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Climate and energy are becoming focal points in state political races

Posted on 28 September 2017 by John Abraham

As soon as Donald Trump won the presidential election, people in the US and around the world knew it was terrible news for the environment. Not wanting to believe that he would try to follow through on our worst fears, we held out hope

Those hopes for a sane US federal government were misplaced. But they are replaced by a new hope – an emerging climate leadership at the state level and a continuation of economic forces that favor clean/renewable energy over dirty fossil fuels. In fact, it appears that some states are relishing the national and international leadership roles that they have undertaken. Support for sensible climate and energy policies is now a topic to run on in elections.

This change has manifested itself in American politics. One such plan stems from my home state, but it exemplifies work in other regions. I live in the state of Minnesota where we are gearing up for a gubernatorial election, which is where this plan comes from.

My state is well known as somewhat progressive, both socially and economically. The progressive policies resulted in a very strong 2007 renewable energy standard, which helped to reduce carbon pollution and create 15,000 jobs. 

As an aside, it is really painful for me to have to describe sane energy policies as “progressive.” The fact that conservatives in the US have largely attacked clean energy and the science of climate change is deeply disappointing, but it is a reality nonetheless. 

Consequently, it is not surprising that one of the candidates for Governor, Rebecca Otto, has outlined what may become the trend among other states. She is not yet elected, but her clean energy proposal has many people talking. 

The proposal presents a two-part focus on clean energy-based economic development and climate-change mitigation. Basically, in my state (and in many other states), the clean energy economy is a major contributor to the creation of new, high-paying jobs. Here wind and solar power are king. If you drive through the farm fields of southern Minnesota, you will see wind farms that stretch as far as the eye can see. With solar, there are some large-scale solar farms but the real excitement is the small-scale commercial and residential solar generation that is complementing the large-scale wind turbines.

From an energy production standpoint, this makes sense. A diversified renewable energy portfolio is one that that includes large wind (which provides intermittent power) along with solar that also is intermittent but often generates power when the wind isn’t blowing (and vice versa). Also, the small-scale nature of solar makes it more reliable, less subject to local weather systems.

So the proposed clean energy plan would leverage the fast-growing and high-wage industries in energy. It also brings to bear perhaps the best financing mechanism to spur clean energy growth (the so-called “fee and dividend”). The way fee and dividend works is a fee is charged to companies that produce greenhouse gas emissions. No longer would society be subsidizing the costs from carbon pollution

The revenue from the fees would be returned to citizens so that it becomes a revenue-neutral tool. There is no net increase in cost or increase in income. What the fee and dividend method does, however, is reward people and companies for good choices. If you make choices that reduce your greenhouse gas contributions, you end up with extra money at the end of the year. On the other hand, if you make poor choices, you end up with less money. I think of this as a tax that advantages the smart over the, well, less smart.

What is also exciting about the plan is that a portion of the fees would go to fund clean-energy technology and tax credits. For instance, residents would get funds to offset the costs of energy purchases. So when residents insulate their house, buy solar panels, or install high-efficiency heat pumps, part of that cost is covered.

It will be interesting to see if similar plans emerge nationally. Most importantly, it will be interesting to see whether the climate change and energy topic becomes something that political candidates actively run on. In the past, this issue has been low on voter priorities lists. But, if proposing bold new plans can get votes, that may change – and quickly.

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Comments 51 to 100 out of 187:

  1. Hmm, just noticed this paper in Nature energy on whether US new oil could survive without subsidies. Definitely considers subsidies that arent specific to FF, but interesting study nonetheless.

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  2. Based on my experience as a Professional Engineer with an MBA, I offer the following more specific response to Tom13's Econ 101 'efficiency' promotion.

    Professional Engineering 101 is the pursuit and application of constantly improved awareness and understanding to develop new things, governed by Ethics 101 which is to protect the public interests from the potential harm of competitors in Econ 101 and PoliSci 101 (particularly when those competitors try to temporarily be perceived to be the Winners by abusing Marketing 101).

    The constraints on Engineering 101 by Ethics 101 include ensuring that only the options that do not impede or harm the achievement of public interests, including all of the interests presented in the Sustainable Development Goals, get to compete in evaluations to determine the 'best option'. An unsustainable or harmful activity would not pass that Ethics 101 screening in Engineering 101 no matter how much cheaper or quicker it was (no matter what the Econ 101 and PoliSci 101 want to believe or what popular support they can develop through the abuse of Marketing 101). And any already developed item/activity that is discovered to be unsustainable or harmful would be taken out of service or repaired.

    Econ 101 has to be Ethically externally constrained because it is understood that the competitors and consumers (the players in the game) in Econ/PoliSci/Marketing 101 can be expected to push to get the most competitive advantage they can, including pushing to benefit from behaving as unethically as they think they can get away with.

    The global effort to figure out how to develop a lasting constantly improving future for humanity has its origins many decades ago.

    • In 1965 the Scientific Advisory Panel to US President L.B. Johnson formally warned about the global warming/climate change impacts of CO2 from burning fossil fuels.
    • The 1972 UN Stockholm Conference formalized the global effort to better understand the required restrictions on the results of competition in Econ 101 and PoliSci 101, including restricting CO2 from burning fossil fuels.
    • The 1987 UN report "Our Common Future" included the blunt statement that "... We borrow environmental capital from future generations with no intention or prospect of repaying. They may damn us for our spendthrift ways, but they can never collect on our debt to them. We act as we do because we can get away with it: future generations do not vote; they have no political or financial power; they cannot challenge our decisions".
    • The most comprehensive presentation of that pursuit of increased awareness and better understanding is the Sustainable Development Goals established by the UN in 2015.

    All of that robustly developed better understanding has still failed to stop the unjustified damaging Winning in the games of Econ/PoliSci/Marketing 101 because of the lack of constraint of those activities by Ethics 101.

    The real problem is how far things have been allowed to develop in the wrong direction in many of the supposedly 'most advanced regions of the planet - the perceived Winners'. Further development in the wrong direction only makes the required responsible correction larger and more rapid, understandably perceived to be more of a Loss, but incorrectly perceived that way because 'the starting point for the correction' was an increasingly unsustainable and damaging delusion of prosperity and opportunity.

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  3. Bob Loblaw @ 25

    Tom13 is discussing the US tax situation regarding subsidies under the US tax code.  I am in Canada and can only reference the Canadian situation.  In that I am involved in the Canadian oil and gas business, I can certainly say that the only "subsidy" that the oil and gas industry receives is by receiving a "deduction" for exploration and development expenditures which, in accounting terms" is on capital account and not ordinarily deducted from income in calculating same for accounting purposes.  But, in accounting, capital ultimately gets deducted from the calculation of income from deductions for depreciation (buildings) and resources (depletion).

    So the only "subsidy" is the accelerated deduction received from deducting depletion at a faster rate under the Income Tax Act in Canada through deductions of oil and gas expenditures (CEE, CDE, COGPE).  With the exception of dry hole drilling expenditures (CEE), these have to be deducted over a number of years, usually on a 30% per year on a declining balance basis.

    Therefore, the only "subsidy" is the difference in the "time value of money" which certainly is not irrelevant.  But logically, deducting dry holde expenditures, as and when expended, seems to be the right thing.  In Canada, the Trudeau government is gradually whittling down the 100% CEE deductions, but retaining the 30% per year CDE deductions.

    As for Bob Loblaw's point, when it comes to a carbon tax on fossil fuels, I think you have to make a distinction between the costs of fossil fuels in harming the environment from a pollution standpoint from those unkown and speculative calculations of rising sea levels etc.  My understanding is that the IPCC ballparks this former cost at something around $18 per tonne.  Even Bjorn Lomborg agrees with a carbon tax at this level.

    Carbon taxes beyond this level are proposed for an entirely different purpose.  They are imposed to discourage the use of fossil fuels.  Whether this is the proper approach is an entirely different issue.  Lomborg and others suggest that it is not.   

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  4. Here is a link to a free copy of the article Scaddenp refers to at 51.  The supplemental information (free) documents how they calculate subsidies to oil production.  They do not include environmental damage as a subsidy of the oil industry.

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  5. NorrisM,

    This New York Times article documents current damage from sea level rise and the decline in sales of real estate threatened by sea level rise.  These are not "speculative" damages, they are already realized damages.  Since the sea continues to rise, these damages must increase.  The issue is how much the damages will increase to. Miami Beach is currently spending hundreds of millions of dollars in a futile attempt to hold back the sea.

    Articles speculating on a collapse of real estate values threatened by sea level rise are becoming common.  Just the possibility of a collapse is damaging to the economy and costs everyone else money.  The fossil fuel industry should pay for the damage they currently cause.   

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  6. Norris M @53, you claim the only fossil fuel subsidy in Canada is a very small tax deduction on oil and gas exploration. Looks mistaken to me. The following research says Canada have 6 separate subsidies on fossil fuels,  totalling about 3 billion dollars per year. Other research has much the same.They itemise each subsidy and its recent information.

    There is nothing speculative and about sea level rise. Models are not speculation. At the very least even if you just project the last 20 years linear trend forwards, you get significant sea level rise, and only a fool believes the rate over the last 20 years would stop or slow. Its only really a question of which model simulation of accelerating sea level rise proves most accurate, but none are looking good for humanity. Its important to also remember small changes to rates of sea level rise add up significantly analogous to compound interest.

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  7. Michael, yes, and contrary to what Tom13 has stated, it seems that FF get some special support:

    "The largest source of support to the oil and gas industry that we quantify in our analysis is the practice of expensing intangible drilling costs (IDCs). Only items with no salvage value can be claimed as IDCs, such as wages, fuel, and repairs, relating to well drilling.

    Large capital assets always have a mixture of tangible and intangible investments, and in most other sectors these are all capitalized into the cost basis that is written down over time. In contrast, producers are allowed to deduct from taxable income IDCs associated with investments in domestic oil and gas wells. These costs include a fraction of exploration and capital expenses for a given well up to the installation of a wellhead. Independent oil and gas operators are able to expense all IDCs immediately, while integrated oil companies may expense 70% of IDCs. The remaining 30% of integrated producers’ IDCs still receive special tax treatment, as operators can depreciate IDCs over five years instead of recovering these costs through depletion."

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  8. NorrisM: "Tom13 is discussing the US tax situation regarding subsidies under the US tax code."

    That may be what he wants to discuss, but from my perspective he is dodging the discussion on carbon taxes. He's claimed that they are just a wealth transfer, He's now gone "Look! Squirrel!" and started talking about subsidies. You've fallen for it.

    ...but while we are on the subject of subsidies, the list at the web page given by nijelj@56 does not mention royalty reductions (AFAICT). When I lived in Alberta, one of the favourite government actions to promote oil and gas activity was royalty reduction programs such as this one. To put it simply, the people of Alberta, who own the gas and oil, sell it more cheaply than at regular market rate. As this is run through government, it sounds an awful lot like a subsidy to me. The government isn't feeding money into gas and oil, but it is taking out less than it would normally. Gas and oil are on sale.

    In fact, such reduced-rate subsidies are at the heart of the never-ending US-Canada softwood lumber dispute that has reared its head again. One of the frequent US claims is that Canada's low stumpage fees (payments to government for cutting timber on Crown land) constitute a subsidy that the US considers unfair, and the US places tariffs on wood products as an anti-dumping action.

    As to your claim of an IPCC carbon cost of only $18/tonne - that seems awfully low to me. This Environment Canada site gives estimated costs of $34/t in 2010 rising to $75/t in 2050 as central estimates, with 95th percentile estimates going from $131/t to $320/t.

    ..but you used the phrase "...the IPCC ballparks this former cost at ..." [bolding mine]. Why did you use the word "former"? What are you implying? Is this only the cost of damage so far, for what has been emitted so far? Does your estimate ignore the future costs of previously-emitted carbon?

    Please provide a source for your $18/t number. Your "understanding" isn't a very strong argument. And what Lomborg says isn't worth an ounce of spit.

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  9. Tom13:

    #38 - The broader point on the fossil fuel subsidies - is that most of what is labeled as subsidies by various advocacy groups, etc are simply not subsidies by any economic definition. Many of the so-called "tax subsidies" are tax deductions for the cost of doing business. Additionally many of the so-called "tax subsidies" are deductions which are allowable to all industries and are not subsidies carved out to benefit the fossil fuel industries.

    Huh.  Oil Change International, the advocacy site you dismissed, defines 'fossil fuel subsidy' as follows:

    A fossil fuel subsidy is any government action that lowers the cost of fossil fuel energy production, raises the price received by energy producers, or lowers the price paid by energy consumers. Essentially, it’s anything that rigs the game in favor of fossil fuels compared to other energy sources.

    That seem succinct and even self-evident to me. OTOH, while I'll never claim to be an expert, the energy economics I once studied enroute to an multidisciplinary MS in Environmental Science may give me an advantage. The history of the Seven Sisters was especially edifying.


    A) you cited an article from an advocacy website, even individuals without expertise should be able to recognize the bias.

    B) The errors are readily apparant to anyone with a basic level of taxation

    C) my explanations, coupled with a basic knowledge of accounting, should be sufficient for most individuals to quickly grasp the errors.

    With due deference, your errors are readily apparent to anyone who grasps the implications of the Keeling Curve. For you to apprehend them, it will be necessary to acknowledge that some people, conventionally regarded as climate scientists, may know more about this stuff than you do. Failing that, you'll need to become a working climate scientist yourself. While you're putting the time in on that, you can trust that SkS contributors recognize the bias on Regardless, the site attempts to document the electoral influence trading, in all its protean guises, that distorts the 'free' market in fossil carbon's favor.

    Note, lastly, that's definition of subsidy does not include the political freedom to privatize the full marginal benefit of the energy in fossil fuels, while socializing the marginal climate-change costs right out our private tailpipes.

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  10. Bob Loblaw et al

    Will get cite for IPCC rate when I get back from holiday. There was a range if I recall.  All this IDC discussion is the same point I made. There is an accelerated deduction compared to how depletion is charged under usual accounting rules. But many industries in Canada get accelerated deductions for capital expendituresbeyond what would be normal depreciation rates for accounting purposes including wind and solar expenditures. 

    As soon as we move from a carbon tax that only charges for costs of pollution to one that charges for everything else that could be related to GW then we really are talking about what is the most efficient way to move from FF  to some other form of energy.  I thought that was out of bounds on this website.

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  11. Noris M @60

    "There is an accelerated deduction compared to how depletion is charged under usual accounting rules."

    Thanks, but the fine detail is not the point here Norris. Canada get a whole lot of other sunsidies as well totalling billions. America gets 20 billion of subsidies through tax deductions on exploration etc and direct grants. Countries in latin america and asia get billions in subsidies by artificially keeping the price down.

    Countries get more obviously if you include the unpaid cost of emissions. You can call it a subsidy or something else but that doesnt change the nature of the beast. 

    The point is its billions of dollars in subsidies no matter how you measure it. With the possible exception of a deducation for research and exploration, they are all economic distortions and crony capitalism. But if we are trying to reduce fossil fuel use no subsidy on fossil fuels makes sense because they just encourage the industry. In some cases they are the only thing keeping it profitable. How is that not socialism for corporates?

    How can some of you people so miss the point so consistently?

    Carbon taxes aren't out of  bounds given the article is about a form of carbon tax. I think you would look at the full costs of fossil fuels on society including health costs and climate change costs and say that tax, or "fee" would need to reflect that and be increased in stages.

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  12. NorrisM: "As soon as we move from a carbon tax that only charges for costs of pollution to one that charges for everything else..."

    You have previously made that point, and you have claimed that the costs of pollution are only $18/tonne (unless I am misunderstanding you). I have challenged that $18/tonne figure, and until you can back it up with a reference that is more than just your "understanding", then please stop making that argument. Repeating an unfounded assertion does not make it true.

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  13. $18/tonne carbon equivalent is slightly more than half the estimate newly obtained by Nordhaus for Social Cost of Carbon:

    The study estimates that the SCC is $31 per ton of CO2 in 2010 US$ for the current period (2015). For the central case, the real SCC grows at 3% per year over the period to 2050.

    $31/tonne is roughtly the figure adopted by the EPA after SCOTUS upheld its legal obligation to regulate CO2 as a pollutant.  While I'm having a little trouble navigating government sites, this Nature editorial from last January states "At present, the US government’s central estimate of this is US$36 per tonne of carbon dioxide."

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  14. I thought I'd explicitly point out that Nordhaus's 2017 peer-reviewed, updated SCC estimate of $31 (2010 dollars, since it's an update) per ton (not tonne) in 2015 was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The link I provided doesn't render well in my browser, but here's a PDF:

    It seems clear that nailing SCC down requires a precise vocabulary, whatever else it needs.

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  15. Mal A @64 , thank you for PNAS 2016 update (based on 2010 dollars).

    Presumably the USA figure would be not much different for the rest of the world; but perhaps higher "locally" in some Chinese cities where power generation air pollution rivals the motor vehicle contribution.

    I have to remind myself it's Social Cost of Carbon expressed as dollars per ton of CO2 (not per ton of carbon).

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  16. Eclectic @65:

    thank you for PNAS 2016 update (based on 2010 dollars).

    You're welcome, heh 8^}.

    I have to remind myself it's Social Cost of Carbon expressed as dollars per ton of CO2 (not per ton of carbon).

    Thank you! I wouldn't otherwise have noticed the error I made in my first comment. Whew! It gets complicated, doesn't it?

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  17. Bob Loblaw @ 62

    I am now back to somewhere where I can reference the material I took along with me to read on my holiday.

    You have asked for a reference for my use of an $18/tonne cost for the direct costs of pollution.

    At you will be able to reference the IPCC 2014 Report on Mitigation and Costs which was kindly provided by either you or another contributor to this website. Please refer to Chapter 10 Section 10.6.2 entitled “Review of studies on external costs and benefits”. This section reviews the number of studies that have evaluated the social cost of carbon (SCC). It is very clear from this discussion that there is a great amount of disagreement as to what should and should not be incorporated into arriving at the “SCC” with ranges from $17/t, to $90/t to $350/t.

    Here is what I think is a good summary of things from that section:

    "A German study (Krewitt and Schlomann, 2006) addressing external costs uses the values of USD 17/t CO2 , USD 90/t CO2 and USD 350/t CO2 (€ 14,70 and 280/t CO2 ) for the lower limit, best guess and upper limit for SCC, respectively, referring to Downing et al. (2005) and Watkiss and Downing (2008). The study assesses that the range of the estimated SCC values covers three orders of magnitude, which can be explained by the many different choices possible in modelling and approaches to quantifying the damages. As a benchmark lower limit for global decision making, they give a value of about USD2005 17/t CO2 (£35/t CO2 ). They do not give any best guess or upper limit benchmark value, but recommend that further studies should be done on the basis of long-term climate change mitigation stabilization levels."

    Obviously, my reference to $18/t was off from the $17/t lower limit which I quoted in my post which you criticized. But I did not make this up.

    I know you are not a fan of Lomborg but in his book, he asks an IPCC contributor to the "cost section" (he gives his name) as to what he thinks is his "best guess" as to effective "pollution costs" and I know that figure was below $20/t.

    I suspect that the “lower limit” is in fact a “cost” related to pollution and the upper limit is throwing everything into the calculation including all costs regarding sea level rises. My point was to reference pollution only as a basic starting point.

    You will see that these latter studies (Downing and Watkiss and Downing) only reference a “lower limit” and do not even give a “best guess” or “upper limit” value but recommend further studies should be done.

    So I believe that the use of $18/t for direct pollution costs was a reasonable one to use.

    I see that since my post to which you replied that there have been other figures used. Once again, the real issue is what is included in that estimate. The assumptions matter. Until the IPCC provides any more recent updates, all the rest are just “new studies” not yet commented on by the IPCC.

    I would be happy to use $30/t just to ensure that all these costs are included.  This is something you could "sell to the public" without getting into any issues of what climate change is and is not doing to our world (remember, the US public is not "sold" on what climate scientists are telling them - see Pew Research 2016).  It allows us to put a "cost" on carbon that we can clearly understand which perhaps puts fossil fuels on a level playing field with other technologies.

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  18. NorrisM:

    Thank you for the IPCC cite on the social cost of carbon. I have taken a quick look at that section of that chapter.

    I agree there there is a great deal of uncertainty on such costs, as evidenced by the large range of values ($17/t to $350/t as you accurately quote).

    I disagree that choosing the lower limit is appropriate. That the Krewitt and Schlomann study only gave a lower limit and did not provide a best guess or upper limit is not sufficient reason to use the lower limit as a planning choice. This is akin to taking the IPCC range on temperature sensitivity, choosing the lower bound, and ignoring the high probability that the correct value is considerably larger. The greater the uncertainty, the greater the probability that the lower limit is a serious underestimate. Uncertainty is not your friend.

    The argument behind a carbon tax is to monetize the external costs. Choosing the lower limit means continuing to fail to monetize a portion of the (likely) external costs. Choosing the lower limit increases the likelhood that a large fraction of the external costs will be born by others (non-fossil fuel or reduced-fossil fuel consumers). The fossil fuel sector of the energy business has had a large competitive advantage by virtue of the fact that is has operated in a system that leaves much of the true cost externalized. Choosing the lower limit of such costs fails to level that playing field.

    In comment #53, you used the phrasing

    "...when it comes to a carbon tax on fossil fuels, I think you have to make a distinction between the costs of fossil fuels in harming the environment from a pollution standpoint from those unkown and speculative calculations of rising sea levels etc. ..."

    Characterizing uncertainties as "unkown and speculative" is also something that I strongly disgagree with. You have now used the phrasing "...the real issue is what is included in that estimate. The assumptions matter." Assuming that the lower limit should be used for planning is an extremely optimistic assumption. It may suit the fossil fuel industry, but is unlikely to be the best choice for the overall economy.

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  19. If you have a range of estimates of a carbon price then you would not take the lower estimate because it would just not be prudent or sensible. You would take at least  the middle estimate.

    However carbon prices could be phased in and increased in stages. Starting at $30 may not be such a bad thing, and would be easier to sell politically. California's prices as part of their ETS are around $25 initially I think but they have fluctuated.

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  20. Bob Loblaw @ 68

    I would like to respond to your argument that a carbon tax should take in every conceivable cost that could be laid at the doorstep of FF.

    Beyond pollution costs which are directly related to the use of FF, you get into areas where there is NO public consensus (I say public) on the many issues relating to climate change notwithstanding the views of the "97% consensus of climate scientists".  I have previously referenced the 2016 Pew Research Report if you want a reference for that statement.  When only about 30% of moderate Americans believe that climate scientists really understand the causes of climate change you have a bit of a mountain ahead of you, leaving aside a President that has at least called it all a "hoax".  

    So my point is that do not try to hit the ball out of the park.  Go for something that everyone agrees on.  

    But there is another point.  You will excuse me if I show my social science background compared to physics.  The philosopher Karl Popper, who was a scientist, wrote one book on social science called "The Open Society and Its Enemies" during the midst of WWII (nigelj, he lived in New Zealand during this time before becoming a professor at I believe LSE in London after the war).  This book has been described by the Economist as "the best defence of Western Liberalism".

    In that book he proposed that we should only make changes to our society in "small incremental amounts" because inevitably we humans cannot predict the "unintended consequences".  This made a lot of sense to me and perhaps reflects my general view that we humans tend to be apocalyptic.

    By starting with something small like a $30 carbon tax you allow other technologies to compete on an even footing (for me read "nuclear power") on costs that can clearly be attributed to FF.  

    I very much like the idea of redistributing this carbon tax back to the citizens rather than letting government get its hands on it.  If this results in a little bit of redistribution of wealth, then so be it.  But we better not disgress on this issue.

    But the other thing that I do not see with most commenters on this website (with the exclusion of nigelj) is an appreciation (or even reverence) for what FF have provided to us.  We refer to the Industrial Revolution but what we are really referring to are the changes since James Watt improved the steam engine.  What we are really talking about is man's discovery of FF to leverage the production of energy.  Without that we would still be travelling at the speed of the Roman Empire.

    So if the seas are rising (as I understand they have been doing for 150 to 200 years) then perhaps this is just a "cost" of the amazing world we presently live in thanks to FF compared to the times when we rode about in horses and buggies and communicated across continents not by computers driven the electricity but by letters delivered by sailing vessels.

    Every part of the world, not just Western civilization, has benefitted from the use of FF so if it takes us some time to wean ourselves from FF now that we see that it is causing world temperatures to rise, I think that one "small incremental" step would be better than throwing the baby out with the bath water.

    Just remember that you do not have the public behind you in believing that by 2100 our world is doomed.

    nigelj.  Still reading the IPCC stuff on the costs of changing to RE.  There is an underlying assumption that the costs will be minimal but my common sense tells me that changing an infrastructure from FF to RE will not be cheap.  But that is for another discussion which supposedly we cannot get into on this website.

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    Moderator Response:

    [DB] "if the seas are rising (as I understand they have been doing for 150 to 200 years)"

    Human activities are the dominant contribution to SLR since 1970.

    Per Slangen et al 2016,

    Anthropogenic forcing dominates global mean sea-level rise since 1970

    "the anthropogenic forcing (primarily a balance between a positive sea-level contribution from GHGs and a partially offsetting component from anthropogenic aerosols) explains only 15 ± 55% of the observations before 1950, but increases to become the dominant contribution to sea-level rise after 1970 (69 ± 31%), reaching 72 ± 39% in 2000 (37 ± 38% over the period 1900–2005)"


    1. Although natural variations in radiative forcing affect decadal trends, they have little effect over the twentieth century as a whole

    2. In 1900, sea level was not in equilibrium with the twentieth-century climate, and there is a continuing, but diminishing, contribution to sea-level change from this historic variability

    3. The anthropogenic contribution increases during the twentieth century, and becomes the dominant contribution by the end of the century. Our twentieth-century number of 37 ± 38% confirms the anthropogenic lower limit of 45%

    4. Our results clearly show that the anthropogenic influence is not just present in some of the individual contributors to sea-level change, but actually dominates total sea-level change after 1970


  21. NorrisM, I do not doubt that FF have created and powered our civilization greatly to our favour. That is not a reason to provide a subsidy to them nor to cling to them now that it is apparent that continued use is doing us harm. I find the notion absurd and bizarre that you think commentators should consider such a thing.

    That the American public is stupid, and lacking basic critical thinking skills is certainly a reason for them to look hard at their education system, and the role of FF companies funding disinformation, but it is not a reason to be discounting climate science.

    Still, a $30 carbon tax would be an excellent start. As would killing all direct subsidies.

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  22. NorrisM @70

    Regarding the carbon price issue. Yes I agree only about 30% of Americans believe we are changing the climate, but that is not the salient point. From Pew about 65% want more done about fixing the climate problem and implementing renewable energy, and this is more of a mandate for a reasonable carbon price etc. The discrepency in views is odd, but may say suggest more people think we may be warming the climate than are prepared to openly admit it.

    However I agree you should start with a sensible carbon price simply because its politically easier. It can always be increased and should be increased in a couple of stages until its at the proper level. 

    Karl Popper promotes incrementalism and any one could agree with that in general terms. Blundering in with rapid reforms can sometimes be unwise.

    But he was referring to social and economic ideas, not environmental disasters that might require a more rapid response by their very nature.

    Its also a question of commonsense. Some things in the economic and environmental sphere are so obvious they deserve a rapid, simple response, others demand  it due to circumstances, others require careful progress in stages, others can be dealt with by an experiment, then rapid implementation. Thats is your problem with philosophers, what they say is so general its often not a lot of use. 

    "But the other thing that I do not see with most commenters on this website (with the exclusion of nigelj) is an appreciation (or even reverence) for what FF have provided to us."

    Please be careful there Norris. I dont recall ever saying anything like that, or that fossil fuels have been a  wonderful thing. I may have said in passing that they powered the industrial revolution. But nobody on this website would deny such a thing anyway.

    Sea levels have not been rising for 200 years. They were falling slightly from about ad 1500 - 1850 as below.

    Anyway the point with sea level rise is the accelerating and obvious uptick or hockey stick since about 1900. Its steeper than anything for millennia, and is caused almost entirely by burning fossil fuels.

    I dont know why you keep writing essays on the past benefits of fossil fuel energy. Nobody denies the part they played in our history, and value they have had compared to burning wood for example. But that is past history, and clearly we now have alternatives. The electricity is the same regardless of the source. The same watts, volts, amps and all that stuff.

    You also need to remember oil and coal is essentially very finite, and fracking is basically scaping the bottom of the barrel. Although peak oil is hard to pin point ,we are probably close, and it will definitely come sooner or later because oil is finite. So sooner or later we have no alternative than to move to other forms of automotive transport.

    I suggest you look at the article today 11 sept on climate models. Note that they have predicted temperatures quite well on the whole. There are plenty of graphs to look at.

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  23. Norris,

     Common logic mistake. We are not talking about weaning ourselves off fossil fuels so we can go back to Roman times. We are talking about moving forward to the next better sources on energy even better than fossil fuels.

    I see this a lot in agriculture too. I talk about regenerative organic agriculture (a reference to the carbon cycle in biology) and people associate it as going backwards to some primitive era before pesticides and tractors. Actually it in the next step beyond where we are now.

    And the idea of rebating citizens I see as fundamentally wrong too. It should be use to pay those sequestering the carbon back into the stable long cycle. This way the tax pays for a service, and is not a "sin tax" or whatever.

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  24. NorrisM @70: "I would like to respond to your argument that a carbon tax should take in every conceivable cost that could be laid at the doorstep of FF."

    ...and with that you lost any shred of credibility as an honest participant in this discussion. Nowhere have I said anything that resembles your strawman postion. You have argued for using the lower limit. I have argues against that, but I have never said that the upper limit should be used.

    Shame on you for such a tasteless caricature of what I have actually said. You are the one that wants to select a position at the extreme, not I.

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    Moderator Response:

    [PS] can we please keep tone to a constructive level.

    And NorrisM, this is not a pub debate. You can skip the rhetorical tricks, and especially please stop strawman arguments.

  25. Thanks everyone.  Too much to read to provide any response.  Completely agree that the Hausfather article looks very interesting.  Would like to absorb all of this before commenting.

    Bob Loblaw.  Sorry if I misrepresented your position.  Tendency of lawyers to exaggerate to make a point.  I apologize.  But the thrust of my argument still stands.  Better to start with something that 1. Will have an impact; 2. Will be "saleable" to the American public on the basis of "pollution costs"; and 3.  Responds to Karl Popper's concerns about only making "incremental changes".

    Nowhere have I suggested that we should not be moving to alternative sources of supplying the increasing demands of our world for energy.  My argument is that unless CH4 permafrost issues really are a concern then we have the time to do this right.  I have to admit that I have a very personal problem with dotting 65% of the surface of the US with wind turbines to achieve this when nuclear power could solve the problem leaving our world looking a lot better.

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  26. And we are pointing out that you have not made anything like a case for "having time" whatever that is. Time for people living in middle of US, or time for people living on Pacific atolls/Asian deltas?

    And what is your source for "65% of US area with wind turbines"? More lawyerly hyperbole? This calculation says only the area of Rhode island. Not a peer reviewed publication but it does outline the maths.

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  27. Norrism

    According to Jacobson 2015 that I have referred to you at least three times before, only 2% of US land area is required to generate all power.  Since over 50% of land area is not windy enough to generate power your 65% claim is absurd.  You often make this type of error.  

    Please cite a source for your absurd claim or withdraw your suggestion that 65 % of land is required.

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  28. I'm sceptical of nuclear energy, probably as I grew up during the period of various nuclear scares and chernobyl. However I'm not going to be dogmatic about it. I say leave it to market forces to decide between wind power, nuclear etc on the costs and perceived risks etc. 

    The cost structure and safety regulation is such that generators aren't wanting to build nuclear anyway. So Norris might want nuclear, but what is he to do? The generators dont want nuclear, renewables are likely to drop even further in price while nuclear wont, and theres no compelling reason to force nuclear onto them. And the majority of the public in America  oppose nuclear as below:

    So its all a bit academic.

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  29. NorrisM:

    I will accept the apology, but it would come across as a little bit more sincere if you had not used the phrasing "...if I misrepresented your position ." [Emphasis mine]

    That may be more lawyer-speaking - never admit an error -  but if you cannot appreciate the difference between what I said in comment #68 and your first paragraph in comment #70, then you should spend some time thinking about it before you run off on another tangent. What you say is "the thrust of [your] argument" in comment #75 is a long way from assessing the social cost of carbon that I was responding to.

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  30. Bob Loblaw

    What I would like you to respond to is my point that we should not rush into solutions which are extreme from a standpoint of costs when we find that the solutions proposed today are not very appealing from an aesthetic standpoint.   So let us use gradualism.  This is the Karl Popper thought that is based upon common sense.  Take some reasonable steps now and see how it goes.  Leaving aside issues of CH4 permafrost, we are not heading over a cliff.

    In response to nigelj's comment agreeing that in some cases Popper's view makes sense but not in cases "where it so clear as to the imminent danger" , I would suggest that Popper's response would be that everyone says that their situation is absolutely clear and drastic action should be taken.   Extremism is one of the biggest problems we face today and I worry that proposals for massive changes to respond to climate change would fit into this category. 

    Let me give one "what if" that I can think of.  Assume that Trump gets kicked out of office, a Democrat wins the presidency and the Democrats magically take over control of both houses.  They immediately respond with a massive program of changing the US power grid to the existing technology for wind turbines (and or solar PV) and the rest of the world goes along (along with FF/hydro as backup).  I am not through reading the IPCC report on costs so let us just stick with wind turbines (because solar PV seems far off from the various models). 

    So now in the US we have wind turbines over ballpark 64% of the land mass of the US (see NOAA study June 2017 responding to Jacobson study).  Then, either the new wind turbine technology or some new technology is found that means that 75% or more of the wind turbines are not needed.  But the costs of dismantling these wind turbines does not justify their removal.  So they just sit there unused because they are uneconomic.

    What have we done to our world? 

    Is technology going to find better solutions?  I would bet that is the case and it is only a question of when. 

    So we have defaced our world for nothing.  If we start with a $30 carbon tax that lays a cost on FF for pollution then we will encourage new technological solutions to replace FF.

    Everytime I see a list of the "bad things" that will happen to our planet, I sit back and think: "take a deep breath".  We have decades of time within which to deal with this problem.  Let us not rush "pel mel" (sp) into something that we will come to regret.  A move to nuclear power would not create these kind of problems in my personal view

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    Moderator Response:

    [DB] Sloganeering snipped.

  31. NorrisM @80

    I think you and Popper are largely wrong on this particular issue. In some cases drastic action simply is clearly needed. Take the obvious example of Samsung’s problem smartphones with the burning batteries, and they immediately took them off the market and had a product recall. They did not phase them down over a five year period. I can think of environmental problems that demanded a similar response, and others that suggest a more incremental response, so we are left with no option other than to look at each case on its merits, and evidence, and this includes climate change. And climate change requires a fairly rapid response now.

    I totally disagree with your assertion that we have plenty of time. The Paris accord shows we certainly do not, so therefore any carbon price would need to be ramped up fairly promptly. Because of dithering, badly informed, self interested climate scepticism we are now backed into a corner where a fairly rapid response is required. However a $30 carbon price is ok if its ramped up fairly promptly.

    I disagree with your claim that some NOAA study by finds wind power would cover 64% of the landmass of America. I think you have misinterpreted the study or mixed things up. NOAA are also not remotely involved in renewable energy they do atmospheric research.

    The original Jacobsen study said about 0.3% of land area, a study by Clack and others claims 6% of land area, but this study is not gold plated, and has also been counter refuted by Jacobsen. But 64% just doesn’t make any sense, unless the turbines were many miles apart. In any event much wind power could be offshore if it bothers you that much.

    I also disagree with your assertions that wind power is expensive. Again you have been shown many times costs are almost equal to coal and have never been able to refute this with any source material. You just make yourself sound disingenuous. The following is just one random example you should have been able to google in literally five seconds.

    It’s a foolish argument to say do nothing because technology will get better or cheaper. We would never do anything if we thought like that.

    You fail to consider the simple fact that nobody wants to build nuclear power, and it has only a slight cost advantage over wind, and this is likely to disappear in the near future anyway. However leave it to the market to decide.

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  32. Norris,

    According to the supplemental information to the article you cite about 600,900 km2 of land is required to generate the power.  The USA is about 9,000,000 km2.  Your argument is based on a fabrication.,

    You invariably choose the most extreme, or fabricated, data.  A better choice is the middle of wait,area.

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  33. Michael

    I will be home in a couple of days and will reference the paper because I thought I had this right.  It astounded me when I read it.

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  34. NorrisM @83

    You claim 64% of America would be covered in wind turbines. I think you are simply mistaken. I think you probably read 64,000 something as 64% as we all do this sort of thing on occasion. 64% of America would not be covered in wind farms even commonsense should tell you this you would be talking billions of wind turbines.

    The following article is from an industry expert. To completely power America with wind farms would  take the area of Rhode Island, which is roughly in the ballpark area of under 1% in the Jacobsen study. Its certainly not 64%. 

    And it does depend somewhat on power of individual wind turbines and how densely spread the wind towers are to optimise things. Different people have different views on the ideal spacing,so estimates will all vary a bit, but not up to 64%. 

    The expert goes through his calculations in detail so its all there.

    An excerpt:

    "4.082 billion megawatt-hours (the average annual US electricity consumption) divided by 7,008 megawatt-hours of annual wind energy production per wind turbine equals approximately 583,000 onshore turbines.

    In terms of land use, those 583,000 turbines would take up about the total land mass of Rhode Island, Hensley says, since wind projects typically require 0.74 acres of land per megawatt produced.

    To make his calculation, Hensley considered that the average wind turbine has an output of 2 megawatts of power, and is 40% efficient. That means it can reach its full power-generating potential 40% of the time, since wind is not always blowing and farms sometimes shut down for routine maintenance. That percentage also accounts for electrical grid constraints — if an electrical grid receives more much power from a wind farm than it can handle, for example, managers will turn off a few turbines."

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  35. NorrisM @ 80:

    "What I would like you to respond to is my point that we should not rush into solutions which are extreme from a standpoint of costs when we find that the solutions proposed today are not very appealing from an aesthetic standpoint.

    So, what you would like me to do is to follow you on your tangent. OK, I will (for now).

    NorrisM: " which are extreme from a standpoint of costs..."

    Me: Objection, your honor. Assumes facts not in evidence.

    You have used the emotion-laden "extreme" without quantifying actual costs. I find this odd, given that you previously argued in favour of picking the lowest possible social cost of carbon  (SCC) from the IPCC. Now, your choice of words suggests that you are focussing on the possible highest costs of proposed solutions.

    I respond to your "what if?" scenario with another: what if the SSC is on the high end of the IPCC estimate, and the costs of moving off fossil fuels is on the low end? And instead of proceeding, we wait another 30 years hoping to get a better answer (fewer uncertainties), and by then it is simply too darn late?

    I"ve seen excuses like yours for decades. You are choosing the ends of the uncertainty ranges that favour your pre-existing bias. This is a very bad approach to risk management. Hoping that every uncertainty will fall in your favour is hoping for a very unlikely outcome.

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  36. Bob Loblaw, nigelj and michael sweet

    I have just returned home and do not have the time to get into a very interesting discussion relating to SCC.  I have now at least read the full IPCC Chapter 10 on Mitigation and Costs which was very instructive.

    What I do want to correct is my 64% statement which was made based upon what I thought I had read in the Clack June 2017 paper commenting on the deficiencies of the Jacobson study.   My eyes are getting bad because he uses 6% of the continental US not 64% (I actually thought it was 64% not even 60%).  I am completely off the mark on this and felt I should correct it with a specific comment.  I thought I was backing up my comments with facts but I at least did make reference to the Clack study, just had it wrong so at least it was "falsifiable".


    Just now saw your reply to my post on the michael sweet article on the Jacobson study.  Thanks for the reply.  Comments duly noted.

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  37. Bob Loblaw @ 85

    The range used for SCC in the IPCC Chapter 10 is not a high-low range based upon the same assumptions.  If that were the case, then I agree the use of a mid point range would be appropriate.  But that is not what this range is.  It is a range based upon different estimates of costs included in the calculation of SCC for each of the three ranges.   If you read all of Section 10.6 of Chapter 10 of the IPCC 2014 Report you will see that the authors clearly acknowledge that the "low end" SCC is based upon an analysis of the health impacts of pollution.  That was my point.  I am saying this is something you could "sell" to the American public at this time.  We have to inject some "realpolitik" into this discussion in the era of a Republican-controlled government.   A SCC that only relates to pollution costs and not to presumptions as to the costs attributable to climate change is a reasonable one.  That is the only point I am making.   And, by the way, I have suggested $30/t not $17/t. 

    When it comes to then adding into the calculation of SCC many other things including the capital costs of all adaptation around the world you get into some very murky waters as acknowledged by the IPCC report.  For example, if you want to lay at the doorstep of CO2 emissions all of the future costs related to adaptation do you not have to offset those costs with the benefits of FF to society?  It is a very complicated area.  Perhaps rising sea levels is a "cost" of what we have enjoyed up to this time.   Another issue relates to which nations should pay for these rising sea level costs.  Where do you stop?

    And furthermore, before we start applying a carbon tax that does much more than just compensate for pollution costs (so that it simply becomes a crude tool to discourage use of FF over other sources of energy),  we should have a very good handle on what are the costs of the alternative energy solution.   

    I have now carefully read the NOAA Clack June 27, 2017 paper debunking the Jacobson study. Anyone fully reading this Clack paper could not possibly rely on the Jacobson study for anything as to the costs of the US moving to a full RE solution.  Two serious issues relate to providing base load electricity from other than wind and solar sources (a cost nigelj conveniently leaves out when referencing how "cheap" land based wind power is) and the time and cost of building a continental high-voltage grid system that could support the transmission of intermittent nature of wind and solar power.   The existing grids do not seem to work well with this kind of electricity. 

    The Clack study references two studies (one of which Clack was a part) which concluded that an 80% decarbonization of the US electric grid could be achieved at reasonable cost.  These studies are referenced in Notes 1 and 2.  So far, I have not been able to locate these papers.  If anyone can help it would be appreciated. 

    I continue to hear references to CCS as a possible method of reducing CO2 emissions.  Everything that I have read is that this technology has a long way to go before it could be seriously considered viable.  If anyone has any information on this it would also be appreciated. 

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  38. NorisM: "A SCC that only relates to pollution costs and not to presumptions as to the costs attributable to climate change is a reasonable one. That is the only point I am making. And, by the way, I have suggested $30/t not $17/t. "

    Your definition of pollution costs is very restrictive. Basically, you have doubled down on your argument that we ignore a great many possible/likely costs, which, as I have stated, is betting on all uncertainties falling in your favour.

    ..and you only went for $30/t after your initial claim of $18/t was shown to be at the extreme.

    "Another issue relates to which nations should pay for these rising sea level costs. Where do you stop?"

    Why are you ignoring all the arguments made for bring in these externalities into the cost of fossil fuels? The rising sea level costs are externalized costs of burning fossil fuels. Your argument appears to be that these cost should not be borne by the fossil fuel production/consumption portion of the economy? Who else do you have in mind? The taxpayers that bail out the disaster areas? That's who is largely paying now, as many of these areas are uninsurable.

    "...we should have a very good handle on what are the costs of the alternative energy solution. "

    The "We need certainty" argument. Again, not a good approach to risk management.

    A thought experiment: you are walking along a sidewalk in the downtown of a major city. I see a large window break loose from the top floor of a tall building. You are not aware of it. As I see it fluttering down, I realize it might hit you. When do I warn you to get out of the way, and when are you justified in taking action?

    1. As soon as I see it start to fall?
    2. When it is half way down, and it is looking more and more like it will hit you?
    3. Just before it reaches ground level, when I "have a very good handle" on where it will land, and it's where you are standing?

    Time after time, you are arguing for the status quo, and closing your mind to any evidence that leads a different way.

    I have answered some of your questions. If you want to continue, I want you to answer one question for me:

    • In comment 79, I pointed out that your statement "...if I misrepresented your position" suggested that you could "not appreciate the difference between what I said in comment #68 and your first paragraph in comment #70". Have you reviewed those two comments, and are you willing to either support a position that you accurately represented my postion, or are you willing to retract your statement and fully admit that it was a misrepresentation (even if not intended)?
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  39. NorrisM @ 87

    "For example, if you want to lay at the doorstep of CO2 emissions all of the future costs related to adaptation do you not have to offset those costs with the benefits of FF to society?"

    Yes, but the general view is the benefits of fossil fuels are outweighed by their costs due to climate change, human health and the availability of affordable alternatives.

    "It is a very complicated area. Perhaps rising sea levels is a "cost" of what we have enjoyed up to this time. Another issue relates to which nations should pay for these rising sea level costs. Where do you stop?"

    You should include sea level costs. You should include the full costs (externalities) of burning fossil fuels as others note. Anything less becomes arbitrary, with no logical and rigourous cost basis. This is not some negotiation about an out of court law suit settlement Norris! Its basically carbon accounting and is an economic exercise.

    Anyway I notice you lawyers always sue people for the absolute full costs of everything you can think of. 

    "I have now carefully read the NOmAA Clack June 27, 2017 paper debunking the Jacobson study.Anyone fully reading this Clack paper could not possibly rely on the Jacobson study for anything as to the costs of the US oving to a full RE solution. "

    Have you read the jacobson response to the Clack debunking as below?

    Until you do this you cannot form a balanced picture. The Jacobsens rebuttal shows Clack has made many incorrect and foolish claims. You also have to apply some commonsense. They both agree a near 100% renewable grid is actually technically possible, and its more about costs. 

    "Two serious issues relate to providing base load electricity from other than wind and solar sources (a cost nigelj conveniently leaves out when referencing how "cheap" land based wind power is) and the time and cost of building a continental high-voltage grid system that could support the transmission of intermittent nature of wind and solar power. "

    You wanted cost comparisons of renewable generation and fossil fuel generation and I gave you those. As you can see costs are very similar.

    Its true upgrading the grid and some gas fired backup for intermittency issues will add costs, but not hugely. Most studies say it will cost approximately 1% of a countries gdp per annum to convert from a totally fossil fuel powered grid to renewables, with about 10% gas backup and also transmission grid upgrades (as you suggested). You said something that you have done tax law, so will appreciate 1% of gdp is not huge. I did the calculations for my country from first principles (its simple enough) with very conservative numbers, and got about 1.2%, and this tells me the studies are sensible, and my own calculations are roughly right. Of course America already has some renewables and hydo etc, so it would be less.

    1% of per annum gdp equates to about 1% of our individual incomes and one third of what we spend on the old age pension each year, so that puts some meaning to it.

    Of course  reducing emissions has other costs, but renewable energy is the big one.

    "I continue to hear references to CCS as a possible method of reducing CO2 emissions. Everything that I have read is that this technology has a long way to go before it could be seriously considered viable. If anyone has any information on this it would also be appreciated. "

    Depends what you mean. Carbon capture and storage as in burying CO2 in tanks underground or in rock fissures, from coal fired power stations, is experimental, difficult and expensive, so you are essentially correct in what you have read. So are similar technologies attempting to extract CO2 from the air. We cant count on it, and this is why its important to reduce emissions at source. Its commonsense anyway, and obviously a difficult thing, and there are big risks with leakage of underground CO2 over time.

    There are some better options of a natural kind. Using enhanced natural carbon sinks like planting forests, and better soil management through special farming systems has promise and is proven, and cost effective and is covered in the last IPCC report. Although frankly land available for new forests isnt very large, so it cant be scaled up all that much. Soil sinks use land already under cultivation, but it would be a slow process shifting to such a system scaled well up globally. I think as a quick mental guesstimate natural sinks could offset about 10% of our emissions. But clearly its not enough to prevent the immediate problems, and means we have to rigorously cut emissions at source.  This sort of thing is all easilly googled.

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  40. Bob Loblaw @ 88

    I am responding to your request re #68 versus my first comment in #70.

    I think your position on the level of a carbon tax is summarized by the following paragraph in #68:

    "The argument behind a carbon tax is to monetize the external costs. Choosing the lower limit means continuing to fail to monetize a portion of the (likely) external costs. Choosing the lower limit increases the likelhood that a large fraction of the external costs will be born by others (non-fossil fuel or reduced-fossil fuel consumers). The fossil fuel sector of the energy business has had a large competitive advantage by virtue of the fact that is has operated in a system that leaves much of the true cost externalized. Choosing the lower limit of such costs fails to level that playing field."

    My reference in the first paragraph in #70 was only meant to refer to the items that you would include in the above quoted paragraph and nothing more.  Those items are not listed by you, but I assume they would include all "external costs" which can be directly attributed to FF use.

    Perhaps part of our problem is that I am focussing on getting the US public onside but the issues remain with China and India as well.  But my comments will largely be directed to the US because if you do not get the US onside, I highly doubt that you will get China and India to go along with any serious carbon tax.

    Here are my problems with your proposal for a carbon tax which, I assume, you would suggest should be $90/t taking the mid point:

    1.  Firstly, your proposal is unrealistic both in the US and I suspect in China and India.  The American public is NOT onside notwithstanding vagues climate worries evidenced in the Pew Reseach 2016 paper I have referenced before.  They are not satisfied that all GW is AGW.  If you just want to talk in theory then so be it but what is the use of that?

    2.  The "health costs of pollution" appeals to the libertarian spirit of Americans because they can clearly see these effects of CO2 just like what occurred with SO2 (acid rain).  The Chinese public as well will "sign on" to costs of pollution for obvious reasons.  I suspect (without knowing what went into the lower $17/t estimate) is that basic health costs incurred by the public directly attributable to pollution constitute this figure.  Once we start getting into putting some dollar value of each human life lost, I get into having problems with it.  I want to limit this charge so something we can measure knowing that the reduction of pollution will also have the benefit of saving lives.  But putting a "cost on a human life" is very problematic.  How the studies get to $90/t I do not know.  I am quite sure that the upper level of $350/t has included all adaptation costs related to rising sea levels around the world, the cost of increased drought, damage from more intense hurricanes etc.  I have no idea whether they then offset those costs with increased benefits of other areas of the world being more arable.  If these studies only limit the adaptation costs to North America then I stand corrected.  I would like to see the Clack et al studies on converting the US power grid to 80% wind and solar but so far cannot locate them.

    3.  Although "logically" you can justify this very high number, it is a "global" number I suspect and does not look at each country and ask what costs will be incurred by that country.  As a result, you are asking Americans to pull money out of their pockets in the form of carbon taxes to pay for the costs of adaptation in other parts of the world.  Or, are you suggesting that all of the carbon tax be refunded to the Americans who paid same at their local gas station or for their natural gas used to heat their home.  I suspect not.  Do these funds stay in each country or, as I believe, was agreed in the Paris Agreement, large transfers are made between the developed countries and the undeveloped countries?  So are large transfers of American taxes to go to China and India?  These are real problems with a carbon tax beyond "pollution costs".

    4.  As noted in of Chapter 10 of the IPCC 2014 Report, the price of carbon can also be considered from other standpoints, namely what price level of CO2 emissions is required to limit atmospheric concentrations to a given stabilization level?  I suspect that the upper levels of these studies is focussed on this but I do not know.

    5.  However before we elimate the use of FF, we should have some very clear studies as to what the costs will be for implementation of a change from FF to wind and solar with other sources for base load backup and for the costs of new power grids then we are whistling Dixie because until you can tell the American public how much comes out of their pockets, they will not get onside.

    6.  I see that the IPCC study suggests that the total costs of electrical power generation changes (not heating or transportation) would be something less than 1% of world GDP.  Does that mean that a small island in the Pacific spends its own 1% of GDP?  Or does it mean that the US public will be asked to pay for it?

    7.  Your proposal of a massive carbon tax on FF (which would have to be supported by an equivalent duty on imports from other nations) would put millions of poor people into poverty in China and India and elsewhere in the world because their governments have only in the last generation pulled them out of poverty relying on globalization and cheap FF energy.   This point has been made by both Nigel Lawson and Alex Epstein.  I have never seen it refuted.  Tractors in fields do not work with electric batteries.  Trucks cannot deliver produce any distances without diesel fuel for the transportation.  

    Your analogy of the window coming crashing down from a large high rise building has to be revised in one slight manner.  The window is travelling at one foot per year.  Lots of time to figure out how to get out of the way.   

    So I agree that the "external costs" of FF are well beyond the pollution costs but there is simply no consensus on how you share the substantial costs of changing the infrastructure based upon FF into one based upon RE backed up by either hydro, nuclear or FFs for base load.  Until you come up with some solutions, you do not throw the baby out with the bath water.

    My point is that until you do come up with some answers, it would be politically expedient to levy a carbon tax that only represents the pollution costs.


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  41. Norris,

    Who needs a tax anyway? Many many billions of dollars go into subsidizing  fossil fuels and industrial ag, the two biggest causes of AGW. Before we tax even more, we should stop sibsidizing AGW in the first place. That might even work alone without any need of tax schemes at all. I know certainly coal is on its last legs without massive subsidies and same goes with industrial agriculture. Pretty sure that it won't be too long before renewable energy becomes the best in every case and at no additional fact a reduction in costs.

    As far as the tractor goes, that is a spurious argument. The amount of fossil fuel used by a tractor is insignificantly tiny compared to the soil sink potential of the land the tractor plants.

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  42. NorrisM @ 90:

    "Those items are not listed by you, but I assume they would include all "external costs" which can be directly attributed to FF use."

    Wrong assumption.

    "your proposal for a carbon tax which, I assume, you would suggest should be $90/t taking the mid point"

    Wrong assumption.

    Can you understand how it is difficult to have a discussion with you when you are making incorrect assumptions? At best, it's impolite. At worst, it's  a strawman fallacy. You call it "an assumption". I call it misrepresenting my position. Please answer the last part of my question: are you willing to retract your statement and fully admit that it was a misrepresentation (even if not intended)?

    "Your proposal of a massive carbon tax on FF"

    There you go with the emotional words again. "Massive" by what objective definition? You argue uncertainty in things like IPCC numbers, then use highly subjective adjectives in your own arguments.

    "Your analogy of the window coming crashing down from a large high rise building has to be revised in one slight manner. The window is travelling at one foot per year. Lots of time to figure out how to get out of the way. "

    And you can only move at one inch per year. We can either discuss the analogy as is, or keep revising it, but so far you are just avoiding actually answering it.

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  43. Now adressing a couple of NorrisM's other statements:

    "So I agree that the "external costs" of FF are well beyond the pollution costs"

    "Until you come up with some solutions..." is very bad to make plans that assume that those external costs that are well beyond the pollution coast are zero, which is what you are doing. "Politically expedient" for those trying to protect the status quo.

    I need to buy a new TV for the family room, but I don't know how big, or what imputs it will have, or if I will also need new cables or a new sound system and speakers, so I will take the price of the 32" TV on sale at Wally's World and base all my plans on hoping the project will only cost $99 and ignore the rest. That way my spouse will say "Sure. $99? You can buy a new TV."

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  44. Norris @90, here is a study on costs of converting the entire world to renewable energy.

    The cost of the entire planet going to renewables is estimated by Inhabitat as $29 trillon America dollars in total. They give all costs and calculations in simple form so its an easy study to follow rather than twenty pages worth. This is the entire planet not just america.

    If this is phased in over 30 years between now and 2050 this represents about $1 trillion per year globally.Total global gdp (total wealth or economic output if you like) is approx. $100 trillion from Statistica etc. Therefore by simple maths it costs about 1% of global gdp per year to convert to renewables, exactly as I previously stated.

    It will therefore cost America about 1% per year of gdp per year as well. Americas total gdp per year is approx. 20 trillion dollars so this represents about $200 billion per year. This gives you an indication of where things are at. Its less than they spend each year on the military or old age pensions.

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  45. Norris, a lot of plant would require replacement anyway, so probabaly less than my figures. They are conservative figures.

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  46. nigelj @ 94

    Thanks for the reference to this site but I have to say that it seems to be more of a video setting out some simple numbers.  Perhaps my browser cannot show everything.  I clicked on the video and got two pages.  Not that this makes a material difference but I think they are quoting 29 Trillion pounds not US dollars.  I think this would increase the figures by about 30%.  But my main problem is that it simply states numbers.  I truly wish someone could point me to the a way of getting the two Clack papers on converting the US to 80% solar and wind in the power generation sector.  After their paper slamming Jacobson they have a certain amount of credibility.  Does not hurt having the NOAA label.  I admit I have not yet read the Jacobson response and I promise to do so.

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  47. NorrisM @96

    "Thanks for the reference to this site but I have to say that it seems to be more of a video setting out some simple numbers. Perhaps my browser cannot show everything. "

    No Norris. The information below the video in the text showed value of a variety of renewable energy options, and below that along list of source material. Its also easy to check these prices against other sources of prices. I chose this website as its reasonably straightforward, and you complained before about complexity of some sources. Now you complain its too straight forward.

    The duty is on you to provide evidence they are somehow wrong. Again you fail to do this, and simply moan about the quoted material. Its not good enough Norris.

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  48. Bob Loblaw @ 92

    I have no idea why you are asking me to genuflect to you.  I thought I had fairly summarized your views on what you wish to get out of a carbon tax but I am at a loss to understand what you think a carbon tax should reflect.   So I hardly understand how I have misrepresented your views. 

    Could you simply define what you would expect to have included in a US carbon tax?  It would be helpful for you to also come up with a price per tonne of CO2.

    It might also be useful for you to explain how you expect to sell such a high carbon tax to the US public. 

    Let us get away from analogies for the moment and deal with reality.  At the present time sea levels are rising at somewhere around 3 mm/yr (See AR5 WG1 Figure 3.14).  Based upon that rate, the sea level in 2100 would have risen an incredible 9.8 inches.  For sea levels to rise by 1 metre by 2100 would mean that the sea level rise would have to immediately rise to 12 mm/y and stay at that level for the rest of the century.  Even this is not the end of the world.  This is not exactly a large glass window frame coming crashing down on you in seconds with no time to react.

    But as for your other anology with respect to the purchase of a TV from Walmart.  Before we buy the solar and wind package, it might be an idea to check the cables and sound system, I agree.  Those would be the cost of a US continental power grid system that can properly support the unique electric current provided by wind and solar power as well as the cost of the back up FF in the form of natural gas power generating plants to provide base load power because this will be needed and has to be built into the costs.  Based upon the Slack report, "there are no electric storage systems available today that can affordably and dependably store the vast amounts of energy needed over weeks to reliably satisfy demand using expanded wind and solar power alone." 

    How can you propose a carbon tax at a level which would bury our economy unless you can point to detailed studies that show that this change to wind and solar power can be achieved at a reasonable cost?

    I keep hearing about 1% of GDP as this magical figure but where are the studies?  My understanding is that the problems of integrating a wind and solar solution into existing grid systems (let alone a continental wide new grid system) were not built into the models described in Chapter 10 of the IPCC 2014 Report nor was the issue of intermittency of wind and solar taken into account. 

    Politicians cannot commit the public purse to significant expenditures without having some detailed cost studies.  If the IPCC Report I read is all we have then we have a long way to go.

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    Moderator Response:

    [JH] Inflamatory snipped.

    It would also be useful for you (and everyone else particpating in a discussion with you) to cease summarizing what another poster said. If you want to challenge a statement made by someone else do so directly without recasting what the other person stated. 

  49. Norris @98

    Regarding a carbon tax or fee (however you want to call it): have you checked out Citizens' Climate Lobby's suggestion of Carbon Fee and Dividend yet? It shows, how such a fee could be set up without inconveniencing households. You can start reading about it here:

    There is also the Climate Leadership Council which makes the "Conservative Case for Carbon Dividends":

    You'll find links to a PDF with more information as well as to a TedTalk presentation on that page.

    Hope this helps!

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  50. BaerbelW @ 99

    Thanks very much.  I am aware of this proposal  but had not taken the time to actually read the website.  I think it makes a lot of sense provided that the level of the proposed carbon tax is something which only levies a charge on carbon for the pollution costs at this time.  I am assuming that this website, which is attempting to appeal to Republicans, is proposing to take a position similar to mine that we have to limit this proposed carbon tax to something like 20-30 t/CO2. At that level, I can live with the imposition of a duty on other nations which do not have such a carbon tax.

    If you have any sources of peer reviewed papers that have considered the conversion of the continental US to wind and solar power combined with FF/hydro/nuclear for base load generation I would be very appreciative.

    I have tried to access a Clack et al paper on Nat Clim Chang (referenced in a June 2017 paper on the Jacobson study) but have not been successful.  I have not fully exhausted my search but thought someone on this website would be able to assist. 

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