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Trump fact check: Climate policy benefits vastly exceed costs

Posted on 30 June 2017 by dana1981

When people who benefit from maintaining the status quo argue against climate policies, they invariably use two misleading tactics: exaggerating the costs of climate policies, and ignoring their benefits—economic and otherwise. In justifying his historically irresponsible decision to withdraw America from the Paris Agreement on climate change, President Trump followed this same playbook, falsely claiming: “The cost to the economy at this time would be close to $3 trillion in lost GDP [gross domestic product].”

That statistic originated from a report by National Economic Research Associates, Inc., which explicitly notes that it “does not take into account potential benefits from avoided emissions. The study results are not a benefit-cost analysis of climate change.” As Yale economistKenneth Gillingham noted, the report’s cost estimates are also based on one specific set of policy actions that the United States could implement to meet its Paris pledges. But there’s an infinite combination of possible climate policy responses, with some costing more than others.

For example, a revenue-neutral carbon tax is the proposed policy that currently has the most widespread support. One such proposal by the Climate Leadership Council has been endorsed by a broad coalition that includes Stephen Hawking, ExxonMobil, the Nature Conservancy, and George Shultz. And the Citizens’ Climate Lobby—a nonpartisan grassroots organization advocating for a similar policy—recently sent over 1,000 volunteers to lobby members of Congress in Washington, DC.

Regional Economic Modeling, Inc. (REMI) evaluated how the Citizens’ Climate Lobby’s proposed policy would impact the US economy. The REMI report concluded that implementing a rising price on carbon pollution and returning 100 percent of the revenue equally to American taxpayers would grow the economy and modestly increase personal disposable income, employment, and gross domestic product—the total of all goods and services produced within a nation’s borders. And the REMI report didn’t even include the financial benefits of slowing climate change and curbing its harmful economic impacts.

Those benefits are potentially massive. In terms of climate change, many of the benefits are realized in avoided costs. For example, the 2006 Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change found that unabated climate change would cost the world 5 to 20 percent of GDP by 2100. The economic picture could be even bleaker yet—most economic modeling assumes that economic growth will continue steadily regardless of climate change, but in reality, climate impacts are likely to slow economic growth. That was the finding of two papers published in 2015 by researchers from Stanford and the University of California at Berkeley.

The second paper found that there’s a sweet spot average temperature of around 13 degrees Celsius (55 degrees Fahrenheit) at which economic productivity is highest. The United States and much of Europe currently have climates in that optimal range, but many countries near the equator—which happen to predominantly be poorer, developing countries—already have temperatures above the sweet spot. As global warming causes temperatures to rise, the climates of the United States and Europe will slip out of the economically optimal temperature range, and that same temperature rise will push those poorer countries even further into the realm of economy-crippling heat. As a result, global warming will hamper economic growth. The researchers estimated that this would amplify the costs of climate change by at least 2.5 times more than previous estimates.

Tackling global warming will certainly come with costs. Although a revenue-neutral carbon tax would benefit the economy, that one policy by itself won’t be enough to solve the problem. We would still need to invest in and deploy low-carbon technologies like renewable energy and electric vehicles. However, looking at those costs in isolation without considering their benefits, as President Trump did, paints a misleading and inaccurate picture.

For example, Citibank—America’s third-largest bank—published a report in 2015 looking at both the costs and benefits of climate action and inaction scenarios. The report found that inaction actually had higher investment costs than the action scenario—such as cost-saving investments in energy efficiency, for example. 

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Comments 1 to 40:

  1. Then we get to the biological systems that make complex life itself possible on Earth, what cost do we put on say Coral reef systems, rainforests, or even the healthy balance of plankton in the oceans that provide much of the basis for oxygen and protein on this planet. From what I recall almost half of the condensation nuclei that give us rainfall have their origin with molecules released by microscopic life in the ocean as well.

    Without a stable planetary environment to exist as part of our species let alone our economy is in jeopardy. And forcing something as crucial and complex as the atmospheric radiative balance that determines climate globally into a radically new state in a very small amount of time jeopardizes all of that.

    Any sound economic policy must take into account the unexpected and with human forced climate change we are creating a chaotic global spanning condition that makes any forecasts highly doubtful.

    For instance is there any forecast of the cost of methane clathrates destabilizing much sooner than expected. It seems to me putting economic issues first really is putting the cart in front of the horse, we need to ensure there will even be a stable biosphere to locate a human based economy before we start thinking about what the cost is going to be to people.

    If there is no stable biosphere left in a relatively short time span, then doesn't it logically follow there will be no economy because most if not all people could be gone.

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  2. Yes exactly. It's fair to say rapid deployment of renewable energy is expensive, but I suggest  by no means unaffordable. My country is small, and a quick calculation shows completely replacing all our electricity generation wiith renewables would cost about $60 billion, which is significantly less than total government spending for just one year. Of course thats without considering all the benefits, and much plant would eventually be replaced anyway, even without the climate issue.

    The real alarmists are people like Trump who cherry pick any old study by anyone. They fail to consider biases in the study, and who funds the study, they fail to critically asses the study, or consider or ask for other studies to compare, and consider both costs and benefits.

    Regarding the quoted study there are vested interests:

    "National Economic Research Associates has done work for front groups for coal companies in the past and this study was at the behest of the American Council for Capital Formation, which counts Exxon Mobil, the American Petroleum Institute and Charles Koch as major donors."

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  3. I've spent a lot of time looking at the alternatives to fossil fuel energy production, especially nuclear. This isn't the place to go into specifics, but it's safe to say that it is possible now to begin a systemic transition to nuclear power in places where that is suitable and with developments like Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactors, the most serious risk, waste and fuel supply issues are addressed.

    And that's before we get to a very long list of other sustainable alternatives and ways to utilize them that would truly revolutionize how we live and make ourselves a part of a sustainable world. Not force oursevles into a paradigm where we're constantly trying to calculate how much longer we have left with business as usual.

    There's little question in my mind that we already have the technology and understanding of how to use it to implement economic models globally that don't lead ineviatbly to failure. The issue we have is current groups that will clearly have to change or fail in any meaningful transition instead choosing to block a transition to a sustainable economy as long as possible.

    This is all Trump presents, some of the facts indicate that the Paris accord was probably much too conservative to meet the actual needs of mitigation. And that is still too much for the current US president.

    Neither politics nor economics decide how the global environment will respond to what we are doing in regards to fossil fuel use and other ways the radiative balance is being forced. Physics, chemistry and biology do.

    But what importance would that have to someone who bases their entire life on the concept of "fake" news. Anything that doesn't confirm their bias is simply discarded and those presenting the genuine article are censored to the greatest degree possible.

    The time for regressive economic and political policy really does need to be over to do something as complex and revolutionary as changing our relationship to the Earth that we simply can't live without.

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  4. It is undeniable that many perceived to be wealthy powerful people will Lose because they developed their perceived wealth and power through incorrect unsustainable actions (development in the wrong directions). And it is undeniable that a large number of them are trying to get as much protection as possible for their undeserved perceptions of being Winners. And they Love Winners like Team Trump.

    Those type of winners get their competitive advantage by being willing to try to get away with what is understood to be unacceptable behaviour.

    The current market games ruling human behaviour have been proven to be fatally flawed because of their development of unsustainable and damaging activities, and their development of powerful resistance to correcting those developments that were undeniably in the wrong direction.

    The 1972 Stockholm Conference produced the clear understanding that the burning of fossil fuels would have to be curtailed much more rapidly than the marketplace games would end the activity. The 2015 Sustainable Development Goals and the related Paris Climate Agreement are recent strengthened presentations of Good Reason in the same direction as the 1972 understanding.

    So there is truth to concerns about the Loss that will result from aggressive action to correct incorrectly developed economies. In spite of te admirable actions of many of the members of the USA, collectively the USA contains the Largest Number of Deserving Losers if effective international efforts stop allowing people to get away with creating bigger problems for Others, particularly for future generations.

    Between the time of 1972 Stockholm Conference and the 2015 Sustainable Development Goals/Paris Climate Agreement, the UN published "Our Common Future" (1987). That document included the following stark and stern understanding: "25. Many present efforts to guard and maintain human progress, to meet human needs, and to realize human ambitions are simply unsustainable - in both the rich and poor nations. They draw too heavily, too quickly, on already overdrawn environmental resource accounts to be affordable far into the future without bankrupting those accounts. They may show profit on the balance sheets of our generation, but our children will inherit the losses. 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.
    26. But the results of the present profligacy are rapidly closing the options for future generations. Most of today's decision makers will be dead before the planet feels; the heavier effects of acid precipitation, global warming, ozone depletion, or widespread desertification and species loss. Most of the young voters of today will still be alive. In the Commission's hearings it was the young, those who have the most to lose, who were the harshest critics of the planet's present management."

    And long before that time John Stuart Mill included the following warning in "On Liberty" (1859): “If society lets a considerable number of its members grow up mere children, incapable of being acted on by rational consideration of distant motives, society has itself to blame for the consequences.”

    Since 1972 the unacceptability of the pursuits of profit of many already very fortunate humans has been undeniable. The evidence of the disasterous unsustainability of development in the currently structured games of popularity and profitability is undeniable. The changes required have been exposed by climate science, along with all the other changes that are now better understood and presented in the Sustainable Development Goals.

    It will clearly take a while longer for the undeserving perceived Winners to become the actual Losers they deserve to be. What would be unfortunate for humanity is for those undeserving wealthy powerful people to be allowed to shift their wealth and power to other 'eventually to be understood to be unsustainable and damaging' ways of Winning.

    The bottom line is that there are some people who are perceived to be Winners today who undeniably really deserve to be losers and the sooner that reality is developed the better the future for humanity will be. That fundamental understanding needs to be kept in mind when discussing how much benefit will come from changing how humans are allowed to live and obtain personal benefit. Some people can easily understand that they will be the losers because they have refused to change their ways so far, resulting in them being most negatively affected by the required correction (and those type of people would also resist understanding any potential benefit to them, they will focus on their perceived losses like losing the ability to drive around in over-sized over-powered vehicles on land and in the water).

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  5. A potwntial summary of my perevious comment is:

    • There are a large number of people who can perceive 'the need to change ways of living to reduce impacts on Others' as 'A restrtiction of their freedom to believe and do as they please'. Those people will believe that everyone who thinks it is a problem should be the ones to do everything about it, including somehow overcoming the additional damage being done by those who care less (without admitting they care less).
    • There are people who have gambled on continuing to get away with less acceptable behaviour. That includes people locked into fossil fuel extraction plays whose perceived wealth includes the incorrectly assigned value of those opportunites, and people who recently purchased a new inefficient fossil fuel burner because, it was cheaper at the moment, they just like the idea of enjoying it, or to stoke their personal image because they think it impresses or intimidates Others. Those people will claim they deserve compensation for their perceived loss if actions make the fuel more expensive or terminate the buring before maximum reward was obtained from the extraction opportunity.

    The power of manipulative misleading marketing has a long history of successfully fueling the denial of trouble-making damaging industry. And trouble-makers will abuse the above two points no matter how much information is presented about the benefits of the correction of over-development in the wrong direction.

    Climate science efforts must continue to provide better understanding. Leaders in industry and government who actually want a sustainable better future (including wanting their ventures to continue to provide profit, or wanting to continue to get elected), will only Win when more people understand how wrong their developed perceptions were which then results in winning only by activity that is consistent with the Sustainable Development Goals (and any future improvement of those goals for Good Reason).

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  6. "The cost to the economy at this time would be close to $3 trillion"  

    So, the cost of the Iraq War?  By comparison, that sounds like a bargain.

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  7. Why are we even treating something as nebulous and uncertain as economics on the same level as physics anyway?

    What we can say with a high degree of certainty is that by increasing the atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide the way we have for the last two centuries, it has resulted in much more heat being redirected back to the Earth's surface where it is in the process of creating entirely new conditions that most life will have to adapt to or die.

    Economics on the other is more about trying to assure ourselves that what we've already done makes any kind of sense. And is more than a little a way to justify predatory zero sum game play that is already causing systemic negative impacts even when climate change isn't factored in.

    It's not a coincidence that someone totally dominated by zero sum game mentality - Trump - is now the central focus of the effort to block the assertion of policy based on the best physical based evidence we have in preference to biased based ignorance.

    If the mentality of "If you win I lose" is allowed to prevail any further on this issue and a host of others then we won't have to worry about economic projections or anything else. For we will have destroyed the underpinnings of life on Earth in a mad rush to see who's going to "win".

    Shouldn't it be obvious by now that if we're all dead and gone there are zero winners - the inevitable conclusion of the kind of zero sum games thinking that has brought us climate change denial and human forced climate change itself.

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  8. Doug_C -  The reason we concern ourselves with economics is twofold, though not necessarily obvious.    At risk of some significant drift of thread I will essay to respond.

    Unlike the diagrams often provided by environmental activists, the actual relationship is that the Society uses the Economy to determine how much of the environment gets used and how it is used.   The typical diagram has the Economy working through the society to use the environment.   That is wrong.   So




    Given that relationship the importance of any distortion or market failure in the economy is clear.   So the absence of a cost associated with the use of some part of the environment tells the economy to use more of it, and to use it in preference to other ways to accomplish the goals of society.   So yes, we HAVE to talk about economics.  

    The problem however, isn't simply that.  As you observed - Economics isn't exactly a "hard science".   "Nebulous and uncertain" and it is that way because no economist has managed to actually define what money is, yet they (and we) measure everything with it.   The difficulty they have is that if there *is* a definition for money  it will be - "Real money represents work done" where work is precisely the work defined by a physics text.   Vastly more complicated than I can offer here but when every dollar in anyone's pocket represents debt with interest the economy is massively distorted, even without the market failure around CO2.   

    ...and the Economy is how we decide what we do to the Environment.  

    ...and it is multiply, massively distorted.   

    So we sorta have to discuss economics.  :-)

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  9. Doug _C, you have made a stream of good points over various posts.

    I agree the climate issue is frustrating, in the whole economic sense. It becomes a partisan debate about costs on the economy and restraints on personal freedom, and nobody can agree on a solution.

    It's like we need a circuit breaker that says we are fundamentally reliant on the environment, and ultimately this is the basis of the economy anyway, so please lets just not wreck it. Lets  take a precautionary approach. I feel the same way. 

    However I have this ominous feeling we can't escape economics. But maybe we can tidy up this aspect.

    Firstly I agree with the other poster above. We have a tragedy of the commons problem and these are usually resolved by environmental rules, penalties, or polluter pays principles, depending on the specific problem and how its best dealt with. Once you do this, its hard to escape quantifying costs. I cant see how the climate issue is basically different.

    Secondly we cannot escape all impacts on the environment, unless we stop mining, building, and agriculture, breathing, living. We therefore always have to ask are our impacts on the environment significantly damaging? Once we do this, we  cant escape weighing costs.

    For climate change this means considering the costs of climate change,and weighing this against the costs of renewable energy etc.

    Obviously I would say because the stakes are high, global and essentially permanent, we better take a precautionary approach. This should be applied to the economics.

    It also requires a sophisticated understanding of economic strategy. Humanity has relied on energy dense oil and its difficult moving away from this on both physical and psychological levels. However take a strategic approach as follows: Renewable energy has already proven itself, so theres no reason not to proceed.The oil is always there if by some unlikely eventuality climate change is not severe. If transition costs become severe (and I dont believe they will) we can re-evaluate the whole thing.

    The point is, we are not locking humanity into any one way path, that would be economically catastrophic. We will always have options.

    About the best we can do overall is aim for a commonsense, practical form of long term sustainability. I'm right behind this sort of plan and it needs to become part of our cultural values, and codified into legislation, but it needs to tread a careful balance between idealism and realism as well.

    We have only got one planet and all that, and colonising other star systems wont be easy. The clear solution is sustainable development.

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  10. ubrew12@6,

    Your comment is too cryptic. You don't specify what is "bargain" here: Iraq War or AGW mitigation.

    Regardeless how you clarify it, I note that Iraq War cost US taxpayer 2.2 Tera$ according to Brown Uni study, the fact that T-man likely does not know or he denies it like everything inconvenient to his childish mind. However, beforehand, vice-president Dick Cheney estimated the costs, as reported by Wikipedia:

    "every analysis said this war itself would cost about $80 billion, recovery of Baghdad, perhaps of Iraq, about $10 billion per year. We should expect as American citizens that this would cost at least $100 billion for a two-year involvement."

    so the initial cost estimates were $100G/2years which can be extrapolated as $400G for the actual 8 years it took. Therefore Cheney underestimated it 5 times.

    To compare T-man's estimate to Iraq War apples to apples we should look at Cheney's number rather than actual cost from Brown Uni, and Iraq War looks like a bargain here. But obviously, T-man's numbers are worthless (like everything he says) and likely overestimate the actual facts we're going to witness (probably the numbers will be born by other countries while US economy is going to implode under the leadership of a party like GOP and a president like T-man).

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  11. @bjchip #8

    I tend to be a concrete thinker so I usually define money as "the ability to purchase goods and services". Which ultimately must come from the environment. If there is no resources available in the environment then there will be no money based economy and there will be no society. The environment can exist totally independent of human society, the opposite does not apply.

    I've come to think of money almost entirely as environmental diversity and robustness, not how much material wealth or abundance of services any society may have. Ultimately it is coral reef systems, rain forests, arctic habitat, the ability of the biosphere to replenish oxygen supplies which are always in transition and recycle fresh water on a continuous cycle, etc...

    So in the end perhaps the best description of money should be a process that serves society in the context of the overall environment, not a static quantity.

    I realize at some level we have to try and place this dynamic in some context that allows societies to function, the challenge is if we keep drawing down the natural bank by converting environmental health to cash we are heading to social and economic failure anyway. Both are entirely dependent on the environment.

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  12. @nigelj #9

    I find it very frustrating, with all the technology and understanding through science we've developed in the last century alone and we're still depending on industrial age energy production and pretending that the environment is a bottomless resources bin.

    As for energy density, there is simply nothing that tops nuclear power. And with much safer and abundant alternatives to the uranium fuel cycle like thorium I simply don't understand why we are still investing at all in coal, oil and gas exploitation.

    There is also constant advance in how to use that energy in the most sustainble fashion possible as well as how to have food production and manufacturing in such a way that has much less negative environmental impacts than we now do. But all that requires a systemic approach to replace the current fossil fuel system which itself almost seems to have a mind of its own and a will to survive by any means possible.

    I have a vision in my mind of where we can go to make the changes needed, but in between there are these roadblocks that do seem highly artificial and irrational to say the least. Donald Trump as president and in charge of economic policy let alone how the US will behave in regards to existential issues such as human forced climate change makes no sense to me at all.

    But then again I live in Canada where our PM claims to be fully in support of the Paris Accord and implementing effective policy to mitigate climate change then goes to Houston and tells oilmen that "No country would find 173 billion barrels of oil in the ground and just leave them there,"

    Leave 173 billion barrels in the ground

    He is clearly placing economics before the environment and this is the issue I think presents such a danger here, the lack of understanding by far too many people behind policy of what the actual relationship is. I think some of them actually do believe that economic imperatives trump all... and that really applies to Trump.

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  13. Doug_C "I tend to be a concrete thinker so I usually define money as "the ability to purchase goods and services".

    Yes, but what does that money really represent? How it gets used does not tell us what it is, where it comes from or what it represents.  I do "root cause analysis" for a living - the hard core stuff and I asked myself why economists could not imagine or support a near-zero growth economy.  This answer - "Real money represents work done" sounds simple and  yes, you can use it to buy goods and services.  However it also binds economics inextricably to physics and that changes everything and "simple" disappeared fast.  

    For instance.  There is no limit on debt backed money (the sort we use). As long as you can find people willing to lend to you you can CREATE all the money you can imagine.  Work backed money has very definite limits as to how much can be out there in your society.   That would be one of the simplest differences between the two concepts.  

    I'm trying to write a book to explain. It not appropriate for this forum.   The difference is important however, to our mutual goal. 

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  14. bjchip @8:

    "The difficulty they have is that if there *is* a definition for money it will be - "Real money represents work done" where work is precisely the work defined by a physics text."

    If money represents work done, in the standard sense of physics, then mining 100 tonnes of nickel ore and transporting it to a refinery would generate no more, and no less, value than mining 100 tonnes of quartz, or clay, or shale, etc, and transporting it to the same location.  Work as defined in physics takes no account of the the usefulness of a mass for manufacturing goods, or constructing buildings, or maintaining good health in human bodies.


    "I do "root cause analysis" for a living - the hard core stuff and I asked myself why economists could not imagine or support a near-zero growth economy."

    You should distinguish between the support of a low and stable inflationary regime, and the support of economic growth.  The two are different things, and while the first relates to the nature of money, the second does not.

    With regard to inflationary regimes, if more currency is in circulation than is needed for the total amount of transactions in the economy, you will have inflation.  If less, there will be deflation.  Modern governments typically issue slightly more money which  is not backed by debt, or bullion, or any other measure in order to insure a low, stable inflationary regime.  It needs to be stable so to enable security of investment.  It needs to be inflationary so that money stuffed in a matress gradually loses its value, so that to be effective, savings must be invested.

    The consequence of this is that people on static incomes (such as pensioners) or on incomes that only increase through repeated negotiations (such as wage earners) will lose the value of their income over time.  The inflationary regime is, in effect, an hidden tax whose primary beneficiaries are corporations.  The hidden tax effect could be eliminated by automatically indexing pensions and wages to inflation.  If that were done, the sole effect would be to deflate money saved by means other than investment, ie, the purported purpose.  The reticence of governments to ensure neutral impact on the poorer part of society through indexation makes me think the hidden subsidy of corporations it implies is an intended effect.

    With regard to economic growth, the answer to two part.  In the first instance, the economy needs to grow at least at the same rate as the population grows or each generation will become poorer.  Second, certain government functions cost a lot of money; and the bigger the economy, the more easilly they are afforded or expanded.  As a prime example, without the large size of the US economy, it would be a second rate power militarily.  On top of that, when the economy is driven by an individual desire for wealth, as in capitalist economies, you need the economy to expand to allow "the winners" in the economy to get richer.

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  15. bjchip @13

    Ultimately that money represents physical resources available in the natural world. Whether it's the free oxygen we breath, the fresh water we can't survive without or the food that in many cases requires complex interactions between many species and essential elements that need to be availabe in precise states. Everything beyond that in a sense can be considered a luxury in purely survival terms.

    There is real no separation between the economy and the environment and the economy is a subset of the environment. Knock away all environmental supports and all our economies are coming crashing down.

    This is the problem that I think exists with the focus on economic imperatives over environmental, it obscures what the genuine realtionship is at a time when we need to be very clear about them.

    We can live without money. We can not live without oxygen, fresh water and food.

    As reported here there is growing evidence that what we're doing with regards to fossil fuel use alone is entering the same scale as the changes that caused things like the Permian Extinction Events.

    Skeptical Science- Permian Extinction and Fossil Fuel use

    During events like this only the species with the lowest oxygen and nutritional requirements survive, we don't fit in that paradigm.

    Which means that focusing almost exclusively on economics while recreating what we are in fact in the process of recreating is going to cause the worst economic outcome possible. No economy when there are no people left.

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  16. Doug_C and Tom Curtis,

    Tom, I am still reading the thread on Climate Models so I will keep quiet about that topic.

    Doug_C, I am also a Canadian and Trudeau has not helped his cause by his honest mistake in skipping Alberta in his July 1 address (our Independence Day).  [Sorry, how to you reverse italics?]

    But here is my point on this thread.  Yes, economics do matter a lot.  But so do politics. 

    After listening to many Sam Harris podcasts, my general sense is that there is NO chance of impeaching Donald Trump.  I will not get into the reasons in detail, but listen to the David Frum and Anne Appelbaum interviews for starters.  By the way, David Frum (a Canadian and former speech writer for George W. Bush) is one of the most out-spoken Republican critics of Trump.

    The underlying reason for this conclusion is that the Republicans see the chance to get a lot of their agenda through during his presidency.  As well, he has a "core" 35% of the electorate (mainly white non-college educated) who have been hurt by globalization who represent his underlying base.

    So ...., given no impeachment of Trump and a Republican majority in both the Senate and the House, is it not time to discuss what CAN be done given this political reality, making the assumption that it is better to be safe than sorry regarding CO2?  I personally am not convinced of this yet but I would like to make that assumption.

    We have 3 and half years left of Trump and the first '"by-election" has found the Republican candidate winning over the Democratic candidate in an election in which both national parties were heavily invested.  Given this we may have close to 8 years.

    With this reality, is it not incumbent on those who wish to push for changes to push for changes that could also meet the Republican agenda and not waste time arguing for things that just will not happen while Trump is in power?

    The obvious one is the Climate Leadership Council agenda.  What is the use of convincing the "convinced" that his "cost/benefit" analysis is wrong?  What is the relevance of this?

    What I would also like to see is some relevant discussion of whether any realistic changes can be made without the US onside.  I highly suspect that China and the EU will not come to some "grand bargain".  I think China will use this as an excuse to back off on things other than matters of pollution.  Pollution is clearly a different issue.  They can adopt strict measures in the cities without impoverishing their rural areas.

    If SkepticalScience begins a thread on the Climate Leadership Council or similar measures, I would be interested in making some comments on that page.

    What really troubles me after reading some of the comments of Nigel Lawson and others but especially after reading Alex Epstein's book the Moral Case for Fossil Fuels is the massive cost to life, agricultural output, and economic well being that could  be imposed on the underdeveloped peoples of this world many of whom who have, over the last 20 years, thanks to "cheap energy", pulled themselves out of poverty and may even now own a refridgerator.  How many of us would give up a refridgerator to solve AGW?

    But that is for another thread.

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    Moderator Response:

    [PS] While Sks frequently reposts climate articles from other sources, it does have a very specific focus -"Explaining climate change science & rebutting global warming misinformation". Its seems what you want to discuss is done by other forums. eg here

  17. The article states "The cost to the economy at this time would be close to $3 trillion in lost GDP [gross domestic product].”

    Firstly my understanding is the alleged three trillion is between now and 2035, so around 18 years. 

    Iraq is a tempting comparison but probably too uncertain and divisive.  It was certainly an expensive blunder.

    A better comparison could be with Americas total gdp over 18 years. . Americas total gdp per year (value of all goods and services produced) is approximately currently 18 trillion per year (see link below) Over 18 years that is 324 trillion at least, because of course it grows each year.

    The so called alleged loss of gdp of three trillion, or cost of combatting climate change, is barely even significant when put in context of 324 trillion.

    Of course its also a  dubious and likely exaggerated claim, and this is also without any consideration of benefits.

    Context is everything.

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  18. Correction to my post 17 above. The source I looked at said cost is three trillion between now and 2035 in total adding together all years. Another source says three trillion per year going forwards. Does anyone have clarity on this? 

    Its still a low figure if put in context, and if you also consider benefits.

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  19. Doug_C and others,

    Regarding Zero-Sum games:

    It is important to recognize that everyone competing to be the biggest beneficiary of getting away with activity that creates more GHGs is playing a Negative-Sum Game. Though they may perceive themselves to be Winning relative to Others the end result is a reduction of total value, a negative. It is in the form of reduced access to buried ancient hydrocarbons as well as the increased costs and challenges of the rapid climate changes, and other impacts of the activity “They personally perceive a benefit from getting away with” (which is why they have claimed that restricting their ability to Win that way is a restriction of personal freedom, their Liberty. Which is why I use the quote from “On Liberty” to point out that what they try to get away with is contrary to a Good Understanding of the proper pursuit of Liberty for all).

    Regarding the Environment:

    An important distinction is the practically eternally renewable environment vs. the non-renewable parts of the planet. Use of renewable aspects of the environment in a truly sustainable way is the only clearly 'sustainable economic activity'. And it is the only type of activity that has the potential to sustain growth of the activity. Extracting and using non-renewable elements can only approach sustainability by careful management of the material to prolong its initial use and efforts to maximize the recycling for reuse. Clearly, expanding the amount of that type of material use by extracting more of it faces higher costs per additional unit, especially as it is learned that other impacts of the extraction/production process have to be reduce.

    Burning non-renewable buried ancient hydrocarbons only becomes more and more difficult and produces other damaging impacts. It is a real Loser way to try to Get Ahead.

    Regarding money:

    As Tom Curtis has implied, money is an 'exchange' device to simplify barter/trade opportunities. Money is used to get a product or service in a multitude of simple deals that all happen concurrently with other exchanges of money, instead of having to put together complicated multi-way barters of 'This - for That - For This - For That - ...' with each This and That being a service or product from different people.

    International finance exchanges attempt to establish relative values of the various currency options. It can be very complex. But in spite of the complexities, the purpose of money is to facilitate trade. And it can be thought of in the short-term without caring about or relating it to the environment (each exchange can be made without having to consider the environmental or social sustainability of the exchange, and pursuers of profit deliberately hide or mislead about the negatives of what they are offering), and that is one of the many flaws in the ways of economic game play that humans have made-up, along with other serious flaws like the beliefs that popularity and profitability driven results in the games are legitimate indications of merit, or that everyone freer to believe and do as they please will produce a better result.

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  20. chriskoz@10: Somewhat late to explain my cryptic remark, revertheless: the $3 trillion for the Iraq War I'm getting from Joseph Stiglitz, and he's including the cost of a lifetime of medical attention to those wounded in the war (on the American side, a significant caveat).  And I'm declaring that to be lost money because, imho, nothing was gained by it.  Similarly the $1 trillion cost of the Afghan War (with the singular exception of expelling Al Qaeda from Afghanistan).  As someone once said, "a billion here and a billion there, and pretty soon you're talking real money".

    Compared to this, Trumps overinflated 'cost' of going green is a walk in the park.  He will need to overinflate his overinflation, which he seems perfectly capable of doing.  Trump lives in the Big Rock Candy Mountains.  Where, as the lyrics admit:

    "All the cops have wooden legs
    And the bulldogs all have rubber teeth
    And the hens lay soft-boiled eggs
    The farmers' trees are full of fruit
    And the barns are full of hay
    Oh I'm bound to go
    Where there ain't no snow
    Where the rain don't fall
    The winds don't blow
    In the Big Rock Candy Mountains."

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  21. NorrisM @16 ,

    certainly I would be very interested to hear your views on "what can be done" with the present U.S's Republican Party.  Can you suggest any ways that would persuade them (in a timely manner) to actively tackle the AGW problem?

    Alex Epstein's book the Moral Case for Fossil Fuels was based on "green energy" costs of 4 or more years ago — indeed, his whole line of argument rests on the now very outdated idea that Fossil Fuels-based electricity generation is & will be cheaper than solar & wind.

    Worse, Epstein skirts past the important point that a great percentage of the very poor do live in tiny groupings/villages, where traditional FF centralized generation (to grid distribution) is withheld from them by high costs of distribution.  Rural dwellers certainly desire to use refrigeration, LED lighting, and electronic communication — but many will miss out gaining that in future, if they need wait on grid connection to coal-fired generators.  And it is the world's poor who will suffer most, from the ongoing increase of global warming.  Mr Epstein fails to acknowledge that it is time to stop digging the hole deeper.

    Few would care to deny how useful Fossil Fuel energy has been in powering our advancing technology during the past 200 years.  But the future obviously needs to be different in its power-sourcing.  And the future is not the past — yet Mr Epstein argues from the past.  He does not present an argument which is fair & balanced (and realistic for the future!).

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  22. The comments on inflation and money are very good, but I dont see what inflation, or money creation has to do with the environment. Inflation is low anyway, and the larger problem is levels of global debt.

    It's more about how we put a workable value on sustainability. There is value in sustaining certain resources, an obvious example is fisheries by having fishing quota, and then it's a question of policing this and deciding who pays for this, probably the fishing industry. Many metals are already recycled by private markets, but there may be value in legislating to ensure rare metals are as easy to recycle as possible, and conserved going forwards, rather than just fingers crossed hoping there is no problem. With climate change the consensus is wisely moving towards a carbon tax.

    We already know what has to be done. The problem is the will to do it, and the toxic influence of vested interests and lobby groups opposing change, and general parania in some quarters about nanny state government.

    However I think convincing the public and politicians, and everyone really of sustainability issues requires a careful distinction that some of these problems are best solved by the market forces, and some by government with a careful explanation of exactly why. You dont want to come across as either socialist, or alternatively as pandering to the corporate sector.

    The idea could be a partnership approach based on an economic understanding of which issues are best dealt with by market forces, and which by government or community input. The distinction is logical, sound, and important. And to all but the fanatics both private sector and government have their place.

    So you have a partnership of private sector and government but based strictly on transparent goals, criteria, and evidence based understanding of the issues. You can have bipartisan scrutiny of cost effectiveness of rules etc. I'm absolutely certain this will happen anyway, and it already is to some extent. Trump is just a temporary backwards looking, ignorant road block.

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  23. nigelj@22,

    I am a fan of the marketplace. But I also recognise that the games of the marketplace do not always produce a good result, primarily because of the distortions of misleading marketing and the powerful temptation for people to care more about themselves and their Tribe than they do about Others, and to fail to care much about the long-term.

    Diligent observers of the 'games people play' are required. And they need to be able to rapidly act to curtail any activity that is likely to be damaging to others (especially to future generations) or is unlikely to be sustainable are required. That helps sports be better comeptitions (no matter how much the ones who want to benefit from behaving less acceptably complain about refereeing  interfering with the 'play of the game'.

    No referees or rules are required if, and only if: All the participants in the game are fully aware of everything related to what they are doing and its influence beyond the moment and beyond their personal interest/desire (and will seek increased improved awareness and understanding and change their ways accordingly). And they also are all self-governed by an overpowering desire to help others and sustainably improve the future for all of humanity.

    As John Stuart Mill warns in "On Liberty", society must strive to not let people grow up to be mere children, unable to be moved by rational consideration of distant motives. Achieving that end, everyone being caring helpful and considerate, is likely impossible. So all Leaders have an obligation to Lead by Example and deal effectively with those who manage to grow up mere children. That has to become the expectation of everyone who Wins in the games people play, even though at the moment many of the current Winners would bitterly resist being required to behave better.

    The unfortunate change of attitude that started in the mid-1800s must be reversed. As presented in Susan Cain's book “Quiet - The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking”, historian Warren Sussman identified a shift of admiration and recognition of deserving people from the substantive 'Culture of Character: Citizenship, Duty, Work, Golden deeds, Honour, Reputation, Morals, Manners, Integrity' to the current potentially vacuous 'Culture of Personality: Magnetic, Fascinating, Stunning, Attractive, Glowing, Dominant, Forceful, Energetic'.

    I personally believe Marketing, particualrly political marketing, should become a Profession with all of its members accountable to ensure that none of its members get away with behaving deliberately misleading in any way. Some may say that restriction and in-fighting would ruin Marketing, but they are the ones who enjoy getting away with behaving less acceptably.

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  24. A different presentation of my comment @23 would be:

    Global society needs to re-establish the value of Good Actions based on Rational Consideration of Distant Motives, a culture of Independently Verifiable Good Helpful Character winning over the culture of Created Perceptions Unjustifiably Boosting Impressions of Personality.
    The objective is to get everyone to understand the importance of participating in helping to improve the future for all of humanity: being good to yourself personally (eating a balanced diet and getting a variety of exercise), helping (not harming) locally and globally, in the short and long term. And that means understanding that a person does not deserve admiration or respect just because they appear to be wealthy or impressive (and understanding that some wealthy powerful people do not deserve their wealth or power).

    A related understanding is that the marketplace/money games need monitoring and correction to ensure that genuinely helpful actions are the valued activities, and harmful activities are effectively deterred. People need to grow up wanting to be helpful and being rewarded for the help they can deliver, rather than growing up focused on 'Making Money and Putting on Shows of Wealth and Grandeur (including taking on debt, or stealing, or doing something understandably unsustainable or harmful - things that would be counter-productive if everybody else decide to try to get away with them like those drivers who try to cut in near the front of a long line of traffic waiting to make a turn.)'. Leaders/Winners need to be held accountable to act to achieve that result.

    I disagree with Stephen Hawking's thoughts in a recent BBC interview that “... aggression was "inbuilt" in humans and that our best hope of survival was to live on other planets.”

    Humanity collectively can learn how to work to improve the future for all of humanity, a robust diversity of it, fitting in sustainably as part of a robust diversity of other life 'on this or any other planet'. Until humanity learns how to do that, stops allowing too many people to grow up mere children, it has no future anywhere.

    The establishment of the Sustainable Development Goals is evidence that humanity can figure out how to be more certain that it has a future.

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  25. nigelj @22

    I can agree with much of that with the caveat that any economic and political policies must ultimately fit within the physical limits of the environment.

    We don't want anarchy as a result of policies intended to create environmental sustainability, but the worst kind of anarchy is the likely outcome if the natural systems that make such a diverse and rich biosphere exist here in the first place are continuously degraded by human activity.

    The biosphere acts as a whole to create such beneficial conditions that as far as we know only exist here. By treating the oceans purely as a source of "cheap" protein and a waste dump for instance we are already heading for very serious problems. Burning billions of tons of fossil fuels a year make this much worse as the acidity levels of the oceans rise as does the average temperature forcing some of the most diverse and important ecosystems like coral reef systems further and further to the brink of elimination.

    How do you get government that is supposed to represent society in general and the private sector to cooperate to protect the basic integrity of the planet we all depend on for survival when the clear imperative in many cases is to have the greatest benefit for the private sector no matter the cost to us all.

    The fact that fossil fuels are still used on the level they are now is an indication of how strong private sector controlled market forces can be in holding us on clearly unsustainable courses no matter what evidence is presented of the risk.

    I don't know what the answer is, all I know is the current system isn't working and consequences are already very serious.

    Here in Canada we had the city most closely associated with the Athabasca tar sands bitument projects that is this country's largest source of GHG emissions mostly burn up as a result of a "freak" early spring heat wave. This was still not enough to wake up our politicians both locally and federally or the people who want to drive policy that will make this and worse a common occurance.

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  26. OPOF @23, just on this 'tribalism' issue that you raise (and you are right about it). The Economist this week, dated July 1, has a great article: Trumps America, the power of groupthink.

    It's not just a simplistic attack on trump, and digs a bit deeper into the views of people, especially in small town america, with real world interviews with them, as well as commentary on the underlying social forces.

    Its about emerging and hardening divisions based on group identity, political andideological leanings, and economic and occupational influences. Its particularly interesting how people identify trump being onside with their tribe, even though they dislike him in some ways. The fact he sticks up for them appears to be enough and they dismiss the fact thath his policies dont make sense.

    There is a growing division between liberal and conservative attitudes, sadly to say, but the partisan divisions in terms of republican v democrat are not actually as large or clear cut as people think. It appears people are very uncertain what parties even stand for in America, and often its rather an arbitray vote, based mostly on instincts and personalities of leaders more than policies or world view.

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  27. OPOF @24. I agree on the whole. You are preaching to the already converted there with me! It is a very sensible world view, with wide appeal.

    I'm not going to argue with it for the sake of argument. I prefer to oppose specific details that might seem wrong.

    On aggression I do partly disagree. I think the evidence is pretty clear. Most humans has some aggressive instincts that go quite deep, but clearly most people also appear to be able to constrain these instincts as well, and have a conscience to guide them. Humans also develop values systems and laws. We are complex and partly self correcting and adaptable.

    Maybe Hawking is a bit pessimistic. I prefer to be an idealist, and see aggression as something that can be tamed, and must be tamed.

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  28. Doug_C @25, yeah I agree about the underlying physical science realities and risks. This is my underlying thinking and has been for years. I do think we are at huge risk of undermining the only planet we have, and we absolutely cannot count on escaping to other planets etc.

    However I have turned into an envionmental pragmatist or moderate in some ways. I can see the business perspective as well, and that we have to be realistic and fair to everyone. We need the business sector.

    To me its a case of how do we promote economic growth and mining etc, but how do we do this responsibly with minimal impact? Its a hard road technically, and I'm treading a middle  ground ideologically, and will not be popular for that, but I see few options.

    I think we can "have our cake and eat it" if we are smart, and just a bit fair minded.

    But you are dead right any economic or real world policies have to fit within the physical limits of the environment. That's a good bottom line. Of course the debate is how you quantify all this.

    "How do you get government that is supposed to represent society in general and the private sector to cooperate to protect the basic integrity of the planet we all depend on for survival when the clear imperative in many cases is to have the greatest benefit for the private sector no matter the cost to us all."

    It's a big problem. The pendulm has swung too far to corporate neoliberalism.  A healthy belief in free markets has been wrongly interpreted to mean no control over markets at all, and profit as the only criteria which is clearly not workable. Profit is important, but so is maintaining stability of the underlying system.

    Such a thing as genuinely totally free markets is actually impossible, unless we want no government and total anarchy. The term only ever meant free from arbitrary and illogical control.  Markets have to have rules and boundaries, or they dont function and cause irreparable harm. And this is really about issues around health, safety, environmental concerns, and financial stability.

    Politicians need to wake up to these obvious realities. They are there to make planetary systems workable and stable, not to pander to narrow, selfish and destructive interests.

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  29. nigelj @ 28

    I think you put it really well, Adam Smith one of the pioneers of modern economics was an early proponent of free markets but soon came to realize that capital was a great servant but a very poor master.

    "People of the same trade seldom meet together, even for merriment and diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public, or in some contrivance to raise prices."

    I think the days of capital based economics are coming to an end, they have served their purpose and their time is done.

    I'm not sure what will replace them, but it is going to have to be very dynamic and adaptive in the same way human society as a whole will have to be in the coming decades.

    The challenges we are leaving for the generation just entering the world and those that follow are immense.

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  30. Eclectic@21

    After watching the YouTube taping of the proceedings of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology in March 2017 and the announcements of Trump, I do not see any realistic chance that Trump and the Republicans will do very much at all on specific steps to counter AGW beyond Trump's announcement of greater funding for nuclear energy research.  I personally think this is about the only thing that he has got right.  I think you know that James Hansen also believes that we cannot realistically replace fossil fuels without a major shift to nuclear energy.  I think this echoes the views of Doug_C in this thread.

    On the issue of Alex Epstein, unless I have missed something, the cost per unit of energy for  fossil fuels today is massively less than that of solar or wind power leaving aside some form of carbon tax.  In four years, since the publication of his book I highly doubt that the technology has changed.  In spite of the efforts of Elon Musk, it is my understanding that there has NOT been a major breakthrough in the technology of batteries that can solve the underlying problem of solar and wind power (leaving aside their costs per unit of energy) of supplying electrical generation at night.  This clearly will be a game changer if and when it happens.  But look at cold fusion.  Where is it today.  It is irresponsible to take our society down a road which relies on future technological changes.  Nuclear power is the responsible way of weaning us from fossil fuels if it is determined that the costs outweigh the benefits.

    Although I do not agree that every forest fire can be attributed to climate change (ever considered El Nino?), I do agree with Doug_C that nuclear energy is the only realistic way to go.  

    So perhaps this should be the focus with the Republican party.  Support the efforts of the Climate Leadership Council.  This is a "revenue neutral" proposal that puts a price tag on fossil fuels but returns the tax to the US people by way of a "dividend".  But after looking at the Republicans propose massive reductions in Obamacare in order to pay for tax cuts for the wealthy, I am not sure that will even work because this Carbon dividend would clearly help the poor in the US.  The rich would clearly put more in by way of carbon tax than they would get out by a pro rata divident to all US citizens.  Trump's coal miners might not be so happy as well.

     Editor:  This is clearly on topic because according to James Hansen, nuclear energy wins "hands down" over the per energy unit cost of wind and solar power.  

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  31. Tom Curtis #14 

    "If money represents work done, in the standard sense of physics, then mining 100 tonnes of nickel ore and transporting it to a refinery would generate no more, and no less, value than mining 100 tonnes of quartz"

    No.  It costs the same "money" or "energy" to do the mining but that is not the same as the value we place on what we extract.   

    Value and Money are not the same thing.  You can waste money, you can waste work, but the value of something painted by a Picasso is vastly different from the work that Picasso put into it.  It was however his work.  If you pay YOUR work for that Picasso you have to exchange value, not work.    Once the separation occurs - that value is subjective but money is objective - the remaining problems of investment and taxation and the representation of entropy remain to be solved.  

    I said it is complicated.  I was not understating things.  It is simple to say it, but we who have been raised with nothing but debt based dollars as our medium of exchange have a great deal of difficulty dealing with anything else. 

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  32. Doug_C @29

    I don't know what the future would bring, or what will replace capital, but this book attempts to answer exactly that question: Post Capitalism, by Paul Mason.

    He talks about historic economic cycles, Kondratief Waves, and the rise of the uber style economy as an indication of where things might be going. He explores the peer to peer economy and possible changing roles of money, new forms of lending, changing nature of ownership, bitcoin etc. Its not a stunning book, but its definitely very good. He also gets right into climate change and the low carbon economy.

    I have another interesting one I'm half through: How will Capitalism End, by Wolfgang Streeck.

    And here's another book of relevance: The production of money, how to break the power of bankers, by Ann Pettifor. BJChip you might be interested.

    I tend to favour a soft edged version of capitalism myself. The Joseph Stiglitz approach, the nobel prize winning economist chap.

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  33. Norris M @30.

    I dont think you can say that fossil fuels are massively cheaper than wind or solar power. I also dont think you can simply say nuclear is cheap power. Plenty of studies show otherwise as below. This is levelised costs on country by country basis and highly detailed. Its consistent with articles I have read elsewhere in Forbes etc.

    Broadly generally on shore wind and hydro is the cheapest form of electricity per unit, levelised cost. Coal is moderately cheap.

    Nuclear, Solar and offshore wind are in the middle.

    Gas is expensive but depends on the type.

    I think choices on low emssions electricity generation are best made by individual countries according to their available best resources, etc,etc. 

    I dont have anything firmly against nuclear power but clearly it has its issues, benfits, and problems. I dont see how nuclear stands out as a magic or universal answer. The costs are just not low enough, and it is very slow to build, and get regulatory approval compared to wind or solar.

    But then, no option stands out as a magic answer. On shore wind has become very cost competitive, but then it won't work alone as the only option for countries without consistently reasonably windy weather.

    My country has numerous options before exploring nuclear power, and we have seismic issues right through our country, and are very reliant on agricultural exports, so just cannot afford even a slight nuclear problem.

    On the other hand as you say nuclear may appeal to the Republicans, and may be acceptable to the public in America. It may suit countries with very inconsistent wind or cloudy climates, and lacking in other energy resources.

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  34. You should distinguish between the support of a low and stable inflationary regime, and the support of economic growth. The two are different things, and while the first relates to the nature of money, the second does not.

    If money is backed by debt and interest is charged for that debt the second most definitely does relate to the nature of money and in fact it explicitly attempts to violate the laws of thermodynamics.    Which leads to failure and instability over time, which is observed in every debt-backed money.    The actual interest rate that is demanded is zero and ZIRP came as a surprise only because I expected monetary collapse first.

    "In the first instance, the economy needs to grow at least at the same rate as the population grows or each generation will become poorer."

    Yup...  that's required and natural growth and it isn't anything like what we've seen this past century.  Is it???    I haven't gotten into population, but population growth is a problem separate from the effect of money as debt.  Conflating the two simply worsens understanding of both.  

    Wait for the book or argue with me elsewhere OK?  This ain't the place or the time. 

    The point is that economics is important to the environment.   It is critical to it, because it governs usage of the environment and  regulation will only temporarily save a resource that is economically attractive.  The "poaching" will happen until the economic advantage or the resource are gone.

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  35. NorrisM @30 , yes I think you are quite right — even the most optimistic observer can see that there is "nothing that can be done" about the U.S.'s Republican Party politicians, when it comes to getting them to tackle major problems (such as AGW and other long-term issues).  We will have to wait for their current political donors to die off [fortunately, many such individual wealthy donors are already very elderly] ..... or in the case of public companies (e.g. ExxonMobil) to eventually be overtaken by shareholder revolt.        And please correct me: but I have the impression the G.O.P. is rather lukewarm about building new nuclear plants.

    Like Nigelj, I have no fundamental objection to nuclear electric generation. Yet it has almost insuperable difficulties nowadays, with long build times and very high capital costs (including amortization of de-commissioning costs) as well as the worrisome vulnerability to terrorists.  Not to mention the NIMBY factor ;-)

    Possibly the proposed Thorium Reactors could overcome some of these problems — but that is off in the Never Never Land of the future.  And as you yourself say, it is irresponsible to take our society down a road which relies on future technological changes (of a very uncertain sort).

    NorrisM, coal-fired generators are nowadays distinctly unattractive to investors.    Furthermore, the author you mentioned [Alex Epstein, of The Moral Case etc] has misled you about the marginal cost of their electric output — it is nowhere near as low as wind/solar's.   And the same applies with Levelized Costs.

    A different Epstein [Paul Epstein] in an economic study Epstein et al., 2011 shows the externalized costs with coal are three times higher than the "face value" costs with coal.  Yes, 2011 is 6-7 years ago now — but the externalized cost ratio will not have improved since then.  And either way, there is no reason to avoid pushing ahead with more wind/solar generation, for the purpose of achieving a partial reduction in CO2 emissions (since the matter is urgent).

    Frankly, author Alex Epstein is little better than a propagandist trying to cloak his bias, and confuse readers with false moralising.

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  36. It's also important to think in terms of return on investment (ROI). Not talking about energy return on energy investment (ERoEI), just plain ROI.

    When an investor puts up money for a coal or gas plant, they're tying up that money for a long period of time. Typical FF plants operate for 40 years. Even though the plant will pay for itself in the early years, the entire lifecycle of the plant is import in order to maximise returns on the investment.

    The lifecycle for wind turbines is much shorter, like ~20 years. And already there those plants have a lower LCOE than coal. So, those investors are maximising their investment over a shorter period of time. 

    What comes into play here are the projections for costs of wind and solar 20 and 30 years down the road when a new generation of wind and solar will replace today's new facilities. The LCOE of all new FF based energy sources will have risen, while the LCOE for renewables will have dramatically fallen.  

    Where does that leave those FF plants built today? They will be mid-life and economically uncompetitive in the energy market. 

    I'm fairly certain LCOE calculations don't account for this. They merely look at the full lifetime costs of the plants and projected cost of fuel source. They don't account for the competitive landscape of each technology in the marketplace over the lifetime of the facility.

    In this case the shorter lifespan of wind and solar, in a rapidly improving energy market, have a distinct advantage.

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  37. I don't oppose nuclear, but I'm cautious. I grew up during the three mile island scare and chernobyl, and these things imprint on your mind.

    And a  world full of many thousands of nuclear stations using the current technology would still present a significant risk, and these accidents do not respect borders. Many developing countries are unlikely to have stringent safety standards, training etc. 

    Then nuclear has cost and issues and is slow to get built  etc.

    On the other hand I see no problem with newer, safer technology like thorium, but this seems still experimental and stalled. Why is this? Is it because traditional types of power are available and legal to use so theres no incentive to develop thorium?

    Developing thorium might take some government assistance, or private / public partnership to develop thorium power to a usable stage.

    There's no reason not to combine wind, solar, and thorium if it becomes viable. Small thorium reactors are viable in theory, and this would be perfect to solve intermittency problems or peak load situations. This would be a potent and useful combination if its technically feasible.

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  38. nigelj@27,

    I agree. And I should have put a larger quote from the interview into my comment@24.

    What I disagree with was the suggestion that because of aggression being a permanent part of human character, humanity should move to live on other planets and space stations in case the aggression goes so far unchecked that an entire planet/location is wiped out.

    As you mention, the aggression can be effectively managed. My main point is that until humanity effectively limits the winning by unacceptable behaviour it does not deserve to spread onto other locations because the real problem has not been sustainably addressed, it is being spread out with none of the added locations safe from the feared fate.

    Also, a group of humans that allows aggression to dominate is not humanity. It is inhumanity or savagery. And inhumanity or savagery does not deserve to have a future.

    But on further reflection I would add that aggression is not the major problem. The major threat to humanity is the cult of faithful followers of the damaging dogma that 'a better result will be produced if everyone is freer to believe whatever they want to excuse what they want to get away with doing'. The members of such a cult clearly would expect to benefit from such a belief being enforced/promoted in law and culture. The aggressive, selfish, wicked, mean-minded people will undeniably have a competitive advantage in any game, especially ones with winning based simply on popularity or profitability (no rational consideration of distant motives required). Those people will clearly push against Good Reason restrictions on what they can get away with. And they can easily tempt others to side with them about how unfair it is to restrict their ability to get away with something they want to get away with (or make it more expensive and transfer wealth to the ones who do less of the unacceptable activity), especially if that something has been allowed to become more popular and profitable in spite of the Well Reasoned understanding that it is unacceptable.

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  39. Regarding nuclear power generation: Until a way is developed to truly have no "accumulating dangerous waste" nuclear is not a sustainable option.

    Regarding ways to get energy from solar and wind when the sun isn't shining or the wind isn't blowing: There are many ways to store energy, including pumping water back up behind a hydro dam or pulling a train load of waste mass up an inclined track with the train rolling down spinning a generator. So what is needed is adequate capacity for generating the total needed power with many existing ways of suitable storage. Better storage technologies will of course make the systems even better. And having combinations of renewable energy supply on the same grid reduces the need to use the stored energy (occasionally windy when the sun isn't shining, sunny when calm).

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    Moderator Response:

    [PS] A gentle reminder that this forum is not the place for a discussion on the pro and cons of nuclear power beyond the on-topic points about cost. Those wishing to discuss this issue are encouraged to do so at BraveNewClimate.

  40. Rephrasing my previous comment:

    Regarding nuclear power generation costs: If the costs to neutralize or eliminate damaging waste products, not hide them by doing something unsustainable like dumping it in the ocean, are considered then nuclear power is not likely to be a cost-effective option.

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