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Facts matter, and on climate change, Trump's picks get them wrong

Posted on 27 December 2016 by dana1981

When speaking about climate change, President-elect Trump has flip-flopped between acceptance and denial, which suggests that he hasn’t put much thought into one of humanity’s greatest threats. However, what his administration does is far more important than what he thinks. Unfortunately, Trump has nominated individuals to several critical climate leadership positions who reject inconvenient scientific and economic evidence.

Stage 3 denial: climate dangers and model accuracy

Climate denial often pinballs between five different stages, but the cleverer denialist arguments tend to land on Stage 3: denial that climate change is a problem.

It’s ironic that Secretary of State nominee Rex Tillerson – CEO of ExxonMobil – has the most sophisticated position on climate change among Trump’s key nominees. Tillerson accepts that humans are causing global warming, but he denies that it’s a problem. His key argument focuses on sowing doubt about the accuracy of climate models.

This happens to be the core topic in my book Climatology versus Pseudoscience, whose analysis I updated for a presentation at the American Geophysical Union conference two weeks ago. Climate scientists have been making global temperature predictions for over 40 years, and they’ve turned out to be amazingly accurate, as this video of the key slides from my presentation shows:

Various global temperature projections by mainstream climate scientists and models, and by climate contrarians, compared to observations by NASA GISS. Created by Dana Nuccitelli.

Tillerson has long cast doubt on the accuracy of climate models, for example saying at a 2013 ExxonMobil annual shareholder meeting:

our ability to project with any degree of certainty the future is continuing to be very limited … our examination about the models are that they’re not competent.

This line of argument led to the question Tillerson posed at the company’s 2015 annual meeting:

What if everything we do, it turns out our models are lousy, and we don’t get the effects we predict?

The answer to that question is that we get the co-benefits associated with reduced burning of fossil fuels: cleaner air, cleaner water, healthier people, green jobs and economic growth, energy independence, and so on. But the point is that Tillerson tries to cast doubt on scientists’ ability to project what will happen in the future, because the projections show that we need to leave most fossil fuel reserves in the ground. For Exxon, that’s bad for business.

Stage 2 denial: we’re causing the problem

Trump’s appointees will sometimes get stuck in Stage 1 denial – that global warming is even happening – but most frequently they land in Stage 2 denial – that humans are responsible. 

This is a question that’s about as settled as science gets. The best estimate in the 2014 IPCC report, representing the consensus of the world’s top climate scientists summarizing the body of climate research, was that humans have caused all the global warming over the past 65 years. The report concluded with 95% confidence that humans have caused most of the global warming since 1950. Climate scientists are as confident in human-caused global warming as medical scientists are that smoking causes cancer. There’s a 97% expert consensus on the subject.

Trump’s nominee to head the EPA, Scott Pruitt is in Stage 2 denial. So is his choice to lead the Department of Energy, Rick Perry. His choice to lead the Department of Interior, Ryan Zinke is an interesting case, who strongly supported climate action in 2010, but now denies that humans are responsible. Even Trump himself has said “nobody knows” what’s causing it.

Somebody does: the world’s scientific experts.

Stage 4 denial: we can solve it

Trump’s nominees will sometimes advance to Stage 4 denial, and argue that solutions to the climate problem are too costly. For example, while environmental regulations actually have a positive net effect on employment, Pruitt and Trump argue that these sorts of regulations kill jobs. Tillerson argues that third world countries need fossil fuels to end ‘energy poverty.’ In reality, while access to electricity certainly helps the poor, distributed renewable energy like solar panels and wind turbines are a better fit for most developing nations, especially since poorer countries are the most vulnerable to climate change impacts.

Trump’s transition team also believes the cost of carbon pollution is lower than the estimates used by the Obama Administration. However, the most recent research on the subject indicates the actual cost is in fact much higher than government estimates, and a majority of economists agree that the federal estimate is too low.

Tillerson has claimed to support a revenue-neutral carbon tax – a bipartisan solution that in addition to helping curb climate change and its damages, would have a modestly beneficial direct impact on the economy. However, under Tillerson’s leadership, ExxonMobil hasn’t supported policymakers who have proposed this exact legislation, and has instead continued to fund climate denial organizations that work to obstruct it. And in 2013, Tillerson walked back his carbon tax support:

I would not support putting a carbon tax in place today because I think we still have a lot of gains to be made through technology and other less intrusive policies on the economy which are showing results.

Tillerson has argued that climate change is “an engineering problem and it has engineering solutions.” In other words, that we can keep burning fossil fuels, and solve the problem through adaptation efforts. However, research is quite clear that while we’ll need a combination of mitigation and adaptation, relying primarily on adaptation would be exceptionally costly.

It’s not surprising that the CEO of ExxonMobil advocates for a path that would lead to the burning of lots more fossil fuels. However, the Secretary of State has tremendous influence over America’s role in international climate negotiations. ExxonMobil’s priorities are in sharp conflict with America’s and the world’s on this issue.

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Comments 1 to 21:

  1. This is another part of the OP I owe SkS and am still trying to organize into a concise presentation of thoughts/perspective.

    It appears that Trump is simply continuing his efforts to succeed through the creation of unjustified impressions.

    A business mind-set can be a very dangerous thing. Many business leaders focus on striving to succeed by prolonging their ability to "win" through a lack of public awareness and better understanding of how their actions are contrary to the advancement of humanity to a lasting better future for all of humanity.

    The act of impressing people - especially the development of perceptions of popularity, profitability, or prosperity - can be understood to be the unjustified deliberate creation of impressions in the minds of people, or “fooling them”. A key related action is the need to mask or hide or diminish the awareness and better understanding in the audience (the magicians tricks or diversion and misleading the attention awareness and understanding.

    Creating unjustified impressions and hiding what is really being done is the antithesis of “Raising awareness and Better understanding of what is actually going on”. And those who succeed at it can clearly be very detrimental to the advancement of humanity until awareness and better understanding become so pervasive that their “Deliberately Deceptive Marketing Tricks” fail to impress enough for success”.

    Trump's waffling on climate science could be a carefully developed ploy, performed to create the appearance of being thoughtful and considerate. However the best awareness and understanding is clearly that Trump and his likes give little thought, consideration, care or desire to advancing humanity to a lasting better future for all. They are focused on maximizing personal short term success any way they can get away with for as long as they can get away with.

    That awareness and better understanding of the likes of Trump needs to grow rapidly in the USA, and many other places, or the future of humanity will suffer severely. It is undeniable that the current developed economies have been built, to different degrees, on unjustified perceptions of success and prosperity. And the more that that type of “Magic” is involved in creating the perceptions of wealth and prosperity the less of a future there is for it.

    Trump is not the first 'Unjustified Celebrity Winner of undeserved wealth and power' in human history. And like the others who pursued celebrity success for reasons other than advancing humanity to a lasting better future, the amount of damage he will do depends on how rapidly 'raised awareness and better understanding and the desire to advance humanity to a lasting better future for all' grows in the USA (and around this amazing planet).

    True development and advancement requires a deliberate nurturing of the development of responsible thoughtful considerate adults focused on advancing humanity to a lasting better future as a healthy helpful diversity of humans among the robust diversity of life on this amazing planet.

    Current day 'so called advanced developed and developing societies/economies' clearly suffer to different degrees from a penchant for the unjustified belief that “Everyone free to believe as they wish and do as they please is the best way for things to be”. That is clearly fairy tale magical nonsense. And Trump is clearly creating a Group-Think Echo-Chamber Deceptive Marketing Machine to try to create and maintain believers of Fairy Tales and non-common sense. That group potentially hope to magically succeed at creating unjustified impressions to get away with personally beneficial but understandably damaging actions as much as possible for as long as possible, by impression creation to mask what they are actually trying to do and the likely results of their actions, and deliberately deceptive impression creation to try to manage what they cannot hide.

    Hopefully there will be a rapid increased awareness and understanding of the truly unacceptable nature of the likes of Trump as a result of their attempts to create unjustified impressions regarding climate science and climate change (and all their other unjustified attempts to create impressions).

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  2. An addition to, or development of, my previous comment (a seemingly never-ending work in progress with new related relevant material evidence being created almost daily) is that other terms that deserve to be used along with 'creating impressions' are creating illusions and creating delusions of grandeur - something that the likes of Trump clearly focus on.

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  3. Trump has indeed gone from acceptance to denial. In fact he signed an open letter supporting Obamas efforts to combat climate change as below.

    However Trump has changed his position. Maybe some sceptic has got to Trump, or maybe its just he has given in to short term business interests, as opposed to thinking about future generations, or a combination of both seems likely.

    One problem capitalism has is it tends to favour the short term, and also is not good at dealing with environmenatal issues in a self regulating sort of way. Economists call this a market failure or negative externality and its well recognised in any course on economics.

    It would be great if we could change this short term mindset, and also recognise that governments do sometimes have a philosophically justified role to ensure environments are protected, but yet we must also preserve the core strengths and features of capitalism in the process. Where there is a will there is a way. I actually dont think we have a choice, because physical reality will eventually force some ideological change anyway. Socialism is not the answer but a modified capitalism is at least possible in theory.

    You have outlined a number of denialist arguments, that stem from people with associations with vested interests, or certain lobby or ideological groups. Vested interests are clearly significant. There is evidence that a small number of powerful and wealthy people are climate sceptics, like the Koch brothers.

    They are clearly doing this while being quite agressive business people and hard line in various ideological views that emphasise individual rights to a very strong degree, and they have a view that future generations should look after themselves from what I read. Their wealth means they have a disproportionate influence on the debate. What is even more concerning is climate denialists in general often seem quite happy to make outrageous claims and game the system, when climate scientists are often held by their training and professional bodies to very high standards of integrity and properly so.

    I think many things contribute to global warming science denialism. At the base simple dislike of cold weather could be a subconcious part, but vested interests and selfish interests have obviously been a big factor in spreading doubts about the science.

    However Trump is a proud person. If he could be shown that the denialist arguments are really just cheap tricks, he might take notice. He wouldnt like being taken for a sucker.

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  4. Recommended supplemental reading:

    Scientists just ran the numbers on how much Trump could damage the planet by Chris Mooney, Energy & Environment, Washington Post, Dec 27, 2016

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  5. Thank you, Dana for the model-data updates!

    We welcome a short article by you explaining the slides.

    The deniers need to see them, with explainations.

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  6. nigelj at 08:17 AM on 28 December, 2016

    "However Trump is a proud person. If he could be shown that the denialist arguments are really just cheap tricks, he might take notice. He wouldnt like being taken for a sucker"

    Which is the reason for him not listening to the people saying that we need a world government based on a hypothesis that has shown to be worthless for doing what it claims. 

    I also think the stupidity of U.S. climatepoliticians when they decided to prosecute people that don´t think like them, might be a large cause for Trump ignoring the undemocratic forces behind the climate scam.

    (In a whispering voice: I am starting to wonder if the nazis are behind the climate scam, they where the last ones that tried to take over the world;)

    I am almost joking in the above sentence

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  7. No sense in pushing Trump into admitting that climate change is happening and likely to bring disaster.  He will just get huffy puffy and sulk.  Instead get the message to him how he could become the hero of the American people by stemming the flow of all that lovely wealth to other countries for oil and to use it for job creation in repairing American infrastructure.  No need for subsidies.  In fact since he is a true capitalist (cough cough), stop all subsidies including to fossil fuel and let renewables and fossil fuel battle it out on the economic playing field.  More money saved from not having to pay subsidies.  He is about to lower corporate taxes.  Fine, but emphasize that he must then ensure that all companies actually pay their taxes.  He wants to penalize American companies who manufacture overseas so he may be sympathetic to this message.  We have to play the instrument we have been given.  And emphasize that setting the economic playing field to favor electric cars and Wind and Solar will save even more money in foreign oil costa and better still, the people pay for the infrastructure.

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  8. HB @6, good point. Very amusing.

    Its fair to say the "warmists" sometimes make themselves easy targets, and this becomes an excuse for climate denialism by people like Trump. But I think people also blow minor mistakes by warmists out of all proportion like that glacier issue in one of the IPCC reports. Its like warmists are held to almost an impossible standard, yet sceptics are given a free pass to talk the most incredible nonsense without the slightest evidential foundation. Society is in effect crippling science, and will ultimately pay a price for this cynical approach.

    Just changing the subject slightly, the climate issue has become very divisive indeed and it intrigues me to identify what is really driving this level of climate change denialism, division, and general tension. I have seen dozens of theories that are all quite convincing, and its tempting to say perhaps they just all add together, however there is usually a simple underlying principal explanation for most things in life. I dont think we have found this for climate denialism, although One Planet may be close.

    I was briefly a climate change sceptic, ages ago, having watched a certain movie (I dont want to name it and give it any promotion). But I had lingering doubts about the sceptical claims, and when I looked more deeply I found the movie was full of factual errors and misleading claims, etc. I dont like being tricked like this, esspecially given I have a high level of education, and it has made me an advocate for the IPCC position and reducing emissions. If I can change my position, maybe Trump can.

    However I do think Trump is likely to be more amenable to business arguments about advantages of renewable energy, etc.

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  9. The fACTS are: there are NO facts!   There is no direct evidence of humans causing global warming.

    that the LIE is repeated is not going to make it suddenly come true!  When are you folks going to realize you have been duped?  You are being made fools of, but since you are getting paid for lying it is OK with you?!

    Here is how your logic works:

    you are baking bread. You get hot and sweaty so you decide to have a bath. As you fill your tub, you notice the kithen is still getting warmer!  So you theorize the water in the bath is causin the warming trend.  

    Well, the tub does have an insignificant effect on the overall temps but it is certainly NOT  the main cause. But your ideology/ religion is cemented and you refuse to accept it could be anything BUT the bath water! ;

    THAT is what common sense folks see you saying!  

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    Moderator Response:

    [JH] Inflamatory sloganeering snipped.

  10. Nanuk,

    For evidence look here

    But since you mentioned "common folks" that might not even know the basics of science. Maybe this experiment by mythbusters will help you understand easier.

    Mythbusters tests global warming theory - does CO2 warm air?

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  11. Nanuk @9

    "There is no direct evidence of humans causing global warming."

    Can you precisely specify what direct evidence you want, and what you mean by direct? Remember we cannot put the entire planet inside a laboratory.

    We certainly have strong evidence fossil fuels are causing climate change due to basic greenhouse gas theory, basic correlations between CO2 and warming, CO2 signatures, sources of CO2, etc, as discussed in articles on this website and the IPCC reports.

    "Well, the tub does have an insignificant effect on the overall temps but it is certainly NOT the main cause. "

    What main cause do you propose? Why so shy about saying? Remember scientists have investigated and ruled out all alternative causes. Solar activity has been on a declining trend for decades, for example.

    You are going over boring old ground, that has been dealt with by climate scientists 100 times over, so its hard not to conclude you are simply trolling and trying to cause doubts. Maybe you are the person paid to spread lies?

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  12. I would contend that until recently, society has mostly had faith in the honesty and fact based reporting of scientific bodies, government agencies, and the private sector. Even politicians and the media have been at least held in some degree of respect.  

    Of course we "all" know people lie sometimes or get things wrong, and we should all be sceptics to a point, but I would contend we have largely had basic faith in institutions being generally reliable. And institutions have mostly been reliable, with genuine problems exposed by the media.

    But things have changed in recent years. I dont know if studies have quantified, this but the anecdotal evidence is so obvious and so strong it demands attention. Extreme levels of distrust have emerged regarding virtually all our institutions.This is very concerning because the functioning of society relies on trust and accurate information that can be relied on.

    I think this discontent and cynicism has several origins. The precipitating factor could be the GW Bush invasion of Iraq and non existant weapons of mass destruction. I contend this more than anything has caused the distrust. It started with distrust of the CIA and politicians, and opportunists have used this to deflect distrust onto the climate science community and all agencies and institutions and also the globalisation agenda.

    In fact globalisation (which seems basically good to me) has definitely had some problems along the way, and this has also eroded trust in the "authorities" or intellectual elite, unfortunately. Everyone has been smeared by this. Another problem has been the rampant paedophilia and sexual abuse exposed in a variety of institutions, further eroding tust in these institutions but also all institutions and the "elite" in general.

    As a result the word of the authorities and objective truth has come into disrepute and something has to fill the gap. People now believe whatever they want to believe,  or they believe "alternative" websites or writers.

    Given the demise of facts and truth people have gone with nothing more than gut instincts, emotion, ideology, and beliefs. If something doesn't pass through their ideological filter it gets discarded. People talk about "truthiness" a concept so vague and emotive it surely doesn't make sense.

    The more politicians or agencies of the state repeat mistakes like Iraq, make things up, or base decisions on emotion and assertion rather than hard evidence, the more the trend away from objective facts and truth will be reinforced, until society starts to seriously break down.

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  13. Nigelj,

    I agree that trust in institutions is low and is a big problem.  I see the source somewhat differently.  Most of the "fake news' in the last election was directed at conservatives.  Progressives were not as susceptable (they were not completely free of taint).  I think the issue is talk radio and Fox news.  Fact checker for Rush Limbaugh has been described as the easiest job in the world.  People who listen to these sources have many false beliefs.  Many still believe weapons of mass distruction were found in Iraq, have questions about Obama's birth certificate, think unemployment went up under Obama, the stock market went down and that the debt was larger under Obama than Bush.

    The ability of business to buy whatever "news" they want in America, a first amendment right, leads to monied interests paying for fake stories.  During the Bush administration I recall a top aide saying that reality was whatever they wated it to be.  Eventually reality exloded in their faces.  It took them only 4 years to rebuild their fake reality to hold back Obama.

    It will be interesting to see what coal miners say after four years.  Their jobs are gone forever.  Coal is too expensive.  Will they wish they had voted for Clinton's retraining instead of Trump's promises that they would get their jobs back?

    We will eventually fid out.  Trump will try to blame Obama.

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  14. Michael Sweet @13, I agree totally. Rush Lindburgh makes my blood boil. I just didn't want to annoy people by singling out a particular ideological group, and getting into a rant as such. However even this website has acknowledged the Conservative movement has certain characteristics seen in various polls.

    In fact I do think lack of trust in institutions a combination of things that we have both mentioned. The CIA and politicans let us down over Iraq, and even some Republicans probably quietly felt that, but their reaction could be to only distrust the CIA when it suits them, if you understand me.

    "Will they wish they had voted for Clinton's retraining instead of Trump's promises that they would get their jobs back?"

    One hopes so. Coal is on the way out and I feel globalisation is essentially a good thing, with some rough edges. Clinton had sensible policies to mitigate the negative side of globalisation and general job losses, like retraining. My country has relocation grants for poor people and family assistance. This can be designed in a dignified way that avoids a sense of dependence.

    Trump wants to go down the alternative protectionist route which seems flawed for too many reasons to state here.

    Will they wish they had gone with Clinton? I hope they realise this, but  you know what? It will all become a confused mess where cause and effect become blurred and scapegoats get blamed.

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  15. "Tillerson has argued that climate change is “an engineering problem and it has engineering solutions.” In other words, that we can keep burning fossil fuels, and solve the problem through adaptation efforts. However, research is quite clear that while we’ll need a combination of mitigation and adaptation, relying primarily on adaptation would be exceptionally costly.”

    The follow points related to the above quote from the OP need to addressed. If there is an Engineering Solution it should have to be developed, implemented and proven to be effective before the action to obtain benefit started (to ensure that the ones benefiting have not done something that others would suffer the consequences of - the fundamental role of a Professional Engineer in Canada)? Who pays the cost?

    The second question is easy to answer. It is common sense that the people who will benefit from an activity should be required to create and pay for any mitigation/adaptation to the changes that the actions they hope to benefit from will create. They should also be the only ones to suffer any potential negative consequences. Another way of saying it is that no portion of humanity should benefit in a way that negatively affects other members of humanity, including future generations.

    Until global humanity develops the ability to effectively defend its future we will likely continue to continue to see popularity and profitability that is successfully detrimental to the future of humanity.

    The UN is currently the main international body trying to achieve the advancement of humanity to a lasting better future for all. The UN is undeniably prone to influence from parties interested in actions contrary to the advancement of global humanity. However, it has a history of trying to advance humanity (and that history has also made it a target for people who have interests that are contrary to the advancement of humanity).

    The 1987 UN Report “Our Common Future” strives to encourage the understanding of what needs to change to advance humanity to a lasting better future (a particularly contrite point is made in paragraphs 25 and 26 on page 16 of the pdf file). The more recent UN Millennium Development Goals are additional evidence that the UN collectively strives to advance humanity to a lasting better future.

    Some people will not like that objective based understanding of what is required. But objectively they will not be able to justify their objection. The wealthiest and most powerful particularly have little excuse to not understand it. That is why the least deserving among the wealthy and powerful can be seen to be trying to get away with promoting the popularity of things like 'people free to believe whatever they prefer to believe, and do whatever they want to do, as the best way for things to be' or 'everyone else is against us'. That ideology is popular because it is ignorant of any requirement for responsibility. Responsibility gets to be considered completely independently by declaring things like 'anyone less fortunate or suffering some consequence is responsible for the situation they are in and the challenges they face'. That paired-up impaired way of thinking is a perfect delusion/excuse for the fossil fuel crowd. They get to do as they wish. And others are responsible for dealing with any negative consequences (Trump's Art of the Deal in a nutshell - set up the deal to ensure you maximize your benefit and that others suffer any negative consequences).

    For the first question, as an Engineer with an MBA I suggest the following Business-Minded/Engineering solution.

    Engineering is the pursuit of the greatest possible awareness and understanding of what is going on and applying that understanding to achieve an acceptable objective result.

    My understanding of the objective result is “Advancement of Humanity to a lasting better future for all”. And my Business-Minded awareness and understanding is that business is driven by the pursuit of maximum benefit, and by minimum risk of loss by the one hoping to get the benefit.

    Maximum benefit is often achieved by getting something done quicker/cheaper (both of which usually increase the risk of producing a damaging consequence or increasing the disadvantage of a worker by giving less reward for work done or making the work riskier to do). Maximum benefit can also be enhanced by successfully creating perceptions among the population (deceptive marketing).

    Minimizing risk of loss means doing things in a way that reaps benefits for as long as can be gotten away with in the least acceptable way, and rigging things so that others will face any consequences (like future generations having to 'Engineer' a solution for a bigger challenge).

    Often the only effective restrictions on Business activity are leadership actions that curtail understandably/objectively unacceptable pursuits.

    So the engineering challenge is to increase the awareness and understanding in the global population, especially among leadership hopefuls, that there is no significant chance that people will succeed if they try to get away with benefiting from actions that can be understood to be contrary to the advancement of humanity to a lasting better future for all.

    Popularity and profitability have been conclusively proven to fail to restrict understandably unacceptable behaviour. What has been proven is that the more popular or profitable an activity is able to become the more challenging it is to curtail it. The climate change challenge is probably the most significant case proving that point.

    Before the climate change challenge developed there were many other cases where external actions were required to curtail understandably unacceptable developed popular and profitable pursuits. Many of the understood to be unacceptable activities, like expanding nuclear weapon capabilities, still continue to be potentially profitable and popular.

    Business and Political leadership can be significantly influenced by popularity and profit. That makes every business enterprise and sovereign nation a potential threat requiring external actions to limit behaviour that is damaging to the advancement of humanity. And the target of effective action needs to be the the trouble-making leaders, the people with the most power and influence would gain the most from the understood to be unacceptable actions.

    The popularity and profitability of burning fossil fuels is so significant that the understood Engineering Solution (action to achieve a desired objective result based on the best understanding of things) would be a global agreement that all nations be required to monitor and effectively restrict the actions of their citizens based on the objective of advancing global humanity. And an international body like the UN would monitor/audit all of the nations and identify which nations have leadership that is failing to be objectively effective. International external action would then be taken to try to 'correct' the failings of the leadership of that nation. And large multi-national corporations would probably need to be audited as if they were a nation-state since their leadership could come from many different nations making it difficult for a single nation to be effectively responsible for the leadership of such an entity.

    That type of action is understandably an 'ideal' that is unlikely to ever be achieved, but as with all things - aspiring to do the best is the best way to achieve a good result.

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  16. Late editing of the second paragraph in my comment at 15, too late at night, has produced the expected result. Here is a revised 2nd paragraph.

    "The follow points related to the above quote from the OP need to addressed. If there is an Engineering Solution shouldn't it have to be developed, implemented and proven to be effective before the action to obtain benefit is allowed to be started (to ensure that the ones benefiting have not done something that others would suffer the consequences of - the fundamental role of a Professional Engineer in Canada)? Who pays the cost?"

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  17. In my comment @15 I also copy-pasted the text and forgot to insert a couple of links:

    The 1987 UN Report "Our Common Future"

    The UN Millennium Development Goals

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  18. One Planet Only @15,

    "If there is an Engineering Solution it should have to be developed, implemented and proven to be effective before the action to obtain benefit started"

    Yes that makes sense. I think we would want proof of viability and to ensure profit is not made out of some fantasy scheme, purely for the benefit off the shareholders.

    However personally I dont think engineering solutions like carbon capture or more ambitious geoengineering solutions have much practical viability, and some have high risks as well. I know technology has produced great feats, but we cant assume this ability is infinite. Even if we find a workable engineering solution, it would be too late to stop dangerous climate change, so our first priority should be reducing emissions, with engineering solutions as a second order of priority.

    "It is common sense that the people who will benefit from an activity should be required to create and pay for any mitigation/adaptation to the changes that the actions. Another way of saying it is that no portion of humanity should benefit in a way that negatively affects other members of humanity, including future generations'.

    It is indeed commonsense, and its also recognised by economists that environmental impacts should be either prohibited, or user pays principles should apply. In fact society mostly (but certainly not all) recognise this. Currently we are mostly all using oil, and this impacts negatively on the environment. The obvious solution is a carbon tax that would reduce oil use and also pay for some degree of the problems.

    Things get more difficult with climate change because we are considering such a long term issue that get harder to quantify so easier to ignore.

    Several factors are at work: Business interests can become very orientated on short term goals, very avaricious and neglect costs that are far in the future.

    People get scared that they might face high costs now to protect something far in the future.

    Some people are very fixated on the present and their personal rights. Some people are narcissistic and self centred, while others have more of a big picture natural concern about the future. These are psychological issues that divide society, and its really important to grasp this.

    What we have to do is bring narcissistic people into line and make them see we need to consider the bigger picture. We need to demonstrate that it's ultimately in their interests to leave a decent planet for their children. We need to show that the costs of dealing with climate change are just not as large as the scaremongers claim.

    "And an international body like the UN would monitor/audit all of the nations and identify which nations have leadership that is failing to be objectively effective."

    Yes in an ideal world. The UN is the ideal organisation to regulate some global form of environmental standards. They also do see the big picture. But you know what certain people will say, "world government, nanny state, anti capitalist etc" and this is so frustrating.

    However we need global agreements and standards, and a way needs to be found to do this that ensures the UN has power, but is also accountable and properly democratically constrained. Its got to be a balance between the central power of the UN, and countries sovereignty. Somehow this riddle has to be solved and agreement reached on the proper role of the UN.

    I think its inevitable and useful that global agreeements will become more significant, provided they are well constructed and fair in nature, but Trump is a backwards step in this regard.

    Anyway those are a few random thoughts that may be of some help.
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  19. For pity's sake, nigelj, stop omitting necessary apostrophes.  It is really, really irritating.  I'm referring particularly to "cant" and "wont" and "dont", but you also have a cavalier attitude to "its" and "it's".

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  20. nigelj@18,

    Thanks for the feed-back. My thoughts and their presentation are still a work in progress.

    I can definitely be clearer in the future that the type of "Engineering Solution" I believe is required to best meet the objective of advancing humanity is "Social Engieering - particularly in Business related Marketing activity (including political marketing by pursuers of personal benefit)" not "Technical Engineering". I share your concern about global geoengineering like the current massive experiment with CO2 generation. Global scale Geoengineering is probably only justified on a nearly lifeless planet, which hopefully human actions won't cause this one to become in the future (nuclear weapons threats as 'defense' or 'hoped to be a restraint of unacceptable actions' and related Star Wars creations of 'Perceptions of Imunity for Trouble-makers hoping to avoid retribution for what they try to get away with' are a bigger immediate threat, but they do not diminish the threat of rapid climate change).

    As for 'rapid climate change due to human activity' being a future issue, making it difficult to address. The objective of advancing humanity to a lasting better future is clearly made more difficult by the currently popular and profitable massive rate of burning of fossil fuels. The unjustified perceptions of prosperity, popularity and profitability are the real problem, not the fact that the consequences are difficult to recognize. There is little doubt that burning fossil fuels is messing up the future, not improving it. But the ones who benefit the most can be confident that they will not suffer a net negative consequence because the main consequence is a future consequence, or the immediate consequences will only create a net-negative effect on less fortunate people who will not have the wealth and options to overcome the problems created (and have no real power or ability to fairly and justly get even with the benefiting trouble-makers). That is the main point I am preparing an OP on, the simple unacceptability of benefiting from an activity that others will face the consequences of. The assessments 'comparing the future costs of mitigation and adaptation to climate change vs. the perceptions of prosperity that have to be given up today' are basically bogus. They are built on the flawed concept that it is OK to cause problems for others, something that is especially easy to do to future generations because they literally have no chance to stop it (no vote, no lobbying power, no purchasing power, no misleading marketing power). 

    As for global action. Message Repetition is powerful. Repeating that 'It is essential for everything to be evaluated based on the need to advance humanity to a lasting better future for all, and actions that are contrary to that objective are simply not acceptabel regardless of developed perceptions of profitability or popularity' would help. Every leader should be required to repeat that almost daily and prove how their actions are 'acceptable and helpful'. And the leaders (in business and politics) who won't do that should lose their ability to be 'leaders' (immediately be removed from leadership for being proven to be incapable of properly responsibly performing the duties).

    That is the type of Social Engineering that will be required, a return to Requiring Responsible behaviour from all of the "Winners". And it will solve many more problems than this Climate Change issue. Hopefully the reality of what some among us clearly try to get away with will be exposed and better understood to be objectively inexcusable, hastening the required Global Social Engineering changes.

    I am now settling my thoughts on the root of the problem being this whole idea of "Winners". Humanity needs helpful contributors towards the advancement of all of humanity to a lasting better future. The human made-up games of competion can only be helpful if unacceptable pursuits are effectively kept from enabling someone to be perceived to be a "Winner". That simple rule applies in sport as well as business and politics. Grand fabulous amazing games with brilliant competition and spectacular results are possible, including nations becoming great, as long as creative talented ingenious very-smart cheaters never get a chance to be seen as "Winners".

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  21. One Planet Only @20, by climate change being perceived as a future issue and a difficult one to get to grips with mentally, I meant humans are genetically and psychologically hardwired to think short term. Psychology has done a lot of research on this.

    Not everyone is like this, but its dominant in many people. We have to overcome this somehow.

    I agree we should be considering future generations and aiming for a lasting and better future, otherwise life just seems pointless and totally hedonistic.

    The difficultly is convincing people because opinions clearly vary. Some people are short sighted in their values by nature, others more altruistic.

    I think the issue is we probably have to acknowledge the value of self interest and economic competition, but also emphasise the value of altruism. I don't think they are mutually exclusive. I think evolution has generated both instincts so they both seem to have survival value.

    But we need to emphasise altruism more than we are currently doing. I think the neoliberal economic revolution since the mid 1980's has over emphasised selfishness. I'm talking the "greed is good" mentality. This has made it very hard to reduce carbon emissions. The values system has become out of balance or skewed towards greed.

    It has made some people sceptical about climate science and wilfully ignorant, as they try to justify continuing to use fossil fuels and take a generally self centred attitude, and one that is fixated on the present.

    This is of course unsustainable, and we need some boundaries as a society to stop this.

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