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2015 SkS News Bulletin #6: Pope Francis & Climate Change

Posted on 2 July 2015 by John Hartz

Coal-state lawmakers attack climate rule no matter what pope says

Pope Francis’ call for urgent action to combat climate change isn’t having much influence on members of Congress from the coal state of Kentucky, who are working this week to block the centerpiece of the president’s agenda to limit the greenhouse gases that are warming the planet.

The House of Representatives is expected as soon as Wednesday to pass a bill by Rep. Ed Whitfield, R-Ky., which would allow states to reject the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed rule for carbon emissions from power plants. Whitfield’s bill also would ban the EPA from enforcing the rule until all the legal challenges are decided, which could take years.

There’s a similar effort in the Senate. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., is calling on states to defy the Obama administration’s climate rule. He put language in the interior and environment spending bill that would allow them to do so without consequences, saying the Obama administration is at war “against Kentucky coal jobs, miners and their families.”

Coal-state lawmakers attack climate rule no matter what pope says by Sean Cockerham, McClatchy Washington Bureau, June 23, 2015

Inter-religious march in Rome demands action on climate change

Several thousand Catholics, Protestants, Buddhists, Hindus, Jews and Muslims marched through Rome to the Vatican on Sunday to demand action on climate change and thank Pope Francis for his encyclical on the environment.

They marched behind banners reading "Many Faiths - One Planet" and "The Earth - Our Common Home - Climate Action Now!" to lobby leaders to take decisive action at a United Nations summit in Paris this year to stem the effects of global warming.

Speaking to crowds gathered in St. Peter's Square for his Sunday blessing and message, the pope acknowledged the groups and encouraged inter-religious collaboration for an "integral ecology" to protect "our common home".

Inter-religious march in Rome demands action on climate change by Philip Pullella, Reuters, June 28, 2015

Laudato Si’ and the Common Good

What business is it of the pope what goes on in politics and science? That’s a question that has come up in recent days and weeks surrounding the release of Pope Francis’s much-anticipated encyclical on ecology. Laudato Si’ (“Praise be to you” — the title comes from the beginning of a canticle addressed to Jesus Christ by St. Francis of Assisi) presents a fuller vision of creation and our responsibilities toward it than we’re liable to see on any given Vanity Fair Caitlyn Jenner cover-story reading day.

“The Church has the duty of scrutinizing the signs of the times and of interpreting them in the light of the Gospel” is what Gaudium et Spes (Joy and Hope), the document on “the Church in the modern world” that came out of the Second Vatican Council, said about just this kind of thing. “In Laudato Si’, Pope Francis is applying the teachings of the Church to one of the most important and also meaningful controversies of our time,” says Matthew Bunson, senior correspondent for Our Sunday Visitor and editor of the Catholic Almanac. “In doing so,” Bunson says, “he builds his encyclical on the legacy of Catholic Social Teaching. Like his predecessors in their social encyclicals, Francis is not concerned with settling some scientific dispute, nor does he claim competence to do so. Rather, he reminds the world that the Church has the task of guiding discussions toward the deeper realities of issues and crises and to offer prudent and timely advice.”

The encyclical in fact says, “The Church does not presume to settle scientific questions or to replace politics.”

Laudato Si’ and the Common Good by Kathryn Jean Lopez, National Review, June 22, 2015

Neil deGrasse Tyson: Yes, The Pope can comment on climate change

Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson has a word for those who think Pope Francis shouldn't comment on climate change.

The pope released an encyclical, or papal letter, in June that not only affirmed climate change was happening but also blamed human negligence and pointed to science to support the need for reducing carbon emissions.

"Numerous scientific studies indicate that the majority of the global warming in recent decades is due to the large concentration of greenhouse gases ... emitted above all due to human activity," the encyclical read.

Neil deGrasse Tyson: Yes, The Pope can comment on climate change by Anonio Blumberg, The Huffington Post, July 1, 2015

On climate change, Hispanic Catholics hear pope's message – and it's personal

On a June morning, Father Rob Yaksich, a park ranger until he found his calling in mid-life as a Catholic priest, presided over his first ever Sunday Mass at the historic Cathedral Basilica of Saint Francis in Santa Fe, New Mexico. That day, he chose the power of spreading the faith as the theme of his sermon.

“Think of the mustard seed,” he told those gathered for the early morning Spanish language mass. “We all carry little mustard seeds of faith in our hearts. This mustard seed grows, and if it is nourished, it grows into a great tree.”

The roots of the Catholic church run deep here; New Mexico is considered one of the most culturally Catholic states. The first permanent Franciscan mission is in present-day Santa Fe, which is surrounded by the Sangre de Cristo mountains.

The power of those Catholic faithful will now be put to the test twice over, with the pope’s radical message about climate change in the global economy, and his call for a phase-out of fossil fuels in the name of protecting the poor.

It’s now up to Yaksich and others to spread Francis’s message of urgency and make the seed of action planted by the pope grow, even in New Mexico, a poor rural state with a Republican governor caught in a pincer hold by the oil and gas industry on its northwestern and southeastern flanks. The industry accounts for about a third of the New Mexico’s general fund.

On climate change, Hispanic Catholics hear pope's message – and it's personal by Suzanne Goldenberg, Guardian, June 27, 2015

The Pope, climate change and the Catholic right in the U.S.

The conservative criticism of Laudato Sii, ("Praised Be"), Pope Francis's encyclical on the environment and poverty that began even before its release, has now reached a fever pitch.

It is of more than passing interest that many of the cadre of naysayers are members of the Catholic Right. And not coincidentally, many of them have strong ties to conservative Evangelicals. What is it that they truly fear about Laudato Sii? Is it the encyclical's inconvenient discussion of the disastrous implications climate change has upon the world's poor - or is it something else? To wit, does the Jesuit Pope Francis threaten to undermine the power of the Catholic Right-Evangelical political alliance? 

Among the rankled conservatives feeling the political heat are several hopefuls for the 2016 GOP presidential nomination, including: Jeb Bush, Bobby Jindal and Rick Santorum.  

The Pope, Climate Change and the Catholic Right by Frank Cocozzelli, Talk to Action, June 20, 2015

The Pope's ecological vow

In the days just before its publication, those involved in drafting the pope’s controversial eco-encyclical Laudato Si’ were much exercised about how it would be received by conservative critics. But Pope FrancisVaticaninsiders tell me, was unfazed. He remains so in the face of the onslaught of criticism that has indeed ensued.

The pope’s acceptance that global warming is almost certainly man-made has irked the vocal minority with more skeptical views. They say Francis has overlooked the ability of technology to provide solutions to climate change. They’ve upbraided him for ignoring the role of free markets in lifting millions out of poverty. They’ve criticized his dismissal of birth control as the answer to an overcrowded planet.

The truth is that Francis saw all that coming. As the dust settles, after the whirlwind that accompanied its publication, closer examination of the encyclical reveals that the pope implanted within it strategies to rebut these attacks. Laudato Si’ turns out to be one of the shrewdest documents issued by the Vatican during the past century. It has revealed Francis as a wily and sophisticated politician of the first order.

The Pope's ecological vow by Op-ed by Paul Vallely, New York Times, June 28, 2015

The Pope’s Encyclical, at heart, is about us, not trees and snail darters

The “dialogue with all people” and the “forthright and honest debate” for which Pope Francis calls in his new encyclical on “our common home” will certainly include — and, by the pope’s own standards, should include — close scrutiny of many questions.

Does Laudato Si’ reflect a wrestling with the full range of scientific opinion on global climate issues? Does the encyclical acknowledge and accurately weigh the inevitable complexities and trade-offs involved in meeting its twin goals of empowering the poor and protecting the natural environment — and does it take sufficient account of why billions of people have become un-poor over the past several generations? Does Laudato Si’ take adequate note of the correlation between strong environmental protections and democracies with free economies (high) — and of the equally instructive correlation between vast amounts of pollution and authoritarian regimes (also high)?

These questions I leave to others, not least because I have no interest in recruiting (or refuting) the pope in aid of a political or public-policy agenda — for, as Francis himself says in the encyclical, “the Church does not presume to settle scientific questions or to replace politics.” Rather, my particular interest in reading Laudato Si’ is religious and cultural. What does Pope Francis have to say about humanity and the natural world at a moment when incoherence, skepticism, and nihilism dominate Western high culture, and when fanaticisms claiming various divine or quasi-divine warrants wreak havoc from northern Nigeria to the Levant to the Donbas? What does Francis write in this complex and inevitably controversial document that might speak, as a good pastor should, to the flaws in humanity’s understanding of itself today, and that might point us in a more noble direction?

The Pope’s Encyclical, at Heart, Is About Us, Not Trees and Snail Darters by George Weigel, National Review, June 18, 2015

What Jeb Bush can learn from Pope Francis about climate change

Like the Pope, the 2016 U.S. presidential hopeful is Catholic and would be politically wise to share his views on one of today’s biggest campaign issues.

Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush has a climate change problem. He also has a Pope problem, and the two are converging with Pope Francis’ latest encyclical declaring humanity’s moral and ethical responsibility to tackle climate change.

Several prominent Bushes have had a nuanced, some might say tortured, relationship with climate change, expressing ideas that aren’t quite in keeping with the Democratic Party but are definitely not in line with the majority of Republicans either. H.W., George W. and Jeb Bush have taken similar approaches on immigration: not quite open-armed, but not hostile, either.

What Jeb Bush can learn from Pope Francis about climate change by Michael Webber, Fortune, July 1, 2015

Why Pope Francis killed it on addressing climate change

Beginning with my book Moral Politics in 1996 (Ch. 12), I have been arguing that environmental issues are moral issues. There I reviewed and critiqued conservative metaphors of nature as a resource, as property, as an adversary to be conquered.

Instead I argued that we needed to conceptualize nature as the giver of all life, as sustainer and provider, as having inherent value, imposing responsibility, and deserving gratitude, love, adoration, and commitment.

I suggested alternative metaphors of nature as mother, as a divine being, as a living organism, as a home, as a victim to be cared for, and a whole with us as parts inseparable from nature and from each other.

Why Pope Francis killed it on addressing climate change by George Lakoff, Alternet, July 1, 2015

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Comments 1 to 50 out of 71:

  1. Recommended supplemental reading:

    Invited by Vatican, Naomi Klein Makes Moral Case for World Beyond Fossil Fuels by Nadia Prupis, Common Dreams, July 2, 2015

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  2. If we seriously want to make progress then we should have a plan for the coal miners. It is entirely reasonable for them to be concerned about their jobs and livelihood. Nobody should expect miners to suddenly want to protect the climate without some compensation in return.

    I would suggest a five part plan to help the miners while we transition away from coal:

    1) Miners above a certain age would be offered an early retirement package.

    2) Training programs would be available for younger miners to assist them in finding a job in another field.

    3) Those who want to start their own small business could enter a program where they would train in how to do that, and upon graduation could apply for small business starter loans/grants.

    4) Incentives would be setup for businesses to move into mining areas to provide alternative jobs.

    5) Those who want to move to another area of the country could get a grant to pay for moving their families and re-establishing themselves.

    I wouldn't expect this to suddenly turn all miners into climate hawks, but it would go a long way to softening their collective resistance to change.

    PS: #3 should probably be implemented in many depressed parts of the country, not just coal mining areas.

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  3. An editorial in this weekend's  Australian Financial Review (a Fairfax paper) asks this question "Should churches be saving souls or saving the planet?

    The editorial then goes on to address this question as follows:

    "Perhaps Australia's churches would argue they're doing both. Unfortunately, those pushing fossil fuel divestment campaigns are doing neither."

    It then goes on 

    "At the root of the problem is a fundamental ignorance of economics among much of the clergy. Many bishops and church leaders are all too ready to engage in "lapel-pin political slogans", crying "neo-liberalism", or "fossil fuels", but without considering that without them all people, particularly the poor and downtrodden for whom the church claims particular concern, would be worse off."

    and concludes:

    "Real concern for the poor would result in an embrace of cheap energy, including fossil fuels, which, along with market capitalism and the rule of law, has been responsible for dragging more people out of the poverty and democratising luxury than any number of sympathic prayers."

    I suspect the coal miners of Kentucky and indeed elsewhere would subscribe to this view.  I certainly do but i suspect that my truthful comment might be self defeating

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  4. Hi Ryland

    For a large fraction of the world's 'poor', they aren't on a functioning grid anyway, so coal won't help them much. localised generation like solar and wind is much easier to deploy.

    It's also not an either/or scenario for the working poor in affluent nations. For instance, the carbon tax in Australia came with an energy rebate, thus avoiding the 'little old ladies dying from cold because they refuse to turn on their expensive heating" meme. There's no reason why we can't help the needy and ensure the long-term prospects of our environment.

    Most of the people who tell us how we should help the poor by doing some other alternative (Lomborg etc) have no actual interest in helping the poor. It's a smokescreen.

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  5. Ryland, the tobacco industry proves very effectively just how well "free market economics" serves the poor.  Likewise Nestle's promotion of baby formulas in the third world.  Any presumption that "free markets", by which is meant unrestrained corporate search for profits, will automatically help the poor represents simply ideology in action.

    In the particular case of fossil fuels, a universal carbon tax in western nations would reduce demand for fossil fuels in those nations, thereby reducing the price of fossil fuels to poor nations.  At the same time it would increase research into making alternative energy sources cheaper, thereby bringing alternative energy into the price range of the poor.  Likewise, divestment in fossil fuel portfolios can be coupled with investment in renewable energy with the effect of making renewable energy cheaper.

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  6. I think you're right about the carbon tax Tom Curtis but will it happen?  And if not, then what?

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  7. @ ryland #6:

    What will happen if the human race cannot get its act together within three years is starkly set forth in:

    A hard deadline: We must stop building new carbon infrastructure by 2018 by Stephen Leahy, The Leap, July 2, 2015

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  8. Divestment begets Investment: mixed market economies mean a winner is always picked and if the natural oligopoly is leaning away from fossil fuels then a carbon fee it will be!

    Governments simply provide and if fossil fuels aren't producing the comparative goods anymore then say hello to a new world.

    (Maybe we will mine moonrock for nuclear fusion fuel afterall...)

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  9. John Hartz @7.  Do you really believe that the world will act as suggested in the article to which you refer?  This statement, see below shows a staggering degree of naivety

    “By 2018, no new cars, homes, schools, factories, or electrical power plants should be built anywhere in the world, ever again unless they’re either replacements for old ones or are carbon neutral? Are you sure I worked that out right?” I asked Steve Davis of the University of California, co-author of a new climate study'.

    If this is what must occur then the world is doomed because it is a totally unrealistic proposition as time will certainly tell.  Is the building of the houses required for the ever expanding human population going to be halted?  What will be the cost of making all new homes carbon neutral? Who will bear the costs of, for example, insulation?  Will these strictures apply globally?  

    The mind boggles.

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  10. @ryland #9:

    It is extremely hard for any indidvidual to get their head around the enormity of what we are doing to the climate system of our only home planet. We have stark choices to make if we are to avoid self-extinction. Time is not on our side.

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  11. Ryland, I am quite sure that if the world doesnt divest of FF, then the people who will pay with be largely the poor, and largely those who not contributed to global warming nor benefited from FF. Getting off FF will very likely (without some new tech) mean paying for energy but I find the idea the the West shouldnt do so because of "damage to the economy" as immoral and repulse. Is it realistic? I dont know. How many people out there feel like you apparently do? I am heartened when talking to the younger generation who seem much more prepared to seek justice. Would they vote for a carbon tax? yes, I think they would.

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  12. ryland @9, it is quite obvious that if it is acceptable, in 2018, to replace existing houses or to build carbon neutral houses, then it is also acceptable to replace an existing house with two 50% carbon neutral houses; or to modify an existing house to halve its carbon emissions, and build a new house with just 50% of current emissions per house, and so on.  In particular, each 1% reduction in emissions from national electricity generation makes room for further economic growth.

    Ergo, Stephen Leahy's formula sounds dramatic, it really represents only a formula for no more emissions growth from 2018.  Rather than a cessation of emissions growth (and hence ongoing growth in CO2 concentration), what the world needs is the almost complete elimination of net anthropogenic emissions by 2050, and hence on the order of a 3% reduction in global emissions per annum.  That is a doable target.  Even with slow initial progression, a genuine attempt to move in that direction will allow very rapid strides in the near future.  It is not, however, something on which we can delay - and each year that we delay - each year you win your struggle for inaction makes the cost of transition higher (because it must be more rapid), and the end benefit lower (because of increased global warming durring the delay).

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  13. To me, voting against a carbon tax feels very like the Greek vote against reform. Okay, that is simplistic, but Greece cannot continue the way is has in the past anymore than we can continue with FF as we have. I think nature is rather more uncompromising than euro bankers.

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  14. In the context of overcoming human inertia re the mitigation of manmade climate change, the following caught my eye...

    People are more likely to respond to the issue of climate change if they can see it with their own eyes, research on thermal imaging has found.

    Sabine Pahl and colleagues investigated ways to motivate people to improve the energy efficiency of their homes. They tried three strategies, including a home energy audit, a text report about energy efficiency and taking photos with a thermal imaging camera.

    “We found across several studies that thermal images of their own homes are really engaging to householders,” says Dr Pahl, Associate Professor in Psychology at the University of Plymouth who will be presenting at the Our Common Future Under Climate Change conference in Paris from 7-10 July.

    Making heat visible: Thermal images motivate household energy efficiency, Our Common Future, June 30, 2015

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  15. Ryland cites an ideology ladden article above with this: "Real concern for the poor would result in an embrace of cheap energy, including fossil fuels, which, along with market capitalism and the rule of law, has been responsible for dragging more people out of the poverty and democratising luxury than any number of sympathic prayers."

    What's really cheap in this article is the rethoric. The real cost of the so-called cheap energies has been stored away or externalized and is piling up to make a for an enormous bill that will be beyond the means of all mankind put together. Even the Wall Street clowns won't have funny maths to get out of that one, especially in light of their math performance that culminated in 2008. Frankly, it seems that the clergy knows every bit as much about economics than these bufoons did. At least, their prayers didn't cost trillions to the World economy.

    As for how much concern for the poor happens in the free market fanatic circles, well, do we really have to stoop that low? Back in the days, free market was of course responsible for dragging out of poverty the 7 years old children working in textile mills 12 hours a day, as we all know.

    "Democratize luxury." My favorite. What a load of dung. Luxury would then consist of having light, running water and heat in the winter. By 14th century standards, that's definitely luxury. Unlike, say, having your kids go to a $50k/year preschool, or debating whether or not to run your yacht as a commercial charter operation in the Caribean during these long months when you can't use it because you're too busy with that pesky thing called work and you're stuck with private jets for transportation. Luxury is such a relative notion. For some, it's a high probability of having meals lined up next week. Perhaps we'll all get back to that point one day. The way things are going now, it certainly seems we're trying. A great equalizing of sorts...

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  16. Ryland, if we wanted to help the coal miners (in Kentucky/the US) we should have started ~60 years ago. Since then the number of coal miners in the US declined by about 90%... before natural gas, wind, and solar started to take off. There are now fewer coal miners than there are wind and solar power installers.

    As to your view that coal miners subscribe to the belief that we should embrace cheap energy... not if they want to remain coal miners. Natural gas is cheaper than coal everywhere in the US, and wind and solar are now cheaper in many parts of the country (and will be so nearly everywhere in just a few years)... even without taking the health and environmental costs of coal into account. That's why there has been almost no new coal power deployment in the US since 2008. US coal consumption is now near 1970s levels.

    In other parts of the world coal is still 'cheap' if the health and environmental costs are ignored, but even that won't be true for much longer. At this point, one of the best ways to help coal miners would be to train them on wind and solar power... so they will have jobs when coal becomes globally obsolete over the course of the next couple of decades.

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  17. Scaddenp, to my way of thinking you've got your analogy exactly backwards. Greece did vote for reform... rejecting the 'status quo' austerity policies which have been crippling their economy the past several years just as we should reject continued unhealthy reliance on fossil fuels. Likewise, nature has already proven far more flexible than 'euro bankers'. Greece needs to invest in growth that benefits everyone rather than clinging to a failed system that benefits only a few wealthy interests... ditto the world at large in regards to fossil fuels.

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  18. CB Dunkerson a couple of points.  Even though naturl gas produces less CO2 than coal per it is a fossil fuel so its use is still adding to CO2.

    You mention the advantages you say scaddenp has it exactly backwards but your comments too indicate a lack of understanding of the situation.  Greeks didn't like the way the austerity program impacted on their wages and pensions and employment and  liivng standards so voted against that program continuing.  Similarly those in the developing world will not accept they should be denied their use of fossll  fuels to generate cheap energy because it will impact on their standard of living.  No difference from the attitude of the Greeks to the austerity program.  

    PhilippeChantreau  In today's world luxury for many is remaining alive and/or escaping from terroism.  Other luxuries are clean water, food, housing sanitation, medicines and cheap energy

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  19. @ryland #18:

    You state: 

    Other luxuries are clean water, food, housing sanitation, medicines and cheap energy.

    Why do you apply the adjective "cheap" to only energy?

    What is your working definition of "cheap energy"?

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  20. @ryland #18:

    Do you acknowlege that the burning of fossil fuels is not compatible with clean air and clean water?

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  21. John Hartz

    I also applied clean to water but not to any of the other entities.  I applied clean to water because it has been an essential prerequisite of human society for millenia.  Similarly cheap energy has been a major contributor to the rise of Western society.  Cheap energy is just what the name implies.  Coal has been for many years the  cheapest and most abundant energy source available hence its widespread use globally.  

    You ask if I think burning coal is not compatible with clean air and water. Burning coal does pollute both air and water but burning coal does not preclude obtaining clean air and clean water.   

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  22. Ryland, as already noted... there is no need to 'give up' cheap energy / impact standards of living to divest from fossil fuels. Even without considering the huge environmental and health costs of fossil fuels, renewable power is now drawing even with the cost of fossil fuel power world-wide. As adoption of renewable energy continues to grow it will quickly become significantly less expensive than fossil fuels.

    Indeed, your claim that the "developing world" needs 'cheap' fossil fuel power is belied by the fact that many countries which previously had very little electrical power are now developing wind and solar power... because they cost less. In short, your entire premise is built on a false assumption. Coal is no longer 'cheap energy'.

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  23. @ryland #21:

    In response to a question I had posed, you answered:

    Burning coal does pollute both air and water but burning coal does not preclude obtaining clean air and clean water.

    Please elaborate on exactly what you mean.

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  24. @ryland #21:

    You repeatedly assert that "cheap energy" is essential to econmic growth, but your explanation of what you mean by "cheap energy" is downright shallow. Do you have any idea what the term, "external costs" means? 

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  25. CB Dunkerson at 22 You comment that "In short, your entire premise is built on a false assumption. Coal is no longer 'cheap energy'.

    I suggest you may have misinterpreted the tense I used.  This what I actually wrote "Cheap energy is just what the name implies. Coal has been for many years the cheapest and most abundant energy source available hence its widespread use globally".  The tense I used is the present perfect progressive tense which is frequently used to describe an event of the recent past.  That statement is perfectly correct and not at all a "false premise" as it does not indicate coal now is cheap energy.

    With regard to renewable sources of energy your assertion "As adoption of renewable energy continues to grow" is not suppofrted by the facts.  The percentage of global energy consumption supplied by renewables increased from 5.6% in 1965 to 8.9% in 2013.  Most of this increase came from hydro power. ( This does not suggest the imminent demise of fossil fuels as a source of energy.

    John Hartz  You ask me to elaborate exactly what I mean by my statement that  "Burning coal does pollute both air and water but burning coal does not preclude obtaining clean air and clean water."

    I am living in the middle of rural France a country that burns fossil fuels as an energy source.  The air where I live is "clean" so France burning coal does not preclude me enjoying clean air.  Similarly in Australia if I stay in Albany or Exmouth or Southern Cross the air is clean.  Thus despite the burning of fossil fuels in Australia does not preclude me enloying clean air.  Similarly with clean water.  Domestic water supplies in Frannce and Australia are treated, often by reverse osmosis and other processes  to meet the exacting standards for clean water laid down by health authorities.  In Perth we have also a desalination plant that produces clean water.  This production is not precluded by the burning of fossil fuels.

    I hope that is sufficient elaboration. 

    You also ask "Do you have any idea what the term, "external costs" means?"  My answer is I do. 

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  26. John Hartz

    My apologies.  In my answer regarding clean air and water I completely forgot to include deep wells which have been and still are a source of clean water in many rural communities world wide even if the countries where those wells are burn coal.

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  27. "Similarly those in the developing world will not accept they should be denied their use of fossll fuels to generate cheap energy because it will impact on their standard of living."

    So you are just saying people are stupid short term thinkers? Maybe, but hopefully we can convince enough to be better. To me, the Greeks are voting against short term painful reform in favour of purely imaginary alternative. Just like those refusing to give up FF. I suspect the Greeks are going to find what they have voted for a future which is a great deal more painful.

    You keep emphasing "cheap" - but levelized costs of alternatives dont look that bad to me. A realistic carbon tax might raise electricity bills by 16% short term, but hey you get tax relief from that and killing subsidies on FF.

    You are living in France - well only 8% of electricity in France is from FF. Nice isnt it? Not much FF burnt in the Indian ocean so that helps keeps air clean in Albany and Exmouth, while Albany windfarm generates enough electricity to meet 80% of Albany's needs.

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  28. scaddenp Try reading what John Hartz asked me to do.  I did as asked which was to explain a comment.  You may not like what I wrote but it is correct as you yourself have acknowledged.  Burning fossil fuels does not preclude having clean air and water.  And France generates 75% of electricity by nuclear power while Australia has no nuclear capacity.

    And as for my comment about the developing world I'm not saying anything about them being slow and stupid, those are your words not mine.  What I was saying is what has been said by developing nations at various conferences on climate  change.  As you may or may not know subsidy for fossil fuels is high in the developing world (

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  29. "I hope that is sufficient elaboration."

    Not really. France burns FF mainly for transportation or residential heating, as its electricity generation is mostly from Nuclear. In rural areas, the burning of FF for transportation and heating remains at low concentrations and has naturally a lower adverse effect on air quality. In urban areas, the use of FF for transportation is a problem, as shown by the dismal air quality seen in Paris. Even some rural areas experience terrible air quality if the traffic is concentrated enough, as is the case in the Vallee de L'Arve, which suffer awful air quality because of the traffic caused by the Tunnel du Mt Blanc.

    To truly elaborate, one would have to say that burning fossil fuels does not preclude clean air, provided the burning is limited to small scale point sources that are separated by large enough distances. In the case of large industrial sources, air quality is negatively impacted in close proximity to the source over an area much larger than the direct vicinity of the source, and air quality down wind from the source can be negatively affected over hundreds of miles. Complete elaboration would lead to the conclusion that the burning of fossil is compatible with satisfying air quality in a narrow subset of circumstances far different from real conditions. 

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  30. Ryland - you replied with anecdote and frankly with a contribution that adds absolutely nothing to the debate. Would France still have its clean air and water (on the whole, as opposed to in selected places) if it generated its electricity from FF?

    I did misread your comment (reading "developed" for "developing"). I do agree that developing world should be allowed to continue to burn FF (but that they should kill the subsidies since it promotes unsustainable development) and that to make that possible , the western world needs to reduce FF consumption by about 85% - and I think a carbon tax is probably the best way to get that happenings.

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  31. Incidentally Ryland, I have lived on 3 different continents (including Africa) and an island. I have a very good notion of what constitutes luxury in this world, and an acute perception of the the reality of the every day living conditions in the majority of said world. It is rather outrageous that basic necessities are such a luxury in some parts, while in others luxury means delirious extravagance. Advocates of unabated FF use do not show how things are going to in fact get better that they have been until now with the status quo. Surely nobody would suggest we continue doing eactly the same and expect different results, right?

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  32. Ryland:

    Let's go over this one more time. You stated:

    Other luxuries are clean water, food, housing sanitation, medicines and cheap energy.

    You obviously believe that the "luxury" item, energy should be "cheap."

    Should the other "luxury" items you have listed also be "cheap?"

    If not, why not?

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  33. Here's an impressive example of an African agressively moving forward with sustainable energy...

    Kenya’s New Wind Farm Will Provide Nearly One Fifth Of The Country’s Power by Ari Philips, Climate Progress, July 6, 2015

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  34. scaddenp  Whatever I write adds nothing to the debate.  As for anecdote I have no idea what you mean. To truly elaborate etc etc is to truly elaborate on something I did not say.  I know the provison of clean air is influenced by the amount of fossil fuel  in the vicinity but I specifically did not say that.  

    John Hartz You write "for one more time" then proceeed to ask a completely different question. Energy should be cheap so that industries can grow and in so doing provide wealth to the nation.  Both China and India concentrated on providing energy via coal fired power stations.  They  chose coal because it was the cheapest option.  In  both countries coal fired power stations still provide the bulk of the energy needs. 

    Whether the other items should be cheap or not is a red herring.  They should be available to all and they're not.  Can you not see that what we in the developed world take for granted as  the most basic necessities of life would be considered by those living in many developing countries as luxury beyond the dreams of avarice?  If you cannot then there is nothing further I can say to you on this.

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  35. Ryland,

    I have been reviewing this discussion and have a different perspective about the benefit of burning fossil fuels.

    I am an avid supporter of providing assistance to the least fortunate. But the assistance must rapidly develop their ability to independently live a decent lasting lifestyle. That means the assistance is totally charitable, with no expectation of a personal return benefit for the person providing the assistance. And the person providing the assistance needs to seriously strive to rapidly 'work themselves out of that job'.

    Essentially my view is that the least fortunate must be helped to rapidly transition up to a decent life that can continue to be enjoyed by all in the future generations. And they need to be helped by 'all of the already more fortunate'. And I also believe that a robust diversity of the ways of living is very important. So how the poorest develop to live should be the lasting sustainable way that best fits the location they are in (or they are allowed to, and assisted to, freely move to whatever location they wish - no borders - no barriers).

    From that perspective burning fossil fuels would need to be used for a very restricted rapid transition to lasting ways of living decently. The understood harm of burning fossil fuels and the fundamental unsustainability of burning up non-renewable resources clearly mean it must only be a transition technology with the shortest possible duration (in spite of potential profitability or popularity). As has already been mentioned by others, in many cases the best assistance for the least fortunate would not even involve passing through a stage of benefiting from fossil fuels.

    You are correct, popularity for the cheap and profitable ways that the most fortunate got accustomed to getting away with will make the required change of attitude a daunting task. It isn't daunting because of the inability for it to happen. It is daunting because of the lack of interest among all of the most fortunate to do what they all understand needs to be done.

    Any already reasonably well off person should by now not be obtaining any further benefit from burning any fossil fuels, not even natural gas. So the pressure needs to be on 'all of them' to start behaving responsibly as a duty of being wealthy.

    25 years ago what was required to be done was clearly understood by every wealthy powerful person on the planet. The efforts to discredit the understanding and to plant seeds of doubt have been ramped up by the worst among the wealthy and powerful. Many people have written about the campaigns against better understanding what is going on and have provided extensive examples of the unaccpetable efforts of those people. And it is easy to understand why moderately fortunate people immersed in entertainment or some other distraction are easlily impressed by the efforts of those wanting to discredit the developing understanding of what is going on and the required changes (or develop a misguided belief that supporting the benefiting from burning of fossil fuels by already fortunate people will help the less fortunate).

    The key required change is simply the leadership by 'all of the most fortunate' to live and profit in ways that are truly totally sustainable, ways that all others can develop to match if it interests them to strive to live that way. That means that none of the already fortunate should be making any profit or be obtaining any benefit from burning fossil fuels. They have all had 25 years to work towards that. Only a few have seriously tried, and they are fighting against the competetive advantage obtained by the deliberate laggards who knowingly have changed as little as possible. And the worst among that group have deliberately abused their wealth and power as much as they thought they could get away with.

    The reluctance of some wealthy powerful people to embrace the obligation and responsibility that is clearly required of them is the real problem. And lines of questioning like yours and the claims about what should be allowed to continue because it supposedly would help the poor is a poor excuse for the unacceptable inexcusable attitude of some of the wealthy and powerful. The poor do need help, and many among the most fortunate are only interested in helping in ways that they can personally profit from. And the worst among the most fortunate are not even interested in profiting from helping the poorest the best way they can be helped if it would be more profitable for them to claim to be helping the poor while doing something less helpful, or worse yet while benfiting from doing something that is actually going to be harmful to the poorest.

    That is my truthful comment that I understand will be difficult for some to accept.

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  36. " As for anecdote I have no idea what you mean" - you responded with anecdote as to your own living position as opposed to data on how to have clean coal.

    Anyway, since you are keen for developing world to have cheap energy, are you then ready for developed world to ditch FF so they can?

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  37. @ Ryland #25:

    You state:

    Both China and India concentrated on providing energy via coal fired power stations. They chose coal because it was the cheapest option. In both countries coal fired power stations still provide the bulk of the energy needs.

    At what cost to their respective environments, especially clean air?

    At what cost to the Earth's climate system?

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  38. scaddenp I wasn't asked by John Hartz to comment on how to provide clean air so I didn't.  In my original comment I said burning fossil fuels did not preclude having clean air.   It doesn't.   My "anecdote" was relevant to the point I had made  

    You comment "since you are keen for developing world to have cheap energy"  I'm neither keen or not keen on the developing world having cheap energy but the developing world certainly is.  This from Time seems pertinent:

    "Of course, there’s a reason why coal is so popular in China and in much of the rest of the world: it’s very, very cheap. And that’s why, despite the danger coal poses to health and the environment, neither China nor many other rapidly growing developing nations are likely to turn away from it. (If you really want to get scared, see this report from the International Energy Agency — hat tip to Ed Crooks of the Financial Times — which notes that by 2017, India could be burning more importing as much coal as China.) That’s likely to remain the case in poor nations until clean energy can compete with coal on price — and that day hasn’t come yet.

    The EIA’s chart also shows how limited President Obama’s ability to deal with climate change really is. The reality is that the vast majority of the carbon emissions to come will be emitted by developing nations like China — and much of that will be due to coal." (

    It seems that not only does the developing world like coal so does the developed world.  A report from the Guardian in 2012 notes that "Coal is enjoying a renaissance, with the highest consumption of the fuel since the late 1960s. The unexpected development threatens to put climate change targets out of reach – and much of the reason is the rise of a supposedly "green" fuel, natural gas." (

    In answer to your question "are you then ready for developed world to ditch FF so they can?"  Of course I am but is the rest of the developed world?  Somehow I can't see the oil, gas and coal exporting economies gleefully embracing that course of action.  Nor can I see the consumers of oil, particularly petroleum products, being overly keen.   Ironically, the burning of fossil fuels is an essential pre-requisite for the air travel that enables attendance at the meetings held around the world to discuss the developed world ditching FF.  And of course for participation in the many conferences held to discuss climate change.  Curiously, that irony never seems to be mentioned by those attending these meetings and conferences.

    John Hartz.  You ask in reference to China and India burning coal  "At what cost to their respective environments, especially clean air?" I don't know having not visited either country recently. Presumably India and China decided to burn coal in the best interests of the economic progress of their citizens.  Again, presumably, the governments of both countries considered the environmental aspects of burning coal were of secondary importance to that economic progress.  

    As for the cost to the Earth's climate system of their burning coal again, I don't know and I'm not sure that anyone can categorically state exactly what that cost is.  According  to author and mathematician David Orrell

    "predicting the future is difficult. And what’s more, the search for the “perfect model” of prediction often reveals as much about people’s sense of aesthetics as it does about the future"  and more cogently to the discussions here he comments:

    "Climate change prediction, for example, is no better now than it was 30 years ago," ( Whether that is true or not  I'm sure you know better than I 

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    Moderator Response:

    [JH] Link activated.

  39. Ryland,

    Please link your quotes so that they can be read in context.  Please provide links to raise your level of argument.   A story is just your opinion.  A link supports your argument and shows more substance.

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  40. Michael Sweet.  Clearly I don't know enough about posting as I don't know what you mean bt "link yur quotes"  As far as I know I gave the URL for each of  the quotes made by others to which i refer. except for that in #3 which is paywalled to non-subscribers to the AFR.

    In the hope that this is what you requiire but I don't think I've managed to link corectly

    #9 The quote mentioned is from theURL gov en by John Hartz @7. I thought that was clear but apparently not so my apologies are necessary

    #25 the URL is given and is (

    #28 the url is given and is ( But I din’t give a URL for France generating 75% of is electricity from nuclear power it is

    #38 URLs are given and are

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  41. Thanks Michael Sweet it looks as if I didn't bungle linking although its not as crisp as links by others

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  42. Ryland, The 'popularity of coal in China' was promoted by irresponsible wealthy people who realized they could get away with irresponsible dirty coal burning in China. And a lot of that development push was supported by already fortunate people who 'wanted things cheaper' and would buy the stuff made by the crappy cheaper way that could be gotten away with in China. And it was all defended because some of the people in China got richer in the process. Of course what is always ignored by claim-maker-uppers trying to excuse the inexcusable development because of the 'benefit to the poor' is the way that in spite of the massive growth of wealth in a place like China there remain massive numbers of incredibly poor people, with some of those poor people facing life circumstances that are worse than the life they had before the 'development'. I won't bother with links to any specific item for that. There is more than enough evidence available to anyone who is actually interested in better understanding what is going on. But one thing I will mention to assisty you in better understanding the unacceptability of things is that a person who was typically able to live a hard but decent basic life with fresh water and air, almost self-sufficiently living a decent life, is deemed to be zero-income. If that person is displaceds form their land and ends up in a desperate in a dirty city and earning $1 a day (which is nothing close to enough to live decently in the city), they are deemed to have improved from zero-income to $1 a day. And the people making the claims about the 'improvement' are either unaware of the reality of the evaluation they perfomr or are deliberately making up the evaluation to suit their interest.

    And the unacceptable displacement of people from sustainable ways of living does not just happen in developing nations. When the Narita Airport was being built the nation's farmers protested violently to the point of military protection needing to be provided for the Airport. I flew out of Narita during those early years and experienced first hand the measures put in place to try to defend the unjustified 'cheaper way to get an airport' from the backlash of people aware of the unacceptability of that 'development'.

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    Moderator Response:

    [JH] The readability of your posts would be improved if you were to break-up your text into smaller paragraphs.

  43. @ ryalnd #38:

    You state:

    You ask in reference to China and India burning coal "At what cost to their respective environments, especially clean air?" I don't know having not visited either country recently. Presumably India and China decided to burn coal in the best interests of the economic progress of their citizens. Again, presumably, the governments of both countries considered the environmental aspects of burning coal were of secondary importance to that economic progress.

    Are you stating that you cannot form an opinion about air quality in Inida and China without personally observing and experiencing it?

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  44. Ryland:

    Your understanding of energy use in China and India seems to be very shallow. If you want to move beyond platitudes and talking points into serious a serious discussion of the issues at hand, you need to do your homework.

    For starters, I recommend that you carefully read:

    The case for Australian coal in India is weakening by Lynette Molyneaux*, The Conversation, June 24, 2015

    Pertinent paragraphs from the article:

    Looking more closely at energy use in India weakens the economic case even further. The Indian states with the lowest levels of domestic access to energy tend to be in the north east.

    They are rural agrarian communities with, according to the Indian Planning Commission, an annual per capita gross domestic product of just US$500-1000. Low income levels provide little room for expenditure on electricity or electric goods. Consequently, the Planning Commission reports that state electricity utilities run at a loss due to high levels of unauthorised use and technical failure.


    China is the poster child for the coal industry’s message that coal can end energy poverty. But China’s success has come at a cost.

    China’s Health Minister from 2007-2013, Chen Zhu, a professor of medicine and molecular biologist, stated in an article in the Lancet in 2013, that lung cancer is now the leading cause of death in China and that between 350,000 to 500,000 people die prematurely each year as a result of pollution. There is not a single Australian that would welcome the privilege of having to live with the air pollution that has come with China’s development.


    *Lynette Molyneaux is a member of the Energy Economics and Management Group in the University of Queensland’s School of Economics. She was involved with the University of Queensland’s energy research series of papers entitled Delivering a Competitive Australian Power System.

    Lynette’s research interests include: the measurement of resilience in systems; and systems for carbon abatement with particular emphasis on incentives for investment abatement technologies. Prior to her involvement with the University of Queensland, Lynette has a career spanning 20 years in the Information Technology industry working for large corporations like IBM and British Telecom as well as small Internet and IT consultancies.

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  45. Reminder:

    5980 million tons of steam coal (mainly power plants and large heat plants), 950 million tons of cokeing coal (steel) and 950 millions tons of lignite (like) for cement production. Steel and cement are hardly using the heat generated to turn this into electricity and cement production releases an extra amount of CO2. Efficiency of thermo powerplants can easily be moved up from 30% to a 50%, cement production can switch to bio-coal. Both cement & steel can recupperate the heat and turn this into electricity. Steel production can reduce coal use by using more efficient generated power and waste heat from powerplants.

    No bussiness is hurt by implementing such, just the wallet of greedy plant owners not willing to spend a cent more than they have done yet for the sake of the holy grail of business: Money.

    Mining can be done with remote controlled equipment, afterall this the 21th century. Mining does deliver GOB, gasses (methane) wich can be used to power all mining operations and much more.

    Not that we shouldn't switch to truly renewable sources but during transistion a 5% saved by using better -available- reduces additional CO2 emissions far more.

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  46. "Are you stating that you cannot form an opinion about air quality in Inida and China without personally observing and experiencing it?"  Yes, I rather think I am.  China is a  very large country as indeed is India and it seems highly unlikely that there is uniform air quality over the entirety of either country.  So when you ask ""At what cost to their respective environments, especially clean air?" the question is somewhat loosely worded.  Do you mean the environment and air in the cities or in rural areas or in the mountains or on the coast?   However,  from the usual, rather aggressive, thrust of your questions I assume the air quality is poor.

    Nevertheless the decisions to burn coal and to continue to burn coal are decisions made by the governments of the two countries not by Western World do-gooders who believe they know what's best for China and India.  Perhaps India and China should remonstrate with  the  US regarding fracking or with Canada regarding recovery of oil from tar sands  or with Australia regarding the very high car ownership or the world'airlines regarding the fleets of aircraft continually criss-crsossing the globe carrying in the main, well heeled passengers from the Western World.

    I have take  endeavoured to answer your questions wit appropriate civility and as fully as I can.  Clearly I have not succeeded as you continually express dissatisfaction with my answers and your replies seem, as I mentioned above, rather aggressive.

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  47. @ryland #46:

    You state:

    "Are you stating that you cannot form an opinion about air quality in Inida and China without personally observing and experiencing it?" Yes, I rather think I am.

    Are you telling us that you do not accept the validity of the analyses of air quality made repectively by appropriate agencies in China and India?

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  48. @ryland #46:

    You state:

    I have take endeavoured to answer your questions wit appropriate civility and as fully as I can. Clearly I have not succeeded as you continually express dissatisfaction with my answers and your replies seem, as I mentioned above, rather aggressive.

    You make many general assertions that border on sloganeeing. They will be agressively challenged on this website and sooner or later will be deleted for violating the SkS Comments Policy re sloganeering and excessive repitition. Because I am engaging you in discussion, I have recused myself from moderating this thread.  

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  49. @ryland #38:

    You state:

    As for the cost to the Earth's climate system of their burning coal again, I don't know and I'm not sure that anyone can categorically state exactly what that cost is.

    If I take your statement literally, you have set an extremely high bar of certitude for anyone determining the cost to the Earth's climate system of the burning of coal by India and China.

    Please provide an example or two of where such a high bar of certitude is required in other determinations.

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  50. Ryland:

    As do many of my colleagues in the all-volunteer SkS author team, I routinely moinitor what is posted on this site's comments threads. With respect to your postings, I have noticed a distinct modus operandi at play. You start out on a given comment thread by posting rather generalized comments. When you are challenged, you will readily engage in a dailogue with oither commenters up to a point. When you feel overwhelmed by the responses to your posts, you pull the "victim" card and depart the scene. After a short respite, you begin the pattern all over again on another comment thread. 

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