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2019 SkS Weekly Climate Change & Global Warming News Roundup #40

Posted on 5 October 2019 by John Hartz

A chronological listing of news articles linked to on the Skeptical Science Facebook Page during the past week, i.e., Sun, Sep 29 through Sat, Oct 5, 2019

Editor's Pick

Greta Thunberg is right: It’s time to haul ass on climate change

Economically and politically, early ambition is better.

Greta Thunberg

New York, NY - August 28, 2019: 16-year-old climate activist Greta Thunberg arrives into New York City after crossing the Atlantic in a sailboat and attend press conference at North Cove Marina - Shutterstock

When Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg addressed the elites assembled at the World Economic Forum in Davos, she concluded with a simple message: “I want you to act as if our house is on fire.”

For those elites, it was unfamiliar language. They are accustomed to talking about climate change, but typically such talk amounts to ritual invocations of “urgency” coupled with promises about what might be achieved in 2030 or 2050.

When your house is on fire, though, you don’t promise results in a decade or a year or a week. You grab a bucket and find some water. Immediately.

When it comes to climate policy, Thunberg has it right. We are in a unique historical moment; we understand the danger of climate change and, for now, still have the resources and political space necessary to address it. But every second of delay makes the challenge more expensive, more difficult, and more dangerous.

It’s not just climate activists saying that. The policy community is moving in that direction as well, with similar arguments coming into clearer view from economists and political scientists. The common theme is risk, and what it means to take the mounting risks of the climate crisis seriously. 

Greta Thunberg is right: It’s time to haul ass on climate change by David Roberts, Energy & Environment, Vox, Oct 4, 2019

Articles Linked to on Facebook

Sun Sep 29, 2019

Mon Sep 30, 2019

Tues Oct 1, 2019

Wed Oct 2, 2019

Thu Oct 3, 2019

Fri Oct 4, 2019

Sat Oct 5, 2019

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Comments 1 to 6:

  1. The internet is full of climate denialism that creates the impression of an equally divided opinion on the climate issue, but polling shows most people do accept humans are altering the climate. Therefore its very likely a small number of paid lobbyists dominate the internet, and can have a disproportionate impact on perceptions. I hope politicians and other decision makers appreciate this.

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  2. The five: Donald Trump’s attacks on science.

    The US president is a climate-crisis denier, but it is not the only field in which he is at odds with scientists and their work

    Last week, a report by US campaign group the National Task Force on Rule of Law and Democracy, compiled by ex-government officials, concluded that under the Trump administration that there were now “almost weekly violations” to the impartiality of scientific research.

    Conservation cut

    In April the Trump administration withdrew funding for the Landscape Conservation Cooperatives, a large and successful conservation programme that tackled issues such as the climate crisis, species extinction and energy security. Sixteen of the original 22 research centres have now been dissolved or are on an indefinite “hiatus”. This was in defiance of instructions from Congress, which had approved $12.5m of federal funding for the cooperatives.

    Weather blackout

    Donald Trump’s government has refused to publicise dozens of studies from the US Department of Agriculture that examine the impact of the climate crisis. Agriculture secretary, Sonny Perdue, has previously expressed scepticism about climate change, believing it to simply be due to “weather patterns”.

    Climate censorship

    In June, it was reported that the White House had tried to stop Dr Rod Schoonover, a senior intelligence analyst, from discussing climate change when delivering congressional testimony. The reason given was that the science was not aligned with the views of the Trump administration.

    Short-term approach

    James Reilly, the director of the US Geological Survey (USGS), has ordered that scientific assessments produced by USGS use climate models that only track the possible impact of climate change until 2040, rather than until the end of the century, as they had done previously. The second half of the century is likely to see the most dramatic impacts of global heating.

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  3. The real issue is Not whether or not there is climate change.  The real issue is where to get the $100+ trillion to fix it.  And what other goods and services are we going to do without.

    Everything else is just talk.

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  4. markpittsusa @3

    "The real issue is Not whether or not there is climate change. The real issue is where to get the $100+ trillion to fix it. And what other goods and services are we going to do without."

    You dont say how you arrive at that number and over what time period it applies.

    I found this interesting study on the issues:

    "If we utilized all of our <€60 per tonne abatement opportunities to their full potential (which is an important assumption), McKinsey estimates the total global cost (to fully mitigate the climate problem) to be €200-350 billion per year by 2030. This is less than one percent of the forecasted global GDP in 2030."

    I'm not sure what that number would be for this year, but assuming the global economy doubles in size by 2030 it would be around 2% of gdp right now and falling as time marches on to less than 1% by 2030. Anyway its a number to think about as a starting point.

    Now obviously 2% of the worlds total economic output suggests not all that much has to be sacrificed. Small cuts spread over everything and you would hardly notice, particularly in rich countries. We could do without so much military spending, luxuries, large homes and cars, air travel, etc and this alone would obviously get us our 2% per year without needing to cut the essentials like sufficient food (half the population is overweight anyway), and health and education services. Obviously this is a rough analysis and ignores poor countries, but I trust the point is clear. It is a rough first approximation at the problem. I challenge you all to do better, and show your work.

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  5. @nigelj 5

    Take the cost estimates for going carbon neutral by 2050 coming out of the UK and the US. To decarbonize the UK (emitting about 1% of world carbon) the estimates are £0.8 to £1.0 trillion. For the US, (emitting about 15% of world carbon), Sander’s price tag is $16 trillion. Scaling these up to the world level, gives at least $100 trillion in costs. That’s more than one full year’s world income (at about $88 trillion).

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  6. @nigelj 4

    Two major problems with the Our World in Data analysis you mention, as I see it:

    The first problem is that the analysis is very partial. Take the example of electric cars and their potential associated carbon savings. No where in the analysis do they include the cost of the zillion solar panels needed to power those cars, or the major upgrade in the national electrical grid, or the hundred of millions of lithium batteries that must be created (then disposed of). All these omitted, but necessary, associated activities are hugely carbon intensive. A similar argument could be made for most of the other items on their list. It you leave out important factors, you can get any answer you want.

    The second problem is exactly the problem that the authors themselves point out: “To do this [create abatement cost curves], we first have to assume a ‘baseline’ of what we expect ‘business-as-usual’ policies and investments would be. This is done—for both costs and abatement potential—based on a combination of empirical evidence, energy models, and expert opinion. This can, of course, be challenging to do; the need to make long-term predictions/projections in this case is an important disadvantage to cost-abatement curves.”

    In English, this means that a hand full of experts at a consulting firm using various models and historical data calculate what potential savings are available to families and businesses from various energy savings investments, and net then those against the upfront costs. This of course is ridiculous. No committee of experts knows enough about hundreds of millions of families and businesses to make this assessment, and their models and historical data aren’t going to help much.

    People and businesses don’t make green investments simply because they Don’t pay off. People and businesses understand their own situation a hundred times better than any group of experts ever will.

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