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Climate Hustle

2018 SkS Weekly Climate Change & Global Warming Digest #5

Posted on 4 February 2018 by John Hartz

Story of the Week... El Niño/La Niña Update... Toon of the Week... Video of the Week... Reports of Note... Coming Soon on SkS... Poster of the Week... SkS Week in Review... 97 Hours of Consensus...

Story of the Week...

Why Climate Deniers Target Women

Katharine Hayhoe Climate scientist Katharine Hayhoe has suffered sexist attacks from climate change deniers. Source: Katharine Hayhoe

Harassment is no stranger to the reporters, researchers and policymakers who work on climate change, but it is particularly severe for the women in those fields.

Canadian environment minister Catherine McKenna was labeled “climate Barbie” by the right-wing political blog The Rebel Media. Kait Parker of the Weather Channel suffered attacks from Breitbart News, which dismissed her forceful and lucid explanation of climate science as an “argument from a pretty girl.” Emily Atkin, who covers climate and energy for The New Republic, also has endured sexist barbs from Breitbart, which said she had “kitty claws,” and Rush Limbaugh, who called her an “infobabe.” In similar fashion, climate scientist Katharine Hayhoe earned the moniker “climate babe” from Limbaugh.

Certainly, sexist attacks are not unique to climate science, journalism or advocacy, but research into public understanding of climate change reveals an important link between sexism and climate denial — support for the existing social hierarchy. 

Why Climate Deniers Target Women by Jeremy Deaton, Climate Nexus, Feb 2, 2018 


El Niño/La Niña Update

More U.S. drought in a second-year La Niña? 

Currently, we are fully immersed in the second winter of a “double-dip” La Niña.   Although it will take some time before we can see how this event stacked up with past events, you might have noticed that it has been quite dry over much of the U.S. this winter, with drought expanding across several regions, particularly in the south.  Being the big ENSO fans that you are, you might have asked yourself, are these conditions typical in the second winter of a double-dip La Niña?  And are there any differences in how the atmosphere responds to La Niña in the second winter relative to the first?  Well if either of those questions ever crossed your mind, then you’re in luck! 

A recent study (1) led by Dr. Yuko Okumura of the University of Texas at Austin addressed how the impacts of La Niña may change from the first winter to the second for double-dip La Niñas like this one. Spoiler alert: Dr. Okumura and colleagues found evidence that U.S. drought and the North Pacific atmospheric circulation anomalies strengthen in the second winter of a double-dip La Niña.  With that out of the way, let’s take a closer look at what they found.

More U.S. drought in a second-year La Niña? by Nat Johnson, ENSO Blog, NOAA's Climate.gov, Feb 1, 2018 


Toon of the Week...

2018 Toon 5 


Video of the Week...

The superstorms and wildfires of 2017 cost a record-breaking $306 billion. As the Trump administration has sought to reverse environmental rules, is the federal government prepared to address even stronger storms?

Is the U.S. Ready for More Billion-Dollar Storms? by Deborah Acosta, Climate Change, New York Times, Jan 29, 2018


Coming Soon on SkS... 

  • In-depth: Scientists discuss how to improve climate models (Carbon Brief)
  • How to Change Your Mind About Climate Change (David Kirtley)
  • Impact of climate change on health is ‘the major threat of 21st century’ (Daisy Dunne)
  • Guest Post (John Abraham)
  • New research this week (Ari Jokimäki)
  • 2018 SkS Weekly Climate Change & Global Warming News Roundup #6 (John Hartz)
  • 2018 SkS Weekly Climate Change & Global Warming Digest #6 (John Hartz) 

Poster of the Week...

2018 Poster 5 


SkS Week in Review... 


97 Hours of Consensus...

97 Hours Peter Hildebrand 

 

Peter Hildebrand's bio page

Quote derived from:

"I think that the debate is happening around the world. It's not a debate, though, in the science community. There's no debate at all there. The scientists know that human influences are creating greenhouse gases and these are warming the earth. And other things are — other human impacts, such as changing the earth's surface, paving over things and the like is also having an effect on the earth. So there's no debate there in the science community." 

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Comments 1 to 50 out of 188:

  1. This vile nonsense coming from Breitbart about women and other groups is unacceptable, and is a primitive defensive emotive reaction, not a fairly based rational evaluation. However not all people leaning to the right have these views in my experience, and Brietbart are at the outer extreme of the bell curve.

    Just simplifying down the qualities discussed in the article. Conservative's have sometimes been categorised in simple dictionary definitions as resistant to social change, and hierarchical and dominant in outlook, while liberals are defined as more accepting of change, egalitarian and accepting of differences, and inclinded to follow where the science leads.

    Scientific research shows liberalism and conservatism likely have genetic origins as below.

    phys.org/news/2015-08-genes-liberal.html

    So these political leanings go deep. and and are not simply learned attitudes and behaviours. Whats more, there are also differences between the sexes with more women leaning conservative, apparently (this may be counter intuitive).

    For the record it appears to me both conservative and liberal attitudes, so embracing change and being sceptical of change, have survival value and general moral value, just as society needs some form of hierarchy, but not perhaps an overly rigid one. But for some peculiar evolutionary reason it has lead to two separate political groups of liberals and conservatives. They usually find common ground, but are now at war in America. The conservative attitude of some people towards science and the regulatory role of the state is starting to become very frustrating.

    The dominant, hierarchical authoritarian personality type is very concerned with winning and immediate rewards, and does not like anything that gets in the way. Yet while winning and competition has a healthy side, our society can only function, and the environment can only be healthy with some level of rules, and consequences for destructive behaviour that causes people harm, or damages the environment. Dominant personalities tend to be strong on the criminal law, but unwilling to embrace other forms of law.

    However I have seen conservatives eventually embrace change, and become strong defenders of the "new normal",  and liberals sometimes become more conservative in outlook, so these qualities may not be rigid. This is just purely as a personal observation, but its a frequent one.

    So this vile nonsense about women and other groups coming form Briettbart and the alternative right is hopefully coming from an extreme minority. Or at least there are many shades of grey. They are clearly not very self critical, and are unwilling or incapable of change.

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  2. Re more drought: When land and air heats more than the sea evaporation from the sea is reduced according to a number of equations. This could be creating more drought conditions. See https://airartist.blogspot.co.za/2018/01/if-coastal-cities-need-more-rain-they.html for graphs, etc

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  3. nigelj @ 1

    I think another factor confusing the the liberal/conservative dichotomy is the continuum between the rights of the individual versus the collective good.  My concern is that in the US most Republicans are far on the side of individual liberties and do not care much about the public good (look at their views on medical care).  There is no question in my mind that this affects the Republican view about climate change.  If Americans are not even concerned about their fellow citizens, it is hard to believe that they will be concerned about the citizens of some small island in the South Pacific or Bangladesh!  It is this cynical view of their attitudes that prompted me into a debate (with I believe Bob Loblaw) on how realistic it is to ask Americans to calculate costs of climate change beyond their own shores.

    I am awaiting a book by Andrew Sullivan on Conservatism which I expect will be a good read in that Sullivan clearly is someone who believes in Mills' utilitarianism. 

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  4. NorrisM @3

    I agree entirely on the question of individual and collective rights, and your comments on the current Republican Party. Imo the Republicans have recently swung too far on the side of individual rights, at least in the business world and on environmental matters. When it comes to sexual issues and immigrants they still have a different view to some extent, and are happy for the power of the state to severely regulate such things.

    We know that for society and the economy to function optimally, we need a balance between individual liberty and community rules, there's no escaping this. It goes right back to people like Aristotle, so theres nothing new in this. Of course its possible to swing too far the other way into over regulating economies and individual behaviour as well. It's always going to be an intelligent, informed balancing act, and will never be perfect.

    JS Mill had the correct test when evaluating a problem and how to respond and whether a law is justified. We have to consider the effects of peoples actions on other individuals and also the public good, and whether they cause others significant  harm, and/ or erode the liberties of others. It then becomes a question of how we do this, and inevitably one has to consider 1) evidence and 2) science, and 3) simple logic, and this scares some conservatives, because it ultimately leads to things they may not be comfortable with, and a world that constantly changes, and has few absolute certainties apart from scientific laws. The Republicans see a world changing and it scares them.

    So In America the Republicans have fallen back to promoting an extreme form of individual liberty, and opposing even obviously sensible environmental rules, and attempts to provide at least some basic universal healthcare.

    So yes  the Trump administration and current RC  is very hostile to considering the costs of climate change beyond Americas shores. This has been reinforced by Trumps dislike of international multi party agreements, and his slight isolationist tendencies. As a proponent of sensible globalism this frutrates me, and America will find it cannot entirely isolate itself from the international effects of climate change, and potential refugee crises, no matter how many walls it builds.

    Some form of global cooperation makes more sense, however I do agree with Trump to the extent that countries have to obey international rules, and all pull their weight and not dump their products on other peoples markets etcetera. But Trump and the RC is stupid to want to tear down a global international rules based order,  international multi party agreements, or free trade in principle, or expect everyone to renegotiate the Paris accord endlessly just to suit Trump's planet sized ego, and bully boy attitude. It can't be allowed to happen this way.

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  5. NorrisM @3:

    Although you won't find me disagreeing with the idea that many Americans (especially the current "leadership" in Washington) have a rather low opinion of "collective good" (especially outside their own country), I would characterize our past discussions a little differently from you.

    I have tried to focus on what your own beliefs are, to better understand the positions you have taken on the climate science. You seemed unwilling to separate the question of "What do the Americans think...?" from "What does Norris M think...?" [...is the correct way to assess costs].

    My impression (right or wrong) is that you have tended to to use the American public perception/attitude as a mechanism to deflect from arguing your own position. You have levelled many criticisms at the science, only to switch to the sociology/politics of others when you haven't been able or willing to continue to argue your criticisms.

    Although I have opinions on the sociology and politics, I am first and foremost a climate scientist. I wish that you had continued that science engagement and learned more about it through further engagement on those issues here at SkS.

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  6. The issue is more complex than it is presented. But it can also be understood to be a sub-set of a higher level or more general understanding of what is going on that is not as complex.

    The key problem is a lack of a clear and consistent understanding of the justified governing global moral/ethical purpose for members of humanity. Without that clear common understanding the competing instinctive human characteristics of altruism and selfishness are more freely influenced by the social and economic environment a person experiences/learns in, generally to the detriment of altruism. In competitive systems rewarding winners the harmful things a selfish person would be willing to try to get away with can be seen to give them a competitive advantage 'as long and as much as they can get away with it'.

    My own view is that the 2015 Sustainable Development Goals are a highly dependable (unlikely to change significantly due to new learning) and comprehensive presentation of the objectives that constitute the Best Governing Global Purpose for Humanity - in my words “developing truly sustainable ways of living and working to constantly improve things by developing even better truly sustainable ways of living with all humans fitting into the robust diversity of life on this planet.”

    That perspective leads to a higher level explanation that encompasses what is presented in the article. The following quotes from the article and the related comments are examples of the better higher level explanation:

    • “... many men oppose rules and regulations that would change a system that largely benefits them.” This statement makes more sense when generalized to: anyone perceiving a personal benefit from a developed system would oppose rules and regulations (changes) that would reduce their ability to continue to benefit that way.
    • “As cognitive linguist George Lakoff writes, hierachs believe that, “in a well-ordered world, there should be (and traditionally has been) a moral hierarchy in which those who have traditionally dominated should dominate.”” In this case there is a more justified moral hierarchy based on the understanding that only truly sustainable activity is allowed to be benefit from by anyone. Those more helpful regarding achieving the Sustainable Development Goals deserve more recognition and reward. Those more harm deserve less respect and more penalty. That change of understanding is a pretty powerful motivation for the many less deserving current Winners to be as mean as they can get away with to try to keep that required change of understanding from occurring.
    • “When experts urge governments to regulate industry in order to protect nature, they are subverting the natural order — all the more so when those experts are female. Tree huggers and uppity women both threaten the existing male-dominated hierarchy.” Anyone who is perceived to be threatening the ability of undeserving winners to keep on winning will be attacked any way that can be gotten away with. The current developed society includes many people who are easily impressed by statements that disrespect Women. Sadly, there are many locations where there enough of those easily impressed people in an electoral district to swing the balance of a vote if they all get motivated to vote based on their understandably unacceptable beliefs. That is the basis for regional success of Unite the Right movements around the planet, movements that get away with claiming to be Conservative because many people who consider themselves conservative will excuse nastier aspects of the group they support, like denigration and disrespect of Women, if they see their personal interest being achieved through the collective voting of the United group (and sadly some people vote Conservative just because that is what they learned to do, and they are very unlikely to change their mind).
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  7. "The key problem is a lack of a clear and consistent understanding of the justified governing global moral/ethical purpose for members of humanity. Without that clear common understanding the competing instinctive human characteristics of altruism and selfishness are more freely influenced by the social and economic environment a person experiences/learns in, generally to the detriment of altruism. "

    Different personality types and different political groups in the USA were united to some extent in the past by huge issues confronting society, including dealing with the great depression of the 1930s, WW2, the cold war, the mission to land a man on the moon, and the widely shared prosperity of the 1950's consumer revolution, and the decades following that. This was until economic changes of ideology in the 1980's that weakened unions and embraced free trade etc.

    Things seem different now. We have emptiness, nihilism, high inequality, the benenfits of growth captured by a small minority of people, ideological conflict, and no glue holding society together. Its a very confused, unsettled sort of situation.

    "Sustainable development goals" and environmental awareness could be a new project for the 21st century, that unites people, and forces a disciplined balance between competition and cooperation. But its going to be hard persuading the Republican Leadership. Yet an environmentally more sustainable economy will still be a prosperous economy, as new things are developed, and new  jobs replace old.

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  8. Why climate deniers target women?  Why do they target Nancy Pelosi?  Or Hillary Clinton?  Or Kirsten Gillibrand?  Or Tammy Duckworth?  Or a host of other women leaders?   I think plain and simply, they are threatened by them.   Absolutely it is about the social heirarchy.  Until recently, I'd attended a very conservative church where women in leadership simply was not allowed. I'm very familiar with this kind of thinking.   You don't win over people of this ilk with facts or reasoning.  That just makes them mad and more entrenched in their thinking.  Yet you have to try.

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  9. Knaugle @8, I pretty much agree. Facts and reasoning do eventually win at least some people over, but it can take time. For example NZ recently passed a gay marriage bill, when just a decade ago majority opinion was firmly against this sort of thing. I have the numbers here for America, but NZ was much the same.

    www.pewforum.org/fact-sheet/changing-attitudes-on-gay-marriage/

    I'm not gay or particularly promoting gay marriage. Its just a good example of how reasoned debate eventually changed attitudes enough for politicians to pass the legislation. There was a lot of debate and information pointing out that gay marriage had no real, tangible implications for anyone apart from the two people involved.

    Although in NZ the majority was something like 60 / 40 in parliament, so not a massive majority. Of course religious conviction comes into the issue hugely, but even many christians accepted change.

    Of course some people will probably never accept gay marriage just as some people will never consider women as equals. Social conventions and hierarchies go deep, and don't change overnight. It  needs a lot of thought and discussion, but attitudes do appear to reach tipping points of change.

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  10. knaugle@8,

    It is important to note that climate science deniers are dismissive of women who present climate science or the required changes of human activity, the corrections of developed economic activity, that are exposed by climate science. And the way they attack the women is different than the ways that they attack the men because their target audience includes the portion of the population who will be easily impressed by the way they attack the women.

    Note that these disreputable people are not 'threatened by women'. They do not treat women like Ann Coulter the way they treat the likes of Katharine Hayhoe. They are threatened by the reality of the changes of human pursuit of pleasure and profit that are exposed by climate science, regardless of the gender of the person who is helping others be more aware of and better understand climate science. But, admittedly, they hope that some people can be easily appealed to that way because they have other reasons to want to be disrespectful of women.

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  11. nigelj@7,

    It is not helpful to think of the issue as a need for 'balance' between competition and cooperation.

    Sustainably Justified and meaningfully enforced limits on what is allowed in 'the competition for popularity and profitability' is what is required.

    Imagine a system with no rules and many situations where there are limited opportunities to benefit, with everyone 'competing to personally perceive themselves to be better-off than others, thinking they are the Winner'. What is expected to develop in such a system? How does activity beneficial to the future of the collective develop in the system? The people willing to do less acceptable things will Win to the detriment of the collective as long as they can get away with behaving less acceptably. And even if the collective decide to act in 'their best interest' the future generations will likely be the ones to suffer. This is what is happening regarding correction of economic activity in response to the increased awareness and understanding of climate science.

    The Sustainable Development Goals are all about the future. Achieving them requires charitable sacrifice of potential personal benefit. And that requires the charitable sacrifice to be shared fairly by all, not requiring that the portion of the population that is willing to make such a sacrifice try to over-come the accumulating damage done by those who care less.

    What is required is global awareness and understanding that popularity and profitability competition does not properly distinguish 'what deserves to be encouraged and rewarded' from 'what deserves to be discouraged and penalized'. The economy clearly requires diligent and effective responsible refereeing, contrary to the beliefs of many people including many 'economists'.

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  12. #10 One Planet Only Forever

    I would disagree in the sense that Ann Coulter or Laura Ingraham would be a good refutation were I talking about Rachael Maddow, but not for women in true positions of leadership.  Regardless there is a clear double standard that applies to women who are running the show.  Throughout the conservative culture and heirarchy in the USA, the social norm is that men are in charge, and women participate. 

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  13. Bob Loblaw @ 5

    A very legitimate comment that I have deflected my own views towards the reality of the present political environment.  What I find more relevant to policy discussions is what can be done today given the political realities rather than my personal opinions.

    Having said that, I will explain my view now that you have put me in a corner. 

    Karl Popper, a scientist, wrote one book on political theory entitled "The Open Society and Its Enemies", which has been described by the Economist as "the best intellectual defense of liberal democracy" ever written.  A key part of his political theory as espoused in this book is that man has throughout his time on this planet taken many "bold" steps and many times regretted them because of the "unintended consequences".  His view is that we should respect "incrementalism" in everything we do to avoid this folly. 

    Many will say that "Oh, yes I agree with Popper's theory" except for "this case" because it is the exception because drastic action has to be taken because of its seriousness.  This is the answer provided by the proponents of any proposed action, not just climate change.

    If we had a meteor hurtling towards earth which was clearly going to impact us, then, yes, that would be an exception.  But we have many years before the effects will be felt in any significant way and even the worst case scenarios do not result in the end of our civilization.  Furthermore, these scary scenarios are largely based on economic models which do not have the computing power to even properly input the effects of clouds on the climate let alone all of the other "non-linear" physical processes which together constitute our climate.  It is for that reason that I have begun to limit my research to sea level rises and land temperature rises which I can understand somewhat.

    So let us gradually move from fossil fuels to alternative sources of energy and not choke our civilization as a result of some massive denial of the source of energy which has brought us to this great flowering of our world over the last 200 years.  Man's  "leverage of energy" is what has brought us here.  But to deny the world of cheap energy at this time would take us back to the dark ages.  As of 2015, based upon IEA statistics, 81% of world energy was supplied by fossil fuels and of the remaining 19%, 92% was supplied by nuclear, hydro and biomass (largely dung burning) leaving 1.5% to wind and solar in 2015.

    That is why I am in favour of a carbon tax which levies a charge on fossil fuels that represents the pollution costs and encourages alternative fuels but does not throw the baby out with the bath water.

    It is a tough read (Plato does not come off well) but it is one of the best books I have ever read.  I highly recommend it.

    I trust this comment will escape the Moderator's clippings given that you asked me for my opinion on why I do not think a carbon tax should take into account all possible costs of fossil fuels (without taking into account the present benefits to the world).

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  14. Correction.  IEA statistics for 2014 not 2015.

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  15. NorrisM@13,

    The understanding of the need to gradually terminate the burning of fossil fuels and limit human pursuits of benefit to sustainnable energy consumption was established in the 1960s.

    The reality of obstruction of that responsible issue is now, 50 years later, clearly continuing. The reality of the near criminality of continued efforts to 'slow down the termination of the damaging and ultimately unsustainable way the Winners enjoy their life' will clearly need to lead to investigation into the actions of 'all of the biggest winners' with penalties assessed based on their Won wealth/power and the severity of their obstructive actions attempting to delay the change of undertsanding and action that is requied.

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  16. Knaugle says "Throughout the conservative culture and heirarchy in the USA, the social norm is that men are in charge, and women participate."

    This is true to a significant extent, but it's liberalised since the 1950's. Attitudes do eventually change. I have my optimist hat on.

    Dwelling on the intransigence of such people gets depressing, because theres no obvious thing that will change their mind, other than to encourage them to understand they are worrying about nothing. Its far more beneficial to have the best talent for the job, and not worry about gender, race etc.

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  17. OPOF

    By balanced I probably used the wrong words. I'm trying to say competition is a natural healthy part of business, and so is cooperation. They co-exist obviously, but there can be excessive competition, that becomes destructive and this can happen between firms, and also within firms.

    This is best managed by 1) rules and 2) having people united in some greater project that is beneficial to society. I think that was what you were also implying with the sustainable development goals thing.

    Regarding women in leadership roles. I agree certain male leaders have no fear of women, eg Trump. He is an unusual character and not really a conservative. He simply manipulates  blue collar workers when it suits, and they tend to be more insecure about the roles of women so he plays to their biases and fears, but Trump is happy to support some woman if it suits.

    But then other more conservative leaning leaders are genuinely fearful and resentful of women in leadership roles. Theres no denying this.

    I sense you are trying to steer clear of using conservative / liberal labels and identities,  to avoid infaming debate, and part of me is sympathetic to your constructive approach. But sometimes its hard to avoid discussing such groupings, because its a reality. However I personally try to at least  avoid the fingerpointing blame game, in regard to different groups.

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  18. nigelj,

    Thank you for the reply. I have found these comments to be very helpful as I try to increase my awareness and understanding of what is going on, particularly the ethics issues that have been unintentionally exposed by climate science.

    My concern with competition is 'allowing unsustainable harmful behaviour to occur in the competition'. Every game has developed rules for exactly that reason (and most of them constantly add and edit rules as new unacceptable behaviour gets identified. The more reward that is at stake in the game, the stricter the monitoring and enforcement becomes - except in the games of economics and politics (Olympic Soccer/Hockey has drug testing and very experienced Referees, pick-up games of soccer/hockey rely on the good nature of all the participants with some participants penalized or banned from playing for good reason).

    The global economy is the biggest game on the planet and should have the strictest monitoring and enforcement to ensure that only sustainable helpful activities get to compete; the more wealth at stake, or the more potential for harm, the more vigorous the monitoring and enforcement needs to be.

    And I find terms like conservative and liberal to be gross generalizations that distract from the important focus on whether a person is being helpful or harmful. The objective has to be improving the future for all of humanity. Conservative people can be helpful by restricting freedom of people to do whatever they may want to try to get away with, and Liberal people can be harmful by demanding freedom to believe and do whatever they want.

    What I currently see as a very serious developing problem is the Unite the Right movements that clearly strive to build a United base of support by tempting people to be greedier and less tolerant. Those groups claim to be Conservative because they know some people are almost sure to continue to vote for what they think is Conservative, not considering if they are being helpful or harmful, just doing it because that is what they learned to do and they are not interested in trying to learn any more.

    Conservative/Liberal is also fairly ineffective because the key is limiting of the behaviour of the individual. Libertarians are bit of a combination of both and often claim that competition will 'bring out the best in them'. Without a shared understanding of what is helpful, and therefore allowed in the competition, what they consider to be 'Their Best' is exemplified by the likes of Trump, a Winner they are proud to support.

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  19. Norris M @13,

    Karl Poppers writings are valuable. I haven't read his books, but have read various articles and summaries of his views, and he is very good in issues of deductive and inductive reasoning, and their ultimate limitations.

    I do wonder about his incrementalism. Or put it this way, I think its a good approach as a very generalised rule, angels rush in where wise men fear to tread and all that, however it's very hard to totally avoid making quite abrupt and large changes at times, because of the nature of things. Not everthing can be changed in little steps. What does incremental even mean, and how is it quantitatively defined?

    You need to appreciate Popper was involved in a personal tragedy that made him very sceptical of huge sweeping reforms like communism, so theres some personal bias there.

    So how do we deal with this? Well we can certainly recognise huge economic and social reforms always carry risk, so its unwise to rush in. We could all agree on that. Ideally its much better to do little local experiments to see if a policy works, before inflicting such things on a country as a whole. But this is not always possible, due to the nature of certain issues.

    Rational analysis can go a long way. Communism never made much rational sense, and was bad economic science from the start. But the failure of communism should not make us totally afraid of all change, or making large changes when theres no alternative and the need is pressing and obvious. I'm thinking some of Margaret Thatchers reforms which had to be pretty huge and abrupt to work (although I disagree with some of her harder right ideas, and some of her reforms could have been more incremntally introduced) 

    The trouble with climate change is this. It looks like a very substantial problem,  and it's not going away. Climate modelling is ultimately reliant on inductive and deductive reasoning, but we would be foolish to ignore this simply because such reasoning doesn't come with a 100% proven guarantee, or has its limitations. It's still powerful reasoning, and the alternative is making decisions on the basis of studying the entrails of a goat. And I'm not joking, in the sense its either science, or guesswork and gut feel and I would prefer we face problems on the basis of the former obviously.

    We also can't do a nice experiment and put the entire planet in a laboratory. We have no choice but to rely on modelling.

    In addition, the climate problem requires a very definite need to keep temperatures under 2 degrees, which demands a concerted and large effort within a certain time frame.

    Having said that, some things are actually consistent with Poppers incrementalism. Renewable energy has developed incrementally, and has effectively been trialed in a number of countries. I suggest we now therefore know enough, and the costs are low enough, to risk it on larger scale.

    And the nature of the beast means you will get your incrementalism anyway. A moderate price on carbon is still going to be somewhat incremental. Nobody is going to suggest some outrageously high price, abruptly introduced overnight. The trouble is the current pricing strategies are so incremental and weak, they are all but invisible!

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  20. OPOF @18 yes fair comment. The thrust of everything has to be in that direction.

    I'm interested in the liberal conservative issue partly as I did some psychology at university. However we should not let it totally frame the debate, and what individuals do is the more significant issue. 

    Unite the right is outer fringe, insane and cruel stuff.  Sensible conservatives  don't subscribe to unite the right, just as sensible Moslems don't support ISIS.

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  21. NorrisM @13,

    So I take it that you have no problem increasing fossil fuel usage as rapidly as possible but you have strong objections to limiting fossil fuel usage?  Do you see any contradiction in this position?

    Why is it OK to very rapidly increase fossil fuel usage but we have to slowly wean ourselves off said fuels?  

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  22.  What is meant by pace needs some quantification.  Here is the rate of increase in FF consumption over past 50 years.

    Is it too fast or too slow to reduce FF consumption by the same rate?

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  23. NorrisM @ 13.

    If you discuss "the reality of the present political environment" [of the U.S.] too strongly, it makes it look like you agree with the widespread, uninformed, unscientific positions that prevail there.

    Likewise, use of strawmen positions such as "scary scenarios" and "take into account all possible costs of fossil fuels" [my emphasis] do not lead to fruitful discussions. With respect to the latter phrase, our past discussions often focused on what we felt were reasonable costs to include (and we differed in opinion), I may be misrepresenting your position, but my impression was that you only wanted to include very well-defined costs, and I wanted to include likely costs (less well-defined), but I never argued for "all costs" because that is too poorly defined. Restricting a carbon tax to only well-defined costs will most certainly underestimate the true costs.

    Failing to identify a large portion of those costs and failing to include them in a carbon tax does not mean we will avoid those costs. We'll just pay for them differently (different taxes, more expensive maintenance on damaged property, lost incomes, lost property, lost lives, etc.). And the people that will pay them will often not be the people that benefit from consumption of fossil fuels (wealth transfer).

    Do you want to be part of the group that pays for the damage costs of someone else's fossil fuel use, part of the group that is happy to let someone else pay for damage caused by your use of fossil fuels while you get the benefits, or some other group? Remember: part of your tax dollars went to disaster relief after the catastrophic flooding in southern Alberta a few summers ago (assuming you pay at least some taxes in Alberta or Canada).

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  24. nigelj@20,

    I would caution against dismissing Unite the Right as 'outer fringe'.

    The greedy deniers of climate science, the ones trying to get away with maximizing their personal benefit from the burning of fossil fuels, are almost certain to be major players in the promotion and funding of Unite the Right movements.

    Those greedy people (deniers of climate science and fighters for freedom from restrictions on their ability to behave understandably unacceptably in their pursuit of personally Winning More) can be seen to be uniting with other people who also have Private Interests that are contrary to changes that would advance humanity to a sustainable better future for everyone (like the fundamentalist tribal religious people claiming to be Christian, Muslim, Hindi, or Jewish as they fight to harm 'All Others' in defence of 'Their US', or the more extreme tibalists who try to claim the right to make their nation a nation controlled by 'males of their skin colour' for the benefit of people of 'their skin colour').

    In Canada, that collective of United people claiming to be Right recently won the national leadership for a decade by getting the legal right to call their party Conservative. And they did massive damage to Canada's actions to reduce GHG production, because their funding came largely from the exporters of fossil fuel). Until they won that Naming right, they were indeed a national minority interest. However, even without that name they had the ability to drum up anger that motivated their kind of people to vote.

    In Alberta, the United Right has just been formed and will likely win the next Provincial Election, calling themselves the United Conservative Party (being the only Party with the term Conservative in their name is a key). And their main platform points are eliminating the carbon tax that has been implemented in Alberta, along with secretive or carefully phrased indications that they are the party that religious fundamentalists should vote for (they fight against changes that would make LBGTQ people a more accepted and protected part of society - but are careful because they know some Conservative thinking people support LBGTQ changes and they want as many of those votes as possible - getting people angry about GHG restrictions can be interfered with if the pursuits of votes for people who dislike the idea of LBGTQ acceptance become too apparent. Like Trump claiming to be the least racist person on the planet, the United Conservative Party claims to like Gay people while its policy actions contradict that claim).

    Even when they are a less significant aspect of a society, Unite the Right can be seen to be a major cause of damage to attempts to advance humanity to a better future. A Unite the Right type of groups produced the narrow 'Brexit Win'. And they are the group in the USA that produced President Trump and all the actions to undo the Good GHG actions that had developed in the USA, including a having a President that claims the science is far from settled and therefore should not be acted upon to the detriment of clearly incorrectly over-developed perceptions of prosperity and opportunity. And their 'Tea Party', particularly the 'House Freedom Caucus' part of it, are small but very influential parts of the USA government that vote united against the other Conservatives to get the other Conservatives to shift their actions towards the Unite the Right desires if they want to get a passing vote on any actions (significant power even when Obama was the President).

    So, Beware the ones claiming to be 'Uniting the Right'. They are not to be dismissed as a marginally popular 'fringe'. They can and do Win to the detriment of the future of humanity.

    It really upsets me to hear people claim that leadership like the current leadership of the USA will not cause 'that much harm'. The starting point of such a statement is the admitted understanding that the leadership is harmful. That should be the end of any attempt to 'excuse it or accept it because it Won', not be the basis for claiming the future of humanity just has to put up with it.

    The attitude that 'the future of humanity is not a concern or that harm to the future generations can justified because of benefits obtained by portions of a current generation' is the problem that needs to be corrected. The future generations have no legal power, no vote, no marketing ability. Hind-sight clearly shows how damaging the current developed socio-economic systems are.

    Fore-sight, the consideration of what the hind-sight in the future will be, needs to become the rule and the measure of acceptability of the actions of all of the Winners/Leaders (Engineering or application of science is designing with that type of fore-sight in mind). The attitudes and actions of Winners Leaders regarding climate science can be a major part of evaluating the acceptability of Winners/Leaders.

    For the past several decades there has been no good reason for any of the wealthiest or most powerful to 'misunderstand the significance and robustness of climate science' (ever since the 1987 UN Report "Our Common Future" made it clear that being able to get away with being dismissive of the future generations was a major problem to be corrected).

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  25. OPOF @24

    It looks like I  may be "confusing unite the right" with the "alternate right" Breitbart White Supremacy group. Although it also looks like they have some things in common as well.

    Politics in NZ doesn't really have unite the right groups in name, but it has its own version of these things with coalition governments sometimes. However the agenda tends to be more transparent.

    So yes I agree with your comment. Unite the right are a problem. And yes its common in politics to see a coming together of a disparate group of people, but with one driving thing in common. "A marriage of convenience sometimes". In this case it seems unite the right have  a dislike of government restrictions on business, even the mildest of restrictions. One good thing is disparate groups like this sometimes eventually self destruct. The marriage leads to divorce.

    "It really upsets me to hear people claim that leadership like the current leadership of the USA will not cause 'that much harm'"

    Yes this is my reaction exactly. Although its perhaps an attempt to see the brighter side, and not get despondent, but that can become a dangerous way of excusing behaviour even with good intentions.

    Also, Trump and the RC have appointed  certain Judges who will be around for a long time, and the foolish things they have done with restructuring various organisations and various executive orders will take time for future governments to fix. 

    It seems to me the strong partisan and ideological divisions in the USA right now should be part of yesterdays world, where serious issues and conflicts between workers and employers needed sorting out with proper protection of workers rights. In the modern world, many countries have moved on from this and have bipartisan agreements on various things, or agreement on the basics.  I feel in todays world we hire governments to do a job, so we should simply chose the best qualified, and should avoid tribal feelings if possible. 

    But this does assume people agree on certain basics, for example  that laws should be fair to all parties, and climate change is a problem and requires enduring policies that don't constantly flip flop. This seems not to be the case in America. It's a political war zone in America, and while we need a contest of ideas, I'm going to suggest this has got out seriously of control.

    And with the rise of alternative facts, attacking basically good institutions like the FBI and attacking scientific bodies, post truth,  and the internet conspiracy websites,  it has become an even more clouded debate. People need to demand better.

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  26. michael sweet @ 21

    Until I saw scaddenp's chart, I thought world consumption of fossil fuels had levelled off. 

    If the world continues to unabatedly increase its use of fossil fuels then trying to "wean ourselves" is somewhat laughable given that solar and wind power today provide  no more than, say, 2% of world energy supply (up from 1.5% in 2014). 

    And, based upon where it seems this increased fossil fuel use is coming from, it does make you wonder how much impact a  carbon tax will have in North America and Europe if other countries continue to increase their use of coal unabated.

    Until I saw scaddendap's graph, my suspicion had always been that the real increase in CO2 emissions for the last 35 years could be largely "laid at the doorstep" of China because it was really in the 1980's that they started their industrial resurgence, largely on the back of coal.  I attribute no "guilt" to this term because their industrial resurgence has lifted probably 100's of millions of people out of abject poverty (along with globalization). But clearly, China just "took over" from the increases pre 1980's from the industrialized countries.  Because the rate seems to be about the same, I have to assume the contributions from the industrialized countries did start to drop during this same time period.

    But today it is certainly the case that the increased fossil fuel use is coming from China, India and other developing countries.  

    In fact, Climatewire has just referenced a study published in the Environmental Research Letters that Turkey, Vietnam, Indonesia, China and India could increase their greenhouse gas emissions dramatically by 2030 suggesting that the Paris Agreement was purely a political document with promises in the future that have no chance of being kept.  These five (5) countries represent 73% of "planned or under construction" coal plants.

    According to a Washington Post article on February 7, 2018 referenced in Climatewire, the new coal plants planned by these 5 countries alone could eat up another 150 billion tons of the remaining 700 billion tons of CO2 left in the carbon budget.  According to that article, our existing use of fossil fuels are capable of consuming 500 billion tons.  So this planned increase in the use of coal is massive notwithstanding the bold statements made by both China and India about their future use of fossil fuels at the time of the signing of the Paris Agreement. 

    Perhaps it is just depressing to realize that there is not a chance of meeting a 2C limit in temperatures by 2100 let alone keeping to a 1.5C limit even with the IPCC assumptions of "negative emissions".  We better hope this Washington Post article is incorrect.

    All of this is to say that talking about "weaning ourselves" from fossil fuels with the use of a carbon tax may be a relevant discussion for North America and Europe but when looking at the world picture it seems we are "dreaming in technicolour" (to date myself somewhat).

    Am I wrong?

    Moderator:  I appreciate that this has now moved a long way from the original post.  Any suggestions on where we should go?

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  27. NorrisM @26

    The graph of fossil fuel consumption at post 22 is only until 2012.

    Rates of fossil fuel consumption and production have fallen since 2014, as can be seen on this website.

    ourworldindata.org/fossil-fuels

    The website has several graphs on fossil fuel consumption and production, including breakdowns by types of fuel, and the global trend, and trends in specific countries. So things have actually improved.

    Note that although overall fossil fuel use has gone down, within this trend gas has increased a little while coal has declined more significantly.

    The articles and research you reference are in the very speculative category.

    I don't understand how you conclude that a carbon tax wont work, on the basis of a historical trend. History hasn't got anything to do with it. Consumption taxes are based on tested, proven principles of economics, but of course the exact extent that they will work ultimately requires implementing them and adjusting them if required.

    Just a few thoughts. I don't have much time right now.

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  28. Norrism,

    The current trend in fossil fuel use certainly does not make anyone concerned about AGW feel good.  On the other hand, it was only in the past year or two that renewable energy became the cheapest form of energy.  Prior to that time, persons concerned about AGW had to encourage governments to build out more expensive energy to replace fossil energy.  Now that renewable energy is the cheapest energy we can hope that renewable energy will be built out faster.

    The United States has been the biggest reason for the failure of the Paris agreement.  When you have to drag the biggest economy in the world kicking and screamig it is much harder to get anything done.  Attitudes are slowly changing in the US as people see the damage caused by AGW. 

    Insurance companies are starting to adjust rates to reflect Climate risk.  Since that affects conservatives wallets many of them who are not fossil executives are starting to notice.  Democrats noticed a long time ago.

    We can only do the best we can to influence the political theatre.  The more renewable energy built out today the better things will turn out in the end.  If the best we can do is 3C that is better than 5C.  In the end fossil fuels will run out and we will be forced to use renewable energy.  Hopefully the Earth will sustain civilization at the end.

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  29. nigelj@25,

    Unite the Right and the Alt Right movements are indeed different.

    The Alt Right is indeed an extremist group that seems particularly focused on Conserving their perception of the deserving superiority of White Males in every nation they are active in. They seem to be indifferent to climate science as long as it does not interfere with them achieving their Private Interests.

    Unite the Right is more focused on Conserving their ability to get away with Private Interest economic pursuits that are contrary to advancing humanity to a sustainable better future. They oppose any changes that would reduce their ability to development of perceptions of economic/financial superiority compared to others. They are willing to play a Net-Negative game, a game that produces an overall damaging result, if they think they can be seen to be better off as a result of playing that type of a game. They deliberately try to impede corrective actions that climate science has identified are essential to improving the future for humanity. Their motivation is obvious, their choice to pursue/develop a Private Interest that is contrary to advancing humanity to a better future.

    Unite the Right groups attempt to build a 'Big Tent' of support in a way that includes the Alt Right types. They like people who have anxieties that are easy to trigger as long as they can get many of those triggered anxious people to 'vote for/with them'. And Alt Right types seeing what they like in the United Right can indeed be tempted to vote for a 'major' party, something they previously never thought would help them get what they wanted. They definitely would like what they see in the likes of Trump and Sessions and Bannon.

    In Canada and Alberta the Unite the Right groups deliberately pursued the amalgamation of political parties with Private Interests that were contrary to improving the future for humanity. They also fought to get the right to call themselves the 'Conservative' Party. In Canada and Alberta that meant removing the Progressive Conservative Party from voter choices. They first attempted to take over the Progressive Conservative Party, but shifted to other means of getting what they wanted when they were unable to sustainably push the Progressive members out. A very similar thing can be seen to have happened in the USA.

    Unite the Right can be seen as a significant developing political barrier/challenge to increased public awareness and understanding regarding climate science. People who like the Unite the Right will vote united for each other's understandably unacceptable Private Interests. They know that each of their Private Interests only really appeals to a smaller group, and understand what they have to lose if they allow the understanding of the corrections of their preferred beliefs to overwhelm their ability to get away with what they want to get away with. They are correctly certain that their chance of Winning Their Private Interest increases if the agree to, or do not caring that they, support other unacceptable Private Interests.

    Unite the Right can be seen to be a very dangerous development that is expected given the fatal flaws of the developed socio-economic-political games; games that promote the fatally flawed belief that 'Everyone being Freer to Believe and Do Whatever they Want Will Develop Good/Helpful Results'. The actions of those United groups claiming to be Right regarding climate science are only part of their many understandably harmful actions (actions that can include appealing to the Alt Right types). Those actions are almost certainly (beyond a reasonable doubt) done with awareness of their leadership that they are harmful - but may not able to be proven to be Illegal. Deliberately doing something understood to be harmful is the fundamental definition of Criminal Behaviour. Legal Loopholes, or the absence of Legal Measures, or the lack of diligent enforcement of the laws are the kinds of Freedoms that the United Right can be seen to be fighting for (for their understandably harmful Personal Private Interest Reasons).

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  30. michael sweet and nigelj

    Some good points.  Nigelj, a great website reference which I will have to read more carefully.

    I agree that a carbon tax would have relevance but only if China came onboard.  If anyone has any references about the chances of a carbon tax in China or India that would be interesting.

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  31. Bob Loblaw @ 23

    I do not believe that you really think I agree with the uninformed and anti-science attitude of the Trump administration.  My hope of a Red Team Blue Team discussion was to put this issue front and centre in the US which would have the effect of forcing the Republicans to admit those things on which all agree.  Although Pruitt in his recent interview at a television station in Nevada again made reference to the red team blue team analysis, I just do not think Trump will agree to it because it seems that what makes him tick is this desire never to be proven wrong no matter how much evidence is put before him.  He just will not "eat his words" that "climate change is a hoax". I came to realize this about him after learning more about his personality from reading Fire and Fury.   

    I think our major disagreement is at what level should a carbon tax in the world be imposed.  As much as you could argue that certain costs from rising sea levels could be directly attributed to fossil fuels it hardly matters if imposing such a charge would put the world economy into a tailspin.

    As well, when you reach too far into the "costs" of fossil fuels worldwide, at what point do you have to offset those "costs" with the massive benefits that fossil fuels have provided to humanity over the last 200 years?  I wonder whether the lawyers filing defences to these actions by cities in the US against large oil companies for the damages arising out of sea rise levels will raise this.  I suspect not because they just want the actions thrown out of court.  But some judge might want to comment on  this.

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  32. NorrisM@30,

    Kyoto and the Paris Agreement both include the clear expectation that after responsible leadership toward sustainable energy is shown by the already well-developed nations, the developing nations like China and India, would follow that leadership (and be assisted by the already 'better-off'.

    Many of the wealthy in the USA in particular decided not to do that, not to responsibly lead the correction of energy sourcing.

    So the real question should be, what will it take for the USA to collectively act Responsibly in the interest of improving the future for global humanity?

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  33. NorrisM, based on your 'incrementalism', can we assume you are comfortable with FF consumption being reduced at same rate as it increased?

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  34. "In the end fossil fuels will run out and we will be forced to use renewable energy.'

    Yes, and this may happen sooner than we think. British petroleum says we have 50 years of oil left, on the basis of known reserves and current rates of consumption. More oil will be discovered of course, but new discoveries have been dropping for decades now. I would hazard a reasonable guess that only 100 years are left.

    Its similar with coal, estimate are that 100 - 200 years of coal are left.

    All these estimates are on current rates of consumption and take no account of population growth. So those 100 year estimates may well be optimistic.

    And the point is 100 years is nothing in terms of human time scales. Renewable energy is inevitable sooner than we think, and so now is as good a time as any, especially considering the climate problem . By the time countries like India and Africa, start developing serious electricity grids at scale, coal prices will probabaly be increasing, even if there was no climate issue to consider.

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  35. One Planet Only Forever @29

    Yes that is interesting and compelling about unite the right, and consistent with what I see in NZ with the behaviour of the right wing's attempts to pull various groups together, although fortunately its just not nearly as powerful as in America and Canada. We are largely a country of boring moderates, and long may it remain that way.

    "They (unite the right) oppose any changes that would reduce their ability to development of perceptions of economic/financial superiority compared to others. "

    Yes, and they are driven so strongly by their desires to be at the top of the pecking order materialistically that all else becomes sacrificed. They are slaves to their biological drives and emotions of the short term, while hypocritically blaming others for being slaves to other forms of addiction.

    "They like people who have anxieties that are easy to trigger as long as they can get many of those triggered anxious people to 'vote for/with them'."

    The unite the right right manipulate anxieties with arguments to emotion and prejudice, while the left are trying to take an evidence and rational argument based approach. Unite the right play a dirty game, and also use clickbait as much as possible.

    However the left get lost in details and nuance, and lack a simple clear agenda at times. However its challenging, because the answers to todays problems are often complex, so over simplified messaging is a problem as well. But the bottom line is it would be a mistake I think for scientists and moderates to start using manipulative fear mongering, and to start playing unit the rights own rhetorical game.

    "They are correctly certain that their chance of Winning Their Private Interest increases if the agree to, or do not caring that they, support other unacceptable Private Interests."

    Yes, however this process of compromise will hopefully eventually become unplatable, and will tear them apart. In a similar way The White House is in turmoil. Also on a related matter, how far can the RC in America compromise its own beliefs? Right now they have trashed their beliefs in fiscal responsibility, freedom of the press, and any shred of a science based or even a commonsense approach to environmental legislation. They have sold their soul for what? A tax cut that is clearly excessive and not properly funded,  and which has caused the stock market to crash, and has locked in probable interest rate rises. Genius, not.

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  36. NorrisM @30, I dont think a carbon tax is all that relevent to China. Basically they are a dictatorship, but fortunately a relatively benevolent one, and in many ways China is still a command and control economy. 

    So if China want to reduce emissions, all Xi Jin Ping has to do is order coal plants closed, and order companies to sell electric cars and so on. Western democracies operate a bit differently.

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  37. Norris M @31

    "I think our major disagreement is at what level should a carbon tax in the world be imposed. As much as you could argue that certain costs from rising sea levels could be directly attributed to fossil fuels it hardly matters if imposing such a charge would put the world economy into a tailspin."

    I dont see the need for endless prevarication on the issue. America should just implement just a relatively modest carbon tax, as long as its not ridiculously modest, and the economy is not going to collapse. Some other countries have already implemented carbon taxes, and not one economy has collapsed, or even had any negative effects. The best approach is carbon tax and dividend because its going to have the lowest risk of causing any abrupt negative economic reaction.

    "As well, when you reach too far into the "costs" of fossil fuels worldwide, at what point do you have to offset those "costs" with the massive benefits that fossil fuels have provided to humanity over the last 200 years? I wonder whether the lawyers filing defences to these actions by cities in the US against large oil companies for the damages arising out of sea rise levels will raise this. I suspect not because they just want the actions thrown out of court. But some judge might want to comment on this."

    The actions against fossil fuel companies appear to be that they hid evidence of climate change, not that fossil fuels are evil, so your comment is a red herring.

    All academics and climate scientists considering the climate issue are perfectly aware fossil fuels have had benefits. I dont know why you think they don't know this. Studies factor in benefits.

    All the renewable energy policies and carbon tax propoals being realistically considered are incremental anyway, so I don't know why you  are criticicing them as not being incremental.

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  38. nigelj@35,

    I agree that the most helpful actions are efforts to raise awareness and improve understanding of real reality.

    That means climate scientists continue pursuing new awareness and developing improved understanding of what is going on. They do need to try to understand why the challenges to increased public awareness and understanding of what they are learning. But they should not apply the 'misleading marketing lessons' they learn have been successfully used against their efforts to improve public awareness and understanding.

    It also means directly calling an activity that is beneficial to the ones benefiting from it but harmful to others an 'uncategorically unacceptable activity'. And that includes calling the continued efforts by already rich people to try to get more benefit from the burning of fossil fuels, including their efforts to discredit climate science, unacceptable - especially since the late 1960s. Before the 1960s it may be possible to legitimately claim that those rich people just didn't know better. But the added climate science awareness and understanding in every decade since the 1960s has further reduced the potential to excuse any wealthy person or person in a position of power who tries to claim they were not aware of the unacceptability of the burning of fossil fuels. And at some point in the recent past, maybe about the time of the Kyoto Accord, it became almost unbelievable that any wealthy or powerful person could legitimately claim to be unaware of the unacceptability of already fortunate people trying to benefit even more from the burning of fossil fuels.

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  39. nigelj,

    A supplement to my comment at 38. The people benefiting from an activity that is potentially or actually creating negative consequences for Others do not get to determine the acceptability of what they are doing. All of the Others being fully informed and thoroughly understanding the negative impacts are the ones to determine acceptability or acceptable compensation.

    For actions related to climate science it is clear that it is all members of future generations (and the negatively affected portuions of today's global population) who are to determine the acceptability of what is being done. The problem is clearly the lack of foresight by leaders today to properly act in ways that will result in future generations (and all the others in today's generation) being pleased with the developed results.

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  40. scaddenp @ 33

    Obviously the reason fossil fuel use has increased relates to the increased demand by the world for energy so I do not think you can simply say that fossil fuel consumption has to decrease at the same rate it has increased.  There is no logical connection between the two. 

    I think placing a cost on fossil fuels in the form of a neutral carbon tax (by neutral I mean one which is either refunded to the populace by dividend or, as in British Columbia, replaces other tax revenue sources) is the form of incrementalism that I have in mind.  This incrementalism is already happening.  I highly doubt that new coal plants would have any chance of being funded in the marketplace and the old ones are being displaced by lower operational cost alternatives like natural gas, wind and solar.

    I do not agree with nigelj's comments that countries like China with command economies should not "price" carbon costs into the economic system. 

    Placing a cost on fossil fuels will allow other technologies to compete and new ones to come into existence.  The problem with command economies (or partial command economies like China) has always been that they always get it wrong on what to produce.  Let the market decide. 

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  41. nigelj @ 37

    "All the renewable energy policies and carbon tax propoals being realistically considered are incremental anyway, so I don't know why you are criticicing them as not being incremental."

    I completely agree with the first part of this sentence so I don't know why you think I have criticized them.  But I do think that we should let the market make these decisions after placing a cost on fossil fuels.  Unless we are talking about major infrastructure projects or research and development, I do not trust governments to spend our money wisely.  

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  42. NorrisM

    I just want to clarify I think western governments should allow electricity companies to make the precise choices on what forms of renewable energy they use, and I'm using the term renewable energy reasonably widely here. Government should set the market rules and  a few key goals,  implemement carbon taxes, and then let the market do its thing. 

    I think China will go its own way on how it implements renewable energy. There would as you say be some sense in them at least having a carbon price, but  they have a kind of a more government heavy economy, and it may just be inevitable that they make use of that in their own way. Things aren't black and white economically and politically. China is a hugely culturally diverse country of a billion people, and might have been hard to unite without an element of autocracy, although I personally prefer democratic government.

    Fwiw I support practical mixed economies, with large private sectors, but the state provides services where the market doesn't do an adequate or equitable job. Ideally I think China should evolve towards this direction. It is a bit too government heavy.

    I agree a revenue neutral carbon tax is good for the reasons you say. It also makes sense because it maintains the operation of market forces. However if the world doesn't get on with things like this, and if climate change were to become abrupt and highly dangerous, command and control in some form will be the only remaining option. So if you and people like Scott Pruitt value free markets, think about that.

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  43. scaddenp@30,

    I think we can take NorrisM@40 as being a "No".

    Of course, I would also answer "No" because I would at first consider reducing-FF-use  as a 1-to-1 proxy for reducing-FF-emissions. In that circumstance, reducing FF use at the same rate as they increased would result in 350Gt(C) of CO2 emissions by 2100, a figure which doesn't include any LUC or cement CO2 emissions and which on its own is well above the remaining budget set out in IPCC AR5 Synthesis Report Table 2.2. The central values set out in T2.2 were a post-2011 budget for 1.5ºC of 550Gt(CO2) (or 90Gt(C) post-2017) and a post-2011 budget for 2ºC of 1300Gt(CO2) (or 190Gt(C) post-2017).

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  44. NorrisM@40,

    The continued increase of burning of fossil fuels has occurred 'Because the understandably unacceptable activity can be gotten away with in the fatally flawed developed socio-economic-political games people play'.

    Correcting the incorrect developments is what is required. Believing there is a way to get things corrected without changing the game/system that the incorrect things developed in is a Fool's Game.

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  45. Recommended supplemental reading:

    Two days after the 2016 presidential election I found myself eavesdropping on Paul Lussier and a group of students at the Yale School of Forestry and the Environment as they discussed the future of climate science. The students feared that the things they held dear—renewable energy, sustainable development, ecological conservation (and no doubt their careers)—would be derailed by Donald Trump, who has expressed skepticism about climate change.

    I listened as Lussier, who directs the Yale Science Communications with Impact Network, reminded them how researchers, businesspeople, policymakers, and media can work together to inspire action around climate change, regardless of the government’s stance on the issue.

    The following is an edited version of our conversation.

    On the Side of Climate Solutions: An Interview with Paul Lussier by Catherine Halley, JSTOR Daily, Feb 7, 2018

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  46. NorrisM,

    Rereading comments in this string, and recalling previous strings, I have to ask if you understand, accept and support the need for the global impacts of human activity to be limited to a level that climate science indicates has a good chance of less than 2.0C increase of global average surface temperature above pre-industrial levels.

    If you disagree with that understanding, that all of the global leaders agreed was the proper understanding of what was needed to responsibly limit the harm done to future generations, please provide the 'substantial new climate science evidence' that was not part of the basis for the understanding and acceptance of the Paris Agreement. 'Substantial new climate science evidence' is the only thing that would justify changing such a decision (not the election of a different leader in the USA).

    I am not asking for an expession of a different belief or opinion. The Paris Agreement was a robustly based reasoned decision that, if anything, was an expression of a lower level of corrective action because of the reluctance of some of the participants to have to do more. That is why it includes the expectation that all parties will ratchet up their actions to responsibly and fairly achieve what is required (The belief/claim by the likes of Donald Trump that the Paris Agreement is unfair to their Tribe (sub-set of humanity) is 'the stuff that male cattle emit from their rear ends').

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  47. NorrisM, moving off fossil fuels is necessary to avoid excessive adaption costs. If you do not agree that we can move off fossil fuels at the same rate as we increased our usage of them, then your argument from incrementalism is pure sophistry as michaell sweet was hinting at here.

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  48. Arguing that China needs a carbon tax is simply a variation of your opinion that capitalism is better than command economies. I agree but whether a carbon tax is effective in their existing political structure is something for the Chinese to decide. Democracies can also simply impose a moritortium on an new generation plants that carbon (as the NZ Clarke government did). Let the market decide how to meet future power needs. However, carbon tax advocacy is mostly trying for a solution that is acceptable to the political right where an ideological position limits government intervention to correcting externalities that the market does not cover. 

    I frankly have little time for ideological solutions unless they are also pragmatic. I'll back command solutions, moritoriums and carbon tax as all potentially effective ways to decarbonize an economy.

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  49. The whole idea of the Paris accord was to let countries decide their own way to limit emissions. Its just not practially plausible to get the whole world to agree on one way to limit emissions, for example carbon tax, emissions trading, command and control. Paris implicitly recognised this.

    We dont have the right to tell other countries how to run their economies so whether they have command and control or carbon taxes etcetera. We can only advocate our philosophical preferences, and hope to persuade them, but it would be wrong to manipulate the climate issue to try to somehow coerce them to take a particular position. The only exception might be if their preferred solution involved  life threatening human rights violations. 

    I'm a pragmatist as well on economic policy. Its a question of what makes sense in the specific circumstances, and I rule nothing out. Maintream economics says free market economies work best an are the preferred default option, but there is sometimes a definite place for command and control provided its used sparingly. This makes total sense to me.

    Simply having a police force is command and control, so free markets in a pure sense are a fiction anyway. The debate is about what to do in specific circumstances (hopefully on the basis of evidence) and I dont have much time for people who can't work this out. Obviously we should always be careful not to let government crowd out private sector solutions, but neither should we assume the private sector always has all the answers. Welcome to the real world of complexity.

    If one accepts a middle ground flexible economic philosophy of this kind, its a question of what is going to work best on the climate issue. This might actually be regulatory command and  control because of the limited time period we have. However because this is politically difficult to swallow,  at least as the main dominant mechanism, carbon taxes are the next best option, and Im totally happy with that.

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  50. It has been a busy weekend.... Others have commented, but as NorrisM has directly responded to my earlier post #23, I will weigh in again.

    NorrisM @ 31: "...you really think I agree with the uninformed and anti-science attitude of the Trump administration. "

    I really think that you have much more sympathy for some of their claims than they deserve. And that makes it more difficult to draw a clear line between what you think and what are clear "denier talking points".

    For example, you say "...if imposing such a charge would put the world economy into a tailspin."

    "A tailsipin" is a vague, unsupported assertion. You portray a division between jobs and the environment. A carbon tax with dividend does not remove money from the economy, nor does it move money from private to public hands - it just shifts who has it in private hands. As I stated before @23, allowing those who benefit from fossil fuel use to avoid the damage costs of using them (known in economics as an externality) is a transfer of wealth. A carbon tax (with dividend) reduces that externality. Average carbon users will break even - the dividend that they receive will pay for their extra costs of carbon-fuel-based goods. HIgh carbon users will pay more (and can probably easily afford it if they wish to continue to consume), and low carbon users will receive a benefit and will have more money to spend in general. All will have an incentive to use less carbon. How this equates to an economy in a "tailspin" is difficult for me to see.

    Most economic studies indicate that the "massive benefits" of fossil fuels will be outweighted by the costs in the future. It is the future that we worry about. Past benefits are not a result of future fossil fuel use. Future costs will arise from past fossil fuel use, and future costs will rise if future fossil fuel use is not reduced. Your tendency to handwave that away by referring to "economy into a tailspin" and similar rhetoric does not put you in a favourable light.

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