thank you.. Good of you to notice.

Now if you could just clean up your own act...

Joshua Halpern

unread,
Jun 22, 1999, 3:00:00 AM6/22/99
to
johnesm (joh...@earthlink.net) wrote:
: Ian St. John wrote in message ...
: Snipped
: First of all, if we increase CO2 levels significantly, and CO2 absorbs

: long wave infrared, then significant temperature changes should be apparent
: within a short time, since it will begin absorbing this heat right away.

First of all, because there was already 290 ppm CO2 in the air, the
increase to 350 and above will result in a less than linear response
because the strongest lines are already saturated. This also is why
gasses such and CFCs have a much higher greenhouse impact.

Second, you are not carefully differentiating between temperature
and heat flow. The effect of the oceans is much larger than you
imply in the paragraph below, and the temperature response of the
system, therefore slower. OTOH, once the global temperature starts
to rise, as the oceans accomodate to the increased insolation, it
becomes extremely hard (impossible) to slow down and/or stabilize

The amount of warming observed is just about what we expected. As
always, it is what we expect in the future that is important.

: True, oceans and ice will cause the equilibrium temperature to be reached


: sometime later, but significant warming should already have occured, as
: predicted by climate models. Some would say that the 0.6º C of warming
: observed in the past 120 years is because of our increased greenhouse gas
: emissions.

josh halpern

Ian St. John

unread,
Jun 22, 1999, 3:00:00 AM6/22/99
to

Joshua Halpern <jhal...@ms1.dgsys.com> wrote in message
news:7kovr7$9gv$1...@news.dgsys.com...

> johnesm (joh...@earthlink.net) wrote:
> : Ian St. John wrote in message ...
> : Snipped
> : First of all, if we increase CO2 levels significantly, and CO2
absorbs
> : long wave infrared, then significant temperature changes should be
apparent
> : within a short time, since it will begin absorbing this heat right
away.

Joshua! Your snip makes it look like these are my claims, rather than
johnesm. Please be more careful...

Michael Tobis

unread,
Jun 23, 1999, 3:00:00 AM6/23/99
to
My beliefs regarding the costs and benefits of climate change:

1) Global mean temperature is a mere proxy measure of change,
and very large climate shifts with very small global mean temperature
change are admissible, while the opposite case is meaningless. So focusing
on mean temperature shifts already has a neutral to overly optimistic
outcome.

2) As everyone is constantly pointing out, current understanding of climate
as embodied in dynamic climate models is relatively crude. The result is
indeed that the models are unreliable. However, contrary to what I have
seen anywhere in the popular press, this means that the models are biased
to produce results similar to contemporary climate using contemporary
boundary conditions. They therefore tend to be undersensitive to perturbations.
Again, this implies that the median modeling result may be an underestimate.
Another problem is that the real world has more degrees of freedom than any
model, so modes not accounted for in models may be excited in reality. Again
this causes model projections to be conservative regarding change estimates.

3) As has been stated recently, human institutions are built around prevailing
conditions. Therefore any change occurring more rapidly than the optimum
replacement time for these institutions has considerable costs. The example
of building near sea level is the most obvious, though here it seems that
the relevant time constants are long (several centuries rather than several
decades). Regarding climate change itself, the dominant time constants
are those of the atmosphere and the upper ocean, respectively a month or
so (effectively instantaneous) and roughly 20 to 30 years. So the non-sea-level
related changes are not imponderably distant in time.

4) It is clear enough that a change of 20 C would be cataclysmic, whether
that change is a warming or a cooling. It is also clear enough that a change
of 0.2 C is of little consequence, and may be on net beneficial. There is
no reason to believe that this function is linear. The contemplated changes
(~2 C) are large enough that we can not have total confidence that the impacts
will not be catastrophic.

5) There is no plausible argument that any particular climate change will have
a beneficial impact comparable to the worst plausible case negative impact.

6) The risk-weighted cost of unrestrained anthropogenic perturbation must
therefore be dominated by the fact that the plausible worst cases have more
cost than the plausible best cases have benefit.

7) I believe that resources should be dedicated not only to best models
of current climate but to explorations of plausible worst case scenarios,
precisely because these dominate the risk-weighted cost. This is the main
way in which science can directly relate to the rational mitigation response
strategy, if there's a sensible way to do it. I have heard of no efforts
in this direction. Climate science as currently performed can provide much
more of use to adaptation strategies, which are local, than to mitigation
strategies, which are global.

8) The magnitude of the best estimate temperature climate sensitivity
to anthropogenic inputs is not likely to change unless new global scale
processes become active. The current global temperature sensitivity is
well understood barring such changes, despite what you read in the press.
Point 2 above implies that at longer time scales, model changes are more
likely to be underestimates than overestimates. For the foreseeable future
the global picture is not likely to change.

9) Most of our knowledge points to the changes being larger than appear in
nature. Meanwhile our ignorance prevents us from knowing at what level these
changes become intolerable. The potential risk is enormous. The potential
benefit is modest.

10) There is no *guarantee* that the climate shift will not be advantageous.
There are reasons to suspect otherwise. There are *strong* reasons to
suspect that *sufficiently rapid* changes are disadvantageous and
it's perfectly obvious that *sufficiently large* changes are disadvantageous.
The most important point, though, is that plausible negative outcomes
have much larger costs than plausible positive outcomes have benefits.

11) The correct level and strategy of response are difficult to establish,
and intelligent and vigorous discussion is warranted. Delay is not. The
time constants of the human system that causes the perturbation and the
time constants of the climate response don't offer any zone of comfort.
Indeed it is difficult to eliminate the prospect of very serious consequences
of the perturbation that has already taken place or will unavoidably occur
before effective policies can be implemented.

12) The most likely time for catastrophic consequences not involving sea
level change is in the next century. This is neither in the typical political
time frame nor so far in the future that the matter can be treated as merely
theoretical.

mt
--
Michael Tobis


Ian St John

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Jun 23, 1999, 3:00:00 AM6/23/99
to
Michael Tobis <to...@scrap.ssec.wisc.edu> wrote in message
news:7krs4b$p...@spool.cs.wisc.edu...
<snip>

> 3) As has been stated recently, human institutions are built around
prevailing
> conditions. Therefore any change occurring more rapidly than the
optimum

Actually, that was probably my statement you are quoting. One point I
did not bring up at the time was politics. Not of the solution, but as
it relates to 'costs' of even moderate climate changes. As I stated,
we have a significant investment in the 'status quo' based on expected
patterns and limits of climate. Changes may be neutral in balance, and
yet cause significant costs through the obsolesence of one investment
and the need to invest elsewhere.

But this also assumes a 'uniform and rational' plan. The fact is that
we recently paid a few hundred billion for the instransigence of one
man and his policy of taking the land, lives, and livelihood of
another ethnic clan, without even the poor excuse of necessity.

Now. Say we have Bangladesh, where changes in rainfall have made
floods go from a regular disaster to something where no crops can be
grown and the people are starving or flooded. Other land may benefit
from these increased rains. Say, the Gobi desert. Does anyone really
think that the displaced Bangladesh will be able to farm the Gobi
desert? That China would ignore its own 'windfall' ? Or would the
desperate and starving Bangladesh push the nuclear button and at least
get a shot in at their traditional enemy India, who will use the
crisis to take over the disputed Kashmir. Their one remaining farming
area...

I would suggest that those who dismiss the fallout from climate
disruption as good news for those tired of winter to start thinking
about what kind of cost they will pay in reality. It won't be simple.
It won't be rational. It won't be linear. We have a significant
investment in the current political map, and the costs of disruptions
there tend to be non-linear. Country against country, region against
region, state against federal. One poster has already pointed out that
as she lives in high country, the problems of Florida, the missisippi
delta, etc from flooding don't concern her, and she won't pay for
*their* problems. Easier to say 'tough luck', and vote to block relief
or rebuilding aid. Drought, floods, violent weather. It will be a
grand fight, with eventual costs orders of magnitude greater than the
actual damage.

John McCarthy

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Jun 26, 1999, 3:00:00 AM6/26/99
to
to...@scrap.ssec.wisc.edu (Michael Tobis) writes:

If we have to, we can move away from sea level in weeks and build
replacement housing in two years.

This is a very rational analysis, but it omits some important points.

1. I don't know whether this is true of climate change, but in human
life, one cannot ordinarily afford to assume the very worst case.
When I am driving, a worst case is that a crazy person will be driving
the wrong way at high speed and will have a head-on crash with me as a
way of committing suicide. If I assumed it, I would drive very slowly
in the right lane and be prepared at any time to stop the car, get out
and run away. On the other hand, when I contemplate passing another
car on the approach to a hill, I can assume a locally worst case of
another car coming over the hill just as I pass. Unless I can be sure
of completing the passing in time, I will postpone passing.

2. The U.S. could cut its carbon emissions in half in six months or
less if an emergency was perceived to warrant it. Within a month of
the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, all manufacture of passenger cars
was stopped so that materials, labor and factories could be devoted to
the war effort. Judging from the history of mobilizations for war in
the past, so could any other country.

3. The most effective way of reducing carbon emissions is the
widespread use of nuclear power. Under emergency conditions, though
well short of a war emergency plants could be built in two years. I
got this from a V-P of Westinghouse at a 1979 conference on a possible
very bad oil crisis. He said he couldn't say how much faster than two
years a war-level emergency would permit.

Present politics doesn't permit any new nuclear plants in the U.S.
One environmental leader said to me that the environmental movement
might have to re-evaluate its attitude to nuclear power. Indeed some
of them see that, but at present the unity of their movement is more
important than mere rationality, and there are still plenty of
fanatics.

4. Realistically, no country (Western or Third World) will
significantly cut its standard of living as a mere precaution. The
politicians will make gestures and may cause some inadvertent actual
damage, but we'll just have to let the CO2 creep up and see what
happens.


--
John McCarthy, Computer Science Department, Stanford, CA 94305
http://www-formal.stanford.edu/jmc/progress/
He who refuses to do arithmetic is doomed to talk nonsense.

Ian St John

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Jun 26, 1999, 3:00:00 AM6/26/99
to

John McCarthy <j...@Steam.Stanford.EDU> wrote in message
news:x4hn1xm...@Steam.Stanford.EDU...
<snip>

> If we have to, we can move away from sea level in weeks and build
> replacement housing in two years.

I don't think the point is the cost of action, once the problem is
apparent. Are you going to move Forida to the Miswest? Bangladesh to
India? The cost and benefits or solutions will, in many cases, be on
opposite sides of political, social, and ethnic boundaries. One
million Albanians were recently move to escape a different flood. We
are still adding up the cost of relocations..

<snip of good summation of action plan elements>

I wouldn't ignore the potential of solar power satellite development.
This should be done with sufficient base load nuclear and hydro
capacity to maintain minimum services, to minimize potential problems
of deliberate damage in the case of conflict.


Miguel Aguirre

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Jun 28, 1999, 3:00:00 AM6/28/99
to
In article <x4hn1xm...@Steam.Stanford.EDU> , John McCarthy

<j...@Steam.Stanford.EDU> wrote:
>
>1. I don't know whether this is true of climate change, but in human
>life, one cannot ordinarily afford to assume the very worst case.
>When I am driving, a worst case is that a crazy person will be driving
>the wrong way at high speed and will have a head-on crash with me as a
>way of committing suicide. If I assumed it, I would drive very slowly
>in the right lane and be prepared at any time to stop the car, get out
>and run away. On the other hand, when I contemplate passing another
>car on the approach to a hill, I can assume a locally worst case of
>another car coming over the hill just as I pass. Unless I can be sure
>of completing the passing in time, I will postpone passing.
>

What you said is very logic but the CO2 reducing policies that have been
proposed are not based in a very worst case scenario. Most of them ask for
stopping the increase for a while and then reduce the emissions slowly

>2. The U.S. could cut its carbon emissions in half in six months or
>less if an emergency was perceived to warrant it. Within a month of
>the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, all manufacture of passenger cars
>was stopped so that materials, labor and factories could be devoted to
>the war effort. Judging from the history of mobilizations for war in
>the past, so could any other country.
>

You are right but this drastic approach will only be justifiable if a worst
case scenario were not only proven but out there for all of them to be seen
so that the population would accept 'war' measures. Furthermore had the
catastrophe already happened it would be too late for measures, even 'war'
measures to be very effective. Going back to your point 1) above. This 1/2
reduction will be the worst case scenario you mention there. The gentle
reduction will be more in line with acting over Japan in 1939 add save the
money of the war.

>3. The most effective way of reducing carbon emissions is the
>widespread use of nuclear power. Under emergency conditions, though
>well short of a war emergency plants could be built in two years. I
>got this from a V-P of Westinghouse at a 1979 conference on a possible
>very bad oil crisis. He said he couldn't say how much faster than two
>years a war-level emergency would permit.
>

You are fully right. Nuclear energy is the easiest way to reduce CO2
missions and it is a shame that the environmental movement does not see it.


>4. Realistically, no country (Western or Third World) will
>significantly cut its standard of living as a mere precaution. The
>politicians will make gestures and may cause some inadvertent actual
>damage, but we'll just have to let the CO2 creep up and see what
>happens.


Well, there are plenty of measures that will 'change' your style of live
without change too much the GNP but producing winner and looser. It is
interesting to compare the wealth pattern and relative prices between Europe
and America to see how a CO2 reduction policy could impact the American
economy. Thinks like fuel taxing could be implemented. Nevertheless it is
clear that the way the American society has evolved makes it more energy
spender, e.g. lower population density living spread where the use of public
transportation would be difficult.

Home e-mail: miguel....@wxs.nl
Work e-mail: magu...@estec.esa.nl
Please, answer according to the nature of the e-mail

Michael Tobis

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Jun 29, 1999, 3:00:00 AM6/29/99
to
John McCarthy (j...@Steam.Stanford.EDU) wrote:

: This is a very rational analysis,

:-)

: but it omits some important points.

: 1. I don't know whether this is true of climate change, but in human
: life, one cannot ordinarily afford to assume the very worst case.
: When I am driving, a worst case is that a crazy person will be driving
: the wrong way at high speed and will have a head-on crash with me as a
: way of committing suicide. If I assumed it, I would drive very slowly
: in the right lane and be prepared at any time to stop the car, get out
: and run away. On the other hand, when I contemplate passing another
: car on the approach to a hill, I can assume a locally worst case of
: another car coming over the hill just as I pass. Unless I can be sure
: of completing the passing in time, I will postpone passing.

The worst case is that *you* will be driving the wrong way! While it is
difficult to account for very small chances of very large consequences,
this is no justification for ignoring substantial chances of very large
consequences. If you ask well-informed people not about their best estimate
but their 95 % confidence estimate of best and worst cases, I believe that
you will find a severe asymmetry. 5 % is not such a small risk as to be
negligible.


: 2. The U.S. could cut its carbon emissions in half in six months or


: less if an emergency was perceived to warrant it. Within a month of
: the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, all manufacture of passenger cars
: was stopped so that materials, labor and factories could be devoted to
: the war effort. Judging from the history of mobilizations for war in
: the past, so could any other country.

Agreed, though this would probably be very costly compared to gradual
conversion to lower emissions. More to the point, the lag time in the
system means that once the emergency was perceived, things will continue
to worsen for some time as the thermal inertia of the ocean is gradually
overcome. The estimate is about a 20 year time constant for about half
the system response.

: 3. The most effective way of reducing carbon emissions is the


: widespread use of nuclear power. Under emergency conditions, though
: well short of a war emergency plants could be built in two years. I
: got this from a V-P of Westinghouse at a 1979 conference on a possible
: very bad oil crisis. He said he couldn't say how much faster than two
: years a war-level emergency would permit.

...
Nuclear power is probably part of the best strategy.

: 4. Realistically, no country (Western or Third World) will


: significantly cut its standard of living as a mere precaution. The
: politicians will make gestures and may cause some inadvertent actual
: damage, but we'll just have to let the CO2 creep up and see what
: happens.

Alas, this is probably true. We can hope that this mistake will not be
as costly as it might. We can also try to point out that at any time we
are committed to larger consequences than we see at that instant. I see
no justification for supporting foolishness on the grounds that the likely
outcome will be somewhat foolish. There is a continuum of possible responses
here, and the earlier and larger the response, the smaller the final total
cost.

That presumes that the policy response will be smaller than optimal. McCarthy's
point 4 verges on a concession that this is the likely outcome.

mt


mt


John McCarthy

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Jun 30, 1999, 3:00:00 AM6/30/99