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2018 SkS Weekly Climate Change & Global Warming News Roundup #37

Posted on 15 September 2018 by John Hartz

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

Editor's Pick

Paris Conundrum: How to Know How Much Carbon Is Being Emitted? 


An industrial complex in Oberhausen, Germany in January 2017. LUKAS SCHULZE/GETTY

As climate negotiators consider rules for verifying commitments under the Paris Agreement, they will have to confront a difficult truth: There currently is no reliably accurate way to measure total global emissions or how much CO2 is coming from individual nations.   

Will we be able to verify the Paris climate accord? Right now science is not up to the task, say the people in charge of assessing our annual emissions of CO2. There is, they say, no sure way of independently verifying whether national governments are telling the truth about their own emissions or of knowing by how much global anthropogenic emissions are actually increasing.

And that is distinctly alarming, given the contradiction between reports that anthropogenic emissions have stopped rising and atmospheric measurements showing that annual increases in CO2 levels have reached record levels.

Climate negotiators are committed to concluding a rule book for implementing the Paris Agreement at their next annual conference, in Katowice, Poland, in December. Central to that will be an agreed plan to monitor, report, and verify the pledges made by almost 200 countries.

Paris Conundrum: How to Know How Much Carbon Is Being Emitted? by Fred Pearce, Yale Environment 360, Sep 10, 2018 

Links posted on Facebook

Sun Sep 9, 2018

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Sat Sep 15, 2018

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Comments 1 to 14:

  1. Required changes to ensure effective monitoring of CO2 and other GHG impacts globally are:

    • International agreement that all leaders in business and politics are to be held to the highest constantly improving standards of helpfulness to the development of a sustainable future for all of humanity.
    • the formal end of the belief in the legitimacy of national sovereignty and corporate secrets.

    Democracy and capitalism only work well, producing results that are sustainable improvements for humanity, if the entire population is governed by improved awareness and understanding of what is really going on and the importance of helping to develop a sustainable future for humanity, and sees leaders being required to provide good examples of behaviour.

    Many of the ways that things have developed are undeniably unsustainable and harmful. And the developed resistance to correcting that incorrect direction of development is strong in free-for-all political marketing systems because people can easily be tempted to like appeals to their primitive selfish interests (the smaller worldview - limiting caring to a smaller sub-set of the population in a shorter time-frame) rather than the harder work of being better educated about acceptable and helpful behaviour, the harder work of self-governing through thoughtful considerate altruism that every modern human has the modern brain to do that harder work in (developing a larger worldview of caring about every human and all other life into the distant future).

    Morality is severely compromised in popularity and profit contests to appear to be superior to Others, especially in systems that are high on the belief that freedom of everyone to 'believe whatever they want to excuse doing as they please' will develop Good Results.

    Freedom clearly needs to be governed or limited to help achieve Good Objectives, restricting the ability of people to get away with doing harmful unsustainable things.

    My current developed statement of the Universal Good Objective is: A sustainable future for humanity - A robust diversity of humanity living in ways that sustainably fit into a robust diversity of other life on this, or any other, amazing planet.

    Achieving that objective will be never-ending hard work. Because some people will always try to enjoy a better life, or develop unjustified perceptions of superiority relative to others, by getting away with unjustifiable unsustainable and harmful behaviour.

    I can already hear the cries of the 'Evil of Globalism and Global Government' in response to global efforts to effectively get better behaviour out of everyone, especially the winners.

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  2. My first comment is about universal action to correct things and achieve all of the Sustainable Development Goals plus other important developed understood objectives like the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

    Effective action that is limited to burning fossil fuels would be to treat global fossil fuel activity as a "Mature Business destined to be replaced by other activity". The more correct understanding is that the burning of fossil fuels is an "Activity that must be curtailed, not just a business that will fade away as it is replaced by changes that are occurring due to competition in the marketplace (it is not like Kodak's Kodachrome business)".

    The responsible leadership of that type of business maximizes the benefit, and in the case of fossil fuel burning minimizes the harm done, through the winding down of the business. Responsible leaders of such a business would not pursue 'maximizing the lining of their pockets', or prolonging their ability to benefit.

    To achieve that result, every aspect of global fossil fuel burning would have to be removed from the 'market of competition for popularity and profitability'. Sustainable energy systems should not have to compete against unsustainable and harmful ones (regardless of popularity and profitability, because competing for popularity and profitability is understood to significantly compromise morality).

    That would require global fossil fuel burning to be globally managed collectively to get the maximum benefit for the future of humanity while minimizing the harm done to the future of humanity. Leaving that responsibility to the winners in the competitive marketplace has been a dismal failure, with significant harm being almost certain to have already been unnecessarily done to future generations by the lack of responsible response by the winners in the current developed competitions.

    The actual objective needs to be understood to be no harm done to the future of humanity (not a balancing of benefits for a portion of humanity today with harm done to the future of humanity - that would be like management lining their pockets and doing as much harm as they can get away with). That will include the need to globally collectively remove CO2 from the atmosphere (unprofitably), reducing it to 350 ppm.

    It would require a rigorous evaluation and management of the impacts of all currently identified fossil fuel sources, processing and end uses, as well as development and implementation of CO2 removal measures, to achieve the best benefit for the future of humanity. That would mean only using the lowest harm sources, to the least extent, while maximizing the sustainable improvement of humanity achieved by the strictly limited burning. That required result will clearly not be effectively developed and delivered within the competitions for popularity and profit, especially if there are no effective global restrictions of misleading marketing.

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  3. A carbon tax is obviously the way to go with "all the adults in the room" and will only work if Hansen's suggestion of a dividend is included as well.  However if there is an intention to send cheques or to send a portion to a family according to how many children they have (up to two), it will be both clumbersome and expensive.  Far better to sent the dividend to every registered tax payer.  They don't have to be actually working, just registered.  A registered tax payer already has included bank details to which any tax rebates are to be sent to so the data base already exists.  And the govt. must not be allowed to reduce walfare payments of any kind by the amount of the dividend.  This payment is without strings.  For families on the bones of their backsides, this money will be spent as soon as it is received just to keep their heads above water.  Think how much of a stimulus to the economy it will bring with jobs created and increased taxes to the exchequer.

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  4. Yes totally agree with William on carbon tax and dividend. The KISS principle must apply (keep it simple stupid.) Please dont mess things up like the Adams Dodd financial law, where a 20 page document became 900 pages after congress wanted all sorts of ridiculous exemptions.

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  5. Humans prolific consumption patterns are having serious environmental impacts that are now obvious and well documented. Much of this is driven by over consumption beyond basic physical needs, driven by status seeking and a need to compete and win - which is part of our human nature. I'm as guilty of this as anyone.

    Human nature is not a simple thing to change, or even a desirable thing to change at a fundamental level, because competition can create great things. What we need to do instead is direct our human nature in positive ways:

    1) we need stronger laws to stop the impacts on the environment.

    2) leaders need to set a good example. Society works on the basis of leadership. Power and money is a privilege. It is not a licence to hoard resources or dodge reasonable laws.

    2) we need a carbon tax and dividend that gives a clear price signal that fossil fuels are a problem. There are other more brutal ways of cutting off the supply but carbon tax and dividend is practical and politically plausible.

    3)  we need to educate kids that there are other ways of living a good life, and demonstrating success and self worth other than living in a huge mansion or owning the largest car. It's size that has some of the largest environmental  impacts for obvious reasons although high tech can also have significant issues. If we don't, the planet will do the educating the hard way with severely altered climate and severely depleted and poisoned resources.

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  6. I have to dissagree here. That sort of carbon tax and dividend is unworkable. 

    I could see a carbon tax as a possibility, but certainly not as a goody trick or treat bag back to everyone. That's like rearranging the deck chairs on the sinking Titanic. It's like Carbon Welfare payments. ARRRG. Since when did welfare ever eliminate poverty? But it is somehow going to eliminate global warming? Really?

    If you are going to tax carbon, then the ONLY possible purpose for that money is to fund those sequestering carbon out of the atmosphere. Then at least the tax is funding a public works project.

    This whole wealth distribution meme is getting as tiresome as it is impossible to fix anything. 

    You must have a very clear purpose for the tax. It is to fund verified CO2 sequestration. You must have a clear price for CO2. So as soon as you get verification of sequestered carbon, then that money determines the carbon payment being collected by a tax.

    The tax of course will be small first years because most people are not sequestering carbon. But over time as more and more people sequester carbon, the tax will rise since the set price per ton sequestered is fixed.

    People will get better and better at sequestering carbon, because they get paid by the ton for doing it. The biggest gain is of course for farmers, since at least 5-20 tonnes CO2e / ha /yr can be sequestered long term in the largest terrestrial sink on the planet... the soil.

    Liquid carbon

    They started a similar strategy in Australia, but canceled the program because people figured out it would most certainly work. It scared the fossil fuel industry how easy  and effective this strategy is. Massive funding by fossil fuels reversed the political power in the elections.


    Lets say we put a price of $50.00 a tonne. Then soil samples can be taken. and if the deep carbon content of the soil is increasing, then the payment of $250.00 to $1000.00 per acre of farmland would make an amazing difference for the cost of the food that farmer produces.

    Be sure the farmers would pile on that goldmine like crazy and the US carbon footprint would go negative rapidly as fossil fuels scrambles to get into solar wind and hydroelectric and farmers put massive quantities of carbon back in the soil where it belongs. Once more carbon is being sequestered than produced, it actually collapses the few remaining fossil fuel producers unless they are protected by offsets sequestering their footprint like CCS or other ways people sequester carbon.

    I actually think it is workable without a carbon tax. Just stop taxing and spending on those things causing AGW should be enough. But if not, then at least be straight forward results orientated with the tax and spend. Use it to fund CO2 drawdown!

    This kind of petty government bribery you propose by dividending everyone ie voting ourselves a check, is ridiculous and NEVER worked in the past. What makes you think it could even have a chance of working this time?

    Geeze, no wonder the Republicans are fighting you guys tooth and nail. Insanity.

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    Moderator Response:

    [DB] Inflammatory and ideology snipped.

  7. Red Baron:

    From the abstract of your first reference:

    "Most scientists  contend carbon is a useful factor to consider
    for agronomy but not for sequestration." (my emphasis)

    The second article is about the same scientist the first article was written about.  (They are both ten years old.  By now they should have results you could cite).  Your references state that most scientists do not think your proposals will work.


    The point of tax and dividend is that it does not increase the size of government since all the fee is paid out as dividends.  Many conservatives in the US will not vote for anything that increases the size of government.  

    Your proposal to redistribute the fee to rich farming corporations would never fly. (Please do not come back with the argument that farmers are all poor families.  In the USA the great majority of land farmed is owned by large corporations or multimillionaires.)

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    Moderator Response:

    [PS] "great majority of land farmed is owned.." it would be good to have a cite for this. US Census data for instance does not appear to support that assertion.

  8. PS:

    According to your data, there are approximately 2,100,000 farms in the US.  The average sales of all farms farms is $190,000.  There are about 480,000 with sales over $100,000 but I estimate only about 350,000 (17% of all farms) of those have sales over $190,000.  Less than 20% of farms have sales over the average ($190,000).  About 160,000 (7.6%) have sales over $1 million.  The farms wiith high sales would have a disproportionate amount of the land farmed.  Most farms with $190,000 in income would have low profit after mortgage payments and other costs.

    About 1,400,000 (70%) of the farms have less than $25,000 in sales and are hobby farms or deliberate loss farms for tax purposes.  I live on a farm that had sales over $25,000 this year for the first time.  We paid the entire mortgage from the farm for the first time.  

    I stand by my claim that "the great majority of land farmed is owned by large corporations or multimillionaires."

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    Moderator Response:

    [PS] I remain unconvinced. According to this, non-family farms account for 3% of farms, 15% of production

  9. @Michael Sweet,

     You are correct that this strategy was thought impossible even 20 years ago, and highly unlikely even 10 years ago, but results keep coming in consistantly overturning that antiquated notion. 

    Please remember that even as recently as 1996 we had no idea about this entire new carbon pathway into the soil even existed!

    Glomalin eluded detection until 1996 because, “It requires an unusual effort to dislodge glomalin for study: a bath in citrate combined with heating at 250 F (121 C) for at least an hour.... No other soil glue found to date required anything as drastic as this.” - Sara Wright.


    Let that sink in a bit. An entire pathway that sequesters carbon directly into the soil by plants once thought to be less effective at carbon sequestration, but actually now we are finding are 10 times MORE  effective at long term carbon sequestration than even the most productive tropical rain forests!

    The soil sink is far larger than both all the atmospheric Carbon and terrestrial biomass carbon combined. Yet one quarter to one third of that soil sink carbon was completely unknown prior to 1996. 
    Glomalin: Hiding Place for a Third of the World's Stored Soil Carbon

    As far as the size of farms in the US goes, the average is 300 acres, but that includes a lot of small hobby farms and truck farms that usually requires an outside job off farm to avoid bankruptcy.

    The USDA published an optimum size farm to be profitable if using standard BMP (best management practices) on commodities and found the minimum starting acreage capable of supporting 1 family was 2000 acres. That article was moved and I never found its new location at the USDA, but it seems to suggest that both of you are partly correct. Most the acreage is in large commercial corporate farms, while most the farms are still small family run operations. (which are still failing at an alarming rate)

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  10. According to this article: "Lumping in farms with sales of over $250,000 a year, and these so called large-scale commercial farms represent just 10% of the country's farms but account for 82% of its overall food production."

    This suggests to me that the majority of the land is owned by commercial operations with good incomes.

    However I dont think its a question of farm incomes as such. While I dont believe in throwing arbitrary subsidies at wealthy farmers, a subsidy for improving soil carbon would be more specific. It would require intensive monitoring to make sure the required work is being carried out.

    This leaves the question of how to fund such a subsidy. The problem is using the carbon tax income as a subsidy for farming would be competing with other possible subsidies such as wind power in a long list of competing interests. You would probably end up with political grid lock on the issue in America, and as M Sweet says it could be seen as government over reach.

    It's probably better in political terms that a carbon tax and dividend be kept simple with all the dividend given back to people. I personally like subsidies, but I accept they are probably not going to work as part of a carbon tax in america.

    It might be better to subsidise farming soil programmes out of the states general tax revenue. Then there  are less arguments about federal government over reach.

    The other alternative would be to reduce the carbon tax itself for farms that farm sustainably with soil carbon programmes. This would encourage farms to move in this direction.


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  11. Red Baron,

    I am glad we agree that most of the land is in large corporate farms.  That would mean that any program that rewarded farmers on a per acre/per pound carbon sequestered would go primarily to large corporations.  Those operations are already heavily subsidized in the USA (for only one example, the entire ethanol in fuel program is a subsidy for corn farmers). 

    I would vote against any program where the money went primarily to large commercial farmers.

    Your new citation is from 2002.  Can you cite anything recent (past 5 years perferably) to support your claim "results keep coming in consistantly overturning that antiquated notion."  Citations should be peer reviewed and not newspaper reports.  In general, I have found your references to poorly support your claims.  I do not like to argue against any possible solution to the carbon crisis, but when you use these claims to counter another possible solution you must support your claims.

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  12. Nigelj,

    While I could imagine a system that might be better than universal dividend, I think the systems you propose are too complicated for most Americans to think the government could implement them fairly.  A 100% dividend is simple and could be easily audited.  It is easy for people to understand where the money is going.

    The amount must be high enough to affect the cost of carbon.  $10 per ton is too low to affect price significantly.  If a steadily increasing fee, starting at $10 and going up at $10 per year would eliminate carbon pollution in 15 or 30 years.  The low start would give people time to adjust so the economy would not be shocked.

    Assessing the affects of a $10 fee is a waste of time since it is too small to have a significant effect.  

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  13. Michael,

    The idea is to end subsidies causing AGW like corn, and instead reward carbon sequestration. Those corporate farms would either need to hire a whole lot of people, or break up their farms, because as a rule they are far too large to optimally sequester carbon. The smaller 100-300 acre farms would have a huge advantage here. Those huge corporate farms are actually net carbon emissions sources and likely would be taxed right along with the fossil fuel companies. Ag is number two in net emissions.

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  14. Michael,

     You can get ongoing trials results from several places, but the easiest is Rodales 30 years+ study. They added no till organic to the traditional organic methods a few years back. Yearly updates from them are available. But the best thing anyone can do is stop growing too much corn in the first place. Turn those cornfields back into prairies and graze them directly. That's the ticket to the very best of the best results, because it turns a major emissions source into a major sequestration sink.

    Grazing management impacts on vegetation, soil biota and soil chemical,
    physical and hydrological properties in tall grass prairie

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