the Air Vent

Because the world needs another opinion

Mitigation Strategy

Posted by Jeff Id on December 10, 2009

One topic is my least favorite in climate science because it relies on subjective views of the economy.  Some claim to have objective quantified views but often in economics their views are often driven by the view that socialism and government control of economy will provide the necessary result.  In the end, it’s just ideology from people who don’t worry about meeting payroll or selling to a new customer.  There are too many smart people around for my views to dominate this thread tho.

So here’s what I propose for this thread, we assume that AGW is real and dangerous, what would the best strategy be to prevent warming?  What will be the effects of the mitigation on industry, technology growth, and what  effects will it have on government policy?

Also do the methods put forth from Copenhagen have any chance of achieving these goals?

It’s basically – What would you do were it all true?

65 Responses to “Mitigation Strategy”

  1. Jeff Id said

    Here’s my take

  2. Eric Anderson said

    Wow, this is a tough one. That “AGW is real and dangerous” is so hypothetical, it is like asking for serious proposals on what we should do to prepare for an alien invasion. Cognotive dissonance just trying to put one’s mind around it and write something down . . .

    That said, from a high level it seems that the best strategy would be to focus on wealth creation and risk mitigation. Again, even if AGW is true and dangerous, we are talking about many years or decades out. Rather than spending a lot of time and energy on trying to control the climate, and therefore the weather (when people dismiss “weather” they tend to forget that it is almost always specific, localized weather events that cause the catastrophe, not any particular “climate;” thus, in trying to control climate, what they are really proposing is that we should have a climate caracterized by a lack of extrene weather-related events), we should focus on lifting standard of living, and put in place mitigation strategies. As an example, when there is new construction in coastal areas, perhaps put in place certain building restrictions or standards that would be able to withstand a meter or so of sea level rise. I don’t think it would be sensible to demand retrofitting of existing infrastructure, given that much of the infrastructure will need replacing by the time AGW causes any meaningful threat anyway.

    Again, this is all pretty hypothetical. I’ve assumed that AGW is real and dangerous, but is several decades away. If we assume it is real and dangerous and imminent (in the next 5 years), then the best strategy would be disaster relief preparation.

  3. Tom Fuller said

    Hi Jeff,

    I have a somewhat different take, being a liberal Democrat (although I’m a bit ashamed of my fellow Dems these days, it doesn’t change my beliefs):

    1. Replace cap and trade with a revenue neutral carbon tax starting at $12 per ton.
    2. Accelerate gas mileage standard improvements and reward cars that offer better mileage.
    3. Use stimulus funds to improve reach and quality of public transportation.
    4. Use best practice benchmarks to improve industrial and commercial energy efficiency.
    5. Waive most licensing reviews for nuclear power and offer accelerated program for construction and installation.
    6. Direct research spending towards clean energy generation and smart distribution and metering.
    7. Using a structure similar to the Millenium Goals, undertake to bring the whole planet onto the electricity grid, focusing on the 1.2 billion who have no electricity at present. Emphasis should be on immediate hook-up, worrying about cleanliness later.
    8. Subsidise diffusion of clean energy production by paying those who own the technology to spread it.
    9. Weatherise homes and offices.
    10. Have less absorptive surfaces where appropriate on roofs, roads and parking lots.

    Never happen

  4. NormD said

    I set some basic parameters:

    1. We cannot seriously degrade/retard economic growth. Only the rich have the time and distance to worry about long term problems like AGW. Like it or not, people want to be rich (have things, a better life, travel, more opportunities, freedom, etc.)

    2. Be prepared to be inundated with millions of people pushing their pet project/technology/theory using AGW as the excuse they need to proceed. Focus on established technologies where we understand the costs and benefits. This is not a time for experiments. We need thick bullshit filters.

    3. Stop all the nonsensical feel-good projects that have almost no effect but consume huge amounts of resources and mind-share.

    4. Inventory sources of CO2 and come up with a plan the focuses on the top emitters. I suspect things like coal-fired plants will be at the top of the list, but who knows. Mitigate these with proven technology. Perhaps this means replacing coal plants with nuclear plants or gas plants. Rinse. Repeat. Do NOT do stupid things like shutdown a cement plant in the US just to import cement from Mexico where there are no controls.

    5. Perhaps fund this with some kind of tax on carbon, BUT I do not want to be taxed to fund millions of stupid, hare-brained, feel-good schemes that do nothing. I want to focus only on projects that have a substantial effect and are cost effective.

    6. Do not view this as an opportunity to fix all the world’s ills or we will never get past the discussion phase.

    Just one engineer’s view

  5. Gary P said

    Warming is better so I oppose any action.

    If I did want to kill a billion people by slow starvation from cold weather and failed crops, I would have all high altitude flights in the tropics burn a extra ton of sulfur in their fuel to seed more clouds. Doing it in the tropics would minimize the the resulting acid rain (and re-acidify the oceans!)and maximize the reflected sunlight. This may actually be cost free by allowing cheaper high sulfur fuels to be used. There may be some cost in reduced turbine life.

  6. nanny_govt_sucks said

    Plant trees. Don’t need a government program for that.

    Stop direct and indirect government subsidies to the fossil fuel industry. This, of course, means less government, not more. The government money saved on the subsidies can be refunded directly to taxpayers, providing an economic boon.

    Just for starters…

  7. Jeff Id said


    We’re never going to all agree on a thread like this. That’s what makes blogging entertaining IMO.

    As to your point 10, you said where appropriate, I would say that a dark roof is vastly preferred in the north.

  8. Peter B said

    The best strategy to prevent warming would be active cooling geoengineering – injecting particulates into the atmosphere or something like that. Done gradually, with reevaluaton every five years or so to see if it’s working enough, or too much. Also encourating and investing heavily in nuclear power plants. Apart from that, I’m not sure that much should or could be done.

    The methods put forth from Copenhagen have no chance whatsoever of achieving their goals. Those methods, if indeed implemented, will inevitably result in declines of the standard of living of the majority of the population affected. No government accountable to the electorate can survive that – actually, not even many dictatorial governments. Only a dictatorial world government could succeed in achieving those goals, especially as outlined by Gore, Hansen and the like. We’re not there – yet.

    People will accept drastic cuts in their standard of living, and their freedom, if they can be persuaded that there is a real, immediate threat – as in a real war. If temperatures – and sea levels, etc – were indeed rising drastically and visibly, enough people might be panicking so as to accept almost any measure. As it is – no.

    Of course, since the governments pushing for those measures are not only ideological but incredibly ignorant, they will presumably at least try to implement some of those methods – not even realizing their full impact, even politically. That will be enough to cause a lot of (totally unnecessary) damage.

    Since there is absolutely no way that anything will be done to even dent world emissions of carbon dioxide, in a few years it will be clear that (1) the carbon dioxide content in the atmosphere has continued to rise but also that (2) there has been no catastrophic increase in temperatures. So, eventually, this nonsense will fade away, not without unnecessary economic destruction, and probably to be replaced by another nonsense some time later.

  9. stan said

    Even if it were all true, I’d oppose any of the govt actions currently proposed. I would tend to agree with Lomborg that there are a lot more pressing concerns to address first. Also, economic growth is the key. As people get richer, population growth slows and environmental concerns rise. This is the path to take. Allow the world’s poor to grow out of crushing poverty so we will have the resources decades hence if corrective measures are really necessary. By that time, I believe that technological innovation will have made palatable measures possible.

    Nuclear energy doesn’t need to be subsidized. It just needs the govt to back off. Start there.

  10. Phil A said

    If AGW were true…

    …we’d have to get world population down – or at least get population *growth* down. Best way to do that is to improve health and hygeine provision in the third world. In Britain and most of Western Europe as soon as parents were confident that their kids would live, they stopped having families of 10+ kids. My father and mother each had a score of aunts and uncles; I have a single aunt. Fix the health and population growth stops just like that.

    So we need to improve global health. Which means investmentment in the third world of the sort we’re not going to get if money is being sucked out of World growth to go into the pockets of carbon traders…

  11. charlie98 said

    Assuming that AGW (catastrophic) is true the answer is obvious, implementation is another story. Too many people consuming finite resources means we either need a way off this rock and / or we need fewer people on it. And by fewer I mean a lot fewer, something in the order of 1 / 600 of where we are today.


    With finite resources and an expanding population the standard of living will eventually decline as the resources run out. Even with a declining population the answer is you have to reach a level that is essentially self-sustaining. Somewhere above cave-man but well below today.

    Science may hold the answer if we can figure out how to create the elements in the periodic table by harnessing sunlight. All of our economic might has to be directed at solving this problem. Transferring money to undeveloped or developing countries is moving money away from the solution and more towards furthering the problem.

    Actually, Mother Nature will solve the problem for us. The normal state of things appears to be some sort of ice age with relatively short (10,000 years or so) of warming. My vote, do nothing, consume all we want, because in short order we will all be under a mile of ice.

  12. hmmm said

    Population is key. It is incredibly simple on one level (requires no physical innovation). Just can’t pull a Holdren! How to that implement socially though? Incentives?

    I often wish there were less people on the planet (but not for any scary means to make it happen). Mostly to improve my commute🙂

    I’ve got it! We need to expand to outer-space colonies >putting on foil hat<

  13. hmmm said

    Oh yeah, and nuclear power!

  14. Mike said

    This isn’t a specific proposal as much as an approach. I assume that “all true” means I can assume for this exercise that the climate models are reliable.

    (1) Do multiple climate model runs with various global CO2 emissions profiles, and find out exactly how far we’d have to cut emissions to avert thermageddon.

    (2) If we can model them, do multiple model runs of various geoengineering solutions (as Peter B mentioned in #8). Again, see how much we would need to do to avert thermageddon.

    (3) Do a cost-benefit evaluation of the solutions found in (1) and (2). Identify the most cost-effective mitigation strategy. From this estimate the “Optimal Mitigation Strategy Cost” or OMSC.

    (4) Simultaneously with (1)-(3), re-do the IPCC “Impacts” assessment, consciously working to avoid “dumb farmer” assumptions and the like. Estimate more realistic costs of not averting thermageddon. This is the “Business-as-Usual Cost” or BAUC.

    (5) Evaluate adaptive (not mitigative) strategies for reducing the impact of these costs. Through cost-benefit analysis, identify the most effective adaptive strategy. The net cost of this strategy is the Optimal Adaptive Strategy Cost or OASD.

    (6) See which net cost is lowest.
    (a) If the BAUC, do nothing.
    (b) If the OMSC, initiate the optimal mitigation strategy.
    (c) If the OASD, implement the optimal adaptive strategy.

    Personally, I think that if this plan were followed the recommendation would be either an adaptive strategy or (more likely) a geoengineering strategy.

    As an aside, the failure of the IPCC to even consider doing step (1) is why I don’t take the claim that we must reduce CO2 emissions to be anything but power politics. If they really thought emissions reduction was needed to avert thermageddon, they’d obviously want to know how much reduction was needed (reducing emissions by 75% is far worse than doing nothing if you’d actually need to reduce by 90% to save the planet).

  15. Gary said

    Free market forces are most likely to make the appropriate changes in the fasted time. But the emphasis must be on “free.” Other than keeping the players honest by enforcing full-disclosure, preventing collusion, banning disinformation tactics, and disseminating information, government almost always impedes solutions to problems. The effects on industry would be the transformation of what is done, who does it, and how it is done, but overall industry just chugs along because the fundamental need of people and economies is to work for reward and thereby survive.

    Copenhagen and everything behind it is not about solving the problem; it’s about wealth-transfer – so no it won’t solve anything and will make things worse for most people, poor and wealthy alike.

    What to do? Keep your eyes open, head down, options open, and resources available. In other words, plan (as always) to adapt.

    As an aside, I have another question: If over-population is the root cause, then is the AWG-madness just a natural way (like pandemic diseases and major disasters) of correcting the imbalance?

  16. carl said

    in terms of what people often take for granted and perceive as normal, mitigation by man without reducing population by like 80% simply is not going to happen

    No combination of technology or transportation or anything else will deal with the fundamental fact that to reduce emissions to sustainable levels means life as we know it is gone and if you live in the US there is no solution at all no matter what. The US uses up around 25% of the world’s resources and currently about 18-19 million barrels of oil per day for a mere population of 300 million give or take. Plus coal, plus condensates and other hydrocarbons. Almost every system in place in the US requires massive petroleum inputs from farming to construction to just general everyday life, actual meaningful mitigation means that is all gone.

    EIA numbers from 2001 show CO2 output would have to be half what it is now just to break even and assume no growth after that. It isn’t just our energy systems either that are a problem, our banking system is also predicated on non stop never ending growth. The whole game is based on this, every single thing we do. Serious meaningful mitigation means an end to all of this.

    This is what makes man doing something about AGW if it exists basically moot, we have far bigger more serious problems to contend with and for all practical purposes it is highly unlikely man will deal with any of them properly or in time or with the needed cooperation. We are like yeast and we will literally and knowingly outstrip our resources and kill our own environment that we have to live in.

  17. Motorhead said

    If you REALLY believe in AGW and you REALLY want it stopped, then the LEADERS should LEAD and show us the way.
    Hollywood celebrities, politicians, sports stars, pop stars should immediately shed themselves of:

    multiple homes
    multiple boats
    multiple planes
    living in any home over 1000 Sq Ft
    stop having children
    lose their huge support staff (Lady GaGa has 130 people who go with her everywhere, MEchelle Obama has personal assistants numbering near 30)
    Fill in all golf courses with trees
    Turn sports stadiums into public housing
    no limousines allowed ever
    no personal planes or flights on anything other than public airlines
    personal swimming pools not allowed
    tennis courts not allowed – fill in with farm food or trees
    etc. etc.

    Sound crazy? It’s not. Let the people who scream the loudest for the environment step up to the plate.

  18. Motorhead said

    One more thing – no sports racing of any kind. What an enormous waste of fuel for nothing other than profit and pleasure.

  19. RB said

    There are many energy experts who think that we are in an era of peak cheap oil. The implication of this is that developing countries will increasingly turn towards coal and this will necessarily be bad from a pollution point of view, not just CO2. Therefore, I think, whether or not there is popular acceptance of warming, alternative energy sources will become attractive from a cost perspective and global warming concerns will be the tailwind towards alternative energies. Therefore, it makes full sense, in my perspective to invest in these technologies. Given that market forces do not necessarily work well either from a tragedy of commons perspective, or from not pricing oil as a depleting resource, it makes sense to me for government to provide disincentives for carbon-based economies. I think Gregory Mankiw calls it a Pigou tax. I guess I’m conflating two controversial items in this post.

  20. jef said

    If we approach this intelligently (big premise), we can

    Shift some stuff to LNG as feasible

    Drill more offshore

    Allow building of current gen nuke

    Huge R&D budget for Adv Nuke and Fusion (i.e., shut down all green subsidies, research, AGW funding and apply to nuke). Add as necessary.

    Goal, by 2040/50 have robust adv nuke energy deployment in place

    Adapt as necessary

    Post 2050, let Gaia do what she does best

    NB. We are now 110 years from 1900…in 110 years from now, 2120, we should look to be healthier, wealthier and wiser. Driving toward that goal will allow us to remain free

  21. Pat Moffitt said

    I would counter that your question puts too many constraints on the number of possible optimal solutions. I would reframe the question to- what strategies have merit if global warming is real? The question framed allows the addition of mitigation alternatives (infrastructure hardening etc) into the problem solving analysis. The AGW crowd has been successful preventing any discussion of mitigation strategies other than their “solution seeking a problem” approach of stopping further warming. This is an area that needs push back.

  22. Pat Moffitt said

    Further to my comment above- I think we all can agree climate will change globally and locally with or without human interference over time. Severe weather events, droughts etc occur with devastating consequences and they will happen in the future with or without CO2 controls as the result of purely natural induced variables. The great danger of AGW is the marketing of a belief to the public that if we control CO2 we eliminate our climate/weather risk- droughts go away, floods go away, hurricanes go away. This may be one of the most dangerous consequences of AGW. The adequacy of our infrastructure are issues requiring considerable attention but are lost in our headlong rush to control greenhouse emissions.

  23. Jeff Id said

    In my opinion strategies which limit economies i.e. co2 tax, are going to be very counterproductive and incredibly damaging in the short and long run. None of the estimates do a good job of determining the cost effects through the worlds supply chains. Raising prices at all is simply an economic limiter, which in turn limits economic growth, separates poor and wealthy classes and will inevitably worsen the problem as the poorest people will need to use far dirtier fuel sources.

    Also, any tax on CO2 will not be followed by China type countries. They will cheat at every edge for advantage while in UK and the US our lives will be invaded by swarms of government regulation to insure we meet whatever draconian goal is imagined. The statements in the leftist media about how China is already doing it’s part are nothing but propaganda.

    I would open the flood gates on oil, slash government and cut tax and free the nuclear industry. Economies would boom and adaptation would be the result. In the meantime, does anyone here think in the next 50 years we might develop better cleaner technologies? I do. Solar and batteries are that close to breakthroughs that will change everything – as long as we don’t bankrupt ourselves with ignorant Copenhagen cap and trade style rules.

    Anyway, just another view.

  24. Mesa said

    10$/gallon equiv carbon tax phased in over 10 yrs.
    Nuclear power.
    Electric motors.
    Photovoltaics where appropriate.

  25. Peter said

    Does your question also prereq that CO2 is causing the apocalypse?

    If so, my take is; build nuclear power plants so reserving all fossil fuel burning where it is needed the most – on transportation.

    That’s what I think “we” should (and will) do anyhow since there is an end to the fossil fuel.

  26. timetochooseagain said

    Implement a program of focused adaptation:

  27. hmmm said

    Jeff #23-
    There are allot of deployable (and even portable) grid energy storage technologies coming out right now; most are focused merely on frequency regulation since that is where the low hanging fruit $$$ is and also because that requires much smaller storage capacities and has much faster ROI. I think PJM has had both flywheels and new tech Li-Ion batteries interconnected and testing for years now doing frequency regulation (supposedly these systems can already return profits during their service life if you believe their suppliers).

    I think we may well get deployable storage to the point, technically, where they can transform solar and wind into real baseload sources, but then there’s also the question of can we ever get to the point we can storage vs. Nuclear? I hope so but if I had to plan a grand strategy right now I personally would go Nuclear for deployment ASAP.

  28. jnorv said

    We can make a quick 50% reduction in CO2 output by converting to natural gas from coal. All we have to do is start drilling. We supposedly have a 100 year supply. I suspect that China and India also have untapped sources. This gives us a 50 year bubble of time to solve the clean coal or other low CO2 solution without crippling the economy.

  29. hmmm said

    “can we ever get to the point we can >>>afford<<< storage vs. Nuclear?"

  30. A too-rapidly growing population is the basic cause of all the resource depletion and pollution problems the planet faces.

    Invest in birth control programmes throughout the developing world so that their family size drops to the same size at ours.

    Give bribes and incentives like free education to tertiary level and pension nest-eggs to those who forego breeding altogether.

    I’m sure others can think of non-onerous ways to achieve a reduction in births!

    I guess I’m the only woman posting here!

    It seems so obvious to me that birth control has to be the major policy way forward WHETHER OR NOT AGW is real.

  31. crosspatch said

    1. Whereas CO2 emissions from uncontrolled coal seam fires amount to as much CO2 as all automotive traffic on the planet, I would tax countries according the the emissions of their coal fires. This money would be used to go toward development of technologies and purchase of equipment and hiring of manpower to put these fires out. This would produce a meaningful reduction in CO2 generation and preserve an energy source for future generations that is currently being allowed to burn away because it costs more money to put it out than the coal is worth.

    2. A massive nuclear electrification plan in North America with the goal of elimination of all coal powered electric generation and the recycling of nuclear fuel. This would include electrification of railways and the construction of a major long-haul rail grid not unlike the Interstate Highway system. The design goal would be for a 100MPH average coast to coast speed. Would require world class engineering for tunnels and bridges and a rethink of how we do railroads. Rather than having the railroad company own the rails, the rails would be owned in common like the highway system is. Companies could more easily get into the railroad business as they can today get into the trucking business because they don’t have to maintain their own roads. Transportation companies such as an airline could branch out into passenger rail where air hubs become long haul interconnections between regional rail hubs. Imagine if you could go downtown, get on a United train that takes you at 100MPH to a major regional airport where you fly to a different region, get on a regional train and go to your final destination. Rail traffic over this system would be managed by a rail authority not unlike the current management of air traffic. No one company would control the rail system and all would be allowed to use it.

    So, elimination of coal seam fires and elimination of North American coal power plants along with an improved nuclear-electric rail system would go a long way toward a significant reduction of CO2 emissions without a massive change in lifestyle while providing jobs and giving a general boost to the economy.

  32. Pat Moffitt said

    It seems there is a continuing focus on energy replacement rather than hardening our infrastructure. Perhaps this controversy has centered for so long on energy sources and production that pure (non energy production) mitigation strategies can’t be considered. Infrastructure hardening may be justifiable even if we don’t know the climate variability- only that it is variable.(although certainly a design constraint) Infrastructure, exclusive of energy production, would seem to be an essential and fundamental consideration in any analysis.

    New York City will most likely be hit by a major hurricane in the next century- its infrastructure cannot cope. The 1970 Bhola Cyclone killed upwards of a half a million people in Bangladesh and thousand more have been killed in the following years as the result of annual floods. Bangladesh should not be worrying about global warming it should be worrying about cyclones. The undifferentiated slip along California’s major fault line is increasing at ten times the rate (approx 10 feet since the SF quake) of the projected sea rise from AGW- yet AGW has captured California disaster planning resources. Many coastal locations are sinking as the result of isostacy (glacial rebound)- London and the mid Atlantic States as examples. They will experience sea rise with or without AGW. Hardening our infrastructure to known and calculated threats solves real problems and AGW perceived problems.

  33. RB said

    #23, I agree that regulating emissions worldwide is going to be an incredibly difficult problem. Take for example Canada, which agreed to reduce emissions in the Kyoto protocol and has instead increased emissions by 26%. Still, if there might not be floodgates to open on oil in an economical way, if rank and file oil experts are correct . There is also no need to take the avoidance of a Malthusian trap for granted. After all, civilization has spent 58 out of 60 centuries, up to as recent as the 18th century, living at the edge of subsistence .

  34. BlueIce2HotSea said

    I would first support warmth mitigation over CO2 mitigation, possibly high-altitude high albedo aerosols – cheap. But, to address this post directly, florescent and led lighting in homes in northern climes will likely increase CO2 emissions. It certainly will in mine.

  35. crosspatch said

    “I would first support warmth mitigation over CO2 mitigation, possibly high-altitude high albedo aerosols – cheap.”

    The problem with that is in overcompensation. Imagine if everyone in the US painted their roof white, for example. In just urban areas that would represent about 25 million square acres of area more reflective than ice assuming that 40% of the surface area in urban areas is roof space. Would 25 million acres of “ice” be enough to decrease albedo to the point where it triggers further cooling? I don’t want to mess with things and find out.

    The problem with your high-albedo aerosols is that if you add too much, the result could be catastrophic. Create on late or early killing frost in the US midwest and millions of people starve to death.

    Warming is much less dangerous than cooling. Warming is not harmful.

  36. crosspatch said

    How do you tell a farmer in Finland or New Zealand that shortening their growing season is “good” for them?

  37. timetochooseagain said

    Alternative approach: Blow up China.

    Not just restrict their growth-wipe them off the face of the Earth.

    That would about do it.


  38. BlueIce2HotSea said


    Warming is much less dangerous than cooling. Warming is not harmful.

    Of course, by high-altitude I wasn’t thinking of roof-tops. And before I would support warmth mitigation there would have to be prima facie evidence of net harm.

    But, significant warming could actually be disastrous if it caused a huge release of methane ice. That might temporarily cause a suffocation event for us oxygen-breathers. And most of Canada and central U.S. would be flooded, in addition to most of the world’s major population centers.

    Even so, I’d still prefer to take my chances with significant warming over significant cooling, which IMO would be much, much worse.

  39. RB said

    #37, ok, this gets into tinfoil hattery but it wouldn’t be inconceivable: The drought theory provides a comprehensive explanation, because non-environmental and cultural factors (excessive warfare, foreign invasion, peasant revolt, less trade, etc.) can all be explained by the effects of prolonged drought on Classic Maya civilization .

  40. John K said

    I think that I would manufacture a carbon fiber bicycle for everyone on the planet. It would sequester the carbon, provide transportation for those without, reduce the amount of driving (hence fossil fuel usage), encourage us all to get more excercise, reduce the obesity epidemic, and provide something for politicians to spend our money on. Every body wins

    And riding is just plain fun.

  41. rephelan said

    Even if AGW were true, and I’m convinced it’s not, the solution is not reduced consumption but rather more: more nuke plants, more research. Build solar collectos in space and microwave the energy earth side, build the damn space elevator to geocentric orbit. Build colonies on the moon, Venus, Mars, Titan… and send expeditions to our nearest interstellar neighbors. That takes increased energy. Reduced consumption, simpler life styles, “sustainable” economies… nothing but a prescription for disaster. In the 1970’s my generation believed that 2001 was a viable vision, that Star-trek was a possibility. What I see now are efforts to turn the vast majority of us back into peasant farmers, living in harmony with nature, while an elite enjoys the last fruits of industrial civilization.

  42. John K said

    By the way, 40, was tongue in cheek.

    Though, would there be much positive benefit to switching to carbon fiber or other high carbon density/low decay rate materials for manufacturing goods? (assuming the carbon was “captured”).

  43. Leonard Weinstein said

    I think this may have been posted once. I don’t rember. However, it totally solves both the AGW and transportation fuel need problem.

  44. Jeff Id said

    #43 That was a fun post

  45. RB said

    Nobody mentioned the Dyson sphere yet?

  46. IF it turns out to be real, and disaster is imminent? Step one: relocate communities likely to suffer adverse effects. Step 2: invest in nuclear power. Step 3: eliminate waste- no big traveling arena entertainments. No mega rock shows, no superbowl, encourage limitations on travel as much as possible, and create better incentives for energy-efficient vehicles, appliances, housing, etc. Step 4: Disaster prep, worldwide.

  47. John N. said

    As a Biologist, I agree with #5 Gary P with an extension: Warm and wet is better for life. Warming creates more habitat than it destroys. For those advocating population control due to “finite resources,” we do NOT have finite resources or this would have been a dead planet millions of years ago. We benefit from a (relatively) constant energy stream–the sun.

    However, if you insist warming is catastrophic for purposes of this exercise, I recommend the following:

    1) Do nothing, except adapt along the way. Any impact on human or other life will occur on maximally a generational-to-century scale, and adapting will like be walking away from an attack snail.
    2) See #1.

  48. BlueIce2HotSea said

    You guys are all suggesting economically viable, technology based, adaptaion approaches that will maximize the number of people living at the highest possible standard of living.

    So, what’s in it for the politicians? Remember, those guys don’t necessarily believe in the power of invention. But, they do believe in power of force.

  49. RB said

    “Any impact on human or other life will occur on maximally a generational-to-century scale”

    I’m sorry, but with a 6.7B population planet, I don’t agree with this argument. One should, in my opinion, always prefer an insurance policy over a slightly lower income. Indeed Keynes’ response of “In the long run, we are all dead” is apt here.

  50. Pat Moffitt said

    The assumption made by RB is the risk of inaction (not in accordance with the AGW party line) is greater than all risks associated with action. No one has made this case or even tried- unbelievably it seems to be simply assumed. What are the risks associated with economic collapse or other perverse consequences. What is the risk that the “alternative energy” plan might be a no energy result? What are the risks associated with siphoning off huge amounts of the world’s wealth and the reduction of its productive capacity on this risk issue- what other needs for capital go unfulfilled as a result? No one has ever attempted an intentional scale back of a world economy- can it be done? I am not so sure it can be tuned or that a free fall is not equally possible. War is associated with economic collapse with higher correlation than CO2 is to global warming. My experience is the worst environmental damage is associated with poverty. What is the level of risk associated with your scenario of global warming? What is the accuracy of your prediction? How does this compare to other risks? What is the cost for each risk aversion scenario. I personally fear “changing civilization as we know it” far more than global warming- especially the governmental powers necesaary to enforce such a regime. History does not reveal any previous civilization I find as an acceptable model. The complexity of what you propose is far more complex than allowed for in your philosophy RB.

  51. RB said

    Based on the currently estimated costs of transition at $10T over the next 20 years as a fraction of world GDP, I don’t share your views on the risks of this resulting in worldwide poverty. Millions may die in an earthquake, but we cannot try not to mitigate a possibility of such a casualty if it is within our control. Man has always been modifying the natural world around him, in fact, I would think that it has been our strength. We do not have to adopt a passive strategy with respect to natural processes. If there is a reasonable risk of a very large number of casualties in a catastrophe scenario as referred to in the comment I disagreed with, I think we cannot consciously try to avoid this scenario. Its another issue altogether if the science itself is proven to be a hoax or devoid of any truth. I apparently share some of my beliefs on policy with some noted skeptics as well:

    I can’t imagine why anyone would regard me as a “radical”. My politics in American terms would be Clinton-ish, not Bush-y. I certainly don’t think that perfect certainty is a criterion for making decisions. Business people make decisions under uncertainty all the time and cannot wait for perfect certainty. I’m used to this. You try to cut down the uncertainty as much as you can by careful engineering, careful feasibility studies, but, at the end of the day, decisions have to be made and they get made. As I’ve said in the past, if I had a big policy job and had to make a decision, I would be guided by the opinion of the relevant environmental ministries and organizations like IPCC, even if, on some personal level, I mistrusted their advice. I don’t believe that decisions should be delayed until you have perfect certainty in all the “little” things and have never suggested that. Having said that, I would do whatever I could to improve the processes for disclosure, due diligence and verification in climate science, which, from my experience, are abysmal. (That these processes are abysmal doesn’t mean that the results are wrong, merely that they are equivalent of being unaudited. Unaudited financial statements are not necessarily wrong, but there’s why audited financial statements are required for public companies.)

    I have never ventured an opinion on whether it is a big, medium-sized or little problem nor suggested that politicians modify any policy other than the improvement of due diligence and transparency.

  52. stumpy said

    Just move the sun a little further away ;0)

  53. Pat Moffitt said

    RB I came out of the environmental field and I have no trust. Please review the half billion dollar NAPAP report on acid rain -all the hype was overblown. The report’s release was prevented by EPA until after Congress passed relevant emission control legislation- so much for what the science says. The SO2 reductions- in any event- could have been accomplished by swithching to low sulfur western coal. This however was adamantly opposed by the unions representing the high sulfur eastern coal reserves so control mandates were promulgated at much higher costs to all of us. The scientist, Ed Krug, who had the audacity to say that acid waters could have a natural origin had his reputation smeared and his career destroyed by EPA. (search Edward Krug and william Anderson) There are any number of environmental issues that cannot be resolved now because we can’t talk about the role of organic acids or the suppression of fire in soil and water pH. Acid rain pioneered the strategy of using a model as proof and should have confirmed to all of us that models prove nothing. The personal destruction of Ed Krug sent a warning to most scientists reliant on Federal funding of the consequences of failing to adhere to the party line. Be careful about those cost projections and what is and is not in those numbers. Someone must tell me how we reduce our energy output, raise energy costs, compete against countries who will not adhere to any agreement with lower labor costs, pay for new entitlements and pay off our massive debt. The economic system is as complex as climate- is this $10 trillion dollars of direct expenses- does it include lost economic activity- seems pretty important. And pay very close attention to what miniscule changes in temperature are accomplished even using the IPCC models at a cost of 10 trillion dollars- the money has nothing to do with changing the temperature (see Christy’s court testimony on this with respect to auto emissions). Here is another question- the year without a summer caused massive starvation in Europe and New England in 1811? as the result of the SO2 emissions from one or more volcanic eruptions. Can’t we view increased CO2 as an insurance policy of the more dangerous rapid cooling from large volcanic eruptions. Risk must first be believable.

  54. RB said

    Pat, I appreciate your insights and will look into the issues you raised. I somehow do expect that year after year will pass with non-compliance with emission targets, as is the case currently even with the developed nations as I highlighted above, and I hope to be proven wrong. I hope that the U.S. will make the transition first of all, simply so that it doesn’t find itself in a scenario with very high energy prices that will result in a stagnant economy and I think the path and public will for that will come through a series of recession-inducing oil shocks over the next decade or two, given the steep nature of the supply/demand curves for oil. Obviously we need solutions that everybody can adopt and not just the U.S. and in some cases, we might just have the leverage by driving the change. For instance, we could dangle the Security council seat that India covets if it complies with emissions requirements. I don’t have any easy response to many points you make, but with regards to CO2 as an insurance policy – we seem to have some evidence, indeed model-based, that CO2 could be a problem in our lifetime or the next while we do not know if we will have a similar problem with a volcanic eruption in the same timeframe. Therefore, I believe there is a distinction.

  55. Eric Anderson said

    #30 Marchesarosa, sorry but the main natural resource we have is human capital. Very enlightening to study up a bit on Julian Simon’s views vs. Paul Ehrlich. Oh, and BTW, AGW has nothing to do with the issue of depleting resources (assuming there are any).

  56. I thought I made it clear, Eric, that action on population growth was necessary irrespective of AGW precisely because of resource depletion. However, it would also impact enormously on AGW if AGW were a problem.

    There is certainly NOTHING that mankind can do to mitigate emissions that comes anywhere close to the impact of limiting fecundity or foregoing breeding altogether. Every child born is another consumer of precious scarce resources and another emitter of carbon dioxide.

    There are so many of us here already that there would be no effective reduction in the talent pool due to birth control. Think “quality” rather than “quantity”. But that’s just a woman’s view. I know you boys prefer technological fixes even when the bl**ding obvious is staring you in the face.

  57. RB said

    Cap and trade is a done deal. Wall Street already has the machinery in place. Don’t even bother arguing it.

    I can tell you right now that cap and trade is going to win the political battle over a carbon tax, hands down. Don’t waste a nanosecond of your time even thinking about it. Obama doesn’t wants to be tarred with pushing yet another new tax, and Wall Street is gearing up to make a fortune in the new trading vehicle. Europe has already adopted the system, and a Paris based exchange called Bluenext, partnered with NYSE Euronext, trades Certified Emission Reduction credits (CERS’s). Some 4-6 million CER’s trade each day worth $50-$75 million. After peaking last year at €30, CER’s crashed to €7.5 in February and then bounced to €13.14 today. They are traded in 1,000 unit lots, and are backed up with far month futures contracts. Check out their cool website by clicking here. Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs have already set up trading operations in the instrument. The EC government grants CER’s to green companies, which then sell them to big polluters, which must buy them to expand their business. The true costs are passed on to consumers. The system contributed to a 3.8% reduction in CO2 emissions in Europe last year. The current world market for carbon credits is $126 billion, but if the US joins the system, that will jump by $1 trillion. I was involved in the creation of the Japanese equity warrant market in the early eighties, and I can tell you from experience that new, poorly understood markets with spreads wide enough to drive a truck through are a license to print money for the early players. Perhaps there is hope after all for the legions of traders, market makers, brokers and analysts left unemployed by last year’s collapse.

  58. Derek said

    Assuming AGW is real and dangerous, I would avoid things like carbon tax (too easily abused, doesn’t address the root problems, catastrophic to many economies) or spewing sulfur dioxide (AGW seems illusory but acid rain was a real phenomenon). I saw some dimbulb “scientist” on Discovery Channel proposing to paint rocks in Greenland white — great, let’s increase chemicals in the environment to chase this illusory problem like the mandated move from incandescent light bulbs to CFLs (oh yeah, gotta love mercury in the landfills). Malthusians have been predicting gloom and doom based on population growth for over a century — and they’ve been wrong for over a century. What I would do is try to address the root Heat Equation problem: increase Earth’s albedo so much of the solar energy is NOT turned into IR which is what reflects off CO2, etc. There are some pretty simple ways to go about this that won’t be ruinous economically and can be reversed quickly if needed.

    1. Start changing road and paved surfaces from black asphalt to much brighter concrete, packed stone, etc.
    2. Shift roofing shingles and tiles to lighter colored surfaces, increase use of rooftop gardens and pergolas, etc. The sod roofs in Scandanavia are actually pretty good for this as they convert the most energetic portion of the solar spectra into useful “growing energy” which also by the way aids in converting CO2 into O2.
    3. Reduce resource-wasting social gatherings — start off with the Copenhagen-style “environmentalist” commune which used 100+ private planes (I seem to recall some US company executives for being excoriated for using their private jets to save travel time), > 1000 private limousines, etc. The Obama Inaugural Balls were another example. Environmentalists and climate change proponents should lead by example.
    4. Worst case, launch a combination solar research/Fresnel lens/mirror satellite into L1 which will both give us greater data on solar physics and refract/reflect a portion of that solar energy away from the Earth, thereby lowering the input solar energy closer to the source. Said mirror/lens can be repositioned or reoriented to deflect more or less of that energy as needed. Even if the satellite costs $10B to make and launch it’ll be a far more cost-effective measure than cap-and-trade or carbon taxes — and will employ people rather than get them fired.

    Last one in line with Swift’s Modest Proposal, we could decimate the Earth’s population to reduce the toll on Earth’s biosphere. I propose starting with all but 1 of Al Gore’s offspring (so he can lead the negative population growth trend by example), the entire membership of the American Trial Lawyers Association, Dr. Paul Ehrlich, Phil Jones, Michael Mann and the other blowhards that raise Earth’s Heat Index with the volumes of hot air they spew … 😉

    If you don’t like that proposal, another tongue-in-cheek would be to rid the world of nuclear arms by having Russia, the US and China each dispose of their remaining weaponry by dropping them on Iran thereby creating Sagan’s Nuclear Winter, providing verifiable disposition of those dangerous nukes and getting rid of Ahmadinejad in one swift swoop. Of course there’s the little “minor” aspect of killing millions of innocent people and/or polluting their country for eons but Greens don’t seem to be worried about the millions who will be poisoned by CFL mercury or thrown out of work …

  59. I would start by directly contradicting the traditional green values. That means no significant restrictions on population or quality of life. I would also hedge against a proportion of the change being natural, so plan for adaption as well as mitigation.
    * Nuclear power – I think this is viable, short term, and waste issues will likely be solved by the time it comes to decommission. Regardless, it is a far easier problem to solve than the threatened impacts of AGW.
    * Solar power where practical – including the desert wastelands which the greens want to keep in stasis till they flood.
    * Improved intelligent use of energy, fuel/cost efficiency being the goal not CO2 footprint. Heat pumps, grid managed consumption, on demand heat/light provision.
    * Investment in fusion power, geoengineering research (as a fall-back plan), innovative personal transport.
    * Find a suitable location for all the people to live off-grid who want to – and sell one-way tickets.

    This sounds pretty much like the same solutions we were thinking about 30 years ago, to a different set of imaginary problems.

  60. Al said

    Pump sea water from off the Antarctic coast onto the landmass, and let the quite amazing heat dumping properties of an area well below zero that has near-zero sunshine for half the year take over.

    If you picture an elevated flat steel plate that you spray with water from underneath, the water will freeze to the point that it is just too heavy to hang on – and then it will fall. Allowing new water to be sprayed.

    1) Not going to thaw until global temperature go up a hell of a lot more than 2C.
    2) The rest of us get to enjoy warmth without the (over) predicted flooding.

  61. BlueIce2HotSea said

    #60, I love the brainstorming, but not the math. Using a ballpark area for Antarctica of 2.5% of ocean area shows that getting rid of a 1-inch of sea-rise means pumping more than three feet of water onto the 5 million sq. mi. continent.

  62. BlueIce2HotSea said

    Forgot to mention, the average elevation is 7500′ above sea level.

  63. BlueIce2HotSea said

    #60, Now your pumping idea has got me day-dreaming, too. How about pumping fresh water into the great extreme deserts. Water could come from nuclear-powered de-salinization plants for Africa (they have extra uranium) or ice-bergs towed to Saudia Arabia (unused oil).

    The Sahara still has crocodiles living there from 4000 years ago when it was somewhat semi-tropical. This would more be of a restoration project than a transformation.

    I admit we are talking about some pretty big ‘lakes’. Well?

  64. BlueIce2HotSea said

    Looks like Death Valley could take the whole 1-inch and the U.S. has done it’s part!

  65. BlueIce2HotSea said

    #64, Oops. Not even close. Sorry.

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