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Comments 301 to 350:

  1. Addressing the Climate Crisis: Evolution or Revolution1

    @ Evan: You wrote "I hope we agree that reduced consumption must be part of the solution if we are to achieve the ambitious goals of stabilizing the climate, whenever that occurs, and at whatever level that occurs." We agree.

    I am interested to see that upcoming post where you write about the non impacts of the renewable energy on the keeling curve.

  2. Addressing the Climate Crisis: Evolution or Revolution1

    plincoln24, thanks for your detailed responses. I also like the idea of a carbon tax as you described. I could respond to your detailed discussion, but I am basically in agreement with all that you say.

    One of the most natural ways to reduce GHG emissions is to reduce consumption. It is better not to consume than to try to consume using low-carbon methods. There is another angle where this becomes important. In an upcoming post I will show that the rise of renewable energy, to date, has had no effect on the upward acceleration of the Keeling Curve. The reason is simple. Renewable energy on its own does nothing to reduce GHG emissions. Only switching from fossil-fuel energy to renewable energy will reduce emissions. Apparently renewables are growing alongside fossil fuels and not replacing them. Because renewable energy is currently supplementing fossil fuels, and have not replaced them in any significant measure (speaking from a global, total integration perspective), people can hasten the transition from fossil fuels to renewables by consuming less, because presumably any decreased consumption will directly reduce fossil-fuel usage without changing the level of renewables, simply because renewables are currently only supplementing fossil-fuel energy.

    I hope we agree that reduced consumption must be part of the solution if we are to achieve the ambitious goals of stabilizing the climate, whenever that occurs, and at whatever level that occurs.

  3. Addressing the Climate Crisis: Evolution or Revolution1


    I don't see that I can edit my post.

    I wrote " I get the since that it is counterproductive for me to try to sell the degrowth concept at the local level, the national level or even at the EU level".

    Since should have been sense. Sorry for the error.

  4. Addressing the Climate Crisis: Evolution or Revolution1


    This is a response to comment number 11 which you posted in response to my comments about En-ROADS.

    You wrote "Without splitting hairs, what I am trying to show is the challenges that lay ahead. I understand the definitions to which you're referring, but people cannot, on their own, monitor our progress to Net-Zero Emissions. They can monitor our approach to Net-Zero Accumulation by following Table 1. I am trying to help people learn how to monitor our progress."

    I think you are right that simply looking at Table 1.1 is better for members of the public.

    I am not familiar with the IEA report. I don't think that pushing for more consumption is the right way to solve our problem. I wish En-ROADS included a lever that has policy that creates degrowth. It doesn't, and I think that the lack of its inclusion is a sign of bias in the producers of the En-ROADS program. I think it would be a lot easier to achieve our climate obligations if we allowed for degrowth in the global economy. I in fact advocate for integrating degrowth into our climate solutions.  

    You write "Yes, I've read about how we can maintain "robust economic growth" in the IEA report. But that is a study, assuming the entire world follows their roadmap, and that everything works out as planned with the technology (NET systems at scale are still a plan, not reality). Reality is that absolutely nothing we've done, to date, has caused the Keeling Curve to deviate from its upward acceleration. If we keep telling people that we can keep increasing our consumption (i.e., growth) while stabilizing the Keeling Curve, we may miss this final opportunity to deal with climate crisis.

    Where I disagree with you is the use of the words, "in principle" and your reference to "pulling policy levers" I don't necessarily disagree with the models, scientifically and conceptually. I disagree that you can implement the models on 8 billion people spread across almost 200 countries."

    To this I say what we should be telling people is what we would say if we were being as honest as possible. I agree with you that we probably wont solve the climate crisis if we fail to implement degrowth. We should do that. But the reason we need to do it is not because it is physically impossible to have economic growth and solve the climate crisis simultaneously. The reason we should implement degrowth is because growth does not equate with well being and including degrowth in the plan increases the probability of success dramatically. 

    I have met a lot of resistance trying to convince politicians that degrowth should be part of their political platform. I have had more success trying to convince them that a high price on carbon should be. I get the since that it is counterproductive for me to try to sell the degrowth concept at the local level, the national level or even at the EU level. It seems like something that needs to be a global agreement, like a global price on carbon would be. I wrote to James Hansen with regards to my concerns about economic growth needing to be addressed and he wrote back that the size of the global economy could be restrained by placing a fee on energy consumption that rises with time as you approach how large you want the global economy to be and the fees could be paid back out to the public in the form of a dividend (much like the carbon fee in dividend). I like this idea, and if we are going to take such an approach, it makes most sense to introduce a fee on the energy consumption which is the worst (emissions) by introducing Carbon Fee and Dividend, and then when the public is ready for it, sell them on protecting nature from economic growth by taking the existing Carbon Fee and Dividend program and rolling out a generalized fee on all energy sources. In my mind we need to have success with selling the public on a global price on carbon on the order of hundreds of dollars per ton CO2 before moving on to economic growth. I am not sure why you think that the policies cannot be implemented on the 8 billion people of the globle. If you mean it is because it is politically impossible (politicians would never agree on it), then you might be right). I don't otherwise understand why you would say that the policies in En-ROADS cannot be implemented on 8 billion people. In some cases it is clear you could. One policy is a global ban on new coal infrastructure from a year of your choice such as 2025. Another policy is a precentage increase in electrication of transportation per year. This latter policy could be implemnted at different rates for different nations (depending on their situation) where the desired global average is maintained. Anyhow, I view James Hansen's suggestion of applying a fee to energy in general to be a powerful tool which would take care of most of kinks associated with getting a global agreement on limiting economic growth. There would be other details naturally. But that method doesn't make sense without placing a fees on the forms of energy which are worse for the environment first. You are free to respond. 


  5. Addressing the Climate Crisis: Evolution or Revolution1

    I'm curious as to why this discussion revolved, largely, around GGEs from fossil fuels. Industrial Animal Agriculture's direct carbon footprint comes in around 31%. Its indirect footprint is variously estimated between 20% and higher numbers. On top of its footprint, we have to add in the environment damages which include deforestation, desertification, eutrophication and acidification of oceans, habitat loss, wild animal extinction, outsized fresh water use, land use conversions, human disease and disorders, especially cardiovascular...while consuming 85% of global crop tonnage, occupying 45% of arable land, while contributing only 1.5% to the gross global value of goods and services. Should not Industrial Animal Agriculture be targeted for elimination in the same manner as fossil fuels?

  6. michael sweet at 12:51 PM on 7 March 2022
    Addressing the Climate Crisis: Evolution or Revolution1

    Reuben Fraser:

    Here is a link to the 2021 Lazard study.

    I note that the cost of unsubsidized onshore wind is $25-50.  The low end is cheaper than all existing coal and nuclear and a portion of combined gas genertaion that has no mortgage.  You take the cost of existing nuclear power with no mortgage and compare it to new renewables with  a mortgage.  If they built out nuclear in Australia they would have to pay the mortgage and nuclear would be the most expensive energy.  I suggest you learn how to read your references.  I note that the price of gas has skyrocketed since the Lazard report was written.  Today renewable energy would be chepaer than gas generators with no mortgage.  The price of renewable energy does not change with the political winds like fossil fuels do.

    New build renewable energy is much cheaper than all other new build electricity sources.  We see that world wide few fossil or nuclear power plants are being started.  The cheapest power is produced from renewable energy. 

    It is possible for renewable energy to provide all the needed energy for the world, you have just not informed yourself.  Connelly et al 2020 describe how to build an all renewable energy system for Europe.  Many other all renewable energy systems have been proposed.

    The abundance of carbon in the universe does not relate to the release of CO2 into the atmosphere.

    The IAEA increases their projections of how much renewable energy will be built in the future every year.  They overestimate the amount of fossil energy that will be built.

  7. Reuben Fraser at 11:52 AM on 7 March 2022
    Addressing the Climate Crisis: Evolution or Revolution1

    The goal of Net Zero carbon emissions by 2050 is impossible, as it violates the most fundamental laws of the universe. For example, Carbon the fourth most abundant element in the universe by mass after hydrogen, helium, and oxygen. Carbon's abundance, its unique diversity of organic compounds, and its unusual ability to form polymers at the temperatures commonly encountered on Earth enables this element to serve as a common element of all known life. It is the second most abundant element in the human body by mass (about 18.5%) after oxygen.

    The goal of Net Zero Carbon Emissions by 2050 is as impossible, if not more so, than was the Marxist goal to abolish private property.

    I write this not because I am a so-called "Denier" that there is Climate Change, and nor am I opposed to action on Climate Change. But I do believe it is extremely important to be realistic about what can be achieved, in order to develop achievable public policies.

    For example, In 2021 a Lazard study of unsubsidized electricity said that the median cost of fully deprecated existing coal power was $42/MWh, nuclear $29/MWh and gas $24/MWh. The study estimated offshore wind at around $83/MWh and utility-scale solar power was around $36/MWh.

    The International Energy Agency said in 2021 that under its "Net Zero by 2050" scenario solar power would contribute about 20% of worldwide energy consumption, and solar would be the world's largest source of electricity.

    However, both solar and wind are variable (VRE)/intermittent (IRES) energy sources, and therefore are limited in the extent to which they can replace non-renewables due to their fluctuating nature: i.e. at night time solar must be replaced by other power sources; and likewise, wind must be replaced during low wind periods.

    Nuclear $29/MWh has almost zero carbon emissions, and Australia where I am from has an estimated 40% of the world's uranium. However, there is almost zero support in Australia for switching to nuclear, in large part because countries with nuclear power like the U.S., U.K. and France don't want to provide us in Australia with the nuclear technology required, as they are against the spread of nuclear technology.

    If Australia was to invest in sufficient nuclear power to provide not only our present electricity needs, but also enough to power electric cars as well, then it would require a huge amount of money to replace our coal power stations with nuclear power stations, and take about 15 to 20 years to build. But that is the cheapest possible way for us to reduce our carbon emissions, and it would only reduce our carbon emissions by about 50%. It is therefore the wisest thing we can do as a country and gives us the best chance of reducing our emissions.

    Even by doing the above switch to nuclear, we would certainly not get anywhere near Zero Carbon Emissions by 2050, because to reiterate that goal is impossible.

  8. Addressing the Climate Crisis: Evolution or Revolution1

    Michael Sweet @ 24/25 :

    Care to swap brothers-in-law ?

    Electrofuels ~ I will have to remember that term.  It seems the best bet for large scale storage, once the marginal price gets low.

  9. michael sweet at 10:46 AM on 7 March 2022
    Addressing the Climate Crisis: Evolution or Revolution1


    ps: My brother installed solar panels on his roof and bought an electric car.  He doesn't care what the price of gas is!!

  10. michael sweet at 10:44 AM on 7 March 2022
    Addressing the Climate Crisis: Evolution or Revolution1


    I think we basicly agree on the generalities. 

    The key for the next ten years is to build out wind and solar energy as rapidly as possible.  Convert all cars and most other transportation to battery electric.  80% of electricity can be generated using wind and solar with fossil natural gas as storage using existing gas generators.  Electric storage can be built as needed.  Convert all heating and cooling to heat pumps (cooling is already mostly done with heat pumps).   Connelly et al 2020 suggest that all storage can eventualy be electrofuels made for heavy industry and generating peak power when renewable sources are low.

    It will be interesting to see if Europe (and the USA) decide to build out more renewable energy to get out from their dependance on Russian gas and oil.

  11. Addressing the Climate Crisis: Evolution or Revolution1

    Michael Sweet @20 :   Quite right, the hydrocarbons are a wicked problem.   The FF hydrocarbons have their 84%  of total energy because they are cheap and very convenient (plus legacy low-technology).

    As you say, crops grown specifically for biodiesel/gasoline are unjustifiable.

    Yet there may be room for biological waste material to be fermented and/or hi-tech enzymatically converted into suitable fuels.   I haven't followed the latest developments ~ last I heard, some pilot plants could produce "oil" at $200 per barrel.   Even allowing for initial enthusiastic hype . . . how practical & economic would it be to scale up such processes?    OTOH, hi-tech CO2 capture & conversion may have a place in the middling future, when the world is really awash in superfluous solar (PV) energy.   We can hope !

    As you know, the liquid hydrocarbon fuels are so very useful in many small areas, where their compactness, light weight, easy storage, and overall convenience give them a big tick of approval.   And even in 50 years' time, the hydrocarbons will still be on target for "large niche" areas of aircraft and shipping and heavy machinery.

    The (renewable) hydrocarbons will become a luxury fuel at a luxury price.   At twice or more the current price, they will still be affordable when viewed against the overall costs of ships, jetplanes, etcetera.

    The short-term political problem remains . . . e.g. my brother-in-law almost faints when gasoline goes up 10 cents.   Quite irrational : but it's a widespread emotional response . . . and which affects votes.

  12. Addressing the Climate Crisis: Evolution or Revolution1

    OPOF, agree with your assessments of what might have been driving early GHG emissions. However you slice it, it is remarkable that we've been on this straight line for about 100 years.

  13. Addressing the Climate Crisis: Evolution or Revolution1

    nigelj@17, yes, "if people reduce their consumption of fossil fuels" then wonderful things might happen. But so far, fossil fuel use is increasing each year. Figure 2 is based on a sufficiently long time period to pretty solidly suggest that when averaged out, population is a key driver. That is all I'm really trying to say. What we are trying to do is to move off of that fundamental curve. There is lots of talk about how easily we'll be able to do it, but so far we are still solidly on it.

  14. michael sweet at 07:01 AM on 7 March 2022
    Addressing the Climate Crisis: Evolution or Revolution1

    Eclectic at 10:

    The problem with hydrocarbons from renewable energy is that hydrocarbons are a completely wasteful use of energy.  That generally means that making hdrocarbons from renewable  energy will be expensive.  Connelly et al 2020 (summarized at SkS here)  (free similar paper) describe the steps to have a 100% renewble all energy economy.  They use methane for storage and for powering those parts of the economy that cannot be converted to electricity.  Generating the power to make the hydrocarbons needed is one of the most expensive parts of converting the entire economy to renewable energy.  Hydrocarbons are very cheap to store (as much as 1,000 times cheaper than batteries) which offsets their high cost.

    There are two ways to get renewable hydrofuels from renewable electricity.  You can capture CO2 from the air (this uses energy).  Than you use electricity to get hydrogen from water.  Then you convert the hydrogen and CO2 into hydrocarbons.  You lose about 30% or more of the energy during this step.  Burning the hydrocarbons you only get back about 20-40% of the energy stored in the hydrocarbons.  Net you only get about 5-25 joules of useful energy from every 100 joules of input electricity (common uses like cars are nearer to 5%).  If you put the energy into car batteries and than run the car you get about 90 useful joules of energy from inputting 100 joules of energy.  Converting everything possible to electricity saves so much energy that hydrocarbons are ony economic for purposes that cannot be converted into electric power like marine transport (some people propose using ammonia to power marine transport.  Ammonia has the same issues as hydrocarbons.)

    You can also get hydrocarbons by electrolysis of carbon containing materials like forest waste.  That takes less energy than converting CO2 into hydrocarbons.  The supply of plant waste is limited and it is still much more expensive than electricity so using electricity instead of hydrocarbons is more economic.

    Fuels like biodiesel made from plant oils use too much land that is needed to raise food, although every little bit helps.

  15. One Planet Only Forever at 06:46 AM on 7 March 2022
    Addressing the Climate Crisis: Evolution or Revolution1


    Deforestation and other land use changes may also have been much higher 'per capita' in those earlier years of development.

  16. michael sweet at 06:30 AM on 7 March 2022
    Skeptical Science New Research for Week #9 2022

    Recently someone who was questioning climate science claimed that they used to think climate change was a big problem but they learned that the problem was much smaller than scientists had predicted.  They said both sides exaggerate.

    About a week ago the IPCC released a new report about the consequences of climate change.  This Guardian article documents that the changes caused by current climate change are much worse than scientists predicted.  I have noticed several times in the past that posters come to SkS and say they used to think cimate change was bad but they learned that it was not as bad as scientists predicted.  Perhaps that line needs to be added as an argument to the list of skeptics arguments.

    My understanding of the situation is that the changes in temperature are very close to the predictions of climate science.  The changes in weather extremes, wildfire, floods droughts and other weather related disasters have been much worse than scientists predicted.

    I am currently 63.  I have a strong recollection from 2014 when AR5 was released by the IPCC and I read the projected problems.  I wondered if those problems would be obvious to everyone during my lifetime (I expect to live to be about 85).  Many of the problems projected in 2014 are being realized now.  Examples include the wildfires worldwide, massive droughts like the one in the American West, floods like those last week in Australia, worldwide coral bleaching, sunny day flooding from sea level rise.   

    Those claiming that scientists exaggerated the problem are simply repeating the lies of the fossil fuel lobby.

  17. One Planet Only Forever at 06:28 AM on 7 March 2022
    Addressing the Climate Crisis: Evolution or Revolution1


    Part of the reason for the observed result could be that the intensity of emissions per person may have been very high when inefficient coal burning was driving industrial advancement.

    But, the potentially revolutionary understanding is that this is the first time in history that we are seeing undeniable evidence of the need to shift away from the historic human development behaviour of competition for perceptions of superiority relative to others, with everyone striving to live more like the people who are seen to be higher-status based on measures of material consumption or material possession.

    The higher status people being higher harm producing per person is likely the root of the problem.

  18. Addressing the Climate Crisis: Evolution or Revolution1

    Evan @14

    Something seems wrong in your analysis. The population versus atmospheric emissions growth trend is dependent on a population using fossil fuels. So if people reduce their consumption of fossil fuels ( and all other things stay equal) emissions must drop, and atmospheric CO2 reduces eventually. Since rich people consume more fossil fuels they are contributing to more of the problem. Isn't all that simple logic?

    Although I'm rather doubtful that rich people will cut their emissions very much by simply reducing their levels of consumption (  eg turning down the heater to low, or giving away all their assets). They will buy things like electric cars and insulate their houses. So the biggest lever we have to mitigate the problem is still probably renewable energy and negative emissions technology, as per your conclusions elsewhere.

  19. Doug Bostrom at 06:00 AM on 7 March 2022
    Addressing the Climate Crisis: Evolution or Revolution1

    To the above I'll add that yesterday without bothering to consult the general population the US congress ruled out an embargo on Russian fossil fuel imports to the United States, because "higher gas prices." 

    This helps to set our expectations with regard to dealing with climate change. 

  20. Addressing the Climate Crisis: Evolution or Revolution1

    Evan @7. Thank's. Your explanation is convincing. The facts are sometimes depressing. People just have to deal with that.

  21. Addressing the Climate Crisis: Evolution or Revolution1

    OPOF@13, points noted. But at the same time, this is why Fig. 2 is so astounding. Something is working itself out in the system to produce CO2 accumulation rates that simply scale with population. I understand what you're saying, but it's not clear to me how much it matters. Even if you neglect the top 10% of emitters, you are still left with a completely unsustainable problem.

    And of course 100 years ago there was also a distribution of emitters: rich, middle class, those aspiring to rise to the middle class. What Fig. 2 is suggesting is that it may work itself out in the averages.

  22. One Planet Only Forever at 04:34 AM on 7 March 2022
    Addressing the Climate Crisis: Evolution or Revolution1


    In my comment @13 on your earlier post “The problem of growth in a finite world” I point out that the "Emissions = Population x GDP/capita x Energy/GDP x Emissions/Energy” can make it difficult to see the important need for superiority and advancement to be recognized as "reduced energy use per person" and "reduced harm done by the energy that is used" (because any use of technologically produced energy has the potential to produce harmful results).

    I also point out that, since everybody’s actions add up, that presentation is a potentially misleading sub-set of the overall issue of the clearer simpler presentation that: "Total Harmful Impacts = The sum of the harmful impacts attributable to each person".

    That leads to understanding that there will be a diversity of degrees and types of harm that would be hidden by averaging the impacts of a group of people.

    The following series of recent articles in The Guardian point out how important it is to recognize the different levels of impact, and how harmful it is for the people perceived to be superior or more advanced to be more harmful than the average rather than leading the pursuit of sustainable development which requires leadership towards reduction of harmful ways of obtaining personal benefit and enjoyment.

    ‘Carbon footprint gap’ between rich and poor expanding, study finds (Feb 4, 2022)

    This article identifies the key point that 'from 2010 to 2015' the wealthiest have become more harmful.

    “In 2010, the most affluent 10% of households emitted 34% of global CO2, while the 50% of the global population in lower income brackets accounted for just 15%. By 2015, the richest 10% were responsible for 49% of emissions against 7% produced by the poorest half of the world’s population.”

    That means that if everyone alive in 2010 developed to live as harmfully as the top 10% did just under 30% of the 2010 global population (6.922 billion) = 2 billion, would produce the total global impacts of 2010.

    If everyone alive in 2015 developed to live as harmfully as the top 10% did just over 20% of the 2015 global population (7.348 billion) = 1.5 billion, would produce the total global impacts of 2015.

    The article also points out that in 2015 the top 1% contributed 15.3% of global CO2 emissions (and the top 0.1% caused 4.5%). If everybody alive in 2015 developed to live as harmfully as the top 1% did then just over 6.5% of the 2015 global population, 0.065 of 7.348 billion = 480 million people would produce the total global impacts of 2015. And it would be worse if people developed to live like the top 0.1%. That spoils swampfoxh’s hope that a 500 million global population “removes both the GHG emissions problem and the terrestrial damage events fostered by human activity”.

    Also note that global emissions in 2010 were 41.8 Gt CO2 equivalent. The 2015 total was 44.4 Gt. So, to maintain the global total emissions impact at 2010 levels, the number of people living like the top 10% did in 2015 would be 1.4 billion.

    And those evaluations are to maintain the 2010 and 2015 levels of accumulating harm done.

    Since everyone has the right to aspire to live like the ones who are perceived to be the highest status, and it is foolish to pretend that that is not the case, the problem can be seen to be the example set by the way that the top 10% live.

    The way that the top 10% lived in 2010 was already unsustainable. And the top 10% were even worse in 2015. If that “advancement trajectory” is not reversed there will be no sustainable future for humanity.

    This is indeed a very challenging understanding. It leads to recognizing that the higher energy consuming 5G communication technology is a harmful leap further away from sustainable living.

    The richest 10% produce about half of greenhouse gas emissions. They should pay to fix the climate (Dec 7, 2021)

    Includes: “Let’s first look at the facts: 10% of the world’s population are responsible for about half of all greenhouse gas emissions, while the bottom half of the world contributes just 12% of all emissions. This is not simply a rich versus poor countries divide: there are huge emitters in poor countries, and low emitters in rich countries.”

    ‘Luxury carbon consumption’ of top 1% threatens 1.5C global heating limit (Nov 5, 2021)

    Includes: “The carbon dioxide emissions of the richest 1% of humanity are on track to be 30 times greater than what is compatible with keeping global heating below 1.5C, new research warns, as scientists urge governments to “constrain luxury carbon consumption” of private jets, megayachts and space travel.”

    A version of Carbon Fee and Rebate would help solve the problem. But it would need to be based on understanding the need for ‘progressive penalties’ for harmful ways of living. The richer a person is the more they should be penalized per-unit of harmful impact. A crude way to do that is a Carbon Fee and Rebate program that only rebates the total collected to the middle and lower income portion of the population. A more refined method would be progressive rebates of the collected fees that are higher for lower income people. That method would avoid concerns about ‘costing the middle and lower income people’. It would be easy to show that the middle and lower income people actually benefit from the program. A higher Carbon Fee and resulting higher total collected for Refund would be better for them. There would be no need to slowly increase the carbon fee. It could statrt at $200 per tonne. Admittedly, the irresponsible among the middle and lower income portion of the population may only break even. And the grossly irresponsible would lose a little. But those who resist learning to change how they live to be less harmful have to face a consequence. And the richer they are the less excuse they have for being more harmfully irresponsible.

  23. Addressing the Climate Crisis: Evolution or Revolution1


    I had in mind: The collision between emissions producing a somewhat higher than 3.0C, the terrestrial damage already, and yet to be done, and the size of the global population will winnow itself out in a general catastrophe similar in scope to the very early End Triassic or perhaps the early End Paleocene extinction events. The population is likely to fall back to around 500 million which removes both the GHG emissions problem and the terrestrial damage events fostered by human activity over these past 200 years.

  24. Addressing the Climate Crisis: Evolution or Revolution1

    plincoln24@8 Regarding what we mean by Net Zero, I wrote a separate article (read here) where I describe the difference between Net-Zero Emissions (what you refer to) and Net-Zero Accumulation (what I refer to in this article). By definition, we must achieve Net-Zero Accumulation before achieving Net-Zero Emissions.

    What I show in Fig. 2 is Net-Zero Accumulation, which means that atmospheric CO2 accumulation hits 0. As wilddouglascounty@1 pointed out, this seems only achievable through "collapse". To achieve Net-Zero Emissions will be even harder.

    Without splitting hairs, what I am trying to show is the challenges that lay ahead. I understand the definitions to which you're referring, but people cannot, on their own, monitor our progress to Net-Zero Emissions. They can monitor our approach to Net-Zero Accumulation by following Table 1. I am trying to help people learn how to monitor our progress.

    Yes, I've read about how we can maintain "robust economic growth" in the IEA report. But that is a study, assuming the entire world follows their roadmap, and that everything works out as planned with the technology (NET systems at scale are still a plan, not reality). Reality is that absolutely nothing we've done, to date, has caused the Keeling Curve to deviate from its upward acceleration. If we keep telling people that we can keep increasing our consumption (i.e., growth) while stabilizing the Keeling Curve, we may miss this final opportunity to deal with climate crisis.

    Where I disagree with you is the use of the words, "in principle" and your reference to "pulling policy levers" I don't necessarily disagree with the models, scientifically and conceptually. I disagree that you can implement the models on 8 billion people spread across almost 200 countries.

    And by the time we are supposed to achieve Net Zero, there will likely be 9-9.5 billion people. Dealing with that kind of population growth is a huge headwind, that likely can only be offset by encouraging people to consume less.

  25. Addressing the Climate Crisis: Evolution or Revolution1

    Swampfoxh @9 , the social engineering  tool you speak of is Carbon Tax with Dividend  ~ which has a good track record in its very brief/limited career.   Of course, it needs to start small & go slow, to get widespread political acceptance.   Have you other tools in mind?

    Plincoln24 @8 ,

    Our-World-in-Data states a world total energy consumption of just under 200,000 TeraWatt-hours annually.   A lot.   And of this,  84% is fossil fuel [oil 33 ; coal 27 ; gas 24% ]  plus 5%  solar/wind/other  [not including nuclear & hydro ].    These figures not including land-clearing and cement production.

    Obviously it will be a long & slow uphhill climb to get to all 200,000 TWh coming from carbon-free sources.   Presumably this figure will go higher even without much population growth.

    Some sort of "renewable"  liquid hydrocarbon fuel will need production in large quantities in the second half of this current Century.

    Plincoln24 , perhaps if you have time, you could discuss what you (and others) mean by the term economic growth  ~ a term which is often used in a vague undefined way.

  26. Addressing the Climate Crisis: Evolution or Revolution1

    What would cause the "higher status people", the "affluent" to roll back their emissions so the less fortunate can execute the right to obtain a decent living standard? Since we already know that for every right asserted by a human, there must be a corresponding obligation by some other human, what mechanism would you introduce to persuade or force the obligated to satiate the obliged? What would you do if the obligated resisted shouldering the obligation? We know that the majority of the global population has missed the benefits of material wealth while the last hundred years has showered a comparatively opulent batch of goods and other stuff on the minority. What tool of social engineering would bring to heel the "better offs" to provide the space in their emissions footprint so as to provide this "right" of which you speak?

  27. Addressing the Climate Crisis: Evolution or Revolution1

    The author wrote "Monitoring our approach to Net-Zero is conceptually easy. Just measure the CO2 concentration each year and see if it stops increasing".

    I disagree. Net-Zero means humanity's emissions are in balance with what humanity removes from the atmosphere themselves. If that were the case, then the biosphere should be removing additional CO2 from the atmosphere so that the concentration would actually drop.

    The author wrote: "If the rollout of renewables in the 2020’s is to have any chance of impressing the Keeling Curve, it needs your full support: in addition to replacing fossil fuels with renewable energy, we must consume less."

    I used to believe this too. However, the En-ROADS climate and world economy model shows that you can in principle achieve warming under 2 degrees C with economic growth on the side. Here is the link to En-ROADS

    En-ROADS does not allow for degrowth. It would have been interesting if they had included it in their model. But it does show that it is still possible to have net economic growth on the global scale while meeting the conditions of the Paris Agreement. You have to play with the program to get a solution by pulling policy levers.

  28. Addressing the Climate Crisis: Evolution or Revolution1

    nigelj@6 Thanks for your comments.

    The IPAT equation relates Impact (in this case, the accumulation of CO2 in the atmosphere) to Population, Affluence, and Technology, which is really a measure of the carbon footprint of producing our goods and services. Expressing affluence as Global GDP per person, and expressing the carbon footprint of producing goods and services as the accumulation of CO2 in the atmosphere per unit GDP, you can make the case using the IPAT equation that there has been a steady decrease of the carbon footprint per unit GDP over the last 50 years, which has been offset by rising affluence, leaving population as the main driver of the accumulation of CO2 in the atmosphere (read here if you have a few hours to kill). The upward acceleration of the Keeling Curve therefore appears to be driven by population increase. If global population stopped increasing, the Keeling Curve would increase as a straight line. But population growth causes the Keeling Curve to accelerate upwards.

    And yes, it is surprising that Figure 2 suggests this relationship goes back to at least the early 1900's. Population is one of the main drivers of the Keeling Curve, and while we are deployiing renewable energy systems to try to stabilize the Keeling Curve, population growth will be working against us.

    It's a tough nut to crack. I'm not trying to depress people, but to get people ready for what will be required to tackle the climate crisis.

  29. Addressing the Climate Crisis: Evolution or Revolution1

    Very thought provoking article Evan.

    Your idea seems to be that with the increasing per capita use of energy over the last 150 years, due to the adoption of car ownership, electric heaters, and multiple appliances, etc,etc, we should have actually seen a much bigger acceleration in the keeling curve. I'm guessing that the reason we haven't might be because of higher energy efficiency in using fossil fuels, such that we are using less fossil fuels per capita to get the same results for example with more fuel efficient cars, power generation, and heating devices. So it may not necessarily be just population per se driving the keeling curve shape.

    That said, obviously population is a big factor in the keeling curve. I've always thought overpopulation is one of our biggest environmental problems, followed closely by per capita consumption levels (obviously particularly with high income groups), and  we have now learned in recent decades that fossil fuels are a problem. We know the solutions to all this, but its a bit like trying to turn around the Titanic. 

  30. One Planet Only Forever at 09:17 AM on 6 March 2022
    Addressing the Climate Crisis: Evolution or Revolution1

    Indeed, 25% of the world population needs assistance to rise up out of poverty, and they should be helped to live basic decent lives. It is also important to acknowledge that those helped out of poverty, and everyone else, has the right to strive to live more like the higher status people, even if that is more harmful and less sustainable. Higher status people do not have the right to be more harmful. They have the responsibility to set the best examples.

    The solution is dramatic reductions of harmful developed ways of living by the highest consuming and impacting portion of the population. The highest status people need to all be leading the transition to net-zero living, meaning they live net-zero far earlier than others and they penalize any of their peers who are not doing that.

    And, to be more sustainable, it would be best to have the development assistance that is provided for the less fortunate help them jump directly to net-zero basic decent living. That would be less harmful, but require more assistance, than the approach China is pushing. China is building coal burners for developing nations with the 'intent to rapidly replace them with net-zero systems'. Best intentions often get delayed, or worse, do not materialize.

    Note that the UN is now pursuing a global agreement to limit plastic use. That is a sign of advancement, as long as it rapidly meaningfully materializes.

  31. One Planet Only Forever at 08:37 AM on 6 March 2022
    Addressing the Climate Crisis: Evolution or Revolution1

    Probably the most important understanding is that the "Great Recession" and "Covid Pandemic Lockdown" were not "temporary emission pauses".

    Though the rate of harmful impact in each case was reduced by a measurable amount, the harmful impacts were not "Temporarily Zero".

    This understanding highlights that things will continue to be made worse until "global net-zero living (highest status people being net-negative impact by zero-carbon living and reducing impacts to off-set the impacts of lower status people who have more excuse for being harmful)" is achieved by correction of all harmfully incorrect development that has occurred.

    The current harmfully incorrect developed ways of living, esepcially by the higher status people, make things worse as they are continued. Hope for a 'solution to be developed' misleadingly makes things worse.

    What is needed now is the reduction of energy use and other harmful consumption that has been harmfully over-developed by the supposedly more advanced and superior people. Using less energy makes the end of harmful energy use come sooner with less total harm done. Once net-zero is achieved it may be possible to sustainably improve things with more energy use.

  32. One Planet Only Forever at 04:50 AM on 6 March 2022
    Addressing the Climate Crisis: Evolution or Revolution1


    I may provide a more comprehensive response, but I have to think about it a little more.

    My main point is that the "population problem" is the way that less fortunate people can be easily tempted to aspire to develop to live like the people who are identified as the most successful, highest status people.

    Parts of my comments to Peter Cook on your recent item "The problem of growth in a finite world" are related to this 'population' topic.

    My developed perspective and understanding is that the people recognised as the most successful, highest status people, need to be people who are striving to live the least harmful most helpful ways possible:

    • Living in ways that do not negatively impact the global environment
    • Not consuming non-renewable resources (limiting their use and fully recycling after extending the initial use as long as possible - the Three Rs of Recycling)
    • Not over-consuming renewable resources
    • Limited consumption of high impact recyclable items like beef.
    • Not producing waste that accumulates (recycled items are not waste unless they are produced more rapidly than they are recycled - like sewage can be harmful if it is released too rapidly into a local environment - like CO2 emissions accumulate harmfully if they are globally produced faster than they are globally recycled).
    • Fitting sustainably into their local environment (limiting the disruption of regional environments with their developments)
    • Genuinely helping Others sustainably improve their lives

    I agree. Understanding that that is the required correction of what has developed is reason to question how quickly the harm being done to the future of humanity will be limited.

    But I believe humanity has to have a future. Humanity inevitably has to collectively and collaboratively grow the portion of the population that understands the need for the highest status people to be constantly striving to provide the best examples of Sustainable Helpful Living for all others to aspire to be better than.

    As that portion of the population grows it will develop increased ability to limit the harm done by the portion of the population that has developed a liking for resisting learning to be less harmful and more helpful.

  33. One Planet Only Forever at 04:14 AM on 6 March 2022
    The problem of growth in a finite world

    Dear Peter Cook,

    I have completed reading, and considering and evaluating, the paper.

    From my perceptive, presented @13, the majority of the content of the paper is well reasoned and aligns with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). And the parts that are less well reasoned, of course, do not give me reaosn to change my perspective and understanding.

    I will share a few suggestions regarding the paper from my perspective (this should help you find and adjust other parts that could be improved form my perspective). I have not provided pointers to specific parts of the document because each point applies to more than one location in the document. I also have not presented them in the order that they first appear in the document.

    • Wording should be revised to clarify that population action like Family Planning is to be in addition to education of women and girls, not instead of it. Note that SDG 3.7 is: “By 2030, ensure universal access to sexual and reproductive health-care services, including for family planning, information and education, and the integration of reproductive health into national strategies and programmes”.
    • Revise the wording to reinforce the importance of meeting all the SDGs, not just this one point about Family Planning.
    • When listing Family Planning actions, include condoms and vasectomy (men also have the responsibility to limit how many children they father).
    • If the objective is fewer births, add the action of ‘stopping medical and technical assistance to people who struggle to become pregnant’. That is primarily an action for already developed nations to set the example for developing nations to follow (reducing new births, not expending special effort to produce new births).
    • Claiming that education about, and access to, family planning is important extends to understanding that immigrants to a country like Australia would be less likely to have children than if they did not become immigrants. They would be moving to a society that has more access to that education and assistance. They would also be closer to people who present examples of women who have fewer children, women who never have children, and women who can live independently.
    • Expecting people in developing nations to be unaware of the higher consumption and more harmful ways of living they can aspire to develop to is fantasy thinking. How the supposedly superior and more advanced people live is hard to miss. And people can be expected to want to develop to be like the people who appear to be superior and more advanced. Not becoming an immigrant would not reduce their development aspirations. Having the supposedly superior and more advanced people ‘all’ set better examples is required.
    • Agreed that immigration to Australia is not a required reparation for European colonial actions. However, harm requiring reparations was done by ‘European competitors for superiority pursuing resources beyond their borders and failing to keep the growth of their population under control within their regions – they sent their excess people to the colonies where they continued the example of population growth and attempts to dominate Others’. That requires significant reparations for populations of regions harmfully impacted by the colonization. Those reparations include development aid. Note that while NATO members are pushed to expend 2% of GDP on ‘means to kill others as a deterrent to nations trying to harmfully benefit like the colonizers did’ most of the nations fail to come close to delivering the agreed minimum 0.7 of GNP as Official Development Aid.
    • Immigration to Australia would shift the location of infrastructure building, not produce it exclusively in Australia. The presumption that the developing nations will not create impacts by building infrastructure is the result of not considering the big picture.
    • The concern about Australia’s food security is misleading. Global trade of food is required to respond to temporary regional shortages anywhere, as is correctly stated in the paper. Having the ability to get food to those who need it is the issue. And the infrastructure of a nation like Australia makes it easier to obtain and deliver imported food as required.

    I hope that helps improve the paper.

  34. Addressing the Climate Crisis: Evolution or Revolution1

    wilddouglascounty, agree, that is a depressing post. My point in writing it is that if, if we are to achieve Net-Zero, I think people should realize what is needed to make it happen. I would rather shock them now then wait until they're shocked later.

    I wrote a long, not very readable post about modeling I did (read here). You can make a strong case, using the IPAT equation, that for the last 50 years, improvements in the carbon footprint of producing goods and services have been offset by rising consumption. That leaves the annual increase in global population as the main driver of increasing atmospheric CO2 accumulation rates, which has been steady for about 50 years at 80,000,000 new carbon emitters/year.

    Figure 2 in this post was a shocker to me when I created it, showing that for about 100 years, carbon accumulation rates in the atmosphere appearto be due entirely to population, independent of the modernity of civilization.

    It's a tough nut to crack. And sorry, I won't tell you you're wrong about what it might take to turn the curve downward.

  35. wilddouglascounty at 02:11 AM on 6 March 2022
    Addressing the Climate Crisis: Evolution or Revolution1

    Well, that is one of the more depressing posts that I've seen: looking at those charts and numbers can be used to convincingly argue quite a different conclusion: it's too late. According to World Energy Consumption patterns I've looked at (and there are no doubt more current analyses), there was a huge jump in energy consumption in the 1970s, with a 65% increase in 10 years, dropping off to a mere 15% energy growth per capita by 2000, bouncing back to 25% increase from the previous decade by 2010, and yet there was barely any change in the growth rate of CO2 emissions during those times. I presume that this is due to population growth that ate up the increases in efficiencies, so that even modest increases in global per capita energy consumption (1965: ~48Gj/person, 2010: ~74) resulted in almost no change in the emissions trajectory.

    While it is easy to turn a line dramatically down to zero from this incessant, steady rise in consumption, it is very hard to envision the circumstances it would require to actually turn that arrow downward in such a dramatic fashion. Compared to the 1970s, so much has changed, and yet the slope of the curve marches on and up. The word Revolution seems to be a gross understatement. Collapse might turn the curve in the manner you draw it: either through some unparalleled catastrophe, or if the trends continue, climate-induced collapse.  Please tell me I'm wrong and why.

  36. It's albedo

    Bob Loblaw @131,

    I also have struggled to identify any sign of a significant driver of climate in the arguments presented by blaisct. If we wind back to the initial proposal (in the 'Does Urban Heat Island effect exaggerate global warming trends?' thread @59), I feel the scoping of a direct potential forcing can be scoped quite simply** but refining such an analysis does not appear possible with commenter blaisct who now introduces further speculative feedbacks into the discussion, thus piling unhelpfulness on top of unhelpfulness.
    (**According to Wild et at [2015] fig2a, the average land albedo equates to 48Wm^-2(land) = 14Wm^-2(global). If urbaniseation reduced that to zero over 1M sq km, that would equate to a 0.1Wm^-2(global) forcing, thus a maximum value for a quantity which may not even be positive. Note Guo et al [2022] suggest the effect is negative over urbanisation in China.)

  37. Skeptical Science New Research for Week #9 2022

    Yes, a difficult area. I'm unsure why you label my comment a "rant", my not having felt at all "ranty" when I wrote it. It has always seemed to me that the scientific method should stop taking a back seat to religion and politics. Just a few weeks ago, SkepSci carried an article by "scientists" lamenting the lack of attention of "policymakers" to our rather well developed evidence that if they don't follow the science, why should the scientists keep bothering to produce it?

    I wasn't singling out any particular body of belief bereft of science grade evidence. The statements of Richard Dawkins comes to mind: "you just can't say anything bad about just can't...His point being: "why not?" We say things bad about Corona virus, pine beetles and the proliferation of plastic nanoparticles in the oceans. We should be able to criticize the entire human race for its "shortcomings", whatever they be. Our human nature apparently disposes us to be ignorant of the implications of our propensity to ignore the evidence provided by the scientific method: Religion's status is the principal reason. It seems always to sit at the debate table with the scientists.

    There is a quaint aphorism that speaks to this problem:  "Those that don't study history, are doomed to repeat it...yet, those who do study history are doomed to stand by, helplessly, while everyone else repeats it."

    Moderator Response:

    [BL} let's try again. Another section of the Comments Policy:

    • All comments must be on topic. Comments are on topic if they draw attention to possible errors of fact or interpretation in the main article, of if they discuss the immediate implications of the facts discussed in the main article. However, general discussions of Global Warming not explicitly related to the details of the main article are always off topic. Moderation complaints are always off topic and will be deleted

    To put is simply. tone down the rhetoric. I"ts not helping you.


  38. Skeptical Science New Research for Week #9 2022

    Hard science will never be accepted by anyone relying on the myths of the  Religion directing their lives. "Hope springs eternal from the human breast". The acceptance of the promise of an afterlife in a "heaven" cancels any hard science that might challenge a person to account for the possibility that human conduct, or our omissions to act on evidence, might ought to be the course of action necessary to save the planet for our future and the future of our progeny. We know that all living organisms, except humans, simply adapt to the environment in which they find themselves...and survive or become extinct if that environment becomes unstable for the lifeform in question.  Humans either hope for the best within their particular religious dogma, or take steps to manipulate the environment, refusing to adapt thereto. Some Religions are "worse" than others. Some people believe that the Lord would never harm his followers. That disposition cancels the efficacy and usefulness of hard science as a tool of adaptation.

    Moderator Response:

    [BL] I suggest that you read the Comments Policy. In particular, the following sections apply to the deleted parts of this comment. Since you will know what has been deleted, you should have no problem understanding why.

    • No ad hominem attacks. Personally attacking other users gets us no closer to understanding the science. For example, comments containing the words 'religion' and 'conspiracy' tend to get moderated. Comments using labels like 'alarmist' and 'denier' as derogatory terms are usually skating on thin ice.
    • No politics. Rants about politics, religion, faith, ideology or one world governments will be deleted. Occasional blogposts on Skeptical Science touch on issues intimately related to politics.  For those posts this rule may be relaxed, but only if explicitly stated at the end of the blogpost.
  39. US coal use on the rise, but renewables continue rapid growth

    You need a new term.  Physicists will tell you energy cannot be renewed.  How about 'extraterrestrial'?  Far less misleading.

    Moderator Response:

    [BL] You have made a similar point before, and it is just as pointless now as it was then.

    You should learn that vocabulary has meaning in a context, and I am not aware that "physics" has control over the definition of "renewable energy".

    In this context, the definition provided here suggests that its use in this post is not at all misleading.

    renewable resource (plural renewable resources)

    A natural resource that is replenished by natural processes at a rate comparable to its rate of consumption by humans or other users.


  40. New IPCC report highlights urgency of climate change impacts

    I can't help but ask why the IPCC report always suggests that moving away from fossil fuels is the remedy, when a growing body of peer reviewed research clearly demonstrates that Industrial Animal Agriculture is the main problem...admitting, of course, that fossil fuels are problem number two. Always, the narrative paints the fossil fuel companies as the villain, even though the real villains are the humans who burn it. With Animal Agriculture, it's not the livestock, it's the humans who eat them. The irony is in the fact that getting off fossil fuels isn't easy, but weaning ourselves off meat is easy because we have an immediate adequate and alternate food supply...


  41. New IPCC report highlights urgency of climate change impacts

    ...Probably needless to point out that this IPCC narrative is essentially identical to all prior IPCC reports. I doubt any amount of money will fix this, but a change in human behavior and a draconian cut in global population might do it. Neither of those will happen, so a near extinction of the human race will clear things up, eventually.

    What Elizabeth Kolbert once called the Sixth Extinction has been, recently, called Permian II by some of us. Others, at least in our group, are calling it "HumaPermiTu".

  42. One Planet Only Forever at 12:48 PM on 3 March 2022
    The problem of growth in a finite world

    Dear Peter,

    I have quickly reviewed the Intro and Conclusion of the paper and skimmed the contents, my standard way of starting to read a Report. I have yet to do a full reading, but I will.

    I will open this response by confirming that we appear to be aligned regarding measures that will help limit population growth and the importance of limiting the total global population.

    I will start by presenting the context of my perspective which is always open to improvement. But it is based on a significant amount of experience and learning. My name on this site reflects that perspective.

    Awareness of the bigger picture is needed when looking at any part of the bigger picture. And for humans the bigger picture is the need for human activity to be governed (limited) to not harm Others or future humans, including not harming their ability to live a decent a life. And people will naturally be tempted to aspire to the examples set by the portion of the population that has developed the impression of being the highest status. That is important understanding since this planet is likely to be habitable for more than 100 million years. Sustaining humanity through that long period (almost forever) is the big picture. Many developed human activities are inconsistent with that understanding. And they would be inconsistent with sustained living on any other planet. The unsustainable nature of what has developed is not new. The growing awareness and understanding of the growing magnitude of the harmful unsustainability of what has developed is what is new.

    Total Harmful Impacts of the Total Global Population are a developed problem that requires the development of solutions. The Sustainable Development Goals are a fairly comprehensive presentation of the solution that is open to further improvement.

    We appear to be aligned regarding actions that would help limit global population. What you mention are understood parts of the Sustainable Development Goals and the Millennium Development Goals. Those sets of goals are steps in the constantly increased awareness and improved understanding of what is harmful and unsustainable. The pursuit of sustainable development understanding became a global coordinated collaborative effort 50 years ago with the Stockholm Conference.

    It appears that the efforts to identify and limit harmful developments also sparked some harmful resistance to learning to be less harmful, particularly in the supposedly superior, more advanced, nations. But the resistance to that learning also appears to be strong among the supposedly superior, more advanced, portions of many less developed nations. And people who develop their thinking inside systems that promote smaller shorter-term perspective can struggle to see the bigger picture beyond their developed worldview. And, indeed, a part of the problem is the development of political groups that appeal for support by opposing, or not supporting, abortion and family planning. Some of them argue for 'abstinence' as the solution. But that is like arguing that 'not living' is a solution to the 'total climate change impacts of the total population' problem.

    So we may also be aligned regarding the need to identify and try to reduce the popularity of political groups that would act in those less helpful ways. That would be good since it appears that 'these days' the political groups that are less supportive of measures to limit population growth are also less supportive of measures that would limit the climate change impact growth. And they also appear to be less supportive of actions that would limit or correct many developed harmful activities. They appear to be opposed to almost all the Sustainable Development Goals, one issue at a time (they even oppose limits on plastic use – the next globally acknowledged problem needing a global agreement to correct).

    That brings me to a point I wish to make regarding something I noticed in the paper: “Emissions = Population x GDP/capita x Energy/GDP x Emissions/Energy”. That presentation can make it difficult to see the important need for superiority and advancement to be recognized as "reduced energy use per person" and "reduced harm done by the energy that is used" (because any use of technologically produced energy has the potential to produce harmful results).

    I offer the following sequence of changes as a way to more comprehensively present the issue (guided by Einstein's advice to keep things simple, but not too simple):

    "Emissions = Population x GDP/capita x Energy/GDP x Emissions/Energy + (a similar evaluation of all Other Emissions causing activity)".

    That corrects for the over-simplification of only focusing on energy. However, fugitive emissions related to natural gas extraction, processing and transport also need to be counted. So Emissions/Energy is too simplistic. It could miss impacts associated with energy use that need to be counted. A more comprehensive statement would be:

    “Global Warming Impacts = Population x GDP/capita x Energy/GDP x Global Warming Impacts/Energy + (a similar evaluation of all Other Global Warming Impact causing activity)”

    That captures Evan's accurate point that many other things, particularly agriculture, cause global warming impacts that result in climate change. I noticed that the paper includes awareness of land use impacts on global warming. So the above would appear to be aligned with the understanding presented in the paper.

    But there is also more harm done by energy use and agriculture than the climate change impacts. So a more comprehensive "Bigger Picture" presentation of the issue is:

    “Total Harm Done = Population x GDP/capita x Energy/GDP x (Total Harm Done)/Energy + (a similar evaluation of all Other Harmful Impact causing activity)”

    Now we get to the simple crux of the over-simplification that can be understood to apply to all of above presentations. The simplest way to present the above appears to be:

    "Total Harmful Impacts = The sum of the harmful impacts attributable to each person"

    That leads to understanding that there will be a diversity of degrees and types of harm that would be hidden by averaging the impacts of a group of people. And, as Evan also accurately points out, everyone wants a better life for themselves, their children, and others they identify closely with. So people can be expected to aspire to live like the people who they identify as being more advanced, more superior. And there is ample evidence that the current norms for identifying superiority and advancement, like the measure of GDP per capita, are harmfully misleading. People have been working to correct that misunderstanding about what deserves to be considered superior or more advanced, how to measure improvement, for a while now. The 2020 Human Development Report points out some of the efforts to correct that harmful developed misunderstanding.

    That also leads to understanding that the people with the highest amount of harm attributed to their actions need to be the focus of efforts to limit harm done (Rule of Law works best when it is done this way). And it leads to understanding that people who act in ways that cause harm are not made acceptable by Other people acting to undo or adapt to the harm that is done. Reducing harm done requires the harm to be ended and, as much as possible, it requires those who benefit from the harm done to do what is required to undo the harm done.

    Averaging the per capita impacts of a nation helps compare nations to identify which nations should be most focused on for harm reduction. But per capita does not identify the people within a nation who should be the focus of harm reduction efforts. As an example, immigrants into Australia may have remained as lower than average impacting people, which means their addition to the population actually disguises the increased harm done by the more harmful members of the population.

    That brings me to my concluding point.

    It is fundamentally unacceptable for a person to benefit from something that Other people will be harmed by, or be at risk of harm from. And regarding climate change impacts, it is unacceptable for people to be benefiting from creating the impacts even if Others are acting to reduce the impacts. And an averaging of a group of people can be harmfully misleading by hiding what the different people in the group have done.

    Achieving Sustainable Development, developing a truly lasting future for humanity that can be improved by the development of truly sustainable improvements, can legitimately maintain or increase GDP per capita. Achieving those goals is likely to result in a lower peak population than would otherwise develop. And the per person impacts of that smaller total population would be lower. But to achieve that the harmful developed activities need to be identified and corrected.

    The fundamental rule of "Do No Harm - Help Others" needs to be governing the actions of people. Everyone self-governing that way would be great. But that is a fantasy world. And the lack of that rule governing what has developed to date has produced an significant need for corrections, particularly corrections of the ways that the supposedly more advanced and supposedly superior people, who everyone looks up to and aspires to be like, live their lives.

    That is the fundamental understanding I will be applying, and have been applying, to the reading of the paper, or any other presentation of thoughts. It is not the norm ... but it would be helpful if it became more of the norm.

  43. It's albedo

    I have been watching this discussion for a while, and I too have a really difficult time understanding what blaisct's real purpose or argument is. With respect to albedo, it seems as if he is implying that albedo causes the change in climate, while ignoring the possibility that other factors are changing the climate and albedo is responding to that - the classical albedo feedback that is a standard part of climate science.

    I have access to some high temporal resolution surface radiation data from a continental location. Let's look at four graphs of daily values:

    January radiation and albedo:

    January radiation

    January albedo

    ...and the same location in July

    July radiation

    July albedo

    Let's talk about the last two first. It's a mostly sunny day. with some morning cloud and mid-day scattered cloud. Global radiation peaks at over 1000 W/m2. There is a strong diurnal pattern to albedo - lowest in mid-day (less than 0.2), and highest around sunrise and sunset (around 0.3).

    Then let's compare these to the first two, from January. A similar day in the sense of morning cloud and afternoon clear skies, but global radiation is much lower - (peaks at about 300 W/m2). Albedo is quite different - it drops from about 0.9 in the morning to

    I also know a bit about the temperatures on each day. In July, it was much cooler in the morning and evening, and hottest in the early afternoon. January was much, much colder.

    Should I assume that the differences in albedo have caused those temperature differences? After all, there is a strong correlation: albedo drops, and temperature rises. Very high albedo? Very cold temperatures!

    ...but all I have done is shown that winter is colder than summer, so you can get snow on the ground instead of agricultural crops. After all, the energy input from solar radiation in January peaks at 30% of what it was on that July day, even if we don't account for the higher January albedo and shorter daylight period.

    And the diurnal cycle in July? It is well-known and well-documented that surface albedo shows variability with solar zenith angle in clear skies. The sun is high in the sky at solar noon (which is about 1pm clock time on these graphs), and low in the sky at sunrise and sunset. It's not the albedo that is driving temperature differences: it is the change in solar input.

    Nothing surprising here. Albedo differences are the result of other factors that affect weather and climate.

    I think the same applies to blaisct's humidity and cloud arguments. There is nothing that I can see in his comments that gives any evidence that albedo or humidity are the driving force behind changing climate - they can (and are more likely to be) the result of a changing climate. A feedback, not a forcing.

  44. It's albedo

    blaisct @129,

    The correction of the numbers is good but whether it leads you to anywhere useful is another matter entirely. I repeat my parting comment @128 - "But these are just numbers. I don't see them relating to what we see of the real world climate change."

    Perhaps you should read up on the literature examining the impact of UHI on climate. But be warned, to my understanding there is no evidence suggesting anything but local effects.

  45. The problem of growth in a finite world

    About four years ago I read a study on population trends in an African country. I can't remember the country or find the study but the government gave away free conraceptives to two rural communities, and despite them being poor and the women badly educated and having few rights, birth rates fell dramatically, and this trend endured. This seems to support the idea Peter Cook mentioned that family planning is the key factor in encouraging small families. Of course womens rights and education are important for many reasons and should be encouraged.

  46. The problem of growth in a finite world

    If in just 7 days, 4-5K people cause the staggering amount of consumption, waste and pollution that was shown in the cruise ship documentary...imagine what 7.7 billion people generate in 30,000 days!

    One can't look at those numbers and remain hopeful. 

  47. The problem of growth in a finite world

    I have given up hope as the more I learn about all the many forms of human consumption/destruction the more I realize this situation is so far out of anyone's reach.

    I recently watched a documentary highlighting the processes of the cruise ship industry. During a one-week voyage with 4-5K people onboard the massive amount of waste and environmental destruction/pollution was astonishing.

    This industry is just one tiny slice of the pie contributing to earths demise.

    The more the population grows, the more dire the problem becomes.

  48. The problem of growth in a finite world

    Dear One Planet Forever

    The Lancet scenarios are only one set of projections, and well below the UN projections.  It would be unwise to place great reliance on the former, in order to conclude that the population issue is settled.

    Without wanting to rehash to detailed arguments in the discussion paper: funding for family planning programs has declined since 1994. There is a misunderstanding by many that economic development and women's education necessarily causes reduced birthrates.  In fact, the evidence supports the view that the causal relationship is often the other way round: availability and funding of family planning programs (and promotion of smaller family norms) causes economic development and women's education.  The evidence is presented in detail in the discussion paper.

    The question of timing in relation to the effectiveness of population measures, is also discussed in detail in the discussion paper.  Sure, in the short term we must be reducing per capita emissions in rich countries. In longer term (mid- to late- century), population size will make a big difference to mitigation and adaptation. 

    As we point out in the paper, only models using the low population versions of the IPCC's ‘shared socioeconomic pathways’ (SSP) can prevent >2°C warming.

    I understand that some may find these conclusions challenging, when they may have thought population 'settled' and would have preferred to avoid some difficult conversations.  All I can do is to invite people to read this discussion paper. Happy to hear feedback and comments.

  49. One Planet Only Forever at 12:35 PM on 2 March 2022
    The problem of growth in a finite world

    Building on, and responding to, Peter Cook's comment @7,

    A relevant related report is the following which was published in the Lancet on October of 2020 "Fertility, mortality, migration, and population scenarios for 195 countries and territories from 2017 to 2100: ..."

    The report essentially presents the case that the population problem has been understood for a while now. And the report presents in detail how the population problem is being effectively dealt with, unlike the climate change impacts of the highest impacting portion of the global population.

    The expected peak global population is less than 10 billion, and it is expected to be reached in the 2060s. Also, and more importantly, the report acknowledges that the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (established in 2015), will reduce the peak global population.

    The highest impacting portion of the global population (primarily composed of Australians, Canadians and Americans along with a significant portion of the richer people in other nations like India and China) has not collectively responsibly responded through the past 30 years.

    So this new report may help, but it is a little late to the game. I have not read it yet. I look forward to seeing if it refers to the above well established understanding about the successes to date on population limits and the importance of achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (which means global pursuit of leadership objectives like the USA Green New Deal, but more comprehensive than the Green New Deal). I will be particularly interested in seeing if it effectively identifies the problem as 'the highest consuming and highest impacting portion of the population'.

  50. The problem of growth in a finite world

    It is good to see this post acknowledge the importance of population growth.  Professor Ian Lowe and colleagues have just released a discussion paper, commissioned by Sustainable Population Australia, about the urgent need to bring an end to population growth, as an essential part of an integrated strategy for climate mitigation and adaption. As this report says, "The sooner we end population growth, and at a lower global peak, the better for climate mitigation and adaptation.... Population stabilisation alone can’t solve climate change, but ignoring population will ensure we fail."

    I urge everyone to read this paper, which is argued in-depth and with the latest evidence, before coming to judgement. For too long there has been a 'population denial'.  Full version of the paper here (PDF).

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