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Climate Hustle

Dangerous global warming will happen sooner than thought – study

Posted on 25 March 2016 by Guest Author

The world is on track to reach dangerous levels of global warming much sooner than expected, according to new Australian research that highlights the alarming implications of rising energy demand.

That forecast, based on new modelling using long-term average projections on economic growth, population growth and energy use per person, points to a 2C rise by 2030.

The UN conference on climate change in Paris last year agreed to a 1.5C rise as the preferred limit to protect vulnerable island states, and a 2C rise as the absolute limit.

The new modelling is the brainchild of Ben Hankamer from UQ’s institute for molecular bioscience and Liam Wagner from Griffith University’s department of accounting, finance and economics, whose work was published in the journal Plos One on Thursday.

It is the first model to include energy use per person – which has more than doubled since 1950 – alongside economic and population growth as a way of predicting carbon emissions and corresponding temperature increases.

The researchers said the earlier than expected advance of global warming revealed by their modelling added a newfound urgency to the switch from fossil fuels to renewables.

Hankamer said: “The more the economy grows, the more energy you use ... the conclusion really is that economists and environmentalists are on the same side and have both come to the same conclusion: we’ve got to act now and we don’t have much time.”

Wagner said the model suggested the surge in energy consumption was not offset by improvements in energy efficiency.

He said energy use per person was on track to rise sixfold by 2050, which had dire implications for temperatures when combined with economic growth of 3.9% a year (the six-decade average) and a world population of 9 billion.

“Massive increases in energy consumption would be necessary to alleviate poverty for the nearly 50% of the world’s population who live on less than $2.50 a day,” Wagner said.

“We have a choice: leave people in poverty and speed towards dangerous global warming through the increased use of fossil fuels, or transition rapidly to renewables.”

Hankamer said: “When you think about statements like ‘coal is good for humanity’ because we’re pulling people out of poverty, it’s just not true”.

“You would have to burn so much coal in order to get the energy to provide people with a living to get them off $2.50 a day that [temperature rises] would just go through the roof very quickly.”

The researchers suggested switching $500bn in subsidies for fossil fuels worldwide to renewables as a “cost neutral” way to fast-track the energy transition.

Wagner said pulling the rug from out under the fossil fuels industry was a move of “creative destruction” and “more a political issue rather than an economic issue”.

“If we swapped those subsidies globally, of course we could have rapid improvement and deployment of renewables to cover our shift from fossil fuels,” he said.

“You’re pushing a huge amount of capital into a different sector that requires an enormous amount of growth, so you would actually see a great deal more growth from putting it into renewables than providing it for fossil fuels.”

Hankamer said the fact that about 80% of the world’s energy was for fuel, and only 20% for electricity, meant “we don’t have any easy solutions”.

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Comments 1 to 50 out of 67:

  1. I think this link is related to the topic here.  The rate of CO2 release being the highest the Earth has seen in at least 60 million years.

    www.accuweather.com/en/weather-blogs/climatechange/current-rate-of-carbon-release/56253759

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  2. We must implement a global carbon tax at once.  Even a Cato conservative agrees (http://goo.gl/IihYbg).  Anything else is like bailing out a ship with teaspoons.

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  3. Ronsch @2, while a global carbon tax would be very desirable, it would be difficult to impliment economically, and even more so politically at the moment.  If we are to make progress on climate change, we must not make the perfect the enemy of the good.  That is, we should take all practical steps we can take now, rather than holding out for the ideal solution, but realize that those steps are not a fully adequate solution - and so press for more.

    We ought also to realize that the 2 C target bandied about is not a hard line.  If we fail to achieve it, but keep warming under 2.5 C, we will still greatly reduce the harm done by global warming.  Alternatively, if we in fact keep the Global Mean Surface Temperature (GMST) under 2 C, that will not prevent all harm.  For instance, the Great Barrier Reef is currently undergoing a major bleaching event (as it did in 1998).  This is despite temperatures only having risen to 1 C above the preindustrial (annual average), or 1.6 C on a monthly basis (for February 2016).  That strongly suggest 2 C GMST will be associated with major bleaching events in more than 50% of years, which would effectively mean the destruction of the Great Barrier Reef as a system of reefs.  Other major harms, in some case greater harms, will also occur by 2 C.

    That does not mean politics, especially international politics, is no longer "the art of the possible"; but it does mean we cannot allow that mantra to cloak turning politics into merely the art of the convenient.

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  4. I agree with Tom Curtis that we could spend forever debating perfect, globalised solutions. This is like negotiating global free trade agreements, which is very difficult. I think its better to concentrate on practicalities on what can be done to reduce emissions, and countries should do what they think best.

    However first here a few comments on the "idealised solutions."

    A carbon tax does have certain merits as it relies on pretty clear price signals and the tax collected can be used to subsidise lower income people hurt by the tax, or to subsidise electric cars. However the price signal is slow to produce actual results. However a carbon tax is certainly one of the better options.

    Carbon emissions trading schemes are so complex, convoluted, full of loopholes, and subject to very questionable carbon credits that they don't seem workable to me. None have produced good results that I'm aware of. And they take time to see if they are working and the world doesnt have that time.

    I think it makes more sense to simply regulate power companies and oil companies directly and for governments to subsidise electric cars. This covers the big emitters and biggest solutions.

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  5. Hysteresis is the word: what will happen in 40 years, for example, according to Hansen and others?

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  6. bozza @5, perhaps, but what Hansen and other say, at least in their new paper, should be taken with a large grain of salt.

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  7. Tom Curtis & nijelj: in my view (fwiw) the most vital and urgent emissions reducing measure is to ditch the free trade agreements & negotiations (e.g. TTIP/TPP). And there's approximately a snowball in hell's chance of that happening.  

    As this article makes clear, there's no time left for tinkering; either we radically transform our political and economic systems in the very near future, or it could be game over. 

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  8. paulswann @7, I am personally very distrustful of proposed solutions to AGW that require us to "radically transform our political and economic systems".  That is not because I am averse to a radical transformation of our political systems (to make them more democratic, while improving education and news media to support that transition), or radically transforming our economic systems (to make them fairer and more sustainable).  But what I am averse to is tying those transformations to the solution to AGW.  IMO that needlessly raises the political bar to action to, in effect, unacheivable levels.

    As it happens, very little actually needs to be done to tackle global warming.  That is despite the requirement to eliminate net anthropogenic emissions within 50 years.  That is because a large part of the transition will be driven by pure economics as (particularly) wind and solar, and energy storage technologies improve.  What is desperately needed now is a clear and persistent price or regulatory framework to drive the transition more rapidly; and to focus the research on improving carbon free energy rather than more innovative ways of extracting and using fossil fuels.  That in turn needs either bipartisan support (in the US and Westminster system countries) or the equivalent in political systems that allow more diverse representation so that reforms under one government are not swept away when the opposition get into office.

    What is needed, and to a large extent, all that is needed, is a global, per capita, tradable, international limits on emissions properly policed; but as I will not make the perfect the enemy of the good, globally implemented carbon taxes, or even accelerated implimentation of Paris style multinational agreements will also do the trick.  Just not as efficiently.  And if we can transform our politics and economics in the right directions at the same time, all well and good.  But that is not a precondition on tackling climate change, and making it so merely delays effective action on climate change.

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  9. I tend to agree with Tom. While I think our social and economic systems are terminal in their current form, that failure/need for transformation is decades away.

    In the short term, using methods within our current system are the better way to achieve a lot wrt AGW on the short term and in the process prepare the ground for bigger changes. Real Energy Efficiency improvements, complete electriciity from renewables/nuclear and renewable based transport would go along way to breaking the back of the AGW problem.

    The current propaganda is trying to paint that as disastrous when actually it is a huge economic opportunity, a net positive, and achievable in the time frame needed if we drive hard at it.

    It isn't our economies that are under threat from this, it is the neo-con far right perspective of our economies that is threatened. Keynesian Economics could accommodate this easily.

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  10. Tom Curtis, Glenn Tamblyn,

    I agreed with Tom strongly enough that I registered a login solely to write this / voice my agreement.  You'd call me a contrarian at best, and I've got no intention of engaging over here / hanging around, but seeing this rare case where I agreed with what Tom was saying I thought it was worth the trouble to say so.

    Thanks.

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  11. Tom and Glenn,

    I would like to agree with your faith in the likely results if the current socioeconomic political systems governed by 'popularity and profitability' are allowed to continue unchallenged/unchanged.

    However, I would need to see a comprehensive presentation of evidence that subtantively refutes the already developed and established evidence that shows that the current system can be expected to succeed to a very damaging extent in fighting against achieving what is needed to be achieved (fairly obvious when you investigate and think about what is actually going on.

    I understand that you hope that the inherent greedy temptations partnering with the intolerant for support can somehow be kept from wanting to fight against the changes required to address the unacceptability of already fiortunate people continue to get more rewards from the burning of fossil fuels. But I consider such hopes to be unjustified. There is plenty of evidence that there are many wealthy and powerful people who are 'personally not interested in supporting the required changes of what is going on'. Hoping for them to simply give up their attempts to prolong their underserved wealth and power is unsubstantiated wishful thinking. They clearly continue to succeed in trying to prolong their undeserved influence to get away with actions that impede the advancement of humanity, including their successful efforts to drum up divisive in-fighting in a society by trying to make people more passionate in their greed and intolerance, rather than trying to make people more passionate about collectively advancing humanity.

    There is a substantial amount of evidence in many fields of evaluation of the sustainability of developed 'popular' political and economic activity (in far more issues than global warming), indicating that the current socio-economic political systems of 'pursuit of popularity, profitability, and personal reward any way that can be gotten away with' are a damaging unsustainable system that impedes the advancement of humanity (while it promotes self-interested pursuits of personal desires that are contrary to the development of a lasting better future for all).

    Unsustainable impressions can be created and be very popular for a long time, creating more damage the longer they can be prolonged. Faith in the current systems governed by the belief that pursuits of self-interest will advance humanity are clearly misguided. That unjustified faith results in promotion, prolonging and defense of attitudes and actions that can clearly be understood to be contrary to the advancement of humanity to a lasting better future for all.

    The only viable future for humanity is a future where humans are not fighting over limited opportunities for personal reward, a future where all human activity is sustainable parts of the robust diversity of life on this or any other amazing planet.

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  12. OPOF @11, first, I am not advocating not pursuing other sustainability issues.  In fact, I think it is almost as urgent as tackling climate change, possibly more urgent, that we tackle global over fishing.  However, coupling the two issues such that we insist on systemic change to deal with both rather than piecemeal change to deal with each individually will only raise the bar so that we end up dealing with neither.  In contrast, a piecemeal approach has a substantial possibility of dealing with both simultaneiously.

    Second, that piecemeal approaches without systemic change are able to substantially tackle environmental issues is a matter of fact, established by the success of such programs as the Montreal Convention of CFCs, and the wind back of the use of DDT.  Given that, the case that we need to completely alter our economic model to tackle climate change is theoretical at best, and flies in the face of past evidence.  Further, it is advise that can point to no precedent to justify adopting it.  What we do know, however, is that resistance to fundamental changes to our economic system are far greater to resistance to tackling climate change.  Indeed, most resistance to tackling climate change stems from a false belief that it requires changing fundamentally our economic system.  Leaving that aside, however, that resistance to fundamental changes to our economic system is greater than resistance to tackling climate change means tying the two together politically makes the later much harder, and hence much less likely to happen on an urgent basis.

    Third, as it happens, net anthropogenic emissions (excluding LUC emissions) have plateaued over the last three years:

    That is probably primarilly due to the significant economic downturn in China, despite world GDP growing strongly.  Despite that, because of China's strong commitment to decarbonization, it is likely that an upturn in China will draw its energy primarilly from renewable resources.  And as is reported in the article above, it is at least partly due to a very strong growth in renewable energy production.

    In any event, that plateau currently means we are tracking on the RCP 2.6 scenario.  Indeed, better than RCP 2.6 in that RCP 2.6 has CO2 emissions continuing to rise until 2020.

    Of course, what is required is not just a plateauing of CO2 emissions, but a steady decline at approximately 2% per annum.  For that, however, we need renewables to not just supply new energy requirements (as is almost the case currently), but that it also replace older generation as it goes offline.  International policy settings are not at a stage where that is yet likely, but they are not far off.

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  13. Tom,

    Faith in a system governed by 'temporary regional or tribal popularity and profitability among a current generation of humanity' effectively limiting the challenges it creates is not justified. The popularity of 'a better personal life in a person's lifetime' is a very powerful tool for people who would choose to abuse misleading marketing to prolong their ability to get away with actions they can understand are unacceptable.

    Your final point “International policy settings are not at a stage where that is yet likely, but they are not far off.” is unjustified wishful thinking. In the late 1980s the global community was also very close to acting responsibly to limit the challenges created for less fortunate people and for future generations ... but we all know how the last 30 years have gone ... bigger problems created with more wealthy and powerful troublemakers developed (not all wealthy powerful people are undeserving trouble makers, but many of them clearly are).

    The challenge today did not need to be as big as it is. All that was required was for the undeserving more fortunate, wealthier and more powerful people on the planet, people who gambled on getting away with less acceptable ways of living and profiting, to admit they deserved to lose their bets, to admit they did not deserve their perceptions of prosperity.

    The 'system of competition for maximum reward in an individual's lifetime is the real problem, creating mainly problems and few real sustainable solutions (if it creates any that can win in the popularity and profitability game made up by those who gamble on getting away with less acceptable ways of doing things it is almost completely by accident)'. The system has a clear track record of developing and prolonging activity that is understood to cause troubles that are faced by 'others', particularly those in future generations.

    I have previously shared this quote from “Our Common Future”, a UN Commission Report published in 1987, but it can never be repeated often enough.
    “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.”

    The only way the required International Policy Settings will happen is the demise of the system that is driven madly by temporary regional and tribal popularity and competition to maximize personal reward. Unlike action for Ozone reduction (something that was actually less effective than it needed to be), there is a massive amount of personal desire in powerful pockets around the planet that can be mobilized to prolong the ability for undeserving people to 'enjoy creating a bigger problem by getting away with things they do not deserve to be able to get away with'.

    The belief that individuals being free to do as they please in pursuit of a better present for themselves will advance humanity to a better future, or even allow humanity to have a future, deserves to be shattered. And it will be shattered if the required effectively enforced International Policies can be imposed on all nations, including the nations that elect leaders who would be regionally popular because they refuse to behave responsibly.

    Essentially, the International Community would have to be able to 'remove from power' any elected representatives in a nation like the USA (or leaders of businesses) who would claim that already fortunate people should still be allowed to benefit as much as they can from actvity that produces CO2 from the burning of fossil fuels (or be able to convince a bunch of voters who are easily tempted to be greedy or intolerant to change their minds and choose not to try to get away with getting what they want even though they probably could collectively get away with it, for a little while, perhaps long enough that they enjoy the undeserved benefits in 'their lifetime'.).

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  14. Tom@12, I read about the IEA release in the online version of the Economist and as much as I’d welcome some good news I’m not sure I agree. As the article stated, “the IEA is relying on data that many economists question.” Meantime actual measurements show a different story.

    From the Scripps Institute, Keeling Curve page, “The annual growth of atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) during 2015, above three parts per million (ppm) per year, was the largest ever recorded at the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii, said climate researchers Wednesday. Independent observations by NOAA’s Earth System Research Laboratory and by Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego show that not only did 2015 have the largest increase, but also that the annual increase was larger than two ppm for each of the last four years, another first.”

    Maybe you know how the IEA estimate is put together or whether other factors, such as decreasing natural sinks, might affect the CO2 measurements? I’d listen to reasonable arguments but, for now, I’m skeptical.

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  15. dklyer @14, The Economist's article on the IEA announcement states:

    "The IEA’s provisional findings will fan a debate about whether global emissions have peaked. China, after all, is trying to rebalance its economy away from heavily polluting industries towards services. But analysts say two years is too short a period to be considered a lasting trend. What is more, the IEA is relying on data that many economists question. If China’s official growth figures are exaggerated, then it would not be becoming less carbon intensive as fast as it seems."

    It is evident from context that what is doubted is the growth rate in China, not the net emissions.  Ergo your skepticism about the result is not warranted.

    For what it is worth, a seperate research group was predicting in December of 2015 that CO2 emissions would in fact decline slightly on 2014 levels, as also reported in The Economist.  So, if anything the IEA's report on emissions is conservative relative to the appropriate experts.  I would not read too much into that both because the Global Carbon Project team were partly projecting, and because the IEA by its nature has the best data available on actual emissions from fossil fuels.

    With regard to the CO2 concentration, in the very short term, CO2 levels are largely driven by temperature.  A very large increase in Global Mean Surface Temperature (GMST) as occured between 2014 and 2015 will result in a large rise CO2 concentration, while a large fall in GMST will result in a small rise in CO2 concentrations (indeed a fall if there is not net emissions).  The flat CO2 emissions means, absent variations in GMST, we would have expected a 2 ppmv rise in CO2 concentration in each of 2013, 2014 and 2015.  The very sharp rise in temperature between 2014 and 2015 results in a significantly higher rise in CO2 concentration.  With flat emissions, the rise in 2016 will be slightly higher again if 2016 is hotter (as seems likely).  However, later cooler years will have a much smaller rise in CO2 concentration, even with flat emissions.

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  16. OPOF @13:

    "Essentially, the International Community would have to be able to 'remove from power' any elected representatives in a nation like the USA (or leaders of businesses) who would claim that already fortunate people should still be allowed to benefit as much as they can from actvity that produces CO2 from the burning of fossil fuels (or be able to convince a bunch of voters who are easily tempted to be greedy or intolerant to change their minds and choose not to try to get away with getting what they want even though they probably could collectively get away with it, for a little while, perhaps long enough that they enjoy the undeserved benefits in 'their lifetime'.)."

    It is this, totalitarian instinct that means I will never agree with you on this issue.  I would rather the world perish striving for greater democracy than that it retreat to totalitarianism to preserve a mere, grubbing survival.  Fortunately, however, that is a choice we need not make.

    That is leaving aside that as a matter of practical politics, no external power would be able to removed the government of the US (or China, or Russia) without bringing us to nuclear war.

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  17. Tom,

    I most passionately disagree with your attitude that you would rather see humanity perish than have callous unscrupulous misleading people have their freedom of actions effectively limited. Anarchy and Chaos are not my vision of a better future. That would mean accepting the past 30 years of successful denial of climate science and 'defending it into the future and admiring any continued success the denial industry can develop'.

    The point you object to is the measures that "International Policy" required to address this issue will require in the current socio-economic-political system of 'individual pursuit of personal interest governing what goes on through regional temporary developed impressions of popularity and profitability'.

    It is rather curious that you would claim faith in it being developed then declare opposition to it.

    It has not developed through the past 30 years because of the successes of wealth, power and misleading marketing in the fatally flawed system that clearly fails to be interested in advancing humanity.

    I want a future for humanity. That requires systems that will effectively limit the damaging consequences of those among humanity who choose to only care about maximizing their enjoyment of their life any way they can get away with. Defending such people and labelling powers that would limit their ability to do damage "totalitarian" is rather inappropriate.

    I defend everyone's right to say what they want. However, I do not defend their right to get away with making stuff up that they prefer to believe or the resulting promotion of activity that impedes the advancement of all of humanity to a lasting better future.

    And I would support measures that effectively remove such people from positions of power and influence (and remove undeserved wealth from them), no matter how regionally popular they are able to become (temporarily) or any how sneaky they were about getting away with something unacceptable.

    That is nothing more than having rules and enforcement in socio-economic-political systems to ensure the games are won by deserving people, just as every sport ever developed had to develop ways to keep cheaters from 'winning through unacceptable actions', and just as every city has by-laws and every nation has criminal laws.

    Humanity needs global 'laws and enforcement' that would be imposed contrary to temporary popular and profitable nation interests. And it is becoming clearer that that will require being able to remove people from power who can be shown to have knowingly tried to impede the advancement of global humanity. If the US would impeach the likes of Ted Cruz or any other harmful misleaders that get away with being elected (and they have not done so yet so they appear unlikely to) there would be no need for 'totalitarian (your application of the term not mine)' international intervention (that you refer to as International Policy, which is just empty words if it isn't enforceable).

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  18. OPOF, @17, has grotesquely and serially misrepresented my claims.  Most grotesquely, he purports my defence of incremental changes under the current international system with current national forms of government as being sufficient to tackle global warming somehow commits me to un elected international organizations taking over control of recalcitrant governments.  Nor does he seem to recognize that that commits him to a totalitarian system.  Consequently I no longer consider him a protagonist for rational discuscion.

    For those who might by in the slightest persuaded by OPOF, may a recommend that he detail his timetable.  How long to establish the international orgianizations with the power to overtake sovereign governments.  How long to provide income to arm the forces of that organization.  How long to recruit, equip and train its armed forces.  How long to take over the operation of recalcitrant sovereign governments.  How long, in fact, before we can take step one to actually tackling AGW.

    If he thinks that is not what it will take, he is welcome to specify the measures required to develop international cooperation sufficient to field a force capable of taking on the US armed forces with a reasonable prospect of success (which would require, at a minimum, the full cooperations of the EU, Russia and China, and result in a pyrrhic victory at best).  He can also specify how discussion of these options will not reinforce the opposition to action on AGW in the US, which is significantly fueled by conspiracy theories of just such courses of action.

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  19. Tom Curtis.

    You write some good posts on other topics. However on this one I'm trying to get some understanding of what you are saying, because its far from clear, in any respect.

    For the record I'm an economic and political moderate who would rather modify capitalism than try some completely new system. However Naomi Klein does make some good criticisms of how capitalism is making reducing emissions difficult. I assume you are aware of her views, so I would appreciate your brief comments, so I cant get a handle on what you really believe.

    It is also not clear what emissions reduction strategy your are promoting. I seem to recall you saying trading in carbon credits? But these emissions trading schemes are working too well.

    However perhaps you see these schemes as likely to be the most palatable to the public and business community?

    In my view the best scheme in functional terms would seem to be carbon taxes, although this might be politically harder to sell?

    I think we also need direct government regulation of what energy mixes power companies follow.

    However I would like to know exactly what you are promoting.

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  20. nigelj @19, FWIW, although I disagree on specific policy positions based on my own analysis, my political sentiment is broadly the same as that found in the Green Left Weekly that my cousin helped found.  More specifically, I am what I call a democratic, market socialist.  

    Democratic because it is the only political system compatible the moral principle that you should always only act as though people were ends in themselves, and never merely means to an end, which I consider fundamental to ethics.   On that basis I consider the US very imperfectly democratic, primarilly due to the undue influence from campaign funding, but also due to some peculiarities of the constitution.  On the same basis I would strongly support reforming the General Assembly so that each nation had a number of its seats proportional to the population to which it gives the vote (such that, for example, if they deny votes to women, they halve their number of seats), and were the representatives are directly elected, along with other democratizing reforms for the Security Council.

    Socialist because I believe radical title to all property rests with the people, and more formally with the government acting on the peoples behalf; and that the rights accruing from that radical title (including the right to regulate and tax) should be excercized on behalf of the people generally rather than on behalf of special interest groups.

    Market because I accept that to the most part, a free market is the most efficient distributor of goods where 'free market' is implicitly defined by the fundamental argument to that effect, and therefore requires:


    1. No coercion, including no coercion resulting from the pressure to make trade on disadvantaged terms due to declining economic circumstances;

    2. Perfect knowledge of the outcomes;

    3. Perfect competition, in the sense that anybody making a trade has at the time of the trade an infinite number of alternate trades with marginally different properties in respect to all aspects of the trade; and

    4. No negative externalities.


    The argument presented by capitalists that markets are the most efficient form of distribution of goods (where efficiency is defined as Pareto Optimality) assumes these conditions, and therefore they are the implicit requirements that a market be 'free' as assumed in their arguments.  It is blindingly obvious that unregulated markets are not always, indeed are not typically free in this sense.  IMO, the principle economic role of governments is to regulate with a light touch to ensure that markets are as 'free' as possible (using my special definition of 'free').  Further, it is evident that 'pareto optimality' is not the same as a maximum utility outcome, and hence not the desired policy outcome for any government working 'for the people'.  Specifically, income disparities decrease the utility function of a market outcome; so governments should also work to decrease income disparities, and to increase individual control of economic activity.

    On top of all the above, I am a conservative in the original sense that I believe that change should be implimented gradually, except where it must be made with the utmost urgency.  That is because the more rapid the change, the more harmful side effects, and also the greater probability the outcome will not be the intended outcome.

    I have, until now, avoided stating my political views on public forums lest they distract from the discussion of climate science.  However, I state them here so that you can see that I am not against radical change to the international order, to national systems of governance, or to the economic order.  On the contrary, I am strongly in favour of just those - and it is highly probable the OPOF would agree with many of my proposed changes if I detailed them.  What I am very strongly against is making any of my (or anybody elses) proposals for such changes a precondition on tackling climate change.  We do not have sufficient time for that luxury.  Regardless of whether current systems of governance or economics in the US or elsewhere are favourable for tackling climate change, we are saddled with those systems now, and our strategy to respond to climate change must be based on the fact that those current conditions are the conditions in which we must proceed.

    If we do not accept that, we shackle ourselves with an initial step in tackling climate change of 'setting up the right conditions' to tackle climate change.  That in turn requires implimenting reforms that will be even more resisted than a carbon tax; and which currently have no political momentum (in the US and Australia at least).  In other words, it is a recipe for failure.  Even if we take the initial steps against AGW we can take while preparing the ground for later more radical changes, we have greatly increased the difficulty of our political task while giving climate change deniers rhetorical ammunition for their conspiracy theories.  

    In essence, if OPOF or Naomi Klein are right, then it is already too late to tackle climate change and we are committed to >2 C world.  The first thing to realize is that, if that is the case, we still need to do our best to reduce emissions - and our most rapid way to do that in the short and medium term is through the current systems of governance, and the current economy by implementing a carbon tax/ emissions trading scheme plus some regulation and funding of renewable energy research.  The reason we need to do that is that though 2 C is already bad, 2.5 C is still much better than 3 C, which is much better than 3.5 C.  Every gigatonne of reduced emissions is a win for future generations.

    Second, as it happens there are good reasons to think Naomi Klein and (especially) OPOF are not right.  First, as I understand it, there view that the US and other first world nations need to reduce emissions at greater than 4% per annum (and hence faster than is compatible with economic growth) is premised on assumption that first world nations should make a greater effort to tackle climate change (which they largely have caused) than third world nations (who will be disproportionately the victims).  While I agree with that, that is a political view not shared widely in the West, and is not the basis of current plans to tackle global warming.  It is not a necessity for tackling climate change, but only a necessity for tackling climate change fairly.  And while tackling climate change unfairly is very undesirable, it is not a undesirable as starting world war 3, as would be necessary to force the US government to abandon capitalism against its own will, and the will of its people as OPOF proposes.

    Further, the physical reduction of emissions in the US or other western nations faster than 4% per annum is only actually required if we prevent emissions trading between first world and third world nations.  In a fair world, any nations with current per capita emissions less than India would not currently be required to reduce emissions.  Indeed, would be allowed to expand them initially for several years.  That expanded emissions allowance could be traded to first world nations with the money funding renewable energy based economic expansion.  That in turn allows the first world nations to meet their targets with ongoing physical reductions in the order of 2% per annum, ie, at levels that are consistent with continuing economic growth. 

    In short, OPOF and Naomi Klein's approach is only necessitated by treating 2 C as a hard barrier, which it is not, by an optional (if ethical) decision about reduction targets, and a further decision about administrative methods that is also optional, and not based on ethical considerations.

    I hope this explains things better.

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  21. Tom,
    I apologize if my persistent attempts to clarify your position (and mine) appear to be misrepresentation of your position. Let me try again.

    International Policy is only words if effective means of enforcement do not exist (that would be effective methods of dismissing sovereignty when required, something you called totalitarian which was a rather gross misrepresentation of my position, but I did not choose to claim it was).

    What Paris produced is better than without Paris, but it is still only words that can be chosen to be ignored by the current or future leadership of sovereign nations. And the US is already falling behind on the Paris pledge because the Supreme Court made an unprecedented move that barred the lower courts from proceeding with implementing enforcement of existing rules that would reduce coal burning until an appeal to the Supreme Court is heard (and the people currently hiding behind the Republican Party brand are demanding that the replacement for Justice Scalia, one of the voters in favour of the 5-to-4 split decision that implemented that unprecedented action, only be proposed after the next election, because they hope they can win the Presidency and get their preferred deciding vote into the Supreme Court, or at least benefit a little longer by delaying the advancement of humanity).

    And the apparent stranglehold on the House (the body that ultimately controls the money in the US Government), by a group of people Obama mistakenly believed could be negotiated with bodes poorly for any of the words of Paris to meaningfully change things. That group has deliberately underfunded, or made as ineffective as they could, any enforcement of the current rules of the game in America. It is very likely that a continuation of obstruction by that group like the past 30 years is to be expected (and it is not just that group in the US but also the likes of them behind similar Parties in places like England, Australia and Canada who claim to be Conservative. I know the Conservative Party lost the last Canadian election, but they are not guaranteed to lose the next one, just as the Democrats in the US are not guaranteed to win the Presidency or control of the Senate in the upcoming election, the control of the House by the Republicans is almost guaranteed).

    So your vision of effective International Policy meaningfully limiting the harm that is done by 'people who have little interest in advancing humanity to a lasting better future for all when doing so would be contrary to their personal interests in their lifetime' is only an illusion unless there is the type of international effective enforcement you declare is unacceptable.

    So my answer to your question is that there is unlikely to be any meaningful progress until there is a meaningful change of the game that dramatically reduces the ability of such people to succeed. You may want to believe that 3 degrees faced by 'future generations' is OK. But I would ask you to prove that the 3 degrees will not become 5 degrees, because the resistance to giving up undeserved opportunity for personal benefit just to reduce the troubles others will face is still able to succeed into the future.

    And I return a question about your timelime. How is your timeline affected if the current cast of Republicans continue to control the House and Senate after the upcoming election? And what if the Republicans also win the Presidency? And worst of all, what if the Republican President is Ted Cruz (a known deliberate misrepresenter of information hoping to win more success for those who do not care about advancing humanity)? If you would claim such events would have little effect on your timeline then there really is nothing more to discuss, no other way for me to understand your position.

    But I would have to add another question. Why is it OK for a portion of a current generation of humanity to continue to enjoy things that are understood to be unacceptable 'just because they had developed a burning desire and the power to get away with it'? (Sadly, the quote I shared from the 1987 UN Commission Report in my comment @13 continues to explain things very well).

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  22. @8, Nice first paragraph.

    Economies are meant to be robust and pulling out of long picked winners wasn't meant to be easy.

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  23. Tom Curtis

    Thanks for your response, and yes it does explain things a lot better. I subsribe to basically the same views on politics, markets and economics in general. You might find the book "Freefall" by Jospeph Stiglitz relevant, if you have not already read it. The book is about economics and the financial crash, but he also includes some specific discussion on climate change and market regulation.

    I also 100% agree we cant wait to reform the world economy into something ideal before acting on climate change. However I'm sure Naomi Klein would also agree with this. Many things simply need to be done in parallel.

    Agree also with your third world comments. It's a tough one, but I had reached the same conclusions myself.

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  24. Here's another way our current economic system should be changed... 

    A new relationship with our goods and materials would save resources and energy and create local jobs, explains Walter R. Stahel.

    The circular economy by Walter R. Stahel, Nature, Mar 23, 2016

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  25. Listen to my Radio Ecoshock interview with Ben Hankamer here:

    http://tinyurl.com/jguk7gy

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  26. A comment by Trevor_S elsewhere has shown me I was too optimistic in my point 3 @12 above.  In particular, he shows a graph from Fuss et al (2014) that shows CO2 emissions as of a 2014 estimate to be tracking RCP 8.5.  Checking more recent data including LUC, I see that the comparison of level of emissions between current levels and RCP 2.6 above was (unintentionally) misleading.  We are in fact doing better than RCP 8.5 in that we are plateauing emissions, but from RCP 8.5 equivalent levels, not from RCP 2.6 levels.

    While this slightly reduces my optimism, it does not alter the appropriate strategy; or considerations in favour of it.

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  27. Certain CO₂ abatement policies — such as the Carbon Tax — are clearly more effective than others — such as massive regulation. I think 'most anybody prefers the Invisible Hand of Adam Smith over the Heavy Hand of a Soviet Five-Year Dictum. And regardless of the currently apparent popularity of certain US and other wuzbe Cæsars, a real turnaround in attitudes is at hand. The problem appears to be that certain people have attained unjustifiable wealth and power and are ready to use unjustifiable means to maintain their unjustifiable holds on the aforementioned unjustifiables.

    The best option is to try to change the system while change is possible. Otherwise we will hear the people singing the songs of angry men as they get out their torches, tumbrels and Remington 870’s, which will not have happy outcomes.

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  28. Tom Curtis,

    Your acceptance of free market with no negative externalities within the set of sovereign nations being the best available playground for sustainable enonomy, can easily be challenged as inadequate with respect to the climate change problem.

    The issue is that CO2 polution is the tragedy of the commons not just within the economies of each of the sovereign nations. If it was, the externality of CO2 polution could be fixed by known mechanisms such as emission tax/trading scheme or regulations. However, CO2 polution is a truly global tragedy of the commons problem, in a sense that it goes beyond the realm of all sovereign economies. Therefore, the mechanisms cited above cannot fix it. It is described by some as the big  TOC where sovereign nations are the actual players. IMO, you must ultimately resolve such TOC problem at this level to succeed.

    Assuming the so called "global economy" is the playgrond here, it is far more difficult to fix the CO2 emision externalities while preserving the sovereignty of the players. The same applies to other TOC types of  issues that you consider, e.g. the problem of ocean overfishing. The question is not just that mechanisms suitable in global economy do not exists. In fact a global carbon tax ideas have been circulating for some time, e.g. Hansen's idea of ubiquitous tax and dividents at all levels, at the source point (i.e. mining), import points and finally burning. But that idea is unimplementable without a breach of players' sovereignty. For a starter, how are you going to police it to ensure the enforcement?

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  29. @ 27, your comment seems conflicted.

    You say taxes would be better than regulation but then you go on to say that systemic change is required.

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  30. chriskoz @28, I will respond to the greater substance of your comment later.  Just now I want to flag my dislike of the term "tragedy of the commons" in its current usage.  That goes back the the first, and genuine tragedy of the commons, also known as the enclosure movement.  In essence, at the end of the midle ages, land holdings were based on a system of enfiefdom, wherein a tennant would hold land from their lord based on a requirement for certain duties.  The duties varied based.  For peasants they could include mandatory service on their lord's land, serving in their lord's militia on demand, payement of a small percentage of their own corn, and payment of a fee on inheritance of the rights.  For that they typically had possession of a small amount of arable land, the right to liven in the village, to protection by their lord, and the right to graze livestock on the commons and/or fallow land, and the right to forrage (but not hunt) in the commons.  The key point was that the system of responsibility was mutual, and in particular, the lord could no more refuse the relationship than could the peasant, or the king refuse the equivalent relationship to the lord - at least in principle.  

    In practise, of course, customary rights tend to be enforcible for those with power, and not for those who are weak.  As a result, when it was discovered that more money could be had by grazing sheep on the land, many lords started to enclose their land, either just the commons or all of the land for sheep.  This was in breach of customary law, and later in breach of several acts of parliament, but no effective action was taken.  The tragedy here was not that the commons were being over used.  It was that a very large number of the relatively poor and powerless were rendered destitute so that the rich and powerful could gain more wealth by seizing the commons to their exclusive use.

    In principle and in practise, this was no different to the English seizure or Australian land under the doctrine of terra nullius, or equivalent denial of customary land rights in Kalimantan and West Papua by the Indonesians.

    In current usage, the term "tragedy of the commons" is used to justify the seizure of customary rights of access to land/and or fisherys and giving them a simple property rights to the wealthy.  It is in fact, a modern enclosure movement.  Nothing more, and nothing less.  And as their rhetorical justification for that seizure, they choose as their flag a misdescription of what actually happened to common land in Europe all those centuries ago, and what the actual tragedy of the commons in fact was.

    The term is Orwellian.

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  31. Tom Curtis - While that abuse may be part of the history of the term "Tragedy of the Commons", originally and in particular when describing climate change it follows a different definition, that put forth by William Forster Lloyd in 1833:

    The tragedy of the commons is an economic theory of a situation within a shared-resource system where individual users acting independently and rationally according to their own self-interest behave contrary to the common good of all users by depleting that resource.

    The term may have been misused, but that doesn't invalidate the original meaning. 

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  32. KR @31, I am quite aware of the standard definition of the "tragedy of the commons".  I am pointing out that that definition is Orwellian in nature, and motivated by a desire to supplant customary tenure held by (primarilly) indigenous peoples with fee simple tenure held by corporations.

    For what it is worth, the term "tragedy of the commons" was coined by Hardin in 1968.  It was not coined by Lloyd, although he discusses a model of the commons, and draws an analogy from that to the labour market, arguing that because the labour market is a commons, laborours will essentially breed without restraint. (pp 30-33).

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  33. Tom Curtis - Do you have a preferred alternative term for the tendency of individual self-interests to drive actions contrary to the common good? Such as in pollution of the air, water, etc, the externalities that are currently not accounted for in fossil fuel prices?

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  34. @29 Bozzza — I see no conflict in what I wrote. Maybe I am merely in a drug-induced stupor; I had major surgery. But I would be glad to attempt an explanation, if you would explain what you see as conflict.

    What I do see as not entirely clear is my point that there is little time for taking proper and adequate action to address the CO₂ crisis. I fear the point of no return (more like a span of time than a point in time, but the phrase stands) could pass before the paradigm of inaction gives way. Maybe Ragnarök would be a better analogy than updated French Revolution. Either way, not a good time to be a one percenter. Or a human of any kind.

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  35. KR @33, the term 'prisoners dilemma' is the general term for such situations in the discipline that actually studies strategies for dealing with them.

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  36. @ 34,

     You just seemed to be having a mindless dig at so called 'socialism' without realising all 'legitimate' markets are Governed. Year 11 economics starts with this as truth.


     You can say everyone prefers market forces but they are just as imaginary as the fabled invisible hand! Ronald Reagan is famous for saying, "If it moves tax it; if it keeps moving regulate it; if it stops moving subsidise it!"

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  37. Of course, Dcrickett, I hope you are feeling well!

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  38. Tom Curtis@30,

    Yet, term tragedy of the commons can be ambiguous. But I @28, use the term tragedy of the commons in Hardin sense. It's obvious in the context of topic at hand, as KR@31 & yourself@32 confirmed.

    Therefore, I don't understand why you're trying to explain the other, Orwelian sense of it, a discussion that goes off topic here, which is rapidly increasing CO2 emissions and difficulty stopping it. As you did not provide any reason for your Orwelian deliberations about TOC ambiguity, I consider your comment off topic trolling, unless you clarify it.

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  39. chriskoz @38, as noted in my original comment, I was just flagging my dislike of the Hardin sense of the phrase.  I did not think I was making a substantial point on the issues being discussed before my comment.  I think flagging my dislike and the reasons is usefull because sometimes terms are designed to set us up to accept certain positions without due scrutiny.  "Tragedy of the commons" in Hardin's sense and use was certainly designed with that purpose.  Noting the Orwellian nature of that term pulls its rhetorical teeth.

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  40. Tom Curtis - I had considered the 'prisoners dilemma' as an alternative term myself, but that has the implication that all actors in the decision are fully aware of the tradeoffs and potential costs of their actions. That's not the case in the situation of unpaid external costs from fossil fuels, or even in many cases industrial pollution. 

    An interesting discussion of emantics - now, back to the original discussion...

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  41. chriskoz @28, on the more substantial issues.

    First, I apologize if I was insufficiently clear.  I do not accept a "free market with no negative externalities within the set of sovereign nations being the best available playground for sustainable enonomy".  Rather, a 'free market' is an idealized but never realized condition that is defined by, among other conditions, the lack of negative externalities.  It serves an analogous role in economic thought to that served by frictionless surfaces in physics.  We know they can never actually exist, but it is often helpful to assume that they can.

    In practise, a key role of government is to regulate the market so that it more closely approximates to a 'free market', including most especially for this discussion, regulations to prevent avoidable negative externalities and to price in unavoidable negative externalities with the income raised being used to mitigate the externality or being returned as a dividend to those affected by the externality.  Importantly, it should do that with a light hand because one of the assumptions of a 'free market' is no transaction costs, and government intervention tends to increase transaction costs.

    With regard to greenhouse gases, this means governments should impliment a carbon price (carbon tax or emissions trading scheme) with the money recieved being returned as an (ideally) per capita dividend.  Some other regulations may have a greater impact in reducing negative externalities than their impact on transaction costs, but the case is not obvious and will not be the same across all circumstances.

    (As an aside, this also means the government should also impliment fees to cover the externalities on road transport, cigarette smoking, alcohol consumption, etc.  If you have a socialized medical system, those externalities include the cost of that system.)

    Of course, you are quite correct that such action does not go beyond national borders, while the externalties of fossil fuel use certainly do.  That must be dealt with by negotiated agreements to, ideally, set up an international emissions trading scheme; but failing that as rigorous an agreement as can be negotiated.  Such an agreement should ideally included enforcement measures such as tariffs applied to the goods of non-compliant nations (including those not in the agreement) to recover the cost of the externalities of those nations GHG production.

    Even without an international agreement, national governments should (IMO) consider imposing carbon taxes at a rate equivalent to the domestic carbon tax (or current mean cost of emissions permits) less the value of any carbon tax (or emissions permits) paid at the source nation.  Unfortunately relative stenght of economies creates a major problem with this, as potentially does the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade and in particular the enforcement provisions under the WTO.

    However, what is not acceptable is the attempt to impose such an agreement by force.  Still less acceptable is any thought of replacing governments of foreign nations to ones more amenable to the agreement, which can only be done by force.  These options are unaceptable simply based on transacton cost considerations; but far more importantly, they are unacceptable violations of democratic principles except where the foreign government is so undemocratic that it ought to be replaced on those grounds alone.  In the later case, the replacement of the foreign government should have as its objective democratic government, and should not impose policy positions on that government, including regarding global warming.

    I will note that an agreed international ETS or Carbon Tax does not restrict sovereignty because it is mutually agreed by sovereign governments.  Nor does an ETS or Carbon Tax imposed at point of entry, as it applies only to goods within sovereign borders.

    I will also note that restricting ourselves negotiated agreements (and acts only carried out within sovereign borders) may not be as efficient, to one way of looking at things, as imposition of appropriate policy by force (as suggested by OPOF).  That, however, is only the case if we only consider the costs of global warming.   

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  42. nigelj @23, Naomi Klein may well want to impliment the reforms in parallel, but she ties the reforms together.  That serves only to increase resistance to the measures we can take against global warming now.  It is counter productive in the short term, and probably in the long term as well.

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  43. OPOF @21:

    "International Policy is only words if effective means of enforcement do not exist (that would be effective methods of dismissing sovereignty when required, something you called totalitarian which was a rather gross misrepresentation of my position, but I did not choose to claim it was)."

    Your specific words that I responded to were:

    "Essentially, the International Community would have to be able to 'remove from power' any elected representatives in a nation like the USA (or leaders of businesses) who would claim that already fortunate people should still be allowed to benefit as much as they can from actvity that produces CO2 from the burning of fossil fuels (or be able to convince a bunch of voters who are easily tempted to be greedy or intolerant to change their minds and choose not to try to get away with getting what they want even though they probably could collectively get away with it, for a little while, perhaps long enough that they enjoy the undeserved benefits in 'their lifetime'.)."

    I take it as obvious that a government that will not impliment a specific policy will not agree to be removed from power by unconstitutional means so that that policy can be implimented.  Ergo, any attempt to remove governments from power to implement anti-global warming policies will be resisted by force.  For the only countries with large enough emissions for this to make a substantive difference, there armed forces are sufficiently large and advanced that only a sizable coallition of the worlds major powers could hope to remove them from power by conventional force.  Even then, all such countries are nuclear powers and there is every reason to believe they would resort to nuclear weapons rather than be forcably removed from power.

    Even if they could be removed from power, you would then need to sustain your government against a guarantteed hostile population.  That in turn will require all of the mechanisms of a police state.  Hence a totalitarian option.

    You may not see the implications of what you suggested, but it does not mean we are blind to it.

    At its best, you may have suggested a change to the international order such that the UN has the unvetoable constitutional power to removes such governments, where said governments have agreed to that power and altered their constitution so that it is permissible.  We might just as well wish for the solution to the worlds energy problems by the invention of a perpetual motion machine.

    "And I return a question about your timelime. How is your timeline affected if the current cast of Republicans continue to control the House and Senate after the upcoming election? And what if the Republicans also win the Presidency? And worst of all, what if the Republican President is Ted Cruz (a known deliberate misrepresenter of information hoping to win more success for those who do not care about advancing humanity)? If you would claim such events would have little effect on your timeline then there really is nothing more to discuss, no other way for me to understand your position."

    In that event, it would be put back, but given the increasing tendency of US states to go it alone, not by as much as you might think.  However, the difference between 2 C and 2.5 C GMST that that might imply is not as great a harm as would be caused by war with the US, the only method of changing their government.

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  44. Tom,

    The focus needs to be on individuals, not nations or even corporations. The trouble-makers need to be identified and be kept from success. And the measure of acceptability needs to be that “a person's attitude and resulting actions must not impeded the advancement of humanity to a lasting better future for all as sustainable parts of the robust diversity of life on this or any other planet”. That means surgically removing the appropriate people from positions of influence, including removing wealth from them if they would abuse that wealth to promote or prolong actions that impede the advancement of humanity. I do not care how it is accomplished. My point is that 'it must be accomplished'. I would be thrilled to see global freedom for all to do as they please as long as no trouble-maker gets away with spoiling things for everyone else.

    Interesting discussion about which Game Theory example best explains what is going on in global politics and economics related to climate change (and many other issues where damaging ultimately unsustainable activities develop popularity and profitability).

    The obvious answer is that, like any specialized field of science, each Game Theory is only evaluating a small part of the bigger picture. That detailed understanding of each part of the big picture is important, but it is the understanding of the much more complex integrated bigger picture that is needed.

    There actually is a Game Theory example that I learned about in my MBA course in the early 1980s that is quite relevant. I will describe the game, even if not exactly the way it was “officially presented by the game maker”, rather than try to find the proper name for it.
    - The participants are divided into 5 groups (an uneven number of sub-groups is important for the game to more clearly lead to understanding of the fundamental controllable human choice behaviour it is meant to identify).
    - The game is played through several rounds, with each round having discussion between the groups about how they plan to vote (Yes or No) followed by privately cast votes by each group that are then shared each round to determine how many points each team gets as a result of that round of private votes.
    - The points obtained by each group are structured in the following way and this is fully understood by all participants in the game at the start of the game: If all teams vote the same way then each team gets 25 points (125 total points); If one team votes different from the other 4 teams, that team gets 30 points and the other teams get 20 points (110 total points); If two teams vote one way and three the other way then the two teams each get 20 points and the three teams each get 15 points (85 total points).

    It is obvious to all participants that the best play of the game is for all teams to vote the same in every round. However, there is bound to be a competitor who sees an opportunity to 'win compared to the others' by being deceptive.

    Of course the point of the game is to show the potential appeal of getting a competitive advantage by being deliberately deceptive. The facilitator wraps up the session by pointing how the total points of all teams was far below the potential. They are also almost certain to be able to point out that the total number of points gotten by the team that 'won the most points' was invariably less than that team would have gotten if none of the teams had ever 'chosen to deliberately deceived the other teams'. And they can also have people connect with their 'new-found distrust of others' because of the game they were in.

    What the game cannot represent is the accumulating damage done by people who choose to pursue personal reward in ways that can be understood to not advance humanity. One of my favourite small scale examples of that behaviour is the driver who deliberately chooses to go as far up a line of 'other drivers who have politely accepted their position at the back of the line' then expects to be able to force their way into the line delaying everyone else that they passed - some I have talked to about this even try to defend that they 'must be let in because of a rule of the road' - they are referring to rules for merging traffic which do not apply to the case they try to defend. What they are really doing is preying on the polite helpfulness of most others to the detriment of all others, just like the competitive predator spoils the Game Theory example I have shared.

    That Game Theory example nicely highlights the real issue of the way that those among humanity who choose to try to get away with obtaining personal reward in ways they can understand are less acceptable, chosen actions that can be understood to not be part of the advancement of humanity to a lasting better future for all, actions that clearly only provide more personal reward for a person in their lifetime. That problem was very well described in the quote from the 1987 UN report “Our Common Future” that I shared in my comment @13.

    What that example Game and the astute observation of reality it highlights point out is that humanity is unlikely to be advanced by the total freedom of all people to do as they please (and certainly cannot be expected to be obtained by discussion that ends with what sounds like everyone understanding the problem and what is required collectively to address it), unless those who would choose to 'win unacceptably' are effectively kept from 'winning undeserving', even having them removed from positions of influence they got away with getting into.

    Some people will clearly need to have their ability to influence things restricted. And the current game based on popularity and profitability clearly fails to properly identify and effectively limit the trouble-makers who would choose to try to get away with actions that clearly cannot be part of the future of humanity and actions that would be impediments to the advancement of humanity to a lasting better future for all.
    And other things I learned from my MBA education were:
    - misleading marketing can be a very powerful and damaging weapon.
    - case studies of truly ethical business success are very difficult to find (the ones getting away with behaving less acceptably are more likely to be the 'winners').

    Putting it all together it is clear that the way the US (and a few others) played the Kyoto game, 'refusing to reduce the global trade competitive benefit that could be gotten from continuing to keep costs down by burning massive amounts of coal and oil', was to the temporary advantage of the portion of humanity who benefited from that being gotten away with. It was the expected behaviour from the group that had also deliberately delayed reducing sulphur in diesel fuel to gain a global trade cost advantage while also keeping newer better diesel technology that needed the better fuel quality from 'gaining any traction within the US mass consumption economy'. I know that US total impacts are not as bad as they could have been, but that is because of the efforts of a portion of Americans who tried to behave better. One sad reality I am aware of is that even California is not a total leader in behaving better. They may lead in some areas but they also have some of the worst oil extraction processes still going on, hidden by the truly commendable efforts of others in California who strive to behave better.

    What is going on is easy to understand, as long as you understand that the only valid measure of acceptability is that 'an attitude or action will not impeded the advancement of humanity to a lasting better future for all as sustainable parts of the robust diversity of life on this or any other planet', and you are honestly skeptical of the belief that the freedom of all to do as they please will advance humanity to that better future.

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  45. OPOF @44:

    1)  While I agree that in the end the solution to climate change will devolve down to the actions of individuals, institutional settings (such as a carbon tax) can greatly influence those actions.  Further, peoples choices are such, as is illustrated by the variant of the prisoners dilemma you describe, that without those institutional settings, and without some measure of transparency of action, they will act in a way that is not in their own long term interest because it will give a slightly better outcome than if they act in the best interest of all while others default.

    2)  While I agree that greedy people acting in their own interests at the expense of others create a major problem, we are restricted in how we can ethically gain compliance to methods that strengthen democratic approaches including persuasion and regulation achieved by democratic (or at least constitutional) means.  People fighting wars, including civil wars, do not restrict CO2 emissions.  They have higher priorities.  And if we step outside democratic and constitutional means that is what we invite - particularly if we do so as external powers.

    3)  Further, "the by any means necessary" doctrine for resolving climate issues is counter productive.  Climate change deniers have implausibly cloaked themselves in a mantle as defenders of freedom.  The "by any means necessary" doctrine gives them rhetorical teeth for that charade, without which they would be revealed as defending naked self interest.  By not being emphatic defenders of democratic and constitutional means only, we feed the ranks of the tea partiers and other right wing groups opposed to action on climate change. Even where I not committed to the democratic and constitutional means only as a matter of principle, this would be sufficient for me to oppose your approach.

    4)  Within the strictures of democratic and constitutional means only, I am in favour of pushing for action on global warming as strongly as possible, both individual, in state/provincial and national regulations (including carbon prices) and through international agreements.

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  46. Tom, on a separate point, your faith that future generations will be able to deal with the challenges of a 2.5 C increase is something I cannot share or condone.

    I have shared my opinion on this point many times. Common Sense says that is not acceptable for any already very fortunate person of this current generation to continue to obtain any additional personal benefit from the burning of fossil fuels.

    I understand the reluctance to 'making it clear that a rich and popular person can be declared to be absolutely unacceptable and need to be dealt with accordingly'. But there are no excuses for defending the ability of such people to continue to have influence. They need to become 'spectators unable to influence anything' until they choose to become decent particpants in the advancement of humanity.

    Until they are effectively kept from getting away with making bigger problems that decent peopel try to deal with the problems will continue to become unacceptably bigger, just like the current climate challenge is unacceptably bigger because of what some rich and powerful people were able to get away with through the past 30 years, and continue to be excused and allowed to make even bigger challenges that 'others will have to deal with'.

    Making problems others have to deal with is indeed an easier and potentially very popular way to develop personal perceptions of prosperity and success that are ultimately damaging and unsustainable (for those others who have no power to stop the challenge they will face that is being created by people who are confident, or at least declare, that the amount of trouble they are making is no big deal).

    1.5 C increase is achievable. It will be hard work. And some people will need to be very disappointed. But that is what leadership is all about, deciding who deserves to be disappointed and seeing to it that they are. Anyone in a position of social, political or business leaderhip who is unwilling to do that hard work deserves to become a spectator (even against their will or the will of their supporters, no matter what type of hooliganism they might potentially resort to).

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  47. OPOF @46:

    1)  That future generations can deal with 2.5 C is (or should be) beyond question.  It will not lift the temperature of any area of the planet to unlivable conditions, nor for the majority of the planet will it lift temperature and climate levels beyond those are not already experienced and lived in today in some part of the world.  This is not a great comfort.  London becoming a new Manilla will not be a pleasant experience for the British.  But it means that 2.5 C is still in the realm of cost/benefit analysis in how we deal with it.

    Further, while costs will likely increment exponentially (or some near approximation), the cost differential we should be looking at is not the full cost of 2.5 C, but the cost difference between the Global Mean Surface Temperature we can no longer avoid, and 2.5 C.  As 1 C is no locked in, even if we end all net GHG emissions instantaneoudly, and 2 C is probably locked in for any realistic pathway to emissions reductions, the cost we should compare when choosing two strategies to achieve zero emissions is the difference between 2 C and (assuming that is the likely outcome for the democratic/constitutional approach) 2.5 C.  And abandoning the rule of law, and constitutional government is far to high a cost to achieve the cost differential between 2 and 2.5 C.

    2)  The analysis at point (1) above takes your program on its face value.  In fact, your program is disasterous in itself.  The biggest threat of global warming for small to medium increases in GMST (<7 C) will come from the threat of famine, of war, and of the break-down of civil society.  Your program makes all three certainties.  It is analogous to proposing the amputation of an arm with an infected wound on the hand because it may, if neglected, require the amputation of the arm.

    This is made very clear by your uses of such phrases as "making it clear that a rich and popular person can be declared to be absolutely unacceptable and need to be dealt with accordingly".  Granted you quote that phrase (from where?) but certainly appear to endorse it; but its implication is that all means to rid the world of "rich and popular" people are appropriate, including murder.  That is what 'absolutely unacceptable means".  Specifically it means that no condition can make their situation (or them, it is not clear) acceptable, which in turn means that at as a last resort, even murder can be resorted to to make sure that no person is both rich and popular.

    More generally, your program means eliminating the market economy which in turn means implimenting a command economy, with all of the corruption and inefficiency thereby implied.  It means as a matter of practical fact, the imposition of the command economy by force over much of the world (who will not accept it voluntarilly).  It means the institution of a secret police to maintain the forcibly emplaced government that will impliment the program.

    3)  I am glad in one way that I continued this conversation with you.  I have made a number of (to my mind) obvious inferences about the level of violence that your program will (and certainly may) require and you have not ojbected, nor placed any limit on what you would do to get rid of the "unacceptable people" that you "will not condone" (which apparently now includes me).  That refusal to place a limit, to reject the use of force, even of lethal force reveals your true colours to anybody interested.

    It also, to my mind, puts you beyond the pale of rational conversation. 

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  48. Tom,

    You appear to be deliberately unable to grasp that I distinguish between acceptable and unacceptable attitudes and actions based on the evaluation of the simple rule 'does it advance or impede the advancement of humanity to a lasting better future for all'. I have been very clear that 'specific people' need to be targeted and for good reason. You have chosen to misunderstand and misrepresent that.

    As a final point of fact I will remind you that global wealth and global GDP and many other global preceptions of prosperity have grown faster than the global population and yet a significant percentage of humanity continues to suffer brutish short existences (not lives, just an existence). That is not because rich people are kept from helping others, it is because some will try to get as much personal reward as they can no matter what damage their actions can be shown to have created. Those are the people who can be identified and should be removed from positions of influence and wealth accumulation, until they change their minds and choose to behave better.

    By the way, there is plenty of evidence that most of the most horrific violence that is going on is due to fighting to get away with acquiring the most possible reward from known to be unsustainable and damaging actions. That violence would fade away if the specific type of people I am referring to could not succeed. Sure, they would still be angry mean-spirited people, but at least they could no longer be national leaders or significantly influencing leaders.

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  49. Tom Curtis,


    When someone I disagree with strongly on an issue stands up for the civilized principles our country rests on that defend us all, I believe I incur the obligation to let that person know I agree with them, support them, and appreciate their effort in that regard.

    So, there you have it.  Thank you.

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  50. OPOF @48, until you specify the limits you will not transcend in the pursuit of your goals, there is not point in conversation between us.  And if you will not specify those limits, you are as much an enemy of humanity as the Koch brothers.

    I will leave you with a thought:

    "So far is it not true that the means are justified by the ends, that rather ends are only ever justified by the means used to pursue them."

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