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Climate Hustle

Explaining climate change science & rebutting global warming misinformation

Scientific skepticism is healthy. Scientists should always challenge themselves to improve their understanding. Yet this isn't what happens with climate change denial. Skeptics vigorously criticise any evidence that supports man-made global warming and yet embrace any argument, op-ed, blog or study that purports to refute global warming. This website gets skeptical about global warming skepticism. Do their arguments have any scientific basis? What does the peer reviewed scientific literature say?

 


Planet Hacks: Stuff

Posted on 20 July 2017 by Guest Author

Control climate change by controlling your consumerism! In the final episode of Planet Hacks, Climate Adam investigates how the stuff we buy feeds into the warming on your globe.

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5 comments


Climate denial is like The Matrix; more Republicans are choosing the red pill

Posted on 19 July 2017 by dana1981

Trump’s EPA administrator Scott Pruitt wants to hold televised ‘Red Team/Blue Team’ climate science ‘debates.’ The idea is that a ‘Red Team’ of scientists will challenge the mainstream findings of ‘Blue Team’ scientists. That may sound familiar, because it’s exactly how the peer-review process works. But climate deniers have lost the debate in the peer-reviewed literature, with over 97% of peer-reviewed studies endorsing the consensus on human-caused global warming, and the few contrarian papers being flawed and failing to withstand scientific scrutiny

So Scott Pruitt is trying to put his thumb on the scale, giving the less than 3% of contrarian scientists equal footing on a ‘Red Team.’ John Oliver showed how to do a statistically representative televised climate debate (so brilliantly that it’s been viewed 7.4m times), but it’s probably not what Pruitt had in mind:

Climate ‘Red Teams’ are a concept that the fossil fuel-funded Heritage Foundation tried four years ago, calling its 2013 ‘NIPCC report’ part of the group’s “Red Team mission.” But much like climate contrarian research papers, the NIPCC report was riddled with errors and long-debunked myths.

The name also evokes images of the red and blue pills in The Matrix, in which characters could choose to remain in the Matrix (denial) by taking the blue pill, or accept reality with the red pill. In this case the colors are reversed, but the concept is the same – by choosing the red team, Pruitt and company are choosing the soothing comfort of denial over the harsh reality of human-caused climate change and the threats it poses.

Fortunately, it seems like a growing number of Republican leaders are choosing the red pill.

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13 comments


Is energy 'dominance' the right goal for US policy?

Posted on 18 July 2017 by Guest Author

Daniel Raimi, Senior research associate (Resources for the Future), Lecturer (University of Michigan Ford School of Public Policy), University of Michigan

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

In recent weeks, a new energy buzzword has taken flight from Washington, D.C., making stops in Alaska, North Dakota, Texas, Utah and more: “American energy dominance.” Taking a cue from a 2016 speech by then-candidate Donald Trump, top federal officials including Energy Secretary Rick Perry and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke have begun to trumpet the notion of energy “dominance.”

Although no Cabinet official has offered a precise definition, it’s a recurring theme in a set of administration events organized around energy policy, including a planned speech by Trump emphasizing exports of coal, natural gas and oil.

So what does this new energy catchphrase mean, and how should we think about it?

Domestic boom

For decades, U.S. politicians have trumpeted the notion of energy “independence,” focused primarily on the need to eliminate oil imports from OPEC nations and other countries that may not share U.S. interests. But as other energy policy experts have observed, “independence” was never a smart energy goal. Isolating the U.S. from global energy markets is neither in the interest of domestic consumers nor newly resurgent oil and gas producers in the U.S.

For consumers, access to international markets ensures energy supplies at more stable prices. For instance, consider what would happen if a hurricane shut down production and refining along the Gulf Coast, the hub of the U.S. oil and gas industry. Without access to global markets, prices for motor fuels, home heating fuels and other products would be far more volatile.

As for producers, they have argued strongly for opening up, rather than sealing off, access to international energy markets. They’ve lobbied to lift restrictions on crude oil exports and encouraged exports of natural gas via new pipelines and liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminals.

Spurred by increased oil and gas production as a result of the shale revolution, these policy changes have resulted in dramatic growth in U.S. energy exports. In fact, net energy exports (energy exports minus energy imports) have risen to their highest level in decades. The United States could even be a net energy exporter by 2020 under one optimistic scenario.

The surge in oil and natural gas production in the U.S. means the country could become a net exporter of oil and natural gas. Energy Information Administration

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6 comments


Surrendering to fear brought us climate change denial and President Trump

Posted on 17 July 2017 by John Abraham

This story picks up where an earlier post left off a few weeks ago. Then, I discussed some of the political realities associated with inaction on climate change. In that post, I said I would revisit the question of why so many people deny the evidence of a changing climate. Now is the time for that discussion.

What continually befuddles people who work on climate change is the vehement and indefensible denial of evidence by a small segment of the population. I give many public talks on climate change, including radio and television interviews and public lectures. Nearly every event has a few people who, no matter what the evidence, stay in a state of denial. By listening to denialist arguments, I find they fall into a few broad categories. Some of them are just plain false. Examples in this category are ones like:

There was a halt to global warming starting 1998.

Humans are only responsible for a tiny fraction of the greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

Scientists are colluding to create this fraud.

Others are not false but are completely irrelevant. For example:

Climate is always changing.

We didn’t have thermometers a million years ago to measure global temperatures.

Cities are hotter than their surroundings.

Why would people think things or repeat statements that are known to be false or irrelevant? I am convinced that for the vast majority of people, they are not intentionally being incorrect. Something must be forcing them to be wrong. What could that be? Why are people so willing to believe and repeat lies?

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72 comments


2017 SkS Weekly Climate Change & Global Warming Digest #28

Posted on 16 July 2017 by John Hartz

Story of the Week... El Niño/La Niña Update... Toon of the Week... SkS in the News... Coming Soon on SkS... Poster of the Week... Climate Feedback Reviews... SkS Week in Review... 97 Hours of Consensus...

Story of the Week...

Seven charts show why the IEA thinks coal investment has already peaked

Global investment in coal-fired power plants is set to decline “dramatically” after passing an all-time high during the past several years, says the International Energy Agency (IEA).

That’s one of the most striking messages from World Energy Investment 2017, published today. The report, now in its second year, offers a comprehensive picture of energy investment from fossil-fuel extraction through to transport, energy efficiency and power networks.

The IEA report is not only backwards looking, reporting money already invested. It also offers a glimpse of forthcoming trends, by reporting the value of decisions taken to invest in future.

Overall, investment fell again last year, as the oil-and-gas sector continued to cut back in response to low prices. Steady investment in renewables, along with falling costs, saw 50% more capacity being added in 2016 than in 2011. But gains for low-carbon wind and solar are being offset by declines in hydro and nuclear.

Carbon Brief has seven charts with the key messages from this year’s energy investment report. 

Seven charts show why the IEA thinks coal investment has already peaked by Robert McSweeney, Carbon Brief, July 11, 2017


El Niño/La Niña Update

The latest ENSO forecast by CPC/IRI is holding steady since last month and favoring ENSO-neutral conditions (50-55% chance) into the winter of 2017-18. Although not favored, El Niño development has an elevated chance of occurring (~35-45%) relative to the long-term average (~25-35%), so we still need to keep our eyes on this possibility.

July 2017 ENSO update: Holding steady by Nat Johnson, ENSO Blog, NOAA's Climate.gov, July 13, 2017

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2 comments


2017 SkS Weekly Climate Change & Global Warming News Roundup #28

Posted on 15 July 2017 by John Hartz

A chronological listing of news articles posted on the Skeptical Science Facebook page during the past week. 

Editor's Pick

Today’s Extreme Heat May Become Norm Within a Decade

When 2015 blew the record for hottest year out of the water, it made headlines around the world. But a heat record that was so remarkable only two years ago will be just another year by 2040 at the latest, and possibly as early as 2020, regardless of whether the greenhouse gas emissions warming the planet are curtailed.

That is the conclusion of a new study that uses climate models to project when today’s climate extremes will become commonplace — or the “new normal” as they are often called in both media reports and scientific analyses. 

Global Temp Anomaly Record Years NASA

Weather stations in the U.S. that are having a warmer than normal, colder than normal and record hot year.

Just how soon that record heat will become the norm surprised even its researchers, but the information could be useful to officials around the world trying to plan for the changes global warming will bring to their cities and countries. It will help show when notable heat waves, downpours, or other extremes may become run-of-the-mill, and would allow planners to develop the infrastructure and policies to withstand those extremes.

“At the moment, it doesn’t seem like such a big deal when we have record-hot summers or years,” study leader Sophie Lewis, a climate researcher at Australian National University, said in an email. “But this study really shows the nasty side of our current records becoming more frequent in the near future.”

While the phrase new normal has been used in different ways, it was rarely explicitly defined, so Lewis and her colleagues wanted to come up with a definition that could be used on all kinds of climate extremes.

The team used the climate models developed for the most recent report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change to see when a global temperature like that of 2015, or higher, becomes normal. When such temperatures happened at least half the time in a 20-year period, they defined that normal as having been reached in the first year of the period.

Today’s Extreme Heat May Become Norm Within a Decade by Andrea Thompson, Climate Central, July 14, 2017 

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25 comments


Study: On climate change and elsewhere, politicians more conservative than citizens

Posted on 14 July 2017 by dana1981

Academics have identified a skew in American politics, in which policies that are implemented are much more conservative than average Americans prefer. A new paper  by David Broockman at Stanford University and Christopher Skovron from the University of Michigan suggests a cause for this disparity: American politicians perceive their constituents’ positions as more conservative than they are in actuality on a wide range of issues; for example, Republican politicians tend to overestimate support for their conservative health care views by a whopping 20 percentage points. As Broockman and his colleague Christopher Warshaw of MIT put it in an article for the New York Times: “Research shows that politicians are surprisingly poor at estimating public opinion in their districts and state, Republicans in particular.” This in turn appears to be caused by greater political engagement among conservative constituents, who contact their members of Congress more frequently than liberal voters.

The study's authors looked at data surveying thousands of American politicians’ perceptions of their constituents’ opinions, and compared those results to actual public opinion. They found that both Democratic and Republican politicians perceive that public opinion is more conservative than it is in actuality, but it’s especially true among Republican legislators. That matches patterns in grassroots mobilization—Republican voters are about 40 percent more likely to contact their member of Congress’ office than Democratic voters, especially when their member of Congress is a fellow Republican.

The conservative bias in Republican politicians’ perceptions of constituent opinion extended to every question in the survey, on issues such as firearms background checks, where GOP politicians perceive 36 percent more support for their conservative positions than there actually is among the general public—something that statisticians call “skew.” Similar overestimates occur regarding the depth of support for conservative positions on the banning of assault rifles (overestimated by about 18 percent), granting amnesty to illegal immigrants (9 percent), banning abortion (9 percent), and gay marriage (7 percent). This again matches statistics on grassroots mobilization—conservative constituents are especially well-organized and vocal on the issue of gun control.

The survey didn’t include any questions about climate change, but that’s another issue on which Republican politicians’ perceptions of constituent opinion appear extremely skewed.

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12 comments


Planet Hacks: Food

Posted on 12 July 2017 by Guest Author

Get global warming under control on your planet by changing the food you put on it! In the second episode of Planet Hacks, I take a look at the ways your diet could be causing your planet to overheat.

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7 comments


Those 80 graphs that got used for climate myths

Posted on 11 July 2017 by Ari Jokimäki

Recent attack on the so-called hockey stick graph is a compilation of 80 graphs from 2017 which consists of 76 graphs that describe local or regional situations, one graph that describes Northern Hemisphere situation, one graph that describes NH extratropics situation, and two graphs that describe global situation. As the hockey stick graph describes the situation in Northern Hemisphere, 80 graphs become 4 graphs, because local/regional graphs are meaningless in comparison to hemispheric/global situation.

Furthermore, two of the four remaining graphs have originally been published before 2017. We are left with two graphs from 2017. Both of them have been published in the same study, Steiger et al. 2017. The two graphs are indeed interesting as they don't show any sign of recent global warming. But see the figure below. Apparently, the graphs in Steiger et al. weren't good enough for the author of the 80 graphs article, but the graphs needed some editing (both graphs were edited in the same manner). There are also some other problems with these 80 graphs as shown below.

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13 comments


Conservatives are again denying the very existence of global warming

Posted on 10 July 2017 by dana1981

As we well know, climate myths are like zombies that never seem to die. It’s only a matter of time before they rise from the dead and threaten to eat our brains. And so here we go again – American conservatives are denying the very existence of global warming.

Working backwards from a politically-motivated conclusion

The claim is based on what can charitably be described as a white paper, written by fossil fuel-funded contrarians Joseph D’Aleo and Craig Idso along with James Wallace III. Two months ago, D’Aleo and Wallace published another error-riddled white paper on the same website with fellow contrarian John Christy; both papers aimed to undermine the EPA’s Endangerment Finding.

The Endangerment Finding concluded that the scientific research clearly shows that carbon pollution endangers public health and welfare via climate change impacts, and therefore according to the US Supreme Court, the EPA must regulate carbon pollution under the Clean Air Act. Conservatives who benefit from the fossil fuel status quo and oppose all climate policies have urged the Trump administration to go after the Endangerment Finding.

Both papers are rife with flaws because they start from a desired conclusion – that the science underpinning Endangerment Finding is somehow wrong – and work backwards trying to support it. In this paper, the contrarians try to undermine the accuracy of the global surface temperature record, which has been validated time and time again. They don’t bother trying to hide their bias – the paper refers to “Climate Alarmists” and speaks of invalidating the Endangerment Finding.

The errors in the white paper

The paper itself has little scientific content. Using charts taken from climate denier blogs, the authors claim that every temperature record adjustment since the 1980s has been in the warming direction, which is simply false. As Zeke Hausfather pointed out, referencing work by Nick Stokes, roughly half of the adjustments have resulted in cooling and half in warming. Moreover, the net adjustment to the raw data actually reduces the long-term global warming trend:

View image on Twitter

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17 comments


2017 SkS Weekly Climate Change & Global Warming Digest #27

Posted on 9 July 2017 by John Hartz

Story of the Week... Toon of the Week... SkS Spotlights... Coming Soon on SkS... Poster of the Week... Climate Feedback Reviews... SkS Week in Review... 97 Hours of Consensus...

Story of the Week...

The World Is on the Brink of an Electric Car Revolution

The internal combustion engine had a good run. It has helped propel cars — and thus humanity — forward for more than 100 years.

But a sea change is afoot that is forecast to kick gas-powered vehicles to the curb, replacing them with cars that run on batteries. A flurry of news this week underscores just how rapidly that change could happen.

Tesla Factory Fremont CA

Robots at the Tesla factory in Fremont, Calif. put together electric cars. Credit: Tesla Motors 

A quick recap: On Monday, Tesla announced that the Model 3, its mass-market electric car, would start rolling off production lines this week with the first handful delivered to customers later this month. Then on Wednesday, Volvo announced that every car it produces will have a battery in it by 2019, putting it at the forefront of major car manufacturers. Then came France’s announcement on Thursday that it would ban the sale of gas-powered cars by 2040.

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8 comments


2017 SkS Weekly Climate Change & Global Warming News Roundup #27

Posted on 8 July 2017 by John Hartz

A chronological listing of news articles posted on the Skeptical Science Facebook page during the past week. 

Editor's Pick

G20 closes with rebuke to Trump's climate change stance

Trump & Merkel G20 Hamburg July 8 2017 

German Chancellor Angela Merkel closed the G20 summit in Hamburg with a rebuke to President Donald Trump's stance on climate change, but the group of the world's economic leaders appeared to make a concession on his protectionist trade policies.

Officials had been at an impasse over an increasingly isolationist United States and Trump's climate change and trade policies for most of the summit, and Merkel made it clear the United States had made talks difficult.

"Unfortunately — and I deplore this — the United States of America left the climate agreement, or rather announced their intention of doing this," Merkel said as she closed the summit and presented a G20 declaration.

G20 closes with rebuke to Trump's climate change stance by Angela Dewan & Stephanie Halasz, CNN, July 8, 2017

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Mapped: How climate change affects extreme weather around the world

Posted on 7 July 2017 by Guest Author

This is a re-post from Carbon Brief by Roz Pidcock

In the early 2000s, a new field of climate science research emerged that began to explore the human fingerprint on extreme weather, such as floods, heatwaves, droughts and storms.

Known as “extreme event attribution”, the field has gained momentum, not only in the science world, but also in the media and public imagination because of the power it has to link the seemingly abstract concept of climate change with our own tangible experiences of the weather.

Scientists have published more than 140 studies looking at weather events around the world, from Typhoon Haiyan to the California drought. The result is mounting evidence that human activity is raising the risk of some types of extreme weather, especially those linked to heat.

Carbon Brief’s analysis suggests 63% of all extreme weather events studied to date were made more likely or more severe by human-caused climate change. Heatwaves account for nearly half of such events (46%), droughts make up 21% and heavy rainfall or floods account for 14%.

To track how the evidence on this fast-moving topic is stacking up, Carbon Brief has mapped – to the best of our knowledge – every extreme event attribution study published in a peer-reviewed journal. Our aim is to update the map periodically, as new studies are published, so that it serves as a real-time tracker for the evolving field of “extreme event attribution”.

Using the map

The map shows 143 extreme weather events across the globe for which scientists have carried out attribution studies. The different symbols show the type of extreme weather; for example, a heatwave, flood or drought. The colours tell you whether or not the attribution study found climate change had played a role in that event (see the key on the right-hand side).

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Why the Republican Party's climate policy obstruction is indefensible

Posted on 5 July 2017 by dana1981

Two weeks ago, Senator Al Franken (D-MN) had an exchange with Trump’s Department of Energy Secretary Rick Perry about climate change. 

Perry’s responses perfectly summarized the Republican Party’s current position on the subject. The problem is that it’s an indefensible position.

Wrong on the science

The Republican position is based upon a rejection of established climate science. When confronted with the conclusion that global warming is 100% due to human activities, Perry responded, “I don’t believe that ... don’t buy it.” But of course it’s not a matter of belief – that’s what the scientific evidence indicates. There have been dozens of studies quantifying the various contributions to recent global warming. I summarized ten of them in the chart below (details here), and the answer is clear:

all of it

Human contribution to global surface warming over the past 50 to 65 years based on ten peer-reviewed studies (see sks.to/allofit for details). Illustration: Dana Nuccitelli and John Cook

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72 comments


Planet Hacks: Flying

Posted on 4 July 2017 by Guest Author

If your globe is overheating, a common culprit is planes! But what can you do to fix the problem? In the first episode of Planet Hacks, I explain how to hack your planet, and get global warming under control.

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7 comments


Bad news for climate contrarians – 'the best data we have' just got hotter

Posted on 3 July 2017 by John Abraham

A new paper just published in the Journal of Climate is a stunning setback for the darling of cherry-picking for contrarian scientists and elected officials. Let’s walk though this so we appreciate the impact. 

The vast majority of scientists know that the climate is changing, humans are the main reason, and there are going to be severe consequences. We have decades of measurements that prove our understanding of this process. There is simply no debate or dispute. 

Despite this, there are a shrinking number of contrarian scientists, elected officials, and industry representatives that have spent endless time trying to downplay the impact. They have variously argued that the climate isn’t changing, that the changes won’t be very much, or that there are no viable solutions to the problem. Much of their position relies upon finding evidence that the current observations of warming are not great. That is, the Earth is not warming as fast as predictions. 

To support this incorrect (and intellectually dishonest) position, contrarians have scoured the data for any evidence at all that suggests the Earth is not warming. They have skipped oceans (which account for 93% of the warming). They skip the Earth’s surface temperature, ignore ice loss, ignore sea level rise, and in fact ignore everything except some select regions of the atmosphere. Their fallback position is that since a part of the atmosphere seems not to be warming very fast, this means the Earth isn’t warming or that climate models cannot be trusted. I know I know, this sounds dumb, and it is. But it is their current argument. 

But let’s pretend we are contrarians and let’s ignore the entirety of the Earth system except for this very small part. Do they have a point? There has been a lot of dispute about exactly how fast these atmospheric temperatures have been rising. Measurements are best made by weather balloons or by satellites. The satellites are convenient because they orbit the Earth quickly and can gather lots of information that is quite uniform across the globe. But satellites have their problems. 

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37 comments


2017 SkS Weekly Climate Change & Global Warming Digest #26

Posted on 2 July 2017 by John Hartz

Story of the Week... Toon of the Week... Quote of the Week... Coming Soon on SkS... Poster of the Week... Climate Feedback Reviews... SkS Week in Review... 97 Hours of Consensus...

Story of the Week...

Carbon in Atmosphere Is Rising, Even as Emissions Stabilize

Cape Grim Baseline Air Pollution Station in Tasmania

The Cape Grim Baseline Air Pollution Station in Tasmania. Credit: Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO)

CAPE GRIM, Tasmania — On the best days, the wind howling across this rugged promontory has not touched land for thousands of miles, and the arriving air seems as if it should be the cleanest in the world.

But on a cliff above the sea, inside a low-slung government building, a bank of sophisticated machines sniffs that air day and night, revealing telltale indicators of the way human activity is altering the planet on a major scale.

For more than two years, the monitoring station here, along with its counterparts across the world, has been flashing a warning: The excess carbon dioxide scorching the planet rose at the highest rate on record in 2015 and 2016. A slightly slower but still unusual rate of increase has continued into 2017.

Scientists are concerned about the cause of the rapid rises because, in one of the most hopeful signs since the global climate crisis became widely understood in the 1980s, the amount of carbon dioxide that people are pumping into the air seems to have stabilized in recent years, at least judging from the data that countries compile on their own emissions.

That raises a conundrum: If the amount of the gas that people are putting out has stopped rising, how can the amount that stays in the air be going up faster than ever? Does it mean the natural sponges that have been absorbing carbon dioxide are now changing? 

Carbon in Atmosphere Is Rising, Even as Emissions Stabilize by Justin Gillis, New York Times, June 26, 2017

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5 comments


2017 SkS Weekly Climate Change & Global Warming News Roundup #26

Posted on 1 July 2017 by John Hartz

A chronological listing of news articles posted on the Skeptical Science Facebook page during the past week. 

Editor's Pick

Mission 2020: A new global strategy to ‘rapidly’ reduce carbon emissions

Carbon Crunch from Figueres et al 2017

Figure from Figueres et al. (2017)

In April, a new global initiative called Mission 2020 was launched by Christiana Figueres, the former UN climate chief who oversaw the signing of the Paris Agreement on climate change in late 2015.

The aim of Mission 2020 is to bring “new urgency” to the “global climate conversation” with a call to begin “rapidly declining” global greenhouse gas emissions by 2020.

Today, in a co-authored commentary published in the journal Nature, Figueres sets out further details about Mission 2020’s six central calls to action. The commentary is endorsed by 61 signatories, which include climate scientists as well as a range of NGO, religious, political and business leaders. 

Mission 2020: A new global strategy to ‘rapidly’ reduce carbon emissions by Zeke Hausfather, Carbon Brief, June 28, 2017 

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Trump fact check: Climate policy benefits vastly exceed costs

Posted on 30 June 2017 by dana1981

When people who benefit from maintaining the status quo argue against climate policies, they invariably use two misleading tactics: exaggerating the costs of climate policies, and ignoring their benefits—economic and otherwise. In justifying his historically irresponsible decision to withdraw America from the Paris Agreement on climate change, President Trump followed this same playbook, falsely claiming: “The cost to the economy at this time would be close to $3 trillion in lost GDP [gross domestic product].”

That statistic originated from a report by National Economic Research Associates, Inc., which explicitly notes that it “does not take into account potential benefits from avoided emissions. The study results are not a benefit-cost analysis of climate change.” As Yale economistKenneth Gillingham noted, the report’s cost estimates are also based on one specific set of policy actions that the United States could implement to meet its Paris pledges. But there’s an infinite combination of possible climate policy responses, with some costing more than others.

For example, a revenue-neutral carbon tax is the proposed policy that currently has the most widespread support. One such proposal by the Climate Leadership Council has been endorsed by a broad coalition that includes Stephen Hawking, ExxonMobil, the Nature Conservancy, and George Shultz. And the Citizens’ Climate Lobby—a nonpartisan grassroots organization advocating for a similar policy—recently sent over 1,000 volunteers to lobby members of Congress in Washington, DC.

Regional Economic Modeling, Inc. (REMI) evaluated how the Citizens’ Climate Lobby’s proposed policy would impact the US economy. The REMI report concluded that implementing a rising price on carbon pollution and returning 100 percent of the revenue equally to American taxpayers would grow the economy and modestly increase personal disposable income, employment, and gross domestic product—the total of all goods and services produced within a nation’s borders. And the REMI report didn’t even include the financial benefits of slowing climate change and curbing its harmful economic impacts.

Those benefits are potentially massive. In terms of climate change, many of the benefits are realized in avoided costs.

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40 comments


SkS Analogy 9 - The greenhouse effect is a stack of blankets

Posted on 29 June 2017 by Evan

Tag Line

The greenhouse effect is like a stack of blankets on a winter night.

Elevator Statements

  1. More blankets = more warmth: The greenhouse effect is like blankets warming the Earth. If it is -18°C (0°F) in your bedroom, you need a few blankets to keep yourself warm. More blankets = more warming. Too many blankets and you sweat. So the point is that the greenhouse effect is a good thing, up to a point.
  2. More blankets means warmer inside, cooler outside: With an increasing number of blankets, the temperature above the blankets gets cooler, because more energy is trapped below the blankets. With increasing greenhouse gases (GHGs) in Earth’s atmosphere, the upper atmosphere gets progressively cooler, because more energy is trapped in the lower layers of the atmosphere. This is one way that scientists know that the recent warming is due to greenhouse gases and not due to increasing solar output. In the sleeping analogy, if you turned up the temperature in the room, it would get warmer both above and below the blankets. If the recent warming was due to a hotter sun, then both the upper and lower atmosphere would warm. But the upper atmosphere is getting colder, just as the top of the outer blanket covering you gets colder when you add more blankets but leave the room temperature the same. See the SkS article "Is the CO2 effect saturated?"
  3. It is not the rate at which you put blankets on, but the total number of blankets that determines your final warmth. CO2 emission rates don’t affect the final temperature due to global warming, except that if we slow the emission rates it buys us more time. It is the total CO2 emitted that determines the final temperature we will reach, just like it is only the total number of blankets over you that matters, and not the rate at which you put them on.1 Note: the emission rates are important for determining how rapidly the climate changes and increased emission rates will make it more difficult for animals and humans to adapt to the increased warming. But just like when filling a bathtub, to keep the bathtub from overflowing (i.e., keeping global warming to under 2°C), it is not the rate at which the bathtub is filled that matters, but the total amount of water put into the tub. Carbon budgets refer to the total amount of CO2 we can emit before we exceed a dangerous level of warming, just as a blanket budget represents the total number of blankets we can tolerate before we start to sweat and overheat. Some skeptics refer to a time about 100's of millions of years ago, during the late Ordovician when CO2 levels were higher, but earth was the same temperature as now, or cooler. They point to this time to imply that CO2 levels do not correlate to temperature. But during the Ordovician the sun was cooler (like a colder bedroom), so that the colder bedroom combined with more blankets = similar temperature as today. If you turn down the heat in your room, you need an extra blanket or two. Thus, with a colder room, your blanket budget is higher.

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