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A Green New Deal must not sabotage climate goals

Posted on 31 January 2019 by dana1981

Recently, 626 organizations—mostly environmental groups, including and Greenpeace USA—sent a letter to Congress urging lawmakers to consider a number of principles when crafting climate legislation like a Green New Deal “to keep global warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit).” Broadly, there were six major principles in the letter: Halt all fossil fuel leasing, phase out all fossil fuel extraction, end fossil fuel and other dirty energy subsidies; transition power generation to 100 percent renewable energy; expand public transportation and phase out fossil-fuel vehicles; harness the full power of the Clean Air Act; ensure a just transition led by impacted communities and workers; and uphold indigenous rights.

These are generally wise goals, but some concerns about the details caused eight major environmental groups—including the Sierra Club, the Natural Resources Defense Council, and the Environmental Defense Fund—to decline to sign the letter. As one national environmental group spokesperson put it, “the details matter… There is some language that gave us some concern.”

To meet climate targets, we need every tool in the chest. Meeting the Paris climate agreement targets of limiting global warming to less than 1.5 degrees Celsius of global warming above pre-industrial temperatures—or even a more dangerous but more feasible 2 degrees Celsius—would require massive and immediate global action to reduce fossil fuel consumption and carbon pollution. Simply put, we’ve already burned through so much of our carbon budget that meeting those targets would take everything we’ve got. (We’ve already locked ourselves in to close to 1.5 degrees Celsius of warming, just based on greenhouse gas emissions to date.)

But the letter includes language that rules out some zero-carbon technologies. For example, it states, “in addition to excluding fossil fuels, any definition of renewable energy must also exclude all combustion-based power generation, nuclear, biomass energy, large scale hydro and waste-to-energy technologies. To achieve this, the United States must shift to 100 percent renewable power generation by 2035 or earlier.”

The listed energy sources all have pros and cons, and groups concerned about their non-climate environmental impacts could certainly make the case for eventually phasing out each one. But the United States currently gets about 32 percent of its electricity generation from natural gas, 30 percent from coal, 20 percent from nuclear, 7 percent from hydroelectricity, 6 percent from wind, and 1 percent from solar, in round numbers. (The remaining few percent come from miscellaneous energy sources such as geothermal, landfill gas, wood, and others.) Were nuclear and hydroelectric power to be eliminated as energy sources at the same time as all fossil fuels, that means that the United States would have to replace its top four electricity sources (nearly 90 percent of its supply) within about 15 years.

Simply replacing all forms of fossil fuels alone (63 percent of the supply) with zero-carbon technologies within this short timeframe would already be an immense task. And the figures here are strictly referring to what it is required for electricity generation in the United States; they don’t even account for other voracious energy-consuming sectors like transportation—which bring the fossil-fuel share of the US economy up to 80 percent, plus another 9 percent from nuclear and 7 percent from hydroelectric power and biomass. Why make the already gargantuan task so much more difficult?

Germany provides a cautionary tale for environmental groups. The country implemented what it called an “Energiewende” (energy transition) strategy that prioritized the phase-out of nuclear power over replacing fossil fuels, despite its goal of achieving a low-carbon energy supply. For example, in the year 2000, 50 percent of Germany’s electricity was supplied by coal compared to 29 percent from nuclear power and 7 percent from renewables. In 2015, the share was 46 percent coal, 15 percent nuclear, and 33 percent renewables. In other words, the country’s coal consumption has remained nearly unchanged since the turn of the century—from 50 percent coal to 46 percent coal. Instead, Germany’s rapid deployment of renewable energy has primarily replaced its nuclear power plants.

There are certainly legitimate objections to nuclear power, but it is nevertheless a zero-carbon energy source. If we consider climate change an urgent, existential threat and if we want to meet the Paris climate targets, then eliminating fossil fuels must be our first priority. Only after fossil fuels have been replaced can we consider doing the same to other zero-carbon energy sources.

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Comments 1 to 47:

  1. The Green New Deal looks very well intended and a good overall philosophy, but it looks like it requires hundreds of complicated regulations which makes it unweildy. All because it lacks a price on carbon! and a simple idea like a carbon tax and cap and trade.

    It also proposes the government build and fund billions in infrastructure, which is economically a high risk approach given federal debt is already high. A carbon tax and / or just a few limited subsidies would achieve the same end goal by pushing the private sector to build renewable energy.
    The ideas seem to come form the New Deal of the 1930's but times were different then.

    I think the idea might be popular with the public because it doesn't involve a tax and leaves everything to the government, but I can't see politicians loving it, and they decide on legislation.

    Just my gut reaction. I could be wrong. Its hard to predict what ideas will gain traction.

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  2. My initial reaction was exactly the same as NigelJ. In the Netherlands there is also a debate about a climate action plan (which the government has been compelled by law and by the courts to enact), but the simple measure that climate action specialists have recommended for 4 decades is too much to muster. Debate now rages about how fair it is to collect extra taxes for heating your home (which will disproportionately impact the poor, who tend to live in poorly insulated housing, and who spend a larger proportion of their income on heating, and who are already often forced to turn the heating down/off and wear blankets all day to make ends meets) ... extra taxes to help subsidize rebates for prospective new Tesla owners. Of course the biggest exceptions will apply to the largest corporate users who are already getting their energy for the lowest prices — that includes all airlines that pay far less for their kerosine than anybody else pays for gasoline.

    The right and left will be at each others throats for decades before getting this done. A simple carbon tax is politically much less toxic and more effective. Distribute the tax revenue back per capita, which would make it a progressive tax. And add import adjustments for embedded carbon from countries that have lower carbon taxes. If we don't start there, we are asking to get bogged down. Trust me — the surest way to kill any project is by pretending to be even more ambitious and expand it until it becomes undoable.

    I'm all for military order of magnitude spending on research and energy transitioning (much more than regulations prohibiting or mandating all sorts of things). But avoid at all costs the possibility that decarbonizing becomes a left/right political quagmire.

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  3. "There are certainly legitimate objections to nuclear power, but it is nevertheless a zero-carbon energy source. If we consider climate change an urgent, existential threat and if we want to meet the Paris climate targets, then eliminating fossil fuels must be our first priority. Only after fossil fuels have been replaced can we consider doing the same to other zero-carbon energy sources."

    Not to start an in-depth debate on this, but there is also a great deal of misrepresentation of the risk of nuclear power. Even with the dramatic "disasters" at TMI, Chernobyl and Fukushima, nuclear power still remains the safest form of energy production.

    Nuclear power offers an energy density that is unrivaled and with "new" - molten salt reactors date back to the 1950s - technology a level of safety that is much greater than even current PWRs and BWRs that have had most of the failure mechnisms engineered out of them.

    Molten salt reactors in both the slow and fast spectrum and using both the thorium and uranium fuel cycle offer centuries of energy at current levels of consumption at least. And have benefits no other source of energy generation does like producing medical radio-isotopes and other highly valuable fission products like nobel metals and xenon.

    They can also be used for large scale salt water desalination which could be a real boon in places that will be suffering from drought as a result of climate change. California comes to mind for this.

    As for phasing out large-scale hydro-electric and all forms of combustion, where is the sense in that at all. Climate change is a potential existential threat, local air quality and watershed integrity are not. Here in BC many of our older dams are under-utilized, retro-fitting older dams with modern generation equipment could go a long way to filling the gap.

    And with process like thermal depolymerization, any long chain organic waste can be coverted to light crude quivalent to Texas light in a matter of hours.

    How about America phases out all its landfills and sewage treatment facilities in large centers and replaces them with catalytic plants that can handle all orgnic waste while producing petroleum suitable for refining and manufacturing while also producing large amounts of methane - much of which is fed back into the process to power it - naptha and black carbon.

    And to pay for the transition, introduce a revenue neutral fee and dividend system that allows individuals to choose which new source of energy generation they want to support.

    Fee and dividend

    The US and all nations need to tackle climate change first and phase out all fossil fuels as quickly as we can. Then deal with other concerns that are less pressing.

    And that certainly applies to nuclear power which has never been the threat so many have presented it as being.

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  4. Doug C.

    As you suggested a full blown nuclear discussion is generally unhelpful.  You can help us deal with nuclear here at Skeptical Science.  

    For the past 4 or 5 years I have asked any nuclear supporters to write an OP about the benefits of Nuclear Power.  If you cite peer reviewed data to support your claims I am sure it would be posted.  Unfortunately, none of the nuclear supporters has been willing to do the work to support their claims.  Perhaps in their hearts they all feel that nuclear is destined for the scrap heap of history.

    As you state, there is a great deal of misrepresentation around nuclear power.  I see many points in your post that I think are incorrect.  If you write an OP you can correct me.

    You should address the concerns about nuclear power raised in Abbott 2011 and Jacobson 2009.  A discussion of the economics of nuclear power would also be helpful.

    I look forward to reading your OP.

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  5. Doug_C - Nuclear has some enticing possibilities, but there are some difficult to balance issues. Molten salt reactors are quite safe and self-limiting compared to light water reactors, but that tech hasn't been fully developed. Molten salt and micro-reactors are promising, but the development cycle time for large scale nuclear plants is daunting. We would have to choose between the once-through fuel cycle we currently use, leaving >95% of the uranium unburned and left as highly radioactive waste (and five us <100 years in supply), or reprocess it and risk large quantities of plutonium being available (which is much much easier to create a nuclear device from). The build time and cost of a (potentially) commercially viable reactor seems to require ~1GW scales, and that's really difficult on any short term scale. 

    Renewable wind/solar, on the other hand, are becoming one of the least expensive power production tools available due to price drops, have few and small scale long term pollution issues, and perhaps most importantly can be developed incrementally - adding a few hectares of panels or tens of windmills at a time. And that makes financing for renewables (pardon me) a breeze. 

    I jjust don't know if nuclear works out as viable, when considered as a system. 

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  6. michael sweet @4

    Not at all, I'm saying that in earlier attempts to have an in depth discussion of nuclear power I've been instructed by moderation that it was taking the discussion off topic.

    What really needs to be said about nuclear power that is needed to convince anyone of its utility as part of a new energy model that is free of fossil fuels?

    To be clear, I'm not advocating for a large scale expansion of Pressurized and Boiling Water(PWRs & BWRs) nuclear power plants which are wasteful of fuel, have faulure mechanisms that cannot be 100% addressed and produce large amounts of very long lived waste some of it transuranic actinides like Plutonium that need to be safely stored for thousands of years.

    I do however support investment in develping the kind of molten salt reactors pioneered at ORNL in the 1950s and 60s that can run on both the uranium and thorium fuel cycles. Thorium 232 being a fertile not fissile material needs to be transmuted into U-233 to be then used as fuel in a slow neutron reactor is far more proliferation tolerant than uranium as it is many neutron captures away from weapons grade Pu-239 not the one of U-238. And if you pull U-233 out of a running molten salt reactor that is breeding its own fuel it will cease to function. The break even is almost identical in neutrons released by fission in the reactors and the neutrons needed to maintain the fission and breed new fuel.

    Molten salt reactors also offer advantages not available with PWRs and BWRs as they cannot melt down - molten salt core with U-233 in solution - a two stage Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor(LFTR) would utilize almost 100% of input fuel while uranium cycle PWRs and BWRs currently utilize less than 1% of input fuel. Nuclear poisons like Xenon-135 can be removed instream while the reactor is running as can useful medical isotopes like Technetium-99m, Iodine-131 and Bismuth-213. Any moderate scale implementation of LFTRs would mean an end to any shortages of material for nuclear medicine which is very important in imaging and cancer treatment currently.

    As they run at high temperatures compared to PWRs and BWRs and near atmospheric pressures, LFTRs have a much higher thermal efficiency, do not need massive secondary containment and can also be used for things like salt water desalination after heat has been pulled off for the power loop. Which can be run by far higher efficiency Brayton Cycle gas generators.

    Because of their nature LFTRs can be built in flexible modular design and placed in locations that would never be suitable for PWRs and BWRs. Current interest in LFTRs was started by NASA looking at nuclear power generation on the Moon for instance where water would not be available for moderation, cooling and heat transfer to the generation loop. Cooling would be done with a radiation fin alone.

    As for the safety factor of nuclear power, I find it quesitonable that the Linear No Threhold(LNT) model of biological risk from exposure to ionizing radiation is accurate as the biological response to ionizing radiation does not seem to be linear.

    "The concept of DNA “repair centers” and the meaning of radiation-induced foci (RIF) in human cells have remained controversial. RIFs are characterized by the local recruitment of DNA damage sensing proteins such as p53 binding protein (53BP1). Here, we provide strong evidence for the existence of repair centers. We used live imaging and mathematical fitting of RIF kinetics to show that RIF induction rate increases with increasing radiation dose, whereas the rate at which RIFs disappear decreases. We show that multiple DNA double-strand breaks (DSBs) 1 to 2 μm apart can rapidly cluster into repair centers. Correcting mathematically for the dose dependence of induction/resolution rates, we observe an absolute RIF yield that is surprisingly much smaller at higher doses: 15 RIF/Gy after 2 Gy exposure compared to approximately 64 RIF/Gy after 0.1 Gy. Cumulative RIF counts from time lapse of 53BP1-GFP in human breast cells confirmed these results. The standard model currently in use applies a linear scale, extrapolating cancer risk from high doses to low doses of ionizing radiation. However, our discovery of DSB clustering over such large distances casts considerable doubts on the general assumption that risk to ionizing radiation is proportional to dose, and instead provides a mechanism that could more accurately address risk dose dependency of ionizing radiation."

    Which means the main threat of nuclear power - exposure to ionizing radiation - is not the linear to zero threat it has been treated as from the start.

    In fact there are preliminary results that would seem to indicate that exposure to ionizing radiation within a certain threshold may have a positive health benefit. As the US Navy found with its Nuclear Shipyard Workers Study that was implemented after anecdotal evidence of a link between workers exposed to activated steel producing cobalt-60 having higher rates of leukemia.

    Although the study was never published as it found no links to leukemia from exposure to slightly higher levels of gamma radiation, the results did show a significantly lower mottaility in the nuclear worker cohort as compared to the non-nuclear workers.

    "Abstract: This paper is a summary of the 1991 Final Report of the Nuclear Shipyard Worker Study (NSWS), a very comprehensive study of occupational radiation exposure in the US. The NSWS compared three cohorts: a high-dose cohort of 27,872 nuclear workers, a low dose cohort of 10,348 workers, and a control cohort of 32,510 unexposed shipyard workers. The cohorts were matched by ages and job categories. Although the NSWS was designed to search for adverse effects of occupational low dose-rate gamma radiation, few risks were found. The high-dose workers demonstrated significantly lower circulatory, respiratory, and all-cause mortality than did unexposed workers.
    Mortality from all cancers combined was also lower in the exposed cohort. The NSWS results are compared to a study of British radiologists. We recommend extension of NSWS data from 1981 to 2001 to get a more complete picture of the health effects of 60Co radiation to the high-dose cohort compared to the controls."

    Then there's the fact that as organisms we like everything else are radioactive;

    "All of us have a number of naturally occurring radionuclides within our bodies. The major one that produces penetrating gamma radiation that can escape from the body is a radioactive isotope of potassium, called potassium-40. This radionuclide has been around since the birth of the earth and is present as a tiny fraction of all the potassium in nature.

    Potassium-40 (40K) is the primary source of radiation from the human body for two reasons. First, the 40K concentration in the body is fairly high. Potassium is ingested in many foods that we eat and is a critically important element for proper functioning of the human body; it is present in pretty much all the tissues of the body. The amount of the radioactive isotope 40K in a 70-kg person is about 5,000 Bq, which represents 5,000 atoms undergoing radioactive decay each second."

    Ionizing radiation in any amount stops seeming a threat when it is understood that we are constantly exposed to ionzing radiation from within and like every other organism on the planet have evolved mechanisms to not just deal with this but quite possibly use it to our benefit.

    Which us why I commented that the risk of nuclear power is often misrepresented often to highly unreasonable levels.

    And while Acute Radiation Syndrome is a concern, it is very rare in association with nuclear power. And it is also not an automatic death sentence as conventional "wisdom" by some would have us believe.

    The Chernobyl accident resulted in almost one-third of the reported cases of acute radiation sickness (ARS) reported worldwide. Cases occurred among the plant employees and first responders but not among the evacuated populations or general population. The diagnosis of ARS was initially considered for 237 persons based on symptoms of nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Ultimately, the diagnosis of ARS was confirmed in 134 persons. There were 28 short term deaths of which 95% occurred at whole body doses in excess of 6.5 Gy. Underlying bone marrow failure was the main contributor to all deaths during the first 2 mo. Allogenic bone marrow transplantation was performed on 13 patients and an additional six received human fetal liver cells. All of these patients died except one individual who later was discovered to have recovered his own marrow and rejected the transplant. Two or three patients were felt to have died as a result of transplant complications. Skin doses exceeded bone marrow doses by a factor of 10-30, and at least 19 of the deaths were felt to be primarily due to infection from large area beta burns. Internal contamination was of relatively minor importance in treatment. By the end of 2001, an additional 14 ARS survivors died from various causes. Long term treatment has included therapy for beta burn fibrosis and skin atrophy as well as for cataracts."

    The primary cause of death with emergency responders at the Chernobyl reactor accident was from infection in 3rd. degree beta burns. And while there are serious health issue with survivors, many were still alive decades later.

    To sum up my position on nuclear power of certain types.

    - Thorium has an energy denisty of more than 1 million times coal. A lump of thorium that fits within your hand could provide all the energy you need in a lifetime.

    - Modern reactor designs are far more safe and efficient than older designs.

    - They provide benefits such as an endless supply of medical isotops that would likely result in a revolution in nuclear medicine.

    - LFTRs produce far less transuranic actinides and most of the fission products that remain after the original fuel is consummed have decayed to ground state within a decade leaving a little over 10% of the waste needing to be stored long term. This in a reactor design that will produce about 1% of waste as current reactors.

    - Thorium is in the same abundance as lead.

    - If we choose to utilize uranium in fast spectrum molten salt reactors we can burn up all the current high level nuclear waste and have a virtually unlimited supply of fuel as the oceans contain about 4.5 billion tons of uranium before we even look at terrestrial reserves. This comes with the proliferation risk of producing large amounts of Pu-239.

    A new family of absorbents is being developed to efficiently extract uranium from sea water.

    To be clear, I'm not advocating the implementation of nuclear power over other low carbon sources of energy. 

    I think we need to develop everything we can because the next few decades are going to be a challenge that is going to require innovation and flexibility that leaves no room from political agendas and poorly implemented science such as with the LNR which is almost certainly inaccurate and yet remains the main plank of opposition to nuclear power as it presents ionizing radiation as a health risk down to a level of zero. A factor that is present in all our lives at varying rates.



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  7. sorry neglected to insert active links in the above post

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  8. KR @5

    They had a working molten salt reactor running at ORNL for 4 years in the 1960s, this is not new technology. They didn't include a power generation loop as the project was run on a shoe string.

    Molten-Salt Reactor Experiment

    Many of the primary issues were resolved then such as material compatibility and removal of fission products instream with a running reactor.

    Personally I think there is something elegant about a reactor that uses mostly chemistry to contain the fissil fuel and remove waste as well as a reactor that does moderate itself and if it ever did suffer catastrophic failure would automatically drain its core into sub-critical containment under the reactor.

    Which is how the ORNL team ran the reactor, when they needed to do maintenance they shut the reactor off and allowed the core to drain into containment where it was passively cooled and the salt froze. To start the reactor up again they simply heated the salt to molten, pumped it back into the reactor vessel and turned on the circulation pumps and adjusted the control rods for reactivity.

    In the early 1970s the offer to the Nixon administration was to build a working molten salt breeder reactor within ten years at a cost of $340 million total. Nixon went with LMFBR which was costing over $400 million A YEAR and gave us the $8 billion white elephant at Clinch River.

    I find it hard to accept if we really needed it we wouldn't be up to the same challenge as ORNL almost 50 years ago. With all our advances in theoretical and material science and technology.

    My feeling is before long we are going to be needing ALL the options on the table and the kind of focused R&D that often produces radical design advances during times of war is going to happen in energy production.

    In a sense global warming and climate change presents a challenge that eclipses most forms of warfare with the exception of NBC.

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  9. I wonder how many people realize that 50 years ago Oakridge National Laboratory was at the forefront of climate change research and advocacy and that one of the main purposes of the thorium molten salt reactor was to prevent the catastrophic climate change that some visionaries already saw coming decades ago.

    The Passion of Alvin Weinberg

    The man who came up with the idea for the molten salt reactor while working on the Manhattan Project was the same person that did the theoretical science that made semi-conductors possible and the modern revolution in transitor based technology. I was corresponding with one of his former students and Eugene Wigner was stating to his students in 1960 that thorium would be the salvation of mankind.

    I don't know if that is going to be the case. What I do know is that we have put off action on addressing climate change for decades and some of the people at the forefront of nuclear power development were working on solutions decades before most people even understood this threat existed.

    I find it ironic that nuclear power will now be left out, from my perspective largely because far too many people are ignorant of the real risks and the true capabilities. 

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  10. Doug C.,

    So I take it that your answer to my request that you write an OP supporting nuclear with peer reviewed data is that it is not worth your time.

    I worked full time with radiation for 3 years— I have held 1 curie of unshielded high energy beta radiation in my hand— and I have extensive training about radiation health effects.

    You link your hopes on a reactor design that has not yet been built and proponents suggest 2050 as when a pilot plant might be built.  It is imposible for your reactors to assist in achieving 2050 goals, they can only be used to supplement a renewable system after that system was already built.

    You did not respond to the 13 different reasons nuclear cannot provide a significant amount of energy listed in Abbott 2011.

    You ignore the enormous CO2 emissions caused by delay of other low emitting sources documented in Jacobson 2009.

    DIscussing nuclear is always a waste of time because nuclear supporters cannot be bothered with the facts.

    My final comment: nulcear is uneconomic.

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  11. Doug C appears to make a convincing case but, as anyone who listens to a 'salesman' should know, the art of cherry picking facts and turning a blind eye to inconvenient truths is rather common today. We need to see any of the inconvenient truths that Doug may have left out highlighted, and an OP with full links to peer reviewed research that we can follow up would be a good start

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  12. Conservation of energy uses must be given the highest priority.  Clean renewable energy simultanious to that.  However, the plan to use the same amount of energy, but renewable will likely fall short.  Nuclear power is a high risk technology.  Perhaps some high capital technical breakthrough can address these threats.  However, renewable wind and solar already is cost affective.  I am quite disturbed by the trend of our time of imposing long term liabilities on the future such as nuclear waste for a temporary short term benefit.  This is an emergency.  I still witness whole sale waste of energy for recreational uses.  We collectively have not yet recognized the demand by nature to limit emissions to less than what can be sequestered.  When that recognition comes we will  have a chance to make the combination of conservation and renewable energy that may allow us to stop the increase CO2 in the atmosphere and begin the long slow process of emitting less than can be sequestered to lower the concentration to a point where amplifying affects do not occur.  

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  13. At the risk of responding in a political fashion to an article which is at its core political, I am glad to observe that the topic at hand seems to be about the means to an agreed upon end (decaarbonization), and not the tired old arguments about whether to decarbonize and the veracity of projections that cry out for decarbonization. This is progress.

    The activist community is on full display with this letter in its purest form, which I believe is the starting point of what I hope will be a public discussion, followed by bunches of measures which will push our societies in the right direction bit by bit. If some look at this as a dig-in-and-hold-no-hostages stance, I would counter that this is more like the first offer in a real estate negotiation, which is low to see how negotiable the listed price is, partly based on how long it has been on the market. I suspect that even the legislator community is more keen to what's possible and activists know this. For years they have heard from politicians that the activist community needs to create the political pressure if they want movement, something that they've had trouble assembling in the past, so opening bids typically have pieces that will likely disappear as negotiations get serious.

    The Atomic Scientist article talks about how Germany can be a cautionary tale for some because as a nation they cut back on nuclear power production before they took on coal in their energy mix, resulting in a lower rate of decarbonization. Once again, politicians in Germany are like everywhere, and the anti-nuclear movement in Germany was more organized than the anti-coal folks, who had to contend with a centuries old coal producing community including unions of those workers opposing coal shutdowns. To say that focusing on nuclear instead of coal is putting the cart before the horse: both were lobbied against and the anti-nuke crowd just had less resistance.

    In the US, there is still a strong if latent anti-nuclear movement, and when combined with anti-big government and anti-subsidies groups, could be quite formidable. Conventional nuclear has tried to start up again and predictably ended up with egg on their face. If I had advice to the nuclear proponents, it would be to disavow the huge centralized conventional nuclear approach in favor of a path of alternative approaches that would be done in a way that would not hog so much resources that it would threaten the rapid deployment of a smart grid and decentralized wind and solar, combined with energy efficiency investments.

    This is the stuff of collaboration and incremental but RAPID progress that we must stay focused on. We must not allow our political industrial complex to polarize this topic and must emphasize that this is a process, not a all-or-nothing endeavor, winner take all. So I'm glad for the letter and I'm glad for the critique. Trust the process!


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  14. No green deal, old or new, will have any effect on climate change as long as governments are activly dragging their feet and working against it.  And they will continue to drag their feet as long as they are financed by vested interests.  Who Pays the Piper Calls the Tune.  It is as simple as that.

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  15. Cap and trade                                       Hansen's Tax and Dividend

    Money into the hands of the rich     Money into the hands of the poor

    Depresses the economy                   Stimulates the economy

    Government the vilain                       Government the Hero

    Ineffective                                            Effective

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  16. Wasn't going to say anything about nuclear power, but since everyone else is....I feel nuclear power still has great potential, but comes up against real world obstacles,and we obviously have to live in the real world.

    Firstly I accept there is good evidence that nuclear power causes fewer deaths per mwatt than other power sources, and very low doses of radiation are likely harmless, but the public just dont "feel safe" and they are the people one has to convince, especially in a democracy. The only thing that might change this is a new type of reactor like a molten salt reactor, but these are decades away. According to wikipedia Japan is building one and its not due for completion for at least 20 years.

    Given the molten salt reactors are decades away, this is not much use in meeting Paris Accord time frames. Conventional water cooled reactors also have relatively poor economics and are slow to build.

    Nuclear advocates are very fixated on what seems like an almost magical source of power, ( so was I as a kid) but we have to live in the real world with its messy politics, economics and human psychology, and this doesnt favour nuclear power in its present form. Thats the harsh reality.

    But I'm personally 100% behind developing new nuclear technology, and keeping all energy options open. The molten salt technology obviously has merit, and looks like it might make efficient use of scarce resources. I feel governments should turbocharge development - but not at the expense of wind and solar power. These are viable and economic and makes sense right now!

    One of the big issues is battery storage, which is needed to make wide adoption of wind and solar power viable. Its hard to know if the planet even has enough resources for vast battery farms. It might, because there is lithium dissolved in sea water, and other battery options that use other materials, but its clear nobody really knows with certainty. Molten salt reactors might prove valuable if there are limits to battery storage. Keep all options open.



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  17. @15 William,

    With all due respect both your options listed are analogous to little more than rearranging the deck chairs on a sinking Titanic. This problem is not only about emissions. This is a carbon cycle. Trying to fix this by eliminating carbon emissions is tackling the problem with one hand tied behind our backs. It won't work, and several researchers have made the claim we already passed the point where that alone cant work. There are two sides to this and BOTH must be improved, less emissions and more sequestration.

    You need to go back to basics and rethink what causes AGW to begin with.

    1. We are burning fossil fuels and emitting massive amounts of carbon in the atmosphere as CO2 mostly but also some CH4 and a few other greenhouse gasses.
    2. We have degraded the environmental systems that would normally pull excess CO2 out of the atmosphere. (mostly grasslands)
    3. By putting more in the atmosphere and removing less, there is no other place for the excess to go but the oceans. They are acidifying due to absorbing just part of the excess. (roughly 1/2)
    4. That still leaves roughly 1/2 of emissions that are building up in the atmosphere and creating an increased greenhouse effect. (from ~280 ppm to 412+ppm CO2)

    So this leads directly to the way we must reverse AGW:

    1. Reduce fossil fuel use by replacing energy needs with as many feasible renewables as current technology allows.
    2. Change Agricultural methods to high yielding regenerative models of production made possible by recent biological & agricultural science advancements.
    3. Large scale ecosystem recovery projects similar to the Loess Plateau project, National Parks like Yellowstone etc. where appropriate and applicable.

    TL;DR We need to reduce carbon in and increase carbon out of the atmosphere to restore balance to the carbon cycle.
    Consider a third option,

    verified carbon offsets

    1. Money into the hands of farmers and land managers sequestering carbon in the soil
    2. Stimulates the economy
    3. Reduces food costs
    4. Improves food security for both rich and poor alike
    5. Simultaneously AGW adaptive and mitigation strategy
    6. Must be done anyway, so this is a simply way to fund it. 2 birds 1 stone
    7. Far more effective than either of the two you listed.
    8. Far less cost than either of the two you listed.
    9. Obtainable right now without the need for new unknown technologies.
    10. Not a redistribution of wealth scheme, but rather a public works project capable of gathering conservative political support as well as liberal political support.

    In short, the carbon emissions sources will be paying for land managers to sequester their carbon footprint back into the earth where it belongs. This is a paid service, not a tax and liberal spend scheme with an ulterior social agenda.

    And best of all? It's already set up and ready to go at the local government level. Just awaits funding. Pass the legislation and even in the most conservative of states it goes off and running immediately.

    Carbon Sequestration Certification Program

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  18. doug sweet @4:

    Let's put it on the record that page 1of Abbott starts with the premise that nuclear needs to be able to scale up to "total global power consumption of mankind" of 15 TW "for millennia to come", otherwise "investment must be redirected to a different solution".   It goes on to identify some very real problems with such a scale up, and nuclear in general.

    I'm not keen on nuclear, but Abbott didn't really help convince me that the NGD needs a blanket no-nuclear stance.

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  19. Getting back to the main subject. I have to admire the Democrats for at least having a plan. It's hard to win elections just with negative attack campaigns, and generally you also need a positive plan with points of difference from the other parties, and this is politics 101 really.

    Imho The Green New Deal does beyond climate change and is almost a political manifesto combining environmental goals with socio economic ideals. Nothing wrong with that, but if it comes across as too left wing it will alienate people. It's no use if it doesn't get votes. So I think the plan needs to emphasise there is a place for both markets and government, its not either / or. I would make this a central tenet of the plan, not something added on in the fine print to placate conservatives, and it is the most viable approach to the real world anyway.

    Don't ban nuclear power and carbon capture and storage schemes. It doesn't make sense to suggest profits are bad in this sector given the companies that manufacture electric cars also make a profit. Instead ensure there is no profiteering (excessive profits) and crony capitalism. The EPA or some other independent body could do that. There are numerous possibilities.

    The IPCC says we need to reduce emissions and also sequester carbon. A carbon tax acts as an incentive for renewable energy and can be used to fund  / subsidise carbon sequestration schemes, and part of the tax returned as a dividend to the public. Maybe there are other ways of meeting the IPCC goals, but a carbon tax and dividend covers a lot of bases.

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  20. Everyone, The recently re-introduced bi-partisan Carbon Fee & Dividend bill: "Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act" (house bill #763) fits what many above are advocating. This is the culmination of 10 years of bi-partisan relationship building by Citizens' Climate Lobby. See link HERE for details on this bill; see HERE for actual text of this bill. Call your congress person today to support this bill (see the helpful congress call-in tool provided by CCL HERE); and consider joining citizens' Climate Lobby to lend more support (see HERE).

    RedBaron #17: This bill includes payments from the fees for certified carbon capture and sequestration (such as to "farmers and land managers"). So, it funds & stimulates exactly what you are advocating to concentrate on, as well as all the benefits listed by william (#15) (win-win). ... This policy (CFD) is the least costly way to correct the market failure caused by not including the external cost of carbon in the price of FF's. Thereby it drives economic forces so to accentuate everything that we should be doing, and de-accentuate everything that we shouldn't. And, it will do this without increasing the size of goverment (think: low cost; think: not economically regressive; think: politically durable). Plus, it will do this in a way that is very just & progressive to the poor (see Household Access study HERE). ... It will reduce GHG emissions 40% by 2030 and 90% by 2050. Nothing else, on the books, comes close to those kind of stats. ... Carbon tax policy, like this bill, has been endorsed by dozens of noted economists and nobel laureates (HERE); Dana Nuccitelli cited the same economist endorsement of CFD in his article above.

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  21. Without population reduction and the complete overhaul of our economic system to eliminate the need for growth, every suggestion here is useless. We can, and will, outgrow the benefits of them all.

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  22. @20 Sauerj,

    Look at the last two pointers on the Green New Deal.

    I would support that even as a conservative republican except for one very major problem. [1]

    • "Provide all members of society a job guarantee programme to assure a living wage job.
    • Basic income programmes and universal health care."

    This is where Democrats shoot themselves in the foot every time, and why US has such pushback. They have never put forth a workable plan and even this one can't work, because they insist on using AGW as a tool to make completely unrelated major socialist changes to the US economy.

    In many of my conversations with denialists, it always comes up ultimately. First they try to deny AGW. But at some point it becomes a socialist plot, or a communist plot, or a Chinese plot, or a Russian plot, or Al Gore's destroy the US form of capitalism and substitute socialism.

    And there it is yet again...... universal health care and various socialist welfare programs attached directly to AGW mitigation strategy. Yet again we see the Democrats selling out and not really giving a damn about really solving AGW but rather simply using the issue to scare people into accepting a socialist or communist state.

    It's not going to happen. All it can possibly do is fuel the fires of the opposition even further. 

    I have spent YEARS campaigning hard to show that AGW mitigation strategy is possible within a conservative framework and isn't just some commie tree huggers plot to make America a socialist state.

    Then along comes this green new deal, and what? In one fail swoop it undermines not only mine, but every attempt in the US to actually get a deal done. And why? Because the proposal is so myopic as to not even come close to understanding what causes such hard pushback in the first place. 

    Put up a mitigation strategy that is AGW mitigation. And it will certainly pass. But put that strategy up and any gains you made will be lost 5 fold, and have nothing to do with AGW.

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  23. Red Baron @22

    I respect your economic view point and environmental commitment, but maybe consider a few things. Firstly you clearly associate universal healthcare and a universal basic income with a socialist or communist state. Yet every single developed country apart form America has a form of universal healthcare, and so do many developing countries. Do you really think that makes them "socialist or communist states? Imho it's stretching credibility to think so.

    Polls also find the vast majority of Americans want universal healthcare, so its hard to see how The Democrats are shooting themselves in the foot! The evidence suggests universal healthcare has numerous benefits for society and economies. Even The Economist ( a huge international leaning and respected economics journal)  who lean towards small government advocate universal healthcare! 

    I agree a universal basic income is arguably more obviously socialist leaning, and I'm not sure the time is right yet. However circumstances may ultimately make it the only practical way of avoiding dire socio economic problems! Anyway it seems odd to reject an entire plan over one issue.

    Maybe it's personal perspective. I see some aspects of the Green New Deal as bad socialism for example worries about people making a profit from direct air capture, but most aspects of the plan  look pretty sensible environmentalism and socio economic ideas. I think it would be wrong to rubbish the plan as a whole over details. It will probbaly be modified anyway.

    And remember congress wont be voting on some single piece of legislation called "The Green New Deal" it will be on various components which will stand on their merits.

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  24. Red Baron @22: I 100% agree w/ you that these sorts of points (that you mentioned) in the GND distract from where it should be focusing: CC mitigation policy. The EICDA (that I linked above) is completely different from the GND; it is 100% focused on CC mitigation policy. The GND, with its mis-focused points, will go nowhere b/c of its partisanship and end up only squandering precious Dem house majority time. Too bad the Dems don't realize that the ideal CC mitigation policy is already sitting right in from of them (that being the EICDA bill); there is no need to get distracted & lose time on the GND.

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  25. @nigelj23,

    That is not really point is it? It could be exactly the opposite and be just as bad. Those other economic issues are unrelated to AGW mitigation strategy one way or another. It matters little is every other country has them or or not. The US doesn't and they need debated on the own merits and not tied to AGW.

    As soon as the two are connected on the same list, you just proved every denialist's worst fears and made it all the harder to ever convince any other them that AGW is anything more than a socialist plot to tax away their freedoms.

    Look at the list again, the full one this time:

    • 100% of national power generation from renewable sources.
    • Building a national energy-efficient “smart” grid.
    • Upgrading every residential and industrial building for state-of-the-art energy efficiency, comfort and safety.
    • Decarbonising manufacturing, agricultural and other industries.
    • Decarbonising, repairing and improving transportation and other infrastructure.
    • Funding massive investment in the drawdown and capture of greenhouse gases.
    • Making “green” technology, industry, expertise, products and services a major export of the US, helping other countries transition to carbon-neutral economies.
    • Provide all members of society a job guarantee programme to assure a living wage job.
    • Basic income programmes and universal health care.

    You can go right down the list and it sounds like project drawdown and I am giving a resounding yes Yes YES! at each one, Then get to the last two OH NO! I see that they just shot themselves in the foot and took the debate back 10 years yet again making the exact same mistakes Al Gore made!

    You can't be involved in the debate and not know this is the single biggest objection presented against AGW. It is here too!

    17 "Climategate CRU emails suggest conspiracy"


    19 "Al Gore got it wrong"

    Both of those directly caused by massive funding of the Merchants of doubt. We have discussed this on other climate related websites as well. It's the main objection there as well and I know you have seen it.

    You really so naive to think the US citizens would vote for a guy like Trump who calls AGW a chinese hoax if they did not understand this attempt to link socialists policies with AGW mitigation?

    Hypothetically change the last two to:

    • Eliminate all Unemployment benefits
    • Eliminate all medicade and medicare

    and see how many Democrats would vote for AGW mitigation? I suspect damn few. It's the same here. Damn few conservatives will vote for it and they will fight against it tooth and nail!

    In the US we have had socialist policies to some degree since the first New Deal in the 1930s. So clearly any platform debating this could potentially get support on it's own merits. But as part of AGW mitigation is is off topic and fueling the opposition with billions of dollars and massive pushback. Even to the point of helping Trump get elected when the polls showed he should have lost.

    Think of all the work Katharine Hayhoe has done to show that it is an issue for everyone! 

    How do we know this climate change thing is even real?

    Watch that carefully and understand the reality she is discussing.

    This "New Deal" undermines all the gains we made by the silly inclusions of the last two and making mitigation in the US even harder than before! And it is a great pity because the actual parts of the New Deal that actually address AGW are the best I have ever seen from any politician ever! Why ruin such a brilliant plan by adding unrelated socialist policy unless AGW really is a commie conspiracy? Get it? See how easy the opposition can obfuscate?

    Luckily most conservatives haven't even seen it yet. So I would suggest a quick revamp and simply separating the two things and arguing them each on their own merits. Because the more this gets out the less support and the less chances of getting anything done.

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  26. Red Baron @25, I suppose you are right that the Green New Deal is better without the two socioeconomic provisions. I  dont like to be stubborn for sake of it, and you make some good points on this.

    In reality it probably won't matter too much either way because politicians will be voting on environmental specifics, and will have forgotten the social provisions. The public know what the Democrats stand for overall and its going to include universal healthcare.

    But  this might surprise you: "Even conservative Republicans like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s Green New Deal, poll says"

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  27. @sauerj 24,

    I get it. And yes it is much better with bipartisan support. And the flaw I see in the EICDA bill is not a deal breaker for me. But I still strongly believe its biggest flaw is in who gets paid the dividend. Since the dividend gets paid to everyone, rather than focused on those things directly restoring the carbon cycle balance, it significantly dillutes it's effectiveness.

    One could, and surely many will, take their dividend moneys and spend them on increasing their carbon footprint anyway. It's not verifiable. This is too important to leave to the hope that suddenly we have the capability to herd cats with indirect government distribution of wealth schemes.

    Use the dividends to build solar panels? Or insulate homes? Or build giant wind farms? Or sequester carbon in the soil?  These direct uses of the dividends are verifiable. In my honest opinion this is a far better and far more efficient and far less disruptuption and cost to the economy too!

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  28. Red Baron @27: Good points. I understand your "efficacy " concern w/ CFD. Will the 40% reductions by 2030 & 90% reduction by 2050 (as CCL studies project) really happen with its uniform distribution of the fees? Will CFD really cause individuals to reduce carbon consumption. Many AGW hawks, versed on the array of policy choices, argue that a massive subsidy program for nuclear energy would be a far better way to get emissions down ASAP. All of these are good points deserving of attention. ... I just want to raise two additional points that often get overlooked:

    Point #1) Often people question the efficacy of CFD b/c they have a certain upper "tax rate" in mind. If that is the stumbling block, then the discussion for impact should really be about "how high of a tax rate" is really necessary to achieve the necessary and politically obtainable rates of emission reductions. In other words, if $100/mt CO2-e is thought to be too wimpy, then instead of throwing out CFD, consider its efficacy at $200/mt. … And, on that point, this is yet another 'good' feature of this EICDA bill. It is my understanding (disclaimer noted, needs to be verified) that this EICDA bill doesn't just ramp-up and stop at $100/mt CO2-e tax rate. If the reductions in GHG emissions (CO2 GW equivalent) are not dropping fast enough (> the targeted downward rate), then the tax rate keeps going up beyond $100/mt. As you know, the impact to motivate the economy to de-carbonize (using CFD) would be directly proportional to how much higher the tax rate increases the price of carbon-energy above the break-even " Levelized Cost of Energy" price of non-carbon energy. If the break-even price is $50/mt, then a tax rate of $150/mt would be 2x more effective than $100/mt. So, the tax rate HAS to be above some minimum, and then, above that, the impact increases proportionally. CFD would have little-to-no impact if the tax rate is only marginally above this break-even point. So, I am qualifying my efficacy claim of CFD & this EICDA bill on condition that the ramped-up tax rate is well above this break-even point, and that the final bill is, in fact, designed to continue to climb (as necessary) up to whatever rates are necessary in order to achieve the targeted downward impact rate.

    Two further side-notes on the bill:  a) By being uniformly revenue-neutral, this helps it be the most "progressively & uniformly just" and therefore, the least regressive to all the sectors of the economy, across the board. This allows the tax rate to be as high as possible and still be politically durable. In other words, if impact is proportional to tax rate (above a minimum threshold), then we want the tax rate to be as high as possible. But, a high tax rate, if not designed right, could cause too much regression and then would not be politically durable, and would get repealed. Therefore 100% equal distribution is not seen as a cop-out, but instead as a crafty way to achieve as high a tax rate as possible and still maintain political durability. b) The EICDA tax rate is based on CO2 equivalency; the fees are applied to all the major anthro-GHG's based on their GW intensity equivalent to CO2. As a side-note on this point, the alternate CFD policy that is proposed by the separate group Climate Leadership Council is ONLY on CO2. Natural gas companies (with their CH4 leakage emissions) prefer that approach; but, it doesn't take much CH4 leakage (~3% of usage) to offset the advantage gas has over coal for power generation. So, the EICDA (with its fee on CO2-e) covers that point too.

    Point #2) You may still be thinking: even at a very high $225/mt tax rate, what difference does it make to the individual who has the average footprint and therefore their costs are 100% reimbursed in dividends. And, you do have a point. But, keep in mind that this only considers the economic impact to individuals. The other impact, to business, is a whole different story. Here a high carbon tax would aggressively "stratify" the viability of businesses apart from each other based on their carbon footprint, having a big impact for businesses all fighting for the same competitive market share. For example, power companies that have a high-carbon generation portfolio would lose market share (on the open grid) due to their higher prices compared to other power companies that have a low-carbon portfolio. This would cause investors to flock to the latter and away from the former. The former would have to change to low-carbon generation or else die. The latter would use its incoming investment to further its low-carbon generation. This "stratification" of viability, directly proportional to carbon footprint, will therefore have a much greater impact to change business & commercial strategies on this non-individual level. This is the kind of "infrastructural & business impact" that often gets overlooked when people think about the efficacy of CFD but only on an individual level.

    If you consider the above two additional points: ever increasing tax rate, to achieve targeted reductions, and non-reimbursed and intense impact to aggressively stratify businesses competing for a common market, I think this gives even more praise to the efficacy of this EICDA bill. If all of this helps EICDA sound better to you, then please consider supporting CCL and its sponsored EICDA bill. Goodness knows, we need all hands on deck to build the necessary political-will to pass a bill like this (and as soon as possible). ... Have a good day!

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  29. Red Baron @27, a carbon tax with all the money distributed as subsidies has some technical merit, but just isn't politically viable. The concept has to work in the real world. The GOP have indicated they want a scheme that is revenue neutral, and so where money doesn't accumulate in governments hands to be spent on whatever schemes, and commonsense would suggest the general public will not be amenable to a tax with no dividend because it would be very harsh. 

    It is also not necessary to subsidise renewable energy any more because it is already becoming cost competitive, and a carbon tax will promote further development obviously which is the whole idea. Nuclear power should stand on its own merits in the market place and should not be given special treatment by governments above what other zero carbon energy strategies receive.

    The dividend is likely to be spent on a range of things including electric cars etc,  and will not produce a fixed spending pattern over time. As renewable energy becomes more cost effective it will become more attractive.

    The one area that does need a subsidy is negative emissions strategies, which suits your perspective. Companies have no strong reason to build such technology unless they get assistance. I think one possible version of a  carbon tax would give about half back as a dividend and subsidise negative emissions technologies, soil sequestration etc. This limits subsidies to a narrow essential band. This might be politically feasible.

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  30. @28 Sauerj,

    I wrote up a formal reply on Quora and as was once asked of me before, rather than bog down this website with repeating the same things, I will instead direct the conversation there where we can debate it and drum up support. I tried to provide better citations there too.

    But first seriously consider that the change between our positions should not be a deal breaker. I am only suggesting a relatively minor change that doubles the efficacy at 1/2 the cost and also saves billions off the farm bill too! Not to mention a dozen other benefits, including but not limited to, helping us out of the trade war without damaging our economy. All without loosing the durability  and fairness you spoke about. Everyone must eat. So be sure lower food costs and food security helps everyone just exactly the same as a dividend share.

    Is there a technically viable and economically advantageous solution to Climate Change and what is preventing its implementation?

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  31. RB - I would say that list of goals was proof that left-wing pollies are as stupid as the right. How to guarantee no bipartisan support. Emigrate.

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  32. Red Baron @27: Thanks. I read the linked Quora article. I don't have a Quora account; and, for some reason, my computer was blocking me from signing up (probably my ad-blocker stuff). I appreciate your points as sustainable farming is extremely important. I will keep all of that in mind. Thank you!

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  33. This post by Ecoquant at Tamino's gives a well informed discussion of Climate Smart Agriculture with several peer reviewed references from major journals.

    He says "The scientific consensus is pretty consistent. Improved practices can help, but this far from the kind of “magic bullet” stuff you hear some proponents espouse."

    A different point of view from that discussed here.

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  34. To michael sweet (#33) or admin person: Please add Mr. Sweet's 2nd link (missing from his last sentence), and then delete my comment here. Thanks!

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  35. I understand that the wording of the letter could be improved. But the statement that “Fossil fuel companies should pay their fair share for damages caused by climate change, rather than shifting those costs to taxpayers”, is a valid criticism of a Carbon Tax (even with a dividend) or Cap and Trade. These mechanisms do not 'penalize the investors and executives' pursuing profit from fossil fuel burning. Profit and bonuses would still be made in those industries which would incorrectly motivate resistance to the understood required corrections.

    Some people also criticize statements like this letter, particularly social statements of the need for the corrections to be done in ways that improve the conditions of living for the least fortunate, as being divisive because the statements made are not acceptable to everyone. That presumes that everyone needs to accept that everyone else is justified in their beliefs, that no beliefs are incorrect or harmful. That is clearly a potentially harmful 'systemic' misunderstanding that can be related to the incorrect belief that Good Results will develop if everyone is simply freer to believe what they want and do as they please without being governed to ensure their actions do no harm to any others.

    There have been many documents published through the decades exposing how 'free pursuit of personal interest' has developed damaging results, including the development of powerful resistance to correcting the damaging developments.

    I have read: the letter, this article regarding the letter, the New Green Deal, and the Leap Manifesto (an understanding developed by Canadians that is similar to the New Green Deal developed by Americans).

    I see them all being closely aligned with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) which I have an understanding of, including understanding their origin.

    The SDGs are the result of global development of improved awareness and understanding. That effort has led to many things including the understanding of the need to create the League of Nations, which was eventually understood to be failing to achieve the objective that was understood to be required. The failure of the League of Nations resulted in the creation of the UN. And the UN's first major effort succeeded in creating the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

    It has been a struggle to have that understanding honoured by global Winners. And, in many other ways the UN has struggled to achieve the understood to be required objective. However, in spite of those struggles the UN has persisted. And it has succeeded in continuing to develop improved understanding of what is required to achieve the required objective. And one of the most recent presentations of that improving understanding is the SDGs.

    A particularly important element of the SDGs is reducing the harmful climate change impacts on future generations by current day human activity. More rapidly reducing the rate of impact reduces the magnitude of negative impact on the future generations. And reducing the negative future impact makes it easier to sustainably achieve many of the other identified required goals (SDGs) for the benefit of the future of humanity.

    The missing link in 'debates that get nowhere' regarding the corrections required that have been identified by climate science is a lack of common sense regarding the Universal Objective of human activity. In spite of a potential robust diversity of views it is possible for debate and discussion to result in Good Conclusions as long as all parties have a shared common understood objective and a desire to improve awareness and understanding (their own and of others).

    My developed understanding (open to improvement by Good Reasons) is:
    The Universal (Highest level) Objective is:

    • Improving awareness and understanding and applying that constantly improving knowledge to develop a sustainable constantly improving future for humanity.
    • The understanding of the viable sustainable future for humanity is: A robust diversity of people sustainably fitting in to the robust diversity of life on this, and other, amazing planets.
    • Another way to understand the Universal Objective is from the perspective of Future Generations: What sustainably helps the future generations into the distant future?

    That understanding does not care what any individual's personally developed desires and interests are. It only cares that every individual's actions do not harm Others or the Future of Humanity. And the aspiration is that people would strive to help Others and the Future of Humanity. A logical conclusion would be that the more rewarded a person is (in status relative to others) the more they would be expected to be helpful, the less acceptable it would be for them to be harmful.

    That understanding requires corrections of many developed world-views or perception of image/status. Resistance to the losses of impressions of image or status that the corrections would produce is not a reason to water-down or compromise the presentations of understandings from that perspective. Compromising that understanding would be like misrepresenting climate science in order to increase the popular support for what is being claimed.

    As an engineer with an MBA who has been paying close attention and tries to understand what is going on, I have learned the importance of maintaining a Universal Objective that limits the options for people pursuing personal interests (all that happens is people pursuing personal interests developed by the socioeconomic-political environment they experience). I understand the need to set hard limits on what is acceptable, not allowing potential popularity or profitability of an alternative to compromise the Universal Objective. And I understand that some engineers have allowed temptations for popularity and profit to compromise their adherence to the Universal Objective. So I understand that even being taught the importance of always being governed by the Universal Objective (and improving understanding related to the Universal Objective, including improving the Objective) is no assurance that people will care to be governed by it (many will dislike it intensely- because it imposes limits that are contrary to their developed personal interests).

    So I understand why people who should 'Know Better' can deliberately resist improving their awareness and understanding in ways that would limit their ability to justify doing what they have developed a desire to do. And I understand that everyone can be easily motivated to improve their image or perception of status relative to others (including defending the status of a tribe they associate with), and try to enjoy their life any way they can get away with, including ways that are understandably harmful to Others (just finished reading “The Opposite of Hate” by Sally Kohn which reinforces and improves that understanding).

    I understand how easy it can be for undeserving Winners to gather popular support for understandably unacceptable pursuits of personal interests of their “In-Group” - their tribe (or collection of tribes as is the case with a political party that Unites the Right Tribes, with Right being understood to be tribes resisting correction of unacceptable things that have developed). So I understand how important it is to not compromise the understanding of the Universal Objective just to 'get along' with someone who resists being governed by that Universal Objective.

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  36. OPOF @35, I work in infrastructure design, and we have codes of practise based on objectives, performance criteria, prescriptive solutions and acceptable design methodologies. Probably you are the same. As a result I also instinctively gravitate towards having a few key objectives like sustainability. It gives a clear focus, and an agreed goal by which all other rules and peoples actions can be judged and developed.  Unfortunately this sustainability goal didn't appear to be very prominent in the Green New Deal.

    We cannot compromise or bury the word sustainability simply because it might annoy a certain political group, or part of that group. That would be a total sell out. And without an over arching goal detailed provisions whether carbon taxes or rules etcetera  become rather hard to analyse, and its hard to sort out what is best.

    The problem is really with America. The Green New Deal would be viable in Europe complete with both the climate the socio economic provisions because the social provisions would have  broad political support even with conservative parties. Although I think the climate provisions need amending. But America has the GOP who are very antagonistic to things like universal healthcare (sigh).  While I dont like it, The Democrats might be better to remove things like universal healthcare and focus more on the climate and sustainability goals. But one assumes  the Democrats do plenty of public polling to test acceptability of social provisions with different political groups. It may or may not be a problem and it would be unwise to assume anything.

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  37. nigelj,

    Obama focused on Healthcare for Americans and climate action corrections for the benefit of the future of humanity. But his priority was health care for Americans and he got it done during the first 2 years.

    With the loss of Democrat control of the House after the 2010 election (and the further loss of Senate control after the 2014 election), there was less that Obama could do on climate action.

    I think the priority on health care was also as a legacy for future government. Note that the Republicans in control of all parts of the governement could not undo health care (they easily undid every climate action that Obama had initiated).

    A significant portion of the American population has developed a lack of concern for the future of humanity. It is possible to get some of those people to support actions that they, or people they know will directly and immediately benefit from now and into the future. But it is difficult to get them to sacrifice in a way that benefits no one they know.

    That is a very narrow worldview. And it is tragic that the supposed leading nation of the world has failed to correct how it develops the attitudes of its population, has failed to lead the development of a population that is focused on improving the global future of humanity.

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  38. Sunspot @21:

    Without population reduction and the complete overhaul of our economic system to eliminate the need for growth, every suggestion here is useless. We can, and will, outgrow the benefits of them all.

    Over the long (centuries) term I agree with you, but in the long term you and I will be dead. In the short (decades) term OTOH, AGW is a clear and present danger. I don't know about you, but I'm planning to live at least another 30 years, and capping the warming by then will at least buy us more time to solve the underlying problem.

    Thankfully, a significant reduction in the rate of warming can be accomplished without overhauling the global economic system, merely by internalizing some fraction of the marginal climate-change cost of fossil fuels in their market price. If the price of FFs is set high enough to make carbon-neutral alternatives competitive, consumer thrift and the profit motive can then build out the global carbon-neutral economy.  That will requires collective intervention in the 'free' (of collective intervention) market for energy. That, in turn, 'only' requires eough votes in the US Congress to enact a revenue-neutral Carbon Fee and Dividend with Border Adjustment Tariff. There are some encouraging signs of growing bipartisan support for just such a measure.  See for more info.

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  39. @Michael Sweet #33

    Thanks for the link. Yes I have seen these sorts of analysis before. Too often I see very obvious flaws in studies designed to minimize the perceived potential of this new paradigm.

    Little Known Glomalin, a Key Protein in Soils

    Glomalin, the Unsung Hero of Carbon Storage

    Liquid carbon pathway unrecognised

    But that might be obvious to me because it is well within my silo, but it often is not nearly so obvious to a climate scientist whose silo is physics.

    For example. You look at a study and find that NPK fertilizers or biocides are used, then you know they haven't studied this new paradigm at all, but rather are studying the carbon sequestration potential of the old paradigm. That's well known, modeled by the Roth C model for climate scientists, and at least 2 orders of magnitude smaller than the liquid carbon pathway. Usually even a net loss! But with certain improvements can be a fairly tiny net gain. Still, no improvement can compare it to the LCP.

    You would be well in your rights to ask why this is so obvious to me. That's because of the research done on the glomalin producing arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi and inorganic chemical fertilizers.

    Role of Mycorrhizal Symbioses in Phosphorus Cycling

    You can see the plant AMF symbiosis trades carbon for phosphorus (and other nutrients too). This is what drives the LCP pumping vast quantities of carbon deep in the A and B horizons of the soil profile, rather that the Roth C which models the decay of biomass at the surface O horizon in the soil profile.

    Soil Horizons

    But there is more to it. Because once you add NPK fertilizers to the soil, this symbiosis becomes superfluous, and instead parasitic. Its a feedback mechanism.

    Phosphorus and Nitrogen Regulate Arbuscular Mycorrhizal Symbiosis in Petunia hybrida

    But we can turn it back on again too!

    The Use of Mycorrhizae to Enhance Phosphorus Uptake: A Way Out the Phosphorus Crisis

    As long as we use NPK fertilizers to supply plant nutrition, then we have shut down the LCP and instead sequester carbon 2 orders of magnitude slower! But if we instead use this new paradigm to supply plant nutrition, we activate the LCP and soil carbon rises on average rate of 5-20 tonnes CO2e /ha/yr!

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  40. Red Baron,

    I have read many of your links in the past.  While I do not claim to be an expert at land restoration, I am a professional nurseryman who works the land every day.  (I have retired from teaching school and own a 5 acre nursery).  I find your claims to be very lightly documented.  Your first link here is to a blog post, the second is to press release about a 2002 paper and the third is to a 2008 article in a minor journal that is no longer published.  The post I linked cited recent peer reviewed articles from prominent scientific journals.

    It defies logic to think that soils could absorb all the carbon emitted by land use change, including lands that have been degraded so badly it will take generations to restore them, and all the carbon from fossil fuels.   Substantial documentation is required.  Blog posts and articles from 2002 are insufficient to convince me.

    I do not like to harp on negative stories so most of the time I do not comment on your claims.  That does not mean that I have been convinced, it means we have gone over this before and I do not feel the need to rehash an old argument (it is against the comments policy).  In this case I had recently read what I thought was an informed comment on your topic, citing recent peer reviewed articles,  and thought others might want to hear a different view. 

    While improved land use will certainly help the resolution of AGW, it is not a silver bullet that can remove all CO2 on its own.  Fee and dividend to all citizens is a reasonable idea.  Compension for possible sequestration of carbon by farmers is a separate issue.

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  41. @Michael Sweet,

    I was not refering to you and your own silo of knowledge personally, but rather the rhetorical "you" and specifically the source behind the forum thread to linked to.

    The scientific basis of
    climate-smart agriculture
    A systematic review protocol
    Working Paper No. 138

    Table 1,page 16-18

    The point being this is a review of minor upgrades to the traditional agricultural methods as can be clearly seen by title of the table:

    Description of practices included in the meta-analysis

    A person would need to know that the LCP functions entirely differently than the majority of those methods listed as part of the meta-analysis. It's as if they studied the metaphorical apple to claim results regarding oranges.

    I am sure most of those so called "climate smart" practices are at least marginally better than the current widely regarded GAP. But I am equally sure that particular paper had little to nothing to do with the new paradigm based on research of the LCP. There are a few things partially applicable, but most of it doesn't apply at all. I gave you one example with the use of fertilizers, but that's a long list and I could actually go right down the list with similar.

    And lastly, please stop saying I advocate a silver bullet when the exact opposite is true. From the link I gave in post #30

    1. Reduce fossil fuel use by replacing energy needs with as many economically viable renewables as current technology allows. Please note that most current forms of ethanol gas additive are not beneficial because they further degrade the sequestration side of the carbon cycle and take more fossil fuels to produce than they offset.[8]
    2. Change agricultural methods to high yield regenerative models of production made possible by recent biological & agricultural science advancements.[9][10]
    3. Implement large scale ecosystem recovery projects similar to the Loess Plateau project, National Parks like Yellowstone etc. where appropriate and applicable.[11][12][13]

    This is quite clearly a well rounded 3 pronged approach and vastly superior to the Fee and Dividend to all citizens approach BECAUSE that approach omits 1/2 the carbon cycle. You are actually on the side of the plan that takes a silver bullet approach, focusing only on reducing emissions.

    Indeed the primary flaw of the EICDA is they pay the dividend to everyone equally whether that have a positive carbon footprint or a negative carbon footprint. That's basically shuffling the deck chairs on a sinking Titanic.

    While a  carbon market with verified carbon offsets literally only pays those dividends for verified and measured carbon sequestration in the soil. Then you will see how fast farmers adopt the actual LCP found in those agricultural case studies. They will be paid to perform a service. The ones performing the service of soil sequestration the most effectively will be paid more for that service.

    Much more efficient dynamic than paying exactly the same regardless of whether they help or harm efforts to balance the carbon cycle.

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  42. Red Baron,

    I see no references to peer reviewed data in your most recent response.  It appears to me that your claims of unbelievable amounts of CO2 sequestered in farmland come from your personal projections unknown to anyone else.  Your objections to fee and dividend are unsupported by  the peer reviewed literature.

    You have made these unsupported claims repeatedly here at Skeptical Science.  To me it is simply propaganda for your personal agenda.  Find some papers that support your claims.  While I think your goals of improving land using organic principles is laudable, you have  not demonstrated that it is achievable.  

    I will not post again on this topic unless you provide actual citations to support your wild claims. 

    Climate Smart Agriculture may assist in the response to AGW, but it is not a silver bullet to resolve Global Warming.

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  43. @ Michael Sweet,

    Actually, I did provide references that farmers successfully sequestered 5-20 tonnes CO2e/ha/yr on average in multiple 10 year case studies. I am sorry you couldn't find it, but this website doesn't allow me to keep repeating over and over and over citations you missed or don't like because of the format they are written. That's an average. I know of higher, but did not use those higher numbers because I am trying to stay conservative in my claims.
    But I believe you are missing the most important point. I take full responsibility for this, because I failed to emphasize and communicate it.

    A carbon market with verified carbon offsets  specifically takes advantage of the best known economic motivator known to mankind, the capitalist free markets.

    If you want somebody to do something, pay them to do it, and they will!

    Right now the farm bill pays farmers to produce a glut of corn and soy in a way that causes AGW, being somewhere in the range of 10-20 % of emissions.

    Sadly we are paying farmers to be a significant source of AGW and they are doing it! Society is getting what we paid for.

    So right off the bat as soon as we stop paying farmers to over produce corn and soy by means of unsustainable methods causing AGW, they will stop doing it. That reduces emissions at least by 10% alone, using the conservative low end.

    Then of course they still need to make a living. So this carbon market with verified carbon offsets will instead pay them to do their farming in a way that sequesters carbon in the soil.

    That means restoring the tallgrass prairie ecosystems would now be more profitable than raising corn and soy! And what would any farmer with a lick of sense do? He would stop raising a glut of corn and soy, and instead replant degraded crop fields with prairie grasses. Instead of raising corn and soy to feed animals and gasoline tanks, we can raise animals on the prairie and restore the most productive terrestrial biome on the planet. One that indeed does sequester carbon in the soil at least the average rates listed above in my previous posts.

    However, since you are still skeptical, here is a new citation more in the format you are used to analyzing:

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


    If you convert that study's C figures to CO2e, you will find that we here in the US have confirmed what the Aussies were saying decades ago, but no one listened.

    Again, pay US farmers to do it and watch out. They have exceeded expectations in every case imaginable. Pay them to sequester carbon and just watch the carbon disappear into the soil!

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  44. RedBaron, you have provided some very interesting material over the years and I do sense your frustration at repeating the links. However, it is also not easy for users to search back through past posts on many threads looking for your references.

    Since you are clearly a keen advocate for soil sequestration via improved farming practices, why not make a small web page with links to the relevant papers and articles? This would potentially reach a large audience and the only link to need to keep repeating would be the link to that page. Organising links around topics helps too.

    Moderators (I am one) jump on people endlessly repeating the same point in a single thread while not addressing counter-arguments. The comments policy is:

    "Discussions which circle back on themselves and involve endless repetition of points already discussed do not help clarify relevant points. They are merely tiresome to participants and a barrier to readers. If moderators believe you are being excessively repetitive, they will advise you as such, and any further repetition will be treated as being off topic."

    The key phrase here is "excessive repetition".

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  45. Red Baron,

    ThinkProgress, a progressive news site, disagrees with your claim that the Green New Deal will not reward farmers who sequester carbon on their farms.

    A Green New Deal opportunity for America’s farmers.  Perhaps you should read more carefully before you criticize it.

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  46. Michael Sweet,

    Perhaps you should actually read my answers and this thread before you go telling other people they haven't read it. 

    Post #15 has a compareson between a cap and trade and a tax and dividend, and sauerj came on advocating a Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act. Whereas I personally don't find any of the above compelling, and proposed something similar to all of the above but with the key difference being a conservative capitalist free market solution supporting  verified carbon offsets.

    My objection to the socialist dogma attached to the green new deal is very different than my objection to the bipartisan EICDA.

    The GND was dead on arrival and many of its talking points have already been discarded as unworkable. However, its big advantage is that of all the other carbon markets out there, it is the only one that even acknowledges the other side of the carbon cycle. So that's its good part. The bad part is in being unrealistic and fiscal and political suicide.

    The EICDA is fiscally responcible and realistic. Unfortunately it won't actually reverse AGW even if passed.

    So we have different plans that are unworkable. I suggested taking the best parts of each and adding a bit of conservative responcibility to them and making capitalism a driver for reversing AGW instead of a driver for causing AGW as it is now.

    We are paying people to dig and drill for fossil fuels and they are doing it. If we paid people to sequester that carbon back into the soil, they would do that too. If the people being paid to drill for fossil fuels were also the ones paying for it being sequestered back in the soil, the the markets would naturally balance themselves while balancing the carbon cycle!

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  47. RedBaron & Others:
    1) First off, a point of clarification on my @20: I technically mis-spoke (@20) when saying EICDA would subsidize Carbon Seq (CS) to "farmers and land managers". It does provide a refund to CCS enterprises (that meet “safe, permanent, and in compliance with any applicable local, State, and Federal laws”), but there is no direct language aimed at "farmers and land managers". However, if these agricultural-based CS practices could be shown to meet the above quoted provision, then possibly a refund to "farmers and land managers" (the subsidy RB advocates) would indeed occur. See point 2.9 in this FAQ on the EICDA.

    2) EICDA's Rise-in-Fee is tied to Reduction Targets: Also see in 2.1 & 2.2 of this same EICDA FAQ that the carbon fee will continue to rise to meet the emission reduction targets (90% by 2050 along with interim targets that start on 2025). I personally like this provision of contining to increase the fee past $100/mt and tieing its rise-rate to meeting reduction targets. I believe this makes the EICDA even more robust in its effectiveness in reducing GHG emissions. Though faster reductions would be ideal, still, this reduction rate is laudable and superior to any other politically serious policy option that I am aware of (though, I admit, that I am not an expert on the array of serious mitigation policy options on the table). If anyone knows of a more laudable policy option, please provide links.

    3) CFD & CT Endorsed by Many Economists: Many noted economists (for example: a) More than 70 Top Economists Back New Carbon Tax Plan, b) Carbon Tax Center list of economists endorsing carbon tax,  and c) Nordhaus views on carbon tax) advocate for a revenue-neutral carbon tax as an effective way to reduce GHG emissions.

    4) The above two points #2 & #3 seem to disagree with RB's statement above (@46): "Unfortunately [EICDA] won't actually reverse AGW even if passed." when considering that the primary mitigation objective, right now, is to first concentrate on reducing GHG emissions to zero as quickly as possible.

    My goal of this additional comment (as this thread is probably winding down) is to 1) post the informative FAQ of the EICDA, and 2) make a good case that the EICDA will in fact be effective in reducing GHG emissions (refer to my points #2 & #3 above). Personally, I believe that these latter two points make a strong case for the efficacy of EICDA compared to any other politically serious policy option.

    If anyone would like to join Citizens' Climate Lobby and help to support this awesome organization and the EICDA bill, then please refer to my comment above (@20) for more information and links to CCL and on the EICDA bill (House #763 & Senate #3791).

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